|01.25.09 at 8:09 pm ET|
Another Western Conference team makes the trip to Boston and wonders why it even bothered.
Lakers Game 6, 2008 NBA Finals. Portland on Dec. 5. Phoenix last Monday. The Dallas Mavericks were the latest team on Sunday to quit in the middle of a game, knowing they were hopelessly out of it. It’s pretty sad to watch, actually.
The Celtics should get all the credit in the world for taking all of the heart out of the competition early and that’s what Ray Allen, Eddie House and every player in green and white was talking about afterward. That, and the fact that the team is passing so well right now that they are playing at a level even HIGHER than during the 19-game winning streak. Wow.
The Celtics shots 66 percent in the first quarter, 65 percent for the first half, led by 32 points in the second quarter and 35 in the third quarter. They could’ve played Gino on the big screen at the end of one. It was THAT bad.
Now, the Sacramento Kings head to Boston for a match-up on Wednesday. You remember them, don’t you? The Western Conference team that kept it close in the pre-game warmups before losing by 45, 108-63, in Sacramento on Dec. 28. One can only hope for a competitive, if not close game this time around. But forgive me if my expectations aren’t very high.
|01.25.09 at 5:32 pm ET|
No matter how much he fights it, it is difficult for Gerald Green to shake the perception that he is just a dunker. He can shoot, he’ll tell you. He’s working on his defense, he’ll say. So Green is passing on the Slam Dunk Contest that he once dominated. This season isn’t about being a high-flyer. It’s about being a Dallas Maverick.
‘It’s not really important,’ Green said following the Mavericks-Celtics game in Boston (RECAP HERE). ‘It’s just something that really my friends and family want for me. They wanted me to get into it this year. I said no.’
Dunking may have been one of the skills that got Green in the NBA, but it couldn’t keep him there. In eight months he had been traded twice and eventually waived by his hometown Houston Rockets. He had been out of the league for nearly four months when the Mavericks signed him to a one-year deal last summer. Now Green wants to repay the Mavs for taking a chance on an unemployed 22-year-old.
‘I just really wanted to stay focused on basketball,’ he said. ‘I didn’t want the misconception that everybody thinks I’m just trying to dunk. Dunking is fun. That’s not my skill. So that’s one thing I was trying to do, just stay focused on basketball and not really worry about it.’
Green’s focus has been challenged by inconsistent playing time. He averaged 14 minutes per night in November, then appeared in just four games in December. He was on the court for just a minute in two of those contests. This month he has started twice but has not played in eight other games. On Sunday, he was in street clothes against his former team.
‘It’s tough for me right now but I’ve just got to still think positive,’ he said. ‘I love the situation, I love the organization, I love the team. I’ve just got to wait my chance. Right now it’s up and down, start, inactive. It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. But it’s a situation I’m dealing with.’
The Mavericks appreciate Green’s commitment despite the sporadic minutes. He asks his veteran teammates for advice ‘all the time,’ according to guard Jason Terry. What they see in his dedication goes beyond the box scores.
‘Oh man, the kid has a tremendous upside,’ said Terry. ‘When I watch him play, I think he could be an All-Star in this league. He just has to get on the right team and in the right system. When he has played, he’s helped us tremendously just because his athleticism. He can score with the best of them.
‘Like I said, he’s still young though. 22-years-old in his fourth year in the league, he’s going to have a long career ahead of him if he just stays humble and continues to work hard. He’s always in the gym shooting late nights, so his hard work is going to pay off eventually.’
Nothing is guaranteed for Green, so he hits the court hard every time. Not only does it improve his game, it also challenges his teammates to be better.
‘He’s just one of those guys who sticks with it, and you know if you’re guarding him in practice he’s going to come at you,’ said Antoine Wright, adding, ‘He comes into practice every day and treats it like it’s his game, and that’s something that you have to do when you’re not playing. And being a young guy, it gives him an advantage because it shows the coaches that he’s still in tune to what’s going on.’
Even though Green is focused on the Mavericks this season, he isn’t hanging up his dunking shoes just yet. He has plenty of family in Texas who wants to see him in the 2010 contest in Dallas.
