|NBA Power Rankings, 2/17||02.17.11 at 6:24 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (46-9): According to the New York Post, citing a waitress at Tao on 58th Street in New York City, Tony Parker “celebrated Valentine’s Day, a win over the Nets — and his divorce — by canoodling with a brunette.” When this is the biggest news about the Spurs for the week, it’s pretty clear they’re still the NBA’s No. 1 (regular-season) team and (somehow) still underrated.
2. Dallas (39-16): The Mavericks are 37-9 with Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup — and 18-7 against teams above .500. That’s pretty good. Not surprisingly, owner Mark Cuban told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram his team has all the pieces in place for a title run. While they’re certainly playing better than the Lakers — and even the Celtics — right now, I’m still not buying them as contenders.
3. Boston (40-14): With Glen Davis as the sole healthy member of their projected second unit — and even he suffered a bruised noggin — the Celtics finished 2-2 against the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat in the span of nine days. The win over the Heat was truly significant; no matter who earns the East’s No. 1 seed the C’s cemented themselves as the clear favorites in the conference.
4. Miami (41-15): Sure, the Heat are 38-10 (.792 winning percentage) with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all in the lineup. Still, even with all three of those guys on the floor, they’re only 11-8 (.579) against teams above the .500 mark. Oh, and they’re 0-4 against the two other teams vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. I’d say that’s a concern.
5. Chicago (37-16): Under Tom Thibodeau‘s tutelage, the Bulls have gone from 11th place in points allowed per 100 possessions last season to second place this year — without defensive stalwart Joakim Noah at center since Dec. 15. The booby prize for finishing second in the East is not only a Game 7 on the road in the conference finals but also a semifinals matchup with Chicago.
|Sasha Vujacic: Celtics ‘trying to act up’||02.16.11 at 11:53 pm ET|
Nets forward Kris Humprhies got into a jawing match with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett in the first half, while New Jersey guard Sasha Vujacic and C’s center Kendrick Perkins exchanged words in the second half. On the court, the C’s got the last word in a 94-80 victory. Off the court? Vujacic explained the chippiness.
“I think we started a little bit too soft in the game,” said Vujacic. “They’re a team that plays very well, and they’re trying to act up most of the time, so that’s how they are and how they play. We just can’t back down from that. We’ve got to deliver the first punch and not let them get us on our heels.”
Asked about the Celtics’ trash talk, Nets point guard Devin Harris added, ‘Nothing surprises me.’
Surprisingly, Vujacic wasn’t overly critical of the Celtics’ style of play; in fact, he credited their experience and ability to play together as a team.
‘We played in their home, so everything’s going to be on their side,” added Vujacic. “But let’s face it, they’re one of the teams that are chasing the championship, and they are one of the favorites. They know each other. They know where everybody’s going to be.’
Vujacic and Nets teammate Jordan Farmar both played on another contender to finish last season, as the former was traded from the Lakers to New Jersey for Joe Smith in mid-December and the latter signed with the Nets in the offseason. Told that the Lakers (38-19) lost to the last-place Cavaliers (10-46) on Wednesday night, both guys did a double take.
‘Cleveland beat the Lakers?” asked Vujacic. “You’re kidding, right? I guess miracles do happen.’
Added Farmar, ‘They’re going to be pissed. That’s three straight.’
|Doc Rivers: We weren’t up the challenge of the Lakers||02.11.11 at 10:57 am ET|
One characteristic Doc Rivers has always admired about his team was that it fights through almost every kind of adversity.
On Thursday night, he didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was the overwhelming number of injuries, the foul trouble of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kobe being Kobe or just all of the above, Rivers just didn’t have the feeling that his team had the energy or will to overcome all of it. And that, more than the 92-86 loss to the Lakers at TD Garden seem to bug him the most.
“I thought they came out and jumped on us early in the third quarter, first ‘scored the first 10 points,” Rivers began. “And I never thought we fought through it, really. I mean obviously the fatigue and all that ‘ you know, one of our concerns going into the game were Paul or Ray couldn’t get in foul trouble obviously, because of what we had left. And that happened.
“But I just thought mentally we were not a very good team tonight and usually we are. I didn’t think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we’re great at that usually.”
