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Assorted Rantings On a Brain-Jumbling Loss

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Lots of scrambled thoughts in the wee hours of a morning following a pummeling in Game 3.  Though I'm generally a big believer in the got-killed-there-isn't-much-more-to-say approach after blowout losses, this one seems a bit different.  With my mind simultaneously making a beeline in several different directions, it seems time to pay tribute to the fact that I am, after all, writing for a site founded by an individual once most prominently known as "Ranter," so we're breaking out the bullet points for some good old-fashioned extended post-loss randomness.  As always, feel free to join the commiseration by adding your own thoughts to the chaos.

  • It's no surprise that the predictable questions about road trouble are back after this team did a complete 180 roundabout for its first trip to the Q last night.  That said, I'm putting forth my official request that we give this team one more road game before we get too crazy about a long-term problem with winning on the road in the playoffs.  It's been long established that Game 3 is the classic energy game for the lower seeded team in a series as the crowd is often at peak strength, and the players get a big lift out of the familiarity of playing in their own building while the opponents are still adjusting -- and often unwittingly going into an unwanted let-up mode with a 2-0 lead.  It seems reasonable to hope that the 24-point blowout will wake up the Celts to the fact that they were an utter no-show as a team and that it will motivate them to get their collective act together for Game 4.
  • In a similar vein, for as great as the Celtics' defense was in the first two games, there was plenty of talk at the time about how Cleveland also did their part by simply missing shots at an abnormally high clip.  We knew they weren't bad enough to shoot 33 percent for the series, just about no matter how effective the C's were.  By the same token, the likelihood is that no matter how poorly the Celtics rotate defensively, the Cavs probably won't continue to shoot 52 percent or better from both the field and three-point line.  Undoubtedly, the Celtics gave up far too many open looks last night, and that needs to not happen again, but the Cavs also shot the rock extremely effectively.  Sometimes, it doesn't hurt to tip one's cap even while pointing the finger back inside as well.

Read More..All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog. Check him out!

 

