|Irish Coffee: Celtics weekly report card, part deux||01.20.12 at 2:11 pm ET|
Father Red, for it’s been two weeks since my last report card. As I’ve mentioned before, with 66 games crammed into 17 weeks, each seven-day stretch of this NBA season takes on the importance of an NFL week. As NFL writers are won’t to do, we’ll continue our (bi)weekly series of Celtics report cards. Since last marking period, when the Celtics had just won four straight, Doc Rivers and Co. have endured a five-game losing streak snapped Wednesday night against the mighty Raptors. That being said, let’s get to the grades.
MICKAEL PIETRUS: A
Last Grade: N/A
The Celtics desperately needed scoring and defense off the bench, and Pietrus has filled both roles better than cream fills a Hostess cupcake. Since debuting against the Mavericks, he’s averaged 8.2 points on 41 percent from beyond the arc in addition to snagging four steals against zero turnovers. In his last two games, he’s scored 26 points (7-13 3P), culminating in his first Celtics win and his rendition of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”
KEVIN GARNETT: B+
Last Grade: A-
Rivers wanted Garnett to take more shots, and KG listened, attempting 19 field goals in consecutive games. It worked one night (21 points at Pacers) and failed another (12 points vs. Thunder), which seems to be a running theme for Garnett 2.0, who just doesn’t have the same lift as the Timberwolves prototype. In all other aspects of his game, he’s lived up to his self-proclaimed “X-factor” role: “Whatever you need me to do, I’m gonna do.”
|Fast Break: Celtics snap losing streak, beat Raptors||01.18.12 at 9:56 pm ET|
The Celtics have been desperate for a strong start and they finally got one on Wednesday against Toronto, opening up a 21-7 lead and making nine of their first 16 shots. They rode that early lead through some rough patches in the second quarter and earned a much-needed 96-73 win over Toronto, snapping a five-game losing streak.
It wasn’t all good for the Celtics as Rajon Rondo was put on the ground by Linas Kleiza with a hard foul late in the third quarter. Rondo landed awkwardly on his right wrist and didn’t return to the game. Kleiza was originally assessed a Flagrant-2 foul on the play, but it was downgraded to a Flagrant-1 after a review.
The Celtics opened up a 29-14 lead in the first quarter and while they eventually cooled down, the Raptors didn’t have nearly enough offense to make up the ground with leading scorer Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup with a strained left calf. However the win came, the Celtics will take it. They’re back in action on Friday against the Suns.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Rajon Rondo didn’t get his first assist until the 6:01 mark of the third quarter, but it was hard to argue with his floor game. Rondo went to the basket repeatedly and made seven of his first eight shots. He also went to the free throw line seven times in the first half and made five.
– Kevin Garnett came out aggressive with six points in the first four minutes and 10 points by halftime. Garnett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds and while he’s still having trouble finishing inside, this continued a run of stronger games for Garnett.
– Paul Pierce only scored eight points but he had seven assists and four rebounds. With Rondo looking to score, Pierce played the role of facilitator and did it well.
– The Celtics hit the defensive glass and didn’t turn the ball over. A very good combination.
– Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass formed an effective two-man bench, combing for all 19 points for the reserves prior to fourth quarter garbage time. Pietrus finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers and Bass had 13 and nine rebounds.
WHAT WENT WRONG Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc Rivers: Mickael Pietrus is ‘the instigator’ Celtics desperately need right now||01.17.12 at 10:28 am ET|
After Monday night’s 97-88 loss to the Thunder, Doc Rivers spoke as if he were jealous of Mickael Pietrus.
“He has a great role — shoot,” Rivers said. “That’s a helluva role. I never had that as a player because I couldn’t shoot, was probably the reason.”
He even lamented his case to his old coach with the Atlanta Hawks, Mike Fratello, who was on hand doing the game nationally on TNT.
But after further thought, Rivers’ jealousy turned into sincere admiration for the combination of toughness and determination Pietrus brings to the team, a trait that’s needed badly right now as the team battles through a five-game losing streak and a 4-8 start to the shortened 66-game season.
“He earns it, though,” Rivers said. “The guy, he plays so hard. He’s going to take some crazy shots sometimes and he may turn it over but his spirit is really good for our team. He’s competitive and we needed to add another instigator to our team. He is absolutely an instigator.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics encouraged despite losing five straight||at 10:13 am ET|
Monday night’s loss to the upstart Thunder marked the first time in the Big Three era that the team has lost five straight games, and it’s also the second time in the young season that Boston has lost three games in the span of four days. Even though the natural inclination is to panic, collectively the Celtics feel the team is improving.
“I really like the effort we had tonight,” said Paul Pierce. “I was the telling the guys if we compete like that night in and night out — we’ll get closer to where we want to be.”
Certainly it’s easy to point to Boston’s 4-8 record and feel underwhelmed at any notion of optimism, but the Celtics are starting to click individually. Now, the team needs to find some semblance of consistency.
“We’re still chasing putting four quarters of good basketball together,” said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder. “I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I’m sure if y’all rewind your tapes, I’m in a different outfit saying the same thing, but we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get this thing better. I really believe that, and you’ve got to believe that.”
