|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, reinvigorated||04.25.11 at 1:07 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
I think everyone can agree we saw a different Rajon Rondo against the Knicks then we did in the last month-and-a-half of the regular season. Sure, he played the majority of his minutes against the likes of Toney Douglas and Anthony Carter, but still — it’s not like he’s going to be facing Chris Paul in the next round.
Rondo is the switch. The numbers illustrate as much, and I see no reason he can’t replicate his performance against Mario Chalmers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rondo averaged 10.0 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 free-throw attempts in 21 regular-season games during March and April. Then, in the playoff sweep of the Knicks, he averaged 19.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 12.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 6.5 free-throw attempts. Essentially, without warning, he reverted to the player we saw when the Celtics started 23-4 before Christmas.
It’s not like the Big Three played that much better offensively against the Knicks than they had during the regular season in March and April. In fact, their field-goal percentage actually dropped from 50.2 percent in March and April to 49.4 percent against New York.
What really changed for the Big Three? As a result of Rondo’s ability to get into the paint whenever he wanted, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got far more open looks on the perimeter. They made a ridiculous 27-of-46 3-pointers (58.7%) — averaging 6.8 makes on 11.5 tries — in the Knicks series, as opposed to their 66-of-176 3-point shooting (37.5%) — 3.0 makes on 8.0 attempts per game — in the final 22 games of the regular season.
Can those two continue to shoot close to 60 percent from 3-point range? Probably not, but two of the game’s great shooters will keep getting more open looks as Rondo forces the Heat defense to sag on him in the paint. And if you think Dwyane Wade or LeBron James might take a shot at guarding Rondo, do you have any confidence that Chalmers or Mike Bibby or James Jones or whoever can keep up with Pierce and Allen?
|Irish Coffee: 10 reasons Celtics should win||04.22.11 at 4:30 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Considering all that’s gone wrong for the Knicks in this first-round NBA Playoffs series, the Celtics should put them in a 3-0 hole on Friday night in New York — a deficit no NBA team has ever returned from. Here are 10 reasons why that should happen …
10. They’re underdogs? The Celtics are 3.5-point underdogs to the Knicks in Game 3, according to Bodog.com. A lot of teams use the “nobody believes in us” mentality as inspiration, but most times it’s a load of B.S. Except nobody actually does believe in these Celtics. When’s the last time you heard so much negativity about a returning conference champion that leads their first-round opponent 2-0 while holding said opponent — which nearly led the league in scoring — to an average of 89 points per game?
By the way, some fun props for Friday night’s game: Ronny Turiaf has the longest odds of any expected starter to score the game’s first points (8/1); “Will Ray Allen make his first field goal?” is even money; the over/under for points for Paul Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett are 19.5, 16.5 and 14.5, respectively; and the over/under for Rajon Rondo‘s total points and assists is 24.
9. Doc Rivers > Mike D’Antoni: If you believe what TNT analyst Charles Barkley said, the Knicks are being coached by a guy who will be fired at season’s end. Meanwhile, the Celtics desperately want their leader to return to the bench next year — if there is a next year in the NBA. That should tell you all you need to know about how lopsided the coaching matchup has been in this series. And if you haven’t read Paul Flannery’s breakdown of Rivers’ exceptional execution, you should.
8. The MSG atmosphere: Who’s more prepared to play in front of what is going to be an insanely raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden tonight — the team that has played 30 road playoff games in the past four years or the team that’s played none at home?
The Knicks were the team playing with nothing to lose in Games 1 and 2. Now, they have plenty to lose, like the respect of the New York fans. And the Celtics are the ones playing loose. Do you expect anyone outside of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire or Chauncey Bilups to rise to the occasion for the Knicks in the face of that kind of pressure?
7. The bench is due: During his interview on WEEI’s Big Show, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said Celtics coach Rivers is expecting a breakout game from Jeff Green on Friday night. Green has been the focal point of the criticism of the Celtics’ bench during this series, but Glen Davis, Delonte West and Nenad Krstic carry some of the blame, too.
The C’s bench has been outscored 46-22, and those four guys have shot 9-of-30 in Games 1 and 2. If Toney Douglas is in the starting lineup again, you could make the claim that Green, Davis, West and Krstic are better than anybody the Knicks can bring off the bench. I mean, did you even know Roger Mason Jr. was still in the NBA?
