|Rondo: ‘We’re starting to put it together’||03.25.10 at 12:05 am ET|
Echoing the thoughts of his general manager Danny Ainge on WEEI earlier in the day, Rajon Rondo can feel things finally start to come together for the Celtics.
And the timing couldn’t be any better.
While Paul Pierce led the team with 27 points, it was Rondo who was the floor general with his seventh career triple-double – fourth in the regular season – in Boston’s 113-99 win over the talented Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“We’re starting to put it together. We had a little hiccup at Utah but we’ve done a pretty good job. We’re getting better each game. We’re not going to play perfect every game. We’re not going to win every game from here on out probably but at the end of the day, as long as we continue to get better and work toward our goal, we’ll be fine.
“We haven’t blown as many leads as we did early on in the season so we’re getting better.”
Rondo had 11 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in helping the Celtics hold off Denver and clinch a playoff spot in the East.
“We got to the line tonight,” Rondo said. “Myself, I was trying to be aggressive early. I thought they had a problem getting matched up with their man so I tried to push myself or advance the ball with the pass and Paul did as well. He started off the game great, got to the line, got a couple of easy layups and got his rhythm.”
As for avenging the loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Feb. 21, Rondo said it was no big deal.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s just another game.”
Perhaps the Celtics showed why they are peaking at the right time when the game got close at the end of the third quarter. Earlier in the season, when J.R. Smith’s desperation 3-pointer went through the hoop, the collective shoulders of the Celtics might have sagged.
But not on this night. When the Celtics lead was cut to 87-80 at the end of the third, Nate Robinson sank a three himself to start the fourth and the Celtics steadily built their lead back up through the teens, eventually putting the game away.
“They made a run but that’s part of the game,” Rondo said. “We knew in the second half they would make a run so during halftime we just tried to stick together. We told ourselves we have to just handle adversity better. When teams do make a run, let’s not get down or bicker amongst each other. Let’s stick together and make a run ourselves.”
The Celtics won their fourth straight at home for the first time this season and now stand 22-12 at home after losing just six at home last year.
“Whether it’s home or away, it’s about time for us to get some momentum,” Rondo said, before admitting, “It might be too late for that. We feel we’re a team where it should be that way but we’ve lost a lot of games here. Twelve and we lost only six last year but at the end of the day, the playoffs are a totally different atmosphere so we’ll be ready.”
|Fast Break: Celtics hold off Nuggets||03.24.10 at 9:47 pm ET|
One of the most overused cliches in sports is saying a regular season game had “a playoff intensity” to it, and so without going that far it’s fair to say that Wednesday night’s game between the Celtics and Nuggets was as hard-fought a regular season game as you’re likely to see in the month of March.
Despite playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Nuggets hung around and sliced a 21-point third quarter lead to seven. But the Celtics were too much for them in a 113-99 victory. With the win the Celtics clinched a playoff spot.
The news wasn’t all good for the C’s as the Hawks finally figured out a way to beat the Magic. Boston and Atlanta remain tied for third place.
Both teams did what they wanted to offensively. The Celtics pounded the ball inside and wound up outscoring the Nuggets 58-28 in the paint. Denver, meanwhile, thrives on getting to the free throw line and they shot 37 free throws. Fortunately for the Celtics, they also missed 12 of them.
There were good signs throughout for the C’s who held off several Denver runs and despite allowing the Nuggets to shoot 49 percent played good defense for most of the game.
Player of the Game: You can make a strong case for Rajon Rondo who recorded a triple double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists or Kevin Garnet (20 points, 10 rebounds), but Paul Pierce was the star of the show. Any time he plays Carmelo Anthony it’s a chance to reassert himself as one of the dominant small forwards in the league. Pierce started the game aggressively and continued to play that way throughout en route to a 27-point performance.
Turning Point: With the Nuggets down 11 early in the fourth quarter, J.R. Smith picked up an ill-advised technical foul. That, combined with a shooting foul on Ray Allen, gave the Celtics three free throws and Allen cashed them in. The Celtics pushed the lead up to 17 and were afforded some much-needed breathing room.
* The Celtics turned it over just four times in the first half, which helped them put up 46 shots. They also assisted on 19 of their 25 made field goals.
* J.R. Smith scored 10 points in the second quarter and made all four of his shots from the field, but he was 2-for-5 from the free throw line.
