|Preview: Celtics-Bucks||03.09.10 at 11:05 am ET|
Quick: Who is the hottest team in the Eastern Conference? The Celtics, who have won four straight and seven of their last 10? Nope. The Cavs? The Magic? No and no. The hottest team in the Eastern Conference is the Milwaukee Bucks and has been since the trade deadline when the acquired John Salmons from the Bulls.
The addition of Salmons has given the Bucks a much-needed perimeter threat to take the pressure off rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and also aided the development of Andrew Bogut, who is putting it all together in his fifth season. The Bucks have played great defense all season. They rank third in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) and their low-risk (fourth best at not turning it over), deliberate offensive sets don’t hurt their defensive rep either.
While Salmons gives them a shooter and a scorer that they lacked, the other reason for their success has been the play of backup point guard Luke Ridnour, who has been one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA. Ridnour is in the midst of a career-season and since Bucks coach Scott Skiles knows what he’s doing, Ridnour’s also plays crunch-time minutes when the situation arises.
A few weeks ago, the Bobcats looked like the emerging team in the bottom five of the East. Now that team appears to be the Bucks, a young team playing well with a solid coach and nothing to lose. That’s a tough combination in a first-round playoff matchup.
CELTICS (40-21, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.4
Points Allowed: 93.8
Differential: +4.6 (6th)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)
Pace: 91.6 (22nd)
BUCKS (33-29, 9-1 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.1
Points Allowed: 96.5
Differential: +1.6 (13th)
Offensive Efficiency: 104.5 (23rd)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.8 (3rd)
Pace: 907. (26th)
|Garnett: Ray is playing ‘beautiful basketball’||03.08.10 at 1:02 pm ET|
Ray Allen’s clutch performance on Sunday night was a thing of beauty – to fans and teammates alike.
Just ask Kevin Garnett who watched as Allen’s back-to-back 3-pointers helped the Celtics erase a 13-point-hole in the final six minutes and come away with an 86-83 win over Washington.
“A huge weapon,” Garnett said. “You know him and P [Paul Pierce] can put up a lot of points in a hurry. That’s big. We have to get them open. You know our job is to get them open. I thought that once he got into a nice, little rhythm, I think that everyone else, you know fed off of that a little bit. When it was time to really get him opened for the three, we got him open, and he hit a big shot.”
Garnett has seen Allen suddenly get hot after the All-Star break, carrying the Celtics offense while Pierce nursed a sore thumb.
“I can just say that each player has their time where they play up and down,” Garnett said. “That is the nature of the season. You know, you guys don’t know but he deals with a lot of different things with injuries, you know we all deal with different types of physical stuff. He is no different than that. At the same time he had talks of business, about where he was going to be in his future and stuff. I can just tell that he is a lot more healthier. Everything that he is doing is a lot more fluid. He is not thinking a lot, he is just reacting and his beautiful basketball.”
Paul Pierce had a slightly different take.
While happy with the win, Pierce realizes the team should have had that intensity all along against a Washington team that has just 21 wins this season. Read the rest of this entry »
|Ray: We probably got away with one||at 12:20 am ET|
Ray Allen felt comfortable all night.
With a game-high 25 points and 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the 3-point line, the stats say as much.
The problem was — for 42 minutes — the Washington Wizards felt just as good in nearly everything they did.
With the Celtics down 13 points, that’s when Allen said the C’s finally got to their opponent, opening the door for him to play hero in the final 93 seconds.
“It was night and day. We put a lot of pressure on them. We made them play away from the basket. We forced them to be more uncomfortable than we did in the first half,” said Allen, whose trey with 17.1 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Boston’s 86-83 win.
Asked if the Celtics might have gotten away with a win when maybe they didn’t deserve one, Allen was as honest as he could be.
“You could say probably in a small way we did,” he admitted. “But we fought for it, we never gave up or thought it was over with, so it bowed in our favor tonight.”
|Halftime: Celtics-Wizards||03.07.10 at 9:10 pm ET|
The first half was best summed up by a fan in the next row: “C’mon, it’s the Wizards!”
Once again, the Celtics have their work cut out for them against a bad team as they trail 44-38 at the half. As they did against New Jersey two weeks ago the Celtics came out flat and suddenly a team with no hope and no directions looks like a world beater.
The Celtics problems have been mostly on offense where they shot just 35 percent and tied a season-low for first-half points. The Wizards have also blocked six shots, which contributed to that low total, with three of them coming from Javale McGee. Undeterred, the Celtics continued to try and take it to the basket against McGee and he continued to throw it back in their face.
