|02.20.10 at 1:12 am ET|
When the Celtics went out on their annual West Coast swing following the All-Star break, they were a team that was searching for itself. A narrow win over the Kings gave them some much-needed relief. A win over the Lakers gave them a much-needed victory over an elite team.
But it was Friday night against Portland, in the second game of a back-to-back, that the Celtics finally started to look like the Celtics of old in a 96-76 victory. (Recap.)
The Celtics put together a complete game that featured strong shooting (53.4 percent), low turnovers (11), solid rebounding and, most of all, defense. The Blazers shot just 34 percent for the game and scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter and 13 in the second.
The Celtics looked sharp early, making 14 of their first 18 shots. Kevin Garnett, in particular, was strong as he made his first six shots while Rajon Rondo had six assists in the first quarter. The Celtics then put the clamps down defensively, holding the Blazers to just three field goals in the quarter to take a 56-38 lead into halftime.
The Blazers closed to within nine early in the fourth quarter, but Ray Allen scored 11 of the next 14 points as part of a 14-2 run to put the game away. Allen led all scorers with 21 points and was 9-for-14 from the floor.
Turning Point: Portland scored just six points in the first six minutes of the second quarter as the Celtics built a 45-31 lead with their second unit. The starters picked it up from there as Garnett knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season on a desperation heave as the shot clock expired. Garnett followed that with a length-of-the-floor layup off a feed from Rondo.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo once again controlled the Celtics offense with 10 points and 11 assists in only 31 minutes.
* The Celtics’ physical defense got to the Blazers late in the first half as Kendrick Perkins and Andre Miller became entangled under the basket. Perkins and Juwan Howard were assessed double technical fouls.
* Rondo and Rasheed Wallace both picked up technical fouls in the third quarter. Wallace had his technical from Thursday night rescinded. Assuming he keeps this one, Wallace now has 13 technical fouls this season. His 16th would trigger an automatic suspension.
* The second unit played well with a combined 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Glen Davis was a force around the basket in the fourth quarter while the Celtics were able to pull away.
* Thanks to the lopsided final, Garnett played just 21 minutes, but he still scored 16 points and had seven rebounds.
* Paul Pierce was a game-time decision, but was in the starting lineup as usual. He scored just nine points on 3-for-9 shooting in 26 minutes. Danny Ainge said on The Big Show that Pierce was still fighting through his foot injury. (Click here for a full transcript of Ainge’s appearance Friday.)
* Nate Robinson did not play and will likely miss Sunday’s game with the Nuggets as well. Robinson has had the flu. The other new Celtic, Marcus Landry, is also not expected to join the team until Tuesday, when they both newcomers are scheduled to make their debuts against their old team when the Knicks come to town.
|02.20.10 at 12:36 am ET|
The defensive effort that the Celtics rode in the second quarter carried over to the third as they maintained a 73-61 lead despite struggling on offense. The Celtics scored just 17 points in the quarter, but they have held Portland to 34 percent shooting through three quarters.
Rajon Rondo and Rasheed Wallace both picked up technical fouls in the quarter. Wallace had his technical from Thursday night rescinded. Assuming he keeps this one, he now has 13 technical fouls this season. His 16th would trigger an automatic suspension.
Portland got two cheap points late in the quarter as Brian Scalabrine threw an errant inbounds pass under his own basket that was picked off by Jerryd Bayless, who then converted a layup.
|02.19.10 at 11:43 pm ET|
After a hot start offensively, the Celtics put the clamps down defensively, holding the Blazers to just three field goals in the quarter to take a 56-38 lead into halftime.
Portland scored just six points in the first six minutes of the quarter as the Celtics built a 45-31 lead with their second unit. The starters picked it up from there as Kevin Garnett knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season on a desperation heave as the shot clock expired. Garnett followed that with a length-of-the-floor layup off a feed from Rajon Rondo.
Rondo capped off the quarter with a buzzer-beating 20-foot jump shot. He has eight points and nine assists, while Garnett leads all scorers with 13 points and seven rebounds.
|02.19.10 at 11:03 pm ET|
Playing the second night of a back-to-back the Celtics looked sharp. They made 14 of their first 18 shots and held Portland to 43 percent shooting en route to taking a 32-25 lead. Kevin Garnett started the game 4-for-4 for eight points and four rebound and Rajon Rondo dished out six assists in addition to six points.
Paul Pierce was a game-time decision, but was in the starting lineup as usual. Portland’s Brandon Roy, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, also started. The Blazers had new addition Marcus Camby in the starting lineup. New Celtics Nate Robinson did not play and will make his debut Sunday against the Nuggets.
|02.19.10 at 8:24 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge appeared on The Big Show Friday afternoon to discuss the NBA trade deadline and his team’s current performance.
Ainge praised the newest member of the Celtics, Nate Robinson, saying that he is “more of a scorer, and I think that’s what Doc wants him to be. That’s what he is good at and that’s what he should try to do.” Ainge said that the Celtics did not like giving up Eddie House in the deal, but that Robinson is “just a more dynamic player.”
