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Energy savings pay off for Nate Robinson and the Celtics

01.13.11 at 2:43 am ET
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Doc Rivers may have liked the way his team was playing in the first half than Monday night. He went as far as to say if the Celtics somehow managed to lose Wednesday to the 8-27 Kings at TD Garden, he could sleep well knowing his team played good, solid basketball.

But the truth of the matter is that Celtics fans were downright concerned when they saw the Kings – without their top scorer Tyreke Evans – wipe out an 8-0 lead and actually grab a lead, albeit very brief, in the first quarter. The Celtics kept spinning their wheels in the first half, even with Paul Pierce scoring 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter.

The Celtics – without big men Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal– looked fatigued and out of rhythm. They needed a spark and Nate Robinson was only too happy to provide it. Robinson came in and made 6-of-9 shots, including 4-of-5 from long distance.

Robinson was just 11-for-32 in his six games this month entering Wednesday. His 16 points off the bench provided instant energy and eventually allowed Doc Rivers to give his starters the fourth quarter off.

‘€œThat’€™s how you have to play every night,” Robinson said. “Play with a lot of energy and be yourself. Everything else will fall into place.’€

After allowing the Rockets to make 21-of-34 shots in the second half on Monday, the Celtics – with a 57-49 halftime lead – were determined not to let it happen 48 hours later.

‘€œJust continue to pick it up on defense,” Robinson said. “We have been lacking the last couple of games. Rebounding was a talking point as well. As a team today we dug down deep. We were like ‘€˜we have to rebound and get stops and run’€™. We did that and got a lot of easy buckets tonight.

‘€œJust do things harder. There is always another notch that you can go too. Just pick it up. We have to pick each other up regardless if it’€™s the starters or second team, everybody has to be tuned in together and play a full 48 minutes.’€

Robinson had 16 to lead four bench players in double figures. Another player in double figures, Marquis Daniels with 12, could see what Robinson meant to the Celtics on Wednesday – instant energy and a very important player to help take minutes from Rondo and preserve him for the second half of the season.

‘€œLittle Nate played good tonight,” Daniels said. “He’€™s shooting the ball real well. He got his bird wings going. He’€™s playing real good right now. We just have to stay focused and stay hungry.’€

In total, Semih Erden, Daniels, Robinson and Von Wafer all scored at least 10 points, outscoring Sacramento’s bench, 56-47. Daniels said it was very refreshing to see not only Robinson but the rest of the bench contribute offensively so the starters could enjoy the rest of the game from their courtside seats.

‘€œDefinitely, I saw Paul icing early, Ray is icing early, Rondo. It’€™s always a good thing to see those guys icing early,” Daniels said. “We are going to need those guys later down the line.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson, NBA

Doc Rivers thanks Danny Ainge for the chance to make Celtics coaching history

01.12.11 at 11:34 pm ET
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Doc Rivers remembers the 2006-07 season vividly, and for all the wrong reasons.

The Celtics had just completed the second-worst season of their existence, losing 58 times and Rivers would have totally understood if his boss decided that – in addition to changing the roster – it was time to change the coach.

But GM Danny Ainge saw something in Rivers and convinced Celtics ownership to stick with Rivers since he felt he was the right coach to handle the egos and personalities of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. One championship and one near-miss later over a span of four years, Ainge has been greatly rewarded for his loyalty.

On Wednesday night, following a 119-95 win over the Kings at TD Garden, Rivers passed K.C. Jones for third on the franchise’s regular season all-time coaching wins list with 309. And it was Ainge whom Rivers thanked for giving him the chance.

‘€œYeah, you know, I don’€™t know what that means, honestly,” Rivers said. “It’€™s awesome, I guess. I mean, I just don’€™t know what that means, yet, because I’€™m not thinking about it much, I’€™m not done. But it’€™s nice. And, listen, it’€™s Danny Ainge at the end of the day. I’€™m full-aware of that. We were bad for two years and he stuck with me. And believed in me. And so, at the end of the day it’€™s Danny Ainge more than me.’€

Rivers, whose record stands at 309-221, trails only Tommy Heinsohn (427) and all-time leader Red Auerbach (795) on the franchise’s all-time list. Rivers guaranteed one thing Wednesday, he won’t be shooting for first. ‘€œNo. That ain’€™t gonna happen. I can guarantee you that!’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, K.C. Jones

Fast Break: Celtics crown Kings

01.12.11 at 9:53 pm ET
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The Celtics needed a game like this. They not only needed a win after losing two straight, they also needed a win on a night when they played well. That they were able to accomplish this by playing only one great quarter won’t make Doc Rivers completely happy, but he will take it. And that third quarter was pretty great.

