|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.’
|Fast Break: No Rajon Rondo, no problem; Celtics smoke Blazers||11.30.12 at 10:04 pm ET|
As Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sat the first of his two-game suspension, five of his teammates reached double figures, led by Jeff Green‘s 19 points, and just about every member of the Blazers not named LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, 8 rebounds) didn’t bother to show up in a 96-78 blowout at the Garden.
Jason Terry (17 points), Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Courtney Lee all joined Green in double digits. Here’s what else transpired.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Portlandia: The Celtics put away the Blazers early. They started 10-of-15 from the field, and by first quarter’s end the C’s owned a 25-18 advantage on 57.1 percent shooting as all five starters scored between 4-6 points. By halftime, three Celtics had already reached double figures, they shot 56.8 percent as a group and took a 56-33 lead into the break. In the meantime, Portland shot 5-of-16 (31.3 FG%) in the opening quarter and somehow managed worse in the second (2-14, 14.3 FG%).
GreenLee: As Twitter follower @EricJsaint noted, Green and Lee each probably played their best game of the season (with the possible exception of Green’s 17-point night against the Thunder). On a sprained right knee, Green shot 6-of-13 (2-4 3P) to go along with four steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, starting in Rondo’s absence, Lee amassed 10 points (4-10 FG), seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Rest home: Given the fact they led by as many as 25 points in the first half, elder Celtics statesman Garnett and Pierce played just 23 and 27 minutes, respectively. An unexpected bonus with Rondo out of the lineup, for sure, considering the C’s head to Milwaukee for the second night of a back-to-back against the Bucks on Saturday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Depth perception: Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers claimed he would only break the Chris Wilcox glass in case of emergency. Well, when backup center Jason Collins picked up his third personal foul in a span of 5:36, Rivers turned to Wilcox — with a minute left in the first quarter.
Lone star: The Celtics appeared content letting LaMarcus Aldridge try to beat them, as long as he had to do it all by himself. At halftime, the 2012 NBA All-Star had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. His teammates? 16 on 2-of-19.
Running afoul: Portland attempted 27 free throws in the first 24 minutes (37 in all). Blazers bigs Aldridge and J.J. Hickson combined for 17 by the break while the C’s had just 12. Just a guess: Tommy Heinsohn wasn’t pleased.
|Celtics Jeff Green, Courtney Lee: Egos hurt worse than knee, elbow||11.29.12 at 11:09 am ET|
In the aftermath of the brawl between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, Celtics guard Courtney Lee claimed the Nets “threw the first punch” during the C’s fourth home loss in eight tries this season. He was speaking figuratively, of course, but the Celtics suffered — literally.
Lee (elbow) and Jeff Green (knee) both left the game with injuries, and each returned in the fourth quarter.
“I’m fine,” said Lee, who had no ice on his left elbow as he talked to reporters after the loss. “I’m fine. It was my elbow. My whole arm was stinging, so I didn’t know what was hurt, but after awhile, it wore off and I was fine.”
Meanwhile, Green limped through the locker room — his sprained right knee wrapped in a protective bandage. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show he “didn’t think” Green was hurt, and team personnel confirmed Green’s return to action indicated nothing serious, but he’ll be re-evaluated Thursday.
|Jeff Green: ‘Being aggressive’ turns out to be his niche||11.24.12 at 9:47 am ET|
Green went out and make Rivers look very smart as he scored 17 points and showed a driving and cutting game not seen in his game this year as the Celtics beat the Thunder, 108-100, Friday night at TD Garden.
‘I was aggressive, attacking the rim,” Green said. “Just trying to make plays, and you know got to the free throw line a couple times. Got an and one, just being aggressive that’s what I gotta do. I just gotta find my niche and I just gotta to work at it and continue to stay positive and continue to be aggressive.’
The reason Rivers wanted Green to play instinctively was because he knows how good he can be when plays break down.
“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular,” Rivers said. It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score on those. He scored on all the plays that wasn’t his and that’s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that. A lot of good efforts.”
‘You still gotta do what you gotta do and you do whatever it takes for your team to win,’ Green said.
Green even helped out on defending Kevin Durant, guarding him when the second unit was on the floor.
