Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
The Boston Celtics — undoubtedly — have a rich history, a prestigious franchise, and some of the best team blogs in the blogosphere, which are supported by a loyal fanbase that really cares about their C’s. CelticsBlog and Red’s Army are some well-known sites that have been around the block but CelticsHub, which has been around for a little over a year now, has blossomed as a go-to source for daily coverage of the Celtics. CelticsHub is buoyed by a trio of excellent writers — Brendan Jackson, Zach Lowe, and Brian Robb, who combine to provide a rich blend of analysis, commentary, and news.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Lowe a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics.
Is the Boston Celtics’ resurgence, or whatever what you’d like to call it, simply a matter of the team getting healthy and “flipping the switch” or is there another factor that people have been overlooking?
You know, I was skeptical about the possibility that they would flip the switch. But they have, and you can see it in both their defensive intensity and the decline in their turnover rate on offense. Their defense has picked up in just about every way. They held the Cavs, the 2nd-best three-point shooting team in the league, to about 28 percent shooting from deep. They forced about 15.5 turnovers per game. They protected the rim better than they had since Christmas.
Perhaps most importantly, they rebounded about 78.5 percent of Cleveland’s misses–a defensive rebounding rate that would have led the league in the regular season, and a huge jump from Boston’s season-long number.
And on offense, they transformed from one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league to a team that coughed it up at about a league-average rate. The Cavs don’t force a ton of turnovers, but neither do the Magic, so the C’s improved care for the ball should carry over.
As you say, some of this is due to health. Kevin Garnett hasn’t looked this good since he injured his knee in the middle of last season. He averaged 19 points per game on 58 percent shooting against the Cavs and destroyed Antawn Jamison in the post to the point that Mike Brown, who may be fired by the time your readers see this, actually switched Shaq onto KG during Game 6.
Rajon Rondo’s brilliance has been well-documented, especially against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Tony Allen has been a pleasant surprise coming off the bench for the Celtics in the playoffs. What has he been able to do to play so well?
Ah, Tony Allen. The most polarizing role player in recent Boston history. We even compiled an official Tony Allen Dos and Don’ts List at Celtics Hub this season to guide Tony toward NBA competency.
Tony Allen hasn’t really changed that much, but considering how few minutes he plays, a small change makes a big difference. His turnover rate dropped slightly this season and has dropped even more in the playoffs. He barely shoots any jumpers any more. He put up career-best rebounding and steals numbers this season. And he remains a great on-ball defender as long as he’s not falling for pump fakes. Vince Carter will be seeing a lot of him over the next two weeks.
Basically, Tony has managed to do more of the things he can do and less of the things he does poorly. He’s still good for one or two bone-headed plays per game, but he’s earned his minutes ahead of Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson, who, by the way, can’t even be bothered to listen to Doc Rivers in team huddles.
It’s no secret that Kevin Garnett had his way when he was matched up with Antawn Jamison. Do you foresee Garnett continuing to have success offensively against the Orlando Magic, taking into account some of the struggles he had against them during the regular season?
I do. I can’t stress this enough: KG was fantastic against the Cavaliers. He can’t play at peak form in every game any more, but if he can get there in, say, four of six games, the Celtics have a chance–provided he can get to 85 percent or so of peak form in the other two games.
The Celtics’ offense is just a more dangerous animal when he’s a post threat, and I expect the C’s to try and establish him as such against Rashard Lewis. Of course, the Magic have a fairly decent shot-blocker lurking to challenge close shots in the post, but the C’s will work hard to involve KG from 15 feet and in. His scoring and passing are extra crutches they can lean on when the pace slows, transition opportunities dry up and the rest of the offense is out of synch.
Can he guard Lewis on the perimeter? That’s another question. The highlight of Lewis taking KG baseline for a key basket in an early-season Orlando win became the de facto “KG is washed up” highlight of the 2010 season. And Lewis will be able to pull that off now and then in this series.
But I think KG is ready.
What needs to happen for the Celtics to beat the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals? What’s your series prediction?
A lot of things. I don’t think Boston is a colossal underdog here, so I don’t think this is a series in which everything must go right for Boston to win. Some things will go right for both teams, and some will go wrong. The Rondo-[Jameer] Nelson match-up will get most of the attention, as will the question of whether Kendrick Perkins can guard Dwight Howard without a double-team.
If I had to pick one thing, though, I’d say the Celtics have to get something out of Ray Allen. The Magic shut him down last season, and they’ve added a bigger, stronger guy in Vince Carter who can give Ray problems on both ends if he’s motivated and playing well.
As for predictions, I can’t claim to have a clue. I predicted the Cavaliers would eliminate the C’s 4-1. I do think this will be a tough series that will go a minimum of six games.
The C’s are playing harder, and they are playing smarter. They are proof that in the NBA, teams can flip the switch if they have the right talent, chemistry and coaching.
I like to thank Zach for taking the time to answer my questions.