|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double helps Celtics past Spurs||01.05.11 at 10:15 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo recorded his second triple-double of the season — totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds — as the Celtics handed the Spurs just their sixth lost all season, 105-103, at the TD Garden on Wednesday night. And they did it without Kevin Garnett.
The Celtics (27-7) and Spurs (29-6) have the two best records in the NBA, and the C’s moved one step closer to San Antonio thanks to 31 points from Ray Allen, a season-high 23 from Glen Davis and 18 from Paul Pierce.
Allen missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds, but Pierce blocked a last-second Manu Ginobili attempt to secure the victory.
What Went Right
Rajon Rondo dished it out: Rondo had 10 assists … with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Needless to say, he guided the offense as he had before missing seven games with a sprained ankle, finding the open man with Tom Brady-like regularity. The Celtics’ 46-of-75 (61.3 percent) shooting was evidence of that.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Rondo delivered 22 assists. Pierce and Allen were the biggest benefactors, knocking down a combined 20-of-26 field goals on the night.
Ray Allen came to play: Allen hit seven of his first 10 shots to enter the locker room with a team-high 14 points at the break. While both the Celtics and Spurs struggled to generate offense during long stretches in the first half, Allen remained consistent. He finished with 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting.
Big Baby won the battle of the Big Bodies: In a battle of undersized (in terms of height, not waistline) power forwards who weren’t projected to be NBA talents despite their college success, Davis (6-foot-9, 290 pounds) owned DeJuan Blair (6-foot-7, 270 pounds). Starting at power forward in place of the injured Garnett, Davis produced 23 points. Blair, also starting, had just two points.
What Went Wrong
The bench: The starters were all forced to play big minutes because Marquis Daniels, Luke Harangody, Von Wafer & Co. couldn’t hold down a lead. In fact, those three guys combined for six points. Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’Neal had 11 between them, but that paled in comparison to the Spurs’ 27 bench points — highlighted, of course, by New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner (10 points).
Offensive rebounding: It’s worth mentioning again, because it’s been an ongoing problem for the Celtics all season. Entering their game against the Spurs, the C’s had given up 80 more offensive rebounds than their opponents. And Wednesday night’s game didn’t help, as San Antonio out-rebounded Boston on the offensive glass, 15-5.
Jermaine O’Neal fouled out: O’Neal recorded more fouls (6) than rebounds (5). That’s not good. That meant Shaquille O’Neal played down the stretch of a close game, and considering he was 0-for-3 from the free-throw line, that could have hurt them. It didn’t, but it could’ve. A stretch? Probably, considering the effort the C’s put forth against the team with the NBA’s best record — without Garnett.
|Celtics vs. Spurs: Speaking with the enemy||01.05.11 at 2:09 pm ET|
Looks like it’s time for the beast in the East to host the best in the West, and I couldn’t be more excited. For some reason, this matchup makes me think about college football. I live in Austin, and like to follow the Longhorns. I didn’t graduate from UT, but I took some classes there after I graduated, so I feel like I’m a nearly legit fan. Anyway, a few years ago the season began with USC and UT ranked 1 and 2, and they stayed like that all the way through to the championship game.
Perhaps I remember that better because the Horns went on to win one of the most exciting BCS games ever, or maybe my memory is just that good. Either way, I feel much the same following the Spurs this year as I did enjoying the Longhorns success that year. SBNation keeps their Power Rankings split by conference, for good reason, and they’ve had our favorite teams on top of each side of the bracket for a while now.
I suppose this is the place where I would usually start in on the difference between the pace and approach of the teams, how the Spurs have been winning with offense and the Boston defense has been spectacular, while maybe throwing in a stat or two about point differential, etc. But with Kevin Garnett out (like the Spurs game last week against Dallas sans Dirk Nowitzki, and Tuesday’s against New York without Danilo Gallinari) it’s not quite the matchup I was anticipating. He’s just a huge part of what Boston does on both sides of the floor (whether he’s scoring a lot or no) that it’s not at all like playing the Celtics, if he’s not on the court.
So, since I don’t want to make this entire bit about the injury, I’m going to punt this to you at this point, to let you put his absence in context so we can set it aside and move on. Just what is Boston capable of with KG in plain clothes? I don’t mean for the rest of the season, but just for the purposes of this discussion.
