|Leandro Barbosa understands when you play defense ‘everything comes automatic’||11.27.12 at 3:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Leandro Barbosa has heard the time-tested expression in basketball over and over: defense wins championships. Now, after nine full seasons in the NBA, the 29-year-old finally is on a team that believes it.
Growing up in Brazil and playing his formative NBA seasons in Phoenix, Barbosa was all about getting to the basket at all costs but the defensive side of his game was admittedly not a priority. When he signed with the Celtics on Oct. 18, all of that changed.
“It’s different,” Barbosa said after practice on Tuesday. “Especially, for me, I came in late. I’m trying to work really hard to pick things up really quick. I’m happy to be involved, and we’re doing better. Hopefully, next game we’ll do even better.
‘I feel great. I think the most important thing is to feel comfortable. I think I’m feeling that right now. The coaches talk to me in a lot of different ways, in an offensive standpoint and an offensive standpoint. I’m just enjoying it right now.’
Barbosa said the biggest change in his philosophy came from the coaching staff.
‘I think this is the first team that is a defensive team, and I’m happy because I know that I have to definitely be better on the defensive end,” Barbosa said. “From where I come from, we don’t play defense, and I’m talking about Brazil. So, we’re getting better. I’m very happy and getting myself better.
‘What I learned, when you play defense, everything comes automatic. Especially, on this team we have so many weapons, I don’t think we don’t have to worry about offense. To go to the championship, we have to play better defense. That’s what we’re looking for and what we’re working for.’
|Irish Coffee: Why Rajon Rondo’s assist streak is more impressive than John Stockton’s or Magic Johnson’s||11.26.12 at 4:50 pm ET|
This topic stemmed from a conversation with Celtics guard Jason Terry about the evolution of the assist after colleague Rob Bradford compared the dwindling distribution of assists to baseball errors: Considering teams in the 1980s scored at a higher rate, is Rajon Rondo‘s current streak of 37 consecutive games with at least 10 assists more impressive than John Stockton‘s string of 37 in 1989 or Magic Johnson’s record stretch of 46 in 1983?
In a word? Yes. Let the 35-year-old NBA veteran of 13 seasons who grew up on ’80s basketball explain.
“It’s just a different style of play,” said Terry, whose longest streak of double-digit assists lasted all of three games in 2003. “Now, it’s a lot more difficult to get those assists per se as in the ’80s. If you look at the style of play, it was up-and-down, run-and-gun. Now, there are much more intricate defenses. There’s also the zone defense, so it makes it a lot tougher to get assists. So, that makes his feat a lot more amazing.”
Great points all around. Let’s look at that style of play. Last season, when Rondo’s streak began, the C’s averaged only 90.4 possessions per 48 minutes. By comparison, in 1989, when Stockton’s stretch started, the Jazz averaged 98.0; and in 1983, when Magic’s string commenced, the Lakers averaged a whopping 103.8. All three hover around the league average that season, so defense has clearly muddled the pace over the years.
To put a finer point on it, not only must Rondo generate his assists on fewer possessions — and thus fewer field goal attempts — but the maturation of defensive schemes over the past quarter-century has also forced lower shooting percentages. Translation: Even fewer opportunities for Rondo to collect his dimes.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo stops Magic, ties John Stockton for consecutive double-digit assists||11.25.12 at 8:57 pm ET|
The Magic finally missed a couple of 3-pointers, and for the Celtics, the misses couldn’t have come at a better time. Both Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis missed treys in the final minute, and the Celtics made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to escape Orlando with a 116-110 overtime victory.
Rajon Rondo (15 points, 16 assists, 9 rebounds) fell one rebound short of his first triple-double of the season (and 24th of his career), but he did eclipse double-digit assists for the 37th straight game, tying John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history, trailing only Magic Johnson (46).
Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) notched his first double-double since Nov. 9, and Paul Pierce added 23 points despite missing his signature elbow jumper at the end of regulation. Leandro Barbosa (15 points), Brandon Bass (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points) also reached double figures for the Celtics (8-6).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Blurring the lines: In four first-half minutes, Leandro Barbosa scored 11 points, making all four of his shots, including a pair of 3-pointers and a traditional three-point play. He entered the game averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and that kind of production can’t be ignored. Makes you wonder how many guard minutes will be left for Courtney Lee once Avery Bradley returns.
Painting a masterpiece: Without Dwight Howard to stop them, the Celtics took full advantage of a rare frontcourt strength advantage. At halftime, when the Celtics built a 58-48 advantage, the Celtics owned the advantage in points in the paint (30-16) rebounds (23-21) and second-chance points (10-4). Rarely do the C’s lead any of those three categories, but it’s nice to see Pierce, Garnett and Bass deliver when they should.
