The Celtics Are in the Playoffs! Let's Hope They Stay There.
By: Jason Schwartz
I could give you a million reasons why the Celtics don’t have a prayer of making it back to the NBA Finals this year, let alone winning them. (DID YOU KNOW THEY TRADED KENDRICK PERKINS?) But who wants a downer like that heading into the weekend? Instead, with the C’s first post-season game against the Knicks coming up Sunday night, let’s talk about what the Green Machine needs to do to get back into gear for another big run at the title. And because, if nothing else, I have great respect for the conventions of sports analysis, let’s do it in bullet point format. Better yet, let’s also give each bullet point a snappy, pun-based slug. Ok, here we go:
1. Where’s Rondo? The Celtics point guard, frankly, has sort of sucked for the last two months. He’s been tentative going to the hole and inconsistent pushing the game’s pace. But if Rondo can crank it up like he usually does in playoffs, or even play like he did for the first half of the year, this will be a whole new ball club.
The C’s have been struggling in their half-court offense lately, so the key for Rondo will be getting his teammates some easy looks close to the basket. Easier said than done, though. Check it out: Rondo’s assists have fallen off from 13.5 and 13 per game in November and December to 8.9 and 9.5 per game in March and April. That’d be unfortunate on its own, but what’s really bad is that the dimes that have been disappearing are the ones that were leading to the surest baskets. According to HoopData.com, in November and December, Rondo was averaging 5.9 and 6.7 assists leading to baskets at the rim per game. In March and April, that number was just 3.4 and 3.8. That means he’s not penetrating and he’s not getting the ball inside. Over the last couple months, basically 65 percent of his assists have been coming on jump shots. That’s not gonna cut it in the playoffs.
2. Ray of Hope. If Joe Morgan were a basketball analyst, by now he would have said something like: “The key to winning basketball games is shooting the ball through the hoop.” And he’d be right! It’s a make/miss league and Ray Allen’s gotta make for the Celtics to be competitive. Shooting the three at a 44.4 percent rate, he’s coming off his most accurate year ever (ever!) from downtown. So that’s encouraging (even if Ray has had a bit of a rough go in the last few weeks, but really, who hasn’t?).
It comes down to this: If Allen’s not sinking threes wholesale, the Celtics will be sunk. In their four losses to the Lakers in the Finals last year, Ray was 4-22 from three. In the wins, he was 8-19. Granted, all eight makes came from the same otherworldly game, but you get the point. The Celtics won’t take four games off a good team unless Ray is firing. Also, it won’t be any fun unless we get lots of shots of Ray’s mom celebrating. (Has there ever been a more entertaining mom in sports history? I mean, besides, um, LeBron’s mom…)
3) Will it be a Shaq of Shit or of Gold? Hey, I know this is obvious, but it’s gotta be said: Shaq must be healthy. If the Celtics play their best, they can get out of the East without the big fella. But to have any chance of beating the Lakers (assuming they win the West), he’s gotta be able to give them at least something approaching 20 minutes per game. So keep those pulled pork sandwiches away from him!
Ok, and if things start badly and look bleak, just ask yourself this: How could a team that dances this well lose?
Editor’s Note: NSFW Video