Archive for January, 2009

Celtics-Mavericks Game Blog: First Quarter

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

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.

Celtics practice notes

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

There was a media circus on Saturday at Health Point with several outlets taking advantage of what has become a rare Boston Celtics practice.

- Tony Allen, who has missed the last 10 games with an ankle injury, consistently knocked down long-range jumpshots after practice. However Doc Rivers, who does not get involved in the medical side of the game, has not been given the green light yet from Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte.

‘€œI have no idea [how he's feeling],’€ Rivers said. ‘€œHe seems like he’s doing well, smiling and laughing today. I didn’t check updates. He’s not playing so I just talk to him as a guy. I don’t even ask him about the injury. So he’s feeling good.’€

- Rajon Rondo was also working on his jumpshot, a hot topic as of late. Rondo attests that Rivers has not asked him to spend any more time on his J than he usually does.

‘€œIn practice when I have the opportunity, I shoot it,’€ he said. ‘€œBut other than that I try to continue to do what I do best.’€

- The Celtics spent an extra day in Florida on Friday after beating the Orlando Magic on Thursday night. Temperatures reached nearly 70 degrees in Orlando yesterday compared to 40 in Boston.

‘€œIt’s great, any time you can stay in warm weather it’s got to be good for the body, good for the soul,’€ Rivers said. ‘€œThe players wanted that and they earned it, so they got to stay.’€

As for Rivers, he used the extra day to spend time with his family. ‘€œI slept at home, I never saw the team,’€ he said before adding with a laugh, ‘€œSo it was perfect for me.’€

- The Celtics will take on the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at 1pm at the TD BankNorth Garden.

A Big All-Star Push

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

When is there a possibility that 22 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game not good enough for an All-Star selection? When you play on the 13-27 Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Big Al” Jefferson has been quietly running up the leaderboards since being traded from the Boston Celtics in July of 2007. His performance, which includes 22 double-doubles, went relatively unnoticed in fan voting. So the T’€™Wolves are doing everything they can to make sure Jefferson receives the recognition he deserves in spite of their losing record.

The organization has less than a week to win the votes of the Western Conference coaches who will vote on All-Star reserves. They have developed a marketing campaign ‘€“ ‘€œBig Al’s Road Trip: Navigating his way to Phoenix’€ ‘€“ and mailed each coach a Sony GPS device. The devices have been named the ‘€œDouble-Double Machine’€ and play a highlight video set to Lupe Fiasco’€™s ‘€œSuperstar.’€

“It would mean a lot,” Jefferson told the media. “Just growing up, before I even knew I was going to be an NBA player, just watching the All-Star games on TV you always wanted to be there as a kid. Me having that chance to make it, it would mean a lot to me. It’s something I could talk about for the rest of my life.”

All-Star reserves will be revealed next Thursday, January 29. Celtics Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins are also on the Eastern Conference ballot. Kevin Garnett was named as a starting forward for the East.

Are the Magic a threat?

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

The Orlando Magic had the best record in the East, so it was only fair to say they were the best team. At least that was the credit the Boston Celtics were giving them before Thursday’s match up. But of the 41 games the Magic had played entering the game, only one had been against the Celtics. It was a loss.

The Magic have said they wanted to beat the best to be the best. In the last two seasons they lost to the Detroit Pistons early in the playoffs. Now the Celtics are the measuring stick in the East and after Thursday’s 90-80 loss to the defending champs (RECAP HERE), the Magic have failed to stack up twice.

It’s true the Magic haven’t received all the recognition they deserve nearly halfway through the season. Despite winning 16 of their last 19 games, they have flown relatively low under the radar and the talk of the East is still LeBron James vs. the Celtics. But there is a reason for that. Even with one of the most dominating big men in the game, the Magic do not have what it takes to unseat the Celtics in the postseason.

Leadership
There is no denying the power and talent of Dwight Howard. He is a beast on the glass and can body through the paint with authority. But the reality is Howard is 23, only three months older than Rajon Rondo. The Celtics point guard has three proven veterans to turn to whereas the veterans on the Magic turn to Howard.

On Thursday the Celtics held Howard scoreless for the entire second and third quarters. In that time he picked up four fouls and had to limit his defensive intensity late in the fourth before fouling out with 2:30 to go. The glaring question is, can Howard lead a team in a seven-game series?

