|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.”
|Fast Break: Celtics slow down the Pacers||03.16.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
Paul Pierce and Jeff Green combined for 39 points, and the Celtics‘ defense held the Pacers to 37.5 percent shooting in a 92-80 victory Wednesday night at the TD Garden. The Celtics (48-18), who had lost three out of four entering Wednesday night’s game, pulled even with the idle Bulls atop the Eastern Conference.
The ACC combo of Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough combined for 24 points and 22 rebounds in defeat for the Pacers (29-39), who dropped to a tie — for the time being — with the Bobcats for the eighth playoff spot.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Defense: As Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe noted, with the exception of holding the Bucks to a record-low 56 points, the Celtics’ defense hasn’t exactly been the shutdown brand the team’s made their bones on since The Trade.
Well, Wednesday may have been a step in the right direction, as the Celtics held the Pacers to 20 points in each of the four quarters. Through the first nine minutes of the second quarter — when they started a lineup of Green, Glen Davis, Troy Murphy, Delonte West and Carlos Arroyo — the Celtics held the Pacers to just nine points and established the lead.
Green, in particular, did a nice job on Danny Granger.
Beyond the Arc: While the Celtics shot just 15-of-35 (42.9 percent) in the first half, their 3-point shooting (5-of-8 for 62.5 percent) saved them a bit in the opening 24 minutes. Specifically, two Ray Allen treys sandwiched around a Pierce triple helped the C’s turn a 33-29 lead into a 42-31 advantage in the span of 58 seconds. They finished 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
The Thunder, up and under: Green and Nenad Krstic combined for 30 points and 10 rebounds. In fact, through the first 20 minutes of the game, Green had more points than the rest of his C’s teammates combined. At halftime, Green led the Celtics in scoring, and Krstic led them in rebounding.
Even Troy Murphy got in on the action, scoring six points on perfect shooting from the field (2-for-2) and free-throw line (2-for-2). Perhaps it was the St. Patrick’s Day luck of the Irish.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Attacking the glass: Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told reporters that Shaquille O’Neal had been doing some shooting — a sign that his return could be imminent — and the news couldn’t come at a better time. The C’s got outworked on the glass by the Pacers, who owned a 49-36 rebounding advantage (including a 19-7 edge in offensive boards).
Offensive flow: The Celtics’ offensive sets looked ugly in the first quarter, almost as if the C’s had gotten a headstart on the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Allen didn’t even attempt a shot in the opening 12 minutes, and the Celtics scored just 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting in an ugly start to the game.
The curious case of Rajon Rondo: He looked as if he’d risen from the slump that’s plagued him over the last couple weeks, but his production still was perplexing for a player who’s capable of so much more. Here’s his line: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals 2 turnovers and 1 block.
And while Delonte West made his re-re-re-debut with the Celtics, he and Carlos Arroyo did little to help Rondo on the point guard front.
|Nenad Krstic: I’m lost a little because ‘Oklahoma is still in my head’||03.10.11 at 12:43 pm ET|
Nenad Krstic had a season-high 20 points in 38 minutes but he admitted afterward he wasn’t satisfied with his defense in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers at TD Garden.
Krstic and the Celtics had tremendous difficulty early on stopping DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the Clippers front court, which scored early and often en route to shooting 68 percent in the first half and building a 60-42 halftime lead.
Krstic came to Boston on deadline day, Feb. 24 with Jeff Green in exchange for the defensive-minded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Krstic is still trying to get accustomed to thinking the Celtics’ way – which begins and ends with defense.
“I just need to get better, need to be more focused,” Krstic said. “Sometimes, I’m a lost a little bit because of a different style of playing. Oklahoma is still in my head. I’m just really trying to get adjusted. It just takes time, especially when you play games. It’s different in practice but in games you just have to react.
“It’s going to come. I just need to get used to more of the guys. Sometimes, I’m trying to do too much, over help and have a couple of stupid fouls, too. I know I scored 20 points but I need to focus on my defense and help the team.”
Doc Rivers still has confidence in his new starting center.
“Krstic overall is playing pretty well,” Rivers said. “He’s got to hold his ground a little bit. The problem we had going into the game, and I’m kind of kicking myself, is I told our bigs — the two bigs that we have right now due to all the injuries — you can’t get in foul trouble. “So if it comes down to you getting out of the way, you almost had to. Because we couldn’t afford Kevin [Garnett] or Nenad in foul trouble.
“And it actually happened anyway.”
Krstic said he’s confident the defensive part of his game will come but it will take time.
“Just not having been on the court at the same time together is the problem,” Krstic said of the chemistry with his new teammates. “Sometimes, especially in the first half, our second unit is almost all new guys, and we’re not used to each other. I think that was a problem tonight, we just haven’t spent too much time together playing. It’s going to take some time, but obviously with this team, we pick it up really quickly.”
|Doc Rivers to his new reserves: We don’t take practice off so you better be ready||03.05.11 at 8:40 pm ET|
WALTHAM — You could sense the urgency in his voice.
Doc Rivers is a coach who exudes confidence and a positive attitude. But he also calls it the way he sees it and can push the emotional buttons of his players when need be.
After practice Saturday, he sent a very clear message to his second unit.
“They’ve got to get out of their [old] habits, wherever they’ve been,” Rivers said, referring clearly to Jeff Green, Sasha Pavlovic, Troy Murphy and Nenad Krstic. “We don’t [practice] long but we play with intensity, play hard. You just see some of their habits and some of their habits have to change. It will. It’s just going to take time.”
Rivers made it clear before practice began with several hundred fans listening in that their “help” defense was very sub-par Friday night in a 107-103 win over the Warriors.
“Learning to cover for each other is number one,” Rivers said. “But you can’t do that unless you have unbelievable focus and intensity and that’s what we’re trying to show them. I thought they were trying to do the right stuff on their help [defense] but they were always late because they’re not ready.”
Then Rivers got really serious.
“A lot of pros practice and they think practice is leisure and we don’t believe that here. It’s quick here but it’s hard. When you have your starters, who are playing 35 minutes [a game] going hard and you have your second unit going in cruise control, that’s not going to settle well with me.”
During the open practice Saturday afternoon at their practice facility, which gave a peek to fans and special guests into some of their basic defensive principles, defensive coach Lawrence Frank called out positions and assignments and helped Rivers get the new players accustomed to the Celtics‘ way of defending. Read the rest of this entry »
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