Kevin Garnett spoke for all of Celtic Nation by not acknowledging Ray Allen. Ray is dead to KG, and our Boston Celtics are on a new journey without an integral part of their recent past. Unfortunately for Boston, it was the Heat who made the most noise once the ball was tipped up.
Tonight was Round 1 in a renewed rivalry between Eastern Conference powers, and to call our C’s a work in progress might be a bit of an overstatement. Sure, it’s going to take take for Doc Rivers to truly figure out what he has and how to make the most of it. And it’s going to take time for the players to get into a groove. But the pieces are clearly there for Boston to compete – and contend. Paul Pierce looked much more fresh than at any point last season. He’s clearly in great shape, and he looked sharp right from the opening tip. Brandon Bass was active and effective – in many ways he was our best frontcourt player tonight. He hit open jumpers, banged and dunked, and ran the court with purpose. Courtney Lee showed a nice jumper and played solid defense, despite Ray Allen knocking down a desperation shot in the first half. Leandro Barbosa came in and made the most of his minutes in the second half, and was actually much, much more effective than Jason Terry. To say that Barbosa was spectacular in the fourth quarter would be to hit the nail on the head. Barbosa was simply great as the Celtics made a late push to erase a 19 point deficit, only to come up just short.
There were problems – namely, our Celtics were playing the Miami Heat. This team is loaded and confident, and it’s going to take a monumental effort to keep them from repeating as champions. But it can be done. Remember when Roger Federer was the greatest tennis player on the planet? Remember how Rafael Nadal pursued him doggedly, finally rising to ATP World Number 1? It’s going to take that kind of relentless focus if the Celtics are going to beat the Heat.
And it all needs to start with defense – another huge problem for our Celtics tonight. Again, a lot of it had to do with the Heat – but this is the team that Celtics are currently measuring themselves against. They need to figure out a way to keep Miami from shooting a high percentage and from getting so many easy looks at the rim. Easier said that done, but that’s the only way our C’s have a chance at dethroning LeBron James and Co. Speaking of James, he simply had his way with us tonight. Doc Rivers needs to figure out a way to make it more difficult on LeBron – how you do that I have no idea, but that’s what they pay Doc the big bucks to do.
It’s going to get better – trust me, this Celtics team is much better than last year’s edition – but we definitely need more from Jeff Green than we got tonight. One point after three quarters isn’t going to get it done. He looked more agressive, but he also looked out of sync. Green needs to find his groove on both ends of the court.
Kevin Garnett was off for most of the night – his shot wasn’t falling – but he continues to anchor the defense, demanding the best from his teammates. The problem? The Boston D sags noticeably the moment KG heads to the bench.
With all of that said, this loss isn’t the end of the world. There is still much to build upon, much to take away from this game. Sure, I would have wanted the win. KG would have wanted it to, but it wasn’t meant to be.
It’s back to the lab, and trust me, there are brighter days ahead.