It’s common knowledge that defense wins championships.
Any sports fan will tell you that the reason Paul Pierce lit up a cigar, Kevin Garnett told us that anything is possible, and the Boston Celtics raised their 17th championship banner is because of one thing: defense.
In 2008, the Celtics played stifling D. They gave up 90.3 points per game on just 41.9 percent shooting – best in the league . When they met Los Angeles and its high-powered offense in the Finals, the C’s held them to 93.8 points per game, 14.8 below their regular season average.
But I’m here to tell you that Boston won’t win another championship with its current core because of its offense.
Despite aging three years, the Celtics’ Big Three has managed to maintain its defensive intensity. Even with a 35-year-old KG anchoring the squad, Boston still limited its opponents to a league-best average of 91.1 points last season. But far from finishing the year with another Larry O’Brien trophy in tow, the team bowed out in the second round of the playoffs in just five games.
So what gave?
It doesn’t take a genius to reason that if the problem doesn’t lie on the defensive end, it’s probably somewhere on offense. And if we look at the numbers, we’ll find that Boston’s scoring and offensive rating have steadily declined since its 2008 title.
They’ve gone from averaging 100.5 points per game to 96.5. Their offensive rating has dropped from 110.2 to 106.2. In their five-game second-round series loss to the Heat, the Celtics never once eclipsed 100 points. And if we take an even closer look, we’ll see that the Celtics’ core is largely responsible for this decline.
In the last two seasons, Pierce and Allen posted their lowest scoring averages since their rookie seasons. Garnett’s offensive decline has been the most striking. His scoring has dipped 3.9 points per game since the ’08 season, and his offensive rating shrunk each of the past four seasons.
Still, Chuck McKenney of RedsArmy.com wrote to us in an email during the playoffs:
“I think this team can be championship caliber for one more season. Kevin Garnett had a very productive year. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce showed there is still some gas in the tank. But Danny Ainge needs to build a reliable bench in order to keep their minutes low. The bench play has been a roller-coaster this season. And Rajon Rondo needs to continue to improve… especially his shooting.”
While wisdom and discounts at IHOP may increase with age, the offensive productivity seemingly does not. This is going to be a major problem for the Celtics as long as it clings to its current core. If more offensive firepower is what Boston needs, Danny Ainge shouldn’t expect it to come from a trio whose offensive games have been on the decline for the past four seasons.
That puts a lot of pressure on a point guard who can’t shoot and a 24-year-old forward who looked lost at times in the Celtics’ offense. While Boston’s outlook could certainly change with the addition of another weapon, that seems unlikely given the contractual obligations to Pierce, Allen, and Garnett.
As long as the Big Three are eating the cap space, don’t expect any more cigars to be smoked or any more banners to be hung in Beantown.
What do you think? Do the Celtics need to make a major move to win a ring?
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