|02.08.09 at 2:19 pm ET|
Can’t anyone stop Matt Bonner? The big redhead from New Hampshire lit the C’s up in the first half as the Spurs ran high pick and rolls again and again (and again). Look for an adjustment or three in the second half. On the other hand, the Celtics seem just a step slow this afternoon.
Whatever the reason they will need to put together a much stronger defensive effort in the second half. Offensively, they’re fine, although the Spurs have aggressively defended the 3-point line, which is such a big part of the Celtics game. This promises to be a very interesting second half.
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: More energy, better shots, more running. That was exactly what the Celtics needed. Now the bench needs to give them four good minutes.
Third Quarter Observations
– The Celtics clearly have more life to start the second half. Ray Allen chased Roger Mason over and under two screens to bother him on that last jumper.
– Love KG’s aggressiveness to start the half as well. The Spurs pack the paint as well as any team with their defense, but they’re not doubling on Garnett (at least not yet). The driving lanes just aren’t open for Rondo and Pierce, which puts the onus on KG to generate some offense.
– Quick number. Fast-break points: 12 (combined for both teams). That puts those shooting numbers into some perspective. Almost everything has been in the half-court which is simply execution. They are also likely to drop just a little.
– Tony Allen is doing the ML Carr towel-waving bit, by the way and this place is as loud as it has been at any point during the regular season.
– Bowen’s on Pierce. That should be fun.
– Remember when you were in high school and your coach told your big man to run up the floor and he would get rewarded with layups? That’s exactly what Garnett is doing right now.
– When Pierce does his Gumby routine, you just can not stop it. Of course when Matt Bonner goes glass from 23 feet you can’t stop that either.
– A few minutes earlier I referenced that there were 12 fastbreak points. There are 22 now.
– OK so with Garnett out for the next six minutes or so this is the big stretch for the Celtics. They have very admirably gotten back in the game, but they can’t lose that momentum.
– Great call by Ronnie Garretson getting Bowen for kicking his leg out. I wish more guys called that. Oddly enough, the Spurs radio guys are beside themselves with that call. It’s all perspective.
|02.08.09 at 1:37 pm ET|
FIRST HALF NOTES AND NUMBERS: Spurs 60, Celtics 52
- Leading Scorers: Bonner/Duncan: 16 points
- Leading Rebounder: Duncan: 7
- Leading Assists: Rondo: 7
- Points in the Paint: Celtics 32 – Spurs 24
- Fast Break Points: Celtics 8 – Spurs 4
- Free Throws: Spurs: 7/7 – Celtics 5/8
- Minutes: Pierce/Rondo/Duncan: 19
At the start of the quarter … Celtics 23, Spurs 22
For Paul’s first quarter recap, click here.
Second Quarter Observations
- On the court at the start of the 2nd … Celtics: Powe/Davis/T. Allen/R. Allen/House … Spurs: Hill/Finley/Bonner/Ginobili/Thomas
- Ray Allen has the hot hand for the Celtics this afternoon, scoring 12 points (5/8 FG) in the first 16 minutes.
- Even with Tim Duncan on the court, the Celtics are outscoring the Spurs 22-10 in the paint.
- There always seems to be a fan favorite red head at the Garden. With Brian Scalabrine out (concussion), New Hampshire native Matt Bonner is getting the cheers today. He is the game’s leading scorer with 13 points. Scal is in the building but is not watching the game on the sidelines.
- With two minutes to go Rajon Rondo (6 points, 7 assists) has the edge over Tony Parker (5 points, 5 assists) in the battle of the point guards. Both have only hit one shot outside of the paint.
- The controversial calls continue at the Garden. Perkins was whistled for a foul late in the second against Tim Duncan. The boos from the fans rivaled the jeers from Thursday’s game against the Lakers. Perkins doesn’t get much love around the league, either. He tied for first in the Sports Illustrated Player Poll: Which NBA player thinks he’s a lot better than he really is?
- At halftime … Spurs 60, Celtics 52
|02.08.09 at 12:56 pm ET|
We are live from courtside on a Sunday afternoon for the Celtics and the Spurs. Unlike Thursday’s epic showdown with the Lakers which brought out some 15 LA media members and a handful of national NBA types, the mood here is decidedly tame. That’s in perfect harmony with the legacy the Spurs have carved out during the Tim Duncan era.
They have four championships, or one more than the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. They have the respect of everyone in the league, or at least those that know basketball, and they are a model of a well-run, efficient professional organization. In other words, bor-ing.
Well, maybe. But I’ll take Spurs-Celtics on a Sunday afternoon any day.
FIRST QUARTER WRAP: For two teams that made their bones playing defense, the first 12 minutes were a clinic in half-court offense. Both teams are shooting about 50 percent and have executed their offenses fairly well. Good start to this one.
