Michael Pina has a BA in English with a concentration in Journalism from the University of Delaware. He is currently living in his hometown of Boston. Mike is also the creator of the sports site Mike and Jeremy Like Sports.
Last night the Celtics proved to the league that they’re even deeper and more experienced than the title team of two seasons ago. Without Glen Davis, their first man off the bench last year, the Celtics still managed to outscore Cleveland’s bench 26-10 in an absolutely dominating effort that included three pointers, very aggressive defense and an up-tempo offense that kept Cleveland on their heels throughout the second half.
Who has the best starting five in the league is as much an open debate as which player is better, Lebron or Kobe. It could be the Lakers or it could be the Celtics, but what Boston has is a tough, physical, imposing front line ready and willing to step off the bench.
Shelden Williams, an oft maligned big man out of Duke who was a hair from going overseas before his NBA career could even wake up, stepped up in a huge way last night. He didn’t play like an all-star, looking a little lost in Boston’s extremely confusing defensive game plan several times, but what he did do was hustle.
Not the player who will ever fill up a stat sheet in a Celtics uniform, Williams’ play is more about the jostle and sweat he puts on the floor. Coming into a ball game and trying to throw Shaq out of position might be the task in the history of professional basketball, but Shelden came in and for the most part held his own. He boxed out players who were bigger than him and after just one game seems to understand what his role is.
In the backcourt, they have the tenacious Eddie House who seems to accumulate more three pointers than dribbles, which is actually something Doc Rivers dreams about being true. House is one of the most dangerous down town shooters in the league; his release is quicker than a pool stick hitting acue ball, but when he has the rock in his hands doing anything but bombarding the rim, things usually don’t end well. Last night he tried to thread the needle twice a la Jason Kidd. Both times the ball ended up out of bounds.
Newcomer Marquis Daniels was great. He showed a little bit of his versatile scoring ability, knocking down a three and finishing in traffic while defensively he was assigned to guard the best player in the world which he did about as well as anybody in the league can. I know it’s an extremely small sample, but with Daniels, instead of Pierce guarding the other team’s most dynamic scorer, it frees up the captain’s legs in the fourth quarter. Case in point, Pierce hit some huge shots down the stretch and was able to close out the game single-handedly, looking fresher than ever. I realize this was just the first game of the season, but saving as many minutes as possible will really add up come playoff time.
Rasheed Wallace showed Cleveland how dangerous he is, especially with his three point range. When it looked like the Cavs defensive strategy was to leave Kendrick Perkins wide open on the baseline for a few 15 footers, Doc Rivers simply subbed Wallace in and made the lineup almost impossible to guard. Defensively Wallace looked like another Garnett and when the two of them were on the floor together, Boston was extremely potent.
After getting out to a terrible start and a double digit point deficit before Shaq could even make it up and down the court, Boston looked a little out of synch. Over the next three quarters however, the Celtics bench wore down the best Cleveland could throw at them. After watching last night’s opener, there’s no debating who has the strongest roster in the league from 1-15.