|Irish Coffee: Why Miami is a fifth seed||11.10.10 at 1:53 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The offseason’s biggest hype — How far can the Big Three (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) carry the Miami Heat? – has now become the regular season’s biggest question — How far can the Little Two (Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony) drag down the Heat?
After Utah’s 116-114 overtime win Tuesday night against the Heat, the writing is on the wall: Miami needs point guard and post help — STAT. If the Heat don’t get it, should they meet, the Celtics will beat them in the NBA playoffs.
So far, the Heat are 0-3 against elite point guards (Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Deron Williams). That trio averaged 12.7 points and 16.7 assists — producing 46.1 points per game — against Arroyo, who averaged just 5.3 points and 1.0 assists (producing 7.3 points) in those three games. From the point guard position alone, the Heat essentially started each game in a 39-point hole.
Overall, in the Heat’s eight games, Arroyo is averaging 5.6 fewer points and 6.3 fewer assists (18.2 fewer points produced) than his point guard counterpart. You know it’s bad when Devin Harris totals six points and one assist — and outplays you. Thursday night’s game against Rondo isn’t going to help, either.
Take a look at Arroyo’s production against Miami opponents’ primary point guard:
- Arroyo: 3 points-0 rebounds-0 assists; Rondo: 4-5-17
- Arroyo: 6-3-1; Louis Williams: 15-1-7
- Arroyo: 7-4-4; Jameer Nelson: 10-3-1
- Arroyo: 12-5-4; Harris: 13-1-6
- Arroyo: 8-6-3; Sebastian Telfair: 13-1-1
- Arroyo: 0-1-1; Paul: 13-2-19
- Arroyo: 4-1-0; Harris: 6-2-1
- Arroyo: 10-0-2; Deron Williams: 21-4-14
- Total: 50-19-16; Opponents: 95-19-66
- Average: 6.3-2.4-2.0; Opponents: 11.9-2.4-8.3
Things get far worse in Miami when you factor in the center position. Joel Anthony is averaging just 1.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in eight games. He’s scored only 15 points in 145 minutes this season. His counterparts? Oh, they’re only averaging 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds against him.
Take a look at Anthony’s production against the primary center for Miami’s opponent on that given night:
- Anthony: 2 points-7 rebounds-1 assist; Glen Davis: 13-5-0
- Anthony: 0-3-0; Elton Brand: 12-9-0
- Anthony: 0-4-0; Dwight Howard: 19-7-0
- Anthony: 1-3-2; Brook Lopez: 20-5-1
- Anthony: 4-5-0; Nikola Pekovic: 12-8-0
- Anthony: 2-5-0; Emeka Okafor: 26-13-1
- Anthony: 2-2-0; Lopez: 12-3-2
- Anthony: 4-5-0; Al Jefferson: 2-9-2
- Total: 15-34-3; Opponents: 116-59-6
- Average: 1.9-4.3-0.4; Opponents: 14.5-7.4-0.8
Because of how putrid Arroyo and Anthony have been this season, the remaining members of the Heat have to make up an average of 18.2 points per game. They might be capable of that if Bosh wasn’t also being outplayed.
On average, after being dominated by Paul Millsap Tuesday night, Bosh has been outscored by his counterparts by 1.7 points and out-rebounded by 1.1 boards per game. See how he’s fared against opponents:
- Bosh: 8 points-8 rebounds-2 assists; Kevin Garnett: 10-10-3
- Bosh: 15-7-1; Thaddeus Young: 15-3-1
- Bosh: 11-10-1; Rashard Lewis: 2-3-0
- Bosh: 18-1-2; Derrick Favors: 13-13-1
- Bosh: 13-6-2; Kevin Love: 20-6-1
- Bosh: 15-1-1; David West: 15-7-0
- Bosh: 21-5-2; Favors: 11-5-0
- Bosh: 17-9-3; Millsap: 46-9-1
- Total: 118-47-14; Opponents: 132-56-7
- Average: 14.8-5.9-1.8; Opponents: 16.5-7.0-0.9
What does all this mean? Every game, the Heat are essentially trailing 20-0 before the first whistle. That’s a big hole for James and Wade to dig out of each night. They must be muttering, “You’re killing me, Smalls,” more than Ham did in “Sandlot.”
The worse news for the Heat? There isn’t much out there to replace those guys. Is signing people like Rashad McCants or Robert Swift to the veteran minimum going to help? Honestly, I’m not sure it could get any worse.
The other option is for Miami to seek a trade, but who do they have to deal? Udonis Haslem is the only guy who would garner any interest. And it’s not like they can get someone else’s salary dump, because they don’t have the salaries in return to make the numbers match up.
