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Sounds of the game… Celtics 118, Nets 86

01.15.09 at 10:37 am ET
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When the Celtics were in the midst of a slump that had them losing seven of nine, captain Paul Pierce said they needed to get their swagger back, especially on defense.

Well they can thank the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets for helping them to regain some of the confidence that was on display when they opened the season 27-2.

Pierce hit all five of his three-pointers in the third quarter as the Celtics romped to their thrid straight win. This looked more like the romps that were common place in the first two months of the season. The defense forced 20 turnovers and even without Kendrick Perkins, the Green dominated the glass. And on the offensive side, Rajon Rondo, when he wasn’t throwing in half-hooks, dished out 12 assists helping the Celtics ease to their 32nd win, by 32 points.

Doc Rivers said the team’s rhythm isn’t back but it’s getting there.

Paul Pierce feels the team’s confidence is coming back slowly but surely.

Pierce on his five three-pointers in the third quarter.

Rajon Rondo said the team is playing better after their 2-7 dip.

Rondo said he can sense the team is starting to play better together.

Eddie House said the Celtics are getting back to where they were early in season.

Bill Walker said his improved defense will keep him up with the Celtics.

Nets coach Lawrence Frank said the Celtics just kicked the Nets good.

Next up for the Celtics, after a day off on Thursday and practice on Friday, a rematch with the Nets in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, eddie house, Lawrence Frank

Giddens learns to wait

01.14.09 at 11:13 pm ET
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Just mention the possibility of playing and J.R. Giddens gets weak in the knees. The Boston Celtics rookie is trying to be patient, but it isn’t always easy when his dream is dangling right in front of him. Giddens can see the big picture, though, and knows waiting is part of his game for now.

‘€œAs a competitor, it’s always going to be hard because you want to play,’€ Giddens said before Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Nets. ‘€œBut as a realist, all I can do is just be slightly frustrated and just keep working.”

Patience is one of the most important things Giddens has focused on over the past three months with the NBDL’s Utah Flash. Being energetic is part of his personality. Now the challenge is controlling it on the court.

‘€œI was just talking to someone about that last night, about one of the hardest things of being on that court when you’re playing at that level is trying to calm yourself down,’€ he said. ‘€œYou’re so amped and you see veterans out there that are so calm, composed, and relaxed. But when you’re out there and you’re so excited and you feel like you’re going a million miles an hour. You’ve got to calm your motor down a little bit. I think going down to the D-League and getting the chance to get some games under my belt, I was able to get a more relaxed feeling out there on the court, just kind of maturing my game a little bit.’€

Celtics rookie Bill Walker played with Giddens in Utah and saw changes in his demeanor.

‘€œI think he’€™s slowed down a lot,’€ Walker said. ‘€œHe’€™s an extremely quick player, but he used to have a hop in his step before he would take off. But now he’€™s slowed down and he is taking advantage of every possession he gets.’€

Being more focused has allowed Giddens to zone in on what he calls his deficiencies. He hit the free throw line to improve his shot, shifted his attention from offense to defense, and strived to become ‘€œa more balanced team player.’€ Knowing how to take two steps back has helped in his shift from the leader boards in Utah to the bench in Boston.

‘€œI feel like when you’re down there and you’ve got to do everything and then you come up here, I should be able to be more effective in my minutes,’€ he said. ‘€œLess energy offensively, being more active defensively, so I just apply my work ethic around whatever role I’m needed to perform, which is probably going to be defender, rebounder, and just help on defense. Hopefully it’ll make my transition easier to the NBA instead of having a lot thrown on me. I get to come in, get a feel for it, get to see and be around great players, and just try to add that to my game.’€

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers does not put players on the court until they have earned their minutes in practice, so it may be awhile before Giddens is on the parquet. It’s tempting to be so close, but ultimately he knows it is the best decision. He is still nursing a sprained wrist which he injured twice back in the D-League.

‘€œIf somebody needed me to play right now I’d be able to play,’€ he said. ‘€œBut I think probably a little rest wouldn’t hurt.’€

The competitor in Giddens wants to play. The realist knows he will when the time is right.

“Time is going to come,” he said. “Just in the meantime, do everything I can to make myself better.’€

Read More: Bill Walker, Boston Celtics, J.R. Giddens, Utah Flash

Rondo or Harris?

01.14.09 at 10:52 pm ET
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Now that Jason Kidd is in Dallas and Chauncey Billups is in Denver, the Eastern Conference is set to anoint a new king of the point guards. The two leading contenders for the throne were on the floor last night at the Garden: Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris.

The debate, at least this season, comes down to what you want in your point guard. Harris has the dazzling numbers–23 points per game and 7 assists–that Rondo can’t match. But Rondo has the wins, 32 after last night’s victory over New Jersey, (click here for the recap) while Harris and the Nets are sitting on a 19-20 record.

