|Fast Break: Celtics ‘play well,’ roll the Knicks in Game 3||04.22.11 at 9:36 pm ET|
For the last three days all the Celtics have been saying is that they have to play better. Their lead on the Knicks in their first round playoff series was great, but they knew they got away with uneven performances in both games. New York had something to do with that too, especially some of their role players who played above their heads, to say nothing of the tremendous individual performances by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
But the Celtics believed that the close games had more to do with their inconsistencies. “I just want us to play well,” Doc Rivers said prior to tip-off. “[If] we play well, we will see what happens.”
They played well in Game 3. They played perhaps their best playoff game since Game 5 in Cleveland last year when they silenced LeBron James and the Cavaliers and kickstarted their run to the NBA finals. The feeling inside Madison Square Garden was eerily reminiscent. A hopped up crowd was stunned to silence early and when the Knicks tried to make a run early in the second half, the Celtics went into kill mode.
The result was a 113-96 blowout that gave them a commanding 3-0 lead. This is what the Celtics look like when they play well.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
What’s better than a great start? What the Celtics did: The pregame chatter was all about the Knicks riding the energy of the first home playoff game in seven years to a quick start. Instead it was the Celtics who established the early pace. They led 22-5, their biggest lead of the series and got center Ronny Turiaf in early foul trouble. Coming into another team’s arena and taking the crowd out of the game has always been a point of pride for the Celtics. “If you want to bother us, tell no one to come,” Doc Rivers said an hour before tipoff. “That will freak us out.”
Paul Pierce was locked in: In another quiet Celtics locker room before the game, Paul Pierce saw a couple of players engaged in small talk with a couple of reporters. “None of that,” Pierce said quietly but forcefully. He wasn’t kidding. Pierce was in his own world, all business, and he played like it, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. He took over at various times and seemed to make every big shot whenever the Knicks threatened to make a run. Ray Allen was phenomenal. Rajon Rondo had a triple double and 20 assists , but this was Pierce’s game.
The Celtics owned the 3-point line: Late in the season, the Celtics game from behind the arc went missing. It looks like they found it. Allen knocked down 8 of 11 and now has made an incredible 15-for-20 in the series. Pierce added six more and the Celtics made 14 3′s, which was a season high. They obviously won’t shoot this well again, but their success from behind the arc is a good sign for a team that has been fighting to recapture its offensive identity.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The bench was better, but still ineffective as a group: First, the bad news. The Celtics big first quarter lead evaporated as soon as Rivers went to his bench. Like clockwork it seems these days. But there was a glimmer when the second unit was able to keep the lead at five points. Not great, but it was something. There was some honest to goodness good stuff too. Jeff Green finally provided some offensive punch scoring seven first half points. But the backups have to start playing better soon.
Too many turnovers: This is nitpicking considering how well the Celtics played, but they once again turned the ball over too much. Considering the score and the way they cleaned up their work on the defensive glass, it’s perhaps asking too much for them to play a perfect game, but the turnover problem has been an issue.
|Doc: ‘They played great. We played awful’||05.09.09 at 2:34 pm ET|
Doc Rivers didn’t mince words Saturday afternoon when asked to dissect his team’s performance in Game 3:
“I was in a awful mood when I turned (on the film), and whatever is past awful, I was in that (mood) afterward,” Rivers said. “They played great. We played awful. Our defense was awful. I thought we were soft. They were the aggressors, we were the retaliators. They picked us all game. Other than that, it was a wonderful night.”
Rivers showed the tape to his coaches and then decided that he would let Armond Hill and Tom Thibodeau edit the bad stuff down to a more manageable size to show the players. “Probably the best move we made all night,” Rivers joked.
Of primary concern is getting Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Eddie House better spacing and looks. “I introduced our bigs to Ray and Eddie and Paul,” Rivers said. “We’ve got to get those guys open. That’s their job.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Flagrant 1 for Perk||05.08.09 at 9:27 pm ET|
Celtics center Kendrick Perkins was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul in the fourth quarter after he delivered an elbow to Orlando’s Mickael Pietrus. Things have gotten heated in the second half. After the play, Hedo Turkoglu and Eddie House were given double technical fouls. Turkoglu has also caught Paul Pierce with a couple of elbows.
There have been several hard fouls, but nothing like the play in the Rockets-Lakers series. Yet.
|Game 3: Third quarter update||at 9:10 pm ET|
After 33 minutes, the Celtics were down by 18 points. Three minutes later, the Magic lead is down to nine and suddenly we have a very interesting fourth quarter ahead of us. Orland’s penchant for blowing leads late in games is becoming legendary and they have set themselves up for another test.
The change came when Doc Rivers inserted Stephon Marbury into the lineup and he began to pressure Anthony Johnson fullcourt. The shots that were coming so easy previously, were suddenly nowhere to be found and when Rajon Rondo picked Johnson’s pocket and race down the floor for a dunk the Celtics had cut a humongous lead down to a manageable size.
All of this came without Dwight Howard on the floor, who has been a force at both ends of the floor tonight.
|The Courtney Lee experience||at 8:36 pm ET|
Courtney Lee wasn’t supposed to play a lot tonight. So much for that plan. The Magic rookie guard suffered a fractured sinus in Game 5 of Orlando’s series with Philadelphia after he caught an elbow from teammate Dwight Howard and had to be fitted for a mask.
He worked out in Boston, but Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told the press that he wasn’t sure what Lee would be able to give his team back in Orlando. Perhaps Van Gundy was posturing, or maybe the coach didn’t have much choice after losing Rafer Alston to a suspension, but Lee played in the first half and he played a lot.
Lee logged 20 minutes and made an immediate impact scoring 10 points and making several energy/hustle plays. Lee recorded a +12 in plus/minus, second only to Rashard Lewis at +15.
Doc Rivers was pretty sure Lee would get some big minutes in this game. “He’s a tough kid,” Rivers said, and he’s made things tough on the Celtics thus far.
|Game 3: First quarter update||at 7:41 pm ET|
All things considered, the Celtics ought to be reasonably happy to be down just 22-18 after one quarter. Orlando came out with a lot of energy and scored 14 points on layups and dunks, while the Celtics missed eight of their first 10 shots.
Ray Allen is the high scorer with six points, but nothing has really come easy for the Celtics. Two positive stats to note: Boston has three offensive rebounds and has kept the Magic off the offensive glass, and the Celtics had only two turnovers. Also, none of the Celtics has more than one foul, while Anthony Johnson and J.J. Redick both have two.
The Magic are playing without Rafer Alston, who was suspended by the NBA for his slap on Eddie House so depth is a concern for them at the point behind Johnson.
|Game 3: Early update||at 7:26 pm ET|
At the first media timeout, the Magic are running the Celtics off the court and have an early 14-6 lead. Orlando has clearly been the aggressor, making seven of their first 10 shots, while the C’s are shooting just 2-for-10 and settling for jump shots. J.J. Redick picked up two quick fouls, which brought in rookie Courtney Lee who missed the first two games of the series.
There’s been a lot of contact early, but few calls and this crowd is energized. As my can driver so presciently pointed out there is a feeling that the Magic aren’t getting the proper respect, and the fans around us have been helpfully pointing out how much the Celtics are getting away with off the ball.