|Fast Break: Magic pull disappearing act vs. Celtics||01.23.12 at 10:09 pm ET|
Maybe this is the win this Celtics team needed. It was hard to see this one coming, especially with five Celtics regulars sidelined by injury against a Magic team that won 11 of its first 15 games, but the C’s put together their best stretch of basketball in a 87-56 welcome home victory against Glen Davis & Co. at the Garden on Monday.
Paul Pierce (19 points, 7 assists) once again led the offensive charge, with a little help from friends Kevin Garnett (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (19 points, 8 rebounds). Meanwhile, starting in place of the injured Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley (3 steals) wreaked havoc on the defensive end to help the C’s (7-9) hold Orlando to 16-of-65 shooting (24.6%) — the best defensive effort of this Big Three era.
Davis scored just six points (2-9 FG) but grabbed 11 rebounds, and Dwight Howard led the Magic’s anemic offensive effort with 18 points (4-15 FG) and 14 boards.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Defending their life: Led by defensive-minded starters Garnett and Bradley, the Celtics put together their best defensive game of the season. They held the Magic to just 11-of-38 shooting (28.9%) before the break, and actually improved upon that in the second half (5-27; 18.5%). The C’s recorded six blocks (shockingly, none by rejection artist Greg Stiemsma) and six steals by halftime, building an early lead — something that escaped them through their 6-9 start.
Familiar foes: Lost in the drama surrounding Big Baby’s return to the Garden was the fact Bass was also facing his former team, as the two former LSU teammates were traded for each other after the lockout. One of few healthy bodies coming off the bench, Bass reached double digits by halftime and gave the C’s a much-needed boost against his old teammates.
Avery Bradley, defensive stopper: The Celtics sophomore guard gave veteran Magic point guard Jameer Nelson problems all night long, picking his pocket twice, forcing a jump ball and altering his shot — all in the third quarter. Given his third consecutive start in Rondo’s absence, this stretch might be just what the Doc ordered in building Bradley’s confidence and expediting his development in what some believed could be a breakout season for the young guard.
|Avery Bradley’s successful first NBA start||01.21.12 at 1:44 am ET|
In the first quarter of Friday night’s loss against the Suns, Avery Bradley picked off a pass at midcourt and converted an easy layup. In the fourth quarter, Bradley lunged after a loose ball underneath Boston’s basket, saving a possession that led to a score.
That’s his job: Provide energy and defense.
“It builds my confidence a lot,” said Bradley. “Every game I play I know what Doc [Rivers] and my teammates expect from me — to bring that energy every time I step on the floor.”
He was tasked with defending two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Bradley felt his best chance to combat the 37-year-old was to antagonize him with aggressive defense.
“I tried to get him tired,” Bradley said. “[I] picked him up full court to let him know I was going to bother him the whole game.”
|Paul Pierce: ‘Of course’ I still want to retire a Celtic||at 12:59 am ET|
This isn’t the first time Celtics captain Paul Pierce‘s name has emerged in trade discussion. Prior to the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, rumors consistently swirled that team president Danny Ainge would deal his star and enter full-blown rebuild mode. Flash forward five years, same story.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been down that road,” said Pierce, addressing the issue for the first time after the Celtics suffered their sixth loss in seven games, 79-71 at home to the Suns, “but I don’t think about it actually.”
In the midst of a 5-9 start and the first real signs that this might truly be the end of another Big Three era in Boston, Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this week that several contending teams made inquiries about Pierce’s potential availability before the March 15 trade deadline. Then CBSSports.com reported Friday that Ainge may be willing to wait 10 or more games before deciding to deal one of his three stars.
“It’s just obvious,” Ainge told WEEI’s Big Show on Thursday. “Of course if we get the opportunity to make a trade that will help our team, we’ll do it. I guess I was stating obvious answers and it became like a really big story. We’ve all known there’s a window for this group, so we’re constantly evaluating that and been evaluating it for the last couple of years. I don’t have anything on the books. I don’t have have anything imminent. There’s nothing out there that I’m actively doing. I’m being patient with this group of guys.”
As Pierce said, this isn’t his first rodeo. He’s seen teammates from Antoine Walker to Kendrick Perkins come and go. “I understand,” he said. “What the Celtics have done for me in my career, I’m more than happy. They’ve kept me this long, and I’ve been able to play in a lot of good situations. You’ve got to understand the business.”
|Fast Break: Suns rise, Celtics fall … again||01.20.12 at 9:56 pm ET|
Friday night’s Celtics game against the Suns at the Garden was a familiar story: Get off to a slow start, fall behind by double digits, make it close and fall behind again after exerting too much energy playing from behind all night.
The final result: A 79-71 Phoenix victory in Boston.
