|Fast Break: Celtics-Magic||12.25.09 at 5:23 pm ET|
If Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has his way, the NBA would make like the rest of the world and take Christmas Day off. He has a point, but for the last two decades Dec. 25 has become the NBA’s early-season showcase event and there’s no chance of that changing anytime soon.The way his team played against the Celtics, he may get his wish.
Without Paul Pierce, the Celtics played a different brand of basketball than has been their norm this season. There was very little flash and not much in the way of offensive efficiency. Instead the Celtics played gritty, grind-it-out halfcourt hoops with a heavy emphasis on defense. It was playoff-style basketball, if not playoff-style execution. The Magic, meanwhile, played like they would have rather been knocking back some eggnog with the family.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t anything that the NBA would want to put in its highlight packages, but for the Celtics this 86-77 win was their biggest of the season. The Magic have owned this matchup recently, but with Kevin Garnett back to check Rashard Lewis and Rajon Rondo playing far more aggressively than he has against Orlando, the Celtics were able to escape with the victory.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. Every time you think you have Rondo figured out, he does something to make you think otherwise. He has been one the game’s best distributors as a point guard, but he has struggled against Orlando. The Magic didn’t even pretend to guard Rondo on the perimeter. They ducked under screens and gave him a 10-foot cushion at the top of the key.
So, Rondo adjusted. Instead of looking to set up his teammates he attacked the basket throughout the first half. The result was a 13-point, zero-assist half. Rondo then completely reversed course and racked up eight assists in the second half. He dictated the outcome instead of allowing the Magic to take him out of the game.
Turning Point: With Garnett out of the game the Magic were able to attack the offensive glass in the fourth quarter. In one sequence they had four shots at the basket from deep inside the paint. Finally, Rasheed Wallace was able to tap the ball out to Rondo, who found Tony Allen on the break for a vicious dunk. It was a huge four-point swing.
* Glen Davis was limited to a few minutes in the first half, mainly because of foul trouble. He’s not in game shape yet, but he was able to soak up a few minutes and allowed Doc Rivers to rest Kevin Garnett and keep him on his regular rotation.
* You take the good with the bad when it comes to Tony Allen, and he offered a little bit of both starting for Paul Pierce. He went to the basket hard and did what he could on Vince Carter. He also turned into a bit of a ball stopper at times on offense. The good far outweighed the bad, however, and Allen continued his strong play of late with 16 points.
* Kendrick Perkins is one of the few individuals on the planet who can play Dwight Howard straight up. It’s past time that NBA officials recognized that and let him play. Instead, Perkins spent most of the afternoon on the bench in foul trouble. As ragged as the play was at times, the officials helped create the environment.
* The Celtics desperately missed Pierce’s ability to create good shots for himself down the stretch. Without Pierce they lack a closer.
* Garnett took a hard fall late in the game, but it appeared that it didn’t have anything to do with his knee.
|C’s can’t be Mickey Mouse on this trip||12.23.09 at 1:45 am ET|
The Celtics and their families were planning to fly to Orlando on Wednesday morning for a trip to Orlando, two days in advance of their Christmas Day game against the Magic.
Then add to that the fact Kevin Garnett was a late scratch, and the Celtics coach figured the start of the game would be a tough go. He was right. His team basically slept-walked through the first half, falling down 15 points on their home court.
‘Basically all I told them at halftime was that our defense was awful and our effort was awful, and our offense was fine,” Rivers said. “We were missing good shots for the most part. But we couldn’t get any early baskets because they scored every time down. And so it was a walk-up-the-floor game for us and they were running it down our throats. Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics-Pacers Preview||12.22.09 at 11:27 am ET|
Way back on Nov. 14, Danhtay Jones had a career night. This came as a bit of a surprise to various members of the Celtics, who were still shaking their collective heads several days after Jones burned them for 25 points in their only road loss of the season. Jones is not known as a scorer in any meaningful way, but at that moment in time he was in the midst of the best offensive month of his career, averaging 17.5 points and shooting over 46 percent from the floor.
Jones has returned to his regular ways in December (8.5 points per, 40 percent shooting), and his Pacers team has crash-landed along with him. It would be wrong to pin all that on him, of course. Jones is a small piece of his team, but it speaks to the danger of over-reacting to one game or one month.
Over the first 16 games of the season Rasheed Wallace took 146 shots and 96 of them were 3-pointers. In other words, two thirds of the shots that Sheed took were from beyond the arc. That would be Jason Kapono territory, but not even Kapono would take that many. Over the last 10 games Wallace has greatly cut back on his 3-point attempts, launching “just” 41 percent of his from 3-point range. The result is a much more efficient second unit that has a certified low-post option at its disposal.
All of which is to say that while it’s folly to place hope in veteran players like Jones becoming something they are not, it is possible to get different results from veteran players like Wallace by simply changing their approach.
