|Glen Davis: ‘We’re way deeper than [Miami]‘||04.27.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
As the Celtics returned to practice on Wednesday they still don’t know who their next playoff opponent will be, but that gives them a chance to focus on what has been their toughest adversary at times this season: themselves.
“I’ve told you all year our opponent has been us, so we get a chance to work on our stuff,” Doc Rivers said. “[This week is] very similar to training camp. When you start camp you really don’t have an opponent.”
That said, they clearly have an eye on Miami, who has a chance to close out its first round playoff series with Philadelphia on Wednesday night. As long as there’s not a Game 7 in that series, the Celtics will be in Miami for Game 1 on Sunday.
In the interim, their focus will be on what they do, especially their reserves. Glen Davis, for one, isn’t lacking any confidence.
“I feel like our bench is way stronger than theirs,” Davis said. “We’re way deeper than them. We just have to make sure we use our depth.”
The Heat have primarily used three reserves in their first round series with Philadelphia — Joel Anthony, Mario Chalmers and James Jones — but they may get a boost if Udonis Haslem is able to return from foot surgery that has kept him out since late November. An ineffective Mike Miller has fallen out of the rotation.
The Celtics may be deeper on paper, but their second unit didn’t exactly distinguish itself in their series with the Knicks except for a strong showing in the first half of Game 4. Rivers feels like he has gained some insight from that series, however.
“We knew what the starters could do,” Rivers said. “We weren’t sure what the fifth guy with the starters could do and you had no idea going into a playoff series what your bench, not only what they were going to give you, but what worked for them. As the playoffs went on we kind of figured out more and more what they’re comfortable with, what they can’t run more than what they can run.”
Despite their struggles, Rivers was encouraged by some of what he saw in New York, particularly on the block. “The one thing they do well is post,” Rivers said. “That second group is a great post group. Jeff Green, Delonte [West] and Baby, so we have to try to run a package more suited to them.”
The Celtics don’t incorporate a lot of post-ups in their offense, mainly because they haven’t had a reliable presence on the block since Shaquille O’Neal got hurt. Green got more work on the block in New York and for a second unit that sometimes struggled to run a functioning offense that would be a positive development.
Rivers also hinted at a bigger role for Green in the next round. “The other fifth guy [with the starters] is Jeff Green,” Rivers said. “That may be our biggest plus of all the groups, but we just haven’t used it a lot.”
SHAQ UPDATE: O’Neal didn’t practice on Wednesday and he won’t practice Thursday either. The Celtics are targeting Friday as a possible date, but as with all things Shaq, that is subject to change. “We hope he practices [Friday],” Rivers said. “But we don’t know that. We’ll see.”
Everyone else was on the floor at the start of practice, which was closed to the press.
STAYING IN RHYTHM: Everyone knows the Celtics play better with rest, but is there such a thing as too much? Assuming they play again on Sunday that would be a full week between games for the Celtics. They were 1-3 in the playoffs last season with three or more days between games.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Rivers said. “It’s not like we can say, ‘Hey listen we want to start now,’ so let’s take advantage of what we have.”
Rivers called this week a mini training camp, but there’s no doubt they don’t want to stray too far from what made them successful against the Knicks, especially the last two games offensively. “When we run our stuff right defensively and offensively we tend to not turn the ball over and we tend to rebound better,” Rivers said.
RUN RONDO RUN: While no one would come out and say it before the series becomes official, Rajon Rondo will be one of the most scrutinized players in a showdown series with the Heat. He is the one obvious advantage the Celtics have from a personnel standpoint. He showed in the Knicks series that he can kick it up a gear and play with the kind of speed the Celtics need from him.
“It’s night and day when you see it,” Ray Allen said. “When he’s out there and he’s going and he’s got the energy, he doesn’t care whether you make a shot or not, he’s still having an impact on both ends of the floor. He’s on us about running the floor. I’m thinking I’m running, but let me run a little bit harder.”
Still, the Celtics emphasized that all four of their star players are tied together.
“Rondo’s key for us but all of them are,” Rivers said. “If Rondo’s playing well and Ray is not playing well then we struggle. If Ray is playing well and Paul [Pierce] or Kevin [Garnett] struggle then we struggle. It’s not just one guy. This really is a team that is pretty much tied together and each guy has to carry his own load.”
|Celtics need more in reserve||04.23.11 at 6:44 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Step one was getting the defense in order. Step two was finding a way to make the offense function better. Step three, and possibly the final step in getting the Celtics on the right track for the rest of the playoffs is unlocking the potential of the second unit.
