|Thunderstruck: Kevin Durant, Thunder have just enough to hold off Celtics||03.10.13 at 3:39 pm ET|
Kevin Durant scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while former Boston College star Reggie Jackson hit a couple of key baskets off the bench as the Thunder ended the Celtics‘ five-game winning streak with a 91-79 win Sunday afternoon at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points while Kevin Garnett added 10. But Garnett, who hit four of his first eight shots, missed 10 in a row at one point, including his first eight of the second half as Boston fell short in their bid to sweep the Thunder, who improved to 47-16. The biggest difference in the game came at the free throw line, as the Thunder hit 27-of-33 shots while Boston attempted just 20, making 14.
The Celtics (34-28) hung in with No. 2 seed in the West, overcoming a pair of 10-0 runs by the Thunder in the first half to trail by just five points at halftime, 50-45. After shooting 51 percent in the first half, the Celtics went ice cold in the second half, making just 10-of-40 shots in the second half. They finished shooting just 37.7 percent (29-of-77) from the field.
The Celtics turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, holding the Thunder to just 18 points and cutting Oklahoma City’s lead to three, 68-65, heading into the fourth quarter.
But the Celtics went ice cold to start the fourth. Oklahoma City opened on a 10-2 run, highlighted by a jumper by Jackson as the shot clock expired. He changed his shot in mid-air and double-pumped to connect.
The Celtics missed 15 of their first 17 shots of the quarter while the Thunder built their biggest lead, 87-73, on a Durant baseline jumper with 3:13 left. But the Celtics responded with six straight points to get the lead down to eight with 2:20 left. After a defensive stop, the Celtics appeared to get the ball back with 1:44 left and a chance to cut the lead even more. But a replay overturned a ball out of bounds off Jason Terry and the Thunder got the ball back with a new shot clock.
The Celtics forced the Thunder to use all 24 seconds without allowing the Thunder to get a shot off. Jeff Green‘s 3-point attempted rimmed out with 59 seconds left. The Thunder got the next basket with 37.4 seconds remaining on a layup by Serge Ibaka to put Thunder up, 89-79, and ice the game.
The Celtics are off Monday before taking on the Bobcats in Charlotte on Tuesday night.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Josh Smith: Celtics trade ‘was a possibility’||03.09.13 at 1:27 am ET|
Josh Smith was in Boston, so naturally it was time to ask Josh Smith about the latest Josh Smith to the Celtics trade rumors. It’s like an annual rite of passage for the Hawks forward whose contract expires at season’s end.
Leading up to the Feb. 21 trade deadline, this season’s rumors had either Celtics captain Paul Pierce or a package of Jeff Green and Brandon Bass headed to Atlanta in exchange for Smith’s services. Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that the C’s, Hawks and Mavericks nearly pulled the trigger on a three-team deal that would have brought Smith to Boston for Pierce and a first-round pick.
Of course, Smith also almost landed on the Nets and Bucks, among other places.
“It was a possibility of me going a lot of places,” Smith said after his near triple-double (32 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) in Boston, “but I’m here and I’m focusing on what’s at stake right now. I’m trying to get a little higher playoff position, so I am not worried about anything else but winning games for this organization and this team.”
Generally, the logic goes something like this: Smith and Rajon Rondo were amazingly entertaining high school teammates, and they’re still best friends, so the C’s are a natural fit for a guy the Hawks probably won’t re-sign.
“That’s my friend, so we talk almost every day,” Smith said of the injured Celtics point guard. “We don’t talk about surgery. We just talk about friendship stuff, off-the-court stuff. That’s the least of both of our concerns. It’s a far-fetched injury, so right now we’re just focusing on staying positive.”
(Aside: Somehow I doubt his ACL tear is the least of Rondo’s concerns, and I can assure you it’s not far-fetched.)
Perhaps they discuss the C’s surprising 14-4 record sans Rondo, including Friday’s overtime win over his Hawks?
