By Mike Brilliant
It didn’t look like they were heading into a good week on paper but the Celtics for the most part came out smelling like wild Irish roses anyway. They went 3-1 over the last seven days despite the fact that they were undermanned throughout, with out for all four of the games and out for the past 1.5. Coming off the big win versus a week and a half ago, this week was just as impressive. Essentially, the one point loss to was the team’s only disappointment but they more than redeemed themselves by showing the nation they’re for real by beating at their own game on Sunday. Not a bad week at all. Not at all. Onto the grades…
Coach Doc Rivers: A+
Superb motivator? Skilled X’s and O’s man? Has Red come back from the dead and taken over Doc’s body?
Rivers has seemingly has made all the right moves with Garnett out of the lineup (although I’ll never agree with starting Scalabrine and playing him more than garbage time, except for the S.A. game.) If not for a defensive mistake against the Cav’s , the Celtics could have easily been 4-0 this week. Rondo, Powe, Big Baby and even Tony Allen have all stepped up offensively and, more importantly, defensively to carry the load in KG’s and Perkins’s absence. How did they win against the Spurs without both of their defensive anchors?
By now, it seems clear that Rivers hasthis team believing they are a championship level team. And even ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy called Rivers one of the best play-callers out of a timeout in the league. That Pierce to Big Baby pick and roll hoop “and one” in the 4th against the Spurs certainly did nothing to dispel that notion.
Paul Pierce: A
The Captain has stepped it up, big time. BIG game Sunday against the Spurs. The Truth set the tone early in that game by scoring by 14 points in the first five minutes. Then again, he was efficient throughout the week. I’m talking Hollinger efficient. He averaged 22 points while shooting 55% in only 33 minutes per game this week. Not to mention he’s continues to play lights out D. Who knew?
On the constructive side of things, I’d still like him to lighten up on the threes and take it to the hoop more often. He did go to the line 12 times against the Spurs but only attempted 7 free throws in the previous 3 games. Even when he’s drawing the calls, however, he still makes me nervous at the line. I know he’s shooting a career best 83%, but I can’t stop having flashbacks of Game 4 of the 2002 conference finals. There’s just something that bugs me about his free throw shooting…..
The team made the right move in declaring Garnett out until after the All-Star break. They need him completely healthy for the stretch run and in the meantime, it’s giving guys like Big Baby and Leon Powe an opportunity to show that they belong in the rotation.
Those pluses aside, it was nice to see video footage of Garnett running and working out. At least the healing process is moving in a positive direction (off and on the court).
Ray Allen: B
Old Jesus Shuttlesworth unexpectedly got snubbed a second time for this year’s All-Star game. I don’t think anyone who has watched all of the Celtics games this year truly thinks that Ray Allen has had an All-Star season. That said, because of the way the NBA runs this game, many of us thought he had just as good of a chance of making it as anyone else. Have you seen ’s stats this year?
In terms of what-have-you-done-for-me-latelys, Allen was a consistent scorer this week in the absence of Garnett. Specifically, he had games of 24, 19, 18 and 19 points this week while shooting 45% from the field. Of note, it’s been nice to see him taking the ball to the hoop more often. Usually, when Allen’s struggling with his shot, he tends to get back on track with a few easy lay-ins.
Getting back to the constructive side of things, I do have one criticism for Allen: With the game on the line and 4+ seconds remaining, he elected to take the ball to the rim himself on a 4-on-1 break against with only seconds remaining. Luckily for the Celtics, and for Allen, Leon followed up the miss with an easy game-winning basket and thus essentially erased the poor decision on the play., which is not the veteran move. When does Ray Allen not make the veteran move? He certainly did get hacked on the play to no avail but the referee wasn’t about to make that kind of call in a hostile arena
Rajon Rondo: A+
Name this point guard’s stat line from a recent 4 game stretch:
20 points – 7 boards – 3 assists
? Nope. ? Not him either. Chris Paul? Not this week. Deron Williams? Not quite. Rajon Rondo? You got it.
I’m not afraid to say it. This second-year, 21 year old has been playing at an All-Star level as of late. As good as the “New Big Three” have been this year, I still think the following question deserves asking: Who has been more valuable this year, Ray Allen or Rajon Rondo? Give this some thought before coming out with the knee-jerk answer.
