Over his last two NBA Development League games, Fab Melo averaged 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.5 blocks. The Celtics rookie amassed 32 points, nine boards and nine rejections for the Red Claws on Wednesday, which, if nothing else, proved his 16 rebounds, 15 points and 14 blocks in Maine last week were no fluke.
After being selected No. 22 overall — one slot behind Jared Sullinger — in this past June’s NBA draft, Melo hasn’t seen action on the C’s, but has produced respectable numbers over 10 games for their D-League affiliate: 10.4 points (51.1 FG%, 66.7 FT%), 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in just 25.5 minutes a night. Of course, he’s playing against teams from South Dakota and Idaho, so those numbers should be taken with a heaping helping of salt.
Still, there’s always a spot on an NBA roster for bigs who defend the rim, especially on this Celtics team, which allows an atrocious 42.6 points in the paint per game and suffers worse when Kevin Garnett‘s not on the floor.
Paul Pierce rescued the Celtics on Wednesday night when he scored 40 points to lead the Celtics over the Cavaliers after Boston blew a 20-point lead to a 5-21 team in the third quarter on their home court.
Pierce scored 35 points Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics blew a 10-point lead and lost 99-94 in overtime to the emerging Milwaukee Bucks.
“It’s a team game, regardless of how I play,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to do better in stretches. I think when our offense isn’t going for long stretches we’ve got to be able to defend. You know, at the beginning of the fourth quarter we went into the quarter up like seven or eight and we instantly kind of gave away the lead. And that’s the kind of case where even though our shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to be able to come down and get stops after stops after stops. And it just comes and goes in stretches right now.”
The Celtics led by 10 in the first half and by eight, 70-62, heading into the fourth. But Milwaukee went on a 21-8 run to take command. Pierce appeared to rescue the Celtics yet again when he drained a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, even Pierce couldn’t overcome a 1-for-15 night from Jason Terry and a 6-for-22 night from Kevin Garnett.
“That’s what we’ve been saying all year long…There’s going to be nights when shots won’t fall,” Pierce said. “And one thing we can control, I think, is our intensity on the defensive end, we are inconsistent. But we just – a little bit of consistency in that department – we play well for the most part and we look up there and we shoot 43% or whatnot, but it has to be throughout the whole game more consistency. You know, we can’t give up 17-0 runs to Cleveland. We can’t give up 10-0 runs to Milwaukee. And then decide that’s when we want to play defense.”
The Celtics are now 1-3 against the Bucks and won’t play them again this season, unless of course, it’s a playoff matchup.
“They have great guard play, and they have pretty good intangibles, you know, they have guys that you really don’t expect to play well that really play well,” Pierce said. “I mean (Larry) Sanders kind of has been a thorn in my side, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, he’s played well the last two games. And you focus so much on their two guards, that what happens: other guys like that step up and carry you.”
Kevin Garnett made just 6 of 22 shots from the field on Friday night as the Celtics lost in overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks 99-94 at TD Garden. Garnett talked about the frustration of losing a game the Celtics had so many open look and had a 10-point lead.
Chris Wilcox (right thumb) and Leandro Barbosa (personal matter, not with the team) will be out for Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
With those two out, the Celtics recalled rookie forward Kris Joseph from the Maine Red Claws on Friday.
The Celtics are playing the Bucks for a fourth time in the first six weeks of the season, with Boston trailing the series 1-2. That could be a factor if the two are vying for playoff positioning late in the season. Boston stands 13-12 heading into the game while the Bucks are a half-game better at 13-11.
“What’s funny is, I don’t think any of the lineups have been the same on either team,” Rivers said. “It’s four new games every time we play them. It’s early, I tell you, I obviously don’t love that. I just think you should play a team in your conference late in the season. But we’re going to make it up, we’re going to play the Knicks four times after this.”
Doc Rivers will stick with “The Jasons” lineup featuring Jason Terry at shooting guard and Jason Collins at center for a second straight game.
“I’ve said this 100 times – the starting lineup is not as important as everyone thinks it is,” said Rivers. “I did that more from Kevin. In one way, just to get him some minutes at the 4 instead of the 5. And then, until Avery [Bradley] comes back, for Jason Terry to get a shot. But other than that, I did like it, because Jason — you don’t know which one, so I’ll let you figure it out — his talking was terrific, it helped Kevin. I hope you guys can figure that one out.”
Rivers said he did like the impact it had on Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes of the win over Cleveland.
“He seemed like he had more energy,” Rivers said. “It’s one game, so it’s tough thing to look at. If we play well tonight — we’ll find out in a month what it does really. It looks like he had more energy, because he had another guy covering for him and he didn’t feel like he had to do everything on defense.”
Rivers compared Bucks shot-blocker and big man Larry Sanders to Thunder big Serge Ibaka: “We should probably stop shooting when he’s right there. That would probably help, because he always blocks your shot. It’s funny, he does it to everybody. I actually told my son, Austin, when they played the Bucks, I said, ‘Hey Austin, be careful with Sanders, you get a step deep and he’ll get you.’ I think his first two shots were blocked, so I was thinking, ‘Nothing changes. No one listens.’”
Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley, Kris Joseph and Courtney Lee play a game of 2-on-2 before Friday’s game between the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. Rondo and Bradley took turns guarding one another.
Bradley was cleared to return to contact practice Monday in Chicago and judging by this, he looks real close to returning. In this video, he shows why he is considered the best on-ball defender on the Celtics and one of the best in the NBA.
The Celtics no longer are one of the toughest teams to play in the NBA, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge does not appear content with that reality. After watching his team play mediocre defense over a 25-game sampling, Ainge on Thursday criticized the players’ collective play on The Big Show.
The Celtics have struggled defensively this season, and there's no evidence that there will be an improvement similar to last season's. (AP)
“We’ve got to prevent those runs by other teams and those droughts that we have at the offensive end and giving up so many lay-ins on the defensive end,” Ainge said. “There’s just no excuse for the way we’re playing. Yeah, you need to take time to find out who we are, but there’s no excuse for giving up 32 points in the paint in a half against Chicago, and there’s no excuse for giving up a 17-0 run to Cleveland.”
Last year’s Celtics delivered the template for a veteran NBA team looking to flip the proverbial switch in season. A five-game losing streak just before the All-Star break put the team’s record at 15-17. The Celtics went 24-10 after the break and eventually made a run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
So why is Ainge sounding the alarm in December? From a distance, the Celtics’ 13-12 start to this season appears to follow the same trend — a veteran team going through the motions some nights, saving its collective legs for the second half and postseason.
A closer look proves that this year’s team is much different than last year’s team, and perhaps not due the same measure of patience from Ainge.
The most glaring difference between this year’s Celtics and last year’s is their inability to play strong team defense. Even when last year’s team slogged through the first half of the season, it ranked as one of the top two teams in the NBA defensively. Before the break, the 2011-12 C’s held opposing teams to 89.4 points per game and a field goal percentage of 41.9. Those numbers increased slightly after the break to 90.1 points per game and a field goal percentage of 42.1. Despite the slight increases, the Celtics still finished the season as the second-ranked team in the NBA in points allowed, behind only the Bulls, and they ranked first in opponents’ field goal percentage.
The Celtics’ most marked improvements last season took place on the offensive end. The C’s scoring average jumped from 89.4 before the break to 94.1 in the 34 games after. Their field goal percentage improved from 45.8 to 46.5.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.
While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.
“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”
Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per 82games.com.
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small
One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.