|Irish Coffee: Summer of Rajon Rondo gives way to winter||11.29.12 at 2:12 am ET|
If this is what Rajon Rondo thinks of leadership, the Celtics are in big trouble.
All summer, everyone from president Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and on down the line told anyone who would listen that this is the 26-year-old point guard’s team now. No longer Paul Pierce‘s. Not Kevin Garnett‘s. But a matured Rondo’s. Then, Wednesday night’s Nets game happened.
Just as he did last season, when he thew a ball at one referee and chest-bumped another, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, completely overreacting to a hard Kris Humphries foul on Kevin Garnett late in the first half.
As referee crew chief James Caper said after a home Celtics loss to the Nets that was much uglier than the 95-83 final at the TD Garden, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”
In other words, just as he was last season, Rondo will be suspended, especially considering he threw closed fists as he shoved Humphries into the stands. His history won’t help, either. Speculation sets the over/under on games the Celtics will be without their so-called leader at 3-5 games, but as New York Times reporter Howard Beck suggested, “Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith got 10 games each because they continued fight into the stands.”
Just like his legendary 37-game double-digit assist streak of John Stockton proportions, Rondo’s maturation process came to a screeching halt against the Nets. With it, probably, goes his Most Valuable Player aspirations. When’s the last time an NBA MVP was suspended for fighting during a season? This was the year he was supposed to make the leap. Instead, he takes a step backwards. After the game, Rondo left without speaking to the media, leaving Pierce, Garnett and the rest of his Celtics teammates to face questions only he could answer.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo ejected, streak ends and Celtics lose||11.28.12 at 10:09 pm ET|
The Bruins aren’t playing, so somebody had to fight at TD Garden.
Rajon Rondo shoved Kris Humphries into the stands, resulting in dueling ejections, and Kevin Garnett manhandled Gerald Wallace, drawing double technicals (Wallace’s second, earning himself an ejection). More on that in a minute, but the Celtics and Nets also played basketball.
Andray Blatche (13 rebounds) and Jerry Stackhouse each scored 17 points, and the Nets owned the Celtics, 95-83. Meanwhile, Rondo departed with just three assists in 18 minutes, effectively ending his 37-game double-digit assist streak and leaving him tied with John Stockton for the second-longest such stretch in NBA history.
If you’re looking for positives, Kevin Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds) recorded his second straight double-double.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Streak stopped: Where to begin? Starting with a brawl seems appropriate. With 29.5 second remaining in the first half, Humphries gave Garnett a shoulder shove. Rondo came to his defense, thrusting Humphries into the first row. Behind them, Garnett and Wallace got into it. Punches appeared to be thrown. Rondo, Humphries and Wallace all received ejections. Garnett got a technical. And suspensions will follow. Just like that, the streak ended. Rondo returned to the locker room with only three assists, seven shy of a 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.
BlatcheHouse: One’s 38 years old and the other was benched by the Wizards for the final month of last season for lack of conditioning. Of course, we’re talking about Stackhouse and Blatche, who somehow combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds before halftime. Before the break, the former’s shooting (3-4 3P) and the latter’s offensive rebounding (5) helped the Nets establish a lead as large as 21.
99 problems: We could be talking about any number of issues here. Brooklyn’s 3-point shooting and offensive rebounding or Jeff Green‘s apparent knee injury, Courtney Lee landing hard on his elbow and Chris Wilcox‘s illness, to name five. But with Jay-Z in attendance, the Celtics had 99 problems, and turnovers most definitely was one. They committed nine in the second quarter alone, including five in a span of seven possessions.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
|Irish Coffee: Why Rajon Rondo’s assist streak is more impressive than John Stockton’s or Magic Johnson’s||11.26.12 at 4:50 pm ET|
This topic stemmed from a conversation with Celtics guard Jason Terry about the evolution of the assist after colleague Rob Bradford compared the dwindling distribution of assists to baseball errors: Considering teams in the 1980s scored at a higher rate, is Rajon Rondo‘s current streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists more impressive than John Stockton‘s string of 37 in 1989 or Magic Johnson’s record stretch of 46 in 1983?
In a word? Yes. Let the 35-year-old NBA veteran of 13 seasons who grew up on ’80s basketball explain.
“It’s just a different style of play,” said Terry, whose longest streak of double-digit assists lasted all of three games in 2003. “Now, it’s a lot more difficult to get those assists per se as in the ’80s. If you look at the style of play, it was up-and-down, run-and-gun. Now, there are much more intricate defenses. There’s also the zone defense, so it makes it a lot tougher to get assists. So, that makes his feat a lot more amazing.”
Great points all around. Let’s look at that style of play. Last season, when Rondo’s streak began, the C’s averaged only 90.4 possessions per 48 minutes. By comparison, in 1989, when Stockton’s stretch started, the Jazz averaged 98.0; and in 1983, when Magic’s string commenced, the Lakers averaged a whopping 103.8. All three hover around the league average that season, so defense has clearly muddled the pace over the years.
To put a finer point on it, not only must Rondo generate his assists on fewer possessions — and thus fewer field goal attempts — but the maturation of defensive schemes over the past quarter-century has also forced lower shooting percentages. Translation: Even fewer opportunities for Rondo to collect his dimes.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo stops Magic, ties John Stockton for consecutive double-digit assists||11.25.12 at 8:57 pm ET|
The Magic finally missed a couple of 3-pointers, and for the Celtics, the misses couldn’t have come at a better time. Both Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis missed treys in the final minute, and the Celtics made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to escape Orlando with a 116-110 overtime victory.
