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Mike D’Antoni on Rajon Rondo: ‘I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does’ 04.24.11 at 3:09 pm ET
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NEW YORK — For as long as Rajon Rondo plays with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, people will question his place in the great point guard hierarchy. Is he a product of the environment of playing with three future Hall of Famers or a great player in his own right? Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised the issue prior to Game 4 of the Celtics‘ first-round playoff series with New York.

“He’s a very good player,” D’Antoni said. “I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does. Everybody’s tied together and they have three Hall of Famers playing out there. But Rondo’s a very, very good basketball player. Really good. There’s no doubt about that.”

Rondo had 20 assists against the Knicks in Game 3 and at least nine of those were on jump shots, according to Synergy Sports, which tracks every play. But Rondo also had a triple double in the game, his sixth in his postseason career.

“You play with those guys, that’€™s probably what you’€™re going to get,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’€™t think he would trade it. I think he enjoys playing with them. If there is a negative side ‘€” I guess ‘€” that would be it. No matter how well you play, the question will be [that]. And someday that will be answered, too. I’ve got a feeling he’€™ll answer them all in the way he’€™s answering them now.”

Asked if this kind of talk fueled Rondo, Rivers said, “I don’€™t talk about it a whole bunch. He doesn’€™t bring it up a lot. It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’€™s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’€™s going to make him play like this, I’€™m all for it.”

Read More: Knicks, Mike D'Antoni, playoffs, Rajon Rondo
Irish Coffee: Celtics lack killer instinct 11.02.10 at 11:05 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

We know they love Halloween, but does this Celtics team have a killer instinct?

I raised this concern when the C’s let a pair of double-digit leads vaporize at both second-half quarters in the opening-night win over the Miami Heat.

And Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton raised it again just three games into the 2010-11 NBA season — suggesting Boston has played to its competition through the first three games.

 The Celtics did it last season, when they were just average down the stretch before bouncing back to find their rhythm in the playoffs and get with a few possessions of winning another NBA championship. But for a veteran team – led by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and the playoff-experienced Rajon Rondo -- that has been through the wars and knows the importance of staying focused and consistent, it’s a red flag.

The Celtics had the killer instinct in 2007-08, when they won 66 regular-season games and the NBA title. A whopping 21 of those victories came by margins of 20 points or more.

They simply didn’t let many games slip away, as they did in Game 2 against Cleveland — dissolving a double-digit lead in the second half against one of the worst teams in the league.

The 2007-08 C’s started 20-2, winning by an average of 16 points and losing only to a pair of teams that reached the second round of the playoffs that season (the Orlando Magic and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers).

Meanwhile, this year’s edition of the Celtics has led all three of its games by double digits late in the third quarter, only to be playing meaningful minutes down to the buzzer.

Against the Heat, an 83-70 lead with four minutes to play dwindled to an 83-80 advantage in the final minute. Against the Cavs, the C’s turned a 66-55 third-quarter advantage into a 95-87 loss. And against the Knicks, Boston owned a 101-90 lead with two minutes left, only to be clinging to a 103-101 advantage in the final minute.

To further the issue, Burton points to tonight’s game as a potential defining moment for this season’s Celtics, especially considering they haven’t played since Friday night.

The Celtics will get another test of their focus on Tuesday, when they visit the Pistons on the road. A fierce playoff rival for the C’€™s as recently as 2008, Detroit was in the Lottery last year and aren’€™t expected to do much this year. Ben Gordon‘€™s and Co. are 0-3 right now, but two of those losses were down-to-the-wire games against playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Chicago. If the Celtics overlook Detroit – perhaps eyeing an upcoming stretch that has them home for the Bucks and Bulls before playing at OKC, Dallas and Miami – Gordon and Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons’€™ talented scorers will hand Doc Rivers another unexpected L.

Losses piling up are certainly a concern, but as the Celtics showed last year: For this team, what happens in the regular season stays in the regular season. The more concerning number — other than a potentially lower playoff seed — could be the mounting meaningful minutes.

The more games the Celtics are able to demonstrate a killer instinct — turning second-half, double-digit leads into certifiable blowouts down the stretch — the fewer minutes Rivers has to trot out his aged starters.

“I love sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter when you’ve got a blowout,” Ray Allen said in the preseason. “That means everybody as a team gets the opportunity to play. Everybody works hard throughout the week, so when you know guys get a chance to play that’s when you know you’ve got it.”

Which only stresses the killer instinct question: Do this season’s Celtics have IT?

MAGIC DON’T MATCH UP

What the Celtics do have — according to Orlando Sentinel‘s George Diaz — is a considerable matchup advantage against the Magic. In fact, the columnist essentially threw in the towel against the C’s and Heat just a few games into the season. Here’s a glimpse:

The Magic don’t have any players who can break down a defense by going one-on-one, unless Vince Carter steps into a Hot Tub Time Machine and it’s 1997 all over again.

Without one, they won’t have a prayer of beating the Celtics or the Heat in a playoff series.

It may sound like one man’s opinion, but it’s not. Even Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy owned up to that discrepancy after getting blown out by the Heat on Friday.

“Against a good defensive team we have trouble a little bit,” Van Gundy told the Sentinel. “We don’t have — and this isn’t to put down anybody in our locker room — but we don’t have the great one-on-one players. We don’t have Dwyane Wade and James and Pierce and Kobe Bryant.”

That’s got to be fairly eye-opening for any Orlando fan. I had my doubts about the Magic from the start, relaying recently a conversation I overheard at the Garden:

“How come you don’t believe in the Magic?” one guy said to another.

To which the other guy replied, “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jimmer Fredette, Mike D'Antoni
What to Watch For: Bulls vs. Celtics 10.31.08 at 11:40 am ET
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The banner is up, the rings have been delivered and Paul Pierce won’t be thanking his extended family before the game. (We kid, Paul. We kid). It’s Game 2 of the NBA season for the Celtics who welcome the Chicago Bulls to town for their second-straight nationally televised game. You can catch it all on Comcast, of course, with plenty of Mike and Tommy goodness.

It’s Halloween night, or as friend of ‘eei Ian Browne called it: Grown-ups without kids night at the Garden. After the jump, five things to watch for while trying not be scared of Drew Gooden’s new look. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Derrick Rose, Drew Gooden
Celtics? We’re playing the Celtics? 10.17.08 at 4:23 pm ET
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Check back regularly tonight for updates as the Boston Celtics take on the New York Knicks at the TD BankNorth Garden

It’s nearly impossible to avoid the 2008 World Champion signs plastered around the Garden. But somehow Knicks head coach Mike D’Antonio was able to block that all out. He has tunnel vision for one team and one team only … even if he is going up against the defending champs.

“None. It’s preseason,” D’Antoni said of the significance of playing the Celtics. “It’s significant if we played the Nets, which we will be on Monday, if it was Philadelphia it’d be significant. It’s significant because we’re worried about the Knicks.”

Tonight’s game is more about getting Eddy Curry adjusted to the system and building chemistry among the players than it is about shutting down Kevin Garnett and upsetting the Celtics at home.

“Boston’s the best team out there ‘€“ I can’t help that one,” D’Antoni said. “But we can worry about the Knicks and that’s what we’ll do in preseason.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Eddy Curry, Kevin Garnett, Mike D'Antoni
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