After three games, the Celtics record sits at 1-2, including a home-opening loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The silver lining: the Lakers are 0-3, while surrendering a Western conference high of 106.7 points per game.
Losing to Miami in Miami (10/31): completely understandable, although the defense looked awful and Leandro Barbosa single-handedly kept the score reasonable in the 4th, they played well for stretches. Rondo and Pierce both looked focused and determined. Without going into too much detail, losing on the road to the defending champions is not a problem. Ray Allen hitting corner threes: a punch in the stomach.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Celtics must have had their ears chewed off about defensive rotations in practice, because over the next two games, they forgot about offense.
Losing the home-opener to Milwaukee (11/2): utterly discouraging. Pierce looked like he was playing underwater, turning it over four times and making three of eleven shots. The Bucks came out bursting with energy, and ended up out-rebounding the Celtics 46-36. Milwaukee’s dynamic point guard Brandon Jennings’ scoring, Ersan Ilyasova’s rebounding, and the shot-blocking and energy of Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh off the bench created problems for Pierce and Garnett. One team stat that stands out: other than Rondo, the Celtics had 11 assists to 16 turnovers. Credit Scott Skiles for motivating his players on the defensive end. Blame the turnovers on new guys learning how to play together. This team is full of new faces: Lee, Terry, Sullinger, and Darko are learning this system on the fly. Jeff Green’s experience in 2010-11 was with a different group of players. They need a month to learn how to play together at both ends of the floor and adjust.
Saturday in Washington, they jumped out to a 17-2 lead before the Wizards (minus John Wall and Nene) knew what hit them. At 24-10, this game had the feeling of a blow-out, with everyone getting in on the action. Thanks to Kevin Seraphin’s surprisingly versatile mid-range game and Jordan Crawford’s explosiveness the Wizards fought back. Incidentally, Jordan and Jamal are not related, but have the same ability to light it up and create their own shots. Pierce looked like the scorer we need him to be and Jeff Green contributed some necessary scoring off the bench. Despite the back-to-back, the Celtics got a “grind-it-out” win on the road. They’ll be better once they’ve figured out how to play together. Getting out-rebounded again 46-37, the Celtics minimized their turnovers (9) and have a few days to bask in the relief of getting a win.
– Avery Bradley’s absence (back in mid-December) impacts this team’s defense in a major way. For those of you who followed last season’s Celtics closely, you know his on-the-ball defense, amazing hands and incredible quickness pose serious problems for most of the league’s guards.
– Courtney Lee is a solid role player, but on nights when he shoots 0-4 from long-range (like Saturday) he can become a liability. Jordan Crawford’s hot night would have been stifled by Bradley’s defense.
– Jason Terry is still figuring out his role and is deferring to Jeff Green in order to boost Green’s confidence.
– Jared Sullinger can rebound, on both the offensive and defensive ends. If he can develop a mid-range game, he will quickly eat into Brandon Bass’ minutes.