|Irish Coffee: Why Rajon Rondo’s assist streak is more impressive than John Stockton’s or Magic Johnson’s||11.26.12 at 4:50 pm ET|
This topic stemmed from a conversation with Celtics guard Jason Terry about the evolution of the assist after colleague Rob Bradford compared the dwindling distribution of assists to baseball errors: Considering teams in the 1980s scored at a higher rate, is Rajon Rondo‘s current streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists more impressive than John Stockton‘s string of 37 in 1989 or Magic Johnson’s record stretch of 46 in 1983?
In a word? Yes. Let the 35-year-old NBA veteran of 13 seasons who grew up on ’80s basketball explain.
“It’s just a different style of play,” said Terry, whose longest streak of double-digit assists lasted all of three games in 2003. “Now, it’s a lot more difficult to get those assists per se as in the ’80s. If you look at the style of play, it was up-and-down, run-and-gun. Now, there are much more intricate defenses. There’s also the zone defense, so it makes it a lot tougher to get assists. So, that makes his feat a lot more amazing.”
Great points all around. Let’s look at that style of play. Last season, when Rondo’s streak began, the C’s averaged only 90.4 possessions per 48 minutes. By comparison, in 1989, when Stockton’s stretch started, the Jazz averaged 98.0; and in 1983, when Magic’s string commenced, the Lakers averaged a whopping 103.8. All three hover around the league average that season, so defense has clearly muddled the pace over the years.
To put a finer point on it, not only must Rondo generate his assists on fewer possessions — and thus fewer field goal attempts — but the maturation of defensive schemes over the past quarter-century has also forced lower shooting percentages. Translation: Even fewer opportunities for Rondo to collect his dimes.
|Why Jason Terry thrives on closing out games||11.24.12 at 1:03 am ET|
When Jason Terry signed with the Celtics in the offseason, he envisioned being the guy who would close out games with his shooting. In his words, “The uniform may change, but my game doesn’t.”
The 35-year-old had made a career out of doing it to that point, so it’s safe to say he was champing at the bit for the opportunity to make the shot that either gave the C’s the final lead or proved to be the dagger in a game going down to the wire.
Terry got that opportunity in his 13th game as a Celtic, when, with the C’s holding onto a five-point lead in the final minute of the game against the Thunder, he took a pass from Rajon Rondo and hit a three-pointer to put the final nail in the coffin and make it 106-98 with 51 seconds remaining.
Hitting a big shot is nothing new for Terry, who is fourth on the all-time three-point list with 1,808.
“I’ve been making a living off shots like that my entire career,” Terry said. “I’m never scared of the moment.”
Fourteen years into his career, there hasn’t been too much to suggest that Terry should be afraid of taking the shot when it matters most. So what makes Terry programmed to want the ball in that instance? Surprisingly enough, it’s a past failure from some 20 years ago that has stuck with him ever since.
Terry says that when he was a sophomore at Franklin High School in Seattle in the early 90s, he took the final shot with the game on the line in the state tournament and missed, ending the careers of many of his teammates on a senior-heavy team.
Terry has used that missed shot as motivation ever since, as he says the play taught him to be confident, make or miss.
“My coach always told me, ‘You’ve got big balls to take a shot when you’re the only sophomore on the team and we’ve got all seniors,’” Terry recalled. “It basically ended their careers, but it gave me confidence in mine for the rest of my time.”
Since then, Terry’s put that memory to good use, and his ability to sink shots in the clutch earned him his first NBA championship in 2011. With the series tied at two games apiece and the Mavericks narrowly holding onto a four-point lead in the final minute of Game 5, Terry hit a deep three to make it a seven-point game with 33.3 seconds remaining and seal the victory for Dallas. In the series-clinching Game 6, his pull-up jumper for two points in the final two minutes extended Dallas’ lead to 12 points as the Mavericks and Terry went on to win their first NBA title.
Still early in his Celtic career, Terry hadn’t really gotten to make a big shot for the C’s yet, but he knew the time would come. On the season, five of his 20 three-pointers (he’s attempted 47) have come in the fourth quarter, though none of them were of the magnitude of Friday night’s dagger. His late three on Friday was the first three-pointer Terry had made in the fourth quarter since Nov. 9 against the 76ers, a span of eight games.
Now Terry looks forward to making many more big shots in games that matter down the stretch. After all, this is the same guy who already has a tattoo of the Lucky the Leprechaun with the Larry O’Brien trophy on his bicep. Terry wants to win, and he wants to be the one who closes out wins. All these years later, he owes that mentality to his missed shot as a sophomore in high school.
