|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 »
|Kevin Garnett: Being called soft ‘still lives in the back of our minds’||12.06.12 at 1:51 am ET|
Doc Rivers put another carrot in front of his team this week when he said Kevin Love and the Timberwolves would kill the Celtics on the glass if they didn’t bring energy Wednesday night. Safe to say, the message hit home with Garnett and the Celtics, who outrebounded Minnesota, 45-41 in a 104-94 win at TD Garden.
“I think what you see here is that we as a team are trying to be better at rebounding,” Garnett said. “Doc’s been on our [butt] about giving up offensive rebounds, playing tougher, establishing something. Obviously, being called soft is not something that you want to be called. It still lives in the back of our minds. Still a work in progress.”
‘This is a very good team we played tonight,” Garnett said beating a Timberwolves team that handled the Sixers a night before in Philadelphia. “They put it to Philly the night before and obviously they played back to back, but a very good team. Kevin Love has been a cast over there and it was by no means an easy game for us.’
Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds as his energy and attack mentality against Kevin Love led the way.
“When I’m out there hoopin’, I’m not really conscious of when it comes to defense,” Garnett said. “I know where my energy needs to be. I know my primary role. But I’m efficient. I know what I’m doing. I try to be aggressive when they need to be.”
Love had 19 points and 13 rebounds but the Celtics we able to control the Minnesota front court.
‘We were aggressive, and we were aggressive from the early part of the game,” Garnett said. “We established a post early on. I thought defensively we played with a lot of energy. We made them go to their second and third options which is something they don’t like to do, but we did a decent job on Kevin. He obviously had a double double but for the most part we slowed him down a little bit and controlled the tempo. Having Rondo back was big for us, I thought he brought a lot of big energy. He was excited that he was back and probably fed off that.”
|Fast Break: Whole lotta Kevin Love can’t stop Celtics||12.05.12 at 9:52 pm ET|
Two days after resting the over-36 crowd for a practice, Rivers watched Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 5 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 4 rebounds) lead his C’s to a 104-94 win over the visiting Timberwolves. Of course, Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists) returning from suspension didn’t hurt.
A whole lot of Kevin Love (19 points, 13 rebounds) couldn’t even help the T-Wolves (8-9), whose porous defense helped the Celtics improve to 10-8 on the season and 5-4 at the Garden.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Minny driver: Last season, Garnett said he has “nothing positive to say” about his former NBA home, and he clearly played with an added edge against Minnesota. Not that Garnett doesn’t play with an edge every night, but he had a little something extra in the tank for the Timberwolves, starting 6-of-7 from the field and scoring 12 points in his first 11 minutes — his lone miss a failed shot clock buzzer-beater. He finished with his third double-double in his last five games to go along with four assists and an infinite number of dance moves during Gino Time.
Viejos amigos: Off the bench, the T-Wolves matched “6-foot” guard J.J. Barea against former Mavericks teammate Terry, who took advantage of his old friend. The Celtics guard made four of his six shots in the first half (1-2 3P), taking nine points, three rebounds and two assists into the break. He finished with 17 points on 10 shots.
Return of Rondo: Depending on how you look at it, Rondo either extended his streak of double-digit assists to 38 in games that he finishes or he just started a renewed march towards Magic Johnson‘s record of 46 straight games with 10 or more assists. Either way, Rondo returned to form after his two-game suspension for shoving Kris Humphries into the crowd. Apparently, his Mexican vacation served him well.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bearing gifts: As usual, the Celtics were in a giving mood, turning the ball over five times in their last six possessions before the half, including the final four. As a result, they turned what was once a seven-point lead into a 51-47 deficit at the break — thanks to Minnesota’s 10 fast-break points on a perfect 5-of-5 transition attempts. They cleaned it up a bit in the second half but still finished with 16 turnovers.
No Love lost: Leading up to the game, Pierce said, ‘Our main objective is to try and slow [Kevin Love] down. He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.’ Easier said than done. Midway through the third quarter, Love already had his double-double.
Key unlocked: Not only did Love have his way around the basket, but the Timberwolves combined for 50 points in the paint. Fellow bigs Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham also combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds. Somehow, though, the Celtics out-rebounded Minnesota by a 45-41 margin.
|Doc Rivers: ‘Just glad’ Austin Rivers is playing while Avery Bradley provides ‘great news’||at 8:04 pm ET|
Such was the case Wednesday pre-game when he was told that Avery Bradley told reporters he’s “maybe a week or two” from returning to practice after a pair of shoulder surgeries.
“Is that right? That’s great to hear,” Rivers said with a hearty laugh and smile. “I’m very happy to hear the news! Honestly, I didn’t know that because I don’t check. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte] will tell us when it’s time. I don’t focus on that stuff, guys being out. I have to focus on the guys wearing the uniform. With Avery, I talk to him every day and see how he’s doing, and I kid him about it but I don’t really ask.”
Rivers also spoke about his son Austin playing for the New Orleans Hornets, who may be on the verge of changing their name. Names like the Pelicans and Brass have been thrown out there to give the team a more regional flare. “I’m just glad he’s playing,” Rivers said.
