|Fast Break: Celtics hold off Blazers||12.01.10 at 10:15 pm ET|
The Celtics led 96-80 with 5:09 left in the game, but the Blazers went on a 15-point run that closed the gap to one point in the final minute — until Paul Pierce found Allen in the corner.
Pierce netted a game-high 28 points to go along with seven rebounds, as the Celtics improved 14-4 on the season. Kevin Garnett (17), Glen Davis (16), Shaquille O’Neal (14) and Rajon Rondo (10) also reached double digits in scoring.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce asserted himself: With the Celtics trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, Pierce took action — creating offense for himself. A nifty driving layup as he faked two defenders got him going, jumpstarting a 10-point second quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers that got the C’s back into the game.
Pierce didn’t miss his first shot until five minutes remained in the third quarter. In all, he finished with 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point range).
Big Baby buries jumpers: In a span of 2:49, Davis scored eight straight third-quarter points — including three 20-foot jump shots — to help the Celtics stay within striking distance of the Blazers. He scored 16 points on the night on 7-of-9 shooting.
Combined, Pierce and Davis scored 20 of the Celtics’ 31 third-quarter points, leading an otherwise stagnant offensive effort and giving the C’s a seven-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Shaq showing hustle: O’Neal turned in another solid performance. Running the floor throughout his 26 minutes, he totaled 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and he even made four of his six foul shots. His rebounding could’ve used some work, though, as he finished with just four boards on the night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Too many turnovers: How could the Celtics shoot 61 percent from the field while holding the Blazers to 45 percent shooting and still trail by one at the half? One word: Turnovers.
In the first quarter alone, the Celtics committed seven turnovers, including careless traveling violations on consecutive possessions by Garnett and Pierce. Meanwhile, the Blazers turned the ball over just twice in the first 12 minutes, taking a 26-20 lead into the second quarter.
In all, the Celtics committed 17 turnovers, resulting in 19 Trail Blazers points.
Wesley Matthews happened: Shooting from pretty much everywhere on the court, Matthews shot a blistering 5-of-7 from beyond the arc (8-of-13 altogether), dropping 23 points on Allen and the Celtics.
On the other end, the stronger Matthews chased Allen around screen after screen, holding the Celtics shooting guard to just 2-of-11 shooting and six points — until Allen’s last-second 3-pointer that clinched the game.
Defensive rebounding: As if the Celtics’ 17 turnovers didn’t give the Trail Blazers enough extra possessions, Portland also collected seven offensive boards — including a putback dunk by LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points) that gave the Blazers an eight-point cushion in the third quarter. As a result, the Blazers outscored the Celtics 42-38 in the paint.
|Irish Coffee: Is Greg Oden pick Sam Bowie 2.0 or worse?||at 11:18 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Amid countless comparisons of Greg Oden to Sam Bowie that surfaced after another season-ending Oden injury, I got to thinking: Is Oden’s draft selection over Kevin Durant worse than the biggest “what if” in NBA history — picking Bowie over Michael Jordan?
As the Celtics welcome the Trail Blazers to Boston on Wednesday night, it’s as good a time as any to determine — through three seasons — which Portland pick was more unfortunate.
First, let’s take a look at Oden and Bowie’s averages through their first three seasons:
Greg Oden vs. Sam Bowie
82 ….. GAMES ….. 119
9.4 ….. POINTS ….. 10.8
7.3 … REBOUNDS … 8.5
1.4 ….. BLOCKS ….. 2.6
0.6 …. ASSISTS …. 2.7
0.4 ….. STEALS ….. 0.7
Bowie played one more partial season (20 games) for the Blazers before playing at least 60 games per season in six of the next seven year for the Nets and Lakers. He actually averaged a double-double (14.7 points, 10.1 boards) during his first season in New Jersey.
There’s serious doubt whether Oden will ever suit up for the Blazers again, as he hasn’t played since December 2009 and becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
And now let’s examine Durant and Jordan’s averages through their first three seasons:
Kevin Durant vs. Michael Jordan
236 ….. GAMES ….. 182
25.3 ….. POINTS ….. 31.7
6.2 … REBOUNDS … 5.7
2.7 …. ASSISTS …. 5.0
1.2 ….. STEALS ….. 2.6
09 ….. BLOCKS ….. 1.2
The only solace Portland fans can take from all of this is that, while Oden may be a bigger bust (medically) than Bowie, Durant also isn’t as good as Jordan. Have you looked back lately at Jordan’s statistics in just his third season? He averaged a ridiculous 37.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.
