|Preview: Celtics at Trail Blazers, Game 45||01.27.11 at 11:18 am ET|
You just can’t kill the Portland Trail Blazers. Greg Oden is out for the season, again, after knee surgery. Marcus Camby is out for three weeks after knee surgery. Brandon Roy had surgery on both his knees. On and on it goes for the most star-crossed franchise in the NBA who may never approach the greatness that was forecast for them following the 2009 season.
Yet, here they are again, clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference having won five of their last six games. Much of the credit for Portland’s still viable status belongs to forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who has taken on a larger burden without Roy in the Blazers deliberate offense and scoring more inside.
Aldridge, Andre Miller, Wes Matthews and Nic Batum form the thrown-together core of this Blazers team and that’s enough talent to make them a tough out any night of the week.
The Celtics come to town tonight for the start of a four-game west coast trip and in many way, this is the pivotal game of the trip. They have a back-to-back with Phoenix Friday night and then the showdown with the Lakers on Sunday. The last thing the Celtics want is a losing streak heading into L.A.
Offensive Rating: 109.1 (Points scored per 100 possessions, 10th)
Defensive Rating: 100.6 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 2nd)
Pace: 90.6 (Possessions per game, 22nd)
Offensive Rating: 107.3 (14th)
Defensive Rating: 106.6 (15th)
Pace: 88.8 (30th)
Likely Starters: Andre Miller, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Pryzbilla
Injuries: Marcus Camby (Knee, out), Greg Oden (Knee, out), Brandon Roy (Knee, out), Elliot Williams (Knee, out), Aldridge (Hip, probable), Matthews (Hip, questionable). Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: ‘The Association’ observations||01.24.11 at 11:36 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Episode 2 of “The Association: Boston Celtics” aired on Friday night, and like the first episode, it was a must-watch for any Celtics fan. Once again, there was a lot to take from the behind-the-scenes documentary. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:
- Even in early December, Jermaine O’Neal was rubbing some serious ointment on his knee.
- Doc Rivers‘ leash on Rajon Rondo can wrap around the TD Garden. With Rondo on the floor stretching his hamstring during game action, Rivers was asking him if he needed a blow.
- Paul Pierce plays defense on Kevin Garnett like Mike Tyson played defense against Peter McNeeley — by knocking his head around.
- Ray Allen: “At some point, somebody’s going to say, ‘Well, you guys are too old, and it’s time for you to go.’ But we all have too much competitve nature and fierceness to even show any weakness.”
- Pierce’s leadership during the eight-man practice was great to see. Rivers called the Celtics captain “more focused” as opposed to more vocal. And Pierce believes the C’s can still “whoop some ass” despite all the injuries.
- Rivers: “We’ve got a group of guys who lost in a Game 7, and they understand that it’s going to be hard to get back to that. We’re dealing with a ton of injuries, so we’re going to need all hands on deck.”
- This episode really personalizes Luke Harangody’s season with the Celtics, and the portion where he compares joining this C’s team to fitting in on the first day of high school is probably the best portion of the show.
- Earlier this season, Kendrick Perkins claimed to be working on a mid-range jumper, and he was indeed working on it during filming.
- Shaquille O’Neal broke out a portion of my all-time favorite line of his: “A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.” The original quote — which he delivered after a 2004 game-winning dunk against the Rockets in the playoffs — ended with, “and I’m trying to give up carbohydrates.”
- Glen Davis‘ pregame meal? Spaghetti and pancakes, of course.
- Allen arrives at the gym four hours before tipoff to work on his shooting. A friend pointed out over the weekend that, based on his production in games and his work ethic around them, Allen may have made more 3-pointers in his lifetime than any other human being alive. As for the official NBA record? He’s 23 shy of Reggie Miller‘s record.
- The shot Shaq made while he was sitting on the bench was fairly ridiculous.
- Sam Jones: “They have a sense of playing like the Celtics of old. They know they have a chance of getting that NBA championship, but they must do it together.”
- Was that Rondo in the background at Allen’s family Christmas? And was he wearing his warmups? I’m pretty sure he was.
- Pierce: “We know we’re a great team, but we can’t win a championship without Kevin Garnett. He’s the one most important piece to the puzzle.”
|Ricky Rubio reportedly has interest in Celtics||01.23.11 at 7:39 pm ET|
Ricky Rubio was drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009, but the Spanish guard has yet to sign a contract and come to the NBA. Rubio faces an interesting choice this summer. If he signs before June 30, his contract would be on the current rookie scale. If he waits and stays in Europe for another season he could negotiate a deal that isn’t bound by the rookie scale.
Complicating the matter further is the pending lockout, which could go into effect on June 30 once the current collective bargaining agreement ends and would muddle his options further.