Al Thornton has 15 points and eight rebounds, which in and of itself in an indictment on how the C’s played.
|First quarter: Celtics-Wizards||at 8:37 pm ET|
The obvious fear when playing a team like the Washington Wizards at 8 p.m. on a Sunday night is that the Celtics wouldn’t come out with enough energy. That was the story of the first 12 minutes as the C’s, and the crowd, sleepwalked through a 25-19 Wizards lead.
The Celtics dutifully worked the ball inside and got good shots, but they didn’t fall, going 7-for-21 from the floor. With favorable matchups at almost every position, the Celtics couldn’t seem to settle on a plan of attack.
The best idea involved Paul Pierce who had his way with Al Thornton and scored seven points. Washington’s Andray Blatche, who has been a revelation after the Wizards’ housecleaning at the trade deadline, has eight points and five rebounds.
|Finley: Not going to ‘hurt what they already have’||at 7:18 pm ET|
Looking at the big picture, it’s perfectly clear why Michael Finley is in a Celtics uniform today. After all, familiarity is a powerful thing.
Finley and his new head coach both hail from the Windy City, and it was in Chicago where their bond began in the late 1970s while Finley’s sister and Doc Rivers were at Proviso East High School.
“Well, me and Doc go way back,” Finley explained. “My sister was a cheerleader and he was the star basketball player at the high school games, and I used to sit under the basket and watch him play. That’s how far our relationship goes back. He’s always been a mentor for me, how to be a professional and how to be a man. He’s a role model for me and it goes way back, I’ve watched his career as a basketball player and as a coach, and it’s definitely an honor for me to play for him.”
Finley said his familiarity with the organization, from general manager Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and players Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, made Boston a good fit for him. He said he had talks with another “championship” caliber team before deciding on the Celtics.
“I’ve talked to Doc and Danny, and coach was very honest with me, which I respect that he doesn’t know how he is going to use me,” Finley said. “I have to respect that. I am coming to a situation, where the team is already established. They have put in ‘X’ amount of games, so for me to come in and try to establish a role would be crazy for me to even think that. But coach has put me in a situation at ease, where he doesn’t know, I don’t know, just when my situation comes just go out there and play hard and do what I can to help the team be a better one. I think that I am able to do that.”
There’s also another practical matter for Finley, who turned 37 on Saturday, the day he landed — literally — in Boston.
“It gave me an opportunity to challenge for a title,” Finley said. “All those things combined with the over history of Boston just drew me here.”
Finley, who suffered what he called a severe ankle injury in December, said he’s ready to play and will wear the No. 40. Rivers held him out of Sunday’s game against the Wizards as he just arrived in Boston Saturday night.
Finley was also honest about his less-than-ideal situation in San Antonio, which precipitated his release last week.
“This all happened within a week, a week or two span,” Finley admitted. “It was something that started as something little and I think it just erupted. I think both sides, myself and the Spurs organization, there was a mutual split. I have no hard feelings with them, it was just something they were willing to do, and I was man enough to be ready to make that move.
“It was frustrating because of the situation I was in at San Antonio, but I think all players at my age and that have been in the league as long as I have experience that. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t finish something that I had in San Antonio because the role was something that I really didn’t agree with. But here, hopefully the situation will be different, but you never know, it may be the same. But I’m happy with my situation now and I’m definitely going to make the most of it.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Preview: Celtics-Sixers||03.05.10 at 10:57 am ET|
A question that has been hanging in the air during this Celtics season: Should they be more aggressive? Should the Celtics be a little more (choose your adjective here) physical, punishing, nasty?
Paul Pierce certainly thought so. “That’s who are, truthfully,” he said after Wednesday’s game that featured a minor run-in with Stephen Jackson. “We’re a team that usually intimidates.” Pierce was quick to add that he didn’t advocate crossing whatever arbitrary line is drawn in the NBA sand these days regarding physical play.
Certainly the Celtics aren’t about to emulate the 90′s “no layups” Knicks, mostly because the rules have changed to the point where no one can play that kind of rough and tumble basketball without getting half the roster suspended. The Celtics are up among the league leaders in technical fouls with 77 (Orlando of all teams is the leader in the clubhouse with 79), but that’s more agitation than intimidation.
They’ve been called bullies and trash talkers before, but that’s a different thing, as well. The Celtics have played 59 games and they still seem like a team that is searching for an identity. Perhaps their old one fit just fine.
SIXERS (22-38, 3-7 last 10)
Points Per Game: 97.6
Points Allowed: 101.0
Differential: -3.4 (21st)
Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 (21st)
Defensive Efficiency: 109.2 (22nd)
Pace: 91.8 (21st)
CELTICS (38-21, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.7
Points Allowed: 94.1
Differential: +4.6 (7th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 (13th)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.1 (2nd)
Pace: 91.7 (22nd)
Read the rest of this entry »
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