|NBA Power Rankings, 3/24||03.24.11 at 6:47 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.
2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”
3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.
4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.
5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line. Read the rest of this entry »
Sometimes Paul Pierce can display a misleading, almost nervous, smile after a befuddling loss.
Wednesday night was such a case.
Pierce was asked whether he would like to get his hands on the ball more down the stretch, especially when the Celtics were trailing by three and his team needed a big basket. Pierce did get the ball but with 4.2 seconds left, leaving the C’s captain to fire a desperate trey that fell short.
‘We ran some stuff,” Pierce said. “We had the turnover right there down the stretch. For the most part I liked the looks we got. We got Big Baby with a nice shot. Less than 30 seconds we get Rondo right in the paint, going up for a shot that he takes all the time and makes. I’ll take that for a game winner. It just didn’t go our way today.’
Yes, Pierce would like to have touched the ball a little more but he said he didn’t want the team forcing the ball to him.
‘Probably a little bit more, but I play within the framework of the offense,” Pierce said. “I’m not going to make that an issue. We’ve been winning the way we play all year long and the last four years. I’m not going to make that an issue.’
Doc Rivers had a different take.
“We’ve got to score more points,” Rivers said. “I thought in the second half we went through that one stretch where we didn’t even start our offense until like seven seconds on the clock. Milking the clock; I thought the ball just was bounced and didn’t move. Whenever we do that. You know, listen, I think as a whole, our team, we’ve got to get back to understanding ‘ you know Paul is pretty good. And he’s got to get more touches in games. And I think we go back and forth on movement and we want that, but we’ve also got to get Paul involved. That’s on me; I’ve got to get Paul involved more.’
Pierce and the Celtics were also cautioned by their coaches before the game that the Grizzlies were one of the best offensive teams they’ll see in the paint this season. Despite all the pleading and prodding during film sessions, the Grizzlies came out and doubled the C’s 52-26 in the paint.
‘I am surprised because the whole emphasis of today was they are one of the best, if not the best in the league at points in the paint,” Pierce said. “The emphasis was to pack the paint, they aren’t a great three point shooting team so there is no excuse for all that. We should have done a better job in there, make them kick it out and make them knock down a couple of jumpers.
“I thought overall, for the most part we played pretty good defense. We held them to what, 90 points. Especially Zach Randolph, he has been playing out of his mind. A lot of these guys have been playing well. I thought it was a pretty strong defensive game.”
The Celtics also committed 20 turnovers on their home court, which they haven’t exactly been defending that well, especially against teams from the West.
Are the C’s tired? Sure, but as they themselves admitted, who isn’t at this time of the season?
‘The light is at the end of the tunnel, only a few more games left,” Pierce said. “It should be a better sense of urgency I believe around here. Especially finishing off the season on a good note and trying to get that home court advantage in the East.’
Doc Rivers admitted before Wednesday’s game the Celtics were very interested in acquiring Leon Powe at the trade deadline on Feb. 24. But concerns about Powe’s chronic knee problems scared the Celtics away.
After the game, after Powe led the Grizzlies with 13 points, Rivers called Powe the ‘baddest man on the planet’ in Memphis’ 90-87 win over the Celtics at TD Garden. The second-guessing was only natural. Couldn’t the Celtics use that kind of low post offensive threat and defensive toughness right now? Kendrick Perkins is in Oklahoma City, both O’Neals are out and there’s no timetable for either’s return, and Nenad Krstic still fighting what Rivers called ‘ghosts’ on the court.
Truth be told, Powe did not drab a single rebound. And further truth be told, Powe admitted afterward that he could read the writing on the wall after the Celtics acquired Troy Murphy that Boston would not be his landing spot in any deal from Cleveland.
‘I feel good, I appreciate Cleveland, they let me out of my contract and you know, they gave me an opportunity over there, I just appreciate all they did for me,” Powe said of the Cavaliers giving Powe a chance in the summer of 2009, after reconstructive knee surgery. “Just got to this team and they play my style of ball too. It’s a post-up team, they like to go to the post and be strong with the ball, like to play defense. It’s a young team too, I can call some of them young fellas, I’m young still too, but they my young fellas. Yeah I’m a veteran, I’m veteran Powe now.’
Veteran Powe, afterall, is looking out for his best interests, which include a multi-year contract offer next season. He knows he has to show some value to a playoff-bound team to show other teams he still has game.
Powe’s game on Wednesday was all about attacking the Celtics’ depleted low post presence. And he did that with regularity from the moment he checked in with 39.1 seconds left in the first quarter. He made 5-of-6 from the field, all on the low post.
