In last night’s recap, I was overwhelmingly negative, and you’ll forgive me for being so, I’m sure. But every night has a new day, and when the new day broke over the horizon…well, I still felt like crap. That isn’t likely to change until Friday’s home opener against Milwaukee.
The worst part about the game last night was the mediocre defense, and frankly, the Celtics are well aware. From CBS Boston:
“We’re going to be a defensive team,” added Pierce. “We’re going to stop teams from scoring, we’re going to keep them out of transition, and we’ve got to be a team that has to show resistance and be the enforcer out there. Tonight, we pretty much were on our heels all night.”
So basically, from what I can tell, Pierce is saying that the Celtics will be fine as long as they aren’t playing teams that keep them on their heels. Like the Heat. Awesome.
So what can we feel positive about? The offense, I suppose. Miami is an excellent defensive team, and they looked sharp last night, yet Boston still managed to score 107 points. So obviously the offense is improved. But is there anything we can feel ok about defensively? 120 points was the most the Celtics have allowed in a regular season game since March 16 when Boston inexplicably allowed the Sacramento Kings to detonate all over them like a pipe bomb. What can we say except “ugh”?
The easy answer is to write this game off as the early season struggles of a team integrating a bunch of new players into an offensive system…and frankly, that’s a pretty fair excuse, if we look to past seasons as evidence. Last year, Boston began the year against the Knicks and the Heat. In two consecutive games, the C’s gave up 106 and 115 points respectively. But despite Boston’s bad early season record, they didn’t give up 100 points again for nearly two months from December 27-February 22.
When Boston played Miami last December, you may recall:
- The Celtics missed a ton of rotations and defensive assignments on Miami’s backdoor cutters, a play that Miami ran a lot last night.
- The Heat were completely unstoppable in transition last December, scoring 9 of their 10 FGAs.
So how does this translate to good news defensively? For starters, Boston actually played pretty well defensively in transition while their half-court defense broke down time and time again. This doesn’t point to a team that can’t be elite defensively. This points to a team that struggled in their first regular season contest, a tough match-up against the best team in the NBA. Transition defense requires commitment. Half-court defense requires time, practice and patience. So quite frankly, I’d rather have transition defense at the beginning of the year. At least we know the Celtics are committed.
It’s possible that, six months from now, we will look back on these posts and grimace at how hard we worked to come up with positivity.
“Look at us,” we may say, “Trying justify how bad the Celtics are at defense. KG and Pierce aged faster than milk in the sun. Rondo keeps swiping from behind instead of staying in front. Jeff Green keeps glancing longingly at the bench where it’s safe and nobody can blow by him. Brandon Bass wouldn’t help a drowning child, especially if the drowning child was the victim of a backdoor cut. Why did we think this was going to work?”
Of course, nobody really expects that to happen. We all expect Doc Rivers’ schemes to cement themselves in the team. We expect KG’s focus, intelligence and intensity to rub off on his teammates. We expect Boston to be elite defensively.
It very well might happen. But we are going to need to give it some time. Does that make you feel better? No? Me neither. Here, have a cookie.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.