Tackling the Celtics . . . Finally


Before I get to bball, I just need to mention the insanity that is college football. Pitt just knocked off #2 West Virginia — who stupidly ran on about 8 of their last 9 plays, but Pat White had a sprained thumb so there weren’t too many options — and #1 Missouri is losing to Oklahoma St. Ohio St. hasn’t played since Thanksgiving and they might actually sneak into the title game just because nobody else can hold the top spots. Crazy.

But without further ado, let’s talk Celtics. My partner in crime seems to think I hate the C’s and don’t think they are any good. Not true. But I can see why he thinks that, since I’ve been one of about two people (with Ric Bucher) who will say anything negative about the boys in green right now.

The Celtics are very good, clearly deserving of a top-five spot in anybody’s Power Rankings. But, and this is the most important ‘but’ any team can have, I’m not sure they are built to win in the playoffs.

They have opened hot, but it shouldn’t be to any surprise, as it has. Why on earth would three guys dying to win not come out firing. Remember when the Pistons dropped Larry Brown and Flip Saunders turned the offense loose, which turned into a 24-3 run? That team lost to the Heat in the Eastern Finals. Too few people remember that the teams that win in the playoffs are the teams that start playing their best basketball at and after the all-star break. Just recently it’s worked for both the Spurs and Lakers on all their runs.

They have injury risks that nobody wants to mention. Most of them are each of the joints in Ray Allen’s legs. But you can’t say someone is going to get hurt so we’ll call that a moot point for now. Even Marcus Camby and Z Ilgauskas have gotten healthy.

They have Doc Rivers as a coach. Everyone said he might be ok because he already has his rotation set for him. Well he is playing the three main guys in that rotation 39 ‘heavy’ minutes a night. The difference between light and heavy minutes is that in one you are carrying a huge portion of the team’s offense while you are in the game. All three are in the top 20 in minutes per game. Timmy Duncan, meanwhile, is settled in nicely at No. 69, playing 33.6 per game. Heck Nash is only playing 34.4 per game and that team is still winning as well. None of the C-three (that’s their official name from now on, Rip City law) are young like LeBron or D-Howard, their bodies can’t handle that many minutes any more. The problem is, the Celtics can’t win without those guys playing heavy minutes. Which brings me to my next point.

There is no one else. Eddie House can shoot, sometimes. Kendrick Perkins as an average center currently feeding off the other guys. Pollard is worthless. Scalabrine is funny to look at. Posey just doesn’t play D like he used to (wait till March, he might start looking like Donny Marshall). Glen Davis is a non-factor. Really the only guy who is a decent role player is Tony Allen. Not even Rondo can be counted on, especially when teams decide to just let him shoot 20 jumpers per game like they used to do to Tony Parker and the old Spurs. The problem is, the Spurs had a clear cut system that Parker could often escape having to take that jumper.

Correct me if you see something different, but I don’t see the C’s identity yet. I see a team playing off their stores of energy and determination — just three guys going out and winning. That normally doesn’t work for 95+ games.

Name me the last team that won a championship without notable contributions from their key role players? The don’t exist. The Lakers had Ron Harper, Brian Shaw and Robert Horry breaking off clutch jumpers. The same for Horry, Barry, Finley and Stephen Jackson and the Spurs. Sure, you can tell me D-Wade carried the Heat in the Finals, but if it wasn’t for Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning, they never would have gotten there.

And as well as he is playing right now, what have we learned about KG that tells us, beyond any shadow of a doubt, will win in the playoffs. Cassel and Spree played great with him in Minny, but when it came down to him outplaying the Lakers, he didn’t.

What all these things add up to is not playoff success. Win all you want in the regular season, but as the Mavs learned last year and the Suns keep learning, it comes down to winning four out of seven games, four times in a row. I’m not convinced they can stop D Howard for four games. I’m not convinced the Pistons are done. And I’m for damn sure not convinced they can stop the Suns/Spurs/Jazz/Mavs (yes, the Mavs, Steve).

On the flip side of things, I think it would be a great thing for the League for the C’s to be in the Finals. About a Million Sox/Patriots bandwagon fans would jump on board and the ratings would go through the roof for the first time since MJ. On a smaller scale, having Howard in there would be great, too. But it’s not about making the Finals, its about winning once you get there — right, LeBron? I just don’t think anyone in the East is going to do that. And the C’s? They just are not built for the (greatly) extended season. The window is small, but next year will probably be there best shot, especially if they get rid of Doc and can use the mid-level exception on someone with wins in their blood.