|03.09.09 at 5:47 pm ET|
Doc Rivers quipped after practice on Monday that he just worked up his best sweat since his playing days.
The former NBA point guard wasn’t joking. He just finished running Stephon Marbury through a five-man ghost drill in which Rivers called out various plays, leaving Marbury to run an offense that included the likes of Mikki Moore, Leon Powe, J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt.
With five players unavailable due to injury and with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen playing 45 minutes apiece the day before, the Celtics were running on a skelton practice with barely enough bodies to make it worthwhile.
Now, while he’ll have the benefit of Pierce and Allen on Wednesday when the team plays next in Miami, Marbury will have to pick up his mastery of the offense if the Celtics are to find their way on offense and not fall behind by 20 like they did on Sunday in the first half against Orlando.
“Steph ran the set, but he didn’t know what to look for or who to look for and then he’s playing at half-speed, because you could feel him thinking out there on the floor,” Rivers said. “That killed him and it killed the team as well. So, it’s just going to take time. What I’m trying to get him to do is not to press or worry about it. The first thing I told him (Sunday) night was don’t worry about, it’s going to come together.”
Even though he was clearly not playing up to the potential that Danny Ainge saw when he signed him two weeks ago, Marbury was hardly crestfallen about his chances to improve. Instead, he exhibited the kind of confidence required from a point guard of a NBA title contender.
“Yeah, I’m definitely, getting it,” Marbury said. “Today was definitely helpful. As coach said today, learning what we want out of the offense as opposed to just running the sets. As a point guard, you normally know all of the plays, you know where to go and you know what everyone is going to do.”
With Rivers saying on Monday that he foresees Rajon Rondo out for at least the next couple of games with his sprained right ankle, this will be Marbury’s team. Marbury will have a golden opportunity to show that he can pick up the offense in time to be a force for the playoffs.
“For me, asserting myself in the lineups, I need to make sure the guys get the shots who are supposed to get the shots,” Marbury said.
|03.09.09 at 1:48 pm ET|
Please, no jokes about M*A*S*H or Doc Rivers activating himself to help out or how the trainer’s room is overcrowded.
Doc Rivers knows the deal right now.
The Celtics will not dress five players when they play the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in South Florida. Rajon Rondo and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis were ruled out of action by head coach Doc Rivers on Monday, both sustaining sprained right ankles over weekend. They join superstar Kevin Garnett (right knee sprain), Brian Scalabrine (post-concussion syndrome) and Tony Allen (left thumb) as injured Celtics on the sidelines.
“Baby and Rondo are out, I know that,” Rivers said. “They’re out for the next couple of games, maybe the next week. Kevin will be out longer than the Milwaukee game. I’m pretty sure of that. I would say Kevin, maybe at the end of the following week at the earliest.”
In addition Rivers said his challenge will be to not repeat what he did on Sunday when he had both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen play 45 minutes apiece.
“Somebody else has to step up and the challenge for me is not doing what I did (Sunday) with Paul and Ray, that can’t happen,” Rivers said. “Obviously, that was a different circumstance because the injuries happened during the game or right before the game. It’s tough to plan for but I still want to keep their minutes down, even in a time of crisis I want to keep their minutes down. We just have to find a way to win games.”
Rondo sprained his ankle on Friday against Cleveland and Davis injured his on Sunday in a loss against the Magic. Only 10 players dressed for Monday’s practice, with Ray Allen and Pierce getting excused after 30 minutes.
“This is a growth period for our basketball team,” Rivers said. “Clearly, we want to win the games but we have an opportunity to grow our team in this little stretch and get them closer together and get them all understanding how hard the work is going to be to win a title. In the long run, I think this might make us a better team.”
|03.08.09 at 4:37 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics have made winning without Kevin Garnett look easy. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? Not a problem. Shaq and the Phoenix Suns? No sweat. Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets? Blowout. But then there is Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. That’s where the Celtics run into trouble.
The Celtics were 8-2 this season without Garnett (knee) heading into Sunday’s game. Last year they went 9-2 without him. The Cs have hardly missed a beat, except when playing the Magic. In spite of their success, they are 0-2 against the Magic without Garnett.
“They’re a tough team with or without KG,” Dwight Howard said after the Magic’s 86-79 win. (RECAP HERE) “So I think the biggest thing is just trying to match their play on both ends and be physical with them like they’re going to be physical with us. Also knowing that KG is one of their big guys on the defensive end, just go at them and just make them pay.”
The Celtics first loss to the Magic without Garnett (96-93) came on January 27, 2008. Unable to stop the Magic’s big men, Howard posted 18 points and 16 rebounds while Rashard Lewis scored 15 points. On Sunday, Howard posted 18 points and 15 rebounds with Lewis adding 15 points.
“[Garnett's] a good player and he plays hard,” said Hedo Turkoglu. “We just try to take advantage of it. Tonight we just tried to move the ball and make a lot of free throws and make the big men play. Rashard and Dwight took care of the mismatches.”
It isn’t just the absence of Garnett’s 16 points and nearly nine boards a game that helps the Magic. The void of his intensity and energy cannot be denied.
“He’s pretty much their heart and soul of the team,” Tony Battie said. “You can’t forget about (Kendrick) Perkins and Big Baby and (Leon) Powe. They do a great job of filling in for him but it’s hard to replace an All-Star in this league. Not only that, but just his presence and leadership on the court, it’s hard to make up for it. Physically those guys can fill the void but his presence is something they probably miss.”
Both teams were missing pieces on Sunday. The Celtics were also without Rajon Rondo (ankle), Tony Allen (thumb), and Brian Scalabrine (concussion). Glen Davis left the game with a sprained right ankle. The Magic were without Jameer Nelson (shoulder), who also missed last season’s win.
Regardless of their 2-0 record, the Magic still give the Celtics credit.
“All five guys, whoever steps on the floor, they’re all dangerous,” said Howard. “Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, those guys can light it up. Their bigs are getting better every day. Kendrick did a Kareem shake tonight. It shocked me, but that just shows me that those guys have really been working on their game and they’ve gotten a lot better.”
The Magic’s win brings them within two games of the Celtics for second place in the Eastern Conference. The teams will meet again on March 25 in Orlando.
|03.08.09 at 4:06 pm ET|
When Big Baby Davis hobbled off the court late in the third quarter, his right ankle throbbing, the Celtics bench consisted of the following players: Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore, Gabe Pruitt, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens.
In other words, two guys who weren’t even with the team two week ago, two rookies who hardly play and a second-year guard who seen the court since his DUI arrest. “We missed everybody who was not out there,” Paul Pierce said. “It just seems like every game bodies are going down.”
Add Baby to the list that includes Kevin Garnett, who is out at least another week with a knee strain, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen who are out considerably longer and Rajon Rondo who missed the game with a sprained right ankle that swelled up over night.
Take all that into account, add in the fact that the C’s sleep-walked through the first half like they hadn’t set their clocks for daylight savings time and it’s a minor miracle that with under a minute to go, Ray Allen had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer in the corner. (Click here for a recap).
Allen, who made just about everything else in the fourth quarter had to slightly adjust the trajectory of his shot with all 7-feet of Dwight Howard charging into him. His shot on-line, but not true.
Allen scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, but true to form, it was the ones he missed that will stay with him. “There were three shots I missed tonight,” Allen said. “Those are three shots, honestly, those are my shots. I know when I get on the floor (to practice) I’ll take those shots.”
The veteran that he is, Allen knows that to spend too much time worrying about what might have been won’t do him any good, which is exactly the situation the Celtics find themselves in at this very moment. Less than 48 hours after the high of the Cleveland game, they crash-landed into the reality that for the forseeable future they will have to make do with what they have.
“Somehow we have to get through the rest of the season,” said Pierce who passed Robert Parish for third on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. “So I think the most important thing right now is grinding out these games and trying to get healthy going into the playoffs. That’s our focus–getting the guys that need to be healthy out onto the court, because once the playoffs start we are going to need everybody if we are going to make this run.”
At this point no one is sure how long Rondo and Davis will be out. Garnett is targeting next Sunday at Milwaukee at the earliest for his return, but as Doc Rovers cautioned before the game, that’s only an estimate.
“Obviously we want home court,” Rivers said. “But we believe we can win on the road. We have to be healthy to win. If Kevin needs another week, we’re going to give him another week. If Rondo needs a week, we’re going to give him a week.”
The injuries impacted several crucial decisions that Rivers made Sunday, but the biggest was the move to start Stephon Marbury ahead of Eddie House. Afterward Rivers second-guessed himself, saying his instinct was to start House, who has a better understanding of the system, so as not to affect Pierce and Allen.
With Marbury at the controls in the first quarter, the Celtics sputtered and scored just 15 points. While not entirely his fault, ball movement was virtually non-existent and sets didn’t develop as planned. In 20 minutes, he had just four points, no assists and three turnovers and admitted to some frustration. It is far too early to judge Marbury on the court, but it is fair to say that he has a long way to go.
“Like I told you guys, he’s not going to be as good as his first game,” Rivers said. “And it’s going to take a while.”
The flip side to all of that is the only way for Marbury to get acclimated to his new team is to “burn minutes,” as Rivers said, and the extra playing time for Leon Powe, Moore, Davis, et al might prove beneficial down the road. To their credit the Celtics have not made excuses for the injuries and the fourth quarter run was inspiring, if draining; Pierce and Allen played a combined 91 minutes.
