|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley too cool for LeBron James-less Heat||03.19.14 at 9:51 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo scored just nine points, but he was the best player on the floor all night, taking over the fourth quarter in a 101-96 victory against the two-time defending NBA champion Heat. Of course, it didn’t hurt that LeBron James (back spasms) was relegated to the Miami bench, but still — this was Rondo’s night.
The Celtics point guard finished one point shy of a triple-double (15 assists, 10 rebounds), ending a five-game losing streak. Avery Bradley‘s 23 points, including a career-high six 3-pointers, led the scoring effort, and four other Celtics reached double figures: Brandon Bass (18 points), Jared Sullinger (14 points), Jeff Green (13 points) and Kelly Olynyk (10 points). And the Celtics needed all of it from each of them.
The Celtics improved to 23-46, moving one win ahead of the Lakers and Suns for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Bradley’s back: After making just six of his 25 attempts from outside of 10 feet in his first three games back from an ankle injury, Bradley found the stroke that made him so successful early this season. The soon-to-be free agent knocked down three of his six first-half 3-point attempts and added a long jumper to enter the break with 11 points. In all, the C’s shot 50 percent (9-18) from distance over the first two quarters and stayed within 56-53 after two.
Charmed third: Working inside and out, Bradley and Brandon Bass shot a combined 8-of-8 from the field to score 21 of the C’s 27 third-quarter points. Rondo was on the feeding end of four of those buckets, finishing with six assists in the frame. As a result, the Celtics took an 80-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Bench press: The C’s bench situation isn’t pretty. It’s comprised of four guys who weren’t on the team to start the season, two rookies and another player with 45 NBA games under his belt entering the year. Yet, they received valuable contributions from three of those seven players, as Sullinger, Olynyk and Jerryd Bayless (7 points, 5 assists) combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: The opening quarter couldn’t have gone much worse for the Celtics defense. While the NBA’s two-time defending MVP sat on the bench, the Heat still scored 34 points on 70 percent shooting to take a 12-point lead in the game’s initial 12 minutes. It wasn’t Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh who victimized the C’s, but Udonis Haslem. The Miami veteran scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first quarter.
No LeBron: The Heat announced James would miss his first game in a month shortly before tipoff. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return Friday in Miami, but regardless of how they feel about him, Boston fans missed a player worth the price of admission. Perhaps a motivated Celtics team took it as a sign of disrespect, too.
|Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett from enemy’s perspective||01.25.14 at 1:53 am ET|
As the Celtics prepare to welcome Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston on Sunday, one member of the new-look franchise knows the two legends of the game all too well from the opposite side of the ball. Joel Anthony endured three straight playoff meetings against the Celtics from 2010-12 as a member of the Heat.
“More than anything, you just wanted to beat them,” said Anthony, who entered the league the same year Garnett came to Boston. “You really, really wanted to beat them. They made you want to be like that because of how they played and how they competed. It’s really the beauty of the game, the beauty of basketball — the whole competition aspect and what you love about the game – to be able to have those type of moments, those battles, those types of feelings and emotions. That’s what it’s all about — to be able to have those battles with that team was special.”
Particularly after a brutal loss to an undermanned Thunder team, Anthony’s reminiscence of those series — a five-game Celtics win before LeBron James‘ arrival during the magical 2010 run, the five-game Heat victory when Rondo dislocated his elbow in 2011 and the epic seven-game Eastern Conference finals in 2012 — will make any basketball fan long for one more matchup between those grit and balls C’s and King James ascending to his throne.
“You respected who they were, what type of team they were and how good of a team that they were,” Anthony said. “Those were the games that guys really got up for, because we knew we were going to be in a battle with those guys every single night and every single minute on the floor. That was just the biggest thing, knowing that they were such competitors — that team was such a tough team to play against every single night.”
As Pierce and Garnett’s arrival in Nets uniforms will attest on Sunday, those days of meaningful Celtics-Lakers and Celtics-Heat playoff meetings are long gone — a chapter in NBA history that will be remembered the same way Larry Bird‘s Celtics and Magic Johnson‘s Lakers ultimately made way for Michael Jordan‘s Bulls.
There were a lot of tough battles for LeBron when he was in Cleveland and with us in Miami, a lot of pain from losing to that team,” added Anthony. “They were an extremely good basketball team, and so to be able to win those games was big, because it was really a huge step for us to be able to get that monkey off our back in terms of surpassing a team that you struggled against and that you respected, but that you wanted to beat more than anything.”
Was it really mutual respect, or was there more to it than that? Because it sure seemed like there was more to it than that. “I think there was some dislike in there,” said Anthony. “Yeah, there was some dislike in there.”
Regardless, Anthony remembers Pierce and Garnett the way most everyone does.
“KG’s intensity and demeanor,” he said. “Defensively, especially, he changed how that team was. They kind of took on his identity. And, in terms of Paul, his ability to hit those big shots. They’d find a way to keep it close, and Paul would end up getting the ball in some kind of iso and find a way to always make big shots.”
Yup, that’s Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a nutshell. Even Rajon Rondo, who called their homecoming “just another game,” knows deep down Sunday will be special. There are too many memories for it not to be.
|LeBron James doesn’t get free agency vs. trades||10.17.13 at 1:12 pm ET|
Apparently, LeBron James thinks leaving for free agency is the same as being traded, since he’s equating Ray Allen‘s defection to Miami to the trade that shipped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn.
“There were a couple guys who basically [expletive] on Ray for leaving, and now they’re leaving,” the four-time NBA MVP told ESPN.com. “That’s the nature of our business, man. I don’t know what Boston was going through at the end of the day. I know Ray had to make the best decision for him and his family and his career. Doc [Rivers], KG and Paul did that as well. You can’t criticize someone who does something that’s best for their family.”
