|Perk vs. Bynum: Christmas Day Battle of the Bigs||12.24.08 at 10:01 am ET|
There was an overwhelming sentiment by Los Angeles Lakers fans after the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship last season.
“If we had Andrew Bynum, it would have been different.”
He would have shut down Kendrick Perkins, who made Pau Gasol look soft. He would have stopped the Celtics from scoring 131 points in their Game Six victory. He would have helped the Lakers win it all … right?
Not so fast.
Eyes will be on Bynum and Perk on Christmas Day as the Lakers look to snap the Celtics 19-game winning streak, with many hoping Bynum will dominate Perkins and the Cs in the paint. Both big men went through struggles early in the season but Perk has demonstrated the maturity to overcome his setbacks while Bynum continues to be inconsistent.
Perkins was called for nine technical fouls by the first week in December. He looked like an emotional ticking time bomb on the court and was on pace to unseat Rasheed Wallace as the King of the Ts. But then something clicked. Perkins channeled his energy to his own game, focusing on his shot and protecting the glass. In the ten games since his last technical foul, he is shooting better than 60% from the field and averaging nearly 13 points and 10 rebounds. Last week Perkins posted 25 points and eight rebounds against the Chicago Bulls … without a single foul.
Whether it is the veteran leadership of the Big Three, the momentum of a historic winning streak, or simply the maturation process, Perkins has taken his game out of his head and onto the court. He is just as reliable at the start of the game as he is at the end in close situations. The same can’t be said for Bynum.
This season Bynum has found himself on the bench down the stretch, and he’s let everyone know he thinks he deserves more. Unlike the Celtics, who don’t get the nod until they’ve earned the minutes, Bynum wants more time to prove himself on the court. How did Phil Jackson respond? “When he shows the ability to play defense appropriately, he’ll probably be there,” Jackson said. It’s a clear message that hasn’t seemed to resonate.
On the night of Perkins’ season-high performance, Bynum was held to four points, six rebounds, and four fouls in a two-point loss to the Miami Heat. He followed up that game with just three points, one rebound, and five fouls in a loss to the Orlando Magic. Having a bad night against Dwight Howard is one thing, but four points against Joel Anthony? There’s no explanation for that when you’re supposed to be the savior of a championship contender. Even though his performance slightly improved in the past two games, which version of Bynum will show up against the Celtics?
“If we had Andrew Bynum, it would have been different.”
On Christmas Day the Celtics and Lakers will see just how different it could have been.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 110, 76ers 91||12.24.08 at 6:52 am ET|
The Celtics threw a Christmas party for family and friends in their locker room following their 110-91 win over the 76ers Tuesday night at TD Banknorth Garden. They certainly had plenty to celebrate. In addition to the festive time of season, the Celtics family and friends cheered the fact that they are now owners of the longest winning streak in team history at 19 games. They also raised a toast to the team’s 27-2 start, the best 29-game opening to a season in NBA history. Up next, an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers in Los Angeles on Christmas Day. To get there, they took a red-eye cross-country flight but before that, they took time to reflct on the record and look ahead to what should be a classic game on Christmas at Staples Center.
And be sure to read and hear what Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala said about the Celtics, their streak, trash-talking and a certain reference to a perfect regular season in the NFL that didn’t end in a title.
|O’Bryant Spreads Holiday Cheer||12.23.08 at 11:29 pm ET|
This week Boston Celtics big man Patrick O’Bryant spread holiday cheer to a deserving local family. He was inspired by his community outreach during Thanksgiving and requested to be paired up with a family from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC).
“We went bowling, played pool and ping pong, and had food,” O’Bryant said. “Then I came to them at the end and said, ‘Oh yeah, I have one more surprise for you.’ There was a big tree in the back.”
O’Bryant, 22, purchased over 100 gifts, including clothes, Nintendo DS systems, and gift cards to Walmart and IKEA. Bergeson individually wrapped each present, something O’Bryant thought was important for every child.
