One word keeps coming to mind about the Boston Celtics loss to the New York Knicks: Pathetic.
In every sense of the word, the loss was truly, utterly, and completely pathetic.
What is really sad is that the loss, while pathetic (have I mentioned that?), wasn’t even the worst loss of the season. It might not even crack the top ten. Heck, it wasn’t even the most pathetic loss in the last five days.
Wow, that is pathetic.
I guess if there was a silver lining, at least it wasn’t at home.
Why then has this loss, as opposed to all the other maddening defeats the Celtics have suffered this year, set me off?
It is because the defeat epitomized all that has plagued and will continue to plague the Celtics this season. They did shoot well from the floor, shooting 54 percentfrom the field. Yet they still lost. To a bad team. That shot only 44 percent.
All year, Boston has struggled on the boards, in particular the offensive glass. The Celtics are 29th (out of 30) in the league in rebounds per game, and last (by a wide-margin) in offensive rebounding. Not to be entirely pessimistic, Boston is 25th in rebound margin (-1.2).
Against the Knicks, the Celtics were out-rebounded 44-34, including 15-5 on the offensive glass. Kevin Garnett had a huge four rebounds (in 29 minutes).
In yet another performance that I am sure made Danny Ainge proud of the signing, Rasheed Wallace managed not to yell at his head coach this game, but still found a way to be out-rebounded, three to two, by Nate Robinson.
Maybe I am being tough on Sheed. – he is after all, still getting himself into game shape. As soon as that happens, look out NBA.
Next up – the Celtics are 25th in the NBA in turnovers per game, at 15.1 per game. Against the Knicks, Boston had 18 turnovers (to just 12 by the Knicks).
The Celtics have given up some big scoring nights, especially of late, to talented small forwards. Ok, I am talking about LeBron James and Kevin Durant. No shame in allowing either one to light up the scoreboard. But now the Celtics are showing that they just can’t stop anybody, as Danillo Gallinari went for a career-high 31 points.
How many times this season have we watched Boston’s front court get completely outworked, and outhustled, by nearly any forward playing with energy.
For the Knicks, entering the game, I was worried about controlling David Lee. But it wasn’t Lee who did the most damage. Nope, that was reserved for perennial All-Star, just up from the D-League, Earl Barron.
In just his second game with the Knicks, Barron had more offensive rebounds (eight) than any Boston player other than Kendrick Perkins had total rebounds. Barron finished with 18 rebounds to go with 17 points.
The Celtics made their mark in 2008 on the defensive end. They like to pretend they are that same team now.
Not even close.
Boston cannot get stops when they need them, and against the Knicks it was the same story. Leading by one with under a minute to play, Gallinari hit a toe-on-the-line two-pointer to give the Knicks the lead. Then after a horrendous turnover by Paul Pierce, Boston decided to rely on its defense instead of fouling.
It didn’t work.
David Lee went strong to the hoop, over and through Garnett to give the Knicks a three-point lead with seven seconds to play. It is getting more and more difficult to believe that just two years ago, Garnett was easily the best defensive player in the league.
As if careless turnovers, poor rebounding, poor effort, and poor defense wasn’t enough, the Celtics have also displayed a knack for simply playing stupid. Down by three with seven seconds to go, let’s cue the stupidity.
Doc Rivers calls a timeout to set up a play. Boston has on its roster one of the all-time great three-point shooters in Ray Allen and this year’s three-point contest winner in Paul Pierce.
Rajon Rondo also shoots 21.9% from three.
Naturally the inbound pass goes to Rondo. For some reason, the Knicks help the Celtics by not fouling Rondo. But Rondo freezes, holds on to the ball. He can’t get it to Allen or Pierce. Luckily Danny Ainge brought in Rasheed Wallace for just these types of big moments.
The still-getting-into-game-shape Wallace is too slow to get the shot off. Boston gets nothing, not even an attempt.
While the failure to get a shot off left me speechless, another characteristic of Boston’s stupid play is their repeated failure to recognize where the ball should go, especially in the fourth quarter.
Ray Allen led Boston against the Knicks with 17 points on 6-9 shooting. But not only did Boston not get Allen a shot in the game’s final seconds, the Celtics were unable to run one play for Allen in the entire fourth quarter. Allen was limited to zero shots in the game’s final 12 minutes.
This comes just two days after a similar episode against the Cavaliers. In that game, Allen went for a season-high 33 points on 10-17 shooting. Of his 17 shots, 16 came in the first three quarters, as Allen got off just one shot in the fourth quarter (a huge three-pointer to give Boston a four-point lead with 48 seconds to play).
So, what does all this mean? Unfortunately, it means that the Boston Celtics are not that good of a basketball team. We can pretend all we want, we can rationalize all we want, and we can sugar coat all we want. None of it is enough to cover up all that ails these Celtics.
The Celtics are not talented enough, not determined enough, and simply not capable of being anything more than a playoff team and likely an easy out when it comes time to go up against any of the real top teams in the league.
Considering where the Celtics were just two years ago and the level of expectations at the start of the season, that is truly pathetic.