|12.11.10 at 9:29 pm ET|
Take an NBA team that’s been on the road for a few days and knows it has some time off ahead of them,and put them in an arena with all the ambiance of a library and what you get is something like the game between the Celtics and Bobcats Saturday night.
It was ugly, as evidenced by the Celtics 43 percent shooting from the floor and Paul Pierce’s unsightly 1-for-9 night. But in yet another sign that the Celtics are coming together as a team, they overcame their collective offensive woes and put the hammer down defensively in a 93-62 win.
They have now won 10 straight games and clearly established themselves as the class of the Eastern Conference. They also have three days off until Wednesday when they play the rejuvenated New York Knicks in what should be an interesting matchup between the classic rivals, who haven’t had much of a rivalry in recent years.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett, again: Doc Rivers limited his starters minutes in the first half, keeping Allen, Pierce and Garnett to just 16 minutes of court time. This seemed like a conscious decision because even though Allen and Pierce struggled, Garnett was the best thing the Celtics had going for them.
He had nine points and eight rebounds in the first half, en route to another double-double (13 and 11) in just 23 minutes. Garnett also led the way on the glass where the Celtics owned a healthy 48-38 advantage.
Glen Davis to the rescue: This is why Davis should be considered one of the best sixth men in the NBA. It’s not his points and rebounds, although they definitely help. It’s not even his charges, although they help as well. It’s that when he comes into the game he can change the flow and he can do it playing multiple frontcourt positions.
Davis played the four, the five and even guarded Gerald Wallace successfully. With all the injuries the Celtics are having up front, his versatility is a great compliment to his production. The production wasn’t bad either as he scored 16 points to go with seven rebounds.
Defense wins: Try as they might, the Celtics couldn’t get anything going offensively. To their credit, they stayed away from launching jump shots and attacked the basket to get to the line 28 times. But what won the game for them was their defensive effort. The Bobcats aren’t a good offensive team, but the Celtics made them look dreadful.
Charlotte shot 33 percent and turned it over 21 times. They scored 16 points in the first quarter, 16 in the second and then 15 in each of the third and fourth quarters. If you were looking for a 48-minute defensive effort, this was it.
WHAT WENT WRONG
No Shaq: Shaquille O’Neal missed his second straight game with a lower calf/shin injury. There’s no need to rush him back, especially with a few days between now and Wednesday’s game with the rejuvenated New York Knicks. But Shaq’s absence left the Celtics vulnerable in the middle and Nazr Mohammed made them pay, at least in the first half when he went 6-for-9.
Cold shooting: The Bobcats have two things going for them in terms of matchups — Stephen Jackson, who is one the tallest off guards in the game and Gerald Wallace, who is one of the strongest forwards. Those two combined to make life miserable for Allen and Pierce who shot a combined 2-for-11 in the first half. Allen recovered to score 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter when the Celtics pulled away, but Pierce was never able to get going.
Turnovers: The Celtics have done a solid job of limiting their turnovers lately but they crept up again Saturday with 17. The prime culprit was Rajon Rondo with six. A number of Rondo’s turnovers came on passes that were simply way too difficult. He is granted a certain creative license to make those kind of plays, but sometimes the best play is the easiest one.
|12.10.10 at 12:16 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
With the O’Neal brothers both sitting out with leg injuries, the Celtics turned to Semih Erden for the first start of his NBA career. Here’s how Paul Pierce summed up the Turkish national team center’s starting debut (to The Boston Globe):
“He understands a lot of things, but then some things he doesn’t get. So Kevin [Garnett] has got to constantly communicate with him, and he’ll get it. What he’s giving us right now is great because of the bodies we have out there.”
It’s not exactly what Doc Rivers & Co. were looking for, but let’s be honest: They had to think Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal would be injured at the same time at some point this season, right? Anyhow, here’s a recap of Erden’s debut …
9:59: As Jrue Holiday is shooting a pair of foul shots, Doc Rivers calls Erden over to the sideline to talk strategy. No interpreter necessary. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Rivers got his doctorate in Turkish studies.
6:48: Erden picks up his second foul. Tommy Heinsohn complains. Shocking on both accounts. The 7-foot Erden returns to a familiar spot: the Celtics bench.
4:12: Sitting on the bench together, Erden and Shaquille O’Neal discuss fine Turkish cuisine. Naturally, Shaq starts craving sugar beets and tarhana soup.
