The Celtics will take their second (needed) straight day off tomorrow as they prepare for a rematch with the Miami Heat on Thursday. Until that time, however, the focus will remain on last night's 89-87 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. It was Boston's second defeat of the season, and, just like against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was a loss that could have, and probably should have, gone the other way. Here's Paul Pierce's take (courtesy of The Boston Herald):
"I feel like we let this game go," Paul Pierce said. "We had a three-point lead, and we gave up a 3. We had the lead late. I think this is a game we just let slip away."
While those words aren't necessarily reassuring, as has been the case with the Celtics in recent years, the losses aren't a result of a lack of talent or firepower. Instead, the wounds, for the most part, have been self inflicted. While the lack of whistles on the part of the officials last night caught the attention of some, the Celtics also drew criticism for a failure to attack the rim, particularly in the second half. There's been criticism of Glen Davis for switching onto Dirk Nowitzki on Dallas' final possession. And there's been criticism of Rondo for launching an uncontested three-pointer with under 10 seconds left, instead of slashing into the lane and trying to get to the basket. Pierce, however, defended Rondo's shot.
"I love the shot Rondo took," Pierce said. "I told him after the game I'll take that shot from him every time."
Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston examined a lack of second chance point opportunities for the Celtics in last night's loss, along with their shot selection as a team down the stretch.
Here's what Paul Pierce tweeted earlier today:
Tough loss last night gotta pick it back up n miami when we get healthy we r going to b scary
It's a nice thought, but, based on what we've seen thus far, is it realistic to think the Celtics will ever be fully healthy during the regular season? Jermaine O'Neal's left knee has to be at least a minor concern, given that the pain was too much for him to continue playing into the second half last night. I know he said he was looking forward to these two days off, but is two days really enough to solve an issue like that? Hopefully when Shaq gets back (I'm crossing my fingers for Thursday. The C's could use him against Miami's front court), Doc Rivers can find a way to limit the minutes of both.
Meanwhile, only two more games to go until Delonte West comes back. If Rondo's feet continue to act up and he does have to miss some (hopefully very limited) time, I'd feel much better about sending West out to man the point than Nate Robinson. And with West back in the fold Nate can be free of the ball handling duties for the second unit. It got pretty ugly at times last night.
One last note on the Dallas game: I mentioned a specific play the Celtics have been running this season a few days ago, and the Celtics employed it twice last night. I'm thinking of labeling it as the "horde play" because of the "horde" of players who gather on one specific side of the court. What do you think? I'll keep working on the name. Anyway...Last night with 2:41 the Celtics set up in formation for the play (Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett on the right side, preparing for a pick-and-pop, while Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Glen Davis stood shoulder-to-shoulder-to shoulder above the three-point line on the left wing), Rondo moved around Garnett's screen, tossed the ball back to Garnett and KG hit the jump shot. The other three players still cut to their respective locations on the floor once the play got going, but Rondo decided to feed Garnett.
Less than a minute later, the Celtics ran this set once again, and this time, when Davis dove to the hoop, he actually (perhaps inadvertently) picked off Pierce's man, leaving Pierce wide-open behind the three-point line. Rondo fed him the ball, and Pierce drained the shot, giving Boston a 67-63 lead at the time. The formation is noticeable, and the Celtics have only elected to resort to this play once or twice in a select number of games this season, but the results have been positive. I'll be interested to see if they run this against the Heat on Thursday.