|04.25.13 at 5:52 pm ET|
During his weekly Thursday appearance with Salk & Holley, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped short of saying he thought his C’s are the better team in their first-round NBA playoff series against the Knicks.
“We don’t think that we’ve played like we are capable of playing,” said Ainge. “It’s one thing to lose to a team who deserves to beat you and is a better team, but I feel like we’ve come out ready to play and I have no idea why the beginning of the third quarter in the last two games has not been good.”
Asked to clarify his comments, Ainge showered praise on the Knicks, who lead the series 2-0 and have held the Celtics to 48 combined second-half points.
“They’re very good. I have a great deal of respect for the Knicks, and Carmelo [Anthony] is a great player — maybe the toughest matchup in the entire league,” he said. “He’s right there in the same category as difficult a matchup as the Lebron [James]es and the Kevin Durants and the Kobe Bryants. He’s one of those types of players that can score against certain defense. So, no, I’m not particularly thrilled with the matchup.”
Still, Ainge placed the blame on his players. The Celtics simply haven’t lived up to their ability.
“We just need to play with more mental and physical toughness,” he said. “This isn’t the team I’ve seen play all year. The first halves have been, but not the second half. I wish I had an explanation, but we just need to be tougher, instigating the physical play. I think that they are getting into us, and we’re not responding. I’d like to see us instigate and initiate contact and be aggressive and not let their pressure affect us as much as it has.”
And the blame doesn’t rest with just one or two Celtics. They’ve pretty much all been been underwhelming.
“It’s everybody,” said Ainge. “It’s gotta be everybody. Avery [Bradley] embodies toughness. Paul Pierce is toughness to us, and Jeff Green — when he’s playing the way that we need him to play — he’s asserting himself and tough. And we know how tough Jason Terry is. And right on down the line. It takes everybody. Brandon Bass. It takes every one of the guys. We don’t have a team where we can rely on one or two guys. We have to get good performances out of the whole team.”
“We’ve got to have contributions from the whole team,” he added. “You can’t do it with one or two guys like New York has done. We don’t have that kind of scoring power. We don’t have the league’s leading scorer on our team right now, so we have to get contributions out of a lot of people.”
Got it? Good. Now here are the remaining highlights of Ainge’s interview, which can be heard in full on the Salk & Holley audio on demand page:
|04.25.13 at 4:07 pm ET|
WALTHAM, Mass. — Paul Pierce is a lot of things to the Celtics. He’s the captain, the leader, the top scorer, the best passer and one of the best defenders. But he can’t be the end-all, be-all to the Celtics if they are to have any chance of coming back in the series against the Knicks.
That was the message from Doc Rivers before Thursday’s practice.
“We’re not going to put all that pressure on Paul,” Rivers said. “If we’re asking Paul to score, start the offense and pass the ball, we’re going to struggle scoring. One of our [coaches] even gave me a list of guys who should throw the post pass and it was two guys, and I laughed because one of them was the post guy. That [narrows] our choices a little bit. We can be more creative. I have to be [more creative] because that’s just asking Paul to do too much. We’re asking him to guard [Carmelo Anthony] at times, we’re asking him to bring the ball up the court at times, we’re asking him to be our post passer. He’s Paul Pierce, not Christopher Reeve.”
Another player under the microscope in this series so far is Avery Bradley.
Bradley was not on the floor with his teammates to start practice but after showing up late did participate, according to the team. He is expected to play Game 3 Friday night at TD Garden.
In two losses to the Knicks, Bradley is averaging 10.5 points and 3 assists over 34.5 minutes per game.
“It’s a hard role for Avery,” Rivers said. “We talk about [increased responsibilities for] Paul, but we’re asking Avery to pressure, pressure, pressure, and then try to do something that he’s not. Avery’s a good basketball player, but we never wanted him to be in the position of facilitating offense, seeing that guys aren’t set, and trying to get guys in the right spots, delivering the pass on target — a lot of that. We’re asking a lot, we understand that.”
The Celtics have made the wrong kind of history in two abysmal second half performances. Not only have they recorded back-to-back franchise lows for playoff points in a half (25 in Game 1, 23 in Game 2), they are the first team in the shot clock era to score 25 or fewer points in the second half in consecutive games (regular season or playoffs).
They have managed just 149 points, which is the second-fewest points they’ve scored over any two-game span in their postseason history (They scored 146 points in Games 6 and 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals vs. the Lakers).
“Well, we’ve come out flat twice [in the second half],” Rivers said. “I don’t know why that is. But they put a lot of pressure on us. Game 2. They scored a ton of points, 32 in the third quarter. We took the ball out and they pressured us. But we’re not organized offensively the way we should be, in my opinion. And that’s what we have to be. You’re going to have to play some halfcourt in the playoffs and we knew that going into the series, we just haven’t handled it very well.” Read the rest of this entry »
|04.25.13 at 2:14 pm ET|
Sticking up for Kevin Garnett has cost Doc Rivers a pretty penny.
The Celtics head coach has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of officiating, Stu Jackson, NBA Executive Vice President Basketball Operations, announced on Thursday.
Rivers made his comments in the postgame press conference following the Celtics’ 87-71 loss to the New York Knicks on April 23 at Madison Square Garden.
Specifically, he was critical of the trio of David Jones, Rodney Mott and Derrick Stafford for what he termed “horrendous” foul calls on Garnett that he said had a “huge effect” on the Celtics in their 87-71 loss to the Knicks in Game 3.
