Small Ball -- Maybe Not More of the Same Ol'

I was watching game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semis last night. Nine minutes were left in the third quarter. The score? 41-35. I repeat. 41-35. So when Doc says the Boston Celtics need to find a way to score more easy baskets, he ain't a lying.

If we read the tea leaves, the interesting thing about Doc's efforts to play small ball this year is that for the first time since the Garnett Era began "Small Ball" won't simply mean playing our best five players at the same time. Instead, the 2012-13 version of Small Ball may entail having five guys from the second unit who are committed to running every opportunity they get. If that is the case, I can't wait to watch the bench play ball.

The 1989-90 Boston Celtics were eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the New York Knicks. It marked the only time in Larry Bird's career that a Celtics team was ousted that early in the post-season dance. The Celtics canned coach Jimmy Rogers at season's end, and replaced him with former Celtic Chris Ford.

"Get your track shoes on, boys. Cuz we're gonna run."

This was Ford's answer to the slow, plodding style that had become the hallmark of Celtic basketball over the previous three years.

And it worked.

For the first 34 games of the season, Ford leveraged the youth and energy of Reggie Lewis, Kevin Gamble, Dee Brown, and Ed Pinckney to the tune of 29 wins and 5 losses. It was fun to watch. The margin of victory went from razor thin the previous season to very large. The routs were were so frequent that instead of "Gino Time," the 1990-91 Boston Celtics had Dave Popson Time. Popson was a 6-10 power forward who only got PT in garbage time.

Mission accomplished. Right?

Yes, but then Larry Bird injured his back, and that was that.

Still, you see what Doc is up to here.

By focusing the second unit on a fastbreak style, he spares the bodies of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Sure, Jason Terry is older, too, but presumably since his nickname is JET, he won't have any objections. I will be curious to see who gets the bulk of minutes at center. If Jeff Green is your fast four, Chris Wilcox is the logical choice to run along side him. But knowing Jared Sullinger, if he sees getting in shape as his ticket to PT, then we may see him do just that. I expect Small Ball to be Sullinger's meal ticket for PT at the 5-spot.

Regardless of who plays the five, can you imagine any Garnett-led team that plays world-class defense also able to score points by the bunches?


FLCeltsFan said...

I can't wait to see real fast break basketball. I think that second unit will be a lot more fun to watch than the starters.

Last year they would score a bunch of points and then go through a drought where they couldn't score to save their lives. That won't happen this year. I guarantee it.

FLCeltsFan said...

The thing I look forward to the most is not having to watch Rondo dribble around while Ray runs through screen after screen after screen to get open.

Run baby run!!!

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