|03.31.10 at 10:07 am ET|
Is there a more interesting team in the NBA right now than the Oklahoma City Thunder? They are not yet a championship contender and Kevin Durant is not yet the best player in the league, but as Doc Rivers has said several times this season, “It’s coming.”
Durant is almost too good to be true. A legit superstar with a likable game and personality to match, he and the Thunder will be the story on the league during the first round of the playoffs and for however long they can stick around.
There is ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that if the Celtics had been fortunate enough to get the top pick in the 2007 draft they would have selected Durant. It is already one of the great what-ifs for the franchise. Had they taken Durant, would they still have gone after Kevin Garnett or would Danny Ainge have stuck with the a young nucleus of Durant, Rajon Rondo and Al Jefferson? And if he had, would Paul Pierce have wanted to hang around through yet another rebuilding phase?
We’ll never know, and things did work out fairly well for the Celtics. Banners are forever, after all, but one can’t help but feel a tinge of wonder at the thought of Durant in a Celtics jersey for the next dozen years.
THUNDER (45-28, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.3
Points Allowed: 96.6
Differential: +3.7 (11th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.3 (15th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.5 (6th)
CELTICS (47-26, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.6
Points Allowed: 94.3
Differential: +4.3 (9th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.0 (17th)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.4 (1st)
Pace: 91.7 (20th)
Injuries: Pierce (Shoulder, questionable), Perkins (Knee, probable) Read the rest of this entry »
|03.31.10 at 12:36 am ET|
For the past four years, Rajon Rondo has been catching the eyes of veteran point guards around the league as he developed into an All-Star. Now there is another up-and-coming player who has caught his attention.
Rondo has been impressed by the play of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
‘He’s a mature guy,’ Rondo said. ‘He’s running the show, he’s getting his main guy the ball, and at times he knows when to attack.’
In just his second season in the NBA, Westbrook is averaging over 16 points and ranks eighth in the league with 7.9 assists per game. (Rondo is fourth with 9.8 apg.) Many of those have been dished to teammate Kevin Durant, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Not only is Westbrook moving the ball, he also is helping his team win. The young Thunder squad currently holds the sixth seed in the Western Conference and has just two less wins than the Celtics this season.
On Wednesday, the C’s will look to push that differential up to three wins when they face the Thunder at TD Garden. Rondo knows he will have to buckle down on defense to stop Westbrook. Both players scored 15 points in their first meeting of the season (a Celtics win) in December.
‘[I have to] try to keep him in front of me, keep him out of transition,’ Rondo said. ‘He loves to attack in transition, so just try to keep between him and the basket.’
Rondo understands how to stop Westbrook for a reason. Prior to the his first All-Star appearance, Rondo pointed out Westbrook as the player in the Rookie-Sophomore game who reminds him most of himself. He drew similarities between their quickness and aggressiveness with the ball.
If it were up to Rondo, Westbrook would have been joining him on the court in Dallas.
‘I think he could’ve gotten into the All-Star Game this year too as well,’ Rondo said. ‘Hopefully he’ll make it next year. He got overlooked, but he’s definitely a good player.’
Even though Rondo and Westbrook are only in their early 20s, Rondo believes this matchup has the potential to become one to watch over the next few seasons.
‘You know you’ll be going against him for hopefully another six or seven years,’ he said.
|03.30.10 at 3:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — For the second time in three days, Paul Pierce injured his right shoulder. This time, the injury happened midway through Celtics practice when he ran into a back screen and fell to the ground. Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte said if it’s just a stinger, Pierce should be fine to play.
“He actually got hurt again,” Rivers said. “It’s a stinger. It was the same exact reaction. It looked worse today. Eddie said if it’s a stinger, he’ll be fine but you get concerned because it’s a game and a practice, exact same thing.”
‘That’s something you play a guy five minutes and that can happen, Rivers added. ‘There’s nothing you can do about that. The good news is it’s not a shoulder separation or anything and probably the worst case is he misses a game or two, at worse. That’s not all bad and obviously, you’d like to have him and it’s not a lower body injury.’