* Tony Allen gave the Celtics great minutes in the second quarter when Pierce picked up his third foul. Allen finished the half with 10 points including a vicious dunk off a no-look pass from Rajon Rondo and a layup just before the final buzzer. Allen also played rotation minutes in the second half in place of Marquis Daniels and was on the floor down the stretch when Doc Rivers went to a small lineup.
* Michael Finley scored seven points in just six minutes and made three of his four shots. Finley continues to be an asset off the bench.
|Preview: Celtics-Nuggets||at 10:58 am ET|
In some ways, the Denver Nuggets are the Bizarro World version of the Celtics. The Nuggets win games with their offense, and their defense is just good enough to be able to do it at a very high level. Their offensive attack has balance between shooting 3-pointers and scoring inside, and they live at the free throw line, where the lead the league in attempts.
When the Nuggets are clicking, as they were in the first quarter in their earlier meeting with the Celtics, they can be devastating. Carmelo Anthony and his 29 points a game get a lot of attention, but Chauncey Billups is having a career season in terms of shooting efficiency and J.R. Smith remains one the of the league’s great X-factors.
As the Celtics begin a stretch of six straight home games against some of the best teams in the league, this is perhaps the most compelling matchup they will face.
CELTICS (45-25, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.8
Points Allowed: 94.4
Differential: +4.4 (9th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.4 (1st)
Pace: 91.7 (20th)
NUGGETS (47-24, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 107.5
Points Allowed: 102.4
Differential: 5.1 (6th)
Offensive Efficiency: 112.4 (2nd)
Defensive Efficiency: 107.0 (15th)
Pace: 95.1 (12th)
|Halftime: Celtics-Jazz||03.22.10 at 10:16 pm ET|
The Celtics won the first two games on their road trip, but after one half in Utah it’s clear that they want the three-game sweep. Glen Davis scored 13 points off the bench and made all seven of his free throws, while Nate Robinson added eight points on just three shots and the Celtics have a 54-49 lead.
The Celtics bench has outscored Utah’s 26-11. Ray Allen scored 10 points and Paul Pierce, who was named the NBA’s Player of the Week, added nine points and four rebounds. It hasn’t been pretty. The two teams have combined for 32 free throws 23 turnovers and 21 fouls.
Foul trouble affected both teams early as Kendrick Perkins and Carlos Boozer each got two in the first quarter. Boozer and Paul Millsap each have three fouls for the Jazz, while Rajon Rondo got his third right before the half.
With Millsap and Boozer out, the Celtics are enjoying a 21-11 edge on the boards. Utah has just one offensive rebound and the Celtics have six.
It’s also been a half of runs. The Celtics opened up a 13-6 lead before Utah came back and scored eight straight. The C’s then ran off their own 8-0 run to take control of the game. Late in the first half, an Allen 3-pointer gave them a 54-42 lead, but the Jazz sliced it to five with a 7-0 run. C.J. Miles and Deron Williams have kept Utah in the game with 13 points apiece.
|Pierce named NBA Player of the Week||at 2:44 pm ET|
The NBA issued the following release on the NBA Players of the Week:
The Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played March 15-21.
Pierce led Boston to a 4-0 week, with wins over Detroit, New York, Houston and Dallas. Pierce averaged 24.8 points – 6.7 points above than his season average (18.1 ppg) – on .630 shooting in 26.4 minutes. Pierce also added 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals. On March 20, Pierce scored 29 points and added five assists, three rebounds and two steals in the Celtics’ 102-93 win at Dallas.
Gasol averaged 24.8 points on .685 shooting (third in the NBA), 11.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 block, leading the Lakers to a 4-0 week with wins over Golden State, Sacramento, Minnesota and Washington. Gasol recorded three point-rebounds double-doubles and on March 16, tallied 28 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in the Lakers’ 106-99 win at Sacramento.
Here is a recap of the week for Pierce and Gasol:
Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
March 15 vs. Detroit: Posted 15 points, three assists and two steals in a 119-93 win over the Pistons.
March 17 vs. New York: Tallied 29 points and six rebounds in a 109-97 win over the Knicks.
March 19 @ Houston: Totaled 26 points, five rebounds and two steals in a 94-87 win over the Rockets.
March 20 @ Dallas: Collected 29 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in a 102-93 win over the Mavericks.
Paul Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
March 15 @ Golden State: Posted 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists in a 124-121 win over the Warriors.
March 16 @ Sacramento: Totaled 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a 106-99 win over the Kings.
