|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer intimidate NBA dregs||11.09.12 at 8:37 am ET|
When Jeff Green suggested “teams are no longer scared” of the Celtics after they lost to the Bucks, it seemed to be his interpretation of Kevin Garnett‘s postgame “pack of hyenas” speech. Under Doc Rivers in the KG era, the C’s earned a reputation for playing defense with an edge, and without it they’re just another basketball team.
So, when even 19-year-old rookies born in the Bill Clinton era don’t fear the Celtics, who will?
“We know they’re vulnerable,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s third overall draft pick in 2012. “We know that they are an aggressive team, but they are a lot older then we are, so we are going to try and wear them down. They have a decent bench, and their bench comes in and gives them immediate scoring — everybody has the green light. So, our plan is basically to wear them down and keep pushing the ball in transition and make sure our pick-and-roll defense is what it needs to be, especially on Paul Pierce.”
Beal wasn’t the only Washingtonian unfazed by the Garden banners or Celtics mystique. If the current C’s players can’t get inside the heads of NBA newcomers or make them think twice about driving the lane, then they’re no longer hyenas on the hunt. Instead, Wizards and Bucks smell blood in the water.
Take Kevin Seraphin as Exhibit B. In two games against the Celtics, the 22-year-old product of France has totaled 35 points and 16 rebounds. So, when Garnett trapped him in the corner late in the fourth quarter, drew an offensive foul and tried to snatch the ball away from him after the whistle, he wasn’t intimidated, resulting in a Garnett technical and an 84-82 Wizards lead with 1:07 remaining. Who’s in whose head now?
|The newest Kevin Garnett analogy is a weird one||11.08.12 at 1:12 am ET|
You’re in for something special when even Kevin Garnett admits, “That was a weird interview.” Last season, he compared team chemistry to frying tortillas and baking cakes. This year? After the Celtics (2-2) escaped a second straight game against the depleted Wizards, KG invoked cable providers and DVR in one strange analogy.
“You can’t speed chemistry up,” said KG. “I think the more practice, the more you get familiar with each other. There’s no hit the fast forward button here. You’ve got Comcast. Some shows you can’t fast forward through. You’ve just got to let it go through and watch the silly ass commercials and be pissed, right? This is what this is.
|Fast Break: Celtics survive another Wizards scare||11.07.12 at 10:21 pm ET|
Thanks to double-doubles from the Big Three, the Celtics survived a second straight game against a Wizards team missing two of its best players. It wasn’t pretty — and required OT — but the Cs’ evened their record at 2-2.
Rondo’s 18 points and 14 assists in the 100-94 victory moved him alone into third place in NBA history with 28 consecutive games with 10-plus assists (behind John Stockton‘s 29, Stockton’s 37 and Magic Johnson‘s 44).
Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds) committed what could’ve been a costly technical foul when he jerked his elbow in Kevin Seraphin‘s direction late in the fourth quarter, but two Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds) steals and a Rondo 20-footer with 26 seconds left helped force overtime as Rondo’s 3-pionter at the end of regulation fell short. The C’s defense arrived just in time to salvage the game in OT.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First things first: The Celtics repeatedly assure the offense will come once they can get back to playing the kind of defense that’s been the trademark of their success the past five seasons. Wednesday night’s first quarter was a start. Led by Garnett and Lee, the Celtics held the Wizards to 29.2 percent shooting (7-24 FG) in the first 12 minutes, building a 21-16 lead that should have been bigger if not for five C’s turnovers.
Garnett gold: Since nobody else put forth any effort in the opening 24 minutes, Garnett exerted twice as much. By halftime, he had 10 rebounds, seven points and two blocks. His final first-half defensive stand was remarkable, singlehandedly guarding the right side of the court and eventually blocking a Trevor Booker layup attempt with two seconds left on the shot clock. Without KG on the floor, the C’s finished minus-13 before the break.
Forward progress: Finally given an opportunity to contribute midway through the third quarter, Chris Wilcox ran the floor with Rondo, made his only field goal and got to the line five times for six points to go along with two boards and a block. In just four minutes of action, he finished a plus-11 — while Garnett sat on the bench.
Very Terry: After admitting it was an adjustment to mesh with a new system, Jason Terry finally asserted himself into the offense. He took 15 shots, made seven of them and scored 16 points off the bench. Somehow, the C’s reserves still got outscored, 53-41.
|Irish Coffee: What if this Celtics chemistry experiment doesn’t work?||11.07.12 at 11:24 am ET|
As a member of Mark Cuban‘s ever-changing Mavericks, Jason Terry saw his share of rookies, castaways and veterans enter the turnstiles attempting to adjust to the Dallas system. Even last season, a year out from winning the NBA championship, the Mavs lost five of their top 12 rotation players. Now, Terry’s the one adjusting.