Sully tapped: Less than two minutes into his night, Jared Sullinger‘s first attempt got swatted back into his face by Josh McRoberts. It was the beginning of an 0-for-3 start for the Celtics rookie. The larger concern: Opponents have blocked 19.4 percent of Sullinger’s shots this season, which ranks fifth-worst among NBA players who average at least 15 minutes a night. But Sullinger responded, taking a page out of Glen Davis‘ around-the-basket book, making five of his next nine shots to finish with 11 points and six boards in 19:25 off the bench.
|Chris Wilcox: Secret to the Rajon Rondo alley-oop||at 2:55 pm ET|
“It is what it is, man,” said Wilcox, whose averaging 13.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. “I’m playing hard, just trying to be in the right spot at the right time, and good things happen. His No. 1 goal is to find us, to find the open man. All I do is just make it easier for myself and get to the right spot at the right time.”
Remarkably, 19 of Wilcox’s 21 field goals this season have come at the rim, where he’s making 86.4 percent of his shots (19-22 FG), and 15 of them have come from assists. The other four? All from offensive rebounds. He’s made a living from scoring around the basket — honing his alley-oop skills from guys like Andre Miller and Sam Cassell on the Clippers as well as Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson on the Sonics — but never like this.
“Rondo’s one of a kind,” said Wilcox.” I’ve been with some great point guards — Andre Miller, Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson — and they were basically the same kind of point guards. You just get to the right spot and good things happen. I’m just out there trying to be aggressive and trying to make things easier for him.”
|Jeff Green: ‘Being aggressive’ turns out to be his niche||11.24.12 at 9:47 am ET|
Green went out and make Rivers look very smart as he scored 17 points and showed a driving and cutting game not seen in his game this year as the Celtics beat the Thunder, 108-100, Friday night at TD Garden.
‘I was aggressive, attacking the rim,” Green said. “Just trying to make plays, and you know got to the free throw line a couple times. Got an and one, just being aggressive that’s what I gotta do. I just gotta find my niche and I just gotta to work at it and continue to stay positive and continue to be aggressive.’
The reason Rivers wanted Green to play instinctively was because he knows how good he can be when plays break down.
“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular,” Rivers said. It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score on those. He scored on all the plays that wasn’t his and that’s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that. A lot of good efforts.”
‘You still gotta do what you gotta do and you do whatever it takes for your team to win,’ Green said.
Green even helped out on defending Kevin Durant, guarding him when the second unit was on the floor.
‘He still got 29 [points], Green said out of humility. “We just tried to make every shot for him tough. He’s [darn] near seven feet, but the handle that he’s got and the way he can shoot it’s tough. So you just gotta make every shot for him tough.’
Making him work defensively-‘You got to, you got to. You gotta make him play both ends. We got him in foul trouble. We gotta be aggressive, we can’t allow him to relax at all on the defensive end.’
What did Green learn about how good the Celtics can be?
‘We are one hell of a defensive team when we are in sync and that’s how we gotta be each game,’ Green said.
|Doc Rivers: ‘We played with great force’ in win over Thunder||11.23.12 at 11:42 pm ET|
Doc Rivers watched his team register its most significant win of the season Friday night, overcoming an early nine-point deficit and withstanding a late charge to beat the defending Western Conference champion Thunder, 108-100, at TD Garden.
‘The biggest difference is this time they scores 100 and we scored 108,” Rivers said, referencing the 112-100 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday at the Garden. “It’s the same game really. I told the guys at halftime and even after the game, that was the Celtics. That’s the team that we’ve been looking for, but can we continue to do it. We’ve got to do it over and over again. I thought there were some mistakes made, we kept playing. There were some runs, we kept playing. They made a run, we kept playing. No hanging heads, yelling at each other. We played through all clutter, it was like a clutter free game, for us. That’s who we have to be.”
“I thought Jeff Green was spectacular tonight,” Rivers said. “It’s funny, I think the two plays that I called for him. He didn’t score. He scored on all the plays that wasn’t his and that’s what we kept telling him he has to do. Stop waiting for us to call it, go get it, and I thought he did that tonight. A lot of good efforts. I thought our bench was huge. I thought [Leandro] Barbosa, it’s funny he didn’t score a point, and I thought his defensive pressure was extremely effective tonight. He has that reputation of being an offensive player. What we have found since getting him, he’s a heck of a defensive player. He has the ability to put pressure on the ball. That’s something we didn’t know. So again, we’re still discovering guys on our team, but that was a good effort.
‘We just need to play right. It’s great to beat Oklahoma, they were in the finals last year, and they’re the team to beat, I guess, in the West. But it was more how we played. We played with great force tonight. I thought that was the difference.”
|Kendrick Perkins on Paul Pierce: ‘He’s got a lot of tricks’||at 11:32 pm ET|
Perkins was witness to Pierce’s greatness again on Friday night as the Celtics captain went 4-of-6 from long range and finished with 27 points in Boston’s 108-100 win over the Thunder at TD Garden.
‘He’s got a lot of tricks,” Perkins said. “That’s the reason he’s been scoring the ball like he has for years. Got a lot of tricks man. He did a great job tonight of just playing smart. He’s moving well and it looks like he’s in great shape, he’s doing his job’
Perkins was held to five points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes for the Thunder in his return to Boston.
‘Yeah, it does (feel strange) but at the same time we’re both out there trying to get wins and it’s over with now,” Perkins said. “You can’t change the past’
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