6. Anthony’s play should Melo out: What are the chances Carmelo Anthony channels Bernard King and totals 40-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and five-plus assists again? Considering Anthony only exceeded 40 points twice, 15 rebounds once and five assists six times in 77 games this season, I’d say it’s extremely unlikely.
5. Landry Fields looks like a lost puppy: The Knicks’ starting shooting guard is 2-for-7 in 34-plus minutes in the series, and he’s looked even worse that that. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment (Ray Allen) has averaged 21 points on 65.2 percent shooting. The playoff atmosphere has clearly messed with Fields’ psyche. But, hey, at least he can blog:
I don’t think there are too many adjustments we need to make for Game 3. Here and there, we might sniff out a few plays before they happen. But other than that, I think with our energy level and the pace that we run at, it should be hard for them.
There is some uncertainty with Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups, but we can only focus on things that we can control. We hope those guys have a speedy recovery and hopefully they’ll be back tonight. We might know going into the game whether they’re available, but still, I don’t think that sways us in what we need to do. Because we didn’t have Amar’e for the second half of Game 2 and we still played it pretty tough. Either way, we should be all right.
If the Knicks don’t make many adjustments for Game 3, they’ll lose again, because the Celtics haven’t even played their best game of the series yet.
4. Keeping up with the Joneses: And by Joneses, I mean the Bulls and Heat. It hasn’t exactly been easy for those teams in the playoffs, either, but they each have 3-0 leads against the Pacers and 76ers, respectively. The last thing these old Celtics need is to stretch this Knicks series longer than it needs to be. They’re better than a .500 team that doesn’t have a healthy starting point guard or power forward, and they don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they’re facing a younger Heat team that’s also more rested.
3. Chauncey Billups isn’t healthy: The Knicks’ floor general has a strained left knee, and all indications are that he won’t play in Game 3, although he is listed as questionable before a game-time decision. New York Newsday reporter Alan Hahn set the chances of Billups playing at 10 percent. That means the worst defender on a bad Knicks defense (Douglas) will be matching up against the most important offensive player for the Celtics (Rondo).
2. Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t healthy: Based on the New York Post’s latest report, Stoudemire was “definitely hurting” on Thursday night. He was still “walking gingerly” on Friday morning and hasn’t even attempted to run yet, much less practice. Even if his game-time decision is a positive one, Stoudemire won’t be 100 percent.
1. An extra motivated KG: As if Garnett needed anything else to fire him up for a playoff game at Madison Square Garden, an anonymous NBA star wrote an ESPN.com column, calling the Celtics star “a punk and a coward” …
Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to his face, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks that: If you’re not on his team, chances are you hate the guy. You can learn a lot about him by watching his eyes. If he’s talking to you — and he’s always talking — he avoids eye contact. My advice to other guys in the league: Stare him down, and he’ll retreat. From what I’ve seen, he’ll never mix it up with a player who’s bigger than he is. Personally, I think he’s scared to fight — like a playground bully who barks but doesn’t bite.
But I have to admit, the Celtics are the most talkative guys in the league. And that makes sense, because it’s the mark of a championship team. Mouths help you win big games. Ray Allen got mean in Boston, and Paul Pierce will look at you, say, “Stop this,” then drop a J on your head.
Dear Player X, Garnett might not look you in the face, but at least you know who’s talking. KG has two double-doubles in two games in this series. Facing an ailing Stoudemire or an ailing Ronny Turiaf or a fully healthy Shelden Williams should mean a third. As Garnett wrote in his Anta blog, “we gotta come out firing next game.”
|Irish Coffee: Shaq bound for New York||04.21.11 at 11:24 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
After Wednesday’s hullabaloo over a report that the Celtics aren’t expecting Shaquille O’Neal back for the NBA Playoffs — which coach Doc Rivers refuted faster than Rajon Rondo ran a layup drill against Toney Douglas — I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing updates about Shaq.
But there’s a slightly new wrinkle to the Shaq drama.
Following Celtics practice on Wednesday, Rivers told reporters, “If you see him on the trip, that means he’s really close.” Well, in an appearance on Boston radio station KISS 108’s morning radio show Thursday morning, Shaq’s live-in girlfriend — Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander — admitted she and Shaq would indeed be traveling to New York on Thursday.
