Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Morning Celtics

A Bruins free zone...

During the last few months of the regular season, the Celtics played awful basketball. Anytime the thought was floated that the Celtics could flip a switch and turn it on for the playoffs, it was dismissed by "experts" as not the case with this team. Guess what, after a listless regular season, they've put their foot down on the gas pedal and are now up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals over Orlando. What has been the difference? Two things - the return of Kevin Garnett as a healthy impact basketball player and the commitment to defense.

In yesterday's game, the Celtics suffocated the life out of the Magic with tough, physical defense. Yes, Orlando made a run at the end of the game and cut what was once a 20 point lead to 2, but almost doesn't count. It wasn't a pretty game, but it all counts the same in the score book.

Besides the great defense, what surprised me most was only 2 Celtic starters, plus Rasheed Wallace scored double figures. Rajon Rondo was quiet and Kevin Garnett didn't have a good shooting game. Give credit to Orlando, they are a good defensive team as well. They held the Celtics scoreless for over 5 minutes as they made their 4th quarter run. Looks like we are in for some 83-78 type games this series.

Tony Allen continues to provide strong contributions off the bench. He's really stepping up and being the bench player Danny Ainge envisioned 2 years ago, when he let James Posey leave for New Orleans. Tony Allen has become a lock down defender, plus he is an excellent finisher, filling the lanes on the fast break. No longer is he the out of control player, prone to turnovers against good teams. He's playing within himself and not trying to do too much.

Five weeks ago, ESPN columnist and Celtics superfan Bill Simmons wrote a scathing column criticizing Rasheed Wallace describing him as "my least favorite Celtic ever". After a season and a playoff series of mailing it in, Sheed finally started turning it on in the last two games of the Cavaliers series. He's playing with passion and contributing some timely 3 point shots. He still is allergic to rebounding, but he's bringing some presence on defense.

If the rumors are true of coach Doc Rivers planning on leaving at the end of the season, it would only make sense for assistant coach Tom Thibodeau to be escalated to head coach. Thibodeau may be the best defensive coach in the NBA.

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