|Rajon Rondo: ‘We kept fighting despite regardless of the other stuff out there’||04.12.12 at 1:09 am ET|
In many ways, it was the ugliest of the 19 triple-doubles in the career of Rajon Rondo.
But no Celtics fan alive cares that he made just three of his 16 field goal attempts. They’ll live with that when you’re talking about a point guard on a record-setting pace few have ever seen in NBA history. Wednesday, he had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists to lead the Celtics over the Hawks, 88-86 in overtime at delirious TD Garden.
‘Putting the ball in the hole, pretty simple,” was Rondo’s answer when asked how one goes about getting 20 assists in a game, referring to his teammates. “They were concentrating a little bit more today. I don’t know you got to ask them. I think a lot of them were uncontested shots, we got out, we got stops. We did a great job rebounding and that hasn’t been what we do best but tonight we did an excellent ball rebounding the ball.’
The 13 missed shots weren’t the only ugly part of the game. The Celtics again could not take care of the ball in the first half, committing 12 of their 23 turnovers in 53 minutes of play.
And there were the questionable calls. The two on Greg Steimsma and the one on Kevin Garnett that sent both to the bench for the night with six fouls. And there was the offensive foul on Paul Pierce with 5.3 seconds remaining that gave Atlanta one last shot. But still and all, Rondo and the Celtics found a way to win.
It’s just how it is, you win some you lose some,” Rondo said. “We kept fighting regardless of the other stuff out there, we stuck together and we followed through and got the win.’
There were no reported outbursts tonight at halftime or bets with assistant coach Ty Lue. Everyone was just too tired to expend the energy. And who can blame them. But still, they knew they had to cut down on the turnovers.
‘It starts with me, if I take care of the ball I think we do as a team because I think I dominate the ball a lot, more than anybody, so I try to be more conscious when I am turning the ball over in the first half, but overall I think we got to slow down as a team and try to execute our assists and not try to force anything,” Rondo said.
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics tame Heat again||04.10.12 at 9:48 pm ET|
On 60.6 percent shooting, led by Kevin Garnett (24 points, 9 rebounds), the Celtics defeated the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seeded Heat 115-107 for the second time in nine days, taking a 2-1 series lead with one matchup left between the possible playoff opponents in the penultimate game of the season.
The Celtics (33-24) won their third straight and eighth of their last 10 games, moving within two games of the idle Pacers for third in the Eastern Conference. Paul Pierce (26 points) and Rajon Rondo (18 points, 15 assists) helped the C’s set a new season high for points scored.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Opening statement: When the first quarter came to a close, the top six Celtics rotation players all had between 4-6 points, handing the Heat a 33-22 deficit. The C’s shot 61.1 percent (11-18 FG) offensively, holding Miami to 42.9 percent (9-21 FG) defensively. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, was Boston’s 13-5 rebounding advantage after the first 12 minutes.
Three party: Taking advantage of a Heat defense that entered the game ranked 28th in 3-point defense, the Celtics converted 7-of-10 treys in the first half (9-14 for the game), establishing a 65-57 lead at the break on 61.5 percent shooting as a team. Pierce and Sasha Pavlovic led the effort, each converting a pair of 3-pointers.
Two-guard duo: As for the Avery Bradley/Ray Allen shooting guard combination, the pair combined for 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 10 points in a first quarter that saw both the defensive-first Bradley lineup and the offensively boosted Allen group. Not only that, but they frustrated Dwyane Wade to the tune of 20 points on 21 shots — lowlighted by a fourth-quarter technical foul after he fell for a Rondo fake 20 feet from the basket.
|Irish Coffee: Do Celtics own NBA’s best defense?||04.09.12 at 2:03 pm ET|
Over their last five games, the Celtics have held the Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Pacers and 76ers — all likely playoff-bound teams — to just 80.6 points per game. That ridiculous stretch included the lowest scoring output of the Miami Thrice era and Indiana’s worst offensive game this season (both 72 points).
The point? A case can be made, rather easily, that the C’s now own the NBA’s best defense.
This recent run vaulted the Celtics to No. 1 in points allowed per 100 possessions (95.3). Their 89.3 points allowed per game still ranks third behind the only other teams that give up fewer than 90 points a night — the Sixers (88.5) and Bulls (88.9) — but that’s dropped to an NBA best 83.4 points surrendered over the past 10 games.
In fact, as colleague Paul Flannery noted, the Celtics have allowed 80 points or fewer in six of their last 12 games (including four of their last six), holding opponents to 40 percent shooting or worse in eight of those 12 contests.
For the season, the Celtics have held opponents to the league’s lowest field goal percentage (41.8%) and 3-point percentage (29.8%), both still tops in the NBA and even better over the past 10 games (38.7 FG%, 25.2 3P%). They make an offense’s life miserable everywhere on the court, ranking top-10 everywhere from at the rim (3rd) to 3-9 feet (8th) to 10-15 feet (1st) to 16-23 feet (7th) to 3-point range (1st).
|Doc Rivers: ‘Guys are locked in’||at 11:59 am ET|
Doc Rivers has preached it over and over.
The shots aren’t always going to fall but the defense will always be there.
Such was the case on Saturday night when they shot just 42 percent in Indianapolis.
But they held the Pacers to 35 percent in an 86-72 win. Sunday night, they followed that up by holding the Sixers to 38 percent in a 103-79 romp that put them on the brink of their fifth straight Atlantic Division title.
How appropriate since defense has been the backbone of everything in the Doc Rivers “Big 3” plus Rajon Rondo era.
Sunday, the Celtics held the Sixers to 6-of-22 shooting the second quarter to take command of the game.
‘The defense is really good; guys are locked in,” Rivers said after Sunday’s game that improved the Celtics to 32-24 on the season. “Your offense will fail you, you know that guys; I don’t care how well you play, your offense is going to fail you sometimes. But if you come with the right mindset your defense never should. And it’ll always give you a chance to win a game.’
Even two weeks ago it would’ve seemed far fetched that Avery Bradley would succeed Ray Allen as the starting off guard next to Rajon Rondo in the backcourt. But combine his newfound ability to cut the basket with his shutdown defense and he’s become too valuable not to start. He has seen success defensively from both sides now.
‘Its very important for the bench to come in and bring the intensity,” Bradley said. “That’s something that Doc always, we take pride in as a team so we want to come in and bring the intensity and play hard on the defensive end and that’s what we did in the second quarter.
‘It was very important for us to win this game. We want to come out and play hard and ya know coming in the second half we wanted to come out in the third quarter and we wanted to bring our intensity up even higher. That’s what Doc told us, he told us to come in the third quarter and play hard and we were making shots and we just continued to make the lead even higher.’
Part of defense is rebounding and with Paul Pierce staying home and crashing the boards, like his six first-quarter rebounds Wednesday against the Spurs, the Celtics are not giving up as many second and third-chance points. Even Sasha Pavlovic has bought in. He had four rebounds in the first half Sunday, including three in seven minutes in the second quarter.
‘Well it’s a combination of things,” Pierce said. “We got to take care of the ball definitely, but we got to rebound the ball and I thought we did a better job competing on the rebounds, especially at the guard level myself, Avery, Sasha, Rondo getting in there rebounding the ball. So its going to be important for us as we wind down the season and in playoffs, that’s what our one true weakness is and if we can address that down the stretch we will be a tough team to beat.’
|Rajon Rondo proves again: ‘It starts with me’||at 11:08 am ET|
Rajon Rondo has put up numbers this season that are pretty unreal.
At halftime Sunday night, his numbers were again staggering, but for a far different reason – five turnovers to go with six assists – and still the Celtics were cruising by 14 over the fading 76ers.
In his streak of 17 games of double-digit assist totals, Rondo has also prided himself on taking care of the ball. The first half Sunday night made Rondo really, really upset.
“He was really upset at halftime because he had the five turnovers,” Doc Rivers said. “I think he had a bet – not real money – with [assistant coach Ty Lue] that he’d have zero turnovers in the second half.”
Well, Rondo played the odds well because Rondo had the perfect second half, including nine third-quarter dimes without a turnover, and played 12 minutes in the second half without a miscue. He played so well that he got the entire fourth quarter off as the Celtics rolled, 103-79.
He finished with 15 assists but it was the zero turnovers in the second half that meant the most to Rondo after the game.
“The second half I just tried to keep it simple,” Rondo said. “We ran particular play the entire third quarter and it was good for myself and the team. It’s a good win for us. Guys got some rest for Miami.”
So how did the Celtics double their lead from 14 to 28 in the first nine minutes of the third?
“It starts with me,” Rondo said. “I had five [turnovers] in the first half. I played 12 minutes in the third and I didn’t have any turnovers and I think that’s why we were able to open up the lead on Philly and blow this game out.”
Rivers was certainly on board with Rondo’s approach, as he watched his point guard simply things.
“Keeping it simple,” Rivers said. “As simple as Rondo can.”
That doesn’t mean Rondo won’t pull of the spectacular – like when he hit a turnaround, fadeaway baseline jumper as the shot clock was expiring midway through the third.
But Rivers realizes, turnovers or not, put the ball in Rondo’s hands when he’s pushing the ball up the court and good things almost always happen.
“Guys do a great job, they know when Rondo is pushing the ball up,” Rivers said. “We’ve changed a little bit. Early in the year, we were always running toward Rondo to set a pick for him. Now we’re running away from Rondo and setting a pick on everybody else. And it’s been a good move by us and [the picks] are getting guys open.”
|Paul Pierce: With LeBron James and Heat on Tuesday, ‘it doesn’t get any easier’||04.08.12 at 10:22 pm ET|
The Celtics have earned a day in the sun on Monday in South Florida after they all but locked up their fifth straight Atlantic Division title on Sunday with a 103-79 shutdown of the fading 76ers at TD Garden.
They’ll need that rest.
LeBron James and the Heat most certainly feel they have debt to pay after the Celtics handed them their worst loss of the season on April 1 in Boston.
‘Oh yeah, I’ve looked at this since the schedule came out,” Paul Pierce admitted. “It doesn’t get any easier of course. You go to Miami, you come home and play Atlanta, then you got three in a row. Its tough, every team in the league has to deal with it, unfortunately we got to deal with it at the end of the season when teams seem to be winding down, getting tired legs. But maybe its good for us, cause it seems like we are playing our best basketball right now in this crucial stretch.’
Then the Celtics return home to play the suddenly resurgent Hawks, whom they could face in the first round – and would if the playoffs started today. Then they have Thursday off before playing three straight on the road, albeit against the Raptors, Nets and Bobcats.
It appears that the message of Doc Rivers was heeded very well in the last two games as the Celtics have allowed 72 and 79 points in wins over the Pacers and the Sixers. Doc might have been ticked off but Pierce said after Sunday’s game, he wasn’t the only one.
“He was frustrated but we all were frustrated, of course we were frustrated from losing a game that we all feel like was a very winnable game,” Pierce said. “As veterans we know how to respond, we know how to take our game up another level, you felt the frustration from the coach but we felt it ourselves. Even if Doc didn’t express it, I think we would have came out and play the way we played the last couple nights.’
The Celtics are now 32-24 and lead the Knicks and Sixers by three games with 10 left on the schedule. The division ensures no worse than a No. 4 seed and home court in the first round. But obviously, the Celtics have their sights set much higher.
|Doc Rivers: ‘I’m just so pissed at the way we played’||04.06.12 at 1:22 am ET|
Doc Rivers had seen enough.
After his team blew an 11-point halftime lead against the NBA’s top team and fell to the Bulls, 93-86, Rivers ripped into his team in a postgame press conference Thursday night in Chicago. But it wasn’t losing by seven to the best team in NBA on their home court that bothered him.
It was the lack of effort in the second half, and the lack of fight.
“I think it was the worst loss of the year for us,” Rivers said. “I think Chicago was too tough for us, tonight.”
Rivers was referring to the fact that the Bulls found a way to win without their star point guard and last year’s MVP Derrick Rose, who was missing his 12th straight game with a sore groin.
The Celtics played tough defense in the first half, holding the Bulls to 38 percent from the field, and assuming a 49-38 lead. But things fell apart quickly in the third quarter, as the Bulls outscored the Celtics, 29-17. The Celtics faded badly in the fourth and never regained the lead. They were again badly outrebound, 44-36.
“They were too tough for us tonight,” Rivers continued. “We let go of the rope. That was a crime. That was unacceptable.”
Rivers was only warming up.
“I don’t want to hear about us winning crap,” he said. “That was unacceptable. We’re not going anywhere playing like that. I’m just so pissed at the way we played. The playoffs are the furthest thing from my mind right now.
“We were the cool Boston Celtics. That’s what you could see. We were walking around. We couldn’t get the ball inbounds? We were the cool Boston Celtics. It was a joke.”
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