I'm as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs today. All season long, I was certain that the Celtics would come out and play tough team defense and that would at least lead to a chance to beat any team in the league. After watching the Celtics defense disintegrate and be nowhere to be found in the last two games, I just don't know which team will show up tonight. Will the Good Celtics show up? Can they pull together as a team and get back to playing team defense and shut down the Hawks? Or, will the Bad Celtics show up and allow the Hawks to get off any shot they want including getting to the hoop at will? I just don't know. But I hope that these Celtics can go back to the way they played all season and put an end to this nonsense. The Celtics are the better team and it is time they started to act like it.
The Celtics have now resorted to giving out tee shirts for tonight's game. I guess it is a case of if nothing else is working let's pump up the fans a bit more.
The Cavs and Wizards play again tonight with the Cavs having a chance to close out the series tonight. If they do, that means that they get a long rest before they play again because the Celtics will have at least one more game to play after tonight. Delonte has suddenly become the key to that series and the key to making Cleveland's attack work. I am really happy that Delonte landed in a good spot. I would love to have him come back to Boston, but I am pretty sure Cleveland is going to keep him.
I still have concerns about Doc as head coach. Coaching becomes so much more important in the playoffs as it becomes a chess match between coaches in making adjustments for the next game. So far, Doc seems to be playing checkers and not chess. Doc has never won a playoff series but he never had talent like he does this season. But he has the talent and we find ourselves tied with a team we should have swept. Ok, granted that the Hawks may have surprised us for game 3, but the adjustments should have been made and the team prepared to match them in game 4 and come away with that win and yet we didn't. You could say that the players settled for too many jumpers and didn't attack. The coach is supposed to call for those changes and ensure that his players implement them. The coach is supposed to change strategies if one isn't working. If they players aren't playing right. If they aren't playing team defense, it is up to the coach to get them to do it. We know what these players are capable of and yet they aren't doing it. I have to keep coming back to the coaches. I want to believe in Doc, I really do. But, I keep having these concerns and he hasn't allayed them yet.
And I know I am not alone in my concerns. This was a recurring theme in Bill Simmons' chat yesterday. Here is a quote from his chat that I found interesting:
I'll say this: It took 72 hours to undo 84 games - they don't have a rotation anymore, every bench guy has lost his confidence except Posey, and everyone is looking for their own shot. What scares me is that they played hard in both games. By the way, I'm typing this chat with 2 broken hands - after Doc left Ray Allen on Joe Johnson for the entire fourth quarter, I sparred for 10 rounds with the wall next to my sofa.
If Doc can right the ship and get the Celtics back to playing like they played for the 84 games before their meltdown in Atlanta, I will give Doc the credit for doing a great job, but if they can't, you have to look at the coaching because you can't say he doesn't have the players to get it done any longer.
This off season may set a record for the number of head coaching hirings. Already there have been New York, Chicago, Charlotte and Miami with reports of Phoenix and Dallas soon to follow. With all these teams looking for coaches I don't see any way Tom Thibodeau doesn't land one of them. We need to get ready to face a formidable defense in one of our opponents next season. I give Thibodeau a lot of credit for how good this team is this season, but I don't know if he will make a great head coach as from all reports, he isn't a media kind of guy and isn't really a people person. He is great at game analysis and x's and o's but whether he can deal with the personalities of the players and the media remains to be seen. Doc excels in these areas and that is what makes Doc and Tom a great coaching duo. The have very complementary strengths.
I really have a problem with David Stern and his officials. In many games the refs clearly have an agenda or else they are so incompetent it isn't funny. In Violet Palmer's case the latter may be true, but most of the other refs can't miss that many calls in a game without trying to. In many cases they are right there and looking at the play and still don't make the call. Whether it comes from the league to influence the outcome of a game for some reason or whether it comes from the individual officials, there is something rotten in the state of the officiating. I was hoping that after the Tim Donaghy scandal that the league would tighten up and we would see them call the games more cleanly but no such hope. If anything, the officiating this season has been even worse over all. And the worst thing about it is that players, coaches and owners can't do a thing about it. If you question the refs, you are fined, suspended or otherwise disciplined. They are little Napoleons out there with no one to question their authority. There was a huge disparity in free throws in game 4. Some of that was because the Hawks were attacking the basket more than the Celtics, but there was a lot of contact that wasn't called when the Celtics did drive. Maybe that's why the Celtics stopped driving. They were getting mugged and weren't getting the calls anyway. Josh Smith should have fouled out if they called all of his fouls inside. In the meantime, on the other end, the Celtics were called for touch fouls and even phantom contact. Stern would be much better suited to get his own house in order with his officials instead of worrying about who is making what sign on the sidelines of a game. Otherwise, we haven't seen the last of the scandals involving the officials.
The Celtics dodged a huge bullet when the league announced yesterday that there would be no suspensions resulting from the game 4 skirmish. Losing both Perk and KG would have almost guaranteed a loss in game 5. All I could think of was how the league suspended Amare Stoudamire last season and that, in effect, gave the series to San Antonio. I love Perk. I love his work ethic. I love his attitude. I love his honesty. Here is Perk's reaction yesterday while waiting to hear if he would be suspended.
“If they look at the film they’ll see that I was already up when the fight started,” said the center, who is often up off his seat and straddling the sidelines. “To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about that. It’s hard to be thinking about something like that at the time. You’re into the game, really. “I didn’t realize until I watched it on tape last night. Whatever happens happens. If I do get suspended, I believe that we can win the game.” “Right now I’m just really saying my prayers,” he said. “I’m already mentally prepared for either one but I want to play. If I did the wrong thing I did the wrong thing. I just gotta man up and suffer the consequences.”
On the other hand, here is KG's reaction:
“Suspended? For what?” he asked incredulously. “No, the ref grabbed me.”
Game 5 tonight is the biggest game of the year for the Celtics. They have to get back to what got them here and come out strong and most importantly, play defense. I expect the crowd to be loud enough to rock the building to its foundation. And, I expect my Celtics to come out and play like we have come to expect them to. Here's to Ubuntu, rebounding and defense.