|Fast Break: Celtics escape, but continue to progress||03.04.11 at 10:00 pm ET|
With each passing day, the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson begins to look a little better from the Celtics’ perspective. Word came down today that Robinson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be out 4-6 weeks. Considering the fact that the Celtics traded four players who are injured (including Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden) and replaced them with healthy players, that’s already a net positive.
But what about the on-court results? New center Nenad Krstic has already shown his value as an offensive threat and against the Warriors on Friday night, Jeff Green had his coming out party. Green, who had scored just 18 points in his first three games, erupted for 13 in the first half and finished with 21 points in 28 minutes.
Despite some anxious moments at the end, the Celtics have now won four games in a row after their 107-103 win (recap) and while they would certainly like to close games out better, they’ll gladly take the wins while sorting things out.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen should take more days off: The veteran sharpshooter took Thursday off from practice as a precaution. Doc Rivers said that Allen told him his legs were feeling a little sore so Rivers told him to hit some golf balls. Allen showed up for Friday’s game wearing a compression sleeve on his right leg, but any concerns soon evaporated as he made his first seven shots and finished 9-for-13 with 27 points.
A glimpse of what Green can do: The problem for the Celtics and their new forward is simply one of opportunity. Beyond playing the minutes behind Paul Pierce, what else can they do with him? That’s a question Rivers raised Thursday at practice and really, there isn’t a good answer.
But with Glen Davis out for a few days with a strained knee, Rivers used Green with the starters and it resulted in unreal production. Of all the things Green provides, the ability to get out on the break with Rajon Rondo is the most appealing and the two connected for a series of highlight-worthy plays. Unlocking Green’s potential is one of the priorities of the last six weeks and Friday night was a positive step.
Paul Pierce’s quiet excellence: Just another 27-point, seven-rebound night for Pierce, who is the glue that holds everything together.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Troy Murphy will need some time: Murphy has now played 26 minutes and missed all seven shots that he’s attempted. Rivers said he wanted to run him until he dropped and he’ll have to keep giving him minutes while he figures things out on the fly.
Von Wafer strains his right calf: It never ends for the Celtics. After dropping seven points in just six minutes, Von Wafer limped off the court with what the team called a strained right calf. There was no immediate update on how long Wafer will be out, but he did not return to the game. That’s a tough blow for Wafer, who has played well in limited opportunities this season.
Second half fades: It happened late in the third quarter against the Suns, but this time the culprits were the starters as they allowed the Warriors to almost erase a huge lead late in the game. Monta Ellis scored 41 points, tying the mark set by Kobe Bryant for most against the Celtics this season. The Celtics escaped, but this late-game trend needs to stop.
|Fast Break: New Celtics, familiar results||02.28.11 at 11:37 pm ET|
This is going to take some time, but while Celtics coach Doc Rivers learns how to use his new toys (he had Jeff Green playing everything from the 2-guard through the four-spot), the Celtics remain the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Locked in a tight battle with Utah, the veterans made the right plays and executed down the stretch.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made huge shots. Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively and on the boards and Rajon Rondo made the right decisions and also sank a crucial jumper. The Celtics won 107-102, which gave them a 3-1 West Coast trip and also kept them two games ahead of the Heat in the loss column for the best record in the conference.
They have the next six weeks to figure out what kind of team they will be, but when it comes time to win games, they haven’t forgotten their formula.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett again: In the midst of all the turmoil, Garnett has very quietly run off a string of double-doubles on this West Coast trip. After scoring 18 points to go with 14 rebounds he now has seven in his last eight games. Garnett was at his best, though, on the defensive end, where he switched over to Al Jefferson late in the game and shut the big man down.
The key moment came when Garnett and Jefferson were called for double technicals late in the fourth quarter. The T’s didn’t stop the chatter between the two players and Jefferson was obviously primed to get the ball and score. He got the ball, but Garnett gave ground at the right moment and caused a travel. It was a classic veteran trap and Jefferson fell right into it.
Rajon Rondo takeover: Rondo scored only six points in the first half and passed up a couple of easy looks to make passes instead, but in the second half he reverted back into an attacking machine. When Rondo doesn’t look for his offense he makes himself so much easier to defend. But when he keeps the threat of scoring alive, it makes him nearly impossible to defend.