CELTICS (21-5, 9-1 last 10)
Points Per Game: 101.5
Points Allowed: 91.9
Differential: 9.5 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.4 (Sixth)
Defensive Efficiency: 100.0 (Second)
Pace: 91.3 (23rd)
PACERS (9-17, 3-7 last 10)
Points Per Game: 97. 4
Points Allowed: 101.2
Differential: -3.8 (T-24th)
Offensive Efficiency: 1007.7 (26th)
Defensive Efficiency: 104.6 (10th)
Pace: 96.7 (Second)
|Doc on Pierce: He’s working on legacy||12.21.09 at 3:02 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce can laugh about the dark days now. But three seasons ago, when he was captain of a team languishing through a 24-win season, it wasn’t so easy.
It was after that season, and just before the acquisitions of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, that Pierce thought his marriage to the Celtics, and specifically, the Doc Rivers‘ system, was headed for divorce.
“Early years, I was almost close to divorce but I didn’t have my pre-nup in place so I had to think twice,” Pierce joked on Monday. “It was cheaper to keep her.”
“I don’t know who that is,” Rivers said when asked if he remembers the Paul Pierce from his first season coaching the Celtics in 2004-05. “The one here is amazing. He’s an amazing person. He’s older, he’s more mature. He’s just solid. He’s a solid player.”
But after a 2008 NBA title and a 62-win season last year, Pierce is smitten once again with the Celtics and the Rivers’ system of Ubuntu.
“Put it this way, you’ve been with a girl for five years and you break up with her,” Pierce said. ” Then you have a new girlfriend, you’ve got to get used to each other because the last girlfriend, you knew everything about her, you’ve been together for so long so you’re going to make a lot of different mistakes and have a lot of different arguments.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics-Sixers Preview||12.18.09 at 11:37 am ET|
What a wonderful thing hindsight can be. In the summer of 2007, the Celtics traded most of their accumulated young talent and assets to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This bold action by Danny Ainge has obviously proved to be brilliant thanks to a championship and two-plus years of contention. It seems obvious now, but at the time there was concern that Ainge had given away the store for a couple of vets with a lot of mileage on their odometers, even vets whose final destination was the Hall of Fame.
In the summer of 2008, new Sixers general manager Ed Stefansi thought he had also pulled off a brilliant coup by signing free agent Elton Brand to a massive five-year contract. It seemed obvious then that adding an automatic low-post scorer to a young, athletic, perimeter-oriented team would be a difference-maker. Less then two years in, Stefanski’s power play has proven dubious at best, and franchise-wrecking at worst.
So dubious that Stefanski was compelled to hire Allen Iverson for one last go-round in a desperate attempt to boost attendance. After a sold-out debut, the fans have stayed away and Iverson is hurt after playing too many minutes too fast. Now the Sixers are just another bad NBA team with too many bad contracts and no direction.
CELTICS (20-4, 10-0 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.8
Points Allowed: 91.2
Differential: +9.6 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.0 (Ninth)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (First)
Pace: 91.3 (24th)
SIXERS (6-19, 1-9 last 10)
Points Per Game: 97.2
Points Allowed: 101.6
Differential: – 4.4 (26th)
Offensive Efficiency: 106. 7 (17th)
Defensive Efficiency: 111.4 (28th)
Pace: 90.8 (27th)
Key Matchup: Allen and Pierce vs. Iguodala and Young
One of the side effects of the Brand signing is that Iguodala was forced to slide down to the off-guard position and Young to the small forward spot. During their short time together, Iguodala and Young have proven far more capable as forwards, albeit undersized forwards. Brand changed that dynamic and while it’s not his fault that his general manager didn’t understand his own team’s dynamic, it has proven to be an ill fit. Still, Iguodala and Young are a tough matchup for whoever draws the assignment.
Celtics in a Paragraph: The regular season is a process. A long, slow, drawn-out process. Right now the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season, and have a nice stretch of spread-out home games to continue their winning ways before embarking on a west coast road trip with a stopover in Orlando on Christmas Day. Until then their enemy is the process.
Sixers in a Paragraph: For all that is wrong with Philly, there is one thing they do well and that one thing has proven to be the Celtics Achilles heel — offensive rebounding. Keep the Sixers off the offensive glass and there isn’t much left in their bag of tricks. Philly racked up 12 offensive rebounds in its last meeting with the Celtics, which helped the Sixers stay in the game until Rondo took over in the fourth quarter.
