Archive for April, 2011

Glen Davis: ‘We’re way deeper than [Miami]‘

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Glen Davis

As the Celtics returned to practice on Wednesday they still don’t know who their next playoff opponent will be, but that gives them a chance to focus on what has been their toughest adversary at times this season: themselves.

“I’ve told you all year our opponent has been us, so we get a chance to work on our stuff,” Doc Rivers said. “[This week is] very similar to training camp. When you start camp you really don’t have an opponent.”

That said, they clearly have an eye on Miami, who has a chance to close out its first round playoff series with Philadelphia on Wednesday night. As long as there’s not a Game 7 in that series, the Celtics will be in Miami for Game 1 on Sunday.

In the interim, their focus will be on what they do, especially their reserves. Glen Davis, for one, isn’t lacking any confidence.

“I feel like our bench is way stronger than theirs,” Davis said. “We’re way deeper than them. We just have to make sure we use our depth.”

The Heat have primarily used three reserves in their first round series with Philadelphia — Joel Anthony, Mario Chalmers and James Jones — but they may get a boost if Udonis Haslem is able to return from foot surgery that has kept him out since late November. An ineffective Mike Miller has fallen out of the rotation.

The Celtics may be deeper on paper, but their second unit didn’t exactly distinguish itself in their series with the Knicks except for a strong showing in the first half of Game 4. Rivers feels like he has gained some insight from that series, however.

“We knew what the starters could do,” Rivers said. “We weren’t sure what the fifth guy with the starters could do and you had no idea going into a playoff series what your bench, not only what they were going to give you, but what worked for them. As the playoffs went on we kind of figured out more and more what they’re comfortable with, what they can’t run more than what they can run.”

Despite their struggles, Rivers was encouraged by some of what he saw in New York, particularly on the block. “The one thing they do well is post,” Rivers said. “That second group is a great post group. Jeff Green, Delonte [West] and Baby, so we have to try to run a package more suited to them.”

The Celtics don’t incorporate a lot of post-ups in their offense, mainly because they haven’t had a reliable presence on the block since Shaquille O’Neal got hurt. Green got more work on the block in New York and for a second unit that sometimes struggled to run a functioning offense that would be a positive development.

Rivers also hinted at a bigger role for Green in the next round. “The other fifth guy [with the starters] is Jeff Green,” Rivers said. “That may be our biggest plus of all the groups, but we just haven’t used it a lot.”

SHAQ UPDATE: O’Neal didn’t practice on Wednesday and he won’t practice Thursday either. The Celtics are targeting Friday as a possible date, but as with all things Shaq, that is subject to change. “We hope he practices [Friday],” Rivers said. “But we don’t know that. We’ll see.”

Everyone else was on the floor at the start of practice, which was closed to the press.

STAYING IN RHYTHM: Everyone knows the Celtics play better with rest, but is there such a thing as too much? Assuming they play again on Sunday that would be a full week between games for the Celtics. They were 1-3 in the playoffs last season with  three or more days between games.

“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Rivers said. “It’s not like we can say, ‘Hey listen we want to start now,’ so let’s take advantage of what we have.”

Rivers called this week a mini training camp, but there’s no doubt they don’t want to stray too far from what made them successful against the Knicks, especially the last two games offensively. “When we run our stuff right defensively and offensively we tend to not turn the ball over and we tend to rebound better,” Rivers said.

RUN RONDO RUN: While no one would come out and say it before the series becomes official, Rajon Rondo will be one of the most scrutinized players in a showdown series with the Heat. He is the one obvious advantage the Celtics have from a personnel standpoint. He showed in the Knicks series that he can kick it up a gear and play with the kind of speed the Celtics need from him.

“It’s night and day when you see it,” Ray Allen said. “When he’s out there and he’s going and he’s got the energy, he doesn’t care whether you make a shot or not, he’s still having an impact on both ends of the floor. He’s on us about running the floor. I’m thinking I’m running, but let me run a little bit harder.”