‘Next year will be a totally different year,’ he said. ‘If things go well I think I’ll probably do it in Dallas. I missed the one that was in Houston, but I’ve got a lot of family in Dallas and hopefully if I’m still in Dallas next year ‘ I’m a free agent so I don’t know how it’ll go ‘ I can’t predict the future but I know I want to get into the one that’s in Dallas.’
Ask the Mavericks and they’ll tell you there will be plenty of chances to Green to dunk again.
‘He’s a tough young player,’ said Wright. ‘I think he’s going to be in the league a long time.’
During his two seasons in Boston, Green played with six members of the Celtics 2008 championship team. He was happy to see his former teammates win the title, and even happier for those off the court.
‘They deserve it. Those guys deserve it,’ he said. ‘I was happy for them, but I think the most I was happy for was those people in sitting in the yellow and black seats out there. Those people, when we were losing 18 in a row when I was here, those seats were still sold out. So I really enjoyed it for my ex-teammates because I know where we came from, but those fans deserved it. They stuck with it, through winters and snowstorms.’
And how about that championship bling? Tony Allen was the first to show it off, and Green was so impressed he placed a Blackberry on his fingers to demonstrate the size of the 92-diamond ring.
‘I started to steal it,’ he joked, ‘But it said a big ‘Tony Allen’ on it.’
|01.25.09 at 5:01 pm ET|
Question: How does a team win a game by 24 points when they are minus-22 at the free throw line? By making 10 more 3-pointers than the other team.
There is no one on the Celtics, not Ray Allen, not Paul Pierce, who can use the 3-pointer to more devastating effect than Eddie House. When House has it going from outside, as he did against Miami and as he did Sunday afternoon against Dallas, the Celtics second unit goes from a potential vulnerability to an undeniable strength. (Click here for a recap of the Celtics’ 124-100 blowout of the Mavericks).
In recent weeks, the Celtics starters have put great emphasis on getting out to big leads. During their current eight-game winning streak, the C’s have averaged a lead of greater than 10 points after the first quarter and have been outscored in the first 12 minutes just once. What has made them dominant has been a revitalized second unit that has maintained and extended those leads, often putting games out of reach by halftime.
“When the starters come back they don’t have to build the lead back up,” said second-year point guard Gabe Pruitt. “Our main focus is to defend and keep the other team from scoring.”
Defense is always the main focus with the Celtics, but you have to score, too, and Pruitt’s emergence as the team’s secondary ballhander has freed up House to do what he does best: come off screens and knock down 3-pointers. House hit seven 3’s against the Mavs and finished with 23 points, two off his season-high 25 against the Heat last week
“Our second unit doesn’t have the main guy that we constantly go to,” Pruitt said. “We look for Eddie coming off screens, or Leon (Powe) on the post.”
The 3-pointer is so devastating because it can completely negate all the hard work the opponent puts into coming back, and a couple of pops by House can make up for two or three empty offensive trips. “I’m just getting open looks,” House said. “It’s not like I’m forcing anything. I’m getting the ball in rhythm and open. It’s 50/50 when you shoot it.” With House these days it’s more like 60/40.
Tasked with being the primary ballhandler and the best outside shooting option, House had struggled to find consistency with his outside shot. But with his current hot streak, he has lifted his 3-point shooting to over 39 percent. Giving up the point to Pruitt has helped, but the insertion of Brian Scalabrine into the rotation has also been a factor, as Scal not only spaces the floor as well as any of the reserves, he’s also adept at setting screens.
“The biggest key for Eddie is instead of searching for shots, he’s letting shots come to him and he’s making shots,” Doc Rivers said. “Before he was rushing. He was forcing, taking some bad shots. I think actually Gabe has helped him.”
“Eddie’s a scorer,” said Rajon Rondo who turned in another stellar outing with 13 points and 14 assists. “When he doesn’t have to bring the ball up against pressure, he can come off screens and (Kevin Garnett), Baby (Davis), Leon and Scal do a great job of getting him open.”