‘He still got 29 [points], Green said out of humility. “We just tried to make every shot for him tough. He’s [darn] near seven feet, but the handle that he’s got and the way he can shoot it’s tough. So you just gotta make every shot for him tough.’
Making him work defensively-‘You got to, you got to. You gotta make him play both ends. We got him in foul trouble. We gotta be aggressive, we can’t allow him to relax at all on the defensive end.’
What did Green learn about how good the Celtics can be?
‘We are one hell of a defensive team when we are in sync and that’s how we gotta be each game,’ Green said.
|Fast Break: Jeff Green scores 17 as Celtics beat Thunder||11.23.12 at 10:00 pm ET|
Green, who was playing against the Thunder for the first time since being traded to the C’s in February of 2011 in a deal that sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, contributed 17 points off the bench for the Celtics. His points were a season-high, as his previous best this season was a 16-point performance against the Jazz on Nov. 14.
Much of the damage was done in the second and third quarters for the Celtics, as they entered the second quarter trailing, 28-21, before outscoring Oklahoma City 27-17 and 29-20 in the second and third quarters, respectively. The C’s had to fend off a strong fourth quarter from Oklahoma City as the game came down to the wire, but a three-pointer from Jason Terry with 36.7 seconds helped secure the victory for Boston.
The win put the C’s back over .500 with a 7-6 record. Boston had lost two straight entering the contest. The Celtics will next travel to Orlando to face the Magic on Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Rajon Rondo extended his streak of games with 10 or more assists to 36. Rondo picked up his 10th of the night early in the third quarter when he assisted a Jason Terry three -pointer that made it a 58-49 contest in favor of the Celtics. He finished the night with 16 assists.
Rondo’s streak is the third-longest in NBA history, and he can tie John Stockton’s 1989 streak with his 37th such game on Sunday against the Magic in Orlando. Magic Johnson holds the NBA record with 46 games with 10 or more assists.
– The C’s went on a 7-2 run to close the Thunder’s lead when Jared Sullinger came off the bench early in the second quarter. Oklahoma City took a full timeout after Sullinger picked up a rare offensive rebound for the C’s and put in a layup to make it 32-30. Following the timeout, Sullinger answered a Nick Collison layup by knocking down a 20-foot jumper to keep it a two-point game.
– The Celtics were helped during their second-quarter comeback by a Kevin Durant charge that made for the Thunder star’s third foul of the night. Durant came out of the game, and from there the C’s outscored the Thunder, 16-9, until halftime. That included Boston taking the lead, as a 3-pointer from Rajon Rondo followed by a defensive rebound allowed Chris Wilcox to score and give the C’s a 39-38 lead. Boston had trailed by as many as nine, but held a three-point lead (48-45) at the half.
– How about a team-best plus-15 for Leandro Barbosa? In 11 minutes, the guard contributed no points, a rebound and two assists, but the results were there for the C’s when he was on the floor.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The Celtics allowed 100 or more points for the sixth time this season. Last season, they had allowed their opponents to hit the century mark just twice in their first 31 games. Friday’s contest was the first game the C’s had won in which they allowed that many points, as they were 0-5 entering Friday in games in which their opponent scored 100.
– The Celtics created more of a presence inside, as the C’s matched Oklahoma City’s first-half points in the paint with 22, but in the end were outscored in the paint as a team for the third consecutive game (the Thunder held a 46-36 advantage in the paint). In their previous two games, the Celtics were outscored in the paint 58-34 against the Spurs and 44-30 against the Pistons.
– Kevin Garnett had a rather quiet night offensively for for the first three quarters, as he had just six points entering the fourth. Garnett turned it on in the fourth, adding 11 more points to give him 17 on the night. Garnett also finished the contest with a plus-14.
|Opinion: Celtics have to find out what they have with Jeff Green||11.15.12 at 11:20 pm ET|
A technical foul was the perfect punctuation to Jeff Green’s dunk on Al Jefferson Wednesday night ‘ not because Green deserved the penalty, but because the stoppage in play provided the opportunity for Celtics fans to digest what they had just seen.
