Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hang-ups

A quick phone call from The Brick last night was all it took to unravel my complicated reaction to last night’s 87-85 loss to Detroit. I had been experiencing a feeling of layered disappointment after finding that the Celtics are who we thought they were – and they let the Pistons off the hook. While I do think this game (and the Orlando game) serves as a microcosm for what ails the Celtics in competition against top teams, I have to remember that this is just a December NBA game.

With that said, two legitimate questions emerged from our conversation:

Will the Celtics clinch the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference?
Can the Celtics beat a team like the Pistons in a 7-game series?

To the former: my season preview had the top 4 teams in the East as the Celtics, Pistons, Bulls, and Heat. I still believe all four teams will find a way to make the playoffs – but Chicago and Miami are so far back that they have no shot at the top. The C’s have opened up a 3 game lead on the Pistons to this point, but it’s still only 3 games after a historic start to the season. This is a situation that should be monitored.

To the latter: the fact that this question even gets asked gives me goose bumps. A Pistons-Celtics series would be a battle straight out of the 80’s – with the Pistons as the Nasty Boys and the Celtics as the Hart Foundation - and gives me more opportunity to write about how much I hate Dee-troit Basketball. If a 7-game playoff set does happen, however, the Celtics are going to need to figure some things out.

1. Who’s the go-to man in crunch time? I would ask Pierce to consider deferring to KG. Sure, he’s an All-Star, team captain, and Shaq called him “The Truth” 6 years ago. But getting the ball to KG in the clutch is smart because a) he’s an amazing shooter anywhere inside the 3-point line and b) he can draw a double-team and dish to an open man. How many times have we seen Pierce drive on a final possession and get doubled or tripled and still try and force the issue?

2. The bench is two deep. House and Posey. Tony Allen, for all the stupid, dumb things he does, could be a solid 8th man on this team, but he’s not there yet. Last night was also another example of The Big Linus still needing his blanket – as much as I like the guy, he ain't there yet either.

3. Perkins is useless against a smaller, quicker post combo. You would think that by his 5th NBA season, he’d know better than to bring the ball down below his waist. Or that he'd have more post moves than the two-handed dunk. He frustrates the hell out of me, and he should be frustrated as hell at himself.

4. If Doc Rivers is better than just an average coach, he will equip his lineup with offensive sets against better defensive squads that don’t make it look like the Celtics are playing pickup at the Malden Y.

5. Everyone has been saying it, but it still holds true: the Celts need a backup point guard. It will be very interesting to see who they go out and get.