|Fast Break: Celtics drop the Nuggets||12.08.10 at 9:41 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett added 17 points and nine rebounds, Paul Pierce also poured in 17 and Glen Davis contributed 16 points off the bench, as the Celtics won their eight straight and improved to 17-4 (10 of 11 at home).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hot start: The Celtics went 7-for-7 in the first 3:20, jumping out to a 16-4 lead and forcing the Nuggets to call timeout in hopes of cooling them off. It never happened. While Denver cut the lead to one late in the second quarter, the C’s never relinquished that lead and shot 55.9 percent for the game.
For the first quarter, the Celtics shot 68.4 percent as a team to take a 35-21 lead (their second-highest first-quarter output of the season). And the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen led the way, shooting a combined 12-of-16 from the floor in the opening 12 minutes.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 17 of their 21 first-half field goals. That pace cooled off a bit as the lead got comfortable, and the C’s finished with 26 assists on 38 field goals.
Rajon Rondo, of course, led the way with 13 dimes in 30 minutes, while Allen and Pierce chipped in with four apiece. The C’s entered the game averaging more assists than any other team in the league. Rondo’s sensational season, along with the team’s knack for making the extra pass, is the reason the Celtics are also best shooting team in the NBA.
Interior offense: Taking advantage of the Nuggets’ lack of a 7-footer underneath, the Celtics pounded the ball into the post. That led to two positives: a ton of points in the paint, and a ton of free-throw attempts. The C’s outscored the Nuggets 38-28 in the paint, while Allen, Pierce, Davis and Shaquille O’Neal each got to the line at least five times.
In all, the Celtics shot 36 free throws, making 25 of them. They entered the game averaging 23.2 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 25.2 foul shots per game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Stopping Lawson: As good as Rondo looked in the passing game, he appeared equally as poor defensively. Whether it was his hamstring or feet bothering him, Rondo appeared a step slower than usual. As a result, Nuggets backup point guard Ty Lawson took advantage — totaling 24 points and seven assists. On multiple occasions, he took it right at Rondo, and the C’s point guard put up little defense.
Sloppy second quarter: In a span of 6:52 in the second quarter, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Pierce, O’Neal and Rondo all committed turnovers. During that same span, the Nuggets cut what was an 18-point Celtics lead to a 52-51 C’s advantage with three minutes to play in the first half.
Star watch: In the first 11 home games of the season, Celtics fans have already missed out on three of the league’s biggest draws, as Kevin Durant, John Wall and — on Wednesday night — Anthony didn’t play due to injury when their teams visited the Garden.
The Thunder and Nuggets visit Boston just once all season, so the C’s faithful will have to wait until the 2011-12 season to catch two of the NBA’s biggest established stars in person. Fortunately, the Wizards play in Boston again on April 8, so Rookie of the Year candidate Wall has another shot at a Boston debut.
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (2 of 7)||10.25.10 at 12:52 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
We’ll move to the Western Conference’s Northwest Division with the second of a seven-part, two-day series (you can read Part 1 here) …
ON THE NUGGETS: Everything with the Nuggets this season is based on Carmelo Anthony. It feels like the organization is holding out some type of hope that by keeping ‘Melo around at the start of the season and winning some games early, it will convince him to stay. But all signs point to an eventual trade.
In the meantime, Denver fans will hold out hope that this team will get healthy, prove the doubters wrong and make one more run with ‘Melo at the Western Conference title.
ON THE CELTICS: Age is going to be the main focus in Boston this year. Every time you tune in to a game, we’ll be hearing one of two things: 1) If Boston is winning, how they’re turning back the clock; and 2) If Boston is losing, how father time caught up with the Celtics.
I think the key to the C’s run is Rajon Rondo. Can he hit the outside shots that teams will be giving him? With all their depth, I see the Celtics challenging for the title again this season, as they’ll make it back to the NBA Finals.
ON THE TIMBERWOLVES: The Wolves will … I have no idea what Our Beloved Puppies will do this season. In theory, they should be much better than last year’s squad. In practice, it remains to be seen whether or not a roster upgraded with several legitimate mid-level rotation players will have any effect on the bottom line.
At the end of the day, Kevin Love is the team’s best player, scorer and rebounder, and he’ll be surrounded by a bunch of guys that won’t be able to create their own shot. This is a team without an A1 talent, and unlike the Blazers (Brandon Roy) or Thunder (Kevin Durant), the Wolves appear to be headed down the Hawks’ path to “success.”
