|Fast Break: Rockets shoot past Celtics||01.10.11 at 10:06 pm ET|
The Rockets came to Boston without the services of their leading scorer, as Kevin Martin was out with a sore right wrist. They had lost their last five and six of seven.
But the Celtics fell behind at halftime and couldn’t overcome the energy of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola and the rest of the Rockets in a 108-102 loss to Houston Monday night at TD Garden. (Recap.) It’s the third straight win for Houston in Boston.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defense: Quite simply, on a night when Kevin Garnett remained in street clothes, it wasn’t there in this one. Forget the fact that Houston shot 53 percent for the game — they made 11 of 19 shots in the third quarter alone to build a six-point lead heading into the fourth. Worse yet, every time the Celtics got a big lay-up from Paul Pierce or an offensive rebound or jumper from Glen Davis, the Rockets not only scored on the next possession, but got very open looks, including Aaron Brooks on a killer 3-ball with 4:26 left that put Rockets up, 101-90. Another three by Brooks with 3:10 left put Houston up by 12.
Glen Davis’ stamina: He worked hard but looked very, very tired in the third quarter. He had huge problems keeping up with Scola in the third quarter as the Rockets improbably built upon their lead by going inside and the Celtics didn’t play very good defense, allowing Houston to score 30 in the quarter on 58 percent shooting. Rivers was also on Davis early about the number of passes he was dishing out and the Celtics were guilty of shot clock violations on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter.
Not taking Kyle Lowry seriously: Yes, the Rockets didn’t have their leading scorer, Martin - out with a sore right wrist. But the Celtics apparently forgot that Lowry is very quick and developing as a legitimate two-way guard in his fourth year. Lowry played 18 minutes in the first half and had 11 points. But more than that, the former Villanova Wildcat brought the energy on both sides of the court. It continued into the third quarter as he took it to the basket just like he did when he played with Randy Foye and Allan Ray on the Main Line. Tough kid.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Marquis Daniels and the bench: After a rough showing on Saturday night in Chicago, the Celtics’ bench woke up Wednesday out of necessity as Daniels led the way, making 7-of-8 shots from the field and finishing with 19 points, tied with Allen for the team lead. He also chipped in with seven rebounds. He played practically the entire fourth quarter as Rivers held Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’Neal on the bench.
Domination in the paint: When they made the commitment to get there, the Celtics owned the paint, with mid-range jumpers, cuts and lay-ups. They finished with a 48-22 advantage over the Rockets.
Ray Allen takes a licking and keeps on ticking: The last thing – obviously – the Celtics need is another star to go down with an injury, and so the sight of Allen taking a vicious hit on a blindside pick early in the fourth quarter was troubling for Boston. But after Allen had his left shoulder examined briefly by trainer Ed Lacerte, he returned with five minutes to go. He drilled a 3-pointer with 2:10 left to bring the Celtics to within seven, 106-99.
|Delonte West gets some really good news about his right wrist||01.03.11 at 11:16 pm ET|
When Delonte West fell after a made lay-up against New Jersey on Nov. 24 at TD Garden, he and the Celtics feared the worst about his right wrist. It was a nasty fracture that appeared to – at the least – end his regular season.
But that perspective changed on Monday.
Calling it a big step, West had the hard cast protecting his healing right wrist removed on Monday, the first step of what he hopes could be a return on or shortly after the All-Star break. It was replaced with a brace to allow him some ability to start moving it for light rehab.
“It’s feels stiff but it’s not painful,” West said. “I got great news from doctors. They said maybe three weeks [then] rehabilitation. I’ve already started out conditioning, ball-handling. I’m left-handed anyway. Fortunately, I’m left handed anyway so I able to get shots on my left hand. It’s just a matter of time before I gain game strength in this one.
“Today is Day 1. I got a lot accomplished,” he said of Monday’s milestone in recovery.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” West said. “It’s killing me sitting back here and rooting from the sidelines but we all have a position to play and right now mine is getting healthy and getting ready to contribute.”
The initial timetable called for West to return in time for the playoffs but West said he’s hopeful for a return after the All-Star break.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” West admitted before sounding a hopeful but realistic tone. “I’m praying and I’m trying my best to get back before then. But the trainers and the coaching staff, they’re really trying not to rush me but I think I’m really rushing myself right now.”
As for his biggest test, that will come after his rehabilitation, which is still three weeks away.
