Glaring Problems Boston Celtics Must Fix Before 2013 Playoffs Begin
All season long, the Celtics have been like a car that is just too old to be kept on the road. However, the car has extreme sentimental value because it has been reliable for so long. Pieces have continued to break down or fall off, but hey, that's nothing a little duct tape or Jordan Crawford can't fix.
Recently, a key part of that engine broke down and unfortunately, the part Boston needs is stuck in transit for the next couple weeks. Kevin Garnett is hurt, and will rest for the next few games, making it even more difficult for this Celtics car to run into the playoffs.
Right now, Boston is backing into the postseason. With five straight losses, the Celtics have lost their way and are in the process of doing serious damage control.
If this car is to travel a little bit further and earn an inspection sticker, there are some glaring fixes that need to be made.
Figuring out Jordan Crawford
When Jordan Crawford became a member of the Boston Celtics at the trade deadline, no one was really sure what to think.
It has been that way for Crawford's entire career, and is no different now. He single-handedly nearly stole a game from the Memphis Grizzlies, with 14 fourth-quarter points and 21 overall. Then he earned a start in place of an injured Courtney Lee against the New York Knicks and turned the ball over six times in 41 minutes.
Obviously the start was a special circumstance, but what is Jordan Crawford's role on this team? Long before the Celtics started hemorrhaging injuries again, Doc Rivers was using Crawford for large chunks of the fourth quarter.
Rivers needs to figure out if that is the wisest decision. He may be the best ball-handling guard on the team, but that doesn't make him the smartest decision-maker.
Jeff Green's Consistency
What do you remember from Jeff Green's 43-point game against the Miami Heat?
It should be that he relentlessly took the ball to the rim, mixing in some left hand and corner threes. It should be that he scored and helped the team in each quarter of the game.
That is something that has been absent for Green over the losses since the Heat game. Green has continued to come out firing in the first quarter, but after that has just been miserable.
Against the New Orleans Hornets, Green opened the game with 11 points in the first frame, but finished with just 13. Even when earning a start in the game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Green finished with 12 points, and just two combined in the second and third quarters.
This has been a problem for Green since his days at Georgetown, and was a serious knock on him in the draft. He has an outrageously strong tendency to disappear during games.
That can no longer be the case. The Celtics cannot win if he isn't scoring in every quarter.
Get Paul Pierce Another Night off
Paul Pierce is on a tear right now.
Over the last five games, he's averaging 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists. He's also shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 52.4 percent from beyond the arc. These are vintage Pierce numbers, coming at the tail-end of his 15th NBA season.
Pierce hasn't shot under 50 percent for in individual game since taking the night off on March 12 against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Celtics have seven games remaining against non-playoff teams, and it might be wise to give Pierce another offday.
That will be harder to do with Kevin Garnett already out, but it does add the incentive for the other players to really step up. With 12 games remaining, Pierce could go into the postseason playing 19 straight games.
Boston starts April with four straight contests with very weak teams. Look for Pierce to get a night off in there, and for Jeff Green to get another fire ignited beneath him.
Jason Terry's Shot Selection
It is time for Jason Terry to put up or shut up.
I've been completely tolerant of all the jabbing with LeBron James and the Miami Heat, but the fact is that Terry has been a sizable disappointment this season.
The talk has been necessary, because without Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics' backcourt is void of a strong attitude. Rondo's demeanor and talk gave that unit some swagger, and Terry recognized that. Now he's trying to fill it, but his play is slipping.
When he came to the Celtics over the offseason, Terry was not advertised as a Ray Allen-type three-point shooter. Terry has a brilliant mid-range game and can handle himself in the paint.
Terry is shooting just 21.4 percent from beyond the arc over the last five games. He needs to reevaluate where he is most useful on the court for the Celtics and start getting the job done.
Per Vorped.com, Terry is shooting a powerful 48.7 percent from inside the three-point line. Yet, over the last 30 days, Terry has taken 51-of-105 field goal attempts from beyond the arc.
Rebounding by Any Means Necessary
Something totally unacceptable happened in the Boston Celtics' recent loss to the New York Knicks.
Playing without Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were able to grab 15 offensive rebounds leading to 21 more field goal attempts than the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett or no Kevin Garnett, offensive rebounding is about effort.
The game before, against the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston gave up 16 offensive boards and allowed 20 more shot attempts. The Miami Heat beat Boston with 10 offensive rebounds and 13 more shot attempts.
This has been an ongoing problem for the Celtics. It doesn't matter how good of a defensive team you have, you cannot survive that type of shot discrepancy.
It is time for Doc Rivers to start lowering the hammer on his weak rebounding players. If Terrence Williams is the best rebounding guard on the team, then he has to get more minutes. If Shavlik Randolph can out-rebound Chris Wilcox, while his thumb is still taped up, then maybe it's time for him to see more opportunities.
This problem has to stop.
Cutting Down on Turnovers
Over the five-game losing streak, the Boston Celtics are turning the ball over 16 times per game.
That number would place them at No. 29 in the league, were it extrapolated for a whole season. In reality, the Celtics still rank in the top half of the league in turnovers per game, but lately, as the pace has increased, ball security has not.
While integrating the always shaky Jordan Crawford into the lineup, ball control is going to take a hit. It is also a virtue of not having a legitimate point guard on the active roster.
This is the bed Danny Ainge has made, however. There were plenty of opportunities to find Rajon Rondo a legitimate backup, even after the Celtics star went down, but Ainge felt confident in layering shooting guard on top of shooting guard.
There is no easy fix to this problem, outside of giving Paul Pierce more ball-handling responsibility. Even that has its downsides, with Pierce already having so much on his plate.
Too Much, Too Soon for Avery Bradley
It is very easy to forget that the loss to the New York Knicks was only Avery Bradley's 134th regular season game in the NBA.
With Rajon Rondo out, Bradley has had to shoulder way more than he was ready to take. Bradley has been buckling beneath the weight of expectations for over a month now.
This stems from Danny Ainge's inability to find a backup point guard. He and Doc Rivers' expectation of Bradley to simply step into Rondo's shoes offensively has been a glaring mistake.
Bradley's shooting has been in the tank for weeks, and it is a simple byproduct of trying to do too much. Bradley isn't ready to hit big shots, run an offense and deliver top-of-the-line defense on a nightly basis.
In 13 March games, Bradley has had three good offensive nights. He's shooting a miserable 37.8 percent during the month and has bricked 12 of his last 15 threes.
The Celtics need to find a way to take a load off of him offensively, which may be what Rivers is trying to do with Jordan Crawford.