Ray Allen and Brandon Bass helped carry Boston earlier this season. Bass, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Through the first seven games of the season he averaged 14 points off the bench. However, during this five-game losing streak, Bass has seen his production cut in half, only averaging 7.4 points per game.
|Fast Break: Back to back blues continue||01.14.12 at 9:33 pm ET|
It wasn’t like anyone expected the Celtics to fly out of Indiana on the second night of a back-to-back with a victory, if you needed any more evidence that they have a long way to go, it was provided in a 97-83 loss. It’s also worth noting that the Pacers were also on the second end of a back-to-back.
The starters got off to a much better offensive start, but it was the second unit that couldn’t keep the momentum going and they had nothing left in the second half. Defensively, they let the Pacers control the paint (they allowed 20 offensive rebounds) and they couldn’t keep them off the free throw line.
The one bright spot was Kevin Garnett who had a bounceback game with 21 points and six rebounds and was much more aggressive offensively. Paul Pierce also scored 21 points by getting to the free throw line and knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The bench didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus combined to shoot 3-for-10 in the first half and that was the only offense they received from the second unit. Avery Bradley was replaced by rookie E’Twaun Moore after badly bricking a jumpshot.
– Paul George is an impossible cover for Ray Allen. At 6-foot-8, there’s little that Allen can do with him and the Pacers smartly took advantage of that as George went to the free throw line six times in the first half. Pietrus came in and did a solid job defensively.
– Danny Granger is the latest small forward to have a big game on Pierce. He went for 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half and finished with 21.
– Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to shoot 6-for-17 and finished with just 13 points. Rondo did have nine assists and Allen contributed six rebounds, but Darren Collison and George put up 34 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »
|As the Celtics rotation turns||01.12.12 at 5:11 pm ET|
WALTHAM — On Wednesday night, Celtics coach Doc Rivers looked out on the floor and saw Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass and thought, this is what he’s been looking for. Energy, fullcourt defense, tempo, pace … all those buzzwords were finally on display.
“Without the second unit [Wednesday] night we’re losing that game by 25 points,” Rivers said. “The second unit got us back in the game with their energy defensively. That’s how I envisioned them when we started this and that was the first night where you could literally see the difference, and probably because Pietrus was part of it.”
Rivers said after the Celtics’ 90-85 loss to Dallas that his new swingman brought a “joy” to the court in his debut. An upbeat, gregarious character, Pietrus quickly endeared himself to his coach, his teammates and the Garden crowd with 18 inspired minutes.
He was playing so well that Rivers left him in the game deep into the fourth quarter before bringing back Paul Pierce at about the 6-minute mark, who had his second straight poor game. Pierce has not talked with reporters since Tuesday when he held court for several minutes after practice, but Rivers said Pierce was fine with the decision.
The second unit didn’t overwhelm anyone with their statistics. They scored 27 points, 19 of them from Bass and Dooling, and had 10 rebounds and four assists. They began coming into the game down 17-9 after the starters got off to a woeful start offensively and by the time they had rotated back out halfway through the second quarter they had cut two points off the lead. Again, not overwhelming, but successful.
Rivers has pinned his team’s 4-5 record on the starters. What he wants from his bench are energy, defense and the ability to shake things up when things start poorly. He’s still searching for the right combination of players, which is understandable.
The Celtics acquired nine players via trade, draft and free agency and all of them come off the bench. Bradley played only 162 minutes last season, so he is also new to the rotation. That’s a lot of moving parts and Rivers has already worked through several variations of a reserve unit.
Here’s how they stand at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »
|Mickael Pietrus makes his Celtics debut and maintains: ‘I’m here to win a championship’||at 12:38 pm ET|
Mickael Pietrus said on Monday he thought he might be able to play five or 10 minutes in his Celtics debut Wednesday against the Mavericks. He added he would play as much as the team needed him.
Turned out the Celtics, trying desperately to find a spark off the bench, needed him much more than even Doc Rivers might have imagined. Rivers put him in for the still-struggling Paul Pierce with 1:25 left in the first quarter and immediately noticed a boost.
“He was phenomenal,” Rivers said. “I thought we was one of our best players in the game. He clearly gave our team energy. Played hard. Turned the ball. He’s exactly what we need. And it’s just going to get better. Even if it didn’t, I’d take it. Really, he was terrific. He really was. His energy, his joy – he brought joy to the game. You know, you can just see it. He was so happy to play, and really the only reason he came out was because he was dying. He was getting tired and I had to take him out.”
Rivers took him out 6:04 left in the fourth after 18 hard minutes. Pietrus was 2-of-5 from the field, with one rebound, four fouls and five points. But it was the intangible of energy that meant the most to Rivers. Pietrus, who hit his first shot – a 3-pointer – just over a minute into the second quarter, felt immediately that his style will fit in with these Celtics.
“We have a lot of energy, a lot of focus,” Pietrus said. “You know offensively we still have to step up with a lot of new guys, including myself, and it will take time, but we are going to get it done.
“Anytime I step on the floor I’m trying to give the team my heart. The Celtics are my heart now. And that’s why I thought people on the Celtics are going to play harder. I tell you everything that’s what I’m going to bring every night and I’m not going to lie to you, I’m here to win a championship.”