Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Celtics Are More Talented Than We Thought

The narrative of the Heat/Celtics series has been that Miami are talented chokers and the Celtics are gritty finishers. I'm not going to argue against that. Miami does have talent. And there's no denying that the Celtics know how to win tough playoff games.

But let's not sell the Celtics short. They have talent. They have some serious talent. How many Hall of Famers are on the Heat? How many are on the Celtics? How many Celtics players have nation-wide name recognition? We thought maybe the Celtics were too old, but they're proving that talent knows no age. At least not before 40.

Let's start with a guy who isn't old: Rajon Rondo. Fast, slick, great vision, decisive with the ball, able to drive to the hoop, and occasionally able to shoot well from the field. Rondo led the NBA with 11.7 assists per game. 1.0 more than Steve Nash, 2.8 more than Chris Paul. You can argue that he had so many assists because he was surrounded by talent. And that only furthers my contention that the Celtics are a very talented team.

The biggest criticism of Rondo is that he's not spectacular every single night. His inconsistency is sometimes baffling. But talented players are sometimes inconsistent. There's no arguing or doubting Rondo's abilities. He's a talented player.

Kevin Garnett might be healthier now than he's been the past three years. And when healthy, he is a game-changer. He looked sluggish at the start of the regular season, but he's quickened every month. His defense is better now, his shooting is better, he's making a difference in the middle of the court. He's averaging 19.9 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in this postseason. He's shooting 50% from the field. In this series, the Heat have shot 60% when Garnett is on the bench, 40.8% when he's on the floor. KG changes the shape of the game when he's playing. Tell me he's not talented.

Paul Pierce is clutch. And talented. Clutchness might be an intangible, but without talent it's meaningless. Clutchness is an ability to maximize the impact of talent in the most important moments of a game. Pierce also averaged 19.4 points per game in the regular season, not much off his 22.0 career average. And keep in mind that for a good chunk of his career, he was the Celtics ONLY scorer.

With KG, Rondo, and Allen around him, Pierce hasn't had to dominate games for the Celtics to win. But when Pierce was by himself, he was very impressive. That talent hasn't dissipated much. It simply doesn't need to be harnessed every single possession. He's got talent.

This is a talented team. LeBron is a perennial MVP candidate, and Wade is a superstar, but the Celtics have three sure Hall of Famers, and one of the most talented point guards in the league. Pierce and Rondo were both All-Stars in 2012. KG was one in 2011. Pierce, Rondo, and Garnett have combined for 27 All-Star appearances.

This is a talented team that we all dismissed. Remember the trade deadline? There was debate over breaking this team up, selling off the pieces to rebuild for the future. They believed in themselves and their talent. And now they're making believers out of all of us here as well as across the country.

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