|The Three-Pointer: Marquis Daniels delivers what Doc ordered||11.30.10 at 11:14 pm ET|
In other words, he was forgettable, even for Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who designated Daniels as a DNP for 13 of their 24 playoff games last season.
Since entering the NBA in 2003, Daniels has missed at least 20 games in six of his seven full seasons. After signing a $2 million deal with the Celtics last season, he played in just 51 games — reaching double figures only eight times and looking more like Lou Tsioropolous than the guy who averaged 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Pacers during the 2006-07 season.
In the Celtics’ 106-87 victory over the Cavaliers, we saw a different Daniels — one the Celtics must have known still lurked somewhere beneath those dreads, or else they wouldn’t have re-signed the swingman to another one-year deal (this time for more money, at $2.5 million).
“He surprises me, and he upsets me, because I know he can do it every night,” Rivers told reporters after Tuesday night’s win. “I’m going to stay on him, because he has that in him. I think he can be that terrific every single night. I really do.”
When the final seconds had ticked off the clock in Cleveland, Daniels’ line read like this: 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), four rebounds, two steals and one block — all improvements from his averages of 4.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks. But it wasn’t just his statistical production that endeared him to Rivers for at least one night. It was his defense.
“We put him on [Ramon] Sessions, he was guarding Mo Williams and moving his feet,” added Rivers. “They couldn’t beat him off the dribble. That was huge. We didn’t know how long we could go with that. We were going to try to get them on the other end in the post. We didn’t know we could stay in front of those guys, and the fact that Marquis could do that was a big deal for us.”
In the wake of Delonte West‘s surgery after suffering a broken wrist last week, the Celtics desperately needed someone off the bench to help Glen Davis — who had his usual productive night off the bench with 17 points and 11 rebounds — ease the burden for the Celtics starters. They’ve been waiting for more than a season for Daniels to be that guy, and for at least one game he met the challenge.
It’s no surprise that his best game of the season came two games after West’s injury and just one day after Rivers made the Celtics bench pull double duty at practice.
“We brought the second unit in early [Monday],” said Rivers. “They had their own practice before the regulars had their practice, and you could see that it got to them a little bit. And it was great, but we need them like that every night.”
Consider that a challenge to Daniels going forward, as if the motivation of another, bigger payday wasn’t already enough.
‘STEP ON THE GAS PEDAL’
After falling behind the Cavaliers 17-8 in the first 6:34 of Tuesday night’s game, the Celtics outscored Cleveland 48-28 to close out the half and take a 56-45 lead into the locker room.
That’s when Celtics commentator Tommy Heinsohn said it, as a ton of Celtics fans were thinking it: “All right, now step on the gas pedal.”
Too often this season the Celtics have rushed out to double-digit leads, seemingly in total control of every aspect of the game, only to have their advantage start to vanish like Marty McFly‘s image in that “Back to the Future” photograph.
Tuesday night, however, the Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 24-20 in the third quarter, stretching their lead from 11 to 15 points and allowing Rivers to give his starters some much-needed rest, considering the C’s host the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
In their first 13 games, the Celtics led all three of their games at halftime but were outscored in nine of those games during the third quarter — leading to close games and forcing the Celtics to rely on Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo for well over 30 minutes a night.
That trend has changed in the C’s last four games, as they have won the third-quarter battle in wins over the Hawks, Nets, Raptors and — after Tuesday night — the Cavaliers. That allowed Rivers to limit Pierce and Allen to just 23 minutes apiece in the final game of that stretch.
‘TOP OF THE FRONT RIM’
My father could drain free throw after free throw in the driveway. He’d make 200 in a row, or at least it seemed that way when I was a kid. His mantra: “Aim for the top of the front rim.” He ingrained that — and as a result the importance of foul shooting — into my head at an early age.
Despite having three guys — Allen, Garnett and Pierce — shooting 89, 85 and 84 percent from the free-throw line, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game ranked 21st in the NBA in foul shooting. And they didn’t do themselves any favors, shooting just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe against the Cavaliers.
