After their big win over the Nets on Christmas day, the Celtics have now lost 4 straight games. What's worse, they have lost all 4 games by double digits. With this loss, they have also fallen out of the playoff picture and are in 9th place in the East, half a game behind the Philadelphia 76ers. This statement from a Grizzlies fan tells the tale of the game: "Poor defensive execution int he first half and poor offensive execution int he second half cost Boston the game."
Avery Bradley made his long awaited season debut tonight and he started and played 19 minutes. For his first game back, he showed that he can still make a difference with his defense once he gets back up to game speed. He made just 2-6 shots but one was a back door cut to the basket where Rondo found him for a layup. That became a staple of the offense last season and hopefully will again. Rondo added 11 points on 4-11 shooting to go with 10 assists and 2 rebounds.
Boston Celtics point guard Avery Bradley (0) defends against Memphis
Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (11) during the first quarter of an
NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Elise
Kevin Garnett struggled once again early, going just 1-7 in the first half. He finished with 12 points (5-14) with 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Paul Pierce started out hot, scoring 15 points in the first half on 5-8 shooting. He also grabbed 5 of the Celtics first half rebounds. The second half was another story. As the game went on, his legs weren't under him and he scored just 2 points in the second half on 1-6 shooting. Jason Collins put in his 18 minutes and finished with just 2 points and 1 rebound.
The Celtics got some production from their bench in this game (37 points) but still not enough. Bass finished with 9 points (3-5) but just 1 rebound. Jason Terry also shot 3-5 for 8 points to go with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. Sully struggled with his shot going just 1-6 but pulled down 5 rebounds before fouling out. Jeff Green shot well for 10 points (4-5) but had only 2 rebounds. Lee finished with 8 points on 3-4 shooting. The Celtics bigs must be more aggressive on the boards.
Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce (34) makes contact with Memphis
Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay (22) while driving during the first
quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013.
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
The Celtics shot just 45% for the game and allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 48%. The defense that the Celtics once prided them on is still inconsistent at best and porous at worst. The Celtics continue to be the worst rebounding team in the league, outrebounded in this game 39-27. So much of rebounding is desire and effort. For the most part, the Celtics just aren't putting out the effort needed on the boards.
They also once again settled for jumpers instead of trying to get inside. As has been the case in each of the 4 losses, when those jumpers stop falling, the Celtics don't adjust and continue to shoot from the outside. The Celtics were in the bonus early in the 4th quarter but never took advantage of it, choosing to continue to pull up and shoot instead of driving inside.
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 2: Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics fights
for possession of the ball against members of the Memphis Grizzlies
during the game on January 2, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston,
Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The ball movement was also inconsistent. Too many times Rondo dribbled the ball up and allowed the Grizzlies to get into their defense instead of trying to bring it up quickly and set up a shot before the defense was set. Instead of making the extra pass, several times they would settle for a jumper or hold the ball too long and then have to take a tough shot to avoid a 24 second violation.
I'm not sure what the answers are to all of the Celtics' problems. Avery Bradley's return will help some of them, but not all. The rebounding problem will still be there. Bass with 1 rebound, Green with 2 rebounds and Collins with 1 rebound is unacceptable. Each of those players has to be more aggressive on the boards and up their effort.
The second unit was shooting well when the starters were struggling. Perhaps more shots should be going to the reserves when Pierce and Garnett are struggling. Players like Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee have got to pick up their scoring. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett can't do it all every night. Both of those players should be getting limited minutes so they are fresh at the end of games. To do that, the second unit must improve.
The Celtics will host the Indiana Pacers on Friday and hopefully between now and then they can somehow address some of the problems that have been plaguing them. If they don't, a season that started out looking so promising might just slip away from them.