The prevailing feeling before last night's game was that the Celtics would get blown out. After all, the Suns have the second best record in the league. They are a veteran team with several all stars including the MVP from the past 2 years. They had a 17 game win streak not too long ago and so it wasn't out of line to expect them to blow out a team who just came off an 18 game losing streak. But the Celtics played them tough and stayed with the Suns right until the end.
As always, Al Jefferson was a bright spot with another double double going for 23 points, 17 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He struggled somewhat defending Amare Stoudamire, but then, so does Tim Duncan. Al is a beast on the blocks and has taken that step from potential to talent. Al is now 6th in the league in rebounding, averaging 10.9 per game. That is ahead of Tim Duncan, Jermaine O'Neal, Ben Wallace, Shawn Marion, Zach Randolph, Amare Stoudemire, and others that Celtics fans have lusted after, often wishing to trade Al to bring them in. Al is still young and has a lot of growing to do, but he is a hard worker and his game is growing in leaps and bounds.
We also saw solid performances from Ryan Gomes with 21 points and 7 rebounds. He is a solid player who may never make the All Star game but he also won't hurt the team while he is on the floor. West also played well with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists, shooting 3-5 from beyond the arc. Pierce seems to be back with 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, in spite of the announcers the past two nights talking about how out of shape he looks.
Gerald Green's play fits in both the positive and negative categories. In the second quarter, Green played very well, shooting 3-5 and grabbing 4 rebounds. He didn't get into foul trouble, didn't take bad shots, didn't turn the ball over and played decent defense. So, he played a lot right? Doc didn't play him again until a little past the 4 minute mark in the 4th. We wouldn't want Gerald to gain too much confidence, now would we? When a player is playing well, he should be awarded with more playing time. That is, unless he is playing for Doc Rivers.
Along those same lines, Doc insists on starting Scal at center. Our starting center is averaging 1.8 rebounds per game. It isn't that Scal has been playing poorly, because he hasn't. But he isn't a starting center. Starting centers should defend the paint and rebound. But Scal does neither. Last night, Scal played 25 minutes and had 2 rebounds. On the other hand, Perk played 5 minutes and had 2 rebounds. Powe would have had 10 rebounds in 25 minutes, I am pretty sure. Why Doc insists on starting Scal at center, I will never know, unless it is his way of assuring that we don't play too well. Kind of like giving the other team a head start. Scal is a good back up coming off the bench, but not a starting center. And Rondo, who is a spark plug and should be starting at PG, played only 10 minutes last night while Bassy played over 20.
I really got depressed the other day when reading that Doc is looking forward to training camp next season. We so desperately need a new coach. Last night the Phoenix announcers were discussing Doc's odd substitutions. This from SI.com:
The Celtics are playing hard. There are no looks of defeat on the bench, and rarely does a hustle play not go Boston's direction. They simply do not have the talent to compete with the majority of the league for four quarters. That they have been sloppy at times is attributable to their youth, but it is also a result of coach Doc Rivers' failures as a tactician. League and team sources suggest Rivers is a notch below other coaches in the X's and O's department.
Surely Danny has to know this as well. This team will never get to the next level with Doc as their coach, no matter who the team drafts or who they trade for. Danny can keep Doc in place the rest of the season. The players want to win and are playing to win, but keeping Doc is the best way of assuring that they don't.