|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s not enough vs. 76ers||11.09.12 at 10:11 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo may have continued his streak of games with double-digit assists, but the 76ers backcourt combined for 46 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds, and the Celtics‘ defense let another playoff foe from last season reach the century mark in a 106-100 loss to their Atlantic Division rivals.
Jrue Holiday (21 points, 14 assists) and Evan Turner (25 points, 11 rebounds) torched the C’s.
Rondo finished with 14 points and 20 assists while Paul Pierce (24 points), Kevin Garnett (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jason Terry (13 points) all reached double figures, but the Celtics got little help from the bench beyond the guy who dubbed their reserves the best in basketball, as Jeff Green (1-5 FG) struggled once again.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A little help: Outside of Garnett and Lee, the Celtics started an atrocious 1-of-18 from the field, settling for far too many jump shots. Rondo (1-5), Pierce (0-5), Green (0-3) and Bass (0-3) all couldn’t find the basket through most of the first half, and the Celtics fell behind by double digits for the third time in five games.
Wet paint: While the Celtics seemed content launching from mid-range, the Sixers attacked the rim. In the first half, Philly scored 30 points in the paint and added 18 fast break points — compared to 14 and two, respectively, for the C’s — resulting in a 57-45 Sixers lead at the break. Evan Turner, in particular, victimized Pierce, scoring four of his six first-half buckets at the rim. In all, the Sixers outscored the C’s 56-38 in the paint and 26-9 in transition.
Downtown daggers: Somehow, the Celtics failed to defend the basket and the 3-point line. In all, the 76ers shot 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, including a Jrue Holiday triple with five minutes to play that helped keep the surging C’s at bay. In all, Boston opponents are shooting 34-of-84 from long-distance (40.5 3P%). Both the number of makes and attempts illustrates the inability of Celtics wings to close out on the perimeter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First five: The Celtics actually started off strong defensively, holding the 76ers to a 1-of-9 shooting start and building leads of 6-0 and 8-3 on the back of Garnett, but as has been the case all season, things went south when KG took his five-minute sabbaticals. Sullinger/Bass and Bass/Wilcox combinations quickly turned five- and six-point leads into five- and six-point deficits with Garnett on the bench.
Making a point: In the third quarter, Rondo did everything he could to will his lackadaisical team back into the game. He had his hand in the C’s first five buckets after the break (layup, jumper, assist, 1-2 FT, layup, assist). In the meantime, he notched his 10th assist, tying John Stockton for the NBA’s third-longest streak of 10-plus assists (29 games) and recording his fifth straight double-double to start the season.
Terry time: Often referring to himself as a clutch player, Jason Terry put his words into actions. Twice he drew the Celtics within three points in the fourth quarter — on a 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 83-80 and a 12-foot floater that cut the edge to 93-90 — as he reached double digits off the bench for the third time in four games. Perhaps more importantly, Rivers has given the all-important closer’s role at shooting guard to Terry in the last two games, including all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter on Friday night.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer intimidate NBA dregs||at 8:37 am ET|
When Jeff Green suggested “teams are no longer scared” of the Celtics after they lost to the Bucks, it seemed to be his interpretation of Kevin Garnett‘s postgame “pack of hyenas” speech. Under Doc Rivers in the KG era, the C’s earned a reputation for playing defense with an edge, and without it they’re just another basketball team.
So, when even 19-year-old rookies born in the Bill Clinton era don’t fear the Celtics, who will?
“We know they’re vulnerable,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, the NBA’s third overall draft pick in 2012. “We know that they are an aggressive team, but they are a lot older then we are, so we are going to try and wear them down. They have a decent bench, and their bench comes in and gives them immediate scoring — everybody has the green light. So, our plan is basically to wear them down and keep pushing the ball in transition and make sure our pick-and-roll defense is what it needs to be, especially on Paul Pierce.”