Shaquille O’Neal‘s struggles at the line are a given (he’s at 57 percent). It’s really only Rondo who can help the Celtics improve in that arena. The Celtics point guard is shooting a putrid 47 percent from the line this season, and he made just 1-of-4 against the Cavaliers.
This problem may not have much effect on the C’s success during the regular season, but there’s no doubt it could be an Achilles heel in the playoffs, when games are more physical and tighter at the end. After all, the Celtics ranked eighth in free-throw percentage when they won the title three years ago.
|Fast Break: Celtics handle Cavaliers||at 9:36 pm ET|
Six Celtics reached double figures, including Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, who combined for 33 points off the bench. Kevin Garnett contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds, as the Celtics won their fourth straight and improved to 13-4.
WHAT WENT WRIGHT
Bench contributions: In 84 total minutes off the bench, Daniels, Davis and Nate Robinson combined for 41 points (on 17-of-34 shooting), 19 rebounds and six assists.
More importantly, their energy gave the Celtics a much-needed boost in the second quarter, as they outscored the Cavaliers 35-22 and built a comfortable 11-point lead at halftime.
Points in the paint: The Celtics absolutely obliterated the Cavaliers in the post, outscoring them 60-26 in the paint. Davis (17 points) and Garnett (11 points) led the way for the C’s. Pretty impressive, considering Shaquille O’Neal (6) was relatively quiet on the night.
Attacking the basket: Rondo repeatedly blew past the revolving door of defense that was Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions. He scored 16 of his 23 points around the bucket in addition to dishing out 11 more assists on dribble drives.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Thanksgiving weekend hangover: Whether it was rust from having Saturday and Sunday off or the Celtics not taking the Cavaliers seriously, the C’s looked sluggish early — digging themselves a 17-8 hole after the first six minutes. Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams combined for 11 points in that span.
Free throw shooting: The Celtics shot just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe. With a 74.6 combined free throw percentage, the Celtics entered Tuesday night’s game against the Cavaliers ranked 21st in the league.
Hickson’s yellow shoes: Wearing what may have been the ugliest shoes ever to appear on a basketball court, J.J. Hickson scored only one point in the game. His yellow sneakers were so awful that my girlfriend joked that the distraction they cause might be the secret to the Cavaliers’ semi-success this season.
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics Vengeance Factor||at 11:48 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
I love vengeance movies. Good (“Kill Bill”) or bad (“The Punisher”). I’ll watch it. And I’ll love it.
So, in the wake of last week’s Celtics victory over the Raptors and in the face of Tuesday night’s rematch against the Cavaliers, I got to thinking: How good are the post-Kevin Garnett-trade C’s at exacting revenge?
Examining the Celtics’ record over the last three-plus seasons in rematches against opponents following a regular-season loss in their previous meeting, it’s clear these C’s are pretty damn good at vengeance — like Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” good — especially against sub-.500 teams.
After losing to the Raptors by one on Nov. 21 this season, the Celtics handled Toronto during a nine-point victory in their rematch five days later. It marked their first shot at vengeance of the 2010-11 regular season.
Since the start of the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have a record of 26-11 in rematches following a loss against that team in their previous meeting. Their average margin of victory in those 26 wins was 10.3 points.
Against sub-.500 teams during that same span, the C’s are now 9-0 in vengeance opportunities. Tuesday, the Celtics have another shot, as they face a 7-9 Cavaliers club that beat them 95-87 in Game 2 of the season.
The Celtics are favored by seven points in Tuesday night’s game. I’m just saying.
A CAVS TRAP GAME?
There’s no question that Thursday’s Cavaliers game against the Heat means more to Cleveland than Tuesday night’s rematch against the Celtics. And rightfully so, considering LeBron James‘ return to the town he dissed in his “Decision.”
But the Cavs are trying to avoid looking past the C’s, because — based on their comments to the Akron Beacon Journal — they expect the vengeance factor.
”We really took advantage of them playing the night before,” [Cavaliers guard Mo] Williams said of the first meeting against the Celtics. ”We ran, we ran, we ran. It was a new-look team at the time that didn’t know what to expect. I expect to see a better, more prepared Boston tomorrow.”
