|Celtics take care of business||03.26.12 at 10:05 am ET|
When analyzing the Celtics‘ schedule in the lockout-shortened season, their eight-game road trip in the middle of March stood out like like an Avery Bradley 19-point first half. The stretch took on new meaning and appeared even more daunting as it drew nearer. The veteran squad had struggled all season long with a combination of ill-timed injuries, rumors of possible trades and overall inconsistent play.
On paper the end results weren’t flawless, or even impressive — the Celtics finished 4-4 — but sans a woeful second half against a bad Kings team, the performances were proof the Celtics could still make noise come playoff time. Doc Rivers wanted his team to maintain the intensity upon returning home Sunday night against an inferior Wizards team.
“We told them we are not at home,” Rivers said. “We are on the road still. The road trip ends after the next game is the way we look at it.”
Empirical evidence suggests the Celtics could perform up to their potential in a dominating performance, like they did against the Blazers just before the road tip, or drop a game they should win like they did losing both games of a home-and-home series against a lottery-bound Pistons team in February. Fortunately for the C’s, the former occurred as they shot 65 percent and built a 19-point lead at halftime they would never surrender.
Pierce is not being arrogant or presumptuous in his statement; he is being truthful (no pun intended). The Celtics should post victories against teams out of contention like the Wizards. However, even though the road trip is over, in the final 18 games only four are against teams with no playoff aspirations. Additionally, Boston faces the Heat three times, has matchups against the Knicks and Bucks — each of whom are battling the Celtics for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference — and has a trip to conference-leading Chicago.
“There are a lot of expectations,” Greg Stiemsma said. “We step on the floor and expect to win every night, and we’ve got big plans the rest of the year.”
If any plans are to come to fruition, games like Monday’s in Charlotte no longer can be chalked up to an off night due to back-to-back games. Schedule losses don’t happen to championship-caliber teams in April while gearing up for the playoffs.
|Should the Celtics draft Austin Rivers?||03.23.12 at 2:55 pm ET|
Austin Rivers, the talented son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, will reportedly declare for the draft after just one season at Duke, per Jeff Goodman of CBSSports. Austin Rivers began the year as the one of the nation’s top recruits but concerns over his lack of ideal scoring guard size — he’s 6-foot-4 — and playing style — high usage rate, undersized shooting guard — sent him from the preseason lottery to the middle of the first round in most draft projections.
Rivers averaged 15.5 points, and shot 43 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point range with 3.4 rebound and 2.1 assists. He also had more turnovers than assists, which indicates that he’s probably more of a scoring guard than a point guard, but he’s still just 19 years old and has the time to develop and figure it out.
Rivers is also undeniably talented. Even if you barely watched him play, you no doubt saw his fluid game-winner that beat North Carolina. Here’s part of the scouting report from Draft Express, who has him ranked 18th at the moment:
“It was Rivers’ athleticism and scoring instincts that made him the catalyst for the Blue Devils offense and defined his role as freshman. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Rivers’s total number of pick and rolls and isolations used this season (356 over 34 games) ranks in the top-5 in the NCAA. Perhaps the only player on Duke’s roster dynamic enough to consistently distort defenses with his dribble penetration and generate his own shot in a pinch, Rivers may not have been his team’s primary ball-handler, but he was the creative force behind his team’s offense all year long, for better or worse.”
It’s worth reading the whole report because he improved steadily in the second half of Duke’s season and again, he’s just 19 years old. (Prediction: Rivers will rise back to the late-lottery).
The Celtics have two first round draft picks in 2012: Their own, plus the one from the Clippers that was acquired from Oklahoma City in the Kendrick Perkins trade. The pick is top-10 protected, but the Clippers seems well on their way to the playoffs, even if they implode along the way.
Those picks are in the 17-18 range for the Celtics and 20-21 for the Clippers, which is exactly where Rivers is slotted to fall at the moment. Even if he was available, it would be surprising if Danny Ainge selected the coach’s son.
First, there’s the simple matter of a coach who is demanding on rookies — a notion the coach says is overplayed — who would also happen to be the rookie’s father. Second, they already have a guard who needs the ball in his hands in Rajon Rondo, a legitimate All-Star point guard, who also happens to have a complicated relationship with the coach.
Coach Rivers has been cagey with his answers about the question. This is what he told Dennis & Callahan in January:
“I would love the opportunity, I guess. It would be uncomfortable. I just think that would be a strange thing to do. Having that said that, I wouldn’t mind. He can score, and I think that would be great for us.”
Doc Rivers has clearly enjoyed watching his son play, often rushing to ACC games during off-days in the Celtics’ schedule. It would be a fascinating story, no doubt, and as coach Rivers said, an argument could be made either way. Still, the educated guess here is that the Celtics will avoid what could be a potentially awkward arrangement.
|Kevin Garnett and Celtics respond to Doc Rivers and his bitter ‘beer face’||03.10.12 at 10:49 am ET|
Everyone associated with the Celtics – from players and coaches to support staff – was embarrassed by Wednesday’s 32-point loss to the Sixers Wednesday night.