Beal wasn’t the only Washingtonian unfazed by the Garden banners or Celtics mystique. If the current C’s players can’t get inside the heads of NBA newcomers or make them think twice about driving the lane, then they’re no longer hyenas on the hunt. Instead, Wizards and Bucks smell blood in the water.
Take Kevin Seraphin as Exhibit B. In two games against the Celtics, the 22-year-old product of France has totaled 35 points and 16 rebounds. So, when Garnett trapped him in the corner late in the fourth quarter, drew an offensive foul and tried to snatch the ball away from him after the whistle, he wasn’t intimidated, resulting in a Garnett technical and an 84-82 Wizards lead with 1:07 remaining. Who’s in whose head now?
|Doc Rivers has another unmistakable message for his team||11.08.12 at 1:32 pm ET|
This has been an early season of “message sending” for Doc Rivers.
After the first two games, the Celtics head coach talked about not trying to win games by playing one-on-one basketball.
On Monday, after barely surviving blowing a 16-point second-half lead in Washington Saturday night and watching the Wizards reserves dominate the Celtics second unit, the theme turned to the bench. “I’m not going to change the way I use [Kevin Garnett]. If our bench doesn’t score, then we’ll lose, simple.”
Well, he got a much better effort from Chris Wilcox (albeit four minutes), Jason Terry and Brandon Bass off the bench on Wednesday night and it was the biggest reason why the Celtics won, 100-94 in overtime.
But what Rivers saw early on as his team fell behind and what he saw late in the fourth quarter were the two things he focused on afterward.
‘Well, we won the game,” Rivers said. “And right now that’s the type of team we are. We’re not playing great. It’s good to win a game like that. We’ve won two like that. You knew coming into this night, no matter who you’re playing, when you’re play a team back-to-back games, you give them three days, you knew it’d be a tough game. But we made it so much harder. I thought we played for the first five minutes great, and then we went back to old habits. I thought our energy was terrible.
“I thought Chris Wilcox saved the game for us, singlehandedly, with his effort. And I thought it was obvious. He didn’t do anything but played hard and played with great effort. And I thought that that leadership led everybody else into doing. Kevin, always, I always exclude him because he always plays the right way. But we’ve got to get more guys that play harder, better. I don’t care about ‘well,’ you know, I don’t care if we play ‘well’ or not, because that’s just human. If you can make shots or not, it happens. But we just have to play with a better focus and we’ve got to run our schemes better.’
Next up for the 2-2 Celtics, the 2-2 Sixers, who are coming off a win in New Orleans Wednesday night and will be in town Friday night. What will Doc’s message be? Stay tuned.
Doc Rivers made a point of telling his team Wednesday night that he didn’t care how well they played but rather how hard they played.
His point was that if you play with great energy, good results will follow even when the execution isn’t always there.
Brandon Bass got that message, even if it took overtime to do it.
Bass scored five straight points in overtime, reading his teammates and running down the floor, as the Celtics overcame the Wizards, 100-94, in overtime. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench as the Celtics reserves, including Chris Wilcox, finally found a way to help in a win.
“That’s part of me improving as a player,” Bass said. “That’s what I want to do for this team this year, help any way l can.”
After hitting one of two free throws with 2:21 left in overtime, Bass took a pass from Rondo after a Wizards turnover and went to the basket for a layup, putting Boston up, 95-92.
Then, after a missed shot by the Wizards on a chance to tie, Rajon Rondo hauled in the rebound and rewarded Bass who was sprinting up the court all by himself.
“Me and Rondo had switched on that play and he got the rebound so I sprinted out and finished,” Bass said.
Paul Pierce said what he liked about Bass’ play so much Wednesday was the fact he didn’t think but rather played instinctively. Bass agreed.
“That was huge,” Bass said. “That’s how I’m going to be at my best, when I’m out there just reacting, just defending and playing with a whole lot of energy. That’s what I tried to do.
