|Fast Break: LeBron James spoils Jeff Green’s career night||03.18.13 at 11:00 pm ET|
Jeff Green (career-high 43 points) became the first Celtics player not named Paul Pierce in more than 12 years to score 43 points in the regular season, and it still wasn’t enough to end the Heat’s winning streak, which LeBron James (37 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds) extended to 23 games in a 105-103 thriller in the Garden.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Garnett loss: Considering they shot 62 percent from the field in the first half, the Celtics’ offense didn’t miss Garnett all that much — thanks to Green’s monster night. The defense? Different story. After building a 17-point lead, the C’s allowed five straight second-quarter layups. Doc Rivers quickly reinserted Avery Bradley — whose ridiculous chase-down block of Norris Cole gave the C’s a brief lift — but Miami responded with a 12-4 run to close the half, taking a more manageable six-point deficit into the break. That doesn’t happen with Garnett. Of course, neither do the Heat’s 8-0 run to start the second half nor the 18-4 string down the stretch of the fourth quarter, each of which erased comfortable Celtics leads.
LeBron being LeBron: Growing increasingly frustrated with his teammates — even showing up Chris Bosh when the Heat center allowed Brandon Bass to waltz into lane for an offensive rebound on a missed free throw — James took over. He showed again and again why he’s the game’s greatest player, even if for one night Green gave him a run for his money. When he wasn’t posterizing Jason Terry, he was drawing defenders and finding everyone from Ray Allen to Shane Battier for wide-open 3-point attempts.
Bench pressed: At some point, there’s a breaking point. Since Garnett’s absence moved Green into the starting lineup, the reserves featured only two players who started the season with the Celtics. Outside of Jason Terry, who knocked down four of his six attempts in 24 minutes, the C’s didn’t get much from the rest of the roster. For the most part, Jordan Crawford (8 points) seemed lost, Chris Wilcox racked up the fouls and the China trio of Terrence Williams, D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph didn’t see the floor.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green lantern: Either James and Green switched jerseys, or Green played his best basketball in a Celtics uniform. The C’s closed the first quarter on a 17-0 run, including 12 points from Green, to take a 31-19 lead after one. That momentum carried into the second, as Green scored 22 points in a span of 10:43, nearly playing the Heat to a standstill (24-22) through the games’s first 15 minutes. What’s more, he grabbed six boards in that same span — twice his season average. Basically, Green unlocked God mode for 15 minutes.
Truth matters: You can bet Rivers took mental note as his starting combination of Green and Pierce gave the Heat fits. While Miami attempted to guard one of the two with Udonis Haslem (and for some reasonn Chris Andersen), Green and Pierce took advantage. As the former enjoyed a career night, the latter submitted another retro performance, quietly approaching a triple-double (17 points, 8 assists, 8 rebounds) in tandem.
Quality Lee: Courtney Lee followed up perhaps his most complete performance of the season (13 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks against the Bobcats) with another solid effort against the Heat. He contributed 13 points — including a huge fourth-qaurter triple to snap a 9-0 Heat run — to go along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals. His performance helped offset a mostly underwhelming night for fellow pitbull Avery Bradley, who struggled in the face of fullcourt pressure from Miami’s Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
|Celtics: Kevin Garnett a game-time decision vs. Heat||03.18.13 at 12:37 pm ET|
Suffering from an adductor (groin) strain, Garnett sat out Saturday’s 105-88 blowout of the Bobcats, Sunday’s practice and Monday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Waltham.
As a result, the C’s may face the daunting task of ending Miami’s 22-game win streak — on the five-year anniversary of halting the Rockets’ 22-game string — without the heart of their defense. The Celtics are riding an 11-game home winning streak that began against the Heat on Jan. 27, when news of Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending injury spread like wildfire throughout the Garden.
Miami has lost 10 straight regular-season games in Boston since April 6, 2007, including all five games during LeBron James‘ tenure.
|Irish Coffee: Bill Walton’s St. Patrick’s Day revisited||03.17.13 at 9:54 am ET|
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the 1985-86 Celtics that finished 67-15 during the regular season — and 41-1 at home in the Boston Garden — on their way to winning 15-of-18 playoff games and the franchise’s 16th NBA title, Bill Walton can wish you a St. Patrick’s Day far better than I can.
