|Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce star in ‘True Grit’ – Celtics style||12.17.10 at 10:24 am ET|
Garnett inspired the weary and wounded Celtics with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Pierce restored order to the offense as Nate Robinson was finding his way. KG and Pierce were the two biggest reasons the Celtics ran their winning streak to 12 games in a 102-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden on Thursday night.
The 12-game run matches their longest since they set the franchise record of 19 back in the 2008-09 season. Glen Davis had 18 points off a shorthanded Celtics bench. How shorthanded?
The team found out just before the game they would be without Rajon Rondo for couple of weeks as GM Danny Ainge told WEEI that his sprained left ankle needed time to heal. Robinson started and – after a rocky first half – provided an emotional boost with 14 points and five assists in 41 minutes.
Shaquille O’Neal missed his fourth straight game with a strained right calf. Von Wafer came up with a sore back in the first half and was unavailable in the second half, giving the Celtics four healthy bench players. Semih Erden scored 10 points in 24 minutes, starting in place of O’Neal for the fourth straight game.
‘We were playing with Semih, two rooks, and then Von went down at halftime,” Garnett said. “So it’s not enough to say [gritty]. I mean, ‘P’ said it before the game: This is going to me more mental than anything. I think everybody’s playing, is giving everything they have. And in order for us to win these games, we’re just going to have to grind it out.
“You know, until we get the guys back. We just got the news about Rondo; Shaq wasn’t available today. So what’re you going to do? You either quit, you put your clothes on and go home, but that ain’t the way we do things around here. We work. So that, pretty much ‘ gutsy is an understatement.’
Playing on fumes for most of the first half after an emotional win in New York 24 hours earlier, the Celtics came alive late in the second quarter, going on a 10-2 run to take a 44-43 lead at halftime. They opened the second half with a 20-12 run to assume control of the game.
‘I don’t know if I’m surprised or not,” Rivers said of his team’s true grit. “I trust our guys. They just play well. They’re executing well. I thought ‘ second half was terrific for us. I thought the first half, it was a grind. I mean, you could just feel it, emotionally, too, probably, coming off of last night’s game. And then in the second half, you know, it was terrific ‘ we couldn’t get Ray [Allen] going in the first half, and so we just changed the passer and made it Paul.
While Garnett was providing his typical fire and inspiration, Pierce turned back the clock to 2006 and ran the offense as a point-forward in the second half, while Robinson found his bearings.
“I knew I was going to have to be more of a play-maker,” Pierce said. “Truthfully, I really didn’t think like that. I just tried to feel the game out, and you know, try to give it what it needs. I didn’t need to try to have a great scoring night because of the guys we had going. I mean, Ray got it going in the second half, Baby was consistent all game, and Kevin set the tone. So, I just let the chips fall where they may, and the guys, they stepped up. And so, it sort of, kind of, ended up that way. And it played out perfectly. And if that’s what it’s going to take, that’s what it’s going to take. You know, a lot of guys out. Guys are going to be asked to play multiple roles. And that’s what we’ve got to do.’
“Paul basically became the point forward in the second half,” Rivers added. “And it really worked out for us. I don’t know if we stumbled on it if we kind of were forced to do it. But it was terrific. And Paul enjoyed it, which is even better. And then our defense kicked in too.’
And the defense will always be the true grit of this Celtics show.
|Doc Rivers to Nate Robinson: Don’t worry, you don’t suck||12.17.10 at 12:34 am ET|
Doc Rivers could tell early on that Nate Robinson was having trouble getting into the flow of the game as he struggled with his passes and running the Celtics offense in the first half Thursday night against Atlanta.
There was a bullet pass from Robinson to Semih Erden in the low post that didn’t quite make it there as Josh Smith stepped into the lane for the easy steal. There was a pass intended for Ray Allen that sailed out of bounds later in the first half.
How bad was it? Even when Nate was hustling his rear off to grab a loose ball headed toward the Hawks basket, he flipped to the lane – expecting Kevin Garnett to catch and slam. But instead, the pass was picked off by Mike Bibby, who fed Jordan Collins for an open three, which Collins hit to add salt to the wound.
All of that added up to seven points, only two assists and four turnovers in the first half for the man who will be filling in for Rajon Rondo over the next two weeks as Rondo heals a sprained left ankle. Rivers said he had to have a heart-to-heart with Robinson, telling him to keep his head up and remind him that he didn’t think Robinson “sucked” just because he was having trouble finding his game.
