|Sounds of the game… Celtics 124, Mavericks 100||01.25.09 at 8:09 pm ET|
Another Western Conference team makes the trip to Boston and wonders why it even bothered.
Lakers Game 6, 2008 NBA Finals. Portland on Dec. 5. Phoenix last Monday. The Dallas Mavericks were the latest team on Sunday to quit in the middle of a game, knowing they were hopelessly out of it. It’s pretty sad to watch, actually.
The Celtics should get all the credit in the world for taking all of the heart out of the competition early and that’s what Ray Allen, Eddie House and every player in green and white was talking about afterward. That, and the fact that the team is passing so well right now that they are playing at a level even HIGHER than during the 19-game winning streak. Wow.
The Celtics shots 66 percent in the first quarter, 65 percent for the first half, led by 32 points in the second quarter and 35 in the third quarter. They could’ve played Gino on the big screen at the end of one. It was THAT bad.
Now, the Sacramento Kings head to Boston for a match-up on Wednesday. You remember them, don’t you? The Western Conference team that kept it close in the pre-game warmups before losing by 45, 108-63, in Sacramento on Dec. 28. One can only hope for a competitive, if not close game this time around. But forgive me if my expectations aren’t very high.
|Suns expecting big game from Shaq||01.19.09 at 7:38 pm ET|
The Phoenix Suns have the size advantage almost every game with Shaquille O’Neal. Take the Boston Celtics biggest player off the court and the Suns are feeling good about the mismatch.
“Any time we get an opportunity to have a size difference with Shaq in the paint, we always try to go to him,” Amare Stoudemire said prior to Monday’s game. “We try to feed it to him, see if he can take advantage of that. And if not, we go to our other options. So tonight will be a pretty good night for Big Fella if he can dominate out there and stay out of foul trouble.”
The Celtics have to alter their plan of attack without Kendrick Perkins (shoulder). Doc Rivers is looking for Kevin Garnett to use his quickness to outplay Shaq, while the biggest mission for back ups Leon Powe, Glen Davis, and Brian Scalabrine is keeping a body between O’Neal and the basket. The Suns, though, aren’t changing their gameplan.
“I think it changes the fact that having Scalabrine starting as opposed to Kendrick Perkins, that’s a bit of a difference. But as opponents we can’t look at it that way,” said Stoudemire. “We’ve got to attack it as if he were playing, so we should go inside to the big fella. Shaq should have a pretty good game tonight.”
The Suns are one of the few teams who figured out the key to beating the Celtics last season. Stoudemire scored 28 points off of 10-for-23 shooting and Steve Nash added 18 in the Suns’ 85-77 victory. Combine that with former Charlotte Bobcat Jason Richardson’s success against the Cs and the Suns think they know how to get it done tonight.
“I’m pretty sure he knows how to defend the guards out there,” Stoudemir said of Richardson. “As a team, we’ve just got to pull together. We beat them last year, Bobcats beat them. What we’ve got to do is just keep playing how we’ve been playing.”
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 118, Nets 86||01.15.09 at 10:37 am ET|
When the Celtics were in the midst of a slump that had them losing seven of nine, captain Paul Pierce said they needed to get their swagger back, especially on defense.
Well they can thank the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets for helping them to regain some of the confidence that was on display when they opened the season 27-2.
Pierce hit all five of his three-pointers in the third quarter as the Celtics romped to their thrid straight win. This looked more like the romps that were common place in the first two months of the season. The defense forced 20 turnovers and even without Kendrick Perkins, the Green dominated the glass. And on the offensive side, Rajon Rondo, when he wasn’t throwing in half-hooks, dished out 12 assists helping the Celtics ease to their 32nd win, by 32 points.
Next up for the Celtics, after a day off on Thursday and practice on Friday, a rematch with the Nets in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.
|Sounds of the game… Rockets 89, Celtics 85||01.08.09 at 8:14 am ET|
You can sense the concern growing each and every day. What was a juggernaut headed for 70+ wins two weeks ago is now a team that has lost three straight, six of eight and in second place, IN ITS OWN CONFERENCE. Talk about a change of direction. The Celtics haven’t hit a bump in the road, they’ve hit a Boston-sized pothole that has messed up their alignment and they desperately need a trip to the garage to get it fixed. Problem is their next pit stop is against the Cavaliers, the team ahead of them in the East, in Cleveland Friday night where they haven’t lost at home this season in 18 games. Wednesday night, someone named Von Wafer drilled a three with 44 seconds remaining and the Celtics couldn’t overcome Yao Ming’s 26 points as Houston handed the Green their sixth loss in eight games since Christmas.
|It’s not just Yankees fans …||01.04.09 at 4:27 pm ET|
Yankees fans aren’t the only New Yorkers who speak their minds. The Madison Square Garden crowd is just as vocal when the Boston Celtics come to town. Rather than get annoyed, the Cs appreciate their dedication to the Knicks.
“One thing I’ve always liked about Madison Square Garden, and actually our fans … they actually come to watch the game,” Doc Rivers said. “I mean seriously, they don’t walk around and it’s not a fashion show. Both Garden crowds, Boston and Madison Square, people sit and watch basketball and that’s what they’re there for. They’re not there to be seen and they’re there to cheer for their team. And I’ve always appreciated that.”