Nenad Krstic is no Perk offensively: Krstic is known as a player who can step outside and make jump shots, but he’s also shown in limited time an ability to score with his back to the basket. The Celtics don’t use a lot of post-ups as part of their regular offense, but Krstic has a nice touch around the basket and is also able to roll smoothly to the basket. Offensively, he is a definite upgrade from Kendrick Perkins‘ limited repertoire.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Krstic is no Perk, defensively: Then there’s the other end of the floor. Krstic will get better as he gets used to playing in the Celtics’ defensive scheme (and also gets used to playing alongside Garnett). Early on he’s looked slow in rotations and a step behind the play. Krstic was also abused by Jefferson, who scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. It wasn’t all Krstic’s fault, but the Jazz went flying through the lane time and again for layups. The Celtics will have to adjust to Krstic as much as he will have to adjust to them.
Glen Davis continues to struggle: Over his last three games, Davis has shot 9-for-28. Over the last two months Davis has been as up and down as any Celtic, but they keep using him in the fourth quarter. Davis remains the best — and maybe only — option for getting crunch-time minutes with the other four starters, but if Rivers wants to continue to experiment he may take a look at his closing lineup over the next month and a half.
Delonte West is hurt again: The Celtics got bad news even before this one started as West rolled his right ankle during an informal workout on Sunday. He missed Monday’s game with Utah and is likely to miss Wednesday’s game when the Celtics return home to play the Suns. With Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are relying on West to be the third guard, not only backing up Rajon Rondo, but Ray Allen as well.
But it’s at backup point guard where they desperately need his steady hand and veteran experience. Rookie Avery Bradley took those minutes against Utah and was more aggressive and confident than he’s been to date, but Bradley is not the answer this season. The Celtics need West to be healthy.
|Fast Break: Celtics sail past Clips||02.27.11 at 1:20 am ET|
It took the Celtics a half to get going, but once they got it together the Clippers were no match for them in a 99-92 Celtics victory Saturday night in Los Angeles. (Recap.) Paul Pierce had a team-high 24 points, while Ray Allen added 22 and Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Rajon Rondo also had 11 assists.
Here’s what went right and what went wrong on a night when Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic officially became Celtics.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Free throw shooting: The Celtics are an offensive team that relies almost exclusively on making shots from the floor. They don’t get on the offensive glass much and they rarely get to the free throw line relative to other teams. On a night when they struggled to get shots to fall, the Celtics made it work at the free throw line where they took a season-high 41 attempts and made 35 of those shots. They also recorded 14 offensive rebounds, six from Krstic.
Kevin Garnett’s defense on Blake Griffin: It’s not as if Garnett was able to stop Griffin, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. The rookie phenom had his usual collection of spectacular jams and is an open-floor terror. But Garnett was able to work Griffin out of the low post in the halfcourt and make things difficult on him. Griffin is so good he was still able to flip home impossible shots, but Garnett’s defense was a subtle mastery of the art and a reminder of how technically proficient he is at his craft.
Third quarter: After a first half that was absolutely dreadful (see below), the Celtics outscored the Clippers 34-17 in the third quarter and had 10 assists on 11 field goals, up from just six on 12 in the entire first half. The C’s also clamped down defensively, limiting the Clippers to one shot and controlling the glass.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The first half: The Celtics were fortunate to be down just seven points after a half in which they shot 34 percent and turned it over nine times. Garnett, Pierce and Glen Davis shot a combined 4-for-16. (All three, but especially Pierce completely turned his game around in the second half.) The Celtics looked disorganized on offense and slow on defense. They were able to hang around by going to the free throw line 17 times, converting 15 shots.
First reaction is a mixed bag: The first glimpse of the new-look Celtics suggests these guys are going to need some time to get used to playing with one another. While Krstic provided some opportunistic work on the offensive glass, he was also a step behind in the defensive rotations and spent most of the first half in foul trouble, while Green appeared tentative.
All that’s to be expected, and it’s worth mentioning that the Celtics actually have four new players getting minutes right now counting Delonte West and D-League pickup Chris Johnson.