“You know what I told Nate at halftime?” Rivers began. “I said, ‘Nate, just a notice for you. You’re the starting point guard now, and I’m going to give you a lot of instruction. It’s not criticism.’ You know, and Nate tends to ‘ he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head, and it was at a point in the second quarter I couldn’t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him, ‘Nate, you suck’ or something.”
Robinson seemed to take Rivers’ words to heart.
“Just keep playing, play through adversity,” Robinson said. “Just turn the page. I was being a little timid in first half. Second half, he told me to just be me. I think I did that.”
Rivers knew full well that he might be dealing with a point guard that was getting overwhelmed.
“I don’t know what he thought I was going to say,” Rivers said. “And he was great. He even started laughing at halftime. I thought that relaxed him, and allowed him to play a little bit more. But with Rondo, you know, I’m so used to telling him what I need everybody ‘ ‘Rondo, tell Paul this.’ I was doing that with Nate and Nate was like, ‘Enough! No more. I don’t want’’ and he finally got what I was doing. I guess he just has to get used to that.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Good news: Shaquille O’Neal and his ‘calf juices’ are improving||12.14.10 at 11:48 am ET|
WALTHAM — You’ve heard of getting your juices going to get into a game. Well, Shaquille O’Neal put a whole new twist on that approach Tuesday when asked to describe how’s he feeling after missing the last two games.
O’Neal said before Tuesday’s practice that his sore right calf is “getting better” and is optimistic that he will be ready for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden against Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks. He worked out on the side and in the weight room but did not practice with the team.
“I’m doing better,” O’Neal said. “My calf juices are getting back up there. I’ll be alright.”
Doc Rivers said that he would see how O’Neal comes through Tuesday’s practice before making a determination on whether to play him Wednesday night against a revitalized Knicks team that has won eight straight and stands just four games behind the 19-4 Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
Semih Erden has filled in for O’Neal the last two games in the starting lineup.
|Paul Pierce isn’t ready to buy in Boston-New York rivalry in NBA – yet||12.14.10 at 11:29 am ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce has a home in the Boston area and attends sporting events in the off-season. So he knows full well of the rivalries between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and the Patriots and Jets.
But ask him about the Celtics and Knicks? Well, as the song goes, that’s quite the different story.
Both teams may be on extended winning streaks and both teams may have rich basketball traditions but Celtics captain Pierce said Tuesday that doesn’t mean the Celtics and Knicks have revived the old rivalry between the two cities.
“It’s a rivalry? You [media] let me in on all the new stuff,” Pierce said. “I didn’t know we had a rivalry going.”
The Celtics enter Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden on a 10-game winning streak while the Knicks have won their last eight to stand just four games behind Boston in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
“We have bigger goals than winning streaks,” Pierce said. “I didn’t know we had a rivalry going. If that’s what you all want, if it’s going sell more tix, get more viewers, I guess so. You [media] all make up the rivalry, we don’t, to be honest. At the end of the day, we’re playing for championships, not certain opponents.”
Big man Glen Davis will be one of the Celtics trying to contain the reinvigorated Knicks front court, led by Amare Stoudemire.
“I’m not worried about that, New York and Boston,” Davis said of any rivalry with the 16-9 Knicks. “That’s just the way it is. I’m worried about winning the game and worried about June, what’s going to happen in June. That’s what I’m worried about. I’m not even going to get into that. New York’s a great team. They’ve been playing well and trying to be where we’re at. It’s going to be a big game for them.’
|Doc Rivers: No superstar let-down this time for Celtics||12.09.10 at 2:06 am ET|
‘Yeah, they knew I was lying because I told them that Lawrence [Frank] didn’t know,” Rivers said after watching his team dispatch of the Nuggets without Melo, 105-89. “We went through the whole defensive added. Hey listen, the last time we used ‘ it didn’t work. So we tried something different. And, listen, the last time he didn’t play I think they scored 135 points. That was the other thing we told them. So I just thought we came out very professional and ready.”
The Celtics shot a scorching 68 percent in the first quarter, making 13-of-19 from the field, on their way to building a 19-point lead.
‘I think coach really made a point of that,” Paul Pierce said of Rivers’ Melo message before the game. “He really didn’t want to tell us that Carmelo wasn’t playing, I think he waited to the very last second cause he went over the game plan, so we took that to heart and went out there and just tried to establish ourselves in the first quarter. I think like Kevin said we’re on a roll defensively and that’s what were trying to do to start the game’
It was 30-11 with 2:47 left in the first quarter before the Nuggets closed to within 14, 35-21, heading into the second quarter.
