|Inside job: Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham dominate as T’Wolves finally beat Celtics||04.01.13 at 10:21 pm ET|
Another road game. Another undermanned Celtics team. And another road loss.
The Celtics, playing without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, were overpowered by Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham and the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 110-100 loss at the Target Center Monday night. Pekovic took advantage of an undersized front court with a game-high 29 points while Cunningham added 19 points and five rebounds off the bench for Minnesota, which beat Boston for the first time in 12 meeting dating back to the pre-Garnett era in Boston.
The defenseless Celtics (38-36) fell for the second straight night and dropped their seventh in nine games. With Milwaukee beating Charlotte, the seventh-place Celtics are just 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks (one game in loss column) for eight-place. If Boston, which has eight games left, finishes eighth, they will face Miami in the first round.
What Monday’s game lacked in star power it made up for in offense from unexpected places.
The Celtics were without Garnett (left foot) and Pierce (personal reasons) while the Timberwolves were still without U.S. Olympic champion Kevin Love (broken hand).
The Timberwolves (27-46) turned to Pekovic and he responded with a huge opening quarter. The 27-year-old native of Montenegro scored 15 points as Minnesota dominated the paint and took a 27-25 lead after 12 minutes.
Since acquiring Garnett – the most accomplished player in Timberwolves history – after the 2006-07 season, the Celtics were 10-0 against Minnesota. Overall, the Celtics had won 11 straight against Minnesota dating back to Boston’s last loss, 109-107, on Feb. 11, 2007 in Minnesota.
Adding to Boston’s misery on the inside, big men Shav Randolph and Chris Wilcox each picked up three personal fouls. Courtney Lee’s three with 3:15 left in the second quarter tied the game, 45-45. But the Timberwolves came back with the next four points before Avery Bradley connected on a jumper as the game kept a quick tempo leading up to halftime. Bradley’s hit 6-of-8 in the first half and single-handedly kept Boston within range with 15 first half points. Bradley led the Celtics with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
Boston was manhandled in the paint in the first half. Pekovic scored 21 points in the first half, part of an effort that had Minnesota outscoring getting outscored 34-18 and allowing Minnesota to grab a 57-52 halftime lead.
The Timberwolves went on a 10-4 run midway thought the third to open their biggest lead, 80-66, before Jason Terry responded with a long two-point jumper. Terrence Williams followed that up with a baseline three to cut Minnesota’s lead down to nine, 80-71, with just over three minutes left in the third.
Randolph picked up his fifth foul seconds later but stayed in the game to give the Celtics some size in the paint. As the Celtics were making a run late in the third quarter, Jeff Green came up limping, holding his left hip. Green, who played the entire first half and the first six minutes of the third quarter before finally coming out for a breather, took a knee from Pekovic to the left thigh/hip area. Green stayed in the game and was part of a 12-4 run that cut Minnesota’s lead to six, 84-78, heading into the fourth. Green finished with just 10 points in 38 minutes.
With the Celtics defense forcing a near turnover, Derrick Williams hit a three to open the fourth quarter and push Minnesota’s lead back to nine.
Lee came in for Green with just over 10 minutes left as Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte tended to Green’s left hip. The T-Wolves went on a 7-0 run midway through the fourth that was capped by an Alexey Shved three with 7:45 left to put Minnesota up, 96-82. The Celtics could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.
The Celtics are off Tuesday before hosting the Pistons on Wednesday night at TD Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|The Celtics love them some Shavlik Randolph||03.30.13 at 2:12 am ET|
When security opened the Celtics locker room after Friday’s 118-107 win over the Hawks, reporters rushed to Shavlik Randolph‘s locker, but the PR staff announced he had already left. The Duke product generally makes postgame small talk for a bit with anybody willing to listen, so his absence came as a surprise to some.
For the C’s, though, it should be refreshing. On the best night of his NBA career, Randolph ducked the media scrum, dodged questions that would have made his China-to-Boston journey the headline in Saturday’s papers and generally just avoided becoming the focus on a night when veteran teammates Paul Pierce (20-10-10 triple-double), Jeff Green (game-high 27 points) and Jason Terry (24 points on 10 shots) all performed better.
In other words, Randolph knows his role. That or he wanted to watch his alma mater’s Sweet 16 date with Michigan St. Either way, his new teammates welcomed the opportunity to heap praise upon the journeyman.
“He understands who he is,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, “and he does it.”
|Avery Bradley: Celtics not ‘playing the right way’||03.27.13 at 12:25 am ET|
Avery Bradley‘s performance had New York media wondering what all the fuss has been over the 22-year-old.
Average Bradley better be the second coming of Michael Cooper defensively because offensively he’s a liability.
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) March 27, 2013
Bradley submitted another poor shooting effort in Tuesday night’s 100-85 loss to the Knicks, making just 3-of-11 attempts and dropping his field goal percentage to only 30.5 percent over his last eight games. In that same stretch, a 2-6 run for the Celtics, he has committed as many turnovers as he has collected assists (14).
“He’s struggling,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team has lost five straight games. “Listen, Avery’s trying his best. His shot is struggling right now. He can shoot the ball, but when you’re thinking about it, he’s clearly going through something. And so we’re going to have to to try to get him through that.
“Especially now with all the guys out, we’re going to need him to be effective. I’m probably going to have to do something to try to get him going more, not less. But I feel for him, because he wants to play hard, he wants to play right, but you can see it. So, we’ll get him going.”
