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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Celtics Hub Interview

For our playoff edition of the True Hoop blogger interview, I asked Hayes Davenport, Brian Robb, Ryan DeGama, and Mike Salvucci of Celtics Hub about the Boston/New York matchup. Many thanks to Jafa, SangaD, and Trenton Tuckah for suggesting questions, three of which you’ll find answered below. If you guys can think of any questions you’d like to ask Celtics Hub about the first few games, let me know here or in the game thread and I’ll pick a few to pass along. Here’s to a great series.

KnickerBlogger: Are you concerned by how the Celtics finished the season? How would you compare it to how they finished last year?

Celtics Hub: The end of last season and the resulting playoff resurgence have led Celtics fans to entertain conspiracy theories that are almost definitely insane. Like, for example, the idea that this season’s swoon is somehow a deliberate effort to be underrated entering this year’s playoffs, taking the league by surprise once again. Or that Shaq is actually in peak physical condition, having taken the second half to tone his body into its 1995 form so that he might emerge in the second round and destroy the competition for 35 minutes a game. Or that the Celtics got blown out by the Heat and Bulls in the final week of the season because they “didn’t want to reveal any of their secret plays.” These are all things people believe, I promise you.
Celtics fans allow themselves to be, well, stupid when it comes to the team’s current warning signs because to appraise them realistically would be a little too much to bear. For that, we have to go to the players, where the news isn’t great. Rajon Rondo offered perhaps the most relevant current quote on the Celtics about a week ago, after the loss to the Bulls: “It’s not the same team. We’re not going to be able to turn it on like we did last year. Even last year, we came up short.” Doesn’t sound like a guy who secretly thinks his team is going to burn through the Eastern Conference.

More likely, though, the Celtics have experienced a major loss of confidence thanks to the Perkins trade, when really what they’re mistaking for lack of ability is probably just lack of familiarity. The Knicks series could actually be big for the C’s in this regard. Not that New York is a pushover by any means, but if the Celtics can come out and thump the Knicks in what will probably be a bunch of very loud games, they’re going to get the ego boost they absolutely require to get anywhere in the later rounds. -Hayes Davenport

KB: What do you think is the biggest matchup in this series?

Celtics Hub: The biggest matchup has to be Rondo/Billups. Pierce/Melo and STAT/KG may have more star power behind theirs, but neither of those should be a major mismatch for either side. On paper though, Rondo should have a major edge on Billups who is at the tail end of a very successful career. With that being said Billups is the kind of guy that could frustrate Rondo using his experience and bigger body. If Rondo’s isn’t fully engaged and Billups is a factor than they have a shot, but to me, this matchup sets the tone for the series and everyone else on the floor. – Brian Robb

KB (from Jafa): Of the Big 4, who really needs to play well for the Celtics to win this series? Can they win with Rondo in a funk or Allen not making his jumpers?

Celtics Hub: Boston could survive an underperformance from Ray Allen as long as Rondo is taking apart the Knicks’ perimeter and transition D and Paul Pierce is attacking the basket instead of settling for jumpers. Unfortunately for New York fans, there’s not a lot of comfort to be found in Boston’s recent offensive problems. New York’s defense is penetratable (I just made that word up) enough to cure that particular ill. –Ryan DeGama

KB (From SangaD): Do Celtics fans think this unit has a few more championships in them, or are they preparing for a rebuilding era? When do you think the rebuilding will begin?

Celtics Hub: Based on the reaction most Celtics fans had to the Perkins trade, I think most of them do believe the Celtics have the ability to make a championship run this season. Or at least had the ability. As we discovered shortly after the deal was made, the Celtics were not going to be able to sign Perkins to a long-term contract when he became a free-agent this summer. That reality, combined with the fact that the Celtics needed to upgrade their bench, is what caused Danny Ainge to make the trade. Celtics fans were angry because the deal seemingly decreased the team’s chances at an NBA title this season, as it broke up that five-man starting unit that everyone had so much confidence in.