“Yes, he will be back,” Alexander said during the appearance. “I promise. He’s getting better. A few more days, but he’ll be back. Hopefully, the team can keep going with New York and keep finishing. ‘¦ We’re going up [to New York] today, so we’ll see.”
Rivers ruled Shaq out for Game 3 on Friday but left the possibility for Sunday’s Game 4 on the table. Now, I’m not saying you should put a ton of stock in what “Hoopz” says, but it’s at least worth noting that the Big Shamrock is bound for the Big Apple on the same day the rest of his Celtics teammates will be traveling to New York City.
|Carmelo Anthony channels Bernard King, and why the Celtics should pay attention to history||04.20.11 at 7:24 pm ET|
It’s becoming fairly obvious that if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t carry the Knicks, this series will be over in four hard-fought games.
The Knicks have two very banged up stars in Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire, both of whom are very questionable for Friday’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden as the Celtics lead the series, 2-0, and need just two more wins to advance to the Eastern Conference semis.
The thing is Anthony almost DID do it by himself in Game 2 Tuesday. He scored 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. But that wasn’t the first time a Knicks star put the team on his back and carried them.
All Knicks fans either remember – or have been reminded of – captain Willis Reed in Game 7 limping onto the court at Madison Square Garden, inspiring his team to a NBA title-clinching win over the Lakers in 1970.
But the more appropriate and obvious comparison is to No. 30 Bernard King.
The year was 1984. The Knicks were on the road at Joe Louis Arena for a decisive Game 5. They were underdogs and Isaiah Thomas was electrifying the crowd. But King didn’t flinch – even with the Detroit crowd going nuts.
He poured in 44 points to lead his team to an amazing 127-123 overtime win and a ticket to the Eastern Conference semis against the Celtics.
But what make Bernard King’s performance truly amazing was that it was the fourth straight game of at least 40 points, even with everyone in the world knowing he was getting the ball. Starting with back-to-back 46-point games in Games 2 and 3, King was the best player in the series. He followed that up with a mundane 41 points in Game 4 before lighting the board for 44 in Game 5. Take a trip down memory lane with Marv Albert and John Andraiese, both of whom are still broadcasting NBA games 27 years later.
In 1984, the Celtics were on a playoff run that ended with an electrifying win over the Lakers in Game 7 in the NBA finals. But Boston’s 15th NBA title nearly didn’t happen. King had 43 in New York’s Game 4 win at MSG and 44 more in Game 6 back in New York to force Game 7. The Celtics eventually survived the Knicks in seven fierce games. Sound familiar?
What was it like for Melo on Tuesday night, trying to do for his Knicks teammates what King did 27 years ago?
‘It was fun, for the most part,” Anthony said. “We were out there fighting man. My teammates stuck with me, I had confidence in them. It was just a battle. It came down to a couple of plays down the stretch, but for the most part throughout the whole game I think we played fantastic.
“Defensively we did, offensively I kind of had it going tonight. I made other guys better, they felt confident out there when they got the ball to make something happen. KG hit a tough shot over Jared, contested shot. For the most part we played great tonight. We can’t hang our heads over something like this. We’ve got to take this and build on it going back home.’
And Anthony repeated his mantra of Game 1 that the Celtics didn’t do anything special in winning the first two games. They just held serve.
‘There were some things when you look back you say ‘We could have done this, we could have done that, we could be up 2-0 if we did some things right,'” Anthony added. “For the most part, we are playing our [butts] off. We’re playing great. For some guys, this is their first time in the playoffs and for them to be stepping up to the plate like that, taking on the challenge against a championship team like the Celtics, we’re doing great. The Celtics didn’t do anything special, they won 2 games on their home court. Now it’s our turn to do the same thing.’
|Irish Coffee: Is Shaq coming back, or isn’t he?||at 12:21 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Shaquille O’Neal will be back. Shaquille O’Neal won’t be back.
Whether or not Shaq will return for the Celtics at any point during these NBA Playoffs is kinda like how I tell myself every morning that I’m definitely going to the gym — and then don’t. Ruled out for Games 1 and 2 with a right calf strain, Shaq remains listed as day-to-day on the injury report. Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers keep telling the media some version of, “He’ll be back; we just don’t know when.”
The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune’s Bill Burt cited an NBA source who believes Shaq is done for the season. Or does he? Here’s the exact phrasing from Burt’s story:
Shaquille O’Neal may have worn a Boston Celtics uniform for the last time.
In what would be a crippling blow to their chances of winning a title, the Celtics are going forward as if the affable center won’t be returning to team for the playoffs, according to an NBA source.
The Celtics came to this conclusion after Shaq failed to complete one simple sprint up and down the court during a “conditioning test” on Saturday, before he limped off the court in Waltham.
The Celtics held out a slim hope Shaq would be able to make his return in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Knicks or possibly in the conference semifinals, if they advanced.
“If he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “And at his age (he turned 39 on March 6) and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly.”
|Kevin Garnett shifts gears into clutch||at 12:50 am ET|
In the final seconds of close Celtics games over the last four years, you remember Ray Allen coming off screens and lord knows you remember the Paul Pierce isolations. But the Kevin Garnett hook shots? Not so much.
Less than a week ago, Jackie MacMullan wrote a piece that detailed Garnett’s lack of aggressiveness down the stretch of tight contests. Somewhere in the middle of it was this note: “In his time with the Celtics, KG has not attempted a single shot in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime in a playoff game.”
Well, scratch that off Garnett’s to-do list.
In Game 2 of their first-round series, the Celtics trailed the Knicks by one with 19 seconds remaining when Rajon Rondo inbounded to Garnett out of the timeout. The Celtics forward proceeded to back Jared Jeffries down on the dribble, turn to his left and toss in a hook shot in the paint. The basket gave the Celtics a 94-93 advantage with 13 seconds left.
“It was interesting,” said Ray Allen, who hit the game-winning bucket in Game 1. “The play wasn’t even for Kevin the way we ran it. Rondo threw it to him, and I’m glad he did, because that proves big for us going into the next game. Most of our plays have several different options on it, but it involved me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin at some point. And he saw the matchup.”
You score 14 points in the first quarter, 18 in the first half and 30 for the game. You’re the point guard and your team just won a playoff game to go up 2-0 in a best-of-7 series. You’d think you’d be pretty pleased.
‘We’re not happy with the win but obviously you’ll take any one you get in the playoffs,” Rondo said in his patented calm tone. “But we know we have a lot to improve on. There are so many areas.”
Like rebounding, where the Knicks beat the C’s, 53-37, including 20-9 on the offensive glass.
“They destroyed us on the glass,” he said. “Obviously, without Amar’e [Stoudemire], we had to help a lot, but we’ve got to crack back, and our guys have to do a better job of boxing out the bigs. As a team overall, we have to do a better job at rebounding the ball, that’s been our problem throughout the season. We escaped tonight, another one, but nevertheless, we got the win.’
But it wasn’t all bad. As a matter of fact in the first quarter, Rondo showed he was ready to take over the game, scoring 14 points, including 12 on lay-ups as the Celtics were getting out in transition at will against the Knicks thanks to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
‘I just thought, Kevin and Paul gave me great outlet passes and I tried to attack the rim,’ Rondo said. ‘I think I tried to attack Game 1 but my layups were getting blocked and I didn’t make a couple. But tonight I made them, I stayed aggressive, I tried to expose them because I don’t think they did a great job getting back in transition. But they made an adjustment, in the second half I tried to go to my guys, Paul, Ray [Allen], and Kevin.’
The tempo was so fierce at one point of the first quarter, Rondo signaled to coach Doc Rivers that he needed a break. Who could blame him? He was running up and down the court at will thanks to the Knicks and their ole’ transition defense.
‘I just got tired in the first quarter, at like three minutes, I think it was like 3:59 actually, because like I said I was trying to push the pace and I got a little winded,” Rondo said.
But Rondo made a point of saying he didn’t tire in the second half when the game was on the line. Rondo wound up playing 42 minutes, just three less than captain Pierce.
“I told Doc to give me a rest. As soon as I was ready I came back in to start the second quarter, but after that my wind was fine. D-West came in and gave me a little breather off the ball. I’m comfortable playing the minutes I’m playing. It was just that first session was like a track meet.’
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