The Celtics premiered their much vaunted dance team. Doc changed the starting lineup. Al Jefferson had a double double. And the Celtics lost again.
The Celtics dancers were cheered at they took the floor. Pierce tried not to look at them from the huddle. It was rather anticlimactic after Red stole their thunder on opening night.
On to the game. The Celtics started off very well and seemed to have righted what was wrong in the opener. The Celtics were playing as a unit and things were going well. They got out to a big lead, but led by only 1 at the half. Then the wheels came off. Rip Hamilton seemed to hit everything he tossed up.
Wally was unable to stay with him and he constantly brushed off his defender on a series of screens and got the open shot. Our defense looked alternately good and inept in spurts.
There were positives in spite of the loss, though. Perk played only 17 minutes but pulled down 8 rebounds, had 1 block and had 4 points in addition to being a defensive presence in the middle. He had only 2 fouls. Early in the 3rd quarter he colided with Mohammed and had to get 3 stitches in his head. He played only limited minutes after that.
Also on the positive side, Al had a double double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 28 minutes. He looked very good offensively and after making several shots and looking like he would be the hot hand, the team didn't go to him again, instead settling for outside shots. But Al looked good for the second game in a row and I believe that he is going to continue to improve and finally shed that potential lable in favor of productive. Kandi played a productive 18 minutes and pulled down 3 rebounds and blocked one shot, but affected several others along with keeping the rebound alive several times when he didn't get credited for the rebound.
Pierce had 22 points 8 rebounds and 4 assists and played his usual strong game. Wally shot the ball well with 18 points and 4 rebounds to go with 3 assists. But Wally also had 6 turnovers. Wally also picked up a technical for arguing a call. In his defense, the call was a bad one in that Wally had a clean block and they called him for the foul. The no tolerance policy is in full force and the refs are very quick with the whistles.
Rondo showed great poise running the team and ended with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and only 1 turnover in over 30 minutes. He played very well and took the ball to the basket seemingly at will. He missed several layups and will have to work on finishing at the basket when he gets there but overall had a solid game.
Rondo looked poised as he ran the offense and his play drew some high praise from Cousy, who was calling the game with Mike and Tommy. On the flip side of it, Telfair seemed to struggle, drawing 3 quick fouls and playing tentatively the rest of the game. At one point, Cousy was calling for Rondo since Telfair just wasn't getting it done. Telfair has also only registered 2 assists in the first 2 games. He has to pick up his game and I believe he will. Also struggling is Delonte West. He insists that his back is 100% so I am not sure what is affecting his performance. He shot 1-8 and seemed tentative at times. He did register 4 assists, though. We are going to need his shooting to help spread the defenses and hopefully he will get his confidence back and get his shot going very soon.
I believe that a lot of what is wrong with this team comes down to defense. We gave up way too many easy rebounds on the defensive end and consequently the Pistons were able to get way too many second (and in some cases 3rd, 4th and 5th) chance points. We weren't as aggressive on the boards as we need to be. Second, our defense came in spurts. The Pistons had only 6 turnovers, showing that we didn't really press them or go after the ball. I still feel that our defensive failures point back to the coaching staff. Doc obviously is trying to put in too many defensive sets and from his own words, he doesn't put a premium on defense. Watching the Celtics and the Pistons, it is clear that the difference is defense. The Pistons are capable of turning it on down the stretch and the Celtics aren't.
Doc puts on the obligatory positive spin on these first two losses saying that this team is close. Pierce says that our young players need to grow up and realize what wins games and what loses games. It is only 2 games, but 2 very disappointing games in a season dedicated to Red Auerbach. We face a tough Wizards team tonight in Washington, but a win tonight would go a long way toward building the confidence this team needs to win consistently. A loss tonight would be devastating to a team already searching for answers.