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Celtics Face Early Season Must Win in Home Opener: Fan’s Take
The Boston Celtics limp into their season home opener to take on the Detroit Pistons and former assistant coach Lawrence Frank. A win on Friday is essential as Boston has not started a season with a 0-4 record since the 1969-70 season; a season that represented the first of the post-Bill Russell era. Through the first three games, the Celtics rank in the bottom half in the NBA in all major statistical categories; something that head coach Doc Rivers hopes can be corrected in the coming days, starting Friday.
The Celtics arrived home on the heels of three straight road losses over a span of four days; most recently losing in New Orleans 97-78. The Celtics appeared much like a veteran team playing on the second of back-to-back contests; showing signs of fatigue that manifested itself in their poor rebounding and shooting. On Wednesday, Boston shot a measly 37% from the field; and started the game scoring only 18 points in the first quarter.
Although brilliant in his first two games, Rajon Rondo struggled as well; likely a result of the 44 minutes he logged in Miami the night before. In the Hornets game, Rondo was out-played by point guard Jarrett Jack, who scored 21 points while dishing out nine assists.
The team was again without the services of team captain Paul Pierce, who continues to recover from a bruised heel. His return is expected for the Friday home opener. Boston was also without reserve center Chris Wilcox, who was suffering from a shoulder strain. His return is still questionable.
The injuries and lack of rest did open opportunities for head coach Doc Rivers to play a deeper bench rotation as rookies Greg Stiemsma and E'Twuan Moore played meaningful minutes in the game. Stiemsma's presence in the game was immediately felt as he blocked two shots in his first four minutes of play. The seven-footer ended the game with four rebounds and an impressive six blocked shots; including one on a perimeter three-point shot attempt.
The Pistons travel to Boston losers of their first two games by an average margin of 16 points. Lawrence Frank makes his first trip back to the TD Garden as an opposing head coach; one with an intimate knowledge of many of the Celtics' tendencies.
Thus far the Pistons have performed as a perimeter-oriented team; with the top three scorers being guards. The team lacks an interior presence, which may give the interior defense of the Celtics a little relief. The ability of guards Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight to hit perimeter shots; but more importantly penetrate to the basket will be the task of Rondo, Allen and Keyon Dooling to cut down the driving lanes.
Pistons' leading scorer Ben Gordon is no stranger to the Celtics; as he was a critical component in the 2009 Chicago Bulls team that took the defending champion Celtics to seven games in a classic opening round series. In that series, Gordon continually hit key shots throughout; eventually leading the Bulls in scoring for that series with 24.3 points per game.
A day off between home games and a night's sleep in their own beds may be just what this Doc has ordered for the aging eastern contenders. The Celtics will need to find ways to generate more consistent offensive production. With the exception of Ray Allen and to some lesser extent Rondo, the remaining Celtics have not played consistently well in the season's first three games.
Kevin Garnett continues to struggle finding an offensive rhythm and has also looked to be a step slower on the defensive end. For Boston to be successful long term, the tenacity and consistent defensive effort will be needed; along with more scoring from the small forward position. As Pierce rounds into playing shape, this will continue to be a challenge; as his minutes will be limited and the combination of fill-ins Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic are not known for their scoring prowess.
The reserve unit will continue to focus their offensive sets through the combination of Keyon Dooling and forward Bandon Bass; who also showed some signs of fatigue in his Louisiana home-coming, shooting just 4-13 from the field. His strength, athleticism and tendency to attack the basket will be a plus in Friday's contest. Bass has been a pleasant addition to the team; providing an average of 14.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in the first three contests. His Celtics debut was a memorable one for Bass, collecting 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the narrow season opening loss to the New York Knicks. Dooling has been a steady ball-handler and perimeter shooter for the Celtics; averaging 10.7 points per contest.
Friday's game marks the first of nine games out of the next 11 that will be played in the comfortable confines of the TD Garden. Home cooking and less travel will allow for the veteran Celtics to gain some consistency on the floor and begin their ascent up the standings in the eastern conference.
Scott Duhaime is a passionate fan of the Boston Celtics and avid follower of the NBA for over 30 years. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.
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Yahoo! Sports box score: Boston Celtics 78 @ New Orleans Hornets 97
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