|Sounds of the game… Magic 86, Celtics 79||03.08.09 at 4:00 pm ET|
It was clear from the start that the Celtics missed Rajon Rondo. To a man, afterward, everyone was quick to give Stephon Marbury props for doing his best, but Marbury has only been in Green for nine days. It’s hard to expect someone, even of his talent, to just step in and replace Rondo, who did not dress with a sprained right ankle.
Marbury got his first start but the Celtics were out of rhythm from the start, falling behind by 20 in the first half and commiting 11 turnovers.
Ray Allen led a furious fourth-quarter comeback but it fell short in the end as his three-pointer to tie with 35 seconds remaining was off the mark and the Celtics fell, 86-79.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 105, Cavaliers 94||03.07.09 at 12:30 am ET|
No, it wasn’t Rocky or even Hoosiers. It was a film of the Celtics scoring basket after basket with their big men executing great interior passes. The result – the undermanned Celtics outscored the Cleveland Cavaliers 58-22 in the paint and rolled to a stunning 11-point win, 105-94, over the Eastern Conference leaders.
The Celtics didn’t have Kevin Garnett but they did have Leon Powe. The Celtics didn’t have Brian Scalabrine but they did have Glen Davis, at least for 17 minutes before he was ejected for a flagrant Type 2 foul with 9:09 remaining in the third quarter.
But Doc Rivers, who said at the shootaround in the morning that this would be a phenomenal win, had one of his best games of the season as head coach of the defending NBA champions. Just ask Mike Brown, his counterpart on the Cleveland bench.
|‘We see them as a real threat’…||03.06.09 at 1:22 pm ET|
As the Celtics shot around at their training facility in Waltham, everyone wanted to know what the Celtics needed to do to beat King James and the Cavaliers without last season’s defensive player of the year and the team’s heart and emotional soul in a suit for at least another week.
“He ran yesterday, he told me, on the treadmill, which I’m sure was supervised,” Rivers said. “And he said he felt great so he’s feeling a lot better. That’s the first day he’s been able to run so we’ll take it day-to-day from that point on.”
“It’s the whole knee thing. We’re just going to take our time. I would say at least a week out and most likely, longer.”
As for tonight’s battle to end all battles, at least for the next 24 hours, Rivers, possibly looking back on last year’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semis, pointed out what it really means, especially if they could pull it off without Garnett, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen.
“It’s a big game,” Rivers said. “Obviously, home court is at stake here. And it would be a great win for us, to beat them at their full strength and us not having Kevin, Scal and Tony, I think it would be a phenomenal win for us. We’ll be ready.”
The Celtics have allowed their last two opponents to score over 100 points while a third, Indiana scored 99 last Friday.
“We want to win, really, and we have to find a way to do that,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to improve defensively. Over the last couple of games, we have not played our defense, especially transition-wise. And if we don’t get back tonight, it’s going to be a long night. That’s what we have to improve.
“We’ve won games and we’ve lost to a couple of good teams, which I can always live with even though you never want to lose, but our defense hasn’t been consistent and for us to be a good offensive team, we have to have multiple stops and we have to get back to that.”
But maybe it was Leon Powe who provided the best perspective of all on Friday morning, a mere nine hours before tip.
“It’s real good for us because we’ve been looking forward to this game,” Powe said of the test. “If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best. I know the road to the championship means you’ve got to knock us off. We see them as a real threat. We’ve got to go out there and play our best and hopefully both teams put on a good show and hopefully we come out on top.”
|Sounds of the game… Lakers 110, Celtics 109 OT||02.06.09 at 6:49 am ET|
Forget the NBA Finals of last June. Thursday night’s regular season game between the Celtics and Lakers at TD Banknorth Garden went a long way to restoring one of the sport’s great all-time rivalries.
And just listening to Doc Rivers‘ verbal tirade to the referees in the hallway proves how much this one hurt for the Green.
Rivers COULD NOT believe a hand check was not called on the Lakers as they tried to throw Ray Allen’s timing off at the end of overtime with Allen having the ball and a chance to win the game just like he did 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia.
“That was a hand check!” Rivers exclaimed in the hallway as the Celtics filed to their locker room, past the officials’ room on the right.
Then there was the sparring between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, as Bryant, who was held to 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting, waved his finger in Rondo’s face in the third quarter. That was followed minutes later by Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett going toe-to-toe before calmer heads prevailed. And lest we forget the rivalry between the two coaches.
Phil Jackson was peeved when Doc Rivers was given a sports-drink shower on the court in the closing minutes of Game 6 of The Finals last June. Jackson said after the game that he didn’t think Garnett looked like he was ready to return from the flu. Oh really Phil?
This game meant a lot to both teams.
It meant the end of Boston’s 12-game winning streak, meaning the Lakers have ended their 19-game AND 12-game runs this season. It meant that Los Angeles has swept the season series and holds the tie-breaker should the two teams end up deadlocked at the end of the season.
For the Lakers, it meant beating a team that seven months earlier humiliated them on the same court by 39 points in the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. They remembered the Gatorade shower that Rivers received from Pierce and Co. as Boston claimed its 17th title.
And it showed that these Lakers, even without big man Andrew Bynum, COULD play defense when it mattered and they won’t be pushed around anymore.
Here’s how both teams articulated it.
|Sobe Kobe…||02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.
That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.
“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”
“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”
Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.
“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”
Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.
“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”
Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.
Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.
“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”
Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.
The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 109, Timberwolves 101||02.01.09 at 6:27 pm ET|
Who needs All-Star Kevin Garnett?
Not the Celtics on Super Sunday. When news of Garnett’s flu spread before the game, Paul Pierce knew it was time to step up his game, offensively. In his last three games against Dallas, Sacramento and Detroit, he has posted games of eight, eight and 20 points. Not exactly the stuff that All-Star reserves are made of.
But on Sunday, against old friends Al Jefferson (34 points), Ryan Gomes and a vastly improved Sebastian Telfair, he was THE guy, scoring a game-high 36 points from all different angles, including a clinching fadeaway with 2:24 remaining to put the pesky Timberwolves away and clinch Boston’s 11th straight win, improving the Green to 40-9.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 119, Kings 100||01.29.09 at 9:57 am ET|
If Eddie House was trying to make a case for being included in the three-point shooting contest, it’s hard to imagine making a better one than he has in his last four games.
He is 22-for-32 in his last four games beyond the arc, including an 8-for-9 exhibition Wednesday night at the hands of the helpless Sacramento Kings, leading the Celtics to a 119-100 victory, their ninth straight.
House was hitting them from all angles and all places. He lives in Scottsdale and is going to be in the Phoenix area anyway, and would be a natural for the annual event at All-Star Weekend.
As far as trying to petition the league on such matters, head coach Doc Rivers told Dennis and Callahan this morning that, “the league is like the gestapo about it. We’re not sure who we can lobby about it.”
Well, let us help. Yes, the Celtics bench was a huge part of the proceedings, scoring a season-best 61 points. Yes, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were red hot early, even though the Kings shot out to an early 23-13 lead in the first quarter.
But the story was the House on Fire.