Thursday, January 22, 2009

We're Back: How the Celtics Are Like UConn Women

Confession: I'm a kind-of-passionate fan of UConn women's hoops. We really have nothing else going on in Connecticut. 

Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s those UConn women's teams (Sue Bird,  Swin Cash and the woman we just call D) would win games by holding teams to shooting percentages in the low 30s. As a devout pessimist, I'd say to myself, "Well, they are going to run into a hot shooting team at some point, and they'll lose. Some of this has to be good luck." You know what? That never happened. They always held teams to low shooting percentages in big games. 

Think of this over the next day or two, when you hear, ad nauseum, that Orlando had an off shooting night and that next time some of those threes that clanked will go in. Because, like those UConn women's teams, this is what the Celtics do. It's not luck that teams shoot badly from the perimeter in game after game against this team. In big games, more times than not, you are not going to shoot well against the Celtics. You will have to find another way to win. And Orlando couldn't do that tonight. The Magic shot 31.8 percent from three-point land. You know what 31.8 percent is? It's almost exactly the same percentage Boston allowed opponents to shoot from deep all of last season. This was not a fluky shooting performance.

It may also be that Boston just matches up well against Orlando. They have two big guys (Perkins and Baby) who are strong enough (or large enough, anyway) to keep Howard from getting the Shaq-Fu position underneath the rim. And they can do that without hard double-team help, which means the other four defenders don't have to stray too far from the three-point shooters. Howard finished with only 11 points on 10 shot attempts. A job well done.

Then there is KG. He is a nightmare for Orlando. Rashard Lewis has no chance. Hedo Turkoglu can forget it. And Orlando can't afford to have Howard on KG for big chunks of time. KG was 8-for-13 tonight, and it looked like he could have been 15-for-20 if he kept shooting. 

Am I saying Orlando can't possibly beat the Celtics? Obviously not. I'm just saying that the C's have as good a chance to win the Eastern Conference as Cleveland or Orlando. 

Other thoughts on a very nice regular season win:

• Oh, man, if only Glen Davis could play like that all the time. Why must you tease me Glen Davis, you chunky seductress? Going into tonight, he was shooting 29 percent on jump shots--a category that comprised an alarming 60-plus percent of his total shot attempts, according to 82games. But in this game, he looked like KG knocking down 18-footers when the Magic left him open. He made an especially big jumper from the wing to put the C's up 84-75 with 2:40 left after Nelson had scored five straight points to get the crowd into the game. He still can't finish around the rim; he missed a chippy off a gorgeous pass from KG with about 1:15 left in the game. Let's hope he doesn't get too jumper-happy, though. He needs to work at mixing up his offense and getting to the foul line.

• On the other hand, Leon Powe played 7 minutes in this game and wasn't a factor. I like Powe and his PER of 16 and his ability to create his own shot in the post, so I hope he's not losing his minutes to Baby. It may just be that the Magic present bad match-ups for Powe. He's not strong enough to play Howard, and he's not quick enough to play Lewis. Doc only had him in the game when Orlando had Battie or Gortat on the court.

• I saw this happen. With about six minutes left in the third and the shot clock running down, Rajon Rondo took a hard dribble in on Nelson, stepped back and arched a beautiful jumper from 17 or so feet away on the wing. SHOOT, RAJON!

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