|How close is that corner?||03.14.10 at 11:03 pm ET|
The Celtics repeatedly have mentioned ‘turning a corner’ to get back on a winning track. But with 17 games left in the regular season, how far away is that corner?
‘I don’t know, maybe 17 blocks,’ Rajon Rondo guesstimated on Friday. ‘It should be the same zip code.’
Doc Rivers said he has felt his team getting closer, including at times during Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers. ‘I told our guys, it’s frustrating for me because I could see in a lot of ways how close we are to breaking out and to being really good,’ he told reporters after the game. But the Celtics trailed the Cavs by as many as 17 in the fourth quarter and lost for the third time in four games.
The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 contests, a stretch that included a three-game winning streak and a pair of two-game skids. Ray Allen understands the regular season can be a series of ups and downs, the reason why he thinks that corner isn’t that distant.
‘I live on an island. I don’t have blocks or anything in the country,’ Ray Allen said. ‘Any time you have to turn a corner, the corner is a block away. It’s just a block away because once you do something well, you feel like you’ve turned a corner. So it’s never that far away. Just like when you’re good, you’re just teeter-tottering on being bad, vice versa.’
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Cavaliers||at 5:30 pm ET|
Winning in Cleveland was important to the Celtics, but Doc Rivers knew beating the Celtics at home would be significant to the Cavaliers, too. On Sunday, the Cavs defended their homecourt (where they are now 29-4) and defeated the Celtics, 104-93.
LeBron James scored just two field goals in the first quarter and had six points in the entire first half, but finished with a game-high 30 points.
The Big Three tried to carry the Celtics offensively — Ray Allen led with 20 points; Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce followed with 18 each. Rajon Rondo led the C’s with eight boards, but the team was outrebounded 51-43.
Turning Point: The Celtics had an opportunity to reclaim control of this game in the third quarter. Allen and Pierce tied the game at 68 apiece with back-to-back 3-pointers. But Garnett and Rondo committed a pair of turnovers in 24 seconds and the Cavs went on an 8-0 run.
Player of the Game: After Saturday’s practice, Kendrick Perkins said Anderson Varejao was an instigator on the court, and he proved to be on Sunday. Varejao scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds off the bench in the first half alone. His tough play early on set the tone for the Cavaliers.
- Garnett and Glen Davis were both involved in rough play during the game. Early in the first, Garnett and J.J. Hickson were called for technical fouls after exchanging words under the basket. In the third, Garnett went for the ball and ended up hitting James in the face. James fell to the ground and had to go to the bench during a subsequent timeout. As for Davis, he practically leapt at Antawn Jamison and knocked him to the floor while attempting a 3-pointer.
- One of the reasons why the Celtics were able to stay in the game was because of free throw shooting. They shot 23-for-30 from the line while the Cavs were 31-for-48.
- The Celtics shot 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, but went 6-for-11 in the second. Allen and Pierce hit three apiece.
- Former Celtic Leon Powe scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in eight minutes for the Cavs.
|Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Cavaliers||at 4:39 pm ET|
Early in the third, Kevin Garnett went for the ball and hit LeBron James in the face. James fell to the ground and went to the bench for a timeout. He returned to the game and scored 11 points in the quarter.
Even though they trail, the Celtics did even things up in the quarter. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 68 apiece. But they committed two consecutive turnovers and the Cavs quickly went back up by six.
Garnett and Glen Davis both picked up their fourth fouls. The Celtics, however, have a strong advantage at the line. They are shooting 20-for-23 from the line while the Cavs are 19-for-30.
|Second Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Cavaliers||at 3:50 pm ET|
Glen Davis committed another tough foul against the Cavaliers. He practically leapt at Antawn Jamison and knocked him to the ground while shooting a 3-pointer. He picked up three fouls in the first half.
The Celtics are 0-for-6 from behind the arc while the Cavs are 5-for-12.
|Perkins: Cavs better without Shaq||03.13.10 at 3:37 pm ET|
There is no denying that Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most challenging big men to go up against in the NBA. But in the case of the Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins thinks they are better suited without him.
The Cavaliers are 6-1 since O’Neal suffered a sprained thumb on February 25 against the Celtics. While it should be noted that wins during that stretch came against the sub-.500 Knicks, Nets, Pistons, and 76ers, Perkins believes that the Cavaliers have more options and speed without O’Neal.
