|NBA Power Rankings, 3/4||03.04.10 at 10:40 am ET|
After a few weeks off, we’re back. This week we’re offering the reminder that things might not be as bad in ‘Celtics Land’ as you want to believe. They come in at… well, check for yourself:
1. Cleveland: He’s playing the best ball of his life. I’ve never seen him guard people as ferociously as he has lately. What he did against the Celtics — simply DECIDING to take Ray Allen out of the game — was Jordanesque.
2. Lakers: Watch this team play and you understand why coaches are always asking their GMs for big men. Their size is crazy, with all of their contributing big guys able to defend, rebound and score. Plus they have, you know, Kobe. Wow.
4. Orlando: There are a few things that scare me about Dwight Howard, beyond the double-doubles: he’s only 24; he’s developed his offensive game significantly since last year; and he’s become an extremely smart defensive player.
5. Atlanta: When the Cavaliers lost to the Magic last season, they improved their team with the Magic in mind. My question about the Hawks is this: did they do the same thing after being swept by the Cavs last year? In other words, Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith are nice additions, but is that enough to get by Cleveland?
6. Denver: God bless George Karl. He has beaten cancer before. Here’s to beating it again.
7. Boston: Put aside your anger at losing to the Nets; and your anger at Rasheed and his 3s; and the baffling inability to play well at home (damn, anything else?). The reality is that the Eastern Conference is weak after the top four teams are accounted for, and the Celtics still have no fear of the teams in front of them. Does that mean anything? And is Sean Grande right when he says that he and Cedric Maxwell will be in Cleveland for Game 1 of the Cavs-Celtics conference finals?
|Larry Brown: Don’t panic, Boston||03.03.10 at 11:43 pm ET|
“They buried us two games,” Brown said after his team lost 104-80 Wednesday night. In Boston’s home opener on Oct. 28, the Celtics prevailed, 92-59.
“But I don’t buy all this stuff that they’re in trouble. They’ve had some injuries. They’re just starting to get healthy. They got some new players like [Marquis] Daniels and Nate [Robinson] now, Rasheed [Wallace]. They’re gonna be fine. They got a great coach, they got great chemistry. They’re gonna be fine. I think everybody has bad periods but when you put the injuries they faced, all that’s done is develop depth.”
[Click here to hear Larry Brown rave about the Celtics.]
Brown has heard the naysayers proclaim the Celtics aren’t going anywhere because they’re old, because they can’t win at home and because they’ve lost the fire of a champion. Paul Pierce came out on fire Wednesday, scoring 27 points, one point for each minute he played.
“They’re gonna be alright,” Brown continued. “They play like this, this is the way Paul Pierce plays. Garnett was phenomenal. But I just like all the little pieces they have because I think Danny [Ainge] has done a tremendous job putting them in a position where they can play with just about anybody.’
“I don’t think anyone could have played in that environment,” Brown added. “They played great, they made shots, they executed great. We played hard but there were too many obstacles. But they played great. One time I think they were 10 for 12 from three. They shot 60% in the first half. Shared the ball. There bench was great. There bench was great last night. So if we had played our best I don’t know if that would have been good enough.”
|Doc Rivers postgame, 3/3||03.03.10 at 11:23 pm ET|
|Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett postgame, 3/3||03.03.10 at 11:16 pm ET|
|Jackson: Pierce challenged my manhood||03.03.10 at 11:03 pm ET|
During the game, that vocal spirit apparently offended Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson.
Following Wednesday night’s blowout 104-80 win by the Celtics, Jackson took issue with trash-talking by the Celtics and Pierce in particular.
“It turned disrespectful when certain things were said,” Jackson said. “You can be emotional in the game and you talk to your teammates and do all that but when you get personal and direct certain things to people as far as their manhood, that’s when the problems come up. And I guarantee you that if I wasn’t in this gym, that wouldn’t have been said to me.”
Pierce and Jackson got into a verbal battle and were each called for technical fouls with 7:31 remaining in the third quarter as Jackson was preparing to shoot free throws
[Click here to listen to Stephen Jackson speak out against the Celtics.]
|Fast Break: Celts rip Bobcats||03.03.10 at 9:58 pm ET|
Now, this is what the Celtics have been looking for.
Playing the second night of a back-to-back, and at home where they have struggled incomprehensibly this season, the Celtics finally put together a complete game in a 104-80 destruction of the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics shot 54 percent, while holding the Bobcats to 36 percent shooting. It was eerily reminiscent of their first meeting of the season way back in October when the Celtics won 92-59.
The starters were solid, the bench was terrific, everyone is healthy and for the first time in a long time the Celtics looked like the team we’ve grown accustomed to watching over the last two and a half seasons.
Turning Point: Coming out for the second half the Celtics had a nine-point lead, which was nice but considering the way they had played for most of the half should have been much higher. Another night of post-game laments seemed imminent. But the Celtics flipped the script, outscoring Charlotte 28-16 in the third quarter. It was the kind of third-quarter effort that has been lacking since December.
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored 27 points in just 27 minutes of action. He made nine of 13 shots and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range. That’s impressive in and of itself, but what made Pierce’s performance even more remarkable is that the 27 points was the most he has scored in a game since scoring 35 against the Hawks on Jan. 29.
* Ray Allen scored only three points and took just two shots in 17 minutes. He had early foul trouble and never got on track, but the Celtics didn’t need him on this night.
* The Celtics led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter before the Bobcats cut the lead down to four.
* Nate Robinson electrified the crowd with a buzzer-beater 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. He made his first four shots, all 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.
* Kendrick Perkins returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with the flu and scored five points early.
|Third quarter: Celtics-Bobcats||03.03.10 at 9:23 pm ET|
Looking to put some distance between themselves and the Bobcats, the Celtics finally put together a complete third quarter turning a nine-point halftime lead into an 82-61 advantage.
Paul Pierce continued his hot shooting and scored 13 of his 27 points in the quarter. It’s the most points for Pierce since he scored 35 against the Hawks in late January. Kevin Garnett is the only starter in double-figures with 12 points. Somewhat surprisingly, Ray Allen has scored only three points and taken just two shots.
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