In a 119-95 win over the Kings, the Celtics outscored their visitors 33-18 in the third quarter and shot 71 percent while turning it over only three times. Eight different Celtics scored in the quarter and no one had more than six points or five shots.

That’s how they want to play and for one night at least, Rivers’ message was heard.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce sets the tone: The captain came out and delivered 25 points in 25 minutes on 10-for-14 shooting with six rebounds and three assists. Pierce had 15 of his points in the first quarter getting the Celtics off to a strong start. He was content to pick his spots after that initial outburst.

Third quarter run: The Celtics started off hot, but cooled a bit in the second quarter, allowing the Kings to hang around. They left little doubt in the third quarter opening up an 22-point lead. This was exactly what the Celtics needed because the Kings weren’t able to come back twice and the lead allowed Rivers to rest his starters.

Semih Erden to the rescue: Without Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal, and with Shaquille O’Neal dealing with foul trouble (see below), the Celtics needed Semih Erden and he responded with 10 points and a career-high eight rebounds in 33 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Jermaine O’Neal’s knee swelled up: The news that Garnett will probably miss Friday’s game as well will fuel talk that the Celtics are hiding a more serious injury, but from the beginning there was never a clear timeframe for his return. O’Neal missing the game because of lingering problems with his knee, was a complete surprise, however.

O’Neal hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the fans yet, but the fact remains that when he has played he has given the Celtics  a much-needed shot blocking presence and superior depth at the center position. Without him the Celtics are seriously thin with Shaquille O’Neal only able to play about 20 minutes a night.

Rivers said he was ‘concerned’ about the latest development and he should be.

Shaq’s foul trouble: On Christmas Day, Shaquille O’Neal made reference to the refereeing abilities of Bob Delaney who fouled him out after just 22 minutes. It was probably just a coincidence, but Delaney whistled Shaq for an offensive foul giving him four early in the third quarter. Shaq played just 14 minutes, contributing two points and one rebound and continuing his string of forgettable games.

Doc Rivers: ‘Concerned’ about Jermaine O’Neal’s knee

01.12.11 at 7:27 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett isn’t the only Celtic player who won’t be able to play Wednesday against the Kings. Jermaine O’Neal will also miss the game after his knee swelled up Wednesday morning. O’Neal missed 19 games with a knee injury, but he returned on Christmas Day and has played in the last 10 games.

O’Neal didn’t play in the second half against in a blowout win over Toronto last Friday, but he played 21 minutes against the Rockets on Monday.

“I’€™m concerned,” Doc Rivers said. “He’€™s [played three] weeks now and a practice and his knee swelled up. First of all it has to be extremely frustrating for him because he worked his butt off to get back and he was playing well. And secondly, we all have common sense. That’€™s a concern. Why is this happening? We have to figure that out.”

Without Garnett and O’Neal the frontcourt depth behind starters Glen Davis and Shaquille O’Neal is down to rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody. Rivers is reluctant to play the two of them together, but he may not have a choice because he doesn’t like to play Shaq more than 20 minutes or so.

“In some ways you have no choice,” Rivers said. “It is tougher but we have to do it. At the end of the day [Shaq’s] not functioning well because of the extra minutes.”

Read More: injuries, Jermaine O'Neal,

Kevin Garnett likely out two more games

01.12.11 at 7:12 pm ET
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The original prognosis for Kevin Garnett‘s return from a strained calf was two weeks. Now it appears that it will take a little longer. Garnett won’t play tonight against the Kings, as expected, but Doc Rivers sounded pessimistic about whether Garnett would be ready to go Friday against the Bobcats. That puts Monday’s game with the Magic as the new target date.

“Eddie [Lacerte, the team’s trainer] and I talked about it yesterday and it will really depend on what we do [Thursday],” Rivers said. “My guess [for Friday] is no, because after that we have two days off. My thinking right now, unless he comes out and practices the whole practice and looks great, is probably off Friday too and then probably [play] Monday.”

Rivers is aware that people are questioning the nature of Garnett’s injury, but he insisted that nothing has changed except the timeline. “There’€™s no conspiracy here or anything like that,” Rivers said. “He’€™s just taking a little longer than we wanted it to, but it’€™s not a big deal.”

