|Paul Pierce speaks for starters: ‘No excuse to way we started out’||03.10.11 at 12:50 am ET|
It would seem after his bench was outscored, 26-12, in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden, Doc Rivers would have laid blame for the defeat at the hands of his reserves.
But Rivers also realizes that the Celtics dressed just five players Wednesday who were with the team before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, and one of those five was Avery Bradley.
It’s a lot to ask any second unit to make up a 15-to-20 deficit in a game, let alone one that was making its debut. So, the way Rivers saw it, this loss really was at the feet of his “Big 4″ – namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
“I was concerned because in the first quarter, our four starters put us in a hole and then you needed to sub, and you knew nothing good was going to happen,” Rivers said, as his team fell behind by as much as 15 in the first quarter and 23 early in the third.
“It actually [wasn't bad]. They held their ground,” Rivers said of his reserves, led by Carlos Arroyo and new starting center Nenad Krstic. “The problem was it was a 20-point ground [deficit] they were holding and that’s very difficult.
“We sub anyway. We sit guys down regardless of score. Obviously, we were down 20 and we’re subbing. It’s not something you want to do but you have to.”
Pierce couldn’t argue.
“It’s tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters. How we come out at the beginning of the games, we’ve got to come out with a better focus,” Pierce said. “Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win.”
Pierce did point to the defensive struggles of the second unit but only as far as they had to pick up the pieces from the starters not playing defense, either.
“I think some of it is the second unit, but a lot of that was at the start of the game with the first five so no excuses on that point,” Pierce said. “They came out and shot 70 percent and a lot of that was against the guys that know what we are doing night in and night out.
“You give some leeway to the newer guys, but there is no excuse to the way we started out giving them the big lead and then having to fight all the way to get back into the game.”
The reserves did a very respectable job on Blake Griffin, who had just 12 points in 37 minutes. Down 23, the Celtics slowly started to chip away, outscoring the Clippers, 24-16 in the third to cut the lead to 10.
Then the starters finally did their thing. Allen drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on a bullet pass from Rondo with 7:36 left to draw the Celtics within six, 86-80. Garnett’s jumper with just under six minutes left capped a 15-2 run to draw the Celtics within three.
But Mo Williams drained three free throws with 5:23 left to restore the lead to six. Jeff Green drilled a trey with 47.4 seconds left to get within four, 104-100. Allen’s three with 10.5 seconds left turned out to be too little, too late.
The Celtics will try to regroup and start a new winning streak on Friday against the upstart 76ers in Philadelphia. The Sixers are making a late-season push to finish in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break.
Friday would be a great time for a new start for the “Big 4.”
|Shaq on feuds: ‘It’s marketing’||09.19.10 at 10:31 am ET|
It can be hard to keep track of all of Shaquille O’Neal‘s battles. One day he’s killing Mo Williams, and the next he’s saying it’s all for show. That’s Shaq in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “I know what I’m doing when it comes to selling out games,” he told the paper sounding like Don King trying to get a good house.
Shaq went on to say that he has a good relationship with Dwight Howard off the floor, but it’s different when they’re on the court. “He’s a great young player,” Shaq said. “But on the court it’s not about making friends, it’s about doing what you’re supposed to do to win that game to win a championship.”
|Shaq calls out Cavs, Mo Williams||09.04.10 at 5:07 pm ET|
There was a time when being a role player would not have sat well with Shaquille O’Neal. That time has passed.
In a recent interview with the Times-Picayune, O’Neal explained that he now looks forward to playing for an unselfish ball club, even if it means less time on the court.
“I’m at the point in my life where I can’t carry a team by myself anymore, but I can be a piece on a team that’s already good,” he said. “The Celtics are good with or without me. A lot of people say, ‘How can I be a complementary player?’ But at 38, it’s easy. If I was 28, it would be a problem, Doc.”
O’Neal called out his most recent team, the Cavaliers, for their approach on offense. He singled out one former teammate in particular.
