|Kevin Garnett, Celtics lay smackdown on Pacers||01.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was ejected after a flagrant-2 foul on Tyler Hansbrough, and unless you came to watch him dance during Gino Time, it didn’t even matter. The Celtics ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 94-75 victory against the Pacers.
Combined with the Thunder’s blowout of the 76ers, the Celtics (15-17) leapfrogged Philadelphia (15-19) into the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Garnett totaled 18 points and seven rebounds before his ejection.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for a triple-double (31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) while Courtney Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 rebounds) showed positive signs. Here’s what else happened.
|Avery Bradley’s philosophy: ‘Defense is just effort’||01.03.13 at 9:38 am ET|
“Defense is just effort,” he said after his return from double shoulder surgery. “If you give effort, you can never have a bad defensive game. That’s how I think of it. You play as hard as you can. That’s all you have to do.”
Outside of Kevin Garnett and possibly Jason Collins, it’s hard to say there’s anybody else on the Celtics who offers a consistent effort on the defensive end every night. Just ask Tony Allen. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce often conserve themselves for the offensive end, Courtney Lee hasn’t come as advertised defensively and nobody else on the C’s roster has developed much of a defensive reputation, unless you include Fab Melo, who started the season falling into a folding chair and currently suffers from a concussion after walking into a doorway.
In addition to being the NBA’s worst rebounding team, the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category after ranking among the top five teams in defensive rating every season since 2008.
“Every team has its up and downs,” said Bradley, who scored four points on six shots during Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies. “The best teams are the ones that can go through the adversity and overcome it. With the veteran leadership we have, I feel like we’re going to overcome it. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
|Tony Allen: Celtics ‘missing a lot of pieces’||01.03.13 at 12:21 am ET|
“They’re missing a lot of pieces,” said Allen, who left Boston for a three-year deal in Memphis two summers ago.
Somewhat offering his stamp of approval on the replacement of Ray Allen‘s 3-point shooting prowess with fellow veteran Jason Terry, Allen instead harped on the absence of players … well … like himself.
“I don’t think they’ve really got a defensive-minded guy yet,” added Allen. “I mean, they’ve got one [Avery Bradley], but I can’t say he’s 100 percent just yet. I don’t think they’ve got the center like Perk [Kendrick Perkins]. It’s kind of hard finding a guy like — a guy who clogs up the paint, talks trash to you and can actually back it up. They’re just missing a lot. I don’t know. I don’t see the same team from 2008.”
|Fast Break: Grizzlies maul Celtics in 4th straight loss||01.02.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
Despite a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that slashed a Grizzlies lead that had grown as large as 18 points to just five with a handful of minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to make up for three quarters of dreadful play that left the C’s three games under .500 (14-17) for the first time this season.
Bradley made his first bucket after missing the opening 30 games of the season, finishing with four points in 18 minutes. Rajon Rondo (11 points, 9 assists), who battled a bruised hip, Paul Pierce (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) were the only Celtics in double figures. Hence, the team’s fourth straight loss and eighth in the last 10 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Memphis shooting: In the first half, the Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 61.1 percent and scored 50 points on 36 shots. Mike Conley (23 points, 9 assists) and old friend Tony Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds) shot a combined 9-of-11 before the break. Heck, even Darrell Arthur (10 points), who entered without a 3-pointer in 204 career games, drained two triples in the span of 1:43 in the second quarter.
Garnett’s first half: Whether it was a New Year’s hangover or not, Garnett started an atrocious 1-of-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers as the Grizzlies took a 50-41 lead into the break. It’s no surprise the defense also struggled on a night when KG didn’t have his best performance.
The Collins experiment: Celtics starting center Jason Collins may have limited Marc Gasol‘s scoring, but he did little to quell the C’s overall defense and rebounding woes. (The Celtics were out-rebouned 39-27 and gave up eight offensive boards). Plus, he’s essentially nonexistent on the offensive end. In what’s been a trend for Collins, he had as many personal fouls (2) as points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce’s first quarter: The Celtics captain started a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the first quarter. He may not have been as successful in the paint, but his effort from long distance helped keep the C’s afloat as the Grizzlies made two-thirds of their shots in the early going.