Still, the Celtics emphasized that all four of their star players are tied together.

“Rondo’s key for us but all of them are,” Rivers said. “If Rondo’s playing well and Ray is not playing well then we struggle. If Ray is playing well and Paul [Pierce] or Kevin [Garnett] struggle then we struggle. It’s not just one guy. This really is a team that is pretty much tied together and each guy has to carry his own load.”

Irish Coffee: Early Celtics blow could stun Heat

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The more I hear from the Heat locker room and see from them on the court, the more confidence I have that they’ll cave the first opportunity they get. If the Celtics throw the first punch, it could be a knockout.

I fully expect the Heat to advance to Round 2, whether or not they blow another close-out opportunity on Wednesday night. Beyond that? I just can’t see them winning four times in a seven-game series against the Celtics.

Why? Listen to the types of statements the Heat’s stars have made in the last few days alone …

There’s this from Dwyane Wade: “The starting unit is not that [high energy] kind of lineup, and we understand that. But we do have to start off better, so we’ve got to do different things, myself and LeBron. We’ve got to be the ones to put the effort in those guys.”

I didn’t realize you could just put effort in people. I wish they did that at City Hall, so I didn’t have to wait in lines all day there. News flash Dwyane: It’s not that your other teammates aren’t trying — they’re just not that good.

This from LeBron James: “Throughout me and D-Wade’s career, we have always been kind of feel out the game first and then go from there. The both of us are going to play with more effort, more aggression and not feel the game out as much to start the game and see how that works, because our first quarters haven’t been the best.”

James hasn’t been putting forth his best effort? Forgive me for being naive, but don’t most guys play full-tilt at all times in the playoffs? Do you think Kevin Garnett has to say, “Maybe I should start playing with more effort”?

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NBA playoff picture, in a snapshot

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

When if ever will LeBron James and the Heat begin to trust each other? (AP)

Believe it or not, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Celtics are the only team that has finished its first-round series. While they await their first day of practice on Wednesday, NBA fans in Boston get a chance to watch what should be one of the most exciting playoffs in league history. Here’s a brief snapshot of the current playoff picture …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Miami Heat 3, Philadelphia 76ers 1

  • Heat  97, 76ers 89
  • Heat 94, 76ers 73
  • Heat 100, 76ers 94
  • 76ers 86, Heat 82

LeBron James & Co. are just trying to finish this series, so they can get their shot at the Celtics. The problem? The Heat are still struggling with chemistry and — as a result — have a 0-1 record in close-out games so far. Meanwhile, 76ers coach Doug Collins is just glad to get another game of playoff experience under his young team’s belt.

Heat forward Chris Bosh: “We’re going to have to trust each other. We’ve been talking about trust all this time, so we’re going to have to actually do it when it counts the most. It’s easy to stress when you’re up 2-0, 3-0. … When it’s time to close and it’s time to get to those other elite teams, and we’re going to have a chance to compete against them, we have to do the same thing well, not the same thing we did [Sunday].”

Sixers coach Doug Collins: “I’m sure Doc Rivers hopes we take the Heat to triple overtime in Game 7. No question about that. One thing about the playoffs, especially when you are a team that has a lot of games under the belt, you want series to go as little time as possible.”

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Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett just doing his job

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

During the Celtics’ two days of rest before Wednesday’s practice, Kevin Garnett got a chance to contribute to his Anta blog, focusing on Games 3 and 4 of the Knicks sweep. Here are the highlights …

Yo yo yo! We’re moving on! Great energy [Sunday] afternoon!  Happy Easter to anyone who celebrates it! We needed to get this game, so we could have a couple of days to get our rest! With Miami losing, we don’t play until at least Sunday. Doc gave us two days off, so practice on Wednesday! Lots of treatment, recovery and catching up with video games.

