|Kevin Garnett, Celtics lay smackdown on Pacers||01.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was ejected after a flagrant-2 foul on Tyler Hansbrough, and unless you came to watch him dance during Gino Time, it didn’t even matter. The Celtics ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 94-75 victory against the Pacers.
Combined with the Thunder’s blowout of the 76ers, the Celtics (15-17) leapfrogged Philadelphia (15-19) into the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Garnett totaled 18 points and seven rebounds before his ejection.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for a triple-double (31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) while Courtney Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 rebounds) showed positive signs. Here’s what else happened.
|Doc Rivers wants to give Brandon Bass a little confidence while staying ‘as big as possible’||at 9:14 pm ET|
“We want to stay as big as possible, what we didn’t like with Jason in the [starting] lineup was — now we’re going to play him every night — and when he and Kevin were off the floor, we got small quickly,” Rivers explained. “This way we can keep a big on the floor at all times.
“We could have done it the other night, but that was Avery’s first night. That is the group that helped us. But having Jason [play every night] will help Kevin, because he still won’t have to play ‘5’ the entire time. I just think the season’s too long now for Kevin to do that.”
The Celtics are also hoping the move will motivate Bass, who is averaging just 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Rivers added. “You don’t do it just for the group, you do it for the individual at times,” said Rivers. “Brandon’s played better when he’s playing with Kevin, though everyone has for that matter. I think clearly Brandon has. And that’s one of the reasons we are doing it.”
The lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Bass, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce marks the ninth different lineup Rivers has used in the first 32 games of the season. That lineup debuted on March 25, 2012 after Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in Philadelphia and two games after Ray Allen was sent to the bench. With that lineup, the Celtics went 11-3 down the stretch to help the Celtics win the Atlantic Division title for a fifth straight season.
Collins had started the previous seven games for the Celtics since being inserted in the lineup for Bass on Dec. 21 against the Cavaliers to take the load off Kevin Garnett in the low post.
Bass has strugged in his role off the bench, both offensively and defensively, and Rivers made the decision Friday to boost Bass’ game by putting him on the floor more with Garnett.
|Avery Bradley’s philosophy: ‘Defense is just effort’||01.03.13 at 9:38 am ET|
“Defense is just effort,” he said after his return from double shoulder surgery. “If you give effort, you can never have a bad defensive game. That’s how I think of it. You play as hard as you can. That’s all you have to do.”
Outside of Kevin Garnett and possibly Jason Collins, it’s hard to say there’s anybody else on the Celtics who offers a consistent effort on the defensive end every night. Just ask Tony Allen. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce often conserve themselves for the offensive end, Courtney Lee hasn’t come as advertised defensively and nobody else on the C’s roster has developed much of a defensive reputation, unless you include Fab Melo, who started the season falling into a folding chair and currently suffers from a concussion after walking into a doorway.
In addition to being the NBA’s worst rebounding team, the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category after ranking among the top five teams in defensive rating every season since 2008.
“Every team has its up and downs,” said Bradley, who scored four points on six shots during Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies. “The best teams are the ones that can go through the adversity and overcome it. With the veteran leadership we have, I feel like we’re going to overcome it. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
|Tony Allen: Celtics ‘missing a lot of pieces’||at 12:21 am ET|
“They’re missing a lot of pieces,” said Allen, who left Boston for a three-year deal in Memphis two summers ago.
Somewhat offering his stamp of approval on the replacement of Ray Allen‘s 3-point shooting prowess with fellow veteran Jason Terry, Allen instead harped on the absence of players … well … like himself.
“I don’t think they’ve really got a defensive-minded guy yet,” added Allen. “I mean, they’ve got one [Avery Bradley], but I can’t say he’s 100 percent just yet. I don’t think they’ve got the center like Perk [Kendrick Perkins]. It’s kind of hard finding a guy like — a guy who clogs up the paint, talks trash to you and can actually back it up. They’re just missing a lot. I don’t know. I don’t see the same team from 2008.”
|Fast Break: Grizzlies maul Celtics in 4th straight loss||01.02.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
Despite a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that slashed a Grizzlies lead that had grown as large as 18 points to just five with a handful of minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to make up for three quarters of dreadful play that left the C’s three games under .500 (14-17) for the first time this season.
Bradley made his first bucket after missing the opening 30 games of the season, finishing with four points in 18 minutes. Rajon Rondo (11 points, 9 assists), who battled a bruised hip, Paul Pierce (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) were the only Celtics in double figures. Hence, the team’s fourth straight loss and eighth in the last 10 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Memphis shooting: In the first half, the Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 61.1 percent and scored 50 points on 36 shots. Mike Conley (23 points, 9 assists) and old friend Tony Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds) shot a combined 9-of-11 before the break. Heck, even Darrell Arthur (10 points), who entered without a 3-pointer in 204 career games, drained two triples in the span of 1:43 in the second quarter.
Garnett’s first half: Whether it was a New Year’s hangover or not, Garnett started an atrocious 1-of-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers as the Grizzlies took a 50-41 lead into the break. It’s no surprise the defense also struggled on a night when KG didn’t have his best performance.
