Is There Cause For Concern?

By Stephen Alford
Updated: April 12, 2005

BOSTON, MA.—“We really don’t get it,” is what Celtic coach Glenn Doc Rivers said following an embarrassing 97-93 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on April 3rd, a game that featured former Celtic coach Jim O’Brien’s defensive minded 76er team outscore the Celtics 38-13 in the first quarter.

While standing on the podium in the media room, he began to sound like it was the reporters who dropped the ball during the nationally televised game at the Fleet … whatever it’s called now. Coach Rivers spoke of the playoffs already starting for a lot of teams. “…and we have not joined in the fray yet,” he continued with an emphatic frustration.

“Before the game, we said ‘Energy and effort; that will be the difference. Throw out the freakin’ Xs and Os. Throw out everything. Energy. Effort. That will be the difference in this game.’ And they had it and we didn’t.”

Allen Iverson definitely had both energy and effort from start to finish, as he seemed to be involved in every play that thwarted a Celtics comeback.

“Iverson was driving them from the start of that game,” said Doc. “At halftime, you could hear him yelling at his guys.”

Now the question is: Will the Cs have the energy and effort and be able to mesh youth with experience as the 2004-05 regular season comes to a close and the 2005 NBA Playoffs start?

My answer: Perhaps.

I thought ‘Perhaps,’ after Boston recorded a 116-108-road victory over another Atlantic Division playoff team, the Washington Wizards on April 5th. My indecisiveness stemmed from watching the Celtics going from a 16-point advantage (72-56) with 8:48 to play in the 3rd quarter to a 1-point deficit (95-96) with 5:35 remaining in regulation when Gilbert Arenas nailed a 21-footer. The Green did rally back to win on the strength of clutch free throw shooting, but what your writer found alarming was the defense from the one-spot.

Iverson already lit the Cs up for 38 points, nine assists six steals, AND a block. The next game, CelticNation saw Gilbert Arenas set a career-high from the charity stripe by going 21-for-25, and tied his career-high while serving the Celtic guards for 43 points, including 4-for-10 from beyond the arc.

I thought ‘Perhaps” again when they recorded a 103-97 win over a Michael Reddless Milwaukee Bucks. This was a game that the starters should’ve put away early and let the young bucks get fourth quarter time. But instead of a blowout, the Cs found themselves down 85-83 with 6:09 left in the game.

Did I mention that the Bucks didn’t have Michael Redd?

And then there was Vinsanity in New Jersey on Saturday.

Vince Carter scorched the Celtics for 24 points in the first quarter, as the Celtics were never really in the game, despite the final score suggesting otherwise (86-99 Nets). Carter finished with 45 points (18-for-32 from the field, 7-for-9 from the deep end, 2-for-3 from the charity stripe), seven rebounds, four steals, and a block in 36 minutes. Of all of 32 shots that Vinsanity took, the most spectacular shot had to have been the one where Vince did some type of falling-down-backwards-scoop shot on rookie Delonte West after receiving a nifty pass from Jason Kidd. That play was truly one for the ages.

JKidd returned to having his way with the Celtics, and it would be an understatement to say that Carter’s acquisition had something to do with it. Kidd was held to just 2-of-6 from the field en route to just four points, but he punished the Celtics in other ways, as he dished out 17 assists and nine rebounds.

The Celtics have proven that they can score with anybody, but who are they going to be able to shut down as they head into the playoffs? Allen Iverson? Remember: 38 points. Gilbert Arenas? 43. And damn sure not Vince Carter, if the Nets even make the playoffs, because he got a 45 on ‘em. What’s going to happen when they face these players again in the playoffs? Plus, now that the word is out about the Celtics’ defensive inefficiencies at the guard spot, how many are Kirk Heinrich and Ben Gordon going to get at them for if the Green face the Bulls? And if they face the Cavaliers, LeBron James can drop 38 just as fast as anybody – and get six or seven assists on top of that. And NEVER count out Reggie Miller to rain threes down on the Celtics if the Cs go up against the Pacers in the opening round – not to mention Stephen Jackson is a big-game player as well.

Get my point people? Good! Because I ain’t even mentioned Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton yet!

OK, I may be getting ahead of myself by mentioning the Pistons, since the Cs dropped 3 out of 4 against Detroit this year, the lone victory coming in overtime. But that lone victory did come in the Motor City.

Back to reality: If the season ended today, the Celtics would be facing either Cleveland or Indiana. And the way Boston has been playing as of late, either team would give them all that they can handle. But all daydreams will end with a Flash if Lucky the Leprechaun can help the Bean get past Motown because Dwayne Wade will bring more Chi-town game than even his homeboy Tony Allen, the Celtics’ best defender, can handle. Flash Wade is a player who can not only drop 30+ on the Cs, but with Shaq Diesel in the middle, Wade is liable to dish out 10+ assists as well.

So is there cause for concern? Perhaps. I’ll have a more definitive answer after April 20th when the Celtics close their regular season.