Sunday, March 4, 2012

Entertaining Frauds

If you were watching today's Knicks-Celtics tilt from Boston, you saw a back and forth game with last-minute lead changes, clutch buckets from big names (Lin! Garnett! 'Melo! Pierce! 'Melo! Pierce!), and a Celtics win in overtime. Paul Pierce hit the game-tying three to force the extra time, Rajon Rondo had a triple double for the ages (18-17-20 is crazy, even for an overtime game where he couldn't put it in the ocean), and I'm sure that Celtic Fan is thrilled that they didn't trade away their point guard. Knicks Fan has to be consoled by the idea that, well, his team *never* wins in Boston, and Jeremy Lin shook off 3.5 quarters of bad play to get things going late.

But... what you also saw didn't matter at all. Here's why.

The Celtics are a .500 team for cause, and when they go on the road next week for a long road trip, it's not going to go well for them. The bench doesn't score, the starters are too old to take big minutes, they've never really recovered defensively from the Kendrick Perkins trade, and when Pierce's jumper isn't falling, they aren't even all that great in the half-court. They could be dangerous in a short series, but the NBA doesn't do short series any more, and they aren't going to have home-court advantage. There are reasons why Danny Ainge is tempted to blow up this team, folks, and he's going to have every reason why to do it. It's just a matter of time, and whether or not that team is weeks or months doesn't really matter that much.

Now, to the team that lost the game, the Knicks.

In crunch time tonight, they played Anthony, Lin, Amar'e Stoudamire, Ian Shumpert and Steve Novak... aka three guys who really aren't good on defense, and maybe four if Anthony's heart isn't in it. When they go to Tyson Chandler instead of Novak, they gain on defense, lose on offense, and it's pretty much a push. The Lin Experience has coagulated down to this: teams know to trap him with a vengeance and have adjusted to his craftiness inside, so what worked before -- and will continue to work against poorly coached and/or motivated clubs, it's not like he's going to just evaporate -- doesn't work as well now, and will just result in turnovers. You are starting to see that now. They've got guys who can either play defense or play offense, and while that makes you deep and useful in a short season on low rest, it doesn't really point to playoff success.

Oh, and Hubie Brown? It's not a great play, a great pass, a beautiful play when one team scores in transition off a missed dunk. It's a missed dunk. It's taking advantage of a mistake, or a guy (Amar'e) who doesn't have the hops he thinks he does any more. Just as this wasn't really a great game.

Entertaining? Sure.

As entertaining as you can get from a couple of teams that aren't going to get out of the first round...

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