“We had a lot of turnover in Dallas where we’d bring in new guys every year, it seemed like, so this is nothing new, but for me it’s definitely an adjustment,” said Terry, who averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals last season. “And I know for the guys that have been here, it’s an adjustment for them, because they’re used to playing one way and now you’re implementing guys who are used to playing another, so it’s difficult.”
Even if last year’s Mavericks lost Tyson Chandler, Juan Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic, they returned nine players from the title team while adding Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. Yet, Dallas dropped from a No. 3 to a 7 seed during the lockout season and got swept by the Thunder in the first round.
“For us, it never jelled,” said Terry, who made his desire to keep the championship core together clear at the time. “It never happened. That’s why we were out in the first round. It can happen, or it won’t.”
This season, the Celtics returned only four players from the roster that lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat. Even when you include Avery Bradley, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, coach Doc Rivers still has eight fresh faces in his locker room. What’s to say this team never jells?
|Why Kevin Garnett comparing Jared Sullinger to Kendrick Perkins matters||11.06.12 at 5:17 pm ET|
It could be coincidence that Kevin Garnett compared Jared Sullinger to Kendrick Perkins three days after the rookie earned his first career NBA start for a coach who rarely even plays first-year guys, but it’s probably not.
“Jared understands what we’re doing,” said Garnett. “He’s a no-nonsense guy — not that I’m shooting anything at the other guys — but the young fella comes in, does his job and does what you tell him. He’s a great rebounder, his IQ is unbelievable, he can pass the ball and he reminds me a lot of Perk. Obviously, he’s not the defensive player that Perk was, but as far as IQ, moving the ball and being unselfish, he’s a great teammate.”
Don’t forget the Doc Rivers-ism that the Celtics never lost a playoff series with his starting five of Perkins, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Whether you consider Perkins overrated or not, he played a role for the Celtics: rebound, defend and finish around the basket. Sullinger fills that role.
“It means a lot, especially coming from Kevin,” said Sullinger of the comparison to Perkins. “When Kevin gives anybody praise, he really likes you, I guess, so it’s a blessing. But at the same time I’ve got to keep working. That’s pretty much my motto: Just to keep working.”
|Box and 2: Inside Celtics, Bucks and Wizards, oh my||11.05.12 at 2:39 pm ET|
– Called upon by Doc Rivers Friday night to protect the paint against the Bucks, when smaller lineups weren’t working, Darko Milicic played 4:30 of the first quarter. He missed his only shot — an air-balled baby left hook — and committed more turnovers (2) than he totaled rebounds (1) or blocks (0). Then, he didn’t play Saturday.
Kevin Garnett: “We’re still playing with the chemistry. We have different lineups in which Doc is playing with simultaneously, and we’re still working. No one said this was going to be an easy process.”
Translation: “The Darko Experiment is called that for a reason. Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face.”
– Over the weekend, Brandon Bass finished a minus-11 in 40:52 without Jared Sullinger on the floor. The Celtics outscored the opponent in just two of his 10 stints sans Sullinger — by one in the final 3:53 of the first quarter against the Wizards and by two Terry free throws in the final 1:35 of that game. Without Bass on the floor, Sullinger finished a plus-14 in 33:29, and the C’s outscored opponents in five of those eight stints. (In case you were wondering, the two played 14:40 together, finished a minus-9 and only outscored opponents once in six stints.)
Rivers (via the Herald): “[Sullinger] brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with our starting group.”
Translation: “Sorry Brandon, but you’re going to see a lot more Sullinger in the starting lineup.”
|Irish Coffee: 10 things to learn from Jason Terry’s diary||11.05.12 at 9:42 am ET|
Celtics guard Jason Terry submitted his second diary entry for ESPN.com. Here are 10 highlights.
10. No self-respecting team loses to the Wizards: “I had said [Saturday night] was a must-win. The reason is when you play a team like Washington, which has had some injuries and might be short a man, you definitely want to win these games. These are the type of games you just have to win.”
9. The difference between Sully and Bass was negligible: “I know the starting lineup was changed a little bit with Jared Sullinger starting and Brandon Bass coming off the bench, but really I didn’t notice that much. Everyone who came into the game tonight was focused on our defensive coverages.”
8. Terry is clutch, according to Terry: “I was happy to contribute in our win with two free throws down the stretch. It’s definitely in my DNA to make big shots, especially when the game is on the line, whether that’s with free throws or making a play or an assist or a shot to win or tie the game — that’s just who I am.”
7. The JET hasn’t quite arrived in Boston yet: “I’m still trying to get comfortable within the structure of the team. I’m a work in progress. I’m very optimistic. I know we have the making of a championship team. I know we have to continue to grow and there are going to be some speed bumps along the way.”
6. For now, the Celtics are going to struggle against elite teams: “The Heat are the champions, and the core of that team has been together and had two full seasons for the most part. They’re going to know each other very well, while we’re still trying to figure it out. We’re going to struggle in a situation like that.”