Ok, so I have to get this off my chest. Before I start, however, I want to let Boston Celtics fans, most of them at least, that this is not targeted at them. This message is for those in the media, especially on the national level, that are slowly building the wall of excuses for the Celtics should they lose to Chicago, or in any round before the NBA Finals.
The loss of Kevin Garnett.
I know Garnett is a great player, and I know that he is the emotional leader of that team. But isn't it 'The Big-3'? 'The Boston Three Party'? 'The Three Amigos'? When did the Celtics become a team that was so reliant on just one player that they were helpless and hopeless without him?
Garnett's injury is a huge loss, but the Celtics won a ton of games without him. No matter who is playing, you have to be a damn good team to win 60 games. No, all I keep hearing and reading is how the Celtics would be favored to come out of the East, except Garnett is out.
Paul Pierce was an All-Star before Kevin Garnett arrived, right?
Ray Allen was an All-Star before Kevin Garnett arrived, right?
Both were All-Star's this season, before Mo Williams, right?
The Celtics have struggled with the Bulls for several reason, none of which have anything to do with Garnett.
First, they are letting to Bulls have way too many open looks. If Chicago can do anything, they can shoot the basketball, especially Ben Gordon. They have let Chicago's shooters get comfortable. While Garnett would supply some needed interior defense, he's not going to keep Gordon from reigning down 3's.
Secondly, the other 2/3rds of the Big-3 have yet to play very well. That was, until Ray Allen got hot in the 2nd half. His 30 points, on 6-10 from deep, saved the Celtics in a game they had to win. It was a great performance, but, isn't that what Ray Allen is supposed to do? He's an All-Star! He's supposed to have the ability to carry a team.
Paul Pierce, who was really the reason the Celtics beat the Cavaliers last season in the playoffs, has been awful so far this year. While his numbers are decent(18-8 last night), Pierce isn't playing with the aggressiveness he played with last season, that hunger that players who don't have ring have, and those who do find hard to recapture. While one play doesn't cost any team a game, missing a free throw with 2.7 seconds to go in Game 1, that would have given Boston the lead, when the Bulls didn't have any time outs, well, that is a pretty big miss.
Perhaps the biggest reason the Celtics are struggling is their bench. It was a huge asset for them, especially in the late rounds, when P.J. Brown and James Posey hit big shot after big shot. Posey is also a solid defender whose length gives opposing shooters problems. The Celtics simply aren't getting the production from this year's group, exhibited by last night's game when the Celtic's bench scored a grand total of 9 points and was a -44 combined on the scoreboard when they were in the game. Ouch!
No, it isn't Garnett that is hurting the Celtics. It is the rest of the group. Doc Rivers is searching for ways to motivate his squad, but you have to wonder if there is anything left to motivate them, if the pride of going back-to-back isn't enough.
It is still early and there is no guaruntee wither the Cavs or Celtics will make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. That hasn't stopped the media from finding reasons why LeBron and the Cavs will beat Boston, however, as misguided as it may be.