|The Three-Pointer: Celtics aching for Kevin Garnett||01.11.11 at 12:34 am ET|
And that’s why the Celtics need a healthy Kevin Garnett.
Garnett missed his seventh straight game as a result of the calf he strained during a game in Detroit on Dec. 29, and sooner or later his absence was bound to catch up to the Celtics. Coincidence or not, it happened on the night Garnett was rumored to return.
He didn’t, and the Celtics lost 108-102 to the Rockets, who had suffered five straight defeats entering the game and suited up without Yao Ming or Kevin Martin in uniform.
Houston did, however, have one very good power forward in the lineup (Luis Scola) and a pair of budding big men (Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill), who combined for 34 points and 21 rebounds. You think that’s happening on Kevin Garnett’s watch?
“We just weren’t ready,” said Doc Rivers. “I told our guys I thought overall it was probably our worst defensive effort in three, four years as far as overall effort.”
For all that Glen Davis has done exceedingly well this season — and he has exceeded expectations — he’s no Kevin Garnett. That’s not breaking news or anything. But in Garnett’s absence, the Celtics have relied too much on Davis, and as a result he’s tried to do too much.
Starting in place of Garnett over the past seven games, Davis has shot just 41 percent (41-of-100) and grabbed more than five rebounds only once while averaging 35.7 minutes. In 30 games off the bench this season, he had been shooting 48 percent and averaging more than five rebounds in 28.5 minutes a game. Quite simply, he’s no longer doing the “garbage man” things that made him a contender for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
“He’s getting too many minutes, quite honestly,” added Rivers. “Thirty-eight minutes is too many for Baby. We don’t have a lot of options right now. Luke [Harangody]’s playing okay, but we may have to go small. That’s too many minutes, and that’s on me. Baby should play more in the 30-range, because I think the fatigue is bothering him.”
|Paul Pierce ‘forgot’ Rajon Rondo was back playing||01.04.11 at 9:45 am ET|
Rajon Rondo can be the quiet type in the locker room but when he’s on the court everyone knows he’s out there by his leadership and presence — at least almost everyone.
Doc Rivers pulled Paul Pierce aside at halftime during Monday night’s survival test against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves and reminded him that he didn’t need to run the offense and distribute when Rondo was on the court.
All good intentions aside, getting others involved wasn’t working out that well for Pierce and the Celtics. He had just five points and had handed out just one assist as the C’s trailed, 47-43.
“Doc at the half wanted me to be a little more aggressive,” Pierce said. “I was out there trying to make plays and I forgot that we had Rondo out there doing that so I can go back to my customary role of scoring the ball. That’s what I tried to do in the second half.”
As any coach would, Rivers wanted Pierce to do what he does best.
“I thought Paul in the first half tried way too hard to get everybody else involved,” Rivers said of his captain, who leads the team at 19.0 points per game. “And I told him that at halftime. I said, ‘Paul, you no longer have to be the play maker. We need you to be the aggressive scorer.’ And even he, right after the game he walked up to me and it was the first thing he said was, ‘Ah, gosh, I was, I was way too passive.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, I just thought you were trying to set everybody else up,’” Rivers continued. “Consciously, you know, twice he had shots and he passed it to Nate [Robinson]. Nate’s struggling with his shot right now, but I still want Paul to shoot the ball if he’s open. And I just thought he did a little too much of that tonight.”
Pierce heard Rivers loud and clear after the intermission, remembered that Rondo was indeed in his second game back, and lit up the T’Wolves for 18 second-half points as the Celtics rallied for a 96-93 win.
Once Pierce did allow Rondo to run the show, Pierce and the rest of the team reaped the rewards.
“We got Ray [Allen] open, I thought that was the key,” Pierce said. “Rondo really pushed the ball. Got some really good looks. Defense buckled down so we were able to make a run and get back into the game. Rondo with a big shot and some big passes [to] [Shaquille O'Neal] and that’s what he’s capable of doing and that’s why I’m glad to have him back.”
Observers might have wondered if his sprained right ankle from Sunday night in Toronto might have been affecting his play in the first half.
“A little bit. I was a little stiff, slow,” Pierce admitted. “But, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Just going to get treatment throughout the week. I don’t see any problems coming up.”