The fear has always been playing House as an undersized two-guard, but so far teams have been unable to take advantage of any potential matchup problems, and the matchups have been favorable lately. But there again, playing with a big lead allows the Celtics to dictate those kinds of things.
Garnett, for one, feels that Celtics are playing better than they did during their 19-game winning streak when the players and coaching staff saw big red blinking warning signs around every victory. Defense, as always, is the primary reference point, but a 10-deep rotation that passes and shoots the ball as well as the Celtics have been is just as big a factor.
Against Dallas, the Celtics racked up 34 assists against only six turnovers. They probably won’t record a better ratio all season, but it’s indicative of the way the ball is moving that Paul Pierce scored exactly zero points after the first quarter and his offensive contributions were not missed in the slightest.
“It shows in the fourth quarter,” Rondo said. “The starters are able to rest. That’s big for us, especially down the stretch.”
And as the games get more spaced out, and the minutes go down, the Celtics become very frightening indeed. They have played 10 times this season with more than one day between games and they have won every single time.
Which brings us back to Eddie House. After the game, reporters wanted to know if he’d like to wrangle an invite to the NBA 3-point shooting contest. That wouldn’t have even been a question a couple of weeks ago, but things were different then. The bench was a major concern, people were openly salivating for Stephon Marbury and lamenting the loss of James Posey.
Credit the coaches with making the adjustments with the roster they have, not the one they might like to have, and credit House for continuing to be the ultimate professional.
|01.25.09 at 2:56 pm ET|
At the start of the fourth quarter … Celtics 103, Mavs 78
– The Celtics are in cruise control but they allowed the Mavericks to score 31 points in the third quarter.
– No dunks from Gerald Green tonight but there’s always the possibility of a few highlight clips with Bill Walker on the court. On the court for the Celtics: Walker, Davis, House, Scal, and Pruitt. For the Mavs: Nowitzki, Bass, Terry. Kidd, Howard. Rick Carlisle isn’t giving up just yet.
– Brandon Bass wasn’t going to just let Big Baby get to the basket. Bass pushed around his former LSU teammate in a match up that will be fun to watch in the fourth.
– Six minutes to go … is it Gino Time already? A 29-point lead warrants a celebration.
– The Celtics starters outscored the Mavs starting five 75-52.
– Celtics win 124-100 and reclaim the lead in the Eastern Conference.
|01.25.09 at 2:24 pm ET|
I suppose there exists a possibility wherein the Mavericks could get back in this one, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Celtics probably won’t shoot 65 percent in the second half, nor are they likely to hit 10-of-13 from 3-point range again. But this is the end of a long road trip for the Mavs and it shows.
The other big number from the first half? Four, as in the number of turnovers for the Celtics. Turnovers remain the biggest chink in their armor, offensively, and honestly they’re part of the bargain for the way they play, but when they limit them the Celtics are basically unstoppable.
The third quarter awaits…
THIRD QUARTER WRAP: The only question now is, ‘how much?’ The Mavs came out after getting humiliated in the first half and promptly gave up the first eight points of the quarter. Not the way one wants to come back. Give the Celtics credit for not letting up in their intensity, but you can hang a lot of this on the Mavericks.
Third Quarter Observations
— Rajon Rondo now has 11 points. He also has four rebounds and six assists meaning he’s got an outside shot at a triple-double. Ray Allen is in the same boat with 20 points, four boards and six assists, but Ray doesn’t fill up the state sheet like Rondo. Doubtful either of them will play long enough in the second half to get there, but maybe…
— I’m wondering if Rick Carlisle will spontaneously combust like the drummer from Spinal Tap.
— Apologies. The Game Day blog was experiencing technical difficulties. We now return to your regularly scheduled beatdown.
— Jason Terry is the only Maverick playing with a pulse this afternoon. At the same time the fact that the Celtics are being merciless is nothing but a good thing. How many times have you seen an NBA team build a big lead and then give it back because of laziness or a lack of focus?
— It’s hard to take a lot out of a blowout like this, but the fact that Eddie House is still hot is a great thing for the Celtics second unit. His ability to make 3’s can cover for a lot of things.
