Normally, I would consider the Boston Celtics taking on the Miami Heat a must-see game. But Danny Ainge traded away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and any semblance of an actual rivalry, and I decided to actually live my life instead of being held hostage by Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, and the rest of the Celtics’ mediocre roster.
Clearly that turned out well.
After rewatching the game the day after, though, I put together a few thoughts about the game and the Celtics season in general:
- Jordan Crawford is now in the starting lineup, and bringing the ball up as the point more often than Avery Bradley. I don’t know whether this is reassuring because it means he’s more likely to initiate the offense and actually pass the ball responsibly, or terrifying because it makes it even more likely that he’ll take a typical off-balance Jordan Crawford jump shot early in the shot clock. I’m going to lean towards reassuring, if only because it means no off-target entry passes from Bradley. His trials and tribulations at the point in last year’s playoffs against the Knicks still haunts me.
- It’s amazing how LeBron James can seem to be having a quiet game, not seeming particularly aggressive as a scorer, and then you realize he has nine points on 4-of-5 shooting with over two minutes left in the first quarter.
- Was PJ Carlesimo sent to CSN as part of the Celtics trade with the Brooklyn Nets to be Mike Gorman’s color commentator?
- Kelly Olynyk looks like he’s going to struggle as a defender, especially one-on-one. His footwork seemed sluggish at best, and either led to an easy bucket by the Heat or a silly foul and free throws. Early in the first quarter, Chris Bosh simply took a couple of jab steps to get Olynyk’s feet moving (shuffling might be more apt), then drove to his left and into the paint to draw a needless bump from Kelly. Later in the first half, Olynyk just seemed to forget that Michael Beasley is left-handed, and gave him a free-spinning turnstile straight to the basket for a lay-up. No wonder Jeff Green calls him “Sunshine” after the character in Remember the Titans.
- Phil Pressey, besides looking as incredibly short as he is, actually showed a pretty good handle leading the second unit. He managed to dive into the lane a handful of times and convert some tough floaters. I don’t think we’ll see much of him if/when Rajon Rondo returns, though.
- It pains me to say this, but Kris Humphries actually played well in some extended first half run. He finished with nine points and five rebounds to go with a couple of blocks. Please let this drive up his trade value so we can ship him out. Please.
- Michael Beasley probably won’t be a major factor for the Heat when the playoffs come around, but that was a great roll of the dice this offseason by Pat Riley. He’s the perfect “lightning in a bottle” player, and he dominated the game for a stretch for the Heat. He’s going to help add a win or two to Miami’s record during the regular season.
- Besides the return of Rondo, and even though the Celtics ended up looking surprisingly effective and efficient on offense, Jeff Green’s sporadically aggressive drives to the hoop will be one of the few things worth watching this season. He had a few drives to the hoop where he picked up a head of steam and finished with an emphatic, swooping and-one. I love Uncle Jeff Green’s flushes.
- What an end to that game! Even watching it unfold, I’m still not sure how the Heat managed to lose with a four-point lead and less than four seconds to go, and also with a two-point lead and two free throws to come and just 0.6 seconds remaining. Dwyane Wade can take the scapegoat title home with him, as he missed his first free throw and then failed to hit the rim trying to intentionally miss his second attempt to run time off the clock. Instead, his violation gave the Celtics the ball in their own half with the chance for one last shot. Brad Stevens drew up a brilliant play to spring Green free on a release to the far corner, and Gerald Wallace threw a perfect lob pass for Green to catch and shoot an off-balance three as he fell into the first row of seats. Game over.
- And yet, the win left me torn. Even without Pierce and Garnett on the team or Rondo suited up to play, it remains incredibly satisfying to beat the Big Three of James, Wade, and Bosh, especially on such an improbable final play. But, much like Bill Simmons laid out in one of the first Grantland Shootarounds, I can’t help but find myself rooting for a high pick in the loaded 2014 draft. I want the Celtics to lose, and often, for a chance at Andrew Wiggins or (more realistically) another young building block to put alongside Rondo. Counterintuitively (not that I blame the players for wanting to be competitive, obviously), the Celtics have now won three in a row after dropping their first four, and would be positioned for the playoffs if the NBA postseason started tomorrow. I’d like to rest my hopes on regression from a small early season sample size, but if the Celtics are winning now — without Rondo, against the best team and player in the league, and on the second night of a back-to-back and fifth game in five cities over seven days, no less — who’s to say it won’t continue?This team isn’t poised to contend for anything other than which team will oust them in the first round; another first round exit, or even just a mediocre record that barely misses the playoffs, isn’t helpful at all in the rebuilding process to return to championship form. So while the win over the Heat was an amazing two middle fingers raised to the two-time defending champions, it also was a step backwards from bringing the Celtics back to contention. Maybe I should start hoping for more of the terrifying Jordan Crawford…
Tags: Andrew Wiggins, Avery Bradley, Bill Simmons, Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford, Kris Humphries, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Rajon Rondo