Rajon Rondo (15 points, 16 assists, 9 rebounds) fell one rebound short of his first triple-double of the season (and 24th of his career), but he did eclipse double-digit assists for the 37th straight game, tying John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history, trailing only Magic Johnson (46).
Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) notched his first double-double since Nov. 9, and Paul Pierce added 23 points despite missing his signature elbow jumper at the end of regulation. Leandro Barbosa (15 points), Brandon Bass (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points) also reached double figures for the Celtics (8-6).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Blurring the lines: In four first-half minutes, Leandro Barbosa scored 11 points, making all four of his shots, including a pair of 3-pointers and a traditional three-point play. He entered the game averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and that kind of production can’t be ignored. Makes you wonder how many guard minutes will be left for Courtney Lee once Avery Bradley returns.
Painting a masterpiece: Without Dwight Howard to stop them, the Celtics took full advantage of a rare frontcourt strength advantage. At halftime, when the Celtics built a 58-48 advantage, the Celtics owned the advantage in points in the paint (30-16) rebounds (23-21) and second-chance points (10-4). Rarely do the C’s lead any of those three categories, but it’s nice to see Pierce, Garnett and Bass deliver when they should.
Sully tapped: Less than two minutes into his night, Jared Sullinger‘s first attempt got swatted back into his face by Josh McRoberts. It was the beginning of an 0-for-3 start for the Celtics rookie. The larger concern: Opponents have blocked 19.4 percent of Sullinger’s shots this season, which ranks fifth-worst among NBA players who average at least 15 minutes a night. But Sullinger responded, taking a page out of Glen Davis‘ around-the-basket book, making five of his next nine shots to finish with 11 points and six boards in 19:25 off the bench.
|Chris Wilcox: Secret to the Rajon Rondo alley-oop||11.25.12 at 2:55 pm ET|
The secret to that Rajon Rondo-to-Chris Wilcox alley-oop that’s been so successful — despite just 33 games together as Celtics teammates — really isn’t all that complicated.
“It is what it is, man,” said Wilcox, whose averaging 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. “I’m playing hard, just trying to be in the right spot at the right time, and good things happen. His No. 1 goal is to find us, to find the open man. All I do is just make it easier for myself and get to the right spot at the right time.”
Remarkably, 19 of Wilcox’s 21 field goals this season have come at the rim, where he’s making 86.4 percent of his shots (19-22 FG), and 15 of them have come from assists. The other four? All from offensive rebounds. He’s made a living from scoring around the basket — honing his alley-oop skills from guys like Andre Miller and Sam Cassell on the Clippers as well as Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson on the Sonics — but never like this.
“Rondo’s one of a kind,” said Wilcox.” I’ve been with some great point guards — Andre Miller, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson — and they were basically the same kind of point guards. You just get to the right spot and good things happen. I’m just out there trying to be aggressive and trying to make things easier for him.”
|Matt Bonner’s day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich saga||11.22.12 at 12:57 pm ET|
In case you you haven’t read his “Sandwich Hunter: The Quest for the Hoagie Grail” blog on NBA.com, the Spurs’ Matt Bonner is the league’s sandwich connoisseur. (Although, I have to disagree with the New Hampshire native’s selection of D’Angelo’s as New England’s sandwich haven. Total rookie movie from an NBA veteran.)
Considering the day-after-Thanksgiving hoagie is the greatest in history, we couldn’t let him escape Boston without first getting Bonner’s recipe for that sandwich Squanto and Myles Standish probably invented in the 1620s.
“Typically, you’ve got the turkey out of the fridge with some stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce,” said the pride of Concord, N.H., “and you’ve got yourself an amazing leftover sandwich.”
Unfortunately, San Antonio’s 112-100 win over the Celtics on Thanksgiving eve was the start of a long road trip, so after relaxing with family after the game, he joins the Spurs in Indiana for a Friday night game against the Pacers. And that means Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are the only heroes the Red Rocket will be seeing.
“I’m out of luck,” said Bonner, “because it’s the first game of a six-game East Coast 10-day road trip. So, we’re having a team Thanksgiving dinner, which means no leftovers, so no sandwiches.”
Hey, professional basketball players can’t have it all, so be thankful when you’re devouring that leftover turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce (and my brother’s secret day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich addition: mashed potatoes) — all on toasted bread, of course. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
|Celtics undergoing a defensive identity crisis||11.22.12 at 1:14 am ET|
When Brandon Bass tipped home a Paul Pierce jumper with 1:28 left in their 112-100 loss to the Spurs, the Celtics avoided joining San Antonio as the only other team in the last 25 years not to grab an offensive rebound. Instead, they grabbed one — an NBA statistic that’s occurred just 16 times in the past quarter-century.
Of course, three of those 16 occurrences now belong to the Celtics. Only the other two games produced an entirely different result: a 103-79 blowout of the 76ers this past April and a 122-103 defeat of the Pacers during the 2008 championship season. The C’s shot better than 50 percent on both occasions, just as they did in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs, so there weren’t exactly a lot of offensive rebounds to be grabbed.
In other words, the Celtics should hope they only have one offensive rebound every night.
“You’re a big believer in offensive rebounds I think; I’m not,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “You can pick on that all you want. That is a number I rarely look at. Statistically, it holds up. I can tell you: You don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that.”
Sounds great in theory, except for the fact that MySynergySports.com ranks the C’s rank dead last statistically in transition defense, which is a entirely different problem. And a much bigger one.
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