If the Cavs’ game plan against the Celtics was a secret before, it isn’t any longer.
”One of the reasons we were successful the first time is we got up and down the floor and put Shaq in a lot of pick and rolls,” [Cavaliers coach Byron] Scott said. ”That won’t change. We’ll still try to do that. If we do that like we did the last time, our guards will get wide open shots. We just have to keep it spread as much as possible and get the ball moving side to side.”
Well, then. I guess the Celtics don’t need to videotape any Cavaliers practices.
Oh, and speaking of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, if you haven’t already, read Adrian Wojnarowski‘s piece on James’ egotistical behavior. It’s probably the best insight into the Akron product you’ll read — including gems like these …
[Dwyane] Wade was one of the Team USA players who’d watch incredulously as James would throw a bowl of fries back at a renowned chef and bark, ‘They’re cold!’ Or throw his sweaty practice jersey across the court and command a team administrator to go pick it up. Everyone wants James to grow out of it, but he’s never showed much of an inclination for self-examination and improvement. And he’s never surrounded himself with people who’d push him to do so.
The fundamental problem for [Heat head coach Erik] Spoelstra isn’t that James doesn’t respect coaches – he doesn’t respect people. Give LeBron this, though: He’s learned to live one way with the television light on, and another with it off. He treats everyone like a servant, because that’s what the system taught him as a teenage prodigy. To James, the coach isn’t there to mold him into the team dynamic. He’s there to serve him.
I’m not sure why I do this to myself, but I’ve been following the 24-part series of profiles about the Lakers bloggers on the Los Angeles Times website.
Here’s what I’ve learned (in vast generalizations): Somehow, they’re all Lakers fans, yet none of them came from Los Angeles. Take one blogger’s story about how he became a Lakers fan as an example:
Born and raised in NYC, I didn’t really start watching much basketball until I found myself living in Cambridge, Mass., coming out of college and rooming and living with a crazy Celtics fan during the ‘85-’86 season. I got one look at Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers, and I was instantly hooked. I eventually found myself living and working in L.A. early in my film/TV career in ‘87, ‘88 and some of ‘89 where my love for the Lakers was truly forged. I have been following the team religiously ever since.
They all hate, hate, hate the Celtics, which I’m sure fuels their objectivity:
Opposing team, player you dislike the most: The Celtics and all things green. Paul Pierce and the ‘wheelchair’ incident will always cause me to gag. More recently, however, Lebron and his now infamous ‘I’m going to take my talents to South Beach…’ episode have trumped the hatred I have for the Celtics. I’ve never disliked a team more than I do this Heat team at the moment – I hate the Celtics, but I loathe the Heat.
Ladies and gentlemen, your L.A. Times basketball bloggers!
Sports Illustrated named Drew Brees its Sportsman of the Year. Back in 1968, Bill Russell became the first NBA player to capture the honor. Here’s what the former Celtics player-coach told SI about winning the award:
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Delonte West wrist surgery set for Tuesday||11.29.10 at 2:41 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced that guard Delonte West will have surgery on Tuesday for the fractured right wrist he suffered last Wednesday night late in the second quarter against New Jersey after driving in for a lay-up. Rivers said the team will know more about West and his fate for the rest of the season following the procedure.
“Surgery [Tuesday] and then we’ll know more after that,” Rivers said after practice on Monday.
Rivers aded starting point guard Rajon Rondo‘s left hamstring is no longer an issue but his sore left foot still remains troublesome. ‘The foot is the bigger issue. The hamstring [injury] is gone for the most part.’ Rivers said.
Rondo returned on Friday against Toronto after a three-game absence with a strained left hamstring.
|Shaquille O’Neal misses practice unexcused||at 2:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Forgetting the time practice begins is not the best way to endear yourself to the coach – especially when it comes after the coach gives you and the rest of the team the Thanksgiving weekend off. But Shaquille O’Neal can be lucky that he’s built up a lot of goodwill with Doc Rivers.
