|Halftime: Celtics vs. Nuggets||03.24.10 at 8:19 pm ET|
The exclamation point on the outstanding play was a spectacular Tony Allen dunk on a beautiful feed from Rajon Rondo with 1:23 left and a layup with 0.1 seconds remaining in the half. Allen had 10 points off the Celtics bench.
This game was played at a breakneck tempo right out of the gate, with both teams executing their offenses at a high level.
The Celtics came out and appeared ready to make a statement against a Nuggets team that is expected to be the chief competition out West to the defending champion Lakers this spring. The Celtics made 13-of-21 shots from the floor and outscored Denver 20-8 in the paint to take a 30-27 lead after one.
Paul Pierce again showed he is ready to assume leadership of the team heading into the home stretch as he poured in a game-leading 16 points. That offset an equally impressive first half from Carmelo Anthony, who had 14.
The Celtics bench again saw a significant amount of playing time, bridging the first and second quarters effectively, and even building the lead up to nine points late in the second quarter. The down side to that was foul trouble.
In addition to the three first half fouls that sent Pierce to the bench early prematurely, Marquis Daniels also picked up three and Glen Davis two as 16 fouls were called on the Green in the opening 24 minutes.
But again the ball distribution was outstanding as the Celtics racked up 19 assists, led by seven from Rondo.
|Rondo getting the point of Paul and KG||03.17.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
Rondo knows if Pierce and Garnett play like they did on Wednesday, whether it’s the lowly Knicks or the mighty Cavs, the Celtics become a whole different beast.
Even with two early fouls, Pierce finished with 29 points and Garnett added 22. Most impressive were the open looks Rondo was getting the pair – one major reason Pierce made 11 of his 17 shots and Garnett 9-of-his-11.
‘I do [take pride in setting up],” Rondo said. “You know you can’t leave out Ray [Allen]. He’s a jump shooter, so you got to get them looks early. Paul and Kevin create their shots anytime on the court. Get them looks and transitions I think is key. Get them easy looks an going to the free throw lines, and aggressive. I think that both of those guys, talking to Paul and Kevin early on in the game.’
After the game, Rivers said it was Rondo who stepped up his scoring when he could, getting to the basket and taking more open shots.
That’s all changed now and Rondo said he is more than happy to revert to just running the show and getting the team’s scorers involved.
‘When I feel like I need to score,” Rondo explained, “I try and do it but otherwise, you know we are rolling. Take shots that’s fine with me, as long as we win. Getting assists better for me than scoring.
‘First and for most. Everybody is back by now, and guys are playing well. Paul played well tonight. You we are winning so be it, regardless of the outcome of how many shots I take, as long as we win.’
|Doc to big men: Shelden ‘wants your minutes’||03.17.10 at 8:40 pm ET|
Doc Rivers remembers how vital a sense of urgency can be for those who back up the starters.
Now, with Shelden Williams seeing some more playing time of late, he hopes history is in the course of repeating itself.
And he’s let everyone on the second unit know it.
“We kind of alerted the other bigs that if you’re not getting the job done, we’re just going to go with Shelden,” Rivers said before Wednesday’s game. “If he’s not, then we’ll go back with you. But I think right now, with our team, I think that’s a good place for all of them to be in.”
Rivers clearly is looking for that extra fire in the second unit to motivate the likes of Davis and Rasheed Wallace.
“I thought that was very good a couple of years ago with Leon and Baby,” Rivers said. “I thought that sense of urgency that the other guy wanted to play your minutes was a good thing for our team.
“We kind of feel into but I think it’s great that Shelden is there and wants your minutes.”
Williams has seen significant minutes of late in blowouts over the Pacers, Pistons and Knicks.
“It’s need and he’s showing me something,” Rivers said. “It’s been great all year in the fact that once he stopped playing he never stopped working.”
|Finley just making ‘the most of it’||03.15.10 at 11:26 pm ET|
Most impressive was how smooth Finley made it look. He missed just once in seven field goal attempts, making the most of his 13-plus minutes off the bench.
‘I work out,” Finley said. “I try to work out every day where I have confidence in my game. Whenever my number is called, I just want to be prepared. Tonight was just an example of that. My teammates just got me in good positions to make plays and I just made the most of it.
‘I’m still trying to find my way in. This team was a good one before I got here. I just want to come in and help them be a better team. If that’s possible, I’m all for it.’
On Sunday in Cleveland, the bench struggled mightily, with Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels held scoreless. On Monday, thanks to the early fire shown by Finley, the bench exploded for 61 points, including 13 for Davis and 11 for Daniels.
‘It’s always good to win, especially coming off the performance we had in Cleveland,” Finley said. “It always good to get that winning taste back in your mouth and show each other what it takes to win ball games, despite the opponent.’
‘Yeah, because I didn’t know what to expect, honestly,” Rivers said. “You know he hadn’t played a lot this year with San Antonio and he wasn’t making shots. I just don’t believe a guy can forget how to shoot. So we thought if we could get him in here and get him some looks, you know give him a chance to make some shots, they would go in. But, yeah, even his passing, just little things he does on the floor, he’s been great.’
Wallace had a simple message for Finley on Monday – keep it simple and I’ll find you on the court.
“I’ve seen it in college when he was at Wisconsin, and you know for the few teams he played with here in the league, I know what type of player Fin is,” ‘Sheed said. “That’s one thing I told him when he first came here, when were out there in that second unit, I’m going to swing you the ball, just basic basketball. I’m going to come over set the pick, you can either come off for the shot, drop it off, or just play basketball and make that next pass.’
More to the point, Finley, if he continues to play like he did Monday night, makes the Celtics’ bench that much more difficult to match up against come playoff time.
‘It gives us another guy where you have to step up,” Wallace said. “And I say that from an offensive standpoint, you know guys will have to respect Fin’s jump shot and driving ability, and that pretty much leaves all the post players open for a one on one.’
‘He’s a veteran,” added Daniels. “He’s a shooter. That’s something he does, it’s like riding a bike. He knows how to shoot the ball and he does it well.’
|Doc: I’m not giving up on the team||03.15.10 at 6:39 pm ET|
Peppered with questions about his team’s effort in the final five minutes of Sunday’s double-digit loss in Cleveland, Doc Rivers said he is going to find a way to get better results from his team.
“I don’t care how frustrating it gets for me,” Rivers said before Monday’s game with Detroit. “I see it, and if you see it or not, I see it and I’m going to get it out of you. And that’s what I told them after the game [Sunday]. I don’t know how but I will get it out of you.”
The Celtics were tied with the Cavs at 68 on Sunday before the roof caved in.
“I never mentioned that we didn’t have effort,” Rivers said. “I looked at it, there’s four minutes left in the third quarter, it’s a tie score. So at least at that point, we still had effort. We didn’t sustain our play. We missed a lot of open shots. I don’t think it had a lot to do with effort [Sunday]. I thought the last five minutes did [have to do with effort], when we were down 16 and you could see us giving in.”
“I think it’s an easy thing now when we don’t win, it was effort.”
To Rivers, the story wasn’t the lack of fight the team appeared to show in the final five minutes but how they got there.
“I’m not as worried about that as I am why we got down 16,” the coach said. “I was more concerned with that. They came with a great spirit and wanted to win the game. They had a chance to win the game. Then when it slipped away in their minds, they were disappointed. To me, that’s a human reaction. I can live with that.”
Rivers said the swagger against teams will come back to the Celtics only by results on the court.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to earn for people be afraid of you.’ The first half of the year we did earn that,” Rivers said. “Then I think everybody conveniently forgets the second-half of the year. When we were [23-5], we were completely healthy. We had injuries, we struggled and now we’re trying to get it back.
“It didn’t just go away because the healthy group stop playing, it went away for a good reason. What we’ve failed to do is put it back together yet, and that’s what we’re working on.”
Ultimately – and appropriately with Boston trying to dry out from drenching rains – Rivers is taking a glass half-full approach.
