|Preview: Raptors at Celtics||11.26.10 at 12:52 pm ET|
In the five days since the Celtics were embarrassed in a Sunday afternoon matinee in Toronto, they regained their swagger in Atlanta, gutted out a win over New Jersey and lost one of their most indispensable reserves in Delonte West.
West’s injury casts a pall over the C’s, and there are no easy solutions for them right now. The immediate plan seems to be to stand pat with what they have, which means more playing time for Von Wafer and an accelerated learning curve for rookie Avery Bradley. This also means an increased role for Marquis Daniels, who was just getting comfortable as the backup small forward. he now has to return to being the team’s most versatile reserve.
These are tough times for the Celtics who didn’t begin to suffer team-wide injury breakdowns until after the new year last season. If they can survive this stretch, and continue to win games, it will serve them well in the second half of the season when Doc Rivers will likely ease off on his veterans. That luxury doesn’t exist right now, and so it will be up to Wafer, Daniels and Bradley to fill in the gaps.
The Raptors have won four straight after a dreadful start and serve as a strong test to the Celtics resolve.
RAPTORS (6-9, 5-5 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 106.2 (15)
Defensive Rating: 107.7 (19)
Pace: 94.6 (8)
Likely Starters: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans, Andrea Bargnani
CELTICS (11-4, 7-3 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 108.2 (11)
Defensive Rating: 100.5 (3)
Pace: 90.4 (26)
|Fast Break: Celtics turn the lights out in Georgia||11.22.10 at 9:21 pm ET|
One day after dropping words like “bored,” the Celtics added another word to their lexicon: angry.
Right from the opening tip on Monday, the Celtics seemed determined to not just beat the Hawks, but crush them and in the process atone for their last two games. It was basically over after the Celtics opened up a 16-3 lead, but it would get much worse for the Hawks.
After 12 minutes the Celtics led 39-13 in what will be a candidate for the most perfectly-played quarter of the season. The Celtics 72 percent (18-for-25) and outrebounded the Hawks, 16-3.
Nate Robinson had more assists in the first quarter (five) than the Hawks had baskets (four). The Celtics didn’t let up, another problem area the last few games, and cruised to a 99-76 victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rebounding: After a strong start to this season on the glass, the Celtics have tailed off a bit in the rebounding department. The Thunder feasted on the offensive glass and the Raptors came up with the kind of long, loose-ball rebounds that drive coaches crazy. The Celtics tightened all that up against the Hawks, outrebouding them 16-3 in the first quarter and 26-10 (with one offensive rebound) in the first half.
Physical mismatches: Al Horford is a good player, an All-Star last season and maybe again this season, but he has no chance guarding Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq used his size and also showed some good quickness in dominating this matchup. At the other end of the floor, Robinson ran circles around Mike Bibby, who is basically a stationary jump shooter these days. The one matchup where the Hawks should have been competitive: Kevin Garnett destroyed the younger Josh Smith, holding him without a field goal and just three rebounds.
Robinson continues to impress: Rajon Rondo missed his second straight game with a strained left hamstring, and for the second straight day, Robinson filled in admirably. He recorded his first double-double as a member of the Celtics with 16 points and 10 assists. Regardless of how long Rondo is out, this has been a great opportunity for Robinson to get his game back on track.
Since not much can go wrong in a 23-point win, here’s one more bonus thing that went right for the Celtics
No let-ups: Not that it was much in doubt, but the Hawks did “win” the second quarter, 29-25. The Celtics left no doubt in the third quarter, holding Atlanta to 4-for-21 shooting and beating them with defense. This was the kind of thorough, 48-minute performance that Doc Rivers has been waiting for.
|Fast Break: Down and out in Toronto||11.21.10 at 3:49 pm ET|
There were bad signs all around for the Celtics when they went to Toronto to play the Raptors. First, it was an afternoon game and the C’s have had well-documented issues playing in the daylight hours. Second, and most importantly, Rajon Rondo was held out of the game (and is questionable for Monday’s game with the Hawks) because of a strained left hamstring.
Nate Robinson played well in his absence, but the Celtics struggled to find any kind of consistency on offense and that’s Rondo’s department. The Celtics actually had a lead late in the game, but Ray Allen lost control of the ball and Amir Johnson made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to secure the 102-101 victory for the Raptors.
The Celtics had won eight straight against Toronto and were 11-1 against them since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Interior defense: Where did it go? The Celtics are one of the best teams in the league at defending the paint, but without a big-time shot blocker they are dependent on stopping dribble penetration and playing their usual strong help-side defense. Glen Davis‘ ability to take charges is a huge benefit as well. None of that was on display against the Raptors.