Point Guard Play
Jameer Nelson is having a breakthrough year, averaging 17 points up from 11 last season, and is finally emerging as the point guard the Magic have been anticipating since 2004. However surging performances aren’t always consistent. It’s been said that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. The same can be said for Nelson and the Magic.

Rajon Rondo (through 44 games)
Wins: 11.9 PPG, 54.8% FG, 8.2 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.5 PF
Losses: 7.0 PPG, 32.4% FG, 7.3 APG, 4.1 RPG, 3.0 PF

Jameer Nelson (through 36 games)
Wins: 18.1 PPG, 54.4% FG, 52.1% 3PG, 5.7 APG, 2.9 PF
Losses: 12.9 PPG, 37.4% FG, 19.4% 3PG, 4.0 APG, 4.1 PF

Long-Range Game
The Magic are the best three-point shooting team in the league. They hit an NBA-record 23 treys this month against the Sacramento Kings and entered Thursday’s game shooting 53.9% 3PG in their last five match ups. At some point, though, legs get tired and the finesse can fade, especially in a six or seven-game series.

The Magic’s leading three-point shooter Rashard Lewis may be dangerous from inside and out, but he wasn’t a threat when he only shot one-for-four from long range against the Celtics. The team as a whole shot 7-for-22, which was actually worse than the Celtics 0-for-6 performance. The Cs compensated for their slump by going inside. The Magic, on the other hand, lived and died by the deep three.

The Celtics weren’t wrong for giving the Magic credit. They are one of the hottest teams in the league centered around one of the most exciting players to watch. But the season isn’t even halfway over and the Magic are not prepped for a title run just yet. They wanted to beat the best in the playoffs to be the best, but the first step is beating the best in the regular season.

One less option

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

When rumors began buzzing about the Boston Celtics need for a back up center. Alonzo Mourning’€™s name had been mentioned in the mix of veteran big men. On Thursday, Mourning put those rumors to rest when he announced his retirement from basketball.

“I truly feel it’s best that I retire,” Mourning said at his press conference. “When you’ve got something you love and you’re passionate about, it’s hard to let that go. But at 38, I feel I’ve physically done all I can for this game. It has been an amazing ride.’€

Mourning had been rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered over a year ago with the Miami Heat. The 15-year veteran, who had already overcome a kidney disease to win an NBA championship in 2006, decided to leave the game with a positive attitude.

“It’s not a sad day, but it’s a day to celebrate,’€ he said. ‘€œI can think of a million people right now that would have loved to walk the path I’ve walked. The ups and the downs made it even more joyous.”

In addition to Mourning, the Dikembe Mutombo and Joe Smith were also mentioned as possible acquisitions for the Celtics. Mutombo re-signed with the Houston Rockets in December after losing patience with Cs. Smith is still under contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Walker committed to Boston

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Bill Walker has close ties to his community. So close, in fact, that he tattooed the numbers of his childhood address on his neck. When the Boston Celtics rookie got recalled from the NBA Development League this month, he was eager to give back to the city he’s now calling home.

Last weekend Walker, along with Kendrick Perkins, Gabe Pruitt, and J.R. Giddens, served home-cooked meals to 150 men and women at the Boston Rescue Mission. The food was prepared by members of the Celtics staff as part of the Shamrock Foundation.

‘€œ[The best part was] just them being so happy that we’re there,’€ Walker said. ‘€œJust being somebody who actually could take enough time to come down there and just sit and talk with them, serve them food, things like that. Little things like that do mean a lot to people.’€

Boston is one of the many places where Walker, 21, wants to make a difference. Even though he is just starting his NBA career, he already has made plans for years to come.

‘€œThat’s just something I want to do when I’m done with basketball, just to try to help the communities that I’m in first and then expand,’€ Walker said. ‘€œSo that was just fun, going back and trying to cheer up a couple people.’€

For more information on the Celtics community outreach, visit www.celtics.com.

Celtics-Heat Reactions

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Here’s something that I’m almost positive has not happened this season to the Boston Celtics this year. At one point in the third quarter, the Miami Heat scored on 10 of 11 possessions. You can’t score in practice on 10 of 11 possessions.

At the end of that run that saw Dwyane Wade score 10 points and had Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley playing like they were back in the Big 12 against Iowa State, the Heat still trailed by 11 points. That made it the strangest of NBA occurrences: a relatively close blowout.