As with the rest of the team, the second half was a totally different story for the players who are trying to fit in. Green appeared more confident and West ran the team flawlessly in the fourth quarter. It’s going to take time for all the pieces to fit, but Saturday night’s game was a good first step.
|Fast Break: Shot down by Dallas||02.04.11 at 10:39 pm ET|
The Dallas Mavericks are a strange team. That’s meant as a compliment. They have a number of smaller players who can create havoc both offensively and defensively. They also have a 7-foot jump shooter in Dirk Nowitzki who might be the MVP of the league. The Celtics usually make teams play the way they want to play, but they were never able to impose their game on the Mavs.
The result was a wildly entertaining, and slightly weird, game in which both teams shot close to 50 percent and got more offensive rebounds than they typically do in a week. It featured Ray Allen raining 3′s, and also blocking a 7-footer at the rim. Nowitzki made one shot in the first quarter, and still finished with 29 points.
It came down to the final few possessions when everything once again went haywire. Rajon Rondo missed a jumper, Allen forced a shot and after getting a steal on the defensive end, Kevin Garnett had a 20-footer rim in and out. That gave the Mavericks life and Jason Kidd answered with an open 3 off a wild scrum from the top of the key. The Celtics had a chance to tie the game, but a Rondo lob to Garnett with 2.5 seconds left sailed a few inches too high.
Ultimately, it goes in the books as a 101-97 loss and a tough way for the Celtics to start their stretch of games against the best teams in the league, a group that definitely includes the Mavericks.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bad start: The Celtics gave up 34 points in the first quarter (a season-high) and allowed the Mavs to shoot 67 percent from the floor. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also allowed the Mavericks to make 5-of-6 from behind the arc. It was as bad a defensive performance as the Celtics have had all season and left the fighting to get out of the hole all night long.
Cross matchups: Dallas started an unconventional lineup with J.J. Barea, Jason Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson. That led to all kind of cross matchups with Allen guarding Kidd. When coach Rick Carlisle went to Jason Terry and Shawn Marion in his rotation that only led to more strange scenarios such as Kendrick Perkins guarding Marion. The Celtics were never really able to get into a defensive rhythm.
Kevin Garnett may get fined: Another game, another KG incident. His latest misadventure came when he got tangled up with Barea on a layup. Garnett threw an elbow and was given a technical. As they were getting untangled, referee Eric Lewis put his hand on Garnett’s arm and Garnett shoved it aside. That move will likely cost him some money.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen just keeps rolling: Allen got off to a slow start, but the thing with him is you never know when he’s going to go off. On Friday it was the third quarter when he drained 5-of-6 shots and scored 14 of his 24 points. If that wasn’t enough, Allen went over Nowitzki for a tip-in and straight blocked Tyson Chandler who was going up for a dunk.
Better bench play: Doc Rivers yanked his starters after a terrible defensive first quarter and it was the second unit that got them back in the game. Their production — 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists — was solid, but it was their defensive energy that ultimately was more important. Marquis Daniels was the ringleader with 10 points.
The Beast is back (Part V): Just in case there was any doubt, Kendrick Perkins is back, and maybe better than ever. Perkins re-joined the starting lineup with Shaquille O’Neal out with an Achilles injury and responded with his first double-double. Perkins had 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes and finished what he started. It may have happened sooner than Rivers anticipated, but there’s nothing holding Perkins back now.
|Fast Break: Better late than never for Celtics||02.02.11 at 12:31 am ET|
It took a quarter for the inevitable letdown to kick in, but the Celtics wandered through a disastrous second quarter Tuesday night against the Kings that not only saw them give up 34, it also gave their young opponents a shot of confidence. The good news for the Celtics is they recovered quite nicely with a strong second half in a 95-90 win that capped off their successful west coast trip on a winning note.
The win also means that Doc Rivers will be be the head coach for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game, a nice tribute in what has been a tremendously rewarding season thus far.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The aggressive Rajon Rondo is the right Rajon Rondo: It was good to see the point guard carryover his second-half play against the Lakers into this one, and the Celtics desperately needed it. Rondo went to the basket early and often in the first half, even passing up could-be assists for sure-thing baskets. This is the Rondo that captured the imagination during the playoffs last season and the one that keeps opposing defenses on its heels because of his unpredictable style. This is the Rondo the Celtics need in the second half of the season.
