|Fast Break: J.R. Smith, Knicks knock out Celtics||03.26.13 at 9:50 pm ET|
J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony combined for 61 points and the Knicks delivered a 100-85 knockout of a Celtics team without Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee that all but ended the C’s reign atop the Atlantic Division.
Jeff Green, Paul Pierce, Jordan Crawford, Brandon Bass and Jason Terry all reached double figures, but the C’s committed 20 turnovers and couldn’t stop New York on the other end. Here’s what else went wrong.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Ugly start: It took almost three minutes for either team to score, and neither club’s former NBA Defensive Player of the Year was involved. The Celtics missed their first three shots and committed a pair of turnovers while the Knicks missed their first five attempts until an Anthony (29 points, 8 rebounds) layup broke a scoreless game 2:42 into the first quarter. This wasn’t exactly the epic Celtics-Knicks battle national television had banked on.
J.R. Smith: The Knicks Sixth Man scored 32 points on 24 shots (oddly, just three 3-pointers) in 35 minutes. He outscored the entire Celtics bench by 13 points. Smith also grabbed four of his six first-half rebounds on the offensive end, helping New York establish a comfortable 58-44 halftime lead.
Chris Wilcox: Speaking of rebounds, Chris Wilcox had none in 10 minutes. That’s not good, and neither were his five total boards in three previous games. Meanwhile, the Knicks reached double-digit offensive rebounds by halftime, netting 50 points in the paint and outscoring the C’s 29-6 in second-chance points for the game. Meanwhile, D.J. White and his eight boards per 36 minutes in his career rode the pine until the final three minutes and Shavlik Randolph out-rebounded Wilcox 4-0 in five garbage minutes.
Avery Bradley: The lone healthy Celtics pitbull hasn’t had much bite on the offensive end. He’s shooting worse than 40 percent this month and hasn’t hit half of his shots in a game for more than two weeks. That includes Tuesday night’s 3-for-11, six-point effort against the Knicks that featured a pair of badly missed layups.
|Irish Coffee: Five reasons not to panic about Celtics||03.25.13 at 3:00 pm ET|
Add Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee to the list of walking Celtics wounded. While neither will join Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger on the season-ending injury manifest, only 13 games remain in the regular season, they’ve lost four straight and the goodwill built from a seven-game win streak without Rondo seems like ancient history.
So, is it finally time to bury the C’s this season? Not so fast. Here are five reasons not to panic about the current state of the Celtics, even if they only have 10 healthy bodies at this point.
They’re firmly entrenched in seventh place, even if they’re only two games up on the Bucks.
Even with Rondo, when the Celtics owned a 20-23 record and sat in eighth place, the best they could’ve hoped for was either a sixth or seventh seed and a chance to avoid the Heat until the Eastern Conference finals.
Well, Doc Rivers‘ Rondo-less charges play seven of their remaining 13 games at home, including a four-game stretch from April 3-10 that includes the Pistons, Cavaliers and Wizards. Not a brutal stretch by any measure. Meanwhile, the Bucks face the Thunder (twice), Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Hawks and Nuggets over their final 13 games — seven of which are on the road. As a result, a seventh seed seems to be the C’s most likely scenario.
Their road record isn’t as bad as it seems, even if they’re a putrid 12-23 away from home.
|Celtics sign Shavlik Randolph for remainder of season||03.21.13 at 6:29 pm ET|
As they did with Chinese Basketball Association imports Terrence Williams and D.J. White before him, the Celtics signed Shavlik Randolph for the remainder of the season. The deal includes an option for next season.
Randolph has appeared in three games for the C’s this season, averaging 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game. He posted highs of six points, eight rebounds and two steals against Charlotte on March 16.
Randolph played the maximum of two 10-day contracts since March 1, so the team had to make a decision about his future on Thursday. Barring an outright cut, the Celtics roster is set at 15 for the remainder of the season.
|Danny Ainge: Jeff Green ‘deserves to be on the court most minutes’||03.21.13 at 6:05 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined Salk & Holley in his weekly Thursday afternoon appearance to face questions about his team’s tough losses to the Hornets and Heat, Jeff Green‘s (lack of) playing time and the NCAA tournament.
C’s coach Doc Rivers, who ripped his team’s performance in New Orleans, only played Green 26 minutes and resorted to another off-balanced Paul Pierce isolation jumper in the 87-86 loss. Even Ainge seemed to have questions about those decisions.
“I think Jeff is starting to prove and has proven to Doc that he deserves to be on the court most minutes of the game,” Ainge said. “Doc needs something off the bench, and I think he’s trying to figure all that out.
“And he will. He’s played Jeff at the 2 and the 3 and the 4 this year, and so I think that last night might’ve been a good opportunity for Jeff to play more at the 2. They had two big guys in there. They were killing us on the glass in the second half. I think in one stretch it was 27-9, and that just shows you lack of effort.”
