|01.25.14 at 1:53 am ET|
As the Celtics prepare to welcome Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston on Sunday, one member of the new-look franchise knows the two legends of the game all too well from the opposite side of the ball. Joel Anthony endured three straight playoff meetings against the Celtics from 2010-12 as a member of the Heat.
“More than anything, you just wanted to beat them,” said Anthony, who entered the league the same year Garnett came to Boston. “You really, really wanted to beat them. They made you want to be like that because of how they played and how they competed. It’s really the beauty of the game, the beauty of basketball — the whole competition aspect and what you love about the game – to be able to have those type of moments, those battles, those types of feelings and emotions. That’s what it’s all about — to be able to have those battles with that team was special.”
Particularly after a brutal loss to an undermanned Thunder team, Anthony’s reminiscence of those series — a five-game Celtics win before LeBron James‘ arrival during the magical 2010 run, the five-game Heat victory when Rondo dislocated his elbow in 2011 and the epic seven-game Eastern Conference finals in 2012 — will make any basketball fan long for one more matchup between those grit and balls C’s and King James ascending to his throne.
“You respected who they were, what type of team they were and how good of a team that they were,” Anthony said. “Those were the games that guys really got up for, because we knew we were going to be in a battle with those guys every single night and every single minute on the floor. That was just the biggest thing, knowing that they were such competitors — that team was such a tough team to play against every single night.”
As Pierce and Garnett’s arrival in Nets uniforms will attest on Sunday, those days of meaningful Celtics-Lakers and Celtics-Heat playoff meetings are long gone — a chapter in NBA history that will be remembered the same way Larry Bird‘s Celtics and Magic Johnson‘s Lakers ultimately made way for Michael Jordan‘s Bulls.
There were a lot of tough battles for LeBron when he was in Cleveland and with us in Miami, a lot of pain from losing to that team,” added Anthony. “They were an extremely good basketball team, and so to be able to win those games was big, because it was really a huge step for us to be able to get that monkey off our back in terms of surpassing a team that you struggled against and that you respected, but that you wanted to beat more than anything.”
Was it really mutual respect, or was there more to it than that? Because it sure seemed like there was more to it than that. “I think there was some dislike in there,” said Anthony. “Yeah, there was some dislike in there.”
Regardless, Anthony remembers Pierce and Garnett the way most everyone does.
“KG’s intensity and demeanor,” he said. “Defensively, especially, he changed how that team was. They kind of took on his identity. And, in terms of Paul, his ability to hit those big shots. They’d find a way to keep it close, and Paul would end up getting the ball in some kind of iso and find a way to always make big shots.”
Yup, that’s Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a nutshell. Even Rajon Rondo, who called their homecoming “just another game,” knows deep down Sunday will be special. There are too many memories for it not to be.
|01.25.14 at 12:39 am ET|
In between providing one-word answers about his current state of play, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo likewise shed little light on his expectations for Sunday’s Boston homecoming for Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
“It’s just another game,” Rondo said after an 18-point loss to the Kevin Durant-less Thunder. “We need to win.”
Like his team’s record, which dropped to 15-30 after a 16th loss in 19 games, the point guard’s return from ACL surgery has been a work in little progress. As one member of the Celtics organization said afterwards, Rondo was really only Rondo for one play. His minutes limit prevents him from getting into a rhythm, and as he said, “Plays I usually make, I’m not making right now, but I still feel positive and I’m OK with my progression right now.”
Here’s a sample of what was a typically tenuous Rondo interview after a 101-83 loss to Oklahoma City.
Do you feel like you’re more of yourself out there every game? “I’m getting there.”
Is it disappointing the way you guys came out tonight? “Yeah.”
What happened? “We didn’t get stops.”
How do you judge your progress? “I just take it one game at a time.”
Is there something you’re looking for? “Yeah, but I don’t want to say.”
|01.24.14 at 9:45 pm ET|
While Carmelo Anthony was scoring 56 points through three quarters at Madison Square Garden, the Celtics netted just 59 through 36 minutes in Boston, and the Kevin Durant-less, Russell Westbrook-less Thunder swept the parquet with them, 101-83, handing the C’s their 16th loss in 19 tries.
Only Jeff Green (16 points on 17 shots), Gerald Wallace (13 points) and Brandon Bass (11 points) reached double figures for the Celtics (15-30). Rajon Rondo had five points, eight assists and two rebounds in his fourth game back — and first since resting on Wednesday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
No slim reaper: After setting the NBA world on fire over the past month, Durant rested against the Celtics. The Thunder surprised the media with news of Durant’s apparent shoulder injury before the game. It was his first DNP of the season and only trip to Boston in 2013-14 — an unfortunate revelation a couple hours before tipoff for Celtics fans who paid to see one of the game’s most fascinating players face their lottery-bound home team.
