|Powe making a comeback||02.12.09 at 12:03 am ET|
It’s not often that an NBA power forward can be compared to a Major League pitcher, but in this case, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers thought it was fitting. For two seasons, Leon Powe was a relative unknown in the league. A breakout performance in last year’s NBA Finals changed that. Since then, opponents have been paying more attention when scouting the low post player.
With that comes struggles, said Rivers, who has not been overly concerned by Powe’s inconsistency in his third NBA season. The better an opponent knows a player, the more effective they can be in slowing him down. After a cold streak during January in which he went scoreless in three consecutive games, Powe is finding his place again on the court.
“I told myself to be aggressive,” he said. “Sometimes in the past, I wasn’t that aggressive when I got it because I missed a couple shots. So then I stopped being aggressive and became a little passive. Then, the coaches told me the other day, ‘If you’re going to go out there on the floor, just go out there and play and be aggressive.’”
Powe did just that on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets. With Ray Allen sidelined in the first half by a hyperextended thumb, the Celtics needed the bench to step up. Powe offered a fourth quarter surge, scoring seven of his 11 points in just under eight minutes. His hustle at the basket (5-for-6 from the line) helped the Celtics defeat the Hornets, 89-77 (RECAP HERE).
In the first six games of February, Powe is averaging 19.3 minutes, 8.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and shooting 62.1 percent from the field. It’s an improvement after averaging 14.6 minutes, 4.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 38.3 percent from the field in 15 games last month.
“I just wasn’t making my hook shots,” Powe said. “My hook’s been off a little bit from game to game. But I work on it every day and that’s one thing I had to get better. I think that’s why coach said they’ve probably been scouting me harder. But my hook’s been off.”
The Celtics, though, cannot afford for anyone’s shot to be off. In a tight race for homecourt advantage where every game counts, Powe has been watching from the bench while Glen Davis has been getting the minutes. But he doesn’t compare his playing time to Big Baby’s. His best motivation is his next opportunity.
“I’ve just been doing the same exact thing, just trying to work on my game and get my game better,” Powe said. “[I'm working on] stuff on the block, one-on-one on the post moves, and just trying to keep my game in tact while I’m sitting down. Sometimes I get the minutes, sometimes I don’t, and I’ve got to make sure my stuff is sharp.”
Just because he is scouted doesn’t mean he can be stopped.
|Twelve minutes to make it count||02.08.09 at 5:40 pm ET|
Ray Allen knew what to expect days before playing the San Antonio Spurs.
“It comes down to a fourth-quarter battle,” he said on Friday. “They’re not going to come in and make small mistakes. They’re going to operate their offense. Defensively they’re going to know what they’ve got to do.”
Allen was exactly right. On Sunday, the Celtics entered the fourth quarter with a two-point lead and were outscored 31-23 by the Spurs. They lost 105-99 (RECAP HERE). It was the second time in two games the defending champs fell in the final 12 minutes. Last week they started the fourth quarter up by four on the Los Angeles Lakers before losing 110-109 in overtime.
“When you play the top teams in the league it comes down to the little things,” said Paul Pierce. “And I just thought last couple of games at home it was one or two-point games. It’s the little things — defensive transition late in the game, covering for one another, one possession. It’s like the playoffs, one play can kill you. Every possession counts and we got to understand that when we play against the top tier teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers.”
The Celtics have hit cold streaks in their last two losses. Up six with eight minutes to go against the Lakers, the C’s failed to build on their lead. The Lakers went on an 11-5 run during a five minute stretch to tie it up, eventually winning in OT.
On Sunday the Celtics allowed an 11-4 Spurs run in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Later in the game they watched a 93-90 lead slip away to a 101-93 deficit.
“You’ve got to get stops, everybody’s got to be on the same page,” said Kendrick Perkins. “Besides getting stops, on the offense you’ve got to execute, you’ve got to throw the extra pass when guys are open. Usually a team like San Antonio, you can’t beat them with the dribble. You’ve got to beat them with the pass. You can’t turn the ball over at all against San Antonio. So I just thought in stretches we played together and stretches we didn’t move the ball and that was the key.”
The Celtics have allowed a total of 215 points in their last two games at home. It is an overwhelming difference for a team who has held their opponents to just 92 points per game over the season. Nonetheless, head coach Doc Rivers was able to see a silver lining in the losses.
“Well it tells me that we’re really good, because we’ve not played with our A-game, as Tiger Woods would say, I guess,” he said. “And we still had a chance to win both. Both games we had the lead and gave it up. Gave up points, which is not like us. In a sick way I guess I’d rather be down and not be able to score than up and give up baskets, because we’re a defensive team. But we clearly have to improve. Our bench has to be more consistent. They gave up an 8-1 run to start the fourth. You know, that hurts you. It’s tough to recover from that.”
The Celtics will have two days to regroup before facing the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. They are aware of their mistakes; now it is a matter of fixing them.
“In general, you can’t turn the ball over,” Allen said. “You have to execute on both ends down the floor in the fourth quarter.”
The Celtics know what to expect down the stretch. Lucky for them, there’s another 12 minutes to prove they can take care of business.
|Sounds of the game… Lakers 110, Celtics 109 OT||02.06.09 at 6:49 am ET|
Forget the NBA Finals of last June. Thursday night’s regular season game between the Celtics and Lakers at TD Banknorth Garden went a long way to restoring one of the sport’s great all-time rivalries.
And just listening to Doc Rivers’ verbal tirade to the referees in the hallway proves how much this one hurt for the Green.
Rivers COULD NOT believe a hand check was not called on the Lakers as they tried to throw Ray Allen’s timing off at the end of overtime with Allen having the ball and a chance to win the game just like he did 48 hours earlier in Philadelphia.
“That was a hand check!” Rivers exclaimed in the hallway as the Celtics filed to their locker room, past the officials’ room on the right.
Then there was the sparring between Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, as Bryant, who was held to 26 points on 10-of-29 shooting, waved his finger in Rondo’s face in the third quarter. That was followed minutes later by Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett going toe-to-toe before calmer heads prevailed. And lest we forget the rivalry between the two coaches.
Phil Jackson was peeved when Doc Rivers was given a sports-drink shower on the court in the closing minutes of Game 6 of The Finals last June. Jackson said after the game that he didn’t think Garnett looked like he was ready to return from the flu. Oh really Phil?
This game meant a lot to both teams.
It meant the end of Boston’s 12-game winning streak, meaning the Lakers have ended their 19-game AND 12-game runs this season. It meant that Los Angeles has swept the season series and holds the tie-breaker should the two teams end up deadlocked at the end of the season.
For the Lakers, it meant beating a team that seven months earlier humiliated them on the same court by 39 points in the most embarrassing loss in franchise history. They remembered the Gatorade shower that Rivers received from Pierce and Co. as Boston claimed its 17th title.
And it showed that these Lakers, even without big man Andrew Bynum, COULD play defense when it mattered and they won’t be pushed around anymore.
Here’s how both teams articulated it.
|Sobe Kobe…||02.05.09 at 1:43 pm ET|
The Boston Celtics are not in awe of Kobe Bryant.
That simple message was delivered at Thursday morning’s shoot-around here in Waltham, mere hours before they take on the reigning NBA MVP and his Lakers on the parquet of the TD Banknorth Garden.
That, and we’re not changing what we do just for Kobe.
“We just play him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced. “We don’t have any Kobe rules or anything like that. We play our defense every night. We literally don’t change our style. Rarely, we may change them for a possession here or there, but you just try to keep him in front of you and wish for the best of luck because he’s tough. If it were easy to defend him, he wouldn’t be Kobe.”
Yes, Pau Gasol is starting to emerge as a scoring force alongside Kobe as they pick up the slack for their injured big man Andrew Bynum.
“They’re a good basketball team,” Rivers said. “They’re no different. Obviously, they miss Bynum’s length but they’re going to get through the regular season and get him back for the playoffs and they’ll be fine. Kobe has clearly picked it up the last couple of games but so has Gasol. Gasol has had 31 points the last couple of games himself.”
Yes, Kobe has gone off for a combined 97 points against the 21-27 Knicks and the 19-32 Raptors this week.
“We didn’t play in any of those games that we know of,” Rivers keenly observed. “We can’t do anything about that. That’s the way we always look at that. Let’s hope he doesn’t score 97 tonight. That would be very important for us trying to win this game, I can tell you that.”
Ask Rajon Rondo and the Celtics point guard is quick (and right) to point out that the Knicks have just as much to do with the 61 Kobe scored on Monday at MSG as anything else.
“He’s a great player,” Rondo said. “Sixty-one doesn’t happen all the time in the league but a lot of great scorers go off at times. That was transistion game he played against the Knicks. LeBron had 52 last night. That’s just the style (the Knicks) play.”
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers come to town tonight with a Western Conference-best 39-9 mark, winners of four straight, playing on the same court they suffered their most humiliating loss in franchise history, that 39-point quit job last June in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m sure they’ve seen it enough,” Rivers said. “I’m sure no one’s run that on TV at all. Well, they should be. Why wouldn’t they be? They’ll be up for the game. We’ll be up for the game.”
Therein lies the key difference between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers are all about superstars, albeit great scoring superstars, but individuals nonetheless. The Celtics, during their second double-digit winning streak of the season, have built their dominance around defense.
Yes, the Celtics are weakened a little by the flu bug that has run through Kevin Garnett and the rest of the team.
“He felt strong,” Rivers said of Garnett at this morning’s shootaround in Waltham. “He’s fine. We’ll find out tonight. It’s easy to feel strong in a shoot-around but when you’re running up and down the floor when you haven’t done it, that’s a different story. I think there are six guys on Z-Paks, probably all due to Kevin, who knows.”
Z-Paks, for those who didn’t go to medical or pharmaceutical school, are antibiotics given to help those fighting off viruses.
The Celtics will want to be at full strength as they try to ward off Kobe and the Lakers.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 109, Timberwolves 101||02.01.09 at 6:27 pm ET|
Who needs All-Star Kevin Garnett?
Not the Celtics on Super Sunday. When news of Garnett’s flu spread before the game, Paul Pierce knew it was time to step up his game, offensively. In his last three games against Dallas, Sacramento and Detroit, he has posted games of eight, eight and 20 points. Not exactly the stuff that All-Star reserves are made of.
But obviously, when Kevin Garnett, Eddie House and Rajon Rondo are picking up their fair share and more and blowing out the competition in the first half, Pierce has not needed to be THE guy.
But on Sunday, against old friends Al Jefferson (34 points), Ryan Gomes and a vastly improved Sebastian Telfair, he was THE guy, scoring a game-high 36 points from all different angles, including a clinching fadeaway with 2:24 remaining to put the pesky Timberwolves away and clinch Boston’s 11th straight win, improving the Green to 40-9.
|Scal speaks…||01.28.09 at 8:19 pm ET|
The Celtics are 6-0 this season when Brian Scalabrine starts. Scalabrine has his own fanclubs on Facebook that were trying to get him on the Eastern Conference All-Star team in Phoenix. Every time he touches the ball at the Garden is cause for a standing ovation and a personal chant of “Scal-uh-breen-ee”
But now, thanks to poor Patrick O’Bryant, those chants will be silenced over the next 7-10 days as the best red-head basketball player ever to hail from the University of Southern California recovers from his second concussion in a week, suffered when he took an elbow from O’Bryant during practice Tuesday.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave the prognosis for Scalabrine prior to Wednesday’s game.
But Scalabrine was healthy enough to talk before Wednesday’s game. And here’s what he had to say about getting his bell rung.
Meanwhile, there continues to be speculation that the Celtics could wind up with as many as four All-Stars when the reserves are announced on Thursday. Garnett is already in the starting lineup, while Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo are all getting consideration for reserve status.
|Scal out, TA back and Kings up…||01.27.09 at 3:14 pm ET|
The Celtics had a longer than normal practice on Tuesday at their training facility in Waltham.
Here are some nuggets from the day.
Brian Scalabrine, who already was dinged up from a mild concussion on Sunday during the win against Dallas, took a serious shot to the head from Patrick O’Bryant and had to be taken off the court and given medical treatment. He was having pain from the light and has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against Sacramento by head coach Doc Rivers, who added they might have to check with the Patriots for advice.
Tony Allen looked “great” to Rivers and with Scalabrine being out, will likely return for the first time since spraining his right ankle on Jan. 4 in New York against the Knicks.
Rivers said he will remind his team that they embarrassed the Kings by 45 points on Dec. 28 in Sacramento (their lone win on the West Coast swing) because “every team in the league has pride” and they will be “out to show that that game was a fluke.”
Here is the audio version of the above.