|Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault||01.30.12 at 7:40 pm ET|
After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.
Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.
In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.
“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’ve been here, that’s all we’ve done. We haven’t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”
While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.
THE STALWARTS Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics snap losing streak, beat Raptors||01.18.12 at 9:56 pm ET|
The Celtics have been desperate for a strong start and they finally got one on Wednesday against Toronto, opening up a 21-7 lead and making nine of their first 16 shots. They rode that early lead through some rough patches in the second quarter and earned a much-needed 96-73 win over Toronto, snapping a five-game losing streak.
It wasn’t all good for the Celtics as Rajon Rondo was put on the ground by Linas Kleiza with a hard foul late in the third quarter. Rondo landed awkwardly on his right wrist and didn’t return to the game. Kleiza was originally assessed a Flagrant-2 foul on the play, but it was downgraded to a Flagrant-1 after a review.
The Celtics opened up a 29-14 lead in the first quarter and while they eventually cooled down, the Raptors didn’t have nearly enough offense to make up the ground with leading scorer Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup with a strained left calf. However the win came, the Celtics will take it. They’re back in action on Friday against the Suns.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Rajon Rondo didn’t get his first assist until the 6:01 mark of the third quarter, but it was hard to argue with his floor game. Rondo went to the basket repeatedly and made seven of his first eight shots. He also went to the free throw line seven times in the first half and made five.
– Kevin Garnett came out aggressive with six points in the first four minutes and 10 points by halftime. Garnett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds and while he’s still having trouble finishing inside, this continued a run of stronger games for Garnett.
– Paul Pierce only scored eight points but he had seven assists and four rebounds. With Rondo looking to score, Pierce played the role of facilitator and did it well.
– The Celtics hit the defensive glass and didn’t turn the ball over. A very good combination.
– Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass formed an effective two-man bench, combing for all 19 points for the reserves prior to fourth quarter garbage time. Pietrus finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers and Bass had 13 and nine rebounds.
WHAT WENT WRONG Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics encouraged despite losing five straight||01.17.12 at 10:13 am ET|
Monday night’s loss to the upstart Thunder marked the first time in the Big Three era that the team has lost five straight games, and it’s also the second time in the young season that Boston has lost three games in the span of four days. Even though the natural inclination is to panic, collectively the Celtics feel the team is improving.
“I really like the effort we had tonight,” said Paul Pierce. “I was the telling the guys if we compete like that night in and night out — we’ll get closer to where we want to be.”
Certainly it’s easy to point to Boston’s 4-8 record and feel underwhelmed at any notion of optimism, but the Celtics are starting to click individually. Now, the team needs to find some semblance of consistency.
“We’re still chasing putting four quarters of good basketball together,” said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder. “I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I’m sure if y’all rewind your tapes, I’m in a different outfit saying the same thing, but we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get this thing better. I really believe that, and you’ve got to believe that.”
Ray Allen and Brandon Bass helped carry Boston earlier this season. Bass, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Through the first seven games of the season he averaged 14 points off the bench. However, during this five-game losing streak, Bass has seen his production cut in half, only averaging 7.4 points per game.
|Fast Break: Back to back blues continue||01.14.12 at 9:33 pm ET|
It wasn’t like anyone expected the Celtics to fly out of Indiana on the second night of a back-to-back with a victory, if you needed any more evidence that they have a long way to go, it was provided in a 97-83 loss. It’s also worth noting that the Pacers were also on the second end of a back-to-back.
The starters got off to a much better offensive start, but it was the second unit that couldn’t keep the momentum going and they had nothing left in the second half. Defensively, they let the Pacers control the paint (they allowed 20 offensive rebounds) and they couldn’t keep them off the free throw line.
The one bright spot was Kevin Garnett who had a bounceback game with 21 points and six rebounds and was much more aggressive offensively. Paul Pierce also scored 21 points by getting to the free throw line and knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The bench didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus combined to shoot 3-for-10 in the first half and that was the only offense they received from the second unit. Avery Bradley was replaced by rookie E’Twaun Moore after badly bricking a jumpshot.
– Paul George is an impossible cover for Ray Allen. At 6-foot-8, there’s little that Allen can do with him and the Pacers smartly took advantage of that as George went to the free throw line six times in the first half. Pietrus came in and did a solid job defensively.
– Danny Granger is the latest small forward to have a big game on Pierce. He went for 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half and finished with 21.
– Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to shoot 6-for-17 and finished with just 13 points. Rondo did have nine assists and Allen contributed six rebounds, but Darren Collison and George put up 34 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »
The Celtics made a late-minute switch before their game against the Bulls on Friday with Brandon Bass inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Jermaine O’Neal. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he’s been thinking about the switch since training camp and he’ll probably use that starting lineup 70 percent of the time.
“It was a lineup that I wanted to get to because I thought it gave us more versatility and I thought our rotations were easier when you bring in Jermaine in for Kevin [Garnett], you stay big,” Rivers said. “What I’m trying to do is always have Jermaine or Kevin, just size on the floor.”
It’s not a change in minutes. Bass will still play 25-30 and O’Neal will work about 20-25 minutes. The starting assignment will be based on matchups and against the Bulls who start two big forwards in Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah it made sense to counter with the Celtics’ top big forwards. O’Neal may start on Saturday against the Pacers who have a traditional center in Roy Hibbert.
Rivers also said that he was working though his rotations for Garnett. His five minutes on, five minutes off plan sounds good in theory, but Garnett is a rhythm player and the coach admitted it was tough to take him off the floor when he starts to find it.
“I still like it,” Rivers said. “I don’t love it but I think it’s something that we have to do.”
|As the Celtics rotation turns||01.12.12 at 5:11 pm ET|
WALTHAM — On Wednesday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers looked out on the floor and saw Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass and thought, this is what he’s been looking for. Energy, fullcourt defense, tempo, pace … all those buzzwords were finally on display.
“Without the second unit [Wednesday] night we’re losing that game by 25 points,” Rivers said. “The second unit got us back in the game with their energy defensively. That’s how I envisioned them when we started this and that was the first night where you could literally see the difference, and probably because Pietrus was part of it.”
Rivers said after the Celtics’ 90-85 loss to Dallas that his new swingman brought a “joy” to the court in his debut. An upbeat, gregarious character, Pietrus quickly endeared himself to his coach, his teammates and the Garden crowd with 18 inspired minutes.
He was playing so well that Rivers left him in the game deep into the fourth quarter before bringing back Paul Pierce at about the 6-minute mark, who had his second straight poor game. Pierce has not talked with reporters since Tuesday when he held court for several minutes after practice, but Rivers said Pierce was fine with the decision.
The second unit didn’t overwhelm anyone with their statistics. They scored 27 points, 19 of them from Bass and Dooling, and had 10 rebounds and four assists. They began coming into the game down 17-9 after the starters got off to a woeful start offensively and by the time they had rotated back out halfway through the second quarter they had cut two points off the lead. Again, not overwhelming, but successful.
Rivers has pinned his team’s 4-5 record on the starters. What he wants from his bench are energy, defense and the ability to shake things up when things start poorly. He’s still searching for the right combination of players, which is understandable.
The Celtics acquired nine players via trade, draft and free agency and all of them come off the bench. Bradley played only 162 minutes last season, so he is also new to the rotation. That’s a lot of moving parts and Rivers has already worked through several variations of a reserve unit.
Here’s how they stand at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »
|Brandon Bass flies under the radar, just the way he likes it||01.05.12 at 5:26 pm ET|
WALTHAM — It’s a measure of Brandon Bass‘ impact on the Celtics in this young season that the narrative has already moved on beyond his lack of assists and turned to his actual production. (Good thing too, because Bass understands his role completely). Bass is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27 minutes a night and providing a real sixth man presence.
One more note on the passing thing. It’s become a joke within the Celtics locker room, but in a good-natured way. Doc Rivers had a great line after their game on Wednesday when he referenced the immortal Yinka Dare who needed — no lie — 78 games to notch his first career assist.
“We told him he was threatening Yinka,” Rivers said. “I don’t want him thinking pass too much. He’s a scorer. You don’t want to screw him up. You don’t want him passing too much. He passes to the basket.”
Bass has fit in easily with his new teammates. He’s funny and engaging, but he’s not a goof. He’s savvy and sharp without being cunning. He also understands that his life is immensely easier playing with four All-Stars who want him to be himself.
“I’m grateful to be a part of this group,” Bass said. “To play with Kevin Garnett, Paul [Pierce], Ray Allen, [Rajon] Rondo, ain’t nobody worrying about me, man. I’m flying under the radar and I want it to stay like that.”
It’s very easy to make yet another comparison between Bass and his childhood friend and former LSU teammate, Glen Davis. Bass has resisted the comparisons, because let’s face it, players want to be judged on their performance, not anyone else’s play. It came up again at practice on Thursday because Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has already taken issue with Davis. (If you took the under on 10 games, congratulations.)
“He’s not playing well, and I’m not sure his mind’s on the right things right now,” Van Gundy said as reported by the Orlando Sentinel. “What we need him to do is defend, which he has done pretty well, rebound better than he’s rebounding and move the ball and set screens.”
Davis didn’t talk with reporters after Wednesday’s game. Same old, same old with Davis, who forever seems to want to be something he’s not while ignoring the things that made him into a valued role player.
“Well, you gotta keep pushing him, and finding Baby’s buttons,” Rivers said. “And Stan will; Stan’s an excellent coach. It’s frustrating at times. But the one thing that Stan knows, and I know, [is] that Baby is not a bad kid. He’ll find it. It’s just, then you gotta find it again. And then again. And that’s just who Baby is. At the end of the day, that’s who Baby is.”
Bass supported his friend saying, “You know, I haven’t talked to him of late, but I mean, Glen knows the situation. He’s been in worse situations than that, so I feel like he’ll be able to overcome it sooner than later.”
The endless comparisons to Davis put Bass in a no-win situation and he’s smart enough to know that he’s better off worrying about his own situation. First and foremost is understanding the team’s defensive scheme. Bass is a willing defender, but the Celtics’ defense takes reps and communication to work and Thursday was their first practice since the season began.
Rivers praised his individual defense, but noted, “If you told Brandon to just guard his guy he’d be terrific. Where he’s still struggling is the rotations and he’ll get it.”
“It’s not a concern, he’s going to get it,” the coach continued. “Chris [Wilcox] is behind a little bit. A lot of their weakside helps are late and stuff like that. We’re just trying to get them to understand guard your guy and the ball at the same time, if you want to just simplify it. They’re into just guarding their guy, especially on the weakside.”
Bass is also learning how to play with Rondo, especially in transition where he offers the best finishing option that Rondo has had in years. “Man I got to have Stickum sometimes on my hands for his passes,” he said. “You never know how he’s going to pass it either. It’s going to be a bounce pass, a lob, you never know, but I’ll be ready whenever he’s ready to pass it.”