Archive for January, 2012

Paul Pierce: ‘I’m probably at about 83.7 percent’

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

After totaling 52 points, 18 assists and 16 rebounds in consecutive wins against the Magic and Pacers, Celtics captain Paul Pierce discussed the improving health of the sore right heel that kept him out of training camp.

Pierce’s recent hot stretch raises his career total to 21,676 points, just 115 behind Pacers president Larry Bird for second on the C’s all-time scoring list. There’s at least a chance Pierce could achieve the mark in seven games (if not sooner) against the Lakers in Boston on Feb. 9. Of course, you’ll remember Allen set the NBA’s all-time 3-point record against Kobe Bryant & Co. in the Garden last season.

Fast Break: Celtics win fourth straight, reach .500

Friday, January 27th, 2012

For 24 minutes against the Pacers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like a couple guys in their mid 30s playing consecutive nights of basketball, combining for 4-of-16 shooting in the first half, but The Truth and The Ticket made a combined 10-of-14 second-half shots to lead the Celtics to impressive victories in back-to-back games — this time 94-87 against Larry Bird‘s club.

Pierce approached a triple-double for the second straight night, compiling 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett added 13 points and eight boards (as did Mickael Pietrus). Meanwhile, recently returned Chris Wilcox enjoyed a breakout night for the Celtics (9-9), amassing season highs of 14 points and six rebounds.

Danny Granger‘s 21 points led the Pacers (12-6), who had beaten the C’s in their two previous meetings.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bench clearing: Led by Wilcox’s six points and three rebounds, the C’s bench played an inspired first quarter, making all four of their shots and taking an early 23-17 lineup when Garnett and Pierce came out flat on the second night of a back-to-back. A lineup of Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus actually stretched a lead when the Celtics needed a lift most.

Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 21 of their 38 field goals in the first half — without starting point guard Rajon Rondo in action. For the second consecutive night, Pierce (10 assists in Thursday night’s victory) assumed the role as the offense’s main facilitator, recording more assists by himself (5) than the entire Pacers team (4) in the opening half.

Double the fun: Sure, Doc Rivers has a philosophy that his team is better off getting back on defense, but offensive rebounding was a concern for the Celtics last season, as they rarely outworked opponents on the offensive glass. Against the Pacers, the C’s pulled down seven first-half offensive boards and outscored the Pacers for the game in second-chance opportunities, 14-6.

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Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s ‘goddamn bar fight’

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Three nights after holding the Magic to a record low 16 field goals in an 87-56 victory at the Garden, the Celtics dealt Dwight Howard & Co. another embarrassing blow in Orlando — storming back from 27 points to steal a 91-83 win in one of the 10 greatest comebacks in NBA history. And one of the great postgame interviews in history.

“It was a goddamn bar fight,” Celtics forward Kevin Garnett told TNT’s Craig Sager after the game. “A goddamn bar fight, man. It was a bar fight, Craig. Tonight was a bar fight, man. We knew they were going to come in with a lot of energy. Tonight was a bar fight. You ever been in a bar fight? Ask Charles [Barkley], he’s been in a bar fight. This is what it was tonight. We won in the second half. We came out with a lot of energy.”

At some point, KG remembered Sager was conducting an interview, so he allowed him to ask a couple questions.

We heard Doc Rivers say late in that third quarter, “This is not over yet.” Did you believe him?

“Since I’ve been here in Boston, Doc has never told me nothing that wasn’t true. We were in the Finals one time, we were down whatever it was, and he told us we could come back. And I believed him. And we did. So, tonight was no different.”

Does this victory mean even more than holding the Magic to 56 points on Monday?

“When you’re down and you fight back, you’ve got reason to be proud of yourself. That’s what this was. This was a Celtics win right here, man.”

Of course, Garnett proved a big part of that win, notching his second straight double-double and fifth of the season. More importantly, he helped hold All-NBA center Dwight Howard to fewer than 20 points.

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Fast Break: Comeback Celtics stun Magic

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

There was no reason to think that the Celtics had any chance of coming back in a game when they were down by 27 points and playing without three starters. But the Celtics slowly began to chip away at Orlando’s lead in the second half and late in the third quarter, E’Twaun Moore caught fire knocking down three 3-pointers as the Celtics rallied all the way back for a 91-83 win in Orlando.

Paul Pierce led the way with 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds and Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics got a huge lift from Moore and Mickael Pietrus, who combined for 28 points and seven 3-pointers, making up for the absence of Ray Allen.

They were also missing Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal, which meant that Garnett had to play Dwight Howard and the veteran held the All-NBA center in check. Orlando did not score a field goal until more than halfway through the fourth quarter and picked up two fourth quarter technicals, which helped seal their fate.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Moore, the rookie from Purdue, simply played out of his mind, making all four of his 3-point shots and finishing with 16 points. The Celtics have loved his aggressiveness and on Thursday night that translated into much-needed points.

– Slowly but surely, Garnett’s game has been coming back together. He’s scored in double figures in seven straight games and his defense has been tremendous. Garnett played Howard as well as you could ask and was one of the few players who brought anything to the table offensively in the first half.

Mickael Pietrus started for Allen and at least approximated Allen’s 3-point shooting, knocking down three of them and finishing with 12 points.

Chris Wilcox didn’t do much in the box score but his activity and energy on defense was a huge lift in the fourth quarter.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– It was almost a gift for the Celtics when Howard got two quick fouls and jumped out to an 8-2 lead. But when Howard left, the Celtics didn’t attack the basket and instead were content to fire up off-target jumpers. The Magic outscored them 30-8 the rest of the first quarter and put them in a deep hole.

