|01.29.09 at 6:47 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics may be on a nine-game winning streak but they are out of luck in one sense of the word. Damon Blust, who played the mascot Lucky the Leprechaun, has left the team. On Thursday the Celtics issued the following statement:
“Damon Blust who played the role of “Lucky” the Celtics mascot is no longer employed by the team. We appreciate his many efforts in entertaining Celtics fans as well as his work in the community while a member of the Celtics organization.”
Blust recently appeared on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
|01.29.09 at 9:57 am ET|
If Eddie House was trying to make a case for being included in the three-point shooting contest, it’s hard to imagine making a better one than he has in his last four games.
He is 22-for-32 in his last four games beyond the arc, including an 8-for-9 exhibition Wednesday night at the hands of the helpless Sacramento Kings, leading the Celtics to a 119-100 victory, their ninth straight.
House was hitting them from all angles and all places. He lives in Scottsdale and is going to be in the Phoenix area anyway, and would be a natural for the annual event at All-Star Weekend.
As far as trying to petition the league on such matters, head coach Doc Rivers told Dennis and Callahan this morning that, “the league is like the gestapo about it. We’re not sure who we can lobby about it.”
Well, let us help. Yes, the Celtics bench was a huge part of the proceedings, scoring a season-best 61 points. Yes, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were red hot early, even though the Kings shot out to an early 23-13 lead in the first quarter.
But the story was the House on Fire.
|01.28.09 at 11:23 pm ET|
You are a big man. Your job is to guard Kevin Garnett. This will not be a fun night for you because every time the point guard comes your way, you will have a choice to make and neither option is particularly appealing. You can cheat to the outside whereupon Garnett will roll to the basket and unleash a thunderous slam off an alley-oop. The crowd will go crazy. The highlight will be shown on SportsCenter and you will not look good.
Or, you can cheat to the inside and take away the lob, whereupon the point guard, Rajon Rondo, will slice hard to the basket and Garnett will be able to hand it off to him for a layup. What do you do?
If you’re a big man for the Sacramento Kings you guard against the lob. (Click here for the recap). You have seen the tape and you have seen the Celtics execute this play time and again. It seems like a wise strategy, but then you get this on the play-by-play during a three-minute stretch of the third quarter and you seem as lost as Charlie on the MBTA (and no, you never did get home):
Rajon Rondo makes layup (Kevin Garnett assists)
Rajon Rondo makes two point shot (Kevin Garnett assists)
Kevin Garnett makes two point shot (Rajon Rondo assists)
Kevin Garnett makes dunk (Rajon Rondo assists)
“With the floor spacing it’s very difficult to guard it,” Doc Rivers said. “If you play on the inside, Rondo gets to come off the pick and roll. If you play Kevin on the outside, then Kevin gets the lob. And it’s a pick your poison thing. Actually, most teams are picking the lob because it’s a tough pass and they’re trying to get backside help. But Ray (Allen’s) standing back there. You can see every time it happens, the coach is yelling at Ray’s guy. But Ray’s guy is thinking, ‘I’m not leaving Ray.’ So it’s a difficult choice. It’s been very good for us.”
The lob, or the alley-oop, has become a staple of the Celtics offense in the last month or so. It’s been so good that Garnett doesn’t like talking about it. (“We’re not talking about the lob,” Garnett said a couple of weeks ago. Trade secrets and all that.) But as the Kings showed last night, there’s a reason it’s been so effective, which is the alternative isn’t all that great either.
“We try to make adjustments every game depending on how teams play us,” Rondo said. “Tonight it was the give-and-go. Kevin saw I could run my man off and he’s so tall and long he can give it to me or bring it right back. The ball can go through him because he’s a great passing big (man) and he’s so unselfish.”
Passing has always been an underrated aspect of Garnett’s game. During his days in Minnesota, when he constantly drew double and even triple teams, he still averaged five or six assists per contest. With all the talent the Celtics have around him, they haven’t had to run their offense through him on the low post to get mismatches or double-teams.
In fact, Garnett can be even more effective playing on the perimeter because 1) he’s a very good shooting big man, 2) that leaves the middle of the paint open for Rondo and Paul Pierce to drive and 3) he can get back on defense quickly when he’s not stuck under the boards.
