|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett’s heroics slay Warriors||03.15.12 at 1:04 am ET|
Unable to get a defensive stop down the stretch, tied 93-93 with the Warriors after old friend Nate Robinson tied the game on yet another drive to an open basket, the Celtics turned to Kevin Garnett, who sunk a 20-footer with 5.1 seconds remaining to help the C’s survive 105-103 and improve to 2-1 on the West Coast road trip.
Garnett finished with 24 points (12 in the fourth quarter), seven rebounds and five assists, as the Celtics (23-19) moved within 1.5 games of the 76ers in the Atlantic Division. Brandon Bass added 22 points and nine rebounds, Mickael Pietrus scored 15 points off the bench and Rajon Rondo dished out 14 assists.
Robinson totaled 20 points and 11 assists, Klay Thompson scored a career-high 26 points and David Lee had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors in the losing effort.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hanging tough: Playing their third game in four nights, 3,000 miles from home, the Celtics started slow (shooting just 8-of-21 from the floor in the first quarter), and watching Robinson get to the rim with regularity didn’t help matters. Still, the Celtics managed to stay within 25-21 after the first quarter — setting the tone for a tight game the remainder of the night.
The French quota: Just 3-of-18 from long distance in the month of March, Pietrus connected on his first four 3-pointers of the night and finished 5-of-6 from downtown, giving the Celtics some much needed offense (and minutes) off the bench. Whispers suggested his knee may be the reason for the recent struggles, but it didn’t seem to bother him in Oakland.
Full Stiem ahead: Without a trade deadline deal, the Celtics will rely more and more on Greg Stiemsma, and the former D-League Defensive Player of the Year responded with eight points and eight rebounds. He’s still got plenty of work to do, especially on the defensive end, but he’s already given the C’s more than they could’ve expected when they invited him to training camp in December.
Sharing is caring: Facing the younger, more athletic Warriors, the Celtics had to rely on ball movement and execution to keep up with them. Check and check. The C’s assisted on 32 of their 40 field goals, making the extra pass time and time again to get buckets down the stretch — with the exception of a possession that resulted in the classic Paul Pierce fadeaway elbow jumper with 36.7 seconds left.
|Trade Rumor: Celtics offered Paul Pierce to Blazers||03.14.12 at 11:01 pm ET|
What exactly team president Danny Ainge wanted in return for Pierce and the $32 million remaining on his contract is unclear, as LaMarcus Aldridge ($12.9 million) is essentially untouchable, Marcus Camby ($11.2 million) is a week from his 38th birthday and Raymond Felton ($7.6 million) would be an expensive backup.
That would leave some combination of Gerald Wallace ($9.5 million), Wesley Matthews ($6.1 million), Jamal Crawford ($5 million) and Nicolas Batum ($2.2 million). Of that group, Crawford is the only one rumored on the market, and regardless Portland shot down Ainge’s offer, if the report is more than rumor.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears, Ainge & Co. also reportedly joined the Lakers, Spurs and Knicks in expressing interest in Josh Howard as a boost to their wing depth, but the Jazz aren’t willing to part with 31-year-old ($3 million) with a history of issues, on and off the court.
Finally, Fox Sports writer Sam Amico tweeted that the Celtics have engaged the Kings in discussions about acquiring J.J. Hickson, a 23-year-old big making just $2.4 million. After averaging 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Cavaliers a season ago, Hickson is struggling mightily in Sacramento. Then again, who isn’t struggling mightily in Sacramento?
Whether or not any of these rumors come to fruition, one thing is clear: Ainge is ringing up quite the phone bill.
|Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge’s dreams of Celtics future||03.12.12 at 12:10 pm ET|
We’re three days from the NBA trade deadline, and still no serious sign of a blockbuster deal involving the Celtics. Then again, the same could’ve been said last season, when Danny Ainge shipped Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and the Clippers’ 2012 first-round draft pick.
All that remains from that deal is the top-10 protected No. 1 pick, which currently slots into the low-to-mid 20s. That’s still not a bad haul for a center who is currently averaging 4.4 points (45.1 FG%) and 4.6 rebounds in 26.7 minutes, but considering the negative hype surrounding that trade it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Ainge gets cold feet on dealing any of the Old Three or Rajon Rondo.
Do I believe Ainge would ever let public perception stop him from making a deal that improves the Celtics moving forward? Not really, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it made him think twice about pulling the trigger on a deal that only marginally improves his team.