— From the land of the strange and unusual, I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen a lineup that has Rondo, House and Ray Allen on the floor at the same time (except at the end of quarters and halves), but it’s a fun mix.
|01.25.09 at 1:37 pm ET|
At the half … Celtics 74, Mavs 47
Second Quarter Observations:
7: the number of field goals Dirk Nowitzki has attempted.
0: the number of field goals he has made.
– The Dallas Mavericks looked unmotivated in the first quarter and the Celtics enter the second with a 38-23 lead. The Garden crowd, which was a bit sleepy at the start of the game, have more energy than the Mavs right now.
– The Mavs are trying to take advantage of the Celtics second unit at the start of the quarter. Scal on Nowtizki could be worrisome as Dirk is getting wide open looks and rebounds.
– That didn’t last long for Gabe Pruitt. He got called for three fouls in two minutes, sending him to the bench.
– No jumpshot? Rondo has hit three Js against a Mavericks team who two seasons ago purposely left him open … to miss.
– For those of you waiting to catch a dunk from Gerald Green, there’ll be no dunking going on in street clothes. Green is inactive for this game.
– Nomar Garciaparra and Lou Merloni are in the building.
– 6’1 Rondo picked off an overhead pass from 6’11 Erick Dampier. This is the type of focus the Mavs have been playing with today.
- At the half … Celtics 74, Mavs 47
|01.25.09 at 12:51 pm ET|
We are live on a Sunday afternoon from the Garden for today’s matinee between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics. The champs come into this one on a roll, winners of seven straight and off a mighty impressive Florida sweep.
The Mavs have won three of four, including a blowout win at Detroit on Friday, but they are coming through a very tough stretch. This is their fourth road game this week, and they have been away from Dallas for seven of their last nine. After this, the Mavs go home for one game and then head back out to do the Florida thing (see, every team has insane schedule issues).
At any rate, the Celtics have narrowly regained the top spot in the Eastern Conference (although they are down a game in the loss column to Cleveland), while Dallas is holding on in seventh in the West. Fun matchups will be the flavor of the day with Rajon Rondo going against Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce and Josh Howard and the always-fun Kevin Garnett-Dirk Nowitzki battle serving as the main event.
We’ll be here all day. You should be too…
FIRST QUARTER WRAP: Tremendous start by the Celtics. They opened by running everything through Garnett to take advantage of the matchup with Nowitzki and it paid off. It was an incredibly efficient quarter; no turnovers, 67 percent shooting. Garnett and Ray Allen both have 11 points, while Nowitzki opened up going 0-for-7.
First Quarter Observations
— Jason Kidd: Still getting booed.
— The Celtics are pounding it into KG to start. Makes sense with Nowitzki on him, but they should probably be careful not to overdo that strategy. They work best when they are free-flowing and there are clear lines to the hoop available. (addendum: I take back everything I said in that first sentence).
— Fun start with lots of movement on both ends offensively. Safe to say that both teams are into it. The crowd, however, is kind of dead.
— Every time the Celtics go down low, Kidd is doubling off Rondo. So far Garnett got Rondo twice, once on a backdoor layup attempt, which Rondo missed, and then Rondo found Paul Pierce wide-open for a 3-pointer.
The Mavs, meanwhile are basically playing 3-on-5 on offense. Antoine Wright and Erick Dampier just take up space.
— Good play call by Doc coming out of the timeout to get Ray Allen a jumper. That’s something he doesn’t get enough credit for. He’s one of the best in the league at getting good shots out of timeouts.
— You know how announcers like to call a play where a guy makes a shot, gets fouled and converts a free-throw an “old-fashioned three-point play?” Not sure why people still do that. I mean the 3-point line has been in existence since 1980. There’s nothing particularly new about shooting 3-pointers, but anyway, Garnett just got a three-point play in an entirely unique way. He made one free throw, missed the second, and then hit a jumper after Rondo got the offensive board.
— Great defensive sequence by the Celtics. They had two or three terrific rotations and wound up with a steal that led to a Pierce 3-pointer.
— The Celtics are putting on a clinic right now. Every shot they are getting is wide open.
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