Neither of those sets of figures are entirely fair. Harris has the big scoring average thanks to a team that has him and Vince Carter as the primary scoring options and an offense that plays to his strengths. Rondo has the wins in large part to who he has around him. Both players are having breakout seasons and both deserve to be on the All-Star team, which may not happen since neither will be voted in as a starter.

Choosing between the two comes down to a question of semantics. If you prefer overwhelming numbers on a talent-challenged team that is overachieving in large part because of those overwhelming numbers than Harris is your man. If you prefer your point guard to do a little bit of everything for a team that doesn’t have a real need for scoring, then Rondo is your guy.

Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus had a solid breakdown on the situation (he also included Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in the discussion) and he ultimately came down on the side of Harris, but not by much.

Pelton wrote:

Choosing between Harris and Rondo is more challenging. Using very different skill sets, they’ve nonetheless managed to be nearly identical in terms of per-minute performance and value. One could say that both players are perfectly suited for their team’s needs, Harris offering the shot creation the Nets so desperately need and Rondo leading his superstar-filled team with his ability to distribute the ball while playing a key role in the league’s best defense.

Ultimately, I’d give the slight edge to Harris.

I agree with Pelton’s reasoning, if not his conclusion. Harris thrives in the Nets offense, which has been compared to the dribble-drive offense that the University of Memphis popularized last season with Derrick Rose at the point. It’s not quite that in practice. It’s more of a hybrid which makes great use the old tried and true pick-and-roll. Still, the ball is in Harris’ hands quite a bit and ultimately the Nets fortunes rise and fall with his decision making.

Rondo doesn’t quite have those kind of responsibilities, but he is obviously very important to the Celtics offense. When Rondo is clicking, as he was in the second half against the Nets, the Celtics are essentially unstoppable. He makes defenses react to his ability to get into the paint, and despite his outside shooting difficulties, Rondo’s shooting percentage in the lane wouldn’t be out of place for an accomplished four-man.

Interestingly, Pelton’s numbers showed Harris to be a more impactful defensive player for the Nets than Rondo is for the Celtics, but I think that has more to do with the Celtics defensive dominance, which can obscure individual accomplishment, and the Nets defensive shortcomings, which can make a decent defender look better than he really is.

Last night Harris clearly had the edge in the first half when he scored 13 points, and got to the free throw line seven times. Rondo picked up two quick fouls and was hesitant to pick up a third. Harris’ biggest strength is his ability to vary the speeds at which he attacks the basket and that’s an uncomfortable place to be for a defender watching his fouls.

Rondo has a lot of respect for Harris. “He’s having an All-Star year,” Rondo said. “He’s playing exceptionally well.” Rondo knew that he would have his hands full with Harris once he got the ball, so his plan was to try to keep him from it once he passed halfcourt.

Freed from foul trouble in the third quarter, Rondo was able to show all his skills and he responded with a six-point, four-rebound, six-assist line, while holding Harris to four points and one assist. Not surprisingly the Celtics blew open a 10-point game and turned it into a rout. Paul Pierce was a perfect five-for-five from 3-point range with three of them coming on assists from Rondo.

That’s the kind of impact Rondo can create.

In a weird twist, this was the first meeting between the Celtics and Nets, but they won’t have to wait long for a rematch. The two teams play again Saturday afternoon in Jersey and Rondo and Harris can continue the debate. It’s really all in the eye of the beholder and in the eyes of this one it’s Rondo, but it’s close.

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: Fourth Quarter

01.14.09 at 9:37 pm ET
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What better way to kick off the final 12 minutes of a blowout than by introducing one of the Red Sox newest pitchers? Brad Penny helped Lucky out with a dunk in between quarters just as David Ortiz has done many times.

Bill Walker is on the court for his first minutes since being called up from the D-League. Fellow rookie J.R. Giddens is inactive tonight. Check back later for more on Giddens’ call up.

– Split screen on the Jumbotron of Walter McCarty and Tommy Heinsohn. McCarty mouthed, “I love Tommy” … a true Celtic.

– If you are looking to stay occupied during this blowout, check out Chris Douglas-Roberts’ arm. That’s some serious reading material.

Gino Time. Celtics 105, Nets 78.

– It only took Walker eight minutes to become and instant replay. Patrick O’Bryant scored, too. The Nets have a lot to learn from this game.

– The Garden is clearing out with two minutes to go. This game was over in the third quarter.

Eddie House limped off the court with under a minute to go. More details as they become available.

Final Score: Celtics 118, Celtics 86

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: Third Quarter

01.14.09 at 9:02 pm ET
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I referenced the Swamp Dragons in the first quarter and now seems like a decent time to tell one of the weirdest stories in the history of what has been a very weird franchise. The year was 1994 and the Nets had just drafted Yinka Dare despite the objections of just about everybody who wanted them to take Wesley Person, the sweet-shooting wing man from Auburn.

