|James took lessons learned from battles with Pierce||04.04.10 at 11:58 pm ET|
The matchup between Paul Pierce and LeBron James is one of the most competitive battles in the NBA. But before James was dominating the scoreboard, he was trying to learn from his veteran counterpart.
“When I first came into the league, he was a seasoned vet and I was a rookie just trying to learn the curve and things like that,” James said prior to the Celtics 117-113 win over the Cavaliers. “Over the years, he’s still been an All-Star, he’s still been competitive. I’m just trying to develop my game to be one of the best three’s (small forwards) in the league, to be on Paul Pierce’s level and all these other guys’ level.”
On Sunday, James outscored Pierce, 42-16 (20 of his points came in the fourth quarter alone). It’s a far cry from their first regular-season matchup seven years ago. On Nov. 13, 2003, James ‘ as a rookie ‘ scored 10 points in a 91-82 loss to the Celtics. In that one, Pierce, who was entering his sixth season, led the C’s with 19 points.
‘You learn, the game itself teaches you game after game after game,” James said. ‘But you learn when you go against the best, you see why they are considered the best at that time or still now because of the work they put into it. They never took a night off.’
James is averaging 29.9 points this season (30.6 in his last five contests) and has scored more than 20 points in all but one game since the All-Star Break. He wrapped up his regular season matchup with the Celtics averaging 36.5 points in four games.
‘I’ve been able to be recognized as one of the best three’s that we have in this league,” James added, “So it’s always fun to go against the best guys in the league, and Paul continues to be that since I was a rookie.’
|Pierce on C’s turmoil: We ‘talk things out’||at 12:18 am ET|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce made a admission on Saturday following practice.
The Celtics had some words amongst each other about what was happening on their home court in three straight losses – or more to the point, what wasn’t. And that turmoil was evident several times on Friday as Rajon Rondo had animated discussions with Shelden Williams and Pierce during the fourth quarter as the Celtics were trying to get their defensive house in order.
The team’s ability to defend the simple pick-and-roll was exposed as an apparent weakness on Friday as Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola went to town late in the fourth quarter as the Rockets battled back to force overtime and then erased a five-point hole in OT to score the last 10 points of overtime in the 119-114 Rockets win.
“I think we’re breaking down in just one area,” Pierce said. “And it needs to get better. We have to be better on the pick and roll.”
In other words, when the opposing player passes the ball, a fundamental rule in basketball defense 101 is that the passer becomes the most dangerous potential scorer on the court.
“I think we trust each other,” Pierce said. “It’s just about going out there and doing it and trusting the coaching staff. The good thing about us after a game like [Friday] or the game before, we sit in the locker room and we talk about it. We were in the training room, talking about what we need to do better and what we need to do as a team. That’s a positive sign, how during a tough stretch like this, we stick together and talk things out.”
And that talk continued from Friday night post-game to Saturday pre-film study as Pierce said the team had an animated and frank discussion of the mistakes being made, with everyone in green taking some responsibility.
He didn’t want to get into it after Friday’s loss, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave several examples on Saturday of the problems that led to his team’s meltdown.
There was the lack of respect given to 3-point sharpshooter Chase Budinger, after several reminders from the coaching staff to get in his face and stick with him on defense. They failed.
There was the shot taken by Nate Robinson at the end of the second quarter, leading to a three-point swing that gave Houston a four-point lead instead of one. And there was Pierce dribbling out the clock before halftime without getting off a shot.
All of that said, Saturday was a time to look forward to preparing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that beat them by 20 on the same court on Feb. 26. Looking back on Friday’s loss on film was not what Doc ordered on Saturday.
|LeBron: Rondo has made ‘The Board’||02.26.10 at 2:39 pm ET|
Before every game, NBA coaches and their assistants place the names of players to contain on a board as part of the game plan.
But it’s obvious now that they need to add a fourth name: Rajon Rondo.
He showed why in the first quarter on Thursday night, with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor and six assists as the Celtics raced out to a 31-21 lead. James stopped short of saying Rondo has become the most important Celtic but not by much.
“I don’t know if I can say that,” James began. “When you scout for Boston, there are certain guys that make that board before the game, these type of guys you have to stop and he’s one of those guys.
“First couple of years here in Boston, he wasn’t on that board. He was fast point guard, you have to get back but other than that you didn’t talk about him, you didn’t talk about Rondo.”
[Click here to hear LeBron talk about Rondo.]
Rondo earned his first All-Star berth this winter and players like King James have taken note.
