|Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault||01.30.12 at 7:40 pm ET|
After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.
Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.
In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.
“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’ve been here, that’s all we’ve done. We haven’t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”
While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.
THE STALWARTS Read the rest of this entry »
|‘I’d love to be Paul Pierce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus’||01.28.12 at 1:29 am ET|
Mickael Pietrus isn’t Ray Allen, even though he played him on TV Friday night — starting in place of the injured NBA 3-point champion for the second straight night. And he knows he isn’t Celtics teammate Paul Pierce either.
“That man been a 10-time All-Star,” Pietrus said of Pierce. “I’d love to be Paul PIerce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus. … I’m happy to get Paul back. It was hard for me to guard him on the opposing team. I’m glad I’m his teammate. It’s Paul Pierce. He’s a 10-time All-Star. He knows how to play basketball.”
Pietrus knows how to play basketball, too, and he’s filled in admirably for Allen. In back-to-back starts against the Magic and Pacers, he has totaled 25 points — including five 3-pointers — and 12 rebounds.
‘He’s been huge,” said Pierce. “You talk about a guy who can really knock down shots and make plays. He’s a really scrappy defender and a great athlete. He’s been huge in Ray’s absence, just filling in that role and being that constant threat from the outside and filling in gaps on defense.’
|Paul Pierce: ‘I’m probably at about 83.7 percent’||at 12:47 am ET|
After totaling 52 points, 18 assists and 16 rebounds in consecutive wins against the Magic and Pacers, Celtics captain Paul Pierce discussed the improving health of the sore right heel that kept him out of training camp.
Pierce’s recent hot stretch raises his career total to 21,676 points, just 115 behind Pacers president Larry Bird for second on the C’s all-time scoring list. There’s at least a chance Pierce could achieve the mark in seven games (if not sooner) against the Lakers in Boston on Feb. 9. Of course, you’ll remember Allen set the NBA’s all-time 3-point record against Kobe Bryant & Co. in the Garden last season.
|Fast Break: Celtics win fourth straight, reach .500||01.27.12 at 10:06 pm ET|
For 24 minutes against the Pacers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like a couple guys in their mid 30s playing consecutive nights of basketball, combining for 4-of-16 shooting in the first half, but The Truth and The Ticket made a combined 10-of-14 second-half shots to lead the Celtics to impressive victories in back-to-back games — this time 94-87 against Larry Bird‘s club.
Pierce approached a triple-double for the second straight night, compiling 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett added 13 points and eight boards (as did Mickael Pietrus). Meanwhile, recently returned Chris Wilcox enjoyed a breakout night for the Celtics (9-9), amassing season highs of 14 points and six rebounds.
Danny Granger‘s 21 points led the Pacers (12-6), who had beaten the C’s in their two previous meetings.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bench clearing: Led by Wilcox’s six points and three rebounds, the C’s bench played an inspired first quarter, making all four of their shots and taking an early 23-17 lineup when Garnett and Pierce came out flat on the second night of a back-to-back. A lineup of Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus actually stretched a lead when the Celtics needed a lift most.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 21 of their 38 field goals in the first half — without starting point guard Rajon Rondo in action. For the second consecutive night, Pierce (10 assists in Thursday night’s victory) assumed the role as the offense’s main facilitator, recording more assists by himself (5) than the entire Pacers team (4) in the opening half.
Double the fun: Sure, Doc Rivers has a philosophy that his team is better off getting back on defense, but offensive rebounding was a concern for the Celtics last season, as they rarely outworked opponents on the offensive glass. Against the Pacers, the C’s pulled down seven first-half offensive boards and outscored the Pacers for the game in second-chance opportunities, 14-6.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s ‘goddamn bar fight’||at 12:23 pm ET|
Three nights after holding the Magic to a record low 16 field goals in an 87-56 victory at the Garden, the Celtics dealt Dwight Howard & Co. another embarrassing blow in Orlando — storming back from 27 points to steal a 91-83 win in one of the 10 greatest comebacks in NBA history. And one of the great postgame interviews in history.
“It was a goddamn bar fight,” Celtics forward Kevin Garnett told TNT’s Craig Sager after the game. “A goddamn bar fight, man. It was a bar fight, Craig. Tonight was a bar fight, man. We knew they were going to come in with a lot of energy. Tonight was a bar fight. You ever been in a bar fight? Ask Charles [Barkley], he’s been in a bar fight. This is what it was tonight. We won in the second half. We came out with a lot of energy.”
At some point, KG remembered Sager was conducting an interview, so he allowed him to ask a couple questions.
We heard Doc Rivers say late in that third quarter, “This is not over yet.” Did you believe him?
“Since I’ve been here in Boston, Doc has never told me nothing that wasn’t true. We were in the Finals one time, we were down whatever it was, and he told us we could come back. And I believed him. And we did. So, tonight was no different.”
Does this victory mean even more than holding the Magic to 56 points on Monday?
“When you’re down and you fight back, you’ve got reason to be proud of yourself. That’s what this was. This was a Celtics win right here, man.”
Of course, Garnett proved a big part of that win, notching his second straight double-double and fifth of the season. More importantly, he helped hold All-NBA center Dwight Howard to fewer than 20 points.
|NBA Power Rankings, 1/25||01.25.12 at 2:28 pm ET|
We’re exactly one month into the season and the NBA Power Rankings picture isn’t exactly crystal clear. Are the Sixers and Nuggets legit title contenders? What about the Nuggets? Are the Celtics and Lakers really borderline playoff teams? Will the Wizards and Hornets win 10 games? Is Shaquille O’Neal the worst analyst in history? When will The Legend of Mutombo’s Gold be optioned for the film rights? Even at the quarter-mark, so many questions still remain in this shortened NBA season. Let’s attempt to answer a few of them.
1. Oklahoma City (14-3): How the Thunder lost to the Wizards is a mystery on par with Area 51. Outside of that hiccup, Kevin Durant (MVP anyone?) & Co. continue to roll — through the Grizzlies, Knicks, Celtics and just about everybody else. Not only are they good, they’re healthy. Even Kendrick Perkins has started all 17 games. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about OKC — with games at the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers — but something tells me they’ll be Ok, see.
2. Chicago (16-3): No Derrick Rose, no problem. The Bulls are 4-1 in his absence, albeit against the dregs of the league. Meanwhile, Joakim Noah (16 and 10 on Monday) and Richard Hamilton (consecutive 20-point nights) are returning to form. But Rose remains the biggest question mark of the season, as his toe injury is expected to linger through the spring — and @derrickrosestoe is sure to pick up more than seven followers.
3. Miami (12-5): The Heat are 4-4 in their last eight games, but during that stretch they defeated the Spurs, Lakers and 76ers in five nights — without Dwyane Wade (ankle), another massive question mark looming over this NBA season. Remarkably, Erik Spoelstra‘s crew is 0-4 in Wade’s last four appearances. Without him, LeBron James is reverting to MVP form, as much as it pains me to say it, especially after he tweeted: “R.I.P Joe Pa! Met him before while I was out at Nike campus. He was great man!!” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Dwight Howard ‘looks up to a team like Boston’||01.24.12 at 2:23 pm ET|
In the third quarter of Monday night’s Celtics victory, as Howard attempted to establish position in the paint and bumped O’Neal on the block, the latter stuck his finger in the former’s face and voiced his displeasure. The two bigs at dichotomous points in their careers were separated by teammates and each assessed technicals.
“That’s kind of crossing the line when somebody puts their hand in your face,” said Howard (18 points, 14 rebounds), who had four of his team’s NBA record low 16 field goals in the 87-56 loss. “I just put his hand out of my face. I didn’t run up on him. It’s basketball. We’re not MMA fighters. I don’t know why I got a tech, but I’m cool.”
‘You’re at his mercy to be honest,” said Garnett, who totaled 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. “You have to do what we call dirty work early, which is to try to take him off his sweet spots, contest his shots. He’s strong, he’s very powerful and explosive. You’re at his mercy, man, seriously. I’m not about to sit up here in front of the cameras and give y’all defensive schemes and secrets, but different ways you play different guys.”
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