|Irish Coffee: Celtics’ Jermaine O’Neal gets defensive||01.17.12 at 12:37 pm ET|
In the aftermath of his first double-double of the season, coming in his team’s fifth straight loss, Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal took his time inserting his jumbo diamond earrings and slipping into his brown leather jacket — back turned to the media gathered around his locker.
When O’Neal finally turned, he fielded the first question and took a long sip of water before addressing “so-called analysts” critical of his offensive production: “The people out there that’s wondering about production with me scoring, that’s not my role. My role has been given to me, and my role has been said to be a defender.”
Judging by the tone of his voice, the criticism has clearly irked O’Neal in recent days. The 15-year veteran no longer wants to be judged on his 13 previous seasons as a double-digit scorer, but rather on the new role Celtics coach Doc Rivers has carved out for him: Namely, rebounding and defense. Coincidentally or not, JO picked one of his best offensive nights of the season (12 PTS, 5-11 FG) to voice his opinion.
His plea was more of a decree, and here’s the rest of O’Neal’s I-Got-A-Role Address. Read the rest of this entry »
When he was in Boston, Kendrick Perkins was known as the lumbering shot blocking man in the middle with a scowl.
When his former coach Doc Rivers looked out on the court Monday night, he saw a much different Perk.
“He’s half Perk but he’s quicker,” Rivers said of Perkins, who lost 30 pounds in the offseason. “He had a move today — even though he traveled — where he caught it, took two dribbles, went quick and gathered himself.”
Perkins has matured — and that was clear for Rivers to see on Monday. Yes, he still got in foul trouble, limiting him to seven points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. But what was very clear — and audible — to Rivers from the Celtics sideline is what he’s done in terms of making the Thunder a tough team, a team battle-tested and ready to make a run at a title.
“You can see, he’s put work in his game,” Rivers said. “He has every year I’ve known him. His influence on that team is dramatic to me. You can see it, you can feel it. You can see it with the bigs, with [Serge Ibaka], they’re all defensive players now. Perk has completely changed the culture of that team, you can just see it on the floor. That’s terrific for him.”
Where did he get this from? Read the rest of this entry »
|Mickael Pietrus makes his Celtics debut and maintains: ‘I’m here to win a championship’||01.12.12 at 12:38 pm ET|
Turned out the Celtics, trying desperately to find a spark off the bench, needed him much more than even Doc Rivers might have imagined. Rivers put him in for the still-struggling Paul Pierce with 1:25 left in the first quarter and immediately noticed a boost.
‘He was phenomenal,” Rivers said. “I thought we was one of our best players in the game. He clearly gave our team energy. Played hard. Turned the ball. He’s exactly what we need. And it’s just going to get better. Even if it didn’t, I’d take it. Really, he was terrific. He really was. His energy, his joy ‘ he brought joy to the game. You know, you can just see it. He was so happy to play, and really the only reason he came out was because he was dying. He was getting tired and I had to take him out.’
Rivers took him out 6:04 left in the fourth after 18 hard minutes. Pietrus was 2-of-5 from the field, with one rebound, four fouls and five points. But it was the intangible of energy that meant the most to Rivers. Pietrus, who hit his first shot – a 3-pointer – just over a minute into the second quarter, felt immediately that his style will fit in with these Celtics.
‘We have a lot of energy, a lot of focus,” Pietrus said. “You know offensively we still have to step up with a lot of new guys, including myself, and it will take time, but we are going to get it done.
‘Anytime I step on the floor I’m trying to give the team my heart. The Celtics are my heart now. And that’s why I thought people on the Celtics are going to play harder. I tell you everything that’s what I’m going to bring every night and I’m not going to lie to you, I’m here to win a championship.”
|Celtics at a loss to explain slow starts||01.07.12 at 2:07 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo pushed the ball forward trying to lead a Celtics fast break as time was running out in the first half of Friday night’s game against the Pacers. Indiana thwarted any easy opportunities for the Boston point guard by getting back on defense. Rondo pulled the ball out to just beyond midcourt to receive instruction from coach Doc Rivers. Less than 10 seconds remained, though, and the Celtics found themselves out of sorts offensively. Rondo was trapped by two Indiana defenders and was forced to pass the ball to Kevin Garnett, who launched a wild, off-balance jumper to end the half.