On one hand, there’s no doubt the Blazers would’ve won the NBA title in 1992 had they drafted Jordan, since they lost to his Bulls in the Finals, 4-2. And they might’ve hung a couple more banners around that one. On the other hand, the present-day Blazers would be championship contenders for the next 10 years with Durant.
Either way you slice it, the knife still cuts deep through the heart of Portland.
CELTICS ROCK CLEVELAND
Well, for one final week for what will likely be a fairly long time, Cleveland is the center of the NBA universe. The discussion ranged from the Cavaliers‘ rematch against the Celtics on Tuesday night to the return of LeBron James on Thursday night.
Let’s start with the rematch, which turned into a 106-87 Celtics vengeance victory against the Cavaliers (after we explained why the C’s would cover the seven-point spread, please send 25 percent of your winnings to the WEEI offices in Brighton).
”No matter what team I’m coaching, we match up against Boston and there’s a little extra incentive for me,” Scott told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”All of that is because of the ’80s. It was fun, but it’s a little different now because Doc is over there. You have a good friend on the other side, it kind of waters it down a little bit. But anytime I see that green and white, I want to beat them.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston compared the Heat’s Three Amigos to the Celtics’ Big Three, and the contrast was none too kind:
For his part, James could have stayed here and been beloved, or he could have gone to New York, the nation’s media capital, or Chicago, the best basketball fit. Instead, he went to Miami, where he would not have to be a leader anymore.
The Boston Big Three, however, stood squarely in the shadows of the Larry Bird–Kevin McHale–Robert Parish triumvirate of the 1980s. They played beneath 16 championship banners hanging from the rafters. And they promptly won a 17th.
They were old and tired of losing. The Heat’s newcomers are young and used to babying.
”You don’t want to see anything stupid happen,” Gilbert told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”I’m sure a lot of them will make their feelings known, but as long as everybody plays by the rules and doesn’t go over the top, I think everything will be fine. I really believe that Cleveland people will do the right thing.”
Meanwhile, even while LeBron is trying to say all the right things, he still manages to sound pretty disingenuous (note the “showcase my talent” line):
“I think it’s going to be very emotional for myself,” James said. “I’ve got a lot of great memories in that city. So many times, from ups and downs, and a lot of things that I’ve done in my life, I give a lot of thanks to that city, lot of thanks to those fans for giving me the opportunity to not only showcase my talent but grow from a young boy to a man.”
Considering Shaquille O’Neal played with LeBron in Cleveland and has had plenty of homecomings himself — in Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Cleveland — reporters asked him if he’d be watching on Thursday night:
”My situation in Orlando was a six, my situation in LA was a seven,” O’Neal told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”This is like a 12.”
“I’m a silly fan,” O’Neal told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m anxious to see if he’s going to do that powder thing,” referring to when James fills his hands with powdered white rosin and tosses it in the air before the game.
Great point by Shaq. There’s no way he does “that powder thing” before the game, right?
DELONTE WEST’S TIMETABLE
I read about 87 stories about Delonte West‘s successful wrist surgery yesterday, and all of them said the team had no timetable for his return, which is why I was surprised to read this in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Wednesday morning:
“We don’t know his timetable [to return] yet,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve heard anywhere from two to three months or longer.
“That’s a tough one for us. That hurt us. My plan going into the year was to literally have two units — a starting unit and a second unit — because of the age of our team. But now we have to scrap those plans and some of our starters are going to have to play different minutes.
“It’s not what we wanted, but the season takes its own turns and you just have to adjust to them.”
Two months? That would mean a Feb. 1 return date — leaving plenty of time for West to rehab his way to health heading into the playoffs. That’s not nearly as bad as I thought.
Count Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler among the NBA players on Kevin Garnett‘s side in the whole Charlie Villanueva “cancer patient” saga. He explained how easy it is to get caught up in trash talking to Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thompsen:
“I love [Garnett], I love what he does. I look at it this way: He gives you his heart and soul every single night out there, and if it takes him to pump himself up and do whatever he has to do, I’ll take that rather than him collecting a check and not giving you a great effort. That’s the other side of it — the guys you feel like are not giving you as much as they can. So I’ll take him screaming and talking and pumping his chest and doing whatever it takes you to do to give what you got. I’ve admired him and looked up to him before my career started.”
You wonder how many NBA players feel the way Chandler does about Kevin Garnett and how many players feel the way Joakim Noah does about him.
WILL BRANDON ROY PLAY?
Celtics fans have already missed Durant and John Wall at the Garden this season. Will they also miss another NBA star when Brandon Roy‘s Blazers come to town Wednesday night?
