|Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo, Big Baby and other things that made the Celtics super on Sunday||02.07.11 at 1:47 pm ET|
For many reasons, the first 12 minutes and 59 seconds didn’t start out very well for the Celtics on Sunday.
There was Orlando jumping out to a 12-2 lead as Dwight Howard dominated. There was Glen Davis leaving a mark in the parquet with the back of his head, suffering a bruised skull. But as he returned to the bench to start the second quarter, that paled in comparison to the bruise to the spinal cord of Marquis Daniels as he ran into the chest of Gilbert Arenas and fell suddenly to the floor.
Things were just completely out of whack. But then it was Rajon Rondo‘s time to take over the game. And did he ever. Immediately after kneeling to check on the well-being of Daniels, Rondo came out of the delay and drove to the basket for a lay-up exactly 20 seconds later that energized the crowd and – more importantly – his teammates. He was on his way to a season-high 26 points.
So, what was the difference in his point guard Sunday?
‘Well, after ‘ you mean after the first six minutes of horrendous basketball from our team?” Rivers replied rhetorically. It just looked like the first six minutes, we were there to play basketball but I thought they were really invested into the game. And you know, why that changed I don’t know, but it was good. We went to an open set which we rarely do. I just didn’t see us with any ‘ we didn’t have anything going.
“And Jameer [Nelson] picked up that one foul and we just decided to go basically open spread. And we told Rondo to get to the rim, and, you know, use his instincts. He’ll find open guys.’
The Celtics went with a spread offense that allowed more lanes for Rondo to drive to the basket and create off the dribble.
‘Well it really depends on the game,” Rivers said. “I want him to be aggressive every game. We’re not going to run spread every game because it doesn’t make a lot of sense every night. We’d like to match up with him, especially Jameer wanted to stay on the floor because of his fouls, but that is how we want him to take the ball to the basket.
“Whenever he does go, we want him to go with power and speed and be willing to get fouled. And I thought over everything that was it. Obviously he made great shots and all that. I just liked the fact that he had no problem if he got fouled.’
Then there were the 21 missed 3-pointers by the Magic, who missed 61-of-93 shots. After the Celtics allowed the Mavericks to beat them on 8-of-17 shooting from long range, Rivers realized early his team was committed to not allowing that again.
Rivers asked for prayers for Davis and Semih Erden, who drew the assignment of guarding Dwight Howard when Kendrick Perkins was forced to the bench to rest. Those prayers were essentially answered in the form of a 91-80 win. Yes, Howard ate up Big Baby, Perkins and Erden for 22 points in the first half. But he had just six points in the second half as the Celtics put on the defense clamps, led by Davis’ ball denial in the post.
‘Phenomenal,” Rivers said of the effort. “Great defense. I think any time you lose a game where you think you broke your principals and defensively you were not right, then the next time you play if you’re a defensive team, you’re probably going to have a good defensive effort. And I thought we did that. I said this with Baby and Perk, it was a test for them.
“It was tough because we were going to leave them on an island and Dwight had it going early. And we just kept telling them, ‘We’re doing the right thing. Just keep doing it.’ And that was tough for them, and the fact that they stayed with it and stayed on it was good.’
|Irish Coffee: The Kevin Garnett controversy timeline||at 1:19 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The first time I can remember controversy around Kevin Garnett was in 2004, when as a member of the Timberwolves he said he was going to break out grenades, missile launchers and M16’s to take down the Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Also in Minnesota, Garnett had confrontations against such immortal NBA legends as Mark Pope, Anthony Peeler, Rick Rickert, Francisco Elson and Tyrone Nesby. Those issues haven’t subsided in Boston, where his latest dust-up came Friday against the Mavericks — and nearly again Sunday when Hedo Turkoglu knocked Garnett to the ground.
As a result, I figured it was time we sorted these incidents out in a timeline of his indiscretions:
- April 28, 2008: In Game 4 of a first-round series, Hawks center Zaza Pachulia headbutted Garnett after a hard foul. In Game 7, Garnett exacted revenge, executing a backcourt pick.
- Nov. 7, 2008: After throwing a blow at Bucks center Andrew Bogut‘s face, Garnett was suspended for one game.
- Nov. 10, 2008: Defending Jose Calderon, Garnett wagged his finger at the Raptors point guard Dikembe Mutombo-style.
- Dec. 5, 2008: Getting on all fours and barking like a dog in the backcourt, Garnett taunted Portland rookie guard Jerryd Bayless. Oh, and he made Glen Davis cry.
