|Irish Coffee: 10 reasons Celtics should win||04.22.11 at 4:30 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Considering all that’s gone wrong for the Knicks in this first-round NBA Playoffs series, the Celtics should put them in a 3-0 hole on Friday night in New York — a deficit no NBA team has ever returned from. Here are 10 reasons why that should happen …
10. They’re underdogs? The Celtics are 3.5-point underdogs to the Knicks in Game 3, according to Bodog.com. A lot of teams use the “nobody believes in us” mentality as inspiration, but most times it’s a load of B.S. Except nobody actually does believe in these Celtics. When’s the last time you heard so much negativity about a returning conference champion that leads their first-round opponent 2-0 while holding said opponent — which nearly led the league in scoring — to an average of 89 points per game?
By the way, some fun props for Friday night’s game: Ronny Turiaf has the longest odds of any expected starter to score the game’s first points (8/1); “Will Ray Allen make his first field goal?” is even money; the over/under for points for Paul Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett are 19.5, 16.5 and 14.5, respectively; and the over/under for Rajon Rondo‘s total points and assists is 24.
9. Doc Rivers > Mike D’Antoni: If you believe what TNT analyst Charles Barkley said, the Knicks are being coached by a guy who will be fired at season’s end. Meanwhile, the Celtics desperately want their leader to return to the bench next year — if there is a next year in the NBA. That should tell you all you need to know about how lopsided the coaching matchup has been in this series. And if you haven’t read Paul Flannery’s breakdown of Rivers’ exceptional execution, you should.
8. The MSG atmosphere: Who’s more prepared to play in front of what is going to be an insanely raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden tonight — the team that has played 30 road playoff games in the past four years or the team that’s played none at home?
The Knicks were the team playing with nothing to lose in Games 1 and 2. Now, they have plenty to lose, like the respect of the New York fans. And the Celtics are the ones playing loose. Do you expect anyone outside of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire or Chauncey Bilups to rise to the occasion for the Knicks in the face of that kind of pressure?
7. The bench is due: During his interview on WEEI’s Big Show, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said Celtics coach Rivers is expecting a breakout game from Jeff Green on Friday night. Green has been the focal point of the criticism of the Celtics’ bench during this series, but Glen Davis, Delonte West and Nenad Krstic carry some of the blame, too.
The C’s bench has been outscored 46-22, and those four guys have shot 9-of-30 in Games 1 and 2. If Toney Douglas is in the starting lineup again, you could make the claim that Green, Davis, West and Krstic are better than anybody the Knicks can bring off the bench. I mean, did you even know Roger Mason Jr. was still in the NBA?
6. Anthony’s play should Melo out: What are the chances Carmelo Anthony channels Bernard King and totals 40-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and five-plus assists again? Considering Anthony only exceeded 40 points twice, 15 rebounds once and five assists six times in 77 games this season, I’d say it’s extremely unlikely.
5. Landry Fields looks like a lost puppy: The Knicks’ starting shooting guard is 2-for-7 in 34-plus minutes in the series, and he’s looked even worse that that. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment (Ray Allen) has averaged 21 points on 65.2 percent shooting. The playoff atmosphere has clearly messed with Fields’ psyche. But, hey, at least he can blog:
I don’t think there are too many adjustments we need to make for Game 3. Here and there, we might sniff out a few plays before they happen. But other than that, I think with our energy level and the pace that we run at, it should be hard for them.
There is some uncertainty with Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups, but we can only focus on things that we can control. We hope those guys have a speedy recovery and hopefully they’ll be back tonight. We might know going into the game whether they’re available, but still, I don’t think that sways us in what we need to do. Because we didn’t have Amar’e for the second half of Game 2 and we still played it pretty tough. Either way, we should be all right.
If the Knicks don’t make many adjustments for Game 3, they’ll lose again, because the Celtics haven’t even played their best game of the series yet.
4. Keeping up with the Joneses: And by Joneses, I mean the Bulls and Heat. It hasn’t exactly been easy for those teams in the playoffs, either, but they each have 3-0 leads against the Pacers and 76ers, respectively. The last thing these old Celtics need is to stretch this Knicks series longer than it needs to be. They’re better than a .500 team that doesn’t have a healthy starting point guard or power forward, and they don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they’re facing a younger Heat team that’s also more rested.
