Last week at this time, the Celtics were riding high after a four-game win streak. The lowly Charlotte Bobcats were in town. What could go wrong?
It’s unraveled fairly quickly for the green, but no more so than during Tuesday night’s 109-85 shellacking by the Houston Rockets. There are far more questions than answers during this four-game losing streak, and the road doesn’t get any easier with a game in San Antonio tonight.
My friend Gerald Wallace leads off the mailbag:
@GaryDzen “Can you explain what the F tonight was? – Gerald W, Houston”
— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) November 20, 2013
That’s an actual quote, paraphrased a little, from the fiery Wallace Tuesday night. Here are my takeways from that game:
— The Celtics gave up 40 points in the first quarter. The Rockets shot 80 percent in the first and 57 percent for the game. That’s obviously too easy. Many of Houston’s baskets were layups in transition. Much of that offense ran through Dwight Howard, whom the Celtics had no answer for.
— Where was Jeff Green? With the Celtics down 18-1 with 6:52 left in the first quarter, it occurred to me that Green had done virtually nothing. Green had a shot blocked by Chandler Parsons and missed a three before being subbed out for Gerald Wallace. By the time he returned, with 7:25 left in the second quarter, the Celtics were down 21 points. The game was effectively over at that point. Not what you want from your team’s best player.
— The offense was dismal throughout, from 24 percent shooting in the first quarter to Jordan Crawford, down 82-49, going 360 on a layup and throwing up a shot that missed everything. Avery Bradley took 22 shots in the game and missed 17 of them. The Rockets had 10 blocks in the game, but even left to their own devices the Celtics weren’t exactly running crisp offense.
Two positives stood out for me amid the muck:
— Bradley is finally getting some of the calls he didn’t get as a rookie. He drew a push-off foul on James Harden. Bradley may have sold the call, but he was also in the right position, moving his feet to perfectly cut off Harden’s angle. The only starter in double-figures, he’s looked good since sliding over to shooting guard.
— Courtney Lee continues to shine. In a game the C’s lost by 24 points, Lee played 23 minutes in which the Celtics were plus-4 on the scoreboard. He led the Celtics with 17 points, continuing to play the two-way game he’s played all season. He made 3 of 4 3-pointers.
On to your questions:
@GaryDzen which player has been the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment so far?
— Nick Abisi (@theruns46250) November 19, 2013
Good question, Nick. It’s got to be Green for me as the biggest disappointment, though expecting him to step right in for Paul Pierce this season was foolish to begin with. Still, 14.5 points per game while leading the team in minutes isn’t going to cut it.
For biggest surprise I’ll go with Sullinger. He was expected to be good, but with limited conditioning I didn’t expect him to hit the ground running. His 20.2 points/36 minutes leads the team. He’s shown that he can be a great role player but also be a focal point when called upon.
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Where do you see Jordan Crawford fitting into the lineup after Rondo returns?
Kenyatta, Clinton, Miss.
He’s earned some minutes with this team with surprisingly good play (he’d be next up in terms of biggest surprises). Phil Pressey stands to lose more time with Rondo’s return than Crawford. Jordan’s passing has been something of a revelation, but we all know he can score. That’s a skill that’s really lacking on this team. He may not see 26 minutes like he’s seeing now, but 15 to 20 sound about right.
Is Danny’s motivation to make the team better THIS year (Personally, I would like to see a Bass and Lee trade for Asik) or is it to remain one of the league’s worst teams, collect more pieces for the future, and to position the C’s for the lottery?
Can’t imagine any scenario in which Ainge wants this team to hang around the 7th or 8th seed and contend. If Ainge did make that kind of trade – Bass and Lee for Asik – it would be because the deal would help the team in seasons to come. You’re right about those players potentially being shopped. Bass has been steady, and both he and Lee could help a contender. But as far as contending this year, Chad Finn and I did our best to spell out just how bad the Celtics are going to be earlier this week.
@GaryDzen seriously, how hilarious is it that the Knicks think they can get Rondo?
— Colin Sloan (@TheColinSloan) November 19, 2013
It’s funny because it’s the Knicks, but I’m not one of those people who thinks that trading Rondo at some point is an impossibility. Rondo has been shopped before, most notably for Chris Paul. The Celtics can keep Rondo as one of their key building blocks, but if the right offer presents itself, Ainge will move him, despite all of his denials to this point.
@GaryDzen Do you think the Celtics will officially name Rondo captain when he returns? Why hasnt it been done already? Respect for Pierce?
— Mark McNamara (@MarkMcn81) November 19, 2013
That’s an interesting question. Before the season started Brad Stevens said that he typically does not name captains. Still, Rondo seems like the obvious choice. It would not be surprising if he is formally designated when he returns to the court.
What’s with Bradley’s sub-Bassian assist numbers? I realize he’s not the primary ballhandler, but 3 assists in the last 5 games is ridiculous. Is he a reluctant passer, an unskilled one, or both? (As opposed to Crawford, who seems less willing but infinitely more able.)
Make that three assists in the last six games after putting up a zero vs. the Rockets. It’s concerning. The Celtics are clearly better with Bradley playing off the ball, but you’d think he’d find someone with a backdoor cut every once in a while. During a game earlier this season, Tommy Heinsohn yelled “Come on!” when Bradley missed Kelly Olynyk wide open cutting to the basket. Bradley plays off the ball a lot now, but he’s also got to look for his teammates more. If he doesn’t, and teams key in on that, he becomes a limited threat.
Thanks for all the great questions, everyone. See you next time.