|Fast break: Celtics edged by Bucks||03.09.10 at 10:28 pm ET|
It’s been a while since the Celtics played a tough, competitive game against a solid opponent. They’ve had close games, but hardly well-played close games.
That wasn’t the case Tuesday night in Milwaukee as the Celtics and Bucks played a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to grab much of an advantage. The Bucks escaped with an 86-84 win, but for the first time in a while, it wasn’t because of lack of effort or focus on the part of the Celtics. Milwaukee just made one more play than the Celtics did.
With Andrew Bogut dominating the paint for the Bucks and the Celtics curiously going away from Ray Allen (only three shot attempts), the burden fell on Rajon Rondo. The guard continued to attack the paint, and got knocked down more than a few times for his efforts.
Rondo finished with 20 points and six assists, but he needed help and there wasn’t much to be found. Down by two points on the final possession, Paul Pierce shot a contested jumper that hit iron. The four-game winning streak is over and the Celtics have another game Wednesday night back home in Boston against Memphis.
They still have not atoned for the New Jersey loss, but the signs of progress are still there.
Turning Point: There really wasn’t one. The Bucks made a few more plays than the Celtics, including a back-tap offensive rebound that allowed them to run more clock in the final minute. But there was no definitive point when either team grabbed control of the game.
Player of the Game: There’s probably no bigger fan of Andrew Bogut’s game than Doc Rivers. The Celtics coach has gone out of his way to praise the big man for his ability to shoot with both hands and use his body to create angles. Rivers may be a fan, but he couldn’t have liked what he saw Tuesday night as Bogut killed the Celtics with 25 points and 17 rebounds.
* Nate Robinson buried two timely 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter. Robinson’s shot-making was just about the only bright spot for the Celtics in the quarter and helped slice a Buck lead from eight to two.
* The Celtics bench outscored Milwaukee’s 29-9, but didn’t see much time in the second half.
* Carlos Delfino’s 3-point shooting kept the Bucks in the game early, but he he almost shot them out of it late.
|Fast Break: Celts rip Bobcats||03.03.10 at 9:58 pm ET|
Now, this is what the Celtics have been looking for.
Playing the second night of a back-to-back, and at home where they have struggled incomprehensibly this season, the Celtics finally put together a complete game in a 104-80 destruction of the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics shot 54 percent, while holding the Bobcats to 36 percent shooting. It was eerily reminiscent of their first meeting of the season way back in October when the Celtics won 92-59.
The starters were solid, the bench was terrific, everyone is healthy and for the first time in a long time the Celtics looked like the team we’ve grown accustomed to watching over the last two and a half seasons.
Turning Point: Coming out for the second half the Celtics had a nine-point lead, which was nice but considering the way they had played for most of the half should have been much higher. Another night of post-game laments seemed imminent. But the Celtics flipped the script, outscoring Charlotte 28-16 in the third quarter. It was the kind of third-quarter effort that has been lacking since December.
Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored 27 points in just 27 minutes of action. He made nine of 13 shots and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range. That’s impressive in and of itself, but what made Pierce’s performance even more remarkable is that the 27 points was the most he has scored in a game since scoring 35 against the Hawks on Jan. 29.
* Ray Allen scored only three points and took just two shots in 17 minutes. He had early foul trouble and never got on track, but the Celtics didn’t need him on this night.
* The Celtics led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter before the Bobcats cut the lead down to four.
* Nate Robinson electrified the crowd with a buzzer-beater 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. He made his first four shots, all 3-pointers and finished with 16 points.
* Kendrick Perkins returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with the flu and scored five points early.
|Fast break: Celtics-Pistons||03.02.10 at 10:15 pm ET|
The Celtics don’t need to care about style point right now, which is good because there weren’t many to be had Tuesday night in Detroit. For three quarters they couldn’t shake the Pistons, who at 21-39 are the definition of lackluster. That the Celtics came away with a 105-100 victory is really the only thing that matters.
The big picture is still cloudy for this team, and it will take much better efforts than this to compete with elite teams in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps a win like this will finally convince the Celtics that this is their reality now. Perhaps not. We’ll simply have to wait and see if they are ready to move beyond their professed “boredom” and get to work.
In the meantime they will surely take a win, no matter how unsightly or ugly it was. If they are looking for positive signs, their bench was the difference-maker, particularly Nate Robinson, who came to the rescue in the fourth quarter. Rajon Rondo, who had one of the worst 15-point, 11-assist games you will ever see, managed to make all four of his free throws in the final minute.
But the most important thing was the victory. Now they have to do it again Wednesday night in Boston.
Turning Point: Trailing by three points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Celtics bench took over. Up to that point there had not been much of note for the second unit. But then Nate Robinson got hot and Glen Davis got active. The bench went on 17-6 run that gave the Celtics an 89-81 lead.
Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace didn’t score the most points and he didn’t grab the most rebounds. He didn’t dominate in the paint and he didn’t bury a bunch of 3-pointers. He did, however, play the kind of defense the Celtics expect from him and he did take good shots within the rhythm of the offense. Wallace also had a big block on Jonas Jerkebo down the stretch, making his second game in Detroit a little more memorable than the first.