Basically, they are what they are until next offseason. So, what are they? I’m thinking a No. 5 seed behind the Celtics, Magic, Bulls and Hawks.
|Irish Coffee: Should Rajon Rondo rest his feet?||11.09.10 at 11:13 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Although Rajon Rondo continues to downplay his “minor” case of plantar fasciitis, HoopsWorld had an interesting breakdown of Rondo’s numbers since the issue arose following the Celtics‘ overtime victory against the Bucks.
I’m not sure I buy the fact that his assist numbers have decreased since that game as a valid argument for its effect. It’s a little much to expect Rondo was going to keep up his 16.8 assist-per-game average, considering that would obliterate John Stockton‘s all-time NBA record of 14.5 dimes per contest.
Still, after watching Rondo’s apparent success through eight games, HoopsWorld’s analysis of his non-assist numbers is surprising …
It should be noted Rondo’s free-throw shooting percentage — 50.0 percent — is the lowest of his career, and his field-goal shooting, also at 50.0 percent, is the lowest percentage since the 2007-08 season. His Win Shares of 1.1 have drastically dropped from last season’s 9.6. In addition, his turnovers per game at 4.0 are his highest level ever.
That may say more about the “win share” statistic than it does about Rondo’s game, considering he’s clearly been the best player on the floor for the Celtics this season. Although, the turnovers are certainly a concern.
As HoopsWorld notes, Rondo ranks first in assists (at 118, by a whopping 52 over Andre Miller) and assists per game (14.8), while sitting at second in steals (27) and steals per game (3.1).
But only two NBA players have committed more turnovers this season and only seven have committed more per game than Rondo. The Celtics point guard ranks 41st in the league in steals-to-turnovers (0.8), behind guys like Chris Paul, Mike Conley, Jrue Holiday and Jason Kidd. And Rondo ranks ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.7) — again behind Paul and Kidd, as well as Charlotte’s DJ Augustin.
The turnover problem can be chalked up to either carelessness or (too much) creativity rather than the plantar fasciitis, but if a heel injury was going to affect any part of someone’s game, wouldn’t it be his shooting? Considering the lift from the legs necessary to get off a shot, it makes sense.
After the preseason, when he hit 50 percent of his shots from 10 feet or farther, it appeared as though Rondo had improved his shot-making and the confidence in his shot-making ability (a little bit of a chicken-and-egg argument there), as Celtics Hub noted in a fantastic breakdown of his jumper.
Through the first five games of the regular season, Rondo was 9-of-20 from 10 feet or further (and 50 percent from 3-point range). Since that Bucks game, when the plantar fasciitis really flared, Rondo is just 4-of-14 from beyond 10 feet (28.6 percent), including Monday night’s failed game-winning 3-pointer.
The Boston Globe and SLAM Magazine theorized that Rondo’s attempt in the waning seconds was a positive sign that he’s gained confidence in his jumper. But isn’t there a chance that the missed attempt — whether it was affected by the plantar fasciitis or not — could hurt that confidence going forward?
And, in turn, could Rondo’s teammates (i.e., Paul Pierce and Ray Allen) lose confidence in his shot-making ability during those big moments? Time will tell, as similar situations are going to arise as teams will mirror Dallas’ late-game strategy until Rondo proves he can make them pay.
ALREADY RESTING FOR THE PLAYOFFS
As Dennis & Callahan discussed, in the wake of Jermaine O’Neal missing the second half of Monday night’s loss to the Mavericks because of soreness in his left knee, Rondo mentioned to The Globe that the Celtics should be more concerned about health down the road than contributions in the regular season right now …
“I told him if you’re not feeling great, just go ahead and sit it down. Health is the most important thing. I don’t want JO or any of our players out there trying to be a hero and tough it out. It’s about the stretch and the end of the season. So if he needs to take a couple days off and get some rest, so be it.”
Following up on that HoopsWorld article, considering that rest appears to be the best treatment for plantar fasciitis, it’s interesting to note that Rondo doesn’t have the same sentiments when it comes to his own health …
The obvious question about whether or not he was going to have to sit out games in efforts to get better had to be broached.
“No, I don’t want to,” he replied.
Perhaps Rondo should listen to his own advice. After all, if indeed a few days rest can make him healthier in the long run, shouldn’t the Celtics consider sitting him once Delonte West returns from suspension?
