|Fast Break: Celtics (barely) avenge loss to Cavaliers||01.31.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
If you thought Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers was bad, Tuesday’s win might have been worse.
After blowing a 12-point lead in the final five minutes at home in the first meeting of their home-and-home series, the C’s let a 22-point lead dwindle to two with 1:18 remaining in Cleveland. Luckily, Kevin Garnett dropped a turnaround jumper and Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to on for a 93-90 win.
Pierce finished with a team-high 20 points as well six assists and four rebounds, lifting the Celtics (10-10) to .500 once again. Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points to lead a 28-point effort by the C’s bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
In his defense: Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving beat the Celtics with his offense on Sunday night, but his porous defense helped the C’s return the favor two days later. Avery Bradley (8 points) beat him through the back door, making himself an easy target underneath the basket for open layups, and E’Twaun Moore (5 points) took advantage of Irving’s tendency to cheat by knocking down open shots on the perimeter.
Riding the pine: Led once again by Bass (13 points) and Mickael Pietrus (6 points, 2 treys), the Celtics bench dominated the Cavaliers reserves in the early going, outscoring their counterparts 23-5 in the first half alone. Moore and Sasha Pavlovic also lended a helping hand as the C’s established a double-digit lead by halftime.
Protecting the rock (for the most part): Without Rajon Rondo for the seventh straight game, the Celtics assisted on 19 of their first 26 field goals while committing only six turnovers as they built the lead to 22 in the third quarter. The C’s finished with 25 assists on 37 FGs, but their turnovers climbed to 14 — allowing the Cavaliers to climb back into the game.
|Blake Griffin treats Kendrick Perkins like a Kia Optima||at 9:36 am ET|
I bet Jeff Green couldn’t get dunked on like that. I kid. I kid. Somewhere, Danny Ainge is smiling.
|Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault||01.30.12 at 7:40 pm ET|
After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.
Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.
In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.
“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’ve been here, that’s all we’ve done. We haven’t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”
While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.
THE STALWARTS Read the rest of this entry »
|NBA Power Rankings, 1/25||01.25.12 at 2:28 pm ET|
We’re exactly one month into the season and the NBA Power Rankings picture isn’t exactly crystal clear. Are the Sixers and Nuggets legit title contenders? What about the Nuggets? Are the Celtics and Lakers really borderline playoff teams? Will the Wizards and Hornets win 10 games? Is Shaquille O’Neal the worst analyst in history? When will The Legend of Mutombo’s Gold be optioned for the film rights? Even at the quarter-mark, so many questions still remain in this shortened NBA season. Let’s attempt to answer a few of them.
1. Oklahoma City (14-3): How the Thunder lost to the Wizards is a mystery on par with Area 51. Outside of that hiccup, Kevin Durant (MVP anyone?) & Co. continue to roll — through the Grizzlies, Knicks, Celtics and just about everybody else. Not only are they good, they’re healthy. Even Kendrick Perkins has started all 17 games. The next two weeks will tell us a lot about OKC — with games at the Clippers, Mavericks, Spurs and Blazers — but something tells me they’ll be Ok, see.
2. Chicago (16-3): No Derrick Rose, no problem. The Bulls are 4-1 in his absence, albeit against the dregs of the league. Meanwhile, Joakim Noah (16 and 10 on Monday) and Richard Hamilton (consecutive 20-point nights) are returning to form. But Rose remains the biggest question mark of the season, as his toe injury is expected to linger through the spring — and @derrickrosestoe is sure to pick up more than seven followers.
3. Miami (12-5): The Heat are 4-4 in their last eight games, but during that stretch they defeated the Spurs, Lakers and 76ers in five nights — without Dwyane Wade (ankle), another massive question mark looming over this NBA season. Remarkably, Erik Spoelstra‘s crew is 0-4 in Wade’s last four appearances. Without him, LeBron James is reverting to MVP form, as much as it pains me to say it, especially after he tweeted: “R.I.P Joe Pa! Met him before while I was out at Nike campus. He was great man!!” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Dwight Howard ‘looks up to a team like Boston’||01.24.12 at 2:23 pm ET|
In the third quarter of Monday night’s Celtics victory, as Howard attempted to establish position in the paint and bumped O’Neal on the block, the latter stuck his finger in the former’s face and voiced his displeasure. The two bigs at dichotomous points in their careers were separated by teammates and each assessed technicals.
“That’s kind of crossing the line when somebody puts their hand in your face,” said Howard (18 points, 14 rebounds), who had four of his team’s NBA record low 16 field goals in the 87-56 loss. “I just put his hand out of my face. I didn’t run up on him. It’s basketball. We’re not MMA fighters. I don’t know why I got a tech, but I’m cool.”
‘You’re at his mercy to be honest,” said Garnett, who totaled 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two blocks. “You have to do what we call dirty work early, which is to try to take him off his sweet spots, contest his shots. He’s strong, he’s very powerful and explosive. You’re at his mercy, man, seriously. I’m not about to sit up here in front of the cameras and give y’all defensive schemes and secrets, but different ways you play different guys.”
|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.”
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