On the return of Greg Stiemsma: “I’d love to have him here but I’m happy for him. He took advantage of a great situation, and I’m glad he did. He was terrific here.”
Rivers said that Leandro Barbosa showed up Wednesday and will dress but is hoping to stay away from playing him as he is still under the weather.
|Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft||11.30.12 at 11:11 pm ET|
‘If I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft the way we’re playing,’ Rivers said in Wednesday’s aftermath. ‘We’re a soft team right now; we have no toughness.’
Apparently, Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft. Who knew?
‘I don’t know any man who likes to be called soft; maybe some women,” he said after dropping a 10-5-4 in 23 efficient minutes of Friday’s 96-78 blowout of the Blazers. “Where I’m from, not most men like that. I think collectively he’s talking about our style. ‘¦ I don’t think he’s coming at us as men, but he’s definitely talking about our style as a whole. Collectively, we all have to do that together; the onus falls on each and every last one of us, not just one or two guys. But, yeah, that was disturbing. Who likes to be called soft in anything, if you’re a man?’
Count Courtney Lee among those men KG knows who don’t like being called soft. He amassed 10 points, 7 rebounds, five assists and three steals in 37 minutes, starting in place of the suspended Rondo.
“He can continue to call us soft,” said Lee following what might have been his best game of the season. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up. … We got called soft the other day, and we didn’t like that. 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.”
Rivers got the results he was looking for on Friday, but he hopes he lingers beyond just the one game.
“Well, I didn’t do anything,” the coach said postgame. “I mean, we went pretty hard [Thursday in practice] for short, and we actually went hard [Friday] for the shootaround, because we’ve got to get our culture right in that way. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better. You can see it, for sure.”
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s Secret Santa||at 1:05 pm ET|
After an audible pause, Garnett said: “Absolutely nothing.”
“Nothing at all,” Merloni responded. “Not even a card. Nothing?”
“You know what?” said Garnett. “That whole situation kind of came and went. I wish Ray the best. I wish his family the best. But we have Secret Santas around here, and I want to focus on my Secret Santa.”
In terms of Quote of the Year, it’s going to be hard to top KG’s “I want to focus on my Secret Santa.” I picture Garnett picking a Celtics teammate’s name out of a hat (held extremely high by Fab Melo), guarding that secret with his life and constantly surfing his iPad while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and sipping hot cocoa in front of a crackling fire. Since we’ll never know whose name he picked from the hat, here’s a suggestion for everyone.
|Opinion: Appreciate Rajon Rondo while you can||at 7:37 am ET|
No Celtics player has been the topic of more discussion this season. The man with the assist streak has been a lightning rod for Boston sports fans. Reading the blogs and listening to talk radio before the game, one heard that Rondo either was the best point guard in the NBA or a mercurial, self-serving diva who never could be the centerpiece of a championship team.
Then the game started. These days, at the Garden, a fan’s attention is locked in two places. The first is the video scoreboard, where the fan cam runs on an endless loop. The second is Rajon Rondo.
Like any special player in the NBA, Rondo captivates an audience. He sees the court differently, and plays with a style completely unique to the NBA. For each of Rondo’s strengths — his handle, his ability to get to wherever he wants on the floor, his vision, and his passing — he has a weakness. Both the strengths and weaknesses are discussed with equal enthusiasm.
In the first half, the best and worst of Rondo was on full display. He had no trouble getting deep into the lane on a Brooklyn team that had Brook Lopez at center and Kris Humphries at power forward. On one fast-break sequence, Rondo went coast-to-coast before leaving his feet for a layup under the basket, only to wrap the ball around a defender to an unsuspecting Brandon Bass. A potential dunk ended up as a turnover, and talk of Rondo’s predisposition to pass rather than shoot could be heard throughout the arena. On another possession, Rondo attempted to beat the shot clock by driving the lane, only to get his shot blocked by Humphries. On a later defensive possession, Rondo played his typical turnstile man-to-man defense as Deron Williams drove the lane. Rondo slapped at the opposing point guard’s hands after he was beat, putting Williams on the line.
The tough part for Rondo was the entire first half played out that way. He set up teammates for shots, and they missed. He struggled on the defensive end. With about four minutes left in the half, Rondo had three assists. He was off pace in his quest for his 38th consecutive game with 10 or more assists.
Then Humphries fouled Kevin Garnett under the basket. Then Rondo snapped.
There is no bigger disparity in the opinions of Rondo than in the people who attend Celtics games and those who watch on TV — or perhaps don’t watch at all.
When Rondo pushed Humphries under the basket and the confrontation spilled into the seats, the arena erupted. It wasn’t much of a fight, but it was the first time a Celtic had pushed back all night. As tough as Garnett has been throughout his career, he now is a veteran who gets calls by absorbing contact and jerking away suddenly. For much of the first half, the Nets initiated contact, and the Celtics got the calls. Often, Nets players shook their heads, almost surprised that this is how the Celtics want to play now.
But Rondo woke up the crowd. At the conclusion of the scuffle, fans rose to their feet and started a “Let’s go Celtics” chant. They cheered when Humphries and Gerald Wallace were ejected. They booed when Rondo was ejected. There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about Rondo’s maturity. Until the next day.
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