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Celtics at the mercy of Jason Kidd's old tricks

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  April 23, 2013 11:48 AM

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I'm being only semi-facetious when I say that the best playmaking guard on the Celtics roster at the moment is the 51-year-old head coach.

And I'm not being facetious at all when I say that one exasperating 85-78 Celtics loss into this Eastern Conference first-round series against the Knicks, I have serious Jason Kidd envy.

Which is pretty amazing, frankly, given that Kidd has been around so long that he actually played against Rivers. During Kidd's first two exceptional yet ultimately unfulfilling NBA seasons in Dallas, he and Doc matched up seven times, including the opener in 1995-96.

How'd it go? About as you'd expect the standard young-star-vs.-savvy-vet showdown to go. Kidd usually achieved or narrowly missed a triple-double. Doc was usually good for 5-10 points as Avery Johnson's backup.

riversdocfinn423.jpgWay back when, Kidd was similar to what Rajon Rondo was before his knee injury. And Doc, whose final season was 1995-96, was just beyond the stage of basketball aging that Kidd is at right now -- remarkable given that he was five years younger in his final season than Kidd is now.

At age 40, Kidd still has it. Or at least enough of it. He has lost a step or two or three from his superstar heyday, but he has every feint, head-fake, jab-step, shoulder-fake, look-away, hesitation dribble, and geezer-ball dupe-the-young-fellas staple in his bag of tricks. He's always under control, surveying the floor and calculating potential outcomes that younger, faster players are too busy accelerating to see.

Kidd is not fast, but he makes up for it by never hurrying, if that makes sense. I think it would to Doc.

So yeah, it's a pretty intense case of Kidd envy over here, and that's without even elaborating on his ability to heave in an open three (he's third all-time in made threes) or spring into the passing lane at the precisely right moment.

It was impossible to watch his dependable all-around performance in Game 1 -- he contributed 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in 35 minutes off the bench -- without concluding that this series would be so much different if he were in green and white.

As one might conclude based on their 25 total points after halftime, the Celtics had myriad issues in the second half Saturday:

Kevin Garnett rarely got the ball in familiar spots. And when he did, he couldn't convert shots he usually makes.

Avery Bradley proved once again that for all of the skills he possesses that make Celtics fans optimistic for his future, he is not and never will be a point guard.

Paul Pierce fell into hero-ball mode, which doesn't always annoy me but was downright exasperating Saturday since he repeatedly looked off Jeff Green in the corner.

Jason Terry was a husk of his former self, his vow to step up his performance in the postseason (he has a 16.9 career playoff scoring average) resulting in zero points on five wayward shot attempts and his current status as a punch line for Knicks fans.

Most of those problems would be remedied by a commanding point guard, whether it's one in the prime of his career (yes, it's an unreasonable daydream and they're not going to jeopardize his future, but man, if only Rondo had another Willis Reed moment in him) or an ancient but savvy future Hall of Famer like Kidd. Heck, Terry won a championship in Dallas just two years ago riding shotgun in the backcourt with Kidd at times.

Kidd may well turn out to be the X-factor in this series. He's a significant one as Game 2 beckons, and it's hard not to notice that the closest thing the Celtics have to him is their coach, the old point guard who must admire what Kidd has done even as it keeps him awake at night.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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