|Things end better for Kevin Garnett, Celtics vs. Suns this time around||03.02.11 at 11:52 pm ET|
Things didn’t end so pretty for Kevin Garnett the last time the Celtics faced the Suns. Think a shot to Channing Frye‘s groin, a pair of technical fouls, an early shower and weeks of media criticism for his style of play. It was probably those things, and not his 18 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, that served as the lasting memory of the C’s 88-71 loss in Phoenix on Jan. 28.
Just over one month later, Garnett got his long-awaited revenge. He dropped a season-high 28 points on the Suns — often on Frye himself — on the night, all of which came in the first three quarters of play. Frye would leave the game with an eye contusion after a collision with Vince Carter, but regardless of his presence, Garnett made his presence felt.
“We were ready for this game,” Glen Davis said. “I know KG was.”
Indeed he was. Garnett didn’t take kindly to the way things played out in late January, so it wasn’t a major shock that he took it upon himself to change his personal fortune, as well as his team’s results.
“I just didn’t like the way I played last time I played the Suns, and I made it a point this time to play better,” Garnett said. “That’s what I did.”
Given the preexisting tension between the two sides, the game proved to be interesting even as the Celtics opened up a 29-point lead. The Suns crawled back to make it a nine-point contest in the fourth quarter, and didn’t relent right down to the last-second technical foul from Jared Dudley on Rajon Rondo. The foul came amidst a spat between Garnett and Suns coach Alvin Gentry, with Rondo launching a three-pointer despite a 10-point lead.
“We knew coming in to expect a little trash talk. It was an intense game but it wasn’t,” Rondo said. “They made a run at it, but we had it under control the whole game.”
With the victory, the Celtics grabbed their six win in their last seven games. Just as importantly, it seems, they countered their ugly January loss and got the last laugh.
“Yeah, it was serious,” Davis said. “We owed them.”
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Suns coach Alvin Gentry had words for one another in the final seconds of the C’s 115-103 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday night. Things escalated when Rajon Rondo then attempted a three-pointer with the C’s holding a 10-point lead, which led to a technical foul from Jared Dudley.
“Alvin Gentry was asking me for tickets for the first round of the playoffs,” Garnett said after the game. “I told him I’ll hook him up, so that’s what that was.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers shared his opinion on the exchange, saying he doesn’t believe in such behavior from coaches.
“I thought their bench, their coaches were talking,” Rivers said, “which I don’t think you should ever [do] if you have a suit and tie on and and actually can’t play. I don’t think toy should be doing a lot of talking to the players on the floor. It’s just my opinion.”
Garnett, who led all scorers with 28 points in the game, defended his style of play that has led so many to criticize him.
“I don’t really care, but don’t make stuff up. ‘¦I’m far from dirty,” Garnett said. “I play the game really hard. I play with my heart. I never going to make any excuses about that, so who cares about what they’re talking about?”
He said he generally wouldn’t expect a coach to jaw at a player, but given the tension between the two teams this season, he wasn’t surprised.
“It’s very uncommon,” Garnett said, “but they’re an uncommon team.”
|What Troy Murphy brings to the Celtics||03.01.11 at 12:37 pm ET|
This is about flexibility. Before team president Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, the Celtics were a team that could essentially play one way. They had size — and lots of it — but aside from playing Glen Davis at center, the Celtics had less options matching up with teams that play unconventional lineups. Like, Miami.
But Ainge wasn’t done dealing, and he also dropped Semih Erden and Luke Harangody on Cleveland and Marquis Daniels on Sacramento. That opened up three roster spots to be used on the veteran free agent market, and it appears that Ainge has landed the biggest prize in 6-foot-11 forward Troy Murphy. ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Murphy has chosen the Celtics over the Heat — a move that can’t become official until Murphy clears the waiver wire on Wednesday.
Murphy has played just 18 games this season and seen less than 300 minutes of action after he fell out of favor in New Jersey. He’s also never been in the playoffs. But over a 10-year career, Murphy has shown the ability to step outside and make 3-pointers. He’s also a very good defensive rebounder. As an added bonus, the Celtics keep him away from the Heat.
His best season came in 2008-09 with the Pacers, when he averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds per game and shot 45 percent from behind the arc. He’s a 39 percent career shooter from 3-point range, and that ability to space the floor is highly-valued with the Celtics. Doc Rivers now has three big men who can knock down long jumpers in Murphy, Krstic and Kevin Garnett.