Ray Allen is closing in on Reggie Miller: It’s only a matter of time now before Allen becomes the all-time 3-point king. He made four more Tuesday and is now nine away from passing Miller for the most 3-pointers made. On an up-and-down night, Allen was consistent throughout, just like he’s been throughout his remarkable career.
Kevin Garnett brought the good kind of crazy: After a so-so first half in which Garnett didn’t do much to distinguish himself, he brought out the insanely-intent version for the final 24 minutes. Garnett was all over the court, the floor and the boards. Whether it was aggressively challenging DeMarcus Cousins at the rim, or diving on the floor to come up with a steal, Garnett turned it on big-time in the third quarter. Not surprisingly, the Kings made only 6-of-19 shots and scored 17 points as the Celtics reclaimed the lead.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Time to start Perk? Shaquille O’Neal is either hurt or just not into it right now, but he is not giving the Celtics any kind of production as the starting center. Kendrick Perkins meanwhile is still looking to find his rhythm just five games into his return from knee surgery. However, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Perkins rejoins the starting lineup and with an upcoming slate that features the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat in the next week and a half, the time may be right for the switch.
Putting out an APB for the bench: Starting Perkins would of course send O’Neal to the bench, which was the game plan all along. Rivers envisioned Shaq being a low-post scoring threat off the bench who would open up the perimeter and also create attention and space for Glen Davis. The Celtics second unit needs something right now because outside of Davis they all seem to be struggling. On an encouraging note, Nate Robinson gave the Celtics strong minutes in the second half and even closed out the game.
Slow down, you move too fast: One of the Celtics bad habits against bad teams is to get into an up-tempo game against them. The result is often turnovers and missed opportunities in transition. The Celtics turned it over 15 times, which contributed to their lackluster play in the first half.
|Fast Break: Celtics write new LA story||01.30.11 at 6:15 pm ET|
It had ebbs and flows, runs and counters, and even some blood spilled by Kevin Garnett after he was gashed by Pau Gasol. The Celtics and Lakers didn’t disappoint in their first game since the 2010 finals.
You can break this game down in a number if different ways, but in the end it came down to a simple proposition: Could Kobe Bryant beat the Celtics by himself? Bryant erupted for 22 points in the first half and helped the Lakers recover from an early nine-point deficit. He dueled with Paul Pierce throughout the third quarter and into the fourth, but late in the game the Celtics were finally able to contain Bryant and the Lakers had nothing else left.
They can say that this was just another game, but the Celtics proved something in their 109-96 win Sunday afternoon. They proved that this is a different team than the one that left Staples Center without a championship. The rematch is only 11 days away at the Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce destroyed Ron Artest: The captain destroyed his antagonist from last year’s finals, scoring 32 points on just 18 shots and sending Artest to the bench in the fourth quarter. There was nothing Artest could do to contain Pierce, who had both his long-range and in-between game working.
The Celtics were overwhelming in the second half, but Pierce kept them in position throughout the game in what might have been his best performance of the season.
Defensive Rebounding: This is very simple. When the Celtics clean up on the boards, the Lakers can’t win. The Celtics were strong out of the gate, allowing the Lakers just one offensive rebound in the first quarter. When the game sped up in the second, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were able to get on the glass.
The Celtics held the fort in the second half and Garnett was a huge factor with 12 defensive rebounds. For all the talk about what a difference a healthy Kendrick Perkins would have made in Game 7, the 2010-11 version of Garnett would have been even bigger.
The bench: Give Nate Robinson credit. The guard has been much-maligned in recent weeks for his propensity for taking long pull-up jumpers in transition. But, that’s what he does. The Celtics rely on him to come off the bench and provide instant offense and that’s what he gave the Celtics, scoring 11 points in 14 minutes. Glen Davis also had a strong game, outproducing Lamar Odom and making huge plays down the stretch.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rajon Rondo didn’t look right (for half): Either there’s something physically wrong with the Celtics point guard, or he’s just worn down from all the minutes he’s played this season. Either way, Rajon Rondo followed up his disastrous outing against Phoenix (more turnovers than assists) with another low-impact performance in the first half.
