My homey Chair—a fan of the Cs—spent way too much time looking at last night’s game. From the comments: I’ll add my thoughts in bold:
I’m not too too worried about last night’s game for 5 reasons:
1) They played great defense for 3 quarters. They never let Cleveland put them away and they came up with a lot of stops. Cleveland only shot at 45.5%, so it wasn’t like the Celtics gave them twenty open shots or anything. Boston should always shoot better than 38.6%. (Agreed, the Celtics probably won’t shoot that badly at home. Not sure why they couldn’t get key stops in the fourth.)
2) Boston got to the line 26 times, Cleveland only shot 18 free throws. Additionally, Boston’s free throw percentage was .769 while Cleveland’s was .667. If they continue to take it to the rack and play aggressively, they will improve these numbers. (I disagree here—I don’t think there’s a lot of room for improvement on the free throw differential.)
3) If you classify shot selection as 0-9 Feet being a quality shot, 10-18 feet being midrange (ok) and 19+ feet being long range (not so great), here is how the Celtics shot selection broke down in each Quarter:
Q1: 0-9 = 9 10-18 = 6 19+ = 5
Q2: 0-9 = 8 10-18 = 5 19+ = 4
Q3: 0-9 = 4 10-18 = 2 19+ = 9
Q4: 0-9 = 2 10-18 = 10 19+ = 4
They got worse and worse as the game went on. How you justify 10 midrange shots and 2 close ones in the fourth quarter is beyond me. If you break it down by how many shots they hit from each range per quarter it becomes even more clear what they were doing wrong offensively:
Q1: 0-9 = 3 10-18 = 3 19+ = 2
Q2: 0-9 = 5 10-18 = 2 19+ = 0
Q3: 0-9 = 2 10-18 = 1 19+ = 4
Q4: 0-9 = 0 10-18 = 5 19+ = 0
The theory that they are encouraged by their bad habits (when the jumpers actually start falling, they become chuckers ala GState) seems to be true as they relied almost exclusively on the jump shot to win the game for them in the fourth quarter. From long range, they were 6 for 22 in the game. That is a pathetic 27% (and out of the 22, 14 of them were 3’s which they shot at 21%.).
The promising thing about these numbers is that a) they are going to shoot far better than 43% from close range most nights, a lot of layups weren’t falling and that percentage should go up to around 60-70% for Game 5. To put that in perspective, if they made 6 more easy shots than they did (and usually do), they would have been shooting 69% from close range with 12 more points and a W. However, even shooting at a crappy 43% from close range, had they taken 5 more shots from close range in the fourth, they likely would have scored 3 of them (even at a paltry percentage).
(The Celtics definitely struggle when they aren’t getting easy baskets, but there are easy 16 footers and easy three pointers just like there are difficult layups. But in general I agree that the Celtics shouldn’t settle for outside shots as much as they did. And I think fans say that about 90% of basketball teams in the world.)
4) They were statistically similar to Cleveland in a lot of important categories:
a) They rebounded well (Boston had 38, Cleveland had 42/Boston had 6 offensive rebounds, Cleveland had 8) consistently throughout the game. Even though they were slightly outrebounded, it wasn’t what lost them the game.
b) They committed 8 turnovers, Cleveland had 7 (Boston definitely stepped up here, as they killed themselves with rebounds in game 3).
c) Each team had 17 fouls, Boston didn’t get into foul trouble at all (and none of their players did) but they also HAD Lebron in foul trouble in the Second quarter and because they drove to the basket only 6 times in the second half, he escaped easily. This is something they will correct in game 5.
(Pierce just seems too tired to drive on LB on offense. That could change in the friendly nouveau Garden confines.)
5) Leon Powe only played 6 minutes and they were uninspired. As stupid as this might sound, Leon Powe is the biggest X factor for Boston and has been for the whole playoffs. Similar to the way Anderson Varejao is an X Factor for Cleveland. If you accept that Pierce/Allen/KG are going to be more or less equally matched offensively and defensively by Lebron/Szczerbiak/Ilgauskis and you consider the Rondo/Cassell vs. Delonte/Boobie matchup and Perkins/Wallace matchup to be a wash, it all comes down to the stars on the bench. And the only bench player for the Celtics who played worth a damn last night was PJ Brown. No Leon, no Posey, nothing good. And Varejao had some huge baskets in the fourth. Considering Sideshow Bob is the only player on their bench who consistently contributes and Boston has been known for their superb bench contributions and depth, this probably won’t happen again either (at least it shouldn’t).
(Doc Rivers should probably get some of the blame for that. It’s hard to get comfortable in six minutes, though the old basketball cliche is that starters win you road games and your bench wins at home.)
Anyway, those are my reasons and I’m sticking to them. It was easily the most winnable road game the Celtics have had all playoffs (if you remove game 4 in Atlanta where they twice lost a 10 point lead….I don’t even want to look at those numbers…still.) If they just took better shots in the fourth this game easily could have gone their way.
(I agree in some respects—I think Boston is still the favorite to win the series. But Lebron is the best player in the series (despite my eternal respect for KG) and he has to go off at some point, right? If he starts hitting outside jumpers like he did against the Stones last year and beats the Celtics at home, this thing might be over in six.
If I had to bet my lifesavings, I’d probably say Celtics in 7. But I don’t like the idea of better that eight bucks against Lebron.)