“Sometimes through your biggest failures, you [achieve] your greatest successes,” he said. “That’s just the way I’ve been bred. You hate for games to come down to situations like that, but I love it.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer closing by committee?||11.13.12 at 12:17 pm ET|
As much as Celtics coach Doc Rivers says, “It doesn’t matter who starts; it matters who finishes,” he may never convince his players and their egos, but his actions speak just as clearly as his words. While the starting shooting guard and power forward turnstile continues twirling, Rivers plays matchups and hot hands down the stretch.
The C’s have played five straight games decided by six points or less, and the closing five has been as inconsistent as the team’s overall performance. Just as Courtney Lee vs. Jason Terry and Brandon Bass vs. Jared Sullinger battle for starting roles, Rivers has used just about every combination imaginable of those four plus Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green at the 2 and 4 spots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of those games plus the five-minute overtime period against the Wizards. Here’s the minutes breakdown.
FINAL 5 MINUTES OF 4TH QUARTER (AND OVERTIME)
Celtics 89, Wizards 86: Terry 3:09; Lee 2:03 | Sullinger 3:25; Green 0:54; Bass 0:48
Celtics 100, Wizards 94 (OT): Terry 5:00 | Bass 4:51; Green 0:09 (OT: Terry 5:00; Bass 5:00)
76ers 106, Celtics 100: Terry 5:00 | Barbosa 2:58, Green 2:02
Celtics 96, Bucks 92: Lee 4:40; Terry 0:22 | Bass 3:12; Green 1:23; Sullinger 0:01
Celtics 101, Bulls 95: Terry 5:00 | Bass 5:00
TOTAL (OUT OF 30 MINUTES): Terry 18:31; Lee 6:43; Barbosa 2:58 | Bass 14:03; Green 4:28; Sullinger 3:26
If you need more proof Rivers is willing to try anything, look at the lineups that finished the Sixers game alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. He played Terry for the entirety of the final five minutes and split the fifth spot between Barbosa and Green. But it’s becoming clearer who he trusts more.
|Jason Terry de-ices the ‘Jet’ and makes a golf analogy||11.07.12 at 11:47 pm ET|
Jason Terry may still be getting comfortable with his new team, but the Celtics guard looked like his old self in contributing 16 points off the bench in Boston’s 100-94 win.
Terry, who signed with the C’s in the offseason to anchor Boston’s bench, had his best game as a Celtic Wednesday, a night that was highlighted by him doing his signature “Jet” celebration after sinking a three-pointer in the fourth-quarter to give the C’s an 80-76 lead.
“We finally de-iced the Jet,” C’s rookie Jared Sullinger said after the win. “He’s back.”
“They’ve been begging for it, and I was finally able to give it to them tonight,” Terry said with a grin. “The ‘Jet’ just don’t come out for nothing. [If] we’re losing, you won’t see no runway, none of that. We needed a spark, we needed some energy and the fans responded well to us.”
Both Terry’s minutes (32) and points (16) were season-highs for the 35-year-old. Though teammates praised his performance, Terry wasn’t thrilled with making just two of his five attempted threes.
“For me it’s about making shots,” Terry said. “If this was golf, I thought I left a couple birdies out there from deep tonight, but it will come. I said this is a process, and for us it’s about playing 48 minutes of Celtics basketball. Tonight we played in spurts, we played in stretches. That’s not going to be good enough for us, so we’ll be back at practice tomorrow and working hard and building for the next game.”
|Fast Break: Celtics survive another Wizards scare||at 10:21 pm ET|
Thanks to double-doubles from the Big Three, the Celtics survived a second straight game against a Wizards team missing two of its best players. It wasn’t pretty — and required OT — but the Cs’ evened their record at 2-2.
Rondo’s 18 points and 14 assists in the 100-94 victory moved him alone into third place in NBA history with 28 consecutive games with 10-plus assists (behind John Stockton‘s 29, Stockton’s 37 and Magic Johnson‘s 44).
Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds) committed what could’ve been a costly technical foul when he jerked his elbow in Kevin Seraphin‘s direction late in the fourth quarter, but two Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds) steals and a Rondo 20-footer with 26 seconds left helped force overtime as Rondo’s 3-pionter at the end of regulation fell short. The C’s defense arrived just in time to salvage the game in OT.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First things first: The Celtics repeatedly assure the offense will come once they can get back to playing the kind of defense that’s been the trademark of their success the past five seasons. Wednesday night’s first quarter was a start. Led by Garnett and Lee, the Celtics held the Wizards to 29.2 percent shooting (7-24 FG) in the first 12 minutes, building a 21-16 lead that should have been bigger if not for five C’s turnovers.
