|Fast Break: Celtics write new LA story||01.30.11 at 6:15 pm ET|
It had ebbs and flows, runs and counters, and even some blood spilled by Kevin Garnett after he was gashed by Pau Gasol. The Celtics and Lakers didn’t disappoint in their first game since the 2010 finals.
You can break this game down in a number if different ways, but in the end it came down to a simple proposition: Could Kobe Bryant beat the Celtics by himself? Bryant erupted for 22 points in the first half and helped the Lakers recover from an early nine-point deficit. He dueled with Paul Pierce throughout the third quarter and into the fourth, but late in the game the Celtics were finally able to contain Bryant and the Lakers had nothing else left.
They can say that this was just another game, but the Celtics proved something in their 109-96 win Sunday afternoon. They proved that this is a different team than the one that left Staples Center without a championship. The rematch is only 11 days away at the Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce destroyed Ron Artest: The captain destroyed his antagonist from last year’s finals, scoring 32 points on just 18 shots and sending Artest to the bench in the fourth quarter. There was nothing Artest could do to contain Pierce, who had both his long-range and in-between game working.
The Celtics were overwhelming in the second half, but Pierce kept them in position throughout the game in what might have been his best performance of the season.
Defensive Rebounding: This is very simple. When the Celtics clean up on the boards, the Lakers can’t win. The Celtics were strong out of the gate, allowing the Lakers just one offensive rebound in the first quarter. When the game sped up in the second, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were able to get on the glass.
The Celtics held the fort in the second half and Garnett was a huge factor with 12 defensive rebounds. For all the talk about what a difference a healthy Kendrick Perkins would have made in Game 7, the 2010-11 version of Garnett would have been even bigger.
The bench: Give Nate Robinson credit. The guard has been much-maligned in recent weeks for his propensity for taking long pull-up jumpers in transition. But, that’s what he does. The Celtics rely on him to come off the bench and provide instant offense and that’s what he gave the Celtics, scoring 11 points in 14 minutes. Glen Davis also had a strong game, outproducing Lamar Odom and making huge plays down the stretch.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rajon Rondo didn’t look right (for half): Either there’s something physically wrong with the Celtics point guard, or he’s just worn down from all the minutes he’s played this season. Either way, Rajon Rondo followed up his disastrous outing against Phoenix (more turnovers than assists) with another low-impact performance in the first half.
The Lakers defensive scheme against Rondo is well-known at this point. They drop Kobe Bryant off into the paint where he forces Rondo to shoot jumpers, while also using his length to disrupt his passing and driving lanes. Too often Rondo simply takes himself out the action.
In the second half Rondo completely changed course. He had six assists in the third quarter and became far more aggressive in the fourth when matched up against Steve Blake. Rondo had 15 of his 16 assists in the second half and played (finally) like Rondo.
Kobe did work: The Celtics generally don’t mind when a superstar opponent tries to take a game over on their own. Their feeling — whether it’s LeBron James, Dwight Howard or Bryant — is that if one player is trying to beat them, that makes them much easier to defend. But when Bryant makes 8-of-11 shots and scores 22 points as he did in the first half, that’s simply too much. Bryant managed to keep it close, but even he can’t beat the Celtics by himself.
Foul trouble: The whistles started early as both Ray Allen and Bryant had to check out in the first few minutes with two fouls. Not surprisingly, foul problems also plagued Shaquille O’Neal who got his fifth early in the third quarter. That led Kendrick Perkins to play 25 minutes, his longest outing since returning from knee surgery.
|Fast Break: Celtics shot down in flames against Suns||01.29.11 at 1:20 am ET|
This one was simple, but oh so painful to watch. The Celtics got into Phoenix around 4 a.m. local time Friday night and started out in a not-surprising funk. By the end of the first half they had set new season lows for points in the first quarter (16), points in the first half (35) and they continued their futility throughout the second half.
Then they lost their coach after referee Steve Javie tossed Doc Rivers at the 4:33 mark of the second quarter and Glen Davis who strained his right hamstring. If that wasn’t enough, Kevin Garnett was ejected after low-blowing Channing Frye on a 3-point attempt.
The final was 88-71, which extended their run of futility in back-to-backs. Their last three have been particularly ragged with a loss 90-79 loss to Chicago that was their offensive low point before Friday and the 83-81 loss in Washington last week.
The Celtics return to action Sunday against the Lakers, who lost at home to Sacramento. Chances are good that both teams will be in a lousy mood for that one.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Offensive stagnation: Unlike Thursday when the Celtics recovered long enough to put enough points on the boards and beat the Blazers, the C’s never got into any kind of a rhythm. That’s discouraging because the Suns are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Back-to-back or not, there’s simply no excuse for the Celtics to shoot 34 percent in the first half, or turn it over six times in the first quarter against the Suns.
Much of the blame for the Celtics offensive woes falls on Rajon Rondo. He had a miserable night on both ends of the floor, scoring just seven points on 1-for-6 shooting and registering more turnovers (seven) than assists (six).
Glen Davis missed the second half with a hamstring injury: This could be a potentially bad blow for the Celtics because Davis is their most important bench player and the key to their frontcourt versatility. The Celtics don’t really have another backup power forward on the roster (Luke Harangody is next in line), but Davis has become much more than just Garnett’s replacement. He also plays important fourth quarter minutes at center, which makes him a matchup nightmare in his own right.
Hamstring injuries are notoriously difficult to calm down — Rondo’s lingered weeks after he was supposedly healthy. If Davis is out for any length of time, the Celtics could have a serious problem.
They got nothing from the bench: Before the Celtics pulled their starters, their bench players had scored 15 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Nate Robinson couldn’t provide a spark and Davis did little before his injury. Von Wafer got some early minutes, but the shots just weren’t there for him either.
This has been a constant theme for the Celtics this season and while Rivers hopes to cobble together a coherent second unit after Delonte West returns from his broken wrist, the bench has been a huge disappointment to this point. With the amount of talent the Celtics have they don’t need their bench to win them games very often, but there are nights when they need a change in direction and energy and the second unit has provided neither on a consistent basis.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Celtics fought it out (literally): Give them credit for not packing it in when they could have, but they couldn’t get the lead under 10 in the third quarter and make a serious run. They did cut the lead down to 11 after Mickael Pietrus elbowed Garnett and picked up a technical foul. That seemed to energize the Celtics for a bit, but with a chance to cut the lead to single digits Marquis Daniels was whistled for an offensive foul in transition. Their last chance evaporated after Garnett’s ejection.
|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.
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