“That didn’t sit well with anybody,” Kevin Garnett said after Friday’s 104-86 redemption at the hands of the Blazers. “Tough schedule. Philly, they kicked our ass, plain and simple. This was about getting on the right track, taking care of home, and more importantly, creating that momentum going on this long road trip.”
That’s why no one was particularly surprised to see Doc Rivers with a special edge Friday morning during the team’s shootaround.
“Doc comes in, and you can tell how he’s looking, like he’s had no sleep and his hair standing on top of his head and he has the beer face,” Garnett said. “What happened in Philly wasn’t us but it happens and we accept it.
“[Friday] was a defensive mindset all the way through. A team we’re going to see only once, it was important for us to start the game with a force. Paul kept saying in the huddle, before we went out [to start the game] that it was important that we get this game to start the road trip. I’ve always said for the momentum, you’ve got to get games like this. This is kind of like playing on the road because we are going to be away from home for a while so this game was very important.”
As for this eight-game haul, a haul that began early Saturday morning with a cross-country flight, and will include a walk-through when the team lands in LA, Garnett said it’s important not to be overwhelmed.
“One game at a time,” he began. “When you look at it, it’s actually kind of quite scary, just because of the lack of rest, the back-to-backs, the travel. But when you take it a game at a time… it’s still what it is, actually.
“I was going to dress that up like it was something else. Nah, it’s all messed up, it’s all messed up. It is. I want to use another word but I won’t. It’s difficult but we’re going to take it a game at a time. This is the longest I can remember.”
Certainly the longest in his head coach’s career as Rivers said he can never remember a trip like the one the Celtics are about to embark on.
‘In my career, I’ve been in the league for 26 years,” Rivers said, when asked if it’s the longest one in several years. “It’s a long road trip but I do think there’s rest in it. The first two games are tough because of the long flight, you play and then you play the next day. But then after that, there’s days off in between. I think the other one is the last, the Denver game before we go back East, that’s a hard game. Whenever you play Denver on a back-to-back, that’s a hard game because there’s no oxygen.’
The Celtics hope they aren’t grasping for too much air by the time they return home on March 25 to battle the Wizards.
|Doc Rivers on D&C: Relationship with Rajon Rondo is ‘very good’||03.08.12 at 11:23 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to discuss his team’s 103-71 blowout loss to the Sixers, his reported relationship troubles with Rajon Rondo, and the outlook for the rest of the season.
This lockout-shortened season has been mediocre at best for the 20-18 Celtics, who, after Wednesday’s loss, remain seventh in the conference. Wednesday’s loss marked a definitive low point, as the Celtics had a chance to take over the top-spot in the Atlantic Division against a Sixers team that lost eight of its last 10. Instead, Boston never stood a chance. The 32-point blowout was the worst of the Big Three era, and the 71-point effort matched a season-low in total points. The Celtics also did not make a single three-pointer, going 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in the worst three-point performance since an 0-for-10 showing against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 21, 2005.
“Two stats [stand out], really,” Rivers said. “The ‘0’ stands out and the eight. We usually take more threes, number one, and we usually make a couple. What’s amazing, the first half, that’s when I was concerned because we were getting really good shots, open shots and everything was front-rim, so you just knew it was going to be one of those nights.”
The schedule only gets worse for the Celtics, who will play one game at home before embarking on an eight-game, 12-day road trip. Rivers said the road trip will be especially difficult for his team, as they are older and not in typical form after the lockout altered their preseason preparation. Rivers admitted that he underestimated how much the lockout would affect the team, and said he thinks some of the results of the lockout are manifesting in his team’s play.
“I underestimated a couple of things,” Rivers said. “Number one, the lack of practice time, how that all was going to affect us and every team. And you know, one thing we didn’t do where some teams did, I don’t think all of our guys came in to the beginning of camp in great shape. And I thought when you’re an older team and you’re not in great shape and you don’t have a lot of time to get in shape, I thought that really affected us.”
In spite of the many issues currently facing the Celtics, Rivers said a reported personnel feud between Rondo and him is a non-factor. Rivers denied any personal problem with Rondo despite reports from multiple media members to the contrary.
“We have had arguments,” River said. “So have Paul [Pierce] and I. … You don’t get along all the time. But when it becomes personal is when I think you have a personality clash. Our personal relationship is very good. So it keeps coming up and I guess it will. I don’t know why.”
|Dog days of March could lead to glory days in May for Celtics||03.07.12 at 9:31 am ET|
At the end of the season, we’ll look back at the schedule and see the Celtics‘ 97-92 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Rockets in early March. The box score and game details will show that Boston was down 10, with just over 5½ minutes left, and coming off an emotional overtime win over the Knicks. All of these components add up to the type of game that galvanizes a team.
