|Fast Break: Paul Pierce’s 40 points end Celtics skid||12.19.12 at 9:54 pm ET|
His Celtics in desperate need of a victory after a winless three-game road trip, Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored a season-high 40 points for the first time since 2010 to will the C’s over the Cavaliers, 103-91.
With help from veteran teammates Rajon Rondo (20 points, 8 assists), Jason Terry (15 points) and Kevin Garnett (12 points), Pierce also contributed eight rebounds and five assists to push the Celtics above .500 (13-12).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Raging Rondo: Add another strange stat line to Rondo’s resume. He finished the first quarter with 12 points, four rebounds and zero assists. More importantly, he attacked the basket, attempting all five of his field goals in the paint and making four of them. Rondo also set the tone early against Kyrie Irving on the other end, holding his Cavaliers counterpart to four points and no assists in the opening quarter as the C’s took a 27-25 lead.
Captain on course: Slowly, inevitably, Pierce is righting his ship. After shooting a respectable 13-of-23 (4-8 3P) in his last two games, Pierce started a perfect 6-for-6 from beyond the arc against Cleveland. He finished 13-of-16 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Pierce’s 10 first-quarter points staked the Celtics to an early lead, and his 17 third-quarter points kept the Cavaliers at bay. All in all, Pierce’s best night of the season.
JET grounded no more: A night after attempting just two shots against the Bulls, Terry returned to the starting lineup, scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and drilled a trio of treys, including a dagger with 2:48 remaining.
|Doc Rivers goes extreme: Starts Jason Collins at center||at 7:37 pm ET|
After losing their third straight game Tuesday night in Chicago, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he would continue to search for answers to shake his team out of its early season funk. On Wednesday, he followed through, replacing Courtney Lee in the starting lineup with Jason Terry, who got only two shots in Tuesday’s 100-89 loss in Chicago.
“Nothing more, until Avery [Avery Bradley] comes back,” Rivers said of the decision. “Jet just doesn’t get involved unless [Rajon Rondo] is on the floor. It has nothing to do with anybody else, it’s more to do with getting Jet more involved.”
In a more drastic measure, Rivers said Jason Collins would take over the starting center role from Kevin Garnett in order to move Garnett back to his more natural spot of big forward. The move would mean Brandon Bass would come off the bench. Bass has started 21 of Boston’s 24 games this season, including the last 16 straight.
“Just because of his size,” Rivers said in explaining the move for the 7-foot, 255-pound big man. “[Coaching staff] has been talking about it a lot but just haven’t done it. We’ve just been trying to find ways of getting Kevin off the ‘5’ spot all game. Right now, even when we put the other guys in, the same [opposing players] are guarding him and the only way you can force the action is with Jason.”
If Rivers sticks with the new starting lineup, Celtics fans can expect to see Rondo and Terry in the backcourt until Avery Bradley returns in early January, with Garnett and Paul Pierce at the forward spots and Collins at center.
|Fast Break: Nothing Cavalier about Celtics victory||02.28.12 at 9:44 pm ET|
In a battle between two teams vying for eighth in the Eastern Conference (yup, you read that right), the Celtics blew a 16-point lead but salvaged the night when Ray Allen sandwiched a fast-break layup and two free throws around a big Kevin Garnett offensive rebound in the final minute to secure an 86-83 win over the Cavaliers.
Allen (22) and Garnett (18) combined for 40 points to help the Celtics (16-17) avoid the first six-game losing streak of the new Big Three era and stretch their lead over the Cavs (13-19) to 2.5 games for the eighth seed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Welcome back Bass: The Celtics finished 1-5 in Bass’ recent six-game absence, and it didn’t take long for the consistent big man to demonstrate his value on the court, scoring 10 points on six shots by halftime. Bass brings a combination of scoring and toughness that the C’s simply don’t have outside of Garnett. If the Celtics have any hope for success in the second half of the season, they need a healthy Bass contributing like this.
Nothing but Garnett: Garnett reportedly called a team meeting prior to the All-Star break, and even if the entire team didn’t respond in its first game since, at least KG came to play. Wincing at times, possibly still battling the hip injury that kept him out of a game before the break, Garnett totaled 18 points and eight boards while playing his usual staunch defense. In the final seconds with the C’s leading by one, Garnett willed an offensive rebound off his own miss, got fouled and made both foul shots.
Jumping the run: Perhaps the result of an aging team benefiting from the five-day NBA All-Star break, the Celtics rattled off runs of 9-0 and 13-0 in the first quarter to establish a rare double-digit lead early (28-15 after one). Rondo recorded six assists in the first 12 minutes, including one on another fast break with his new running mate Chris Wilcox. The have only led after the first quarter in 16 of their 33 games, accumulating a 12-4 record.
|Fast Break: Celtics (barely) avenge loss to Cavaliers||01.31.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
If you thought Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers was bad, Tuesday’s win might have been worse.
After blowing a 12-point lead in the final five minutes at home in the first meeting of their home-and-home series, the C’s let a 22-point lead dwindle to two with 1:18 remaining in Cleveland. Luckily, Kevin Garnett dropped a turnaround jumper and Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to on for a 93-90 win.
Pierce finished with a team-high 20 points as well six assists and four rebounds, lifting the Celtics (10-10) to .500 once again. Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points to lead a 28-point effort by the C’s bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
In his defense: Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving beat the Celtics with his offense on Sunday night, but his porous defense helped the C’s return the favor two days later. Avery Bradley (8 points) beat him through the back door, making himself an easy target underneath the basket for open layups, and E’Twaun Moore (5 points) took advantage of Irving’s tendency to cheat by knocking down open shots on the perimeter.
Riding the pine: Led once again by Bass (13 points) and Mickael Pietrus (6 points, 2 treys), the Celtics bench dominated the Cavaliers reserves in the early going, outscoring their counterparts 23-5 in the first half alone. Moore and Sasha Pavlovic also lended a helping hand as the C’s established a double-digit lead by halftime.
Protecting the rock (for the most part): Without Rajon Rondo for the seventh straight game, the Celtics assisted on 19 of their first 26 field goals while committing only six turnovers as they built the lead to 22 in the third quarter. The C’s finished with 25 assists on 37 FGs, but their turnovers climbed to 14 — allowing the Cavaliers to climb back into the game.
|NBA Offseason Review: Central Division||12.23.11 at 10:00 am ET|
Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fifth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
2010-11 record: 37-45
2010-11 standing: 2nd in Central Division
NBA draft picks: None
Key additions: David West (free agent); Louis Amundson (trade); George Hill (trade)
Key substractions: Josh McRoberts (free agent); Brandon Rush (trade); Mike Dunleavy (FA); T.J. Ford (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Darren Collison; SG Paul George; SF Danny Granger; PG David West; C Roy Hibbert
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 31.5
2011-12 prediction: 36-30
2010-11 record: 62-20
2010-11 standing: Won Central Division
NBA draft picks: 23. Nikola Mirotic; 30. Jimmy Butler
Key additions: Richard Hamilton (buyout)
Key substractions: Keith Bogans (waived); Kurt Thomas (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Derrick Rose; SG Hamilton; SF Luol Deng; PF Carlos Boozer; C Joakim Noah
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 46.5
2011-12 prediction: 49-17
|NBA mock draft: Celtics eye next Jordan?||05.24.11 at 10:11 pm ET|
With only four teams still competing in the postseason, the majority of fans are counting down the days until June 23 and the NBA draft. This year’s class is not expected to be strong, but there is a slew of European talent, a handful of hit or miss ‘project’ players and more Morrises than you can shake a stick at.
Duke freshman Kyrie Irving appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick despite playing just 11 games for the Blue Devils. Arizona’s Derrick Williams likely will be taken second, but by whom? Timberwolves general manager David Kahn is expected to shop that selection.
