Two seasons ago the Boston Celtics were the cream of the crop with Kevin Garnett leading their monstrous defense. Last season they started out strong until KG went down with a knee injury which kept him out of the playoffs. As a result, they struggled to get past the Chicago Bulls, then were eliminated in just the second round. This year Garnett is back and ostensibly healthy. But the mojo is gone.
After last night’s loss to the Knicks, there are now in a three-way tie for the 11th best record in the league (okay, technically it should probably be written that they’re in a 9th place tie, but since a third of the league has at least as good a record as them, I think 11th more accurately captures the picture). KG himself has been reduced to a dog with way too much bark considering how little bite he has left. Even Celts’ coach, former Knick Doc Rivers, conceded after the game that the Boys In Green deserved to lose.
But forget them, let’s talk about us. First off, the big news of the game was that newly anointed Knick, Earl Barron, once again showed he has the potential to be king in these parts. Getting his first start in the Garden, Le Barron did not disappoint. Hustling like his career depends on it (which it does!), he yanked down 18 rebounds and tallied 17 points (on an excellent 8 of 13 shooting) while also leading the team in minutes with a whopping 44. This boy clearly don’t wanna go back to the D League again.
Despite being a legit seven footer, Earl The Hustling Swirl scored most of his points off of smooth looking jump shots in the 10-15 foot range. He looked less comfortable down low, and perhaps this is why he hasn’t been able to land a secure spot in the NBA yet. The key, however, for young players, is that they need to learn consistency. We’ve had nights where Toney Douglas, Sergio Rodriguez, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler have all looked amazing, but none of them have been able to bring that Night-In/Night-Out reliability. Hell, it ain’t just young guns either: vets Tracy McGrady and Chris Duhon have been Masters Of Inconsistency this year.
But this ain’t the night to bag on Duhon, who once again got the start over Toney Douglas. Duhon hit a couple of big shots down the stretch, plus a key block, steal and assist to seal the deal. The Knicks had looked good all game, but they started the fourth quarter and suddenly you could see that they became scared and tentative that they might lose after playing so well the rest of the night. Duhon, to his credit, helped settle the team down when he got back in.
The big scorer of the night was Gallo, with a career high of 31 (I was surprised to learn it was a high). Surprisingly, he did it with only one made three. Mixing it up a bunch, he drove to the basket, went for the mid-range shot, and got 10 points from the free throw line. In the third quarter alone he went for 19 points. Actually, I felt he should’ve returned earlier in the fourth quarter (particularly since the team had started to look so nervous with the ball).
Other kibbles ‘n bits from the game:
-Al Harrington missed his second game due to an injured shoulder. Today it was announced he’ll have surgery and miss the rest of the season.
-TMac also missed the game, still injured.
-Yes, Duhon’s playing well, but why IS Toney Douglas coming off the bench? Toney again got solid minutes (29), but still it seems odd. I mean I’m down with giving Duhon some playing time and a chance to prove that maybe he’s worth coming as a BACK-UP, but it makes no sense to me to start Du’.
My one thought is that Toney Tone seems to be more of a scorer than a playmaker, so perhaps D’Antoni’s trying to see how he fares in the position of shooting guard instead of point guard (particularly with TMac out). Most of the time (if not all of it?), Toney Tone was in with a fellow point guard (either Duhon or Sergio Rodriguez). Although at 6’1″ Toney is undersized for a shooting guard.
The odd thing though was that when Toney was in with Spanish Chocolate, it seemed like they were using Toney to create and Rodriguez was hanging out at the three-point land to receive the pass. It worked, so I’m not quibbling here, I’m just trying to figure out what’s going through D’Antoni’s head.
-Another positional thing I was curious about was, with the Barron at center, seeing how David Lee would do at power forward. If Plan A falls through this summer and we don’t get LeBron or Wade, another possibility is to get one of the possible bigs out there (Bosh, Boozer, Amare) AND keep Lee, but move him to PF. Lee’s been undersized at center all year long, but the flip side is that means he usually has the quickness edge so it’s not clear if he’d be as dominant against guys his own height. Like against Boston, Lee can run circles around their impressive muscle-bound big, Kendrick Perkins, but how does Lee fare against the faster, more agile Garnett?
For those who look at the box score and see Lee shot only 6 of 16, ya might go yiiiiikes. For those who watched the game though, the truth is Lee just missed several wide open shots that he normally makes. These weren’t even shots with like KG running at him so Lee had to shot quicker than normal. No, he was wide open in that 15-20 foot range like normal, usually with his defender staying a foot or two off. However, Garnett and Perk did a lot of switching between Lee and Barron, so it’s hard to use this game as a gauge. A more interesting example will be Friday’s game against Orlando where their center, Dwight Howard, holds down the middle on his own, which allows power forward Rashard Lewis to really come out on the perimeter and not give his man any shooting space.
-Former fan favorite Nate Robinson returned to the Garden for the first time (wait, actually I think it might’ve been the second). He’s struggled to get regular minutes for the Celts, particularly ‘cuz they picked up another guard, Michael Finley, right around the same time as they traded for Nate. L’il Him helped get Boston back in the game (& briefly the lead) at the beginning of the fourth between a couple of shots and assists. I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, that he didn’t get a bigger ovation when he initially entered the game. Usually we give Hero Welcomes, but he only got some polite applause. Yeah, there were times in his tenure when Nate was a numbskull, but the dude always played his heart out. And he did it during an era where that was, and still is, a rare commodity among the Men Of Blue And Orange.
-As much as I was disappointed with the lack of applause for Nate, I was even more disappointed by the constant cheers for the Celtics. It seemed like half the Garden was Boston fans. I expect that when I go to Clippers games, and it’s standard in cities like Memphis and Atlanta, but New York? C’mon, we’re better than that.
Topics: Al Harrington, Amar'e Stoudemire, Boston Celtics, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Chris Duhon, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee, Doc Rivers, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, Earl Barron, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Michael Finley, Mike D'Antoni, Nate Robinson, Orlando Magic, Rajon Rondo, Rashard Lewis, Sergio Rodriguez, Toney Douglas, Tracy McGrady, Wilson Chandler