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The Celtics have long prided themselves on toughness. Since trading for KG and Ray Allen, their dedication to hustling, physical play, and team basketball has made them key playoff contenders every season, and enables them to consistently bring down opposing star-studded lineups that often appear superior on paper. There is no other team in the Eastern Conference that understands playoff basketball like Doc’s Celtics, and last year’s run to the NBA Finals was a textbook example of how a tough mindset and commitment to physical play will always triumph over individual stat lines… especially in a seven game series.

Kendrick Perkins was the centerpiece to this incredibly intelligent and physical defense, and his presence in the paint and ability to use his size to limit the production of dominant big men such as Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol was incredibly valuable to this team. Now that Perk has been traded, along with a promising rookie in Semih Erden, this smaller Celtics’ team will have to play more physical than ever before if they want any chance of making it back to the Finals. With both Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal battling injuries, Nenad Krstic is currently the only healthy “true” center on the team. In other words, the Celtics are small, and are now at the same exact disadvantage as other Eastern Conference contenders such as Miami and New York. While adding Troy Murphy will definitely help their inconsistent rebounding, it is clear that the Celtics will no longer be able to control the paint against good teams like they once did, and with Shaq only logging around twenty minutes per game when he’s healthy, Boston will be frequently forced to go with small lineups. In order for this to work, every player on the court for Boston needs to play extremely physical, commit to bodying up their man, and box out to avoid getting massacred on the boards.

Even though the “Big Four” played great last night and led the C’s to victory over the Sloan-less and Williams-less Jazz, they were often overwhelmed by Utah’s big men, mainly Big Al Jefferson who scored 28 points and pulled down 19 boards. Games such as this really illustrate the impact that Perkins can have on a game without having dazzling individual numbers, and I hope that the Celtics will be better prepared for talented big men in the playoffs when they will have to battle Howard and the Magic, or Chicago’s twin towers in Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Boston will likely have more depth at the center position by then, but for now, they’ll need to step up their physicality to a whole new level in order to compete against talented big men since Krstic is now starting in place of Perk. Despite Jefferson’s dominating performance, the Celtics managed to outrebound the Jazz 42-41 with everybody except Von Wafer contributing to the rebounding cause. They will need more team efforts like this in order to compensate for the loss of a center whose presence in the paint is more dominant than most big men’s, while KG will have to lead this physical team in the paint while the other bigs get ready to contribute come playoff time. This may not be the same Celtics’ team that it was before the trade deadline, but with commitment to smart and physical play, they still have the ability to be the true Beasts of the East.

Jon Jacobson 3/01/2011 04:28:00 PM Edit
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8 Responses so far.

  1. Karl says:

    Good article. I think a lot of people aren't talking about how Perk wasn't the same guy as last year. I think we are actually probably a better rebounding team now but will miss him on the defensive end. It really all comes down to Shaq and whether he can play at the level he was earlier in the season because if healthy we are a better team with Shaq as the starting center than even Perk starting.

  2. Patti says:

    What I didn't miss was all the fouls that Perk often got, with the ever burdening technical foul threat. Big Baby was called for way too many fouls last night, which were definitely NOT warranted. Perk wanted more money and he got it in OKC. With his two injured knees, he'll be lucky to make it to 30 and still be this supposed huge threat at center. You're right, we will need way more from the smaller players--but that is expected anyway, with or without Perk. We're gonna get to 18, I can feel it in my bones! GO CELTICS!!!

  3. I miss perk but we have to dominate the paint without him .. wit Troy n Nenad im sure we will

  4. Tim says:

    We were a much more efficient team with Shaq. We just need to rest him for June, Noah and Dwight don't really have postgames and with JO and Kristic we have more depth. Magic don't even have a back up center and last time Shaq played Dwight he didn't score a field goal till the 4th quarter

  5. Roody says:

    How many minutes would play Perkins with a healthy Shaq, JO? If we played against Heat, who would the real threat: James-Wade or Bosh? we have KG, backup: Big Baby. Even if we play against twin towers alignments like Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, it's obvious that KG can handle one of them.
    The C's before the trade was able to handle Twin Towers. Great! Now we can play against a Dallas, who play outside, against SA and LA cauz we have a good rotation of Big men.
    Our arsenal is full now, to play inside and outside

  6. Anonymous says:

    LA not scared no more

  7. Anonymous says:

    ok....time to look at this a bit closer.
    We traded Nate, Perk, Luke, Daniels and Semih and in return we are getting (so far)
    Green, Krstic, Murphy and possibly Brewer

    so we have solved the issue of back up wing players & we have scoring big men...i'm starting to like this trade deadline action from Danny. He traded young "promising" players and in return he is getting extremely useful players with experience that makes Boston deeper again!

  8. Phil says:

    Scal, you're making an excellent point. I think the results of this trade won't be in for awhile. The Celts beat Utah but they had to work their asses off in an extremely physical game against a marginal team. Big Al is not the biggest threat they're gonna face down low and he was killing them. Even Favors beat them up. Our Big Four gutted it out by playing extremely hard physical ball and hit their shots but that style of play will wear down this team over time without some relief. Won't be surprised to see a reversion back to the .500 play of the 2nd half of last season and have them hope to get a healthy team into the playoffs. I think the injuries to Semih and Marquis are being a bit overlooked as to being the catalyst for these moves - plus another injury to Perk. Danny probably was forced to take a chance and had to give up Perk but I think your analysis of the risks are right on.

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