The Lakers defensive scheme against Rondo is well-known at this point. They drop Kobe Bryant off into the paint where he forces Rondo to shoot jumpers, while also using his length to disrupt his passing and driving lanes. Too often Rondo simply takes himself out the action.
In the second half Rondo completely changed course. He had six assists in the third quarter and became far more aggressive in the fourth when matched up against Steve Blake. Rondo had 15 of his 16 assists in the second half and played (finally) like Rondo.
Kobe did work: The Celtics generally don’t mind when a superstar opponent tries to take a game over on their own. Their feeling — whether it’s LeBron James, Dwight Howard or Bryant — is that if one player is trying to beat them, that makes them much easier to defend. But when Bryant makes 8-of-11 shots and scores 22 points as he did in the first half, that’s simply too much. Bryant managed to keep it close, but even he can’t beat the Celtics by himself.
Foul trouble: The whistles started early as both Ray Allen and Bryant had to check out in the first few minutes with two fouls. Not surprisingly, foul problems also plagued Shaquille O’Neal who got his fifth early in the third quarter. That led Kendrick Perkins to play 25 minutes, his longest outing since returning from knee surgery.
|Fast Break: Celtics shot down in flames against Suns||01.29.11 at 1:20 am ET|
This one was simple, but oh so painful to watch. The Celtics got into Phoenix around 4 a.m. local time Friday night and started out in a not-surprising funk. By the end of the first half they had set new season lows for points in the first quarter (16), points in the first half (35) and they continued their futility throughout the second half.
Then they lost their coach after referee Steve Javie tossed Doc Rivers at the 4:33 mark of the second quarter and Glen Davis who strained his right hamstring. If that wasn’t enough, Kevin Garnett was ejected after low-blowing Channing Frye on a 3-point attempt.
The final was 88-71, which extended their run of futility in back-to-backs. Their last three have been particularly ragged with a loss 90-79 loss to Chicago that was their offensive low point before Friday and the 83-81 loss in Washington last week.
The Celtics return to action Sunday against the Lakers, who lost at home to Sacramento. Chances are good that both teams will be in a lousy mood for that one.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Offensive stagnation: Unlike Thursday when the Celtics recovered long enough to put enough points on the boards and beat the Blazers, the C’s never got into any kind of a rhythm. That’s discouraging because the Suns are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Back-to-back or not, there’s simply no excuse for the Celtics to shoot 34 percent in the first half, or turn it over six times in the first quarter against the Suns.
Much of the blame for the Celtics offensive woes falls on Rajon Rondo. He had a miserable night on both ends of the floor, scoring just seven points on 1-for-6 shooting and registering more turnovers (seven) than assists (six).
Glen Davis missed the second half with a hamstring injury: This could be a potentially bad blow for the Celtics because Davis is their most important bench player and the key to their frontcourt versatility. The Celtics don’t really have another backup power forward on the roster (Luke Harangody is next in line), but Davis has become much more than just Garnett’s replacement. He also plays important fourth quarter minutes at center, which makes him a matchup nightmare in his own right.
Hamstring injuries are notoriously difficult to calm down — Rondo’s lingered weeks after he was supposedly healthy. If Davis is out for any length of time, the Celtics could have a serious problem.
They got nothing from the bench: Before the Celtics pulled their starters, their bench players had scored 15 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Nate Robinson couldn’t provide a spark and Davis did little before his injury. Von Wafer got some early minutes, but the shots just weren’t there for him either.
This has been a constant theme for the Celtics this season and while Rivers hopes to cobble together a coherent second unit after Delonte West returns from his broken wrist, the bench has been a huge disappointment to this point. With the amount of talent the Celtics have they don’t need their bench to win them games very often, but there are nights when they need a change in direction and energy and the second unit has provided neither on a consistent basis.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Celtics fought it out (literally): Give them credit for not packing it in when they could have, but they couldn’t get the lead under 10 in the third quarter and make a serious run. They did cut the lead down to 11 after Mickael Pietrus elbowed Garnett and picked up a technical foul. That seemed to energize the Celtics for a bit, but with a chance to cut the lead to single digits Marquis Daniels was whistled for an offensive foul in transition. Their last chance evaporated after Garnett’s ejection.