- Oct. 11, 2009: In a preseason game against the Nets, Garnett shoved then New Jersey forward Yi Jianlian‘s arms aside and bumped bodies with him during a dead ball.
- April 17, 2010: In an attempt to clear Quentin Richardson away from Paul Pierce, Garnett elbowed the Heat forward and was subsequently suspended for Game 2 of a first-round playoff series.
- Nov. 2, 2010: Following a Celtics win over the Pistons, Detroit forward Charlie Villanueva Tweeted that Garnett called him “a cancer patient.” Garnett fired back, claiming he said, “You are cancerous to your team and our league.”
- Nov. 10, 2010: A handful of days after a Celtics win over the Bulls, Chicago center Joakim Noah told a local radio station, “[Garnett]’s a very mean guy. Where’s the love? None at all. Ugly, too.” After the Richardson incident, Noah had already called Garnett “a dirty player.”
- Jan. 28, 2011: In a Celtics loss to the Suns, Garnett issued a low blow on Phoenix forward Channing Frye‘s groin during a 3-point attempt. Garnett was ejected. And Suns coach Alvin Gentry later said, “I lost a little respect for him.” Garnett refused to apologize.
- Feb. 4, 2011: Following a fast-break foul by Mavericks guard J.J. Barea, Garnett grabbed the referee’s arm during the dust-up and got hit with a technical.
|Inside the Kendrick Perkins-Dwight Howard matchup||02.05.11 at 5:19 pm ET|
Kendrick Perkins is renowned as one of the few men in the NBA who can go toe-to-toe with Dwight Howard. It’s a reputation that has grown over the years, ever since their meeting in the 2009 playoffs when Perkins stood tall with a shoulder injury so severe he couldn’t lift his arm over his head.
After missing the first two games against the Magic this season, Perkins is back in action — and the starting lineup — just in time for the rematch with Orlando on Sunday afternoon.
It’s been a fast climb for Perkins, who recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes against the Mavericks on Friday. He’s progressed so quickly that he’s obliterated the minutes restrictions that have been placed on him throughout his comeback.
After the Mavs game, thoughts naturally turned to the showdown with Howard. Perkins artfully streered clear of the questions.
“Don’t know,” he said when asked if he was ready. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Perkins also called Howard ‘a great player,’ and noted that the Celtics‘ team defense is just as important as any one-on-one performance. Perkins is well aware that while his reputation has been enhanced by his individual battles with Howard, he’s also been on the receiving ends of some tough games and the respect is real.
After holding him to 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting in Game 1 of last year’s conference finals, Perkins was told that the local media was calling on Howard to do more in Game 2. His eyes grew wide as he said, “See, what happens is, y’all gas the man up. Then I have to deal with it.” Howard went out and promptly scored 30 points.
In the 2009 series, Howard averaged better than 17 points and 14 rebounds while shooting close to 60 percent. In 2010, Howard averaged 26.3 points and 16 rebounds over the final three games. It’s not that Perkins is a Howard-stopper; it’s more that Perkins is capable of slowing him down, and more importantly, he’s also willing to take him on without the help of double-teams. That, in turn, helps take away the Magic’s ability to get open looks on kickouts off double-teams.
But there’s more to it than that. One of the Celtics’ basic defensive principles is they don’t mind if a superstar player scores a ton of points. Their philosophy is that great players will be great. Their main concern is making it as difficult for them as possible, and if a guy hits a shot with a hand in his face, that’s life. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has also said in the past that he doesn’t care if Howard scores 30 points, because that just means that someone isn’t taking a 3-pointer.
None of that makes it any easier to handle the assignment, however. Perkins likely won’t have Shaquille O’Neal backing him up, as Shaq is dealing with an Achilles injury. That leaves Semih Erden as the nominal backup center, but look for the Celtics to use Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis in spots as well.
Make no mistake: Perkins loves the challenge. He’s faced down the Lakers frontline and the Mavericks’ Tyson Chandler, but this will be his biggest test to date, as it always is.
|Report: Heat may target Kendrick Perkins in free agency||at 12:30 pm ET|
The NBA is facing massive uncertainty once the season ends if the owners decide to lockout the players, as expected. A new collective bargaining agreement would almost certainly re-write the rules on free agency, but one thing is clear from the Celtics perspective: Kendrick Perkins will be very much in demand.
In his latest After the Buzzer column, Yahoo columnist Marc Spears writes that a source expects the Miami Heat to make a run at Perkins once he hits free agency. That would make sense for the Heat who lack a big man compliment to Chris Bosh on their frontline. Under the current rules Miami would only be able to offer the mid-level exception, while the Celtics would be able to offer Perkins whatever they want to retain his services.
