Archive for February, 2012

Celtics fail to execute down the stretch

Friday, February 10th, 2012


When the Celtics look back at their 88-87 overtime defeat to the Lakers, there will be plenty of missed opportunities to point to for the loss. Particularly frustrating was the execution during last play of regulation.

Tied with the Lakers at 82 with just under 10 seconds left in regulation, Doc Rivers called a timeout. In the Big Three era, Celtics fans have grown accustomed to seeing one of two plays in this situation: A Paul Pierce step back jumper from the elbow, or a set screen to spring Ray Allen open for a game-winning jump shot.

The play was unfolding in front of the Garden faithful as expected. Pierce dribbled to his right, and Allen was set free by a Kevin Garnett pick. The only problem was the pass never came. Pierce hesitated and picked up his dribble because he was unsure if Allen was free on the wing.

“We set a pick and roll there with me and Ray,” Pierce said. “Ray was the flare. I didn’t think he was open. I shouldn’t have picked up my dribble, and I just kind of broke up the play when I picked up my dribble.”

Once the play stalled, Pierce was forced to hand-off to Mickael Pietrus who attempted a wild shot well behind the 3-point arc. The low percentage shot left the Celtics scratching their heads, especially Allen.

“I’d like to look at it again,” Allen said. “I was wide open. As Paul started dribbling off, both of those guys stayed with him, and I was just sitting there wide open. As he was going, he didn’t want to throw the ball. He was kind of a in a bad position. It’s just the way he went off. If  he knew they were going to jump up so hard and double, I’m sure he would have veered off a little bit more so he could have had a better passing angle.”

More confounding to the Celtics was that they had an opportunity to close out the game just seconds earlier. After an Allen 3-pointer put Boston up 82-80, the Lakers answered with a Pau Gasol put-back off a Kobe Bryant miss. Pierce said Gasol and Andrew Bynum‘s length gave the Celtics problems all night. They combined for 11 offensive rebounds, none more crucial than Gasol’s game-tying basket.

After the Celtics failed to convert on the subsequent possession, the game went to overtime. Trailing 88-87, the Celtics were presented with yet another chance to win, but Gasol came to the rescue again, blocking Allen’s put back attempt off a Pierce miss which would have won the game.

“I was in a perfect situation,” Allen said. “And he came out of nowhere.”

Fast Break: Celtics suffer overtime loss to Lakers

Thursday, February 9th, 2012


Paul Pierce‘s fadeaway jumper missed the mark and Ray Allen‘s put-back got blocked as the Celtics suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Lakers, 88-87.

The entire OT was a struggle for both teams, so an Andrew Bynum tip-in with 1:29 to play proved the difference. The Lakers outscored the Celtics 6-5 in the extra period.

With a little more than a minute remaining in regulation and the Celtics trailing by one, Allen converted his second 3-pointer of the night to give the Celtics an 82-80 lead as “Beat L.A.” chants rained down from the Garden rafters. But Pau Gasol tied the game with nine seconds remaining, and the final Celtics play before overtime resulted in a wild, failed 30-footer by Mickael PIetrus.

Gasol (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (16 points, 17 rebounds) both registered double-doubles, and Kobe Bryant added 27 points for the Lakers (15-11).

Allen’s 22 points led the Celtics (14-11) in scoring, Kevin Garnett (12 points, 12 rebounds) recorded a double-double, and Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for 32 points and 14 assists. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the C’s.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Spry Bynum: Jermaine O’Neal and the other veteran Boston bigs had trouble with Lakers 24-year-old center Andrew Bynum‘s youth and athleticism. A healthy Bynum is a dangerous Bynum, as the 7-footer nearly had a double-double by halftime. In fact, Doc Rivers turned to Chris Wilcox for a stretch — his first extended minutes with the Big Four.

Board room: Along similar lines, the Lakers size exploited an issue that’s plagued the Celtics this season — namely, rebounding. Bynum, Gasol and old friend Troy Murphy of all people corralled 40 rebounds as the Lakers out-boarded the Celtics, 55-45. Uncharacteristically, Rondo didn’t record a rebound until there was three minutes to play.

Backing up the point: With Keyon Dooling still sidelined and a suited up Avery Bradley considered doubtful before the game, Rivers could only turn to E’Twaun Moore for backup point guard minutes behind Rondo. Moore played four first-half minutes and registered a minus-8, so the Celtics had no choice but to play Rondo 40-plus minutes.

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Celtics vs. Lakers Live Blog — Feb. 9

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Who knew that the Celtics (14-10) would have a better record than the Lakers (14-11) when Los Angeles made its way to the TD Garden? The Celtics will be looking for their sixth straight win. Follow all the latest from the game in the Live Blog.

What to make of the Celtics after 24 games

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Paul Pierce and the Celtics have righted the ship after a tough beginning. (AP)

In order to resist the tidal wave of reactions in the midst of either winning streaks or stretches of tough losses players often offer hackneyed reminders that the season is a marathon not a sprint. However, what is so compelling about the shortened NBA season is that it is both a marathon and a sprint.

Incessant back-to-back games mean less time to recover from nicks and bruises, and virtually no time to practice. Teams can ill-afford to exaggerate the consequences of a hot or cold streak, mainly because as soon as players have digested one game, they find themselves in the lay-up line, 20 minutes away from their next contest.