‘Oh man it’s great, it’s fun, especially when you get a win,” Powe said. “This is a great team over there, a great team, and when you can come on the road and beat a great team like that. And do it on the defensive end, like I thought we did, it’s huge for a young, up and coming team, it’s huge, and that just adds fuel to our confidence.’
Powe was arguably the second-most important bench player behind James Posey on the 2008 Celtics world championship team. He brings defensive toughness to the Grizzlies that he did to the Celtics in that championship season.
‘I just try to bring over our help side defense, clogging up the paint,” Powe said. “I’m just making sure that when there’s a pick and roll set, what we learned from the Celtics is, sometimes you pre-rotate, take that away and let other guys sink in, sink and feel. And I thought that was what we did all night tonight, and when we got away from that they got back in the game, got the lead, and then we got back to it on the defensive end and that’s how we pulled it out, with some good tough defense.’
The Celtics had few answers for the second-most important Celtics bench player behind James Posey on the 2008 world champions.
“He was the baddest man on the planet tonight,” Rivers said.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics make statement(s) in New York||03.22.11 at 2:15 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Make no mistake that Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Knicks was a statement by Doc Rivers & Co. that a) any discussion of a Celtics-Knicks rivalry still ends in a hammer-nail declaration, b) they care about the No. 1 seed more than people think, c) the Eastern Conference crown still belongs in Boston and d) Kendrick Perkins wasn’t the only tough guy in Green. The Associated Press pictures tell the whole story, so let’s let them (NOTE: click on the pictures in the rest of this entry to follow the links) …
|Fast Break: Celtics slow down the Pacers||03.16.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
Paul Pierce and Jeff Green combined for 39 points, and the Celtics‘ defense held the Pacers to 37.5 percent shooting in a 92-80 victory Wednesday night at the TD Garden. The Celtics (48-18), who had lost three out of four entering Wednesday night’s game, pulled even with the idle Bulls atop the Eastern Conference.
The ACC combo of Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough combined for 24 points and 22 rebounds in defeat for the Pacers (29-39), who dropped to a tie – for the time being – with the Bobcats for the eighth playoff spot.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Defense: As Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe noted, with the exception of holding the Bucks to a record-low 56 points, the Celtics’ defense hasn’t exactly been the shutdown brand the team’s made their bones on since The Trade.
Well, Wednesday may have been a step in the right direction, as the Celtics held the Pacers to 20 points in each of the four quarters. Through the first nine minutes of the second quarter — when they started a lineup of Green, Glen Davis, Troy Murphy, Delonte West and Carlos Arroyo – the Celtics held the Pacers to just nine points and established the lead.
Green, in particular, did a nice job on Danny Granger.
Beyond the Arc: While the Celtics shot just 15-of-35 (42.9 percent) in the first half, their 3-point shooting (5-of-8 for 62.5 percent) saved them a bit in the opening 24 minutes. Specifically, two Ray Allen treys sandwiched around a Pierce triple helped the C’s turn a 33-29 lead into a 42-31 advantage in the span of 58 seconds. They finished 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
The Thunder, up and under: Green and Nenad Krstic combined for 30 points and 10 rebounds. In fact, through the first 20 minutes of the game, Green had more points than the rest of his C’s teammates combined. At halftime, Green led the Celtics in scoring, and Krstic led them in rebounding.
Even Troy Murphy got in on the action, scoring six points on perfect shooting from the field (2-for-2) and free-throw line (2-for-2). Perhaps it was the St. Patrick’s Day luck of the Irish.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Attacking the glass: Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told reporters that Shaquille O’Neal had been doing some shooting — a sign that his return could be imminent — and the news couldn’t come at a better time. The C’s got outworked on the glass by the Pacers, who owned a 49-36 rebounding advantage (including a 19-7 edge in offensive boards).
Offensive flow: The Celtics’ offensive sets looked ugly in the first quarter, almost as if the C’s had gotten a headstart on the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Allen didn’t even attempt a shot in the opening 12 minutes, and the Celtics scored just 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting in an ugly start to the game.
The curious case of Rajon Rondo: He looked as if he’d risen from the slump that’s plagued him over the last couple weeks, but his production still was perplexing for a player who’s capable of so much more. Here’s his line: 0 points, 0 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals 2 turnovers and 1 block.
