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A professional effort

03.21.09 at 10:44 pm ET
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There is nothing better than the NCAA Tournament. The games are exciting, the emotion is unparalleled and the size of the field and the format is perfect. It is the best post-season in all of sports, and this comes from an NBA guy who thinks the college version of hoops is a vastly inferior product and is far more interested in Lionel Hollins’ rotations than Coach K’s histrionics.

But as awesome as it is to see Siena take down Ohio State, there is something to be said for putting together a win like the Celtics did last night. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t particularly enjoyable to watch and the atmosphere inside the Grizzlies building was like the BPL at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. (Did you catch the guy sleeping in the fifth row with about four minutes left?) One shining moment it wasn’t. (Click here for a recap).

But the Celtics were, in a word, professional. One night after taking down the Spurs they went into Memphis with tired legs and did what they had to do. This was a solid step forward for the C’s who had lost a little bit of their swagger last week.

Six more observations from a subdued Saturday in the middle of March madness:

1. When Kevin Garnett is in the game everything changes. The defensive intensity picks up, the offense flows better, the tempo gets faster. Rivers experiment with KG is a noble one and it’s to his credit that he has resisted the urge to play him more minutes. There are a lot of coaches who talk a good game about things like this and then push the panic button when things get tough. Credit Doc for that one.

Credit Garnett for his 10-point, four-rebound effort, as well. The plan appears to be to give him a little more work on Monday against the Clippers (four minutes in the second, four in the fourth). That seems like a workable idea. The test will be Wednesday when the C’s go to Orlando.

2. You could do a lot worse in your bracket then going with a team that has Mike Conley, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Darrell Arthur and Hakim Warrick. The problem with the Grizzlies is the only veteran on the roster is Greg Buckner. If they get a little time to develop, and if Marc Gasol continues to be an effective presence inside, they might have something there. But what are the odds that owner Michael Heisley keeps the team together? The Grizz are just treading water until the next collective bargaining agreement.

3. Doc made a conscious effort to keep Paul Pierce’s minutes down and that also seems like a very good idea. The Truth has logged major playing time this year and while it’s tempting to keep him out there at all times (especially without an obvious backup) keeping him somewhat fresh will be a major challenge down the stretch.

4. Interestingly, Rivers opened the second quarter sans Big Three and then went to a Stephon Marbury, Eddie House, Ray Allen lineup for a significant stretch of the second and fourth quarters.He seems intent on doing a little tinkering with the second unit, which is exactly what he should be doing right now.

5. Big Baby had a huge first half, following up on his solid effort against San Antonio. Before he got hurt Leon Powe was turning some heads with his play. It remains to be seen what the backup big man rotation is going to look like come playoff time but right now Baby and Powe are making their case to play big roles.

6. Safe to say that the acquisition of Marbury has accomplished at least one thing so far. House has flourished as the designated shooter while Marbury handles the ball. E-House is averaging over eight points a game and shooting over 50 percent from 3-point range playing off Marbury, while Steph looked cool and calm running the offense last night, as well. Granted it’s not like the Memphis guards were channeling TR Dunn, but it was a good night for Marbury.

6A. If Bill Walker isn’t in the slam dunk context next year, there ought to be an investigation. In the spirit of Darryl Dawkins, that dunk he threw down on Arthur, the former Kansas forward, should be called the: Rock Chalk In-yo-face-Jayhawk Tomahawk Jam.

Read More: Celtics, Darryl Dawkins, Grizzlies,

Garnett makes most of minutes

03.20.09 at 11:43 pm ET
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Perhaps more frustrating than an injured Kevin Garnett in street clothes is a restricted Garnett in uniform.

After missing the last 13 games with a strained knee, Garnett returned to the Boston Celtics starting lineup in Friday night’s win against the San Antonio Spurs. (RECAP HERE) As a precautionary measure, head coach Doc Rivers capped his minutes at just 15, leaving the Celtics without their big man down the stretch.

However this game had a different result than the last time Garnett returned from a lengthy absence:

February 19, 2008 vs. Denver Nuggets

Last season Garnett was sidelined for nine games in January/February with an abdominal strain . After going 7-2 without Garnett, the Celtics dropped the first three games with KG back in the lineup. His return was spoiled by a 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets following the All-Star break. Garnett scored just 4 points (2-7 FG) in 27 minutes and committed four turnovers. After the game Rivers deemed Garnett’s performance “not very good” and thought he looked “rusty.” Garnett bounced back the following night, posting 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Celtics two-point loss to the Golden State Warriors.