Jess has you covered for the second quarter.
First Quarter Observations
– KG is on Matt Bonner and vice-versa. Like everyone else I’d love to see KG and Duncan battle for 35 minutes today, and no doubt they will see each other quite a bit. It would be interesting to see what would happen in the Finals if these two teams meet.
– Ronnie Garretson is working today’s game. Let’s just say from an experience standpoint that is an upgrade from the crew who worked Thursday. Doc Rivers was fined 15 grand for saying the refs lost control of the game. Talking about it before the game it seemed pretty clear that Doc considered it money well-spent.
– If you were scoring this as in a boxing match, you would have a draw in the first round. Lots of little interesting things going on, but no big punches thrown or landed yet.
– Pierce is matched up with Manu, which is a really fun combination. They are different players, to be sure, but both know every trick in the book. On the opposite part of the spectrum, you have Manu’s speed and quickness versus Pierce’s strength, but both are hellacious competitors.
– Here’s the big difference between the two teams. San Antonio’s bench is deep and versatile. Part of that is having Ginobli as a Sixth Man where he plays starters minutes. But Kurt Thomas is the kind of experienced tough big man teams are always looking for (especially the Celtics), and Bruce Bowen hasn’t made an appearance yet. Also keep an eye on rookie George Hill. The bench gives Gregg Popovich all kinds of options and scenarios.
– Perkins can get that little jump-hook off a post-up whenever he wants it because no one is going to double off Garnett, Pierce or Allen to stop it. If he can develop confidence in that move he can take the next step as a player.
– Versatility example. Pop brought Michael Finley back to deal with Pierce and force the Celtics to put Ray Allen on Ginobli, which is a much better match up for them.
|02.07.09 at 12:06 am ET|
NEW YORK — There is a fur-lined coat and baseball cap hanging in Stephon Marbury’s locker. They don’t belong to Marbury, though. Al Harrington is using the empty space for storage. Many of the Knicks don’t need Marbury or his belongings in their locker room. In fact, they aren’t sure who needs him either.
“It’s hard to say,” said Jared Jeffries. “There’s a lot of ‘what ifs.’”
There is no question Marbury is a talented point guard, his teammates don’t deny that. He is a two-time All-Star with a career average of nearly 20 points and eight assists per game over the course of 11 years. These are numbers that rival premiere point guards like Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, and Chris Paul.
“Obviously Steph is an experienced guard,” said David Lee. “He’s been in the league a long time. He’s been through the battles in the West and the battles in the East. He’s a guy that’s obviously a very skilled player.”
“He’s definitely a talented player,” he said. “He’s a big guard, he’s a really good scorer, he’s scored a lot in this league. He’s a good point guard, he really is talent-wise. He’s a really good point guard so any time you have a talent like that you could use that.”
Yet the Knicks don’t want to use that talent. The experience and stats are there, but is the potential to help a team win it all? While rookie Anthony Roberson praised his mentorship off the court, his teammates are indecisive about what he has to offer anymore.
“I don’t know,” Lee said of Marbury’s abilities to help a team in the running for the title. “I’m not sure if he’s ever been to the Finals. I could be wrong. It’ll be interesting to see and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Steph and New York and if he does get released or if he decides to go to another team. I heard them talking about that during the TNT game against L.A. the other night. That should be interesting.”
What’s more interesting is the fact that Lee has been Marbury’s teammate since 2005 and he can’t form a decisive opinion. But teams like the world champion Boston Celtics have still expressed interest in Marbury, dramatics and all. So why, if a team of that caliber is willing to take a closer look at him, can’t his teammates who know his game best speak to his value?
Don’t ask Nate Robinson. Even though he entered the NBA as Marbury’s back up, he no longer feels comfortable commenting on the issue. The one thing the Knicks are certain on is their choice of point guard this season. Chris Duhon leads the floor without the drama, an asset they’d take any day.
“He’s a guy that really knows how to play the game,” Lee said of Duhon. “But we are very happy with what Chris has done this year. I’m not sure you could ask for any more than Chris has done. Steph’s a great guard, but we’re very happy with Duhon.”
The fur-lined coat and baseball cap still hung in Stephon Marbury’s locker after the Celtics banned together to beat the Knicks on Friday night. They won with a fourth quarter push fueled by communication and chemistry. It’s the type of victory may not have been possible if Marbury’s belongings were hanging in a Celtics locker.
|02.06.09 at 8:13 pm ET|
NEW YORK – The New York Knicks have not held anything back from behind the arc against the Boston Celtics this season. In their first three match ups, the Knicks attempted 80 three-point shots, 22 more than the Celtics. On Friday night the Celtics were ready to counter the offensive assault.