The Wolves also are on the verge of sending the Los Angeles Clippers their first-round pick thanks to the long-since-passed Marko Jaric wunder-trade (top-10 protected until 2011; unprotected thereafter). The doomsday scenario for the Wolves is that they find a way to finish with the 11th-worst record in the league, Jonny Flynn proves himself to be nothing more than a backup and Ricky Rubio decides to wait another year in Europe in order to take advantage of a rule that strips the rookie scale restriction from his first-year NBA paycheck.
If all of this happens, David Kahn will have found a way to have selected four top-six picks in the past two seasons with only one starter. … Well, this also assumes that Wes Johnson can crack the starting lineup by the end of the season. He’ll also have used the team’s much-vaunted cap space on Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Nikola Pekovic and (hopefully) Rubio’s rookie deal.
Kahn may have been volun-told into radio silence following his comments about Michael Beasley‘s pot smoking, but don’t let the silence fool you into thinking that he doesn’t have an amazing amount of pressure riding on him this season. The Wolves are walking a thin line right now, and they could end up with a nice lotto pick (Harrison Barnes!), Rubio and a nice starting wing (Johnson); they also could find themselves even worse off than before.
We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.
ON THE CELTICS: Our prediction for the Celtics is that they will lead the league in sleeping with LeBron’s mom, Kevin Garnett will be one of the league leaders in the era of Technicals for Everyone!, Glen “Big Baby” Davis will finally take a swing at The Big Ticket in practice and in the conference finals they’ll find a way to beat up on an already-beat-up Miami Heat squad — who, interestingly enough, will be led by a strangely detached LBJ, whose performance will inspire a brand new Tweet tag: #nqgoat (“not quite” … well, you know the rest).
ON THE THUNDER: Common sense says the only option is up from 50. No key losses, the existing youngsters should have improved and there have been some nice additions that should help. But the fact some key Western teams dealt with injuries last season and that everything seemed to break right is a bit disconcerting. Last season could have just been a flash-in-the-pan, but I say it was the first step towards something bigger.
The Thunder might not be completely ready to finish second in the West and compete for the conference crown. Keep in mind, last year this was the league’s youngest roster, and they’re only a year older. They will be good, and they will win a lot of games. The Northwest Division title is the first goal, but I don’t think OKC is ready for that. I’ve got them finishing second in the Northwest and fourth in the West.
ON THE CELTICS: Yeah they’re old. Yeah, they get hurt a lot. Yeah, the Heat did something with some players this offseason. But never write off the Celtics. Not yet.
The C’s are your classic closing-window team where time is running out on them. Their core is aging and — for the most part — aren’t what they used to be. Rondo has evolved into the team’s best player, something nobody really saw coming three years ago. Despite Miami having Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, and the Magic always good with Dwight Howard, it’s tough not to put the Celtics right at the top of the East.
I don’t typically like the, “They’re the champs until someone beat them,” but in Boston’s sense, it applies. They won the East last year, and they will fight tooth and nail to defend it. Of coursem, here’s the “if they stay healthy” disclaimer, because that applies to teams that have guys collecting social security still playing, but I think the Celtics finish first in the East this year.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
by Dave Deckard, Blazersedge
ON THE TRAIL BLAZERS: The Portland Trail Blazers continue their attempt to morph from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. Six years worth of injuries in six months destroyed their 2009-10 season, holding them to 50 wins and a second straight first-round playoff exit. Conventional wisdom says that once all the pieces are in place the half-team that won 54 two years ago plus the half team that won 50 last year makes a whole team — and a whole lot of wins. But Conventional wisdom doesn’t watch much basketball.
Even when healthy, the pieces on this team don’t mesh well yet. The core of the team is young, coming up without strong veteran leadership. They haven’t learned how to involve each other, let alone sacrifice for each other. They don’t have the drive to defend consistently. They don’t have the courage to force turnovers and run. They don’t have a post presence or enough motion in the offense.
Portland’s key veteran, point guard Andre Miller, needs the ball too much to fit with Brandon Roy, and Miller likes his offense too much to free the other youngsters whose offensive games need to develop. Backup point guard is in flux, and reserve wing Wesley Matthews, though a preseason bright spot, was the Blazers’ major acquisition over the summer — not exactly a revolutionary move in itself.
