|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:
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics ground Hawks in overtime||03.08.13 at 10:50 pm ET|
The over-35 crew of Paul Pierce (27 points), Jason Terry (19) and Kevin Garnett (17) combined for 63 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists, leading the Celtics to their fifth straight win — 107-102 over the Hawks in overtime — and helped the C’s keep pace with the Bulls in the Eastern Conference seeding race.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Piercing hot: In the first quarter, Pierce made his first four buckets, including two 3-pointers, to finish with 12 points in the opening 12 minutes. Of course, he missed his easiest shot of the frame — a layup as time expired — but his shooting set the tone for the C’s 28-point quarter. Garnett and Avery Bradley also started a combined 4-of-6.
And more Pierce: The captain dropped back-to-back 18-foot jumpers late in the fourth quarter to keep pace with a furious Atlanta comeback. In overtime, he drained a 27-footer with a hand in his face to regain the lead with 1:37 remaining. And he assisted on Terry’s 3 that gave the C’s a 105-102 lead a minute later. Basically, he did it all.
Board to death: The Hawks started big against the Celtics with Josh Smith, Al Horford and Johan Petro in the frontcourt. While Horford and Smith combined for 20 points, 9 rebounds and six assists in the first half, the Celtics owned a 19-16 rebounding edge, didn’t allow a single second-chance point and took a 52-47 lead into halftime. That margin got flipped on its heels in the second half, when the Hawks made their comeback, and the Hawks star tandem totaled 54 points, 21 boards and 14 assists to give Atlanta a 41-35 rebounding edge.
KG being KG: Regardless of which lineup Celtics coach Doc Rivers pieced around Garnett, the C’s center made the most of his 35 minutes. He started 7-of-11 from the field — including a 3 in a second straight game that even got him excited — to go along with his eight boards and two dimes. When the Hawks cut the lead to two starting the fourth quarter, Garnett seemingly had a hand in every play, including a beautiful assist to a cutting Courtney Lee and a driving baby hook over Horford that pushed the lead back to 12.
|Irish Coffee: Where Avery Bradley adds a jump shot||03.06.13 at 10:45 am ET|
While everyone’s been rightfully lauding Avery Bradley‘s defense, he’s added a mid-range game.
In Tuesday’s 109-101 victory against the 76ers, the Celtics guard drained 4-of-5 long jumpers (16-23 feet). Heck, he even attempted a couple from 10-15 feet, where he hadn’t made a shot in more than a month. It’s almost as if he previously had devastating shoulder injuries, and he’s only now fully recovering. Oh, wait, he did. And he is.
“He’s starting to make the little pull-up jump shot,” C’s coach Doc Rivers told reporters in the postgame. “He’s been making the 3’s for the most part. He keeps shooting them, and we want him to, but I’m really happy with his pull-up off the dribble. That’s a big shot for us later, and he’s starting to make that. And that’s big.”
The 3-pointers part is debatable, since Bradley’s steadily been shooting around 31 percent from there this season after making 41 percent a year ago. His corner 3-point shooting has also dipped from 56 percent last season to 34 percent this winter. But Bradley’s honing a new weapon for his offensive arsenal: the long jumper.
Oh, great, another jump shooter on the Celtics, you say. Well, consider this: Bradley’s making 51 percent of his long jumpers over the past 12 games on an average of 3.6 attempts. That’s a marked improvement from his first 16 games, when he shot 39 percent on 2.3 attempts during a physical and mental adjustment period upon his return.
Because defenders must now respect Bradley’s newfound jump shot (see video), he’s also getting to the rim twice as often over the past 12 games, converting 60 percent of his 3.8 shots per game within three feet. His scoring numbers are up 50 percent in that same stretch, which has ripple effects throughout the Celtics roster.
“He’s confident,” added Rivers. “I don’t think he ever lost it. He was questioning it at times.
|Avery Bradley: ‘I want to shut down everybody’||03.02.13 at 1:27 am ET|
“He’s a very good player,” said Bradley. “I just tried to make everything hard on him tonight and tire him down.”
In the opening 10:18, Curry missed his only shot and turned the ball over twice. Meanwhile, the Celtics established a 26-15 lead and never trailed again in their 94-86 victory.
“I thought Avery set the tone for us early,” said Kevin Garnett. “Any time you’ve got a guy who’s coming off scoring a lot of points, our backcourt, our guards, they were ready for tonight’s challenge, and Avery set the tone.”
Curry scored 25 points on the night but finished just 6-of-22 from the floor.
“I thought Avery did a good job of wearing out Curry,” added Celtics captain Paul Pierce.
Yet, Bradley claimed his approach on Friday is no different than any other night. Just a different opponent.
“I want to shut down everybody every single night. If you notice, every game I play the same way. Every single game on the defensive end. That’s just my mindset. That’s how I play. That’s how I always play my whole life.”
Really? There’s not even a little part of Bradley that gets up for a guy like Curry coming off 54 points?
“I play the same every single game,” he said. “I play as hard as I can when I’m out there on both ends of the court.”
Bradley picked up his fourth and fifth personal fouls in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Thankfully, Courtney Lee picked up where his fellow “pitbull” left off, because Bradley thought he only had three fouls.
“You’ve got to just keep playing,” he said. “I got in some foul trouble, but I fought through it and just kept trying to make everything hard on him despite the calls. … I just tried to continue to be aggressive on the defensive end. I know that’s what my team needed me to do. If I fouled out the game, I was going to be fine with that, because I was just going to play as hard as I can. That’s my goal going into the game.”
|Jason Terry: ‘My best basketball is ahead of me’||03.02.13 at 12:35 am ET|
It’s been a month since Jason Terry proclaimed the unpredictable, “free-wheeling” and Rajon Rondo-less offense more suitable to his style of play, but he’s been just as inconsistent as he was for the first three months of the season, including Friday night’s disappointing 2-for-11 performance against the Warriors.
“At this point, I’m as comfortable as I’m going to get,” admitted Terry after the 94-86 victory. “It was an adjustment period earlier, but now the way we’re playing, things are flowing and we’re having fun.”
While Terry’s shooting percentages (43.9 FG%, 36.8 3P%) are comparable to last season’s (43.0, 37.8), he’s been held to five points or fewer on 14 occasions and scored 20 or more points just three times this season. On the Mavericks in 2011-12, those numbers were essentially reversed.
“I’m very satisfied right now,” said Terry, who finished with seven points on his 11 shots in 30 minutes Friday night. “We’re winning, and that’s the most important thing. You never want to be too hard on yourself. So, for me, my best basketball is ahead of me. I’m a guy that in big games is going to hit big shots and make big plays.”
One thing Terry never lacks is confidence, and that should only benefit the Celtics going forward. If his best basketball has yet to come, the C’s 11-4 run in the 15 games since Rondo’s injury is all the more impressive.
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