|Fast Break: Whole lotta Kevin Love can’t stop Celtics||12.05.12 at 9:52 pm ET|
Two days after resting the over-36 crowd for a practice, Rivers watched Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 5 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 4 rebounds) lead his C’s to a 104-94 win over the visiting Timberwolves. Of course, Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists) returning from suspension didn’t hurt.
A whole lot of Kevin Love (19 points, 13 rebounds) couldn’t even help the T-Wolves (8-9), whose porous defense helped the Celtics improve to 10-8 on the season and 5-4 at the Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Minny driver: Last season, Garnett said he has “nothing positive to say” about his former NBA home, and he clearly played with an added edge against Minnesota. Not that Garnett doesn’t play with an edge every night, but he had a little something extra in the tank for the Timberwolves, starting 6-of-7 from the field and scoring 12 points in his first 11 minutes — his lone miss a failed shot clock buzzer-beater. He finished with his third double-double in his last five games to go along with four assists and an infinite number of dance moves during Gino Time.
Viejos amigos: Off the bench, the T-Wolves matched “6-foot” guard J.J. Barea against former Mavericks teammate Terry, who took advantage of his old friend. The Celtics guard made four of his six shots in the first half (1-2 3P), taking nine points, three rebounds and two assists into the break. He finished with 17 points on 10 shots.
Return of Rondo: Depending on how you look at it, Rondo either extended his streak of double-digit assists to 38 in games that he finishes or he just started a renewed march towards Magic Johnson‘s record of 46 straight games with 10 or more assists. Either way, Rondo returned to form after his two-game suspension for shoving Kris Humphries into the crowd. Apparently, his Mexican vacation served him well.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bearing gifts: As usual, the Celtics were in a giving mood, turning the ball over five times in their last six possessions before the half, including the final four. As a result, they turned what was once a seven-point lead into a 51-47 deficit at the break — thanks to Minnesota’s 10 fast-break points on a perfect 5-of-5 transition attempts. They cleaned it up a bit in the second half but still finished with 16 turnovers.
No Love lost: Leading up to the game, Pierce said, ‘Our main objective is to try and slow [Kevin Love] down. He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.’ Easier said than done. Midway through the third quarter, Love already had his double-double.
Key unlocked: Not only did Love have his way around the basket, but the Timberwolves combined for 50 points in the paint. Fellow bigs Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham also combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds. Somehow, though, the Celtics out-rebounded Minnesota by a 45-41 margin.
|Doc Rivers: ‘Just glad’ Austin Rivers is playing while Avery Bradley provides ‘great news’||at 8:04 pm ET|
Such was the case Wednesday pre-game when he was told that Avery Bradley told reporters he’s “maybe a week or two” from returning to practice after a pair of shoulder surgeries.
“Is that right? That’s great to hear,” Rivers said with a hearty laugh and smile. “I’m very happy to hear the news! Honestly, I didn’t know that because I don’t check. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte] will tell us when it’s time. I don’t focus on that stuff, guys being out. I have to focus on the guys wearing the uniform. With Avery, I talk to him every day and see how he’s doing, and I kid him about it but I don’t really ask.”
Rivers also spoke about his son Austin playing for the New Orleans Hornets, who may be on the verge of changing their name. Names like the Pelicans and Brass have been thrown out there to give the team a more regional flare. “I’m just glad he’s playing,” Rivers said.
On the return of Greg Stiemsma: “I’d love to have him here but I’m happy for him. He took advantage of a great situation, and I’m glad he did. He was terrific here.”
Rivers said that Leandro Barbosa showed up Wednesday and will dress but is hoping to stay away from playing him as he is still under the weather.
|Avery Bradley: ‘I feel like we’re a lot closer’||at 8:03 pm ET|
Told prior to Wednesday’s game that injured guard Avery Bradley feels a week or two away from returning to practice, Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew better than to bite on any timetables before talking to trainer Ed Lacerte.
“Thanks for telling me,” joked Rivers, who remains in daily contact with Bradley and the training staff about the status of the 22-year-old’s ailing shoulders. “I didn’t know that.”
Even Bradley backed off the two-week timeframe in case he ruins an early Christmas surprise for the Celtics.
“No timeframe,” he said. “We did at first, but we kind of got away from the timeframes, because when we were doing the timeframes, they weren’t consistent. Sometimes we would meet the timeframe and sometimes I wouldn’t be prepared when it got around the time. So, we stopped doing timeframes.”
Instead, he’s approaching recovery “day-by-day” — running, shooting, lifting, swimming — in hopes of passing Lacerte’s daily resistance tests. “I feel a lot better,” added Bradley. “I’m doing pushups now. I try to do them every single day to see how my arms feel, and I feel a lot stronger. It’s like night and day how I feel from two weeks ago.”
|Paul Pierce and Celtics get another chance to prove their toughness against Kevin Love||12.04.12 at 6:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM ‘ All season, the Celtics have been looking for a chance to prove their toughness.
At 9-8, they get another chance Wednesday night when they host the most impressive rebounder in the NBA. Kevin Love isn’t among the league leaders with 15.3 rebounds per game since he’s played just six games due to a broken knuckle on his right hand. But he will be eventually.
“Kevin Love is one of the best rebounders of our era,” said C’s coach Doc Rivers. “I know that’s saying something early on in his career, but he really is.”
In addition to coaching against him, Rivers got an up close and personal look at Love at the Olympics in London. Love, as Rivers noted Tuesday, was there helping Team USA flex its muscle early on in the Games while Team USA was still finding itself.
“Two of those games early in the Olympics were kind of close in the first half, the U.S. would have been down by 20 but Kevin Love kept getting rebounds and you stare at it and watch it, it’s an art.”
“Our main objective is to try and slow him down,” Paul Pierce said. “He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding, and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.”
