|Paul Pierce: With LeBron James and Heat on Tuesday, ‘it doesn’t get any easier’||04.08.12 at 10:22 pm ET|
The Celtics have earned a day in the sun on Monday in South Florida after they all but locked up their fifth straight Atlantic Division title on Sunday with a 103-79 shutdown of the fading 76ers at TD Garden.
They’ll need that rest.
LeBron James and the Heat most certainly feel they have debt to pay after the Celtics handed them their worst loss of the season on April 1 in Boston.
‘Oh yeah, I’ve looked at this since the schedule came out,” Paul Pierce admitted. “It doesn’t get any easier of course. You go to Miami, you come home and play Atlanta, then you got three in a row. Its tough, every team in the league has to deal with it, unfortunately we got to deal with it at the end of the season when teams seem to be winding down, getting tired legs. But maybe its good for us, cause it seems like we are playing our best basketball right now in this crucial stretch.’
Then the Celtics return home to play the suddenly resurgent Hawks, whom they could face in the first round – and would if the playoffs started today. Then they have Thursday off before playing three straight on the road, albeit against the Raptors, Nets and Bobcats.
It appears that the message of Doc Rivers was heeded very well in the last two games as the Celtics have allowed 72 and 79 points in wins over the Pacers and the Sixers. Doc might have been ticked off but Pierce said after Sunday’s game, he wasn’t the only one.
“He was frustrated but we all were frustrated, of course we were frustrated from losing a game that we all feel like was a very winnable game,” Pierce said. “As veterans we know how to respond, we know how to take our game up another level, you felt the frustration from the coach but we felt it ourselves. Even if Doc didn’t express it, I think we would have came out and play the way we played the last couple nights.’
The Celtics are now 32-24 and lead the Knicks and Sixers by three games with 10 left on the schedule. The division ensures no worse than a No. 4 seed and home court in the first round. But obviously, the Celtics have their sights set much higher.
|Irish Coffee: LeBron, Heat ‘never count Celtics out’||04.02.12 at 2:57 pm ET|
Was Sunday’s Celtics blowout, as Chris Bosh suggested, “just a bad, sh#tty game” by his Heat, or was it a warning signal to potential playoff opponents flashed from Boston — one if by C’s, so to speak?
On their way to producing the NBA’s second-best record since the All-Star break, the Celtics have won five straight and seven of their last eight games, the most recent of which handed Miami its third loss in five contests. Over the past week, Doc Rivers & Co. have surged from the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed to within 1.5 games of Dwight Howard‘s Magic and the No. 3 slot. Count the Heat among those in the league taking notice.
“I’m going to say the same thing I said last year: We are one team and I am one guy that never counts the C’s out,” said NBA MVP favorite LeBron James. “I would never count them out. They’ve just got too many winners. They’ve got guys who have been in the moment before. Like I told you guys last year, when everyone was down on the C’s, I always said I’m not going to turn my back on those guys.”
Of course, those guys James referred to are Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, the latter of whom missed his sixth straight game on Sunday. Didn’t matter, thanks to Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass.
“It’s because we’re a great team,” said Garnett following their 91-72 win over the Heat on national television. “Our positions and personnel, it’s all about a system. You know your role in the system. You do what you’re told in the role. You carry out your role 100 percent wholeheartedly, and that’s your contribution to the team.”
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double beats Heat||04.01.12 at 6:02 pm ET|
Nobody else in the NBA has more than one triple-double this season. Rajon Rondo now has five.
Dominating the first and third quarters of Sunday afternoon’s nationally televised game against the Heat (37-14), Rondo recorded 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in a 91-72 dismantling of the Eastern Conference’s current No. 2 seed.
The Celtics (30-22) move a full game up on the 76ers for the Atlantic Division lead and within two games of the third-seeded Magic, who were scheduled to play the Nuggets without Dwight Howard (back spasms) later Sunday afternoon.
All five starters reached double figures, including Bass (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Bradley (13 points), while Pierce and LeBron James canceled each other out with 23 points apiece, as the C’s led by as many as 29 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
A nation awaits: Rondo amassed seven points and three rebounds in the game’s first 3:43, sparking a 9-4 Celtics run (he assisted Kevin Garnett on the only other field goal) to start the game and forcing a Heat timeout less than four minutes into the game. Apparently, Rondo remembered Sunday’s game was nationally televised (like 14 of his 18 career triple-doubles). He finished the first quarter with 10 points, four assists and four rebounds, giving the C’s a 29-19 advantage. The third quarter was more of the same, as Rondo totaled six points and eight assists in that frame to stake the Celtics to an 80-56 lead.
