The Celtics fell to 0-1 after losing a hard fought game against the New York Knicks, 106-104. The Celtics had their chances to win the game down the stretch, and although they didn't take advantage of those chances and win, this inaugural game of the season can hardly be considered a failure.
To hang with and come close to beating an immensely talented team like the Knicks, with captain Paul Pierce in street clothes, is a good sign for the Celtics.
Also, a few Celtics players had excellent performances.
Rajon Rondo: A
Perhaps the biggest bright spot of the game for the Celtics was Rajon Rondo. Maybe this was his way of letting people know that the he should have never been made a trading piece and is here to play.
He had more points, assists, rebounds, and steals than Chris Paul whom he could have been traded for. And it wasn't only Rondo's stat line of 31 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and five steals that was impressive. How he led the team was equally impressive.
He was one of three Celtics who had a positive plus-minus and it seemed that the Knicks could only make their runs when Rondo was on the bench. He was the spark that created offense and the leader on the floor that the Celtics needed.
The Celtics need him to play like he did yesterday, and if he can on a consistent basis, the Celtics are once again championship contenders.
Ray Allen: B+
Ray Allen quietly produced in this one, finishing with 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. He, like Rondo, also had a positive plus-minus and did a solid job defending Landry Fields.
He hit one ridiculous jumper fading away and out of bounds in the corner, but that may have clouded his judgement because his shot selection late was less stellar than it normally is.
I know he is one of the greatest clutch shooters in NBA history, but he certainly could have waited for better shot opportunities. All in all though, it was a good game for Allen.
Sasha Pavlovic: D
With Pierce out, Pavlovic was given the opportunity to start on opening day. But he certainly did not take advantage of the opportunity, scoring no points and being nearly invisible out there.
He also could not defend Melo to save his life. Overall, he hurt the Celtics chances by being a non-factor on the offensive end, and letting Carmelo Anthony get off on the other end.
If Pierce is out again, the Celtics should start Marquis Daniels, not Pavlovic. His number was called and he was not ready.
Kevin Garnett: B-
Garnett certainly did not have his best game in this one. Hopefully it was just one bad game and not a sign of things to come, because he cannot play like this consistently if the Celtics want to contend for a championship this season.
It is not necessarily the points he scored (15) or the rebounds he got (eight) that worried me. What did was that on more than one occasion in the fourth quarter, Garnett could not score with the 6'2" Toney Douglas covering him.
Those were crucial possessions that should have resulted in easy baskets, but instead they turned out to be misses.
On the potential game winning shot, he should have shot a second sooner before he was contested, and he probably shouldn't have choked Bill Walker afterwards—just a thought.
But then again, I'm not sure why Bill Walker thought it would be a good idea to talk trash to KG.
Jermaine O'Neal: C+
It's hard to grade a player like Jermaine O'Neal who usually does not have an offensive or statistical impact. He's here to play defense and rebound.
His defensive play was hard to track against the Knicks because they don't have a scoring center that Jermaine needed to shut down. What was measurable though was Jermaine's rebounding, and it was subpar.
He had only two rebounds in the game. He needs to crash the boards more in the future because two rebounds isn't going to get the job done.
Brandon Bass: A
When the Celtics traded Glen Davis for Brandon Bass, it seemed that the Celtics traded Big Baby and got nearly the same player back. But Bass did not look like Big Baby out there, he looked better, much, much better.
He was the sixth man like Baby and provided a spark off the bench like Baby, but Bass' spark was a much bigger one. He scored twenty points and rounded out his double-double with eleven rebounds including five offensive boards.
As long as he can be more consistent than Baby was, the Celtics have certainly traded up. And if his debut performance as a Celtic was any indicator of things to come, he should earn a few starts and possibly a permanent starting job.
For the record, this was not a foul.
Marquis Daniels: B+
When Marquis Daniels went down with a scary neck injury last year against the Magic, many thought that he would never be able to play again.
But he proved everyone wrong by going out there yesterday and playing like he had never been injured in the first place. He looked almost like the old Marquis and he certainly will get there.
He actually played relatively good defense on Carmelo Anthony. He only scored four points, but also pulled down six rebounds and dished out five assists.
If Pierce is out again, Quis should definitely get the start over Sasha.
Chris Wilcox: B
Chris Wilcox was one of the many new faces for the Celtics in the season opener. It was hard to grade him because I'm not sure what the expectations should be for Wilcox on the Celtics.
He did score four points and pull down two offensive boards in his time on the court, which is a good starting point. But we can definitely expect more of him in the future and hopefully the more comfortable he gets in his new environment, the more he will improve.
Keyon Dooling: B
Like Wilcox, it is hard to grade Dooling because there is no baseline expectation of him as a Celtic. He did make use of his limited minutes scoring four points, and dishing out three assists.
But also like Wilcox, I expect that as the season progresses and he becomes more comfortable in his role on the team, he will start to play even better.
Avery Bradley: B
Bradley has the same situation grading wise as Wilcox and Dooling, but for different reasons. Expectations for Bradley aren't quite set either because, although he was on the Celtics last year, he did not play much.
The last we saw him, with the exception of a few playoff minutes, was a twenty point performance against the Knicks in the last game of the regular season. I am happy to see that he cracked the rotation because I think that he has good potential in the NBA.
His athleticism and defensive ability give him Tony Allen like potential and he could fill that role this season.
Joe Crawford: A+
Joe Crawford is one of my least favorite referees. Maybe it's because of his close ties to the game-fixing scandal or terrible calls like this one.
But yesterday's game increased my animosity towards him. He was on his game and certainly partly to blame fort he loss. He called possibly two of the worst technical fouls I have ever seen.
First, one on Pavlovic for getting elbowed by Carmelo, then one on Jermaine O'Neal for reaching up towards the net during a break in play, I think. In a close game like this one, two free throws and possessions on bad calls can be costly.
I admit that Crawford called a bad technical on the Knicks too, but not quite as bad as the ones on the Celtics. Then he chose to swallow his whistle at the end of the game during a scrum underneath the basket, and on a series of put-back attempts by the Celtics, then called a very questionable reach-in foul on Marquis Daniels on the other end.
I hate to blame anyone other than the players for losses because it's the players that play, but Joe Crawford always likes to make it about more than the players. And although he didn't necessarily cause the loss, he certainly didn't do the Celtics any favors.