When the Trail Blazers came to Boston Friday night they were supposed to give the Celtics a game. Portland was "faster" and "more athletic" which would lead to a bunch of transition points and easy baskets. The team that was ranked 4th in CBS's NBA power rankings didn't give the C's any sort of trouble. In fact, it was Boston that took advantage of what seemed to be a very lethargic Blazer defense to outscore Portland on the fast break and beat them at their own game.
It has become rather redundant to praise Boston for their continued success, but since they are playing so well it is difficult (and honestly rather tedious) to find something that the Celtics have done poorly recently. But I have done it! The last two games the Celts have had large leads in the third quarter (over 20) and have managed to somewhat waste them away. Yes, the lead last night never dropped below 11 after the half, but there was a point where the Celtics bench went on a cold streak which resulted in a 16-3 Portland run.
So my one criticism of the Celtics is perhaps they should work on their closing skills. Putting the nail in the coffin. Twisting the daggar. Telling the other team to start warming up the bus.
When the bench has entered the last few games, their body language tells me that they think they are the mop up crew. They are given such large leads that they don't play strong defense, march down the court, and take the first mediocre shot they find. The fact that they lose leads impacts the team because it forces the starters to play unnecissary minutes that they could be resting. Rivers has said time and again that keeping the five core guys fresh plays a major role in the success the Celts will be able to have down the stretch and with Pierce and Allen being forced to play 37 minutes last night, the bench isn't getting the job done.
The Celtics biggest challenger, Cleveland, has been able to sit LeBron James for the entire fourth quarter in 5 of their last 7 games in order to keep him rested. The last things you want to see is King James at 100% in a seven game series where Paul Pierce is tired due to over playing him.
I know the playoffs are far in the distance, and the Celtics at 19-2 are far from in trouble, but like I said, I'm just grasping at straws here, If they continue to play the way they are Boston will be fine, if maybe just a little more worn down.