|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double cools Heat||02.13.11 at 3:46 pm ET|
The first half felt like a preseason exhibition, and the second half played like a postseason battle. In the end, the Celtics defeated the Heat, 85-82, recapturing first place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game on Sunday afternoon in the TD Garden.
With 12.5 seconds to go and Lebron James on the line with a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws, the Heat forward made just 1-of-2. Moments later, Glen Davis nailed a pair on the other end, and Mike Miller missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer, as the Heat (39-15) lost to the Celtics (39-14) for the third time in three tries this year.
Rajon Rondo‘s third triple-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists steered the Celtics, despite Paul Pierce‘s worst offensive performance (1 point) since March 9 of his rooke season. The C’s survived 62 combined points from the Heat’s Big Three of Chris Bosh (24), Lebron James (22) and Dwyane Wade (16).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Heat get chippy: When things got sloppy midway through the third quarter, it ignited the Celtics — and their crowd. First, Zydrunas Ilgauskas knocked Rondo to the ground on a legal screen, and then Kevin Garnett returned the favor on Miller. That’s when Wade decided to shove Garnett.
As the referees discussed the severity of Wade’s foul (a flagrant-1), Rondo listened in on the Heat’s non-timeout huddle. That’s when James decided to shove Rondo — twice. Those events came during a stretch in which the Celtics expanded a two-point lead to a 13-point advantage.
Don’t get Rajon Rondo angry: Rondo was playing well before Ilgauskas decked him. Afterwards? He was on a mission. The Celtics point guard produced his first triple-double since totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs on Jan. 5. Not to mention the fact he had just one turnover. As a result, Garnett, Davis, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Von Wafer all reached double figures as well.
Bench boost: Despite leaping 9.5 feet instead of 10 while missing a fast-break dunk attempt, and then belly-bumping Chris Bosh on the rebound, Glen Davis performed admirably off the bench. He totaled 16 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Over the previous eight days, in the Celtics’ three losses, he shot 5-of-18 and averaged six points. That was a far cry from the guy who cemented himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate earlier this season.
And despite looking lost at times, Von Wafer made two big second-half 3’s to total 10 points.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Paul Pierce feeling the Heat:: After missing practice with an illness earlier in the week, Pierce still appeared sluggish on Sunday against the Heat. He missed all 10 of his shots — including five 3-pointers. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, James, made 10-of-21 buckets and outscored him 22-1 for the game.
Easy like Sunday morning: Even the crowd didn’t seem entirely into the game in the first quarter. The Celtics took three more shots than the Heat in the opening 12 minutes, yet they trailed 20-15. That’s because the C’s shot just 6-of-20 (30 percent) while defensively allowing the Heat to connect on 9-of-17 field goals (52.9 percent) in that same span.
Riding the starters: Considering the Celtics’ depth was as shallow as a kiddie pool, and they still defeated the next-best team in the East, the C’s couldn’t have asked for much more. It’s a stretch in the “what went wrong” department, but Doc Rivers was forced to play Rondo and Allen 40-plus minutes, Perkins 30-plus minutes for the fifth straight game and a (less than 100 percent) Pierce 35-plus minutes. Since the C’s play just once (Wednesday) in the next nine days, that shouldn’t cause much concern.
|Doc Rivers: We weren’t up the challenge of the Lakers||02.11.11 at 10:57 am ET|
One characteristic Doc Rivers has always admired about his team was that it fights through almost every kind of adversity.
On Thursday night, he didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was the overwhelming number of injuries, the foul trouble of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kobe being Kobe or just all of the above, Rivers just didn’t have the feeling that his team had the energy or will to overcome all of it. And that, more than the 92-86 loss to the Lakers at TD Garden seem to bug him the most.
“I thought they came out and jumped on us early in the third quarter, first ‘scored the first 10 points,” Rivers began. “And I never thought we fought through it, really. I mean obviously the fatigue and all that ‘ you know, one of our concerns going into the game were Paul or Ray couldn’t get in foul trouble obviously, because of what we had left. And that happened.
“But I just thought mentally we were not a very good team tonight and usually we are. I didn’t think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we’re great at that usually.”
But not on this night. While the Celtics are not a great rebounding team to begin with, they usually find a knack of dominating their opponent in the paint. Not on this night when they were outscored, 50-32.