The Collins experiment: Celtics starting center Jason Collins may have limited Marc Gasol‘s scoring, but he did little to quell the C’s overall defense and rebounding woes. (The Celtics were out-rebouned 39-27 and gave up eight offensive boards). Plus, he’s essentially nonexistent on the offensive end. In what’s been a trend for Collins, he had as many personal fouls (2) as points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce’s first quarter: The Celtics captain started a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the first quarter. He may not have been as successful in the paint, but his effort from long distance helped keep the C’s afloat as the Grizzlies made two-thirds of their shots in the early going.
Avery’s arrival: Bradley started opposite Mike Conley and held the Memphis guard to two shots (a successful 3-pointer and a runner from 6 feet) and two assists in 13:22 of shared floor time in the first half. In Conley’s remaining first-half minutes (8:22), he made 4-of-6 shots and generated three assists. In other words, even if Bradley’s offense was rusty (1-4 FG), he’s still effective on the defensive end.
The bench: Bradley’s presence also pushes Jason Terry (8 points) to the bench, creating some semblance of consistency at Doc Rivers‘ disposal. Believe it or not, the second unit actually turned a 14-12 deficit when Garnett sat in the first quarter into a 31-27 advantage when KG returned — thanks in large part to Brandon Bass (9 points).
Doc Rivers announced before Wednesday’s game that Rajon Rondo had been cleared to play and would start with Avery Bradley in the Celtics backcourt as the team looks for a defensive spark to turn around its three-game losing streak.
Rondo suffered a bruised right hip against the Clippers on Thursday and missed Saturday’s game against the Warriors before returning on Sunday in the loss to the Kings. Rondo sat out Tuesday’s practice before working out two hours before Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies and getting cleared to play.
Meanwhile, Bradley is making his season debut after surgery on both shoulders in the offseason. Rivers said before the game there would be no minutes limitations on Bradley in his first appearance of the season.
“I just think the quicker we get to our lineup, the better,” Rivers said. “We’re going to get to it anyway, so why wait?”
“If he’s hurting us, we take him out; if he’s playing well, we let him play,” said Rivers. “I think it’ll be vision, but listen, we gotta play with some kind of pace, offensively and defensively, obviously. So it’ll be pretty easy to see.”
Rivers said he hasn’t paid attention to reports that Bradley will be the key to a turnaround.
“I haven’t paid too much attention to all this stuff. Is he [Bill] Russell yet? Or [Bob] Cousy? I don’t know,” Rivers said. “If that’s what [media has] made him, and if he lives up to that, then I’m good with that. I hope everyone’s right.”
Can Bradley make the rest of the Celtics better defenders?
“If you take one great defensive player and you put him on a team, the team is going to be a better defensive team,” Rivers added. “And as important as bigs are, I’ve always thought, especially if it’s a guard that applies pressure, that kinda fuels energy. You see it and it’s hard for you not to do it. You got this guy doing it and then, what, are you not going to do anything? It clearly helps. Again, because this is his first game this year, the other players have a 30-game advantage on him as far as timing and stuff, as far as running their stuff. I’m not looking for the world today or tomorrow, even in a week. But it’s going to come.”
|Even Paul Pierce can’t save the Celtics from the Bucks||12.22.12 at 12:28 am ET|
Paul Pierce rescued the Celtics on Wednesday night when he scored 40 points to lead the Celtics over the Cavaliers after Boston blew a 20-point lead to a 5-21 team in the third quarter on their home court.
Pierce scored 35 points Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics blew a 10-point lead and lost 99-94 in overtime to the emerging Milwaukee Bucks.
‘It’s a team game, regardless of how I play,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to do better in stretches. I think when our offense isn’t going for long stretches we’ve got to be able to defend. You know, at the beginning of the fourth quarter we went into the quarter up like seven or eight and we instantly kind of gave away the lead. And that’s the kind of case where even though our shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to be able to come down and get stops after stops after stops. And it just comes and goes in stretches right now.’
The Celtics led by 10 in the first half and by eight, 70-62, heading into the fourth. But Milwaukee went on a 21-8 run to take command. Pierce appeared to rescue the Celtics yet again when he drained a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, even Pierce couldn’t overcome a 1-for-15 night from Jason Terry and a 6-for-22 night from Kevin Garnett.
‘That’s what we’ve been saying all year long’¦There’s going to be nights when shots won’t fall,” Pierce said. “And one thing we can control, I think, is our intensity on the defensive end, we are inconsistent. But we just ‘ a little bit of consistency in that department ‘ we play well for the most part and we look up there and we shoot 43% or whatnot, but it has to be throughout the whole game more consistency. You know, we can’t give up 17-0 runs to Cleveland. We can’t give up 10-0 runs to Milwaukee. And then decide that’s when we want to play defense.’
The Celtics are now 1-3 against the Bucks and won’t play them again this season, unless of course, it’s a playoff matchup.
‘They have great guard play, and they have pretty good intangibles, you know, they have guys that you really don’t expect to play well that really play well,” Pierce said. “I mean (Larry) Sanders kind of has been a thorn in my side, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, he’s played well the last two games. And you focus so much on their two guards, that what happens: other guys like that step up and carry you.’
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