Before the game Glen Davis extended his warm ups to the three-point line. Big Baby knocked down three consecutive shots from the top of the arc. Moments later, Ray Allen took target practice from the bench. In a close competition with Celtics assistant coach Mike Longabardi, Allen took shot after shot frim his seat. And not to be outdone, Leon Powe drained a three from the sidelines in front of a surprised Patrick O’Bryant.
The Celtics knew what they were in for. At the end of the first quarter alone, the Knicks had shot 4-for-10 from long range.
|02.06.09 at 6:49 am ET|
Forget the NBA Finals of last June. Thursday night’s regular season game between the Celtics and Lakers at TD Banknorth Garden went a long way to restoring one of the sport’s great all-time rivalries.
And just listening to Doc Rivers’ verbal tirade to the referees in the hallway proves how much this one hurt for the Green.
Rivers COULD NOT believe a hand check was not called on the Lakers as they tried to throw Ray Allen’s timing off at the end of overtime with Allen having the ball and a chance to win the game just like he did 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia.
“That was a hand check!” Rivers exclaimed in the hallway as the Celtics filed to their locker room, past the officials’ room on the right.
Then there was the sparring between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, as Bryant, who was held to 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting, waved his finger in Rondo’s face in the third quarter. That was followed minutes later by Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett going toe-to-toe before calmer heads prevailed. And lest we forget the rivalry between the two coaches.
Phil Jackson was peeved when Doc Rivers was given a sports-drink shower on the court in the closing minutes of Game 6 of The Finals last June. Jackson said after the game that he didn’t think Garnett looked like he was ready to return from the flu. Oh really Phil?
This game meant a lot to both teams.
It meant the end of Boston’s 12-game winning streak, meaning the Lakers have ended their 19-game AND 12-game runs this season. It meant that Los Angeles has swept the season series and holds the tie-breaker should the two teams end up deadlocked at the end of the season.
For the Lakers, it meant beating a team that seven months earlier humiliated them on the same court by 39 points in the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. They remembered the Gatorade shower that Rivers received from Pierce and Co. as Boston claimed its 17th title.
And it showed that these Lakers, even without big man Andrew Bynum, COULD play defense when it mattered and they won’t be pushed around anymore.
Here’s how both teams articulated it.
|02.06.09 at 12:35 am ET|
No one on the Los Angeles Lakers is more outspoken about his feelings toward the Boston Celtics than Sasha Vujacic. Make no mistake, he is not over last season’s loss in the NBA Finals. Less than a year later, the emotional wound is still very open.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hatred,” Vujacic said before the Lakers overtime win against the Celtics (RECAP HERE). “It’s just hard when you lose in the Finals to forget about it and say life goes on. It doesn’t go on. I’m always going to be kind of scarred.”
Kind of scarred? Vujacic won’t even wear green — “I’ve seen too much green in June” — but he doesn’t think these sentiments are over the top. Any player who claims it’s just another game, he attests, isn’t being honest.
“I think that if you go in the Celtics locker room and you ask them about us, they’re going to have the same opinion. The only difference is they have a championship ring and they have a trophy at home,” he said. “I would say that for both teams, no matter what they say or no matter what people think, it will never, ever be ‘just another game’ against the Celtics or against the Lakers.”
For many of the Celtics, this wasn’t just another game. As Ray Allen explained, the Celtics were the hunted against a Lakers team looking for revenge. The Cs knew the Lakers were going to attack with a Game Seven mentality and they wanted to match that energy.
“We approach it as an intense playoff atmosphere,” Allen said. “We definitely don’t take it lightly. It’s a very intense moment for us. We look forward to it and the focus in the locker room is pretty intense … Now we’re on the other side of the fence where we’ve got to pick it up and we’ve got to get momentum going here into the playoffs.”
Kendrick Perkins agreed.
“I thought it was very physical. I thought it was a playoff-type atmosphere game,” he said. “It wasn’t a make-or-break for the season, no doubt about it, but we wanted to win the game. You could tell, any time we go through a game like that, hard fought, you just want to get the win.”
There may have been a playoff atmosphere but that doesn’t mean this game has the ramifications of a postseason match up. Nobody won a ring, no one was sent home for the summer.
“What was it? Game 51? It was Game 51,” said Eddie House. “I think they feel like they won the Finals, the way they were celebrating out there, and it’s Game 51. I think it just meant more to them to come in here and be able to get that monkey off their back to feel like, oh they can get a win out here. So that’s behind us. I think it meant more to them but we just keep it moving.”
At the end of overtime the Celtics were the world champions while the Lakers were still seeking to take the title away. But seasons are not decided in February. Ultimately, it is just another game in the grand scheme of the regular season. Even Vujacic, open wound and all, isn’t celebrating just yet.
“We don’t celebrate,” he said after the game. “We celebrate in June.”