“You get over it,” Rivers said. “Listen, if a guy had a history, then you deal with it differently. When a guy doesn’t have a history or something, it happens. It’s life, you move on. You do whatever you do, fine [the player] or whatever all that stuff is. I never release that stuff and it’s not a big deal.”
The Celtics center missed practice on Monday when he forgot when practice began, according to coach Doc Rivers. Team spokesman Jeff Twiss confirmed that O’Neal did make the team flight to Cleveland for Tuesday night’s game. The absence comes after the 12-4 Celtics were given Saturday and Sunday off by the coach to enjoy the Thanksgiving weekend. Glen Davis had to take his place in practice for the short-handed C’s.
“Today, we only had 11 guys, which sucks,” Rivers said. “It hurts your practice because that means most of your guys are on the floor for the entire practice. That’s not the way to go. He got times mixed up, he missed one, he owes us one. We’re good.”
Asked if he would punish O’Neal, Rivers joked, “I was going to spank him. He may not hurt. It may hurt me.”
Then Rivers was asked if he handles star players differently than other players.
“It depends on who you are,” Rivers said. “If you have a history of that, we deal with it. It’s a human game and it always will be. I don’t have a set rule for one guy or two guys. Each guy is an individual basis is what I’m saying. You deal with it that way. You put money in the bank. If you’re a guy who tends to use his money up, then it’s a little shorter.”
The Celtics had a 90-minute practice that began at noon at their complex in Waltham.
|Irish Coffee: An NBA tribute to Leslie Nielsen||at 11:13 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the basketball ties in the wake of Sunday’s passing of Leslie Nielsen — one of the great comedic actors in history.
Playing Dr. Rumack in the 1980 comedy classic “Airplane”, Nielsen starred alongside NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock. Unfortunately, Nielsen didn’t appear in Kareem’s best scene.
In addition, back in 1994, when Del Harris assumed the head coaching position of the Los Angeles Lakers, he joked about serving as a double for Nielsen in Hollywood. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein contacted Harris for comment …
“We had already had the lookalike thing going, and I had actually signed a name to an autograph a time or two, so I said to him, ‘How about going in the locker room and act like you are me and tell them they played a good game or you are proud of them or whatever you have.’ He did it and the guys loved it.
“He brought a lot of laughter to the world, but not tonight. Peace, Leslie.”
R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen. Now, on to some Boston Celtics links …
DOC’S DIAGNOSIS OF AUSTIN RIVERS
The only actual news to come from the story is that Doc will miss up to 10 potential practice days in order to catch some of his son’s games in Florida.
“It’s not the best way, but it’s the only way,” Rivers told Powell. “If they play and I’m off, I’m there.”
Will Doc’s potential absence for as many as 10 practice days affect this veteran-laden Celtics team? In my mind, no chance. It might have some small effect on a young team, but because of their collective experience this C’s squad is the ideal group for Rivers in this situation, as a few absences in favor of father-son bonding shouldn’t impact their success one way or another.
And, in many ways, the father-son relationship between Doc and Austin Rivers is just like any other involving a teenager.
“You know when you’re a teenager you really don’t even want to talk to your parents anymore,” Doc said, with a laugh. “So basketball does give you a conversation piece. While the bond my wife and I have with all of our kids is away from basketball, it helps.”
In other ways, their relationship is unlike most, in that Doc could one day coach his son in the NBA.
“I harbor dreams that he makes it to the league,” Rivers said. “But coaching him? That’d be tough. Because I have to live with his mom. She runs the household. If I didn’t play him one day, I’d have to go home to his mother. And that would be no fun at all.”
Of course, if Austin Rivers lives up to his billing as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, the Celtics probably won’t have a chance at drafting him in a few years — considering he’d be a top-10 pick in that scenario.
FORMER CELTICS STRUGGLE TO FIND HOMES
In a bizarre story over the holiday weekend, despite Stephon Marbury‘s popularity in the Chinese Basketball Association last season, Shanxi Zhongyu opted not to sign the former Celtics guard to one of its three contracts allotted for international players.
