Rajon Rondo has rarely played so poorly, Troy Murphy still hasn’t made a field goal in his brief Celtics career, and Avery Bradley continues to display the point guard skills of Kwame Brown. But the Celtics were in Milwaukee, playing a Bucks team that always seems to give them trouble, and shook off a miserably slow start to win, 89-83. Things could be a lot worse.
With the win, Boston now stands 5-0 in the Nenad Krstic/Jeff Green era. Krstic, again, was who we thought he was. He shot 7-8, making an assortment of layups and jumpers that all shouted “I’m infinitely more skilled than Kendrick Perkins.” But he also pulled down only three rebounds (in thirty minutes), seemed a step slow on quite a few rotations, and hardly made his presence known in the paint. I compare Krstic to Perkins only because he took Perk’s spot, and not because I’m still dwelling on the trade. Krstic is here, and he offers quite a few things the Celtics haven’t had during the Big Three era. But just as Krstic giveth, Krstic taketh away.
Green continued to impress offensively, proving himself as a weapon the Celtics can use in so many different ways. He again played shooting guard alongside Paul Pierce, in a lineup that causes mismatches everywhere. (Speaking of Pierce, he’s not supposed to have dunk-on-your-head athleticism anymore. He’s just not. He never had it last year, and I was 93% sure his career was in decline. Now, he looks like he’s back at Kansas, encouraging the student section to chant “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk.” There’s a lot to be said for good health, and the motivation of losing Game 7.)
When watching Green play, he can obviously score with greater ease, and in a larger variety of ways, than most players. He hit a pull-up jumper. A hook shot. A tough, off-the-wrong-foot scoop in transition, after blurring down-court. He’s a walking mismatch, and, best yet, has taken only four three-pointers during his five games as a Celtic. For reference, Green averaged almost four three-point attempts per game with the Thunder (despite hitting only 30.4%). I’m not saying Green’s perfect. He still has to prove he can maintain his so-far-efficient play, and it would be nice if he’d look to crash the glass every once in a while. But, for now, his scoring’s enough to make the Celtics’ second unit significantly better, and its first unit far more flexible.
Kevin Garnett grabbed 33% of Boston’s rebounds, while notching his seventh double-double in the past eight games. That streak correlates loosely with Perk’s departure (combined with the O’Neal’s injuries), as the Celtics now need Garnett’s activity on the boards more than ever. Besides Garnett, Pierce corralled five rebounds and no other Celtics earned more than four.
I’m not going to fully discuss Rajon Rondo (mostly because he was quite obviously sleep-walking), but I will discuss his backup situation. As sad as it sounds, and it sounds as sad as Brian’s Song, the Celtics need Carlos Arroyo. Arroyo’s not a great point guard, or anywhere close to it. But, at this stage of Avery Bradley’s career, Arroyo represents a giant upgrade over Bradley.
In the oddest comparison you’ll hear today, I liken Bradley to the JaVale McGee of point guards. By that, I don’t mean Bradley can dunk on two separate hoops at once, nor can he dunk three balls during one leap. But, like McGee, Bradley possess few (no?) basketball instincts, as if he was born with all the physical talent in the world but none of the court awareness. Bradley often takes ten to twelve seconds just to get the Celtics into a set. Despite his great quickness, he never breaks down his defender to go to the hoop. He can make great plays that remind you of his potential (such as ripping Brandon Jennings’ dribble tonight), but he also repeatedly reveals how painfully far he is from truly learning the game of basketball.
Sasha Pavlovic would later hit a semi-important three-pointer, so I feel bad insulting his first shot. But did you see that thing? Employee Number 77 started dribbling left, turning back to his right, a swift and gorgeous move that lost his defender. All alone, Pavlovic had all the time in the world to release his shot. Of course, the shot would fall two Kevin Garnett wingspans short, and the possession would result in a shot clock violation.
Ladies and gentleman, your first introduction to Sasha Pavlovic. Enjoy him while you can.