March 19 vs. Minnesota: Collected 17 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in a 104-96 win over the Timberwolves.
March 21 vs. Washington: Tallied 28 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in a 99-92 win over the Wizards.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford and Al Horford, Cleveland’s LeBron James, Houston’s Aaron Brooks, Indiana’s Danny Granger, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Phoenix’s Amar’e Stoudemire.
|Preview: Celtics-Jazz||at 12:09 pm ET|
How many times have you written off the Celtics this season? The official count varies, but there have been at least five times when people have begun writing their obituary.
Jan. 20: After losing to a dreadful Detroit team on the road, the banged-up Celtics began to look old and possibly disinterested.
Jan. 31: Capping off three straight heartbreaking defeats against the best teams in the NBA, the Celtics collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Lakers.
Feb. 10: The All-Star break can’t come soon enough as the Celts sleepwalk through a game with New Orleans.
Feb. 27: New Jersey.
Here they are, back from the dead again, winners of four straight and a Texas sweep. The Celtics defy easy characterization, or maybe they just enjoy making things hard on themselves. Either way, no mater how things turn out in the final month of the regular season, we really will have no idea how they are going to perform once the playoffs start.
They have shown just enough life to encourage optimism among the constant pessimism of the last half of the season, but we really won’t know just how good this team really is until May at the earliest.
CELTICS (45-24, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.8
Points Allowed: 94.1
Differential: +4.7 (8th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.3 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.2 (1st)
Pace: 91.7 (21st)
JAZZ (45-25, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 103.6
Points Allowed: 98.0
Differential: 5.6 (4th)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.8 (6th)
Defensive Efficiency: 104.8 (10th)
Pace: 93.2 (12th)
|Fast Break: Celtics-Mavericks||03.20.10 at 10:33 pm ET|
The last time the Celtics played the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki scored 37 points and had Rasheed Wallace vowing “retribution.” For three quarters the Celtics held Nowitzki in check, but in the final 12 minutes the most under-appreciated superstar in the NBA began to get rolling.
Nowitzki shot the Mavs back into the game — and a seven-point fourth quarter lead — and the Celtics knew that if they were going to steal another one on the road, they would have to stop him to do it.
Kevin Garnett drew the assignment down the stretch, but he was not alone. Wherever Nowitzki went, help followed. The Celtics allowed open jump shots to whomever wanted one, but wouldn’t let Nowitzki breathe. While he finished with 28 points, the Celtics held him to just one field goal in the final five minutes.
The Celtics did escape with a 102-93 win in Dallas (recap) against a Mavs team that had been 14-2 since acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. In doing so they not only completed the sweep of the back-to-back, they also capped off a sweep of the Texas triangle after beating Houston Friday night and San Antonio earlier in the year.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined for 70 points on 26-for-45 shooting, 16 rebounds and 14 assists. It was the Celtics’ fourth straight win and their fifth in the last six games. It was also their most significant win since beating the Lakers and Portland back-to-back in February.
Retribution? Maybe not, but it was certainly a satisfying win for the Celtics.
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting, but it was his last points that were the most important. With the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, Pierce drained a 3-pointer from the top of they key. He then came up with a steal on the other end and found Rajon Rondo for an easy layup and a 99-93 lead. It was Pierce’s third straight game where he has scored more than 20 points.
Turning Point: After J.J. Barea sank a 3-pointer to put Dallas ahead, 82-75, the Celtics looked like they might be in trouble. But Ray Allen came back and hit a 20-footer and then a long 3-pointer to get the C’s back within two, 84-82. The Mavs are a notorious second-half team and looked like they were about to make one of their patented fourth-quarter runs before Allen’s big shots.
* The C’s opened up a 60-52 lead with a 12-5 run to start the second half, but the Mavericks rallied, highlighted by an emphatic dunk by Caron Butler on Kendrick Perkins.
* Both teams got off to a slow start as the Celtics missed their first five shots and the Mavs missed five of their first six. But things picked up quickly after that and the Celtics took a 30-24 lead after one quarter.
* Jason Terry scored 14 points in the first half. The Mavericks bench completely outplayed the Celtics reserves.
* The teams combined for 26 free throws in the first half.
* Garnett had a strange stat line in the first half when he had eight rebounds and five steals to go with just two points. Garnett missed all four shots that he took, but he appeared to be moving well.
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