* Robinson played the majority of the fourth quarter and scored 14 points in just 15 minutes of action. He energized the Celtics offensively.
* Ray Allen scored 18 points and he did most of his damage in the second half when the Celtics needed it the most. He also had a bizarre turnover when he simply slipped and lost the ball out of bounds.
* Detroit shot 3-for-20 from 3-point range, while the C’s went 9-for-18.
* Paul Pierce returned to the lineup after missing the last three games games. Pierce drained a 3-pointer and didn’t appear to favor his injured thumb. He finished with nine points, one rebound and one assist in 29 minutes.
* The news wasn’t so good on Kendrick Perkins who sat out the game with the flu. This is the first game that Perkins has missed all season. With Perkins out, Shelden Williams became the second big man off the bench in Doc Rivers‘ rotation. He has played just seven minutes since Jan. 14.
* Austin Daye, the son of former Celtic Darren Daye, had a big half with nine points and four rebounds for Detroit.
* Kevin Garnett picked up a technical foul late in the half.
|Fast Break: Celtics-Knicks||02.23.10 at 9:53 pm ET|
The Celtics returned home after two weeks away and a reunion broke out. With Eddie House, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens back at the Garden but in the colors of the New York Knicks, the pregame atmosphere had an almost surreal quality to it with House poking his head into the Celtics locker room saying, “Yeah, I know it’s the wrong one.”
The game between the Celtics and Knicks wasn’t any less bizarre. The Celtics built a double-digit lead only to see it collapse in the second quarter when the starting five came back into the game. They dominated in the paint, held the Knicks in check on the boards and turned it over only 13 times.
And they still needed a fourth quarter push to pull out a 110-106 victory.
Part of that was the game’s pace, which was strongly in New York’s favor, and part of that was the 27 3-point attempts the Knicks lobbed at the basket. But a win is a win, and the Celtics will take all of them that they can get, no matter how strange the circumstances.
Turning Point: In a game that featured 159 shots, the biggest play came on a possession that didn’t result in a field goal attempt. With the Celtics clinging to a 109-106 lead and less than a minute to play, Ray Allen appeared from out of nowhere and cleanly swatted Wilson Chandler’s drive to the basket resulting in a 24-second violation and a much-needed stop.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. A couple of different options here, but Rondo’s 15 points and 16 assists get the nod over Kevin Garnett’s overall game, which was also strong. Rondo also had an emphatic slam when the Knicks backed off guarding him and gave him an open lane to the basket.
* All five Celtic starters had double figures in points before the end of the third quarter.
* Garnett got up for a vicious alley-oop dunk off a pass from Rondo in the first quarter. Garnett got loose for a number of backdoor cuts, but that was the only one they connected on for a dunk.
* The Celtics scored 38 points and shot 61 percent from the floor in the first quarter.
* Eddie House who received a stirring video tribute during a timeout. The crowd rose for a standing ovation and broke into a spontaneous ‘Ed-die, Ed-die’ chant. House acknowledged the crowd, in turn.
* Nate Robinson also received a rousing welcome from the Garden crowd when he checked in late in the quarter. As promised by Doc Rivers he did see time with Rondo in the backcourt. Robinson had just four points, one rebound and one assist on 2-for-7 shooting.
* Bill Walker scored seven points and seems to have already made a strong impression on his new team. There’s a good chance Walker will get an opportunity to earn a roster spot with the Knicks next season.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Lakers||02.19.10 at 1:26 am ET|
Danny Ainge made his trade deadline move and, all things considered, it was a relatively minor one. He effectively traded Eddie House for Nate Robinson and while it will give the second unit a different look, it doesn’t do a lot to alter the makeup of this team.
The Celtics hopes will still rise and fall primarily upon the health and effectiveness of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. To that end Allen looked positively rejuvenated and Garnett looked like the 2007 version of himself in an emotional 87-86 victory over the Lakers Thursday night in Los Angeles.
The Big Three will get at least one more chance to see if they can win a championship together. That’s what they have been asking for the last few weeks and now that the final decision has been made there can be no more excuses. It’s on them to turn it around in the final 30 games and through the playoffs.
Turning Point: For three quarters the Celtics controlled the matchup, but when the Lakers made their inevitable run to start the fourth quarter and turned a nine-point deficit into a four-point lead, the Celtics had a decision to make. They could retreat into a shell, as they have done so often the last few weeks, or they could stand and fight. They chose to fight.
Player of the Game: Ray Allen. It’s dangerous to read too much into a player’s one-game performance but Allen resembled the dangerous outside shooter that he’s been known for being throughout his career. He made his first four shots and finished with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Was he more relaxed after the trade deadline passed? Who knows for sure, but if this is the Allen the Celtics can get night in and night out for the rest of the season, it will go a long way toward making them a serious contender again.
* The game was physical throughout with several big dunks and a few minor staredowns. Ron Artest and Pierce continued their rivalry, Garnett and Lamar Odom exchanged words after a jump ball and Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum battled under the glass.
* The officials let the two teams play for the most and both sides wanted calls in the final seconds of the game. Doc Rivers could be seen asking the refs, “That wasn’t a foul?” after Pierce drove to the basket. On the other end, the Lakers though Allen fouled Derek Fisher’s last-second shot.
* Kobe Bryant didn’t play for the Lakers. He is battling an assortment of injuries but it’s his ankle that seems to be giving him the most trouble.
* Robinson and Marcus Landry, the other player acquired from the Knicks in exchange for House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker did not play. The Celtics had only 11 players in uniform and lost Tony Allen with an ankle injury, but Doc Rivers stayed with a tight rotation throughout.
* All five started scored in double figures.
* Once again Rondo was on the floor for the final offensive possession. The play involved Pierce and Garnett in a high pick and roll, but without House, expect to see more of that.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Kings||02.17.10 at 12:40 am ET|
With trade rumors swirling around a possible acquisition of Nate Robinson, the Celtics found themselves locked in an offensive struggle against one of the fastest-paced teams in the league. That might have been OK to play the Sacramento Kings style earlier in the season, but the Celtics can’t afford to mess around with sub-.500 teams anymore.
Enter the bench. The very same bench that Danny Ainge seems determined to try to tweak between now and the trade deadline Thursday.
Playing one of their most inspired quarters, the second unit took an 11-point lead behind the hot shooting of Eddie House and the interior defense of Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. The Celtics rode that effort, and survived a shaky fourth quarter, en route to a 95-92 win over the Kings Tuesday night.
Wallace, Davis, House and Marquis Daniels all played major roles in the victory and helped the Celtics overcome a lackluster performance from the starting five. It’s only one game, of course, but if they had played that well for the majority of the season (and been healthy enough to try) Ainge wouldn’t be attempting to perform a makeover at the deadline.
Turning Point: Despite the bench’s efforts, the Celtics still had to work for it. Paul Pierce, who had a sub-par shooting game otherwise, drilled a 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining that put the Celtics ahead, 89-87. The Kings helped out mightily by missing four free throws down the stretch.
Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace. The backup big man has maintained throughout the season that he, and the Celtics, will get things right when it counts. Tuesday night was a step in the right direction. Wallace finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks, but it was his play down low that was so effective. Wallace dominated on the block in the first half and was also an active presence defensively. He shifted back outside in the second half, but he served a reminder that once again he is the Celtics best post-up player. When he wants to be.
* The starters were shredded defensively in the first quarter as the Kings shot 55 percent and made 5-of-8 from 3-point range. A balanced scoring effort and a lack of turnovers helped the Celtics match the Kings, 30-30.
* Kevin Garnett had nine rebounds through the first three quarters and almost recorded his first double-digit rebounding game since Dec. 18 against the Sixers, but he couldn’t get over the hump.
* Eddie House made four 3-pointers, something he hasn’t been able to do since a Dec. 30 blowout loss to the Suns.
* Glen Davis had five offensive rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Hornets||02.10.10 at 10:34 pm ET|
At what point does a string of bad performances become a problem that can’t be fixed? At what point does the Celtics uninspired second-half play inspire Danny Ainge to do something to change the mix?
Ainge was a guest on The Big Show hours before the Celtics collapsed (again) in the third quarter of a 93-85 loss to the Hornets Wednesday night and said he was, “not ready to blow it up.” [Click here for a full transcript]. If the Magic breakdown wasn’t enough to change Ainge’s mind, was this one?
There’s a week to go before the trade deadline and the Celtics have shown few signs of breaking out of their funk, which has now stretched to 23 games. The Celtics are 10-13 over that span. Is that the real Celtics, or is it the team that started the season winning 22 of the first 27 games? That’s the question Ainge has to answer, and time is running out.
Player of the Game: Darren Collison. The Hornets rookie who was starting in place of the injured Chris Paul routinely broke down the Celtics defense with dribble penetration and finished with 25 points and nine assists. When Collison wasn’t getting into the paint, he killed them with his pull-up jump shot.
Turning Point: Once again the Celtics collapse started with a sluggish offense and carried over to a lackluster defensive effort. The Celtics actually held serve with the Hornets until the 7:26 mark of the third quarter. That was when Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic began to heat up from behind the arc. The 3-point barrage was eerily similar to the Magic game, as was the Celtics lack of an answer on offense.
* Ray Allen was scratched about an hour before the game with back spasms. It was the first game Allen has missed this season.
* The Celtics started off hot, but the Hornets got hotter making eight of their first 10 shots.The C’s also turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter.
* The second unit rode to the rescue, at least momentarily, with an inspired effort. With all five starters on the bench, the reserves opened up a nine-point lead in the second quarter. They did most of their damage down low as Glen Davis (nine points) and Rasheed Wallace (eight points) took advantage of mismatches against the Hornets reserve big men.
* Paul Pierce did play despite pain in his left foot. After 13 points in the first half, Pierce scored just two points in the second.
* The Celtics made just 3-of-13 free throws during a stretch of the second half.
* Daniels and Wallace were the only Celtics who played strong games. They combined for 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists.