|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.
|At least Rajon Rondo delivered an early Christmas present: The newest Boston-New York rivalry||11.29.12 at 12:41 pm ET|
If nothing else, the brawl between Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries gave birth to a brand new Celtics-New York rivalry.
“Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?” Humphries tweeted along with a picture of his battle wounds after Rondo shoved him into the front row.
The C’s response? “Some guys are tough,” answered Jason Terry. “Some guys pretend to be. He’s one of those that pretends to be. I played with him. Maybe that’s the role [Brooklyn coach] Avery [Johnson] wants him to have, but he could leave that to somebody else.”
Terry dubbed Humphries “soft,” a term coach Doc Rivers used to describe his Celtics. Added Terry: “Humphries might as well come play with us then, if that’s the case.”
Meanwhile, Reggie Evans, who beat out Kevin Garnett for the title of “dirtiest player in the NBA” in a Sports Illustrated poll of players last season, lobbed this grenade at Rondo via the New York Daily News: “That’s just like a mosquito in your face. Eventually, you are going to swat at the mosquito, right? You aren’t going to let mosquitos in your face. You are going to get bumps all over your face. So, you have to knock the mosquito down.”
Added Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams: ‘We’re not going to back down. It’s not about being tough guys or anything like that. But we’re not going to back down.’
And newest Nets star Joe Johnson, who also witnessed Rondo’s last suspension-worthy act in the C’s-Hawks playoff series this past May, to The New York Times: ‘We’re trying to hold our own at this point. If you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are in the way.’
As Garnett said, “This ain’t the Girl Scouts. This ain’t the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA.” And this is Boston-New York. If nothing else, Rondo gave everyone an early Christmas gift, because the next meeting between the Celtics and Nets — at noon on Dec. 25 — just got more interesting. Get your Girl Scout cookies ready.
|Celtics Jeff Green, Courtney Lee: Egos hurt worse than knee, elbow||11.29.12 at 11:09 am ET|
In the aftermath of the brawl between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, Celtics guard Courtney Lee claimed the Nets “threw the first punch” during the C’s fourth home loss in eight tries this season. He was speaking figuratively, of course, but the Celtics suffered — literally.
Lee (elbow) and Jeff Green (knee) both left the game with injuries, and each returned in the fourth quarter.
“I’m fine,” said Lee, who had no ice on his left elbow as he talked to reporters after the loss. “I’m fine. It was my elbow. My whole arm was stinging, so I didn’t know what was hurt, but after awhile, it wore off and I was fine.”
Meanwhile, Green limped through the locker room — his sprained right knee wrapped in a protective bandage. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show he “didn’t think” Green was hurt, and team personnel confirmed Green’s return to action indicated nothing serious, but he’ll be re-evaluated Thursday.