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I watched the Charlotte game on tape and I have to say I came away
feeling very positively about the Celtics. Maybe I am just an optimist
but there were a lot of good things.
First, some negatives. The rebounding was just not very good. But
missing Battie and Fortson makes a big difference in this department.
There were long stretches of the game where Walker and McCarty were
playing together as the C and PF.
The Celtics were also dominated inside by Anthony Mason. He can flat
out play, muscling, rebounding, handling the ball, and passing. The
Celtics had no answer to him.
The Celtics also fouled a lot, and a lot of it was stupid little stuff.
Cheaney was caught on a lot of little fouls because of his aggressive
defense. Anderson had two really dumb fouls on the perimeter where
Wesley would fake a dribble and Anderson would plow right into him.
There were a lot of positives though. Overall, this was a very good
Charlotte team that the Celtics took into overtime shorthanded. The
Hornets played an eight man rotation; perhaps they would not have played
Fuller 21 minutes in the regular season, as Way suggested. But the
Celtics were missing Fortson and Battie and had to play Ellison 16
minutes as well as playing Walker at center. I'd say this was more of
Pierce is a better player this year. Up until the final minutes of the
game when he was forced to put up some 3's because the Celtics were
down, he was something like 11-15. He posted up Eddie Jones, who had
to front him, and scored inside frequently. He basically just
overpowered him. He also has a midrange pullup jumper. He still has
that great anticipation on defense. Even though Jones scored 31,
Pierce wasn't really being beaten on defense frequently. Pierce did
fail to block Eddie Jones out a couple of times which let him get
some easy putbacks. Jones was 10-25 for the game but went to the line
quite frequently. I'd say that Pierce will have no problems defensively
at the 2; Jones is a great, quick player and Pierce wasn't really
getting burned. On the other hand, Jones really couldn't defend Pierce
effectively. I think Paul is going to be a matchup nightmare for most
teams because he will just overpower smaller guards and still have the
ability to get to the hole against bigger guys. He has to have a good
shot at making the All-Star team.
Walker really had a nice, productive game while still making a load of
mistakes, and this is really an indication of how talented a player he
is. At one point in the first quarter he was really huffing and I thought
he must be out of shape. But through the whole game, he ran the floor,
passed excellently on the fast break, and beat his man up the court a
couple of times; he didn't play like he was really out of shape. I can
see that playing SF may be more demanding though. He made some nice
steals when Charlotte looked like it would break the press. His passing
was excellent; his assists were the type of pass that really generates
a basket for the recipient, unlike those "assists" where you throw a
guy a perimeter pass and he cans a jumper. His free throw shooting
is excellent again. He still has this habit of occasionally trying to
take it in 1 on 3 which definitely hurts his FG%. He also shuffled his
feet and was called for traveling twice when working in the post, which
negated two baskets.
Anderson was did a good job on the fast break. The Celtics had quite a
few this game, which was very nice to see. Like I said, he fouled Wesley
on some stupid plays, but I didn't see the Hornets point guards blowing
by him at will like some have suggested. Honestly, if it was really that
easy for them, they should have been doing it every play, and they weren't.
Kenny seems like he's in better shape this year. Later on, after Kenny
left with the injury, we missed him because Barros had some trouble
handling the PG position. I think we don't appreciate how little Kenny
turns it over.
Vitaly's shot was really falling this game and he had some nice putbacks
too. He made quite a few nice passes from the high post. I know that Josh
wants to put him five feet from the basket but actually the Celtics
benefitted a lot from their centers passing from the high post, especially
to Pierce who was overpowering his defender in the low post. He can also
hit the outside shot and drives to the basket pretty well, whereas he
doesn't have such good back to the basket offensive moves.
Eric Williams is a nice pickup. I know I criticized this guy when he was
doing nothing for Denver but he looks as good as he's ever been. Gorman
noted that you wouldn't think he could get to the line like he does
because he always does the same thing. He takes it to the basket every
single time, fakes, and gets the foul, and they can't stop it. He'll be
a valuable member of the rotation and he definitely fills a need on this
Pervis had a nice block to start a fast break and made some nice passes,
but he definitely should not be playing many minutes on this team when
everyone's healthy. Glad to see that he's back on the floor though.
Dana hit some good shots off screens but threw up some wild shots when
driving to the hoop. He also took a pretty ill-advised three pointer
on the run with nobody under the basket to crash the boards. He also
had some control problems, with 5 turnovers against 4 assists. He's
also going to be good for instant offense off the bench, though we may
see him lose minutes to Turner depending on who else is on the floor
and the needs of the team during the game.
Cheaney had a good game except for committing six fouls in 15 minutes.
The team was pressing a lot when he was on the floor and he was overly
zealous and committed several useless fouls. As he gets more experience
playing on the press, he'll learn what he can get away; I think he's
just adjusting to the press and the new rules. He's definitely an
aggressive defender that fits in the Pitino system. Early in the game,
he drove and dished twice for nice assists, which is something that
we rarely saw from Mercer. He showed good anticipation on a steal
which he took for a breakaway layup, and a nice block. He scored all
eight of his points in a short stretch in the third quarter. Tommy
Heinsohn was raving about him. I think he'll be a nice pickup once he
gets used to the pressing defense and when the offensive sets are
McCarty's shot has improved, as others have mentioned. His shot selection
is a bit questionable at times though. He played at power forward for
stretches of the game and was overmatched trying to defend and rebound,
especially against Mason. I think we'll be seeing a much better player
than what we saw last year, when he was hindered by injuries and never
really got untracked.
Griffin looks like a smart, capable player that knows his limitations.
I think he won't make it into the regular rotation though and will play
mostly when Pierce or Cheaney get into foul trouble.
Overall, I like our team a lot better than the teams of the past two
years, and Battie and Fortson didn't even play, so I am really optimistic.
It's not a championship caliber team right now unless Walker and Anderson
can each take it to another level, but I really believe that this is a
playoff team in the East. And with the core of the team young and relatively
stable in terms of long-term contracts (except for Fortson), I think
that Pitino has assembled a nice group of players that is going to get
better every year.