  • James Posey could commit a double homicide at this point, and I would find a way to spin it in his favor.  Plays hard every second of every game.  Label me glad his hard foul on LeBron wasn't anything worse than it was.  Glad he keeps playing his brand of rugged defense all the time.  It didn't hurt that he hit a couple of big treys when it still looked like the Celts might try to make a run back into this game.  No question at this point: This guy has become my favorite player on this team. Of course, where this individual might have been for the first 10:47 of the third quarter remains a mystery.
  • Speaking of Posey, no complaints here about the defense of LeBron, both by Posey and Paul Pierce.  If you told me before the game that LeBron would go 5-for-16 for 21 points, 8 assists and 5 boards, I would have been thrilled about the Celts' chances to win this game.  We knew he would hit shots at a better rate than he did the last few games, and sooner or later, he was going to bang a couple from deep.  There was one particular play early in the third quarter on which Pierce had a great defensive possession chasing James around the floor, but LeBron ultimately caught the ball and canned a three right in Pierce's face.  Paul was right there, but sometimes that simply isn't going to stop one of the best players on the planet.  It happens.
  • While Pierce earns credit for his effort on the defensive front, I cannot and perhaps will not understand what the constant settling is all about on the offensive end of the floor.  Pierce took eight shots for the game, and five came from beyond the arc.  For at least one night, it was the same old story for him: When he gets himself going early by getting to the basket hard, he draws fouls and finishes well.  Once he does that, defenders start giving him space, at which point he becomes a much more effective shooter.  If he settles for contested shots from the outside from the start, it generally isn't going to be a great night.  That's the way it's been throughout Pierce's career, and that was certainly the case last night.  One wonders if he was trying to conserve energy because of how draining it is to guard LeBron on the other end, but there still needed to be a more active effort to get to the rim as Pierce did very successfully on a bucket at the end of the third quarter.
  • As the original Ranter pointed out in his post-game brief, the poor play was largely an across-the-board team effort, but that won't stop me from throwing out a few musings about some of the culprits.  Kendrick Perkins' stat sheet means all but nothing to me.  He was utterly atrocious last night, more so in decision-making than any other aspect of the game.  Yes, he was out of position on a few occasions defensively, and yes, he didn't do a great job of finishing around the rim.  But both of those problems were fairly common all the way around last night.  What remains unfathomable is this business of Perk deciding to attempt to, um, 'create,' his own shots.  The three-dribbles-and-airball-from-11-feet move needs to leave his repertoire.  Immediately.  Without question, the team wasn't on its game last night, and sometimes it helps to switch things up a bit.  But Perk has been told on multiple occasions this year that he is not a primary scorer for this team, and that he needs to play his role.  The putbacks and open lay-ups and dunks are great.  The occasional baby hook in the paint is nice, too.  But beyond that, this team cannot afford possessions on which Perk kills a few seconds pounding the ball before wildly putting up a shot that is well out of his accepted range.  As of now, that's a skill for him to work on in the off-season, if ever.  He seemed clueless throughout Game 3, and there remains some confusion as to why he was on the floor for 11 minutes in the third quarter.  Also worth remembering is that, as loyal reader (and wonderful writer in his own right) Bahku points out, Perk wasn't a world-beater in Game 2 either, but that was largely covered up by the fact that the team cruised to victory.  Losing tends to bring out the worst in us.  To his credit, Perk has had several unexpectedly good games in this postseason as well, so here's hoping he recovers for a solid Game 4.
  • Perk is a fifth-year player, but he is still a 23-year-old playing in his first extended playoff action this season.  By the same token, Rajon Rondo is a second-year, 22-year-old point guard in his first postseason as well.  Second-year, 22-year-old point guards have been known to have bad games.  Raj has had a couple in a row now, but he also spent a season and a first-round series shooting the basketball with much more efficacy than many could have expected.  It's the contention here that if he can start canning a few of those corner and wing jumpers, his confidence will rise and benefit his overall game.  His decision-making has unquestionably been shoddy over the last couple of games, and the number of times that he seems to be getting swatted around the rim has been more than a bit disturbing.  But we've put our faith in the neophyte point guard all season, and he has responded quite well for the vast majority of that time.  That he would have a few rough nights was inherent going in.  It's part of the package, and it's a package that I certainly can't complain about given what Raj has brought to the table over the long haul.
  • Sam Cassell is going to have lots of fans when he shoots well and quite a few less fans when he doesn't.  Seems pretty straightforward at this point.
  • Great game, Delonte West.  You killed it tonight.
  • Great game, Ben Wallace.  The seven offensive rebounds were huge.  The nine points just made this game a more painful experience for Celtics fans.  A valiant effort for a guy who was in quite rough shape prior to this game.
  • On a night when an energy boost seemed to be in order, it was curious that Doc opted to hold off on utilizing the Infuriated Infant until the white flag went up with the insertion of the scrubs late in the game.  This isn't meant and hopefully won't be taken as Doc-bashing, just curiosity on my part.
  • Moral of the story: The Celts must rotate better on defense in Game 4.  They continued to contain LeBron, but too many of the looks they allowed to the Cavs' supporting cast were entirely wide-open with no green shirts even in the vicinity.  The Celts did a much better job of not only forcing Bron to give up the ball but also of getting out to challenge every shot in the first two games.  If that sort of play doesn't return, it will certainly make a recurrence of last night's shooting for Cleveland a considerably more palatable idea, although the guess here remains that the Cavs will cool off regardless.
  • Just an after-the-fact disclaimer: Yes, I'm peeved about a lot of what went on last night, but it's my sincere hope that this will be taken as some thoughts on one game as an isolated incident.  I'm quite loathe to be overly reactionary, and the observations here aren't meant as 'throwing the fellas under the bus' or writing them off -- simply what came to mind while watching the team last night.  It's important to keep in mind that this team won 66 regular season games and a first round series before playing excellent basketball in two of the first three games of this series.  One night doesn't undo all of that.  Here's to this abomination being a mere blip on the radar, and here's to a full recovery for the green on Monday night!
  • On one final lighter note, a very happy and healthy Mother's Day to all our maternal readers out there.  To my own Mom, I can't thank you enough for all you've done and continue to do for me, and it's been a lifelong honor to be your son.  All the best for a wonderfully special day!