Last night’s overtime win against the Blazers provided a much needed lift to a Celtics team that had dropped three straight and are an enthusiastic 5-5 in the month of January.
With the advent of this funny little thing called the internet, which I am telling you it is still a fad, fans around the horn are given an immediate voice. An instant sounding board. A direct means to exercise the demons stemming from overly intense sensations of fandom without any other outlet.
In other words, so many people freak out after a few losses and have an easy place to do it: blogs.
I am going to stay away from any type of Armageddon-like post. While it’s tempting, it’s just not the time. It may be the place for it, but definitely not the time.
In any long season, there are going to be lulls. In this case, the Celtics currently find themselves in a similar place as last year.
The Celts came out firing in the beginning part of the season with so much enthusiasm and hype. Players were amped up because of the high expectations that they and everyone else had, especially with the return of KG and the improved play of Rondo and Perk to an already strong 2-3 combo of Ray Ray and Pierce.
Then the injuries started rolling in. Glen Davis. TA. Quisy. KG. Pierce. Sheed. Too many to think about, and too many injuries to really be able to give us a clear indication of what this team was capable of. We got a small peak last night with the return of KG and footage of a cast-less Quisy.
The middle part of the season is the toughest. The initial spark has worn off, but the playoffs are still months away.
The players and Doc still look hungry, which is all that matters right now. There are a handful of things that I see keeping me very optimistic and making it very enjoyable to watch this team play.
Here are some tidbits about why it’s good to be an optimistic Celtics fan in times like these:
KG is back . You can look at the stats to support his importance to this team: opponents team point totals drops seven points, FG percentage drops 3 percent, and their record speaks for itself.
But as the hardcore fans know, KG’s importance is statistically immeasurable. He gets in opponents faces. KG fills up the middle. He defends against the pick-and-roll better than any other big man in the league.
He spreads the floor with his deadly jumper. He’s among the best big-man passers. KG is just that good. Glad to see him back, and a report from Forsberg says he feels fine today after last night’s game.
The timing will return with more games. I’m being patient with this one.
Tony Allen Non-Disappointment Outlook Theory still holding true . Tony Allen is playing really well. Still.
Yes, he has his small moments, but really, the guy has been just playing solid, smart ball. That may be the first time I have ever said solid and smart in the same sentence when referencing TA.
Sticking with TANDOT, I won’t be surprised if he is packaged with Scal to be traded (a combined $5+ million expiring contracts) for something that could really make a difference in that second unit.
But then, sticking with the flip-side of TANDOT, I think TA is playing a valuable role in this team’s success. TA is giving that second unit life and versatility. Although we aren’t likely to see complete five-man substitutions, we could have a solid second unit if all five starters were to see rest at the same time: Eddie, TA, Quisy, Glen, and Sheed.
Not bad with Shelden as a backup four if he matches up better against the opponents' four (rebounding, faster than Glen, etc.). I’ll take the opportunity to say it once again: TA is playing solid, smart ball. Feels good to finally say that after so many years.
Sheed on the block . Well, last night wasn’t exactly Sheed on the block, but we’ve seen a fair amount of him posting up this month during KG’s absence. What I’m really digging his is post, turn-around fade-away off the glass 10-footer.
That shot is money and needs to be his go-to shot. When Sheed is on the block, we play better. It’s as simple as that.
Rondo being Rondo . For the most part, January has been a good month for Rondo. While I was getting nervous that the nagging hamstring and overload of minutes was affecting his speed and quickness, Rondo put those fears aside with some blistering moves.
Of particular note was the behind the back dribble that split two Blazers defenders and made his way to an easy bucket.
His numbers in the last 10 games have been strong: he has been 48-77 around the rim, leaving him shooting 62 percent up close. What is comforting is that he has taken 129 shots in the last 10 games, averaging just a touch under 13 shots per game.
Despite KG being back in the lineup, I am hoping that Rondo remains aggressive in his moves to the hoop. The success of the first unit on offense really depends on who well Rondo is penetrating and mixing it up between passing and creating shots of his own.
Pierce is still so much fun to watch . Paul Pierce has just been a beast since returning from his “knee irrigation” from the weird infection. From behind the arc alone, he is 19-30 this month (63 percent!!!!).
We know Pierce as a scorer, but now people have begun to recognize him as a great defender, and he is still one of the most underrated passers in the league. For a swingman, he is a damn good passer. The league got a glimpse of how good his passing is on the ludicrous out of bounds pass he lobbed up for Rondo to bring the game into OT earlier in January.
But watching him create off the dribble with great anticipation is truly a thing of beauty. He manipulates the ball so well and can squeeze passes into dark places that you don’t want to know about.
The more that Pierce is creating, the better off we all are. But there is also a question: In the last two games Pierce has been hot in the first quarter, yet we weren’t deferring to him more. Why not?
Despite the goodness that I just ranted about, there is one thing that I am hoping improves as the season progresses. We need to stop looking at the ref thinking that complaining about calls is going to fix things.
The Celtics keep looking at refs to bail them out of situations that they should never have found themselves in in the first place. Look, I am not denying that there have been some really crappy calls made against the Celtics, but still, you need to play through it. With a veteran team like ours, there needs to be some maturation and simple growing up to do.
Move on, make a stop, make a bucket, and move on again.
Time to play with some more hunger, boys.