No Wade out: With Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (concussion) still out of the Celtics lineup, all eyes were on Avery Bradley as he drew the defensive assignment on Wade. Further earning his reputation already as one of the game’s great defenders, Bradley held Wade to 6-for-17 shooting, including this ridiculous second-quarter block. Conversely, Bradley’s knack for cutting to the basket offensively paid dividends against the gambling Wade.
All glass Bass: Considering the stage, this might have been the best Bass performance of the season. He registered his fourth double-double of the year, giving the Celtics the advantage on the defensive glass (44-32) and getting to the line offensively. He made all 10 of his free throw attempts, totaling his 16 points on five official field goal attempts. Rarely do the Celtics get to the line as frequently as the Heat, but on Sunday they owned a 22-17 advantage in free throws.
|Watch the throne: C’s heat up as Sunday showdown nears||03.31.12 at 5:46 pm ET|
The elation was reminiscent of a championship ceremony. The collective relief from the crowd, the exhaustive expressions of the victors and the sour disappointment of the losers were all palpable. The Heat had beaten the Celtics in five games … to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Re-watching the celebration unfold, it becomes extremely difficult to keep the moderate accomplishment in perspective. LeBron James began “Tebowing” (before “Tebowing” was a thing), Dwayne Wade fell to the floor like Michael Jordan after he won his third NBA title in 1993, and Doc Rivers (who was rumored to be stepping away from coaching after the conclusion of the Celtics’ playoff run) wandered around the floor like a lost puppy.
Needless to say, it felt like something was happening. A coronation of some sort. Presumably, the hoary Celtics would no longer be a threat following the 2010-11 playoffs, and the manner in which James spoke about his adversary in the immediate aftermath was extremely deferential — almost like a eulogy.
“First of all, I want to give a lot of thanks to the Boston Celtics,” James said. “Doc Rivers, that coaching staff, them players — they make [you] fight for everything, you can never take your foot off the gas, you can never take a second off against that team, so a lot of respect for that team.”
However, as James was giving praise and soaking in the moment, Rivers was preparing for his post-game press conference, where he unexpectedly declared he was coming back to coach the next season and beyond.
The Heat would advance to the NBA finals, eventually losing to the Mavericks in six games. Rivers’ decision made ripples, putting a moratorium on the passing of the crown, but most likely flew under the radar in the Heat locker room since they had advanced and the Celtics were going home.
That playoff series featured emotions that seemed elevated beyond the stakes of the individual contest. Regardless of where the two teams stand in the conference rankings, there’s enough star power — one Big Three facing another — to make matchups between the teams an event. And that is part of the allure of the next meeting of the teams on Sunday, when the Heat come to TD Garden to face a Celtics team playing at its highest level this season.
The Here and Now Read the rest of this entry »
|Larry Bird on Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade Celtics greats, the death of Len Bias and his love for Kobe Bryant||02.07.12 at 1:31 pm ET|
By now, you’ve heard Celtics president Danny Ainge‘s version of the trades Red Auerbach supposedly turned down for Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in the twilight of their careers — and how it relates to the current Big Three’s trade availability.
The story goes that the Pacers offered Chuck Person, Herb Williams and Steve Stipanovich in exchange for Bird while the Mavericks proposed a deal for McHale involving Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins. According to Ainge, Auerbach refused both.
But, in an interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report, Bird remembers it differently.
“I was there with Danny and Red and McHale the day we were talking about that,” Bird told Simmons. “The one thing that Danny threw in there was players’ names. The whole time I was in Boston I never heard Red mention any other players on other teams. I heard him talking about draft picks, but I never heard anything about, ‘Larry, I can trade you for this, this and this.’ He just never did that.”
|Irish Coffee: What’s up with Celtics’ Avery Bradley?||01.04.12 at 12:19 pm ET|
So far, I couldn’t be more wrong.
Of the 385 players who have appeared in an NBA game this season, Bradley ranks in the bottom 25 in both offensive rating (367th) and defensive rating (361st). In 42 minutes on the floor during the C’s first six games, he has five rebounds, two points (1-9 FG), one assist, one turnover, zero steals and zero blocks.
In terms of HoopData.com’s advanced statistics, it doesn’t get any better for the Celtics reserve. In addition to ranking dead last among the 146 NBA guards who have played at least five minutes a night in PER (-5.5) and efficiency rating (-0.2), he ranks second to last in scoring (0.3) and true shooting percentage (11.1%).