Ray Allen attributes their die-hard mentality to the intense media coverage in New York.
“You figure from any New Yorker who comes to a game, you know baseball or you know basketball or you know football, and you know every team basically around the United States,” he said. “You might not see them but you know them because being in New York, walking through Times Square you see every stat, sport, game, whatever it is, through the media outlets in New York. So the fans are very knowledgeable, they appreciate good sports. They appreciate great athletes, the ones that works hard.”
Whether they are loved or hated, at least the Celtics always know where they stand in the Big Apple.
“When you’re walking down the street and everybody knows who you are,” Allen said. “They’ll tell you if you suck or if they really appreciate you.”
|Destination Championship: Why Boston has become a hotspot for NBA vets||01.03.09 at 9:53 pm ET|
Come to Boston and win, that’s how the Celtics organization is seen by many around the NBA. It has become a paradise of victory, a hotspot for veterans who want a legitimate shot at a championship. But it is also a place where selfishness and egos are checked at the door. Personal accolades mean nothing unless the team wins.
So what makes the Celtics, who downplay individual achievements, so much more appealing to vets than other teams who celebrate superstardom? Why settle for blending in when you could stand out next to Kobe Bryant or LeBron James? For those who have made the sacrifices, the explanation is very simple.
“Coming here you get to fit in and be a cog in the wheel,” Ray Allen said. “It’s not about any one individual here on this team. We play together and we beat teams together. We lose together. Everything is together.”
Over the past few weeks the Celtics have been named as possible destinations for veterans Stephon Marbury, Robert Horry, and Dikembe Mutombo, among others. Even though they could have a legitimate shot of winning all with the Los Angeles Lakers or Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston has been a primary destination in the rumor mill.
“I think what’s appealing is that we play together. We have three stars and they actually play together and I think that shows more,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “But honestly I think they would play with Kobe as well and I think they would play with LeBron as well. We may be more aggressive in the market, let’s say, than some of those teams. And maybe we’re not. I think they would play for any of them. At least I would if I were the player.”
Eight-year vet Eddie House, who has signed two contracts in two years with the Celtics, can understand why these players would be interested in Boston. The journeyman had already played with plenty of big names before — Elton Brand, Steve Nash, and Jason Kidd, to name a few – and was lured back by selflessness rather than headliners.
“When you’re playing with one guy then the ball’s dominated by one guy,” House explained. “Here, you’ve got a group of guys who like to share the basketball, who can take the load if they’re asked to take the load. They aren’t depended on the take the load, but if they are asked to take the load that night they will do it.
“But for the most part, it’s very unselfish and it’s not a ‘me’ attitude. With those guys (Bryant and James) it’s more so they have to dominate the ball and you have to play off of them. To where these guys will get you the ball and play with you, instead of you playing off of them.”
The Celtics are set apart from the rest of the league by more than just their trophy. The success of Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce sent the message that being the superstar doesn’t guarantee being the best. It was only when these vets took a step back that they won it all.
“The point of us coming together last year, we were at a point in our lives, in our careers where we were somewhat content with what we had done individually,” Allen said. “We could continue at that pace and finish our careers out that way being a great scorer on a team that never won. But if we didn’t [let go] of our egos and come together, we would have been doing that for the rest of our careers. That’s why, at that time, it seemed like it was a great moment for all of our careers. And I think there’s that progression for most athletes.”
Should the Celtics make any mid-season moves, they already know how to adapt to new additions. Last season veterans P.J. Brown emerged from semi-retirement and Sam Cassell accepted a buyout from the Los Angeles Clippers for the prospect of a ring. These acquisitions could have rattled the Celtics, but those already on the team didn’t see less playing time. They saw a better shot at the title.
“The late in the season addition when you’re already the number one team, you could have some grumbles about that and guys might not welcome guys in,” House said. “But everybody knew this is a business and not only is this a business, but we were on a mission to a hang a banner in the rafters. So we had to accept what was going on for the greater good.”
39-year-old Cassell re-signed with the Cs fully aware that he could be inactive the entire season. At this stage in his career, he doesn’t need 20 minutes per game to be happy.
“It’s about winning,” he said. “For me, I don’t know what [other veterans'] agendas are, but for me it was about winning. I just got a nice taste of winning so I just wanted to win. This was the best opportunity for me to win again.”
As long as the Celtics continue to win with their unselfish play, Boston will stay on the map for veterans who want to capture a championship without having to do it all on their own.
“We welcome the help,” Allen said. “Our egos, we’re pretty selfless here on this team when it comes to playing basketball. We just want to win.”
The door is open for eager vets, just as long as they leave their egos behind.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 108, Wizards 83||at 12:57 am ET|
The Celtics had just come off a rare stretch in which they not only lost three of four on the West Coast but didn’t play very well in the process. Well, nothing like the six-win Washington Wizards on your home court to serve as the perfect tonic. Friday night, Paul Pierce came out and made his first nine shots from the floor and the Celtics went from one-on-one basketball that cost them dearly in Portland to passing the ball around and sharing the wealth. Rajon Rondo had 14 of Boston’s 31 assists on the night and the big men help the Celtics outrebound the Wizards, 47-35, with Kendrick Perkins hauling in 10.