Celtics Fill Their Roles in a Win

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Game 3 against Hawks was a lesson in the Celtics’ doing what they do best when the shots aren’t falling.

Rajon Rondo’s shots didn’t fall, so he hustled his way into a triple double.

Paul Pierce’s shots didn’t fall, so he worked his way to the line and scored 21 points on just 3 made field goals, Adrian Dantley style.

Garnett’s shots did fall, but he spent his energy setting screens, playing defense, and vacuuming up rebounds.

It’s what they do.

A few game notes:

Both teams played most of the game with only 1 big man on the floor.  Boston’s lineup for the fourth quarter and OT was Garnett at the center with Rondo and Allen at the guards and Pierce and Pietrus playing forward.  The Hawks varied the line-up a little more, keeping Teague and Johnson in at the guards with Tracy McGrady at forward and rotating in Green, Radmanovic, Collins, Williams, and, believe it or not, Dampier.  The small line-ups helped both teams to play sticky perimeter defense and spread the floor on offense, but playing without a second power forward / center also made for some blatantly missed defensive and rebounding assignments.  Pierce and McGrady are not used to having to rotate back when the center steps up on the pick and roll, so the roll man was getting lay ups.  They also aren’t used to being responsible for boxing out, and the result was a lot of big rebounds going to guards on both sides.

The biggest difference in closing the game was that Boston had four players who knew what they had to do on each play, where the Hawks fell into pure isolation mode, going to Johnson, TMac, and Green (seemingly at random).  Rondo knew he was going to create.  Garnett knew he was going to screen and rebound.  Pierce and Allen knew they were going to shoot.  It wasn’t smooth by any means, but it was at least purposeful.

I watched a bit of the Bulls / Sixers (the Doug Collins Bowl), and I’m reminded of how important it is for NBA teams to have star players who command a double team.  Both teams ran continuity and moved the ball and accomplished basically nothing in the half court.  NBA defense, especially Thibodeau / Collins defense, is too good.   This series needs a dominant offensive presence to force the defense to make some hard decisions.

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