But Rubio has never shown an interest in playing for Minnesota, and in a piece in The New York Times, one of his representatives is quoted as saying that Rubio would rather play for an East Coast team, citing New York, Miami and Boston as his preferred destinations.
The takeaway from Rubio’s interest isn’t that he wants to come to Boston so much as it appears that he doesn’t want to go to Minnesota. It’s not really his choice right now because Rubio doesn’t have a lot of leverage. The Timberwolves own his rights, regardless of how long it takes for him to sign a contract. Even if he did want to play for the Celtics, they are already set at point guard with Rajon Rondo, who is in the first year of a five-year, $65 million contract.
While it is interesting that he has Boston on his list, the specter of a work stoppage and a new collective bargaining agreement makes any future plans impossible to predict. That’s one of the reasons the Celtics went all-in for this season. Their future is an open question as the only players signed beyond next season are Rondo and Paul Pierce. (Rookies Avery Bradley, Semih Erden and Luke Harangody also are more or less bound to the team.)
|No passing fancy: C’s determined to show NBA ‘what basketball is like’||01.22.11 at 11:35 am ET|
In a stat sheet filled with superlatives, the thing that shone for the Celtics like a neon sign could be found several columns over and several rows deep.
The Celtics had 31 assists on 37 baskets in Friday’s 110-86 dismantling of the Jazz at TD Garden to improve to an Eastern Conference-best 33-9. The most impressive part of the performance was that it wasn’t all Rajon Rondo. Yes, the Celtics point guard led the way with 12 dimes, but Marquis Daniels had six, Ray Allen had four and Kevin Garnett had three. Of the 11 players who dressed, only Paul Pierce and Semih Erden failed to register at least one helper.
From the opening tip, the Celtics were determined to spread the wealth. Shaquille O’Neal drew people to him in the paint as he usually does then found Pierce to his left on a cut to the basket for a lay-up 35 seconds in. The Celtics were off to the races.
That would be the first of 31 times one Celtic teammate found another for a field goal.
“It’s just a product of our work,” Pierce said. “Everyday we come in here and that’s what we work on. We work on making the passes, running our offense. Believing in one another, not caring who gets the credit. When you have a selfless group like this, that’s what happens.’
The Jazz did their best early to keep up but as a team built on strength and power, the Celtics seemed determined to take advantage of that. Let KG explain:
“Typical stuff. We know a lot of the offense goes through their bigs,” Garnett began. “They lay a lot of high post, lot of movement. Everybody knows Jerry Sloan‘s system, he has been here for 30 years, 25-plus years. They are a physical team. We knew that we had to come out and not only meet their bigs’ physicality, but to be aggressive ourselves.
“I thought for the most part, we moved the ball. The things we worked on in practice the other day definitely showed and good showing by us. I liked the way we were forceful, physical. I thought we were firm. Again we moved the ball, everything we worked on and everything we have practiced up until this point was exemplified tonight.’
Utah Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan pushed every button he could but the Celtics were too much for his team, which came in tied for first with Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division.
‘Well they showed us what basketball is like tonight,” Sloan said. “They came out and they played a terrific game, they took us out of our offense, we couldn’t do anything of what we were trying to do. I thought they were terrific passing the ball, and they made us turn the ball over way too many times, 21 turnovers for 26 points, it’s tough to beat anybody when you have that happen.
“But give them credit for how they came out and got after us. They were good in their offense getting the kind of shots they wanted and the kind that they can make. Doc was pretty generous not keeping his players out there, letting us breathe a little bit I guess.’
|Shaquille O’Neal battling sore right hip, might miss next 2 games||01.21.11 at 11:02 pm ET|
Doc Rivers said Shaquille O’Neal likely will miss the next two games for the Celtics after suffering what was termed a sore right hip in the first half of Friday’s win over the Jazz at TD Garden. O’Neal – who did not make the trip to Washington with the team – played just six minutes, 19 seconds before being subbed by Semih Erden, who scored a season-high 14 points off the bench in 30 minutes.
“We’re going to need him probably the next couple of games,” Rivers said of Erden. “We’re probably not going to take [O’Neal] on the trip. I think it’s his hip. Something locked up. We’ll just have to see how long that will be.”
Initially, the team announced the injury as a sore right leg. O’Neal slipped on the ice outside the Waltham practice facility and missed practice on Sunday. Rivers said he didn’t think the injury was related to that or his dive into the stands after fouling Raja Bell on a lay-up four minutes into the game.
“He told me three minutes into the game,” Rivers said. “He walked over to me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t know how long I can go. I’m feeling pretty bad. And I said, ‘You want me to take you out?’ And he said, ‘No, let me go and see how long I can go.”
The Celtics left after Friday’s game for a Saturday night date in Washington against the Wizards. O’Neal is also likely to miss next Tuesday’s game against Cleveland at TD Garden.
|Fast Break: Celtics play taps on the Jazz||at 9:58 pm ET|
The Celtics played nine home games over the last three weeks and after their 110-86 beatdown of the Utah Jazz Friday night, they won eight and lost one. They played some memorable games during that stretch, including wins over San Antonio and Orlando, as well as some ugly grind-it-out affairs.
They capped it off with a double-digit win over one of the best teams in the Western Conference, which puts an exclamation point on this recent stretch that also saw them return to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Life is good for the Celtics right now.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ball movement: The Celtics were out of rhythm Wednesday in their win over Detroit and execution was a point of emphasis for them at practice on Thursday. It was clear right from the start that it wouldn’t be a problem on this night. The Celtics had assists on all five of their early baskets and kept it up, finishing with 31 assists on 37 made shots.
Rajon Rondo had 12 assists, but everyone was involved. One late-game sequence saw the ball hop from Marquis Daniels to Nate Robinson to Von Wafer before finally ending with a dish to Semih Erden for a jam.
The return of the sixth man: Glen Davis opened up Thursday about the pressure he put on himself while he was a member of the starting lineup. It seems that being one of the best sixth men in the game is a role that’s growing on him. Davis was at his absolute best Friday, scoring 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting with seven rebounds. He scored inside and out and outworked the Utah bigs for loose balls. This is his role and he’s one of the best in the league at it.
Semih-tough: It’s been an up and down season for Erden, but he shows flashes of becoming more than just a solid role player in this league someday. Erden played 30 minutes and had a season-high 14 points on 5-for-5 shooting and seven rebounds. The Celtics needed him to play minutes after Shaquille O’Neal left the game early in the first quarter and he delivered a great performance.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Shaq Maintenance: The big fella left the game midway through the first quarter and didn’t return. The team announced in the second half that he has a sore right leg. Shaq has been dealing with a number of leg injuries throughout the season, but he has gutted it out and given the Celtics minutes. It’s too early to tell if it’s anything more than that, but the unexpected blowout allowed for some opportunistic rest.
Foul trouble for Deron Williams: The All-Star guard picked up two quick fouls in the first quarter and then got his third early in the second. Williams had an all-around awful night, depriving us of an opportunity to see him and Rondo go head-to-head. Williams played on 23 minutes and had five points on 1-for-4 shooting.
FAST BREAK RULE: When you beat a Jerry Sloan-coached team by 20 or more points there are only so many things that can go “wrong.”
|Nate Robinson’s strange season||at 7:33 pm ET|
One of the keys to having a player like Nate Robinson on a team like the Celtics is allowing him to do what he does best. Robinson is a scorer in a point guard’s body and it’s taken some time for both the player and the team to adjust to each other.
When he first arrived Robinson wanted to prove that he could fit in on an unselfish team, but his ability to create his own shot was exactly the reason they got him. Then there was the defensive end. Doc Rivers wanted him to defend fullcourt and it wasn’t until the playoffs that they got on the same page.
This season has been a different story. Robinson is playing defense. As our friends at Celtics Hub noticed, Robinson is part of the NBA’s best five-man unit in terms of defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) according to Basketball Value. The other four are Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal.
Playing with Garnett will make anyone’s team defensive numbers look better, but Robinson has taken to his role as a fullcourt pest, forcing his opponent to burn shot-clock time to get the ball over halfcourt.
On the other end, Robinson has become the high usage player the team envisioned, but his shot isn’t falling as it has in the past and there are times when perhaps he gets a little too perimeter heavy. Coming into Friday’s game with Utah, Robinson is shooting just 35 percent (21-for-60) in his last 10 games and has taken a rather incredible 55 of those shots from 16 feet and out.
Has he become too jumpshot happy?
“Depends on the shot,” Rivers said. “I’ll leave it there. We want him to make shots. He’s got open shots that he’s not making or making, I’m fine with that. But he does take some you don’t like. Honestly, with Nate I pretty much leave him alone. I’ll tell him after a game but I don’t think you correct a shooter during a game. Usually that’s with your teammates, they’re body language will tell him that that was a horrible shot.”
Asked if he wanted Robinson to try to get to the basket more (he’s taken just two shots at the rim in the last 10 games), Rivers said he’d like him to use more of his mid-range game, which has also been relatively non-existent.
“Not really,” Rivers said. “At his size getting to the basket is very difficult and very difficult for him to finish. I like his in-between game better than I do all the way to the basket.”
All that said Robinson has given the Celtics games and minutes. When Rajon Rondo was out with his various leg ailments, Robinson stepped in and soaked up major minutes. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but he did the job that was asked. The Celtics believe that when Delonte West returns from a broken wrist it will allow Robinson to really flourish. Until then, he is still searching for the elusive happy medium.
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