“They’re a successful basketball team, and they know how to win,” said Smith. “They have a lot of professionals on that team. They have some players that have won championship rings on their team, so I’m not surprised.”
What about those pesky trade rumors? Surely, Smith and Rondo discuss those in their daily phone conversations.
“We don’t talk about that,” finished Smith. “We don’t talk about that.”
OK, then. Nothing to see here. Move along. Until the next time Smith rolls into Boston, I’m sure.
After the Celtics improved to 14-4 since the season-ending injury to his friend and Celtics teammate Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett faced questions about whether the season has taken on a special feel in recent weeks.
“Special?” he asked.
The question — a legitimate one given the circumstances — was asked again.
“We haven’t given in to the [expletive] critics,” said Garnett, who finished with 17 points and seven boards in the 107-102 overtime win over the Hawks. “We’re working hard. We’re grinding. We’re showing our character. Our coach is a grinder himself, and his team is just that. We’re not looking for any handouts or sympathies or anything like that. We don’t expect anybody to give us nothing. We’re going out, working hard and gaining everything we’re getting. We’re giving ourselves a chance every night. We’re leaning on each other. We’re playing together.
“I could probably better answer your question later on in the postseason to see where were at. It’s still early. Everybody’s fighting for positioning. Everybody pretty much has the same road at this point, so it’s kind of early.”
As much as things have changed, some things never do. We’ve officially entered the part of the season where KG begins calling out the critics who doubted the Celtics throughout the first half of the season. Remember this?
“Never count us out,” Garnett said when the C’s clinched a fifth straight Atlantic Division title last April. “You guys called us old. Over. I read some of your pathetic articles and some of your lousy analysis. It’s a pain. Obviously, you don’t know what drives us. I thank y’all for those articles. I appreciate it, because it lit a fire under us.”
As for last night, Garnett had plenty more to say on a range of topics, and as usual it was all entertaining:
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics ground Hawks in overtime||03.08.13 at 10:50 pm ET|
The over-35 crew of Paul Pierce (27 points), Jason Terry (19) and Kevin Garnett (17) combined for 63 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists, leading the Celtics to their fifth straight win — 107-102 over the Hawks in overtime — and helped the C’s keep pace with the Bulls in the Eastern Conference seeding race.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Piercing hot: In the first quarter, Pierce made his first four buckets, including two 3-pointers, to finish with 12 points in the opening 12 minutes. Of course, he missed his easiest shot of the frame — a layup as time expired — but his shooting set the tone for the C’s 28-point quarter. Garnett and Avery Bradley also started a combined 4-of-6.
And more Pierce: The captain dropped back-to-back 18-foot jumpers late in the fourth quarter to keep pace with a furious Atlanta comeback. In overtime, he drained a 27-footer with a hand in his face to regain the lead with 1:37 remaining. And he assisted on Terry’s 3 that gave the C’s a 105-102 lead a minute later. Basically, he did it all.
Board to death: The Hawks started big against the Celtics with Josh Smith, Al Horford and Johan Petro in the frontcourt. While Horford and Smith combined for 20 points, 9 rebounds and six assists in the first half, the Celtics owned a 19-16 rebounding edge, didn’t allow a single second-chance point and took a 52-47 lead into halftime. That margin got flipped on its heels in the second half, when the Hawks made their comeback, and the Hawks star tandem totaled 54 points, 21 boards and 14 assists to give Atlanta a 41-35 rebounding edge.
KG being KG: Regardless of which lineup Celtics coach Doc Rivers pieced around Garnett, the C’s center made the most of his 35 minutes. He started 7-of-11 from the field — including a 3 in a second straight game that even got him excited — to go along with his eight boards and two dimes. When the Hawks cut the lead to two starting the fourth quarter, Garnett seemingly had a hand in every play, including a beautiful assist to a cutting Courtney Lee and a driving baby hook over Horford that pushed the lead back to 12.