NBA VERSION OF DUMB CRIMINALS
I’ve always loved dumb crime stories. Years ago, in the Wellesley Townsman, I remember two separate items in the crime log: 1) a man had stolen an entire ham from a local butcher; and 2) police had picked up a man walking down the street with an entire ham shoved down his pants. Yet, nobody had put the two together.
Well, the police work was a little better in Charlotte, N.C. During a Bobcats game, a Brooklyn man wanted for murder “waltzed past a JumboTron camera … in the same gaudy bling he wore when he allegedly pulled the trigger,” according to the New York Daily News.
Then, the genius showed up at another Bobcats game just days later. He was of course welcomed by North Carolina police and the FBI.
A KEVIN GARNETT RIP JOB
Garnett — having his PR people type up this statement while they attempted to keep a straight face — claims that what he told Villanueva while in the heat of Celtics-Bucks battle was that Charlie V is ‘cancerous to your team and our league.’
That is completely credible to any NBA fan who is:
a) Unfamiliar with Garnett’s especially twisted habit of bullying opponents who don’t fight back
b) Under the impression that Kevin Garnett talks like a robot.
ARE THE LAKERS AIMING FOR 72 WINS?
Most of the preseason talk surrounded whether or not the Miami Heat could win 72 games this season. Well, after their 4-2 start, there aren’t too many people left on that bandwagon.
However, after the Lakers’ 7-0 start, some hopped on the L.A. train. Obviously, most people agree no team — especially one as veteran as the Lakers — should aim for such a goal in lieu of staying healthy for the playoffs.
My favorite take, though, comes from The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Medina …
For the same reasons the 2008-09 Lakers and 2009-10 Lakers didn’t surpass the mark are the same reasons the Lakers shouldn’t pursue.
Oh, OK, so the the Lakers are the only ones that have kept themselves from winning more than 72 games in each of the last two seasons? Good one.
Medina’s colleague, Mark Heisler, has a more realistic take on why the Lakers won’t even attempt at the 72-win NBA record …
Since Lakers fans deserve an update on their team’s chances — now far better than Miami’s since they only have to finish 65-10 — here it is: 0 percent.
Here’s my methodology: I take the hype from their 21-3 and 23-4 starts the last two seasons and note their win total at the end, 65 and 57, respectively. Then I multiply by coach Phil Jackson‘s inclination to push them — zero — and come up with zero!
Not even Jackson, who coached the record-setting 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, would admit there’s a comparison between that team and this year’s Lakers …
“Not the same defense,” Jackson told Heisler. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of offensive prowess. The defense isn’t quite the same.”
Well, I’m glad that’s settled. Let’s drop the 72-win talk for any and all teams.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|The Three-Pointer: Rajon Rondo has a lot to prove||11.09.10 at 12:03 am ET|
Remember that scene in the movie “Billy Madison” when Adam Sandler apologizes to Steve Buscemi for teasing him in high school, so Buscemi crosses him off his “kill list”? You kind of getting the feeling that NBA point guards should start finding reasons to apologize to Rajon Rondo.
With the possible exception of a stretch in late February and early March — when Rondo will face Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings in consecutive games — the Celtics point guard won’t face another stretch like he has over the past four games.
Despite battling mild plantar fasciitis, Rondo outplayed them all. See for yourself …
Celtics 105, Bucks 102 (OT)
- Rondo: 17 points, 7-of-10 field goals, 15 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 6 turnovers
- Jennings: 13 points, 5-of-13 field goals, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers
Celtics 110, Bulls 105 (OT)
- Rondo: 10 points, 5-of-10 field goals, 11 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers
- Rose: 18 points, 8-of-19 field goals, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 0 steals, 6 turnovers
Celtics 92, Thunder 83
- Rondo: 10 points, 5-of-8 shooting, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 turnovers
- Westbrook: 16 points, 6-of-16 shooting, 10 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 8 turnovers
Mavericks 89, Celtics 87
- Rondo: 11 points, 5-of-15 shooting, 15 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 turnovers
- Kidd: 0 points, 0-for-5 shooting, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers
In all, Rondo averaged 12.0 points on 51.2 percent shooting, 12.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 4.5 turnovers. Defensively, he allowed the other four to produce 11.8 points on 35.9 percent shooting, 8.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 5.0 turnovers.
The difference, though, went beyond the numbers. Rondo dictated the tempo against each of them on offense and disrupted the normal flow of his opponents’ games on defense. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Nowitzki sinks Celtics||11.08.10 at 11:07 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo missed a wide-open 3-pointer to win it, and Kevin Garnett missed a fadeaway jumper to tie it in the final seconds. Paul Pierce scored a team-high 24 points, Garnett added 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Rondo produced 11 points, 15 assists and six rebounds for the C’s, who fell to 6-2.
