|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double cools Heat||02.13.11 at 3:46 pm ET|
The first half felt like a preseason exhibition, and the second half played like a postseason battle. In the end, the Celtics defeated the Heat, 85-82, recapturing first place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game on Sunday afternoon in the TD Garden.
With 12.5 seconds to go and Lebron James on the line with a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws, the Heat forward made just 1-of-2. Moments later, Glen Davis nailed a pair on the other end, and Mike Miller missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer, as the Heat (39-15) lost to the Celtics (39-14) for the third time in three tries this year.
Rajon Rondo‘s third triple-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists steered the Celtics, despite Paul Pierce‘s worst offensive performance (1 point) since March 9 of his rooke season. The C’s survived 62 combined points from the Heat’s Big Three of Chris Bosh (24), Lebron James (22) and Dwyane Wade (16).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Heat get chippy: When things got sloppy midway through the third quarter, it ignited the Celtics — and their crowd. First, Zydrunas Ilgauskas knocked Rondo to the ground on a legal screen, and then Kevin Garnett returned the favor on Miller. That’s when Wade decided to shove Garnett.
As the referees discussed the severity of Wade’s foul (a flagrant-1), Rondo listened in on the Heat’s non-timeout huddle. That’s when James decided to shove Rondo — twice. Those events came during a stretch in which the Celtics expanded a two-point lead to a 13-point advantage.
Don’t get Rajon Rondo angry: Rondo was playing well before Ilgauskas decked him. Afterwards? He was on a mission. The Celtics point guard produced his first triple-double since totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs on Jan. 5. Not to mention the fact he had just one turnover. As a result, Garnett, Davis, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Von Wafer all reached double figures as well.
Bench boost: Despite leaping 9.5 feet instead of 10 while missing a fast-break dunk attempt, and then belly-bumping Chris Bosh on the rebound, Glen Davis performed admirably off the bench. He totaled 16 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Over the previous eight days, in the Celtics’ three losses, he shot 5-of-18 and averaged six points. That was a far cry from the guy who cemented himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate earlier this season.
And despite looking lost at times, Von Wafer made two big second-half 3’s to total 10 points.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Paul Pierce feeling the Heat:: After missing practice with an illness earlier in the week, Pierce still appeared sluggish on Sunday against the Heat. He missed all 10 of his shots — including five 3-pointers. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, James, made 10-of-21 buckets and outscored him 22-1 for the game.
Easy like Sunday morning: Even the crowd didn’t seem entirely into the game in the first quarter. The Celtics took three more shots than the Heat in the opening 12 minutes, yet they trailed 20-15. That’s because the C’s shot just 6-of-20 (30 percent) while defensively allowing the Heat to connect on 9-of-17 field goals (52.9 percent) in that same span.
Riding the starters: Considering the Celtics’ depth was as shallow as a kiddie pool, and they still defeated the next-best team in the East, the C’s couldn’t have asked for much more. It’s a stretch in the “what went wrong” department, but Doc Rivers was forced to play Rondo and Allen 40-plus minutes, Perkins 30-plus minutes for the fifth straight game and a (less than 100 percent) Pierce 35-plus minutes. Since the C’s play just once (Wednesday) in the next nine days, that shouldn’t cause much concern.
|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.
|Report: Heat may target Kendrick Perkins in free agency||02.05.11 at 12:30 pm ET|
The NBA is facing massive uncertainty once the season ends if the owners decide to lockout the players, as expected. A new collective bargaining agreement would almost certainly re-write the rules on free agency, but one thing is clear from the Celtics perspective: Kendrick Perkins will be very much in demand.
In his latest After the Buzzer column, Yahoo columnist Marc Spears writes that a source expects the Miami Heat to make a run at Perkins once he hits free agency. That would make sense for the Heat who lack a big man compliment to Chris Bosh on their frontline. Under the current rules Miami would only be able to offer the mid-level exception, while the Celtics would be able to offer Perkins whatever they want to retain his services.
Either way, Perkins will be in demand as a 26-year-old center with proven rebounding and defensive skills.
|The Celtics chances of winning the Eastern Conference||01.19.11 at 10:39 am ET|
It has long been the assumption of most people that the Miami Heat will ultimately win enough games to get the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat’s stars are younger, obviously, and there was a feeling that such an accomplishment would “mean” more to them than the Celtics. So, when Miami went 21-1 and passed Boston for the best record in the East on Jan. 9, many assumed that was the beginning of the end for the Celtics hopes at gaining homecourt advantage.
That may be changing.
Miami has now lost four games in a row after last night’s overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks and the Celtics have a four-game edge in the loss column. How much is that worth?
According to Justin Kubatko’s playoff forecasting model on Basketball-Reference.com, it’s actually worth quite a bit. Using Kubatko’s method, the Celtics now have a 72.4 percent chance of gaining the top spot based on 1,000 simulations. That’s up from around 60 percent before Tuesday’s game.
With Kevin Garnett back in the lineup and more help on the way in February from Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West, the Celtics have kept themselves in position to make a run in the second half of the season. They would do well to continue putting pressure on Miami, who play 10 of its 13 games at home in the month of March.