But not on this night. While the Celtics are not a great rebounding team to begin with, they usually find a knack of dominating their opponent in the paint. Not on this night when they were outscored, 50-32.
They usually get to loose balls and find a way to score on second-chance points. Not on this night. They were outscored, 16-9, in that category. And while Rajon Rondo posted his 21st double-double of the season, he was just 5-of-14 and – after feeding Ray Allen for his record-breaking three in transition – couldn’t let his team back. It didn’t help that Nate Robinson went down with a bruised right knee in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“It was one of those nights; I just thought we didn’t do a very good job of [battling],” Rivers said. “And we obviously did have a lot of adversity with the injury of Nate and foul trouble and the lack of bodies, but you know that that could happen before the game and I don’t think we handled that very well.’
And watching Kobe Bryant – with just three shots in the first half – take over in the third quarter didn’t help either.
‘Well once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,” Rivers said. “I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought defensively he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. I mean, he just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring.’
The Celtics face another NBA superstar when LeBron James and the Heat come calling on Sunday. The same Heat team that has been dominated twice this year by the Green. And whether or not Delonte West returns from a broken right wrist, the C’s better find their fight on Sunday or history will repeat itself.
Ray Allen has always been known as a stoic, some would say ice-cold, figure on the court. You could never really truly ever figure out if he was happy or upset with his play or his shooting. Perhaps that’s what has made him ‘ now ‘ the most prolific 3-point artist in NBA history.
But Thursday night was different for Allen the moment he stepped on the parquet.
There were the extra media members on hand for a national broadcast between the two fiercest rivals in the NBA. There was the tremendous build-up and then, of course, there were the fans who were chanting his name and cheering, beginning in warm-ups.
Allen needed just two 3-pointers to pass Reggie Miller and make NBA history smack dab in the middle of a Lakers-Celtics game.
‘What I thought about is, is it really going to happen,” Allen said. “I know I only needed two 3’s, and on any other day, any other game, it seems like it would happen just like that, I wouldn’t have to think about it. But that second 3, almost, it seemed like it was slow motion for me, cause I’ve seen the whole thing develop. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve played the game and I can see it, somewhat in a second motion so to speak. Where the ball kind of comes so slow, like somebody is almost slow motioning it on TV. That’s exactly how it felt, because the minute we got the stop and Rondo got the ball. In my mind it just started, and I just said to myself this is it.”
|Kobe Bryant: ‘I’ll bust your ass’||at 1:10 am ET|
Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help his Lakers drop the Celtics 92-86 and even their season series at one apiece. And then he issued a warning to the four Celtics who will be attending the All-Star Game in Los Angeles next weekend.
“It doesn’t matter who I play,” said Bryant. “I could play you, and I’ll bust your ass.”
During a five-minute interview with the media following the Lakers’ victory, Bryant hit on everything from Ray Allen‘s record-breaking 3-pointer to the latest book assignment he’s received from coach Phil Jackson. Here’s a rundown of the conversation:
- On Ray’s record: “I just told him congratulations. It’s a mutual respect kind of thing, because we came into the league together. There’s not too many guys from that draft still playing and competing at a high level. I’m just very, very happy for him. We always compete when we go at it. That’s part of it. At this stage of our careers, there’s a respect because of that. I don’t get along with chumps very well, and he’s not a chump.”
- On the Garden: ‘It’s great. This is one of the best atmospheres ‘ if not the best atmosphere ‘ you can play in in the league today. This arena, what they do, this is a challenging place to play, but it’s a lot of fun.’
- On his play: ‘I wanted to be more aggressive in the first half, but I didn’t want to force it too much. I wanted to keep my guys in the game a little bit. In the second half, I just forced it. The game wasn’t coming to me, so I took it.’
- On the win: “It depends on where we go from here. We don’t go to New York and lay a dud. Then this game doesn’t much.”
- On the Lakers: “We always remain a pretty confident bunch. It’s good to see the hard work that we’ve been putting in paying off. We’re seeing results. From the last time we played them until now, we’ve gotten a little bit better in our defensive rotations, and we didn’t make as many mistakes down the stretch.”
