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Celtics-Wizards Passing Analysis

01.02.09 at 9:12 pm ET
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The number for tonight, boys and girls, is twenty. As in assists. In their loss to Golden State, the Celtics had 18 assists, and only two from the bench. Against Portland, the number was 13, and only one came from a reserve. On Friday night against Washington (go here for the recap), the Celtics had 31 assists, with seven coming from the second unit.

“The big thing,” Brian Scalabrine said, “is that we passed the ball so well.”

The Celtics have so many weapons offensively, but it’s both a blessing and a curse that they don’t take advantage of those weapons if they don’t share the ball. The Celtics are so well-conditioned to not exert their individual personalities on the offensive end that there are times when the offense breaks down and gets muddled when the passes aren’t moving and the cuts aren’t being made.

This goes against the prevailing Alpha Male wisdom that has permeated the NBA since the rise of Michael Jordan. That is, the great player is the great player because he is unstoppable one-on-one. That was fine for MJ, who was the greatest of them all, and it worked out well for Hakeem Olajuwon, as well, but for 40 some-odd years before Jordan great teams worked because they played as a team.

Certainly other teams of recent vintage have played like that (Detroit in 2004 being the best example), but what makes the Celtics so unique is that they have three certain Hall of Famers who willingly share the ball and the responsibility, sometimes to a fault.

“We play against ourselves,” Scalabrine said, and what he meant is on the rare occasions when the Celtics actually lose, it’s generally because they don’t play well together as a team.

The starting five has figured that part out. Paul Pierce was at his best against Washington, taking advantage of a hideous mismatch against young Dominic McGuire who has neither the size nor the experience to play Pierce.

Pierce dropped in 26 of the most effortless points you will ever see him score, and he so mystified McGuire that Washington coach Ed Tapscott was forced to put Caron Butler on Pierce, and Butler is coming back from an ankle injury.

“Paul was terrific,” Tapscott said. “They are a very good team. They share the ball. They don’t seem who to care who scores.”

They don’t just seem to not care who scores, they really don’t care. “I was just playing in the flow of the game,” Pierce said. “We moved the ball and spaced the floor and I was just taking advantage of my opportunities.”

But here was the difference Friday. The second unit came in and did the same thing. The reserves racked up seven assists, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s a whole lot better than what they managed on the road. “That’s more like how we’ve been playing,” Doc Rivers said. “Both units.”

The reward, as Kevin Garnett termed it, for the bench’s play was a short night for the starters. Ray Allen played 30 minutes and everyone else was in the 20’s. That’s exactly the blueprint for the Celtics as they enter the dog days of their schedule. They have road games at New York (Sunday) and Charlotte (Tuesday), a home game against Houston Wednesday, and then two more on the road, Cleveland Friday and Toronto Sunday.

“Great night,” Rivers said referring to the short minutes. The fine line that Rivers has to walk for the next few months is keeping the minutes down for Garnett, Pierce and Allen, while developing the second unit that clearly has some flaws, and finding a way to win games.

“We need some practice,” Rivers said almost wistfully. “We need to work these things out, but we don’t want to lose while we’re working them out. We want to win.”

Post-script: Normally it’s Garnett who gets off the great one-liner, but Pierce took home the honors when he was asked about tying Danny Ainge’s team record for most 3-pointers in a game without a miss. Pierce made his first five, but missed the sixth, his only misfire of the night.

“Hmmm, I’ve got to think about it,” Pierce said. “Records and Danny Ainge? I guess so because he doesn’t hold that many records. It would have been nice to erase his name. Just messing with you Danny.”

Just to illustrate the point, all five of Pierce’s 3-pointers came on assists.


For a complete breakdown of Friday’s game against the Wizards, visit the Celtics Game Day Blog.

A Win is a Win for Celtics

01.02.09 at 8:58 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics rebounded from their 1-3 road trip with a 25-point demolition of the Washington Wizards on Friday night. (RECAP HERE) They were the obvious favorites and, despite their recent struggles, the win came as no surprise. But what do the Cs gain from beating a 6-25 team? Would it have been more significant to bounce back against a legitimate playoff contender? The Celtics explained that a win is still a win, no matter who is on the losing end.

Leon Powe: “In our case, it’s good to get a win. I don’t care if we beat the Pee-Wees and my little brother’s Little League team. It feels good to get a win today and that’s what we all realized. We just had to get a win and get our confidence back up and prepare one game at a time. We beat this team and then we can look toward the next one. I know we’ve got Cleveland coming up pretty soon but every game for us is big because it’s a tight race right now for homecourt advantage.”

