|Good Tony arrives just in time||05.10.10 at 3:58 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You could have made a lot of money in October if you wagered that the Celtics best, most consistent and indispensable bench player in the 2010 playoffs would have been Tony Allen, but here we are.
Allen had his moments in the Miami series when he was asked to guard Dwyane Wade, but his contributions in this series have been a little more under the radar. That is, until Game 4, when he scored 15 points in 25 minutes and converted a dunk on what may have been the play of the game: Rajon Rondo’s blind pass with LeBron James closing fast on the break.
“I like playing with Rajon,” Allen said Monday after the Celtics completed practice. “Let me say, I like playing with everybody but he’s one of the guys that’s mainly looking for you to score as opposed to other guys, you have to feed off of them. He’s actually looking for you. He brings out my game, I must say that.”
Allen doesn’t find himself on the court with Rondo as much as the others because he has been filling the role of backup point guard when Rondo gets one of his rare breaks. But it paid dividends for the Celtics in Game 4 when Rondo teamed with Allen and the rest of the reserves in a makeshift lineup late in the third quarter and into the fourth.
James essentially left Allen alone, and that also allowed James to roam the court in a manner that Doc Rivers termed, “disruptive.” But Allen forced the issue, going backdoor for layups and not only making strong athletic plays, but smart ones as well.
Allen’s come a long way in the last two and a half months and it should no longer be a pleasant surprise when he performs well. Now, it’s an expectation.
“What more can I say?” Allen asked. “I wasn’t playing then. I’m playing now. Basically, I got a role. I took advantage of the role and things happen with me taking that role. I took advantage of my opportunity. I’m taking it all in stride.”
|Pierce: There’s nothing wrong with me||05.10.10 at 3:05 pm ET|
WALTHAM –When a player like Paul Pierce struggles offensively the way he has in the Celtics series with Cleveland, questions naturally arise. Most prominently: Is he hurt?
Pierce has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season, but given the caveat that every player is a little banged up at this point in the season, he stated flatly Monday after the Celtics went through a brief practice that he was fine.
“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Pierce said. “For me, it’s just being ready, being focused, giving my team whatever it needs to win. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
There are other mitigating factors that have contributed to his sub-par numbers (16-for-50, 4-for-18 from 3-point range). For one, he has found himself in early foul trouble and for another, he is guarding LeBron James at the other end of the floor.
“I’m digging myself a ditch as far as with my fouls,” Pierce said. “I think they’re good fouls that I’m giving, some bad ones, but that’s the way the game goes.”
“Paul’s fine,” Doc Rivers said when asked about his health. “Obviously we want more out of him, but we’re getting a lot out of him. I think, unfortunately for Paul, he’s an offensive players and that’s what everyone sees in him. He has a defensive role in this series and so they’re going to look at his offensive numbers. That’s the bad part of being Paul Pierce, really. If it was Tony Allen, people would be happy. He’s doing a great job defensively, but it’s Paul, so they want more. And we’re going to get more out of Paul. I believe that.”
Pierce was asked if he felt like he at least one vintage Paul Pierce game in him for the last three games of the series.
“I hope so, but that’s not something I’m pressing,” he said. “I’m trying to help my team win. Whether it’s scoring or defense, it’s about winning.”
Pierce is also a veteran, and he’s drawing on past experiences to get him through this stretch.
“I’m not a rookie,” Pierce said. “It is my 12th year. I’ve been in every situation. I know I can get through those times mentally. It doesn’t affect me like it used to when I was a younger player, where I had two or three fouls and not really playing the type of basketball I wanted to play. The key is to just stay focused and doing what you can do to help the team. All that other stuff goes out the window.”
|Inside the Rondo adjustment||05.09.10 at 3:04 pm ET|
In Game 3 the Cavaliers made a simple, but effective adjustment on Rajon Rondo by having Anthony Parker pick him up full court. The move slowed down the Celtics offense just enough to force them into a number of forced perimeter jump shots. Rondo made only three of his first nine shots in the first quarter and six of those were from outside the paint.
The Cavs jumped out to a 36-17 lead and never looked back.
“Rondo’s playing major minutes,” Parker said. “He’s the guy that makes them go. We felt like if we could just make him work. He’s so quick and so talented that he can get where he has to go. So if you just make him work a little bit more. The mentality of our team is one that puts us in an aggressive mindset and that’s the kind of mindset we had for four quarters in the last game.”