“Be mentally tougher. On a team like this, watching the guys and how they deal with adversity, it can only help me and that’s what it did.”
|The newest Kevin Garnett analogy is a weird one||at 1:12 am ET|
You’re in for something special when even Kevin Garnett admits, “That was a weird interview.” Last season, he compared team chemistry to frying tortillas and baking cakes. This year? After the Celtics (2-2) escaped a second straight game against the depleted Wizards, KG invoked cable providers and DVR in one strange analogy.
“You can’t speed chemistry up,” said KG. “I think the more practice, the more you get familiar with each other. There’s no hit the fast forward button here. You’ve got Comcast. Some shows you can’t fast forward through. You’ve just got to let it go through and watch the silly ass commercials and be pissed, right? This is what this is.
|Fast Break: Celtics survive another Wizards scare||11.07.12 at 10:21 pm ET|
Thanks to double-doubles from the Big Three, the Celtics survived a second straight game against a Wizards team missing two of its best players. It wasn’t pretty — and required OT — but the Cs’ evened their record at 2-2.
Rondo’s 18 points and 14 assists in the 100-94 victory moved him alone into third place in NBA history with 28 consecutive games with 10-plus assists (behind John Stockton‘s 29, Stockton’s 37 and Magic Johnson‘s 44).
Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds) committed what could’ve been a costly technical foul when he jerked his elbow in Kevin Seraphin‘s direction late in the fourth quarter, but two Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds) steals and a Rondo 20-footer with 26 seconds left helped force overtime as Rondo’s 3-pionter at the end of regulation fell short. The C’s defense arrived just in time to salvage the game in OT.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First things first: The Celtics repeatedly assure the offense will come once they can get back to playing the kind of defense that’s been the trademark of their success the past five seasons. Wednesday night’s first quarter was a start. Led by Garnett and Lee, the Celtics held the Wizards to 29.2 percent shooting (7-24 FG) in the first 12 minutes, building a 21-16 lead that should have been bigger if not for five C’s turnovers.
Garnett gold: Since nobody else put forth any effort in the opening 24 minutes, Garnett exerted twice as much. By halftime, he had 10 rebounds, seven points and two blocks. His final first-half defensive stand was remarkable, singlehandedly guarding the right side of the court and eventually blocking a Trevor Booker layup attempt with two seconds left on the shot clock. Without KG on the floor, the C’s finished minus-13 before the break.
Forward progress: Finally given an opportunity to contribute midway through the third quarter, Chris Wilcox ran the floor with Rondo, made his only field goal and got to the line five times for six points to go along with two boards and a block. In just four minutes of action, he finished a plus-11 — while Garnett sat on the bench.
Very Terry: After admitting it was an adjustment to mesh with a new system, Jason Terry finally asserted himself into the offense. He took 15 shots, made seven of them and scored 16 points off the bench. Somehow, the C’s reserves still got outscored, 53-41.
As a member of Mark Cuban‘s ever-changing Mavericks, Jason Terry saw his share of rookies, castaways and veterans enter the turnstiles attempting to adjust to the Dallas system. Even last season, a year out from winning the NBA championship, the Mavs lost five of their top 12 rotation players. Now, Terry’s the one adjusting.
“We had a lot of turnover in Dallas where we’d bring in new guys every year, it seemed like, so this is nothing new, but for me it’s definitely an adjustment,” said Terry, who averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 assists and 1.2 steals last season. “And I know for the guys that have been here, it’s an adjustment for them, because they’re used to playing one way and now you’re implementing guys who are used to playing another, so it’s difficult.”
Even if last year’s Mavericks lost Tyson Chandler, Juan Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Peja Stojakovic, they returned nine players from the title team while adding Vince Carter and Lamar Odom. Yet, Dallas dropped from a No. 3 to a 7 seed during the lockout season and got swept by the Thunder in the first round.
“For us, it never jelled,” said Terry, who made his desire to keep the championship core together clear at the time. “It never happened. That’s why we were out in the first round. It can happen, or it won’t.”
This season, the Celtics returned only four players from the roster that lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Heat. Even when you include Avery Bradley, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green, coach Doc Rivers still has eight fresh faces in his locker room. What’s to say this team never jells?