|Fast Break: Whole lotta Kevin Love can’t stop Celtics||12.05.12 at 9:52 pm ET|
Two days after resting the over-36 crowd for a practice, Rivers watched Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 5 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 4 rebounds) lead his C’s to a 104-94 win over the visiting Timberwolves. Of course, Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists) returning from suspension didn’t hurt.
A whole lot of Kevin Love (19 points, 13 rebounds) couldn’t even help the T-Wolves (8-9), whose porous defense helped the Celtics improve to 10-8 on the season and 5-4 at the Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Minny driver: Last season, Garnett said he has “nothing positive to say” about his former NBA home, and he clearly played with an added edge against Minnesota. Not that Garnett doesn’t play with an edge every night, but he had a little something extra in the tank for the Timberwolves, starting 6-of-7 from the field and scoring 12 points in his first 11 minutes — his lone miss a failed shot clock buzzer-beater. He finished with his third double-double in his last five games to go along with four assists and an infinite number of dance moves during Gino Time.
Viejos amigos: Off the bench, the T-Wolves matched “6-foot” guard J.J. Barea against former Mavericks teammate Terry, who took advantage of his old friend. The Celtics guard made four of his six shots in the first half (1-2 3P), taking nine points, three rebounds and two assists into the break. He finished with 17 points on 10 shots.
Return of Rondo: Depending on how you look at it, Rondo either extended his streak of double-digit assists to 38 in games that he finishes or he just started a renewed march towards Magic Johnson‘s record of 46 straight games with 10 or more assists. Either way, Rondo returned to form after his two-game suspension for shoving Kris Humphries into the crowd. Apparently, his Mexican vacation served him well.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bearing gifts: As usual, the Celtics were in a giving mood, turning the ball over five times in their last six possessions before the half, including the final four. As a result, they turned what was once a seven-point lead into a 51-47 deficit at the break — thanks to Minnesota’s 10 fast-break points on a perfect 5-of-5 transition attempts. They cleaned it up a bit in the second half but still finished with 16 turnovers.
No Love lost: Leading up to the game, Pierce said, ‘Our main objective is to try and slow [Kevin Love] down. He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.’ Easier said than done. Midway through the third quarter, Love already had his double-double.
Key unlocked: Not only did Love have his way around the basket, but the Timberwolves combined for 50 points in the paint. Fellow bigs Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham also combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds. Somehow, though, the Celtics out-rebounded Minnesota by a 45-41 margin.
|Avery Bradley: ‘I feel like we’re a lot closer’||12.05.12 at 8:03 pm ET|
Told prior to Wednesday’s game that injured guard Avery Bradley feels a week or two away from returning to practice, Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew better than to bite on any timetables before talking to trainer Ed Lacerte.
“Thanks for telling me,” joked Rivers, who remains in daily contact with Bradley and the training staff about the status of the 22-year-old’s ailing shoulders. “I didn’t know that.”
Even Bradley backed off the two-week timeframe in case he ruins an early Christmas surprise for the Celtics.
“No timeframe,” he said. “We did at first, but we kind of got away from the timeframes, because when we were doing the timeframes, they weren’t consistent. Sometimes we would meet the timeframe and sometimes I wouldn’t be prepared when it got around the time. So, we stopped doing timeframes.”
Instead, he’s approaching recovery “day-by-day” — running, shooting, lifting, swimming — in hopes of passing Lacerte’s daily resistance tests. “I feel a lot better,” added Bradley. “I’m doing pushups now. I try to do them every single day to see how my arms feel, and I feel a lot stronger. It’s like night and day how I feel from two weeks ago.”
|Irish Coffee: Why Atlantic Division matters to Celtics||12.04.12 at 1:36 pm ET|
The Celtics (9-8) are almost a quarter of a way through their season and rank fourth in the Atlantic Division.
The Knicks (12-4), Nets (11-5) and 76ers (10-7) all own better records. During the first four of their five consecutive Atlantic crowns, the Celtics owned no worse than a five-game lead through 20 games and seemingly had the division wrapped up by Christmas. Last year, the C’s started 10-10, fell behind by four games and spent the season chasing the Sixers for a fifth straight title. And that was without either of the New York teams involved.
“When you look from top to bottom, it’s a well-balanced division,” said Paul Pierce. “So, each and every game is important. At the end of the day, our goal isn’t to try to win the division; our goal is to win the championship. As far as the division is concerned, it’s about as competitive as it’s ever been since I’ve been a Boston Celtic.”
Declaring they’d rather win an NBA title than the Atlantic Division sounds nice and all, but announcing their aim “isn’t to try to win the division” is a mistake, since doing so gives them a better chance to reach that larger goal.
The Celtics need look no further than May as a prime example. If they hadn’t caught the 76ers, a) the C’s face the Bulls as the No. 7 seed on the road and likely lose in the first round if Derrick Rose doesn’t tear his ACL; and/or b) they play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Philadelphia, where they lost 2-of-3 playoff games.
Can the Celtics win a sixth straight Atlantic Division crown and set themselves up for another date with the Heat in the conference finals? Of course, but it’s going to be a lot tougher to chase down three teams rather than one.
|Kris Joseph sees Red Claws as Celtics opportunity||12.01.12 at 11:00 am ET|
For a guy who’s played eight minutes in his career, Kris Joseph feels pretty comfortable in an NBA locker room.
Over a crowd of reporters, the second-round pick jokes to Courtney Lee about the wall of questions his veteran Celtics teammate faces after a good night. On his way out, Joseph tells a locker room attendant, “If you want to get me any early Christmas present, stock the fridge with a case of apple juice. I love apple juice.”