Avery’s arrival: Bradley started opposite Mike Conley and held the Memphis guard to two shots (a successful 3-pointer and a runner from 6 feet) and two assists in 13:22 of shared floor time in the first half. In Conley’s remaining first-half minutes (8:22), he made 4-of-6 shots and generated three assists. In other words, even if Bradley’s offense was rusty (1-4 FG), he’s still effective on the defensive end.
The bench: Bradley’s presence also pushes Jason Terry (8 points) to the bench, creating some semblance of consistency at Doc Rivers‘ disposal. Believe it or not, the second unit actually turned a 14-12 deficit when Garnett sat in the first quarter into a 31-27 advantage when KG returned — thanks in large part to Brandon Bass (9 points).
|Fab Melo and the debate over D-League dominance||12.27.12 at 2:59 pm ET|
Over his last two NBA Development League games, Fab Melo averaged 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.5 blocks. The Celtics rookie amassed 32 points, nine boards and nine rejections for the Red Claws on Wednesday, which, if nothing else, proved his 16 rebounds, 15 points and 14 blocks in Maine last week were no fluke.
After being selected No. 22 overall — one slot behind Jared Sullinger — in this past June’s NBA draft, Melo hasn’t seen action on the C’s, but has produced respectable numbers over 10 games for their D-League affiliate: 10.4 points (51.1 FG%, 66.7 FT%), 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in just 25.5 minutes a night. Of course, he’s playing against teams from South Dakota and Idaho, so those numbers should be taken with a heaping helping of salt.
Still, there’s always a spot on an NBA roster for bigs who defend the rim, especially on this Celtics team, which allows an atrocious 42.6 points in the paint per game and suffers worse when Kevin Garnett‘s not on the floor.
Exhibit A: Greg Stiemsma.
|Irish Coffee: A brief Kevin Garnett lesson on chemistry and evolution||12.20.12 at 10:44 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.
While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.
“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”
Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per 82games.com.
- Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
- Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
- Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
- Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
- Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
- Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small
One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.
|Jason Terry praises Paul Pierce, blasts LeBron James||12.20.12 at 1:10 am ET|
Two months after his 35th birthday, Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored 40 points on 16 shots in Wednesday night’s 103-91 victory against the Cavaliers. It took a superhuman effort, as his three most veteran teammates can attest. Maybe that’s why Jason Terry called him Kryptonite in the locker room afterwards.
Pierce, Terry, Kevin Garnett and Jason Collins have a combined 55 years of NBA experience between them, but this was a first. The Celtics captain became the oldest player in franchise history to eclipse 40 points in a regulation game (at 35 and three months, Larry Bird scored 49 in double overtime in 1992).
“Not a lot of guys in this league stay in one franchise,” said Terry. “You can count them on your hand right now. It’s not many that are superstars, that have been in the league longer than 12-13 years, and he’s one of them.”
Terry played his last eight seasons alongside one of those other guys in Dirk Nowitzki, who has stayed in Dallas ever since being selected one spot ahead of Pierce in the 1998 NBA draft. There’s a certain respect among veterans around the league for loyalty like that, Terry said, especially after younger superstars like LeBron James and Dwight Howard jumped ship for the Heat and Lakers early in their careers over the past several years.
As Terry elaborated, Pierce has demonstrated a “willingness to stick through the tough times and not just jump off: ‘I’m outta here.’ ‘I’m going to go join forces with Kobe [Bryant].’ Or, ‘I’m going to go play with Dwyane Wade.’ That’s a shot right there. … I think that’s what guys look at, and they respect him.”
How’s this for respect? Pierce joined Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Clyde Drexler, Alex English, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and Walter Davis as the only players since 1985 to scored 40 points in regulation after turning 35 years old. None of the others accomplished that feat on 16 shots.
“Paul was on fire tonight, man,” added Garnett, who was traded to Boston after 12 up-and-down seasons for the Timberwolves. “Paul had a flashback to like ’03 or ’04 or something, man. It was good to see, though. As we walked in tonight, I could tell — just because it was a long day — that he felt kind of down in the dumps. After the game, I told him, ‘You need to feel more down in the dumps a little more often.’ But he had the rhythm going, and we were just trying to feed him. I thought he did a good job getting it out of the offense and letting it come to him.”
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