Garnett gold: Since nobody else put forth any effort in the opening 24 minutes, Garnett exerted twice as much. By halftime, he had 10 rebounds, seven points and two blocks. His final first-half defensive stand was remarkable, singlehandedly guarding the right side of the court and eventually blocking a Trevor Booker layup attempt with two seconds left on the shot clock. Without KG on the floor, the C’s finished minus-13 before the break.
Forward progress: Finally given an opportunity to contribute midway through the third quarter, Chris Wilcox ran the floor with Rondo, made his only field goal and got to the line five times for six points to go along with two boards and a block. In just four minutes of action, he finished a plus-11 — while Garnett sat on the bench.
Very Terry: After admitting it was an adjustment to mesh with a new system, Jason Terry finally asserted himself into the offense. He took 15 shots, made seven of them and scored 16 points off the bench. Somehow, the C’s reserves still got outscored, 53-41.
As a member of Mark Cuban‘s ever-changing Mavericks, Jason Terry saw his share of rookies, castaways and veterans enter the turnstiles attempting to adjust to the Dallas system. Even last season, a year out from winning the NBA championship, the Mavs lost five of their top 12 rotation players. Now, Terry’s the one adjusting.
“We had a lot of turnover in Dallas where we’d bring in new guys every year, it seemed like, so this is nothing new, but for me it’s definitely an adjustment,” said Terry, who averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals last season. “And I know for the guys that have been here, it’s an adjustment for them, because they’re used to playing one way and now you’re implementing guys who are used to playing another, so it’s difficult.”
Even if last year’s Mavericks lost Tyson Chandler, Juan Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic, they returned nine players from the title team while adding Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. Yet, Dallas dropped from a No. 3 to a 7 seed during the lockout season and got swept by the Thunder in the first round.
“For us, it never jelled,” said Terry, who made his desire to keep the championship core together clear at the time. “It never happened. That’s why we were out in the first round. It can happen, or it won’t.”
This season, the Celtics returned only four players from the roster that lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat. Even when you include Avery Bradley, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, coach Doc Rivers still has eight fresh faces in his locker room. What’s to say this team never jells?
|Celtics notes: Doc Rivers announces, ‘If we can’t win with [KG] off the floor, we just won’t win’||11.06.12 at 2:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — It’s been a recurring theme of the first week of the season. The Celtics need more out of their bench — much more.
Doc Rivers underscored that after open practice for special guests and clients on Tuesday. Rivers has told his team he’s not going to lean on Kevin Garnett for more minutes when he’s already trying to conserve the big man for an 82-game season. Rivers hinted the same could be said for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, though he feels he has some more wiggle room with them.
“No, no, I’m not going to let him do more. I’m going to play Kevin the same amount of minutes,” Rivers said. “With Paul, Rondo you can go anywhere but if we can’t win with him off the floor, we just won’t win. And I told our bench that. We’re going to play the minutes that I’m giving them. The bench will play the minutes they should get and if they’ve got to do something or we just won’t win. It’s that simple.”
Garnett is averaging a reasonable 29 minutes a game in the first three games. Pierce is at 35 minutes and Rondo is playing 41 minutes per contest. Rivers has not yet seen the consistent production he would like from Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green but he feels it will come.
“Not yet but when you take Kevin out, you’re not going to get Kevin,” Rivers added. “That’s why he’s on the bench. But I don’t think that’s been an issue. When he’s been off the floor, like last year, when he was off the floor, it had a dramatic [effect]. I don’t think that’s been the case so far this year at all. I think the guys that have come in have tried to do what they should do. I think the other guys with him have to do more.”
Tuesday’s practice featured detailed instruction from defensive guru Mike Longabardi, who was teaching trapping principles and defensive rules within the system, especially important to the newer players, like the three rookies and Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa.
“Today was just a practice,” Rivers said. “It’s easier here because it’s in your natural surroundings. It was a good practice.”
Rivers again preached patience when talking about the newer players picking up the defensive scheme.
“We’re getting it,” Rivers said. “It’s just going to take time. I thought we were a lot better today. We’re working a lot of principles and tendencies. Offensively, it’s just moving the ball. Defensively, just running the coverages and talking. It just takes time.
“There’s no date,” Rivers added when asked if there’s an expected time by which everyone should be on board. “Every group is different because if one guy doesn’t get it, it brings the whole team down. Every year, it’s a different group. There’s no expiration date on anybody. It’s just takes time.”
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