Archive for November, 2012

Why Jason Terry thrives on closing out games

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

When Jason Terry signed with the Celtics in the offseason, he envisioned being the guy who would close out games with his shooting. In his words, ‘€œThe uniform may change, but my game doesn’€™t.’€

The 35-year-old had made a career out of doing it to that point, so it’s safe to say he was champing at the bit for the opportunity to make the shot that either gave the C’s the final lead or proved to be the dagger in a game going down to the wire.

Terry got that opportunity in his 13th game as a Celtic, when, with the C’€™s holding onto a five-point lead in the final minute of the game against the Thunder, he took a pass from Rajon Rondo and hit a three-pointer to put the final nail in the coffin and make it 106-98 with 51 seconds remaining.

Hitting a big shot is nothing new for Terry, who is fourth on the all-time three-point list with 1,808.

“I’ve been making a living off shots like that my entire career,” Terry said. “I’m never scared of the moment.”

Fourteen years into his career, there hasn’€™t been too much to suggest that Terry should be afraid of taking the shot when it matters most. So what makes Terry programmed to want the ball in that instance? Surprisingly enough, it’s a past failure from some 20 years ago that has stuck with him ever since.

Terry says that when he was a sophomore at Franklin High School in Seattle in the early 90s, he took the final shot with the game on the line in the state tournament and missed, ending the careers of many of his teammates on a senior-heavy team.

Terry has used that missed shot as motivation ever since, as he says the play taught him to be confident, make or miss.

“My coach always told me, ‘You’ve got big balls to take a shot when you’re the only sophomore on the team and we’ve got all seniors,'” Terry recalled. “It basically ended their careers, but it gave me confidence in mine for the rest of my time.”

Since then, Terry’€™s put that memory to good use, and his ability to sink shots in the clutch earned him his first NBA championship in 2011. With the series tied at two games apiece and the Mavericks narrowly holding onto a four-point lead in the final minute of Game 5, Terry hit a deep three to make it a seven-point game with 33.3 seconds remaining and seal the victory for Dallas. In the series-clinching Game 6, his pull-up jumper for two points in the final two minutes extended Dallas’€™ lead to 12 points as the Mavericks and Terry went on to win their first NBA title.

Still early in his Celtic career, Terry hadn’€™t really gotten to make a big shot for the C’€™s yet, but he knew the time would come. On the season, five of his 20 three-pointers (he’€™s attempted 47) have come in the fourth quarter, though none of them were of the magnitude of Friday night’€™s dagger. His late three on Friday was the first three-pointer Terry had made in the fourth quarter since Nov. 9 against the 76ers, a span of eight games.

Now Terry looks forward to making many more big shots in games that matter down the stretch. After all, this is the same guy who already has a tattoo of the Lucky the Leprechaun with the Larry O’€™Brien trophy on his bicep. Terry wants to win, and he wants to be the one who closes out wins. All these years later, he owes that mentality to his missed shot as a sophomore in high school.

“Sometimes through your biggest failures, you [achieve] your greatest successes,” he said. “That’s just the way I’ve been bred. You hate for games to come down to situations like that, but I love it.”

Doc Rivers: ‘We played with great force’ in win over Thunder

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Doc Rivers watched his team register its most significant win of the season Friday night, overcoming an early nine-point deficit and withstanding a late charge to beat the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, 108-100, at TD Garden.

‘€œThe biggest difference is this time they scores 100 and we scored 108,” Rivers said, referencing the 112-100 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday at the Garden. “It’€™s the same game really. I told the guys at halftime and even after the game, that was the Celtics. That’€™s the team that we’€™ve been looking for, but can we continue to do it. We’€™ve got to do it over and over again. I thought there were some mistakes made, we kept playing. There were some runs, we kept playing. They made a run, we kept playing. No hanging heads, yelling at each other. We played through all clutter, it was like a clutter free game, for us. That’€™s who we have to be.”

Jeff Green scored 17 points off the bench in 25 minutes and the Celtics fought off Kevin Durant and the Thunder, when a 14-point lead dwindled to three with two minutes left.