Meanwhile, Kendrick Perkins, who has missed the last two games with left knee tendinitis, is expected to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday night against Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City at TD Garden.
|03.30.10 at 12:36 am ET|
It’s hard for Shelden Williams to believe the last time the Duke appeared in the Final Four, he was on the court.
In 2004 the Blue Devils suffered a one-point loss to the University of Connecticut Huskies, who went on to win it all. Since then, the team had not been able to make it past the Sweet Sixteen. (Interestingly enough, Williams and the Blue Devils were eliminated by Glen Davis and the LSU Tigers in 2006.) But that all changed this season.
Six years later, Williams watched Duke defeat Baylor in the Elite Eight prior to the Celtics-Spurs game. (He even boasted when the Blue Devils drained back-to-back 3-pointers.) The top-seeded Blue Devils will face the second-ranked Mountaineers of West Virginia on Saturday in a Final Four match up. It has been a long wait for Williams, who is happy to see his alma mater just one game away from the championship battle.
What was it like watching Duke advance to the Final Four?
‘It’s great. It’s kind of strange that this is the first time that we’ve been back to the Final Four since my team in ‘04. It’s been kind of crazy, but actually this year has been amazing for college basketball fans to watch. This tournament has been unbelievable with underdog teams and powerhouse teams, you never know what to expect. If you had tried to tell me after being in the tournament that a fifth seed, a fifth seed, and only one one-seed would make it, that’s crazy.’
Why do you think the Blue Devils could win it all this year?
‘Everybody on that team is playing their role. Nobody’s getting out of hands with things, nobody’s trying to doing more than what they can do. I think just everybody is playing their role and playing off of each other well. I think that’s a great thing for them to do. Whether they’re not shooting well, like [Sunday], (Kyle) Singler was 0-for-10, he’s one of the top scorers if not the top scorer on the team, and they still managed to find a way to win. That says a lot.’
Even though you are in the NBA now, what do you miss the most about playing in the NCAA Tournament?
‘Just how much every game means to you, how much the atmosphere comes into play, everybody is into it whether they love you or hate you. Basketball is like king and everything else is secondary. It’s one of the best feelings to be part of.’
For more on Williams career at Duke, where he graduated as the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots, check out WEEI.com’s Inside the Game series.
|03.29.10 at 1:05 am ET|
On Sunday, Kendrick Perkins missed his second straight game with tendonitis in his left knee. Following the Celtics loss to the Spurs, he told WEEI.com he expects to practice on Tuesday and play on Wednesday against the Thunder.
‘I feel good,’ he said, adding, ‘[I’m getting] a lot of rest, hitting the weights, pool, so it’ll be alright.’
Even though he has his return in sight, that didn’t make the Celtics loss any easier to watch from the bench.
‘It sucked,’ he said. ‘You always want to be on the court.’
Even though the Celtics missed Perkins on the court as well — they were outrebounded 48-37 — they don’t want him to push himself either.
‘I would say [we missed] his defensive tenacity, but it’s no rush with Perk,’ said Rasheed Wallace. ‘These last few games, we’re already set. These last few games, they mean something but they don’t mean nothing, if you get what I’m saying. But our main thing is to get Perk healthy, take a couple games off, lay off them knees for a minute, and come back with some fresh legs.’
|03.29.10 at 12:55 am ET|
When Doc Rivers said before the game he wanted his team to take a page out of the Spurs book on winning championships and playing consistently, Manu Ginobili might as well have been the author on Sunday night.
“It was one of those nights, guys,” Rivers said. “We played awful. I thought they wanted to play. You know, the first quarter I thought was terrific. I thought the bench came in in the second quarter and just everybody went iso. There was no ball movement at all with that group. And then after that I thought the starters came back in, got us back into the game, and then the third quarter was awful for us. But I thought in the third quarter is when they stopped moving the ball, I thought offensively. And defensively we struggled all night. Ginobili was fantastic and [DeJuan] Blair in the fourth quarter was a one-man wrecking crew.’
And after Ginobili finished with 28 points and the Spurs laid down a 94-73 beatdown on the Celtics on Sunday night, Rivers gave his good friend and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich a hug and a pat of congratulations on the back. And it wouldn’t be surprising if Rivers said nice little player that No. 20 is.
