|Irish Coffee: Solving Celtics points in paint riddle||02.01.12 at 1:20 pm ET|
Simply watching the Celtics this season, you might guess they get outscored by 20 points a night in the paint. They seemingly settle for jump shots at an alarming rate while opponents like Anderson Varejao own them in the key.
So, it might be surprising to learn the Cavaliers only outscored the Celtics by two in the paint on Tuesday. Or that the Celtics allow fewer points in the paint (31.2) than any other team in the NBA, according to HoopsStats.com. Not only that, but opposing teams are shooting a league-worst 43.8 percent in the key against the Celtics.
There’s a clear discrepancy between what we see and what we know. So, what gives?
|Fast Break: Celtics (barely) avenge loss to Cavaliers||01.31.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
If you thought Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers was bad, Tuesday’s win might have been worse.
After blowing a 12-point lead in the final five minutes at home in the first meeting of their home-and-home series, the C’s let a 22-point lead dwindle to two with 1:18 remaining in Cleveland. Luckily, Kevin Garnett dropped a turnaround jumper and Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to on for a 93-90 win.
Pierce finished with a team-high 20 points as well six assists and four rebounds, lifting the Celtics (10-10) to .500 once again. Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points to lead a 28-point effort by the C’s bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
In his defense: Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving beat the Celtics with his offense on Sunday night, but his porous defense helped the C’s return the favor two days later. Avery Bradley (8 points) beat him through the back door, making himself an easy target underneath the basket for open layups, and E’Twaun Moore (5 points) took advantage of Irving’s tendency to cheat by knocking down open shots on the perimeter.
Riding the pine: Led once again by Bass (13 points) and Mickael Pietrus (6 points, 2 treys), the Celtics bench dominated the Cavaliers reserves in the early going, outscoring their counterparts 23-5 in the first half alone. Moore and Sasha Pavlovic also lended a helping hand as the C’s established a double-digit lead by halftime.
Protecting the rock (for the most part): Without Rajon Rondo for the seventh straight game, the Celtics assisted on 19 of their first 26 field goals while committing only six turnovers as they built the lead to 22 in the third quarter. The C’s finished with 25 assists on 37 FGs, but their turnovers climbed to 14 — allowing the Cavaliers to climb back into the game.
|Blake Griffin treats Kendrick Perkins like a Kia Optima||01.31.12 at 9:36 am ET|
I bet Jeff Green couldn’t get dunked on like that. I kid. I kid. Somewhere, Danny Ainge is smiling.
|Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault||01.30.12 at 7:40 pm ET|
After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.
Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.
In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.
“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’ve been here, that’s all we’ve done. We haven’t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”
While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.
THE STALWARTS Read the rest of this entry »
|‘I’d love to be Paul Pierce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus’||01.28.12 at 1:29 am ET|
Mickael Pietrus isn’t Ray Allen, even though he played him on TV Friday night — starting in place of the injured NBA 3-point champion for the second straight night. And he knows he isn’t Celtics teammate Paul Pierce either.
“That man been a 10-time All-Star,” Pietrus said of Pierce. “I’d love to be Paul PIerce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus. … I’m happy to get Paul back. It was hard for me to guard him on the opposing team. I’m glad I’m his teammate. It’s Paul Pierce. He’s a 10-time All-Star. He knows how to play basketball.”
Pietrus knows how to play basketball, too, and he’s filled in admirably for Allen. In back-to-back starts against the Magic and Pacers, he has totaled 25 points — including five 3-pointers — and 12 rebounds.
‘He’s been huge,” said Pierce. “You talk about a guy who can really knock down shots and make plays. He’s a really scrappy defender and a great athlete. He’s been huge in Ray’s absence, just filling in that role and being that constant threat from the outside and filling in gaps on defense.’
|Paul Pierce: ‘I’m probably at about 83.7 percent’||01.28.12 at 12:47 am ET|
After totaling 52 points, 18 assists and 16 rebounds in consecutive wins against the Magic and Pacers, Celtics captain Paul Pierce discussed the improving health of the sore right heel that kept him out of training camp.
Pierce’s recent hot stretch raises his career total to 21,676 points, just 115 behind Pacers president Larry Bird for second on the C’s all-time scoring list. There’s at least a chance Pierce could achieve the mark in seven games (if not sooner) against the Lakers in Boston on Feb. 9. Of course, you’ll remember Allen set the NBA’s all-time 3-point record against Kobe Bryant & Co. in the Garden last season.
|Fast Break: Celtics win fourth straight, reach .500||01.27.12 at 10:06 pm ET|
For 24 minutes against the Pacers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like a couple guys in their mid 30s playing consecutive nights of basketball, combining for 4-of-16 shooting in the first half, but The Truth and The Ticket made a combined 10-of-14 second-half shots to lead the Celtics to impressive victories in back-to-back games — this time 94-87 against Larry Bird‘s club.
Pierce approached a triple-double for the second straight night, compiling 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett added 13 points and eight boards (as did Mickael Pietrus). Meanwhile, recently returned Chris Wilcox enjoyed a breakout night for the Celtics (9-9), amassing season highs of 14 points and six rebounds.
Danny Granger‘s 21 points led the Pacers (12-6), who had beaten the C’s in their two previous meetings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bench clearing: Led by Wilcox’s six points and three rebounds, the C’s bench played an inspired first quarter, making all four of their shots and taking an early 23-17 lineup when Garnett and Pierce came out flat on the second night of a back-to-back. A lineup of Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus actually stretched a lead when the Celtics needed a lift most.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 21 of their 38 field goals in the first half — without starting point guard Rajon Rondo in action. For the second consecutive night, Pierce (10 assists in Thursday night’s victory) assumed the role as the offense’s main facilitator, recording more assists by himself (5) than the entire Pacers team (4) in the opening half.
Double the fun: Sure, Doc Rivers has a philosophy that his team is better off getting back on defense, but offensive rebounding was a concern for the Celtics last season, as they rarely outworked opponents on the offensive glass. Against the Pacers, the C’s pulled down seven first-half offensive boards and outscored the Pacers for the game in second-chance opportunities, 14-6.