|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.
|Celtics-Wizards Preview||12.10.09 at 11:18 am ET|
What to make of the Washington Wizards? They started the 2009-10 season losing seven of their first nine games, which pretty much knocked them out of sleeper contender status in the Eastern Conference. Then Antawn Jamison returned from an injury and the Wizards went 5-5, which gets them back into playoff contention. (Hey, it is the Eastern Conference). When healthy — they are also without Mike Miller — the Wizards are probably a playoff team and they have played the Celtics tough over the last few years.
The Celtics have their own health issues with Marquis Daniels expected to be out for up to two months after wrist surgery. Tony Allen made his return Tuesday and provided the usual Tony Allen delights — a couple of hustle plays, a turnover on a pass to a guy in the courtside seats, a charging foul that a bull in Pamplona would have avoided. But not even the return of TA could derail the Celtics express. The C’s have won eight straight and are sure to be gracing the top of various power rankings shortly.
CELTICS (17-4, 9-1 last 10)
Points Per Game : 100.0
Offensive Efficiency: 109.4 (8th)
Points Allowed: 90.5
Defensive Efficiency: 99.0 (First)
Pace: 91.0 (25th)
WIZARDS (7-12, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 96.7
Offensive Efficiency: 103.8 (24th)
Points Allowed: 100.4
Defensive Efficiency: 107.8 (20th)
Pace: 92.6 (15th)
Key Matchup: Perkins vs. Haywood. The Celtics are not a good rebounding team. Doc Rivers and the players have pegged it as a team-wide issue. The bigs have taken responsibility. The guards have taken responsibility. That’s all good from an Ubuntu perspective, but it wouldn’t hurt if players started putting bodies on their opponents. The Wizards don’t do a lot of things well, but they do hit the offensive glass, particularly Haywood who is one of the best in the league. Also keep an eye on Andray Blatche and Rasheed Wallace when the second units are on the floor.
The Wizards in a Paragraph: We’ve gone this far and we haven’t mentioned Agent Zero. Possibly because it seems that Gilbert Arenas doesn’t know who Gilbert Arenas is anymore. He started the year being all business, then he dropped that for his “old” persona which now seems as dated as Windows XP. Ernie Grunfeld made a bold move in the offseason bringing in Miller and Randy Foye to compliment his veterans and intriguing collection of young talent. It was always going to take time, but injuries have set back the timetable and the Wizards don’t have much time left.
The Celtics in a Paragraph: The C’s are back on the road for three straight, which brings up an interesting point. Did you know the Lakers have played 16 of their first 20 games at home? To put it another way, the Celtics played as many road games last week as the Lakers have played all season.
What to Watch For: This seems simple. Keep the Wizards off the offensive glass. Now that Daniels will be out for a significant chunk of time, who takes his minutes? Tony Allen gets first crack. Can he handle the job?
|Daniels has surgery on left thumb||12.09.09 at 10:42 am ET|
Marquis Daniels could miss up to two months following surgery this morning at New England Baptist Hospital to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. The procedure was performed by Celtics Team Physician, Dr. Brian McKeon and Dr. Drew Terrono.
Daniels has appeared in 19 games for the Celtics averaging 5.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game
Daniels confirmed the surgery on Wednesday and expressed his appreciation for support on his twitter account.
“Thanx 4 everyones prayers my surgery went well, I’ll be back better than before I had been, I’d like to say thanks to all dat prayed 4me,” Daniels tweeted.
Head coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday that Tony Allen and Brian Scalabrine are expected to pick up the minutes for Daniels, who was second off the bench behind Rasheed Wallace. Daniels posted a season-high 10 points against Utah on Nov. 11.
|C’s trying to get the point of rebounding||at 12:02 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows his team, even in the midst of an eight-game winning streak, can’t go on rebounding like they are if they are to have any chance of hanging an 18th banner from the rafters.
On Tuesday night, the Celtics went on a very late 7-0 run to pull away from the Milwaukee Bucks, 98-89, for their eighth straight and a very gaudy 17-4 record.
What’s not so gaudy are their rebounding numbers.
They were outrebounded 44-35 by a younger, quicker Milwaukee team, including 14-5 on the offensive glass. The Celtics entered the game 29th in the NBA, or next-to-last, in rebounding. They are dead last in offensive rebounding.
|Fast Break: Celtics-Bucks||12.08.09 at 10:01 pm ET|
It’s apparently not going to be easy for the Celtics at home, where their inexplicable trend of playing sub-.500 teams close on the Garden floor continued Tuesday night against the Bucks. At various points, it looked like the Celtics would run away with the game, only to have the Bucks close the gap.
A fourth-quarter surge finally put some distance between them on the scoreboard and the Celtics were able to prevail with a 98-89 win, their eighth straight. The Bucks have now dropped eight of their last nine. Kevin Garnett scored 25 points and added nine rebounds to lead the scoring. Bucks center Andrew Bogut had a huge game with 25 points and 14 rebounds.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. In a game where all five Celtics starters (and Rasheed Wallace) scored in double figures, credit must go to the distributor. Rondo recorded a near triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists. Rondo also harassed super-rookie Brandon Jennings into an uneven 17-point performance. If Jennings wants to lay claim to the point guard throne he has a long way to go to match Rondo.
Turning Point: It wasn’t so much a turning “point” as it was a slow change in play. With the score tied at 86-86, the Celtics slowly began to put some distance between themselves and the Bucks outscoring them 12-3 down the stretch.
‘¢Garnett continued his string of strong outings with 25 points and nine rebounds. He took the ball aggressively to the basket early in the game, which helped set the tone and made a huge basket late in the game. He also forced Ersan Ilyasova into a 6-for-17 shooting night.
‘¢Milwaukee guard Luke Ridnour appeared to injure his wrist late in the third quarter. He has had problems with the wrist before. He didn’t return to the game.
‘¢Tony Allen made his debut and played five rather eventful minutes. He made a number of hustle plays and also threw the ball out of bounds and barreled into a Buck defender on his way to the basket for an obvious charging call. The Celtics went 10 deep even without Marquis Daniels. Brian Scalabrine saw the majority of minutes ahead of Shelden Williams.
‘¢Wallace had a superb shooting night making five of eight shots and hitting three of four from 3-point range. His shooting was a big reason the Celtics were able to scratch out a lead to start the fourth quarter.
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