In general, Celtics fans don’t really care about the future right now. In most people’s eyes, this team has two more chances at a championship, and then the window closes. Pierce will be a lifelong Celtic, but in all likelihood, Garnett and Allen will leave the team after the 2012 season. Celtics fans know that a rebuilding era is inevitable, but I don’t think that process will truly begin until after 2012. Sure, Ainge is probably thinking about it already, and this summer I would expect him to invest in some youth as opposed to trying to convince some veterans to come play for Boston. But after falling short in Game 7 against the Lakers last season, this Celtics team still has the potential to make a championship run. Getting back to the Finals is the only thing Celtics fans are concerned about right now. – Mike Salvucci

KB (from Trenton Tuckah): How much has the Perkins trade had to do with the Celtics recent struggles? Do you think Jeff Green will justify the trade with his playoff performance?

Celtics Hub: If you drill down into the late-season numbers, you’ll find the Boston defense remained elite even after the Perkins trade. The team’s problems down the stretch were related to a wildly underperforming offense, which staggered to a 17th overall finish in efficiency. There are a couple reasons for that, including Doc Rivers’ need to integrate almost half a team’s worth of new players into a complex offensive system (you’ll note Doc gutted half his playbook on the eve of the playoffs) and a hectic schedule filled with back-to-back games, which led to a series of dead-leg starts and exhausted fourth quarter fades.

But more than anything, Boston’s offense fell apart because the big four played poorly. That’s it. I still think that’s more about lingering injuries and the guys deliberately pacing themselves than any sense of ennui they felt over Perkins’ departure.

That noted, Green has not impressed so far. He’s a weak-to-awful rebounder, a below-average long-range shooter, and because of either temperament or deference, he can go unnoticed for long stretches on the offensive end of the court. And he can’t guard the power forward position (unless, say, the Knicks go small with Amare at the 5-spot).

What he can do is keep Pierce’s legs fresh when #34 is trying to guard elite wing scorers like Melo. Green will be counted on to play a pseudo-James Posey/Tony Allen role off the bench and score a bit in transition and in the post. It remains to be seen whether he’s up to the task. -RD

KB: Your prediction. Who wins, how many games, and why? Do you think the Knicks have a chance to steal the series?

Celtics Hub: Celtics in five in a series that is a lot closer than that number indicates. Still, I go with five, because Boston is nearly unbeatable at home, (they lost to just one Eastern Conference team at TD Garden all year) and they have thrived on the attention in MSG this year, enough so where I trust them to steal either Game 3 or 4. With that said, the Knicks easily has a shot. The Knicks have the weapons and offensive system that allows them to put up points and with the C’s so prone to offensive slumps in the past couple months, things could snowball in a hurry for Boston if they can’t solve a below-average New York defense. That’s certainly possible, but I’m not counting on it. – BR

15 comments on “Celtics Hub Interview

  1. Spree8nyk8

    When the Knicks win this series they will be the only team in the NBA that has advance to the second round from all 8 positions.

  2. KnickInSeattle

    Great trivia.

    I’m also texting with a friend who is a Spurs fan (we watched the ’99 playoffs/finals together).

    This year has been a long time coming.

  3. latke

    man, another epic collapse by an 8th seed. Memphis up 6 with 2 free throws coming and about 3 mins left. Gasol misses 2. SAS scores, MEM misses, MEM gives up a wide open Bonner 3. Next time down the floor, Tony Allen gets fouled and misses two, and again MEM gives up a wide open Bonner 3. SAS up 2 with 1 and change left…

  4. KnickInSeattle

    @6, impressive recovery after blowing that lead.
    If Melo had taken that shot instead of RJ, they would have won.
    Go Knicks!

  5. Z

    I don’t think the Celtics are old and tired. I think they are going to come out strong, and play at an incredibly high intensity. If we are going to win, we are going to have to match that intensity, and play a great series.

    Let’s get to it!

  6. Brian Cronin

    I was just about to post about that, Al, as I know a few people have noted that they have not seen Paul play great in a big game. Well, here ya go.

  7. BigBlueAL

    Brian Cronin:
    I was just about to post about that, Al, as I know a few people have noted that they have not seen Paul play great in a big game. Well, here ya go.

    Arent his career playoff numbers just as good as his regular season numbers??

  8. Brian Cronin

    Arent his career playoff numbers just as good as his regular season numbers??

    I think it was specifically “since his injury,” sorry.

  9. BigBlueAL

    My God, Chris Paul has single-handedly taken over the 4th quarter to hold off the Lakers.

  10. BigBlueAL

    Brian Cronin: I think it was specifically “since his injury,” sorry.

    Yeah Ive seen him alot this season look pretty bad but his numbers are still phenomenal.

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