3. Chauncey Billups isn’t healthy: The Knicks’ floor general has a strained left knee, and all indications are that he won’t play in Game 3, although he is listed as questionable before a game-time decision. New York Newsday reporter Alan Hahn set the chances of Billups playing at 10 percent. That means the worst defender on a bad Knicks defense (Douglas) will be matching up against the most important offensive player for the Celtics (Rondo).
2. Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t healthy: Based on the New York Post’s latest report, Stoudemire was “definitely hurting” on Thursday night. He was still “walking gingerly” on Friday morning and hasn’t even attempted to run yet, much less practice. Even if his game-time decision is a positive one, Stoudemire won’t be 100 percent.
1. An extra motivated KG: As if Garnett needed anything else to fire him up for a playoff game at Madison Square Garden, an anonymous NBA star wrote an ESPN.com column, calling the Celtics star “a punk and a coward” …
Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to his face, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks that: If you’re not on his team, chances are you hate the guy. You can learn a lot about him by watching his eyes. If he’s talking to you — and he’s always talking — he avoids eye contact. My advice to other guys in the league: Stare him down, and he’ll retreat. From what I’ve seen, he’ll never mix it up with a player who’s bigger than he is. Personally, I think he’s scared to fight — like a playground bully who barks but doesn’t bite.
But I have to admit, the Celtics are the most talkative guys in the league. And that makes sense, because it’s the mark of a championship team. Mouths help you win big games. Ray Allen got mean in Boston, and Paul Pierce will look at you, say, “Stop this,” then drop a J on your head.
Dear Player X, Garnett might not look you in the face, but at least you know who’s talking. KG has two double-doubles in two games in this series. Facing an ailing Stoudemire or an ailing Ronny Turiaf or a fully healthy Shelden Williams should mean a third. As Garnett wrote in his Anta blog, “we gotta come out firing next game.”
|Kevin Garnett shifts gears into clutch||04.20.11 at 12:50 am ET|
In the final seconds of close Celtics games over the last four years, you remember Ray Allen coming off screens and lord knows you remember the Paul Pierce isolations. But the Kevin Garnett hook shots? Not so much.
Less than a week ago, Jackie MacMullan wrote a piece that detailed Garnett’s lack of aggressiveness down the stretch of tight contests. Somewhere in the middle of it was this note: “In his time with the Celtics, KG has not attempted a single shot in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime in a playoff game.”
Well, scratch that off Garnett’s to-do list.
In Game 2 of their first-round series, the Celtics trailed the Knicks by one with 19 seconds remaining when Rajon Rondo inbounded to Garnett out of the timeout. The Celtics forward proceeded to back Jared Jeffries down on the dribble, turn to his left and toss in a hook shot in the paint. The basket gave the Celtics a 94-93 advantage with 13 seconds left.
“It was interesting,” said Ray Allen, who hit the game-winning bucket in Game 1. “The play wasn’t even for Kevin the way we ran it. Rondo threw it to him, and I’m glad he did, because that proves big for us going into the next game. Most of our plays have several different options on it, but it involved me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin at some point. And he saw the matchup.”
|Irish Coffee: Playoff bloggers Kevin Garnett & Landry Fields||04.18.11 at 11:38 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
After writing prior to his team’s Game 1 matchup against the Knicks, the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett posted another entry to his Anta blog following the 87-85 first-round victory. Here are the highlights …
Game was up and down. Emotional roller coaster. … We got down early and at the half was down . We don’t quit and we grinded all game. Had to bring my “hard hat” to work today and just kept grinding. Down three with less then 40 seconds left in the game, coach [Doc Rivers] ran the fake cut to the alley-oop to me. [Rajon] Rondo made a hell of a pass! …
Down still 1, P2 [Paul Pierce] played some great defense and then it set up for a play where I NEEDED TO get Ray [Allen] open. RAY RAY hit the big shot … a 3 no less. … We did what we were supposed to (win at home), but still felt good to come back and lock up the win.
