|Irish Coffee: How Celtics perform in clutch situations||12.10.12 at 5:10 pm ET|
After Rajon Rondo missed not one, but both game-winning opportunities in a 95-94 Celtics loss to the 76ers over the weekend — a failed 19-footer to end regulation and the infamous slippery 16-footer as overtime ran out — I got to wondering how the C’s are performing in clutch situations (either team within five points with five minutes remaining in regulation and overtime), since half of their 20 games have been decided by six points or less.
The C’s are 6-4 in those 10 games despite shooting 37.4 percent as a team in a whopping 60.2 clutch minutes, including three overtime games. They’ve had four potential game-winning shots at the buzzer — all misses on long jumpers — and Rondo has taken three of them. Paul Pierce attempted the fourth (from the elbow, of course).
Before we started reading into who’s doing what in the clutch, here are the numbers (Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger have all played sparingly in crunch time, but not a large enough sample size). Read the rest of this entry »
|#3Tweet: Celtics vs. 76ers back-to-back preview||12.07.12 at 2:11 pm ET|
Leading into this weekend’s back-to-back between the Celtics and 76ers, which could have serious Atlantic Division ramifications, we’re debuting Green Street’s #3Tweet: Three Twitter questions (and a money round) with the opposing city’s best NBA bloggers. On Friday, we interviewed Liberty Ballers blogger Michael Levin.
— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) December 7, 2012
|Doc Rivers: ‘I have no idea’ if Rondo went to Mexico||12.06.12 at 11:49 am ET|
In addition to reminding everyone that Avery Bradley‘s “a ways away” from returning in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show, Celtics coach Doc Rivers discussed Rajon Rondo at length.
On the Kris Humphries scuffle and ensuing suspension: “Rondo understands that we need him. I called it like I saw it … and Rondo almost said the same thing: He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t go in there to have a fight. I went in there to push him off Kevin [Garnett] and the next thing you know he grabs my arm, and then I pushed back and it escalated.’ He said, ‘I never intended to fight, that’s not what I did. I was just trying to push him off Kevin.’”
On whether Rondo really went to Mexico: ‘I have no idea. I really don’t. I don’t ever check. He’s a grown man, and he wasn’t in our locker room. I did say, ‘Go where you want, do what you want, just keep working out and watching us play.’ And he did those things.
“It may not have been a bad time, but it was an expensive time.’
On the point guard’s public vs. private persona: ‘Rondo with his teammates never shuts up. He’s loud, they laugh, they argue all the time — sports arguments are what you’d call it, debates where they are laughing — so he has a very good personality, and then he has the personality that you see as well. He has both of those.’
|Rajon Rondo loves short answers, winter hats||12.06.12 at 12:58 am ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo returned from his two-game suspension against the Timberwolves, unleashed a typical Rajon Rondo performance (17 points, 11 assists, 5 turnovers) in a 104-94 win and delivered a quintessential Rajon Rondo postgame press conference. The only thing different was his winter hat.
How did it feel to get back out there? “Good.”
Was the adrenaline pumping? “No.”
Kevin Garnett said the Celtics were hyped to have you back. Did you feel that? ‘No.’
How long did it take to to find your rhythm after missing two games? “Two seconds.”
How much easier is the game when you establish Garnett early? “He played well.”
What was working in the third quarter? “Ball movement, we got some stops and guys made plays.”
How important was it to outperform a good rebounding team? “We just rebounded the ball.”
What do you notice about Garnett when he faces his old team? “He plays well every time.”
Why do you think that is? “I don’t know. You’ve got to ask Kevin.”
Are you seeing more positives from this team? “It’s just one game. It’s hard to say.”
Are you sensing improved chemistry with the new guys? “I don’t know.”
What do you expect from the back-to-back against the 76ers this weekend? “A lot of running.”
Are these big games because the division is so tight? “For us, every game is big.”
After an oh so Rondo pregnant pause, he offered his most sincere sentiment of the night: “Our record is not where we want it to be, so every game counts and every game is big.”
|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.
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