A win, and a necessary one. But rarely do necessary wins leave me feeling so unsatisfied.
The Celtics barely had enough to outlast Minnesota, on a night when Kevin Love didn’t play, Michael Beasley needed 28 shots to score 28 points, Anthony Randolph showed Anthony Randolph’s bad side, and the Timberwolves (starting Luke Ridnour and Darko Milicic, among other players who may or may not deserve to play minutes in the NBA) shot only 37.5%. So much went wrong for the Timberwolves—they missed open shots, spotted the Celtics 25 points, have very few legitimate NBA players, and are coached by Kurt Rambis. Yet there the Wolves were, taking a fourth-quarter lead, giving the Celtics everything they could handle.
Give Minnesota some credit; Anthony Tolliver played his rump off, Beasley can create shots with ease (sometimes superbly tough ones, which he should probably live without), Darko (though not quite a “manna from heaven”) might have been the best big man on the court (non-Tolliver division), and Anthony Randolph flirted with Mikki Moore’s unofficial record for “quickest NBA player to three fouls.” But Boston’s necessary win tonight, or near-loss, or blown 25-point lead, or whatever the hell you want to call it, was due almost entirely to the Celtics’ bad play. Nothing the Timberwolves did was special, or even very good.
But the Celtics? They again looked like my younger brother, trying to dance at the first Bar Mitzvah he ever attended—they just have no rhythm, especially offensively. There’s no urgency to their offense. There’s no energy. They aren’t setting hard screens. They aren’t cutting with a purpose. There isn’t enough attacking, there isn’t enough ball movement, and if I see one more shot clock violation I might send an anonymous letter to Doc Rivers, a letter that would only say: “Please remind your players they only have 24 seconds to shoot the basketball.”
I never felt like the C’s were taking particularly bad shots tonight (except for a couple times when Glen Davis lost his mind, including once when he decided a 360 layup was the way to go). They got decent looks, and missed some open shots. But there’s a good look, and there’s a good look in rhythm. And the two are very different. When the Celtics were thriving, and they were shooting better than 50% almost every single night, and Rondo was getting obscene assist numbers, the offense was like a machine. Everyone set hard screens, Rondo (or whoever else) penetrated aggressively to the paint, Rondo (or whoever else) kicked out to someone in rhythm for a jumper, then the jumper went in. It looked so simple, so beautiful, because the whole team was on the same page. There just isn’t that same rhythm now. Back to the Bar Mitzvah, the Celtics are the 7th-grader stepping awkwardly on some girl’s toes.
I could discuss Doc Rivers sitting on the bench, looking like his wife just filed for a divorce. I could discuss one timeout Rivers called, seemingly with the sole intent of verbally berating Nenad Krstic. I could discuss the swift fall of Krstic’s play, or the fact that Krstic was blocked nineteen million times tonight, or the one play when Krstic and Davis both defended Milicic on one side of the paint while Jonny Flynn sat uncovered underneath the hoop, caught a pass, and scored a layup on the other. I could discuss Davis’s “15 shots to score eight points” performance, or the Celtics getting outrebounded by the Minnesota Timberwolves, or Paul Pierce’s six turnovers and 2-8 three-point shooting.
But why would I do all that? Pierce came through down the stretch, Delonte West grabbed a hell of an offensive rebound, and the Celtics won. And even though it wasn’t pretty, the NBA standings don’t take game film into account.
In other words, a win’s a win. Or, at least, that’s what I keep trying to remind myself.