“That’s the point,” he said. “You get to wake up in the morning and see all the gifts and you get to have the fun of ripping everything off and destroying the paper.”
What was the best part of the day?
“It wasn’t even what they said. It was just seeing their smiles and how exuberant they were. One of the girls was almost screaming when she opened her gifts,” O’Bryant said. “We’ve been blessed with so much and not everybody gets to go through this. I figured if I was blessed with this I could help someone out and bless them with at least gifts for Christmas.”
|Now and Then: Breaking 18-Game Streaks||12.23.08 at 9:44 pm ET|
On February 14, 2007, the Boston Celtics blew out to the Milwaukee Bucks to end an abysmal 18-game losing streak that devastated the organization. On December 23, 2008, they blew out the Philadelphia 76ers to break the franchise record of 18 consecutive games and capture their 19th straight win. They are two 18-game streaks with very different results.
2006-2007 Losing Streak
How it all began: Paul Pierce injured his foot as the Celtics lost 96-95 to the Golden State Warriors on December 20, 2006.
Biggest heartbreaker: 93-89 loss to the San Antonio Spurs
Paul Pierce then: Pierce was sidelined for 35 games and described the losing streak as “watching his little brothers get beat up.” His 25.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists were not enough to overcome a 24-58 record.
Doc Rivers then: On the hotseat the entire season, fans chanted “Fire Doc” and were outraged that he didn’t get the boot.
Emerging leader: Al Jefferson
After Paul Pierce and Tony Allen went down with injuries, Jefferson emerged as one of the most promising big men in the league. That season Big Al averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds, a performance good enough to become the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett trade.
2008-2009 Winning Streak
How it all began: The Celtics beat the Bucks 102-97 in overtime on November 15, 2008.
Biggest blowout: 102-78 win over the Philadelphia 76ers
Paul Pierce now: “Has any Boston Celtics team ever lost 18 in a row? I’ve done that,” he asked with a chuckle. Pierce can laugh at the 2007 season now that he is the reigning NBA Finals MVP and his 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists are enough to keep the Celtics atop the standings.
Doc Rivers now: After leading his team to a championship, Rivers became the third coach to ever win three consecutive Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors.
Emerging Leader: Rajon Rondo
So much for the Big Three. Rondo has not only emerged as the spark plug of the Celtics but one of the most versatile point guards in the NBA. Whether he’s lobbing it to KG, driving to the lane, or knocking down an improved jumpshot, his triple-double was a sign of things to come.
The Celtics will look to continue their winning streak against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.
|Celtics-Sixers Post-Mortem||12.23.08 at 9:29 pm ET|
What do you get for winning 19 straight games? Do you get a car, Paul Pierce asked. No, you don’t get a car, but you do get a place in the Celtics record book as the team with the longest winning streak in the history of the franchise, and that will have to suffice because for the 19th straight game everyone dismissed the streak as a happy accident of a team trying to get better.
OK, so what can we take from last night’s 110-91 win over Philly?
1. The bench, make that the much-maligned bench, was terrific. Doc Rivers credited the second unit with changing the energy in the second quarter, and it’s worth noting that Rivers played five reserves at once with Gabe Pruitt getting some action with Brian Scalabrine in addition to the usuals: Leon Powe, Eddie House and Tony Allen.
In the fourth quarter, the bench expanded the lead and allowed Rivers to keep the starters off the floor for the duration. Powe was a monster with 15 points and 10 rebounds and House knocked down three 3-pointers. Pruitt also had a sweet dish to Powe and got into it with 6-10 rookie Marreese Speights.
2. Kevin Garnett took 13 shots, which is about right for him. But here’s the interesting part. Those 13 shots were the highest individual total on the team. Rajon Rondo took 12, Pierce and House took 11 shots. When the Celtics are the balanced they are also very efficient. See Ray Allen who scored 16 points on just eight shots.