For the Celtics, the question will be how much effort do they want to expend to get the top spot, but the opening is there. (Click here for more on the challenges facing the Celtics in the second half of the season).
|Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I like this team much better’||12.23.10 at 5:11 pm ET|
Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show for his weekly Thursday appearance and noted that he doesn’t think this season’s Celtics team will have the same kind of letdown as last season’s squad.
“I think this just a better team,” Ainge said. “I like this team much better. I like the depth better. I feel more more confident in this team and what we’re capable of doing. Last year we came very close. I feel like us at all positions. We’re playing now without Delonte [West] and Rajon [Rondo], which makes it very difficult, and we’re still finding ways to win.”
“I think last year’s regular season, we didn’t play with a lot of resolve, but we also had more injuries to more key players,” Ainge said. “Paul and KG weren’t near the same and both of those guys are having great years.”
Here are more highlights from the interview: Read the rest of this entry »
|Hilarious ‘Fan up, Miami’ promo||11.18.10 at 3:50 pm ET|
Here’s the “Fan up, Miami” promo that the Big Show guys were talking about on WEEI this afternoon. I like how they found a ton of people who look like they’ve never watched a basketball game in their life to plead for fans to come to the games and root, root, root for the home team. “Are you showing up on time?” “Are you too cool to cheer?” This is the NBA, people. Not the local recreation league …
|Irish Coffee: Top 5 LeBron James parodies||11.12.10 at 11:59 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
If you haven’t heard by now, Paul Pierce mocked LeBron James‘ “Decision” on Twitter last night, saying, “It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach now on to Memphis.” Inspired by The Truth, this Friday version of Irish Coffee gives you the top five parodies of Lebron’s ridiculous offseason antics …
1. LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade form “New World Order”
2. Steve Carell reveals his “The Office” decision
3. Cleveland fans mock LeBron’s Nike commercial
4. Hitler from “Inglourious Basterds” reacts to LeBron’s decision
5. “South Park” spoofs LeBron’s Nike commercial
REACTIONS FROM MIAMI
I love it when not-so-great sports cities are thrust into the limelight. Everybody gets a little too big for their britches, as it pertains to their place in the sports universe — kinda like when the “Jersey Shore” folks became overnight sensations.
Take this, for example, from the Miami Herald on Friday morning:
“Miami vs. Boston could someday be up there with Knicks-Heat, Bulls-Knicks, Pistons-Bulls, Spurs-Mavericks, perhaps even — with a lot of seasoning — Lakers-Celtics.”
Um, no it couldn’t. The Lakers-Celtics rivalry has 60 years of tradition behind it. Those two teams have more championships (33) than the number of years Miami has been in the league (22).
Actually, I take that back, if the Heat win the next 16 championships, then yes, Celtics-Heat could become like Celtics-Lakers. Sorry.
Then, I noticed this throwaway line at the end of another Miami Herald article:
About the only player who responded exactly how we would’ve expected was captain Udonis Haslem.
Wait, what?!?! Udonis Haslem is their captain? Shouldn’t Wade be the captain? Does this mean that not one of the Big Three is a true leader? I’m confused.
Rondo: “But if they put LeBron on me, who guards Paul? Who guards Ray?”
This is precisely why I don’t subscribe to the belief that Miami doesn’t need a point guard, because LeBron and Wade can assume the offensive load. That raises two questions for me: 1) If that’s the case, why have a point guard like Carlos Arroyo or Mario Chalmers on the floor? and 2) Who assumes the defensive load, because those guys can’t guard the point and the 2 or 3?
From the same article, Doc Rivers explains the difference in Rondo from last season to this one:
“Last year, or even the year before they would just get a rebound and throw it to the nearest guy. We’re telling everyone to get the ball to Rondo and let him do what he does. The trust they have in him is unbelievable.”
And Erik Spoelstra calls Rondo the best passer in the league:
“Rondo is as a unique a point guard as has been in this league for a long time. He’s so fast. He gets the overwhelming majority of his plays in random, unscripted situations. It’s his creativity and speed that separates him. You are talking about the best passer, arguably, in the game. If you try to body up and play him at half court, you are playing with fire.”
My interpretation from what these coaches told Jackie Mac? Rondo’s extraordinarily high assist totals might not slow down. If the Celtics are getting the ball into his hands more often in transition (i.e., unscripted situations), that explains the significant rise in assists.
Is it realistic to expect Rondo’s increase in assists to persist? Marc Spears asked the source:
“Last year, seven and eight assists were good for me,” Rondo said. “Now, people are expecting me to get 15 or 16 every night. I don’t know if it’s realistic, but I’m going to continue to try as long as guys make shots.”
DO THE CELTICS GET FAVORABLE CALLS?
Some guy over at the Bleacher Report decided to express his frustration about how he believes the Celtics get far too many calls, leading to their success.
Ah, not to excrement on your point, but I think the discrepancies in free throws in the Celtics’ last two games (13 fewer attempts against the Mavericks and 16 fewer against the Heat) — not to mention the 2010 NBA Finals (the C’s shot 57 fewer free throws in the series) — beg to differ.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
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