Rivers thought the Celtics cleared a mental hurdle against the Thunder and Kevin Durant. Then they barely beat the Magic two days later and were beat up by the Nets. Pierce knows the Celtics can’t afford a relapse, even if they handle Love and the Timberwolves Wednesday.
“Going up against a guy like that definitely is a chance but it’s something you want to see consistently,” Pierce said. “In order to build and in order to get better, you can’t just pick your moments because you get one of the more physical players in the NBA coming into our building. It has to be a something that’s a mindset that we have to be able to do every night, regardless of who we’re going against”
Love is also averaging 21.7 points and represents the ultimate toughness challenge for Pierce and the Celtics, because he can also step back and shoot the three, though he has shot just 19.4 percent from long range this season.
“Kevin Love is such a different kind of player,” Pierce said. “He’s a power forward but he can step out and shoot the three, but he’s an interior player when it comes to rebounding and doing all the dirty work.”
“I went to Mexico for a couple of days and watched the games,” said Rondo, who was immediately asked if he was being serious. “It was cool.”
Rondo, who practiced with the team on Monday and Tuesday, said he just wanted to give his body a chance to rest. Team officials had no knowledge of Rondo traveling outside the country, leading to the conclusion that Rondo was simply joking with reporters.
“Why not? Had days off, allow my body to get a chance to rest,” Rondo said, insisting again that he went south of the border. “I wanted to be out there with my teammates but obviously a two-game suspension, and I was glued in front of the TV.
“Hopefully, I don’t feel too winded [Wedensday]. I’ve been off for about a week. We’ll see [Wednesday].”
The Celtics return to action on Wednesday night at 7:30, when they host Kevin Love and the Timberwolves at TD Garden. The Celtics went 1-1 without Rondo, beating Portland Friday easily before blowing a 17-point lead Saturday and losing in Milwaukee.
“We moved the ball very well without me,” Rondo said. “Guys played great, guys stepped up. Courtney [Lee] played well. We got off to a great start in Milwaukee but our defense slipped in terms of our blitz pick-and-roll defense. Other than that, the guys did a great job.”
Rondo said there was no lesson learned from the suspension. Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Why Atlantic Division matters to Celtics||at 1:36 pm ET|
The Celtics (9-8) are almost a quarter of a way through their season and rank fourth in the Atlantic Division.
The Knicks (12-4), Nets (11-5) and 76ers (10-7) all own better records. During the first four of their five consecutive Atlantic crowns, the Celtics owned no worse than a five-game lead through 20 games and seemingly had the division wrapped up by Christmas. Last year, the C’s started 10-10, fell behind by four games and spent the season chasing the Sixers for a fifth straight title. And that was without either of the New York teams involved.
“When you look from top to bottom, it’s a well-balanced division,” said Paul Pierce. “So, each and every game is important. At the end of the day, our goal isn’t to try to win the division; our goal is to win the championship. As far as the division is concerned, it’s about as competitive as it’s ever been since I’ve been a Boston Celtic.”
Declaring they’d rather win an NBA title than the Atlantic Division sounds nice and all, but announcing their aim “isn’t to try to win the division” is a mistake, since doing so gives them a better chance to reach that larger goal.
The Celtics need look no further than May as a prime example. If they hadn’t caught the 76ers, a) the C’s face the Bulls as the No. 7 seed on the road and likely lose in the first round if Derrick Rose doesn’t tear his ACL; and/or b) they play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Philadelphia, where they lost 2-of-3 playoff games.
Can the Celtics win a sixth straight Atlantic Division crown and set themselves up for another date with the Heat in the conference finals? Of course, but it’s going to be a lot tougher to chase down three teams rather than one.
|Paul Pierce: ‘When we set the tone defensively, that’s the Celtics I know’||12.01.12 at 5:19 pm ET|
It’s great defense that will lead the way out of the dark and uncertain times the team is experiencing right now.
When the team plays defense like it did Friday night, holding Portland to 23 percent shooting in the first half, easy offense will follow, and so will rhythm. That was particularly important with Rajon Rondo not available this weekend.
‘It made things easier on our offense to come out and play the way we did and cause turnovers,” Pierce said of the Celtics D, which forced 22 turnovers on Friday. “Then we were able to get out in transition. Guys ran’¦got easy opportunities. When we come out and set the tone defensively like we did tonight, that’s the kind of team that we are and that’s the Celtics I know.’
Before Friday’s game, Doc Rivers said the combination of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry would have to pick up the ball-handling slack in the backcourt. But as it turned out, the offense wound up running through the bigs starting with Pierce – a style the Celtics have employed in the past when they haven’t had Rondo available.
‘It’s a combination of guys, so Doc wanted us to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “He wanted us to move the ball and make the extra passes and I thought we did a good job of that most of the night. We could’ve toned down our turnovers, but I think we will be better tomorrow. It’s tough, we’re used to playing with Rondo and he makes a lot of our plays. We’ll get better and better.’
‘Courtney he really ran the floor well. Defensively he did a good job on his man, He’s out there getting 4 or 5 assists tonight, he just shows you flashes of what he’s capable of. Jeff [Green] is running the break, getting easy opportunities for himself. He’s one of the fastest guys out there’¦when he’s able to use that length.’
As for the motivation of Rivers calling the Celtics “soft” after Wednesday’s loss, Pierce just shrugged his shoulders and generally discounted it.
“You know, I’m always a true believer that you just just be motivated to go out and play, regardless,” Pierce said. “As an NBA competitor, you shouldn’t need anybody else to go out and motivate you. Maybe some guys took it as motivation. I’m motivated for the opportunity to come out here night in and night out. Whatever is going to get guys going, hopefully they can build on on that, if that what it was, and continue to do it throughout the season.”
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