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Game On: New Orleans Pelicans @ Boston Celtics
1. What is the goal for the Celtics this year?
Adam: If there is one main goal for the Celtics in the 2013-14 season, it is team development. From head coach Brad Stevens to head assistant Ron Adams to a good amount of their roster, the Celtics encountered a lot of changes to their team during the last calendar year. With Rajon Rondo most likely returning in February, the Celtics are looking for him to grow with the likes of Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. The Celtics organization then can work with all its assets, including the seemingly limitless number of draft picks, to trade for Omer Asik this season and/or make some big deals in the offseason.
2. What are your thoughts on rookie coach Brad Stevens? Has his squad exceeded, met, or fallen below expectations?
Adam: Brad Stevens has been very good and has exceeded expectations. With the Celtics on pace to beat their preseason Vegas projection of 27.5 wins, C’s fans have applauded Stevens’ handling of this basketball team. Boston’s roster is in a transition mode and almost everyone is on the trading block, so it is tough for any team to play together when each player is looking over his shoulder as Danny Ainge is one phone call away from shipping anybody to another destination. Although the Celtics have lost a number of large leads, they have had a solid season in terms of results. With the Jeff Green game-winner in Miami and the blowout of the Knicks at Madison Square Garden this season, Celtics fans had two very happy days in the last couple months of 2013.
3. What is the biggest strength of this Celtics team? The biggest weakness?
Adam:Biggest strength: Once again, the Celtics are among the league’s best in mid-range shooting. Although Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are now in Brooklyn, Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley have escalated their games to continue the Celtics’ dominance in that category.
Biggest weakness: I want to say offense, but that is too general. While their mid-range shooting percentages have been very good, it has been extremely frustrating to watch the Celtics’ offense at times this season; but what can you expect with their current roster? The weakness has to be ball handling specifically. Even with Crawford playing pretty well, the Celtics are one of the worst teams this season in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio and turnovers per possession. That will surely be helped by Rondo’s return.
4. Jordan Crawford had the reputation of a gunner in Washington. Is he still that guy, or has his game changed?
Adam: Jordan Crawford is no longer the consistent gunner that he was in Washington. After having just three double-digit assist games in 149 NBA contests before being traded to Boston, he put up 10 assists in three different games this past November. In addition, he is attempting a couple fewer shots per 36 minutes. However, the Celtics need Crawford’s inner-gunner self from time to time. The Celtics’ offense is bad, with or without Rondo, so having a shooter like Crawford is hugely important for this Celtics team.
5. Which player’s production has been the biggest surprise (positive or negative) this season?
Adam: No one knew how Jared Sullinger would play after back surgery limited him to only 45 games in his rookie season, but he has been fantastic this year. He has already posted six double-doubles in 30 games in 2013-14 after only having four last season. While the Celtics may have whiffed on their 22nd overall selection in the 2012 draft (Fab Melo), they sure got a steal with No. 21: Sullinger should be the C’s big man of the future. Celtics fans love his intensity as well as his rebounding potential. In addition, he is developing a 3-point shot that could really help the Celts stretch the floor. Sullinger could sneak in as a bench All-Star selection this season.
- Boston enters tonight’s game on the second night of a back-to-back and is 2-6 in that situation so far. The Celtics are extremely good at defending the 3 point line and rank near the league’s best in both opponents’ 3PA and 3 point percentage. They allow a lot of looks at the rim, but do a pretty good job defending it. They do, however, foul at a high rate.
- Avery Bradley is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and specializes in relentlessly pressuring the ball. He should be respected and avoided at all costs.
- As Adam said, the Celtics turn the ball over at a high rate. The Pelicans were on the wrong side of that at Minnesota, and this is a good chance to win the turnover battle.
- The Celtics also struggle to rebound on the defensive side of the ball. Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson could have a field day mopping up offensive boards.
- The Pelicans put up a pretty big stinker the other night at Minnesota, and the best chance for a win on this 4 game road trip lies in tonight’s game, because the chances of taking one in Indiana and Miami are much slimmer. We need this game.