‘In my opinion, I think they’re better,’ he said after practice on Saturday. ‘They can run more, you’ve got Anderson Varejao who’s more of an active body, he gets LeBron open a lot, opens up the paint for him, so I think they’re a better team. I mean obviously Shaq could help them, but I think they’re a better, more fast-paced team.’
Even without O’Neal on the court, Perkins will still have hands full in the paint. Anderson Varejao isn’t as big as O’Neal, but he causes problems for opponents in his own way.
‘You’ve just got to take him out of the game,’ said Perkins. ‘I think you’ve got to, all the time he’s more of the instigator. I think you’ve got to be more of the instigator when you’re playing against him. You’ve got to hit him first. He’s a guy who flops, gets a lot of calls, takes charges, offensive rebounds, so I think you’ve just got to keep a body on him and play against him hard.’
Varejao is averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games against the Celtics this season, compared to 8.0 points and 6.0 rebounds from O’Neal.
|Cavs measuring stick for Celtics?||at 3:18 pm ET|
Over the years, the Celtics have served as a measuring stick for their opponents. A win over the Big Three and Company has signified to many that they have what it takes to run with the best.
“The Celtics get the best game out of everybody they play,” Jamal Crawford said following a Hawks win over the C’s in January. “They are one of the best teams in the NBA and it’s a good measuring stick.”
‘I guess it just proves that we should have high expectations and we should continue to work hard and if we play hard ‘ I think that’s the biggest thing,’ Steve Nash said after the Suns dealt the Celtics their first loss of the season.
But the Celtics are no longer at the top of the East. On Saturday, they were nine games behind the Cavaliers for first in the conference. That makes Sunday’s game in Cleveland that much more meaningful. A win on the Cavs home court, where the Cavs are 28-4, would be significant to the Celtics.
‘I’m looking forward to the game, seeing exactly where we’re at, just going out there and competing,’ said Kendrick Perkins after practice on Saturday. ‘They’re a great team, they’re at home, best in the NBA, just seeing where we’re at. I think it would be a great confidence boost for us if we could go in their home building and get a win.”
Perkins is quick to point out, however, that while a victory in Cleveland would help their confidence, the Celtics are not measurng their success against that of the Cavs. He says that using a game against the Cavs to assess the Celtics performance is like role reversal “in a way,” but the Cavaliers still have a lot to prove too.
“They still haven’t won anything, they’re just the best team in the league,’ he said. ‘They still haven’t done anything we haven’t done, so right now they’re just the best team in the league and we’ve got to go at them.’
The Celtics will play the Cavs at 3:30 on Sunday. The season series is tied 1-1.
|Fast Break: Celtics 122, Pacers 103||03.12.10 at 10:00 pm ET|
After losing by 20 to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Celtics bounced back and were up by as many points at halftime over the Pacers en route to a convincing 122-103 victory over the Pacers on Friday at TD Garden. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points. Roy Hibbert led all players with 23.
The Celtics bench outscored the Pacers reserves, 54-38. They had a 26-12 advantage in the first half alone.
Turning Point: There were seven lead changes in the first quarter before Nate Robinson picked off a bad pass with 45 seconds left and nailed a three. It gave the Celtics a six-point lead that they never surrendered.
Player of the Game: Robinson shot 5-for-6 from behind the arc and finished the game with 15 points. His energy sparked the Celtics late in the first quarter and carried into the second quarter, where they led by as many as 21 points. Robinson scored more points in seven minutes than he had in the past four games combined.
- The Celtics scored 38 points in the second quarter to top their previous season-high of 37, set on December 10 against the Wizards. They tied their season-high in any quarter, having previously scoring 38 points on three other occasions (most recently in the first quarter on February 23 against the Knicks).
- Glen Davis scored 15 points in 20 minutes. He had not scored more than seven points in any of the last three games.
- The Celtics won the regular season series with the Pacers, 2-1. They previously won on December 22 (103-94) and lost on November 14 (113-104).
- Over 600 tickets were donated for Seats for Soldiers night at TD Garden. Earlier in the day, the Celtics and OmniPresence hosted a video conference for local families with loved ones stationed in Baghdad, Iraq and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.