“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular tonight,” Rivers said. “It’€™s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’€™t score. He scored on all the plays that wasn’€™t his and that’€™s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that tonight. A lot of good efforts. I thought our bench was huge. I thought [Leandro] Barbosa, it’€™s funny he didn’€™t score a point, and I thought his defensive pressure was extremely effective tonight. He has that reputation of being an offensive player. What we have found since getting him, he’€™s a heck of a defensive player. He has the ability to put pressure on the ball. That’€™s something we didn’€™t know. So again, we’€™re still discovering guys on our team, but that was a good effort.

‘€œWe just need to play right. It’€™s great to beat Oklahoma, they were in the finals last year, and they’€™re the team to beat, I guess, in the West. But it was more how we played. We played with great force tonight. I thought that was the difference.”

Kendrick Perkins on Paul Pierce: ‘He’s got a lot of tricks’

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Kendrick Perkins played seven-plus seasons with Paul Pierce so he knows just how good he can be, especially in the clutch.

Perkins was witness to Pierce’s greatness again on Friday night as the Celtics captain went 4-of-6 from long range and finished with 27 points in Boston’s 108-100 win over the Thunder at TD Garden.

‘€œHe’€™s got a lot of tricks,” Perkins said. “That’€™s the reason he’€™s been scoring the ball like he has for years. Got a lot of tricks man. He did a great job tonight of just playing smart. He’€™s moving well and it looks like he’€™s in great shape, he’€™s doing his job’€

Perkins was held to five points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes for the Thunder in his return to Boston.

‘€œYeah, it does (feel strange) but at the same time we’€™re both out there trying to get wins and it’€™s over with now,” Perkins said. “You can’€™t change the past’€

Fast Break: Jeff Green scores 17 as Celtics beat Thunder

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Jeff Green had a good time against his old team Friday night as the Celtics beat the Thunder, 108-100, at TD Garden Friday night.

Green, who was playing against the Thunder for the first time since being traded to the C’s in February of 2011 in a deal that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, contributed 17 points off the bench for the Celtics. His points were a season-high, as his previous best this season was a 16-point performance against the Jazz on Nov. 14.

Paul Pierce also had a big night for the C’s, as his 27 points tied his season high. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points.

Much of the damage was done in the second and third quarters for the Celtics, as they entered the second quarter trailing, 28-21, before outscoring Oklahoma City 27-17 and 29-20 in the second and third quarters, respectively. The C’s had to fend off a strong fourth quarter from Oklahoma City as the game came down to the wire, but a three-pointer from Jason Terry with 36.7 seconds helped secure the victory for Boston.

The win put the C’s back over .500 with a 7-6 record. Boston had lost two straight entering the contest. The Celtics will next travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Sunday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon Rondo extended his streak of games with 10 or more assists to 36. Rondo picked up his 10th of the night early in the third quarter when he assisted a Jason Terry three -pointer that made it a 58-49 contest in favor of the Celtics. He finished the night with 16 assists.

Rondo’s streak is the third-longest in NBA history, and he can tie John Stockton’s 1989 streak with his 37th such game on Sunday against the Magic in Orlando. Magic Johnson holds the NBA record with 46 games with 10 or more assists.

– The C’s went on a 7-2 run to close the Thunder’s lead when Jared Sullinger came off the bench early in the second quarter. Oklahoma City took a full timeout after Sullinger picked up a rare offensive rebound for the C’s and put in a layup to make it 32-30. Following the timeout, Sullinger answered a Nick Collison layup by knocking down a 20-foot jumper to keep it a two-point game.

– The Celtics were helped during their second-quarter comeback by a Kevin Durant charge that made for the Thunder star’s third foul of the night. Durant came out of the game, and from there the C’s outscored the Thunder, 16-9, until halftime. That included Boston taking the lead, as a 3-pointer from Rajon Rondo followed by a defensive rebound allowed Chris Wilcox to score and give the C’s a 39-38 lead. Boston had trailed by as many as nine, but held a three-point lead (48-45) at the half.

– How about a team-best plus-15 for Leandro Barbosa? In 11 minutes, the guard contributed no points, a rebound and two assists, but the results were there for the C’s when he was on the floor.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The Celtics allowed 100 or more points for the sixth time this season. Last season, they had allowed their opponents to hit the century mark just twice in their first 31 games. Friday’s contest was the first game the C’s had won in which they allowed that many points, as they were 0-5 entering Friday in games in which their opponent scored 100.