Not in the 2011-12 season, though. This was ugly basketball at its finest (or sloppiest, depending on how you want to look at it). Tuesday night’s game featured more candidates to be on Sportscenter’s “Not Top 10 Moments” than actual sound basketball plays. But after 53 grueling minutes of basketball, the Celtics were the ones that don’t have to look back regretting they lost a game neither team deserved to win.
“It was a no-energy game,” Doc Rivers said. “You can feel it. I even said at halftime even the building had no energy. It’s just one of those nights. And our guys kept talking about grinding the game.”
The Celtics fell behind by seven after one quarter. Uncharacteristically, Boston had a great second quarter, and took a six-point lead into halftime. The C’s bolstered the margin to double digits in the third quarter. The Rockets responded by going on an impressive 35-11 run that propelled them to a 10-point lead with just over 5½ minutes left.
“It was definitely a strange game,” Paul Pierce said. “It was a battle of wills. One team wanted it one quarter, then the [other the next]. Like a seesaw battle. They make a run, we make a run, they make a run. Nobody could really just put the other team away.”
As the Celtics’ four-game winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy, they turned to the foundation that this team has been built on these past five seasons — defense. Their rotations were crisp. Houston muddled around the perimeter, and with every swing pass the recipient was greeted by a Boston defender. The imposing defensive style forced consecutive shot-clock violations, and with just under two minutes left the Houston lead had dwindled to just three.
“The defensive energy picked up,” Ray Allen said. “When they went on a run, we weren’t getting any stops. They kind of dictated how the game was being played. We changed that by pushing them up away from the basket. Everything that they had was contested, and we got rebounds.”
|Rajon Rondo makes his point and joins Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson in rare air||03.04.12 at 7:41 pm ET|
It’s almost as if Rajon Rondo wanted to make one final grand gesture to Danny Ainge that he’d be making a big mistake by trading him.
Rondo went out Sunday and posted the most impressive triple double in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968, scoring 18 points, dishing out 20 assists and hauling down 17 rebounds in Boston’s 115-111 overtime win over the Knicks at TD Garden.
Chamberlain was the last player in the NBA to match all of those numbers when he had 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists in a 131-121 Philly win over the Pistons on Feb. 2, 1968. Why is that comparison so significant?
Many NBA historians recall that as the best statistical game in league history, the only double triple-double ever recorded. Rondo was just two points and three rebounds shy of joining Chamberlain as the second ever with 20 in three different categories.
All the while the numbers were piling up, Rondo said he had no idea.
‘No, I didn’t, honestly,” Rondo said. “Just tried to make some great play calling and just worked out that my numbers showed up like they did.’
One thing Rondo has been more than aware of lately are the trade rumors involving his name that don’t show any indication of quieting. If anything, Sunday’s game might just perk up the eyes and ears of a GM or two.
“[Rondo] was more than above average,” Kevin Garnett said afterward. “Trade talks are a really, really big motivator for him.”
Another hall of fame name was thrown around after the game Rondo had. Magic Johnson was the last NBA player with at least 17 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists in a game before Sunday. Johnson had 24 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists on April 18, 1989.
‘I’m just playing,” Rondo said. “The biggest thing is we got the win. You know, [Paul Pierce] made that shot to send us into overtime, and that was big for us. You know, if you get those type of numbers and you lose, it’s kind of irrelevant.’
Of all the great numbers he had, the 47 minutes and 47 seconds of playing time might have been the most impressive of all.
‘I’m tired now. I wasn’t tired during the game. I had no time and no room to get tired.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Sometimes you need a swift kick in the [gluteus maximus]’||03.01.12 at 11:54 am ET|
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett entered the locker room after receiving his massage, coming back down to earth or whatever it is that takes him an hour following each game to conduct his postgame interview, sporting a pair of Chrome Hearts glasses (approximately $2,000) he found around the house during the NBA All-Star break.
When a reporter jokingly suggested KG’s specs looked similar to his, the former MVP who has made a quarter of a billion dollars in his career and models himself after no one reminded everyone, “There’s only one Garnett.”
To remind yourself just how true that statement is, take the time to read Paul Flannery’s column after the C’s 102-96 victory against the Bucks, entitled, “The under-the-radar greatness of Kevin Garnett.” Note the rarefied company of possibly none KG joins in the eyes of veteran teammate Keyon Dooling and coach Doc Rivers.
There are glue guys, and then there is Kevin Garnett. Rarely will you hear that from the 14-time NBA All-Star, but it’s there if you read between the lines of Wednesday night’s postgame press conference.
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