Garnett was called for three fouls in the first half and had five fouls midway through the fourth quarter, when he came out of the game.
|04.25.13 at 12:48 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Starting guard Avery Bradley was not with the team at the start of practice as he arrived at the facility at 12:15, approximately 15 minutes after the start of practice. There was no immediate word from the team as for the reason.
The team confirmed that Bradley did participate later in practice.
Kevin Garnett was with the team to start practice at the Celtics training facility but Doc Rivers said he would not participate in the full practice as a precaution against his hip injury from Game 2. Garnett said he’s confident and ready and will play in Game 3 Friday night.
“We’re a confident group,” Garnett said when asked if he’s physically ready for Game 3, a phrase he repeated when asked specifically about his health.
“I didn’t ask [medical staff],” Rivers said. “That’s my rule, I try not to ask. Because they may give you the answer you don’t want to hear,” Rivers joked about Garnett’s status. “Right now, we’re planning on him practicing. I’m not going to let him go through the entire practice, even if he’s feeling good. I know a hip pointer, all you need is someone to bang into you or something. I don’t even know if it’s that, so we’re going to be careful.”
This is just the latest in a string of injuries for Garnett, who appeared to be tugging at his right hip in the second half of Tuesday’s Game 2 loss in New York. Garnett was sidelined for all but three of the team’s final 13 games, including eight straight due to left ankle inflammation. He’s also battled a left adductor strain that forced him to miss two games prior to that.
Rivers said he was initially concerned it was a stomach or oblique issue. Trainer Ed Lacerte assured him it wasn’t.
“I asked him two or three times if he could keep going, because at the time, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was the stomach and when you see someone grabbing there you immediately think stomach muscle, which is the worst,” Rivers said. “That’s why in our era, we didn’t do sit-ups, so we could never hurt that muscle, but that was my fear, and that’s a bad injury. And it wasn’t that. So after Eddie told me it wasn’t that, I was good.”
Friday marks the first home game for the Celtics in 16 days and the first since the Boston Marathon bombings.
“I’m looking forward to [Friday], being home, back in Beantown. Very much so,” Garnett said. “We haven’t been home since all the current events and everything. So, yes, we’re anticipating it being very emotional, very inspiring, and we’re looking forward to coming out and trying to get this Game 3.”
|04.25.13 at 9:41 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning, as the C’s prepare for Friday night’s Game 3 against the Knicks.
The Celtics lost the first two games of their playoff series in New York, both times struggling badly on offense after halftime (48 points combined in the two second halves).
“I would love to say it’s as simple as play harder, play better, but we have to do a lot of things,” Rivers said. “Both games were completely different except for the score, as far as our scoring. In the second game, the third quarter we gave up  points, which meant that we played taking the ball out of bounds, and their pressure affected us. Our defense, though it’s been good, is still tied to our offense. And I would say in the third quarter that was the big part of it.”
Jeff Green continues to shine in spurts, but he’s been unable to carry it through for an entire game. Rivers acknowledged Green’s inconsistency can be frustrating.
“At times. Because I know how good he can be — and I know how good he will be,” Rivers said. “He was fantastic in Game 1, if you just go by total numbers [26 points, 7 rebounds]. Obviously he’s not going to have the half he had in the first half, you’re not going to do that in two halves. That’s a 50-point game. I guess that’s possible, but that’s hard to do.
“In Game 2 our pace was bad. And if our pace affects any single guy, it’s Jeff Green. Without the pace that we wanted to play at, I thought we hurt him as much as Jeff. So, that’s on us. It really is. It’s on me, it’s on our group. Our guys understand the important of that. If you want him to be effective, we have to get him in the open court, otherwise they’re just loading up on him.”
|04.24.13 at 5:14 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett suffered a hip pointer in Game 2 against the Knicks, but should be “good to go” for Thursday’s practice and Friday’s Game 3, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on a conference call.
“It was affecting him,” said Rivers. “In a couple timeouts, I kept asking him if was he OK, and he is. He’s good. He’s good to go. He’ll practice [Thursday] and then play on Friday.”
|04.24.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
Veteran leadership. Superior coaching. Clutch playmaking. Suffocating defense. When did the Celtics and Knicks switch jerseys? In the first two games of their opening-round series, New York has simply out-Celtics-ed the C’s.
Despite establishing halftime leads in their first two meetings, the Celtics failed to execute anything resembling an offense, toyed with head-scratching matchups and generally just crapped their pants after the break. The result is a 2-0 hole and an early NBA playoff exit staring them back in the face. That’s supposed to be the Knicks’ role.
This can’t be how a team led by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett goes out. Can it? Doc Rivers is coaching like a desperate man, and maybe he is. Maybe he knows Garnett’s injuries are worse than we thought, Jordan Crawford is his best option off the bench and the success of the pitbull backcourt was simply smoke and mirrors.
Here’s what we do know: Carmelo Anthony is the best player in this series, and it’s not even close. The only guy who could possibly answer Anthony’s ability to create clutch offense out of nothing is dressed dapperly on the Boston bench. His name is Rajon Rondo, and he’s not walking through that door.
Paul Pierce used to be that guy, but now that his age matches his minutes, he can’t shoulder the load. Maybe on a night or two, but not over a seven-game series. Kevin Garnett was that guy as recently as last year’s playoffs, but cameras caught him clutching his abdomen on multiple occasions and bone spurs don’t disappear from your foot overnight. And Jeff Green may one day be that guy, but not now. Not consistently anyhow.
The C’s needed a collective effort from that trio in concert with a chorus line of contributions from their teammates, and nothing’s changed. That’s still the formula. Whether they can execute it or not is an entirely different matter.