Game 2 on Tuesday. Sometimes, I get too hyped and move too quickly. Feel it best to relax and get into my game. JO [Jermaine O’Neal] really stepped up and I felt as though the flow was better for him.
Garnett shot just 5-of-14 from the field for 15 points, but he grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out three assists and swiped three steals. While Dwight Howard reportedly captured the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year honor, Garnett is expected to make the All-Defense First Team, and he finally locked Amar’e Stoudemire down in the final two minutes of the victory.
Meanwhile, Knicks starting shooting guard Landry Fields contributed to his ongoing playoff blog for the New York Post. Here’s what he had to say …
|Kevin Garnett doesn’t want to hear it from Chauncey Billups||04.17.11 at 5:07 pm ET|
Regular season is OVER! Now it’s time to grit and grind. The “season” now begins. We got the Knicks, so we know what we’re getting. Game’s gonna be up and down because they run, run, run. My boy Chauncey [Billups] will be in town, so gotta get him.
Don’t want to hear it from him.
Last two days of practice have been good. Guys are focused and team is working hard at getting “right.” Shaq Diesel [Shaquille O’Neal] is working hard, but can’t play tonight. Thoughts with him. Got my new playoff shoes and am geeked about them. Will post some photos later, so y’all can see them. Just finished our shoot around (go through our schemes) and gonna head home to eat and nap.
[Sunday] night’s game is big! Chicago almost lost last night, so we want to jump on the Knicks early.
|Irish Coffee: Mr. Big Talk (a.k.a. Chauncey Billups)||04.13.11 at 10:41 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The New York papers have already rolled out their NBA playoff coverage of the Knicks’ first-round series against the Celtics, and while nobody has pulled an Antonio Cromartie and claimed they hate Kevin Garnett, the confidence in New York is oddly high for a team that has an 0-3 record against its Atlantic Division rival.
Maybe it’s because they believe the Celtics coaching staff preferred a first-round matchup against the 76ers, as a New York Post source indicated.
Maybe it’s because Bobcats coach Paul Silas — a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics in the 1970s — told the New York Daily News, “It’s not just that [the Celtics] don’t have the defense or the rebounding at the center position that they once did, which could be a very difficult problem for them. But I wonder about the mindset of their guys. They thought they should have kept [Kendrick] Perkins. They still believe that. I’m not sure that they have the right mindset now to deal with that. As players, you’ve got to let that go.”
Wherever the confidence stems from, it’s there. Just listen to Chauncey Billups:
“We are probably, most certainly, the most dangerous first-round team in the NBA. When I say that it’s because we are new, and we are dangerous. We’ve got a lot of weapons. We can move the scoreboard. I think our defense is a lot better. We’re going to be a tough out, man.”
That confidence is tempered a bit by their president and their coach (via the New York Post):
- Knicks president Donnie Walsh: “We’re two of the longest-tenured franchises, but those rivalries are engendered by the teams playing right now. There was one rivalry way back. But the rivalry will have to come in the playoffs. For us, we have to beat them. We have to beat them once to be considered that.”
- Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni: “They’re veterans and they’re champions. That’s the biggest concern. Their mentality is probably better than anybody’s.”
And then there’s two former Celtics — one in New York and one with the Bulls — sound more confident in the third-seeded Celtics than the No. 6 Knicks:
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Fatigue’s not an option’||04.09.11 at 12:16 am ET|
On the second night of a back-to-back, following a letdown loss against the Bulls, in the 79th installment of an 82-game season, the Celtics had plenty of excuses to pack it in against the sub-.300 Wizards — a routine they’ve fallen prey to countless times in the past two seasons.
“At the end of the day, it’s competitive, and both sides are going to have competitive players who want to win,” said Garnett, who totaled 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Wizards. “It doesn’t matter who we play. You take the court, you suit up, and that’s what you’re expecting. Whether you’re playing lesser teams or below .500 teams or above .500 teams, you’ve got to anticipate that a team is trying to beat you.”
Thursday night, an above .500 team not only tried to beat the Celtics but succeeded with flying colors. And while Pierce quickly downplayed a question about the blowout loss to the Bulls — issuing a curt “We’re past that” response — the defeat has clearly stuck with Garnett.
