|Fast Break: Ray Allen’s trey sinks Knicks||04.17.11 at 9:46 pm ET|
Seconds after Chauncey Billups limped to the bench with an apparent knee injury, Toney Douglas assumed the Mr. Big Shot mantle — draining a long 3-pointer from the wing with 38 seconds left to snap an 82-82 game. But an alley-oop to Kevin Garnett, a questionable offensive foul call on Carmelo Anthony and a Ray Allen 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining helped the Celtics survive, 87-85, in Game 1 of their first-round NBA Playoff series.
Allen scored a team-high 24 points, and all five Celtics starters reached double figures, including Jermaine O’Neal (12 points). Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire led all scorers with 28 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen asserts himself: After not attempting a field goal in the opening quarter, Allen took advantage of a matchup against Anthony Carter to score six quick second-quarter points. He added seven in the third quarter and finished with 24 for the night, capped by the game-winning 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining. He hadn’t scored 20 points since March 19.
Second-half defense: After giving up 51 points to the Knicks on 19-of-35 shooting (54.3 percent), the Celtics held New York to 5-of-28 shooting (17.9 percent) in the first 15 minutes of the second half. In that stretch, the Celtics turned a 51-39 halftime deficit into a 66-64 lead with nine minutes to play.
Jermaine O’Neal contributes: He may have only recorded one first-half rebound, but O’Neal made his presence felt in the third quarter. The Celtics’ starting center totaled six points, two rebounds and a pair of blocks that helped slice the Knicks’ 12-point halftime lead in half. His play on both sides of the ball seemed to raise the effort of his teammates as well — as the C’s held the Knicks to 13 third-quarter points. Along with his 12 points, O’Neal finished with four rebounds and four blocks.
The Rondo conundrum: Taking advantage of the fact that Chauncey Billups was playing almost 10 feet off him, Rajon Rondo took 10 first-half shots and made five of them, heading into the locker room at the break with a team-high 10 points. On the down side, in the first half he had just two assists, didn’t attempt a free throw and passed up a couple more open lanes in favor of more difficult jump shots from his teammates.
In the second half, though, Rondo returned to his primary role as distributor. While he didn’t score again, the Celtics point guard approached a triple-double with 10 points, nine assists and nine rebounds.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Not taking advantage of Melo’s absence: After just 88 seconds of playoff basketball, Anthony sat on the bench with a pair of quick fouls. He didn’t return in the first quarter. It was a golden opportunity for the Celtics to snare an early lead and take control of the game. Instead, they allowed old friend Bill Walker to score a team-high seven first-quarter points and stay within one at 24-23 after 12 minutes.
The second-quarter collapse: While the Celtics shot just 6-of-18 and scored 15 points in the second quarter — including only two assists — the Knicks torched the C’s defense to the tune of 28 points. After Walker had his turn against Pierce in the first quarter, Anthony took over and scored 12 second-quarter points on the captain. Meanwhile, Stoudemire put an exclamation on the Knicks’ surge into halftime by driving past Glen Davis and throwing down a monster dunk that stretched his team’s lead into double digits. Of course, prior to the game, Davis had claimed “it’s really not that hard” to guard Stoudemire.
Where’s the bench? On paper, the Celtics have the deeper team, but led by Walker the Knicks outscored the Boston bench 23-8. Glen Davis had a lot to do with the C’s struggles in that department, shooting only 1-of-8 from the field for two points. In fact, because O’Neal performed so well, he actually took the closing center reins from Davis, who had held that position for the Celtics all season. While Davis returned in the final minute, O’Neal got the bulk of the fourth-quarter minutes at center.
Regular season is OVER! Now it’s time to grit and grind. The “season” now begins. We got the Knicks, so we know what we’re getting. Game’s gonna be up and down because they run, run, run. My boy Chauncey [Billups] will be in town, so gotta get him.
Don’t want to hear it from him.
Last two days of practice have been good. Guys are focused and team is working hard at getting “right.” Shaq Diesel [Shaquille O’Neal] is working hard, but can’t play tonight. Thoughts with him. Got my new playoff shoes and am geeked about them. Will post some photos later, so y’all can see them. Just finished our shoot around (go through our schemes) and gonna head home to eat and nap.
