|11.07.09 at 9:56 pm ET|
This was a classic trap game for the Celtics. On the second day of a back-to-back and facing their eighth game in 12 days to open the season, this was an obvious letdown game for them on the calendar.
The Nets were also missing seven players due to a variety of injuries, including the swine flu for Chris Douglas-Roberts, and the Izod Center was half-empty. Add that all up and you have a recipe for a potential disaster.
The Celtics almost fell into the trap, but were able to put it together in the fourth quarter in an 86-76 victory, which gives them the best record in the NBA at 7-1.
Player of the game: Paul Pierce. Until the fourth quarter Pierce and Rajon Rondo were the only two Celtics doing anything offensively. Rondo was able to get his game going with steals on the defensive end, but Pierce got it done in the halfcourt. He also stepped in front of a rampaging Brook Lopez and took a charge.
It wasn’t a vintage Pierce game, but 16 points and seven assists looked pretty sweet in what was an otherwise ugly boxscore.
Turning point: The Celtics trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter and Pierce was on the bench with foul trouble. They needed someone to step up and make a shot and that someone was Brian Scalabrine, who knocked down two to give them a lead they never relinquished.
Scalabrine missed Friday night’s game with Phoenix because of back trouble, but the Celtics needed him to give it a go without Marquis Daniels (personal reasons) in the lineup.
* The Nets had just eight healthy players available for the game, which is the NBA minimum. They are without Courtney Lee, Devin Harris, Keyon Dolling, Jarvis Hayes, Yi Jianlin, Tony Battie and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
* With Daniels out, JR Giddens had a chance to play some meaningful minutes. Giddens lasted only two minutes before getting pulled.
* Ray Allen was on his way to another bad shooting night, but he turned it on in the fourth quarter making four straight shots.
* Rasheed Wallace missed all four of his 3-pointers and he is now 0-for-10 from distance in his last two games. But unlike Friday night’s game with Phoenix, he also went down into the post where he was able to operate effectively. He also came up with a handful of big defensive plays in the fourth quarter.
|11.06.09 at 11:13 pm ET|
Glen Davis wants to make one thing very, very clear. He has no intention of playing in the NFL.
“No football for me,” the injured power forward said, while leaving the Garden wearing a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap. “Put that on the record.”
We assume he’s not considering baseball either.
Earlier this week, Davis told ESPN The Magazine that he wanted to try pro football after his NBA career.
|11.06.09 at 10:04 pm ET|
The popular notion coming into Friday night’s game with Phoenix was that the super-fast Suns would run into a brick Celtics wall, but anyone expecting the Celtics to roll over the Suns was in for a surprise. In a hard-fought entertaining game, the Suns prevailed, 110-103, handing the Celtics their first loss of the season.
The Suns were blown out on Wednesday against Orlando (their first loss of the season) and came into this one with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and a feisty attitude. Channing Frye and Kendrick Perkins picked up double technicals at the end of the first half and there were more than a few wayward elbows getting tossed around.
The Celtics had a couple of chances to steal the game late, but Rajon Rondo had his layup blocked by Amare Stoudemire and a 3-pointer by Rasheed Wallace rattled in and out. Wallace was 0-for-6 on 3-point attempts and many of those shots met a similar fate.
Player of the game: Steve Nash. The veteran All-Star may have lost a step here or there, but he is still one of the league’s top orchestrators and he drained a huge 3-pointer in the final minute that put the final nail in the Celtics coffin.
Turning point: After the Celtics had closed to within two points at the end of the third quarter, Doc Rivers stuck with his regular rotation which included the four reserves and Paul Pierce. Phoenix’s Jason Richardson proceeded to go off scoring eight quick points. Phoenix steadily built the lead to 11 points and still Rivers resisted the urge to sub his starters back in until the eight-minute mark.
In a long season that is certainly the right decision by Rivers, but it may have cost them against Phoenix.
* Rivers said before the game that the Celtics wanted to run, and run they did in a breakneck paced first quarter. The C’s got up 23 first quarter shots and made 12 of them. The only problem was that the Suns shot 61 percent on the other end. Things slowed down in the second quarter when Phoenix went to its bench, but this was easily the fastest-paced game the Celtics have played this season.
* Ray Allen picked up his fourth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter. The Suns increased their lead from four to nine with Allen off the floor, but the Celtics closed to within two, 85-83 by the end of the quarter.
* Allen had a vicious baseline dunk in the fourth quarter. It’s worth noting that both he and Pierce have been attacking the basket better than they were at the end of last season.
* Former Boston College star Jared Dudley played 30 very effective minutes for the Suns. He scored 10 points, but his primary responsibility was hounding Pierce, who shot just 5-for-15 from the floor.
* There was a funny moment midway through the third quarter. After Richardson tumbled into a photographer on a drive to the basket, Stoudemire helped him up and then went over to Bill Russell who was sitting in the front row to shake his hand. Funnier moment came after the quarter when David Ortiz came out of the crowd to help the new Lucky during his dunk routine.
|11.06.09 at 8:26 pm ET|
Doc Rivers can appreciate point guard greatness when he sees it.
He can also draw analogies unlike any other NBA coach. Rivers, a huge NFL fan, sees Steve Nash and he sees not just a point guard but a supremely gifted signal-caller on the floor.
Nash, a spry 35, is off to another other-worldly start for the Suns. He entered Friday’s game on the parquet averaging 19.6 points, 10.8 assists and three rebounds per contest.
“That’s who he is,” Rivers said. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s [Tom] Brady and [Peyton] Manning and all those guys combined at times, it looks like. He can shoot, he can pass. He does a lot for their team. And they have some great players around him.”
|11.06.09 at 8:05 pm ET|
He, like many others around the NBA, thought the Phoenix Suns hit a home run two seasons ago when they traded for Shaquille O’Neal, putting him alongside Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash. Rivers just assumed the Suns would take off, challenge the Lakers and Nuggets for Western Conference supremacy.
Not so much. After a half-season in 2007-08, when they were eliminated in the first round, the Suns fell to 46-36 last season, not even good enough to qualify for the Western playoffs.
“I was obviously wrong,” Rivers said. “I didn’t that was a bad match with Shaq and Stoudamire.”
But the Suns could never optimize O’Neal’s presence with Nash and Stoudamire and the Suns let O’Neal go to Cleveland this past off season. The more nimble, athletic 6-11 Channing Frye has taken O’Neal’s spot and is averaging 14.6 points in Phoenix’s 4-1 start to this season.
“I thought you had one post guy and Stoudamire is more off the post than on the post so I thought it was a good combination but it just didn’t work out for whatever reason,” Rivers added. “It’s good to see Channing Frye play well. I’ve always been pretty high on him as a player. I think he’s another great example, a litle like Shelden [Williams], guys who take a little time to find their way and I guess he’s found his way.”
|11.06.09 at 7:42 pm ET|
The Phoenix Suns have always epitomized the Wild West part of the Western Conference.
Can the Suns still run? Sure. They’re averaging 111.2 points a game. But Rivers said that doesn’t mean Phoenix is limited to just that aspect of the game.
“We want to run,” Rivers said of his team, which is averaging 99.8 points a contest. “We would love to run and them not. They are going to but they are not just a running team. I think people don’t give them their due offensively. They’re more than a running team to me. They really execute in the half-court extremely well. They have the ability to not get fast-break points and still score 120.”
|11.06.09 at 6:52 pm ET|
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