The team played awesome! We got up early and started executing better. Baby [Glen Davis] and JO [Jermaine O'Neal] tightened down our defense, and Rondo made our offense go. Setting picks for the guys is my job, and as Doc says, “DO YOUR JOB!” Good picks get good shots for Ray [Allen] and P2 [Paul Pierce]. Friday’s game they went off!!!! Yesterday, the Knicks tried to stop them, which got me looks. I was able to make shots and get rebounds. Didn’t even realize that I had 20-plus points. Team win is the only thing that matters.

That’s by far the most praise Garnett has heaped on his team’s execution, especially on the defensive end — a good sign for Round 2. It’s also nice to see Doc Rivers borrowing the “do your job” line from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Always loved that.

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Adrian Wojnarowski on M&M: Leaving C’s would be difficult for Doc Rivers

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to discuss the NBA playoffs and other Celtics items of interest. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Rajon Rondo put up huge numbers in the C’s first-round series sweep of the Knicks, and Wojnarowski said the point guard will again be tough for Boston’s opponent to handle in Round 2. “He’s Miami’s most difficult matchup,” Wojnarowski said. “They don’t have a guy to deal with him.”

The Heat, who need one more win to close out the 76ers, also appear to be at a disadvantage vs. the Celtics when it comes to bench play. “The question marks around Miami’s bench continue to be immense,” Wojnarowski said. “Mike Miller, who they had signed to be a key part of that team, he’s got issues with both thumbs. He can’t shoot the ball. And so, his minutes have diminished. They’re getting less and less from that bench. That’s why they thought about signing Eddy Curry. That’s the level of desperation they had with that group there. That’s where Boston’s supposed to have the advantage here.”

If Shaquille O’Neal can return and give the C’s some quality minutes to complement Jermaine O’Neal, that would give Boston another advantage. “We’ll see what happens with Shaq, if he comes back,” Wojnarowski said. “Because Jermaine O’Neal really established himself as a big part of this Celtics postseason run with the way he played. He probably won Game 2 for Boston. I think Doc said he did, and I agree with him. His ability to defend the rim and block shots. Now, if Shaq comes back — maybe Shaq comes off the bench, maybe Shaq starts — but Boston’s bench has shown some signs in that New York series of playing better.”

Added Wojnarowski: “Doc said it all along: They had to have one of the O’Neals play. And Jermaine has played better. He exceeded my expectations. … You saw him defending, rebounding and just his movement around the floor and getting out, really being a lot of places, his rotation on defense, getting back, showing on the pick and roll and then getting back and protecting the rim. He brings a very high basketball IQ. He’s a smart guy, a veteran guy. And I thought he played great in that series and was the difference for Boston.

“But listen, Shaq still commands a double team in the post offensively. He still can rebound the ball. He can’t move like Jermaine can and defend all over the floor defensively the way Jermaine has showed himself to do. But there’s still things that Shaq brings to them that are going to help them, not just against Miami.

“You know, it’s funny: They don’t need him against Miami in terms of, Miami doesn’t have great size. But what it is is, he gives you an advantage. He gives you an edge where they have trouble matching up, and guys still have to foul him or double him. And so, while you don’t need him to match up with one of their guys, you say, ‘Hey, we have an advantage with him playing.’ So, that’s why you want him to play.”

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Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, reinvigorated

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

I think everyone can agree we saw a different Rajon Rondo against the Knicks then we did in the last month-and-a-half of the regular season. Sure, he played the majority of his minutes against the likes of Toney Douglas and Anthony Carter, but still — it’s not like he’s going to be facing Chris Paul in the next round.

Rondo is the switch. The numbers illustrate as much, and I see no reason he can’t replicate his performance against Mario Chalmers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Rondo averaged 10.0 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 free-throw attempts in 21 regular-season games during March and April. Then, in the playoff sweep of the Knicks, he averaged 19.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 12.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 6.5 free-throw attempts. Essentially, without warning, he reverted to the player we saw when the Celtics started 23-4 before Christmas.

It’s not like the Big Three played that much better offensively against the Knicks than they had during the regular season in March and April. In fact, their field-goal percentage actually dropped from 50.2 percent in March and April to 49.4 percent against New York.

