In his post game presser Doc Rivers told reporters that he called games like Sunday night’s 92-86 loss to the Portland Trailblazers a “My bad” game. That’s when he hears too many “My bads” during time outs and during play stoppages…
…but can we get a “My bad” from Doc for getting away from what’s going to make the Celtics successful and playing right into the hands of their bigger opponents?
The Celtics are not a big team, and when Jared Sullinger went down with trick back they got even smaller. But instead of bringing in some bigs to beef up under the baskets, they brought in ball handling and speed…
…which is fine, but if you’ve got those players you’ve got to play to their strengths, and you’ve got to force your game on them, make them play your game and force them to match you. Tonight, it was the other way around, and the Celtics just don’t have the bigs to play that game.
Paul Pierce appeared to be pushing himself at times, scoring 23 points with 7 boards and 8 assists which was half of the Celtics’ total for the game. Kevin Garnett pitched in with a 20 point, 9 rebound effort, but it was meager scrapings after that.
After getting the starting nod on Friday night in Phoenix, Jeff Green was relegated back to the bench, and joined his fellow pine-riders with a sluggish effort, as the combination of Green, Jason Terry, Chris Wilcox and newcomers Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams accounted for just 19 points on a horrific 7 of 26 shooting, a minuscule number considering the sheer firepower at Doc’s disposal.
Wes Matthews scored a game high 24 points for the Trailblazers – in their very stylish Rip City home whites – with a 5 of 8 performance from three point land, including the clutch dagger trey in the final minute. Nicholas Batum scored 18 and LaMarcus Aldridge 16 for Portland, who snapped a seven game losing streak and now stand at 26-30 on the season.
The difference in the game was in the paint. J.J. Hickson and Victor Claver ripped down 11 and 10 boards respectively, leading a Portland board crashing party that saw Rip City out rebound the Celtics 47-36.
So the bench was flat, Garnett laboring, the offense going through Pierce with everyone else standing around watching the Blazers swarm to block the key and box out on the boards – and still, inexplicably, the Celtics had the game tied at 86 with less than 2 minutes left in the game.
The Celtics started slowly, allowing the Blazers to race out to a quick lead but game was really nip and tuck the whole way, Portland building leads, the Celtics chipping away to tie or take small leads, then another Blazer run to finish out a quarter – and that scenario carried over to the last two minutes of regulation.
Garnett got into the paint for a the lay in that tied the game at 86 with 1:45 left, but then Damien Lillard answered for the Blazers, going hard to the hoop over Avery Bradley who had played a fantastic defensive game otherwise. Bradley fouled Lillard and he completed the old fashioned three point play. Pierce had a chance at a game tying three, but it wouldn’t go and Matthews nailed the dagger trey at the other end to finish off the Celtics.
Portland will continue to enjoy home cooking and look to build on the momentum from this game as they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday the have a few days off before welcoming the Timberwolves while Boston heads to a tough contest in Salt Lake City against the Jazz on Monday night to finish their five games in seven nights western conference road trip before returning home for a little R&R before hosting the Warriors on Friday night.
Utah is a very difficult place to play. The Jazz are the biggest team in the league and they play a style of ball that is intended to physically beat you down – when combined with the altitude and the design of the arena making it seem like the crowd is right on your neck, it can be very intimidating if you get down early and let the crowd get into the game.
With all of the speed that the Celtics now possess, it will be imperative for them to come out and run, crash the boards and get the transition offense going – getting more minutes for Green, Terry, Wilcox and Crawford and dictating to the Jazz with their speed and not getting into a half-court struggle with them, because that is Utah’s game and they are very good at it.
Sluggish play is going to produce a lot of mistakes, up tempo games will produce some as well, but at least it can excused to some degree as being aggressive…get the bench more minutes, let them get into a rhythm and let their speed and athleticism dictate the terms.
Because when you dictate to the opposition, the “My Bads” get replaced with chest bumps and high fives…