10:14: Still on the bench, Erden hums the lyrics to “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants: “Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople — been a long time gone, Constantinople. Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.”
9:30: Picking up his third foul in 21 seconds, Glen Davis joins Erden on the bench. While watching a KG-Rondo-Nate-Marquis-Wafer lineup, Erden teaches Big Baby how to say, “Why can’t we stop fouling people?” Everyone enjoys Baby saying, “Neden biz kerlenme daha duramayiz?”
11:18: After sitting on the bench for almost 19 minutes, Erden re-enters the game, replacing Garnett. The C’s 2010 second-round selection proceeds to run up and down the floor a couple times.
11:47: Wafer enters for Erden, probably just to give the big fella a breather. Those 29 seconds had to be taxing.
|12.10.10 at 12:29 am ET|
It was just one play, lasting 5.2 seconds, yet it said so much about the 2010-11 Celtics.
Not many coaches have the smarts (or the cojones) to draw up a game-winning alley-oop with 6.6 seconds left. But the Celtics have Doc Rivers ‘ one of the best coaches in the business at designing plays following a timeout ‘ and he had the script that resulted in a 102-101 Celtics win over the 76ers in his back pocket all along.
“We worked on the whole timing of it last week,” Rivers told reporters. “We tried to run it earlier in the year, and we had bad timing, so it’s just funny how things worked out. It’s a low-clock play, the ball is in the best passer’s hands, and you have shooters on the floor. … It worked.”
Not many point guards can throw a perfect blind lob over a taller defender in the final moments of a game. But the Celtics have Rajon Rondo, who picked up his 14th assist of the night with 1.4 seconds left when he dropped a pretty pass over the heads of Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday that led to the basket that resulted in his team’s ninth consecutive victory.
Not many post players have the length and athleticism to get from the top of the key to the rim in a blink of an eye. But the Celtics have a healthy Kevin Garnett, who rolled to the basket, caught the lob pass and converted it all in one fluid motion to improve the C’s Eastern Conference-best record to 18-4.
“Last year, Kevin would’ve missed the lob,” Rivers added. “Actually, we wouldn’t have thrown it. We can do it now.”
And not many teams have three deadly shooters who opponents absolutely have to respect in the waning seconds of a one-point game. But the Celtics have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson, who all hovered around the 3-point line ‘ drawing Andre Iguadola, Jodie Meeks and Louis Williams from the basket and allowing Rivers’ design to play out on the floor.
|12.09.10 at 11:04 pm ET|
Ray Allen (game-high 23 points) and Glen Davis (16 points, 7 rebounds) also hit shots that put the Celtics up one in the final 1:04, but the Sixers regained the lead each time — until Garnett sealed the deal.
Rondo finished with 19 points and 14 assists.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo’s offense: He might have been hobbled by a sore hamstring and sore feet, but even at 85 percent Rondo is better than anybody the 76ers have to defend him. And he took advantage of that, assuming the bulk of the C’s offensive load.
Rondo put up a double-double … through the first three quarters. When all was said and done, he finished with 19 points and 14 assists, including the game-clinching lob pass to Garnett with 1.4 seconds left.
3-Point shooting: As if the Celtics’ 56 percent shooting clip wasn’t impressive enough, their 3-point percentage was even better at 58 percent (7-of-12).
Energy off the bench: In 11 first-half minutes off the bench, Robinson scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. While the rest of the team looked somewhat disinterested and more than a step slow, he provided the necessary boost to keep the veteran Celtics in the ballgame on the second night of a back-to-back.
As usual, Glen Davis picked up where Robinson left off, totaling 16 points and seven rebounds by the end of the night — including a jump shot with 27 seconds remaining that put the Celtics up 100-99.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Crash the boards: The 76ers outrebounded the Celtics, 39-33, and 15 of those 33 Philadelphia boards came on the offensive glass. The C’s showed little interest in boxing out in the opening 24 minutes, as Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes combined for 14 first-half boards. That’s how the C’s entered the locker room with just a one-point lead, despite shooting 58 percent.
Transition defense: The Celtics showed just as much interest early in getting back on defense as they did in boxing out, allowing the 76ers to pile up 16 fast-break points in the first half. The pace slowed in the second half, as Philadelphia finished the game with 22 fast-break points.
The athleticism of Jrue Holiday (12 points, 6 assists) and Andre Iguadola (14 points, 11 assists), in particular, caused the C’s problems.
Under the weather: Paul Pierce wasn’t feeling well before the game, and it showed throughout. He shot just 3-of-8 from the field and appeared a step slow on the defensive end. Somehow, though, Pierce still managed to play 40 minutes and post a near double-double (10 points, 8 rebounds).
|12.09.10 at 6:37 pm ET|
1. Boston (17-4): The Celtics have the best top six in the NBA and the best defense in the league. They’re the best shooting team in the league, and they’ve won eight consecutive games despite not having Rajon Rondo at full strength. With five All-Star candidates, they’ve been the most complete team.
2. San Antonio (18-3): The Spurs won another three games this week, and Manu Ginobili (20.1 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds) has played his way into the MVP conversation. Oh, and New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner is making two 3’s a game while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
3. LA Lakers (16-6): After losing four straight, the Lakers are back on track with three consecutive victories. This whole Andrew Bynum situation is strange. Phil Jackson seems to call him out on a daily basis, but why rush him back? The guy is like Mr. Glass. Don’t you want him healthy for the playoffs?
4. Dallas (17-4): The Mavericks have the longest winning streak in the league at 10 games. Even Ian Mahinmi is contributing double-doubles. Why did this team all of a sudden decide to start playing defense? This team could’ve won multiple titles if they were playing defense like this in the mid-2000s.
5. Orlando (15-6): You can’t really blame the Magic for losing two straight games to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus and Jameer Nelson have all been hit by the flu. With them, they’ve been able to keep pace with the C’s. Without them? Not so much.
|12.09.10 at 11:24 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Asked, simply, if the Celtics enjoy a true homecourt advantage in Boston, Ray Allen responded, even more simply, “Always.”
Which is why last season’s 24-17 home record is all the more puzzling. After Wednesday’s victory against the Nuggets, the Celtics are 10-1 in the Garden. Their best 11-game stretch last year was 8-3 (also to start the season). Whatever the reason, the Celtics have regained the homecourt advantage they enjoyed when they finished 35-6 in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
“I think we do [have an advantage], just because our fans are the best in the world,” Nate Robinson said. “Other teams know when they’re coming here, they’re going to get the best of our fans every time they come.”
In theory, or at least in my theory, the Celtics benefit from fan support in the first quarter (when fans are fired up for the tip) and second half (when the game is more interesting — and important). A second-quarter letdown is understandble, considering the Celtics, their fans and opponents are getting comfortable at that point.
The stats certainly support that theory. Take a look at the team’s plus/minus in each quarter this season:
HOME: +54 (Q1), -2 (Q2), +30 (Q3), +18 (Q4)
ROAD: +51 (Q1), +44 (Q2), +12 (Q3), -8 (Q4)
|12.09.10 at 2:06 am ET|
‘Yeah, they knew I was lying because I told them that Lawrence [Frank] didn’t know,” Rivers said after watching his team dispatch of the Nuggets without Melo, 105-89. “We went through the whole defensive added. Hey listen, the last time we used ‘ it didn’t work. So we tried something different. And, listen, the last time he didn’t play I think they scored 135 points. That was the other thing we told them. So I just thought we came out very professional and ready.”
The Celtics shot a scorching 68 percent in the first quarter, making 13-of-19 from the field, on their way to building a 19-point lead.
‘I think coach really made a point of that,” Paul Pierce said of Rivers’ Melo message before the game. “He really didn’t want to tell us that Carmelo wasn’t playing, I think he waited to the very last second cause he went over the game plan, so we took that to heart and went out there and just tried to establish ourselves in the first quarter. I think like Kevin said we’re on a roll defensively and that’s what were trying to do to start the game’
It was 30-11 with 2:47 left in the first quarter before the Nuggets closed to within 14, 35-21, heading into the second quarter.
Why the lesson? The Celtics’ only home court loss came to Oklahoma City on Nov. 19, as the Thunder played without superstar Kevin Durant.
What makes Rivers a great coach is he always seems to provide the right inspiration and lesson at the right time. Rivers knew the Nuggets lost 24 hours earlier in Charlotte, in a heart-breaker, 100-98. Anthony played 39 minutes and scored 22 points. His knee acted up and the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer (22.8 points/game) was unavailable in Boston.
“When you lose a star like that, it’s tough on the other team,” Rivers said. “They played last night, you lose Carmelo, and that’s a tough night for you. And the fact that for three of the four quarters, we were really good.’
Message delivered and well received.
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