Kentucky’s Enes Kanter measures at a monstrous 6-foot-11, 261 pounds. However, he has yet to play in the United States as the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible, citing benefits from his Turkish Basketball League team.
Who will take the risk and select BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette? Who will be Sacramento’s potential last first-round pick? Who will the Celtics select? All that and more in our first NBA mock draft.
Kyrie Irving, Duke, Fr., PG, 6-2, 180
The Cavs finally won something. It’s a shame there are no players of LeBron James‘ caliber in this draft class. Irving has arguably the highest ceiling talent-wise, and he fits Cleveland’s needs for speed and ball-handling much better than the only other reasonable candidate, Derrick Williams.
Derrick Williams, Arizona, So., SF/PF, 6-9, 241
An athletic high-flier, Williams is more than just a powerful dunker. He has great basket awareness and finishes at the rim as well as anyone in this class. The T-Wolves frontcourt is already packed with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. However, Williams is simply too good to pass up at the No. 2 spot whether it’s by the Wolves or a trade partner.
3. Utah Jazz
Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Fr., PG/SG, 6-3, 185
With Deron Williams shipped off to New Jersey and Irving off the board, Knight is the obvious selection. A well-rounded offensive player, Knight is able to get to the rim at will, knock down mid-range jumpers, and extend his range beyond the arc. He’s a capable rebounder and creative passer, whose st0ck rose with his performance in the NCAA tournament. The Jazz have a veteran point guard with a similar skill set in Devin Harris for Knight to learn under.
|A sleepless Kendrick Perkins wakes up some echoes at the Garden||01.25.11 at 11:22 pm ET|
Kendrick Perkins was the happiest person in the Garden on Tuesday night as he made a successful return to game action in 16 minutes of the Celtics‘ 112-95 romp over the Cavaliers. Perkins came in with 8:02 left in the first quarter to replace Semih Erden and played his first five minutes of the season.
Perkins – who had reconstructive ACL surgery on his right knee – scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds in his first game since injuring the knee in Game 6 of the NBA finals last June.
“I’ve got to play a few more games first. I surprised myself on a few plays today, just finishing, a couple rebounds, it felt real good,” he said. “I know I can do better, I could do more. I was mad at myself, I didn’t block any shots today. I was little winded and little off-key. I’ll get better.”
Perkins also admitted he was very tired after the game since he didn’t sleep on Monday night because he was so excited. He spent a good portion of the night in Waltham at the team’s practice facility.
“I didn’t sleep [Monday] night,” Perkins added. “I actually left the gym [Tuesday] morning about 1 o’clock and went to the gym [Monday] night at 10 so that’s probably why I’m tired right now.”
He certainly got the wake-up call when Doc Rivers called out “Perk!” after Semih Erden picked up two fouls in the first four minutes Tuesday.
‘I thought he was terrific,” Rivers said. “I thought as the game went on his timing got better. I thought defensively he was terrific from the start. Just communication, we were loud again defensively which was nice. You could hear him and Kevin [Garnett] barking orders defensively and that makes us really good.’
Rivers is not expecting to throw Perk back into the starting lineup just because he felt good running up and down the court – and especially not against the likes of the Trail Blazers, Suns and Lakers.
‘It’s the same, about the same amount of minutes,” Rivers said, referring to the 16 he played Tuesday. “He actually probably played one or two more minutes than we anticipated. He wanted to stay in. But I think that’ll be it for a while, between 16 and 18 minutes.’
But the best compliment Rivers paid Perk was about his work ethic, the one trait that explains his remarkable return – like Wes Welker – just seven months after blowing out his ACL.
“That was awesome,” Rivers said of the 20-second standing ovation as Perkins made his way to the scorer’s table for the first time. “Listen, there’s people in the crowd that work hard every day, blue collar, and Perk identifies with all those people. If you are a guy that works 9-5, you’ve got to love Perk because that’s who he is.’
And no, there were no references to feet by Perk in his post-game address to reporters. Well, at least he’s off on the right foot.
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