Yesterday’s game finished before I got a chance to watch it, so I knew watching the first half on DVR was going to cause severe heartburn and indigestion. Yet nobody told me it would also cause me to seriously consider packing up all my non-basketball related belongings, hitch-hiking across the country to the Pacific Ocean and spending my entire life savings on a live-in boat so I would never have to view another basketball game as long as I live.
Remember the season Ed Sprague batted .216 for the Red Sox with 12,384,389 strikeouts? I’ve always considered that season the worst hitting display I’ve ever witnessed. There have been worse hitters, yes, Craig Grebeck comes to mind, but every time Sprague went to the plate, I was absolutely, 100% convinced he would strike out.
That’s what the Celtics’ first half was. Ed Fucking Sprague. Every time they stepped to the plate, I knew it was going to result in a K.
The second half was much better. The Celtics finally came to life. They even made things interesting in the fourth quarter before running out of gas (and running into the league’s MVP). But I can’t shake the image of the first half out of my mind.
- I’m completely split about Brandon Bass earning the start (and Doc’s statement that he will start about 70% of games from now on, depending on the matchups). Obviously, the Celtics needed a change in the starting lineup. That lineup wasn’t getting them off on the right foot, and O’Neal deserves a place in a retirement home, or a morgue or something. But the second unit without Bass in it has as much scoring punch as Kobe Bryant’s right toe, and that might be an insult to Kobe’s right toe.
- Also, the Celtics still sucked during the first quarter with Bass in the lineup. Isn’t Rondo sponsored by Red Bull? It might be time to start passing those around in the pre-game.
- On one play midway through the first, with the Celtics already down big and warning signs smacking Doc Rivers in the nose, Derrick Rose drove around a ball screen on the right side. Jermaine O’Neal decided to double Rose because he’s the MVP, which was pretty smart since, well, he’s the MVP.
But after Rose lofted a pass to his screening partner Carlos Boozer, O’Neal didn’t even come close to hustling back to his man. Ray Allen gave some token help defense on Boozer to make the bearded Alaskan hesitate on his shot and provide O’Neal with time to recover. The only problem was that O’Neal, rather than sprint to contest the shot, had sauntered into the lane, where he defended nobody, turned to watch the ball flight of Boozer’s shot and decided not to box out. The ball went in, because THE DAMNED THING BETTER GO IN, IT WAS A WIDE OPEN 15-FOOTER, and it went in largely because O’Neal did so much wrong during one possession I wanted to throw my remote control straight at his nads. My outburst came after six minutes of peacefully watching Boston’s latest worst performance. I was OKAY watching the first awful six minutes. But O’Neal took my patience and lit a fucking match right underneath it.
- Four minutes later, O’Neal helped off Joakim Noah to cut off a driving Ronnie Brewer. Again, O’Neal’s first effort was good. It kept Brewer from earning an easy layup or dunk, which is always nice. It was O’Neal’s second effort that never came. Brewer turned and kicked it out to Noah, who was about 14 feet from the hoop, wide open. Noah didn’t really want to shoot it. He really didn’t. You wouldn’t want to shoot either if shooting made you look like Ronnie Brewer on crack. But when O’Neal stood as still as a tree and watched Noah for a few seconds, the most ponytailed man in the NBA decided a wide open 14-footer wasn’t that bad an option. It went in.
- O’Neal has been indifferent half the time defensively, couldn’t grab a rebound in a sixth-grade CYO game and couldn’t score 20 points if David Stern guarded him. Can you tell I’m a little frustrated?
- Damn it, Jermaine. I’m harping, but it’s hard to overstate how bad O’Neal has been.
- I am not being unfair to O’Neal. He deserves every bit of scorn that comes his way. But I understand I’m not being nearly as harsh as I should be on the rest of his teammates — almost everybody deserves a shovel to the head.
- With eight minutes left in the second quarter (at which point the Celtics had scored only 13 points and were shooting less than 20%), Kevin Garnett caught the ball four feet away from the basket with Taj Gibson on his back. Rather than turn and shoot an easy shot from the paint, Garnett pivoted and — for lack of a better description — tried to throw an Eephus pitch to Mickael Pietrus in the corner. Needless to say, it was intercepted. The play was just one of several during the first half when Garnett acted like he had just sniffed glue.
- Ray Allen scored with 7:31 left in the second quarter, prompting Mike Gorman to say, “That snaps a string of 13 possessions where they went oh-fer-10 with three turnovers.” To which Tommy Heinsohn replied, “Oh, boy.”
- On the very next possession, Luol Deng took a three-pointer from the right corner. He missed it. That would have been good, except Omer Asik got inside rebounding position against O’Neal on the weak side and Gibson would have gotten inside rebounding position on the strong side — except there was no Celtic even remotely close to him. The rebound bounced to Gibson, who was fouled by some zombie who calls himself Jermaine.
- Somehow, through all the awfulness the Celtics displayed in the first half, Rondo somehow managed to be very good. He accounted for 15 out of Boston’s first 17 points. CAN WE SOMEHOW GET HIM EVEN MORE INVOLVED?
- With 6:31 left in the half, we finally got a Celtics box out! It was by Chris Wilcox and he was boxing out Asik on one end of the paint while Gibson was waltzing in for an easy layup, but still.
- The Wilcox box out when he shouldn’t have been boxing out brought Heinsohn’s second “oh, boy” of the night.
- Rondo followed Heinsohn’s second “oh, boy” by throwing a wrap-around pass straight to a Chicago Bull. Things could not get much worse.
- With about five minutes left in the second quarter, Heinsohn remarked that offensive rebounds make you feel like King Kong, and if you get them the world becomes your oyster. I’m not kidding.
- The world soon became Chris Wilcox’s oyster as he threw down a Rondo miss in transition. I’m not sure how much Wilcox knows about basketball (see: his earlier box out), but he was one of the few Celtics playing hard during the first half.
- Garnett failed to throw down a Rondo alley-oop in the second quarter, which reminds me: Everything Garnett does is done gingerly. There’s no power behind any move he makes. No explosion. No sense of purpose. He’s playing like a ballerina rather a lion. In case that metaphor doesn’t make sense, it’s currently 6:42 a.m., I’ve been awake all night and I am losing my mind one turnover at a time.
- The best thing I can say about that first half? It (mercilessly) ended and no small children were killed during the filming (at least to my knowledge).
- Mickael Pietrus is not shy. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when he’s hitting fourth-quarter darts in Kyle Korver’s eye.
- It’s a cliche to say the Celtics only needed more energy in the second half. But there was nothing different about the second half except the Celtics finally cared. They started winning 50-50 balls. They started sprinting in cuts so they could get open. They started pressuring the ball defensively and contesting shots. They shifted into another gear, which is sad because the Celtics used to possess only one gear.
- Garnett played his ass off in the second half. More than usual. The Celtics need more of that. Rondo can’t do it on his own.
- What’s up with Paul Pierce? Luol Deng always plays him well, but…
- The Celtics now have three straight losses, all at home. They are 0-5 against winning teams. Their four wins are against the league’s worst team (Washington, twice) and the two teams tied as the league’s third-worst team (Detroit, New Jersey). That sound you hear? It’s me, vomiting.
I don’t want to discuss this game any further. Please, don’t make me.