They usually get to loose balls and find a way to score on second-chance points. Not on this night. They were outscored, 16-9, in that category. And while Rajon Rondo posted his 21st double-double of the season, he was just 5-of-14 and – after feeding Ray Allen for his record-breaking three in transition – couldn’t let his team back. It didn’t help that Nate Robinson went down with a bruised right knee in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“It was one of those nights; I just thought we didn’t do a very good job of [battling],” Rivers said. “And we obviously did have a lot of adversity with the injury of Nate and foul trouble and the lack of bodies, but you know that that could happen before the game and I don’t think we handled that very well.’
And watching Kobe Bryant – with just three shots in the first half – take over in the third quarter didn’t help either.
‘Well once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,” Rivers said. “I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought defensively he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. I mean, he just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring.’
The Celtics face another NBA superstar when LeBron James and the Heat come calling on Sunday. The same Heat team that has been dominated twice this year by the Green. And whether or not Delonte West returns from a broken right wrist, the C’s better find their fight on Sunday or history will repeat itself.
Ray Allen has always been known as a stoic, some would say ice-cold, figure on the court. You could never really truly ever figure out if he was happy or upset with his play or his shooting. Perhaps that’s what has made him ‘ now ‘ the most prolific 3-point artist in NBA history.
But Thursday night was different for Allen the moment he stepped on the parquet.
There were the extra media members on hand for a national broadcast between the two fiercest rivals in the NBA. There was the tremendous build-up and then, of course, there were the fans who were chanting his name and cheering, beginning in warm-ups.
Allen needed just two 3-pointers to pass Reggie Miller and make NBA history smack dab in the middle of a Lakers-Celtics game.
‘What I thought about is, is it really going to happen,” Allen said. “I know I only needed two 3’s, and on any other day, any other game, it seems like it would happen just like that, I wouldn’t have to think about it. But that second 3, almost, it seemed like it was slow motion for me, cause I’ve seen the whole thing develop. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve played the game and I can see it, somewhat in a second motion so to speak. Where the ball kind of comes so slow, like somebody is almost slow motioning it on TV. That’s exactly how it felt, because the minute we got the stop and Rondo got the ball. In my mind it just started, and I just said to myself this is it.”
|Fast Break: Lakers put damper on Ray Allen’s night||02.10.11 at 10:54 pm ET|
With two first-quarter 3-pointers, Ray Allen set the all-time record as Reggie Miller could only watch from his broadcasting chair. Oh, and it came against the Lakers ‘ off a transition pass from Rajon Rondo, over Kobe Bryant ‘ but the Celtics lost, 92-86, Thursday night at the TD Garden.
Allen led the Celtics (39-13) with 20 points. Rondo (12 points, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (10 points, 11 rebounds) each registered double-doubles, but Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as the Lakers (36-17) earned a season split with the C’s.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding (what’s new?): It was their Achilles’ heel in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals, and the rebounding issue reared its ugly head again. The Celtics were outrebounded 35-24 on the defensive end and 47-36 overall against the Lakers.
Points in the paint: With the O’Neal “brothers” and Semih Erden all out of action, the Celtics had little if any depth behind Kendrick Perkins at the center position. They not only paid for it on the glass but in the paint as well. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 36 points and 19 rebounds, as the Lakers outscored the C’s 50-32 in the key.
Emotional letdowns: The Celtics rode an emotional wave after Allen’s record-breaking trey to a 45-30 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Lakers responded with a 14-4 run that cut the lead to five and gave LA its confidence back. Another 10-0 run to start the third gave the Lakers a lead and even more momentum.
Finishing the game with just four healthy players on the bench ‘ two of them rookies ‘ the C’s had nobody but Von Wafer to give them a lift, especially considering the fact that Glen Davis struggled from the floor (3-for-10) all night long.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen’s big 3: In what was probably the best singular moment at the new Garden since the 2008 title run, Allen ripped his record-setting 2,561st career 3-pointer 10:12 into the game. The crowd let out a deafening roar as Allen pumped his fist in celebration.
Following the first quarter, the C’s recognized Allen, who in turn acknowledged the fans, shook Miller’s hand, hugged his mother Flo and kissed his wife Shannon and his children.
The shot also helped Allen record 12 points in the first quarter, as the C’s took a 27-20 lead.
Taking care of the ball: The emotion of the night didn’t hurt the Celtics’ concentration. They committed just three first-half turnovers. Much of the credit went to Rondo, who the Lakers simply had no answer for in the first half. The point guard had eight assists and zero turnovers in the opening 24 minutes of the game, helping the C’s establish a 53-45 halftime advantage.
