Well, at least we beat the spread. No, no, that's not me. I can't believe that we lost to the Big D on the road last night. I was so sure that we'd be able to bust the Mavs on the road, but I was wrong. Despite having a chance to drill a game winning (or at least game tying) shot as the game ended, it just wasn't meant to be for the C's. Dallas rode a Dirk Nowitzki jumper with 20 seconds left to beat the Bean Town Boys 89-87, and thus broke the Celtics' nice winning streak and perfect November.
Sure, the Mavs built up a 50-40 lead at the half, but we came storming back. A 29-20 third quarter in favor of the C's turned the whole thing around, and I guess that made the result that much more heartbreaking. With 1:58 on the clock, we led the game 87-82, and then it all fell apart. Nowitski hit a layup, Terry hit a three, and then Dirk drilled the eventual game winning shot after a KG brick with 17.6 to go. With a last gasp chance, we just couldn't convert. The Mavs had everyone covered well, and Rajon Rondo ended up with the penultimate shot. He drew iron on his attempt at a game winner. Luckily, Terry fouled the C's as the ball went out, giving us one more chance. Unfortunately, the Mavs gave KG an open look for a fallaway three, and that was all they gave. Of course, you know that's not going to work, and it was game over in favor of Dallas. As Paul Pierce said, "It was a game we just let slip away."
I'd like to blame the injury of Jermaine O'Neal early on, but I don't know if you'll let that fly. O'Neal missed the entire second half after bowing down to a knee injury, only playing 11 minutes (2 points and 3 boards). Despite that, we still led by 4 rebounds overall, and with offense rebounds we dominated the eventual winners (14-4). 41% from the field, and even worse in the first half just isn't going to cut it, even with 50% from beyond the arc. However, we were only handed 7 free throws, while Dallas got 20 charity shots at home. Hm. Maybe my blame game has turned it's sights on the biased refs. 7-20 is a little obvious, isn't it?
The injured Jermaine O'Neal is the only starter who didn't finish in double digits, with KG (18), Pierce (24), Ray Ray (11), and Rondo (11) all cashing in. Garnett's 18 points and 15 boards joined Rajon's 11 points and 15 assists to help power the team in the double-double (animal style) zone. The bench chipped in 21 points and 6 rebounds, but they'll mostly be remembered for Glen Davis getting busted by the Nowitski jumper. But wait, Rondo and Paulie are the only players who got a block? Something is wrong there. Come on KG!
At 6-2, we now lead the division by just 2 games over the 3-3 Knicks. Overall in the East, we're tied for second in the Conference with the 6-2 Hawks, but we trail the 5-1 Magic, who lead the whole thing. The Heat are 5-2...losers. Our point differential per game is now a +5.3 (kind of narrow), as we're 20th in the NBA in scoring but 5th in scoring against. Our SRS is well above average at 7th in the Association at +5.16, while our PACE of 91.3 still stinks it up (26th). We are the #3 defense in the NBA per the DefRtg stat, and I'm loving me that defense. We sure could have used some of that offense last night, though. Just to continue the idea of being shafted by the refs, we are sitting +11 compared to our opponents in personal fouls. Bastards.
After last night, I wanted to call into question how much we're actually losing with the injury to Jermaine O'Neal. When we replace him, are we actually getting an upgrade? Our starting center ranks 7th in minutes played, 10th in field goal percentage, 6th in total rebounds, but 4th in personal fouls. However, in his brief play, he leads the team in blocks. In fact, he has twice as many blocks as #2 Kevin Garnett. So, it's a toss up. While Shaq may be ready to come back, Semih Erden is really the man who will be replacing Jermaine in the coming days. So, what does Turkey Trot bring to the table?
In his 5 games (58 minutes), Erden tops O'Neal in field goal percentage (+.115). If you factor Erden's rebounds to the amount of minutes O'Neal has played, he's at 27.8 (+2.8 on O'Neal). If we bank on the PER stat, Erden is +5 on Jermaine, which is pretty impressive. If you look at TRB% (the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor), Erden leads O'Neal 13.8-12.4. He also dominates Jermaine in WS/48 at 0.230-0.062. However, to be fair, if you factor in his blocks at the higher MP, he's well below, and if you factor in his personal fouls at the higher MP, he's well above. Again, it's a toss up.
So, will we miss Jermaine at Center? Will Shaq make a triumphant return to take over? Will Semih Erden become a household name thanks to grabbing the Sports Center spotlight as the unlikely hero? I'm going with: No, no, and yes. What do you think?
Thursday is our season opener rematch, and boy are Miami out for revenge. Currently at 5-2, the Heat see our opening day win over them as a huge blemish on their record. They hate us! Their "Big Three" are completely trying to overtake our "Big Three," but thanks to their lopsided spending, they don't have a "Big Bench" like we do. Advantage: us. Another win against the Heat would be huge. Huge doesn't even cover it. Hopefully the Jazz can wear them out tonight.
Alright, Green Army, let's cool off the Heat for the second time this year.
-- Sent from my Palm Prē