I don't believe in "moral" victories for playoff teams, but hey, we were pretty short handed. There's really no way we were beating the Celtics minus Tyson Chandler and Antonio Daniels.
Says Butler: "Hey! I thought we were break dancing!"
If we had Chandler, who knows how this game goes. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say Boston would not have gotten 13 offensive rebounds. If we have Daniels, maybe things are different. But that's all irrelevant right now. We lost the game, and we won't have the chance to play Boston full-strength for a while. What I'm more worried about is Byron's use of Peja Stojakovic. He's in the middle of a super hot stretch, and he gets two three point attempts? I realize he was being burned to a crisp by Paul Pierce. He was on the floor for nearly 30 minutes though, and in those 30 minutes, he was a total non-entity offensively. By my count, a grand total of three plays were designed with him as the first option. A couple times he got the ball at the top of the perimeter on broken plays, before hoisting. Three plays designed specifically for him though? What's up with that?
I'm more worried about the play-call out of a timeout involving Hilton Armstrong standing 18 feet from the hoop, holding the ball for 6 seconds, watching David West stand rooted to the ground before deciding to heave a brick. Out of a timeout, that's the best play we can come up with? Perhaps the strangest decision was Byron giving Mo-Pete four minutes of playing time with Paul Pierce lighting up the floor.
Our effort tonight, short-handed, was commendable. Byron's coaching was anything but. The factors after the jump:
1. eFG% (X) Defensive field goal percentage is where the Celtics thrive. They close out shooters, and they absolutely annihilate shots in the paint. Tonight, the second was true, but the first was not. New Orleans created wide open three after wide open three; Chris Paul was carving up the defense pretty easily. Unfortunately, Rasual Butler missed a couple momentum crushing threes, Brown missed the huge three down the stretch, and Peja missed his only two shots of the night. All 5 of those were as wide open as you will see, and none of them were close. On the flip side, the low paint was sealed off by Boston. The Hornets missed seven, very contested layups, and the Celtics came through with five blocked shots.
2. OREB% ( X) Surprising as it seems, this game wasn't lost on the glass. Some more rebounding may have given us the win, but David West, James Posey, and Sean Marks did an admirable job fighting for boards. Combined, they had 8 on the O-Glass. Kendrick Perkins was a beast for Boston; he did get away with a blatant push-off with the game in the balance, but he had a nice game on the glass.
3. FT/FG (---) Dead even. Our free throws kept us in the game the first half, but our fouling gave the game away in the second half. The two soul-crushing stats of the night: Boston reached the penalty with 8:00 left in the 3rd quarter, and 7:00 left in the 4th quarter. You will never, ever, ever beat the defending champions on the road when that happens. Pierce and Co. took full advantage, drawing some stupid fouls on the perimeter, and parlaying them into a free throw parade. Had they converted better than 63% of their free throws, this could have been a full on blowout.
4. TOr (√) CP3 was officially credited with 3 turnovers. The first one was Hilton Armstrong stupidly crashing into Paul and kicking Paul's dribble into the backcourt. The second was Rajon Rondo physically tackling Chris Paul in the backcourt, Paul ending up lying on his stomach, the ball rolling out of bounds, and the referees deciding that it was perfectly reasonable that the best point guard on the planet fell flat on his face for no reason.
5. Pace (88) It's easy for me to sit here and say that the Hornets should've pushed the tempo a little bit. That's a lot more feasible when you're playing Charlotte than it is against Boston. The Celtics controlled the pace of this game from the very beginning. While the final pace ended up around the Hornets' season averages, it was clear from the variety of "WIRED" segments that Byron Scott wanted New O to run. Give credit to Boston for completely shutting down the transition game in the second half; it was a case of a championship team understanding the one weakness that could potentially derail them and shutting it down.
- Hilton's final line (3-9 shooting, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls) won't show it, but he was excellent tonight. He took it right at KG and Perkins whenever he had the ball. I've been dogging him for a while now; maybe this is his turning point.
- Butler was a game low -19 tonight. I'm still trying to find out if there was any real reason behind that, or it was just sheer bad luck for him- being on the floor at bad times. Either way, we really could've used his shooting tonight.
- The bench finished with 1 assist and 4 turnovers tonight. I cannot wait until Antonio Daniels gets on the floor. I like how a lot of people are scoffing at the trade ("lol, they traded a horrible point guard for an average one"). If Daniels can keep up his current levels, this will be a season changing deal for us. Most people only see the value in upgrading an average player into an All-Star one; it's flashy, it's easy to notice. Upgrading from a totally nonexistent player into an average one can have exactly the same effect. Can't wait till Sunday.
- 8-21 by David West, but I find it hard to call this an off night. He schooled Kevin Garnett on a number of plays, including that awesome blow-by-dunk in the first quarter. He also outrebounded every single player on the floor, and had 3 blocks. He's not flashy, he's never going to get the hype that so many other guys get. But very few players in this league are ever going to be as good as David West.
- Julian Wright got a "tryout" tonight in the worst possible conditions- for a short-handed squad, on the road, against the best team in the league. Oh, and he got 2 minutes. I imagine it's a return to the pine for him once Daniels and Chandler are back.
- Loved what I saw from Melvin Ely tonight. More than anything else, he understands how to move around when Chris Paul is on the floor. He got two wide open dunk feeds from Paul, but they were as much a result of his own smarts as they were of Paul's brilliance. My ideal backup rotation when we're at full strength: Daniels/Peterson/Posey/Ely/Armstrong. Gives us size, shooting, and ball-handling. Of course it'll probably end up being Daniels/Brown/Posey/Marks/Armstrong, and I will ponder the repurcussions of purchasing a non-registered firearm, visiting a New York night club, and shooting myself in the leg.