Kendrick Perkins: “Just to get a win and get back on track, it doesn’t really matter against who. If we would’ve got the win against Portland it would have been great but to get the win tonight is still great. We’ve got two games coming up on the road that we need to take care of, the Rockets back here, and then to Cleveland. I think this will be a nice stretch for us to see what we’re made of and bounce back from that three out of four losses.”

Tony Allen: “It didn’t matter who we played today. We wanted to come back out and just start fresh. It’s all about responding and I think today we did that … We played with a sense of urgency today. We knew we had to come out and make a statement and respond to those losses. They didn’t look so good.”

Brian Scalabrine: “Doc said at the beginning of the year he wanted to make a schedule up and every single game that we had was going to be a signal of the Boston Celtics, meaning that we play against ourselves. Every night we play it’s us that we lose to or it’s us that we beat. So it’s really all about us.”

Celtics-Wizards Game Blog: Fourth Quarter

01.02.09 at 7:22 pm ET
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The fourth quarter kicks off with New England Patriots QB Matt Cassel helping Lucky out with a slam dunk. The standing ovation was so loud there was no telling the Pats has been eliminated from the playoffs.

– It’s garbage time with both second units on the court. Davis/Powe/TA/House/Pruitt vs. McGee/Songalia/Crittenton/Young/Dixon.

– Pruitt and Young were college teammates at USC. Young was a first rounder in the 2007 Draft, Pruitt went at #32. So far Young has seen more playing time but Pruitt has a ring, so you take your pick.

– The Garden is still surprisingly packed with the Celtics up 90-62 halfway through the fourth quarter. After a 1-3 road trip, the fans can’t get enough of winning again.

– Gino’s on … O’Bryant’s in … it’s almost closing time.

– After yesterday’s talking-to at practice, O’Bryant’s alley-oop dunk got KG to his feet.

– Teammates no more: Pruitt got swatted to the ground by Etan Thomas. Young walked by … and kept on going. It’s true, basketball is a business.

– The nail is officially in the coffin. Scal hit a trey with three minutes to go, putting the Celtics over the 100-point mark.

- Final score: Celtics 108, Wiz 83

Read More: Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards,

Celtics-Wizards Game Blog: Third Quarter

01.02.09 at 6:50 pm ET
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In my time watching the NBA I have seen many a team blow 20-point halftime leads. But this doesn’t feel like one of those nights. For starters, the Celtics are motivated to put the unpleasantness of their west coast trip behind them. For seconders, the Wizards are just not any good. The Celtics shot 60 percent in the first half and had assists on 18 of their 23 field goals. Washington countered with 15-for-42 from the floor and Antawn Jamison was 4-for-15. Not good.

Will we get a Patrick O’Bryant sighting early? Let’s find out…

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: The Wizards are the NBA’s version of a slump-buster. This is just brutal tonight. After three, it’s 86-55. Ouch. Pierce has 26, Garnett 10 and 8, Perkins, 9 and 10, Rondo 10 and 14 assists and Ray Allen knocked down a 3 at the end of the frame to give him a tidy 11 points.

One would think that’s all for them tonight. Me too. Take it away Jess.

Third Quarter Observations

— The onslaught continues. Look, this is a really good sign for the C’s. Regardless of Washington’s record, or their talent level or anything else, for the Celtics to put the hammer down to start the third quarter shows they’re into this.

— Hey Matt Cassel is here.

— I’m trying to discern the Wizards offense, and I’m not having much luck. Neither are they for that matter.

— Not that it matters all that much, but the Wiz put Butler on Pierce.

— Butler is not having much success either. Pierce is 9-for-9 for 24 points. That will help the shooting average a bit. Somewhat ironically he does have a miss from the free throw line. Is that irony? I’m not sure anymore. Blowouts mess with your mind sometimes.

— You know, Darius Songalia plays hard. He’s basically having to play center, which is ridiculous, but he competes.

— Who is having a worse night? The Wizards, or Alabama? Roll Tide.

— Garnett is out, probably for the rest of the night. 10 points, 8 rebounds and 25 minutes. That last number makes Doc happy. He’s the only other guy in double figures besides Pierce who has 26 points.

Celtics-Wizards Game Blog: Second Quarter

01.02.09 at 6:11 pm ET
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FIRST HALF WRAP: It’s not surprising to see the Celtics up 58-34 at halftime. Not only are the Wizards undermanned, they are getting out-rebounded (27-17), out-shot (60.5% to 35.7%), and out-ball handled (18-11 ast). To put it simply, they are getting outplayed. Can the Wiz make a second half comeback? Doubtful.