It didn’t last all that long because the thing with having a lead that size is that one nice push the other way and it’s game ovah, which is exactly what happened when Ray Allen started dropping bombs in the fourth. (Click here for a full recap).

So, the Celtics wrapped up their sixth straight win. Kendrick Perkins got some much needed court time before facing down Dwight Howard Thursday night and the starters kept their minutes down. All in all, a pretty decent night for the C’s who are now 35-9 and back in first place in the Eastern Conference (albeit by a half game over the Magic and not by winning percentage where Orlando has a slight edge).

A six-pack of observations:

1. Free Eddie House!

House got his NBA career started in Miami where he developed something of a cult following and I vaguely recall a story where Pat Riley’s daughter was spotted sporting a Free Eddie House! t-shirt. Riles should have listened.

House has not had the greatest of shooting seasons, but last night’s line (9-for-15 from the floor, 7-for-11 from 3-point range) proves why he is so valuable. You just can’t afford to leave the man open. Of course, that’s exactly what Miami did time and again playing some of the laziest perimeter D seen this year. The Celtics made 15-of-25 3-pointers (15-of-25!) and most of them were of the wide-open nolo contendre variety.

2. The Good, the Bad, the Rondo

Rajon Rondo scored only seven points and took just seven shots, but he knocked down a 3-pointer in rhythm from the top of the key with the shot clock winding down. That’s good. He also passed up several shots inside, forcing passes to big men that weren’t really there. That’s bad.

Rondo beat his man whenever he wanted to and wound up with 10 assists. That’s good. He also had five turnovers, including four in the first quarter. That’s bad.

Raw +/- stats are only superficially useful. They don’t take into account context, score or pace, but for a one-game snapshot they can me somewhat interesting and tonight the Celtics were +23 when Rondo was in the game. (That’s good).

3. Kendrick Perkins Had Some Rust

Perkins played 23 minutes, scored just two points and for the first 18 or so of those minutes looked like a guy who hadn’t played in a week and a half, which was to be expected. But in the last five he grabbed every rebound and generally made himself a menace to any Heat players who wanted to get down the lane.

It was a solid run for Perk who now has to face Orlando’s monster-child Dwight Howard 24 hours later.

Interestingly, Brian Scalabrine who played so well in place of Perkins, stayed in the rotation in the first half, getting 22 minutes on the floor total. Big Baby Davis played well when he got his chance in the second half. I’ll be curious to see if Scal keeps a spot in the bench rotation after playing so well and if anyone’s time suffers as a result.

4. Miami Cold

For reasons that I will keep to myself, I have spent a decent amount of time in the town of Manhattan, Kansas aka The Little Apple and the home of Kansas State University. It was always a curious thing that Michael Beasley wound up there, for while it is a underrated spot of midwest terra firma, it ain’t exactly UCLA.

You could see all the good stuff in Beasley’s game. The left-handed jumper, the quickness off the floor, the scoring instinct, etc. You could also see the kid needs work, especially on the defensive end. He’s a nice talent, however, and along with D-Wade just about the only two things I liked about this Miami team.

Granted, Shawn Marion hurt himself on a missed dunk (thus delaying the trade rumors for a little while), and it’s possible that the Celtics just caught them on a bad night, but the Heat shot way too many 3′s and got crushed on the boards. Erik Spolestra is either the best coach in the league, or D-Wade is playing even better than we thought, but it’s hard to believe that Miami is playing better than .500 ball.

5. Stephon Marbury to Greece?

This is one of those there-is-no-way-it’ll-happen stories, but it’s out there. Apparently a Greek team has expressed an interest in Stephon Marbury and contacted the Knicks about trying to work out a deal. (Now here comes the joke about how the Knicks would trade him for a box of Souvlaki.)

Marbury apparently hasn’t been in contact with the team, however, and a move to Greece doesn’t seem likely. The pressure has been turned down on the bench a little and at this point, Marbury seems more like an illusion than a reality.

6. How Important is the Orlando Game?

For the Celtics, mildly. It’s a chance for them to show the rest of the NBA (the game is on TNT) that they are still the baddest dudes on the block. They wiped out Orlando earlier in the year–who was playing without Jameer Nelson and generally solidified the opinion that the Magic are a nice, but not great, team.

Since then the Magic have gone 20-3 and riding a seven-game winning streak. For them, it’s a big game. They played well against the Celtics last year and a win would help give them some credibility.