Lambasted: With Durant sitting and Westbrook still nursing an injured knee, the Celtics had a real chance to slow one the league’s top-five offenses, but Jeremy Lamb had different ideas. The UConn product scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 15 first-half minutes, leading Oklahoma City to a 50-46 advantage at the break.
Rondo’s reintroduction: As Brad Stevens has noted, Rondo is still in preseason form. The spacing of his minutes-per-quarter prevent him from getting into a rhythm, and he’s not finishing around the rim for whatever reason (confidence, legs, confidence in his legs). After scoring a single point and missing all eight shots against the Heat and resting against the Wizards, Rondo finished with five points on seven shots.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Sharing is caring: With the unselfish duo of Rondo and Phil Pressey manning the point, the Celtics actually ran an offense, resulting in 10 assists on 11 buckets and a 73.3 field goal percentage in the first quarter. That trend tapered off a bit while 17 turnovers and the Thunder’s 53.8 percent shooting didn’t help matters.
Crashus Clay: In two home games since Rondo’s return, Wallace has shown signs of life, scoring in the double digits and filling up the stat sheet. After posting a 14-4-5 with three steals and two blocks against the Lakers a week ago, he totaled three assists, two rebounds and three steals against the Thunder. Now, if he could only contribute on a more consistent basis, he might raise his grade from the first-semester report card.
|01.24.14 at 7:55 pm ET|
Before Friday’s game against the Thunder, Rondo acknowledged that his representatives have been in preliminary talks with the Celtics about a contract extension.
Rondo signed a five-year, $55 million rookie scale extension on Nov. 2, 2009. That deal pays him $11.9 million this season and $12.9 in 2014-15 before he becomes an unrestricted free agent before the 2015-16 season.
“I like to stick to the script,” Rondo told reporters before returning to the starting lineup Friday night against Oklahoma City. “I don’t like change much. I wouldn’t mind staying here the rest of my career. Things don’t always seem to go that way, but like I said before, it’s just a business. I wouldn’t mind extending another 10 years in Boston.”
On Thursday, Ainge indicated that the team is interested in pursuing some type of contract extension with Rondo. Those talks, he said, would likely have to wait until after the season due to the nature of the collective bargaining agreement.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that a contender looking for point guard help could make a push for Rondo at the trade deadline, which is Feb. 20.
Rondo was selected in the first round (21st overall) by the Celtics in the 2006 NBA draft. He is a four time All-Star and led the league in steals with 189 in 2000-10.
|01.24.14 at 7:10 pm ET|
The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar will sit out Friday’s game against the Celtics to rest his shoulder, dinged up in a win over the Spurs Wednesday night. Durant had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 119-96 win over the Celtics on Jan. 5 in Oklahoma City. The Thunder enter the game with a 33-10 mark, a half-game better than the Spurs for best record in the West.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before the game that Perry Jones will fill in for Durant.
“Kevin definitely loves the game. He’s not one that looks forward to missing games,” Brooks said. “The guy is a gamer. He loves to play.”
Durant also loves to score, something he’s done at will in the last nine games. Durant has scored at least 30 points in nine straight games, averaging 38.9 points over that run for the Thunder.
“It’s the best thing for him. Until he’s ready to play, he’s not going to play, regardless of how he feels or what he wants to do. It’s a medical decision,” Brooks added.
For the first time in Thunder history Durant and Russell Westbrook won’t be in their lineup.
“I never looked at it that way,” Brooks said. “I know we’ve always had guys that step up. We have a team that takes challenges every night. You never want to be without your players, not only us but the entire league. Regardless of if he’s a starter or not a starter, you want your entire roster to give yourself the best chance. We have more than enough to compete. Old coach of mine [said]: ‘All you need is five.’”
Durant is certainly a leader in the early MVP race, averaging a league best 31.0 points. Durant has already won three NBA regular season scoring titles.
“I’ve seen Kobe Bryant score 40 points in nine straight games,” Durant told NewsOK.com on Thursday. “Michael Jordan have 11 triple-doubles in 12 games. LeBron James have a month when he’s averaging 35 points. So those guys, that’s something to write home about.”
As for Durant, he may or may not return for the Thunder’s next game, in Philadelphia Saturday night. The
The Thunder, meanwhile, visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night. Brooks wasn’t sure if Durant will be back for that game.
The Thunder don’t figure to need Durant against the Sixers who, like the 15-29 Celtics, are bringing up the rear of the Atlantic Division.
|01.23.14 at 9:44 pm ET|
The NBA announced the starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, and naturally leading MVP candidates LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the leading vote-getters for the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively.
The roster includes no Celtics, who are in danger of failing to produce an All-Star for the first time since 2007, when Paul Pierce suffered through an injury-plagued season, and only the 10th time in the game’s 63-year history.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green are the C’s only hopes for a spot when the voting from coaches reveals the final seven Eastern Conference All-Stars on Jan. 30, but neither is expected the make the roster (unless Rondo receives the sympathy vote for his fifth selection). Each received more than 100,000 fan votes – well shy of a starting spot.