The Cavs haven’t come up with anything special for Paul Pierce. They seem content to see if Kevin Garnett can beat them in the post. All of their defensive attention and focus has been on Rondo, and for good reason.
“He does so much,” Parker said. “He’s the steals leader. He’s a great rebounder for a guard. He runs the team and he’s extremely capable of finishing in the paint with all kinds of awkward shots. He’s continued to improve since he’s come into the league.”
What made the move so intriguing is that it came from Parker and a handful of other players and assistants. Cavs coach Mike Brown trusts the people around him to offer insights and suggestions. While the final decision rests with him, he is confident and secure enough to listen. That’s unusual in the NBA, especially for a coach who probably has more pressure on him than any of his peers in the playoffs.
“That’s the thing that I give him so much credit for,” Parker said. “In this environment, coaching is so competitive and the tendency is to have your hands on everything. I give him so much credit because he delegates so much authority, but honestly the final decision still rests with him.”
And so does the criticism.
“He still does it and I think he does it effectively,” Parker said. “He makes everybody feel like they’re a part of this. The success of it is I think you can get your players to buy into the system and buy into what you’re doing it will be more effective.”
Brown has good reason to trust Parker who has banged around Europe and the NBA and brings experience and smarts to his role.
“AP’s extremely intelligent,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him coaching, whether it’s at this level or the collegiate level, wherever he wants to. He’s a great character guy, he has patience and he’s been there, done that in a lot of different situations. His IQ for the game of basketball is pretty high.”
The Celtics have downplayed the adjustment and Rondo did do a good job of dealing with the defense and remaining a threat. He finished with 18 points and eight assists and it’s a measure of how far he’s come that his stat line was considered a sub-par game.
Parker has something to do with it as well. He has played solid defense in this series and remained a threat shooting corner 3-pointers.
“He brings length to the team and great shooting,” Brown said. “He’s not necessarily a physical defensive presence like a Bruce Bowen, but he has a defensive presence because he’ll bust his behind on every play. It’s a better team with him out on the floor.”
The game within the game in this series for the Celtics offensively starts with Rondo. He had controlled the pace and play in the first two games. The Cavs found a way to slow him in Game 3 and now it’s on him to provide the counter.
|Jokes continue at Ainge’s expense||05.06.10 at 4:45 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The NBA fined Danny Ainge $25,000 for “creating an unauthorized distraction” during Game 2 on the Celtics-Cavs series. In other words, he threw a towel up in the air while J.J. Hickson was shooting free throws.
The Celtics have been amused by this episode and Doc Rivers got in a few more one-liners at his boss’ expense Thursday.
“I was surprised, actually, at the fine,” Rivers said. “I know a lot of people were not. I was because he’s just an employee. What’s the difference between that and the mascots do it all the time. I was just wondering if Danny had worn Lucky’s outfit he would have gotten away with it.”
“I laughed because I know Danny,” Rivers continued. “Danny is as competitive of a person as I’ve ever met in my life. They were making a run, you could see them getting back into the game, and he couldn’t do anything about it. It was funny to me. The $25,000? That’s not so funny. Joke’s over now.”
And, hopefully, so is this story.
|Perk unplugged||05.06.10 at 4:35 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Kendrick Perkins always looks like a man who gets no respect. He wears the same scowl on his face whether he’s happy or mad. That scowl is what makes opposing fans dislike him and probably doesn’t help his cause with the referees either, to whom he is also constantly showing that same sour puss.
Perkins was left off the NBA’s All-Defensive Team for the second straight season and Doc Rivers joked that maybe that look turned some voters off.
“Well, I guess it’s going to continue to happen,” Perkins said. “Because I ain’t changing the way I look.”
That was a joke in case you needed context and Perkins had a few ready Thursday after he returned to practice with a hyperextended right knee.
His reaction to getting six stitches in his lip courtesy of Shaquille O’Neal?
“Man, I look at it like I’m already ugly,” he said. “I can’t add nothing else to that, man.”
Perkins defense on Shaq has been no laughing matter. After holding Jermaine O’Neal to 9-for-44 shooting in the first round against Miami, Perkins has kept Shaq in check (8-for-22, 20 points in two games). His one-on-one defense in the post is vital because the Celtics feel like they can’t afford to offer help on the Cavs post players.
It’s that ability play imposing post players without help that has begun to make Perkins’ reputation.
