|Fast break: Celtics-Nets||11.07.09 at 9:56 pm ET|
This was a classic trap game for the Celtics. On the second day of a back-to-back and facing their eighth game in 12 days to open the season, this was an obvious letdown game for them on the calendar.
The Nets were also missing seven players due to a variety of injuries, including the swine flu for Chris Douglas-Roberts, and the Izod Center was half-empty. Add that all up and you have a recipe for a potential disaster.
The Celtics almost fell into the trap, but were able to put it together in the fourth quarter in an 86-76 victory, which gives them the best record in the NBA at 7-1.
Player of the game: Paul Pierce. Until the fourth quarter Pierce and Rajon Rondo were the only two Celtics doing anything offensively. Rondo was able to get his game going with steals on the defensive end, but Pierce got it done in the halfcourt. He also stepped in front of a rampaging Brook Lopez and took a charge.
It wasn’t a vintage Pierce game, but 16 points and seven assists looked pretty sweet in what was an otherwise ugly boxscore.
Turning point: The Celtics trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter and Pierce was on the bench with foul trouble. They needed someone to step up and make a shot and that someone was Brian Scalabrine, who knocked down two to give them a lead they never relinquished.
Scalabrine missed Friday night’s game with Phoenix because of back trouble, but the Celtics needed him to give it a go without Marquis Daniels (personal reasons) in the lineup.
* The Nets had just eight healthy players available for the game, which is the NBA minimum. They are without Courtney Lee, Devin Harris, Keyon Dolling, Jarvis Hayes, Yi Jianlin, Tony Battie and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
* With Daniels out, JR Giddens had a chance to play some meaningful minutes. Giddens lasted only two minutes before getting pulled.
* Ray Allen was on his way to another bad shooting night, but he turned it on in the fourth quarter making four straight shots.
* Rasheed Wallace missed all four of his 3-pointers and he is now 0-for-10 from distance in his last two games. But unlike Friday night’s game with Phoenix, he also went down into the post where he was able to operate effectively. He also came up with a handful of big defensive plays in the fourth quarter.
|Fast break: Celtics-Suns||11.06.09 at 10:04 pm ET|
The popular notion coming into Friday night’s game with Phoenix was that the super-fast Suns would run into a brick Celtics wall, but anyone expecting the Celtics to roll over the Suns was in for a surprise. In a hard-fought entertaining game, the Suns prevailed, 110-103, handing the Celtics their first loss of the season.
The Suns were blown out on Wednesday against Orlando (their first loss of the season) and came into this one with a bit of a chip on their shoulder and a feisty attitude. Channing Frye and Kendrick Perkins picked up double technicals at the end of the first half and there were more than a few wayward elbows getting tossed around.
The Celtics had a couple of chances to steal the game late, but Rajon Rondo had his layup blocked by Amare Stoudemire and a 3-pointer by Rasheed Wallace rattled in and out. Wallace was 0-for-6 on 3-point attempts and many of those shots met a similar fate.
Player of the game: Steve Nash. The veteran All-Star may have lost a step here or there, but he is still one of the league’s top orchestrators and he drained a huge 3-pointer in the final minute that put the final nail in the Celtics coffin.
Turning point: After the Celtics had closed to within two points at the end of the third quarter, Doc Rivers stuck with his regular rotation which included the four reserves and Paul Pierce. Phoenix’s Jason Richardson proceeded to go off scoring eight quick points. Phoenix steadily built the lead to 11 points and still Rivers resisted the urge to sub his starters back in until the eight-minute mark.
In a long season that is certainly the right decision by Rivers, but it may have cost them against Phoenix.
* Rivers said before the game that the Celtics wanted to run, and run they did in a breakneck paced first quarter. The C’s got up 23 first quarter shots and made 12 of them. The only problem was that the Suns shot 61 percent on the other end. Things slowed down in the second quarter when Phoenix went to its bench, but this was easily the fastest-paced game the Celtics have played this season.