Not only that, but the team only alerted Marbury after he arrived for training camp in Taiyuan. As a result, he hasn’t been able to sign with another CBA team, because they too have signed their three international players.
“If they said they weren’t going to sign him a month ago, then Marbury still would have had a lot of other opportunities because there are still some teams who are quite interested in him,” Titan Sports associated editor and close Marbury confidant Yang Yi told NIUBBall.com. “But now, every CBA team has already signed their import players, so it’s going to be real tough for Marbury to find a team to play with.
“He’s dissapointed in Shanxi. This is treachery. Marbury isn’t strapped for cash, he doesn’t need to play in China because he needs money. He just feels really sad because he loves Shanxi. This summer he was working out and keeping his body in shape. He feels really hurt by the team.”
“I haven’t beaten the Lakers in probably six years, since I left Boston, and I haven’t been in a playoff game in six years and it felt like a playoff game,” Jefferson told The Orange County Register. “Every possession counted. Kobe Bryant being who he is, and we were down, we fought back, we didn’t give up. We won against all odds. It was just amazing, man. I’m overwhelmed. It’s never been like this before, and to be a part of this. It just meant a lot to me.”
CAN RAJON RONDO AVERAGE 20 ASSISTS?
Rajon Rondo believes he can average 20 assists per game. At least, that’s what he told NBA FanHouse.
OK, so how many assists per game does Rondo believe he can average this season?
“Twenty,” he said.
Realistically, how many?
“Twenty,” said Rondo, who did hand out 24 Oct. 29 against New York but hasn’t exceeded 17 in any other game.
OK, why do you think that?
“Because we’re shooting the ball extremely well,” he said. “We’re playing together and moving the ball.”
In order to produce 20 assists a game, Rondo would have to average 21.1 dimes over the next 66 games this season. While I’m not buying that — considering he’s only eclipsed 20 assists once this season — I still think he has a shot at John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA record of 14.5 assists per game.
SHAQ DOMINATES BASKET & RINGS
“Shaq’s already got four onion rings on his fingers, but he still wants to get one more for the thumb,” Kevin Garnett said. “And you know what? Tonight he showed he’s going to do whatever it takes to get a whole handful of onion rings. Whatever it takes.”
Never a dull moment when it comes to this Celtics squad.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Kevin Garnett gets his revenge on Andrea Bargnani||11.27.10 at 1:01 am ET|
Call it a lack of respect from certain members of the Raptors, an overwhelming desire to make good on a sub-par performance five days earlier or a kick in the butt from his head coach, Kevin Garnett was a man on a mission Friday night.
After Andrea Bargnani dropped 29 points on the Celtics last Sunday in a 102-101 come-from-behind Raptors win in Toronto, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pulled Garnett aside and essentially told him that can’t happen again. Garnett responded by scoring a season-high 26 points while holding Bargnani to 11 in Garnett’s best two-way game of the season as the Celtics prevailed, 110-101, Friday nigh at TD Garden.
“Doc has different ways of motivating me,” Garnett said. “He pulled me to the side, he wasn’t really happy with Bargnani situation up there and I wasn’t really pleased with that, either. And tonight was more of a concentrated effort to just make sure I kept him under control. It doesn’t take much to motivate me.”
Rivers was far more subtle in his post-game comments but hinted that he saw the KG everyone expected on Friday night.
“Kevin’s energy tonight was off the charts, and you knew it would be, if you know Kevin,” Rivers said. “Because the last time we played them, the guy in his position had a pretty good game, and that’s just Kevin Garnett.’
Then there were the words of Shaquille O’Neal, who hinted that Raptors forward Amir Johnson was talking trash and directing it at KG on the court. Pretty dumb idea, if true.
Garnett said he was inspired by his own fire and Rivers’ words of inspiration.
“It was 50-50 a little bit,” Garnett added. “I didn’t get much sleep [Thursday] night. That’s what it is. I’m going to see Bargnani as long as I’m in the league but I guess the way Doc came at me was the way he wanted it. That’s what he wanted. I likes to see me a little of the chain at times and I don’t mind being like that.”