Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Damage Done

Normally losing to Detroit in Game 2 would not totally freak you out. But obviously this situation is far from normal. And that is why we may have seen the beginning of the end here tonight. The Celtics have shown no certifiable signs of beating a team of Detroit's standards away from their home court all month long. Of course that could change - but there is strong evidence to argue otherwise.

Even if that is not the case, tonight's loss was disheartening. The Triumvirate and Rondo all showed up offensively, but the defense was only adequate - which is why we had an unusually high point total of 200. And while the Celtics did not seem to shrink down the stretch, they hardly stepped up - while the Pistons played like the steady, confident team that they are. They got the rebounds and hit the big shots to keep the lead. Their offense, which can be nothing short of devastating, ran smoothly and unselfishly. Meanwhile the Celtics often seemed hesitant to recognize what shot was the best to take - either under or over passing again and again at the finish of the game. It wasn't terrible - it just didn't leave you with any confidence when compared to the Pistons' stunning offensive precision.

But maybe it was the Celtics' D that let them down - because 97 points usually will get it done against Detroit in this setting. Or maybe it was Glenn. I bit my tongue early in the playoffs, but he's getting progressively worse in my eyes as the postseason matures. What a surprise. Leon Powe played all of three fucking minutes tonight - the same player who had the second best PER on the team this year. Meanwhile PJ played 19 minutes and Big Baby 7. Big Baby was nearly invisible; and while PJ performed adequately, he hardly replicated his performance on Sunday. This is ridiculous - as has been pointed out a thousand times - Powe is a fantastic inside offensive option. In a series like this there is a good chance he could flourish and change the complexion of the game. But he languishes on the bench in place of PJ's "veteran" defense and Big Baby's who-knows-what. It's unacceptable - especially saying that Leon crashes the boards better than either of those guys, particularly on the offensive end. I'm sure Glenn has a good excuse for Powe not playing - but it's hogwash, unless he is hurt.

Another interesting topic on the Glenn front is his usage of House over Cassell. While Eddie is probably the better defender, I stand by my position that Cassell is still the more dynamic player and could be more beneficial to this team in many situations. There were times in this game, particularly when Rondo was on the bench, that the offense grew completely stagnant. Cassell is much more likely to remedy this situation than House. Sam is an initiator - he attacks, he doesn't wait for the ball to find him to shoot. Instead he takes the ball and finds a place to shoot it (or pass it). That can be a big difference, and I'm pretty sure we missed Cassell's presence on the floor tonight.

I am hardly ready to write this team off; but mental toughness is going to be the key if the Celtics are going to stand a chance in this series. If they are weak, as they have been all too often, they will return to Boston in a two game hole. And even if they are strong, they still might find themselves in the same predicament, especially if Glenn continues to behave accordingly.


wharper said...

Cs got legitimately beat last night, but that doesn't mean that I don't have some complaints about the Pistons:

- Why don't hand-checking foul calls apply to Rip Hamilton perimeter defense? Ridiculous.

- I thought that when a player gets a Technical, it's a sign that they need to watch their behavior for the rest of the game (at least complaint-wise). While the cause for 'Sheed's first T wasn't immediately apparent, it seemed like the fact that he already had one prevented the refs from calling another on him when he visibly complained three separate times in a 30 second stretch about Garnett warding him off during that slam-turned-layup in the second half.

That leeway annoyed me - clearly the refs regretted the earlier T, and effectively discounted it by refusing to T up 'Sheed again and ejecting him from the game. I'm okay with him not getting ejected on what might've been an earlier bogus T - I'm just annoyed that it signifies a poor job done by the refs.

- Chauncy Billups' vaunted "ability to draw the foul by kicking his leg out on a jump shot" is just flat-out bullshit. I can't believe that that strategy/gamesmanship goes rewarded at the pro level. Call it veteran gamesmanship if you want, but it's clearly gaming the sport rather than just playing it. Flat out bullshit. It dilutes the quality of play and shouldn't get called by the refs. (This, by the way, is also how Billups positioned himself to get his game-winning freethrows in their first matchup of the year. He got Tony Allen to leave his feet, and then kicked him on the way towards flopping on his ass. Again - flat-out bullshit.)

- I don't know why the Pistons don't use Tayshaun Prince more as a viable offensive threat. Seems like whenever he gets the ball he comes up with a clutch dagger-in-your-heart basket to beat the possession clock.

The Cs have their work cut out for them, and I'm not confident that Doc can adjust effectively. Last night was absolutely the time to use Cassell. Stressful stuff. If the Cs manage to get out of this series and into the finals, it will be well deserved.

Jack said...

I think the Celtics are going to win this series, and I'm not even convinced it's going to go to seven games. Overconfident? Likely. But at some point the Celtics have to start playing like a truly professional basketball team and even though last night was a loss, it seems like a previously-unseen step in that direction. They were absolutely in it till the end, and we shouldn't discount the significance of Ray Allen finally, FINALLY, having a Ray Allen night, shooting 9-16 and actually making people guard him. The Pistons are going to have to adjust for that, and as long as the bench steps up I like our chances. In some senses, I think this loss at home could be a galvanizing thing, as so many of this team's problems this postseason have appeared to be psychological; I think this could snap this team out of some weird bizarro fantasy world in which the Garden's taken on some sort of cosmic significance. The fact that they now NEED to win on the road might demystify the rather simple process of doing just that. All things being equal, if both these teams continue to show up, mentally and otherwise, I think the C's have the advantage in terms of talent and depth, and let's not forget that Detroit's not without its own problems of "focus." In other words, this was a tough loss that might well beget an even tougher response. If not these guys just aren't championship material, plain and simple, at least not this year.

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