Delonte West, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic have all started at various times in their career. Glen Davis is practically a starter for the Celtics, so the talent is there. But for whatever reason those four have not functioned well either as a group, or individually.
The numbers are not pretty. Through three games of the postseason, those four have averaged just nine points, nine rebounds and three assists, while shooting 14-for-45 in 179 minutes.
“It’s something I’ve got to do, I know that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Saturday after the team had a brief walkthrough at Madison Square Garden. “I’ve got to get them playing right. We’re searching I can tell you that because we need them in this series and we need them to play well.”
No one is standing out for the bench crew right now, which has magnified the pressure on all of them. Rivers had a quiet conversation with Davis after practice and simply told him to keep playing hard.
“We need him,” Rivers said. “He can play better. I can help him play better. I told him I was going to try keeping to do that as long as he keeps his end. Baby’s an energy player for us. As Pat Riley used to tell me — and everyone else — thinking hurts the team. When you start thinking what’s wrong you usually play poorly.”
Davis has struggled shooting jumpers all season and while he’s started trying to maneuver closer to the basket in recent games, he has had a difficult time shooting over the Knicks more athletic players. Davis is the Celtics most important reserve, but they also need more from Green.
Game 3 wasn’t a breakout game for Green, but it was his best of the playoffs as he scored nine points and earned praise from Rivers for his defense.
“He played much better,” the coach said. “Defensively, he was terrific. He’s starting to cut better for us. We got him a couple of nice cuts where he got deep posts and got his spot. He’s getting there. Jeff is going to help us.”
This is Green’s first time coming off the bench since his rookie season. He has said that the adjustment is all mental and it’s something he’s still getting used to doing. He also has to be something of a go-to guy for the reserves because they lack a dominant scorer with this group. Should the Celtics advance, Green will become a very important player in their series with the Heat because they play so many unorthodox lineups.
Even with all that no one has struggled more than Krstic. He has attempted just one shot, a jumper in Game 1 when he had a clear path to the basket. He saw second-half minutes in Game 3 only because of the score and he has grabbed just three rebounds in the series.
Rivers hasn’t given up on Krstic yet, but there are other options, namely Troy Murphy.
“There’s always another guy when the other guy’s not working,” Rivers said. “Troy’s working his butt off, I can tell you that. Him and Von [Wafer], they may be guys that help us win a game.”
|Ric Bucher on D&C: Celtics still can reach NBA finals||04.13.11 at 12:27 pm ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Ric Bucher joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Celtics’ chances in the playoffs and whether they’re still a title contender. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The hosts opened the segment by asking Bucher which team’s expectations have shifted the most since early in the season.
“For me, it’s got to be the Chicago Bulls,” Bucher sad. “I keep waiting for them to falter, and maybe we’ll finally see it at some point in the playoffs, but they keep defying what we expect from a team that really only has one true superstar [Derrick Rose]. … Boston fans know this as much as anyone, when you have that ubuntu, that sort of collective feeling of confidence, it can do a lot more for you than your simple talent is capable of.”
A lot of people are picking the Celtics as the team most likely to get upset in the first round. Bucher said he isn’t on board with that, though.
“I would still say Orlando-Atlanta is going to be the most interesting series, in spite of the fact Atlanta has kind of fallen down recently,” Bucher said. “They have played Orlando well this year, in contrast to previous years. They’re 3-1 against them.”
Bucher explained why he doesn’t see the Knicks as that big a threat to the Celtics. “When you get to the playoffs and the game slows down and it becomes a half-court game, I just don’t see that in the Knicks’ arsenal. … I don’t see those easy baskets coming.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics lose No. 2 seed, Delonte West||04.11.11 at 10:19 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers rested the Big Four to keep them healthy for the playoffs, Delonte West re-injured his right ankle and the Celtics officially dropped to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs after an ugly 95-94 overtime road loss to the Wizards on Monday.
When Wizards center JaVale McGee trampled West at midcourt in the third quarter, the Celtics guard sprained his right ankle again and did not return after producing 11 points and five assists in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, the Celtics (55-26) clinched the No. 3 seed and will face the Knicks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Resting the starters: Despite owning an identical record to the Lakers and trailing the Heat by one game for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, Celtics coach Doc Rivers elected to start a lineup of Delonte West, Von Wafer, Jeff Green, Glen Davis and Jermaine O’Neal. Rivers said the value of physical and — more importantly — mental rest outweighed foregoing rest to play for potential homecourt advantages against the Lakers and Heat.