Nowitzki led the Mavericks (4-2) with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. First-half defense: You’re probably not going to beat anybody — let alone the Mavericks — when you allow an opponent to shoot 55 percent from the field for the first half. Dallas made 21-of-38 field goals in the opening 24 minutes, building a lead as large as 14, en route to a 10-point halftime lead.
Mavericks big men Tyson Chandler and Nowitzki were the biggest benefactors of the C’s porous defense. Chandler finished 5-for-5 in the first half, scoring all 10 of those points within two feet of the basket. Nowitzki scored nine first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting.
2. Shooting: It’s bad enough when you allow 55 percent shooting, but it hurts twice as much when your own field-goal percentage is hovering around 35 percent for much of the night. A second-half streak only raised the Celtics’ field goal percentage to 41 percent for the night.
3. Losing the free-throw battle: Sure, the Celtics shot 100 percent from the free-throw line, but they only had seven attempts. The C’s got just one free-throw attempt combined from Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Garnett and Rondo.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks shot 20 free throws, making 17 (85 percent). Nowitzki alone matched the entire Celtics roster from the free-throw line, making all seven of his attempts. For the referees’ sake, it’s a good thing Tommy Heinsohn didn’t make the trip.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. The halftime speech must’ve worked: The Celtics were badly outplayed in the first half and lucky to be trailing by just 10 at the break. The few signs of grit the C’s showed in the opening 24 minutes didn’t pay dividends, as their own shots just weren’t falling.
Well, something clicked, as the Celtics went on a 22-9 run to start the second half, taking a three-point lead on a trey from (who else but) Ray Allen just 8:14 into the third quarter.
2. Team rebounding: Jermaine O’Neal may have left the game at halftime because of his ailing left knee, but the Celtics didn’t miss him. Garnett grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds, while Pierce (7 boards), Rondo (6) and Allen (5) also chipped in on the glass.
In all, the Celtics out-rebounded the Mavericks, 41-38.
3. Semih Erden continues to contribute: In Jermaine O’Neal’s absence, Semih Erden played 11 minutes, scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 shooting from the free-throw line.
Erden has yet to miss a free throw this season, entering Monday night’s game a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. Perhaps that production can offset any struggles Shaquille O’Neal has at the line this season.
|A Celtics tribute to Conan O’Brien||11.08.10 at 3:20 pm ET|
In honor of Conan O’Brien‘s return to television Monday night, I give you Paul Pierce on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show after he won the 2008 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award during the Celtics‘ 2007-08 championship run …
|Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result||11.08.10 at 10:52 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.
Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.
“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”
The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?
“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”
So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.
This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.
So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.
“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”
Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.
|Tom Thibodeau gets hero’s welcome||11.05.10 at 11:56 pm ET|
During the first timeout of Friday night’s 110-105 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics played a video tribute to current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and forward Brian Scalabrine, thanking them for their contributions to the C’s 2008 NBA championship.
Touched by the gesture, Scalabrine raised a hand to the crowd. Meanwhile, Thibodeau stood stoically on the sideline, ready to guide his new team against his former team.
After the game, though, the former Celtics assistant and defensive guru was clearly touched by the gesture.
“It’s great coming back here,” Thibodeau said following his team’s loss. “I wouldn’t be in this position without everything that this organization did for me. From ownership to Danny (Ainge) and, of course, Doc (Rivers), they treated me great. It was a lot of fun.”
It’s not every city that would recognize the contributions of an assistant coach to a team’s success with a pair of standing ovations (one to start the game and one throughout the video), but Thibodeau knows Boston is no ordinary fan base.
“This is a great sports town,” said Thibodeau. “Certainly, the history and the tradition of the Celtics is what makes this organization so special. It’s the fans, the people that run the team, the players. They’re leadership is off the charts. Doc and Danny — you’re not going to find two guys better than that. They’re just top-of-the-line guys. They’re smart. They know what they’re doing.
“The team is special,” he added. “You’ve got an unbelievable group of guys — not only talented, but great competitors. Those guys are going to fight and fight and fight. There’s no quit in that team. To beat them, you’ve got to beat them. They never quit.”
Thibodeau admitted after the game that while his new team may have the potential, the Bulls just don’t have the level of understanding of each other yet that his old team enjoys now.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’re experienced, they know how to work the game and their hard to guard,” said Thibodeau. “I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to hsare with each other. … It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’t get set, and that’s something we’re striving for.”
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