In the second half, however, Bryant cracked down on defense. Rondo produced just five points and two assists in the final two quarters. The C’s finished with only 10 turnovers. Of course, one of them was an errant Paul Pierce pass on a fast break that would’ve cut the lead to three with two minutes to go.
Von Wafer’s boost: With Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord) and Nate Robinson (bruised right knee in 3:39 of playing time) out, the Celtics had to rely heavily on Wafer. And he produced. His eight second-quarter points actually gave him an 8-3 scoring edge against Bryant at the half. Yup, you read that correctly.
Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer from right wing with 1:48 left in the first quarter to pass Reggie Miller for the most 3’s in NBA history with 2,561. Allen went over and gave a hug to Miller, on hand courtside to broadcast the game nationally on TNT.
Appropriately, it was Rajon Rondo who set the stage for history with a trademark pass on the fast break to a wide-open Allen on the right wing. Allen was several feet behind the arc when he took the shot.
Allen led all scorers in the first quarter with 12 points and helped the Celtics to a 27-20 lead. In the break before the start of the second quarter, Allen went over again to the TNT table and hugged Miller again and then went to the went to the seats under the Lakers basket and gave a hug to his mom, who was courtside. Allen then waved to the sellout crowd, which erupted in pandemonium after the historical shot and then during the first-quarter break.
Allen tied the record with a trey from the left top of the circle with 4:15 left in the first quarter to tie the mark. The crowd rose in anticipation on each 3-point attempt by Allen on the night. Allen’s first attempt came from the left baseline with 7:24 left in the first quarter.
Miller had held the record with 2,560 since retiring after the 2004-05 season. Miller posted the record over a span of 1,389 games. Allen needed just 1,074 games to pass Miller. Allen’s first 3 came on Nov. 1, 1996, at Philadelphia, a game his Bucks won.
|NBA Power Rankings, 2/10||at 8:28 pm ET|
A quick explanation of the top four: While the Celtics and Lakers have fallen prey to the annual February malaise at times, the Spurs continue to separate themselves in the standings, establishing a 5.5-game lead for homecourt throughout the playoffs.
Meanwhile, neither the Heat nor the Lakers have proven this season they can beat the Celtics, although that could change when both come to town in the next four days. While the Mavericks have won 10 straight and swept the C’s this season, I’m still not confident they’re any better than the third-best team out West. There you have it.
Now, it’s time to unveil this week’s full NBA Power Rankings. In a tribute to Ray Allen‘s chase for Reggie Miller‘s all-time 3-point record, we give you the best current and former long-distance shooters on each of the league’s 30 teams …
1. San Antonio (44-8): Sinking 916-of-2,450 (37.4 percent) in his Spurs career, Manu Ginobili is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter.
2. Boston (38-13): Sinking 1,540-of-4,158 (37.0 percent) in his Celtics career, Paul Pierce is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter. Allen has made 639 of his 1,586 3-point shots (40.3 percent) since coming to Boston in 2007.
3. Miami (38-14): Sinking 806-of-2,263 (35.6 percent) in his Heat career, Tim Hardaway is the team’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. Dwyane Wade is Miami’s current 3-point shooting leader, making 288-of-985 (29.2 percent) in his career with the team.
4. LA Lakers (36-16): Sinking 1,370-of-4,042 (33.9 percent) in his Lakers career, Kobe Bryant is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter.
5. Dallas (37-15): Sinking 1,175-of-3,084 (38.1 percent) in his Mavericks career, Dirk Nowitzki is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter.
|Shaquille O’Neal to levitate over the Garden?||at 3:43 pm ET|
Accompanying girlfriend Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander on WGBH’s Emily Rooney Show Thursay, he announced plans to perform a magic act on top of the TD Garden.
“Now, listen,” O’Neal told WGBH. “I asked Criss Angel to levitate me over the top of the TD Boston Garden, and he said yes so we just have to figure out a date.”
Angel is a magician who appears on an A&E television show entitled “Mindfreak.”
Alexander also revealed that the two have taken dancing classes together in their hometown of Sudbury. Unfortunately, there’s no video available of that. She and O’Neal also debated whether or not she’s ever defeated him 1-on-1 in tennis.
Suffering from an inflamed Achilles tendon, O’Neal hasn’t played since Feb. 1 against the Kings. He is expected to miss Thursday night’s game against the Lakers and could be out through the Feb. 18-21 NBA All-Star break.
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