|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics cast spell on Magic||01.17.11 at 11:00 pm ET|
The Celtics handed Kevin Garnett a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf — had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.
A Paul Pierce jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.
Dwight Howard had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.
In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.
Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.
Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).
The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.
Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.
Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.
|Kevin Garnett returns to lineup with no restrictions||at 7:55 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett will make his return to the lineup against the Orlando Magic Monday night and he will not have a minutes restriction in his first game since injuring his right calf against the Pistons on Dec. 29. “He’s pretty much free to play,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game.
The Celtics had contemplated bringing Garnett back last Friday after he went through most of a practice the day before. But they ultimately decided to give him the weekend to make sure everything felt 100 percent. “He had a practice before the other night where he probably could have played, but we were going to bring him back if he was right,” Rivers said. “So he’s pretty much free to play now.”
Rivers said he wouldn’t shy away from playing Garnett against Dwight Howard, although they typically don’t use that strategy until late in games to avoid getting Garnett in foul trouble.
Several other injured Celtics players are also in the lineup including Shaquille O’Neal, who slipped on ice getting to practice Sunday and Marquis Daniels who had to sit out most of practice after taking a hard screen from Kendrick Perkins.
|What Kevin Garnett’s return does for the Celtics||01.16.11 at 3:28 pm ET|
The Celtics went through a hard practice Sunday specifically to allow Kevin Garnett to test his strained right calf muscle. While he went through the whole practice without a problem, the team will wait to see how he feels Monday before making a decision on whether he will play against the Orlando Magic that night.
“I think Kevin will go tomorrow,” Doc Rivers said. “We went to practice to see if he could go tomorrow. Meaning we’ll know that by tomorrow. If he feels good, he’ll go. If there’s anything [wrong] he will not go. I would probably put it back to-50-50.”
If Garnett is ready to return it would obviously be a huge lift for the Celtics. Not only because he is their best defensive player and rebounder, but also because it would move Glen Davis out of the starting lineup and back into his role as the team’s sixth man where they can take advantage of his versatility.
“It puts Glen back on the bench, which helps him and helps our bench,” Rivers said. “It just makes us better. Any time we get a player back it makes the bench better. It makes us more versatile because now Baby can go from four-to-five with ease coming off the bench. It’s far more difficult when he’s already a starter at one of those two positions.”
The Celtics have gone 6-3 since Davis replaced Garnett in the starting lineup, but they have benefited from a softer schedule with most of their games played at TD Garden. As a starter Davis has had his moments, but he has also struggled to replace what Garnett gives the Celtics offensively. (It would be unfair to ask him to replace Garnett defensively, since arguably no player in the league can do that.)
Davis has drifted further out on the perimeter and the results have not been positive. In his last five games, Davis has shot 33 times from 16-23 feet and made only eight. Outside of a 5-for-11 night against the Spurs, Davis is shooting just 29 percent from 16-23 feet since entering the starting lineup. Davis has been very successful scoring inside — he’s shooting a career-best 65 percent at the rim — but his outside shot seems to have abandoned him.
Davis’ return to the bench would also help the Celtics out with a difficult situation at center. With Jermaine O’Neal contemplating surgery and Kendrick Perkins still working through his rehab from offseason knee surgery, the Celtics are down to Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden at center.
Shaq missed practice Sunday after slipping on some ice. The Celtics said that he has a strained adductor muscle in his right leg, making him questionable for Monday’s game Erden has been hit-or-miss with some great games balanced out by some non-existent ones. Before Garnett got hurt, Davis played about 18 minutes a night at the five-spot, which would be important minutes as the team works’ through its depth issues.
|Saturday Night Live parodies Kevin Garnett||at 11:22 am ET|
Pretty weak impression of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett by Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharaoh, but an all-around good skit. The Tres Equis commercial and top-five plays are pretty hilarious. Worth checking out …
|Ageless wit and wisdom from Shaquille O’Neal after turning back the clock||01.15.11 at 12:15 am ET|
The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.
That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.
On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.
The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”
“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’
The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.
‘It helps a lot when he’s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’s played well. It’s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.’
On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.
“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’s not a big deal for one night; I don’t worry about it. And we don’t play again until Monday, so that’s nice. It came at the right moment.’
It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.
‘You know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”
So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?
“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”
As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.
“I’m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. ‘I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’
The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.
Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.
|Kevin Garnett is ‘pretty close’ to returning but that won’t happen Friday night||01.13.11 at 4:16 pm ET|
WALTHAM — In a sign that he is close to returning to game action, Kevin Garnett took part in contact practice with the Celtics on Thursday for the first time since straining his right calf against Detroit on Dec. 29. Coach Doc Rivers said that Garnett participated in a little more than half the practice, going through plays and running up and down the court but ruled him out of Friday’s home game against Charlotte.
“He went through half the practice or more than that, actually,” Rivers said. “He looked pretty good. He’s not playing [Friday] but he looked pretty good. Besides just his wind, I thought his movement was very good. I want to see him another practice but he’s getting close.”
Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeon checked out Garnett and cleared him to participate in all of the contact drills and plays in practice.
“That was him and Eddie, they just thought he could go and Dr. McKeon, all three, thought he’s fine so we let him go,” Rivers added. “There were a couple of times I wanted him off the floor and he stayed on the floor and did all the pick-and-roll defense live. We went up and down and he did all that live.”
The Celtics are 5-3 in the eight games without Garnett in the lineup.
“This is who we are right now,” Rivers said in announcing the latest injuries to hit the Celtics‘ front court.
Jermaine O’Neal had an MRI Thursday on his sore left knee that acted up in the second half of Monday’s game against Houston.
Rivers is concerned that surgery will likely be needed to correct the issue.
“Don’t know yet,” Rivers said following practice Thursday. “I know he did [have] an MRI. Honestly, my guess is they’re going to have to do something. So, I don’t know that. I’m just using my doctorate right now. My guess is they’ll probably have to do something.”
Complicating matters is a groin pull sustained by back-up center Semih Erden, which kept him out of practice Thursday and limited the Celtics to nine healthy players. With Kevin Garnett still out with a strained right calf, Kendrick Perkins (right knee) not yet cleared for contact practice and Shaquille O’Neal getting limited minutes to save his stamina for later in the season, the Celtics are struggling with depth in the front court.
“It puts more pressure on them,” Rivers said of his remaining healthy front-court players. “Semih couldn’t practice today. He has a groin pull. So, that’s what we are. We have 15 players. We’re going to send Avery [Bradley] down [to D-League] pretty soon, too, so he can get some reps playing basketball. I just think he needs to play basketball. It’s part of it.”
The Celtics face Charlotte on Friday night at TD Garden as they continue their season-long six-game homestand, likely without Garnett, Erden and Jermaine O’Neal.
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