- On the East: ‘[The Celtics] are right up there. It’s them and Miami. We’ve played against Boston twice and Miami once, and they look good.’
|Fast Break: Lakers put damper on Ray Allen’s night||02.10.11 at 10:54 pm ET|
With two first-quarter 3-pointers, Ray Allen set the all-time record as Reggie Miller could only watch from his broadcasting chair. Oh, and it came against the Lakers ‘ off a transition pass from Rajon Rondo, over Kobe Bryant ‘ but the Celtics lost, 92-86, Thursday night at the TD Garden.
Allen led the Celtics (39-13) with 20 points. Rondo (12 points, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (10 points, 11 rebounds) each registered double-doubles, but Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as the Lakers (36-17) earned a season split with the C’s.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding (what’s new?): It was their Achilles’ heel in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals, and the rebounding issue reared its ugly head again. The Celtics were outrebounded 35-24 on the defensive end and 47-36 overall against the Lakers.
Points in the paint: With the O’Neal “brothers” and Semih Erden all out of action, the Celtics had little if any depth behind Kendrick Perkins at the center position. They not only paid for it on the glass but in the paint as well. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 36 points and 19 rebounds, as the Lakers outscored the C’s 50-32 in the key.
Emotional letdowns: The Celtics rode an emotional wave after Allen’s record-breaking trey to a 45-30 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Lakers responded with a 14-4 run that cut the lead to five and gave LA its confidence back. Another 10-0 run to start the third gave the Lakers a lead and even more momentum.
Finishing the game with just four healthy players on the bench ‘ two of them rookies ‘ the C’s had nobody but Von Wafer to give them a lift, especially considering the fact that Glen Davis struggled from the floor (3-for-10) all night long.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen’s big 3: In what was probably the best singular moment at the new Garden since the 2008 title run, Allen ripped his record-setting 2,561st career 3-pointer 10:12 into the game. The crowd let out a deafening roar as Allen pumped his fist in celebration.
Following the first quarter, the C’s recognized Allen, who in turn acknowledged the fans, shook Miller’s hand, hugged his mother Flo and kissed his wife Shannon and his children.
The shot also helped Allen record 12 points in the first quarter, as the C’s took a 27-20 lead.
Taking care of the ball: The emotion of the night didn’t hurt the Celtics’ concentration. They committed just three first-half turnovers. Much of the credit went to Rondo, who the Lakers simply had no answer for in the first half. The point guard had eight assists and zero turnovers in the opening 24 minutes of the game, helping the C’s establish a 53-45 halftime advantage.
In the second half, however, Bryant cracked down on defense. Rondo produced just five points and two assists in the final two quarters. The C’s finished with only 10 turnovers. Of course, one of them was an errant Paul Pierce pass on a fast break that would’ve cut the lead to three with two minutes to go.
Von Wafer’s boost: With Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord) and Nate Robinson (bruised right knee in 3:39 of playing time) out, the Celtics had to rely heavily on Wafer. And he produced. His eight second-quarter points actually gave him an 8-3 scoring edge against Bryant at the half. Yup, you read that correctly.
Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer from right wing with 1:48 left in the first quarter to pass Reggie Miller for the most 3’s in NBA history with 2,561. Allen went over and gave a hug to Miller, on hand courtside to broadcast the game nationally on TNT.
Appropriately, it was Rajon Rondo who set the stage for history with a trademark pass on the fast break to a wide-open Allen on the right wing. Allen was several feet behind the arc when he took the shot.
Allen led all scorers in the first quarter with 12 points and helped the Celtics to a 27-20 lead. In the break before the start of the second quarter, Allen went over again to the TNT table and hugged Miller again and then went to the went to the seats under the Lakers basket and gave a hug to his mom, who was courtside. Allen then waved to the sellout crowd, which erupted in pandemonium after the historical shot and then during the first-quarter break.
Allen tied the record with a trey from the left top of the circle with 4:15 left in the first quarter to tie the mark. The crowd rose in anticipation on each 3-point attempt by Allen on the night. Allen’s first attempt came from the left baseline with 7:24 left in the first quarter.
Miller had held the record with 2,560 since retiring after the 2004-05 season. Miller posted the record over a span of 1,389 games. Allen needed just 1,074 games to pass Miller. Allen’s first 3 came on Nov. 1, 1996, at Philadelphia, a game his Bucks won.
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