“Last year, he made a name for himself and he makes that board when you’re talking about, ‘This is what we’re doing again Paul, this is what we’re doing against Ray and this is what we’re doing against KG and this is what we’re doing against Rondo.’ When you make that board, you’re definitely a very good player.”
As for whether Rondo can get the Celtics back in gear and challenge the 45-14 Cavaliers, that remains to be seen. But James isn’t taking the Celtics lightly, even after a 20-point win on Thursday at TD Garden.
“They’re a very good team,” James said. “No one doubts Boston. No one who ever comes into this building or plays Boston on the road doubts that team. They have too many weapons, they’re too experienced. They have a good coach, a good coaching staff. No one ever doubts them and you better play well or they can embarrass you.”
|King James finally holds court in Boston||at 1:20 am ET|
Before Thursday, LeBron James had pretty much mastered every opponent on every court in the NBA.
The lone exception was Boston. Including four games of the 2008 playoffs, the Celtics had beaten Cleveland nine straight on the parquet. And after one quarter, the Celtics certainly appeared headed for No. 10 with a 31-21 lead. But that’s when the Cavaliers, and specifically James and teammate Mo Williams, said enough was enough.
James had 36 and Williams canned four of his five 3-pointers in the second half as the Cavs ran away from the Celtics, 108-88, at TD Garden.
Afterward, he spoke to the great play of his team in the second half, what it was like to finally win in Boston and picking up the slack for the injured Shaquille O’Neal.
|Help defense on King James||02.25.10 at 8:57 pm ET|
Doc Rivers hinted before Thursday’s game with Cleveland that he planned to employ several different defensive strategies on LeBron James, including using one of his best big defenders on the big guard.
With Paul Pierce out for the second straight game with a sprained thumb and Marquis Daniels weakened with flu-like symptoms, Rivers was forced to get creative to come up with ways to defend the 6-8 swingman.
“Tony [Allen]is the other guy right now, and then Marcus [Landry] maybe, Scal maybe, maybe Kevin [Garnett],” Rivers said. “We’ll find that out. We don’t know what Marquis can give us so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
|How C’s-Cavs are different now||at 1:00 pm ET|
And for both teams – who meet tonight at TD Garden at 8 p.m. – the perspective has changed.
The Celtics went into Quicken Loans Arena on Oct. 27 and came away with a 95-89 win and served notice that they were intent on reclaiming their perch atop the Eastern Conference with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen back in full stride.
That night Pierce led a balanced attack with 23 points, overcoming a game-high 38 from LeBron James. But C’s coach Doc Rivers said beyond the final score, there’s not much to take from the result that night.
“Nah, they’re not the same team,” Rivers said. “We’re not the same team. We won. We can take that away from it but other than that, I think both teams have forgotten about that.”
Indeed. Since then, the two teams have taken different paths. The Cavs, after losing their first two and starting the season 3-3, have rebounded to claim the top spot in the East and the NBA at 44-14, despite a recent three-game skid.
[Click here to listen to Rivers explain how Cavaliers are different than opening night.]
The Celtics, who stood 23-5 following a Christmas Day win over Orlando, have battled injuries and inconsistency and stand 36-19, just ahead of fourth-place Atlanta by a game in the loss column.
Both teams made moves at the trading deadline to strengthen themselves. While the Celtics added firepower with Nate Robinson, Cleveland acquired more front court athleticism in Antawn Jamisoin, dealing away Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Cavs lost their first three games following the trade with Jamison in the starting lineup before he scored 18 in Tuesday’s win over New Orleans.
“They are different, watching them on tape the last two games,” Rivers said. “The Jamison thing has changed them a little bit. It definitely makes it more difficult to guard them so we have to get ready for that.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Here come the Cavs||12.30.09 at 1:50 pm ET|
A small detail from Tuesday night’s NBA games. The Cleveland Cavaliers slipped past the Celtics by a half game for the best record in the Eastern Conference. At 23-7 the Celts are still up a game in the loss column (Cleveland’s 25-8) and hold a few percentage points if you want to get technical about it.
This isn’t about that. This is about how the Cavs are hitting their stride. Earlier in the season, when Cleveland was losing three of its first six, there were questions about how well Shaquille O’Neal was really going to fit alongside LeBron James, and if Delonte West could get his life back together, let alone his game.
Safe to say they’ve figured it out. The Cavs have won 10 of their last 11 with a road loss to the Mavs serving as the spoiler and it’s not just that they’ve been winning. They’ve been destroying teams. Read the rest of this entry »
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