PACE: #24 92.3
OFFENSE: #17 104.0
DEFENSE: #2 97.8
After sweeping the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, Boston couldn’t be competitive in the following round against Miami and clearly lost the series by 4-1. Rondo’s injury was indeed a big factor, however the truth was that Miami looked to be the better team during the whole series. Some people might say that with Perkins, things would be different and that Boston would be able to beat Miami, however I highly doubt that, as Boston with or without Perkins was always an elite defensive team:
Boston’s defensive efficiency rank during the Big Three Era:
07-08 rank #1 96.2
08-09 rank #2 99.4
09-10 rank #5 101.1
10-11 rank #2 97.8
Boston was the second best defensive team in the league during the regular season with Perkins playing just 12 games as a Celtic. Boston was also the second best team in FG% allowed with just 43.2% FG. They were also the third best team in defending at the rim by allowing just 60.5% of those shots. All of this when Perkins played just 12 games for the team! Bottom line: Perkins wasn’t that important to the defense as he was supposed to be.
The weirdest part of Boston’s season was in fact their offensive problems and nobody can convince me that it was due to Perkins absence, as he was always a nullity in the offensive end.
However, the truth is that until the all-star break, Boston was averaging 97.89 points per game, but in the 2nd half of the season, they averaged just 93.15 ppg – the 4th worst mark in the whole league! This lack of offense was clearly noted in the pivotal game 5 in the series against Miami, where Boston scored just 14 points in the 4th quarter while being outscored by 12 points during the quarter. In fact, during the series, Miami outscored the Celtics 29-13 in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less! This late collapse wasn’t a first for Boston, as in the previous seasons Boston had also started the season very well just to fade late on the season. This is not a surprise, as this team is really old! There is clearly a trend in the following numbers:
08-09: 44-11 before All-Star / 18-9 after
09-10: 32-18 before All-Star / 18-14 after
10-11: 40-14 before All-star / 16-12 after
So, does the Big Three still have legs for another championship run? Ray Allen had arguably his best season as a Celtic last season by shooting career highs of 49.1% FG and 44.4% 3PTS, while playing 36.1 minutes per game! As weird as it may sound, Pierce also enjoyed a good shooting season with 49.7% FG. Garnett also had his solid numbers of 14.9 ppg, while shooting 52.8% FG and grabbing 8.9 boards per game. So why did the Celtics suffer such a severe drop off on their offense with the Big Three performing in a high level? The answer is really obvious: the other guys failed to step it up! Note that Delonte West, Marquis Daniels and both O’Neals had problematic seasons, all with innumerous injuries. The Celtics bench contributed with just 26.7 ppg – the 5th worst mark in the league! Glen Davis was probably the most disappointing player of the bunch. He had career highs in minutes (29.3 mpg) and in FG attempts (10.3 FGA per game), but shooting just 44.8% FG is a really low mark for a frontcourt player like him.
About the Perkins trade, we can consider it a disaster. Not because Perkins was such a key piece in the Celtics defense because the numbers show that the Celtics are still an elite defensive team without him, but because the Jeff Green experiment was clearly a failure. His individual numbers weren’t bad – 9.8 ppg with 48.5% FG while logging 23.5 mpg – however, the team didn’t have the right chemistry when he was on the floor.
Right now, Boston doesn’t have a Big Three anymore. They have a Big Four now. Rondo was an All-Star player again, while being the 2nd best player in assists in the league with 11.2 apg. It really looked like Rondo didn’t want to shoot the whole season. He attempted just 1.9 free throws per game, while shooting a ridiculous 56.8% from the FT line. In order to help the team even more, Rondo needs to be much more aggressive on the floor and more importantly to be more confident on his shooting ability.
The Celtics are amongst the old teams where there are doubts if their window to win a championship is now closed or not. However, a short season might be favorable to them, however those back-to-back-to-back games will hurt the old guys. But as they play in such a low pace and should remain being an elite defensive team, they will be competitive even in those games! So, we can’t discard them to be a force once again this season.