The TD Garden crowd serenaded the Celtics with boos while they left the court with their heads hung low. The possession exemplified Boston’s dreadful 25-point first-half output. The anemic offensive display tied a franchise record set in 1995 and repeated in 1999.
“It sucks to be on the wrong side of history,” Ray Allen said. “Especially with the firepower we have, you never think we could score so few points. We can always look back and remember this game.”
Allen, who missed Wednesday’s game against the Nets due to flu-like symptoms, remarkably was the game’s high scorer at halftime with eight points. As a team, Boston shot 9-of-34 (26.5 percent) from the field in the first half. Nine of those 34 attempts came from Paul Pierce, who struggled mightily, only hitting one attempt.
Boston’s captain finished the game with 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting, to go along with a team-high five turnovers (three of which came in the first half). Even though Pierce didn’t convert his opportunities, he was satisfied with the looks he got at the basket. “I took a lot of good shots tonight,” Pierce said. “They just didn’t fall, but I feel good about [the shot selection].”
Rondo made no excuses for his team’s performance Friday night, but he noted that Pierce’s shooting struggles were something he doesn’t think the 13-year veteran will replicate going forward. Meanwhile, Jermaine O’Neal said a rare break in the schedule will give the Celtics an opportunity to sharpen their offensive execution in practice, something the compacted season has made difficult with limited off days.
Perhaps more alarming for Boston is that this is the second consecutive game the team has struggled to produce offense in the first half. Wednesday against New Jersey, the Celtics scored a paltry 34 points through 24 minutes. The Nets were playing without two starters (Deron Williams and Kris Humphries), and were only able to counter Boston with a woeful 35-point effort themselves. The Celtics found their groove offensively and would go on to enjoy 55-point second half, cruising to an 89-70 victory.
The Celtics – coaches and players – were visibly upset many times during Friday’s hideous loss to the Pacers at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo picked up a technical after he was called for a cheap foul on one end and then didn’t get the call when he was hammered under the basket on a reverse layup.
Jermaine O’Neal picked up a couple of fouls on plays that appeared to be clean blocks on replay.
So, when Doc Rivers stepped to the microphone in postgame, many assumed he’d go off. He did. But not on the refs.
“I think he was trying to draw fouls, honestly, and I thought he did or didn’t,” Rivers said of Rondo’s drives to the basket. “I actually liked, in that way, they were letting you play. That usually benefits us. Tonight it didn’t.”
But that was just the beginning. What really bothered Rivers the most was the fact the Pacers went on the road to Boston and beat the Celtics at their own game.
“I just thought offensively, we were horrible,” Rivers began. “The ball stuck the entire night. I used a timeout early, I used a timeout in the third quarter. But I give Indiana a lot of the credit. I thought they were up into our airspace, they fought us all night, they knocked us off the block. I thought they were the instigators the entire night and all we did was whine and retaliated, for the most part.
“I think it was their effort. I thought their intensity ‘ I just thought they were into us. They were in our airspace, you know? We always talk about owning the airspace of ours, and then owning the opponents’ airspace. That’s who we are. And they were us, for the entire game. Even in the stretch we were playing well I thought it was late shot clock baskets by us. So I just thought they did it better than us. And that falls on me first. I told our guys that. But then it falls on them as well.’
By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics were utterly lost, symbolized by their botched play that ended in a desperate Kevin Garnett 3-point attempt from the right wing at the buzzer, a shot partially blocked by Tyler Hansbrough.
“Early pick-and-roll,” Rivers said of planned play call gone awry. “That was just frustration at the summit. I thought they were responsible for a lot of it. I thought they were the tougher team, physically, and the tougher team, mentally.”
KG and Hansbrough went face-to-face in the fourth quarter but the man they called “Psycho-T” at North Carolina wouldn’t back down. And neither would the Pacers, leading Rivers to point out the following:
“I mean, listen, we’re a 4-4 basketball team,” Rivers began. “That’s what we are. You are what your record is. Make no mistake about that. One of the guys said, ‘Hey, that’s alright; we’re better than that.’ And I said, ‘No we’re not. You’re what your record says you are. And you always have the ability to do something about that. But right now, Indiana’s a 5-2 team ‘ I think that’s their record ‘ and we’re a 4-4 team. And make no mistake: that’s who we are. That’s not who we want to be, and that’s not who we’re going to be hopefully, but right now that’s who we are.’
The Celtics are 4-0 against the Pistons, Wizards (twice) and Nets, teams that are a combined 4-18. They are 0-4 against the Knicks, Heat, Hornets and Pacers, teams that are a combined 17-12.
“Well, we’re 0-fer against quality opponents,” Rivers said. “But again, it’s eight games into the year, so I’m not going to overdo that.’
Paul Pierce was a mere symptom of the cause Friday night at TD Garden.
Yes, he made just three of the 17 shots he attempted from the field. Yes, he finished with just 10 points in 37 minutes of play. Yes, he attempted six 3-pointers, making just one.
But the Pacers and Celtics combined to make just 58 of their combined 145 shots from the field. That’s 87 misses. That’s a lot. Just asked the coach on the losing end of an 87-74 Indiana survival.
“Both teams set offense back about 50 years today,” Doc Rivers said. “It was awful to watch. I thought defensively, we were pretty good until the third quarter.”
That’s probably because as the Celtics were desperate to get out from under their 25-point first half, they opened things up and sped up the game, losing sight of their defensive principles just to put points on the board and get into a rhythm.
As for Pierce, “He was human, you know?” Rivers explained. “I thought he tried to do too much off the [dribble], especially early. And then I thought he got frustrated a little bit. That’s going to happen. But that’s where somebody else we needed to pick up, and nobody could. Without Ray [Ray Allen] shooting today, we would’ve shot 20 percent.’
Allen finished 7-for-11 in his first game back from the flu. The rest of the team was a collective 19-for-55, which is bad enough for 35 percent.
‘We were able to score but we didn’t get stops,” said Pierce. “We played them to dead even, both teams scored thirty points. When they have the lead, you’re just running on a treadmill. We’ve just got to go back to work, watch the tape and see some of the things we did wrong. There’s no need to put our heads down, it’s early in the season, and we just need to clean up a few things.
‘Ray’s doing what he does, he knocks down shots so we get him open but unfortunately myself and some other guys didn’t step up enough offensively for us to win.’
Perhaps Pierce and the Celtics can rediscover their offensive mojo in the next five days, as the team has several practices planned.
‘It will give us a chance to get some good practice time in,” Pierce said. “I haven’t had any practice this year so it’ll be good for me to get back in and refreshed with some of the things we’re doing. Add to our playbook which we haven’t been able to do because of our lack of practice plus it’ll be a good rest for us. We’re playing every other day, so get our feet back up under us and regroup and get back on next week.’
|With four days off, Celtics talking about practice||at 1:11 am ET|
‘I just always like playing,’ said Allen, whose 23 points on 11 shots were the lone bright spot in an 87-74 loss to the Pacers. ‘It’s great to be able to practice, go over plays, talk about certain things and kind of reinstitute defensive philosophies and execution on offense, but you learn full tilt in game situations.”
Allen won’t get that chance until the C’s host the Maverick Wednesday. In the meantime, we talking about practice.
‘I know you guys are going to write a blog about how terrible we are offensively, but we just haven’t practiced,” said center Jermaine O’Neal. “There’s just no way you can run the guys when you’re playing every other day, because it’s going to effect us on game days. Now, we get a day off to rest our bodies and we’re back out working.
“We get a couple days to really bang bodies, to really run our sets,” added O’Neal. “We’ve been coming in and doing dummy drills and stuff like that so guys can get contact, but there’s nothing like competing — competing in practice, getting used to screens, holding guys off to get rebounds, rotations and all of that. Basically, we’ve had to talk our way through it. Sometimes you can get away with it, and sometimes you can’t. Tonight, we didn’t.’
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