Center Marcus Camby has been a Godsend, though, and the presumed return of Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla should give the Blazers a three-headed defensive center platoon to be reckoned with. Oden remains the great hope, as he dominates the defensive paint and the glass when he plays. He could be a one-man revolution. But he’s hurt, and his game is raw, and that’s not a good equation for immediate success.
The Blazers have talent. They will be good this year. But they haven’t had enough time or experience together to be great. They’ll get to the postseason, and they’re aiming at the second round of the playoffs, but they’ll need a high seed to accomplish that goal. Anything more is pie in the sky at this point.
ON THE CELTICS: For everyone running against the Miami Hype Machine who also can’t bear to hop on board with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics represent the last, best hope for a happy end to the 2010-11 season. Last year’s Eastern Conference champs have plenty to recommend them.
A starting lineup of Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal need not blush before the league’s super-teams. Even better, the second unit of Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Davis, Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins ensures that the galloping geriatrics won’t have to spend 40 minutes per night on the floor in the regular season.
Last year, the Celtics ranked in the upper third of the league in several traditional barometer categories: point differential, points allowed, field goal percentage and field goal percentage allowed. Their comparatively anemic rebounding production should be bolstered by the influx of O’Neals. They may not generate the same headlines they did in 2008, but they’re going to win professionally and consistently.
Unfortunately, it isn’t going to work.
The only way the Celtics can go upwards is to reclaim the championship. Every team in history that has come in second has looked back on a game or a moment that, if tweaked, seemingly could have tipped the scales in the other direction. With all of those banners in tow, Celtics fans already know that winners were meant to win. The distance between second and first is greater than it seems. Unless the surrounding tide recedes, you have to revolutionize, not just bolster, in order to bridge the gulf between the trophy and “almost.” The tide has swept in farther around the Celtics, and they haven’t revolutionized.
Needing to drink from the fountain of youth, Boston drank from the fountain of slow instead. J.O. is hanging on despite the decreased mobility, but he’s not the complementary player that Perkins is. He needs to be featured in order to shine. Shaq comes equipped with his own leather jacket and water skis nowadays. Every team that’s had him since Miami has figured out he’s an extremely expensive billboard reading, “You just jumped the shark.”
Those aren’t “We got KG in 2007” acquisitions. They’re “We got KG right now” signings at best. They’ll help out in the regular season, if healthy. They’ll keep the Celtics from sinking, probably propelling them to a higher seed. But they’re not going to lead them to the Promised Land. No matter how many wins lie in between, seven-game series with the Heat and the Lakers still wait at the end of the road. That’s bad news for Celtics fans.
ON THE JAZZ: Jazz fans (and coaches) are starting a new “Carlos Boozer free” era of basketball. He was a good finisher, but his defense became such a weakness that other teams went right at him in the playoffs — and faced little resistance. The Jazz were never going to win with him, especially when he’d disappear for entire playoff series’ at a time. We’re all happy to see him go. So far, he’s already gotten injured, and the Jazz have beaten the Lakers twice on the road. Yes, it’s only preseason, but optimism is high in Jazz land again this season.
Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the game, and establishing him as the primary scoring option will only make him more dangerous in the playoffs, where superstars get favorable calls. Also, all the new parts seem to be picking up the flex offense as best as they can. Furthermore, the new additions seem to be more defensive-minded than the people they replaced. For example, Raja Bell for Kyle Korver is a step in the right direction for playoff-minded basketball.
More than anything else, Jazz fans are most enamored with former Celtic Al Jefferson. His tutelage under Kevin McHale really shows, and he has an almost limitless array of post moves that allow him to score up or around Pau Gasol in ways that Boozer couldn’t even imagine without getting injured. Jefferson and Gasol played a lot of minutes against one another in the two preseason games, and if this is anything to look forward to the Jazz will not roll over so easily in the playoffs this year.
If the Jazz are healthy and reintegrate recovering Mehmet Okur well into the system when he returns, then I fully expect them to finally have homecourt in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs — something that they were never able to do when Boozer was around.
ON THE CELTICS: First of all, Jazz fans love the Celtics. We can only admire and applaud the successes of your franchise and the depth of your collective disdain for the Lakers (a squad we’re not very fond of either). It may sound hyperbolic, but this season the Boston Celtics have one of their deepest rosters in decades.