According to the Oregonian, even after playing 33 minutes in a loss to the 76ers on Tuesday night, Roy expects to suit up for the Trail Blazers agains the Celtics:
Roy said he expects to play Wednesday against Boston. It would be his first back-to-back games since returning to play with a sore left knee.
However, Celtics fans might be robbed of the only opportunity to see Joel Przybilla. A tragedy, I know.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|The Three-Pointer: Marquis Daniels delivers what Doc ordered||11.30.10 at 11:14 pm ET|
In other words, he was forgettable, even for Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who designated Daniels as a DNP for 13 of their 24 playoff games last season.
Since entering the NBA in 2003, Daniels has missed at least 20 games in six of his seven full seasons. After signing a $2 million deal with the Celtics last season, he played in just 51 games — reaching double figures only eight times and looking more like Lou Tsioropolous than the guy who averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Pacers during the 2006-07 season.
In the Celtics’ 106-87 victory over the Cavaliers, we saw a different Daniels — one the Celtics must have known still lurked somewhere beneath those dreads, or else they wouldn’t have re-signed the swingman to another one-year deal (this time for more money, at $2.5 million).
“He surprises me, and he upsets me, because I know he can do it every night,” Rivers told reporters after Tuesday night’s win. “I’m going to stay on him, because he has that in him. I think he can be that terrific every single night. I really do.”
When the final seconds had ticked off the clock in Cleveland, Daniels’ line read like this: 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), four rebounds, two steals and one block — all improvements from his averages of 4.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks. But it wasn’t just his statistical production that endeared him to Rivers for at least one night. It was his defense.
“We put him on [Ramon] Sessions, he was guarding Mo Williams and moving his feet,” added Rivers. “They couldn’t beat him off the dribble. That was huge. We didn’t know how long we could go with that. We were going to try to get them on the other end in the post. We didn’t know we could stay in front of those guys, and the fact that Marquis could do that was a big deal for us.”
In the wake of Delonte West‘s surgery after suffering a broken wrist last week, the Celtics desperately needed someone off the bench to help Glen Davis — who had his usual productive night off the bench with 17 points and 11 rebounds — ease the burden for the Celtics starters. They’ve been waiting for more than a season for Daniels to be that guy, and for at least one game he met the challenge.
It’s no surprise that his best game of the season came two games after West’s injury and just one day after Rivers made the Celtics bench pull double duty at practice.
“We brought the second unit in early [Monday],” said Rivers. “They had their own practice before the regulars had their practice, and you could see that it got to them a little bit. And it was great, but we need them like that every night.”
Consider that a challenge to Daniels going forward, as if the motivation of another, bigger payday wasn’t already enough.
‘STEP ON THE GAS PEDAL’
After falling behind the Cavaliers 17-8 in the first 6:34 of Tuesday night’s game, the Celtics outscored Cleveland 48-28 to close out the half and take a 56-45 lead into the locker room.
That’s when Celtics commentator Tommy Heinsohn said it, as a ton of Celtics fans were thinking it: “All right, now step on the gas pedal.”
Too often this season the Celtics have rushed out to double-digit leads, seemingly in total control of every aspect of the game, only to have their advantage start to vanish like Marty McFly‘s image in that “Back to the Future” photograph.
Tuesday night, however, the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 24-20 in the third quarter, stretching their lead from 11 to 15 points and allowing Rivers to give his starters some much-needed rest, considering the C’s host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
In their first 13 games, the Celtics led all three of their games at halftime but were outscored in nine of those games during the third quarter — leading to close games and forcing the Celtics to rely on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo for well over 30 minutes a night.
That trend has changed in the C’s last four games, as they have won the third-quarter battle in wins over the Hawks, Nets, Raptors and — after Tuesday night — the Cavaliers. That allowed Rivers to limit Pierce and Allen to just 23 minutes apiece in the final game of that stretch.
‘TOP OF THE FRONT RIM’
My father could drain free throw after free throw in the driveway. He’d make 200 in a row, or at least it seemed that way when I was a kid. His mantra: “Aim for the top of the front rim.” He ingrained that — and as a result the importance of foul shooting — into my head at an early age.
Despite having three guys — Allen, Garnett and Pierce — shooting 89, 85 and 84 percent from the free-throw line, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game ranked 21st in the NBA in foul shooting. And they didn’t do themselves any favors, shooting just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe against the Cavaliers.
Shaquille O’Neal‘s struggles at the line are a given (he’s at 57 percent). It’s really only Rondo who can help the Celtics improve in that arena. The Celtics point guard is shooting a putrid 47 percent from the line this season, and he made just 1-of-4 against the Cavaliers.