Take the Celtics. They started their season losing three games in four days, all without Paul Pierce, who was sidelined by a right heel injury. Pierce returned to the lineup and the Celtics reeled off four straight wins. The ship seemed to be righted, but then the veteran squad dropped five consecutive games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Only 22 days into the season, with a woeful record of 4-8, rumors of blowing up the team percolated. The situation was further soured when Rajon Rondo suffered a wrist injury against the Raptors that would keep him out for two weeks. Little did anyone know, after the next 22 days, the Celtics would be one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 10 out of their last 12 games since the five-game losing streak.

The ascent didn’t seem probable.  After all, through 24 games, Doc Rivers has had to deal with four of his starters missing a combined 19 games. Additionally, Brandon Bass, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling were all newcomers expected to contribute off the bench, but there was a brewing sense that the shortened training camp did not provide enough time for the team to gain chemistry. Moreover, the aforementioned injuries thwarted any opportunity to set consistent rotations.

But, through the roster chaos, the Celtics did not make excuses. Kevin Garnett and Pierce acknowledged positive periods of play, but were ultimately accountable, saying that results were the only thing that mattered.

Now results are coming, injuries are subsiding and the Celtics appear to be clicking. Even though the team’s momentum may have changed, the same even keel attitude is evident and consistency is the goal.

“It’s that point in the season when we have to start playing some basketball,” Pierce said last Friday night after Boston’s 91-89 victory against the Knicks. “Being more consistent in everything we do. We are starting to feel like we’re getting better game-in and game out, week by week. We’re starting to get healthy.” (more…)

Duke’s Austin Rivers hits buzzer beater against UNC

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

I’m not sure what’s better: The deadeye 3-pointer Duke freshman Austin Rivers made against rival North Carolina to beat the buzzer or Doc’s reaction. Now, the coach’s Celtics host the Lakers. A good week for the Rivers family.

The All-Star cases for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce have made solid cases for inclusion on the All-Star team. (AP)

Through his first 11 games of the season, Paul Pierce averaged less than 15 points a game and shot 37 percent from the floor. He also averaged fewer than five rebounds and a little more than four assists.

The Celtics lost six of those 11 games, including the first-ever five-game losing streak in the new Big Three era, and when that was combined with an 0-3 start without Pierce while he was recovering from a bone bruise in his heel, there were naturally questions about whether it was all over for this group of Celtics.

Then Pierce scored 34 points against the Wizards to go with eight rebounds and 10 assists, and that kickstarted a remarkable renaissance. Over the next 10 games, Pierce averaged 22.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists and the Celtics went 9-1 with Pierce leading the way.

Are those 10 games enough to make Pierce an All-Star?

Through the first 13 games of the Celtics season, Rajon Rondo essentially carried the offense. With Pierce injured and then working his way back into game condition and Kevin Garnett off to a slow start, the Celtics asked Rondo to take on more of an aggressive role and he attempted almost 200 shots (making 52 percent of them) while handing out 122 assists.

The Celtics weren’t good, but Rondo was, rebuilding his reputation after a late-season swoon in 2011 and an offseason of trade rumors. Then Rondo fell awkwardly on his right wrist and missed eight games. The Celtics went 6-2 and when he came back he was able to return to his preferred playmaking role, racking up 28 assists in his last two games.

Are 16 games enough to make the All-Star team?

After the starters are chosen by the fans, the reserves are selected by the coaches who vote for two guards, two forwards, a center and two wild-card choices. They will be announced before the Celtics play the Lakers on TNT on Thursday night. There are roughly 20 players in the East who could be considered for the honor, but only a few truly stand out. Compare that to the West where the competition is tighter, but also much tougher.

It says more about the Eastern Conference than it does the seasons that Pierce and Rondo are having that the answer is yes — although there is more of a debate in Rondo’s case.

With the obvious exception of LeBron James — who is the clear front-runner for MVP — Pierce has been the most productive small forward in the East. Among players at his position in the Eastern Conference, Pierce ranks second in true shooting and assist percentage behind LeBron and he grabs rebounds at roughly the same rate as Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng.

That’s including the first 11 games when even considering Pierce for an All-Star berth would have been laughable. His last 10 make his selection an obvious choice.

Rondo’s competition among point guards comes from the trio of Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams and rookie Kyrie Irving. In Rondo’s favor he has the highest True Shooting, assist percentage and rebound rate among the four guards. Working against him is the simple fact that he’s missed a third of the team’s games in this condensed schedule.

It should also be noted that picking an All-Star team after 24 games of a season like this essentially comes down to subjective arguments. Does Rondo get credit for picking up his game when his team needed him, or penalized for not winning more games? Without Williams, are the Nets the Bobcats? The argument here is that Rondo has been statistically the second-best point guard in the East after Derrick Rose, but the margin is thin.

Here are my selections for both the East and Western Conference All-Stars.

EAST

Starters: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard

Guards: Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson

Forwards: Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh

Center: Tyson Chandler (narrowly over Anderson Varejao)

Wild cards: Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith

Toughest omissions: Deron Williams, Greg Monroe, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, somebody from the Pacers

WEST

Starters: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Andrew Bynum

Guards: Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash

Forwards: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge

Center: Marc Gasol

Wild cards: Tony Parker, Paul Millsap

Toughest omission by far: James Harden

Other omissions: Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol, Monta Ellis, somebody from the Nuggets

VIDEO: The night Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the Celtics all-time scoring list

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012