A Quarter-Season Non-Crisis for the Boston Celtics
(Originally posted on 4SportBoston.com )
Here we are 21 games down on the season, and the Celtics stand atop the measly Atlantic Division by eight games with a 17-4 record, and are currently on an eight-game win streak. Despite a little hiccup a couple weeks back, this team looks poised for a decent run here heading into the second quarter of the season.
I wanted to take a look back at my Celtics Preview for the 2009-2010 season and see how this team is holding up to expectations so far into the season.
Of course this conversation should always start with the captain, The Truth, Paul Pierce. Coming into this season, Pierce was set to be in his best shape in years and it really has shown. Besides a tough hit to the knee that never sat him down, Paul has stayed healthy this season and is right in the 18-20 ppg prediction with 18.4. His .496 field goal percentage and .430 three point percentage have been the highlight of the season so far as he is shooting the ball very well.
Ray Allen has been slightly under what I expected of him coming into this season. Even as a wily old vet, Allen has not turned on the afterburners to impress in his contract season. He has, however, shown versatility with much more driving to the basket this season compared to his turn-and-shoot ways of past seasons. His free throw average will certainly end up flirting with my unprecedented expectation at the free throw line of .979 shooting while he is currently at .937.
Kevin Garnett has been his usual in-your-face self, constantly reminding defenders that he is in "his space" and he is not backing down to anyone. Over the past couple weeks, KG has been a beast on the court, absolutely leading this team to just about each victory. Averaging 15.4 points per game, KG has also pulled down 7.4 rebounds per game and nailed that 18-footer like clockwork.
No one can possibly complain about the play of Kendrick Perkins. Watching this kid become one of the most established centers in the league has surely been a fun time. Perk's size has been a true asset to him in a league that is seeing less and less physical play down low. He is pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game (I predicted seven), blocking 1.9 shots a game (predicted two), and chipping in a helpful 11.9 points per game (predicted 10-11). The stat lines barely show what Perk means to this team, but offensive rebounds are a must for this big man to start adding to his repertoire.
I gave Rajon Rondo a lot of credit coming into this season and his shoring up the five year extension since then is definitely a bonus. His current numbers would show him as not living up to the hype I had given him in November, but that doesn't mean that he is under-performing. I think Rondo will do his best work in the second half of this long NBA season.
Last season, Rondo averaged 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 8.2 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. So far this season he has 11.0 points (predicted 14), 4.1 rebounds (predicted 6.5), 9.2 assists (predicted 10), and 2.7 steals (predicted two) per game. I think Rondo's help on the court this season has really allowed him to do the duties of a point guard rather than running around trying to do too much and essentially wearing himself out. He has been able to focus on assists and now he just needs to work out that new mechanic at the free throw line as he is currently shooting a dismal 46 percent from the stripe.
Taking a Look at the Bench
The bench has been much less stable this season than we expected coming in. The addition of Marquise Daniels was definitely a successful one, with him being able to play 20.4 minutes a game and putting up 5.7 points per game. But the C's took a big blow just today, finding out that Daniels has to have thumb surgery and will be out from six to eight weeks, meaning we will see a whole lot of recently activated Tony Allen. Daniels originally hurt that thumb back on Nov. 14 against the Pacers.
Allen has played one game so far this season and should split time with Eddie House, depending on who needs a blow. We can surely expect to see Pierce and Ray Allen have fairly ramped up minutes due to this which could be a serious issue.
But as usual, never underestimate the power of Brian Scalabrine! Scal has averaged 7.6 minutes with 1.6 points per game, but damn did he look good doing it! It really says something for our fan base when we back Scal until death but Tony Allen could walk into the sunset and we wouldn't even watch him go.
Of course, you can't mention the bench without talking about Rasheed Wallace. 'Sheed has been strangely inconsistent so far this season. He is averaging 20.6 minutes, 9.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 143 curse words per game. 'Sheed has kept his pace in the technical foul world as well. Every 16 technical fouls gives a player a little "no-no suspension" and well, lets say that 'Sheed is on pace to get his in February. That's right, months before the end of the season. And every second technical after that is another suspension...
Doc Rivers has been quoted as saying that he and the players are trying to do everything they can to calm Wallace down. The high point was in the game in Charlotte when he was screaming "THE BALL DON'T LIE" down the court when the Bobcats missed the free throw off of his tech.
'Sheed has been much less of an impact than I predicted, but a big surprise coming off the bench has been Shelden Williams. He playing a meaningful 13.5 minutes per game scoring 4.7 points and pulling down 3.7 rebounds per contest. Hopefully, Williams' time won't be affected too much when Glen Davis returns to the court, but then again, we will need to see which Big Baby shows up.
Lester Hudson, J.R. Giddens, and Bill Walker (one game played since returning from arthroscopic knee surgery) are going to remain at the end of the bench, but all are great filler guys for those games that allow the starters and main bench players to sit extensively.
I gave the C's a fighting (Irish) chance at a 70-12 record on the season, and here they are the quarter point with 4 losses. For you statisticians out there, keeping this pace would give them 16 losses and a 66-16 record, right where they have been in the past two seasons.
Reading those final lines in that preview about KG guaranteeing to Wyc Grousbeck that the C's would win the NBA Championship in 2010 and 2011 really gets you excited. So far, so good this season, as long as these little injuries don't hit them too hard in the long run.
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