And while Delonte West made his re-re-re-debut with the Celtics, he and Carlos Arroyo did little to help Rondo on the point guard front.
|What it means to have Nutty Professor Glen Davis back||03.14.11 at 9:12 am ET|
And while it was only a four-games, the Celtics could feel the loss of their nutty professor in their lineup. They beat Golden State and Milwaukee but fell very flat against the Clippers and Sixers. As a matter of fact, one could easily make the argument that he is the single-most important bench player of any of the favored teams to win the NBA title.
The Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Bulls and Heat all have star-studded players among their starting five but none of them have Big Baby. He can come off the bench and provide an instant jolt of energy to the reserves and this is precisely why Doc Rivers wants to keep him coming off the bench come April, May and hopefully, June.
But Sunday, it was all about getting acquainted with some players he’d never played with or had just seen in practice. There was no more ‘Shrek-ing’ with Nate Robinson. He has been replaced with Carlos Arroyo. Davis has played just three games with the troika of Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy.
“First half, I felt a little weird a little bit,” Davis said. “I didn’t remember anybody on the team. Nate? Carlos?”
And what about that No. 77, Sasha Pavlovic? Davis was wondering how to pronounce his name, let alone learn his game.
“I knew his name but I couldn’t pronounce it so I didn’t call him anything,” Davis said. “Just, ‘What’s up?’ and ‘hey.’”
Sunday night was clearly an example of shaking off the rust as he played just 18 minutes, going 3-for-6 from the floor with seven rebounds and nine points, with all nine coming in the fourth quarter.
“I saw a guy that needs to run more,” Rivers said. “He did well. He played with a lot of patience offensively and he let the ball come to him instead of hunting it down and that’s how we should play all the time. He just needs the minutes. He was starting to get his legs. I asked him how he felt and he said he felt great, except he can’t feel his lungs anymore.”
He missed a lay-up 90 seconds into the fourth as he had flashbacks to the Heat game on Feb. 13 when he went up on the wrong foot and missed a dunk. This time he missed the layup but 90 seconds later he was pounded by Jon Brockman and finally felt like he was back. More importantly, his knee felt OK with the contact.
“I was kind of trying to feeling it out,” Davis said. “I felt it a little bit more when I missed my first layup I was like, ‘Oh!’ I was trying to jump. I felt it but I didn’t feel it. But then when Brockman hit me, I felt like, ‘OK, you’re back.’”
No one means more to their bench than Glen Davis to the Celtics and here’s why:
First, after Krstic, the Celtics – as Rivers was all too willing to point out – had really no one to play the center position. Read the rest of this entry »
No team in the shot clock era had ever scored a few as the 56 points the Bucks managed Sunday night in an 87-56 Celtics’ win.
But the Celtics weren’t exactly popping champagne corks afterward.
Asked if he were aware of the new record his team just set, Paul Pierce quipped, ‘No, I didn’t have my NBA record book on the bench with me tonight so I didn’t realize.’
To Pierce and the rest of the Celtics, Sunday night was more about getting back to 48 minutes of quality defensive basketball and not suffering breakdowns and let downs in communication following losses to the Clippers and Sixers.
‘It was definitely encouraging just to put together a four-quarter game of defense,” Pierce said. “I definitely thought we did that tonight. Especially when we are integrating a lot of new players, coming back home after coming off of two losses, it was just to get back comfortable in our building and play the type of defense that we like to play.’
Doc Rivers looked at it a different way. He saw the schedule and took into consideration the hour lost due to daylight savings time and the travel the Bucks went through to get to Boston to play a 6 p.m. game less than 24 hours after beating the Sixers at home.
‘No, honestly, did we set a record? I didn’t know that,” Rivers said. “I really thought this was one of those schedule losses for Milwaukee. I just thought this was very similar to the game we had against Phoenix where you play a game and you lose an hour going backwards and then they lost another hour with the time change, and then we started the game at 6:00.
“So, I just thought ‘ you looked at the schedule ‘ I was concerned early in the game because we were up 10 and we were blowing layups; we were missing a lot of shots. You could see they were tired. So, we took advantage of that and that was great, but a lot of it had to do with their schedule.’
So, to be honest about it, Rivers said it’s great to win a game by 31 but he’s not about to draw any long-range conclusions about the quality of his team or how well his team got the message of toughening up in the fourth quarter.
‘Our defense was good, but we don’t know how good our defense was tonight, even though ‘ I would say our effort was phenomenal. And that’s all we talked about, we’re trying to sustain effort loner defensively and get back to doing that. Now that we’re starting to get ‘ we have one body back. Hopefully Delonte (West) is back, not tomorrow but the game after that. So you know, it’s what we need to do.’