“I guess it would be lifting but first I have to regain movement but picking up weights and catching a basketball,” West said. “I think right now the biggest fear is falling and having to extend [the wrist]. Today is Day 1, the cast is off. It’s a good day and it’s all uphill from here.”
|The Three-Pointer: Marquis Daniels delivers what Doc ordered||11.30.10 at 11:14 pm ET|
In other words, he was forgettable, even for Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who designated Daniels as a DNP for 13 of their 24 playoff games last season.
Since entering the NBA in 2003, Daniels has missed at least 20 games in six of his seven full seasons. After signing a $2 million deal with the Celtics last season, he played in just 51 games — reaching double figures only eight times and looking more like Lou Tsioropolous than the guy who averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Pacers during the 2006-07 season.
In the Celtics’ 106-87 victory over the Cavaliers, we saw a different Daniels — one the Celtics must have known still lurked somewhere beneath those dreads, or else they wouldn’t have re-signed the swingman to another one-year deal (this time for more money, at $2.5 million).
“He surprises me, and he upsets me, because I know he can do it every night,” Rivers told reporters after Tuesday night’s win. “I’m going to stay on him, because he has that in him. I think he can be that terrific every single night. I really do.”
When the final seconds had ticked off the clock in Cleveland, Daniels’ line read like this: 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), four rebounds, two steals and one block — all improvements from his averages of 4.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks. But it wasn’t just his statistical production that endeared him to Rivers for at least one night. It was his defense.
“We put him on [Ramon] Sessions, he was guarding Mo Williams and moving his feet,” added Rivers. “They couldn’t beat him off the dribble. That was huge. We didn’t know how long we could go with that. We were going to try to get them on the other end in the post. We didn’t know we could stay in front of those guys, and the fact that Marquis could do that was a big deal for us.”
In the wake of Delonte West‘s surgery after suffering a broken wrist last week, the Celtics desperately needed someone off the bench to help Glen Davis — who had his usual productive night off the bench with 17 points and 11 rebounds — ease the burden for the Celtics starters. They’ve been waiting for more than a season for Daniels to be that guy, and for at least one game he met the challenge.
It’s no surprise that his best game of the season came two games after West’s injury and just one day after Rivers made the Celtics bench pull double duty at practice.
“We brought the second unit in early [Monday],” said Rivers. “They had their own practice before the regulars had their practice, and you could see that it got to them a little bit. And it was great, but we need them like that every night.”
Consider that a challenge to Daniels going forward, as if the motivation of another, bigger payday wasn’t already enough.
‘STEP ON THE GAS PEDAL’
After falling behind the Cavaliers 17-8 in the first 6:34 of Tuesday night’s game, the Celtics outscored Cleveland 48-28 to close out the half and take a 56-45 lead into the locker room.
That’s when Celtics commentator Tommy Heinsohn said it, as a ton of Celtics fans were thinking it: “All right, now step on the gas pedal.”
Too often this season the Celtics have rushed out to double-digit leads, seemingly in total control of every aspect of the game, only to have their advantage start to vanish like Marty McFly‘s image in that “Back to the Future” photograph.
Tuesday night, however, the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 24-20 in the third quarter, stretching their lead from 11 to 15 points and allowing Rivers to give his starters some much-needed rest, considering the C’s host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
In their first 13 games, the Celtics led all three of their games at halftime but were outscored in nine of those games during the third quarter — leading to close games and forcing the Celtics to rely on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo for well over 30 minutes a night.
That trend has changed in the C’s last four games, as they have won the third-quarter battle in wins over the Hawks, Nets, Raptors and — after Tuesday night — the Cavaliers. That allowed Rivers to limit Pierce and Allen to just 23 minutes apiece in the final game of that stretch.
‘TOP OF THE FRONT RIM’
My father could drain free throw after free throw in the driveway. He’d make 200 in a row, or at least it seemed that way when I was a kid. His mantra: “Aim for the top of the front rim.” He ingrained that — and as a result the importance of foul shooting — into my head at an early age.
Despite having three guys — Allen, Garnett and Pierce — shooting 89, 85 and 84 percent from the free-throw line, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game ranked 21st in the NBA in foul shooting. And they didn’t do themselves any favors, shooting just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe against the Cavaliers.
Shaquille O’Neal‘s struggles at the line are a given (he’s at 57 percent). It’s really only Rondo who can help the Celtics improve in that arena. The Celtics point guard is shooting a putrid 47 percent from the line this season, and he made just 1-of-4 against the Cavaliers.