So, without further ado, I give you Walton uncensored, about five or six Guinesses deep most likely (from his appearance on the Big Show two years ago):
“Go Green. Go Guinness. I’m popping one right now. Ten million pints poured every day around this great globe of ours — the globe, the most perfect orb, just like the basketball. The basketball by itself does nothing, but when you make it an extension of your mind the way that [Rajon] Rondo does, the way that Danny Ainge did and DJ [Dennis Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Kevin [McHale] and Chief [Robert Parish] and Jerry [Sichting] and Rick [Carlisle] and Scotty [Wedman] and all the guys did — but when you’re able to make an extension of your mind, of what it is you’re doing in life, whether it’s drinking a Guinness responsibly, whether you’re bouncing that magic basketball for the Celtic Green, you can make a difference, and that’s what we’re calling everybody to do on St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the college tournament, the most perfect harmonic convergence ever. Be bold, stand tall, quit your job and chase your dreams. …
“I only drink Guinness, the holy water falling from the sky, delivering spiritual guidance. We’re blessed. We’re so blessed. We’re on record pace, and we’re having the time of our life. …
“When this morning started, and it started more than 24 hours ago, the call to action was to take the day off. Who wants to lead a watered down life? C’mon. Let’s get up and be bold. Forget just taking the day off, just quit your job. Make your dream your job, and that’s what I was able to do. My parents ask me to this very day, ‘So, Billy, did you ever get a job?’ I’m closer than ever to being able to say yes. It’s so special. The remarkable thing about Guinness in our world is that in the mother country, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. In Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Somewhere, we got lost along the path, along the golden road to unlimited devotion. …
|Greatest Kevin Garnett postgame interview ever?||03.14.13 at 12:09 am ET|
After passing Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list and watching Paul Pierce eschew Charles Barkley in 20th, Kevin Garnett offered a rare glimpse inside the personal relationship of the latest Celtics greats.
“Paul and I have history, and it’s only right that we come in here and we make history together,” said Garnett. “At 13, 14, we were tearing up his mom’s living room, breaking vases, almost getting our asses whooped. I was with Paul the first time I ever experienced Crenshaw on a Sunday. For y’all who don’t know about Crenshaw on a Sunday, Crenshaw on a Sunday is a big deal. He was taking me out, and we were being 15, 16 years old.”
It might sound like something out of a sitcom, but the soliloquy Garnett delivered after the C’s 112-88 destruction of the Raptors was nothing but pure, honest truth. When Garnett joined Pierce’s AAU team in high school, he stayed with the Celtics captain and his mother in Inglewood, Calif. The rest is literally history.
“Being able to follow our dream at McDonald’s, having some duration together, trying to go to the same school, obviously going different paths, and then finally meeting up here in Boston, winning the championship, doing the things we’ve been doing since we’ve been here — 20,000 points, now we’re surpassing people that we grew up mimicking and obviously idolizing — it’s special,” added Garnett. “It’s special to do with a personal friend. You know what I mean? Not just a teammate, but a real friend. Someone who knows you, knows your family, knows who you are, where you come from and vice versa. Knows the things that motivate you and push you.
“I always tell people that I’ve got the greatest seat in the house to watch one of the best players in NBA history put the ball in the basket every night, and it’s special to be able to do it with him.”
Let’s just say the feeling is mutual.
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce help Celtics spread wealth||03.13.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Seven Celtics scored in double figures and every member of the team but Shavlik Randolph made a bucket as they handed the Raptors a 112-88 blowout win to bounce back from a loss to the Bobcats the night before.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
New Logo: In what’s becoming a nightly occurrence, Garnett passed another milestone, the Celtics crowd gave him a standing ovation and he reciprocated with a salute. This time, Garnett (12 points) passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with a layup two minutes into the second quarter. Midway through the third quarter, Pierce (15 points) surpassed Charles Barkley to claim 20th on the same list and also saluted the cheering crowd.
Green lantern: After shooting a combined 16-for-47 (34 FG%) in his last four games, Green came out firing. He made 5-of-7 attempts, including his lone 3-pointer, to enter the break as the lone player in double digits (12). His three rebounds paired with Garnett’s seven first-half boards gave the C’s an early edge on the glass. Green finished with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
Air Jordan: Jordan Crawford submitted his best two performances in a Celtics uniform in back-to-back games. After scoring 14 points in the stinker against the Bobcats, he totaled 12 against the Raptors, and each basket was more improbable than the next. The off-balance 3-pointer to beat the shot clock and a half dunk over a chagrined Raptor in transition were just two of his highlights. At some point, as the kid keeps hitting ridiculous shots, it’s more skill than luck, right?
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: It’s hard to tell whether the first quarter was even basketball or not. The Celtics and Raptors combined for 11 turnovers (BOS 6, TOR 5), Jason Terry (12 points) earned himself a silly technical foul for batting the ball off an announcer and the C’s allowed 14 points in the paint. The result? A 22-21 Toronto lead after one.