Let’s take the official word from the Celts’ front office at face value and assume he’ll be back before the month is out. Which brings the focus onto the rest of the team, now that Rajon Rondo is back on the court. I know that since adding Ray Allen and Garnett, Boston hasn’t had a terrific record in games without Garnett — but what do you expect to see from this year’s bunch over the next few games, and Wednesday’s specifically?
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 4, 10:12 a.m.
Subject: Spurs/Celts Exchange
From: Ben Rohrbach
To: J.R. Wilco
|Irish Coffee: Late Night with Shaquille O’Neal||01.05.11 at 10:24 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Shaquille O’Neal entered the “Late Show with David Letterman” set wearing a hooded sportcoat, so it was pretty much a success right off the bat. After explaining how he got a cut on his head — banging his dome on a doorway while answering Letterman’s call — he touched on the following subjects:
- On whether Boston fans love him now: “They do.”
- On choosing Boston over New York: “I could’ve played in New York for more dough. … I thought we had a better shot at a championship.”
- On whether he’s ever feared a player: “Never.”
- On who he’d start a team with: “Historically, I’d probably go with Bill Russell.”
- On nobody liking the Lakers: “I don’t.”
- On LeBron James: “He’s a young guy. He’s a fabulous player. … I wish him well. Not too much luck, but I wish him well.”
- On Pat Riley: [sips water]
- On Phil Jackson: [claps] “Great guy.”
- On whether anyone could win 11 titles with his Bulls and Lakers: “I would say yes.”
- On Kobe Bryant: “Fabulous player. Probably the best player in the league right now.”
- On Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “I spent eight years in L.A. and probably only talked to him twice. He’s one of the greatest centers ever.”
- On Steve Nash: “Great player. Great assist player. Love playing with him.”
- On Kevin Garnett: “The funniest guy in Boston. He is.”
- On Charles Barkley: “Probably one of the greatest power forwards to play. He’s a funny guy. He’s going to say what’s on his mind.”
PREVIEWING CELTICS AND SPURS
ESPN.com’s Peter May pieced together an all-encompassing preview of Wednesday night’s matchup between the Celtics and Spurs. Highlights:
|Irish Coffee: It’s a shame about Clifford Ray||01.04.11 at 12:03 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Either Peter Vecsey doesn’t like the Celtics, or the Celtics didn’t like former assistant coach Clifford Ray, because Vecsey detailed a pretty bizarre set of circumstances he claims led to Ray’s departure.
Here’s the nuts and bolts of the New York Post story:
Two weeks before the season began, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, who kept assistant Clifford Ray on hold the whole summer, informed him his services would no longer be needed.
An agreement eventually was signed by Ray, who was pressured by team president Danny Ainge to sign by a certain date (without getting lawyers involved) or forget it. Ray, the 1974-75 champion Warriors’ starting center, received $100,000 to go away quietly, enough to keep him and his family (including a 13-year-old son) going for a year or so.
Additionally, the Celtics approved medical attention for Ray, specifically for an MRSA infection he contracted in his foot several years ago while working (hence, the boot he wore so long) in Boston’s contaminated practice facility; Paul Pierce and Delonte West also got sick.
Had Ray not been in Minnesota last summer and gone, at the urging of his girlfriend, to the Mayo Clinic, doctors told him he was within days of having his foot amputated.
Rivers told Boston reporters he had no room in back of the bench for Ray because newly hired first assistant Lawrence Frank‘s deal allowed him to enlist a friend.
True enough. But the real reason Ray wasn’t invited back is because Rivers didn’t think he was healthy enough to get out on the floor and coach. Like the infection was Ray’s fault. Like Rivers didn’t know Ray was ailing for years. Like he couldn’t have reached that conclusion last June so that Ray would’ve had ample time to find work elsewhere.
Pierce and West both missed games in 2006 with infections in their finger and toe, respectively. Pierce also missed two weeks last season with an infection in his knee. Whether or not any of those incidents are related to what Vescey described as a “contaminated practice facility” is unclear.
|Irish Coffee: Who means most to Celtics’ success?||01.03.11 at 11:42 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Add Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle to the ever-growing list of injuries that have plagued the Celtics through their first 32 games this season.
Following Sunday’s 93-79 victory in Toronto against the Raptors, Doc Rivers told reporters, “We have a game [Monday] night, so he’ll be OK.” But it was another “not again” moment that reminded Celtics fans of the team’s fragility.
It also reminded me of this article from the Los Angeles Times, which made the following statement:
Rajon Rondo, their lone indispensable player, has an ankle injury and has been out three times but keeps returning before he’s 100 percent.
Is Rondo really their only indispensable player? Could they legitimately reach their goal of an 18th NBA title without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or – for that matter – any of the starters who are undefeated as a unit in the playoffs?
That’s when I decided to look at the Celtics’ record with and without each player in the lineup during The New Big Three era. Here’s how it shakes out with and without each guy (winning percentages in parentheses):
- Paul Pierce … With: 195-69 (.739); Without: 8-6 (.571)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .168
- Rajon Rondo … With: 191-68 (.738); Without: 12-7 (.632)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .106
- Kevin Garnett … With: 169-58 (.745); Without: 34-17 (.667)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .078
- Ray Allen … With: 192-72 (.727); Without: 11-3 (.786)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.059
- Kendrick Perkins … With: 167-65 (.720); Without: 36-10 (.783)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.063
Based on these numbers, Pierce has been the most valuable player on the team over the last three-plus regular seasons. Not Rondo. It’s also interesting to note the Celtics’ success without Allen or Perkins in the lineup.
One thing is certainly clear: Pierce, Rondo and Garnett are all indispensable. Well, at least that L.A. Times piece gave us one interesting note:
From the last four openers to Christmas Eve, Boston has gone an astounding 94-14 … a 71-win pace. Not even the Bill Russell teams that won 11 titles in 13 seasons ever did as well in that time frame.
The Celtics’ best four-year opener-to-Christmas Eve run in the Russell era was 94-26 from 1959-1962. Even posting win totals of 72-69-62 in Michael Jordan‘s last three seasons, the Bulls were 64-14 before Christmas.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, after the last three Christmases, they went 84-54 when injuries hit … as they have once more.
Just for fun, let’s look at the same numbers for each of the top-10 rotation players for this year’s team. How have the 2010-11 Celtics performed in their absences, taking into account the relatively small sample size?
- Kevin Garnett … With: 24-6 (.800); Without: 1-1 (.500)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .300
- Rajon Rondo … With: 18-3 (.857); Without: 7-4 (.636)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .221
- Shaquille O’Neal … With: 17-6 (.739); Without: 8-1 (.889)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.150
- Delonte West … With: 3-2 (.600); Without: 22-5 (.815)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.215
- Jermaine O’Neal … With: 7-5 (.583); Without: 18-2 (.900)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.317
The order of these players’ importance to the Celtics is certainly not surprising, but one thing is: How little an impact Jermaine O’Neal has had on this team. The Celtics have been a significantly better team when he doesn’t see the floor.
PAUL PIERCE THE COMEDIAN
On his Twitter page, Pierce made no mention of how his ankle was feeling on Monday morning, but he did offer this: “Excuse me I need to get thru please” — accompanied by the following video …
|The Three-Pointer: The knee, or not the knee is the Kevin Garnett question||12.30.10 at 12:31 am ET|
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
It’s fitting that the adage — Murphy’s law — came from an Irishman, as it probably crossed the mind of every Celtics fan who watched as Kevin Garnett crumpled to the floor in agony late in the first quarter of his team’s 104-92 loss to the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night.
It certainly entered Doc Rivers‘ thoughts.
‘I thought it was his knee the way he did it — the knee or the Achilles,’ Rivers told reporters in Detroit. ‘You’ve heard me say it before: Injuries when nobody’s around, to me, are always the severe ones. There was no one around when he grabbed it, so I thought it was a bad one. Let’s just hope it’s not. I don’t think it is, but we’ll find out later.’
It looked like the knee as Garnett limped up the floor to commit a foul on Tayshaun Prince and stop the clock. It definitely looked like the knee as trainer Ed Lacerte rubbed Garnett’s leg on the bench. And it had to be the knee when replays looked eerily similar to Garnett’s season-ending injury in 2009.
