Here are some questions I would ask the participants of Sunday’s Celtics-Knicks playoff game if I had locker room access, which I don’t, and if I had the balls to challenge professional athletes standing around half-naked on their performance and craft, which I definitely don’t.
“Doc Rivers, what’s it like coaching a professional basketball team in a playoff series without playing a single point guard or center?”
The Celtics had one point guard on the roster this season, and his name is Rajon Rondo. Avery Bradley is not a point guard, Jason Terry is not a point guard (or an NBA-basketball player at this point), Courtney Lee is not a point guard, and Jordan Crawford is, almost, relative to the rest of the guards on the roster, sort of a point guard.
And KG is not a center, which is something we know because only two years ago he said he didn’t like playing center. Brandon Bass is being asked to guard Carmelo Anthony when KG is in, and then play the five when KG is out (which is a Lebron-level demand of someone’s full range of athletic abilities, a demand which he very admirably met).
But that’s the issue with this team. Only the Heat can get away with playing without a 1 or a 5, and that’s because Lebron is a terrifying monster-movie villain that cannot be killed and can switch forms into whatever shape is necessary to murder or disembowel you. He’s like the liquid metal guy from Terminator 2. Or the clown from IT. He is terrifying. I guess if you actually like Lebron, you would see him more like Mega Man at the end of the game, when he can switch between a litany of ammo and powerups to perfectly compliment the enemy’s weaknesses. That’s whats terrifying about the possibility of facing Lebron in the playoffs. You know he has the ice ray for the C’s fireballs. Just like he’s got the boomerang ray for the Knicks flying robot machines and the heat seeking missiles for the Pacers….bouncy bombs? Ok, it’s been a while since I played Mega Man. I guess D-Wade is kind of like the dog he had in that one game?
Speaking of not having a center….
“Shavlik Randolph, as the only true center on this team, we could really use your defense and rebounding when KG sits and we are playing Brandon Bass at the 5. So, my question is, what did you do to Doc? Can you apologize please? ”
Shavlik Randolph’s per minute averages are insane. He can rebound, defend, and he’s got a pretty good sense of how to move without the ball, and when he gets it down low he can finish. Most importantly, Shavlik knows his limitations perfectly. He doesn’t try to do anything he can’t.
Also, he gets hit in the face a lot.
He averaged 4.4 rebounds over 12.4 minutes per game this season, which projects to 17 boards a game over 48 minutes. He also shoots 58% and would average a block and a half over a complete game. I know this kind of projection is a kind of fool’s errand, sort of like projecting the proliferation of Elvis impersonators. Those stats aren’t going to hold up, and in limited action he somehow manages to put up complete game foul totals. But that being said, Shavlik has had some solid performances in limited minutes when KG was out (including a 16 and 7 against a Varejao-less Cleveland and a 9 and 13 against Atlanta in 22 and 13 minutes, respectively). He’s tough and smart. He can play in small doses. So why can’t he get ten minutes a game when KG sits and the C’s are playing Brandon Bass at the five?
“Mike Woodson, what’s it like knowing you can play three guards and two forwards against a team playing four forwards and not get out rebounded? “
The Celtics started big with one guard and four forwards, sending out Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett for the opening tip. They stayed with this line up for much of the game, while bringing in only guards off the bench to go small at times. Doc’s plan with the big lineup is to have three guys on the floor, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and Paul Pierce, who can guard Carmelo at any time, which prevents him from destroying smaller defenders on switches.
(Amazingly, Bass guarded Anthony the best, which I found surprising. I forgot how big Melo is, how quick Brandon is, and how much Jeff can get muscled around.)
With that large lineup, you would expect the Celtics to have a rebounding advantage, but the game ended with both teams grabbing an even 40 rebounds. For a weak rebounding team like the Celtics, this could be seen as a victory.
But if you look at who the Knicks played, it becomes pretty apparent that they are getting away with going small and quick while not sacrificing rebounding in the process. Tyson Chandler played 20 minutes and Kenyon Martin played 28. After that, you had 6’8 Chris Copeland playing thirteen minutes, and that’s pretty much it for the Knicks big men, other than Melo, who doesn’t exactly protect the rim. This leads me to my question for Kenyon Martin.
