2008-2009 Thu, Dec 25 @ Los Angeles L 92-83 Thu, Feb 5 vs Los Angeles L 110-109 OT 2009-2010 Sun, Jan 31 vs Los Angeles L 90-89 Thu, Feb 18 @ Los Angeles W 87-86 2010-11 Sun, Jan 30 @ Los Angeles W 109-96 Thu, Feb 10 vs Los Angeles L 92-86 2011-12 Thu, Feb 9 vs Los Angeles L 88-87 OT Sun, Mar 11 @ Los Angeles L 97-94Things started so well in the Garnett Era.
Two regular season games against the purple, two routs (here and here).
Then there was the 2008 NBA Finals, a series Bob Ryan described as the first 6-game sweep in Finals history.
What the hell has happened since?
Eight regular season games, and the Celtics have won only two, and Kobe Bryant didn't even play in one of the two Celtic wins. What lessons, if any, can we take away from those eight regular season games? What deficiencies stand out as most likely responsible for the Celtics consistently coming up short?
You might be tempted to blame it on rebounding. I bet we got crushed on the boards, you surmise. While it is true the rebounding column favored the Lakers by wide margins on a few occasions, believe it or not the two teams split the eight games, with each having the rebounding advantage four times.
OK, then, what about the bench? I bet it sucked. Well, you are getting a little closer. If we apply the Sam Cassell Rule, i.e., a bench that scores 20 or more points does its job, then the Celtics' bench passed the test three times. But of the two wins, the bench only exceeded 20 points once. In the other win, the bench scored a mere 12 points.
What was most significant, at least to this reader, were the outcomes of the 4th or final quarter (when the game went into OT). The Celtics won the fourth or final quarter only one time, and that was the 13-point victory in January 2011, despite Kobe's 41. In each of the other games, the Celtics held leads they couldn't keep. They lost these leads because their legs either wore out, the other teams wanted to win more, or both.
I'm fond of saying that purple v. green is really a microcosm of the season as a whole, and, sure enough that has been true for the last four season. Some rebounding problems, some bench problems, some age problems, and some talent problems.
Perhaps even some hunger, or lack thereof, problems?
(hmmm. possible fodder for future piece: did '08 title slake the hunger in garnett and pierce?)
Question is how far did we go to resolving those problems this past offseason?
Let's see keep an eye out for them this season.
We'll look in around New Year's Day, trade deadline, and season's end.
For now the candidates would seem to be:
4th Quarter Difference Makers
Rebounding Difference Maker
That's a lot-0-players that have the opportunity to make the Celtics better, especially down the stretch when victory hangs in the balance. I'm not sure if they will, but the off-season is starting to remind me of 2007-08 when almost the entire roster turned over. Fresh blood, as I suggested back in August of '08, is a good thing.