March 20, 2009 vs. San Antonio Spurs

Garnett had been averaging more than 32 minutes per game before suffering his knee injury in February. Knowing his playing time would be limited, Garnett came out aggressive in his return. He attempted his first shot 15 seconds into the game and finished the night with 10 points (5-9 FG) in just 15 minutes. He also grabbed four rebounds. Unlike his return last season, Rivers was full of compliments for Garnett this time around. “He was playing terrific right before we took him out,” he said after the game.

The Celtics intend to limit Garnett’s minutes on Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett,

What they said… BC coach Al Skinner

03.20.09 at 11:34 pm ET
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Al Skinner said he was concerned early in the week that he didn’t know which BC team would be showing up on Friday night. He got his answer on the Metrodome floor and as it turned out, Skinner had reason to be worried. His team didn’t have enough answers in the second half for Taj Gibson and the Eagles went ice cold from the floor, scoring just 21 second half points while allowing 42.

A 34-30 halftime lead turned into a 72-55 loss and it will be USC advancing to play in the second round on Sunday in Minneapolis. Here’s how Skinner evaluated things afterward, beginning with an opening statement.

COACH SKINNER: Basically, obviously the game was decided in the second half, and we did not execute as well as we needed to. We were impatient at times and in comparison to the first half when we took our time, executed. I thought the second half we got a little anxious.
And because of that, didn’t get the shot selections or get ourselves into rebounding position to keep ourselves in the game. And basically that’s the difference in the second half.

And because we missed as many shots as we did, it allowed them to get into transition and score and obviously shoot a very high percentage.

Q. Coach, could you just talk about the guy, Taj Gibson. Kind of a beast.

COACH SKINNER:
Yeah, we didn’t do a particularly good job on him.
Not as well I was hoping we would do. I mean, he obviously had a tremendous night. We did not defend him as well as I thought we would have, so that was a little bit disappointing.

But obviously his quickness was a factor, and we just didn’t adjust to it well. Because he was pretty persistent. I thought as times we did a good job, but he just kept coming. And we did not work as hard as he did.

Q. How did you want to defend him coming in? Did you feel that the matchup was kind of not necessarily a mismatch, but did you feel it was a matchup that would be an x factor?

COACH SKINNER: No, I didn’t think that would be a difference in the ball game. As a matter of fact, even though I know he had a great line, that really was not the difference in the ball game.

To me, the difference was we allowed some other people to score. And I thought we could have done a better job with them.

We knew that this was going to be a tough matchup for us, even though, again, I expected to do a little bit better than what we did.

But I thought we could defend those other individuals a little bit better than we did and we did not. And to me that was the difference in the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Al Skinner, Boston College, NCAA, USC

What they said… Tyrese Rice and Joe Trapani

03.20.09 at 11:25 pm ET
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That was not the way Tyrese Rice wanted his career to end. The senior point guard and BC team leader made just four of his 11 shots on the night and finished with nine points as the Eagles fell to Southern California, 72-55, in a Midwest Regional first round game in Minneapolis.

Here is what Rice and teammate Joe Trapani had to say following a loss that finished their season at 22-12.

Q. Talk about the difference in philosophies. Tim Floyd was saying that he wanted to not necessarily focus on you, but focus on the parts around you. You know what I mean? How difficult did that make it for you?

TYRESE RICE:
I mean, I think that’s what most teams do on defense. I don’t think anybody just focuses in on me solely, but I just think that they just try to come up with some kind of scheme to stop everyone. I don’t think they just focused it on me.

Q. Tyrese, can you just talk about your last game now. This is you guys got back into the tournament, you did what you wanted to, you accomplished this part. How difficult is this right now?

TYRESE RICE: Of course I wanted to do more, but overall, I mean, pretty good year. I can’t really complain. Probably give or take winning a couple more games than we have, but overall I think it was a pretty good year.

I definitely wanted to make more of a run in the tournament, but, I mean, that’s how it is sometimes. That is how it was for us my sophomore year and my freshman year. We probably could have went farther in both of those years, too. So we can’t really harp on it, but just say it was great.

Q. Tyrese, it felt like in the first half you had your fingerprints more on you were very active scoring wise and the second half things fell off. Describe the differences and what happened.

TYRESE RICE: I just think we executed more in the first half, which opened more things up. We went through more of our offense in the first half and got to the second and third options. And then if something broke down, we then made something happen.