Over the next three days, teams will likely call about Rondo, which is probably the case in the latest Pau Gasol rumor in the Los Angeles Times after the Lakers beat the Celtics 97-94 (Rondo: 24 points, 10 assists; Gasol: 13 points, 13 rebounds). The same speculation was floated a couple weeks ago by HoopsWorld’s Eric Pincus.
|Cedric Maxwell: Celtics placed $10 bounties in NBA||03.06.12 at 12:37 pm ET|
During a discussion about the recent report that coaches for the New Orleans Saints were offering rewards between $1,000 and $1,500 for injuring opposing players, former Celtics star Cedric Maxwell claimed the NFL isn’t the only league that’s doled out bounties.
‘We did it in the NBA,” Maxwell told Steve Burton on Sunday night. “We had a guy, Len Elmore, who used to love to take charges. He’s an analyst right now for CBS. You might want to hear this Len. We had a bounty on you. If you stepped on his chest, you got paid.’
Admittedly, the stakes were much different from the allegations against the Saints. The current C’s radio analyst said he got $10 from a pool gathered by the players each time he put an imprint of his size 15 shoe on Elmore’s chest, but there was neither an intent nor reward for inflicting injury.
‘Every time he tried to take a charge and you stepped on him, you got paid,” added Maxwell. “What are they going to do, come back and fine me now?’
|Irish Coffee: Celtics’ Rajon Rondo > Knicks’ Jeremy Lin||03.05.12 at 9:01 am ET|
As crazy — sorry, Linsane — as the worldwide Jeremy Lin phenomenon has become in the NBA, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo made a profound statement against the Harvard graduate: How do you like them apples?
Rondo amassed 20 assists, 18 points and 17 rebounds for the first time since Wilt Chamberlain recorded a double triple-double in 1968, leading the C’s to a 115-111 overtime win over Lin’s Knicks on national television.
“I saved the [box score], just as a witness that I was here, and I actually got to see this up front and center,” said Kevin Garnett. “The thing about Lin is I think everybody who’s at the point guard position is going to be excited to play the kid, and Rondo was nothing short of that today. I could see it. I could tell. I’ve been around him long enough to know when he’s motivated and when he’s more than motivated, and tonight was one of those nights.”
It takes a lot to impress Garnett, but Rondo’s performance was one that’s never been seen before in KG’s 16-plus NBA seasons. It was also more than a subtle reminder where Lin ranks in the point guard pantheon.
“He’s just unconventional, but like I said before the game, he’s one of the best in the league, and so you saw a stat line tonight — there aren’t many guards, maybe no guard, who can put up something like that,” said Lin. “We didn’t do a good job of containing him, and he obviously controlled the tempo of the game.”
|Fast Break: Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT)||03.04.12 at 4:02 pm ET|
You can count the number of times Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce both played well in the same game this season on one hand, but two of those occasions occurred this weekend. In a related story, the Celtics won their fourth straight game, 115-111 against the Knicks in overtime on Sunday afternoon.
Rondo recorded his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season — and second in three games — totaling 18 points, a season-high 20 assists and 17 rebounds. According to Elias, Rondo is just the third player in NBA history with at least 15 points, 20 assists and 15 rebounds in a single game, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson in that exclusive category. Pierce added 34 points, seven rebounds and three assists as the Celtics improved to 19-17 and moved to 1.5 games up on the Knicks (18-19) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Absent for much of the game, Jeremy Lin (14 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) led a fourth-quarter charge to help the Knicks take the lead twice in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Pierce made a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to play, and Carmelo Anthony missed a jump shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.
And then Rondo put the finishing touches on the Knicks in overtime, as the Celtics made 45 field goals in the game, and Rondo had a hand in 27 of them.
|Mickael Pietrus guarantees Celtics championship||03.02.12 at 11:20 pm ET|
Even after their third straight victory, a 107-94 win over the visiting Nets, the Celtics (18-17) are ranked just seventh in the Eastern Conference and face a first-round playoff matchup against the Bulls if the standings remain the same. But that didn’t stop Mickael Pietrus from guaranteeing the franchise’s 18th NBA championship.
“I know that you guys say we’re older and all that stuff,” said Pietrus, pointing his finger at each camera surrounding his locker. “We’re going to win the championship, Ok?”
It’s difficult to tell just how serious the always playful Pietrus is when he makes that claim, as he’s made similar remarks at various times since first suiting up in Boston on Jan. 11.
Still, even in jest, there is an important nugget in Pietrus’ postgame vow: The Celtics are becoming a formidable team once again thanks to a return to Ubuntu of sorts. And that’s a welcome notion to anybody who watched this Celtics group suffer through a 1-7 stretch before the All-Star Game.
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