|Irish Coffee: Celtics lack killer instinct||11.02.10 at 11:05 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
We know they love Halloween, but does this Celtics team have a killer instinct?
And Dime Magazine’s Austin Burton raised it again just three games into the 2010-11 NBA season — suggesting Boston has played to its competition through the first three games.
The Celtics did it last season, when they were just average down the stretch before bouncing back to find their rhythm in the playoffs and get with a few possessions of winning another NBA championship. But for a veteran team – led by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and the playoff-experienced Rajon Rondo -- that has been through the wars and knows the importance of staying focused and consistent, it’s a red flag.
The Celtics had the killer instinct in 2007-08, when they won 66 regular-season games and the NBA title. A whopping 21 of those victories came by margins of 20 points or more.
They simply didn’t let many games slip away, as they did in Game 2 against Cleveland — dissolving a double-digit lead in the second half against one of the worst teams in the league.
The 2007-08 C’s started 20-2, winning by an average of 16 points and losing only to a pair of teams that reached the second round of the playoffs that season (the Orlando Magic and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers).
Meanwhile, this year’s edition of the Celtics has led all three of its games by double digits late in the third quarter, only to be playing meaningful minutes down to the buzzer.
Against the Heat, an 83-70 lead with four minutes to play dwindled to an 83-80 advantage in the final minute. Against the Cavs, the C’s turned a 66-55 third-quarter advantage into a 95-87 loss. And against the Knicks, Boston owned a 101-90 lead with two minutes left, only to be clinging to a 103-101 advantage in the final minute.
To further the issue, Burton points to tonight’s game as a potential defining moment for this season’s Celtics, especially considering they haven’t played since Friday night.
The Celtics will get another test of their focus on Tuesday, when they visit the Pistons on the road. A fierce playoff rival for the C’s as recently as 2008, Detroit was in the Lottery last year and aren’t expected to do much this year. Ben Gordon‘s and Co. are 0-3 right now, but two of those losses were down-to-the-wire games against playoff teams in Oklahoma City and Chicago. If the Celtics overlook Detroit — perhaps eyeing an upcoming stretch that has them home for the Bucks and Bulls before playing at OKC, Dallas and Miami — Gordon and Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons’ talented scorers will hand Doc Rivers another unexpected L.
Losses piling up are certainly a concern, but as the Celtics showed last year: For this team, what happens in the regular season stays in the regular season. The more concerning number — other than a potentially lower playoff seed — could be the mounting meaningful minutes.
The more games the Celtics are able to demonstrate a killer instinct — turning second-half, double-digit leads into certifiable blowouts down the stretch — the fewer minutes Rivers has to trot out his aged starters.
“I love sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter when you’ve got a blowout,” Ray Allen said in the preseason. “That means everybody as a team gets the opportunity to play. Everybody works hard throughout the week, so when you know guys get a chance to play that’s when you know you’ve got it.”
Which only stresses the killer instinct question: Do this season’s Celtics have IT?
MAGIC DON’T MATCH UP
What the Celtics do have — according to Orlando Sentinel‘s George Diaz — is a considerable matchup advantage against the Magic. In fact, the columnist essentially threw in the towel against the C’s and Heat just a few games into the season. Here’s a glimpse:
The Magic don’t have any players who can break down a defense by going one-on-one, unless Vince Carter steps into a Hot Tub Time Machine and it’s 1997 all over again.
Without one, they won’t have a prayer of beating the Celtics or the Heat in a playoff series.
It may sound like one man’s opinion, but it’s not. Even Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy owned up to that discrepancy after getting blown out by the Heat on Friday.
“Against a good defensive team we have trouble a little bit,” Van Gundy told the Sentinel. “We don’t have — and this isn’t to put down anybody in our locker room — but we don’t have the great one-on-one players. We don’t have Dwyane Wade and James and Pierce and Kobe Bryant.”
That’s got to be fairly eye-opening for any Orlando fan. I had my doubts about the Magic from the start, relaying recently a conversation I overheard at the Garden:
“How come you don’t believe in the Magic?” one guy said to another.
To which the other guy replied, “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?”
|Jermaine O’Neal, Rajon Rondo and Tiger Woods||11.01.10 at 4:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Jermaine O’Neal admitted following practice on Monday that he’s been a disappointment so far, in part because of injuries that have affected his conditioning.
