But the first two games of the Celtics’ 2010-11 campaign actually make perfect sense when you break them down — the C’s gave a subpar effort on the tail end of back-to-back games, and it showed both on the court and all over the stat sheet.
How can the Celtics put a better foot forward in their next 80 games? Pretty simple — they just need to look at it by the numbers.
That’s the Celtics’ total number of turnovers in their first two games, shockingly led by Kevin Garnett with 10. The C’s have always preached unselfishness and ball movement, but they’ve made quite a few miscues with the ball in their first two games that they don’t normally make. Maybe it’s early-season jitters, or maybe there’s something really wrong with the team’s execution. Turnovers have always been a problem for the C’s in the Big Three era, even in 2008 when they won a championship, but 37 in two games is disgracefully bad, and the C’s need to fix it.
That’s Rajon Rondo‘s assist total against the Cavs on Wednesday night. Not bad, but consider this: The Celtics were 32-13 last season when Rondo recorded double-digit assists, and 17-19 when he didn’t. Rondo still hasn’t developed into an explosive scorer in the halfcourt, and he needs to do more to utilize the other weapons in his arsenal. This year, he has more resources than ever at his disposal. He could easily put up a few more 17-assist games like Tuesday night.
That’s how many second-chance points the Cavs dropped on the C’s. It’s not enough merely to crash the defensive boards; the Celtics also have to be ready to contest shots when they don’t get those rebounds. Giving the extra effort defensively is hard, especially on back-to-backs, but it’s a must.
That’s the combined personal foul total of the two O’Neals against Cleveland. Shaquille O’Neal was whistled four times, and Jermaine O’Neal fouled out after only 12 minutes of play. He finished with two points and two rebounds. The old expression is that having two centers means having 12 extra fouls to throw at the opposing bigs, but this is taking it a little too literally. The C’s need their centers on the floor — without the O’Neals, they’re forced to use the undersized Glen Davis for extended stretches at the five. That’s not his strong suit.
That’s how many technical fouls the Celtics picked up in the fourth quarter Wednesday night. Doc Rivers has a rule: No fourth-quarter techs. None, for any reason, ever. That rule got violated on Wednesday by two of the newest Celtics, Shaq and Nate Robinson, both of whom took issue with a traveling violation called midway through the final period. A couple of whistles might not sound like a big deal, but those two technical free throws ended up swinging the game. Daniel Gibson put the Cavs up one, and his team took the momentum and ran with it. Composure will be key for the Celtics going forward.
That’s the combined minute total of the Celtics’ Big Three in their second game, down dramatically from 115 in the opener against Miami. Simply put, the C’s veterans don’t have the energy to play big minutes two nights in a row. They can’t change that problem, and they need to find a way to work around it. It’s all about developing better chemistry with the bench, enabling starters and second-stringers to play together effectively. That’s never an easy process.
Then again, nothing is easy in late October.