“I like that they (the Celtics) play together and nobody really worries about shots,” O’Neal said. “When I was with Cleveland, guys who couldn’t even play were worried about shots. Why was Mo (Williams) taking 15 shots, and I’m only taking four? If LeBron takes 20 shots, that’s cool.
“So I said, let me get with a good team for the last two years. I don’t mind people calling me a journeyman. I’ve been programmed to move around every three years.”
O’Neal averaged a career-low 8.7 shots per game last season. LeBron James led the Cavs with 20.1 field goal attempts. In contrast, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 12.1 attempts each.
O’Neal also added that he had been interested in the Hawks and Hornets before signing with the Celtics.
|Lineup changes coming for Cavs?||05.13.10 at 2:04 pm ET|
Reports out of the Cavaliers shootaround this morning indicate that Mike Brown is considering lineup changes for Game 6 tonight at the Garden. Plain Dealer beat writer Brian Windhorst noted that Brown is unlikely to change his starting five, but he brings up the one radical move that Brown has left: playing LeBron James at point guard.
The Cavs lineup would look like this: James at the point, Anthony Parker at off-guard and Antawn Jamison at small forward. The big men would be some cobination of J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao and Shaquille O’Neal, but probably the former to try to speed up play.
That would do a number of things: First, It would take Jamison away from Kevin Garnett where he is getting worked in the post and it would also remove Mo Williams out of the equation where he is getting worked against everyone. It would also set up James to match up directly with Rajon Rondo.
Brown tried a number of personnel adjustments in Game 5 including playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of Hickson, and calling on Daniel Gibson who hasn’t been in his rotation since March. Ilgauskus actually played well, but the moves had a feel of desperation about them.
This might be a desperate move, but it’s not necessarily a panic move. Taking Williams out of the lineup is addition by subtraction at this point and James has been successful guarding Rondo in small doses.
On the other hand, it could also open up Paul Pierce. The Celtics are going to keep pounding the ball to Garnett on the post regardless of who’s guarding him and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t keep attacking Jamison in whatever matchup he finds himself.
The Celtics have been able to come up with effective counters for whatever the Cavs have thrown at them and it would be surprising if they haven’t planned for this scenario as well.
|Celtics seek to find Mo||05.01.10 at 7:40 pm ET|
CLEVELAND — Rajon Rondo is one of the best offensive rebounding point guards in the NBA. For a team that doesn’t get a lot of offensive boards to begin with, his ability to crash the glass and keep possessions alive is yet another piece of Rondo’s unique package.
But against the Cavs, Rondo may have to use his discretion. That’s because Mo Williams, Cleveland’s ace 3-point specialist is on the other side.
“Offensive rebounds are great as long as you get them, but when you don’t get them you’re probably going to give up a basket on the offensive end.,” Doc Rivers said prior to Game 1. “Against Cleveland, it’s even more important because if our points guards go to the glass and don’t get it, Mo Williams is probably going to get a 3. Most of his 3’s against us came in transition. Most of Mo’s 3’s against everyone else came through set offense. We’re pretty sure that we have to get back and find him.”
Williams shot 55 percent on 3′s against the Celtics this season (12-for-22) and the Celtics have made defending the arc a tip priority in this series. The other concern for Rivers is that when Rondo drives to the basket, that could leave him vulnerable in transition.
“Mo will leak out,” Rivers said. “That’s the other place that he got 3′s.”
Still, Rivers doesn’t want to completely take away this aspect of Rondo’s game. Just as he is allowed some leeway on the perimeter when he goes for steals, he is also allowed some latitude when he crashes the glass.
Cavs coach Mike Brown indicated that it’s difficult to prepare for Rondo because there’s no way to replicate what he does in practice.
“I think that guy is in Jamaica,” Rivers said. “His name is Usain Bolt. Just like we can’t recreate LeBron [James]. You can’t recreate any of those guys.”
Rivers has spoken in glowing terms about Rondo’s increased maturity this season. From running the team and calling plays, to knowing when to gamble for steals and you can add his rebounding to that list, as well. There’s a lot riding on Rondo’s shoulders in this series.