Archive for March, 2011

Doc Rivers: This is what happens when our ‘butts got tight’

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

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So – like any parent would with their misbehaving, unmotivated teenaged child – Doc Rivers has laid down the law.

He warned his kids, err his players, with five minutes left in Friday night’s sleepwalker against the Bobcats that if they won the game, fine, but you’re doing it on your own. Alas, the Celtics never recovered from blowing a 13-point lead, allowing the 28-42 Bobcats to go on a 16-0 run en route to a 83-81 win over the Celtics.

The natural first question afterward was whether Rivers was shocked. Rivers gave a qualified answered.

‘€œNo, the way we’€™re playing shocks me,” Rivers said. “Our attitude shocks me. We’€™re just not ready to win any games right now the way we play, the way our approach is to basketball games. I told them that with about five minutes left. I said if we win great, you find your own way. Right now, I just think we’€™ve become very, very selfish. Not just as far as trying to get our own, but everything is about how we’€™re playing individually. Instead of how the team is playing. You can see it, a guy struggles, he pouts, he mopes. Everything is me, me, me on our team right now. Feeling sorry for themselves, instead of giving themselves to the team and playing.”

And Rivers reiterated the ‘lack of urgency’ message delivered by Paul Pierce following Wednesday’s loss to Memphis.

“You can just see it manifest throughout the team,” Rivers said. “Until we can get through that we will continue to have results like we had tonight. Clearly should have won the game. I thought the starting unit in particular, came in casual in the fourth quarter, assuming they were going to win the game. No urgency. Then all of the sudden when the game got won, their butts got tight.

When you got that 11-point lead, the shots aren’€™t easy anymore. I always say it, you screw around with the game and the game will screw around with you. Either I’€™m doing a terrible job getting to them or right now they just aren’€™t there. I don’€™t know why, it’€™s my job to figure it out though.’€

There was the rebound by 5-foot-11 D.J. Augustin in the paint while Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis watched. The rebound was put back for a go-ahead layup with 3:56 left. And the crowd began to leave.

‘€œWe deserve it,” Rivers said. “Everything they did we deserve. I’€™m not going to comment on individual plays. I just think we deserve everything that happened. It had nothing to do with soft. I could care less about their slumps. It’€™s not hard, you keep playing. You play hard. You’€™re not going to play well every night, but it can’€™t be about you. It’€™s got to be let me do something else to help the team.’€

As for comparisons to last year when they suffered home-court losses to the Nets and Wizards late in the season, Rivers said they don’t hold water since it was he who was holding out his players.

‘€œNothing like this. Last year I shut them down,” Rivers said. “They were injured. They’€™re not injured. They’€™re not playing well.”

Are they bored?

“Yeah, Yeah, I think so,” Rivers said, before pausing and adding, “Last year we lost Game 7 [NBA finals] on the road.’€

Delonte West reinjures ankle

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

During practice on Thursday, Delonte West aggravated his right ankle injury and he felt the effects in Friday’s Celtics loss to the Bobcats.

“At the end of the day I keep trying to downplay it,” West said. “I’€™ve had sprained ankles before and it only takes two, three days you’€™re back in action. I’€™ve got a chipped bone in there. I think I overdid it the other day in practice. Yesterday I was going super-hard and the ankle swole back up on me.”

West said that he did two hours of treatment on Friday to get ready for the game, but he had no lift on his shot and had to leave the game with 7:15 left.

“Once I step on the court there’€™s no excuses,” West said. “I’€™m still going to play defense. When I went up for a shot I noticed it was all in my takeoff and landing, it was throwing my shot off. That last play before I went out I feel like I barely left the ground.”

West will be in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to meet with his probation officer. He is scheduled to finish his house arrest sentence for weapons charges. He said that he plans to join the team in Minnesota for their game with the Timberwolves on Saturday and hopes to be able to play.

“I think a day or two should be sufficient,” West said. “When I say no more excuses, this is the last time you’€™re going to hear about the ankle from me.”

Paul Pierce is getting pretty sick of giving speeches

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

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Celtics captain Paul Pierce is not about to stand up on a table in the locker room and yell at his teammates to stop being lazy and bored. He said after Friday’s collapse and shocking home-court loss to the lowly Bobcats that every player needs to recommit themselves to the team or the losing will continue.

‘€œIt has to come from all of us,” Pierce said. “One player can come out here and say it and ‘€œhoo-rah’€ around the locker room, but it has to come from everybody. We’€™re all veterans, we’€™ve all been here before, and we all know what it takes. It’€™s got to come from each individual to take a look in the mirror, and look inside and decide if that’€™s what they want to do. We can talk about it everyday, but until we look at ourselves in the mirror, that’€™s what it’€™s going to be.”

Last year, Kendrick Perkins, during a late-season slump, said the Celtics were bored and were just trying to get to the playoffs. Are Celtics playing bored during their latest uninspired stretch?

‘€œI can’€™t speak for everybody. I’€™m not bored, if you’€™re asking me,” Pierce said.

Rivers called the team out for being selfish after the ugly loss. Pierce said that comes from a lack of ball movement in the offense.

“From time to time, that’€™s the reason why we don’€™t shoot a high percentage, or score 100 points, because the ball is sticking when we usually make extra passes that’€™s when the offense is flowing, and we’€™re able to get out there on a break and get easy opportunities,” Pierce said. “You haven’€™t been seeing that, and that’€™s why we’€™re shooting a low percentage and that’€™s why we’€™re not scoring.’€

Did Celtics defense get uptight as the Bobcats went on a run in the fourth?