Old friends Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett edged out Rondo and Green in the fan voting for backcourt and frontcourt players, respectively, although Green received 26,006 more votes than Pierce. Here are your 2014 starters:
Bryant, who received his 16th All-Star bid despite participating in just six games this season, will likely be replaced in the starting West backcourt by Chris Paul (804,309 votes) due to the Lakers star’s knee injury.
Likewise, should Wade’s knee injury keep him from participating in his 10th All-Star Game, John Wall (393,129) would be the second starting guard alongside Irving in the East. Among the remaining healthy Eastern Conference guards, only Allen received more votes than Rondo, but his fate lies in the coaches’ hands now.
|01.22.14 at 9:47 pm ET|
Gerald Wallace jogged out at tip-off as one of the starting guards – yes, the same defensive-minded Wallace who’s averaging 4.3 points per game. Phil Pressey orchestrated the offense as the starting point guard – yes, the same undrafted rookie who entered Wednesday night’s game shooting 23.5 percent from the field.
But instead of folding given the stacked odds against them, the Celtics knocked off the Wizards in overtime, 113-111, on the road Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak and a 10-game road slide.
Wallace played the role of hero as he banked in a layup with 2.5 seconds left in OT to give the Celtics (15-29) the win.
Jeff Green erupted for a season-high 39 points, including eight 3-pointers. Pressey poured in 20 points and Jared Sullinger added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
John Wall completed a triple-double with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Five other Wizards (20-21) scored double digits, with Nene Hilario (17 points) leading the way.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS
Green start, Green finish: The aggressive, electric version of the enigmatic Green appeared in the first half, and unlike a number of times this season, that version stuck around for the remainder of the game. With Rondo and Bradley absent, Green shouldered the scoring load for the Celtics. He collected 19 first-half points, hitting four 3-pointers to go along with three rebounds, and Boston held a 61-43 lead at the break. Green’s hot start did not peter out, as he went for a game-high 39. Green made a pair of big shots in overtime to give Boston the lead for good. The visit to the nation’s capital was a homecoming for Green, a former standout at Georgetown University.
Pressey: The Missouri product has proven this season that he’s capable of running the point in a past-first, low-turnover capacity. But many Boston fans want to see at least an iota of offensive prowess. He showed rare offensive chops against Washington with a career-high 20 points. Pressey made six of his first seven shots — including four 3-pointers — and dished out four assists as well. He knocked down his fifth 3-pointer with less than a minute left in overtime to give the Celtics a three-point lead. Pressey was averaging 1.3 points per game and had shot 6-for-38 from 3-point range heading into the game.
Hot half: Boston’s rag-tag lineup torched the Verizon Center in the first half. The C’s shot 51.2 percent overall in the first half and finished 9-for-19 on 3-pointers, with Pressey and Green notching eight of those. Fourteen of the team’s 22 made baskets were assisted. The dominance was not restricted to the offensive end, as Boston held Washington to 37.2 percent shooting from the field and 18.2 percent from beyond the arc, and pickpocketed the Wizards seven times.
Wall/Beal D: The recipe to success against the Wizards’ superb guard combination, Wall and Bradley Beal, seems easy enough: Keep Wall out of the paint and Beal inside the 3-point line. Entering Wednesday’s game, Wall was shooting 63.2 percent on shots from less than five feet, compared to 34.2 percent from outside the paint. Beal, conversely, thrives from long range, as evidenced by his 3-point percentage (44.2). But that figure drops to just 37.9 on mid-range shots (5-to-23 feet). Beal and Wall scored 42 points, but on an inefficient 45 shots. Wall struggled in particular, shooting 9-for-29 from the field. Boston followed the scouting report, forcing Wall into 16 jump shots, and he made just three of them. Additionally, the Celtics blocked as many of Wall’s layups (six) as they allowed (six). Beal finished the game 0-for-4 on treys.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS
No Rondo: Celtics coach Brad Stevens opted to rest Rondo on Wednesday and avoid playing him in back-to-back games. Rondo played a season-high 26 minutes in Tuesday’s 93-86 loss to the Heat. In his third game back from ACL surgery, Rondo shot 0-for-8 from the field and scored one point in Miami. He’s averaging 5 points (on 25.9 percent shooting), 4.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. Prior to Rondo’s return, Stevens made it clear that he wanted to avoid playing his point guard in back-to-back games. Rondo is expected back vs. the Thunder on Friday.
Third quarter: It would be unrealistic for Boston to have maintained its torrid first-half shooting pace and 18-point halftime lead considering its personnel compared to Washington’s. But in one quarter, the Celtics massive lead had dwindled to just three points. The Wizards reduced the deficit with scorching shooting and stingy defense. Washington made 60 percent of its field goals while forcing Boston into 27.3 percent shooting. Wall bounced back after a tough first half to score seven points in the quarter.