A 22-second summation of what the Boston Celtics face without Kevin Garnett for two weeks:
What that clip shows: A skinny wing player, Iman Shumpert, stealing a rebound from two Boston front-line players who have initial inside position on him. Those two Boston players are Brandon Bass and Jeff Green, and the Celtics have allowed 106.6 points per 100 possessions when they’ve shared the floor, per NBA.com. That would rank 25th overall for the season, which is a problem, since the Celtics as a team have actually allowed 99.8 points per 100 possessions — the sixth-stingiest mark in the league.
Of the 43 two-man player combinations that have logged at least 250 minutes this season for Boston, only the Courtney Lee–Chris Wilcox combo has been worse — and only by a smidgen, at 106.8 points allowed per 100 possessions in about 450 fewer minutes than the Green-Bass combo.
The NBA is churning out a wonderful product right now, and last night’s game in Boston serves as a perfect example. LeBron James, the league MVP currently in the midst of an incredible winning streak with his Miami Heat, arrived in the city of his most bitter rival. Like it or not, Boston is still one of the league’s best atmospheres. And like it or not, Miami is still the best team in the league. Factor in Miami and Boston's “hate” for each other, and you've got a recipe for a great night.
Unfortunately, about an hour prior to tipoff, the Celtics announced that Kevin Garnett would not play. If the Celtics had a puncher’s chance to beat the Heat with Garnett on the floor, without him their chances were seemingly reduced to those of Glass Joe's. But this was no ordinary night.
Playing in his fifth game in seven nights, LeBron was focused, even before tipoff. After the Celtics' introductions, James was the first man to take the floor. Well before the dancers had even cleared the court, James stood straddling the midcourt line like Roberto Duran waiting for Sugar Ray Leonard.
The Celtics are 4-0 without Rajon Rondo and have scored 102.4 points per 100 possessions in that stretch, a mark that would rank 12th overall — about a dozen spots and 2.5 points better than what Boston’s putrid offense has done for the season, per NBA.com. This has resulted in a predictable rush of instant analysis and debate about whether the Celtics, a below-average offensive team for nearly four seasons, might be “better without Rondo.”
Doc Rivers is a candid guy and a very good coach, but I’m not totally buying what he’s selling here (via the Boston Herald):
Although the Heat occupy his thoughts, Rivers said the current edition of the Celtics wasn’t conceived with any one opponent in mind.
“That’s the one thing we don’t do,” Rivers said. “We just make moves to make us the best team we can possibly be with our personnel. Hopefully that’s enough to make us a better team than them and everyone else.”
In a general sense, Rivers is being honest. Any team that wants to win an NBA title over the next two seasons (at least) has to look at its roster and consider whether it can beat a healthy Miami team four times in seven games — a team that now plays LeBron James as a nominal power forward comfortable in the post. Some teams will choose to just wait out Miami, either through tanking, developing young players, or just spinning their wheels until the Heat take a step back or a franchise centerpiece becomes available.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Prince Fielder hit a record-tying 12 final-round home runs to win his second Home Run Derby and join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only player with multiple titles. He also remains the only prince to ever win a title, following the indecisive performance of Prince Hamlet, who swung way too late, the boring and wordy performance of Prince Valiant, who nobody watched after his first two outs, the threatening counterculture performance of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air from 1990, who used a funky multicolored bat that shocked middle America, the bizarre performance of Prince himself, whose hitting ability is not quantifiable or even recognizable, and the ends-justify-the-means performance of Machiavelli's theoretical prince, who keeps getting banned for trying to use a metal bat.
The NBA lockout lasted from July 1 to November 26 . We lost a lot during that time. Namely months of wildly speculative, anonymously sourced, economically illiterate trade and free agent rumors, which have come back with the vengeance of Old Boy in this compressed offseason. Something else got lost too. The Dallas Mavericks lost the chance to be champions.