That’s good news for Wednesday as the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs come calling at the Garden. In that matchup, thanks to the second half of Monday’s contest, no one will need to remind Pierce about Rondo when No. 9 is on the court.
|Delonte West gets some really good news about his right wrist||01.03.11 at 11:16 pm ET|
When Delonte West fell after a made lay-up against New Jersey on Nov. 24 at TD Garden, he and the Celtics feared the worst about his right wrist. It was a nasty fracture that appeared to – at the least – end his regular season.
But that perspective changed on Monday.
Calling it a big step, West had the hard cast protecting his healing right wrist removed on Monday, the first step of what he hopes could be a return on or shortly after the All-Star break. It was replaced with a brace to allow him some ability to start moving it for light rehab.
“It’s feels stiff but it’s not painful,” West said. “I got great news from doctors. They said maybe three weeks [then] rehabilitation. I’ve already started out conditioning, ball-handling. I’m left-handed anyway. Fortunately, I’m left handed anyway so I able to get shots on my left hand. It’s just a matter of time before I gain game strength in this one.
“Today is Day 1. I got a lot accomplished,” he said of Monday’s milestone in recovery.
As for watching the likes of Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels and even rookie Avery Bradley being forced to pick up the slack as Rajon Rondo‘s back-up, West admitted it’s been rough.
“I can’t wait to get back out there,” West said. “It’s killing me sitting back here and rooting from the sidelines but we all have a position to play and right now mine is getting healthy and getting ready to contribute.”
The initial timetable called for West to return in time for the playoffs but West said he’s hopeful for a return after the All-Star break.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” West admitted before sounding a hopeful but realistic tone. “I’m praying and I’m trying my best to get back before then. But the trainers and the coaching staff, they’re really trying not to rush me but I think I’m really rushing myself right now.”
As for his biggest test, that will come after his rehabilitation, which is still three weeks away.
“I guess it would be lifting but first I have to regain movement but picking up weights and catching a basketball,” West said. “I think right now the biggest fear is falling and having to extend [the wrist]. Today is Day 1, the cast is off. It’s a good day and it’s all uphill from here.”
|Irish Coffee: The Paul Pierce Tribute||12.28.10 at 10:23 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Paul Pierce just tweeted a link to this hip-hop song by Damani, called “(The Truth) Paul Pierce Tribute.” I gotta say, it’s pretty good. I especially like this line: “Back to the basket, face up tragic, mix between Bird and Magic, got to have it.”
SHAQ FINE WITH HEFTY FINE
Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal got hit with a $35,000 fine by the NBA for the comments that he made to the officials — which we covered here yesterday. Here’s what Shaq had to say to the Boston Herald:
“Here’s my quote: Over my 18-year career, I’ve probably paid $90 million in federal tax, $20 million in FICA and $1 million in [NBA commissioner] David Stern tax.”
|Irish Coffee: Celtics are ‘Best of the Best’||12.20.10 at 12:03 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
In somewhat of a footnote in his most recent Sports Illustrated column, Ian Thomsen listed the records of NBA teams against oppoenents with a .500 record or better. You’ll never guess which team ranked atop the list.
Every day, people are coming up with new ways to capture how impressive the 2010-11 Celtics have been despite injuries that are piling up faster than my Christmas shopping list.
But the fact that the Celtics are 10-2 against above-.500 teams while no other Eastern Conference club has a winning record against those same squads might tell us all we need to know about the C’s chances of returning to the NBA Finals.
Against the best, the Celtics have been the best.
Only three teams in the entire league own a winning record against plus-.500 teams: the Celtics (10-2), Spurs (8-2) and Mavericks (9-3). Three others — the Thunder, Nuggets and Jazz — have .500 records against teams with winning records.
Considering the Spurs and Mavericks have been relatively healthy this season, what the Celtics have been able to accomplish is remarkable, as Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O’Neal, Delonte West, Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins have missed a combined 81 games already.
The Celtics’ biggest competitors in the East — the Heat (5-6), Magic (3-6) and Bulls (4-8) — have all been disappointing against above-.500 teams, as have the Knicks (3-5) and Hawks (2-7). In fact, 10 teams have two wins or fewer against opponents with a .500 record or better, including the Lakers, who are 1-3 in just four games against quality opponents this season.
|Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce star in ‘True Grit’ – Celtics style||12.17.10 at 10:24 am ET|
John Wayne and Jeff Bridges have nothing on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Garnett inspired the weary and wounded Celtics with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Pierce restored order to the offense as Nate Robinson was finding his way. KG and Pierce were the two biggest reasons the Celtics ran their winning streak to 12 games in a 102-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden on Thursday night.