“Kenyon Martin, I understand you are happy to be back in the NBA, and especially the playoffs, after playing in China for most of this year. But can you act like you maybe aren’t totally shocked to dunk the ball? Like maybe, you don’t need to scream at the sky like a ‘roided out coyote at a full moon every time you do anything? What’s the deal with that stupid pick up artist lip tattoo on your neck? Can you be any more unlikable?
I have hated Kenyon Martin ever since Jason Kidd and him used to beat the Antoine Walker-Paul Pierce Celtics in the early 2000’s. I have hated Kenyon Martin since before there was a Southern Sudan.
Speaking of hate…
“Officials, you do realize that Jason Kidd’s veteran savvy does not mean that the whole forearm of the ball handler magically becomes part of the ball when he goes for a strip, right?”
Alright…now that I got that off my chest, let’s get back to more positive things.
“Paul Pierce, I love you.”
(Realizes that’s not a question.)
“Paul Pierce, guess how much I love you?”
Paul had a great sequence in the third after Jeff Green mentally left the game and the Celtics offense was suffocating and on the verge of collapsing (a condition it would succumb to in that abominable fourth quarter). Paul was having an off night shooting, and he had just air balled a mid-range jumper. You could see that Paul had decided “we need a bucket, and I don’t have my shot. I need to get to the line.”
Over the next five minutes Paul took the ball to the rim, drawing fouls on Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, which are match ups he needs to take advantage of. He then pulled up over top a KG screen and hit a three that revolved three times around the rim before dropping in. It looked like Paul had self-medicated his limp jump shot with a few quick trips to the line, a remedy we’ve seen him use a thousand times to get his shooting going. When he hit the three, the C’s went up 70-64. But then he pulled up the next time down the floor and missed a three with a hand in his face. C’mon Paul. You hit one shot, not exactly time for a heat check.
That being said, even though his scoring wasn’t there, the Captain led the team with seven assists and three gutsy charges. Paul is the point guard now. It certainly isn’t Avery, and the JET should be permanently grounded and put in some sort of aerospace museum dedicated to housing antiques, like combo guards that could win titles. The problem with Paul at the point is that he had six turnovers. That can’t happen. Paul needs to score or he needs to be an efficient point guard. If he’s neither, the C’s are pretty doomed.
The good thing about all of this is that Paul is going to find his offense, and he can score against all of the Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, and J.R. Smith match ups he gets when the Celtics go big. He will be fine, and if he can get the pick and roll game going with KG, they have a chance. They stopped a Knicks’ run with a pretty oop off the pick and roll in the second. Especially when it’s Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin , Melo, and three guards in the game, the C’s have to run lots of pick and rolls with KG, bringing Chandler or Martin away from the basket for Avery cuts and Jeff Green driving lanes.
That’s the thing about this series, the shots are gonna be there for Paul and KG. They also held Melo to a pretty low percentage (13-29). The C’s have a shot.
“Avery Bradley, you realize you can bounce the ball into the post, right?”
Avery had a decent game, and was effective on the offensive end. But he had some pretty egregious turnovers trying to lob the ball to KG in the post from near half court.
I feel for Avery, because watching him trying to make entry passes at MSG reminded me of myself trying to make entry passes while playing NBA 2K. How is there not a bounce pass button? I see the lane, why can’t my little digital man see it? Why do they randomly bounce the ball sometimes and not others? Just put a bounce pass button in the game. How hard is that?
(After writing this it occurred to me I have not played the newest NBA 2K13. I looked it up, and turns out they have implemented the bounce pass button. So, thanks EA Sports.)
“Kevin Garnett, are you ready for game two?”
Just checking that you have, you know, a couple missiles.
“Mike Woodson, what is your goatee? It looks like it is one solid thing, like the individual hairs have fused together to make some sort of composite material that could be used to stop bullets. How does your hair grow so perfectly to the borders of your lips, not just the top lip, but the bottom lip as well?
Can I touch it? What? This is the last time I’m allowed in the locker room isn’t it?”