Suns center Marcin Gortat totaled 24 points (14 in the first quarter) and 12 rebounds to lead the Suns (6-9). Steve Nash added 11 points and nine assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Pole position: Gortat scored almost as many points in the first quarter (14) as the Celtics (15) — on just as many field goals (7) and eight fewer shots (19-11). If Jermaine O’Neal wants to be judged on his defense, let’s just say it wasn’t so good early, and the Celtics were forced to play catch-up all night once again.
Poor paint job: The Celtics simply had nobody capable of getting to the rim and scoring. Their guards weren’t deft enough to get to the hoop, and their bigs weren’t athletic enough to get their shot off cleanly. On multiple occasions, Paul Pierce worked his way into the paint, only to be contested by a quicker defender who could simply jump higher.
Rondo a no go: Let’s face it: At this point, Rondo is the Celtics offense. Without him orchestrating and finding Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the wings or Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass for open jumpers, everything else falls apart. Even with Rondo, the Celtics offense hasn’t exactly looked pretty this season. Without him, it’s downright ugly. The Celtics succeeded in keeping their turnover total high (18), leading to 20 Phoenix points.
|Irish Coffee: Austin Rivers ‘would be great for’ Celtics, says Doc||01.19.12 at 12:51 pm ET|
At the tail end of Doc Rivers‘ weekly interview on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show (click here to listen in full), the Celtics coach opened up about the possibility of coaching his son Austin Rivers in the NBA.
“I would love the opportunity, I guess,” said Rivers. “It would be uncomfortable. I just think that would be a strange thing to do. Having that said that, I wouldn’t mind. He can score, and I think that would be great for us.”
The best prep guard in the country as a high school senior last winter, Austin Rivers averages a team-leading 13.8 points per game for No. 4 ranked Duke this season, shooting 43.6 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from beyond the arc. Once projected as a surefire lottery pick, his stock has slipped to No. 21 on ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford‘s Top 100 NBA prospects list. So, what must improve for him to have an impact at the next level?
“Just his whole game,” said the elder Rivers, who despite running practices for their teams once or twice has never coached his four kids. “I think he can score in this league right now. I don’t think he could have any problem with that. I think defensively — just the knowledge on the weak side of the ball — is where he would have to improve.”
|Rajon Rondo rocks a mean fedora and says ‘I’m sure I’ll be OK’||01.18.12 at 11:39 pm ET|
If ever a player knew how to play it cool, it is Rajon Rondo.
Every Celtics fan thought the worst Wednesday night and had nightmarish flashbacks to last spring when he bent his left arm in a way it’s not supposed to bend in Game 3 against the Heat.
So when he took a nasty spill Wednesday night, breaking his fall with his right hand and wrist, there was legitimate reason to be worried.
With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter Wednesday night, Rondo drove to the basket and was knocked to the ground by Linas Kleiza of the Raptors. Rondo said he is “day-to-day” with a sore right wrist, an injury he said afterward “hurt more” than the grotesque dislocated elbow he suffered against the Heat in the second round of the playoffs last spring.
“This was different,” Rondo said, sporting a cool black fedora. “This was more painful, honestly. The other one was just more of a shock.”
‘Honestly, I was laughing right afterwards,” added coach Doc Rivers. “I wasn’t [concerned] at first because I thought he was trying to get the flagrant. I thought he was laying down, trying to ‘ you know. And then when he stayed down then I was concerned. But I didn’t know what it was. And then when I saw him grabbing his arm or hand I was thinking ‘last year, playoffs’ obviously.’
|Irish Coffee: Four Paul Pierce Celtics trade scenarios||at 3:48 pm ET|
- As Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen become free agents this summer, money will peel away from the salary cap. Between then and now, the bigger question promises to be: Does ownership and general manager Danny Ainge go for the complete rebuild and trade Pierce before the March 15 deadline? Several contending teams have inquired about Pierce’s availability. As one Eastern Conference official said, there are ‘lots of calls asking if [Boston] will blow it up.’
Based upon 42 comments Tuesday on WEEI.com about this item, fans fall into two camps: 1) Those who can’t handle The Truth being traded; and 2) Those who’d send the captain’s ship sailing for the right package in return.
Ainge falls into the latter camp, if only because he’s said time and again over the past year that nobody is off limits in his attempt to keep the Celtics relevant in this post-Big Three era. His sole goal is to avoid watching Pierce, Garnett and Allen grow old and gray in green as Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish did in the 1990s.
Heck, Ainge explored trades involving Pierce prior to Garnett and Allen’s arrival, when the captain was in the midst of his prime, so why would he be afraid to pull the trigger on the right deal involving a now 34-year-old Pierce with a $32 million price tag over the next two seasons? Just because teams are calling doesn’t mean Ainge has to listen, but here are four deals that might keep him on the phone. Read the rest of this entry »