The connection between Rondo and Garnett has been developing from the early days of their time together when Garnett went out of his way to make sure Rondo knew he was an integral part of what they were developing. It’s been noted that Rondo is almost preternaturally calm and confident and certainly that helped hasten his development, but Garnett’s early acceptance was also important.
Watching Garnett roll hand-offs to Rondo it was hard not to think back of the great Larry Bird-Bill Walton tandem back-dooring teams to death. Like Larry and Big Red, Rondo and Garnett have developed an unspoken method of communication, which is probably why Garnett hates talking about it. After all, how do you explain a karmic connection?
The Celtics have played 11 games with more than two days rest and they have won all 11 of those games. Even more impressively, their average margin of victory in those games in 17 points.
Only four times in those 11 have they won by less than 10 points and the last four times they have won by 25 (Washington), 20 (New Jersey), 24 (Dallas) and 19 (Sacramento). The Celtics have seven more games this season (counting the first game after the All-Star break) with more than one day off between games.
|01.28.09 at 9:26 pm ET|
The bench was awesome in the first half. Can they keep it up?
FINAL WRAP: Your final score is Celtics 119, Kings 100. For the Celtics it was their ninth win in a row and after a kind of shaky first few minutes it was never in doubt. The Kings started the game hitting nine of their first 10 shots but went 24-for-65 from there.
Rajon Rondo: 24 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists.
Kevin Garnett: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists
Eddie House: 28 points (8-for-9 3-pointers)
Fourth Quarter Observations
— Baby didn’t get that call in the first half, but it was close. He’s becoming almost as good as Leon at taking charges.
— There’s that devastating Eddie House 3-pointer. It just kills momentum for the other team.
— Good start to the quarter by the C’s. You know Doc doesn’t want to have bring KG back into this one. The Kings haven’t quite thrown in the towel just yet. They still have three starters on the floor.
— Pierce just made his first shot of the night. Amazing that they have an 18-point lead when the Truth is 1-for-4. It speaks to something that I’ve alluded to a couple of times this year. Pierce has rarely forced the action this year. He is very content to just go along with the flow of the game. When he’s had to he has no problem taking over games, but he’s not playing to impress the rest of the league anymore.
— The fans were just starting an Edd-ie Edd-ie Edd-ie chant when he buried that last 3-pointer. I’m trying to think of an adjective here–hot, sizzling, scorching? I remember Clyde Frazier saying someone was super-scintillating-sensational once. That’ll do it. Eddie House is super-scintillating-sensational.
— Tony Allen has played 18 minutes tonight and had scored eight points to go with six rebounds and three assists. All in all a pretty successful return for TA.
— That was a good strong move by Leon. He’s been a little tentative over the last month or so, but he’ll be fine if he keeps going strong to the basket. Of course, playing the Kings doesn’t hurt much.
— Eddie’s done after scoring 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting and 8-for-9 from 3-point range. That is insane.
— Gino time. It’s been GIno time since the second quarter. One of the truly hilarious things to watch during the Gino vid is KG standing by himself watching it. Every time Gino comes on the screen, Garnett raises his fist in the air. He does this every single time. Safe to say that no one enjoys Gino more than KG.
|01.28.09 at 9:00 pm ET|
And we’re back. What can the Celtics do for an encore after dropping 40 points on the Kings in the second quarter? Let’s find out…
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: Sacramento cut into the lead ever so slightly and are now down 16 points, 92-76. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett took care of the bulk of the scoring for the C’s as they ran the same post-up, give-and-go over and over again.
The first few minutes of the fourth will tell us whether we’ll have a game or extended garbage time.
Third Quarter Observations
— The bench scored 34 points in the first half. Remember when they couldn’t do anything right?
— Have to say that I like Jason Thompson. He’s got a nice touch and he’s quick off the floor. For a small-school player he seems fairly unintimidated as well. Geoff Petrie has made some questionable trades over the last few years but he has drafted well.
— KG and Rondo are running the give-and-go like Larry and Walton tonight.