The Nets were getting hammered on the radio for the choice when something very odd happened. WFAN’s Mike and the Mad Dog said they had a source who claimed the Nets had filed paperwork with the league to change their name to the Swamp Dragons. For five hours Mike and the Doggy just killed them. It was probably the most they would ever talk about the team until the Jason Kidd run earlier this decade.

By the time the show was over the Nets claimed that they would do no such thing and thus would remain the Nets. And now you know. Back to the game…

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: It looks like the Celtics of old are back. The ones that put the clamps down on the other team’s offense and kill you with ball movement. Rajon Rondo had a big quarter and is now just three boards shy of a triple-double.

The numbers are pretty staggering for the C’s in the third: 37 points 12-for-20 from the floor, 6-for-7 from 3-point range. The rout it on..

Third Quarter Observations

— A few technical difficulties on this end. Apologies. Quick start for the C’s and an even quicker timeout by Lawrence Frank. It goes without saying that a nice 10-15 point win would be just what the Celtics need right now. Looks like they’re going for the knockout punch.

— This is when you know you got it going: Rondo just threw the alley-oop to KG and it went right in the basket. The thought had crossed my mind in the first half that the alley-oop was getting very close to being goaltending. Maybe Rondo should shoot alley-oops?

— If you’re a young big man and you want to learn how to defend the post, just watch tapes of Kevin Garnett. The man is a pure technician down there.

— The Celtics are just shredding the Nets “defense” right now. Good move by Lawrence Frank to bring in Eduardo Najera who will at least put a body on someone who cuts right to the basket.

— So at this point this game can go one of two ways. It can become a total blowout, or the Nets can make it interesting by keeping it within 15 points or so, which would mean a few more minutes for the starters than Doc Rivers would probably like. They’ve got two whole days off before playing New Jersey again on Saturday so a little extra rest would be like a mini-vacation.

— Walter McCarty is here, ladies and gentlemen. Walt-ah!

— KG is out after scoring 20 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Is that it for him tonight?

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: Second Quarter

01.14.09 at 8:14 pm ET
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FIRST HALF NUMBERS: Celtics lead 51-41 at halftime thanks to 52.6% shooting from the field. KG leads all players with 14 points (6/8 FG) and Ray Allen has 10. The Celtics have also attempted 12 treys (4/12 3PG) compared to the Nets four (1/4). They slowed down Devin Harris in the second quarter (5 points) and limited his passing to just two assists.

Second Quarter Notes

– The second quarter gets underway with Ray AllenPaul Pierce … Big Baby smiling from ear-to-ear after draining a three from way past the arc. That was Davis’ first trey of his NBA career.

– Pierce is in with the second unit (Davis/Powe/House/Pruitt). Vince Carter, who threw himself on to the Nets bench earlier in the game, is on the court. He’s a little hobbled but still aggressive at the hoop.

– Kudos to Big Baby for his effort on the boards. He may not be grabbing every missed shot but he is in the mix each time the ball goes up.

– Back by popular demand (allegedly), Celtics Slow Dance 3. It’s another slo-mo video montage of memorable dance moves from the Garden set to LoneStar’s “Amazed.” I’ll give the prize to my personal favorite, Soulja Boy Junior.

Brook Lopez is back in with Davis and Powe as the Celtics big men. Doc Rivers, who has been watching Lopez since high school, said the key to guarding him is keeping him off the glass rather than trying to get your own rebounds.

– No look pass from KG to Big Baby for a three-point play. I hope the fans sitting courtside were looking when Davis jumped into them chasing a loose ball. Davis has four fouls in 12 minutes, not including barrelling over spectators.

– Who said Rondo didn’t have a jumper? He drained a 20-footer as the shot clock expired. If only he could do that every night …

– KG ended the second quarter with huge “think about this at halftime” dunk.

- At the half … Celtics 51, Nets 41

Read More: Big Baby, Boston Celtics, Glen Davis, New Jersey Nets

Celtics-Nets Game Blog: First Quarter

01.14.09 at 7:38 pm ET
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We are live from the Garden for tonight’s game between the Celtics and the New Jersey Nets. We are at the midway point of the Celtics season and oddly this is the first meeting between the two teams. The Celtics have already played Toronto four times, the Knicks three times and the Sixers twice, but no Swamp Dragons so far. Curious.

We’ll be following the matchup between Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris all night, but there’s also an intriguing situation with 7-foot rookie Brook Lopez and Brian Scalabrine, who is most definitely not 7-feet but is starting in place of Kendrick Perkins.

Away we go… Read the rest of this entry »

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