The Celtics spent most of Monday night experimenting with various ways not to score points. Chris Wilcox threw a pass that almost shattered the backboard. Avery Bradley hit the very bottom of the rim with one layup attempt. Mickael Pietrus was called for a palming violation on one possession, when he wasn’t endangering rims with laser bricks on most of his other possessions. Greg Stiemsma set two moving picks, and Wilcox once shoved Dirk Nowitzki in the back for no apparent reason while Paul Pierce was driving for what would have been an easy look.
Nothing comes easy for the Celtics this season, and especially when three of their best offensive players sit out for various reasons, the possibility is there for the scoreboard to get uglier than the hitch in Charles Barkley’s golf swing. If the two losses to the Pistons were alarming and the loss to the Chicago Bulls was disturbing, Monday’s 89-73 loss to Dallas was worse, the type of performance that makes teams look in the mirror and frown in response to the bloodied, disfigured mug looking back. The Celtics were out-rebounded 51-44, and that number was worse before garbage time, which lasted approximately 18 minutes. They had 16 turnovers to Dallas’ eight. They shot just 39.2 percent. Most damning, they just don’t have any spurt-ability. Every run the Celtics go on is painstaking, every point they score is like pushing a boulder uphill.
Jermaine O’Neal injured himself (again). Wilcox departed after hurting his adductor, a body part I never heard of prior to 45 minutes ago. Avery Bradley hit a bunch of midrange jumpers, which was very nice even if it didn’t seem sustainable. E’Twaun Moore played garbage time and hit some shots, a skill the Celtics could certainly use off the bench, since nobody else can score and Pietrus’ perimeter shot has gone AWOL. Paul Pierce scored and (per usual) took advantage of mismatches whenever the Mavericks switched screens.
Dirk Nowitzki abused everyone the Celtics sent his way, which was only natural since Boston’s top two power forwards missed the outing, leaving the overmatched Wilcox and the undersized Pietrus as the two “best” matchups for the German. J.O. occasionally switched onto Nowitzki, a sight that instantly brought nightmares, even before Nowitzki’s jump shot inevitably swished gently through the net.
If there is a positive to tonight’s loss, it is that Rajon Rondo’s importance should now be better understood. The All-Star break cannot come soon enough.