‘It’s been challenging,” O’Neal said of his slew of injuries. “Obviously, the hamstring, the back a little bit, the wrist, now the knee so it’s been extremely disappointing for me so far. But obviously, trials and tribulations will make you stronger and you have to take that as you never can be successful if you don’t fail. So far, I haven’t been able do things out there that I want to do out there.”
The 31-year-old O’Neal, who practiced with the first team and will play on Tuesday in Detroit, was signed in early July to a two-year, $12 million deal. He played in the first two games, scoring just three points, before swelling in his left knee sidelined him for the game against the Knicks last Friday.
‘I know the people that are happy about me aren’t happy quite yet with what they’ve seen but I can guarantee that before the year is over with, they’ll be really happy with my play and it’s just about finding ways of getting yourself going.’
Rajon Rondo, the Eastern Conference player of the Week for Week 1 after dishing 50 assists in three games, dressed up as Tiger Woods to win the team’s award for best Halloween costume on Sunday. ‘We did a little vote on it Rondo won for being Tiger Woods,” captain Paul Pierce said. As for the video of Shaquille O’Neal as Shaqeeta, his drag costume for Halloween that is making the rounds on the internet and local TV, ‘No, I haven’t seen it,” Pierce added. “I’ll have to check it out.’
|Shaq a likely no-go but ‘big brother’ is ready||at 2:28 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Shaquille O’Neal missed his second straight practice on Monday with a right knee bruise suffered late in Friday’s game against the Knicks and likely won’t play on Tuesday in Detroit, according to coach Doc Rivers.
“I doubt if he plays [Tuesday] but we’ll see,” Rivers said following practice, which didn’t include O’Neal. “If he has a chance [to play] he’ll make the trip.”
O’Neal instead spent the time in the swimming pool with fellow injured big man Kendrick Perkins as both worked on therapy for knee injuries. The team did get good news on another O’Neal. Jermaine O’Neal, who suffered swelling in his left knee following the loss to Cleveland last Wednesday, returned to practice on Monday and will make the trip to Detroit.
“[Shaquille's] brother? He had a good practice and he’ll play,” Rivers said with a laugh. “Obviously, it could swell or something but right now, he looked good.”
Rivers said Jermaine O’Neal, who practiced with the first team, will see a lot of time as will rookie Semih Erden.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics Halloween||at 10:39 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
1. Shaquille O’Neal as “Shaqeeta”
2. Jermaine O’Neal as “Mr. T”
4. David Ortiz as “Wolverine”
5. Ray Allen as “Retro Ray”
6. Marquis Daniels as “Reverend Daniels”
10. Glen Davis as “Big Baby”
Over the weekend, Celtics Blog’s Jimmy Toscano provided us with a look back through the eyes of the Celtics at the ghost of Halloween past. He treated us to some sweet morsels …
- Ray Allen: “I went anywhere that had those little Smarties candies in the plastic. You got so many of them. That’s what I ended up eating all the time. Then I got older and we just started throwing eggs at people’s houses.”
- Glen Davis: “I was thinking about being Kazaam. That would be funny.”
- Nate Robinson: “Then we used to snatch kids’ bags sometimes back in the day. Like kids that we knew would go out. I was young. I was like 10. I remember one time my friend snatched a kid’s bag and the dude’s dad chased him for so long. We were laughing.”
- Kendrick Perkins: “Got to be Snickers. Snickers, man. Ain’t nothing else. Nate’s a weirdo saying Candy Corn.”
- Shaquille O’Neal: “My thing with Halloween was every time I used to go out, people used to look at me like, ‘You’re too big to be trick-or-treating.’ So I stopped at age 10, seriously.”
|Fast Break: Celtics Rondo the Knicks||10.29.10 at 10:06 pm ET|
The best thing to happen to Doc Rivers Friday night was Rajon Rondo. Watching his All-Star point guard dissect the Knicks for a career-high 24 assists helped him forget about an ugly occurrence just hours earlier.
Before his team and Rondo beat the Knicks, 105-101, at TD Garden, he had to answer questions about an altercation between Delonte West and Von Wafer earlier in the day after a shootaround – an altercation that Rivers acknowledged by saying “There was a fight. I ‘m not real happy about it. We’ll deal with it.”