The depth is no greater than in the paint. It’s a shame for them that there are only 96 total minutes to play at power forward and center during a regular length game — a fact that could become one of the greatest challenges this season. But it’s a challenge that 29 other teams in the league wouldn’t mind having. When it comes to shooting, Rondo isn’t Mark Price, but by the same token Price never got a triple double in the playoffs. Rondo has five so far (and he’s still so young), including one in an NBA Finals game. He’s only going to get better in the next few seasons.
When everyone is healthy, and the games count the most, I fully expect the Celtics to grind the other East squads into the hardwood with a structured and deliberate defense that funnels other teams into their own dooms. You win in the playoffs with defense and rebounding. I expect another 50-plus win season, complete with at least 10 playoff wins — if not more.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this seven-part series: the Western Conference’s Southwest Division.
|Report: Williams leaves Celtics for Nuggets||07.14.10 at 11:50 am ET|
According to a report from ESPN’s John Hollinger, forward Shelden Williams has agreed to sign with the Nuggets. Williams was a reserve for the Celtics in 2009-10 who showed flashes in the early part of the season but was not a contributor by the time the playoffs rolled around. The report indicates that the Nuggets also have re-signed veteran guard Anthony Carter.
|Halftime: Celtics vs. Nuggets||03.24.10 at 8:19 pm ET|
The exclamation point on the outstanding play was a spectacular Tony Allen dunk on a beautiful feed from Rajon Rondo with 1:23 left and a layup with 0.1 seconds remaining in the half. Allen had 10 points off the Celtics bench.
This game was played at a breakneck tempo right out of the gate, with both teams executing their offenses at a high level.
The Celtics came out and appeared ready to make a statement against a Nuggets team that is expected to be the chief competition out West to the defending champion Lakers this spring. The Celtics made 13-of-21 shots from the floor and outscored Denver 20-8 in the paint to take a 30-27 lead after one.
Paul Pierce again showed he is ready to assume leadership of the team heading into the home stretch as he poured in a game-leading 16 points. That offset an equally impressive first half from Carmelo Anthony, who had 14.
The Celtics bench again saw a significant amount of playing time, bridging the first and second quarters effectively, and even building the lead up to nine points late in the second quarter. The down side to that was foul trouble.
In addition to the three first half fouls that sent Pierce to the bench early prematurely, Marquis Daniels also picked up three and Glen Davis two as 16 fouls were called on the Green in the opening 24 minutes.
But again the ball distribution was outstanding as the Celtics racked up 19 assists, led by seven from Rondo.
|Nuggets try to follow Celtics lead||05.25.09 at 6:32 pm ET|
“Boston was so much more physical than they were,” Billups said. “They didn’t give up a lot of layups and they didn’t give up a lot in transition. We’re capable of doing those kinds of things. I can’t say that our team is as good defensively as Boston was last year, but we do have a pretty good defensive basketball team.”
The Celtics held Kobe Bryant to 25.7 points per game (40.5% FG, 32.1% 3PG) during the Finals. He is averaging 37.7 points (48.6% FG, 50.0% 3PG) in the first three games against the Nuggets. The Cs also handled Pau Gasol (14.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg), who is averaging 16.7 points and 14.0 rebounds in the Western Conference Finals.
One of the biggest difference in this year’s playoffs is the Lakers edge on offense. Last season the Celtics outshot them 43.0% to 34.7% from long range. They are outshooting the Nuggets 39.9% to 29.9% from behind the arc. The Celtics also outrebounded the Lakers by nearly five boards per game whereas the Lakers are grabbing nearly four more boards than the Nuggets.
|Welcome to the Garden||11.14.08 at 5:26 pm ET|
This is the Celtics first look at Chauncey Billups in his new uniform since the Allen Iverson trade. Doc Rivers called Billups “terrific,” noting his size (6’3″) and basketball IQ. He also praised how clutch Billups has been over his career in down the stretch, something the Celtics know a thing or two about after this week’s buzzer-beating wins.
Another Nugget who is big at his position is Carmelo Anthony. Before the game Melo talked about his counterpart Paul Pierce, calling him one of the best players in the league. “I respect his game a lot, especially on this team right now,” Anthony said. Pierce is averaging 35 points over the last two games.
Patrick O’Bryant will be activated tonight for the Celtics, with Rivers saying he’s earned it in practice. For the Nuggets, Steven Hunter underwent arthroscoping surgery today and will be out a minimum of 12 weeks.
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