Archive for January, 2012

Fast Break: Celtics (barely) avenge loss to Cavaliers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

If you thought Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers was bad, Tuesday’s win might have been worse.

After blowing a 12-point lead in the final five minutes at home in the first meeting of their home-and-home series, the C’s let a 22-point lead dwindle to two with 1:18 remaining in Cleveland. Luckily, Kevin Garnett dropped a turnaround jumper and Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to on for a 93-90 win.

Pierce finished with a team-high 20 points as well six assists and four rebounds, lifting the Celtics (10-10) to .500 once again. Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points to lead a 28-point effort by the C’s bench.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

In his defense: Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving beat the Celtics with his offense on Sunday night, but his porous defense helped the C’s return the favor two days later. Avery Bradley (8 points) beat him through the back door, making himself an easy target underneath the basket for open layups, and E’Twaun Moore (5 points) took advantage of Irving’s tendency to cheat by knocking down open shots on the perimeter.

Riding the pine: Led once again by Bass (13 points) and Mickael Pietrus (6 points, 2 treys), the Celtics bench dominated the Cavaliers reserves in the early going, outscoring their counterparts 23-5 in the first half alone. Moore and Sasha Pavlovic also lended a helping hand as the C’s established a double-digit lead by halftime.

Protecting the rock (for the most part): Without Rajon Rondo for the seventh straight game, the Celtics assisted on 19 of their first 26 field goals while committing only six turnovers as they built the lead to 22 in the third quarter. The C’s finished with 25 assists on 37 FGs, but their turnovers climbed to 14 — allowing the Cavaliers to climb back into the game.

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Blake Griffin treats Kendrick Perkins like a Kia Optima

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

I bet Jeff Green couldn’t get dunked on like that. I kid. I kid. Somewhere, Danny Ainge is smiling.

Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault

Monday, January 30th, 2012

After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.

Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.

In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.

“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’€™ve been here, that’€™s all we’€™ve done. We haven’€™t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”

While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.

THE STALWARTS (more…)

Kyrie Irving dominates the fourth quarter

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Down by one, on the road in front of a raucous crowd, and there was time for one last possession. In Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott’s mind, he knew exactly who to give the ball too — his rookie point guard, Kyrie Irving.

“We put the ball in the last play of the game, and told him to go with about seven seconds,” Scott said. “I didn’t want him to go quick, I wanted to go for the win. And he was able to get to the basket.”

What happened next was a revelation. Irving announced to the rest league that he was a star, and did what star players in the NBA do, finish when it matters most. The goal was simple: get to the basket or force a defender to leave a teammate open, and Irving didn’t hesitate.

“I knew I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot, that’s for sure,” Irving said. “I just wanted to go in and get the best look possible. Whether it be finding a teammate for a three or open lay up. Once I saw an opening, I took advantage of it and made the shot.”

Irving missed a similar shot against the Pacers earlier this season, but perhaps more importantly, even at the young age of 19, Irving wanted the opportunity.

“I told him to run a high pick and roll and just see what you can get,” said Scott. “He had the look in his eyes like he wanted it anyway. At that particular time, I wasn’t thinking about his age. I was just thinking about how pretty damn good he is with the ball in his hands.”

The standout rookie’s diving layup, with just over six seconds left in the game, gave Cleveland a 88-87 victory Sunday night in Boston, snapping the Celtics four-game winning in the process. With his father, Drederick — a Boston University Hall of Famer — sitting courtside the first overall pick in last year’s draft said his first game winning basket was a special moment.

The play was representative of the entire fourth quarter. The Celtics had issues with Irving and his two-man game off high-screens with Anderson Varejao all night.

“Defensively I thought we were solid throughout the game,” said Ray Allen. “But in that fourth quarter on the ball in pick and rolls we reverted where we didn’t take the ball out of Kyrie’€™s hands at least make him see more pressure and make him play under duress. He got to his spots and made the plays he needed to make for his team and I don’€™t think at any time we recognized that.”

Irving was anything but a rookie Sunday night. He played under control for most part (only committing three turnovers), and was efficient in his offensive approach, finishing with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting.  Most impressively is down the stretch, with his team trailing by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, it was Irving who took his game to another level. He scored eight of the Cavaliers 26 fourth quarter points, only missing one of his four field goal attempts.

“I thought he dominated the fourth quarter,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He single-handily in my opinion willed that win for them.”

Fast Break: Celtics let one get away

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

The Celtics had the game well in hand and then, everything fell apart. They went scoreless for the final four and a half minutes and rookie guard Kyrie Irving sliced through the defense for a layup with 2.6 seconds left to give the Cavaliers an 88-87 win. Paul Pierce missed a shot jumper at the buzzer.

The loss snapped the Celtics four-game winning streak and was easily one of their worst of the season. The two teams are back in action again on Tuesday in Cleveland.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The Cavs took advantage of Jermaine O’Neal‘s absence by attacking the paint at every opportunity. Sixteen of their first 19 points were scored in the paint and they finished with 54 for the game. Anderson Varejao had his way with the Celtics’ bigs and Irving was able to penetrate at will.