Jason Terry connected on a straightaway 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in overtime to lead the Celtics to a thrilling 107-102 win over the Hawks Friday night at an electrified TD Garden. The game marked a franchise-record 11th overtime game for the Celtics this season, with Boston going 7-4 in those contests.
More importantly, it extended Boston’s home-court winning streak to nine games and improved them to a season-best seven games over .500 at 34-27. They tied Atlanta (34-27) in the East. The Hawks entered the night as the No. 5 seed in the East.
The Hawks, who burned the Celtics with 12 3-pointers in their double-overtime win in Atlanta on Jan. 25, came out blazing again Friday night. Devin Harris, Jeff Teague and Josh Smith connected from long range to account for Atlanta’s first three field goals on the night.
Smith finished with a game-high 32 points while Al Horford had 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Hawks finished the night 9-of-27 from long range.
The Celtics built a 10-point lead in the second quarter, 41-31, as the Celtics rode the hot shooting of Pierce and Jason Terry. Pierce was 5-for-7 from the field in the first half, including a pair of threes in the first quarter while Terry scored all 10 of his first-half points in the second quarter. Terry finished with 14 off the bench.
But the Hawks made a 13-2 run to take a very brief 44-43 lead on an Anthony Tolliver 3-pointer. The Celtics responded by finishing the half on an 8-4 run to take a 52-47 lead to the locker room.
After the Hawks closed to within seven, 86-79, Jeff Green, who was slowed by the Hawks for the first three quarters, threw down a spectacular reverse dunk with 5:14 left to put Boston up, 88-79.
But the Hawks weren’t done. Jeff Teague converted a three-point play when he was fouled on a layup and hit the free throw to help Atlanta close to within five, 90-85, with just over three minutes left. Smith then hit a layup with 2:54 left as the Hawks cut the Boston lead down to three, 90-87.
Pierce hit an 18-foot fadeaway jumper with 2:26 left to restore the lead to five before Smith came back to answer, making it 92-89 Celtics. After a Garnett missed jumper, Kyle Korver hit a three with 1:31 left to tie the game, 92-92. Pierce hit another fadeaway from 18 feet to put the Celtics up but Al Horford got free for a game-tying dunk with 55.2 seconds left.
The Hawks had a chance to take the lead with 31 seconds left but Smith committed a turnover with a bad pass and Garnett came up with the steal with 25 seconds left. Pierce ran an iso play at the top of the key before dishing to Garnett with five seconds left in regulation. Garnett missed his jumper, giving the Hawks a chance with 2.2 seconds left. Harris inbounded for the Hawks to Smith, who missed an open look over Brandon Bass.
The Hawks scored the first four points of overtime before the Celtics responded. Green’s baseline three hit the front of the rim, bounced straight up in the air and rattled home with 2:34 left in overtime, putting Boston back up, 99-98. With the shot clock about to expire, Smith drained a three with 2:14 left to put Atlanta back up, 101-99. Pierce connected for a three with 1:37 left to put the Celtics back up, 102-101. Smith connected on 1-of-2 free throws with 1:20 left to tie the game, 102-102.
Terry drilled a straightaway three with 35 seconds left to put the Celtics up, 105-102. The Celtics are off Saturday before taking on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET
For complete coverage from the Garden from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
Doc Rivers spoke at length before Friday’s game at with the Atlanta Hawks about how teams are preparing for defensive star Avery Bradley, how much the Celtics have been playing their “Manwich” zone defense and whether or not he’s paying attention to the Eastern conference standings.
Rivers said he also doesn’t spend much time looking at the Eastern conference standings. The Celtics came in Friday at 33-27 and in seventh place in the Eastern conference. But it’s quite the log-jam in the middle of the East. The Celtics were just a game behind the fifth-place Hawks and just 4 1/2 games behind the second-seeded Knicks. The Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Hawks and Celtics are separated by just five games.
“I can’t even tell you what our exact record is,” said Rivers. “But I know it’s close with everybody else’s record. That’s how much I look at it… I think later in the year, I may at [look at] times. Right now, we just have to keep getting better, so that’s my focus.”