The 12-game run matches their longest since they set the franchise record of 19 back in the 2008-09 season. Glen Davis had 18 points off a shorthanded Celtics bench. How shorthanded?
The team found out just before the game they would be without Rajon Rondo for couple of weeks as GM Danny Ainge told WEEI that his sprained left ankle needed time to heal. Robinson started and – after a rocky first half – provided an emotional boost with 14 points and five assists in 41 minutes.
Shaquille O’Neal missed his fourth straight game with a strained right calf. Von Wafer came up with a sore back in the first half and was unavailable in the second half, giving the Celtics four healthy bench players. Semih Erden scored 10 points in 24 minutes, starting in place of O’Neal for the fourth straight game.
For the final 2:44 of the first quarter, Doc Rivers had Pierce on the court with Davis, Marquis Daniels, Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody.
“We were playing with Semih, two rooks, and then Von went down at halftime,” Garnett said. “So it’s not enough to say [gritty]. I mean, ‘P’ said it before the game: This is going to me more mental than anything. I think everybody’s playing, is giving everything they have. And in order for us to win these games, we’re just going to have to grind it out.
“You know, until we get the guys back. We just got the news about Rondo; Shaq wasn’t available today. So what’re you going to do? You either quit, you put your clothes on and go home, but that ain’t the way we do things around here. We work. So that, pretty much – gutsy is an understatement.”
Playing on fumes for most of the first half after an emotional win in New York 24 hours earlier, the Celtics came alive late in the second quarter, going on a 10-2 run to take a 44-43 lead at halftime. They opened the second half with a 20-12 run to assume control of the game.
“I don’t know if I’m surprised or not,” Rivers said of his team’s true grit. “I trust our guys. They just play well. They’re executing well. I thought – second half was terrific for us. I thought the first half, it was a grind. I mean, you could just feel it, emotionally, too, probably, coming off of last night’s game. And then in the second half, you know, it was terrific – we couldn’t get Ray [Allen] going in the first half, and so we just changed the passer and made it Paul.
While Garnett was providing his typical fire and inspiration, Pierce turned back the clock to 2006 and ran the offense as a point-forward in the second half, while Robinson found his bearings.
“I knew I was going to have to be more of a play-maker,” Pierce said. “Truthfully, I really didn’t think like that. I just tried to feel the game out, and you know, try to give it what it needs. I didn’t need to try to have a great scoring night because of the guys we had going. I mean, Ray got it going in the second half, Baby was consistent all game, and Kevin set the tone. So, I just let the chips fall where they may, and the guys, they stepped up. And so, it sort of, kind of, ended up that way. And it played out perfectly. And if that’s what it’s going to take, that’s what it’s going to take. You know, a lot of guys out. Guys are going to be asked to play multiple roles. And that’s what we’ve got to do.”
“Paul basically became the point forward in the second half,” Rivers added. “And it really worked out for us. I don’t know if we stumbled on it if we kind of were forced to do it. But it was terrific. And Paul enjoyed it, which is even better. And then our defense kicked in too.”
And the defense will always be the true grit of this Celtics show.
|Irish Coffee: Top 5 Pop-A-Shot performances||at 8:00 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Five randomly selected people will get the chance to compete against Nate Robinson in Pop-A-Shot at Modell’s Sporting Goods in Saugus on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. Now, I have a million legendary Pop-A-Shot stories, so I’ll spare you and give you just one:
While I was a student at Boston University, there was a guy at The Sports Depot challenging anybody and everybody to Pop-A-Shot. If he won, you had to buy him a shot. He beat a few people, and he took a few shots.
Once people caught onto the fact that he was a Pop-A-Shot Shark, he started betting everyone he could beat them left-handed. He beat a few more people, and he took a few more shots — but his game never wavered.
After a while, everybody pretty much gave up on trying to beat him, so he started giving everyone 20-point cushions. He got a few more takers, beat them and took more shots. Yet, he always put up 100 points a minute.
And he never lost.
Based on the shots consumed and point spread offered to his opponents, it was the greatest shooting display I’ve ever seen. Not to mention I saw the same guy doing the same thing a year later at the Beacon Hill Pub.
All I’m saying is, if this guy shows up in Saugus, Robinson has no chance. So, without further ado, I give you the top five Pop-A-Shot performances on YouTube …
1. THE WORLD RECORD: Jay Kletecka is right where I picture the Pop-A-Shot world record-holder to be: In his mother’s basement. I do enjoy how he calmly drains 166 straight and has no reaction when he finally misses.