Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Observations from 0-3 C's loss in NOLA
By Greg Payne
Greg Stiemsma was impressive in his Celtics debut, registering 6 blocks, including this one on Chris Kaman.
Center of Attention: Making his regular season debut, reserve center Greg Stiemsma registered a career-high six blocked shots in 20 minutes, to go along with two points and four rebounds. On a night when starting center Jermaine O'Neal was once again wholly ineffective on both sides of the ball (two points, six rebounds, and four personal fouls in 19 minutes), Stiemsma served as a welcome respite for an otherwise unproductive Boston defense that failed to contain the likes of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Stiemsma's defense began in the paint with a powerful block on Emeka Okafor, and at times extended nearly to the 3-point line, evidenced by his rejection of a Jason Smith jump shot in the left corner midway through the second frame. Stiemsma made a name for himself during Boston's second preseason win over the Toronto Raptors, and Wednesday he once again showed why the Celtics were eager to keep him past training camp.
Tired (and old?) Legs: Wednesday's game marked Boston's third in four days, and, with the exception of their quick 9-2 spurt to start the contest, the Celtics played like a club running on fumes. In addition to their fatigued play, the painful reality is the Celtics really showed their age against the youthful Hornets. While the Celtics have been dealing with the "old" label for the past few seasons now, Wednesday's performance will only further that reputation. Jermaine O'Neal was, for the third consecutive game, a nonfactor, doing next to nothing to bolster Boston's front line defensively. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett stumbled through a sluggish night, registering just eight points on 4-of-10 shooting. At times, Garnett appeared frustrated by the Hornets' Carl Landry, and on certain occasions, he simply couldn't overcome his New Orleans counterpart on either side of the ball. The effort Wednesday was even more discouraging, as the C's lived up to their reputation as a team not built for the second night of back-to-backs, and unfortunately for them, they'll be seeing a host of such scenarios throughout this season, with its condensed and abbreviated schedule.
Bench Woes: Perhaps due to it being the team's first back-to-back situation, C's coach Doc Rivers was quick to insert his reserves in an attempt to spell the likes of Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo midway through the first frame. While the team's primary reserves like Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, and Marquis Daniels have proven themselves to be solid role players, none is built to carry an entire lineup on the offensive end, and their respective inabilities to consistently create offensive looks significantly contributed to Boston's early stumbles, which ultimately led to that 16-point deficit midway through the second frame. When he's ready to play, Mickael Pietrus could help in this area, but it'll most likely remain an issue until Paul Pierce returns from his heel injury. Over the past four seasons, Rivers has often anchored the second unit with someone like Pierce or Ray Allen to help the offensive output of the second five, but that option isn't readily available due to the team's ongoing lack of depth.
Rondo Reeling: Entering Wednesday's game, C's point guard Rajon Rondo had pieced together two impressive performances against the Knicks and the Heat, culminating in early two-game averages of 26.5 points and 12.5 assists. Most notably, though, was Rondo's aggressiveness, and willingness to push the ball in transition and attack the rim -- both of which were largely absent from Wednesday's loss. The Celtics are arguably at their best when they generate stops on the defensive end and feed Rondo the ball in the open court in transition, allowing him to attack the rim or create open shots for his teammates. But even the defense being as unproductive as it was during the first two games didn't deter Rondo from racing up the floor and attacking the rim at a relentless rate. Against the Hornets, though, Rondo failed to play with that same sense of urgency, as evidenced by his numbers, which pale in comparison to his previous two efforts: 13 points and six assists in 34 minutes. Sunday and Tuesday's monster efforts might have finally caught up to Rondo, and while he can't be blamed entirely for Boston's third straight loss, his inability to attack the rim with the same persistence certainly hindered the Celtics' chances of a comeback.