And the fact of the matter is Ginobili has had little choice. With Tony Parker out indefinitely with a fractured bone in his right foot and Tim Duncan limited to just eight points, it’s been Ginobili’s team of late.
‘Manu’s been playing great you know for the last month,” Popovich said. “He’s basically taken over the team. he’s been the same Manu we’ve had when we won championships, so you know without Tony it’s really important for somebody to step up like that and he’s done it.”
And watching Ginobili get to the basket and drive with regularity and then be a ball hawk on defense, it was like Celtics fans were watching Rajon Rondo playing for the opposition for one night.
‘Defense, defense we were very good, we were very active, we shifted very well off of the guys that we had to shift off,” Ginobili said. “We played good defense on KG and Paul Pierce, nothing was easy for them and that was a big key. Offensively we made some key shots to maintain that lead so it was really always uphill for them, it was a great game.’
“Some of the plays he makes, he still suprises me,” said another veteran Antonio McDyess of Ginobili. “You can never count him out because he always comes up with big plays at all times. To be new on this team and still see him doing those types of things, its still great to watch.’
Ginobili was happy to avenge a loss in Texas in December to the Celtics.
‘Definitely,” Ginobili said of the satisfaction of getting payback. “That was the worst we had been probably, last time we played them. Now we are kind of looking better, looking like a team at least. We are playing hard, hustling, communicating, all that. We are still making a lot of mistakes but that’s part of the whole deal, but when you look at our faces going to the bench with subs and stuff it is totally different so I am glad to see that.’
Now it’s the Celtics who must go back to the drawing board.
“That’s basketball,” Rivers said. “It happens. I thought we wanted to, but I thought it did break down tonight. I just thought everybody just held onto the ball and was going to do it themselves. You know it’s funny, that’s all we worked on yesterday. So clearly that didn’t work. Playing against the Spurs, you know, it’s extra pass. You’re not going to beat them off the bounce. You’re just not. And it seemed like we were hell-bent in trying to do that.
“And it’s like Pop said before the game to me: ‘You’re not going to beat the Celtics off the bounce.’ And they didn’t. They moved the ball. They kept swinging it, kept passing it, kept making passes. They did what we were supposed to do.’
|03.28.10 at 10:41 pm ET|
The Celtics and the Spurs are alike in so many way and after one half of basketball they were practically mirror images of each other on the stat sheet and on the scoreboard. But in the third quarter, the Spurs completely dominated the action en route to a 94-73 victory Sunday night at the Garden.
It was the Celtics lowest point total of the season and their largest margin of defeat, as well. The Spurs shot 65 percent in the third quarter and outscored the C’s 33-17, turning a one-point halftime lead into a romp. The Celtics scored just 30 points in the second half, or two less than Manu Ginobli who finished with 28 points.
The Celtics had won six out of seven games before this loss. The Hawks also won Sunday and moved back into a tie with the Celtics for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics own the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the Atlantic Division.
Player of the Game: Manu Ginobli controlled every aspect of this game and wound up with 28 points and seven assists.
Turning Point: A close game at halftime turned into a rout as the Spurs outscored the Celtics 33-17 in the third quarter. The forgettable 12 minutes was capped off by an off-the-glass Ginobli 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
* Garnett hit the deck hard after he was fouled by Ginobli in the second quarter, but he bounced up after a minute and appeared to be fine.
* Tony Allen got rotation minutes again in place of Marquis Daniels, but Daniels did check in midway through the third quarter after Paul Pierce hurt his left shoulder. Neither player distinguished themselves.
* Garnett’s old nemesis, Tim Duncan, missed his first four shots and finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
* A 3-pointer by Rajon Rondo was later ruled to be after the shot clock had expired.
* One game after being held to just one rebound, Rasheed Wallace grabbed six in the first eight minutes. Wallace started in place of Kendrick Perkins who missed his second game with tendinitis in his knee. Doc Rivers said before the game that he anticipates Perkins being ready to play Wednesday against the Thunder.
* Michael Finley played 14 minutes against his former team and was held scoreless. He attempted just two shots.
* Nate Robinson did play after spraining his ankle Friday against the Kings.
* DeJuan Blair was a monster with 11 rebounds in 21 minutes.
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