* Ray Allen picked up his fourth foul less than three minutes into the third quarter. The Suns increased their lead from four to nine with Allen off the floor, but the Celtics closed to within two, 85-83 by the end of the quarter.
* Allen had a vicious baseline dunk in the fourth quarter. It’s worth noting that both he and Pierce have been attacking the basket better than they were at the end of last season.
* Former Boston College star Jared Dudley played 30 very effective minutes for the Suns. He scored 10 points, but his primary responsibility was hounding Pierce, who shot just 5-for-15 from the floor.
* There was a funny moment midway through the third quarter. After Richardson tumbled into a photographer on a drive to the basket, Stoudemire helped him up and then went over to Bill Russell who was sitting in the front row to shake his hand. Funnier moment came after the quarter when David Ortiz came out of the crowd to help the new Lucky during his dunk routine.
|Fast break: Celtics-Sixers||11.03.09 at 9:26 pm ET|
The Celtics improved to 5-0 on the young season with a 105-74 win over the Sixers Tuesday night in Philadelphia. It was the Celtics first game against an Atlantic Division foe and while they struggled offensively at times they remained dominant defensively, holding Philly to 36 percent shooting and 1-for-16 from 3-point range.
The Celtics broke it open in the fourth quarter with 23-5 run, which gave Lester Hudson, JR Giddens and Brian Scalabrine ample time to work on their games. The trio scored 13 points. Philly’s leading scorer, Andre Iguodala scored 17. It was that kind of night.
Player of the game: Rasheed Wallace. Philly’s favorite son shot the Celtics into the lead with three first half 3-pointers and broke it open with three more in the second half. Wallace finished with 20 points and 6 rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
Turning point: It was late in the first quarter and the Celtics were having a miserable time of it offensively. They had scored points on just two of their first 15 possessions and weren’t running anything resembling an offense. That’s when Rajon Rondo popped a 20-foot jumper. The second unit came in soon after that and the hot shooting of Wallace, Eddie House and Marquis Daniels opened up a double-digit lead.
Rondo’s shot was a minor blip in that run, but further confirmation that he has more confidence in his jumper.
* According to the early box score, Marquis Daniels was an unadjusted +21 for the Celtics. What that means in layman’s terms is that the Celtics were 15 points better than Philly when Daniels was on the floor. Unadjusted +/- is not a very reliable indicator of performance over time, but it helps reveal Daniels’ contribution in a way that six points, three rebounds and four assists never will.
* In theory you don’t need a true point guard to run the Princeton offense that new Philly coach Eddie Jordan is employing. That’s good news for Philly because Lou Williams is a lot of things, but a true point isn’t one of them. What you do need are willing passers, good shooters and movement away from the ball. The Sixers had none of that.
* The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 69-54 lead. That’s a comfortable margin, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the starters back on the floor at some point to finish it off. Instead, the bench pushed the lead to 33 points and the starters never had to take off their warmups again. Those kinds of unexpected gifts are invaluable over the course of the season.
|Fast break: Celtics-Bulls||10.30.09 at 10:31 pm ET|
The Celtics did it with defense and the bench in the first half and then they buried the Bulls under a 3-point barrage in the second half in a 118-90 win win. While the Celtics pushed the lead into the 30’s in the third quarter, this game was essentially over early. The Bulls shot just 5-for-20 in the first quarter and 29 percent in the first half.
The Celtics are now 3-0 and looking very much like the best team in the league.
Player of the game: Paul Pierce. You could make a case for Kevin Garnett (16 points, four rebounds) and Rajon Rondo (16 assists, eight rebounds) as well, but Pierce was solid throughout racking up 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Turning point: At the 4-minute mark of the second quarter Garnett joined Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins on the bench with two fouls. The Celtics had a 15-13 lead at the time. Over the next 10 minutes the second unit (and Pierce) built the lead up to 14 points, 35-21, and the Bulls never got back in the game. It was a slow, methodical dissection built entirely on defense.
* The Celtics made their first six 3-pointers of the second half, including four from Pierce. The 3-point barrage was just the icing on the cake for the C’s. Even though they made just 2-of-10 from beyond the arc in the first half they still shot an even 50 percent from the floor. They said after the Charlotte game that they had not played a complete game yet. Wonder if they still feel that way.
* It’s a little unfair to say that this is how the first round of the playoffs would have gone last year if Garnett had been healthy. After all, Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels are now in the mix and the Bulls are without Ben Gordon and are trying to work Luol Deng back into the lineup. Also, Derrick Rose is dealing with an ankle injury. All that said, it’s probably a safe bet that the series wouldn’t have gone seven games
* Allen moved past John Stockton for 33rd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Somehow seems odd to pass Stockton on any list that has to do with scoring.
* With about two minutes left in the game, Doc Rivers emptied the bench to play out the final string. Joining the five before they took the floor was Wallace who was dispensing advice to rookie Lester Hudson.
|Fast break: Celtics-Bobcats||10.28.09 at 10:06 pm ET|
If the Celtics opening night win over the Cavs was about their bench, Wednesday night’s 92-59 win over the Bobcats was all about the starting five. The unit that many feel is the best starting five in the league dominated the Bobcats early, regained control of the game in the second quarter and then blew their doors off to start the second half with a 15-0 run.
Every Celtic starter scored in double figures except for Kendrick Perkins who finished with nine points (and seven rebounds). Ray Allen led the way with 18 points and Paul Pierce had 15 including a thunderous tomahawk dunk that put an aesthetic cap on the C’s third quarter run.
Player of the game: Rajon Rondo. The young point guard is staring at a big week, and not just because the deadline to sign an extension is Saturday. With the Cavs and Bobcats in his rear view mirror Rondo gets his first shot at Derrick Rose and the Bulls since their epic playoff series when the two teams meet Friday. On Sunday, Rondo gets the reigning King of the Point Guards in New Orleans’ Chris Paul.
“Rondo has established himself as a guy that other players are going to get up for,” Doc Rivers said prior to the start of the game. “When you reach a level like Paul Pierce, there are no off nights because they’re going to try to make their name off you now.”
Rondo was brilliant against Charlotte with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting and 11 assists (against only one turnover) as he outplayed both Ray Felton and DJ Augustin. Felton left the game in the second quarter after he hit the floor and had 15 stitches inserted into, and around, his mouth.
Turning point: With about seven minutes left in the second quarter the Bobcats had cut the Celtics lead to four points, 29-25. That’s when Doc Rivers put his starters back on the court. While the offense was still sluggish, the starting five held Charlotte to just six points the rest of that half and went into the locker room with a 42-31 lead.
The Celtics opened things up in the second half, but that stretch set the defensive tone.
* Rasheed Wallace is quickly on his way to becoming a folk hero. He received a loud ovation when he was introduced prior to the game and the cheers grew even more raucous when he knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter. What really brought the house down? Sheed’s karaoke version of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler. All that and he’s got pipes.
* Rivers said he wasn’t overly concerned with managing minutes despite the team playing the second half of a back-to-back and a third game in four days looming with Chicago Friday. He was as good as his word as Ray Allen played almost the entire first half (mainly because of foul trouble for Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels). Kevin Garnett also logged 18 minutes in the first half. It’s a situation that will be watched closely without Glen Davis.
* Speaking of Garnett, he took hard fall diving for a loose ball with about four minutes left in the third quarter. He appeared to be moving gingerly and Rivers quickly replaced him with Shelden Williams. By the time he got to the bench Garnett seemed to be fine, and while he didn’t return to the game he seemed to be in good spirits.
* Things got chippy in the third quarter between Perkins and Charlotte’s Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace. All three received technical fouls. You may remember Augustin saying last season that other teams weren’t intimidated by the Celtics anymore.
* Quote of the night came before the game when Pierce addressed the crowd following the introductions. “You see up there?” Pierce said gesturing toward the rafters. “There’s only 17 (banners) up there. We need another one.”