Archive for April, 2012

Irish Coffee: How Celtics re-match up against Hawks

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

UPDATE: Since Al Horford‘s original claim that playing against the Celtics in their first-round series was unrealistic, the Hawks center has changed his tune. A consultation with his surgeon resulted in a prognosis that he could return to the court on Thursday in a limited role, according to the most recent Yahoo! Sports report.

“It remains to be seen what I can bring,” Horford told reporter Marc J. Spears. “But I hope to bring some scoring. They can’t expect a lot from me defensively because it’s been a while since I’ve even played. That’s one of the things that will hold me back, but scoring I can help. And also with presence with the team in general.”

It’s official. When the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs begin at month’s end, the Celtics will face the Hawks — the same team that in 2008 took them to seven games in the first round. That was then, when the championship nucleus of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was just finding its groove. This is now, five years later.

The first four of this core’s 43 playoff wins came against Atlanta, but will its last also come against the Hawks?

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Fast Break: Bradley, undermanned C’s give strong effort; fall short in Atlanta

Friday, April 20th, 2012

The Celtics were without Mickael Pietrus, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett on Friday night. To say Boston was undermanned is like saying Kevin Millar and Pedro Martinez didn’t exactly hit their marks during their speech at Fenway Park’s 100th birthday celebration earlier today.

Despite this, the B-squad put together a valiant effort against the Hawks, but fell short, 97-92. Joe Johnson led the way for Atlanta with 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Avery Bradley had a stellar performance for the Celtics, scoring a career-high 28 points on 12-of-22 shooting.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

‘A’ is for ‘Avery’: Avery Bradley scored 17 first-half points for the second straight game. He scored in a variety of ways: off strong cuts (his forte), penetrating to the basket, pull up jumpers — everything, really. He was 8-of-13 shooting, and carried the team offensively. In a game where he truly had to be, Bradley was exceptional and, at times, looked like a leader — keep in mind, he is just 21 years old.

Car Keys: While Bradley certainly figures to be prominently involved in the upcoming playoff run, Doc Rivers using the B-squad Friday night gave an opportunity for Keyon Dooling to show he can contribute to the Celtics cause. He started the game a perfect 4-of-4 shooting and had 10 first half points, including an impressive floating tear drop after abusing Vladimir Radmanovic off the dribble.

Hardly Intimidated: The Hawks beat the Celtics Friday night, but it wasn’t exactly a frightening performance from the potential first round playoff opponent. The Celtics hung around largely because of their offense — shooting 60 percent in the first half — and Atlanta didn’t exactly look like world beaters against the makeshift Boston lineups. In fact, the Celtics cut the lead to just one, 87-86, with just over two minutes remaining in the game. This was a closer game than it should have been from Atlanta’s perspective.

WHAT WENT WRONG

No Average Joe: A concern while starting Bradley at shooting guard is whether he can handle guarding players who can shoot over him. Bradley wasn’t tasked with covering Johnson every trip down the floor, but Johnson’s line was impressive nonetheless as he was able to post up Bradley on occasion.

In Defense of Defense: It’s certainly hard to put a great deal of stock into Friday night’s contest. After all, Boston was missing five rotational players. On the other hand, the team relented 58 first half points — the Hawks shot over 60% themselves through 24 minutes.

Bass-ically Non-Existent: Not a great night for Brandon Bass. The starting power forward scored 10 points and shot 4-of-15 from the field on a night where Boston desperately needed the few core players that were active to step up.

Irish Coffee: Avery Bradley ‘beautiful’ in Kevin Garnett’s eyes

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Twice after their division-clinching victory against the Magic, Kevin Garnett made his case to the Celtics organization for rewarding Avery Bradley financially after his successful sophomore campaign.

“I love seeing young guys who work hard and it pays off,” said Garnett. “I love young guys who listen and actually put in the work. Just from seeing where he’s come from to where he’s at now is just beautiful, man. I hope they’re able to reward him with some longevity and some loyalty — something long-term. I’ve always said to him, ‘Continue to work, because that’s what’s got you here,’ so I’m happy for him.”

The problem is Bradley isn’t slated to become an unrestricted free agent until the 2015-16 NBA season. He’ll make $1.6 million next season, $2.5 million in 2013-14 and at least the qualifying offer of $3.6 million in 2014-15, facts that may have escaped Garnett, who has made at least $14 million in each of his last 14 seasons.

It’s a great problem for the Celtics, because Bradley has established himself as one of the best bargains in basketball. With Rajon Rondo also locked up through 2014-15 at an average of $12 million over the three years, the C’s have one of the youngest, most affordable starting backcourts and two of the best trade chips in the NBA.

“Avery’s emerging,” said Keyon Dooling, “so we might have to give him like a Big Five or something.”

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Why this was no ordinary division championship for the Celtics

Thursday, April 19th, 2012


The Celtics have won the Atlantic Division in all five years of the new “Big 3″.

And it’s a well known fact that they don’t commemorate division titles with banners up above.

But when the Celtics clinched the division Wednesday with a 102-98 win over the Magic, there was reason to step back and take a bow.

