Archive for November, 2010

The Three-Pointer: Marquis Daniels delivers what Doc ordered

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Last year, a few times during the season, the cameras would catch Marquis Daniels in street clothes on the end of the Celtics bench, and people would be reminded, “Oh, yeah, he’s on this team.”

In other words, he was forgettable, even for Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who designated Daniels as a DNP for 13 of their 24 playoff games last season.

Since entering the NBA in 2003, Daniels has missed at least 20 games in six of his seven full seasons. After signing a $2 million deal with the Celtics last season, he played in just 51 games — reaching double figures only eight times and looking more like Lou Tsioropolous than the guy who averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Pacers during the 2006-07 season.

In the Celtics’ 106-87 victory over the Cavaliers, we saw a different Daniels — one the Celtics must have known still lurked somewhere beneath those dreads, or else they wouldn’t have re-signed the swingman to another one-year deal (this time for more money, at $2.5 million).

“He surprises me, and he upsets me, because I know he can do it every night,” Rivers told reporters after Tuesday night’s win. “I’m going to stay on him, because he has that in him. I think he can be that terrific every single night. I really do.”

When the final seconds had ticked off the clock in Cleveland, Daniels’ line read like this: 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), four rebounds, two steals and one block — all improvements from his averages of 4.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks. But it wasn’t just his statistical production that endeared him to Rivers for at least one night. It was his defense.

“We put him on [Ramon] Sessions, he was guarding Mo Williams and moving his feet,” added Rivers. “They couldn’t beat him off the dribble. That was huge. We didn’t know how long we could go with that. We were going to try to get them on the other end in the post. We didn’t know we could stay in front of those guys, and the fact that Marquis could do that was a big deal for us.”

In the wake of Delonte West‘s surgery after suffering a broken wrist last week, the Celtics desperately needed someone off the bench to help Glen Davis — who had his usual productive night off the bench with 17 points and 11 rebounds — ease the burden for the Celtics starters. They’ve been waiting for more than a season for Daniels to be that guy, and for at least one game he met the challenge.

It’s no surprise that his best game of the season came two games after West’s injury and just one day after Rivers made the Celtics bench pull double duty at practice.

“We brought the second unit in early [Monday],” said Rivers. “They had their own practice before the regulars had their practice, and you could see that it got to them a little bit. And it was great, but we need them like that every night.”

Consider that a challenge to Daniels going forward, as if the motivation of another, bigger payday wasn’t already enough.

‘STEP ON THE GAS PEDAL’

After falling behind the Cavaliers 17-8 in the first 6:34 of Tuesday night’s game, the Celtics outscored Cleveland 48-28 to close out the half and take a 56-45 lead into the locker room.

That’s when Celtics commentator Tommy Heinsohn said it, as a ton of Celtics fans were thinking it: “All right, now step on the gas pedal.”

Too often this season the Celtics have rushed out to double-digit leads, seemingly in total control of every aspect of the game, only to have their advantage start to vanish like Marty McFly‘s image in that “Back to the Future” photograph.

Tuesday night, however, the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 24-20 in the third quarter, stretching their lead from 11 to 15 points and allowing Rivers to give his starters some much-needed rest, considering the C’s host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

In their first 13 games, the Celtics led all three of their games at halftime but were outscored in nine of those games during the third quarter — leading to close games and forcing the Celtics to rely on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo for well over 30 minutes a night.

That trend has changed in the C’s last four games, as they have won the third-quarter battle in wins over the Hawks, Nets, Raptors and — after Tuesday night — the Cavaliers. That allowed Rivers to limit Pierce and Allen to just 23 minutes apiece in the final game of that stretch.

‘TOP OF THE FRONT RIM’

My father could drain free throw after free throw in the driveway. He’d make 200 in a row, or at least it seemed that way when I was a kid. His mantra: “Aim for the top of the front rim.” He ingrained that — and as a result the importance of foul shooting — into my head at an early age.

Despite having three guys — Allen, Garnett and Pierce — shooting 89, 85 and 84 percent from the free-throw line, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game ranked 21st in the NBA in foul shooting. And they didn’t do themselves any favors, shooting just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe against the Cavaliers.

Shaquille O’Neal‘s struggles at the line are a given (he’s at 57 percent). It’s really only Rondo who can help the Celtics improve in that arena. The Celtics point guard is shooting a putrid 47 percent from the line this season, and he made just 1-of-4 against the Cavaliers.

This problem may not have much effect on the C’s success during the regular season, but there’s no doubt it could be an Achilles heel in the playoffs, when games are more physical and tighter at the end. After all, the Celtics ranked eighth in free-throw percentage when they won the title three years ago.

Fast Break: Celtics handle Cavaliers

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 23 points and dished out 11 assists, leading the Celtics to a 106-87 victory against the Cavaliers in Cleveland on Tuesday night.

Six Celtics reached double figures, including Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, who combined for 33 points off the bench. Kevin Garnett contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, as the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 13-4.

WHAT WENT WRIGHT

Bench contributions: In 84 total minutes off the bench, Daniels, Davis and Nate Robinson combined for 41 points (on 17-of-34 shooting), 19 rebounds and six assists.

More importantly, their energy gave the Celtics a much-needed boost in the second quarter, as they outscored the Cavaliers 35-22 and built a comfortable 11-point lead at halftime.

Points in the paint: The Celtics absolutely obliterated the Cavaliers in the post, outscoring them 60-26 in the paint. Davis (17 points) and Garnett (11 points) led the way for the C’s. Pretty impressive, considering Shaquille O’Neal (6) was relatively quiet on the night.

Attacking the basket: Rondo repeatedly blew past the revolving door of defense that was Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions. He scored 16 of his 23 points around the bucket in addition to dishing out 11 more assists on dribble drives.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Thanksgiving weekend hangover: Whether it was rust from having Saturday and Sunday off or the Celtics not taking the Cavaliers seriously, the C’s looked sluggish early — digging themselves a 17-8 hole after the first six minutes. Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams combined for 11 points in that span.

Free throw shooting: The Celtics shot just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe. With a 74.6 combined free throw percentage, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game against the Cavaliers ranked 21st in the league.

Hickson’s yellow shoes: Wearing what may have been the ugliest shoes ever to appear on a basketball court, J.J. Hickson scored only one point in the game. His yellow sneakers were so awful that my girlfriend joked that the distraction they cause might be the secret to the Cavaliers’ semi-success this season.

Delonte West has surgery on broken wrist

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Celtics guard Delonte West underwent surgery to repair a displaced right wrist fracture Tuesday morning at the New England Baptist Hospital, the team announced. The surgery was performed by Dr. Drew Terrono and Dr. Hervey Kimball and assisted by Celtics Team Physician Dr. Brian McKeon and was deemed successful by the team.

There is no immediate update on when West may be able to return to the Celtics who are now missing both he and Kendrick Perkins (knee surgery) for a significant period of time. Center Jermaine O’Neal is also out at least through this week although there is no update on when he will be back either.

The Celtics have said they won’t make a move to replace West and will rely on Von Wafer and rookie guard Avery Bradley to fill in the gap.

Irish Coffee: The Celtics Vengeance Factor

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I love vengeance movies. Good (“Kill Bill”) or bad (“The Punisher”). I’ll watch it. And I’ll love it.

So, in the wake of last week’s Celtics victory over the Raptors and in the face of Tuesday night’s rematch against the Cavaliers, I got to thinking: How good are the post-Kevin Garnett-trade C’s at exacting revenge?

Examining the Celtics’ record over the last three-plus seasons in rematches against opponents following a regular-season loss in their previous meeting, it’s clear these C’s are pretty damn good at vengeance — like Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” good — especially against sub-.500 teams.

After losing to the Raptors by one on Nov. 21 this season, the Celtics handled Toronto during a nine-point victory in their rematch five days later. It marked their first shot at vengeance of the 2010-11 regular season.

Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have a record of 26-11 in rematches following a loss against that team in their previous meeting. Their average margin of victory in those 26 wins was 10.3 points.

Against sub-.500 teams during that same span, the C’s are now 9-0 in vengeance opportunities. Tuesday, the Celtics have another shot, as they face a 7-9 Cavaliers club that beat them 95-87 in Game 2 of the season.

The Celtics are favored by seven points in Tuesday night’s game. I’m just saying.

A CAVS TRAP GAME?

There’s no question that Thursday’s Cavaliers game against the Heat means more to Cleveland than Tuesday night’s rematch against the Celtics. And rightfully so, considering LeBron James‘ return to the town he dissed in his “Decision.”

But the Cavs are trying to avoid looking past the C’s, because — based on their comments to the Akron Beacon Journal — they expect the vengeance factor.

”We really took advantage of them playing the night before,” [Cavaliers guard Mo] Williams said of the first meeting against the Celtics. ”We ran, we ran, we ran. It was a new-look team at the time that didn’t know what to expect. I expect to see a better, more prepared Boston tomorrow.”

If the Cavs’ game plan against the Celtics was a secret before, it isn’t any longer.

”One of the reasons we were successful the first time is we got up and down the floor and put Shaq in a lot of pick and rolls,” [Cavaliers coach Byron] Scott said. ”That won’t change. We’ll still try to do that. If we do that like we did the last time, our guards will get wide open shots. We just have to keep it spread as much as possible and get the ball moving side to side.”

Well, then. I guess the Celtics don’t need to videotape any Cavaliers practices.

Oh, and speaking of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, if you haven’t already, read Adrian Wojnarowski‘s piece on James’ egotistical behavior. It’s probably the best insight into the Akron product you’ll read — including gems like these …

[Dwyane] Wade was one of the Team USA players who’€™d watch incredulously as James would throw a bowl of fries back at a renowned chef and bark, ‘€œThey’€™re cold!’€ Or throw his sweaty practice jersey across the court and command a team administrator to go pick it up. Everyone wants James to grow out of it, but he’€™s never showed much of an inclination for self-examination and improvement. And he’€™s never surrounded himself with people who’€™d push him to do so.

The fundamental problem for [Heat head coach Erik] Spoelstra isn’€™t that James doesn’€™t respect coaches – he doesn’€™t respect people. Give LeBron this, though: He’€™s learned to live one way with the television light on, and another with it off. He treats everyone like a servant, because that’€™s what the system taught him as a teenage prodigy. To James, the coach isn’€™t there to mold him into the team dynamic. He’€™s there to serve him.

BLOGGING, LAKERS-STYLE

I’m not sure why I do this to myself, but I’ve been following the 24-part series of profiles about the Lakers bloggers on the Los Angeles Times website.

Here’s what I’ve learned (in vast generalizations): Somehow, they’re all Lakers fans, yet none of them came from Los Angeles. Take one blogger’s story about how he became a Lakers fan as an example:

Born and raised in NYC, I didn’€™t really start watching much basketball until I found myself living in Cambridge, Mass., coming out of college and rooming and living with a crazy Celtics fan during the ‘€™85-’€™86 season. I got one look at Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers, and I was instantly hooked. I eventually found myself living and working in L.A. early in my film/TV career in ‘€™87, ‘€™88 and some of ‘€™89 where my love for the Lakers was truly forged. I have been following the team religiously ever since.

They all hate, hate, hate the Celtics, which I’m sure fuels their objectivity:

Opposing team, player you dislike the most: The Celtics and all things green. Paul Pierce and the ‘€œwheelchair’€ incident will always cause me to gag. More recently, however, Lebron and his now infamous ‘€œI’€™m going to take my talents to South Beach…’€ episode have trumped the hatred I have for the Celtics. I’€™ve never disliked a team more than I do this Heat team at the moment – I hate the Celtics, but I loathe the Heat.

Ladies and gentlemen, your L.A. Times basketball bloggers!

REMEMBERING RUSSELL

Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. Back in 1968, Bill Russell became the first NBA player to capture the honor. Here’s what the former Celtics player-coach told SI about winning the award:

“My pride was being part of a team. If Red Auerbach had talked about me being a pioneer, I would not have taken the coaching job. He told me it was a Celtics Job. … Until that time I disdained awards. But they said Sportsman wasn’t about the best athlete or winning something — it was about contributions to society through sports.”

Since Russell, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1985), Michael Jordan (1991), Tim Duncan/David Robinson (2003) and Dwyane Wade (2006)have been named Sportsman of the Year. Brian Scalabrine was robbed in 2008.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Preview: Celtics at Cavaliers

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

The last time the Celtics went to Cleveland, they were one day removed from their opening night showdown with the Miami Heat and they arrived in Ohio as conquering heroes for having vanquished LeBron James. The Celtics left with something other than their gratitude: a loss.

One of those nights, is the operative phrase in the NBA, but now the Cavs have the Celtics attention for the rematch.

