|Paul Pierce speaks for starters: ‘No excuse to way we started out’||03.10.11 at 12:50 am ET|
It would seem after his bench was outscored, 26-12, in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden, Doc Rivers would have laid blame for the defeat at the hands of his reserves.
It’s a lot to ask any second unit to make up a 15-to-20 deficit in a game, let alone one that was making its debut. So, the way Rivers saw it, this loss really was at the feet of his “Big 4” – namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
“I was concerned because in the first quarter, our four starters put us in a hole and then you needed to sub, and you knew nothing good was going to happen,” Rivers said, as his team fell behind by as much as 15 in the first quarter and 23 early in the third.
“It actually [wasn’t bad]. They held their ground,” Rivers said of his reserves, led by Carlos Arroyo and new starting center Nenad Krstic. “The problem was it was a 20-point ground [deficit] they were holding and that’s very difficult.
“We sub anyway. We sit guys down regardless of score. Obviously, we were down 20 and we’re subbing. It’s not something you want to do but you have to.”
Pierce couldn’t argue.
‘It’s tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters. How we come out at the beginning of the games, we’ve got to come out with a better focus,” Pierce said. “Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win.’
Pierce did point to the defensive struggles of the second unit but only as far as they had to pick up the pieces from the starters not playing defense, either.
‘I think some of it is the second unit, but a lot of that was at the start of the game with the first five so no excuses on that point,” Pierce said. “They came out and shot 70 percent and a lot of that was against the guys that know what we are doing night in and night out.
“You give some leeway to the newer guys, but there is no excuse to the way we started out giving them the big lead and then having to fight all the way to get back into the game.’
The reserves did a very respectable job on Blake Griffin, who had just 12 points in 37 minutes. Down 23, the Celtics slowly started to chip away, outscoring the Clippers, 24-16 in the third to cut the lead to 10.
Then the starters finally did their thing. Allen drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on a bullet pass from Rondo with 7:36 left to draw the Celtics within six, 86-80. Garnett’s jumper with just under six minutes left capped a 15-2 run to draw the Celtics within three.
But Mo Williams drained three free throws with 5:23 left to restore the lead to six. Jeff Green drilled a trey with 47.4 seconds left to get within four, 104-100. Allen’s three with 10.5 seconds left turned out to be too little, too late.
The Celtics will try to regroup and start a new winning streak on Friday against the upstart 76ers in Philadelphia. The Sixers are making a late-season push to finish in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break.
Friday would be a great time for a new start for the “Big 4.”
|Irish Coffee: The Shaqtionary||03.08.11 at 11:04 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The oldest player in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal celebrated his 39th birthday where most almost over-the-hill men celebrate their birthdays — at Boston Children’s Museum.
The Celtics center who hasn’t played since Feb. 1 — and has already missed 25 games this season — told reporters he was 85 percent and would not return until he’s fully healthy, which could be as soon as next week. Here are the quotes from his birthday celebration, courtesy of The Globe:
‘Hopefully, in the next week [I’ll be back]. They want me back at 100 percent. I tried to run on it the other day, and it felt pretty good, but I took a step back and I’m going to get back out there in a few days. I don’t really feel like I’m 39.’’
‘If I can walk, I can play, and I asked many times to shoot it up, and you know, they refuse. And the Big Three said they want me at 100 percent healthy, so I’m getting there.’’
‘I have a little Achilles soreness. It gets better, it comes back, it gets better, it comes back. It’s better. Dr. [Brian] McKeon is doing a great job. I’ve been working out twice a day, getting treatment. It’ll be right.’’
‘[Kendrick] Perkins has meant a lot to this city, and he really helped them get No. 17 and we’re going to miss him. He was my main man. Everybody loves Perk. I love him. We became real good friends, and I congratulated him on his new deal. But this is a business. He’s going to be missed. We had a great time this year being on the same team.’’
So, there you have it. Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, trainer Ed Lacerte, Dr. Brian McKeon and the Big Three all want Shaq to wait until he’s 100 percent before he returns to the court. He could play right now, but he’s won’t. The Celtics don’t need him now; they need him in the playoffs, so why rush him back? It’s a smart move by the Celtics, so can we just take it easy on the Shaq Watch?
Which brings me to a much more important topic. In honor of Shaq’s 39th birthday — which he called ShaqDay, which makes almost no sense — we scoured UrbanDictionary.com for the ultimate Shaqtionary, described as “the book that will be used to document all of the words that Shaquille O’Neal manages to create during his scrabble games.”
Of course, we eliminated the dirtiest definitions — like Shaq Off and Shaq’s Arm (use your imagination) — and came up with the following list …
|Irish Coffee: What to expect from Celtics’ buyouts||03.03.11 at 10:40 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
So, can Murphy and Pavlovic help the C’s win enough games to hold off the Heat or Bulls for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed — and then contribute to victories as the team chases Banner No. 18?
Throughout the new Big Three era, the Celtics have made similar buyout acquisitions in addition to luring P.J. Brown out of retirement before the 2008 title run. Here’s what they gave you over the past three seasons …
- Sam Cassell averaged 7.6 points, 2.1 assists and 1.8 rebounds in 17.6 minutes during 17 regular-season games for the Celtics in 2008. He then averaged 4.5 points, 1.2 assists and 0.7 rebounds in 12.6 minutes over 21 playoff games. Cassell scored in double figures five times in the regular season and another four in the postseason — and the Celtics won all nine games.
- P.J. Brown averaged 2.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 11.6 minutes during 18 regular-season games for the Celtics in 2008. He then averaged 2.9 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 13.6 minutes over 25 playoff games. Brown scored in double figures just once — but it came in a 97-92 win over the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
- Mikki Moore averaged 4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 19.0 minutes during 24 regular-season games for the Celtics in 2009. He then averaged 1.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.4 assists in 6.6 minutes over 10 playoff games. Moore reached double figures twice in the regular season — a win over the Thunder and a blowout loss to the Cavaliers.
- Stephon Marbury averaged 3.8 points, 3.3 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 18.0 minutes during 23 regular-season games for the Celtics in 2009. He then averaged 3.7 points, 1.8 assists and 0.9 rebounds in 11.9 minutes over 14 playoff games. Marbury scored in double figures once in the regular season and twice in the playoffs — all victories.
- Michael Finley averaged 5.2 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 15.0 minutes during 21 regular-season games for the Celtics in 2010. He then averaged 0.8 points, 0.6 rebounds and 0.2 assists in 6.0 minutes over 18 playoff games. The C’s finished 2-1 in the regular season when Finley reached double figures — the lone defeat coming in a blowout loss to the Grizzlies.
|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.
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