Foul trouble: Shaquille O’Neal picked up his third foul after only eight minutes. Davis had three before halftime and Semih Erden picked up four first-half fouls. In the third quarter, Paul Pierce and Garnett also picked up their fourth fouls. The Raptors went on an 11-1 run against the Celtics makeshift lineup.
Andrea Bargnani happened: The former No. 1 pick has had a much-maligned career with the Raptors, but he showed up big against the Celtics. Always a threat from long range, Bargnani put the ball on the floor and attacked the Celtics defense. He not only scored 29 points, he also got to the free throw line 13 times and put the entire Celtics frontcourt in foul trouble.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Nate Robinson: With Rondo out, Doc Rivers elected to start Robinson instead of Delonte West at the point. Robinson has struggled at times this season, but he was reborn playing with the starters. Robinson started hot and stayed that way. He scored 16 points in the first quarter and did an effective job of pushing the pace. The Celtics play differently with Robinson in the lineup, but he did the job.
KG in the post: The Celtics want Garnett to be more aggressive with his offense, which is nothing new. He’s one of the best perimeter shooting big men in the game and while that is a great skill, he sometimes settles for the 20-footer too much. Against the Raptors, who have no inside presence, Garnett went to the post-up game and was successful in the second quarter. They did it again in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were making their run.
Defense in the fourth: The Celtics played almost no defense in the first half, allowing the Raptors to shoot 55 percent and drive to the basket at will. They began to tighten up in the third quarter and then really put the hammer down in the fourth. They did the same thing Friday night, which is not a great omen. They consistency has just not been there.
|Joe Lacob, who had stake in Celtics, completes Warriors Purchase||11.12.10 at 2:11 pm ET|
In 2006, Joe Lacob, joined the Celtics ownership group. On Thursday, Lacob and his business partner Peter Guber completed their purchase of the Golden State Warriors for a reported $450 million. The league announced the completion of the sale this afternoon.
Lacob did a Q+A with the San Francisco Chronicle and talked about his Celtics experiences, including wearing a Beat LA t-shirt to Staples Center during the 2008 finals. Marcus Thompson II has more details on the sale and what it means for the Warriors.
|Fast Break: Celtics beat the Heat||11.11.10 at 11:15 pm ET|
This was a game the Celtics were supposed to lose. Charles Barkley suggested on the TNT pregame show that the Heat would win in a blowout and, honestly, the Chuckster’s call made a lot of sense. This was a statement game for the Heat after losing to Utah and absorbing 48 hours of unrelenting criticism. This was the game that Chris Bosh either stood up for himself or became further emasculated.
The Celtics? Regular season games don’t mean anything to them. They’re too old, experienced and savvy for that kind of noise.
The Celtics didn’t just beat the Heat Thursday night, 112-107, they embarrassed them. While Ray Allen was knocking down 3’s at a staggering rate, Pat Riley could be seen jotting down notes in red ink like a professor grading papers. When Rajon Rondo drove to the basket, Bosh sat and watched while Rondo threw down a monster slam.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Veteran’s presence: In the first half, Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett shot a combined 16-for-21 for the Celtics. Their Miami counterparts — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh — were 9-for-22. Wade was an unsightly 0-for-6. The Celtics veterans came to play and while they didn’t win all of their individual matchups (James was spectacular) they got the better of two of them handily and Pierce gave James all he wanted.
Ray-Ray for the 3: There are so many things the Celtics did right in this game, that’s it’s hard to focus on a few specific things, but if Allen is making 7-of-9 3-pointers, they are practically impossible to beat.
Ball movement: And how did Allen get so open, so often? Passing. The Celtics are the most unselfish team in the league in ways that go way beyond Rondo’s assists. They simply trust each other and that was a huge difference in this game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Center concerns: Jermaine O’Neal told reporters in Miami that he was going to seek a second opinion on his injured left knee. That’s not good news at all for the Celtics, because despite O’Neal’s slow start, the Celtics need big bodies until Kendrick Perkins returns. Shaquille O’Neal played just 19 minutes and that’s the most the Celtics can expect from him right now. They may need another big and they may need one soon.
Free throw shooting: Here’s your fun NBA conspiracy fact of the night. The Celtics took 25 free throws. LeBron had 22 all by himself. The good news is the Celtics played through the discrepancy. The bad news is they made just 68 percent from the line.
