The Boston Celtics are off to a 5-0 start looking to surpass last season’s 27-2 record, but more importantly finish the way they finished in 2008…with another title. The Boston Globe is already starting the 72-10 talk, and if healthy it might be hard to argue.
On the first night of a road back-to-back to the Celtics faced one of the hottest offenses in the NBA and absolutely shut down the Sixers. Even the greatest 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA (statistically at least…just ahead of Steve Kerr and Hubert Davis), Jason Kapono, couldn’t help the Sixers shoot above 40% or break 80 points. Point guard Rajon Rondo took his new contract and closed out the first quarter by putting the C’s up 19-17 with this sick out-of-bounds shot. The reserves came in and that was the end of that game.
The Celtics were able to rest their big men Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins, which should bode well tonight in Minnesota going up against former Celtic Al Jefferson. Rasheed Wallace continued to shoot nothing but 3’s draining 6-8 and finishing with 20 points in his hometown. Marquis Daniels continues to play smart basketball and penetrate while Shelden Williams has to be the biggest surprise of the young season. The former lottery and husband of Candace Parker is showing flashes as to why he was given the nickname the Landlord.
The three things Celtics fans have to really enjoy outside of the wins, which of course are most important, are how the Celtics lock down defensively, move the ball on offense and are so deep that Doc can limit the starters minutes and hopefully keep them as fresh as possible as the season goes on. The Celtics racked up 27 assists on 41 fg’s last night and limited yet another team to under 40% shooting for the 4th time in 5 games.
It took Charlotte nearly five minutes to score their first basket and at that point you could tell that the Celtics defense was in postseason form even though this was just the home opener. The Cs pulled away in the 3rd quarter and the majority of the 2nd half turned into garbage time with J.R. Giddens and Lester Hudson (I still think Hudson will be able to contribute in this League) racking up the minutes while The Landlord, Shelden Williams, put forth a solid effort off the bench posting 12 points (8-11 from the line), 9 rebounds and 3 assists in 22 minutes.
After two games we still don’t know how healthy KG will look as the season goes on, but posting a 92-59 victory at home in which Garnett only has to play 26 minutes is an encouraging sign and will hopefully allow KG to stay rested for the playoffs. We did learn that newcomer Rasheed Wallace refuses to shoot anything inside the arc. Last night Wallace was 3-8 from the field with all of those attempts coming from deep. Wallace is 6-14 from 3 so far and if he’s shooting at that clip throughout the season there should be no complaints from the fans.
Led by Rondo’s 11 assists the C’s moved the ball around posting 27 assists on 33 fg’s and kept the turnovers to a minimum with only 12 turnovers. One complaint offensively would have to be 29 3-point attempts, but the defense was once again the story and will be for the rest of the season.
In other NBA news the LeBron-Shaq(tus) experiment is off to an ugly 0-2 start after Andrea Bargnani lit up Cleveland for 28 leading the Raptors past the Cavs despite LeBron’s triple-double.
Orlando appears to be deeper than I originally thought although they still have 81 games to go. After 1 game though the Magic’s reserves looked solid and it will only get deeper once Rashard Lewis returns from his 10 game suspension and Pietrus or Anderson shift back to the bench.
The Spurs got the steal of the draft in DeJuan Blair (drafted 37th after household names Victor Claver, BJ Mullens and Christian Eyenga to name a few) who dropped 14 points (7-10 fg) to go along with 11 rebounds and 3 assists in 23 minutes.
Lastly a shout-out to our loyal reader Jorgito and now that that’s out of the way I have to rip him. Time to move on from your love affair with Ricky Rubio. He may or may not be a good player when he finally has the balls to play in the NBA, but until then Minnesota has a better PG on their roster who has proven something night in and night out on a high level in the Big East. Jonny Flynn, in his debut, helped the T-Wolves erase a 19-point deficit by scoring 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. That’s right an NBA team that plays Brian Cardinal for 20 minutes is now 1-0 to open the season while the Cavs are 0-2.
Life is good!
The Patriots head into their bye winners of their last two games by a combined score 94-7. The Red Sox are home watching the Yankees in their first World Series in six years. The Bruins are still trying to figure out how to win without Phil Kessel (traded), Milan Lucic (Injured) and Marc Savard (Injured). But guess what Boston? There is definitely something to watch this week…the Boston Celtics kickoff the NBA regular season in Cleveland against LeBron and Zydrunas, er Shaq. After the Cavs, the C’s return home for three games against Charlotte, Chicago and New Orleans.
The Celtics have trimmed their roster down to 15 after releasing Michael Sweetney, which comes as a major blow to Boston-area restaurants. Sweetney aside, the Celtics have the stars and depth to make a serious run at their 18th title.
Let’s start with the obvious…If Kevin Garnett is healthy and on the floor this team immediately takes the shape of a contender. KG controls the defensive end and the boards and more importantly he frees Kendrick Perkins up to be an intimidating big man down low. Offensively KG stretches the floor and opens up the lane for Rondo to penetrate, Pierce to play on the post and Ray Allen to do what he does best and that’s drain 3’s. The most exciting part of this season though has to be the depth. Even during the 2008 championship season the Celtics did not have this type of depth. Yeah, we all loved Posey and Eddie House but the starters were logging some serious minutes.
This season the Celtics will feature a legitimate 2nd unit. Marquis Daniels for me is the big addition. His size and versatility truly puts the Celtics bench on par with some starting lineups. Daniels is a big guard who can play PG and for the first time in a long time give the Celtics someone who can initiate the offense and control the tempo off the bench. This will take the ball out of House’s hands and allow him to roam the arc, which looked pretty nice in the preseason. On the flip side Daniels’ size won’t create mismatches on the defensive end. Big Baby will also be able to spread the floor with his jumper and not have the focus on him like last season when there were some awful dry stretches with the 2nd unit. The big name acquisition, of course, was Sheed. His energy and vet presence will just add to the frustration to teams around the league. As if Pierce and KG weren’t bad enough with their trash talking Sheed will surely lead the charge racking up T’s. Sheed can still drain the 3 and stretch the floor for the 2nd unit and add a bit of a defensive presence down low. The 10th spot seems up for grabs right now with Scal (when healthy) fighting for minutes with former lottery pick and Candace Parker’s husband, Shelden Williams. Like most Celtics fans I pray Tony Allen disappears and allows us to see if we have anything in Giddens. He put up big numbers last year in the D-League but according to Ridiculous Upside he doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be an undersized SF in the NBA. Walker probably won’t see the floor for a while after his injury and while I’m very high on rookie Lester Hudson I’m not sure he’ll find a spot in the rotation this year. His length and ability to rebound will be a huge plus for Austin Ainge and the Maine Red Claws.
My prediction for the season is 67 wins and another trip to the NBA Finals. I think the Cavs and Magic will provide for an entertaining Eastern Conference but if healthy the C’s just have too much. The Magic are tough to figure out because losing Hedo and Courtney Lee will hurt them but they get Jameer Nelson back from injury, Ryan Anderson is a solid player and Vince is the wild card for them. The Cavs obviously have LeBron and of course the addition of Shaq on paper is a great move, but Delonte losing his mind certainly hurts. I think for the Cavs to overtake the C’s LeBron is going to have to elevate his game to yet another level.
Celtics over the Spurs in 7 games.