The question is where Murphy will fit with a team that already has Garnett and Davis absorbing the minutes at power forward, along with Green. For starters, Murphy will provide insurance and depth during the regular season. Before the deadline moves, Rivers was sometimes forced to use Harangody as a backup power forward and while the team liked his energy and toughness, he was undersized for the role.
Rivers could also use Murphy at the center spot alongside Garnett. While not his customary position, he did log some time there with the Pacers and the Celtics have used Davis in that role as an undersized center.
Assuming he can recapture his form, Murphy is a better outside shooter than Davis and a far better defensive rebounder. That’s not to say he will pass Davis in the rotation. Davis is much better defensively and he’s also proven to be an integral part of the Celtics, but Murphy gives Rivers another option, and again, that’s what all of Ainge’s maneuvering is really about. With Murphy soon to be added to the fold, the Celtics frontcourt roster looks like this:
SF: Paul Pierce, Green
PF: Garnett, Davis, Murphy
What the Celtics lose in size, they make up for in versatility. With six weeks, and 24 games left in the regular season, the onus is on Rivers to pull all the pieces together.
|Fast Break: New Celtics, familiar results||02.28.11 at 11:37 pm ET|
This is going to take some time, but while Celtics coach Doc Rivers learns how to use his new toys (he had Jeff Green playing everything from the 2-guard through the four-spot), the Celtics remain the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Locked in a tight battle with Utah, the veterans made the right plays and executed down the stretch.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made huge shots. Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively and on the boards and Rajon Rondo made the right decisions and also sank a crucial jumper. The Celtics won 107-102, which gave them a 3-1 West Coast trip and also kept them two games ahead of the Heat in the loss column for the best record in the conference.
They have the next six weeks to figure out what kind of team they will be, but when it comes time to win games, they haven’t forgotten their formula.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett again: In the midst of all the turmoil, Garnett has very quietly run off a string of double-doubles on this West Coast trip. After scoring 18 points to go with 14 rebounds he now has seven in his last eight games. Garnett was at his best, though, on the defensive end, where he switched over to Al Jefferson late in the game and shut the big man down.
The key moment came when Garnett and Jefferson were called for double technicals late in the fourth quarter. The T’s didn’t stop the chatter between the two players and Jefferson was obviously primed to get the ball and score. He got the ball, but Garnett gave ground at the right moment and caused a travel. It was a classic veteran trap and Jefferson fell right into it.
Rajon Rondo takeover: Rondo scored only six points in the first half and passed up a couple of easy looks to make passes instead, but in the second half he reverted back into an attacking machine. When Rondo doesn’t look for his offense he makes himself so much easier to defend. But when he keeps the threat of scoring alive, it makes him nearly impossible to defend.
Nenad Krstic is no Perk offensively: Krstic is known as a player who can step outside and make jump shots, but he’s also shown in limited time an ability to score with his back to the basket. The Celtics don’t use a lot of post-ups as part of their regular offense, but Krstic has a nice touch around the basket and is also able to roll smoothly to the basket. Offensively, he is a definite upgrade from Kendrick Perkins‘ limited repertoire.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Krstic is no Perk, defensively: Then there’s the other end of the floor. Krstic will get better as he gets used to playing in the Celtics’ defensive scheme (and also gets used to playing alongside Garnett). Early on he’s looked slow in rotations and a step behind the play. Krstic was also abused by Jefferson, who scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. It wasn’t all Krstic’s fault, but the Jazz went flying through the lane time and again for layups. The Celtics will have to adjust to Krstic as much as he will have to adjust to them.
Glen Davis continues to struggle: Over his last three games, Davis has shot 9-for-28. Over the last two months Davis has been as up and down as any Celtic, but they keep using him in the fourth quarter. Davis remains the best — and maybe only — option for getting crunch-time minutes with the other four starters, but if Rivers wants to continue to experiment he may take a look at his closing lineup over the next month and a half.
Delonte West is hurt again: The Celtics got bad news even before this one started as West rolled his right ankle during an informal workout on Sunday. He missed Monday’s game with Utah and is likely to miss Wednesday’s game when the Celtics return home to play the Suns. With Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are relying on West to be the third guard, not only backing up Rajon Rondo, but Ray Allen as well.
