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Ugly Is Beautiful

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posey3.jpgPutting 3 All Stars on one team usually means that scoring points won't be a problem.  On many nights all three will do what they do best and score close to 20 or more points.  On some rare and wonderful occasions all three will be feeding off each other moving the ball around and basically making defenders head spin like tops. 

On the other hand, there will be some nights when things simply aren't clicking for one or two of them offensively and they'll need to find other ways to win.  Those will be the ugly games.

Championship teams win ugly games all the time.  When Jordan wasn't hitting shots, he was getting to the free throw line to rack up points there.  When the Pistons were at their peak (both times), they relied on heavy handed team defense to neutralize the opponents.  When Bird and McHale were less than perfect (a rare occasion), the Chief was able to pick up the scoring load with some help from DJ and Ainge.

There are times when the refs are calling a loose game and the offenses can get into a rhythm and flow.  Anyone with a few competent scorers can win a game like that.  On the flipside, we are all painfully aware of those times when the refs can't stop calling fouls, everyone is in foul trouble, scores are in the 60's in the 4th quarter, and nothing comes easy.  The really, really good teams win games like that on a regular basis.

It is early yet, but the Celtics are leading the league in opponents' field goal percentage.  Quoting Peter May (because I'm too lazy to look up the stats myself) here are some more impressive stats:

The Celtics opened against two (supposedly) decent teams, one of which, the Wizards, pretty much lives and dies with its offense. The Raptors can put up points as well and were at home. The result: The two teams combined to shoot 35.9 percent and average 89 points. And that's with an overtime thrown in Sunday against Toronto. Chicago is No. 2 in field goal defense at 38.6 percent and the Raptors are No. 2 in points allowed at 88.

Maybe this is an aberration and the team will be forced to outscore other teams to win games.  Somehow, however, with Coach Thibodeau calling the shots and Kevin Garnett demanding full effort from his mates on defense, I don't think that will be much of a problem.  We all know Posey's rep as a defensive stopper, and I think the rest of the team has it in them to forge a new stingy identity.  Which of course means winning more ugly games.

I understand that the league has moved to a more up-tempo, flashy, Phoenix Suns inspired offensive game.  More and more good teams are winning pretty.  It is fun for fans and good for promoting the game.  And there will be times when the Celtics are clicking so well that everything will look easy on offense.  Still, nobody has been able to trump that old cliché that defense wins Championships.  The boring Spurs have won 3 in the last 6 years with boring defense.  The Pistons and even the Heat (with Posey) also played exceptional defense to win their titles.  Even the Cavaliers rode an impressive defensive effort to win the East last year.

And it isn't just about the defense, although that's most of it.  It is also about hitting free throws (see Ray Allen and Eddie House).  It is also about having guys that make the most out of the possessions that start to break down.  It is about having guys that can hit clutch shots at the end of regulation.  Pierce missed his shots last game, but he's proven to be clutch in the past.  Ray Allen obviously has the stroke to be a cold hearted killer in the final seconds.  Even KG has shown an ability to be both unselfish and clutch in the past - depending on the situation.  Don't forget also that Eddie House and James Posey.  There will be games when nothing seems to be going right, but at a key moment one of those two will calmly step up and hit a huge three pointer to swing the momentum back to us.  On Sunday that was Posey in the fourth quarter.

This is how good teams become great.  This is how teams win Championships.  Winning ugly games is a beautiful thing.