‘€œI wouldn’€™t say that,” Pierce said. “It’€™s just our defense really broke down in the 4th quarter. We played good defense for three quarters, solid for the most part. Then we give up 30 points in the 4th quarter. Regardless of how our offense if going, which we’€™ve been struggling as of late; we still should be able to pull together a defensive run and hold this team off, especially when we’€™re up by 10 point in the 4th.’€

Pierce’s comments came just 48 hours after he called the team out for not having ‘a sense of urgency’ with the regular season winding to a close. Friday’s loss dropped the Celtics two games behind the first-place Bulls in the Eastern Conference. And with Miami coming from behind to beat Philadelphia, the Heat stand just a half-game behind the Celtics for second place.

Fast Break: Bobcats take bite out of Celtics

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all missed potential go-ahead buckets in the final 30 seconds, and the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, 83-81, against a Bobcats team that traded its best player (Gerald Wallace) and sat its next two most talented guys (Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas) with injuries.

After blowing double-digit leads in both halves, the Celtics (50-21) still only trailed 82-81 with 27 seconds remaining. But Pierce (game-high 18 points) missed an ill-conceived, contested jump shot and Gerald Henderson made 1-of-2 free throws to put the Bobcats (28-43) up two with 15 seconds left. Allen and Garnett each missed 3-point attempts in the finals seconds.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not putting the game away early: After just eight minutes of action, the Celtics had pushed their lead to double digits, and it appeared as though Gino might make an appearance as early as the second quarter. But a lineup that included Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Delonte West and Carlos Arroyo let the Bobcats close the game to 25-19 by the end of the first quarter. Charlotte remained within single digits through halftime.

Not putting the game away late: Just as they did in the first half, the Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead — this time in the fourth quarter, with the starters on the floor. The Bobcats took the lead when Pierce missed a pair of free throws, Henderson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in as three C’s watched. Pierce then clanged a 3-point attempt off the backboard and Davis committed his sixth foul. That fourth-quarter stretch defined a game full of poor decisions, as the Celtics settled for jumpers offensively and lacked effort defensively.

Committing turnovers (again): The Celtics committed 18 turnovers in their 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, and on Friday they picked up where they left off — turning the ball over six times in the first 15 minutes. They finished with 17 turnovers that led to 13 Bobcats points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Getting Ray Allen involved early: The Celtics’ offense has struggled of late, especially in the first quarter, and Allen’s lack of touches has been part of that dilemma. Not Friday. And definitely not against the Bobcats. Allen took (and made) two 3-pointers in addition to drawing a pair of fouls that led to four free throws. All in all, he recorded 10 of the C’s 25 first-quarter points — the team’s best output for the opening 12 minutes in almost three weeks.

After that, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else that went right for the Celtics.

Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions

Friday, March 25th, 2011

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

Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions  — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?” … “Is Doc Rivers gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.

All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show, Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show. Here are the highlights:

Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot last Tuesday, what gives?

Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”

Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.

“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …

“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”

KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”

Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?

(more…)

NBA Power Rankings, 3/24

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.

2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”

3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.

4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.

5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line.  (more…)

Getting the new Celtics to play like Celtics

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

There’€™s really no precedent for what the Celtics are trying to accomplish in a post Kendrick Perkins world. While other teams have added complementary parts to the equation at the trade deadline or even one large piece to the puzzle, the Celtics turned over a third of the roster, while also trying to re-introduce three important cogs who missed a combined 134 games because of injuries in Delonte West, Shaquille O’€™Neal and Jermaine O’€™Neal.

That’€™s a lot of change for a team that prides itself on its consistency. For years they knew exactly what they wanted to do, and how they were going to do it. When something went wrong it required a subtle tweak more than a complete overhaul.

Step one is the relatively straightforward assignment of having the new players learn the system. That takes time and repetition, but at the end of the day basketball is basketball and it’€™s not like there’€™s a hundred different ways to defend the pick and roll.

More than the schemes and the playbook, however, the biggest challenge is more intangible than tangible and it’€™s the biggest question hanging over the team for the next three weeks: How do you get the new faces to play like Celtics?

“The most important thing Doc [Rivers] is trying to teach them is how we play, how the Celtics play,” assistant coach Armond Hill said following the team’€™s practice on Thursday. “How we move the ball, how we play defense.”

Added fellow assistant Kevin Eastman, “Every team that is vying for championships, they have a DNA. Part of our DNA is not just the set that we run or who we go to, but it’€™s how we do it. The how is every bit as important.”

Ask any of the veteran Celtics and they will echo the coach’€™s thoughts.

“Getting them to understand the level and disciple and professionalism and all the other things that come with being a Celtic, Kevin Garnett said on an interview with WEEI’s Mut & Merloni [Listen to the audio here]. “The responsibility of playing hard every night. We’ve set that precedent here.”

They have been around each other so much over the last three and a half seasons that their approach has become second-nature. That doesn’€™t mean they don’€™t mess things up on occasion. Just look at the last minute of the loss to Memphis on Wednesday where the execution broke down. But when things go wrong, they have a deep understanding of the how and the why and it becomes a matter of fine-tuning the process to get the desired results. There’s a level of trust and familiarity involved and that simply can’t be distributed and absorbed like a playbook.

That, more than the wins and losses, is what the last three weeks of the regular season is all about. (more…)