“In some ways, it’s very enjoyable,” Rivers said of this year’s challenge. “I know that sounds crazy. It’s a group where you’ve had to get your hands dirty. Really, you’ve had to dive into this group, push buttons, get on different guys you’d never thought you’d have to. In some ways, that has been very difficult but in some ways, it has been a joyous challenge. This is a very challenging year. I’m excited by it, in a crazy way I am. If you get it right, it will be an unbelievable feeling at the end.”
|Doc: ‘It’s a big game for them, too’||03.14.10 at 10:50 am ET|
“I think we’ll come in and play terrific,” Rivers said. “But we just have to play hard. There’s no guarantees. But listen, it’s a big game for them, too. It ain’t just one way. I always laugh when I hear guys say it’s a must win. But what if it’s a must-win for both teams? Someone’s not going to win.”
The Celtics (41-23) are coming off a 19-point win over Indiana on Friday night at home and trail third-place Atlanta by a half-game in the East. Meanwhile the Cavs come in with a 51-15 record, and lead the Lakers by three games for the best mark in the NBA.
LeBron James is playing his second game back from a sprained right ankle.
“It would be great, though,” Rivers said of a win in Cleveland. “I think our team is looking forward to it,” Rivers said. “And I guarantee you they’re looking forward to it. There’s no coincidence that LeBron James rested two games and came back. That’s not a coincidence but that’s fine.”
The Cavs will be without Shaquille O’Neal, likely out for the rest of the regular season following surgery on his right thumb, injured the last time the two teams met when Glen Davis went up to block an O’Neal shot. On Sunday, Davis denied hurting O’Neal intentionally during their Feb. 25 meeting.
‘They’re playing the same guys, really. They haven’t changed their offense or anything. They’re quicker, faster, more athletic.”
The Celtics are visiting Cleveland for the first time since Oct. 27, when they claimed a 96-89 win over the Cavs on opening night.
|KG, Pierce get to heart of the matter||03.12.10 at 11:41 pm ET|
And it started hours before they dismantled the Indiana Pacers, 122-103, at TD Garden.
It began with a team meeting in which Doc Rivers spoke and then asked for any and all feedback from everyone in the room.
“We really had a heart-to-heart this morning. To tell you the truth it really left a bad taste in our mouth the way we played last game,” Paul Pierce said of Wednesday’s 111-91 stinker to Memphis. “Nobody wants to be booed at home by their home crowd seeing everybody leave early. That really sat with me that night to be honest. I think it sat with everybody. Today we just came in, talked to each other, we just played like a team that was on a mission tonight and hopefully it can carry over for the rest of the season.’
Kevin Garnett said Friday’s team chat was productive on many different levels.
“Just open dialogue this morning. Doc did the majority of the talking but he opened up the floor to everybody to give their two cents and we just spoke freely. It was the first time in a while that we’ve done that, we usually talk among ourselves and try to figure things out amongst the team without coaches or any other staff members. But today it included coaches and players, and just had open dialogue, it wasn’t anything negative, just general conversation about defensive schemes and things we can get better at.”
Rivers said before Friday’s game that the team did some old-fashioned film watching, reviewing whole parts of Wednesday’s horror show to let it sink in and let players understand the big picture of intensity and energy. Both were in high supply in Friday’s bounce-back laugher.
“We watched a little game film which is always good, that way as a whole we can sit there and critique each other,” Garnett said. “I think the best thing about this team since I’ve been here is that we’ve all been able to talk to one another and critique each other and be positive and get results out of it. It wasn’t just about the talking, I think what we talked about we actually did tonight. I think we played with 200 percent more energy tonight than obviously the other night.
“And to concur with what Paul said, you never want to be in a situation where you’re getting booed at home, home is supposed to be where you lay your head at and where you’re most comfortable at. We had to re-establish that here. I thought tonight, the results of us playing hard came out, obviously we hit some shots tonight. We watched the film from the Memphis game and what it came down to, pretty much our defensive energy was there, we just didn’t make any shots, and for that it’s almost like we weren’t doing anything on offense. It was determined by our energy on defense, and that can’t happen.’