“I don’t take the mentality that we are hanging on,” Allen said. “It’s a great opportunity to get valuable minutes because the deeper we are in the playoffs the better we will be as a team. It only makes us better.”
That may wind up being true, but right now the Celtics would gladly exchange on the job experience for a few more healthy bodies.
It wasn’t exactly the way he might have liked it to happen, but when Pierce moved passed Parish on the Celtics all-time scoring list he further cemented his standing among the greatest ever to wear the uniform. The only players ahead of Pierce now are Larry Bird and John Havlicek.
“It’s great when you pass one of the all-time great Celtics, a Hall of Fame player,” Pierce said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with the same franchise for quite a while now, so to be mentioned among those guys at the top is really an honor.”
Pierce is well aware of the tradition of the franchise of course, and so he understands that those honors take new meaning for his legacy now that he has a championship. “It would look odd when you look at the record books, 20, 30 years from now and say, ‘Bird, Havlicek, Paul Pierce, Robert Parish’ and guys will be like, ‘Who’s Paul Pierce?’” the Captain joked. “So it definitely helps.”
The reality is Pierce’s career is strong enough to stand on its own, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
|03.08.09 at 4:00 pm ET|
It was clear from the start that the Celtics missed Rajon Rondo. To a man, afterward, everyone was quick to give Stephon Marbury props for doing his best, but Marbury has only been in Green for nine days. It’s hard to expect someone, even of his talent, to just step in and replace Rondo, who did not dress with a sprained right ankle.
Marbury got his first start but the Celtics were out of rhythm from the start, falling behind by 20 in the first half and commiting 11 turnovers.
Ray Allen led a furious fourth-quarter comeback but it fell short in the end as his three-pointer to tie with 35 seconds remaining was off the mark and the Celtics fell, 86-79.
|03.08.09 at 1:54 pm ET|
At the start of the fourth quarter … Magic 69, Celtics 56
- The good news for Celtics fans is, the Celtics cut the Magic’s lead to 13. The bad news is, they were only able to get within 13 without Dwight Howard on the court. Howard and Rashard Lewis picked up their fourth personal fouls in the third and coach Stan Van Gundy is saving them for late in the game. Both are starting the fourth quarter. The Celtics window of opportunity may just closed.
- There is life in the Garden again. The Magic turned the ball over out of bounds on two consecutive posessions, helping the Celtics get back within 10.
- Rookie initiation for Courtney Lee. Ray Allen is running circles around him this quarter.
- Pierce passed Robert Parish to become the third all-time leading scorer in franchise history with 18,246 points.
- There seems to be an argument everytime the ball goes out of bounds. So far, though, no technicals have been handed out.
- The Celtics may be down by seven with three minutes to go but they are in control of this game right now. Ray Allen has exploded for 13 points in the fourth quarter and the Magic are falling short on the offensive end.
- Suddenly it’s a three-point game with just over a minute to go.
- Both teams are trying to win from long range.
- Final score … Magic 86, Celtics 79
|03.08.09 at 1:25 pm ET|
Here’s your hard-hitting analysis on the first half: Blech. The Celtics were outplayed, outrebounded, out-defended, out-everything’d. Do they have a run in them? We should find out soon.
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: The intensity was back on the defensive end for the Celtics, but they are still down 13, 69-56, and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have played 67 of a possible 72 minutes so far. They’ve put themselves in position to make one more run at this, but it had better happen quickly.
Third Quarter Observations
– Something tells me the C’s got read the riot act in the locker room at halftime. The job for them this quarter is to get it into single digits. Every shot they have taken in the first two and a half minutes, even the ones they’ve missed, have been better shots than they got in the first half.
– There’s a break. Dwight Howard just got his fourth foul. He has been killing the Celtics inside.
– Baby now has five fouls. And he’s limping as he comes off the floor and being carried to the locker room by Eddie Lacerte and JR Giddens.
– Give the Celtics this: They have picked up the intensity on defense, but all it takes is a jumper here or there by Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu to wipe out a solid three-minute stretch.
– The Celtics undersized front line looks downright lilliputian compared to Orlando’s brick wall of Howard, Marcin Gortat and Tony Battie. Gortat looks like he should be an extra in a Guy Ritchie film, by the way.
– Got to give Ray Allen credit as well. He’s been about the only positive for the Celtics, but at what point does Doc cut his losses and give Allen and Paul Pierce some extended bench time? He’s down to 10 healthy players and two of them are Bill Walker and Giddens, not exactly rotation mainstays.
– Here’s the update on Big Baby: He has a right ankle sprain and will not be back.
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