“First off, they’€™re a team,” Kevin Garnett said. “It’€™s not like you can lock in on one or two guys. They share the ball, they run their sets, they know what they’€™re doing. They know what kind of team they are. They’€™re a hard-working team. They’€™re a team to be reckoned with. They’€™re not just some team that’€™s out here getting almost wins. They’€™re playing hard for 48 minutes.”

The Cavs opened the season with a respectable 5-5 mark, but reality has set in a bit as they lost three straight on the road and four of the last six. It’s not that they don’t have talent. The East being what it is, there’s no reason why Cleveland can’t compete for the last playoff spot, but after a long break and three days in between games the Celtics figure to be a bit more prepared this time around.

This is another one of those games the Celtics should win and if they can rack up enough of these victories now, it will make that more possible to compete for the top seed in the conference. But they have to be ready.

“They can all beat you,” Doc Rivers said. “They’€™re going to play hard against us, everyone is, and on the road especially if you don’€™t come with the right focus, you can lose any night.”

CELTICS (12-4, 7-3 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 108.9 (NBA rank: 9)

Defensive Rating: 101.1 (3)

Pace: 90.5 (26)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, out), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out)

CAVALIERS (7-9, 4-6 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 102.5 (28)

Defensive Rating: 107.3 (16)

Pace: 92.8 (16)

Likely Starters: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao

Injuries: None. (more…)

Three point play: Time for Plan B

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Barely a month into the season, Doc Rivers is already seeing his plans go up in smoke. The hoped-for scenario, with all the accumulated talent on the roster, was to employ a 10-man rotation, almost in a platoon style. Now that Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West are out, Rivers is forced to scramble a bit. The Celtics are down to a dozen able-bodied players and three of them are rookies.

“You come into the year with one plan and you got to change the plan sometimes and that’€™s something we’€™re doing as a staff,” Rivers said after the team conducted practice Monday. “The 10-man thing is not going to work right now. I believe it’€™s really important for us to have one because that allows [the starters] to get rest.”

Rivers said the injuries will force him to sub differently and you may see him go to his bench earlier in an attempt to jumpstart the minutes rotation. At the same time, he’s reluctant to leave all of his starters on the bench at any one time without veterans like West and O’Neal to take charge of the second unit.

“I’€™m just going to have to sub differently,” Rivers said. “It’€™s not what I wanted to do. The way our starters play, logically, I’€™d rather extend their minutes together. It’€™s just not going to work out that way.”

Rajon Rondo is already logging 39 minutes a night and Ray Allen checks in at 38 per game. Allen, Paul Pierce (36 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (33) have all seen their playing time increase from the previous season. Garnett said the veterans are ready for it.

“Everybody on here they’€™re going to have to be extended, not just us three,” Garnett said. “Guys have to anticipate playing more minutes.”

One player who has suddenly found himself with an unexpected role is Von Wafer, who has seen the court in small doses. Wafer is ahead of rookie Avery Bradley because of his experience, and also his shooting ability. “Obviously we need Von more than Avery in some ways,” Rivers said. “We need the guy to play the 2-spot. Avery can help us.” As for his defense, Rivers said that Wafer is working on it.

West is scheduled to have surgery on his wrist Tuesday and the Celtics will have a better idea how long he will be out after the procedure is performed. As for Jermaine O’Neal, his status is still up in the air. Rivers said that he was out for all of this week and that’s as far as they were willing to look.

Everyone knew injuries would be a part of this year’s team and now it’s time for the first of what could be many Plan B’s.

More practice notes after the jump… (more…)

Delonte West wrist surgery set for Tuesday

Monday, November 29th, 2010

WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced that guard Delonte West will have surgery on Tuesday for the fractured right wrist he suffered last Wednesday night late in the second quarter against New Jersey after driving in for a lay-up. Rivers said the team will know more about West and his fate for the rest of the season following the procedure.

“Surgery [Tuesday] and then we’ll know more after that,” Rivers said after practice on Monday.

Rivers aded starting point guard Rajon Rondo‘€™s left hamstring is no longer an issue but his sore left foot still remains troublesome. ‘€œThe foot is the bigger issue. The hamstring [injury] is gone for the most part.’€ Rivers said.

Rondo returned on Friday against Toronto after a three-game absence with a strained left hamstring.