A few more of Bradley’s advanced stats among those 146 guards to drive the point home:
- 143rd in estimated wins added (-0.3)
- 144th in value added (-10.0)
- 139th in win score (-0.83)
- 138th in Usage Rate (11.22)
- 130th in Assist Rate (9.09)
The only positive I could find: He’s held opponents to 3-of-16 shooting (18.8%). No wonder he may have dropped behind E’Twaun Moore on the depth chart. Yet, he and the C’s brass remains confident (via Boston Herald). Read the rest of this entry »
|Inside the matchup: Celtics vs. Heat||12.27.11 at 12:10 am ET|
For most of the 2010-11 season, the Celtics were confident in their ability to beat Miami. They beat them on opening night in Boston and did it again in Miami less than three weeks later. The Celtics won again in February with just six healthy rotation players.
Everything changed in April when the Celtics were blasted on South Beach, losing 100-77, and the dynamic was completely reversed during the playoffs when the Heat won in five games.
With their first meeting this season on Tuesday, it’s the Celtics that are trying to prove that they can handle the Heat, who have won five of the last six meetings.
It won’t be easy because they’re not likely to have Paul Pierce, who is resting a bone bruise in his right heel and new addition Mickael Pietrus isn’t expected in the lineup until they return home on Friday. That leaves the underwhelming combination of Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels to handle LeBron James, fresh off a 37-point Christmas Day showing against the Mavericks that equaled the 37 Carmelo Anthony dropped on the Celtics.
The Celtics have always had great respect for accomplishment and hierarchy — that’s the reason they gave the Magic more respect than LeBron’s Cavs — and coach Doc Rivers has been reinforcing the notion that these Celtics haven’t won anything in a long time.
They did get a reprieve of sorts with word that Kevin Garnett escaped both a fine and a suspension after his one-arm shove of Bill Walker after time expired on Sunday. The Celtics didn’t lose three straight games at any point last season but with a back-to-back looming the next night in New Orleans that could suddenly become a stark possibility.
Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
The veteran forward played in just 13 regular season games before tearing ligaments in his left foot. Haslem saw less than three minutes of action in the Celtics’ series, but returned to form later in the playoffs and grabbed 14 rebounds in 32 minutes in their opener against Dallas.
Haslem is part of a three-man frontcourt rotation with Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony that’s on the smaller side. Not coincidentally, the Celtics have adjusted their frontcourt with Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox, who should be able to provide a much more balanced matchup with Miami.
The other important addition is rookie point guard Norris Cole, who split duties with Mario Chalmers in the opener. That’s a major upgrade in terms of youth and athleticism from Mike Bibby, who had major problems with Rajon Rondo last season.
Can Avery Bradley offer defensive support? The Celtics clearly missed defensive stopper Tony Allen in last year’s playoffs and Dwyane Wade took full advantage, scoring 151 points in their five games. Bradley remains a liability on offense, but if he can give the Celtics 5-10 minutes of defense on Wade, that would help take some pressure off Ray Allen. The Celtics need something from Bradley because the alternatives are Rondo and/or Keyon Dooling.
Key matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh
Garnett had a brilliant performance in Game 3, the only game the Celtics won, but was otherwise either outplayed or neutralized by Bosh throughout the series. Jermaine O’Neal is not a great matchup on Bosh and Wilcox is in the early stages of gaining Rivers’ trust. It’s up to Garnett who played 37 minutes in the opener, which is not part of the master minutes plan.
The Rondo factor: In 41 minutes against the Knicks, Rondo made 11-of-19 shots and scored 31 points. Much notice was paid to his outside shot where he sank three of five from 16-23 feet and his free throws where he made nine of 12 attempts. More importantly, he converted on 8-of-10 attempts at the rim and seven of his 13 assists were for inside shots.
Against the Knicks, the Celtics made a staggering 84 percent of their shots inside — 21-of-25 — and that was against Tyson Chandler, one of the league’s top interior defenders. Miami doesn’t have a shot-blocker like Chandler protecting the basket and it will be on Rondo to stay aggressive. He’s their best weapon against Miami.
CELTICS LIKELY STARTERS: Rondo, Allen, Daniels, Garnett, O’Neal
Rotation: Dooling, Bradley, Pavlovic, Bass, Wilcox
HEAT LIKELY STARTERS: Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, Anthony
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