While Rivers insisted that he’s not concerned that the injury is worse than originally feared, he is concerned about Garnett’s mental state.

“With Kevin because he’€™s so emotional, you just want to make sure he doesn’€™t get down about stuff,” Rivers said. “That’€™s where I’€™m always concerned with him. Starting with the, ‘€˜Why is this happening to me,’€™ stuff and you don’€™t want him to go there, because it’€™s not a bad injury. But he doesn’€™t like missing games.”

Read More: injuries, Kevin Garnett,

Irish Coffee: Does poor Celtics offensive rebounding matter?

01.12.11 at 11:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Despite losing two straight games, if you look at the Celtics’ statistics, there’s not much they’re doing poorly over the course of this season. They’ve made more field goals than their opponents while taking fewer shots. They’ve dished out more assists, snatched more steals, swatted more blocks and committed fewer turnovers.

In fact, only one number sticks out. The Celtics have been out-rebounded overall by four. More specifically, they’ve been out-boarded on the offensive glass by 97 and rank last this year in the category that Red Auerbach called “the hardest single phase of basketball.”

When you consider the fact that the C’s are shooting a league-leading 50.2 percent from the field — leaving fewer chances for themselves — that number is less glaring than at first glance, but does it matter at all? C’s head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t think so.

“I’m not a big believer in offensive rebounds,” said Rivers. “I think if you if you get back every single time and not get offensive rebounds, you probably save more points in the long run. So, that’s not a concern.”

Anyone who watched Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals — when the Lakers out-rebounded the Celtics 23-8 on the offensive end — might disagree with Rivers on that contention. While fans often rely on emotions for their arguments, Rivers can generally point to statistics to back up his statements, so let’s look to the numbers.

Here are the top-five NBA teams record-wise with their rank in offensive rebounds per game in parentheses:

  • 1. Spurs (15th)
  • 2. Heat (25th)
  • 3. Celtics (30th)
  • 4. Lakers (5th)
  • 5. Mavericks (29th)

Here are the bottom-five NBA teams record-wise with their rank in offensive rebounds per game in parentheses:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson

Preview: Kings at Celtics, Game 38

01.12.11 at 11:13 am ET
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Doc Rivers wasn’t happy with his starters Monday night in a loss to the Rockets, so he beat them up in practice on Tuesday. Rivers wanted a live, physical full-court practice with lots of rebounding work, which is part of the reason he elected to hold Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins out of the session.

Rivers is worried that his team is getting too complacent. “We’€™ve won games where I didn’€™t think we were mentally ready to play the game, but we were mentally tough enough to fight through it and win the game,” Rivers said. “But we’€™ve also lost some games where we haven’€™t had that mental toughness.”

What concerned him most against Houston was that his team took too many shortcuts. They switched screens when they didn’t have to. They looked for the home run play when an easier one would have sufficed.

“We just got to stay on it,” Rivers said. “We are a veteran team that knows there’€™s another level that we can play at and we play at it at times. So we just got to stay on top of it.” The blame, he said, rested mainly with the starters.

Rivers is taking a calculated gamble that he can get his team back on track by whipping them into shape and refocusing their attention. You may recall that similar motivational tactics had no effect on last season’s Celtics. That, along with the injuries, made them an incredibly frustrating team throughout January, February and March.

This year, Rivers has said, is different. It has to be. On the same night they lost to the Rockets, the Miami Heat slipped passed the Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. “I know they’€™re playing well, honest to gosh, I could care less,” Rivers said. “I am only concerned with our team.”

And he is concerned. Transition defense, pick and roll coverage, offensive execution, all these things must be corrected sooner rather than later and it needs to start tonight against the Kings.

KINGS (8-27, 3-7 last 10 games)

Offensive Rating: 102.7 (Points per 100 possessions, 24th)

Defensive Rating: 108.9 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 23rd)

Pace: 93.8 (Possessions per game, 9th)

Likely Starters: Beno Udrih, Luther Head, Francisco Garcia, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins

Injuries: Tyreke Evans (Ankle, questionable)

CELTICS (28-9, 5-5 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 108.3 (10th)

Defensive Rating: 100.4 (2nd)

Pace: 90.7 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Kevin Garnett (Calf, doubtful), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out) Read the rest of this entry »

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