Greg Stiemsma picked up four fouls in only seven minutes in the first half and he and Wilcox contributed no points and one rebound in 15 minutes. Since his breakout game against Washington on New Year’s Day, Stiemsma has made just two shots and scored only six points.

Five restricted free agents for Celtics to consider

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Eric Gordon will be a restricted free agent this summer. Will the Celtics be interested? (AP)

On Wednesday, Minnesota forward Kevin Love signed a four-year extension that could be worth up to $60 million. Love didn’t get the five-year max offer that he was seeking from Minnesota, but he may have gained something more valuable: control over his future. Love can opt out after three years, which would make him an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season at the same time Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams will be finishing their rookie deals, as well as coach Rick Adelman, who is also signed through the 2015 season.

Why the Timberwolves didn’t lock up the 23-year-old double-double machine when he wanted to sign on for the long-term is the kind of curious decision that has defined GM David Kahn‘s very curious tenure. But it does take Love off the restricted free agent market this summer and removes another potential target for the Celtics, who are positioned to have ample room under the cap after the season.

The problem with having all that cap space is there are very few worthy players to spend it on outside of Dwight Howard. Team president Danny Ainge noted last week in an appearance on The Big Show that, “My philosophy is it’s really challenging to build a team when you overpay role players before you have your stars.”

That puts Ainge in a difficult spot, but patience is the right call and for an obvious example of what not to do when cap money burns a hole in your pocket, see the Pistons, who blew up their roster when they traded Chauncey Billups and then quickly signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon to their ever-lasting regret.

Make no mistake, the 23-year-old Love is a star and quite possibly a franchise player in the making. He’s exactly the kind of player for whom you save cap space when he does hit unrestricted free agency and thanks to the Wolves, that will now happen far sooner than it would have otherwise. But the Celtics, and everyone else, will still have to wait.

Wednesday was the deadline for players from the 2008 draft to sign extensions and in addition to Love, Denver signed Danilo Gallinari to a four-year deal. They join Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook as the other players from the draft class to sign long-term deals.

But there were several intriguing players who didn’t sign deals and will be restricted free agents this summer. While none of them are franchise players worth max money, here are five intriguing possibilities for Ainge to consider. (more…)

NBA Power Rankings, 1/25

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

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We’re exactly one month into the season and the NBA Power Rankings picture isn’t exactly crystal clear. Are the Sixers and Nuggets legit title contenders? What about the Nuggets? Are the Celtics and Lakers really borderline playoff teams? Will the Wizards and Hornets win 10 games?  Is Shaquille O’Neal the worst analyst in history? When will The Legend of Mutombo’s Gold be optioned for the film rights? Even at the quarter-mark, so many questions still remain in this shortened NBA season. Let’s attempt to answer a few of them.

Oklahoma City Thunder1. Oklahoma City (14-3): How the Thunder lost to the Wizards is a mystery on par with Area 51. Outside of that hiccup, Kevin Durant (MVP anyone?) & Co. continue to roll — through the Grizzlies, Knicks, Celtics and just about everybody else. Not only are they good, they’re healthy. Even Kendrick Perkins has started all 17 games. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about OKC — with games at the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers — but something tells me they’ll be Ok, see.

Chicago Bulls2. Chicago (16-3): No Derrick Rose, no problem. The Bulls are 4-1 in his absence, albeit against the dregs of the league. Meanwhile, Joakim Noah (16 and 10 on Monday) and Richard Hamilton (consecutive 20-point nights) are returning to form. But Rose remains the biggest question mark of the season, as his toe injury is expected to linger through the spring — and @derrickrosestoe is sure to pick up more than seven followers.

Miami Heat3. Miami (12-5): The Heat are 4-4 in their last eight games, but during that stretch they defeated the Spurs, Lakers and 76ers in five nights — without Dwyane Wade (ankle), another massive question mark looming over this NBA season. Remarkably, Erik Spoelstra‘s crew is 0-4 in Wade’s last four appearances. Without him, LeBron James is reverting to MVP form, as much as it pains me to say it, especially after he tweeted: “R.I.P Joe Pa! Met him before while I was out at Nike campus. He was great man!!” (more…)

Irish Coffee: Dwight Howard ‘looks up to a team like Boston’

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

If Magic All-NBA center Dwight Howard ever considered Boston as a free agent destination this summer, current Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat.

In the third quarter of Monday night’s Celtics victory, as Howard attempted to establish position in the paint and bumped O’Neal on the block, the latter stuck his finger in the former’s face and voiced his displeasure. The two bigs at dichotomous points in their careers were separated by teammates and each assessed technicals.

“That’s kind of crossing the line when somebody puts their hand in your face,” said Howard (18 points, 14 rebounds), who had four of his team’s NBA record low 16 field goals in the 87-56 loss. “I just put his hand out of my face. I didn’t run up on him. It’s basketball. We’re not MMA fighters. I don’t know why I got a tech, but I’m cool.”

O’Neal (6), Greg Stiemsma (5), Brandon Bass (4) and Kevin Garnett (2) combined for 17 personal fouls, sending Howard to the line 18 times (he made 10) in an attempt to minimize his sizable impact.

“You’re at his mercy to be honest,” said Garnett, who totaled 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. “You have to do what we call dirty work early, which is to try to take him off his sweet spots, contest his shots. He’s strong, he’s very powerful and explosive. You’re at his mercy, man, seriously. I’m not about to sit up here in front of the cameras and give y’all defensive schemes and secrets, but different ways you play different guys.”

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