What really changed for the Big Three? As a result of Rondo’s ability to get into the paint whenever he wanted, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got far more open looks on the perimeter. They made a ridiculous 27-of-46 3-pointers (58.7%) — averaging 6.8 makes on 11.5 tries — in the Knicks series, as opposed to their 66-of-176 3-point shooting (37.5%) — 3.0 makes on 8.0 attempts per game — in the final 22 games of the regular season.

Can those two continue to shoot close to 60 percent from 3-point range? Probably not, but two of the game’s great shooters will keep getting more open looks as Rondo forces the Heat defense to sag on him in the paint. And if you think Dwyane Wade or LeBron James might take a shot at guarding Rondo,  do you have any confidence that Chalmers or Mike Bibby or James Jones or whoever can keep up with Pierce and Allen?

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Fast Break: Celtics complete sweep of Knicks

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

(Click here for Rajon Rondo post-game interview)

NEW YORK — Bring on the Heat. It got more hectic than it should have in the fourth quarter as the Celtics almost blew a 23-point lead, but all that matters is that they survived in Game 4 of their first round playoff series and escaped with a 101-89 win over the Knicks on Sunday.

The win completed the sweep, their first since the 1992 season when they brushed off the Pacers in three games. It also allowed them at least a week worth of rest before they start their semifinal series with Miami (assuming the Heat take care of Philadelphia).

The Knicks series is over. Every game except for the third one had its anxious moments, but the Celtics did what that they had to do and made progress along the way. Here’s how they closed it out:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo at his best: Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised eyebrows before the game when he wondered aloud how Rajon Rondo would look if he played for Minnesota, instead of on a team with three future Hall of Famers. No doubt word was relayed to Rondo about the subtle jab, but whether it bothers him or not is a different story. “He doesn’t bring it up a lot,” Doc Rivers said in response. “It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”

Whatever the case, Rondo went right at the Knicks from the outset. He went strong to the basket even when he didn’t have the numbers and made solid decisions with the ball. He also pulled up for jumpers in transition and drained team. How would Rondo do with a bad team? It doesn’t really matter because he’s the right point guard for this team.

The bench comes alive: For three games the Celtics played shorthanded. Their second unit was no unit at all, but in Game 4 that all changed. Glen Davis made four of his first five shots and put up 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. Nenad Krstic scored inside — his first made field goals of the playoffs. Delonte West brought his usual tough defense and Jeff Green was aggressive on the post and putting the ball on the floor. The Celtics had a six-point lead after the first quarter. They led by 17 at the half. Credit the bench, which will be a major part of the next rounds of the playoffs.

The second half? Not so much, but at long last the play of the second unit was a positive development.

De-fense, De-fense: In the building where the chant took on a life of its own, the Celtics clamped down defensively in an impressive, and overwhelming, performance. Carmelo Anthony started hot, making five of his first nine shots, but he was the only threat and the Celtics eventually cooled him off too. Amar’e Stoudemire was clearly not himself, missing his first eight shots. Outside of Anthony, the Knicks shot a woeful 6-for-34 in the first half. Even with him they still made just 28 percent in the first half.

And then the second half happened …

WHAT WENT WRONG

Third quarter letdown: It was bound to happen. After dominating the first half and taking that into the opening minutes of the second half, the Celtics displayed every bad habit that has marked the last two months of the regular season. They held the ball on offense, didn’t get back in transition and didn’t close out on shooters. The Knicks sliced an 18-point lead down to 10 and made the fourth quarter way more interesting than it needed to be.

Careless turnovers: These are the Celtics we’re talking about. Turnovers have been a problem forever with this team and they reared their head in the fourth quarter. Really they were a function of all the bad offensive habits the Celtics developed late in the year — holding the ball, waiting too long to get into their sets. They may be playing with an extra sense of urgency during the playoffs, but teams simply don’t become something they’re not overnight and the Celtics’ turnover problem will not go away any time soon.