Delonte West re-injuring his ankle: West missed 57 of the team’s first 80 games with a 10-game suspension, a broken right wrist and a right ankle sprain that he initially suffered during a late February practice. And now it appears as if he’s going to miss at least one more, as he left Monday night’s game against the Wizards in the third quarter after spraining his right ankle again when McGee ran him over at midcourt. Even after initially returning on March 16, West admitted he had a chipped bone in that same right ankle, which could signal a dependency on Carlos Arroyo at the backup point guard position.
Not so sweet 16-point run: After taking an early 11-point lead in the first quarter, the Celtics gave up a 16-0 run that spanned 5:25 between the first and second quarters while delivering a 28-23 lead to the Wizards. For the most part, Nenad Krstic‘s presence coincided with that run. The C’s led 12-3 when Krstic entered for O’Neal and trailed 25-23 when O’Neal subbed back in. Once Krstic exited, the Celtics finished the first half on a 21-14 run, taking a 44-37 lead into the break and making it a game for the remainder of the night.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
A healthy Jermaine O’Neal: Because of Krstic’s inability to contribute defensively, Rivers was forced to play Jermaine O’Neal more minutes than he had indicated he would prior to the game. And O’Neal responded. He nearly reached a double-double by hafltime and finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in 36 minutes of action. He entered the game averaging 5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 17.1 minutes a night.
Jeff Green’s monster night: Insterted back into a role he had become accustomed to with the Thunder, Green started and proved to be the best player on the court for either team. He totaled 20 points — albeit on 8-of-20 shooting — a season-high 15 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Prior to Monday night, Green hadn’t had a 20-point night since March 4 and had not reached double-digits rebounds in a Celtics uniform. The C’s can only hope that he can translate that effort into effectiveness off the bench moving forward.
Replacements starting well: Behind the aggressive play of Jermaine O’Neal, West and Green, the Celtics jumped out to a 23-12 lead. During that stretch, Green scored six points in the first 9:37, West assisted on four of the C’s first nine field goals and O’Neal grabbed four rebounds in his first-quarter minutes. Those four boards gave O’Neal more rebounds in 5:37 against the Wizards than he had totaled in his three previous games combined – against the Heat, Bulls and 76ers.
|Doc Rivers on D&C: Jeff Green ‘could be a good defensive player’||04.06.11 at 10:21 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning, following Tuesday night’s 99-82 victory over the 76ers. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Asked if beating the Sixers was a statement win, considering the teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs, Rivers said it would mean more to a younger team. “All we got out of that game is that we played better in the second half, and that’s it for us,” he said.
Shaquille O’Neal left Sunday’s win over the Pistons with a strained right calf muscle. Rivers said Shaq will not play Thursday in Chicago. As for Friday vs. the Wizards: “I doubt it.” Sunday vs. the Heat? “Maybe.”
Said Rivers: “We’re going to be very cautious with him. I would like to play him a couple of games, but only if he’s feeling great. If not, we’ll just wait.”
Jeff Green has shown flashes of solid play since coming over from the Thunder, but Rivers said he needs more consistency from the young forward. “He looked great last night,” Rivers said. “We’re asking him to do a lot. We’re asking him to play two positions. But it does, it has to be a repetitive act for him every night, the same intensity level every night, and I think he’s learning to do that. And that’s good, because he can really help us win games.”
Green was supposed to give the Celtics a defensive boost, but Rivers said he may have been hampered by being forced to guard at two positions. “He could be a good defensive player,” Rivers said. “Is he a 3 or a 4? He’s a 3. He’s played 4 his whole career thus far. With Oklahoma he had no choice. They put [Kevin] Durant on the 3s and they put him on the 4s. … I think he’s a better 3 than 4 defensively just from the power standpoint. But I do think he can be a good defender. I think right now he’s an OK defender.”
Asked why Troy Murphy isn’t contributing more to the Celtics, Rivers said, “He’s been injured. I don’t think it’s any deeper than that. Yesterday was his first day back after one practice. … He’s not going to average a double-double with us. He’s just not going to get the minutes.”
|Chris Mannix on D&C: Celtics don’t know what they have for playoffs||03.28.11 at 9:51 am ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix appeared on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics and their recent struggles. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Mannix said he thinks there is something to the theory that the Celtics are disinterested in getting the one-seed and seem to think they’ll be able to just turn it on in the playoffs like they did last year.
