|Irish Coffee: How Celtics perform in clutch situations||12.10.12 at 5:10 pm ET|
After Rajon Rondo missed not one, but both game-winning opportunities in a 95-94 Celtics loss to the 76ers over the weekend — a failed 19-footer to end regulation and the infamous slippery 16-footer as overtime ran out — I got to wondering how the C’s are performing in clutch situations (either team within five points with five minutes remaining in regulation and overtime), since half of their 20 games have been decided by six points or less.
The C’s are 6-4 in those 10 games despite shooting 37.4 percent as a team in a whopping 60.2 clutch minutes, including three overtime games. They’ve had four potential game-winning shots at the buzzer — all misses on long jumpers — and Rondo has taken three of them. Paul Pierce attempted the fourth (from the elbow, of course).
Before we started reading into who’s doing what in the clutch, here are the numbers (Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger have all played sparingly in crunch time, but not a large enough sample size). Read the rest of this entry »
|Courtney Lee: Doc Rivers ‘can continue to call us soft … if it wakes us up’||12.01.12 at 1:29 am ET|
Jeff Green might have scored 19 points and Jason Terry might have had 17 in 31 minutes but it was Courtney Lee who was the key player in Boston’s 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics played the first of two straight games without the suspended Rajon Rondo.
Lee said the team responded well to Doc Rivers calling them soft after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at home.
“He can continue to call us soft,” Lee said afterward. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up.”
What really hit home with Lee was when Rivers rolled the film of Wednesday’s game, showing the team how many easy baskets they were giving up.
“We got called soft the other day and we didn’t like that,” Lee said. “When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”
No shock that the turnaround began on the defensive end, where the Celtics held the Blazers to 23 percent shooting in the first half.
‘Yeah, definitely after that loss last game, we wanted to come out and just focus on the defensive end make sure we got stops,” Lee said. “Make sure we didn’t give up any easy buckets and so I think we started off and threw the first punch.’
Rivers gave Lee credit for stepping up and showing his play-making ability in the absence of Rondo.
‘Courtney was great,” Rivers said. “You could see Courtney is getting better and better at what we’re asking him to do. He’s bought in completely, which you can see that. His shots will fall. I feel like him, with Avery (Avery Bradley) last year, where I kept telling you guys ‘Avery can shoot’ and you guys were looking at me like I was a Martian. And then he started making them. And Courtney is proving he can. He’s getting wide open ones, and eventually they’ll fall.’
“I mean that’s what you gotta do,” Lee said of his ball-handling skills. “Rondo is a great playmaker, the guy’s gonna rack up a lot of assists, so we just have to play within the offense, move the ball around, and you see the assists were spread out throughout the whole team. Without him we had to move the ball a lot more.
‘I mean it shows good character for our team. We got beat bad on our own court then we went to practice, had a real tough practice. Doc was on us the whole time so we wanted to come in and protect home court, because we cant keep letting teams come in and beat us on our home court. We wanted to bounce back and we did that today.’
|At least Rajon Rondo delivered an early Christmas present: The newest Boston-New York rivalry||11.29.12 at 12:41 pm ET|
If nothing else, the brawl between Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Nets forward Kris Humphries gave birth to a brand new Celtics-New York rivalry.
“Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?” Humphries tweeted along with a picture of his battle wounds after Rondo shoved him into the front row.
The C’s response? “Some guys are tough,” answered Jason Terry. “Some guys pretend to be. He’s one of those that pretends to be. I played with him. Maybe that’s the role [Brooklyn coach] Avery [Johnson] wants him to have, but he could leave that to somebody else.”
Terry dubbed Humphries “soft,” a term coach Doc Rivers used to describe his Celtics. Added Terry: “Humphries might as well come play with us then, if that’s the case.”
Meanwhile, Reggie Evans, who beat out Kevin Garnett for the title of “dirtiest player in the NBA” in a Sports Illustrated poll of players last season, lobbed this grenade at Rondo via the New York Daily News: “That’s just like a mosquito in your face. Eventually, you are going to swat at the mosquito, right? You aren’t going to let mosquitos in your face. You are going to get bumps all over your face. So, you have to knock the mosquito down.”
Added Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams: ‘We’re not going to back down. It’s not about being tough guys or anything like that. But we’re not going to back down.’
And newest Nets star Joe Johnson, who also witnessed Rondo’s last suspension-worthy act in the C’s-Hawks playoff series this past May, to The New York Times: ‘We’re trying to hold our own at this point. If you want to do anything special in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are in the way.’
As Garnett said, “This ain’t the Girl Scouts. This ain’t the Boy Scouts. This is the NBA.” And this is Boston-New York. If nothing else, Rondo gave everyone an early Christmas gift, because the next meeting between the Celtics and Nets — at noon on Dec. 25 — just got more interesting. Get your Girl Scout cookies ready.
|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|
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|
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.”
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