On Tap: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  February 26, 2006

Record: 22-33 (24-31 Pythagorean), 10th in the East
Record last 10 games: 4-6
Offensive Rating: 106.7 (17th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 108 (22nd in the league)

The Rivalry: Jeff from Celtics blog may be right, maybe nobody outside of Boston and LA — and only people over 30 in those cities — really see this still as a rivalry. Maybe younger Laker fans think of Sacramento as our biggest rival. Heck even I’ve matured. My wife lived in Boston for a few years before we got married and we’ve gone back several times — I really like the city.

But I still can’t stand the Celtics. Danny Ainge trails only Kenny G on my list of guys I’d just punch if I ever meet them — he just bugs me and always has. I hate Red Auerbach and his damn cigar. I can’t stand parquet. I don’t like that the next crop of Celtic rookies may have to have numbers with fractions in them because they’ve retired so many numbers. I even hated Greg Kite.

For me, rivalries don’t change with the seasons, with the inevitable ebbs and flows of a franchise’s fortunes. As long as those banners hang over the floor for Boston, I’ll want to beat them more than anyone.

The Lakers coming in: Do you really have any idea what Laker team will show up on any given night? Does Phil? Does Miss Cleo? The Clippers are a pretty good squad (who will get screwed by the playoff system and get bounced in the first round by Dallas or San Antonio) but the Lakers just looked like crap. I guess playing well against Sacramento was enough.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking the Clipper loss down because with this Laker team, the last game seems to have no bearing on the next one.

Paul Pierce vs. Kobe Bryant:
It could come to that, these two are capable of some fireworks. They are both the unquestioned leaders of their teams and both lead their squads in both scoring and +/-. A quick comparison: Kobe is averaging 34.4 points per 40 minutes played, Pierce 27.1; Kobe’s True Shooting Percentage (basically points per shot attempt) is 55.6%, Pierce is more efficient at 58.1%; Kobe is averaging 26.3 shot attempts per 40 minutes, Pierce 19; Kobe is dishing out 4.5 assists per 40, Pierce 4.7; Kobe is grabbing 5.3 rebounds per 40 minutes, Pierce 7.1.

The rest of the Celtics: It’s been a few tough years for Celtics fans, but you have to see the hope on the horizon.

Al Jefferson is very good, scoring 17.7 points per 40 on 51.9% shooting while pulling down 17.4% of the rebounds when he is on the floor. He has the second best PER on the team at 17.9. I have no idea why he is playing only 17.8 minutes per game — in the last 10 games Brian Scalabrine has had more minutes than Jefferson. Weird. Also, Delante West is good in the backcourt, dishing out 5.1 assists per 40 minutes and with a very good true shooting percentage of 58.8%.

Remember they also picked up Wally Szczerbiak not that long ago and he has been a thorn in our side lately. That said, he hasn’t been shooting as well in Boston as he was before he got there (although he has been shooting 37.8% from three point range).

The Celtics biggest problem this season has been the lack of defense. The weakest spots have been the point and the four, so this is the game Lamar Odom could have a big night.

Key’s to a Laker win:
Everyone say it with me — defense. Against the Celtics the Lakers should be able to score. Odom needs to be aggressive and get inside, via penetration or post up, and Smush/Cook/Sasha need to knock down the outside shots.

If they play defense, this is one they should win. But who knows what Laker team will show up. That makes this team very frustrating to follow.