“We want to keep that fresh in our mind,” said Garnett. “It’s motivating. We played like trash, and they played great. You want that to motivate you. We’ve got a really good Heat team coming up, and we’ll be tested again.”
The Celtics face the Heat on Sunday in a game that could decide the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, as a C’s win would put them one game up on the Heat with the tiebreaker in hand and two games left.
“We’re just trying to gather some momentum with these games that we have left and be aggressive,” added Garnett. “[Friday], after the performance of [Thursday], it was probably more of an emphasis on being aggressive and for the most part we did that. I think we’re looking for that consistency. We’ll see. If we decide as a team to come into that, then that’s what we’ll be. If not, we’ll have problems.”
The injuries have placed a greater burden on this year’s stars than Celtics coach Doc Rivers had anticipated, and the team’s three aging stars will all have played more minutes this season than they did during the 2009-10 regular season. Still, Garnett isn’t using that as an excuse to explain the team’s lackluster performance since the All-Star break.
“Fatigue’s not an option right now,” he said. “It’s not an option. But we are trying to get better, and we’re doing it with hard work and effort, as usual. … A lot of [fatigue] is mental.”
|Fast Break: Celtics rebound against Wizards||04.08.11 at 10:00 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo (20 points, 14 assists), Kevin Garnett (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (22 points, 12 rebounds) all recorded double-doubles, and Ray Allen (13 points) showed signs of coming out of his recent slump, making 5-of-10 shots (but only 1-of-6 3-pointers). The Celtics (55-24) did their part in the race against the Heat for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.
Andray Blatche led the Wizards (21-58) with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rajon Rondo’s fast start: One night after reportedly asking coach Doc Rivers for a 1-on-1 meeting, the Celtics point guard came out of the gates with a full head of steam, recording more assists in the first quarter against the Wizards (7) than he did all night against the Bulls (6). By the third quarter, he had already recorded a double-double. As a side note, Rondo continued to incite concerns about his aggressiveness around the basket, passing up easy shots to create more difficult ones.
Kevin Garnett came to play: It’s no surprise that a showdown with Blatche brought out the best in Garnett, as the two have a long history of back-and-forth bickering. Knocking down six of his first eight shots, the Celtics forward registered his 28th double-double of the season by the third quarter. Of course, Blatche wasn’t so bad himself, producing a double-double of his own.
Back to the basics: Of course, it helped that they were playing the Wizards. The Celtics totaled only 22 points in the paint and 14 assists (on 28 field goals) against the Bulls. Against Washington, they nearly doubled their output from the previous night in both areas (48 points in the paint and 25 assists), as all five starters reached double figures and each of the Big Four had at least three assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Just when you think they’re out of it … the Celtics let them back in. After building a lead as big as 12 points and appearing to be in total command during the first 6:39 of the game, the C’s predictably — as they have all season — let the Wizards close the gap to 59-56 at the half. As the season nears a close, Rivers would love to be able to rest his stars, but the bench hasn’t been productive enough and the starters haven’t been aggressive enough to put bad teams away.
Will Troy Murphy ever contribute consistently? The C’s waiver wire acquisition saw some rare early playing time against the Wizards. Offensively, he committed a turnover and seemed lost for many of his 14 minutes on the floor, although he made a couple layups. Defensively, he got burned by unstoppable force JaVale McGee and immovable object Andray Blatche. All in all, not a great showing by Murphy, who’s in desperate need of good showings if he wants to see playoff minutes.
Delonte West gets the heave ho: The team’s best point guard against the Bulls Thursday night, Delonte West didn’t even make it through the second quarter Friday. Playing tough defense but scoring just two points in less than six minutes of play, West picked up Washington point guard John Wall on full-court pressure, only to be whistled for a cheap foul. He didn’t complain. Instead, he picked up Wall again, defending all the way up the court until another, worse whistle 14 seconds later.
After two separate verbal exchanges between West and referee Josh Tiven, the Celtics backup point guard picked up two technical fouls and, as a result, the ejection. West quietly walked off the court, leaving the C’s with Carlos Arroyo and Avery Bradley as their options off the bench.
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