On Friday, they had 40 assists against Chicago. On Sunday they had 33 against the Knicks. Last night they had 27 assists on 37 made shots. High school teams in Indiana in the 1950′s don’t share the ball that well.
3. One reason why the Celtics aren’t throwing themselves a party for their winning streak is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs knocked off the Rockets last night and now stand at 24-4. To put it another way the Cavs are just 2.5 games behind the Celtics in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics believe homecourt advantage was the single biggest reason they won the championship last year and they are determined to have it again this year. Compare that to the attitude of the Pistons the last five years, which was: We know how to win in April, May and June so who cares about December?
And when they got to May and June they suddenly forgot how to win.
4. Remember when the Celtics couldn’t shoot free throws? They were 29-for-34 last night and they have raised their percentage above 75 percent.
5. This was not a vintage defensive performance by the Celtics. Philly shot 48 percent from the floor, but even then the Celtics defense is good enough to completely take things away. Witness the 3-point arc, where the Sixers launched 11 shots and made exactly zero shots. That doesn’t get you a car either.
|Sure they’re great but…||12.23.08 at 8:57 pm ET|
Call it sour grapes, call it frustration or just simple truth but Philadelphia 76ers star Andre Iguodala is of the belief that the Celtics talk too much on the court. Following Boston’s 110-91 beat down of the Sixers on Tuesday night for their new franchise-best 19th straight win and an NBA best-ever 27-2 start, the OTHER ‘AI’ had this to say about the Green and what they say on the court and if they Celtics are peaking too soon.
“I think teams would hope that but 27-2, you can’t knock that. It is what it is,” he began. “They’re playing good ball, no matter if they’re peaking or not. They just won the title and I’m sure they want to play to perfection and just try to keep it going the whole way. Similar to the Patriots, they were undefeated and they lost in the (Super Bowl). I’m sure they’re aware of that and want to keep it going the whole year.
“Everybody knows they won a championship and everybody knows they are a great team,” he continued. “They’ve got great players in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, those guys go out there and play hard. But they try to go overboard with it sometimes. I think it takes away from actually how good a team they are, it takes away from the respect factor. Teams don’t respect them as much because of that.”
As for other teams in the NBA and whether they’re intimidated by the Celtics.
“I think they’re a good team but I don’t think they have that intimidation factor like the Detroit teams had those years when they were going to the Finals every year,” Iguodala said. “I think people respect them in as far as they’re a good team and they play great defensively but they have a lot of trash talkers out there so that kind of takes away from them sometimes.
“As a basketball group, they do a great job of executing and do a good job of sticking to their game plan.”
The two teams meet again on Feb. 3 in Philly.
|Celtics-Sixers Game Blog: Fourth Quarter||12.23.08 at 7:30 pm ET|
At the start of the fourth … Celtics 78, Sixers 66
- Speights vs. Scal … dum dum dum. Speights was ejected back in November for commiting a flagrant foul on Scal. Let’s see if they can keep their hands to themselves tonight.
- Lou Williams vs. Eddie House … another good match up. Both are feisty guards, but House has the long-range advantage.
- The Garden just erupted for the announcement of the Bruins sixth consecutive win. A fan proudly flashed a Patrice Bergeron jersey, who like Big Baby suffered a concussion.
- It’s garbage time right now with the Celtics up by 20+. Scal, House, and Pruitt are tossing up threes while both teams are resting their starters.
- Both teams have hit 32 field goals and the 76ers are actually shooting better from the field (50% FG). Behind the arc, though, the Celtics are 4/10 while the Sixers are 0/9. The Cs are also beating them up on the boards even though Dalembert has finally decided to start rebounding.
- A “Beat LA” chant has started. It’s getting louder … and louder … and louder.
- Gino Time. The Cs are up 104-86 and KG is pointing to Gino like he’s never seen him before. Ray Allen added a shoulder shimmy.
- Game over. Celtics 110-91. The Celtics broke a franchise record set by the 1981-82 team with their 19th consecutive victory.
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