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You knew the Celtics would be in trouble Wednesday night against the high-powered Suns, as the vaunted “Big Three” had been reduced to one after injuries took down Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The “one” remaining member of the talented trio, Ray Allen, poured in a poor effort and as a result, the Celtics looked a lot like the mediocre NBA teams they lost to in their previous two games (the Clippers and Warriors). Add it all up, and the Suns torched the Celtics 116-98 Wednesday night.
Eddie House did all he could to help the Celtics off the bench, netting a team-high 19 points on 7-13 shooting. He also hit five threes in seven tries, which wasn’t nearly enough to put the unusually incompetent Celtics over the edge. Incompetent? Yes, because the rest of the team shot a putrid 1-14 from downtown.
Without Paul Pierce and his usually sharp shot-selection, the Celtics offense struggles. Tony Allen has filled in admirably and provides strong perimeter defense, but he’s no Pierce. Not even close. Allen’s questionable decision-making and recent apprehensiveness to shoot throw off the offensive gameplan, and as a result, the team’s flow is disrupted. T.A. played well, however, shooting 3-8 from the field to finish with 12 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Ray Allen tends to suffer without his All-Star teammate, and Wednesday’s game against the Suns was no different. Allen finished just 4-13 from the field and 1-5 from downtown. When your top shooter and go-to scorer (Ray Allen) is struggling, that doesn’t usually translate to good results.
Garnett is the team’s defensive MVP, the defensive play-caller, and heart and soul. Take all that away, and get a unit of good defenders that haven’t exactly gelled. Garnett is clearly the glue that hold the defense, especially the big men, together.
Case and point: Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace, without KG and the injured Glen “Big Baby” Davis, were left to guard Suns big men Amare Stoudemire and Channing Frye. The result? Stoudemire finished with 26 points on 11-14 shooting, while Frye also scored 26 points on 9-15 shooting from the field and 6-10 shooting from beyond the arc. The two combined for 17 rebounds.
While the Celtics are a deep squad, it’s clear they’re not the same team without their two best players (Pierce and Garnett). While it isn’t pretty, I’m not very concerned as long as Pierce and Garnett are nursed back to health in due time. The Celtics must be jealous of other top teams who are relatively healthy. What happens when you take LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal off the Cavs, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis off the Magic, or Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol off the Lakers? Those teams would definitely struggle too.
The Celtics next take on the Raptors on Saturday for their first game in 2010. Garnett will probably be deactivated for that game as well, and could return when the Celtics take on the Heat on Wednesday, Jan. 6.