This problem may not have much effect on the C’s success during the regular season, but there’s no doubt it could be an Achilles heel in the playoffs, when games are more physical and tighter at the end. After all, the Celtics ranked eighth in free-throw percentage when they won the title three years ago.
|Fast Break: Celtics handle Cavaliers||at 9:36 pm ET|
Six Celtics reached double figures, including Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, who combined for 33 points off the bench. Kevin Garnett contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, as the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 13-4.
WHAT WENT WRIGHT
Bench contributions: In 84 total minutes off the bench, Daniels, Davis and Nate Robinson combined for 41 points (on 17-of-34 shooting), 19 rebounds and six assists.
More importantly, their energy gave the Celtics a much-needed boost in the second quarter, as they outscored the Cavaliers 35-22 and built a comfortable 11-point lead at halftime.
Points in the paint: The Celtics absolutely obliterated the Cavaliers in the post, outscoring them 60-26 in the paint. Davis (17 points) and Garnett (11 points) led the way for the C’s. Pretty impressive, considering Shaquille O’Neal (6) was relatively quiet on the night.
Attacking the basket: Rondo repeatedly blew past the revolving door of defense that was Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions. He scored 16 of his 23 points around the bucket in addition to dishing out 11 more assists on dribble drives.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Thanksgiving weekend hangover: Whether it was rust from having Saturday and Sunday off or the Celtics not taking the Cavaliers seriously, the C’s looked sluggish early — digging themselves a 17-8 hole after the first six minutes. Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams combined for 11 points in that span.
Free throw shooting: The Celtics shot just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe. With a 74.6 combined free throw percentage, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game against the Cavaliers ranked 21st in the league.
Hickson’s yellow shoes: Wearing what may have been the ugliest shoes ever to appear on a basketball court, J.J. Hickson scored only one point in the game. His yellow sneakers were so awful that my girlfriend joked that the distraction they cause might be the secret to the Cavaliers’ semi-success this season.
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics Vengeance Factor||at 11:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
I love vengeance movies. Good (“Kill Bill”) or bad (“The Punisher”). I’ll watch it. And I’ll love it.
So, in the wake of last week’s Celtics victory over the Raptors and in the face of Tuesday night’s rematch against the Cavaliers, I got to thinking: How good are the post-Kevin Garnett-trade C’s at exacting revenge?
Examining the Celtics’ record over the last three-plus seasons in rematches against opponents following a regular-season loss in their previous meeting, it’s clear these C’s are pretty damn good at vengeance — like Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” good — especially against sub-.500 teams.
After losing to the Raptors by one on Nov. 21 this season, the Celtics handled Toronto during a nine-point victory in their rematch five days later. It marked their first shot at vengeance of the 2010-11 regular season.
Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have a record of 26-11 in rematches following a loss against that team in their previous meeting. Their average margin of victory in those 26 wins was 10.3 points.
Against sub-.500 teams during that same span, the C’s are now 9-0 in vengeance opportunities. Tuesday, the Celtics have another shot, as they face a 7-9 Cavaliers club that beat them 95-87 in Game 2 of the season.
The Celtics are favored by seven points in Tuesday night’s game. I’m just saying.
A CAVS TRAP GAME?
There’s no question that Thursday’s Cavaliers game against the Heat means more to Cleveland than Tuesday night’s rematch against the Celtics. And rightfully so, considering LeBron James‘ return to the town he dissed in his “Decision.”
But the Cavs are trying to avoid looking past the C’s, because — based on their comments to the Akron Beacon Journal — they expect the vengeance factor.
”We really took advantage of them playing the night before,” [Cavaliers guard Mo] Williams said of the first meeting against the Celtics. ”We ran, we ran, we ran. It was a new-look team at the time that didn’t know what to expect. I expect to see a better, more prepared Boston tomorrow.”
If the Cavs’ game plan against the Celtics was a secret before, it isn’t any longer.
”One of the reasons we were successful the first time is we got up and down the floor and put Shaq in a lot of pick and rolls,” [Cavaliers coach Byron] Scott said. ”That won’t change. We’ll still try to do that. If we do that like we did the last time, our guards will get wide open shots. We just have to keep it spread as much as possible and get the ball moving side to side.”
Well, then. I guess the Celtics don’t need to videotape any Cavaliers practices.