The most troubling part of Bradley’s offense has been his inability to finish at the rim. He entered Tuesday’s game shooting just 45.7 percent within eight feet, and he clanged another four gimmes against the Knicks. He’s missed significantly more layups (76) than he has corner 3-pointers (53), where he’s been decent despite his struggles.
|LeBron James posterizes Jason Terry||03.18.13 at 9:22 pm ET|
Terry was making his way up the court in transition when he was picked by Dwyane Wade, who flipped the ball under his arm to Mario Chalmers. Chalmers dished to Norris Cole under the basket who spotted James trailing the play and lobbed it up. This is what happend to Terry:
This was Jordan posterizing Brandon Knight of the Pistons back on March 10:
|Green Night: With no Kevin Garnett, C’s find a way to blow out Bobcats||03.16.13 at 9:50 pm ET|
With Kevin Garnett sitting out with a strained adductor (groin) in his left leg, all five starters managed to score in double figures as the Celtics exacted revenge on the Charlotte Bobcats with a 105-88 laugher Saturday night at TD Garden. The Celtics avenged their 100-74 loss on Tuesday night in Charlotte, when Doc Rivers gave Paul Pierce the night off.
On Saturday night, Pierce scored a very efficient 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the field, adding eight assists and six rebounds as the Celtics pulled away in the second half for the blowout win, their 11th straight at home. The Celtics improved to 36-29 while the Bobcats fell to a league-worst 14-52, with two of those 14 coming against Boston. Gerald Henderson, who had a career-high 35 points in Tuesday’s game, finished with just 16.
The Celtics hit 10-of-14 from three-point range, led by a perfect 3-for-3 from Jason Terry, who finished with a team-leading 15 points. Avery Bradley had 13 while Jeff Green, starting for Garnett, had 10 on 5-of-9 shooting. The Celtics, out-rebounded 48-29 in Tuesday’s loss, picked it up on the glass, beating Charlotte on the boards 42-35.
Leading 40-39 late in the second quarter, the Celtics went on a 10-4 spurt to close the half, as Pierce scored the final six points of the run.
The Celtics went up nine points in the first half and early third quarter, only to have the Bobcats respond. But leading 59-53, Green converted a layup that started a 16-4 run that put the game away. The Celtics led 83-66 heading into the fourth.
The Celtics scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, capped off by slam dunks from Chris Wilcox and Shav Randolph as the Celtics led, 92-66. The Bobcats made things somewhat interesting with a three-point barrage as part of a 20-7 run that cut the lead to 13 with 3:35 left.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever seen’ defense like Avery Bradley’s||03.14.13 at 12:04 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday to discuss Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s scoring milestones, the Heat’s winning streak and other NBA topics.
“It’s really cool when you hear names like Jerry West,” Rivers said. “Kevin Garnett just passed the NBA logo, and Paul passes Charles Barkley. So when you hear names like that, you know how lucky you are as a coach that you’re coaching guys like that.”
After Garnett’s milestone, he received a thunderous ovation from the TD Garden crowd, and he acknowledged the reception for a few moments. While that might not be a typical thing for Garnett to do, Rivers said that the future Hall-of-Famer is realizing just how close his career is to being over.
“I do think over this year especially, I think he understands that he has how many years left, and we don’t know that,” Rivers said. “But I do think he’s starting to acknowledge a lot of that and appreciate it, and soak it in, and I’m happy he’s doing that.”
The C’s victory Wednesday came after perhaps their worst loss of the season Tuesday. They fell on the road to the lowly Bobcats, 100-74, albeit without Pierce. Similar to how Rivers gave Garnett a game off recently, he decided to do the same with the captain Tuessday.
“Paul was banged up a little bit in the Oklahoma game,” Rivers said. “I thought just the Oklahoma travel, that was a very difficult trip. When you travel basically four hours, get off a plane and play the next day at 12 noon. … That was a difficult game for us.
“You’re thinking about two things. You want to win every game now. But you also want to be fresh and right when the playoffs start. To do that, with Kevin especially, and then maybe Paul, and even JET [Jason Terry], we have to consider doing it.”
|Irish Coffee: Where Avery Bradley adds a jump shot||03.06.13 at 10:45 am ET|
While everyone’s been rightfully lauding Avery Bradley‘s defense, he’s added a mid-range game.
In Tuesday’s 109-101 victory against the 76ers, the Celtics guard drained 4-of-5 long jumpers (16-23 feet). Heck, he even attempted a couple from 10-15 feet, where he hadn’t made a shot in more than a month. It’s almost as if he previously had devastating shoulder injuries, and he’s only now fully recovering. Oh, wait, he did. And he is.
“He’s starting to make the little pull-up jump shot,” C’s coach Doc Rivers told reporters in the postgame. “He’s been making the 3’s for the most part. He keeps shooting them, and we want him to, but I’m really happy with his pull-up off the dribble. That’s a big shot for us later, and he’s starting to make that. And that’s big.”
The 3-pointers part is debatable, since Bradley’s steadily been shooting around 31 percent from there this season after making 41 percent a year ago. His corner 3-point shooting has also dipped from 56 percent last season to 34 percent this winter. But Bradley’s honing a new weapon for his offensive arsenal: the long jumper.
Oh, great, another jump shooter on the Celtics, you say. Well, consider this: Bradley’s making 51 percent of his long jumpers over the past 12 games on an average of 3.6 attempts. That’s a marked improvement from his first 16 games, when he shot 39 percent on 2.3 attempts during a physical and mental adjustment period upon his return.
Because defenders must now respect Bradley’s newfound jump shot (see video), he’s also getting to the rim twice as often over the past 12 games, converting 60 percent of his 3.8 shots per game within three feet. His scoring numbers are up 50 percent in that same stretch, which has ripple effects throughout the Celtics roster.
“He’s confident,” added Rivers. “I don’t think he ever lost it. He was questioning it at times.
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