|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.
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m at my best when I’m in transition’||at 1:36 am ET|
For whatever reason, 26-year-old Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and the aging Big Three haven’t been on the same page all season. Hence the team’s 17-17 record. Whether that’s the result of the All-Star point guard’s stubbornness or the unwillingness of three Hall of Famers to follow a younger, better leader or any number of other reasons is free to debate.
But one thing is certain: When Rondo plays the way he did in a 102-96 win over the Bucks Wednesday, recording his third double-double of the season while orchestrating the offense to near perfection, these Celtics might actually have a chance to salvage this season.
“We did a better job executing offensively tonight,” said Rondo (15 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), as usual simplifying the game to its most basic elements. “We got into our sets, and we executed — and we scored.”
“He got us organized earlier,” said Rivers. “The second half, he called 12 different sets, and we got to the first option, second option, and it just looked organized and good. And that’s who we were, and that’s who we have to be. And I thought it was Rondo’s doing.”
|Irish Coffee: When will Celtics develop a scorer?||02.29.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
Whether it’s Gerald Green‘s glorious return to the NBA, the sight of Semih Erden facing them as a starting center or the team’s woeful offensive production, a number of factors led me to this question: When is the last time Celtics president Danny Ainge or coach Doc Rivers has either drafted or developed a scorer?
Clearly, Rajon Rondo is the best player cultivated under the Ainge-Rivers regime, but I don’t think anybody would argue Rondo has markedly improved in the scoring department. His scoring averages per 36 minutes in his rookie season (9.9 points) and last season (10.3) are nearly identical, and we all know about that jump shot.
The best scorer drafted by Ainge has to be Al Jefferson, but even his 36-minute averages didn’t improve much under Rivers, crawling from 16.3 as a rookie to 17.2 in his final Celtics season. Not until he was traded to the Timberwolves did those averages climb into the 20s. Of course Ainge and Rivers deserve credit for molding Big Al into bait to land Kevin Garnett, but the fact remains Jefferson made a leap offensively once he left the Celtics.
The same goes for Tony Allen, Ryan Gomes, Leon Powe and Bill Walker, all of whose 36-minute scoring averages barely budged in either direction on the Celtics, and then saw those numbers rise once they left Boston.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics midseason report card||02.24.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
If Danny Ainge shook a Magic 8-Ball right now, the odds of “outlook not so good” coming up are probably even. After losing seven of their past eight games for the first time since he acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen prior to the 2007-08 NBA season, Ainge’s aging Celtics are 15-17 entering the All-Star break.
It’s an uphill battle the rest of the season, but it might be all downhill from here for Doc Rivers & Co. Needless to say, based on the expectations they’ve set the past four years, this Celtics group isn’t making the grade. Let’s take a look at how the C’s have stacked up individually this year.
MICKAEL PIETRUS: A-
Last Grade: A
When the news broke that Jeff Green would undergo heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm, the Celtics once again had a hole to fill behind Paul Pierce at the small forward position. Pietrus has bridged that gap, and then some. Charged with 3-point shooting and bringing energy defensively, he has shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and defended vigorously (at the end of the blowout loss to the Thunder, Pietrus was one of few C’s who played to the buzzer). In an attempt to improve the team’s terrible rebounding, Pietrus has also begun to assert himself on the glass, grabbing 19 rebounds in his last two games.
KEVIN GARNETT: A-
Last Grade: B+
Of the aging Big Three, the one with the most mileage and the worst knees has enjoyed the best season. Garnett entered the NBA All-Star break by recording 23 points and 13 rebounds for the first time since December 2008. That marked his ninth double-double of the season, bringing his averages to 14.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in only 30.8 minutes. Paired with his usual defensive prowess, he’s played all but three games — missing only one due to a tweaked hip and two for personal reasons — and it’s no surprise the Celtics are 0-3 in those contests.
|Greg Stiemsma: ‘I’d love to pick Bill Russell’s brain’||02.16.12 at 1:50 pm ET|
BOSTON — Celtics rookie Greg Stiemsma won three Wisconsin high school Division 4 state championships in four seasons. Celtics legend Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. Needless to say, they’re worlds apart.
However, for one night at least, those worlds collided, as the two sat courtside to start Wednesday night’s Celtics loss to the Pistons — Stiemsma on the C’s bench and Russell next to team owner Stephen Pagliuca.
Of course, the the Development League project and the greatest winner in sports are forever linked after Celtics announcer and former Russell teammate Tommy Heinsohn compared Stiemsma to Russell earlier this season.
‘His timing and how he goes about blocking shots does remind me of Russell,’’ said Heinsohn. ‘He makes guys commit, he’s quick to his leap, and he gets his hand up there right when the ball is leaving the shooter’s hand.’’
While Stiemsma has 22 blocks in 176 minutes this season for an average of 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes, Russell is considered the game’s greatest shot blocker, so even the Celtics rookie laughed off the comparison.
“I mean, I heard it. Like I said before, that’s pretty far out of my realm. I would never imagine that,” he said, adding, “It was an honor to get that reference. And then, for it to come full circle, for him to be in the arena, it’s all part of the experience, all part of this journey that’s brought me here, so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”
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