But Garnett hobbled to the training room on his own accord, the first sign that it wasn’t, in fact, the knee. Later, he walked gingerly (but better) to undergo X-rays that eventually revealed no fractures.
During the game, the Celtics were quick to calm the nerves of their fans, their coach and even their players, as the team stressed that Garnett suffered ‘a lower left leg injury’ — not a knee or ankle issue.
After the game, the C’s claimed that tests revealed no structural damage to the knee, and Garnett most likely injured his calf muscle. That noise you’re hearing is the collective sigh of relief from those same Boston fans, coaches and players.
‘I don’t think it’s bad, so I’m not that concerned,’ added Rivers. ‘He’s going to miss games, probably. I don’t know how many. I don’t think it will be that long, but, listen, it happens.’
Watching Garnett hop on one leg, it wasn’t a few games most Celtics observers were concerned about. It was another promising season that had appeared to go up in flames before what can now only be termed as ‘good news’ came from the Celtics’ organization.
|Fast Break: Pistons pound Celtics||12.29.10 at 10:09 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett left the game with a lower right leg injury late in the first quarter, but even before that the Celtics were in trouble during a 104-92 loss to the Pistons on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. Paul Pierce scored a game-high 33 points on 11-of-16 shooting, but only one other Celtic (Ray Allen) reached double figures. The Celtics drop to 24-6, despite Pierce’s effort to fuel a failed fourth-quarter comeback.
Meanwhile, despite the absence of their leading scorer (Rodney Stuckey), six Pistons scored in double digits: Tracy McGrady (21), Tayshaun Prince (18), Charlie Villanueva (14), Austin Daye (12), Ben Gordon (12) and Chris Wilcox (10).
WHAT WENT WRONG
Kevin Garnett goes down: Late in the first quarter, Garnett went up for a wide-open dunk, held on to the rim for an extra second as he grimaced in pain and limped up the floor on his left leg. Moments later, Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte worked on the same right leg that kept Garnett from finishing the 2008-09 season and hobbled him last year. Then, the official word: Garnett was out for the remainder of the game with a “lower right leg injury.”
Later, the Celtics stressed it was not a knee or ankle issue, but indeed a lower right leg injury. Garnett underwent X-rays, which showed no fractures, and he’ll have an MRI on Thursday. He walked to the locker and training rooms on his own accord.
Is it New Year’s Day? As Tommy Heinsohn said on the television broadcast, “They’re playing like they’re hungover.” The Celtics looked sluggish, even before the injury to Garnett. In the first quarter alone, they committed eight turnovers and allowed the Pistons to shoot 11-of-20 (55 percent).
In all, the C’s committed 21 turnovers, leading to 23 Pistons points. Detroit also shot 39-of-69 from the field (56 percent) and 10-of-14 from 3-point range (71 percent) for the game. The Celtics even made McGrady appear like the McGrady of old, as he totaled 21 points, eight assists and four rebounds.
Sharing the wealth: In their first matchup of the season, with Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup, the Celtics recorded 20 more assists than the Pistons (33-13) in a 109-86 victory.
This time around? The Pistons actually recorded eight more assists than the C’s (26-18), as Nate Robinson (one assist) got the start in place of the injured Rondo. In fact, the Celtics totaled more turnovers than assists.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce does it all: With Garnett out for the remainder of the game, all eyes turned to Pierce for leadership on both ends of the floor. He responded — even though his teammates did not. Pierce scored 33 points to go with eight assists, five rebounds and five steals. Allen was the only other Celtic to reach double figures, finishing with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Jermaine O’Neal contributes: In 23 minutes off the bench, Jermaine O’Neal — who had shown little to nothing since returning on Christmas Day — recorded six rebounds and seven points, making his only two shots from the field. He even drew an important fourth-quarter charge on defense.
While it wasn’t much, O’Neal produced more in this outing than he had in the two previous games combined. If Garnett misses significant time this season, a giant magnifying glass will be focused on O’Neal’s impact.
Free-throw shooting: The Celtics didn’t get to the free-throw line much, but when they did they made them count — making 18-of-19 (94 percent). Pierce, Allen and O’Neal were a combined 14-for-14 from the charity stripe.
In fact, the C’s shot pretty well from everywhere on the floor, making 34-of-66 shots from the field (51 percent) and 6-of-15 3-pointers (40 percent).