Before I start talking about the Celtics heading into their playoff run Sunday evening, let me clear up a couple of things. This season didn’t go into the tank when the Celtics traded away Kendrick Perkins. Also, the Celtics collapse against the Lakers in Game 7 last year had a heck of a lot more to do with the offense completely getting shut down by the Lakers’ defense than Perk not being there and Pau Gasol getting a ridiculous number of offensive rebounds.
Let me start with last year first. Game 7 mirrored a lot of other Celtics games form that season. The Celtics would jump out to an early lead, would change the way that they were running their offense, let the other team back in and then lose the game in the 4th quarter. This happened many times during the regular season with Perkins on the lineup.
One of the big stories behind this game that never gets mention is the bench play. Doc Rivers gave 21 minutes to Big Baby, but only 10 minutes combined to Scalabrine, Tony Allen and Nate Robinson. The older Celtics team was tired in the 4th quarter and it showed. Pierce played all but 2 minutes of the game, Allen and Rondo both played 45 and KG played 38. The Lakers got some nice play from Odom who had to step in and play 35 minutes in Bynum’s place and 13 solid minutes from Farmar which let Derek Fisher rest.
You can’t score just 17 points in two consecutive quarters and expect to win the game. It was amazing that the Celtics went into the start of the 4th quarter with a lead. The Perk-less Celtics held the Lakers to just 14, 20 and 19 points in the first three quarters, but supposedly the defense was an issue. While it was the 4th quarter where the Lakers eventually took the lead, this game was lost by the Celtics in the 2nd and 3rd quarters when they couldn’t figure out how to score. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were huge disappointments in game 7. Ron Artest got into Pierce’s head big time.
If this season’s swoon has anything to do with trading away Kendrick Perkins, it has more to do with the team’s mood than the loss of Perk’s talent. The team played just fine at the start of the season without 43. So, what’s the real issue. I hate to bring it up again, but this team is just old and it does come into play. The team’s winning percentage went down every month of the season. It’s plain and simple. This season held a bunch of additional 4th quarter collapses just like last season’s final game.
I do think that there was a misstep in the trades that Danny Ainge made at the trade deadline though. I think that Danny should have kept Semi Erden and Luke Harangody on the roster. Both were playing well and knew the Celtics system. The players that the Celtics got to replace them on the roster are not as good and the picks that the Celtics got for these players weren’t all that great. Then again, Erden was battling injury problems of his own. The Celtics traded their second round draft pick for a new second round draft pick.
Doc Rivers was smart and rested the Big 4 for the final two games of the season. They then had three days of practice to figure out their playoff rotation and getting the new players familiar with the offense. Hopefully the C’s can sweep the Knicks and earn themselves a little more rest before facing the Heat and Bulls further along in the playoffs.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one that remembers how frequently Perk got called for moving screens. This is his 8th season in the league and he still doesn’t know how to set a pick properly. Maybe I’m the only one who remember how frustrating it was to watch Perk bring the ball down every time he caught it before going up for a shot giving the defense plenty of time to react. Maybe I’m the only one who cringed every time that Perk wasn’t ready for a Rondo pass and saw it bounce off of his chest or hands.
Perk had raw talent, but he really should have gone to college. A college coach would have tried to break his bad habits. Perk was solid, but he wasn’t a great scorer, rebounder or shot blocker. He was looking for far too much money for a player of his abilities and forced the Celtics to either trade him or watch him walk and get nothing in return. There’s still a chance that the Celtics end up without much of anything if Jeff Green decides that he doesn’t like Boston and doesn’t want to re-sign with the team, but hopefully that’s not the case. Green can step right up into a starting role once one of the new Big Three decides to call it quits.
As for this season, I’ve got high hopes. The Bulls are going to be tough to beat, but the Celtics should be able to make it to them in the Eastern Conference Finals. Once there, it’ll be a matchup of youth versus experience, but right now I’m not sure if anyone can beat Derrick Rose.
Interesting bit of trivia: On draft day in 2007, the Boston Celtics traded Green, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen and Glen Davis. Currently, every player involved in this deal with the exception of Wally are on the Celtics roster.