[Sunday] night’s game is big! Chicago almost lost last night, so we want to jump on the Knicks early.
|Doc Rivers says the excuses are ‘all gone’||04.15.11 at 5:17 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers is hoping Shaquille O’Neal returns to practice on Saturday after watching from the sidelines on Friday as the team began full-scale practice preparations for the Knicks Sunday night in Game 1 of their first-round series.
‘He was doing good. He sat pretty well today, looked good over there,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “It was terrific. He watched the entire practice.”
Rivers said the team is managing O’Neal’s calf injury as carefully as possible before letting him get back on the court.
“We knew that, we planned that,” Rivers added. “[Saturday] we’ll see what he can do. He did some of the walk-through stuff but I just don’t want to take a chance. We’ll find out [Saturday]. ‘He’ll practice hopefully and then we’ll make a decision after that.’
‘Delonte’s fine, everybody else is fine,” Rivers said. “We’re 100 percent except for Shaq. Everybody else is pretty good and that’s good.’ ‘We watched film for about an hour and a half [Thursday]. Then we walked through for another half-hour, 45 minutes but we didn’t do anything live.”
Friday was critical to Rivers because of the work accomplished in practice. Saturday figures to be even more significant.
“Today was a hard, long live practice. Everybody’s rested, every team is rested. There’s no excuses. It’s all gone. ‘It was a good that they could get their mind set on one opponent and walk through the game plan. Today we got to do a lot of live stuff. [Saturday] we’re going to do even more live stuff.
‘With this new group, we’ve never [practiced that hard]. The worst part of the trade was the timing of the trade and the schedule, it just didn’t mesh for us. We never had days off, we never had practice time and then we had the injuries. At least now, I’m cutting out literally half of our offensive playbook. I’ve made a choice to run a couple of things well than a lot of things average and poor and so that’s the route we’re going.’
|Speaking with the enemy: Celtics vs. Knicks||at 2:09 pm ET|
First question: Despite being 0-3 against the Celtics, the Knicks seem pretty confident. Why?
Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2:20 p.m.
Subject: RE: Celtics-Knicks
From: Seth Rosenthal
To: Ben Rohrbach
Well, a few things. First of all, the guys you hear talking are Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. They’re nothing if not confident. Amar’e unblinkingly called Pau Gasol “soft” the other day, and thought nothing of it. These guys like to talk. To some degree, they’re qualified. Those three all have meaningful playoff experience, and more or less know what it takes to win a playoff series against a good team.
Moreover, each of those three losses included some sort of silver lining. One of ‘em was tenths of a second short of being a win, and the most recent one was dominated by the Knicks until the Celtics woke up in the fourth quarter (that might actually be more foreboding than promising, but…).
Maybe it’s got something to do with the Celtics’ struggles of late. The Knicks might smell blood in the water, or some other sort of predatory analogy. What’s the deal with that, by the way? Does this strike those who know the Celtics as another late-season stretch of playing possum before a sudden surge in the playoffs, or does the slide seem to have some inertia?
|Irish Coffee: Celtics vs. Knicks tale of the tape||at 12:28 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Ah, the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The grass is greener, and Boston is Greener. The Celtics (56-26) and Knicks (42-40) are squaring off in the postseason for the first time since the former blew a two-game lead in a best-of-five series against the latter in 1990. Boston Garden vs. Madison Square Garden. Blue collar against big dollar. Hammer. Nail. You get the picture. Let’s go to the tape …
Celtics 4, Knicks 0
107.8 … points … 101.3
9.8 … fast break points … 12.8
53.0 … points in the paint … 42.5
50.9 … FG% … 45.9
37.1 … 3P% … 33.6
79.5 … FT% … 75.8
45.3 … rebounds … 37.0
10.0 … o-rebounds … 9.8
35.3 … d-rebounds … 27.2
23.8 … assists … 21.3
8.3 … steals … 6.8
1.0 … blocks … 6.3
13.3 … turnovers … 14.0
21.0 … personal fouls … 19.3
That’s pretty lopsided, until you consider the Celtics and Knicks as currently constituted really only faced each other once. In fact, eight of the 24 guys that suited up for their first regular-season meeting are no longer playing for their respective teams. In that lone post-trades matchup — a 96-86 comeback Celtics victory — the C’s shot better, rebounded better, took care of the ball better and played better defense. They even dominated the paint (44-28) and the fast break (18-7).
Now, let’s examine how the Celtics and Knicks produced this season (league ranks in parentheses):
|NBA Power Rankings 4/15||04.14.11 at 7:30 pm ET|
1. Chicago (62-20): Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN.com Derrick Rose “will continue to get better throughout his career.” That’s a ridiculously scary thought, considering he’s a lock for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. But the real question remains, Can Rose capture NBA Finals MVP? Only five other guys under 6-foot-4 have captured that honor in NBA history: Tony Parker (2007), Chauncey Billups (’04), Isiah Thomas (’90), Joe Dumars (’89) and Jerry West (’69).
2. San Antonio (61-21): I’m not sure if Dr. Jack Ramsay prescribed himself some medical marijuana or what, but he picked Spurs guard Manu Ginobili as his MVP. I’d be surprised if Ginobili is named First Team All-NBA. Take nothing away from what the Spurs have accomplished, including a 2-1 record against the Lakers with Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan in the lineup.
3. LA Lakers (57-25): After losing five straight games, the Lakers got a bit of their swagger back. If you think about it, all signs point to the fact that they’re already in playoff form: They beat the Spurs in the penultimate game of the regular season, Phil Jackson is getting fined for his comments, Andrew Bynum‘s health is in question, Kobe Bryant is screaming homophobic slurs at referees and Lamar Odom wants to quit.
4. Miami (58-24): Just as Gloria James may not have thrown the first punch at a Florida valet, LeBron James & Co. didn’t deliver the first, second or third blow against the Celtics. But the Heat landed the biggest punch in the fight on Sunday, handing the Celtics their worst loss of the year during a game in which Mike Bibby actually played Rajon Rondo to a standstill.
5. Boston (56-26): Who holds the key to the Celtics’ figurative playoff switch? I’m guessing it’s not Danny Ainge. And they better hope it’s not Shaquille O’Neal. Is it Rondo? Kevin Garnett? Maybe it’s Paul Pierce, who told Mut & Merloni on Thursday, “I flipped the switch when I woke up this morning.” Whoever it is, Doc Rivers should remind him to keep it on Sunday.
There’s no more time for sitting starters and there’s no more optional practices. Doc Rivers knows full well that while it may not be time to slam the foot on the accelerator, now is the time to start stepping down with more force.
On Thursday, following a 112-102 glorified exhibition win over the Knicks, Rivers began prep for the first-round playoffs series with the Knicks with film work. The hard practices are expected on Friday and Saturday – with or without Shaquille O’Neal.
‘I feel good that our team will be ready; I feel really good about that,” Rivers said. “This has been far more difficult in that regard because of the trades, the injuries, the late-season seven-out-of-eleven games. It’s just been ‘ that’s been extremely difficult. We lost our rhythm; had no practice to get it back, and then we had injuries.
“So, it’s great playing on Sunday, let me just put it that way. We’ll be ready.’
As for Delonte West (ankle) and Shaq (calf), Rivers said this weekend of practice will tell a lot.
‘Well Delonte will be [ready] for sure, from everything I hear,” Rivers said. “Shaquille, I’d like to see him yesterday. We’ll just wait and see.’
Obviously, this has been the most injury-riddled season for Celtics big men – or bigs as Doc loves to call them. And it’s started from camp and carried right through. Say this much, the C’s and Rivers and his coaching staff have had plenty of time this season to get ready to win without them.
There was the rehabbing Kendrick Perkins in camp and early in the season. There was the conditioning of Jermaine O’Neal. There was the knee/hip/Achilles/calf of Shaq. And the brief injury scares to Glen Davis and Perkins’ replacement Nenad Krstic. Read the rest of this entry »
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