Ironically, Rondo’s best two games were against his potential future competition, (hopefully) and against the Spurs. It seems like Rondo steps it up when the pressure is on. I can’t wait to see what he does in the playoffs.
My highlight of the week, besides the Powe game-winning put back, was Rondo snaring a one-handed rebound over Duncan and the rest of the Spurs’ big men.
Perkins was steady once again this week. In his three games, he averaged 6.3 points, 5.3 boards and 1.67 blocks in 25 minutes. Unfortunately, he slightly separated the same left shoulder he had surgically repaired two off-seasons ago against .
With Pollard out, the Perkins setback has left the Celtics short on big men for the near future. Maybe Danny Ainge will shift his attention away from finding a backup point guard to looking for another big man. I know many Boston fans are hoping for P.J. Brown, who would be a key contributor for this team down the stretch. However, the only way I see him coming here is if he doesn’t find a home before the trading deadline. Rumors persist that Brown hopes to be part of a sign-and-trade deal so he can cash in on a big payday. We’ll find out who blinks first by February 22nd.
James Posey: B
As always with Posey, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Why doesn’t he receive a mention in any of the 6th man of the year conversations? I know the answer: Because he’s not averaging 17+ points per game. But seriously, isn’t he just as valuable to the Celtics, the team with the best record in the NBA, as any other 6th man in the league?
Posey turned into a bit of a playmaker this week. He had 6 assists against the Clippers and 5 assists against the Spurs. Throw in his 7 boards against the Spurs and he had a good all around week.
After a slow first game against the Cavaliers (2 points), House turned it up with 7, 14 and 10 points over the final 3 games of the week. His 10 points in the first half of the Spurs game in particular were sorely needed. During that stretch, the Celtic had fallen into a lull on offense and Eddie bailed them out.
Tony Allen: B+
After knocking TA’s consistency last week, he played good, solid ball this week. He had scoring totals of 14, 17, 5 and 8 in the respective games. He appears at this point to be settling into his role of 15-20 minutes off the bench. I like how Rivers has been preaching driving to the hoop to Tony. Allen’s shot simply isn’t good enough to be firing too many bombs from long distance. Instead, Allen should be going the hoop and either laying it in or getting to the line. And no excess dribbling! (Tommy voice)
Leon Powe: A-
Powe received his minutes largely based on match-ups this week. The Cavaliers and Spurs have bigger front lines, Powe only saw 8 and 14 minutes respectively in those games. But with the smaller lineups that L.A. and presented, Powe saw 26 and 27 minutes. The more minutes, the more Powe produced. His 13 points and 10 boards versus the Clips and 16 points and 8 boards against the T-Wolves were stellar performances.
Powe is the typical undersized, hard nosed player that has worked for, and earned all of his recent success. Nothing epitomizes him more than his first game-winning hoop of his career, a hustling workmanlike clean-up on the break at the buzzer.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis: A-
Looks like Big Baby is back on the radar screen. After some success early on in the season, he seemed to lose his spot in the rotation to Leon Powe. But boy did he take advantage of some injury minutes against . He stood up to the best big man in the NBA in , both offensively and defensively.
A great quote from Doc Rivers: “He’s taller than you; you’re heavier than him. And you’re lower than him. You’re not going to grow today. He’s going to be taller than you … but because you’re low and you have a low center of gravity, get into his legs and try to push him of the block.’” And that’s exactly what Big Baby was able to do to Duncan and it ultimately won the game for the Celtics down the stretch.
Davis also had a decent game against Cleveland earlier in the week. He saw 13 minutes of action and contributed with 9 points on 4 of 5 shooting.
Why is this guy starting over Powe? And why is Rivers wasting 18 minutes a game on him? Scalabrine did provide hustle against the Spurs on Sunday, I must admit, but why can’t he do that for five minutes off the bench? I can see him getting extended minutes with both KG and Perkins out, but when only Garnett is out, Scalabrine should be limited to getting friendly with Gabe Pruitt at the end of the bench.
4 DNP-CD’s. What is wrong with this guy’s ankle? Is it serious? It must be if he couldn’t even play versus when both Garnett and Perkins were out. At this point, the Celtics need to enlist some help. P.J. Brown, Dale Davis and anyone else who’s 6’10” or taller that’s out of work better start getting in shape. Those phones are finally going to start ringing.
Gabe Pruitt: Incomplete