After two preseason games, I am fairly certain the Boston Celtics would win an NBA championship if their only competition was the Toronto Raptors. Since it is only preseason, I have broken down Boston’s 81-73 win into semi-coherent thoughts in lieu of a recap. So kick back, relax, lose yourself in Stiemsma fever and enjoy.
On one possession, Boston’s offensively-challenged training camp invitee ran the floor and finished an and-one dunk, prompting Tommy Heinsohn to say, “I tell ya, when you get a big guy like Stiemsma who can motor up the court –” Heinsohn stopped his sentence mid-thought, but the message was clear. When Boston’s very next play featured a Stiemsa 17-footer that looked as pure as a glass of Brita water, Twitter erupted into a barrage of Stiemsma praise, igniting comparisons to Marty Conlon, Brian Scalabrine, Brett Szabo and Andrew DeClerq.
Stiemsma also made an ugly-looking left-handed jump hook, barely missed a natural-looking right-handed jump hook, moved his feet perfectly to draw a second-half charge, blocked an Ed Davis dunk attempt and generally appeared to belong on an NBA basketball court. He looks just like any other Wisconsin big man (read: he’s tall, relatively goofy-looking and white), understands his limitations and might be a better offensive player than we suspected. The Celtics could probably do worse with the 14th or 15th spot on their bench. All aboard the Stiemsma train.
It’s unclear how long O’Neal can stay healthy. It’s difficult to trust a body that’s so reminiscent of a Jenga tower — always one wrong move away from crumbling. But if he stays healthy, O’Neal can still do a lot of good things on the court. He blocks shots with both hands. Times the ball so well while defending the rim. And if he only played Aaron Gray every night, O’Neal would look like the most dominant defensive center ever, with apologies to the incomparable Bill Russell. In all seriousness, O’Neal was marvelous defensively in last year’s playoffs and he looks at least as impressive so far this preseason. I’m encouraged, but the encouragement gives way to incredible nervousness every time he collides into an opponent or hits the deck combing the floor for a loose ball. O’Neal left the bench to visit the locker room during the third quarter. I assumed the worst, but A. Sherrod Blakely assures us that O’Neal was just getting some rest after halftime.
If my math was correct, Jerryd Bayless got blocked on 2,746 consecutive shots early in the second half. But it wasn’t his fault — he was only taking lessons on how to get a shot off cleanly from Aaron Gray. The Raptors have no interior defense to speak of. They scored 31 points in the first half on 12-42 shooting. They stuck with their real rotation the whole second half when the Celtics almost exclusively used their subs. Gray is soft, Ed Davis is softer and Andrea Bargnani is softest. I don’t want to say the Raptors will have one of the NBA’s worst teams after just two preseason games, but I’m pretty sure the Raptors will have one of the NBA’s worst teams.
If I had to choose one Celtic to make an open mid-range jump shot that could save my life, my list would go like this:
1. Ray Allen
2. Greg Stiemsma
3. Greg Stiemsma
4. Greg Stiemsma
5. Kevin Garnett
6. Paul Pierce
13. Rajon Rondo
957. Avery Bradley
I fear for the rim every time Bradley shoots a jumper. But then he picks somebody’s pocket and strolls in for a wide open dunk, and I just want Doc Rivers to give him a chance.
On a brighter note, Bradley looks thirty times more comfortable this year than he did last season. He’s doing a few good things out there.
Rajon Rondo’s jumper:
I still don’t want to get too optimistic, but he made three jumpers in the first quarter. And his form definitely looks better. But seriously, I refuse to be optimistic. But he did make three jumpers in the first quarter.
- E’Twaun Moore vs. Avery Bradley for Boston’s backup shooting guard position. I choose Moore every day and twice on Sunday. And he even looks halfway decent playing point guard, something I didn’t expect.
- JaJuan Johnson didn’t get off the bench until the fourth quarter and the Raptors immediately tried to post up Andrea Bargnani as soon as Johnson entered the game. I think it’s safe to say Boston’s first-round pick will not have a role come opening day.
- On one first-half possession, Garnett and O’Neal teamed together to block Aaron Gray, after which Garnett shouted, “Get that shit outta here.” Gray gathered the rebound and tried to shoot again, but was again denied by Boston’s interior twosome. Wouldn’t you know it, Garnett shouted, “Get that shit outta here” again, then stared down somebody in the first row, grew a set of fangs and howled at the moon.
- Playing with Sasha Pavlovic on offense is like playing 4-on-5. He doesn’t do a lot overtly wrong. He’s just kind of there.
- Glen Davis had 18 points in 23 minutes against the Heat tonight. I’m still 100% behind the Brandon Bass trade, and nothing short of Bass gaining 40 pounds and subsequently crying on the bench will change my mind.
- Heinsohn on Michael Sweetney: “The floor tilts when he runs,” but “if that kid ever loses 70 pounds, he’d be a hell of a player.” The thought of a player needing to lose 70 pounds to become a good player is funny, but damn it, have you seen Sweetney’s offensive awareness?
Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day is next. If I don’t get a Stiemsma jersey from Santa, I’ll be devastated.