This problem may not have much effect on the C’s success during the regular season, but there’s no doubt it could be an Achilles heel in the playoffs, when games are more physical and tighter at the end. After all, the Celtics ranked eighth in free-throw percentage when they won the title three years ago.
|Fast Break: Celtics handle Cavaliers||at 9:36 pm ET|
Six Celtics reached double figures, including Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, who combined for 33 points off the bench. Kevin Garnett contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, as the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 13-4.
WHAT WENT WRIGHT
Bench contributions: In 84 total minutes off the bench, Daniels, Davis and Nate Robinson combined for 41 points (on 17-of-34 shooting), 19 rebounds and six assists.
More importantly, their energy gave the Celtics a much-needed boost in the second quarter, as they outscored the Cavaliers 35-22 and built a comfortable 11-point lead at halftime.
Points in the paint: The Celtics absolutely obliterated the Cavaliers in the post, outscoring them 60-26 in the paint. Davis (17 points) and Garnett (11 points) led the way for the C’s. Pretty impressive, considering Shaquille O’Neal (6) was relatively quiet on the night.
Attacking the basket: Rondo repeatedly blew past the revolving door of defense that was Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions. He scored 16 of his 23 points around the bucket in addition to dishing out 11 more assists on dribble drives.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Thanksgiving weekend hangover: Whether it was rust from having Saturday and Sunday off or the Celtics not taking the Cavaliers seriously, the C’s looked sluggish early — digging themselves a 17-8 hole after the first six minutes. Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams combined for 11 points in that span.
Free throw shooting: The Celtics shot just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe. With a 74.6 combined free throw percentage, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game against the Cavaliers ranked 21st in the league.
Hickson’s yellow shoes: Wearing what may have been the ugliest shoes ever to appear on a basketball court, J.J. Hickson scored only one point in the game. His yellow sneakers were so awful that my girlfriend joked that the distraction they cause might be the secret to the Cavaliers’ semi-success this season.
|Delonte West breaks his right wrist||11.24.10 at 8:41 pm ET|
The Celtics guard depth – already down with the left hamstring injury to Rajon Rondo – took a major hit Wednesday night when Delonte West broke his right wrist when he fell to the ground under the Celtics basket after making a spectacular lay-up with 2:48 left in the second quarter. He was on the court for about two minutes as trainer Ed Lacerte tended to him.
He got up holding his wrist in place and wincing in pain. He went immediately to the Celtics locker room with Lacerte for further evaluation.
Dr. Brian McKeon and Lacerte administered the exam during halftime. The team said there is no immediate timetable for his return.
West, a left-handed shooter, broke the same wrist in 2008-09 but only missed 16 games. Nate Robinson started Friday night for the third straight game in place of Rondo but picked up his fourth foul just 40 seconds into the third quarter.
Marquis Daniels entered the game for the Celtics and ran the point.
|Marquis Daniels returns to Celtics in time for Wizards||11.17.10 at 7:03 pm ET|
The Celtics got some good news when Marquis Daniels returned to the team after being away from the team for personal reasons and will play tonight against the Wizards. Daniels was in the locker room, sitting at his locker as usual before the Celtics played the Wizards.
Doc Rivers was asked if it was difficult to throw Daniels back into the lineup after being away for two days. “We have no choice so I’m just going to throw him out there and see what he can give us and judge it once the game starts,” Rivers said. “Sometimes life gets involved and there’s nothing you can do about it, so we just kind of roll with it.”
The Celtics are welcoming back Delonte West, who will make his season debut after missing the first 10 games with a suspension. Rivers said he didn’t have a minutes number in mind, but that he would watch carefully. “Usually you have to watch one guy,” Rivers said. “You watch Shaq every night. Now you have Delonte and Marquis, that unit, you just have to watch how they’re functioning together as a group.
|Danny Ainge on the Big Show: C’s hope Shaq is ‘not a statue’ on court||10.26.10 at 5:50 pm ET|
Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.
“I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”
Ainge also talked about the fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.
“The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”
Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.
On his fears about this roster:
I think that I’m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’m excited about our team.
Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?
Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O’Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’s probably my biggest concern with the health.
On Marquis Daniels this year:
Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’s had a good week of practice.
Ever seen anything like this opening night before?
I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.
What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’Neal this year?
I hope he’s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’s fun in the locker room. So far he’s been good.
What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?
Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.
On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:
Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.
What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?
It would be different. I’m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.
On shelf life of this Celtics’ roster:
I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.
How important is this game to you?
I think it’s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.
What does this game really mean?
It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.
On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’s results:
I don’t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’t think it works, I don’t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’ll be a better team because we’re deeper.
On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:
The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.