Ainge stopped himself before including Green’s second-half performance as part of that lack of effort, but he did cite Brandon Bass‘ improved play in defense of Rivers’ decision and eventually blamed the loss on the backcourt.
“I think that last night maybe [we needed] some Jeff at the 2 guard,” said Ainge, who watched Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee combine for eight points in 39 combined minutes, “because our guard play was not good last night.’
While Ainge commended Anthony Davis‘ effort in what he termed “a bad loss” — calling the Hornets rookie “a Spiderman” and “a young, athletic KG” — he also expressed disappointment in his team’s late-game execution.
|Celtics sign D.J. White for remainder of season||03.20.13 at 2:33 pm ET|
The Celtics have signed D.J. White for the remainder of the season.
White averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 6.8 minutes over four appearances since originally arriving in Boston from China on Feb. 28. The two sides reached a deal before the C’s had to part ways with the 6-foot-9, 250-pound big man upon completing the maximum of two 10-day contracts.
The Celtics announced “a multi-year contract” with White, and while terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s likely the team owns an option for the 2013-14 season — much like the contract Terrence Williams signed earlier this month.
The next domino to fall should be Shavlik Randolph, whose second 10-day contract expires on Thursday. Randolph made the trip to New Orleans for the opener of the C’s three-game road trip, indicating the Celtics expect to reach a similar agreement with the journeyman forward.
|LeBron James ‘glad’ dunk came against Jason Terry||03.20.13 at 2:14 pm ET|
By now, you’ve seen LeBron James‘ monster dunk over Jason Terry that will probably go up against DeAndre Jordan‘s posterization of Brandon Knight for the NBA’s Dunk of the Year. Well, apparently so has LeBron.
“I’ve had a chance to [review] it, and it was one of my better ones,” James told ESPN.com two days after Miami’s 105-103 victory in Boston. “The fact that it happened to J.T. made it that much sweeter. Because we all know J.T. and he talks too much sometimes. And I’m glad it happened to him.”
The beef began when Terry’s Mavericks defeated LeBron’s Heat for the 2011 NBA title. It continued on the eve of Monday’s Celtics-Heat battle, when Terry declared in his diary: “I know ways to beat them,” and, “The blueprint is right here before us and we know it.” Strong words from the 6-foot-2, 180-pound C’s guard.
Then again, so were LeBron’s in the immediate aftermath of earning a taunting technical for standing over Terry like Godzilla over his own carnage. “I seen him down there,” James said Monday. “I guess he didn’t see me.”
Pretty sure he saw LeBron, who stands six inches taller and weighs 70 pounds more than Terry.
|Dwyane Wade: ‘There’s some dislike’ among Heat, Celtics||03.19.13 at 1:00 pm ET|
The celebration in the Heat locker room could be heard from the hallway after Miami’s 105-103 win over the Celtics on Monday night, which seemed strange — considering the absences of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett — until Dwyane Wade reminded everyone his team doesn’t like Boston all that much.
“It’s a Celtics-Heat game,” said Wade, who scored 16 points in 36 minutes, mostly against Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee. “It’s always like that, man. Whether it’s the first game of the year or the last game of the year, it’s always like that. No matter who’s on the court, no matter who’s playing, it’s going to be a battle, and here they’ve beat us in those games. Tonight, we were able to pull it out, and it just shows the growth of our team.
“We know we’re getting the best from Boston every time we play them,” he added. “There’s a dislike there. It’s a different focus, especially here in this building.”
Conversely, the Garden crowd apparently focused its ire on former Celtics star turned Heat role player Ray Allen.
“Nobody pulled punches for me today,” said Allen, who scored six points in 30 minutes. “I heard some pretty brutal things in the building today, and people really let me know how they felt. I don’t go into it with any expectation, but I’m on the other team, so they’re going to say whatever they can and whatever they think they need to say.”
Maybe that’s why Allen pretended Celtics-Heat isn’t a rivalry in the aftermath of yet another memorable meeting.
“When I played here, our rivals were the Lakers, Pistons and New York,” said Allen. “That’s deep-seeded. It comes from a lot of basketball, and we’ll see how the years go to determine if that’s the case.”
OK, then. So, I guess those 20 games and 980 minutes of basketball between the two teams over the past three seasons have just been all in good fun. I don’t remember Rondo laughing when Wade dislocated his elbow, when Paul Pierce head-butted James Jones, when LeBron James laughed in Garnett’s face or when KG ignored Allen’s return to Boston. It’s kind of a touchy subject, especially if you ask LeBron.
‘Why does it always have to be, ‘They gave us a war’?” said James. “There’s never us giving anybody else a war, huh? That’s how y’all like it? That’s all that matters is the win. That’s all that matters.’
For more on the rivalry — and that’s exactly what it is — read this column: “James, Heat don’t scare Celtics.”