— Between them Garnett and Rondo have scored 32 points and handed out 14 assists. Now, a good number of those assists have led to points by the other so this isn’t entirely apt, but together they have generated 60 points. The Kings have scored 62.
— Here’s another odd one. The Celtics have scored 86 points and Pierce does not have a made field goal and Perkins has not even attempted a shot.
— Awesome offensive performance by the Celtics tonight, but I don’t think they’re going to be too happy about their defense. Sure it’s nit-picking in a blowout, but the Kings are shooting 49 percent and are 7-for-16 from 3-point range.
— So, the Kings have this one down to a dozen. What’s the point when a team is officially back in a game? Ten points is the standard measure but that’s just because it’s a nice round number. I think the number is actually closer to 12 because a couple of 3-pointers can slice that lead in half.
|01.28.09 at 8:19 pm ET|
The Celtics are 6-0 this season when Brian Scalabrine starts. Scalabrine has his own fanclubs on Facebook that were trying to get him on the Eastern Conference All-Star team in Phoenix. Every time he touches the ball at the Garden is cause for a standing ovation and a personal chant of “Scal-uh-breen-ee”
But now, thanks to poor Patrick O’Bryant, those chants will be silenced over the next 7-10 days as the best red-head basketball player ever to hail from the University of Southern California recovers from his second concussion in a week, suffered when he took an elbow from O’Bryant during practice Tuesday.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave the prognosis for Scalabrine prior to Wednesday’s game.
But Scalabrine was healthy enough to talk before Wednesday’s game. And here’s what he had to say about getting his bell rung.
Meanwhile, there continues to be speculation that the Celtics could wind up with as many as four All-Stars when the reserves are announced on Thursday. Garnett is already in the starting lineup, while Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo are all getting consideration for reserve status.
|01.28.09 at 8:12 pm ET|
And, we’re back again. Jess couldn’t make it because of the weather, but a little ice and snow can’t stop the mighty Green Line so I’ll be your spirit guide for the rest of the game. A couple of strange things from the first (actually a lot of strange things from the first). Not only are the Kings shooting 65 percent, but the C’s got up 22 shots. That early 80’s Denver Nuggets pace.
What will we have for the rest of the night? Let’s find out…
FIRST HALF WRAP: Despite everything that went down in the first two quarters–foul trouble for Paul Pierce, the Kings not missing for seven minutes–the Celtics take a 68-49 lead into the break. How are they doing it? By shooting the freaking lights out. Eddie House has 16 points, Rajon Rondo has 14 points and seven assists and Ray Allen has 12 points.
The C’s are shooting 58 percent and have committed just five turnovers.
Second Quarter Observations
— I have detected a pattern with the refs tonight. No, just kidding. I have no idea on some of these calls and I don’t usually make off the cuff statements like that.
— Your five on the floor are Eddie, Ray, Tony Allen, Baby and Leon Powe. That’s a pretty small lineup, but Doc doesn’t have a lot of options with Scalabrine out for a week to 10 days and Pierce on the bench in foul trouble. He didn’t want to play Tony Allen more than 10 minutes or so tonight, but he might go right past that number in the first half.
— That was a sick up-and-under move by Tony Allen, but you can tell: He’s tired. He’s grabbing his shorts and was way behind on that last fast break. He needed that timeout. Still, a really nice start for him.
— Leon Powe was dropped in the rotation last week after Perkins returned from his injury and Scal and Big Baby played so well in his absence. He looks active so far and it should be pointed out that Leon did not say one negative thing about it.
— Good run for Ray Allen. 17 minutes, nine points, four assists.
— Tony Allen is killing it right now. For everybody that complains that he’s not James Posey (blah, blah, blah) remember that he can do things that the other Celtics can not. Like block jump shots, for example.
— At this point I think it would be advisable for other teams to guard Eddie House.
— Remember when the Kings started the game shooting 9-for-10? They are 5-for-18 since then.
— Perkins had a word or two for Brad Miller after his love-tap on Rondo. Something to keep an eye on. Miller is not exactly universally loved around the association.
— That was a 2 by Eddie, by the way.
— I believe the Celtics were running a variation of the picket fence. And no they didn’t get caught watching the paint dry.
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