Up to that point this season, Green had been a bust. His contract seemed like an albatross of Carl Crawford proportions. With his four-year, $32 million deal, Green is the fourth-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. The problem is Green is playing like the seventh- or eighth-best player on the team, depending on where you rank Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.
Thursday night failed to offer any additional clarity to Green’s situation, with the forward scoring five points in 25 minutes during the Celtics’ 102-97 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. It was a performance that made Wednesday’s heroics seem like an aberration.
Even after Green’s 16-point contribution in the win over Utah, he ranked sixth on the team in scoring (8.8 points per game) and seventh in minutes (21.6 per game). At best, he’s marginally overpaid when you consider Bass and Terry will earn $6.5 million and $5 million this year, respectively. At worst, he’s Danny Ainge‘s recurring mistake, first as the centerpiece of the trade that cost the Celtics Kendrick Perkins, and then as a $32 million version of Rashard Lewis.
The dunk of the season so far gave us a chance to see what Ainge saw in Green all along. The 6-foot-9 forward can flush on Al Jefferson in traffic. He can score 16 points in the flow of the game without having a single play run for him. And evidently, his teammates love him.
After Green threw it down on Jefferson, the ensuing scene seemed reminiscent of an And1 Mixtape Tour. Green didn’t deserve a technical; he almost seemed to be staring down Al Jefferson to make sure he did, in fact, dunk on an All-Star center. But perhaps Green’s teammates deserved the technical. Garnett followed Green around the court, cursing in his ear and pushing him in the chest. Other teammates took turns pushing Green, who typically shies away from that kind of contact.
The celebration seemed to stem from the fact that the Celtics need THAT Jeff Green. Garnett’s been saying it, and he’s right. Green needs to be meaner, more aggressive. He needs to dish out more NBA fouls, and he needs to get down low in the paint when Garnett is on the bench.
|Admittedly ‘lackadaisical’ Jeff Green finally shows he can be mean||11.14.12 at 11:32 pm ET|
When Jeff Green emphatically dunked on Al Jefferson in the fourth quarter Wednesday night and proceeded to stare the posterized big man down, things got loud. The Garden was full of fans and teammates alike that were happy to finally see an aggressive Green, but one voice overpowered everyone else.
“I can’t tell you [what he said],” Green added. “Use your imagination. Think Kevin Garnett, and the first thing [that comes to mind]. It was explicit, but he said to me the other day what I needed to be. That’s basically what he said.”
That term would be “an [expletive]-hole,” something Garnett had said Green needed to be following Saturday’s game against the Bucks.
“Jeff’s a really, really nice guy,” Garnett said on Saturday. “Some nights, you’ve just gotta be an [expletive]-hole.”
Green granted that wish when he took a pass from Garnett, drove to basket and dunked with authority over Jefferson. To make it even meaner, Green stared down Jefferson as he walked away, earning him a technical foul for taunting. The 26-year-old Green admitted he earned the tech.
“I did,” he said. “I guess you can’t look at the guy anymore. Courtney Lee said he’ll pay for it, so we’ll see.”
Garnett was not available for comment after the game due to a minor family matter, but he made his thoughts on the play clear on the court, as he could be seen pushing Green and enthusiastically barking his praise following the play.
He wasn’t the only teammate to praise Green, however. As Green prepared to field questions from reporters, rookie Jared Sullinger, whose locker is next to Green’s, gave his teammate daps and said, “Congratulations, Jeff. You made [SportsCenter’s] No. 1.”
Green finished the night with 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in a season-high 27 minutes. He said he hopes to see his dunk on SportsCenter, but his biggest takeaway on the night was a much-needed confidence-booster.
“I had been playing a little lackadaisical as far as the effort before the prior couple of games, so it felt good to get that. It kind of boosts your confidence up and gets you going a little bit,” he said.
It isn’t every day that you hear a professional athlete volunteer to a scrum full of reporters and camera that his effort hasn’t been there. That’s normally the type of stuff that gets revealed deep into a 1-on-1, if it all. Perhaps Green just knows that more is expected of him, and he’s ready to be a little meaner.
“I don’t think anybody needs to tell me to be aggressive,” Green said. “It’s something that I see. It’s something that I need to do.”
Ben Rohrbach contributed to this report.
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