|NBA Power Rankings, 4/8||04.08.11 at 6:41 pm ET|
1. Chicago (58-20): The good news: With their 16-point victory against the Celtics on Thursday night, the Bulls emphatically proved they have the best player in the NBA, the best coach in the NBA and, most importantly, the best team in the NBA. The bad news: They also ensured that Chicago fans will be forced to awkwardly walk past a weird half-bust/half-statue thing of Scottie Pippen.
2. LA Lakers (55-23): In a fantastic profile of Lakers coach Phil Jackson, we learned three important facts: 1) He really is retiring at season’s end; 2) Upon meeting Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant told his idol, “I can take you 1-on-1″; and 3) A full-bearded man should never wear shorts this short. If two three-peats with Kobe and the Lakers to go along with the six titles with Jordan and the Bulls would be a perfect symmetry to Jackson’s career, how much sweeter would a Celtics title be for Boston fans?
3. Boston (54-24): The Bulls embarrassed the Celtics Thursday night, but the C’s are still 8-3 against the top-five NBA teams, 6-1 against their potential first-round opponents (76ers and Knicks) and 3-0 against their probable second-round opponent (Heat). As Paul Flannery noted, the Celtics also lost to the Cavaliers by 29 in the home stretch of the 2009-10 regular season. If that’s not cause for optimism, then maybe Rick Pitino was right about the negativity in this town.
4. San Antonio (60-19): Are the Spurs the team that started the season 57-13 or the squad that lost six straight from March 25 to Arpil 1? Does anybody still have confidence that San Antonio can knock off the Lakers in the Western Conference finals? Will Eva Longoria get a cut of Tony Parker‘s playoff share as part of their divorce? So many questions still for this team.
5. Miami (54-24): After Derrick Rose and the Bulls obliterated the Celtics for their 17th victory in 19 games and the Heat lost to the Cavaliers and Bucks in a span of eight days, don’t hold your breath for a response from anyone who believed LeBron James deserved this season’s MVP honor.
|Message or not, Doug Collins was certainly impressed with the Celtics||04.06.11 at 12:00 pm ET|
It took nearly 20 minutes after the final buzzer of the Celtics‘ 99-82 win over the Sixers Tuesday night for Doc Rivers to show up for his postgame news conference in the small media room at TD Garden.
Turns out, he was being showered with praise by Sixers coach Doug Collins.
‘We ran up against a team that played probably as well as they’ve played in a long time,” Collins said. “I talked to Doc after the game, 29 assists, they executed brilliantly, they had two or three really great defensive spurts. To start the third quarter, we fought to get back in, and we cut it to four again, and then they had another defensive spurt.”
Then came the really sugar-coated stuff.
“I told our guys how that’s really what championship teams do, they might not play it for 48 minutes, but they’re going to lock you down for stretches, and win those what I call five minute skirmishes. And I thought they won two five-minute skirmishes in the second half which I really thought gave them separation.”
As for the message sent and received business that was in vogue after the game should this be a playoff preview, Rivers said he was really only concerned about the final score, nothing less, nothing more.
‘No. No. Not at all,” Rivers said, downplaying the mere suggestion. “I just think we won today, and they lost today, and they’re going to watch film and we’re going to watch film. But it’s good to win.’
That doesn’t mean everyone was buying it. Rondo admitted he thought the Celtics made a ‘little statement’ about just how hard it’s going to be for the Sixers to knock off the Celtics in a seven-game series.
But back to Collins. Without mentioning him by name, the Sixers coach also had praise for the way C’s GM Danny Ainge has rebuilt the depth of the bench to support his starting guards.
“Delonte West really helps them, Jeff Green has played very well against us, and they played a very very good game,” Collins said. “Rondo once again leading their team, Ray Allen shooting a high percentage. So when they play like that, it should make Doc smile because they’re one of the best teams in the league.’
Collins has been around long enough to know that trash-talking a superior opponent, especially one you might see in the first round of the playoffs in 10 days, almost never does any good.
|Paul Pierce on Celtics’ future hopes: ‘As Rondo goes, we go’||at 10:38 am ET|
Paul Pierce could see it. Doc Rivers could see it. So could Kevin Garnett. All of the Celtics‘ leaders essentially said the same thing following Tuesday’s 99-82 win over the 76ers at TD Garden. The Celtics are slowly but surely getting in playoff form, and if they are going anywhere, they’re going to need Rajon Rondo to get them there.
Rondo had 16 points and 13 assists and led the charge all night long as the Celtics were pressed early and often by a young Philadelphia team trying to show it could be a legitimate threat come the playoffs if the two meet in the first round.
“You expect Rajon to play that way every night,” Pierce said. “He’s set a standard for himself over the last couple of years with his play. It’s no surprise when I look up and he has those type of numbers. I just think his next step is being more consistent with it to where he’s putting up 13, 14, 15 assists every night, but that comes as you get older. I was in that position, too, as a young player, just learning how to be consistent with it. As Rondo goes, we go. When he has these monster assist games, we usually win.”
“He was just aggressive and attacking and shooting,” Rivers said of Rondo, his prized floor general. “You can see he’s getting himself ready, you can just feel that. I don’t know if he plays with great focus all game right now, or if any of our guys do. But you can see what they’re all doing. They’re in some ways sharpening their tools in spurts. It’s tough for coaches. You’d like for them to do that and keep doing it. But they know where they’re at.”
As for team consistency, the captain said the Celtics showed enough to overcome the Sixers, learning from recent history where they have had a hard time protecting a double-digit lead. Read the rest of this entry »
After scoring 16 points and dishing out 13 assists in a 99-82 win over the Sixers Tuesday night at TD Garden, Rajon Rondo said the Celtics made a statement by shutting down the team they may face in the opening round of the playoffs.
‘Tonight was a good test for us,” Rondo said. “That might be a first-round team and we did a good job of making a little statement that it’s going to be hard to beat us in a seven-game series.”
The Celtics trailed by two after one as Rondo’s counterpart – Jrue Holiday – had 11 points in the first quarter. Holiday was held scoreless the rest of the game. Now, the 54-23 Celtics prepare for the 57-20 Bulls in Chicago Thursday night with a chance to draw within two games of the Eastern Conference leaders.
“It’s a different game versus Chicago and Miami,” Rondo added. “Obviously, the intensity will be a lot greater but in the playoffs, the first round, there’s going to be a lot of intensity. We just want to win [against Chicago] because we’ll probably have to see those guys in the conference finals or whoever we may end up [with]. We just want to win the game [against the Bulls], Miami, tonight against Philly, we want to win every game the rest of the season.’
As for his body, which includes a pair of sore feet and a banged up pinky, Rondo says he’ll have time in the summer to get back to full strength. Right now, his focus is getting ready for a playoff run. He was asked -point blank – if he felt healthier now as the playoffs approach.
“No, I’m pretty much the same,” Rondo said. “We haven’t played as many back-to-backs. Just getting a little bit more rest, taking better care of my body, lifting more. I wouldn’t say I’m feeling 100 percent but I’m doing OK.’
|‘Tentative’ Nenad Krstic: The pain is still there but ‘I think I’ll be ready for the playoffs’||04.05.11 at 9:55 am ET|
Doc Rivers called his first practice since bruising his right knee a “tentative” one but Nenad Krstic was just happy to be back on the court Monday afternoon working out and getting ready for what he believes will be his return tonight against the 76ers at TD Garden.
Of course, it looked a lot worse for Krstic last Thursday night in San Antonio when his knee appeared to buckle in the second quarter.
He came off the court, did not play again that night and immediately went for an MRI the next day.
“I was upset but I knew right away [it wasn't serious] or anything like that,” Krstic said. “When I was in New Jersey, I had the ACL [tear] and I knew it wasn’t the ACL. I was thinking maybe it was meniscus but obviously, I’m not a doctor. But I was just waiting for the MRI and the day and a half was really long for me.
“I can get through the pain but it’s just still in my head a little bit. Sometimes, I’m afraid to jump or slide [step] or cutting but I’ll be ready. I’ve been through a whole practice. I’ll be fine but we’ll see.”
When the MRI revealed only a bone bruise, he took a deep breath and began getting his mind ready to return to practice within the next week, assuming his knee would allow him.
“Maybe in my head, I’m just trying to still protect it a little bit,” Krstic said. “Mentally, I’m not 100 percent. My knee, I still feel pain but MRI showed it’s nothing really serious so I can get through that pain. I know it’s not going to get serious. Mentally, it’s just the first practice after. It was really tough for me. I was thinking it was more serious when it [happened] but maybe it’s still in my head.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc Rivers sounds a hopeful tone on Shaquille O’Neal||04.04.11 at 3:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers is holding out hope that he may get Shaquille O’Neal back by the end of the week after the big man strained his right calf on Sunday night in his first game back since early February.
“He may play at the end of the week,” said Rivers following Monday’s practice, which included every player except O’Neal. “We’re just not sure yet. If that’s what it requires. We’re going to do whatever they tell us is required. Other than that, I would love to play him, honestly, a couple of game.”
Rivers indicated O’Neal would definitely miss Tuesday’s home game against the 76ers after playing just six minutes in Sunday’s 101-90 win over the Pistons.
“If we can get that up to 20 minutes, that would be great. He looked agile. His energy was high. As far as his [six] minutes of play, that was good.”
Meanwhile, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy both returned to practice on Monday and are expected to give a try on Tuesday night at TD Garden. “I thought Nenad was tentative, honestly, but he got through the whole practice and that was good,” Rivers said of Krstic, who suffered only a bruised knee last Thursday in 10 minutes of play at San Antonio. Murphy rolled his ankle in practice on March 24 and has missed the last six games.
Jermaine O’Neal got the clearance to start his first game since early November and Rivers thought, with Shaquille O’Neal coming back for the first time since early February, he would finally have some depth at the position that’s been – pardon the terrible pun – the team’s Achilles.
J-O played nearly seven of the 12 first-quarter minutes and was getting his feet wet in his third game back from a left knee scope. He finished with five points and six rebounds in 18 minutes. But it wasn’t until the shootaround Sunday evening that he felt confident enough to let Rivers know he was comfortable starting the game.
‘Felt good, felt good to be back, it’s just going to be about progression, [Sunday] was probably the first day felt sore coming to the game,” O’Neal said. “Didn’t even know I was going to start until the shoot around, but we got into the weight room, did some legs stuff. But that’s just part of the process. [Monday], I’ll get a practice in, get acquainted with the new system. They’ve changed some plays some I’m kind of learning on the fly and asking Rondo at the same time during the game, where I’m supposed to be.’
That general soreness and stiffness was not a concern to O’Neal since it had nothing to do with his left knee.
‘I’ve never been concerned about the knee being sore and having set backs,” O’Neal said. “It’s more about the body being sore with the banging and stuff like that. But I’ve passed all the tests that I’m supposed pass so I’m pretty excited about that.’ Read the rest of this entry »