But it’s at backup point guard where they desperately need his steady hand and veteran experience. Rookie Avery Bradley took those minutes against Utah and was more aggressive and confident than he’s been to date, but Bradley is not the answer this season. The Celtics need West to be healthy.
|Why the fuss over Troy Murphy||at 1:59 pm ET|
On Sunday, Golden State reached a buyout with forward Troy Murphy. On Monday they put him on waivers. Once he clears the 48-hour waiver process, he is a free man and eligible to sign with any team that will have him for the veterans minimum. Players are rarely claimed on waivers in the NBA because teams must be under the cap and have roster space available to put in a claim.
Once he clears, Murphy is expected to choose between Miami and Boston — and assuming he does — he will get to do something that has eluded him during his 10-year NBA career: Play a game in the postseason. Murphy has appeared in 639 regular seasons and scored over 7,500 points and recorded over 5,000 rebounds, but he has never once seen the playoffs.
For the first nine years of his career he played on poor Golden State and Indiana teams. He did it with solid distinction, averaging 12 points and eight rebounds and shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. But over the summer he was traded to New Jersey in a larger transaction that saw players like Darren Collison go to Indiana and Trevor Ariza wind up in New Orleans.
Murphy’s value was primarily as an expiring contract, but the native of Morristown, NJ figured to add some scoring punch and veteran mentoring for rookie Derrick Favors. It didn’t work out that way. Murphy clashed with Nets coach Avery Johnson and was effectively banished. Murphy played just 18 games for the Nets and logged fewer than 300 minutes, while his shooting percentages tumbled. He was dealt again at the trade deadline for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric‘s expiring contract.
So why all the attention?
Despite his struggles this season, Murphy has a long track record as a dependable performer. He’s a very good defensive rebounder and at 6-foot-11 he is the quintessential stretch-four — a big man who can step out on the perimeter, make shots and spread the defense. He’s also easily one of the best players available in a thin free agent lot.
For the Celtics, Murphy would bring his shooting ability as well as offer insurance in case anything happens to Kevin Garnett or Glen Davis. With uncertainty surrounding the health of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, he also could conceivably serve as backup center in a lineup with Garnett, and offer even more flexibility for coach Doc Rivers.
But perhaps the real carrot for the Celtics is keeping him away from Miami. The Heat suffered a major blow when they lost Udonis Haslem earlier in the season and Murphy would offer a big body and a shooter for a Miami bench that needs help.
|Irish Coffee: ‘The Association’ observations (Episode 3)||at 10:28 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Episode 3 of “The Association: Boston Celtics” didn’t disappoint. Filmed in the midst of all the drama surrounding Kevin Garnett‘s on-court antics, the Celtics All-Star forward became the focal point of the show. We got some rare glimpses of Garnett behind the scenes, like running the beaches in his hometown of Malibu and looking out over the Pacific Ocean. He gave us some true gems that could only come from the mind of KG:
- “I feel like my intensity is right where it needs to be. If you’re going to be anything in this league, you’ve gotta have an edge. There’s no room for soft. There’s no room for a person who’s going to give ground. Hell, yeah, I’m trying to gain an advantage out here. If you’re not, then you’re in some trouble. If you can’t handle it, get off the court.”
- “My job is to stop you, so I don’t anticipate you liking me. I don’t anticipate you trying to be my friend, because I’m not trying to be your friend.”
- “Half the stuff you probably hear about me is not even true. I’m not doing anything different than what I’ve been doing the 15, 16 years I’ve been playing. It’s nothing personal towards anybody I play. It’s the way I play, night in and night out.”
- “Game 7 was a time where I was speechless, and if I were sitting here to tell you it didn’t give me an extra push, then I would be lying.” [followed by a loooooooooooong pause]
- “The league knows what we are. Everybody. Ain’t nothing to talk about. All our talk is in our play, so stay tuned.”
- “Water is tranquil. It’s tranquility to me. You get a sense of peace. I’m on of thoes people that sort of embraces the moment. I reflect. It’s a tranquil moment for me. It’s crazy that a lot of people when they meet me, they expect me to be this intense guy, and a lot of times I’m just laid back and as cool as anybody else.”
- “Everybody says they want to win, but sometimes actions are different from words. That’s what’s most important to me when it comes to basketball.”
- “See y’all in the Finals.”
Garnett may have been the focus of the episode, but his supporting cast should get some Bust Supporting Actor nominations, too. Here are a few more observations:
|Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’||02.25.11 at 1:56 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.
“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O'Neal] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.
“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers ‘ like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.
“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy ‘ 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”
Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.
“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.
“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”