After a rough stretch to close out the pre-All-Star Game schedule, the Celtics are 2-0, including Thursday night’s win over the Lakers. Ainge addressed some of the current issues on the team, including the health of Kevin Garnett and the play of Rasheed Wallace. On Wallace, Ainge said that his “biggest concern with Rasheed when we were looking at him this summer was that he didn’t come to play every night,” but he hopes he will give the C’s an edge in the playoffs.
He also talked about the health of Paul Pierce, and his place in history among the Boston greats. Ainge said that Pierce’s foot injury has healed, though his knee infection still causes some problems at times that leaves him at “95 percent.” He said that Pierce’s sustained excellence put him in a class among some of the team’s all-time greats including Kevin McHale and John Havlicek, “outside of Bird and Russell.”
Below is a transcript of the interview. To listen, click here.
Were you happy with that game last night?
So what’s been going on when we’ve played the good teams over the last month ‘ we have a 14-point lead at Orlando, an 11-point lead against the Lakers here at the Garden ‘ so there have been a lot of good things going on. Our offense down the stretch, it seems like we quit moving. We are doing nothing but isolation basketball. We quit moving ‘ it’s not fatigue, it’s not age. It’s more bad habits than it is anything to do with talent. We saw last night that Ray is not old, Ray [Allen] can play. Maybe he has been distracted the last few weeks. But here is the deal with Ray. One thing that’s lost, and that is why it was hard to move Ray considering our chances this year, is that Ray is having the best year of his career shooting the ball inside the three-point line. The only place he is struggling with his shot now is with the 3-pointer. His two-point shooting is the highest in his career and that doesn’t get noticed. Last night he made the spot up shot in transition which were huge and we are hopeful we can see more of that in the second half of the year.
|02.19.10 at 5:31 pm ET|
“We did talk about getting Stoudemire,” Ainge said. “I got a sense [Phoenix wasn’t] getting the things they wanted. I think they would have moved him, but I think they like Amare. He’s a terrific player and they didn’t get what they wanted.”
Ainge also said he had discussions with the Kings about Martin and made an attempt to maneuver in the mega trade between the Knicks, Rockets and Kings that resulted in Martin going to Houston and Tracy McGrady to New York.
The deal for Nate Robinson was done several days ago, Ainge said, but he and the Knicks wanted to wait to see about other deals before finalizing the trade. On Robinson, Ainge said: “I’m fan of him as a person and I’m a fan of him as a player. I liked Eddie. We really liked Eddie House. But Nate as a player is just a more dynamic player.”
Ainge also said the technical foul that was assessed to Rasheed Wallace Thursday night against the Lakers had been rescinded by the league.
|02.19.10 at 1:26 am ET|
Danny Ainge made his trade deadline move and, all things considered, it was a relatively minor one. He effectively traded Eddie House for Nate Robinson and while it will give the second unit a different look, it doesn’t do a lot to alter the makeup of this team.
The Celtics hopes will still rise and fall primarily upon the health and effectiveness of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. To that end Allen looked positively rejuvenated and Garnett looked like the 2007 version of himself in an emotional 87-86 victory over the Lakers Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Big Three will get at least one more chance to see if they can win a championship together. That’s what they have been asking for the last few weeks and now that the final decision has been made there can be no more excuses. It’s on them to turn it around in the final 30 games and through the playoffs.
Turning Point: For three quarters the Celtics controlled the matchup, but when the Lakers made their inevitable run to start the fourth quarter and turned a nine-point deficit into a four-point lead, the Celtics had a decision to make. They could retreat into a shell, as they have done so often the last few weeks, or they could stand and fight. They chose to fight.
Player of the Game: Ray Allen. It’s dangerous to read too much into a player’s one-game performance but Allen resembled the dangerous outside shooter that he’s been known for being throughout his career. He made his first four shots and finished with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Was he more relaxed after the trade deadline passed? Who knows for sure, but if this is the Allen the Celtics can get night in and night out for the rest of the season, it will go a long way toward making them a serious contender again.
* The game was physical throughout with several big dunks and a few minor staredowns. Ron Artest and Pierce continued their rivalry, Garnett and Lamar Odom exchanged words after a jump ball and Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum battled under the glass.
* The officials let the two teams play for the most and both sides wanted calls in the final seconds of the game. Doc Rivers could be seen asking the refs, “That wasn’t a foul?” after Pierce drove to the basket. On the other end, the Lakers though Allen fouled Derek Fisher’s last-second shot.
* Kobe Bryant didn’t play for the Lakers. He is battling an assortment of injuries but it’s his ankle that seems to be giving him the most trouble.
* Robinson and Marcus Landry, the other player acquired from the Knicks in exchange for House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker did not play. The Celtics had only 11 players in uniform and lost Tony Allen with an ankle injury, but Doc Rivers stayed with a tight rotation throughout.
* All five started scored in double figures.
* Once again Rondo was on the floor for the final offensive possession. The play involved Pierce and Garnett in a high pick and roll, but without House, expect to see more of that.
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