Turd-quarter runs: The Celtics built a 53-40 lead a minute into the second half, but they proceeded to watch as the Raptors ran off a 9-0 run that included three layups and a Rudy Gay (19 points) dunk. For the sake of Garnett and Pierce’s legs, thankfully the C’s closed out the third quarter on a 28-13 run, taking an 81-62 edge into the final frame.
Finish rim: Avery Bradley came into the game shooting a season-worst 56 percent at the rim. Considering the number of times he gets himself open under the basket, that’s disturbing, but most of his misses seem to come in transition, when he’s 1-on-1 with a defender as he was at the end of the first quarter. Since Bradley’s defensive prowess will so often put him in transition, he needs to work on finishing at the rim.
|Josh Smith: Celtics trade ‘was a possibility’||03.09.13 at 1:27 am ET|
Josh Smith was in Boston, so naturally it was time to ask Josh Smith about the latest Josh Smith to the Celtics trade rumors. It’s like an annual rite of passage for the Hawks forward whose contract expires at season’s end.
Leading up to the Feb. 21 trade deadline, this season’s rumors had either Celtics captain Paul Pierce or a package of Jeff Green and Brandon Bass headed to Atlanta in exchange for Smith’s services. Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that the C’s, Hawks and Mavericks nearly pulled the trigger on a three-team deal that would have brought Smith to Boston for Pierce and a first-round pick.
Of course, Smith also almost landed on the Nets and Bucks, among other places.
“It was a possibility of me going a lot of places,” Smith said after his near triple-double (32 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) in Boston, “but I’m here and I’m focusing on what’s at stake right now. I’m trying to get a little higher playoff position, so I am not worried about anything else but winning games for this organization and this team.”
Generally, the logic goes something like this: Smith and Rajon Rondo were amazingly entertaining high school teammates, and they’re still best friends, so the C’s are a natural fit for a guy the Hawks probably won’t re-sign.
“That’s my friend, so we talk almost every day,” Smith said of the injured Celtics point guard. “We don’t talk about surgery. We just talk about friendship stuff, off-the-court stuff. That’s the least of both of our concerns. It’s a far-fetched injury, so right now we’re just focusing on staying positive.”
(Aside: Somehow I doubt his ACL tear is the least of Rondo’s concerns, and I can assure you it’s not far-fetched.)
Perhaps they discuss the C’s surprising 14-4 record sans Rondo, including Friday’s overtime win over his Hawks?
“They’re a successful basketball team, and they know how to win,” said Smith. “They have a lot of professionals on that team. They have some players that have won championship rings on their team, so I’m not surprised.”
What about those pesky trade rumors? Surely, Smith and Rondo discuss those in their daily phone conversations.
“We don’t talk about that,” finished Smith. “We don’t talk about that.”
OK, then. Nothing to see here. Move along. Until the next time Smith rolls into Boston, I’m sure.
|Kevin Garnett: Celtics ‘haven’t given in to [expletive] critics’||03.09.13 at 12:28 am ET|
After the Celtics improved to 14-4 since the season-ending injury to his friend and Celtics teammate Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett faced questions about whether the season has taken on a special feel in recent weeks.
“Special?” he asked.
The question — a legitimate one given the circumstances — was asked again.
“We haven’t given in to the [expletive] critics,” said Garnett, who finished with 17 points and seven boards in the 107-102 overtime win over the Hawks. “We’re working hard. We’re grinding. We’re showing our character. Our coach is a grinder himself, and his team is just that. We’re not looking for any handouts or sympathies or anything like that. We don’t expect anybody to give us nothing. We’re going out, working hard and gaining everything we’re getting. We’re giving ourselves a chance every night. We’re leaning on each other. We’re playing together.
“I could probably better answer your question later on in the postseason to see where were at. It’s still early. Everybody’s fighting for positioning. Everybody pretty much has the same road at this point, so it’s kind of early.”
As much as things have changed, some things never do. We’ve officially entered the part of the season where KG begins calling out the critics who doubted the Celtics throughout the first half of the season. Remember this?
“Never count us out,” Garnett said when the C’s clinched a fifth straight Atlantic Division title last April. “You guys called us old. Over. I read some of your pathetic articles and some of your lousy analysis. It’s a pain. Obviously, you don’t know what drives us. I thank y’all for those articles. I appreciate it, because it lit a fire under us.”
As for last night, Garnett had plenty more to say on a range of topics, and as usual it was all entertaining: