|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.”
Davis didn’t profess his love for Boston in his postgame press conference the way Perk did. He wanted a change in scenery and an upgraded role, and Orlando offered that opportunity. Or so he thought.
“I’m in the same situation I was here — coming off the bench,” said a dejected Davis after losing to his former team, 87-56. “The only thing I know is that I got paid a little bit more money. Like I said, it’s a process and a system that I’ve got to get used to. I don’t know. I know what I’m supposed to do, but I don’t know yet. I’m still searching.”
As they did for fellow members of the 2007-08 NBA championship team Eddie House and Perkins before him, the Celtics gave Big Baby the video montage treatment. When the Garden crowd responded with a standing ovation, Davis flashed his signature smile and acknowledged the fans with a wave before returning to the Magic bench.
“It was good to remember all the memories that you had,” he said. “I looked really big, like really fat. I was like, ‘Wow, chubby.’ I look a little more leander now. But it was good. It’s always good to see things like that, memories I can never forget. The fans showed love, and I appreciate that.”
|Fast Break: Magic pull disappearing act vs. Celtics||01.23.12 at 10:09 pm ET|
Maybe this is the win this Celtics team needed. It was hard to see this one coming, especially with five Celtics regulars sidelined by injury against a Magic team that won 11 of its first 15 games, but the C’s put together their best stretch of basketball in a 87-56 welcome home victory against Glen Davis & Co. at the Garden on Monday.
Paul Pierce (19 points, 7 assists) once again led the offensive charge, with a little help from friends Kevin Garnett (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (19 points, 8 rebounds). Meanwhile, starting in place of the injured Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley (3 steals) wreaked havoc on the defensive end to help the C’s (7-9) hold Orlando to 16-of-65 shooting (24.6%) — the best defensive effort of this Big Three era.
Davis scored just six points (2-9 FG) but grabbed 11 rebounds, and Dwight Howard led the Magic’s anemic offensive effort with 18 points (4-15 FG) and 14 boards.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Defending their life: Led by defensive-minded starters Garnett and Bradley, the Celtics put together their best defensive game of the season. They held the Magic to just 11-of-38 shooting (28.9%) before the break, and actually improved upon that in the second half (5-27; 18.5%). The C’s recorded six blocks (shockingly, none by rejection artist Greg Stiemsma) and six steals by halftime, building an early lead — something that escaped them through their 6-9 start.
Familiar foes: Lost in the drama surrounding Big Baby’s return to the Garden was the fact Bass was also facing his former team, as the two former LSU teammates were traded for each other after the lockout. One of few healthy bodies coming off the bench, Bass reached double digits by halftime and gave the C’s a much-needed boost against his old teammates.
Avery Bradley, defensive stopper: The Celtics sophomore guard gave veteran Magic point guard Jameer Nelson problems all night long, picking his pocket twice, forcing a jump ball and altering his shot — all in the third quarter. Given his third consecutive start in Rondo’s absence, this stretch might be just what the Doc ordered in building Bradley’s confidence and expediting his development in what some believed could be a breakout season for the young guard.
|Celtics montage: ‘Thank you Big Baby’ Glen Davis||at 8:21 pm ET|
Just as they did a week ago for Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics honored Glen “Big Baby” Davis with a tribute video during the first timeout of Monday night’s game against the Magic. A member of the 2007-08 NBA championship team and a key contributor in the 2010 NBA Finals run, Davis was traded along with Von Wafer to Orlando in exchange for Brandon Bass after the lockout.
Considering the Garden was far from filled (Patriots hangover, anyone?), the montage didn’t have quite the emotional impact Perk’s did. Prior to the game, Dwight Howard guessed that his new teammate might shed a tear during the video, but the opposite turned out to be true. Big Baby was all smiles as he waived to the cheering crowd. There were dry eyes pretty much everywhere in the house.
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