C’s in trouble without Perkins?

Neil Paine of Basketball Reference thinks so…

We can really illustrate Perkins’ hidden importance by looking at the Plus/Minus numbers. When Perkins was on the court for Boston this season, the Celtics outscored their opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions; when he wasn’t playing, that number was only +0.2, a difference of -7 pts/100 poss.

Meanwhile, Perkins’ Game 7 replacements, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, don’t fare nearly as well by the WOWOY metrics. Despite Davis’ heroics in Game 4, he and Wallace have been Boston’s two worst players by net on/off rating during the playoffs. Wallace has been particularly toxic for the Celtics all season — the team played 5 pts/100 poss. worse when he was on the floor, as evidenced by his recurring appearance in the Celts’ worst lineup combinations. Davis & Wallace look better by the 4-year WOWOY regression (Davis is +1.36, Wallace is +0.47), but neither has the ability to positively impact the game the way Perkins does. Without his presence, and playing on the road (home teams win Game 7 80% of the time), the Celtics appear to be in dire straits tonight.

Numbers aside, I tend to agree with Paine from a qualitative point of view. Kendrick Perkins is a really good post defender, better than Rasheed Wallace and much better than Glenn Davis. He is not the offensive player that either of those guys are, but when you’re part of a unit that includes the Big 3 and Rajon Rondo, you don’t have to be.

Wallace has played some good post defense in these playoffs, but he tends to get into foul trouble, and that’s bad news for tonight, when the Celtics are so painfully thin on the front line. His three point range can stretch the defense, but he’s shooting 26% in the Finals and 35% in the postseason, so it’s not like his defender can’t help off of him. The Celtics need a 15/10 kind of a night from ‘Sheed if they hope to win Game 7.

If he gets into early foul trouble and Boston is forced to play Shelden Williams major minutes, the Celtics will be in major trouble.

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Celtics dismantle Cavs, 104-86

The Celtics led by four at halftime before a blistering 31-12 third quarter that left the Cavs and their fans completely stunned. Cleveland managed a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 10 with 4:33 to play, but the C’s woke up and rattled off their own 11-3 run to put the game away.

LeBron James posted 24-7-4, but didn’t look like himself for long stretches of the game. He turned the ball over five times and went just 10-for-15 from the free throw line. He seemed to be favoring that elbow, so speculation about his health will continue. Antawn Jamison went for 16-6, while Shaq played just 19 minutes and posted a measly 9-4. Mo Williams was the goat for the Cavs. He went just 1-of-9 from the field and scored just four points. (However, he did dish out seven assists.)

Rajon Rondo (13-19-4) thoroughly outplayed Williams and controlled the tempo of the game. Ray Allen (22-7) got hot, and Kevin Garnett chipped in with a solid 18-10.

And then there’s Rasheed Wallace. I wrote earlier today about Doc Rivers’ comments about Wallace’s defense, wondering why he’d bother trying to motivate Sheed through the press, but the big man responded with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting. To put that performance in perspective, Sheed scored 17+ points in just five games this season.

The Celtics have to feel great about heading back to Boston for Game 3 tied 1-1. They’ll have three days to rest their old bones and need to win both games in Boston to have a real chance to win this series.

One thing’s for sure — Cavs fans are a lot more worried now than they were a few hours ago.

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Celtics to bench Rasheed?

ESPN Boston has Doc Rivers’ comments about Rasheed Wallace:

“[Wallace] has to play better, bottom line,” said Rivers, who has given Wallace plenty of rope this season. “He has to play better defense — the offense will come — but he has to be a better defender. And we can’t wait for him. He has to be a better defender for us.”

Wallace, underwhelming for much of the 2009-10 season, continues to provide little in the way of production in the postseason despite all the playoff experience he brought with him to Boston. After logging a mere two points and two rebounds over 13 minutes in Saturday’s Game 1 loss, Wallace is now at minus-20 in the plus/minus for the postseason, the lowest number on a team that’s won four of the six games it has played.

Rivers on Sunday seemed unwilling to completely yank Wallace from the rotation, but noted that [Shelden] Williams won’t be overlooked.

Why can’t he yank Wallace from the rotation? From what I saw in Game 1, and from what Bill Simmons has been writing about all season, Sheed has been basically useless this year. His PER is 13.18 (a career low), he is -3.7 in production and -4.1 in net +/- (per 82games) and is shooting a miserable 41% from the field and 28% from long range. Is Rivers afraid to bench him outright because of the poisonous attitude he may bring to the locker room?

Rivers is a pretty good coach, but I don’t understand these comments. Why bother going out to the media at this point in the season? If Wallace can’t get motivated enough in Game Freaking 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals — against the Cavs, no less — then why would he think that making a few statements to the media make any difference?

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Way to go, Rasheed! [video]

Epic fail.

Somewhere, Bill Simmons is laughing to keep from crying.

3,497 words about Rasheed Wallace

Hate Rasheed Wallace or find him interesting? Check out Bill Simmons’ latest column, “Smoke and Mirrors,” which is dedicated entirely to the man he calls “Sheed.” I think it’s one of his best pieces ever, but the funniest line came from one of his buddies.

Sheed caused me to e-mail my buddy Hench in December just to ask whether he remembered seeing Sheed run harder than half-speed even once. Hench’s response: “I’ve yet to see Sheed make a fast-twitch move that would have spilled a beverage if he was carrying one on the court.”

Nice one, Hench.

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