Second Quarter Observations

– The second quarter kicks off with the refs ruling out an attempted buzzer beater by the Wizards. The Celtics have the early lead, 28-14.

– On the court for the Celtics: House, Tony Allen, Scal, Big Baby, Powe. For the Wizards it’s Young, Butler, Crittenton, Songalia, and Blatche (who has returned to the game after leaving with a left ankle injury).

– Jamison and Butler are back on the floor together. This is the Wizards best shot at closing in. The Celtics bench has had trouble holding big leads, so let’s see if they can fend off this talented duo for now.

– The Celtics have an 18-point lead and Ray Allen hasn’t even scored a basket. He’s come back in for Scal and will be back on Butler, who leads the Wiz with a whopping six points.

– Long-range shooting is keeping this game out reach for the Wizards. With six minutes left in the half, the Celtics are 6-for-7 from behind the arc while the Wiz are 0-for-5.

– When they both came down with the rebound, Perkins love-tapped KG on the head. Paging Garnett: He’s on your team.

– Up 23, Doc has the starting five back in. The Wizards must be thrilled.

– The Celtics close out the half up 58-34.

Celtics-Wizards Game Blog: First Quarter

01.02.09 at 5:38 pm ET
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Way before tonight’s game began, a Wizard was out on the court measuring jump shots. The shots were from 25, 30 feet away and most of them were going down with barely a ripple. That player was Gilbert Arenas, obviously, (What, you thought Etan Thomas was draining 30 footers?).

With Arenas the Wizards were one of the entertaining and dangerous teams in the league. Without Arenas they were still entertaining, but much less dangerous. Without Arenas and Brendan Haywood they’re just bad, and not all that much fun either.

That’s a shame for us, but the Celtics don’t need much fun. They need a win, although it must be said that they seemed looser than usual before top-off tonight.

As for the Stephon Marbury talk, all we got was this from Doc Rivers, “You know I can’t talk about it,” which was certainly not a No and also not what he said about Dikembe Mutombo, which was more along the lines of yes, we’d like to have Mutombo. So they take that for what it’s worth.

But that’s for another day. What will it be tonight? Will it be the start of a new streak for 2009? Let’s find out…

FIRST QUARTER WRAP: The halfcourt shot by Caron Butler doesn’t count after all. Man that team can’t catch a break. So, after one the Wiz are down 14 and their starting center, Andray Blatche who went back to the locker room with what looked like an ankle injury.

The wager on press row: Over-under on minutes for the starters in the fourth quarter. The number is four. I’ve got the under. Over to you Jess.

First Quarter Observations

— That pretty much sums up Washington in a nutshell. The Celtics run Perkins backdoor, he gets swatted, the refs take a couple of minutes to figure out who should have the ball, the Celtics run the EXACT SAME PLAY and Perkins gets a layup.

— Interesting. The Wizards have Caron Butler on Ray Allen, which leaves Dominic McGuire on Paul Pierce. Pierce just dusted McGuire who can’t possibly be expected to be able to hang with Pierce for the whole game. There are serious mismatches available to the C’s right now (Mike James on Rondo, Andray Blatche on Kevin Garnett), but McGuire on Pierce may be the biggest.

— Blatche is hurt. He’s holding what looks like his ankle. This is really bad for Washington. The only good thing about being 6-24 is that the Wiz get an extended look at players like Blatche (and McGuire
and Javarris Crittenton, etc). Blatche is going back to the locker room.

— The only question tonight is, how much?

— Pierce 13, Washington 12.

— Doc is going to the bench a little bit early tonight. He’s got Baby, Leon and Scal in there already. I think this is the right play, even if Washington comes back a little bit. He’s got to manage some minutes over the next 30 games or so.

Does Marbury Want to Start?

01.02.09 at 3:51 pm ET
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Amid reports that Stephon Marbury could be Boston bound, the New York Post has reported Marbury would actually prefer to be a starter on whichever team he joins. Signing with the Celtics would mean backing up Rajon Rondo, and Marbury apparently doesn’t want to give up his starting role just yet. Or at least that’s the most recent story. Marbury has shifted back and forth on what kind of role he’d be willing to accept, and there are bound to be more conditions floated around during the season.

The Post has also reported Marbury is heading to Minnesota tonight to check out his cousin/former Celtic Sebastian Telfair and the Timberwolves as they take on ex-teammate Jamal Crawford and the Golden State Warriors.

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