|All about the focus…||12.10.08 at 12:41 pm ET|
The last time they visited the nation’s capital, all the Celtics could focus on was being on the same stage with President Bush.
Wednesday afternoon, as they boarded a plane for D.C. again, their focus was quite different.
The Celtics are 20-2 and once again on top of the NBA world. But listen to them at practice and they realize that they are the only people who can keep them there.
“It’s not hard at all, especially when you’re ultimate goal is to win a championship, the focus is there everyday,” Paul Pierce said. “Just because we’re veterans, we don’t have any letdowns. We check everybody, we check on one another and when we see one guy have slippage, we pick them up. That’s what this team is all about.”
As well as the Celtics know themselves, the Wizards are wondering who they are. They completed a stunning comeback on Tuesday night, coming from 15 points down to beat the Detroit Pistons going away. But still, at 4-15, the Wizards are a mess. Coaching journeyman Ed Tapscott took over for Eddie Jordan following the team’s 1-10 start without the injured Gilbert Arenas available.
In an effort to get more scoring depth, the Wizards pulled off a three-way trade on Wednesday, a deal that should have former Celtic Mike James available for Thursday’s contest.
If the Celtics can handle Caron Butler, they stand a very good chance of improving to 21-2 with the James Posey-Chris Paul-led Hornets up next on Friday at the Garden.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 93, Trail Blazers 78||12.06.08 at 11:44 am ET|
Last season, in their run to their 17th NBA title, the Celtics went from potential to prolific, winning 66 games in the regular season. This season, they are going from hype to historic, as in no team in NBA history has ever followed up an 18-2 start one season with a 19-2 opening the next… until now. What’s scary about the Green Machine’s is they honestly believe they have yet to play a complete game. Friday night, the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA came to town with a 16-4 mark and a six-game winning streak. They hadn’t lost to an Eastern Conference team. They had lost just twice in 16 games when holding their opponent under 100 points. Still not enough to overcome the Celtics, who overwhelmed them with a 21-0 run. The Celtics are all on the same page, preaching the same message, we’re playing well but there’s a lot of season remaining and a lot to play for. Just take a listen.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 114, Pacers 86||12.04.08 at 12:30 am ET|
So, only 55 more wins until the Celtics set the all-time NBA record for wins in a season. That means the Celtics need to go 55-7 the rest of the way. Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, there’s no reason to think they can’t do it. The latest example came on Wednesday. As the Indiana Pacers showed of making a courageous run to stay in the game in the third quarter, Rajon Rondo reminded everyone that he just might be the MVP of the team, lighting it up for 16 points while handing out a career-best 17 assists. Just think, that’s MVP Rondo on the same team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and vintage Ray Allen, who is tearing it up for the Green so far this season. Now you see why there are those who feel this team may be on the verge of something historic.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 107, Magic 88||12.02.08 at 9:36 am ET|
Doc Rivers called Monday night’s game a ‘free speech night’… a game in which he doesn’t have to say a word to his team about its significance. Such was the case as the Celtics took on yet another ‘would-be challenger’ to their Eastern Conference reign. And the Orlando Magic found out what Detroit, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Toronto have already realized, knocking the Celtics off the throne won’t be easy. And did you hear what the Magic said??? Listen to the comments below. Dwight Howard and Anthony Johnson were all about giving respect but also wanted people to remember they were without their backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Mickael Pietrus. Doc Rivers acknowledged as much but the Celtics also took Orlando’s best punch in the second quarter before blowing them off the court in the second half – doing exactly what championship teams do that have dreams of repeating.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 102, 76ers 78||11.28.08 at 11:48 pm ET|
When Paul Pierce scores a season-low six points on 1-of-6 shooting and you still build a 30-point fourth quarter lead, you know you’re a pretty good team. The Boston Celtics, however, may be much, much more than just a pretty good team. They may be in the middle of a season that could better last season’s 66-win world championship run. The Celtics toyed with a Philadelphia 76ers team that showed off six-year, $80 million free agent Elton Brand for the first time. He was of little use to the Sixers since Philly showed it was completely incapable of solving Boston’s swarming defense. The final result, Boston won, 102-78, improving to 15-2 and expanding their lead to an amazing six games in the Atlantic Division.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 119, Warriors 111||11.27.08 at 10:11 am ET|
Maybe Stephen Jackson was onto something. He told our own Jessica Camerato that the Celtics deserve the respect he refused to give them last year. And after the game he said one reason he has changed his mind is the play of Rajon Rondo. The point guard’s teammates are also on board. Rondo led a dramatic 32-16 surge in the third quarter that left Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett calling for Rondo to get some All-Star love. The Rondo-for-All-Star push continues Friday night at the Garden as the 14-2 Celtics welcome the 7-8 Philadelphia 76ers.
|Watch that temper…||11.25.08 at 1:28 pm ET|
Perkins didn’t come into the season intending to become the NBA’s new bad boy. But if people want to draw that comparison after drawing eight technical fouls in the first 15 games of the season, then so be it.
“It doesn’t matter, they’re two great players in this league so I hope so,” Perkins said following Tuesday’s practice. “Nobody is getting under my skin. I really start all the problems. It’s not like they’re starting stuff with me. I pretty much start everything.”
One of those eight techs occurred with Jermaine O’Neal (below) in the Nov. 10 game against Toronto.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce is more than experienced in the ways of emotional warfare on the court.
“I use it to get in my opponents’ heads,” Pierce said Tuesday. “I don’t use it to start anything. I use it to frustrate my opponent, sort of what Larry Bird used to do in the day, Michael (Jordan), Gary Payton, these guys. I use it more as a tactic. I’m not trying to fight anybody. I do it in practice.”
Perkins, meanwhile, has always had a fierce but quiet demeanor on the court.
“I don’t really worry about it. It is what it is. They’re either going to like me or they’re not. I’m not saying anything to them. I’m just going to go out there and play my game. I’m an emotional guy but it’s not anything I can’t change. I can control it. It’s more getting into with (other players) than anything.”
Now, this season, opposing players have chosen to ride the Celtics big man to see if they can draw him into verbal, and sometimes, physical encounters that result in technical fouls.
Well, 15 games into the season, Perkins has eight. Under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, if you collect 16, you earn yourself a seat on the bench in civilian clothes for a game.
Not what Doc Rivers and the Celtics are looking for.
“Last year was more techs toward the refs,” said Perkins, who picked up his eighth T on Sunday, jabbing and jarring with Jose Calderon in Toronto. “This year is more getting into with people. I’ve just been trying to keep my head. Last game, I wasn’t trying to get a tech. I’m trying to get it overturned.”
But in fairness to Perkins, Rivers was quick to point out that he thinks at least two of the instances should be reviewed and repealed.
“I’m concerned,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, sounding somewhat worried about Perkins’ rep. “We’re sending a lot of the tapes to the league because a lot of the double-technicals are where someone saying something to him and he turns around and they get a double-tech. That’s, to me, where the officials have to do their job. I think it’s easy to say say, ‘double-technical’ instead of saying this guy started it. We’re going to try to get a couple of them rescinded. It won’t happen but we’re going to try.”
Rivers then had this message for Perk.
“You want them to be emotional but not be emotionally sabotaged,” Rivers said.
Perk wasn’t looking for any shelter on Tuesday, continuing his reputation on the team as a stand-up guy.
“I blame it on myself,” he said. “I’m a man. Nobody makes me do that. I do it on my own. It’s very hard because you’re emotional and you’re going to get into with sometimes, especially at the position I play, you’re going to bang with people a lot. It’s a lot of physical contact. It gets emotional at times.”