“I think there’s a lot of truth to that,” Mannix said. “I think we saw at the end of last year that the Celtics had the same kind of laissez-faire attitude about the end of the regular season. The difference last year, though, was the core of that team was still in tact and they kind of knew what they could do if they turned the jets on and played well in the postseason. This year, they’re banking on something that no one, including themselves, is sure is even there. You’re talking about bringing back [Shaquille O’Neal] and Jermaine [O’Neal].
“Imagine before the season if we thought getting into late March, early April, ‘If only Shaq and Jermaine can come back, we’ll be OK for the postseason.’ To me, that’s a horrible attitude to have, if that’s what this team is thinking, that one of those guys can come back and be a difference-maker. Once Shaq comes back, he’ll only play for about two months, and who knows what kind of physical shape he’s in at this stage. And Jermaine has given you nothing all season long, so there’s no reason to believe he’s going to add anything to the equation.”
Mannix said not getting the top seed could be a death knell for the Celtics. “I honestly think that not getting the No. 1 seed for Boston this year could be disastrous and could be the reason that they don’t come out of the Eastern Conference for two reasons,” he said.
“Number one, the difference between playing the 8 seed and the 7 seed this year is like playing the 16 seed in the NCAA tournament vs. a 2 or 3 seed. Whoever winds up in that 8 spot, be it Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte, I think they’re going to be a relative pushover in the first round. Maybe they take a team to five games. Most likely they get swept in four.
“That 7 seed, whether it’s New York or Philadelphia, those aren’t going to be easy games,” Mannix continued. “They’re going to be kind of knock-down, drag-out games. They might push you to six, maybe even seven games. I think that’s something Boston really has to start to consider going into the postseason.”
The hosts added that not only have the Celtics fallen behind the Bulls, but they’re also on the verge of getting passed by the Heat and dropping to third. “Yeah, and that’s going to kill them, too,” Mannix said. “You get into those second-round series that are inevitably going to go six games, probably seven games. You lose that homecourt advantage and that hurts, even against a team like Miami, whom, by the way, Boston hasn’t beaten yet with this new group. Same thing with Chicago.”
Speaking of that new group, Mannix said the Kendrick Perkins trade has everything to do with this slump. “I 100 percent attribute it to the trade,” Mannix said. “I said as soon as this deal went down that it was the worst trade they could’ve possibly made. And I say that knowing exactly why it was made. … This was a one-sided trade, I thought. That’s taking nothing away from the obvious skill of Jeff Green. But Jeff Green, as much as you needed a backup swingman for this roster, you needed a powerful big up front more.
“You need a guy that brings the intensity every single night,” Mannix continued. “You just mentioned that lackadaisical attitude. I think some of that would’ve been eliminated with Perkins in the lineup because he never takes plays off. The guy is aggressive all the time. With him in the lineup bringing that intensity, I think a lot of it would’ve rubbed off on some of his teammates. So I think they lost a physical presence and I think they lost a mental intense presence.”
|Irish Coffee: Delonte West ecstatic about Jeff Green||03.18.11 at 2:21 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
While the Big Four of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen probably looked at the Celtics-Thunder deadline deal as “The Kendrick Perkins Trade,” at least one member of the C’s saw it from a different perspective.
That’s because Delonte West knew better than his teammates what Jeff Green was capable of contributing, because — as West puts it — everybody who grows up playing basketball in the Washington D.C. greater metropolitan area knows each other. Not to mention the two played together on the SuperSonics for half the 2007-08 season.
“I played with Jeff in a few rec leagues before up at Georgetown, and I played with him in Seattle,” said West. “I know what he can do. I know what he’s capable of. In Oklahoma, you had a few guys taking all the shine over there, but when I heard we were getting Jeff Green, I was automatic ecstatic. I’ve been in the gym with him before in Seattle. The guy can play.”
Green could play then, and West believes his former teammate is even better now that he’s added a few weapons to his repertoire of skills. Green has averaged 11.1 points on 48.8 percent shooting in 23.1 minutes a night in 10 games for the Celtics.
“Of course he’s matured a little bit,” added West. “He’s a few years in now, and he’s only getting better. I see him shooting that 3 ball real comfortably. I already knew he could run the floor and how easy he can get points for us. That’s important.”