In between, Joseph sits alone at his locker, the media walking past him to catch Jeff Green, the other hero in Friday night’s 96-78 blowout of the Blazers. Still, he’s pleased. After all, he just scored his first NBA points — a pair of fourth-quarter free throws in five garbage minutes — on the same day he was recalled from the Red Claws.
‘It felt good,” he said. “It was a great game overall. We played hard. We defended well. In turn, we were able to get a large lead and give me the opportunity to get in there in the fourth quarter. It was just a good overall feeling, finally getting in the books — two free throws — guys encouraging me, cheering me on, so it was a great feeling.’
In two games for the C’s NBA Development League affiliate, Joseph averaged 25.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.9 blocks in 39.0 minutes. Not bad for a couple weeks work.
“The experience in Maine was great,” said Joseph. “It gave me a chance to play, just feel out the NBA-style game, spacing on the court, all types of things. It gave me the opportunity to just be aggressive and play my type of basketball — the type of basketball I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, so I think it was very useful.”
|Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft||11.30.12 at 11:11 pm ET|
‘If I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft the way we’re playing,’ Rivers said in Wednesday’s aftermath. ‘We’re a soft team right now; we have no toughness.’
Apparently, Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft. Who knew?
‘I don’t know any man who likes to be called soft; maybe some women,” he said after dropping a 10-5-4 in 23 efficient minutes of Friday’s 96-78 blowout of the Blazers. “Where I’m from, not most men like that. I think collectively he’s talking about our style. ‘¦ I don’t think he’s coming at us as men, but he’s definitely talking about our style as a whole. Collectively, we all have to do that together; the onus falls on each and every last one of us, not just one or two guys. But, yeah, that was disturbing. Who likes to be called soft in anything, if you’re a man?’
Count Courtney Lee among those men KG knows who don’t like being called soft. He amassed 10 points, 7 rebounds, five assists and three steals in 37 minutes, starting in place of the suspended Rondo.
“He can continue to call us soft,” said Lee following what might have been his best game of the season. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up. … We got called soft the other day, and we didn’t like that. When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”
Rivers got the results he was looking for on Friday, but he hopes he lingers beyond just the one game.
“Well, I didn’t do anything,” the coach said postgame. “I mean, we went pretty hard [Thursday in practice] for short, and we actually went hard [Friday] for the shootaround, because we’ve got to get our culture right in that way. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better. You can see it, for sure.”
|Fast Break: No Rajon Rondo, no problem; Celtics smoke Blazers||11.30.12 at 10:04 pm ET|
As Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sat the first of his two-game suspension, five of his teammates reached double figures, led by Jeff Green‘s 19 points, and just about every member of the Blazers not named LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, 8 rebounds) didn’t bother to show up in a 96-78 blowout at the Garden.
Jason Terry (17 points), Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Courtney Lee all joined Green in double digits. Here’s what else transpired.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Portlandia: The Celtics put away the Blazers early. They started 10-of-15 from the field, and by first quarter’s end the C’s owned a 25-18 advantage on 57.1 percent shooting as all five starters scored between 4-6 points. By halftime, three Celtics had already reached double figures, they shot 56.8 percent as a group and took a 56-33 lead into the break. In the meantime, Portland shot 5-of-16 (31.3 FG%) in the opening quarter and somehow managed worse in the second (2-14, 14.3 FG%).
GreenLee: As Twitter follower @EricJsaint noted, Green and Lee each probably played their best game of the season (with the possible exception of Green’s 17-point night against the Thunder). On a sprained right knee, Green shot 6-of-13 (2-4 3P) to go along with four steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, starting in Rondo’s absence, Lee amassed 10 points (4-10 FG), seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Rest home: Given the fact they led by as many as 25 points in the first half, elder Celtics statesman Garnett and Pierce played just 23 and 27 minutes, respectively. An unexpected bonus with Rondo out of the lineup, for sure, considering the C’s head to Milwaukee for the second night of a back-to-back against the Bucks on Saturday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Depth perception: Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers claimed he would only break the Chris Wilcox glass in case of emergency. Well, when backup center Jason Collins picked up his third personal foul in a span of 5:36, Rivers turned to Wilcox — with a minute left in the first quarter.
Lone star: The Celtics appeared content letting LaMarcus Aldridge try to beat them, as long as he had to do it all by himself. At halftime, the 2012 NBA All-Star had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. His teammates? 16 on 2-of-19.
Running afoul: Portland attempted 27 free throws in the first 24 minutes (37 in all). Blazers bigs Aldridge and J.J. Hickson combined for 17 by the break while the C’s had just 12. Just a guess: Tommy Heinsohn wasn’t pleased.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s Secret Santa||11.30.12 at 1:05 pm ET|
After an audible pause, Garnett said: “Absolutely nothing.”
“Nothing at all,” Merloni responded. “Not even a card. Nothing?”
“You know what?” said Garnett. “That whole situation kind of came and went. I wish Ray the best. I wish his family the best. But we have Secret Santas around here, and I want to focus on my Secret Santa.”
In terms of Quote of the Year, it’s going to be hard to top KG’s “I want to focus on my Secret Santa.” I picture Garnett picking a Celtics teammate’s name out of a hat (held extremely high by Fab Melo), guarding that secret with his life and constantly surfing his iPad while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and sipping hot cocoa in front of a crackling fire. Since we’ll never know whose name he picked from the hat, here’s a suggestion for everyone.