|11.09.12 at 11:43 pm ET|
After shooting just 1-of-5 from the field and scoring four points in 18 minutes off the bench during a 100-94 loss to the 76ers, Celtics forward Jeff Green gave a few curt responses during his postgame press conference, eventually offering a “mmm-hmm” to one final question before catching the team’s flight to Milwaukee.
After scoring three points in the season opener, Green tallied 22 points over his next two games before netting just 10 points in 40 minutes over his past two — a drastic drop from his stellar preseason play. On Thursday, Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in Green’s adjustment, and Friday was coach Doc Rivers‘ turn.
“It’s a dilemma, but he’s going to be a good player for us this year,” said Rivers. “And sooner rather than later, I’m hoping. We’ve just got to unlock him. Right now, he’s just absolutely frustrated; you can see it in his play. But that’s on all of us; it’s not just on Jeff. Jeff’s the easy target right now. Jeff’s part of this team, just like everyone else, and we have to do a better job of getting him going. He’s probably got to do a better job of getting himself going.”
|11.09.12 at 10:11 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo may have continued his streak of games with double-digit assists, but the 76ers backcourt combined for 46 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds, and the Celtics’ defense let another playoff foe from last season reach the century mark in a 106-100 loss to their Atlantic Division rivals.
Jrue Holiday (21 points, 14 assists) and Evan Turner (25 points, 11 rebounds) torched the C’s.
Rondo finished with 14 points and 20 assists while Paul Pierce (24 points), Kevin Garnett (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jason Terry (13 points) all reached double figures, but the Celtics got little help from the bench beyond the guy who dubbed their reserves the best in basketball, as Jeff Green (1-5 FG) struggled once again.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A little help: Outside of Garnett and Lee, the Celtics started an atrocious 1-of-18 from the field, settling for far too many jump shots. Rondo (1-5), Pierce (0-5), Green (0-3) and Bass (0-3) all couldn’t find the basket through most of the first half, and the Celtics fell behind by double digits for the third time in five games.
Wet paint: While the Celtics seemed content launching from mid-range, the Sixers attacked the rim. In the first half, Philly scored 30 points in the paint and added 18 fast break points — compared to 14 and two, respectively, for the C’s — resulting in a 57-45 Sixers lead at the break. Evan Turner, in particular, victimized Pierce, scoring four of his six first-half buckets at the rim. In all, the Sixers outscored the C’s 56-38 in the paint and 26-9 in transition.
Downtown daggers: Somehow, the Celtics failed to defend the basket and the 3-point line. In all, the 76ers shot 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, including a Jrue Holiday triple with five minutes to play that helped keep the surging C’s at bay. In all, Boston opponents are shooting 34-of-84 from long-distance (40.5 3P%). Both the number of makes and attempts illustrates the inability of Celtics wings to close out on the perimeter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First five: The Celtics actually started off strong defensively, holding the 76ers to a 1-of-9 shooting start and building leads of 6-0 and 8-3 on the back of Garnett, but as has been the case all season, things went south when KG took his five-minute sabbaticals. Sullinger/Bass and Bass/Wilcox combinations quickly turned five- and six-point leads into five- and six-point deficits with Garnett on the bench.
Making a point: In the third quarter, Rondo did everything he could to will his lackadaisical team back into the game. He had his hand in the C’s first five buckets after the break (layup, jumper, assist, 1-2 FT, layup, assist). In the meantime, he notched his 10th assist, tying John Stockton for the NBA’s third-longest streak of 10-plus assists (29 games) and recording his fifth straight double-double to start the season.
Terry time: Often referring to himself as a clutch player, Jason Terry put his words into actions. Twice he drew the Celtics within three points in the fourth quarter — on a 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 83-80 and a 12-foot floater that cut the edge to 93-90 — as he reached double digits off the bench for the third time in four games. Perhaps more importantly, Rivers has given the all-important closer’s role at shooting guard to Terry in the last two games, including all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter on Friday night.
|11.09.12 at 8:37 am ET|
When Jeff Green suggested “teams are no longer scared” of the Celtics after they lost to the Bucks, it seemed to be his interpretation of Kevin Garnett‘s postgame “pack of hyenas” speech. Under Doc Rivers in the KG era, the C’s earned a reputation for playing defense with an edge, and without it they’re just another basketball team.
So, when even 19-year-old rookies born in the Bill Clinton era don’t fear the Celtics, who will?
“We know they’re vulnerable,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s third overall draft pick in 2012. “We know that they are an aggressive team, but they are a lot older then we are, so we are going to try and wear them down. They have a decent bench, and their bench comes in and gives them immediate scoring — everybody has the green light. So, our plan is basically to wear them down and keep pushing the ball in transition and make sure our pick-and-roll defense is what it needs to be, especially on Paul Pierce.”
Beal wasn’t the only Washingtonian unfazed by the Garden banners or Celtics mystique. If the current C’s players can’t get inside the heads of NBA newcomers or make them think twice about driving the lane, then they’re no longer hyenas on the hunt. Instead, Wizards and Bucks smell blood in the water.
Take Kevin Seraphin as Exhibit B. In two games against the Celtics, the 22-year-old product of France has totaled 35 points and 16 rebounds. So, when Garnett trapped him in the corner late in the fourth quarter, drew an offensive foul and tried to snatch the ball away from him after the whistle, he wasn’t intimidated, resulting in a Garnett technical and an 84-82 Wizards lead with 1:07 remaining. Who’s in whose head now?
|11.09.12 at 6:19 am ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in his weekly interview on WEEI’s “Big Show,” acknowledged that his team’s play has been uneven in the early going of the season en route to a 2-2 record. However, Ainge also noted that it is not unusual for a team that’s gone through considerable offseason changes to endure some growing pains at the start of the year during which the team’s talent isn’t necessarily reflected in the quality of its play or record.
“I hope it doesn’t take a while. I feel like we’re playing very good in stretches, but we’re just having some ugly stretches. I think that all the guys playing together has not been pretty at times, but we’ve had some good stretches. We’ve got to hang on to those, hope those outlast the bad stretches for now as we continue to improve into the season,” said Ainge. “The other guys, the new guys, really have to find their way and earn the trust of the team.
“Generally it takes a while to figure out who your team is. This year’s not different than any other year. Last year, we started 0-3. As time went by, I think a month and a half into the season no one thought the team was going to be good,” he continued. “We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of, but I do think you see good things out of each player, and I also see how difficult it is to get each of the players involved. That’s always a challenge.”
Ainge did acknowledge that Jeff Green, averaging 7.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game, is still searching for his fit on the Celtics roster.
“We haven’t really figured out Jeff and when to use Jeff or felt an urgency to go to Jeff,” said Ainge. “I think that Jeff has had some favorable matchups through the course of the game, but at the same time our main offensive sets that go through [Rajon] Rondo and Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] are working. There’s not really a need to change what we’re doing to go there.
“I think Jeff has been inconsistent in his production and just trying to find his way. I think him more than any other player, is just trying to find where he contributes. What we need from Jeff, is we need him to play that great defense, rebound every night. There’s going to be nights where he can get that 20 points off the bench, and some nights where his number isn’t called that much,” he added. “He’s been fairly productive when we’ve called his number, but he hasn’t been a productive playing off the ball and playing off of our stars.” Read the rest of this entry »
|11.08.12 at 1:32 pm ET|
This has been an early season of “message sending” for Doc Rivers.
After the first two games, the Celtics head coach talked about not trying to win games by playing one-on-one basketball.
On Monday, after barely surviving blowing a 16-point second-half lead in Washington Saturday night and watching the Wizards reserves dominate the Celtics second unit, the theme turned to the bench. “I’m not going to change the way I use [Kevin Garnett]. If our bench doesn’t score, then we’ll lose, simple.”
Well, he got a much better effort from Chris Wilcox (albeit four minutes), Jason Terry and Brandon Bass off the bench on Wednesday night and it was the biggest reason why the Celtics won, 100-94 in overtime.
But what Rivers saw early on as his team fell behind and what he saw late in the fourth quarter were the two things he focused on afterward.
“Well, we won the game,” Rivers said. “And right now that’s the type of team we are. We’re not playing great. It’s good to win a game like that. We’ve won two like that. You knew coming into this night, no matter who you’re playing, when you’re play a team back-to-back games, you give them three days, you knew it’d be a tough game. But we made it so much harder. I thought we played for the first five minutes great, and then we went back to old habits. I thought our energy was terrible.
“I thought Chris Wilcox saved the game for us, singlehandedly, with his effort. And I thought it was obvious. He didn’t do anything but played hard and played with great effort. And I thought that that leadership led everybody else into doing. Kevin, always, I always exclude him because he always plays the right way. But we’ve got to get more guys that play harder, better. I don’t care about ‘well,’ you know, I don’t care if we play ‘well’ or not, because that’s just human. If you can make shots or not, it happens. But we just have to play with a better focus and we’ve got to run our schemes better.”
Next up for the 2-2 Celtics, the 2-2 Sixers, who are coming off a win in New Orleans Wednesday night and will be in town Friday night. What will Doc’s message be? Stay tuned.
|11.08.12 at 9:40 am ET|
Doc Rivers made a point of telling his team Wednesday night that he didn’t care how well they played but rather how hard they played.
His point was that if you play with great energy, good results will follow even when the execution isn’t always there.
Brandon Bass got that message, even if it took overtime to do it.
Bass scored five straight points in overtime, reading his teammates and running down the floor, as the Celtics overcame the Wizards, 100-94, in overtime. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench as the Celtics reserves, including Chris Wilcox, finally found a way to help in a win.
“That’s part of me improving as a player,” Bass said. “That’s what I want to do for this team this year, help any way l can.”
After hitting one of two free throws with 2:21 left in overtime, Bass took a pass from Rondo after a Wizards turnover and went to the basket for a layup, putting Boston up, 95-92.
Then, after a missed shot by the Wizards on a chance to tie, Rajon Rondo hauled in the rebound and rewarded Bass who was sprinting up the court all by himself.
“Me and Rondo had switched on that play and he got the rebound so I sprinted out and finished,” Bass said.
Paul Pierce said what he liked about Bass’ play so much Wednesday was the fact he didn’t think but rather played instinctively. Bass agreed.
“That was huge,” Bass said. “That’s how I’m going to be at my best, when I’m out there just reacting, just defending and playing with a whole lot of energy. That’s what I tried to do.
“Be mentally tougher. On a team like this, watching the guys and how they deal with adversity, it can only help me and that’s what it did.”
|11.08.12 at 1:54 am ET|
Chris Wilcox doesn’t know when he’s getting into a game or for how long, so he’s come up with a motto to keep him fresh.
“If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” Wilcox said after the Celtics’ 100-94 overtime win over the Wizards. “That’s my motto and that’s what I go by. I just go and work out hard and do whatever I’ve got to do, so when my number is called I’ll be right in the rotation and do exactly what the coach wants me to do.”
Wilcox stayed ready on Wednesday, as he came in with just over three minutes left in the third quarter and made the most of the four minutes he played. The power forward made his presence felt right away by blocking a Kevin Seraphin jump shot and drawing a foul on Jan Vesely to set up a pair of successful free throws. After a Rajon Rondo steal, Wilcox put in a layup on which he was fouled, though he failed to make it a three-point play.
That missed free throw proved to be Wilcox’ only blemish on the night, as he dew another another foul late in the third and made both free throws. By the time he returned to the bench early in the fourth quarter, he had six points and two rebounds to go with his block, and the Celtics were a plus-8 with him on the floor.
Wilcox, of course, was limited to 28 games last season by a heart irregularity, as he and teammate Jeff Green both underwent heart surgery for their conditions. He’s still easing his way back in after back issues in the preseason, but both Wilcox and his teammates can look at Wednesday’s performance as encouraging.
“I thought Chris played great for us tonight. He gave us great minutes,” said Kevin Garnett. “For he and Jeff, knowing their story, knowing their journey, it’s inspirational to be honest with everybody here. To get a chance to see someone still get a chance to do something that they love and do it passionately is moving, and I’m just glad he had a great night. He was able to help us, and I thought he turned the game around.”
Said Wilcox: “I’m trying to get back there. I’m not 100 percent where I want to be, but great things like this happen, and that’s motivation for me to keep going. Like I said, I just have to stay ready so I don’t have to get ready.”
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