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New season, same issue: When Garnett sits, Boston struggles

Nov 5, 2012, 9:43 AM EDT

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Getty Images

It’s dangerous to read much into trends a week into an NBA season — the sample size is too small. Look at it this way: For some three or four game stretch this season, the Miami Heat will look terrible, but that doesn’t mean they are terrible and will not be the team to beat come June.

But in Boston, one early season trend going on grabs your attention because it is a continuation of last season — when Kevin Garnett sits, the team’s defense struggles. A lot. Even in their win over Washington the Celtics gave up a 16-point lead when Doc Rivers tried to get KG (and others) some rest.

Through three games, Garnett is a +6 — 1-2 Boston has outscored its opponents by 6 points when he is on the floor this season (as a team, Boston is -16). For comparison Rajon Rondo is -9 and Paul Pierce is -6. And you don’t want to get into the bench, which has ugly numbers. The Celtics were supposed to have more depth this season but it has yet to really show up. Again, small sample size theater, but we have seen this movie before.

Here is what Cedric Maxwell said on Comcast SportsNet New England after the Wizards game (video below), courtesy CSNNE.com.

“Well they start off early on, you think about playing defense, they did a lot of good things,” Maxwell said. “They really shut down Washington, didn’t allow them to score any points early in the game. After that, the problem with the Celtics so far [is] going to the bench. When KG comes out of the game the Celtics have had some difficulties and some problems….

“I think the thing about KG, KG is the engine,” Maxwell said. “You can have the keys — Rondo has the keys to everything — but KG is the engine and when the engine is going the car is going the right way. KG rebounds effectively and defensively he is the captain of what they do really well. When he’s been out of the game, they have struggled.”

Boston needs to find a way to solve this because they can’t wear KG out all season giving him big minutes then expecting him to be fresh for the playoffs. It’s early, too early to really worry about it. But it’s a trend to watch because it’s not a new one. Just one Boston thought it had solved.

  1. somekat - Nov 5, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    Not a surprise. Boston brought in player to improve scoring off the bench, they really didn’t do much to focus on the 2nd unit’s defense. I don’t see a single gy on their bench I would consider a lock down defender. Who is their stopper off the bench…Jason Collins? Milcic? Terry? No, they focused on improving their bench, but only in one aspect, scoring. Defensively, they are as bad, if not worse, than they were last year

    • andyhr17 - Nov 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      Ahhhh. Press the panic button after 3 games!!! The Lakers and Celtics are both terrible and will not make the playoffs!!

    • jek84 - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:50 PM

      Last year Boston was number first in opponent field goal percentage and two in opponent points per game. So they should only hope they’re as bad this year as they were last year. Plus there are 79 games left on their schedule i think they have some time for improvement.

      look it up before you start posting nonsense.

    • jek84 - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:51 PM

      Last year Boston was first in opponent field goal percentage and two in opponent points per game. So they should only hope they’re as bad this year as they were last year. Plus there are 79 games left on their schedule i think they have some time for improvement.

      look it up before you start posting nonsense.

    • giselleisasucubus - Nov 5, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      somekat, that might be the most uniformed post ever on this site. First thing- they are “as bad” defensively this year as last? They were the top defense in the league last year. Get a clue. They only focused on offense in the offseason? No s**t, they were ranked 28th last year and scored 91 points a game, so clearly the offense and rebounding needed to be addressed. They have no defenders off the bench? Really? Courtney Lee can’t play defense. Hmm, that news to me. Also, don’t forget that Bradley will be back in about a month, and he is the best defensive guard in the NBA. Lee is starting now, but that changes soon. BTW- name one team that has a “defensive stopper” on their bench? Ultimately you need scoring first and foremost from your bench, and that is what Boston did. 3 games guys, relax. That goes for the lakers too. It’s EARLY.

      • camnellum12 - Nov 5, 2012 at 2:07 PM

        Avery Bradley the best defensive guard in the NBA? I think Chris Paul or Tony Allen would disagree, I’m sure you meant ONE OF the best.

      • borderline1988 - Nov 5, 2012 at 2:16 PM

        To say Bradley is the best defensive guard in the NBA is a bit of stretch…

        Nevertheless, as good as Boston’s perimeter defenders are (Rondo, Lee and Bradley are all excellent defenders), the entire defense relies on KG. If he’s out, this is an average, if not poor defensive team at best.

        In today’s NBA, long-armed defenders at the forward and centre positions who can defend the pick and roll effectively, provide help, and protect the rim, are way way more valuable than perimeter defenders.

        Rondo is a great defender. His pestering can get you a few steals per game. But let’s be honest, PGs are too quick to be defended when backpeddaling, especially when big men are setting picks on you behind your back. Rondo cannot shut down most PGs, and he’s too small to guard players bigger than him. Bradley and Lee are a bit more versatile, but they are too limited in what they can accomplish.

        If KG is healthy, Boston will make the playoffs and win a round or 2. If he’s not, Boston will maybe make the playoffs if Rondo plays like a beast, but they will get crushed by whoever they face in the first round.

  2. zerole00 - Nov 5, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    For comparison’s sake, could you show us how much the Heat suffer when Lebron sits? Only a handful of teams have a good bench.

  3. giselleisasucubus - Nov 5, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    zerole, great point. The Celtics were down big going into the 4th during the opener against Miami, and they made a strong push while Lebron was out. Granted, they lost the game, but typically, when a team takes their best player off the court, there is a dropoff. That’s why they are the best player. Kurt didn’t get that memo.

  4. e39er - Nov 5, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Let’s worry about them in March or April…this goes for the Lakers too

  5. badbear84 - Nov 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Simple — Doc’s to blame on this one. He needs rebounding & defense when KG is out.
    He has 3 7 footers on the bench and Darko was hired for this but Doc loves to go small.
    Small doesn’t get rebounds.

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