In the second half, when something broke down, we just automatically just thought like get a shot up instead of just keep going through the whole thing and then waiting for something to come about. But in the second half, I think they bunkered down a little bit tighter on defense and made things a little tough. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston College, Joe Trapani, NCAA, Tyrese Rice

What they said… Welcome back Coach Calhoun

03.20.09 at 4:56 pm ET
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One of the early storylines of this NCAA Tournament has revolved around one of the No. 1 seeds. Not the on-the-court performance of the Connecticut Huskies but rather their ferocious coach. Jim Calhoun spent Thursday in a Philadelphia hospital getting treated for dehydration and spent the night there for observation.

He re-joined his team on Friday in Philadelphia after they blew out Chattanooga in the first round, 103-47. On Friday, he addressed the media in Philadelphia.

COACH CALHOUN:
First thing I want to say how proud I was of our kids yesterday, the way they just played, quite frankly, terrific basketball, kept their composure early. It was a 19 17 game, 12 to go.
We had been there before a little bit, especially Jeff and Craig, when we played Albany four years ago. Instead of trying to make it all happen at once, they in turn just piece mailed some things together.
Had a big halftime lead and went onto an impressive win. Couldn’t be happier for them and more proud of my good friend of 40 years George Blaney. So it was a terrific win for us. We’ve had a great deal of success, particularly over the past couple decades in NCAA post season play, but we needed to kind of reestablish ourselves. At least for a game we certainly did that. I was very, very proud of them.

As far as me personally, I fully expected to coach the game yesterday early in the morning, 10, 11 o’clock. I mentioned to Jeff Anderson, our doctor, that I wasn’t feeling particularly well, had felt weak for a couple days, but no problem. He said, Let’s go down and have you checked out. So we went down. I was checked out. Next thing I know, this hour or so turned into being admitted so they could do a full and thorough examination.

They looked at virtually everything, it seems, and came out with the fact that I probably was totally dehydrated. They could find that out.
I left early this morning. I bribed my way out of there as quick as I could. Quite frankly, I feel good now.

I probably feel good because, once again, I got a full physical examination. I will say one thing. The full exam, which got high ratings, did not include a psychiatrist. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Connecticut, Jim Calhoun, NCAA,

What they said… USC coach Tim Floyd

03.20.09 at 12:46 pm ET
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Tim Floyd coached the Chicago Bulls in the NBA after Michael Jordan left in the late 90s. He has had a more successful and certainly more enjoyable time coaching the USC Trojans. This season his team caught fire at the right time, winning its last five games, including a run to a Pac-10 title that earned them a berth against Boston College tonight in Minneapolis.

Here’s how Floyd summed up his opponent on Thursday night.

Q. Hi, Coach. What do you know about B.C. by now? And what concerns you most about them?

COACH FLOYD:
Well, from the coaching standpoint I think he is the best coach that nobody ever talks about. The job he’s done there with seven NCAA tournaments in 12 years. A young team this year that obviously believes in what they’re doing. Great shot selection, great conviction to what they run offensively. Play with a physicality, terrific offensive rebounding team. And great role definition with their players in terms of knowing what they should do and when they should do it.

And they have a star caliber with Rice. You know, a developmental big guy in Southern who is getting better and better. The 2 guard is outstanding, maybe could have been an All ACC player with a little bit more attention paid to him because he has been terrific the last five games. Just very good basketball team. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston College, Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan, NCAA

What they said… USC players

03.20.09 at 12:33 pm ET
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Just so you know what they’re thinking heading into tonight’s showdown with the BC Eagles, here are three of the stars from the USC squad. DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis and Taj Gibson took to the podium, otherwise referred to as the dais, on Thursday. Here’s how they answered the questions from the media.

Q. Guys, coming in here, you know, what you’ve done these last five games. I mean, do you feel like you’re a pretty dangerous team just coming in on the right note?

TAJ GIBSON: I feel we’re coming in with a lot of confidence. Guys that are healthy this time of year, throughout the years, guys have been really banged up and injuries played a key role in a lot of our games, losing one point at Oklahoma, a lot of tough road games in the Pac 10.

DANIEL HACKETT: We feel good about ourselves. But we learned a hard lesson last year. Losing to Kansas State in the first round, so we don’t want to get our hopes too high. Stay humble and keep playing our basketball.

Q. Hey, Taj, how does last year’s experience and the previous years help you guys, with you, Daniel and Dwight and Keith Wilkinson all being here before?

TAJ GIBSON: It has its ups and its downs. My freshman year we went pretty far, then the mishap last year we lost to a tough Kansas State team.

Just a lot of experience. I hope we can use it to our advantage.
But, once again, we have a lot of young guys coming around at the right part of the season, so the sky’s the limit. But I know Boston College is a really skilled team, a lot of veterans on that team, so just looking forward to getting back out there and playing. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston College, NCAA, Taj Gibson, USC
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