Dwyane Wade said something similar, albeit more confusing. “People say things about people when they do something when they themselves would do the same thing. It’s about putting yourself in the best situation, and at the end of the day we all do that. You can’t really say anything about someone that does it for themselves.”
This whole things stems from Pierce’s failure to forgive Allen and KG’s “I don’t have Ray’s number anymore” comments. Rivers also chastised Allen for leaving, so I understand calling him out for wanting out of Boston, but given their druthers Pierce and Garnett would still be playing for the Celtics. The former wanted to retire a Celtic, and the latter wanted to retire if he wasn’t going to be a Celtic. They reluctantly accepted a trade to the Nets.
That’s different than choosing the Heat in free agency. Allen made a conscious decision to leave Pierce and Garnett last season. Pierce and Garnett were going to be separated against their will this year. But I don’t expect LeBron to understand that, since he’s basically still defending himself taking an expletive on Cleveland.
Next thing you’re going to tell me Dwight Howard wanted the Magic to retire his number.
|Bill Russell: The Heat won two straight titles? Yawn||06.21.13 at 9:53 am ET|
“A thrilling Game 7 of the NBA Finals? Yawn.” — Celtics legend Bill Russell
Granted, Russell’s career Game 7 record is 10-0, so he’s the only man alive allowed to grow tired of an epic finale to a glorious Heat-Spurs series. That includes you, two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh. Yawn, indeed.
|Three for all: Hot Heat beat short-handed Celtics, Jeff Green bruises left elbow||04.12.13 at 9:54 pm ET|
Miami shot 12-for-23 from 3-point range, led by three each from Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers and Rashard Lewis, as the Heat beat the short-handed Celtics, 109-101, Friday night at American Airlines Arena.
The Celtics, who rested Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, suffered a scare in the fourth quarter when Jeff Green injured his left elbow bracing his fall after a dunk. He was diagnosed with a bruised left elbow and did not return.
“I don’t think it’s that bad, I honestly don’t,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “We’ll know more [Saturday]. He has an ice pack on it.”
Before the injury, Green led the Celtics with 25 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Crawford chipped in with 20 points for the Celtics, who fell to 40-39.
With Milwaukee losing in Atlanta, Boston needs one more win to clinch seventh, and will be assured of not finishing eighth and will avoid the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. But now, the Celtics will have practically no chance of catching the Hawks for sixth, as the Celtics trail Atlanta by three games in the loss column with three games remaining. Boston won the season series with the Hawks, 3-1.
Without Pierce and Garnett, Rivers went with a small starting lineup featuring Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.
The Heat, on the other hand, played with their full compliment of starters, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, resting only Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem.
And behind the aggressive play of Green, the Celtics shot out to a red-hot start. Green was 4-for-5 from the field, with three drives to the basket for layups. He finished the first quarter with eight points and six rebounds as the Celtics led 25-13. Boston shot 50 percent and led 27-17 after 12 minutes.
But the second quarter was a defensive disaster for Boston as Miami’s bench took over. The Heat shot an amazing 16-of-19 from the field, led by a bench powered by the 3-point shooting of Ray Allen. With Boston leading 34-23, Allen converted a layup with 9:23 left in the second. The layup was the first of eight straight points for Allen, who hit back-to-back threes to spark an 11-0 run that tied the game. Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Why does LeBron James do stuff like this?||04.11.13 at 2:29 pm ET|
Just when you’re thinking, “Hey, maybe LeBron James isn’t so bad after all,” he goes and pulls a stunt like this. Of all the weird stuff he’s done in the past, this might be the strangest. Guess he isn’t the total package after all.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 11, 2013
Dude, you’re the best basketball player on the planet. We get it. You won the NBA title, and you’re probably going to win it again. Same goes for the MVP. But that doesn’t mean we want to see you in your spandex. Twice. By the way, was he really working out like that, or did he strip down to take the picture of himself? No wonder none of his teammates are in the gym working out with him. Seriously, I would’ve thought this was a joke if it wasn’t LeBron.
By the way, when’s the last time you saw Garnett tweeting a picture of himself working out? Over his dead body. I don’t know how he and Pierce let Doc talk them into not playing against this weirdo Friday night.
|Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce (ankles) won’t face Heat||at 12:59 pm ET|
Aging Celtics stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will both rest their ailing left ankles against the Heat on Friday.
Paul Pierce & KG are traveling with the Celtics to Miami but neither will play against the Heat due to sore left ankles. Both are day-to-day
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 11, 2013
Both will travel to Miami and neither has been ruled out the Magic in Orlando on Saturday. After Wednesday’s loss to the Nets, Garnett and Pierce each left the decision about rest up to Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
“Whatever Doc wants me to do,” said Garnett.
“I’m going to leave that up to the coach,” said Pierce. “I think practice time is good for us. I think playing together is good for us. But that’s up to the coaching staff, what they say and best preparing us going forward in the playoffs.”
With four games remaining, the Celtics lead the Bucks by three games for the seventh seed. The C’s play three of their final four games on the road, hosting a Pacers squad that has an outside shot at the No. 2 seed between this weekend’s trip to Florida and the regular-season finale in Toronto.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee travels to Atlanta on Friday and Charlotte on Saturday before hosting the Nuggets and visiting Oklahoma City next week. The Bucks own the tiebreaker against the Celtics, so any combination of C’s wins or Milwaukee losses adding up to two clinches the right to avoid Miami until the Eastern Conference finals.