Rather than try to come up with a third thing, let’s all enjoy the Rondo dunk over Bosh, courtesy of the incomparable Jose3030
|Preview: Celtics at Mavericks||11.08.10 at 10:11 am ET|
In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks reached the NBA finals. In 2007, they won 67 games and had the league’s MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. Those two seasons were the best in the 30-year history of the franchise and both ended in massive disappointment. The Mavs lost the finals despite winning the first two games of the series and they lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors the following season in what still ranks as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.
Since then the Mavericks have been good, winning over 50 games each season, but never great. Their best player is 32, their point guard is 37 and six of their eight rotation players are over 30.
They’ll be good again this year. Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can still play and Jason Terry can still score, but their success ultimately depends on whether the rest of the supporting cast can regain some of its past glory.
In the past year-plus, the Mavs have acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. All four have seen better days, but how much they have left holds the key to the Mavs season because their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, had a pin inserted into his broken foot and is out indefinitely.
The Mavericks are still formidable and as the second night of yet another back-to-back, they pose a serious challenge for the Celtics. The C’s have won five straight, including an impressive win over the Thunder Sunday night. This is also their fifth game in seven nights before they get a two-day break and a return date with the Heat on Thursday.
OFFENSIVE RATING: 105.4 (NBA rank: 17th)
DEFENSIVE RATING: 98.8 (3rd)
PACE: 91.6 (24th)
OFFENSIVE RATING: 104.0 (20th)
DEFENSIVE RATING: 99.7 (5th)
PACE: 93.0 (20th)
Probable Starters: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler
Injuries: Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out)
KEY MATCHUP: Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Of all the matchups Garnett has had throughout his career, Nowitzki has to rank alongside Tim Duncan as one of the best. Their styles are a perfect compliment to each other because few big men have ever defended the perimeter better than Garnett. Nowitzki is still a fantastic player, averaging over 25 points and 9 rebounds early in the season.
KEY NUMBER: Celtics field goal percentage
The Mavs have held teams to just 39 percent shooting in their five games. The Celtics rank near the top of the NBA at 49 percent. If they can shoot somewhere in the middle — 45 percent or better — they’ll have a good chance at getting out Dallas with a win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In addition to Nowitzki and Garnett, the Rajon Rondo-Jason Kidd matchup is always good theater and there’s no telling how many miles Ray Allen and Jason Terry will run chasing each over all the court. This is another big test for the Celtics who are slowly building momentum. The Heat await on Thursday, but this is a solid bout before the main event.
|Fast Break: Celtics silence Thunder||11.07.10 at 10:25 pm ET|
After beating Oklahoma City, 92-83 Sunday night, the Celtics have now won five straight games and six of their first seven, but they have not played a better 24 minutes of basketball than they did in the first half. There’s a decent chance the Celtics won’t play a better 24 minutes all season.
Of course NBA games last longer than 24 minutes and the Thunder made their inevitable run late in the third quarter and into the early stages of the fourth, cutting the Celtics lead to six. But this time it was the bench that saved the day as Glen Davis knocked down a couple of shots.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Turnovers, or more specifically, the lack of turnovers: It’s really a simple equation for the Celtics. When they don’t turn the ball over they are almost impossible to stop because they shoot such a high percentage and almost everyone on the roster is a shooting threat.
The Celtics turned it over only four times in the first and that helped them build a 58-37 lead. They turned it over four times in the third quarter and that’s when OKC made its run. It’s really that simple for the Celtics right now.
The bench: Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels have been constants for the Celtics this season, but they received contributions from everyone in the rotation Sunday. Nate Robinson had nine points including a buzzer-beater 3 to the end the first half and Semih Erden also gave the Celtics quality minutes. They were even better in the second half as they helped stave off a big OKC run.
Ray Allen has his shot back: Did it ever actually leave? A handful of off shooting nights is no reason to panic when it comes to Allen and he showed again Sunday night why he is one of the best in the business. Allen knocked down 8-of-16 shots and scored 19 points. He also made big shots. He was on the floor with the reserves in the fourth quarter when the Celtics made their last move, proving once again how valuable he is.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The third quarter: It was unlikely the Celtics would be able to keep up their first-half play for 48 minutes, but they started the second half like they were going to try, opening a 71-51 lead. But the Thunder came right back led by Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who scored 14 of his 34 points.
Second half runs are inevitable after a visiting team opens up a big second-half lead, particularly when the opponent is as good as Oklahoma City. What was encouraging for the Celtics was that they held it off and rebuild the lead.
That was really the only thing that didn’t go right. When you beat Oklahoma City by nine points in their building to start a four-game road trip, there’s not much to apologize for.
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