The Celtics maintain their confidence that Avery Bradley can man the point guard position in Rajon Rondo‘s absence, or so they say. But with every possession in which they struggle to get into their offense, the lack of a true point guard to direct the halfcourt sets gets more glaring.
For most of the first three quarters on Wednesday, Bradley was incapable of doing a point guard’s primary role of simply bringing the ball up and making the first pass to begin the offensive motion. When he wasn’t turning the ball over — which was five times overall — he was getting pushed farther and farther back toward the midcourt line by Raptors defenders who smelled blood.
Even before the Celtics’ 93-87 defeat was over, the Celtics’ struggles were obvious just by looking at Gerald Wallace‘s play and stat line. Wallace took one shot, which he made. That was pretty much all he contributed on the offensive end, although he did have four steals.
Wallace has always been the type who gets his buckets by running the floor after missed shots or turnovers. Since the Celtics were not forcing much of either, and they did not have a playmaker to create shots in the halfcourt, Wallace was rendered useless. His only field goal came after Bradley, who remains an above-average defender, came up with a steal at the defensive end to start a fastbreak that Wallace finished with a layup.
Until Rondo returns, Bradley will have to either improve his ballhandling to get the Celtics into their sets more smoothly or get even more aggressive at the defensive end to spark more transition baskets.
The pairing with Jeff Green in the backcourt presents even more problems. Maybe playing a natural small forward at shooting guard would work with a reliable point guard, but Bradley needs all the help he can get bringing the ball up, and Green is not a strong enough ballhandler to ease Bradley’s load.
Play the Faverani
In his first NBA game, Vitor Faverani got the start — and capitalized. He touched the ball three times on the Celtics’ first four possessions and opened the scoring with a nifty hook shot. He later added an 18-foot jump shot to score four of Boston’s first eight points.
Faverani, who finished with 13 points, did not look overmatched in his first game. Perhaps all his years playing professionally in Spain helped calm any nerves he might have had. He even got into a few tussles with Raptors center Jonas Valanaciunas, who is known as a tough customer.
Valanciunas might have just been frustrated by Faverani’s ample strength; early in the game, Toronto’s second-year center lowered his shoulder and tried to bull past Faverani, but just sort of bicycle-kicked in place while Faverani stood solidly.
Raise you hand if you predicted Kris Humphries would be the Celtics’ biggest pleasant surprise in Game 1.
When the Celtics were scampering around the much larger Rapters and having a tough time competing with the Raps down low, Humphries came off the bench and helped jump-start the Celtics’ best stretch of the game. With five points and four rebounds in the third quarter alone, Humphries finally allowed the Celtics to show some resistance to Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough, who had had their ways in the paint before that.
Speaking of surprising performances, Brandon Bass is such a more complete player than he was three years ago, it’s almost scary. In that third quarter, when the Celtics got back into the game, Bass was actually his team’s leading scorer. He scored 10 of his 17 points in the quarter and showed an ability to draw contact by earning five free throws in the game.
But everyone knew Bass could shoot and finish. What’s been truly impressive is his persistent improvement in the other areas of his game. He now makes the fewest defensive mistakes of any Celtics big man. Granted, that’s not saying much with Humphries and rookies Faverani and Kelly Olynyk as the alternatives, but that’s a huge jump from when he arrived in Boston with a reputation for being a defensive liability.
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