|NBA Power Rankings, 12/23||12.23.10 at 3:00 pm ET|
Obviously, we’re going to release a Christmas version of the NBA Power Rankings, taking a look at what teams should hope for from Santa Claus this holiday season. So, without further ado, here they are:
1. Boston (23-4): The Celtics need a medicine man to hasten the rehabilitations of Rajon Rondo (ankle), Kendrick Perkins (knee) and Delonte West (wrist). He could stick around and hang out with Lucky the Leprachaun, too, to help out if and when something happens to the O’Neal “brothers.”
2. Dallas (23-5): The Mavericks need Bill Russell‘s guide to playoff basketball success. They’re on pace for an 11th straight 50-win season, yet they’ve only reached the NBA Finals once and got pounced in the first round last year.
3. San Antonio (25-3): The Spurs need a Portuguese-to-English translator to remind Tiago Splitter that he averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds during an MVP season in the Spanish League last season. Imagine how good San Antonio would be if Splitter lived up to his Rookie of the Year candidate projection.
5. LA Lakers (21-8): The Lakers needed help backing up Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol, so they signed Steve Blake and traded for Joe Smith — neither of whom are very good. So, yeah, they still need a backup point guard and big man.
|Irish Coffee: Top 10 last-minute Celtics gifts||at 9:00 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
If you don’t actually play for the Celtics, then you probably can’t afford to buy Christmas presents like a replica of a 1986 NBA championship ring or a Boston Celtics Pop-A-Shot machine for the C’s fans in your life.
So here are the top 10 (fairly) affordable last-minute gift ideas for Celtics fans:
1. Two tickets in sections 306, 327 or 329 to the Celtics vs. Spurs game at the Garden on Jan. 5 ($140)
|Glen Davis doesn’t really care about the Magic||12.22.10 at 11:54 pm ET|
With consecutive win No. 14 in the books, the focus turned to No. 15 — the Magic — for the Celtics. And the C’s appear to be catching Orlando at the perfect time, even if it is on Christmas.
The Magic have lost eight of nine games and are attempting to integrate Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas into the fold after shipping Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Rashard Lewis out of town. Outside of Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, it’s a complete overhaul of a team that reached the NBA Finals two years ago.
Not that Glen Davis noticed.
‘I don’t really care about what they’re doing,’ he said.
Pushed further, Davis added, “I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on. Those guys have problems they’ve got to work out for themselves. As a team, we’re trying to focus on one thing, and we’re not focused on what other teams are doing. I wish them the best, and I hope they get ‘¦ everything going – after we play them.”
In just four seasons, Davis has seen plenty of change in the Eastern Conference, as the Pistons, Cavaliers, Magic and Heat have completely revamped their rosters. So, is it tough for Big Baby to get a read on the East?
“I really don’t read a lot,” Davis said, with a smile. “I play video games.”
Meanwhile, the Celtics’ core of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins — along with Davis — has remained the same since 2007, and that “Ubuntu,” if you will, is paying huge dividends for the 23-4 Celtics.
“Most definitely,” said Davis. “I think that does give us an advantage.”
When a team can keep its core together, the philosophy remains the same, trickling down the roster even when injuries hit — like they have to Rondo and Perkins, among others.
“That’s how we’re going to do it – just try to grind,” said Davis. “That’s all we can do. We just hope we can keep doing this in June. We’re just real deep. We’re a deep team. A lot of guys can play quality minutes and come through, and that’s what a championship team does.”
Nate Robinson, for one, hasn’t been with this group since its inception three and a half years ago, but after spending his first training camp — and now his first Christmas — with the Celtics, he’s starting to buy into that philosophy.
“This is my first Christmas to play, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Robinson. “But you’ve got to treat it like every game that we’ve been playing … and just play the way we’ve been playing – just play hard, play together, have fun and just play the right way, which is the Celtics way.”
Meanwhile, in Orlando, they’re trying to figure out what the Magic “way” is exactly.
Paul Pierce started off the night by missing his first seven shots from the field, including a pair of three-point attempts. But that’s not what caused him to admittedly lose his cool in the third quarter, when he was hit with a technical foul by referee Tony Brothers with 6:07 left in the third quarter. Pierce was called for his fourth personal foul, causing him to wave his hand in disgust at Brothers.
“We got frustrated,” admitted Pierce, who finished with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting and four rebounds in 34 minutes. “I got a technical. I know I was frustrated tonight. Just in a game where you’re trying to get rhythm and the game is off-balance and calls are being called each and every way. It’s hard to get into a rhythm so I was definitely frustrated.”
How frustrated? Maybe the most he’s been since he was teamed with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the 2007-08 season. But there was a huge sense of relief, as Pierce raised his arms at midcourt when the final seconds ticked off of Boston’s 14th straight win.
“Nothing was really going our way,” Pierce said. “Nothing was really going my way. This is one of the more frustrating games I’ve had in a long time. It was just – I don’t know – it was just something about this game, for us to pull it out the way we did, I’m very relieved.
“I felt like this was one of our better wins because we didn’t let the frustration get to us all the way. We found a way, we pulled back and this is one of the many ways we’re finding out about our team and tonight we found out even more about our team.”
Doc Rivers agreed with Pierce in one regard. Wednesday night symbolized just how bizarre and unique this winning streak is. The Celtics are not playing their best basketball by any stretch but still winning, making this the oddest extended winning streak he’s seen. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics capture 14th straight||at 10:11 pm ET|
Despite a poor shooting night, the Celtics held on for an 84-80 victory over the 76ers at the Garden on Wednesday night (recap), stretching their NBA-best winning streak to 14 games heading into a Christmas Day showdown in Orlando.
The Celtics made 10-of-12 free throws in the final four minutes – including a pair by Ray Allen with 5.6 seconds remaining – and Kevin Garnett blocked an Andre Iguadola shot with 14 seconds left to preserve an 82-80 lead, as the C’s held on to improve their Eastern Conference-leading record to 23-4. Allen scored a game-high 22 points, while Shaquille O’Neal (13 points, 9 rebounds), Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Pierce (11 points) all reached double figures.
Elton Brand totaled 16 points and 12 rebounds for Philadelphia before fouling out in the final minutes.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Relying on defense: It’s the staple of their success. Even when the Celtics aren’t shooting well, they can still play defense. They held the 76ers to 80 points on 43.1 percent shooting from the field (28-of-65), they forced 13 turnovers and everybody crashed the boards, as seven different Celtics had at least four boards.
Allen’s hot start: While most of his teammates struggled from the floor to start the game, Allen scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first quarter, helping the Celtics establish an early 23-17 lead. In all, Allen netted his game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also made 5-of-6 free throws, including the game-clinching pair.
Cameo appearances: Off the bench, Von Wafer had his best performance of the season, scoring five points on a nifty up-and-under layup and big second-half 3-pointer. Avery Bradley showed a glimpse of his talent, picking Louis Williams’ pocket and converting on the other end. And Marquis Daniels totaled four points, four rebounds and five assists — including a nice alley-oop to O’Neal.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A rare poor shooting night: The Celtics aren’t used to shooting less than 50 percent from the field. In fact, they entered Wednesday night’s game against the 76ers shooting 51.2 percent as a team for the season.
However, against Philadelphia, they shot just 17-of-46 (37.0 percent) in the first half — scoring only 38 points and entering halftime with a six-point deficit at home against a team with an 11-17 record. For the game, the Celtics shot just 38.8 percent (31-of-80).
Foul trouble: Nate Robinson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had to sit for extended periods in the second half as they all picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter. O’Neal got into some foul trouble of his own in the first half, as he sat out the last three minutes of the half.
After all was said and done, the Celtics’ reserves played a combined 38 minutes, and given the state of their bench due to the number of injuries that have piled up, that wasn’t going to translate into positive results.
Technical difficulties: In the third quarter, Garnett and Pierce each picked up technical fouls following calls against the Celtics — adding insult to injury. Doc Rivers wasn’t too happy with the officiating either, as he had a pointed discussion with referee Scott Foster midway through the third quarter. After a minute, Foster walked away from the conversation, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo’s recovery||at 12:26 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Rajon Rondo isn’t exactly Charles Barkley when it comes to talking to the media, but he’s quietly letting us in on his rehabilitation progress as he recovers from a sprained ankle — through his Twitter page …
Dec. 16: “Another great team effort tonight. A lot of treatment. Elevating my foot now, watching the game.”
Dec. 18: “Ankle is feeling better. Out of the boot. Still got a ways to go. Treatment twice a day.”
Dec. 21: “I love my new video game. Still keeping my foot elevated.” (see accompanying photo)
Now, I know what you’re all thinking: Where can I get a full-sized H2Overdrive arcade cabinet like the one Rondo uses to elevate his foot? It makes a great stocking stuffer for just $8,200.
It’s been exactly one week since Celtics president Danny Ainge threw out “a couple of weeks” as a timeframe for Rondo’s return. The first game after that two-week window is against the Pistons on Dec. 29, but do they really need Rondo to beat Detroit? Answer: No. They could probably start Avery Bradley and still win.
Two days later, however, the Celtics host Chris Paul and the Hornets. We all know how Rondo gears up to play the NBA’s best point guards, and some consider Paul the best in the game. You can bet Rondo will want to play in that game. The only question is whether Ainge, Doc Rivers and the training staff will let him.
CELTICS HAVE THE POWER
Ever-so-slowly, as their winning streak has stretched to an NBA-best 13 games — while the Mavericks, Heat and Knicks have snapped their streaks — the Celtics are gaining a monopoly on the national media’s NBA Power Rankings.
Here’s where the C’s rank, according to six major national media outlets:
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics’ bench struggles||12.21.10 at 12:16 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Remember when a lot of people — including me — believed the Celtics had the best bench in the NBA? Well, they don’t. At least not now.
The second unit that C’s head coach Doc Rivers had cultivated to give his veteran starters their much-needed rest throughout the 82-game NBA season was supposed to look like this: Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Shaquille O’Neal.
On paper, that lineup looks good. Very good. Unfortunately, wrists, ankles and knees aren’t made out of paper. As a result, the Celtics’ reserves rank 24th out of 30 NBA teams, according to Hoopsstats.com‘s efficiency differential.
West’s suspension and subsequent broken wrist have kept him out of all but five games. Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal have been a pain in the knee, missing a combined 28 games and vaulting a third-string guy (Semih Erden) into four starts. And Rajon Rondo‘s feet, hamstring and ankle soreness, tweaks and sprains haven’t helped, either, forcing one of the original sencond unit’s go-to scorers (Robinson) into a starting role six times.
Put those injuries to paper, and the Celtics’ bench has produced better than only one team that would be in the postseason if the playoffs started today — the Trail Blazers, who have had more injuries than King Leonidas‘ men in the movie “300.”
Here’s where the C’s reserves rank in the league statistically per game this season:
Rebounds: 25th (22nd defensive/30th offensive)
Field-goal percentage: 1st
3-point field goal percentage: 23rd
Free-throw percentage: 19th
And here’s where their opponents’ bench’s production against them ranks: