Mikki, The Truth and Other Game 4 Rumblings

A Daily Babble Production

Though the Terrifying Toddler's last-second heroics and season-long development earned the nod as order of the day at the Daily Babble on Monday, Game 4 of Celtics-Magic left plenty more to discuss.  Let's get right to it.

  • Rajon Rondo continues to look electric at times and baffling at others.  The 6-foot-1 wisp dominated the glass again with 14 rebounds, and he finished with a sneaky 21 points, getting in the lane for a few of his hallmark scoop righty lay-ups on the left side and even hitting a few jumpers.  But he also took at least four jumpers with nine seconds or more remaining on the shot clock, which isn't the type of shot selection this team needs. 
  • At the defensive end, while the Magic's point guards combined for a putrid shooting night, I still don't understand Rondo's issues with regard to keeping his man in front of him.  On one particularly disgusting play, Rondo simply watched as Anthony Johnson blew by him, settling for swiping at the ball from behind and missing, which led to a Johnson lay-in  Rondo has more of an excuse for the following play (another Johnson lay-up) because he was screened, though he certainly didn't kill himself trying to get around the pick.  The first one, however, was downright awful defense.  I normally wouldn't nitpick quite so much about one play, but this is something we're seeing with regularity of late.
  • Loved watching the Captain aaaaaaaand The Truth heat up midway through and then run the offense in the third quarter.  Before he picked up his fourth foul at the 4:16 mark of the third, the Celtics had scored on seven of their previous nine possessions, totaling 15 points in that span.  The captain hit a couple of vintage PP wing jumpers (including a step-back, draw-contact, knock-it-down bucket against Hedo Turkoglu), hit a three from the parking lot and made several good passes.  His best read of the game didn't even result in a Celtics bucket: From outside the circles out near the right wing, Pierce skipped an overhead pass across the floor to an open Ray Allen in the left corner after watching Allen drift behind a screen.  Ray didn't hit the shot, but it was a good look and an unselfish decision from the guy who had scored six of the Celts' last eight points at the time.
  • Eh, perhaps that pass to Ray was only Pierce's second best.  He found some oversized toddler off a screen roll late in the game.  That worked out rather well.
  • My only Pierce complaint for the night echoes that of The Guru: He has to do a better job keeping himself on the floor.  Whether or not you thought the fifth foul was bogus, it was enough of a problem that Pierce put himself in a situation where he had to sit with four fouls shortly after the midway point of the third.  Particularly on nights when his offensive performance carries the Celtics, the captain must do a more conscientious job of, as he says, keeping his hands out of the cookie jar.
  • The more shots Rafer Alston takes from far away from the basket, the happier I'm going to be.
  • While Alston's 1-for-7 performance (1-for-6 from deep) doesn't shock me, I wouldn't expect more of the same from J.J. Redick, who also shot 1-for-7 for the game (and 0-for-5 from deep).
  • Box score oddity of the night: At halftime, Redick led all players in assists with seven.  As my buddy Lee noted after the game, Redick finished as the game's high assist man with those same seven assists.
  • The Celtics shot 53 percent from the field.  Orlando shot 40 percent from the field.  The Celtics won by one point.  Major issue: Orlando took 13 more field-goal attempts (and one more free-throw attempt), a poor reflection of the Celtics' work on the glass (Orlando had three more second chance attempts on offensive rebounds) and with regard to ball control (minus-5 in turnover differential).  These factors have caused trouble all season, and they aren't any less important now.  Orlando came up with four offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.  The first three led directly to baskets for a total of seven points.  The fourth gave the Magic a chance to call timeout and set up the play that got Rashard Lewis to the stripe for two foul shots to give the Magic the lead with 11 seconds to play.
  • The Celtics committed four traveling violations in this game.  Large Baby led the way with two.  Rajon Rondo committed a particularly bad walk when he failed to make up his mind between attacking the basket from the right elbow or dishing to an open Eddie House (a rare sight) behind the arc, which led to some foot-shuffling during his moment of indecision.  Wide open from 15 feet with the defense waiting at the basket, the choice should be between taking a shot or finding a more open better shooter.  Given that I'm happy to limit Rondo's jump-shooting output, a pass to House would have been just fine.
  • Speaking of Eddie, credit Courtney Lee especially and the Magic as a unit for blanketing the gunner who hit 17 of his 21 shots in games 2 and 3.
  • Another rough night for the Celtics at the foul line (18-for-27) was led by the eventual hero's five missed free throws (including his first four attempts) and Rondo's 5-for-8 effort.
  • The Celtics do not have an answer at the defensive end for Rashard Lewis right now.  This is quite plain.
  • Four times in this game, the Celtics sent Dwight Howard to the line for one shot.  This needs to not happen.
  • Really, the set of events that occurred upon Mikki Moore's entrance to the game should be its own Babble:
  1. On his first play in action, Mikki stands in the lane watching Hedo Turkoglu penetrate, apparently completely unaware that his man (Rashard Lewis) likes to shoot from behind the three-point line.  When Lewis catches the ball in the right corner, he has a minimum of eight feet of space between himself and Moore.  Three-pointer is good.  I know Mikki generally expends a lot of energy and just isn't a good defender, but the lack of mental preparation here is purely astounding to me.  I find it hard to believe the Celtics' scouting reports and film sessions over the first three games of this series did not include anything about the need to cover Lewis.
  2. Mikki gets a delay of game warning when his toss of the ball to the ref goes awry after a Celtics basket.  Easily his most pedestrian offense of the night.
  3. After the Celtics force a J.J. Redick miss, Mikki bails the Magic out by committing a loose ball foul to send Howard to the line.
  4. Mikki gives up a jumper to Rashard Lewis.  To his credit, he managed to make sure that shooter and defender were in the same area code this time.
  5. Mikki commits a not-hard-enough foul giving Dwight Howard a chance for a three-point play.