Either way, Perkins will be in demand as a 26-year-old center with proven rebounding and defensive skills.
|Kendrick Perkins rejoins starting lineup with Shaquille O’Neal sidelined||02.04.11 at 7:53 pm ET|
It happened ahead of schedule, but Kendrick Perkins is once again a starting center. Shaquille O’Neal won’t play Friday night against the Mavericks, and he may not play Sunday against the Magic either as he deals with his latest ailment — an inflamed Achilles.
With Shaq out, Perkins will return to the starting lineup just five games into his comeback from knee surgery. The move was inevitable, but the timetable is a little quick for Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “I wanted to wait a little bit, honestly,” Rivers said. “It is what it is.”
Rivers is hoping to have Shaq back by Thursday when the Celtics play the Lakers (the Celtics also have a game Monday in Charlotte). Asked if Perkins was now the starter for good, Rivers wouldn’t commit one way or another. “I don’t know yet,” Rivers said. “We were probably going to start Perk after the All-Star break anyway, so we’ll see.”
Rivers has been pleased with Perkins’ production, but he still wants to monitor his minutes. It’s not the overall count that concerns the coach, but the extended stretches that worries him. Rivers would like to have Perkins on the floor for no more than seven minutes at a time. The depth behind Perkins includes Glen Davis and Semih Erden.
As for Shaq, this is the latest leg ailment to bother the veteran big man. There has been a hip injury, a calf strain and another one described as a “fibula head” strain. Also, as Rivers likes to point out, Shaq’s 38 years old. Rivers doesn’t think this latest injury will last long, but he also said he’s not sure how long Shaq will be out.
|Delonte West shows TD Garden crowd he’s getting closer||at 7:32 pm ET|
Delonte West keeps progressing in his attempt to return from a broken right wrist. One day after he went through a full shootaround and skeleton practice with the Celtics on Thursday at their practice facility, he warmed up on the TD Garden floor, showing everyone he can catch with his right hand and shoot with his left.
“He didn’t practice,” coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “He just did the shootaround and the shooting and that’s about it.”
But Rivers acknowledged it was significant that West could take part in catch-and-shooting drills without any protection whatsoever on his wrist, broken on Nov. 24 in home game vs. New Jersey.
“That’s nice. He did run through all of our skeleton stuff so obviously, the next step will be him going through a practice,” said Rivers before adding that there is still no specific timetable for West to return to game action. “I have no idea. No time soon I don’t think but I’m not sure.”
Meanwhile, with Shaquille O’Neal out Friday and likely Sunday vs. the Magic, Kendrick Perkins was thrust into the starting lineup on Friday against the Mavericks, a little sooner than the All-Star break timetable Rivers orginally expected.
|Kendrick Perkins may start soon, but will he finish?||02.03.11 at 5:21 pm ET|
Shaquille O’Neal didn’t practice Thursday because his Achilles is inflamed, according to coach Doc Rivers. That makes Shaq questionable for Friday’s game against the Mavericks. “We may play him [Friday], we may not,” Rivers said. “We’ll see.”
When Shaq hasn’t been able to go Rivers has turned to rookie Semih Erden in order to keep Glen Davis in his familiar sixth man role off the bench. But now that Kendrick Perkins has five games under his belt, don’t be surprised if he gets the call.
“We will [make the switch] eventually,” Rivers said. “It’s not a big deal to us. I’m more concerned about who finishes the game.”
The coach has a point. Without Perkins the Celtics have been using Davis at center in the fourth quarter. According to 82games.com, Rivers has used the lineup with the four starters and Davis as much as he has the starting five with Shaq. The Davis-at-center lineup has been productive, and it makes sense due to the minutes limitations on Shaq, as well as his well-documented foul difficulty this season.
But Perkins’ return gives the Celtics options and that’s never a bad thing.
Perkins said he was a little surprised by how quickly he’s been able to get back in the flow. He had 10 points and nine rebounds against the Blazers and eight and 10 against the Kings. He also logged about 93 minutes on the four-game west coast trip and lasted 27 minutes against the Lakers.
“I thought I’d be off by so much,” Perkins said after practice Thursday. “I thought I’d have to get into a rhythm or whatever it may be. I’m just going to keep putting in the hard work. I’m still not where I want to be, but I am happy where I’m at.”
Asked what he felt he needed to improve, Perkins said, “Just my timing. My jumping. That’s about it. Timing and jumping. I feel like I have to get off the floor a little bit better.”
It’s only a matter of time before he rejoins the starting five. The real question will be answered at the end of the games.
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