|Courtney Lee, Jason Terry swap Celtics fortunes||01.15.13 at 1:10 am ET|
After the Celtics defeated the Bobcats, earning their sixth straight victory, the generally jovial Jason Terry walked through the locker room, head down, repeating: “Tough game. Tough game.”
He had just finished the worst night of his Celtics career, a scoreless effort in 15 minutes. Heck, C’s coach Doc Rivers even played Leandro Barbosa over Terry in an eight-point game midway through the fourth quarter.
“Just a feel, honestly,” said Rivers. “I thought we needed energy, and he’s always ready.”
Energy? Terry’s made a living on energy, finishing among the top Sixth Man of the Year candidates for as long as some of his teammates have been in the NBA. Yet, on a Monday night against the Charlotte Bobcats in the middle of January, he couldn’t get on the floor. For the time being, the tides have turned against Terry.
In November and December, Terry didn’t entirely meet the expectations set by his three-year, $15 million deal, but at least he averaged double-digit scoring on near 40 percent 3-point shooting in 30 minutes a night. That was only supposed to improve once Avery Bradley returned and allowed Terry to find his comfort zone off the bench.
Instead, he’s played 16 or fewer minutes in three of the C’s seven games this month, including a combined 31 minutes over the past two games. In the seven games since Bradley’s return from shoulder surgeries, Terry’s averaging only 4.6 points on 34.9 percent shooting from the field (23.8 3-point percentage).
Courtney Lee, who struggled mightily to start the season, appeared to be the odd man out. In the game prior to Bradley’s return, Terry dropped 20 points for the first time all season while Lee went scoreless in 21 minutes, and that was a microcosm of what the Celtics had seen from them all season.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double delivers sixth straight Celtics win||01.14.13 at 10:01 pm ET|
Apparently, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo doesn’t reserve his triple-doubles just for nationally televised games, since he recorded the 26th such night of his career in a 100-89 win on a Monday night against the Bobcats.
Rondo totaled 17 points (8-11 FG), 12 assists and 10 rebounds, leading the Celtics (20-17) to their sixth straight victory. Paul Pierce (19 points), Avery Bradley (16 points) and Jeff Green (11 points) all reached double figures while Kevin Garnett grabbed 10 boards on a poor shooting night (2-11 FG).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo from the get-go: The Celtics point guard assisted on the C’s first four field goals — getting Bradley, Pierce and Brandon Bass involved within the game’s first 1:45 — and then made their next four buckets, staking the home team to a 16-6 advantage midway through the first quarter. By the end of the opening frame, Rondo recorded nine points, six rebounds and five assists. Needless to say, Good Rondo was in the house.
Avery good night: With the possible exception of his 13-point, five-assist night against the Knicks last week, Bradley enjoyed his sharpest offensive performance of the season. His defense never relents, but his offense hasn’t quite rounded into pre-surgery form. The slashing backdoor buckets are still there, but Bradley connected on 56 percent (20-36) of his corner 3-pointers last season, and he started this winter 2-of-9 from the same spots. Against the Bobcats, however, Bradley made 4-of-7 triples, all from the corner.
Green light: Quietly, Green’s scoring numbers are climbing into double digits. He entered the game averaging 9.7 points per game and connected on four of his first seven shots off the bench, scoring all 11 of his points over a five-minute stretch in the second quarter. He’s now reached double figures in 17 games, including three of his last four. His rebounding numbers, while still not reflective of a 6-foot-9 hybrid forward, are also rising.
|Avery Bradley happy NBA moving back to his hometown||01.09.13 at 9:04 pm ET|
|Avery Bradley: ‘It’s hard to beat us when we’re playing this way’||01.05.13 at 9:31 am ET|
This was the lineup and the effort Doc Rivers had been waiting for. But more to the point, this was the effort everyone had been expecting from the Celtics.
Avery Bradley at the ’2′ providing smothering defense with a cast of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo around him. Brandon Bass was even inserted back into the starting lineup Friday, giving the Celtics the lineup they had when they made their run at the end of last season.
The result was a 94-75 win over the Pacers in which defense was the main attraction and Bradley, according to Rivers, was the MVP.
“Avery was 3-for-11 and he may have been the most valuable player tonight because his defensive pressure, just on the ball, it made them take so much time to get into their sets and when they got in their sets it wasn’t the right spot,” Rivers said. “They had to go in places they didn’t want to, and it allowed our entire defense to be dominant. And so Rondo was part of it as well. Where I was real happy with Rondo was in the second and third especially. His speed he played on offense, where he attacked the basket and made things happen, that’s a good sign for us.”
The Celtics held the Pacers to 27-of-85 shooting (31.8 percent). They held Indiana to 75 points, the fewest they’ve allowed all season. Bradley was in the face of Lance Stephenson all night, holding him to 1-for-6 from the floor.
“That’s what I try to bring every night,” Bradley said. “I try to bring that intensity on the defensive end but that’s my role, to be the energy when I come into the game. I just try to make it hard on the opponent every single night, and that’s all I did tonight. It means nothing to me, it just means that I’m taking steps forward, and next game I gotta continue to get better and better.
“We’ve been making steps forward on that defensive end and offensive end and everything’s starting to come together as a team and we just gotta continue to keep taking steps forward and we’ll be the team that we want to be from the beginning of the year” Read the rest of this entry »
|Paul Pierce: Celtics can beat any team in the East||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|
Even if his jump shot isn’t back yet, the Celtics really need Avery Bradley‘s attitude.
“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|
Avery Bradley may have returned to the starting lineup, but the same old Celtics took the Garden floor in a loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday night that looked worse than the 93-83 final.
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).