The delay warning excepted, these are major problems.  I'm still a tad confused as to how the Celts wound up plus-1 during the six minutes and 40 seconds he played to end the first half.

  • Given the Celtics' depth and foul trouble issues on the front line, I'm not even all that opposed to getting Mikki some run in this series, though watching him play continues to have the tendency to infuriate me.  But if Doc is going to go with Mikki, I'm curious as to why he doesn't do it earlier in the first halves of these games.  Moore's contribution at this point is serving as a body to preserve the fouls of the more trusted bigs, but it's interesting to me that Doc waits until the foul trouble is as dire as it is (Glen Davis and Brian Scalabrine both had three before Moore came in) before making a change.  While Moore would be preserving the same number of minutes by serving his stint earlier, those minutes would be more valuable to the Celtics' bigs, as there is a difference in the level of aggressiveness that can be employed when a player isn't already in foul trouble.
  • Nine minutes, eight points (on four shots), four rebounds for Marcin Gortat.  More per-minute dominance.  Putting a body on this guy on the glass might not be a terrible idea.
  • Kendrick Perkins fought back from aggravating a chronic left shoulder injury to return to the floor late in the fourth quarter and force Dwight Howard into a contested hook shot with the Celtics up one in the final two and a half minutes.  Big play.
  • Considering what Howard can do when he makes a deep catch as well as the Magic's love of the three-pointer, I'm growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of coaxing D-12 into making post moves and trying to beat the Celtics with hooks and runners from even as close as five to 10 feet from the bucket. This remains an unpolished part of his game, and Perk does a fine job of making those shots difficult for him.  Once again, effective post defense comes down to doing one's work early.  If Howard gets the position he wants for a catch below the block, Perk is toast.  But if he can force an entry pass away from the bucket, it's a whole different game.
  • Ray Allen has a blow-up game coming sooner or later.
  • One more fun bit of personal significance that made this win special: I will see The Guru for the first time in two months (and thus since the postseason started) on Thursday.  With the victory last night, the Celtics clinched an extension of their season at least as far as Game 6 of this series, which means the two of us will be able to watch at least one Celtics playoff game together - and hopefully many more.  This makes me smile.
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