“I don’t see why he doesn’t get enough votes for the All-Defensive Team,” Rivers said. “I don’t know if there’s a better on-man defender in the league than Perk at the 5-spot.”
High praise, especially for a player who came into the league with all of the physical tools, but who had to learn from scratch the basics of footwork and positioning. Perkins said that he’s learned from his veteran teammates and included a surprising former mentor.
“I take bits and piece from a lot of guys,” he said. “I watch how [Kevin Garnett] guards some guys. I take a little bit from him. Little bit from Rasheed. I learned some things from Mark Blount too, believe it or not.”
Still, whether he gets respect or not, Perkins is fully confident in his abilities.
“It’s disappointing a little bit because you feel like you can defend better than half of those guys that made it,” Perkins said. “But at the same time, give credit to them for making it.”
|Garnett practices, feels good||05.06.10 at 2:29 pm ET|
WALTHAM –Kevin Garnett returned to Celtics practice Thursday and by all accounts, enjoyed a quick recovery from what the team called a right mid-foot strain.
“I’m feeling really good,” Garnett said. “Went through practice today. It was pretty hard. Good day. I’m not injured. I just banged my foot, got on the plane and it blew up on me. Nothing more, nothing less than that.”
Garnett added that, “I’ll definitely be ready to go [in Game 3, Friday].”
Garnett appeared to injure his foot when Kendrick Perkins landed on his foot in the first half. He sort of verified that version of events.
“Little bit,” Garnett said. “The good thing is I was able to finish the game strongly.”
Garnett, and Perkins (hyperextended knee) were both held out of practice Wednesday. Perkins was deemed precautionary and no one was surprised that he returned Thursday. Garnett’s was a little trickier. He apparently wanted to practice Wednesday, but was shut down by Doc Rivers.
“We live on the planet of Doc Rivers,” Garnett said. “And on that planet sometimes you have to sit out a day”
Rivers expressed his doubt yesterday that Garnett would have been able to practice, but he was pleasantly surprised by his recovery.
“He’s good,” Rivers said. “He went most of the practice and moved pretty well. I was surprised he went, yeah. Eddie [Lacerte, the team's trainer] and I, but the swelling went down a lot yesterday and none today. He said he didn’t feel any pain, so that was good. We expected Perk, but Kevin was a surprise. Perk looks fine. He moved pretty well. For Perk. He moved well for Perk.”
One way to tell that Garnett was feeling good was he was in a joking mood with the media. Someone asked him, how he “woke up Rasheed Wallace.” Garnett replied, “I slapped his [butt].” He was kidding. We think.
|Rondo’s honor: All defense||05.05.10 at 4:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Rajon Rondo set a goal of making the NBA’s All Defense First Team and he was rewarded by the league Wednesday. Rondo earned the second most votes, both first place and overall, behind Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.
“It strokes my ego,” he joked after the team’s practice Wednesday. “It’s something I’ve worked for since I’ve come into the league. One of my goals this year was to make the first team.”
Rondo deflected credit to his teammates who posted the league’s fifth best defensive efficiency rating (a step down from previous seasons).
“Having four guys behind you makes you look a lot better,” Rondo said. “When I get beat on the dribble I got Perk and Kevin [Garnett] blocking those shots.”
Rondo led the league in steals with 189 [and set a new franchise record in the process], but those steals have sometimes been a point of contention to those who felt that he gambled too much. The Celtics feel that he has curbed those tendencies and has played more solid on the ball defense this season.
“He deserves it,” Doc Rivers said. “He works at it. It’s a great honor. When you’re on the first team in anything it’s a hell of an honor.”
Rondo’s defense was a key component in the Celtics first round series win over the Heat. When he was able to pressure full court, Miami had major trouble getting into its offense. The key word for him is disruptive because of his steals and also his deflections.
The Celtics have had to rely on him in their series with the Cavs even more. He has played 87 of the available 96 minutes in the first two games and the Celtics have been +19 when he’s in the game and -9 when he’s been out. Tony Allen has been the nominal point guard in Rondo’s absence, but the Celtics have had Ray Allen and Paul Pierce bring the ball up at times.
“I’m OK with Tony,” Rivers said. “I don’t know the answer with Rondo. I don’t like the minutes, but as you saw in the fourth quarter, we took him for two minutes and it changed quickly. Our plan was to take him out in the first half, but then Paul got in foul trouble. I told him at that point, I’m sorry.”