It was how they got there that was impressive, especially to their coach Doc Rivers. He acknowledged the significance of the turnaround by the team, which played without the injured Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus.

“Yeah, it does, I mean [something],” Rivers said. “It’s funny we were kidding in the locker room because I really – I usually, honestly, don’t say much about it – I don’t know if I’ve ever congratulated the team for winning one,” But I did tell them, I said, ‘Guys, I know it’s not a big deal to us – and it isn’t because we’re not in this to win divisions – but, we were two games under .500 at All-Star break and the fact that you did it and did it this early I think is very impressive.’ And it was.”

Captain Paul Pierce led the Celtics Wednesday with 29 points and a career-high 14 assists. Pierce reminded everyone afterward of what the final goal is for the team, a team that was two games under .500 at the All-Star break.

“I’m not about to go pop champagne bottles or anything like that,” Pierce said. “I know they do in baseball. I mean, it is a good accomplishment. The guys should recognize where we came from to what we are today. It’s a good accomplishment I guess. But all we care about around here is a championship banner. I guess it’s just a step towards the journey we are trying to go towards.”

But Kevin Garnett took the chance to take a swipe at the naysayers who wrote the team off, giving them no chance of winning another division, let alone championship.

“You guys called us old, over,” Garnett said. “I heard some of your pathetic articles and some of your lousy announcers [predictions]. It’s a pity. Obviously you don’t know what drives us. We thank y’all for those articles, appreciate it because it lit a fire under. One of the hardest things I’ve always said in this league is to create chemistry.”

Greg Stiemsma has ‘big plans’ for Celtics playoffs

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Who would have thought Greg Stiemsma would play a key playoff role on this Celtics team? (AP)

When the Celtics reflect on their 2011-12 season — which saw them capture a fifth Atlantic Division crown Wednesday night despite a variety of injuries throughout the campaign — they might ask themselves, “How did we pull that off?”

Sure, they benefited from a renaissance season from Kevin Garnett, enjoyed Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 23 straight games with 10 or more assists and saw a rather unexpected growth from Avery Bradley. Then there’s the ascension of Greg Stiemsma.

Stiemsma didn’t begin seeing extended playing time until the second half of the season. In January, he was buried on Doc Rivers‘ bench and only averaged just over seven minutes. That number sky-rocketed to 18 minutes in March, and then 20 in April, due to season-ending injuries to Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal.

Still, despite the uneven playing time, Stiemsma is averaging 1.56 blocks per game this season, which ranks him 15th in the entire league, and second among all rookies (The seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, Bismack Biyombo, ranks first). Not bad for a training camp invitee.

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Glen Davis: Magic ‘capable of beating’ Celtics in playoffs

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Since being traded from the Celtics to the Magic prior to the season, Glen Davis is now 0-3 against his former team. Yet, Big Baby believes his new squad is fully prepared to defeat the C’s should they meet in the playoffs — even without the injured Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu.

“I think we’re capable of beating them,” said Davis, who totaled 27 points in the Magic’s 102-98 loss in Boston.

If the playoffs started today, the Celtics (37-26) — who clinched a fifth straight Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed — would face the Hawks (37-25) in the first round, but the Magic (36-26) still have a shot at the fifth seed and a date with the C’s. However, Orlando may have to do it without Howard (herniated disc) or Turkoglu (fractured face), both of whom remain doubtful until the playoffs and questionable beyond.

Which is why those in the Magic locker room viewed their four-point loss in Boston as a positive, even if the Celtics were also without two stars in Rajon Rondo (back) and Ray Allen (Allen) as well as a key role player in Mickael Pietrus (knee) — all of whom are expected back for the playoffs.

“Today, we didn’t even have two of our guys,” said Davis. “They didn’t have two of their guys, but at the same time we had a big missing piece today, and we still came out there and played the right way and was in the game. So, whatever happens, happens. Whoever we play, Indiana or Boston, we are going to bring energy, and we are going to play hard, and that’s all that matters.”

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Doc Rivers pays tribute to Pat Summitt

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The questions were over and Doc Rivers was putting the wraps on another postgame press conference when he decided he wanted to say one more thing. It was about Pat Summitt, the legendary women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee who announced earlier in the day that she was retiring after 38 years.

Summitt, who compiled a record of 1,098-208 and won eight national championships was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease before the start of the season. “I’ve loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role,” Summitt said in a statement.

“I want to finish with Pat Summitt,” Rivers said as his voice faltered and his eyes became red and welled with tears. “She’s a neat lady. I got to know her a little bit and I just think it’s really sad in a lot of ways. Not basketball, but everything. So, I didn’t want to get emotional. I’m an emotional person and when you see a giant like that leave the game and leave the game because of health, it’s just sad. But she is responsible for women’s basketball. She’s not just a women’s basketball coach, she’s a great coach.

“The longer I’m in this I just realize how much coaching means to all of us. You think about it today. Pat Summitt is retiring at her age and Larry Brown is taking a job at his age. It just tells you how much it’s in your blood, how much you love it. For her not to be able to do it, to me is very sad.”

Summit is staying on at Tennessee as head coach emeritus and said she will be active in the fight against Alzheimer’s through the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund.