|Fast Break: Bobcats take bite out of Celtics||03.25.11 at 10:12 pm ET|
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all missed potential go-ahead buckets in the final 30 seconds, and the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, 83-81, against a Bobcats team that traded its best player (Gerald Wallace) and sat its next two most talented guys (Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas) with injuries.
After blowing double-digit leads in both halves, the Celtics (50-21) still only trailed 82-81 with 27 seconds remaining. But Pierce (game-high 18 points) missed an ill-conceived, contested jump shot and Gerald Henderson made 1-of-2 free throws to put the Bobcats (28-43) up two with 15 seconds left. Allen and Garnett each missed 3-point attempts in the finals seconds.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Not putting the game away early: After just eight minutes of action, the Celtics had pushed their lead to double digits, and it appeared as though Gino might make an appearance as early as the second quarter. But a lineup that included Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Delonte West and Carlos Arroyo let the Bobcats close the game to 25-19 by the end of the first quarter. Charlotte remained within single digits through halftime.
Not putting the game away late: Just as they did in the first half, the Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead — this time in the fourth quarter, with the starters on the floor. The Bobcats took the lead when Pierce missed a pair of free throws, Henderson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in as three C’s watched. Pierce then clanged a 3-point attempt off the backboard and Davis committed his sixth foul. That fourth-quarter stretch defined a game full of poor decisions, as the Celtics settled for jumpers offensively and lacked effort defensively.
Committing turnovers (again): The Celtics committed 18 turnovers in their 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, and on Friday they picked up where they left off — turning the ball over six times in the first 15 minutes. They finished with 17 turnovers that led to 13 Bobcats points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Getting Ray Allen involved early: The Celtics’ offense has struggled of late, especially in the first quarter, and Allen’s lack of touches has been part of that dilemma. Not Friday. And definitely not against the Bobcats. Allen took (and made) two 3-pointers in addition to drawing a pair of fouls that led to four free throws. All in all, he recorded 10 of the C’s 25 first-quarter points — the team’s best output for the opening 12 minutes in almost three weeks.
After that, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else that went right for the Celtics.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions||at 1:32 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?” … “Is Doc Rivers gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.
All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show, Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show. Here are the highlights:
Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot last Tuesday, what gives?
Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”
Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.
“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …
“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”
KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”
Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?
|NBA Power Rankings, 3/24||03.24.11 at 6:47 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.
2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”
3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.
4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.
5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line. Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Celtics failing first quarter||at 2:30 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The Celtics are 4-5 since March 9, and in seven of those games they’ve trailed at the end of the first quarter. As Celtics Hub pointed out in a nice breakdown, the C’s have averaged 18.8 points in the first quarter during that stretch — 5.4 fewer than their season average of 24.2.
Playing from behind is never a good thing. After all, the Celtics are 34-8 after winning the first quarter and 16-12 after losing it. That’s absolutely significant. So, what’s the problem?
Considering the Big Four plays the large majority of the first-quarter minutes, this is on them. Are Rajon Rondo‘s struggles at fault? Should Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — the team’s top two scorers — be getting more touches in the first 12 minutes? Yes, yes and yes.
If I had 10,000 hours to dedicate to this particular blog, I’d calculate the average first-quarter field-goal attempts, points and assists for Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. But I don’t. So, the most recent quarter-by-quarter breakdown by 82games.com — from the 2008-09 season — will have to do. And that’s not a bad year to pick, considering the Big Four had one season under their belt together and were coming off an NBA title run.
The Big Four averaged 20.9 points on 16.5 field-goal attempts and 5.2 assists as a group in the first quarter during that 2008-09 season, according to 82games.com. Over the last nine games, they’ve produced 12.4 points on 12.9 field-goal attempts and 4.3 assists in the opening 12 minutes. Something’s not clicking. That’s 8.5 fewer points, and considering the Celtics have lost their last five games by an average of 7.2 points — there’s your difference.
Sometimes Paul Pierce can display a misleading, almost nervous, smile after a befuddling loss.
Wednesday night was such a case.
Pierce was asked whether he would like to get his hands on the ball more down the stretch, especially when the Celtics were trailing by three and his team needed a big basket. Pierce did get the ball but with 4.2 seconds left, leaving the C’s captain to fire a desperate trey that fell short.
‘We ran some stuff,” Pierce said. “We had the turnover right there down the stretch. For the most part I liked the looks we got. We got Big Baby with a nice shot. Less than 30 seconds we get Rondo right in the paint, going up for a shot that he takes all the time and makes. I’ll take that for a game winner. It just didn’t go our way today.’
Yes, Pierce would like to have touched the ball a little more but he said he didn’t want the team forcing the ball to him.
‘Probably a little bit more, but I play within the framework of the offense,” Pierce said. “I’m not going to make that an issue. We’ve been winning the way we play all year long and the last four years. I’m not going to make that an issue.’
Doc Rivers had a different take.
“We’ve got to score more points,” Rivers said. “I thought in the second half we went through that one stretch where we didn’t even start our offense until like seven seconds on the clock. Milking the clock; I thought the ball just was bounced and didn’t move. Whenever we do that. You know, listen, I think as a whole, our team, we’ve got to get back to understanding ‘ you know Paul is pretty good. And he’s got to get more touches in games. And I think we go back and forth on movement and we want that, but we’ve also got to get Paul involved. That’s on me; I’ve got to get Paul involved more.’
Pierce and the Celtics were also cautioned by their coaches before the game that the Grizzlies were one of the best offensive teams they’ll see in the paint this season. Despite all the pleading and prodding during film sessions, the Grizzlies came out and doubled the C’s 52-26 in the paint.
‘I am surprised because the whole emphasis of today was they are one of the best, if not the best in the league at points in the paint,” Pierce said. “The emphasis was to pack the paint, they aren’t a great three point shooting team so there is no excuse for all that. We should have done a better job in there, make them kick it out and make them knock down a couple of jumpers.
“I thought overall, for the most part we played pretty good defense. We held them to what, 90 points. Especially Zach Randolph, he has been playing out of his mind. A lot of these guys have been playing well. I thought it was a pretty strong defensive game.”
The Celtics also committed 20 turnovers on their home court, which they haven’t exactly been defending that well, especially against teams from the West.
Are the C’s tired? Sure, but as they themselves admitted, who isn’t at this time of the season?
‘The light is at the end of the tunnel, only a few more games left,” Pierce said. “It should be a better sense of urgency I believe around here. Especially finishing off the season on a good note and trying to get that home court advantage in the East.’
Doc Rivers admitted before Wednesday’s game the Celtics were very interested in acquiring Leon Powe at the trade deadline on Feb. 24. But concerns about Powe’s chronic knee problems scared the Celtics away.
After the game, after Powe led the Grizzlies with 13 points, Rivers called Powe the ‘baddest man on the planet’ in Memphis’ 90-87 win over the Celtics at TD Garden. The second-guessing was only natural. Couldn’t the Celtics use that kind of low post offensive threat and defensive toughness right now? Kendrick Perkins is in Oklahoma City, both O’Neals are out and there’s no timetable for either’s return, and Nenad Krstic still fighting what Rivers called ‘ghosts’ on the court.
Truth be told, Powe did not drab a single rebound. And further truth be told, Powe admitted afterward that he could read the writing on the wall after the Celtics acquired Troy Murphy that Boston would not be his landing spot in any deal from Cleveland.
‘I feel good, I appreciate Cleveland, they let me out of my contract and you know, they gave me an opportunity over there, I just appreciate all they did for me,” Powe said of the Cavaliers giving Powe a chance in the summer of 2009, after reconstructive knee surgery. “Just got to this team and they play my style of ball too. It’s a post-up team, they like to go to the post and be strong with the ball, like to play defense. It’s a young team too, I can call some of them young fellas, I’m young still too, but they my young fellas. Yeah I’m a veteran, I’m veteran Powe now.’
Veteran Powe, afterall, is looking out for his best interests, which include a multi-year contract offer next season. He knows he has to show some value to a playoff-bound team to show other teams he still has game.
Powe’s game on Wednesday was all about attacking the Celtics’ depleted low post presence. And he did that with regularity from the moment he checked in with 39.1 seconds left in the first quarter. He made 5-of-6 from the field, all on the low post.
‘Oh man it’s great, it’s fun, especially when you get a win,” Powe said. “This is a great team over there, a great team, and when you can come on the road and beat a great team like that. And do it on the defensive end, like I thought we did, it’s huge for a young, up and coming team, it’s huge, and that just adds fuel to our confidence.’
Powe was arguably the second-most important bench player behind James Posey on the 2008 Celtics world championship team. He brings defensive toughness to the Grizzlies that he did to the Celtics in that championship season.
‘I just try to bring over our help side defense, clogging up the paint,” Powe said. “I’m just making sure that when there’s a pick and roll set, what we learned from the Celtics is, sometimes you pre-rotate, take that away and let other guys sink in, sink and feel. And I thought that was what we did all night tonight, and when we got away from that they got back in the game, got the lead, and then we got back to it on the defensive end and that’s how we pulled it out, with some good tough defense.’
The Celtics had few answers for the second-most important Celtics bench player behind James Posey on the 2008 world champions.
“He was the baddest man on the planet tonight,” Rivers said.
|Grizzlies guard Tony Allen: ‘I’m a Celtic’||at 12:26 am ET|
Tony Allen spent the first six seasons of his career in a Celtics uniform and the last six months as a member of the Grizzlies, so forgive him if he blurred the lines of his allegiance following his new team’s 90-87 victory against his old team. Or don’t.
“I’m a Celtic, but unfortunately, I wear a Grizzlies jersey right now,” said Allen, who was the only member of the Memphis starting five to receive a positive response from the Garden crowd during Wednesday night’s game. “It was a nice reaction. I liked it.”
Allen signed a three-year, $9.5 million deal with the Grizzlies this past offseason. The Celtics reportedly offered Allen two years and $5.2 million to remain in Boston.
“Yeah, it’s strange, but most importantly I was just happy about the victory and how our guys stuck together and focused for 48 minutes,” said Allen. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Celtics fans weren’t cheering when Allen’s night was done, as his eight points and seven rebounds helped the Grizzlies drop the C’s a full game behind the Bulls in the standings.
“I wanted this win more than anything,” he said. “We got it.”
Following his first game in Boston wearing any other color than Celtics’ green — the Grizzlies only appearance at the Garden this season — Allen exchanged kind words with former teammate Kevin Garnett after the final whistle.
“He said, ”Good luck the rest of the way. I miss you,'” said Allen. “He showed me love. It was an emotional day, but I’m happy with the win.”
Another former Celtic, Leon Powe, joined Allen in Memphis after the Cavaliers bought out the remainder of his contract after the trade deadline. Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted that the Celtics expressed interest in Powe, but ultimately decided his knee concerns were too big a risk. Powe’s 13 points on Wednesday night begged to differ.
“Leon is a presence down there,” said Allen. “He’s a little undersized, but he’s strong. The more he puts in his work on that block, it kind of lightens the load for us. Leon’s just gotta keep being Leon.”
So, did their combined experience as members of the 2007-08 Celtics team that won the NBA title help aid the Grizzlies victory?
“I felt like I was in practice,” added Allen. “I knew all they’re plays. I knew everything they were going to run. It felt good. It was nice to see Doc with those nice suits that he wears. And it was a good overall experience coming here to Boston.”
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