Why the lesson? The Celtics’ only home court loss came to Oklahoma City on Nov. 19, as the Thunder played without superstar Kevin Durant.
What makes Rivers a great coach is he always seems to provide the right inspiration and lesson at the right time. Rivers knew the Nuggets lost 24 hours earlier in Charlotte, in a heart-breaker, 100-98. Anthony played 39 minutes and scored 22 points. His knee acted up and the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer (22.8 points/game) was unavailable in Boston.
“When you lose a star like that, it’s tough on the other team,” Rivers said. “They played last night, you lose Carmelo, and that’s a tough night for you. And the fact that for three of the four quarters, we were really good.’
Message delivered and well received.
|Kevin Garnett to George Karl: ‘Nothing personal’ about cancer comment||12.08.10 at 11:07 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett approached Denver head coach and cancer survivor George Karl following Wednesday’s game at TD Garden and told him that he meant no offense in the wake of his comments about Charlie Villanueva on Nov. 2 in Detroit. After the Celtics beat the Pistons, Villaneuva, who suffers from Alopecia, accused Garnett of calling him someone who ‘looked like a cancer patient’ during the game.
Garnett said he called Villaneuva ‘a cancer to his team and the NBA’ but denied the ‘cancer patient’ charge. Garnett wanted to make sure that Karl was not offended.
“I went up to him as man and told him what I said and I told him that I had nothing personal towards him nor any other cancer patients that are out there struggling, dealing with life situations,” Garnett said. “I wanted to say that man-to-man. I was going to do it before the game when the [game] clocks were messed up but I wanted to get the game out of the way and then approach him.”
Karl was diagnosed with throat cancer in February and missed time coaching the Nuggets while he was getting chemotherapy for the disease which is treatable and curable, according to doctors.
|Kevin Garnett tunes into his ‘unplugged’ side||12.04.10 at 2:27 am ET|
Kevin Garnett wasn’t just on his game on the court against nemesis Joakim Noah but he was just as sharp off of it, talking about everything from his battle with Noah “The Nobody” to a potential labor stoppage next season, his future and his respect for “ring brother” Brian Scalabrine.
Sounding a very philosophical tone, Garnett said he is not looking for any sympathy for the nagging injuries he’s played through but rather just trying to enjoy himself as long as he can and as long as the NBA is still in business.
On Friday against the Bulls, Garnett showed the dominant form from the 2008 championship season, scoring 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting while grabbing 17 rebounds in Boston’s 104-92 win at TD Garden.
Garnett’s loudest statement wasn’t about silencing Noah but rather enjoying the moment.
“Especially with the lockout coming up, who knows if this is my last year or if we don’t play next year what it’s going to be,” Garnett said. “So I’m trying to enjoy the guys now, you know.”
He also addressed questions about his rivalry with Noah, the only player he refused to greet on the court just before tip-off Friday.
‘I’m going to tell you something about people, man,” Garnett began. “Everybody has an opinion, and obviously, he had one. I’m not entertaining nor addressing nobodies. I’m not even entertaining them. I’m focused on basketball and these wins and trying to make this team better. Other than that, I’m not on anything’
Asked specifically if he considered Noah a “nobody”, Garnett smiled, winked and said more with less.
like he did with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva and Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut exactly a month earlier at the Garden.
‘Next question,” he responded.
“I’m not dealing with nobodies anymore,” Garnett said back in November of his on-court run-ins with Villanueva and Bogut and the criticism that he is a “mean” player.
But most of all, he sounded like a veteran who was just enjoying getting his health back so he could show off his considerable talents, talents that will take him to Springfield someday and the Hall of Fame.
‘Anytime you win, it’s enjoyable, to be honest with you,” Garnett said. “Playing with Shaq, some of the new guys, JO’¦I’ll be glad when he gets back. I’ll be glad when Perk gets back’¦.Delonte. We have a real vibrant team and I love our team. I don’t like it, I love our team. I love our guys and this is the first time in a long time I’ve allowed myself to actually enjoy them. But I do have a certain way and a certain style that I like to be when I hit the court. Shaq gets a smile out of me very now and then, but for the most part I’m still me.”
But perhaps the funniest and most telling quote of the night came when he was asked about seeing Brian Scalabrine for the last time this year at TD Garden. Scalabrine got into the game in the final minute during “Gino Time” to chants that even KG had to respect.
“I love Scal to death,” KG said. “Right after the game, always go and show him respect. That’s my [championship] ring brother. But Gino’s my dude.”