Monday, January 5, 2009

Anatomy of A(nother) Loss

At what point is this no longer a “bump in the road”?

Facing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the Boston Celtics were at it again. For the fourth time in their past five road games (with a 108-83 home win sandwiched in between), the once-invincible Celtics were taken (again) down as a result of subpar offensive play from both Ray Allen (16 points, 7-for-18 shooting, 0-for-9 on 3-point attempts) as well as the bench (5 players combined for 25 points on 10-for-26 from the field; 1-for-8 on 3-pointers), as well as yet another sad second half performance, as they followed up a 53-point first half with just 35 points in the second half in their 100-88 loss.

In Ray Allen’s defense, it’s only fair to point that he was hardly the lone starter that struggled. Despite chipping in with nine rebounds and five blocked shots, Kevin Garnett was not close to his usual standout self on the offensive end, managing just 6 points on 1-for-6 shooting in 29 minutes. And Rajon Rondo, a major catalyst for the C’s success this season, also had a brutal night against the Knicks, scoring just three points on 1-for-7 from the field. With Paul Pierce (31 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 10-for-17 shooting, 4-for-6 on 3-pointers) the only Celtic that was on his game on Sunday, Boston should ideally have been able to look to its bench for some support.

Ah, the Celtics’ bench…

On a night when the starters were in need of offensive support, much like in their three West Coast losses, the Celtics’ bench failed to deliver. Boston got just 24 points from the second unit- led by six points from Glen Davis, five each from Eddie House and Leon Powe, and four apiece from Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine. By contrast, Al Harrington, one of just two players that saw the floor off of the Knicks bench, single-handedly outscored the C’s bench, scoring 30 points (11-for-23 shooting; 5-for-9 on 3-pointers).

When the Boston Celtics are firing on all cylinders, they are nearly impossible to beat. However, this team seems to be relying on fewer cylinders to carry an increasing load. It’s true that this is a team of champions with character and solid veteran leadership, but after losing just twice in their twenty-nine games, they’ve lost four of six games in eerily similar fashion. No injuries, and just one back-to-back. These trends have emerged and are picking up steam- the Celtics desperately need to add some firepower to their bench, particularly in the backcourt. With each passing loss, the talk of acquiring a certain banished, malignant point guard from the Knicks becomes less crazy. Is Stephon Marbury a good fit in the Celtics’ unselfish and harmonious locker room? Absolutely not, but unless this team makes a drastic move to shore up its depth on offense, the Celtics will not survive the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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