– Irving took Avery Bradley apart, scoring 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting.

– At times the Celtics were careful with the ball. At others — such as in the second quarter when they turned it over seven times — they were careless. When they kept the turnovers at a minimum, the Cavs couldn’t stop them.

– The Celtics reserves were outscored 30-14.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Ray Allen returned to the lineup and the Big Three were once again whole. They scored 50 of the Celtics’ 70 points through the first three quarters and made 20-of-29 shots. Allen finished with 22 points, but missed a layup that would have given the Celtics a nine-point lead. That’s when the Cavs made their run.

– Paul Pierce had another strong all-around game with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

– The Celtics almost won this game with offense. They shot 52 percent and had assists on eight of their 10 made shots in the first quarter. They couldn’t keep up the pace, but it was one of their best extended stretches of passing this season.

– The bench didn’t have a strong game (see below), but they were able to maintain a lead in the fourth quarter while Pierce and Garnett were able to rest. Sasha Pavlovic made two big shots including a baseline dunk.

Chris Wilcox is gaining momentum

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

The numbers didn’t jump off the page for Chris Wilcox on Thursday night in Orlando. In nearly 19 minutes of action, he only scored four points and collected one rebound during the Celtics comeback win over the Magic. But it was the type of performance coach Doc Rivers felt was critical to getting his injury-riddled big man some much-needed momentum going forward.

“He was great,” Rivers said. “I thought he was one of the unsung heroes from [Thursday] night. He’€™s figured out that he’€™s not going to beat anybody with height so he plays his defense before the guys gets the ball. I thought he had four or five deflections on Dwight [Howard], and before he could get the ball up [Wilcox] already had his hands on the ball.”

Wilcox figured out more than how to play good defense. Friday against the Pacers he started to find his offensive game as well, scoring a season-high 14 points in 22 productive minutes off the bench.

“Last night got me a little more comfortable,” said Wilcox. “Tonight, I just wanted to play hard. I was a little winded but it was a good one.”

Contributions from the nine-year veteran were vital to a win as the Celtics were playing a second night of a back-to-back, and missing Jermaine O’Neal from the lineup. Wilcox didn’t disappoint.

He came out aggressive, hitting all three of his field goal attempts in the first quarter while the Celtics jumped out to an early lead. At halftime Wilcox was the only player in double digits for either team.

“It definitely builds my confidence up more,” said Wilcox. “I got off to a slow start [this season]. Injuries held me back, and now I’m starting to get into a rhythm.”

Wilcox’s health is coming around at the right time for Boston. His slow start is attributable to signing with the team late in training camp, and missing half the games this season because of a calf injury. Now that the 6-foot-10 forward is healthy again,  the Celtics can finally utilize his versatility.

‘€œHe’€™s huge for us, because he can guard the center position and power forward position,” said Paul Pierce. “He’€™s a very physical player and he’€™s a great finisher down low, so he’€™s going to be a big key for us moving forward as far as our depth at the big man position, especially with Jermaine O’€™Neal being out.’€

It won’t come overnight. Wilcox – as are so many other NBA players – is still trying to find his legs and get in game shape.  “If he could play with an oxygen tank, he’d be phenomenal,” joked Rivers. “He’s absolutely dying out there. But he’s still giving us the time and he’s doing everything for us, which is terrific.”

The Celtics hope there are more nights like Friday for Wilcox while he works himself into ideal shape. For now he’s just happy the Celtics are back to their winning ways.

“I’m definitely starting feel like I’m getting back,” said Wilcox. “I’m a little sore, but at the same time we’re all grinding. We’re all sore right now. So we’re all working together and good things are happening.”

‘I’d love to be Paul Pierce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus’

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Mickael Pietrus isn’t Ray Allen, even though he played him on TV Friday night — starting in place of the injured NBA 3-point champion for the second straight night. And he knows he isn’t Celtics teammate Paul Pierce either.

“That man been a 10-time All-Star,” Pietrus said of Pierce. “I’d love to be Paul PIerce, but I’€™m Mickael Pietrus. … I’€™m happy to get Paul back. It was hard for me to guard him on the opposing team. I’€™m glad I’€™m his teammate. It’€™s Paul Pierce. He’€™s a 10-time All-Star. He knows how to play basketball.”

Pietrus knows how to play basketball, too, and he’s filled in admirably for Allen. In back-to-back starts against the Magic and Pacers, he has totaled 25 points — including five 3-pointers — and 12 rebounds.

‘€œHe’€™s been huge,” said Pierce. “You talk about a guy who can really knock down shots and make plays. He’€™s a really scrappy defender and a great athlete. He’€™s been huge in Ray’€™s absence, just filling in that role and being that constant threat from the outside and filling in gaps on defense.’€

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