– The Celtics created more of a presence inside, as the C’s matched Oklahoma City’s first-half points in the paint with 22, but in the end were outscored in the paint as a team for the third consecutive game (the Thunder held a 46-36 advantage in the paint). In their previous two games, the Celtics were outscored in the paint 58-34 against the Spurs and 44-30 against the Pistons.

Kevin Garnett had a rather quiet night offensively for for the first three quarters, as he had just six points entering the fourth. Garnett turned it on in the fourth, adding 11 more points to give him 17 on the night. Garnett also finished the contest with a plus-14.

Doc Rivers on Kendrick Perkins: ‘You can’t put a number on identity or perception’

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

When asked initially about Kendrick Perkins before Friday’s game, Doc Rivers said he wasn’t focused on the big man’s return to Boston.

“He’s tough,” Rivers said. “He’s good. He’s a good defender. I’m looking at their whole team. I haven’t thought about the one guy more than the sentimental stuff.”

Then Rivers articulated exactly what it is that the 7-foot center brings to any team he’s on. Call it the “scowl” factor.

“Perk has never had big stats,” Rivers said. “That’s not why you have Perk on your team. You can’t put a number on identity or perception. There is a number but I don’t know what it is but Perk gives the team that.”

Doc Rivers on Celtics defense: ‘We have to get our stuff right’

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Entering Friday night’s game, the Celtics have allowed 100 or more points in five of their 12 games, with the 6-6 C’s having lost all five games in which they’ve allowed such an offensive night to their opponent. By comparison, the C’s only allowed their opponents to score 100 points twice in their first 31 games of last season (0-2).

After Wednesday’s 112-100 loss to the Spurs, Rajon Rondo lamented the Celtics’ defensive woes, saying that the team needed to do a better job of focusing on assignments during their morning shootarounds. Though the C’s had a light shootaround on Friday, most of the time they spent was looking at video of their in-game defensive woes.

“We’ve got to get our stuff right first. Rondo, in [saying] that, is half-right, but it also starts with each individual doing their jobs,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Friday. “What we wanted to show them today was how many individual breakdowns each guy had. It’s funny when you look at it. It’s not a lot by one guy, but when you have three or four by each guy, that means you’re going to give up 58 percent shooting and give up 100-and-whatever points.”

Rivers pointed to the team’s struggles defending the pick-and-roll, and noted that all of the Spurs’ 3-pointers (they shot 8-of-16 on 3s as a team) came against their pick-and-roll defense.

“That’s us,” Rivers said. “A lot of it is pick-and-roll. When you look at San Antonio, I think every 3 they had came off a pick-and-roll. I think they had one in transition when [Gary] Neal pushed the ball up and pulled up and took a 3, but every single one of their 3s came off our pick-and-roll coverage. We have to be better.”

Rajon Rondo has made us take a closer look at the evolution of the assist

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

The debate regarding just how important or impressive Rajon Rondo‘€™s streak of 35 straight games with at least 10 assists will continue into Friday night’€™s game at TD Garden.

But one of the more interesting elements of the run has been the opportunity to reflect on how the assist statistic has changed over the years, and if that evolution makes Rondo’€™s feat any more, or less, impressive.

The stat itself can be compared somewhat to an error in baseball, with just enough subjectivity involved to spark conversation.

For instance, in 1980 there were 3,609 errors given out in 4,210 Major League Baseball games (0.85 per game). Last season, in 4,860 games there were 3,008 errors (0.61 per game).

The most errors given out to any one team in ‘€™80 was 174 (Cubs), while last season’€™s top team was the Rockies, who committed 122 (which would have been the 23rd most 22 years ago).

The lesson is that different statistics are viewed differently through the ages and the eyeballs, and assists are no exception.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers recalled after Tuesday’€™s practice how different arenas offer different expectations when giving out assists. Washington, he said, was notorious for being a difficult environment for visiting players to extract assists. Upon further examination, Rivers was right. (more…)