What to Watch For: In one of the more bizarre subplots of the NBA season, three of the Celtics four losses have come at home on Friday nights. It’s not much to go on if you’re the Sixers, but it beats hoping Holiday can keep up with Rondo.
|Celtics-Grizzlies Preview||12.14.09 at 10:45 am ET|
Poor Allen Iverson. He gets traded from Philadelphia to Denver and the Sixers spend the next two years in the playoffs. He goes from Denver to Detroit and the Nuggets go to the conference finals. He gets waived by the Memphis Grizzlies after one game and the Grizzlies become good? There might be a pattern developing here.
Memphis has won four of its last five and included in that are wins over Dallas, Cleveland and a 28-point victory Sunday night in Miami. The Grizz might not be playoff good, but they probably would be if they were in the East. So, does A.I. get the blame, or does Jamaal Tinsley get the credit? (That was a rhetorical question).
CELTICS (19-4, 10-0 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.4
Points Allowed: 90.6
Differential: 9.8 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 109.3 (Ninth)
Defensive Efficiency: 98.6 (First)
Pace: 91.4 (25th)
GRIZZLIES (10-13, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 101.5
Points Allowed: 104.4
Differential: -2.9 (19th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.8 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.8 (28th)
Pace: 93.3 (12th)
Injuries: Darrell Arthur (Torn pec muscle)
Key Matchup: We’re going to talk about offensive rebounding again. The Grizzlies rate as the NBA top offensive rebounding team and Randolph is the primary reason. He’s getting almost five offensive boards per game — a number that is a little inflated after he pulled down 11 in a game against Oklahoma City last week. The Celtics have done a better job on the boards in recent games, but they will have to keep a body on Randolph. It will also be interesting to see how the Celtics matchup Garnett and Perkins with Randolph and Gasol.
Celtics in a Paragraph: There is no hotter team in the NBA now that the Lakers had to move out of the cozy confines of their home arena and venture out on the road. In their 10-game winning streak Rondo has averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds and has pushed his free throw percentage above 50 percent. That he’s not higher in the All-Star voting is a joke.
Grizzlies in a Paragraph: Speaking of the All-Star game, there was a story in the Memphis paper last week about Randolph getting left off the ballot, which seems ridiculous on its face until you start to take a look at what the bizarre big man has been doing this year. He’s averaging better than 18 points and 10 rebounds and has teamed with Gasol to give Memphis one of the better low-post tandems in the league. At least from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, Randolph and Gasol are not exactly Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason.
What to Watch For: Memphis is no longer a pushover. The Celtics are playing the final game of their road trip before heading home for a nice stretch. Will this be the NBA’s version of the get-away game, or will the Celtics continue their road dominance?
|Fast Break: Celtics-Bulls||12.12.09 at 10:30 pm ET|
Another night, another city, another Celtics victory.
The Celtics have played a dozen road games so far this season and they have left town with a victory eleven times. The only time the C’s suffered a defeat on the road was four weeks ago to the day in Indiana. There was no danger of a repeat performance in a 106-80 win over the Bulls on Saturday, and not just because the Celtics have figured out the road game better than every other team in the NBA.
In Chicago, the Celtics not only caught a team playing the second night of a back-to-back, with the night before going to overtime. They also caught a Bulls team in crisis mode. The double digit losses are mounting and it may only be a matter of time before the Bulls start looking for a new coach.
Credit the Celtics with doing what they needed to do and continuing their winning ways on the road, but the Bulls are in big trouble.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. The Celtics point guard has been playing his best basketball of the season and he continued his run with 16 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Every time Rondo and Derrick Rose match up has the potential to be a special occasions, but at this point in their careers, Rondo is clearly the superior player.
Turning Point: If the Bulls were going to make it a game, they needed to make a stand to start the second half. Instead they degenerated in a morass of turnovers, bad shots and shoddy defense. Game over.
* Brad Miller got a little payback on Rondo early in the first quarter when he collared Rondo on a drive to the basket and threw him to the ground, getting a flagrant foul in the process. Rondo had whacked Miller across the face during the playoffs last season, drawing blood. To Rondo’s credit he continued to attack the middle of the Bulls defense.
* Later in the game Miller got into it a little bit with Kendrick Perkins with the duo getting called for a double foul after Miller hooked perk and Perk flipped him to the ground.
* Paul Pierce took a bit of a beating. He hurt his right shoulder in the third quarter and then banged knees with Luol Deng later in the quarter. Pierce stayed in, and showed yet again why he is one of the toughest players in the league, but the Celtics can ill afford to be without Pierce while Marquis Daniels rehabs from surgery.
* The Celtics bench played very well in the first half and increased the lead while the starters were getting a rest. Vinny Del Negro on the other hand worked his starters big minutes one night removed from an overtime win over the Warriors. The second half was fairly predictable.
* Without Daniels, the Celtics don’t really have a second ballhandler. They can get away with it for a while, particularly against teams like Chicago that don’t pressure guards, but Daniels’ loss will be felt at some point.
* All five starters scored in double figures as did Wallace and Eddie House.
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