Of course, the Hawks and Celtics have met in the past in the playoffs, with the Celtics coming out on top in 2008 and last year.
“I think both teams understand where we are both at — that all our games now are important,” Rivers said. “I don’t think there’s another game this year that’s not important. It’s just that close with everybody. That’s great. That’s what I said I liked about the way we did the All-Star break — we’ve been doing that lately anyways — but I just like it when you come out of the break, it’s a sprint. And everybody kinda is in it, and it’s good.”
As for teams gearing up for Bradley’s defense, Rivers said he can sense it more and more now coming into games.
“You know it’s coming,” Rivers said. “I’m sure they’re warned by it. Some guys do pretty well and some guys don’t. It’d be no fun.”
Why aren’t there more players like Bradley in the NBA?
“Because they don’t have the ability,” Rivers said. “You have to have great instincts, great speed. It takes a lot of things. You can’t just [say] I’m going to be a great defender because if it were just that, it would be more [players playing great defense].
“It is a lot [of desire] but you just have to have great everything, great feel, great feet, great instincts, great strength. It takes a lot.”
Speaking of defense, Rivers gave great insight to his use of the zone defense, schemed in part by assistant Mike Longabardi.
“It’s been good. We just keep running it. We don’t do it for long periods. We have in the last couple [games]. A lot of that has been situational – Kevin was in foul trouble or JET was struggling defending so were trying to hide him in some ways but a lot of times a team scores five times in a row, throw a zone on them twice and then get back man just to get them out of rhythm.”
Meanwhile, Rivers said it was a “bummer” that his son Austin Rivers suffered a broken right hand and is likely done for the year with the New Orleans Hornets.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|The true brilliance of Doc Rivers: ‘It’s great when you win on execution’||03.06.13 at 11:09 pm ET|
Everyone is going to point to the back-pick play drawn up by Doc Rivers, with a huge assist to offensive coach Armond Hill, as the latest example of what makes Rivers one of the truly best coaches in the NBA.
And they should.
But his real brilliance comes in how he’s prepared Jeff Green for the game-winning moment all season. Kevin Garnett fired a bullet pass to Green under the basket after Paul Pierce set Green free on a perfect back-pick. Green makes the adjustment under the basket, puts the game-winner off glass for an 83-81 road win over the second-seeded Pacers.
‘It was executed great,” Rivers said. “We got it down to the last second. Either Kevin was going to try and hit Jeff or [hit Paul Pierce]. The whole play was [made] by Paul Pierce’s back pick. He was terrific. He set a nice back pick. They [Pacers] got a little mixed and then Jeff had to make a tough shot. They doubled Kevin so the pass was a little bit off-mark and Jeff had to adjust but it’s great when you win on execution.
‘I told our players I had drawn up another play. Armond Hill walked over, and he rarely does it, and he says, ‘Listen, the play you drew up in the first half worked so let’s run it again.’ So I switched to the play that he wanted me to run and it was great. It worked out perfect.”
Funny thing, earlier in the season, Rivers probably would’ve gone with his first instincts for a pick-and-roll but decided to go with Hill’s recommendation.
‘It was going to be a pick-and-roll, actually a pick-and-roll with Jeff and Kevin because we like that combination because Jeff is at the ‘4′ with his speed can always get a shot off,” Rivers said.
Green has been brought along at a pace all season that varied between breakneck and breakdown. Rivers struggled all season to find that comfort range for Green to excel so that he could put Green in the position he was Wednesday night on the road – a tired team that needed young legs to make up a 14-point deficit in the second half against a red-hot, No. 2 seed in the East.
Thursday night was not one of Green’s best games but it was one of his best moments. Eleven points in 34 minutes. He was just 5-of-14 from the field. Still, Rivers and Hill believed in Green enough to draw up the game-winning play to go to him. It was why Pierce was grinning ear-to-ear coming out of the timeout. Read the rest of this entry »