If the Celtics shoot 45% last night instead of 44% we don't see the blemishes. If a hundred things last night go slightly the other direction we don't see where things need to be improved. We are reactionary, as fans, and so it should be. After all, this is entertainment. If our heroes emerge victorious, then all mistakes that occurred along the way were just lessons that had to be learned. Everything would sit in its correct place as part of the overall story. But the Celtics lost the game, so we hope this is just a lesson that fits somewhere in the middle of a more epic victory, and we, as the captive passenger, continue to search with our heroes for the answers.
It is unfortunate that most of the problems the team faced last night are not things that can be fixed this year. However, that does not make the information gleaned any less important. But we'll start with the immediate issues first.
The Hole on the Floor that was once named Brandon Bass - Bass was a -22 last night and it was the most glaring problem of the game for the Celts. Offensively, BB's jumper was on point, per usual, but he has proven to be one-dimensional in that he can't pass or dribble out of good defense. Now this is no shock to anyone who has watched the Celtics this year, but what was once a slight problem has become a major issue. Ball movement is our savior in this series and Bass is a ball-stopper. However, a far larger problem is Bass on defense, he has effectively disappeared. Failing to rotate so frequently that he has lost his ability to be a fourth quarter option. Bass needs to make a giant leap forward in his defensive discipline if he wants a spot on the roster next year, and the change needs to come immediately. If we survive Atlanta, his defense could be our ultimate downfall.
Late game decisions - This could be a product of the lockout in regard to a shortened training camp, but where in past years we nailed game end situations it is a severe weakness this year. How on earth can our plan be - every game end situation - to give Paul Pierce the ball and watch what happens? (Especially last night when he was completely off his game due to leg issues.) Do we not have plays drawn up for Ray or KG? They both had their shot falling last night. The Celtics have become transparent in late game situations. We were lucky Pierce hit the late three, and it wasn't surprising when his jumper fell short on the two point attempt. He should have never been in that situation. There needs to be a better plan. Fourth quarter offense has caused us our two series losses and an unnecessary overtime period.
There are other immediate issues that are frustrating, injuries and fatigue, but those cannot be helped.
Now for the bigger picture issues. Danny Ainge, I'm looking at you.
We need young athletic big men - Al Horford and Josh Smith murdered us, and the scary thing about it is, I don't see how we stop it. We haven't stopped it all year. Anytime this season that we have come up against a team with two quality big men we just can't compete. Examples being the Bulls and Lakers and now the Hawks. I'm not saying we're going to lose this series, but let's just say I'm really glad we didn't have to see Horford for the whole series and even happier that we won't see Pachulia at all. Our small lineup has worked out mostly because the rest of the league has the same problem we do, there aren't enough athletic bigs to go around. But the reality of the situation is teams that have bigs do better. If Horford had been healthy all year, Atlanta would be the three seed, and we've all seen what Orlando turned into without Howard. Think BIG Danny.
This second point has a lot to do with the first. Rondo is alone and he needs help. It is blatantly obvious at this point that Rondo needs a running mate. We've seen what Rondo can do with the likes of Ryan Hollins and before him Chris Wilcox. Imagine what Rondo could do with say a Blake Griffin type. Now obviously Blake Griffins aren't growing on trees, but you can see where I'm going with this train of thought. Remember how we used to talk about Tom Brady and his lack of weapons. ‘Alas, if Tom only had someone to throw to.' Then Randy Moss came into the picture and turned Tom Brady into the Nintendo Game Genie. This could happen with Rondo if only he had someone to throw to. Right now a good portion of Rondo's magic is being wasted. Think ALLEY-OOPS Danny.
The last point I'll make is the one that hurts the most, and I hate myself for even writing it. The Big 3, as we have known them, are dead. This is not to say that they no longer have value, nor that we should be putting these guys on the next boat to Greenland, but what we have gotten in the past form them, we will never get again. Ray Allen and his Rembrandt of a jump shot will probably play another five years in the league, but it's going to be from the bench and I hope he comes to terms with this before Boston loses him. I don't want to see him go, but we all know that if it comes down to him wanting to start, he'll have to go elsewhere. Kevin Garnett can only play in six-minute intervals, and that's pushing it. Something's going to give with this, and it's not going to be pretty. We will be lucky to have KG back next year, he is still an integral part of what we do, and he can make other players better. But he is probably half a season from being a player that needs to come off of the bench in order to avoid fatigue and injury. We can't just assume he will be a full time starter next year. Paul Pierce is probably another two years from being where Ray and Kevin are now, but that's if he stays healthy. That's a big IF by the way. Driving recklessly to the basket twenty times per game used to be just another day in the life of The Truth. He now suffers injury during the morning shoot around. This all adds up to one thing that no one wants to hear or believe, and before I write it, know this: Paul Pierce is my favorite player, in any sport, I don't ever want to watch the Celtics without him playing. I'm at the age where I've never had to say goodbye to a player that I've watched for a decade. This is going to be tough...
Think FUTURE Danny.