|Preview: Celtics-Knicks||02.23.10 at 10:20 am ET|
When last we saw the Celtics in Boston, they were blowing a huge third-quarter lead against the Orlando Magic and causing nearly everyone to abandon ship. That was on Super Bowl Sunday. Since then, we’ve seen Peyton Manning choke, the United States win 25 medals in the Olympics and Tiger Woods kind of apologize.
Since then we’ve also seen the Celtics manage to win the first three games of a treacherous West Coast road trip (including sweeping the Lakers and Blazers in a back-to-back, which ranks near the top of the NBA in degree of difficulty) before getting blitzed in a first-quarter barrage in a loss against the Nuggets.
In other words, a lot can change in two weeks.
In the games since the All-Star break, Ray Allen has rediscovered his shooting touch, Kevin Garnett has looked more athletic than he has since December and Rasheed Wallace looks like he cares. That last part is a cheap shot, but it accurately encapsulates how a lot of people feel about this Celtics run.
The question is: Are the Celtics capable of turning it on and off whenever they want, and is this what happened over the first half of the season when uneven performances and second-half collapses became the norm? The showed out west just how good they can be even with Paul Pierce dealing with his various injuries. Now they just have to do it consistently before everyone can believe it again.
KNICKS (19-36, 1-9 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.9
Points Allowed: 104.1
Differential: -3.2 (21st)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.6 (15th)
Defensive Efficiency: 109.7 (24th)
Pace: 94.0 (7th)
Injuries: McGrady (knee, questionable)
CELTICS (35-19, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.5
Points Allowed: 93.6
Differential: +4.9 (4th)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.8 (13th)
Defensive Efficiency: 101.5 (1st)
Pace: 91.7 (21st)
Injuries: Pierce (thumb, questionable) Read the rest of this entry »
|Third quarter wrap: Celtics-Blazers||02.20.10 at 12:36 am ET|
The defensive effort that the Celtics rode in the second quarter carried over to the third as they maintained a 73-61 lead despite struggling on offense. The Celtics scored just 17 points in the quarter, but they have held Portland to 34 percent shooting through three quarters.
Rajon Rondo and Rasheed Wallace both picked up technical fouls in the quarter. Wallace had his technical from Thursday night rescinded. Assuming he keeps this one, he now has 13 technical fouls this season. His 16th would trigger an automatic suspension.
Portland got two cheap points late in the quarter as Brian Scalabrine threw an errant inbounds pass under his own basket that was picked off by Jerryd Bayless, who then converted a layup.
|Halftime wrap: Celtics vs. Blazers||02.19.10 at 11:43 pm ET|
After a hot start offensively, the Celtics put the clamps down defensively, holding the Blazers to just three field goals in the quarter to take a 56-38 lead into halftime.
Portland scored just six points in the first six minutes of the quarter as the Celtics built a 45-31 lead with their second unit. The starters picked it up from there as Kevin Garnett knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season on a desperation heave as the shot clock expired. Garnett followed that with a length-of-the-floor layup off a feed from Rajon Rondo.
Rondo capped off the quarter with a buzzer-beating 20-foot jump shot. He has eight points and nine assists, while Garnett leads all scorers with 13 points and seven rebounds.
|First quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Blazers||at 11:03 pm ET|
Playing the second night of a back-to-back the Celtics looked sharp. They made 14 of their first 18 shots and held Portland to 43 percent shooting en route to taking a 32-25 lead. Kevin Garnett started the game 4-for-4 for eight points and four rebound and Rajon Rondo dished out six assists in addition to six points.
Paul Pierce was a game-time decision, but was in the starting lineup as usual. Portland’s Brandon Roy, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, also started. The Blazers had new addition Marcus Camby in the starting lineup. New Celtics Nate Robinson did not play and will make his debut Sunday against the Nuggets.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Lakers||at 1:26 am ET|
Danny Ainge made his trade deadline move and, all things considered, it was a relatively minor one. He effectively traded Eddie House for Nate Robinson and while it will give the second unit a different look, it doesn’t do a lot to alter the makeup of this team.
The Celtics hopes will still rise and fall primarily upon the health and effectiveness of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. To that end Allen looked positively rejuvenated and Garnett looked like the 2007 version of himself in an emotional 87-86 victory over the Lakers Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Big Three will get at least one more chance to see if they can win a championship together. That’s what they have been asking for the last few weeks and now that the final decision has been made there can be no more excuses. It’s on them to turn it around in the final 30 games and through the playoffs.
Turning Point: For three quarters the Celtics controlled the matchup, but when the Lakers made their inevitable run to start the fourth quarter and turned a nine-point deficit into a four-point lead, the Celtics had a decision to make. They could retreat into a shell, as they have done so often the last few weeks, or they could stand and fight. They chose to fight.
Player of the Game: Ray Allen. It’s dangerous to read too much into a player’s one-game performance but Allen resembled the dangerous outside shooter that he’s been known for being throughout his career. He made his first four shots and finished with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Was he more relaxed after the trade deadline passed? Who knows for sure, but if this is the Allen the Celtics can get night in and night out for the rest of the season, it will go a long way toward making them a serious contender again.
* The game was physical throughout with several big dunks and a few minor staredowns. Ron Artest and Pierce continued their rivalry, Garnett and Lamar Odom exchanged words after a jump ball and Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum battled under the glass.
* The officials let the two teams play for the most and both sides wanted calls in the final seconds of the game. Doc Rivers could be seen asking the refs, “That wasn’t a foul?” after Pierce drove to the basket. On the other end, the Lakers though Allen fouled Derek Fisher’s last-second shot.
* Kobe Bryant didn’t play for the Lakers. He is battling an assortment of injuries but it’s his ankle that seems to be giving him the most trouble.
* Robinson and Marcus Landry, the other player acquired from the Knicks in exchange for House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker did not play. The Celtics had only 11 players in uniform and lost Tony Allen with an ankle injury, but Doc Rivers stayed with a tight rotation throughout.
* All five started scored in double figures.
* Once again Rondo was on the floor for the final offensive possession. The play involved Pierce and Garnett in a high pick and roll, but without House, expect to see more of that.
|Halftime wrap: Celtics vs. Lakers||02.18.10 at 11:55 pm ET|
At the half, the Celtics have a 53-48 lead. The Lakers grabbed an slim advantage early in the second quarter, but the Celtics were able to build an 11-point lead capped by a thunderous Ray Allen dunk on Shannon Brown. LA came right back, however, led by Lamar Odom who had a big dunk of his own on Kendrick Perkins. Ron Artest leads the Lakers with 12 points.
Both teams will deal with foul trouble in the second half. Allen has three fouls as does LA’s Andrew Bynum.
Tony Allen and Glen Davis gave the Celtics energy, if uneven, minutes off the bench. Both players got on the glass and attacked the basket, but both had trouble finishing. Still, by the time the starters returned to the floor they had given them a 41-34 lead.
|First quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Lakers||at 11:15 pm ET|
The Celtics started quickly with an 11-2 run to open the game, but the Lakers closed the gap in the final minute, leaving the Celtics with a 29-27 lead after one. Rajon Rondo scored eight points and had two assists, while Ray Allen made all four of his shots to finish the quarter with nine points.
Newest Celtics Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry are not with the team.
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