|Fast Break: Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT)||03.04.12 at 4:02 pm ET|
You can count the number of times Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce both played well in the same game this season on one hand, but two of those occasions occurred this weekend. In a related story, the Celtics won their fourth straight game, 115-111 against the Knicks in overtime on Sunday afternoon.
Rondo recorded his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season — and second in three games — totaling 18 points, a season-high 20 assists and 17 rebounds. According to Elias, Rondo is just the third player in NBA history with at least 15 points, 20 assists and 15 rebounds in a single game, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson in that exclusive category. Pierce added 34 points, seven rebounds and three assists as the Celtics improved to 19-17 and moved to 1.5 games up on the Knicks (18-19) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Absent for much of the game, Jeremy Lin (14 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) led a fourth-quarter charge to help the Knicks take the lead twice in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Pierce made a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to play, and Carmelo Anthony missed a jump shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.
And then Rondo put the finishing touches on the Knicks in overtime, as the Celtics made 45 field goals in the game, and Rondo had a hand in 27 of them.
|Paul Pierce consoles Rajon Rondo: ‘I was part of trade rumors… four or five straight years’||03.03.12 at 9:35 am ET|
As captain, Pierce felt the time was right before Friday night’s game against the Nets to deliver a message about the persistent trade rumors involving Boston’s mercurial point guard.
‘Well it’s nothing we haven’t been through before,” Pierce said after dropping 27 on the Nets in Boston’s 107-94 win that once again put the Celtics above .500 at 18-17. “Rondo’s been through it, I’ve been though it a number of times. The thing is you have to do your job, you can’t let that affect you. I kind of mentioned it to Rondo today, you know I was part of trade rumors for probably four or five straight years. I just didn’t let it affect me on how I approached each and every game. You know whatever happens, happens, it’s business. Sometimes you don’t have control of it.’
Rondo ignored the noise and went out in the first half and showed that as long as he’s in Boston, he will be the game-changer that Celtics fans have grown accustomed to. Like in the second quarter, when Rondo told everyone to get up-tempo on D and pressure the ball coming up the court.
The result: Five turnovers in a 14-0 Celtics run that – for all intents and purposes – put the game out of reach. Rondo finished with 14 points, 13 assists and five steals, with all five coming in the first half fury.
“He said before the game, ‘Let’s be aggressive. Defensively, let’s be active.’ And we followed his lead,” Kevin Garnett said of Rondo.
Rondo had help as Mickael Pietrus was a defensive force, implementing Rondo’s plan to perfection and getting nasty on whoever was trying to take the ball up the court.
‘Well you know Pietrus has started some games for us before and he’s been spectacular,” Pierce said. “He is able to come off the bench or start and give us great minutes for his defensive and shooting ability.
‘I think it definitely goes to another level, because he’s our energy guy that we use off the bench . You know when he’s out there to start the game he gets us off to a great start, he’s such a great rebounder for his size, and he can spread the floor with his point shooting. It was a real big lift to have him out there. We knew we were missing Ray tonight but we knew Pietrus could fill in.’
Now, the Celtics and their newfound pressure D will be tested by Jeremy Lin and the Knicks on Sunday, with Boston riding a three-game win streak.
‘I think we are moving the ball a lot better and hopefully hitting our stride right here at home,” Pierce said. “We are playing better basketball. We have a huge West coast trip coming up for us in the next couple weeks, so it’s important for us to get as many wins as we can under our belt before we hit the road.’
|Mickael Pietrus guarantees Celtics championship||03.02.12 at 11:20 pm ET|
Even after their third straight victory, a 107-94 win over the visiting Nets, the Celtics (18-17) are ranked just seventh in the Eastern Conference and face a first-round playoff matchup against the Bulls if the standings remain the same. But that didn’t stop Mickael Pietrus from guaranteeing the franchise’s 18th NBA championship.
“I know that you guys say we’re older and all that stuff,” said Pietrus, pointing his finger at each camera surrounding his locker. “We’re going to win the championship, Ok?”
It’s difficult to tell just how serious the always playful Pietrus is when he makes that claim, as he’s made similar remarks at various times since first suiting up in Boston on Jan. 11.
Still, even in jest, there is an important nugget in Pietrus’ postgame vow: The Celtics are becoming a formidable team once again thanks to a return to Ubuntu of sorts. And that’s a welcome notion to anybody who watched this Celtics group suffer through a 1-7 stretch before the All-Star Game.
|Fast Break: Rondo, headband of brothers take down Nets||at 9:57 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo has rarely worn a headband since NBA commissioner David Stern issued a rule against wearing the logo upside down (a slight to Lakers legend Jerry West) at the start of last season, but the Celtics point guard sported his good luck charm backwards against the Nets in a 107-94 win over the Nets.
Perhaps Rondo needed a change of scenery after all the recent talk of him maybe getting … well, a change of scenery before the March 15 trade deadline (a notion C’s president Danny Ainge denied on Thursday). Whatever the case, the three-time All-Star floor general submitted his second straight sublime performance, amassing 14 points, 13 assists, five steals and two rebounds just two nights after recording his third triple-double of the season.
Likewise, Kevin Garnett (20 points, 10 rebounds) — one of the few Celtics regulars sans headband — continued his productive stretch, dropping at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in two straight games for the first time in exactly one year. Paul Pierce (27 points) led five C’s scorers in double figures.
The win marked the third straight for the Celtics (18-17), who had dropped seven of eight previously. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 28 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Meet the press: As the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-20 in each of the first two quarters, they showed a different look — albeit one most middle school teams run on a regular basis. Still, the C’s 2-1-2 and 2-2-1 fullcourt presses confused New Jersey to no end, resulting in five first-half Rondo steals and a 14-0 advantage in fast break points by the break.
Seeing Green: There’s nothing like a little Gerald Green defense to help Pierce bust out of his recent offensive struggles (39.5 FG% in February). The captain abused the former Celtics first-round draft pick — and any other Nets wing who guarded him — in the early going, finishing the first quarter with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting (1-2 3P) and four assists. When Pierce plays well, generally so do the Celtics, and Friday night was no different.
Ball protection: The Celtics committed just two turnovers in the first half. Repeat: Two, leading to zero Nets points. Considering his team entered the game averaging 15.6 turnovers (good for 23rd in the NBA), coach Doc Rivers had to be pleased his team finally cleaned up an issue he’s had to address after most of its 17 losses.
|Irish Coffee: Rating ridiculous Celtics rumors||at 2:59 pm ET|
So many trade rumors, so little time.
On Thursday, NBA teams could officially deal players signed this past offseason, and March 15 is the deadline, so Celtics president Danny Ainge‘s phone bill is probably higher than Lindsay Lohan‘s attorney fees at this point.
While Ainge denied actively shopping Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo in an interview on WEEI’s Big Show, he’s made it clear Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and everybody else — including captain Paul Pierce — are available for the right package. So far, the price hasn’t been right.
We’d be remiss not to mention the current rumors, but let’s be serious about the possibilities. Here goes.
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Sometimes you need a swift kick in the [gluteus maximus]’||03.01.12 at 11:54 am ET|
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett entered the locker room after receiving his massage, coming back down to earth or whatever it is that takes him an hour following each game to conduct his postgame interview, sporting a pair of Chrome Hearts glasses (approximately $2,000) he found around the house during the NBA All-Star break.
When a reporter jokingly suggested KG’s specs looked similar to his, the former MVP who has made a quarter of a billion dollars in his career and models himself after no one reminded everyone, “There’s only one Garnett.”
To remind yourself just how true that statement is, take the time to read Paul Flannery’s column after the C’s 102-96 victory against the Bucks, entitled, “The under-the-radar greatness of Kevin Garnett.” Note the rarefied company of possibly none KG joins in the eyes of veteran teammate Keyon Dooling and coach Doc Rivers.
There are glue guys, and then there is Kevin Garnett. Rarely will you hear that from the 14-time NBA All-Star, but it’s there if you read between the lines of Wednesday night’s postgame press conference.
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m at my best when I’m in transition’||at 1:36 am ET|
For whatever reason, 26-year-old Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and the aging Big Three haven’t been on the same page all season. Hence the team’s 17-17 record. Whether that’s the result of the All-Star point guard’s stubbornness or the unwillingness of three Hall of Famers to follow a younger, better leader or any number of other reasons is free to debate.
But one thing is certain: When Rondo plays the way he did in a 102-96 win over the Bucks Wednesday, recording his third double-double of the season while orchestrating the offense to near perfection, these Celtics might actually have a chance to salvage this season.
“We did a better job executing offensively tonight,” said Rondo (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), as usual simplifying the game to its most basic elements. “We got into our sets, and we executed — and we scored.”
“He got us organized earlier,” said Rivers. “The second half, he called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that’s who we were, and that’s who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo’s doing.”
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