Oh, and speaking of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, if you haven’t already, read Adrian Wojnarowski‘s piece on James’ egotistical behavior. It’s probably the best insight into the Akron product you’ll read — including gems like these …
[Dwyane] Wade was one of the Team USA players who’d watch incredulously as James would throw a bowl of fries back at a renowned chef and bark, ‘They’re cold!’ Or throw his sweaty practice jersey across the court and command a team administrator to go pick it up. Everyone wants James to grow out of it, but he’s never showed much of an inclination for self-examination and improvement. And he’s never surrounded himself with people who’d push him to do so.
The fundamental problem for [Heat head coach Erik] Spoelstra isn’t that James doesn’t respect coaches — he doesn’t respect people. Give LeBron this, though: He’s learned to live one way with the television light on, and another with it off. He treats everyone like a servant, because that’s what the system taught him as a teenage prodigy. To James, the coach isn’t there to mold him into the team dynamic. He’s there to serve him.
I’m not sure why I do this to myself, but I’ve been following the 24-part series of profiles about the Lakers bloggers on the Los Angeles Times website.
Here’s what I’ve learned (in vast generalizations): Somehow, they’re all Lakers fans, yet none of them came from Los Angeles. Take one blogger’s story about how he became a Lakers fan as an example:
Born and raised in NYC, I didn’t really start watching much basketball until I found myself living in Cambridge, Mass., coming out of college and rooming and living with a crazy Celtics fan during the ‘85-‘86 season. I got one look at Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers, and I was instantly hooked. I eventually found myself living and working in L.A. early in my film/TV career in ‘87, ‘88 and some of ‘89 where my love for the Lakers was truly forged. I have been following the team religiously ever since.
They all hate, hate, hate the Celtics, which I’m sure fuels their objectivity:
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: The Celtics and all things green. Paul Pierce and the ‘wheelchair’ incident will always cause me to gag. More recently, however, Lebron and his now infamous ‘I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…’ episode have trumped the hatred I have for the Celtics. I’ve never disliked a team more than I do this Heat team at the moment — I hate the Celtics, but I loathe the Heat.
Ladies and gentlemen, your L.A. Times basketball bloggers!
Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. Back in 1968, Bill Russell became the first NBA player to capture the honor. Here’s what the former Celtics player-coach told SI about winning the award:
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Delonte West wrist surgery set for Tuesday||11.29.10 at 2:41 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced that guard Delonte West will have surgery on Tuesday for the fractured right wrist he suffered last Wednesday night late in the second quarter against New Jersey after driving in for a lay-up. Rivers said the team will know more about West and his fate for the rest of the season following the procedure.
“Surgery [Tuesday] and then we’ll know more after that,” Rivers said after practice on Monday.
Rivers aded starting point guard Rajon Rondo‘s left hamstring is no longer an issue but his sore left foot still remains troublesome. ‘The foot is the bigger issue. The hamstring [injury] is gone for the most part.’ Rivers said.
Rondo returned on Friday against Toronto after a three-game absence with a strained left hamstring.
|Shaquille O’Neal misses practice unexcused||at 2:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Forgetting the time practice begins is not the best way to endear yourself to the coach – especially when it comes after the coach gives you and the rest of the team the Thanksgiving weekend off. But Shaquille O’Neal can be lucky that he’s built up a lot of goodwill with Doc Rivers.
“You get over it,” Rivers said. “Listen, if a guy had a history, then you deal with it differently. When a guy doesn’t have a history or something, it happens. It’s life, you move on. You do whatever you do, fine [the player] or whatever all that stuff is. I never release that stuff and it’s not a big deal.”
The Celtics center missed practice on Monday when he forgot when practice began, according to coach Doc Rivers. Team spokesman Jeff Twiss confirmed that O’Neal did make the team flight to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s game. The absence comes after the 12-4 Celtics were given Saturday and Sunday off by the coach to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. Glen Davis had to take his place in practice for the short-handed C’s.
“Today, we only had 11 guys, which sucks,” Rivers said. “It hurts your practice because that means most of your guys are on the floor for the entire practice. That’s not the way to go. He got times mixed up, he missed one, he owes us one. We’re good.”
Asked if he would punish O’Neal, Rivers joked, “I was going to spank him. He may not hurt. It may hurt me.”
Then Rivers was asked if he handles star players differently than other players.
“It depends on who you are,” Rivers said. “If you have a history of that, we deal with it. It’s a human game and it always will be. I don’t have a set rule for one guy or two guys. Each guy is an individual basis is what I’m saying. You deal with it that way. You put money in the bank. If you’re a guy who tends to use his money up, then it’s a little shorter.”
The Celtics had a 90-minute practice that began at noon at their complex in Waltham.
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