|Paul Pierce: Celtics can beat any team in the East||01.05.13 at 1:09 am ET|
When the Grizzlies briefly knocked the Celtics out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, handing them a fourth straight loss and their eighth in the last 10, many buried the C’s. Just like they did the 2010 and 2012 versions. Even some of members of the team questioned their contender status. But this isn’t Paul Pierce‘s first rodeo.
“I was telling the guys before the game, you know, I told them to look at the East,” said the Celtics captain, who totaled 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his team’s dismantling of the Pacers that lifted them back into the eighth spot in the conference. “There’s not one team out there that we feel like we can’t beat.
“You’ve got a couple of elite teams out there — San Antonio, Oklahoma City — and I was telling them how well we played against Oklahoma City. There’s no reason that we can’t play well against everybody like that. If you look at the elite teams, and we’re able to compete with them, then why can’t we compete with the other teams are coming here, like the Milwaukees, like the [Pacers], like the Grizzlies. I just want to keep the confidence going in the locker room and help them understand that when we want to, we can be this type of team.”
|Avery Bradley’s philosophy: ‘Defense is just effort’||01.03.13 at 9:38 am ET|
“Defense is just effort,” he said after his return from double shoulder surgery. “If you give effort, you can never have a bad defensive game. That’s how I think of it. You play as hard as you can. That’s all you have to do.”
Outside of Kevin Garnett and possibly Jason Collins, it’s hard to say there’s anybody else on the Celtics who offers a consistent effort on the defensive end every night. Just ask Tony Allen. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce often conserve themselves for the offensive end, Courtney Lee hasn’t come as advertised defensively and nobody else on the C’s roster has developed much of a defensive reputation, unless you include Fab Melo, who started the season falling into a folding chair and currently suffers from a concussion after walking into a doorway.
In addition to being the NBA’s worst rebounding team, the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category after ranking among the top five teams in defensive rating every season since 2008.
“Every team has its up and downs,” said Bradley, who scored four points on six shots during Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies. “The best teams are the ones that can go through the adversity and overcome it. With the veteran leadership we have, I feel like we’re going to overcome it. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
|Fast Break: Grizzlies maul Celtics in 4th straight loss||01.02.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
Despite a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that slashed a Grizzlies lead that had grown as large as 18 points to just five with a handful of minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to make up for three quarters of dreadful play that left the C’s three games under .500 (14-17) for the first time this season.
Bradley made his first bucket after missing the opening 30 games of the season, finishing with four points in 18 minutes. Rajon Rondo (11 points, 9 assists), who battled a bruised hip, Paul Pierce (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) were the only Celtics in double figures. Hence, the team’s fourth straight loss and eighth in the last 10 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Memphis shooting: In the first half, the Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 61.1 percent and scored 50 points on 36 shots. Mike Conley (23 points, 9 assists) and old friend Tony Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds) shot a combined 9-of-11 before the break. Heck, even Darrell Arthur (10 points), who entered without a 3-pointer in 204 career games, drained two triples in the span of 1:43 in the second quarter.
Garnett’s first half: Whether it was a New Year’s hangover or not, Garnett started an atrocious 1-of-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers as the Grizzlies took a 50-41 lead into the break. It’s no surprise the defense also struggled on a night when KG didn’t have his best performance.
The Collins experiment: Celtics starting center Jason Collins may have limited Marc Gasol‘s scoring, but he did little to quell the C’s overall defense and rebounding woes. (The Celtics were out-rebouned 39-27 and gave up eight offensive boards). Plus, he’s essentially nonexistent on the offensive end. In what’s been a trend for Collins, he had as many personal fouls (2) as points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce’s first quarter: The Celtics captain started a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the first quarter. He may not have been as successful in the paint, but his effort from long distance helped keep the C’s afloat as the Grizzlies made two-thirds of their shots in the early going.
Avery’s arrival: Bradley started opposite Mike Conley and held the Memphis guard to two shots (a successful 3-pointer and a runner from 6 feet) and two assists in 13:22 of shared floor time in the first half. In Conley’s remaining first-half minutes (8:22), he made 4-of-6 shots and generated three assists. In other words, even if Bradley’s offense was rusty (1-4 FG), he’s still effective on the defensive end.
The bench: Bradley’s presence also pushes Jason Terry (8 points) to the bench, creating some semblance of consistency at Doc Rivers‘ disposal. Believe it or not, the second unit actually turned a 14-12 deficit when Garnett sat in the first quarter into a 31-27 advantage when KG returned — thanks in large part to Brandon Bass (9 points).
Doc Rivers announced before Wednesday’s game that Rajon Rondo had been cleared to play and would start with Avery Bradley in the Celtics backcourt as the team looks for a defensive spark to turn around its three-game losing streak.
Rondo suffered a bruised right hip against the Clippers on Thursday and missed Saturday’s game against the Warriors before returning on Sunday in the loss to the Kings. Rondo sat out Tuesday’s practice before working out two hours before Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies and getting cleared to play.
Meanwhile, Bradley is making his season debut after surgery on both shoulders in the offseason. Rivers said before the game there would be no minutes limitations on Bradley in his first appearance of the season.
“I just think the quicker we get to our lineup, the better,” Rivers said. “We’re going to get to it anyway, so why wait?”
“If he’s hurting us, we take him out; if he’s playing well, we let him play,” said Rivers. “I think it’ll be vision, but listen, we gotta play with some kind of pace, offensively and defensively, obviously. So it’ll be pretty easy to see.”
Rivers said he hasn’t paid attention to reports that Bradley will be the key to a turnaround.
“I haven’t paid too much attention to all this stuff. Is he [Bill] Russell yet? Or [Bob] Cousy? I don’t know,” Rivers said. “If that’s what [media has] made him, and if he lives up to that, then I’m good with that. I hope everyone’s right.”
Can Bradley make the rest of the Celtics better defenders?
“If you take one great defensive player and you put him on a team, the team is going to be a better defensive team,” Rivers added. “And as important as bigs are, I’ve always thought, especially if it’s a guard that applies pressure, that kinda fuels energy. You see it and it’s hard for you not to do it. You got this guy doing it and then, what, are you not going to do anything? It clearly helps. Again, because this is his first game this year, the other players have a 30-game advantage on him as far as timing and stuff, as far as running their stuff. I’m not looking for the world today or tomorrow, even in a week. But it’s going to come.”
|Judging by this, Avery Bradley looks real close to returning||12.21.12 at 6:23 pm ET|
Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley, Kris Joseph and Courtney Lee play a game of 2-on-2 before Friday’s game between the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. Rondo and Bradley took turns guarding one another.
Bradley was cleared to return to contact practice Monday in Chicago and judging by this, he looks real close to returning. In this video, he shows why he is considered the best on-ball defender on the Celtics and one of the best in the NBA.
|Irish Coffee: A brief Kevin Garnett lesson on chemistry and evolution||12.20.12 at 10:44 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.
While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.
“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”
Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per 82games.com.
- Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
- Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
- Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
- Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
- Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
- Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small
One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.
|Irish Coffee: What Avery Bradley does for the Celtics||12.19.12 at 1:22 pm ET|
Well, he was last season. The Celtics finished 20-9 in Bradley’s 29 starts last year, including a 14-5 record once he took Ray Allen‘s starting job on March 25, and they were essentially a .500 team (19-18) when he wasn’t in the starting lineup. Funny how the C’s have started 12-12 without him this season.
But Bradley does more than impact their record. When he took the floor with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics outscored their opponents 113-94 per 100 possessions. That’s seven points better on offense and defense than the Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Bass-Garnett lineup (106-101 per 100 possessions).
That’s also far better than Rondo, Pierce, Bass and Garnett with Jason Terry (108-99) or Courtney Lee (106-115) this season. The Celtics shot better (50.6 eFG%), forced opponents to shoot worse (39.5 eFG%), got to the line more often (+28 FTA) and rebounded better (47.0 REB%) with Bradley than with Allen, Terry or Lee.