Wafer did play, albeit only three minutes off the bench, committing one foul and missing one shot from the floor.
The Celtics trailed by nine early as the Knicks came out shooting well but the Green recovered quickly and led 27-20 after the first. They didn’t trail again and led by as many as 12.
The Celtics are off until Tuesday when they play in Detroit.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
Rajon is Rondo-ing everyone right now: The point guard had a career 24 assists and is clearly the team leader. No one in an opposing uniform can seem to keep up with him in the half-court. About the only thing Rondo is doing wrong now is making passes that are so good, his teammates don’t always anticipate them, like Marquis Daniels midway through the fourth. Rondo’s 24 assists were the second-most in Celtics history, trailing only Bob Cousy’s 28. To put a cherry on the sundae, Rondo finished with a triple double, adding 10 points and 10 rebounds to his astronomical helper total.
Celtics dominated the paint: Thanks to the work of Rondo, the C’s went to the paint early and often and kept going there consistently throughout the game. They finished the game outscoring the Knicks, 54-38, in the paint. Glen Davis had 16 points off the bench, a huge contributor to the 54-point total.
Celtics found their shooting range: Paul Pierce shot 9-of-20 – including 4-of-6 from long distance – and finished with a team-high 25 points while Kevin Garnett made 12-of-17 from the floor and finished with 24. Shaquille O’Neal connected on 5-of-7, all from in close as the Celtics finished around the basket.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
Still too many turnovers: Despite talking about the issue before the game, Doc Rivers had to sit on the bench and watch as his team committed another 18 turnovers. The Celtics have now committed 55 turnovers in their first three games. The turnovers were the biggest reason a team like the Knicks, who shot only 44 percent, were able to close to within two with 17.5 seconds remaining on an Amar’e Stoudemire three.
Celtics look their age coming out of the block: That has be a huge concern considering they are starting the season fresh. They are getting beat in two aspects of the game the Celtics of the last three seasons have dominated. They are getting beat on rotations, allowing the ball to find its way to the open shooter and too often they are getting beaten in transition. When Rajon Rondo is trailing on defense, you have a serious issue to address.
Big men are knicked up: With 5:11 left in the fourth, Shaquille O’Neal left for the locker room limping. Already without Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins, the C’s can hardly afford to lose another big man or they run the risk of burning out Big Baby who looks as fresh as he has in his career. Shaq did not return to the game. He bruised his right knee when he banged into Stoudemire. He said after the game that he would be fine and not miss any time. Jermaine O’Neal meanwhile is day-to-day with swelling in his left knee, an ailment that cropped up after the loss in Cleveland.
|Lucky Luke Harangody active for the 1st time||at 7:25 pm ET|
After two sluggish games to start the season, Jermaine O’Neal – playing with torn cartilage in his left wrist – is getting the night off against the New York Knicks. Rookie Luke Harangody is active for the first time this season in three games.
O’Neal was just 1-for-5 in the first two games, scoring just three points. Harangody, drafted in the second round (52nd overall) last June out of Notre Dame, was named to the AirTran Airways All-Summer League first team after averaging 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in July.
|The Delonte West Timeline||at 4:34 pm ET|
Following HoopsWorld’s report that Delonte West and Von Wafer exchanged blows during a practice before tonight’s 7:30 p.m. game against the New York Knicks at the TD Garden, we put together a simple timeline of an offseason that explains a little why the Celtics may be considering dumping West even before he fulfills the 10-game suspension levied upon him this summer …
- July 15: On trial for six weapons charges from a 2009 traffic stop in Maryland, West pleaded guilty to carrying an eight-inch bowie knife and transporting a handgun on his motorcycle. He was sentenced to eight months of home detention, two months of probation and 40 hours of community service. As a result, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended West for the first 10 games of the 2010-11 season.
The Washington Post reported: “Three guns were found — a 9mm Beretta in West’s waistband, a Ruger .357 Magnum strapped to his leg, and a 12-gauge shotgun in a guitar case slung over his back, authorities said. West also had additional shotgun shells in a backpack, investigators said.”
- July 26: In the wake of “The Decision,” the Cleveland Cavaliers traded West — along with Sebastian Telfair — for Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins.
- August 3: In order to save $4.1 million in salary, the T-Wolves released West.
- September 1: The Celtics signed West to a non-guaranteed deal for the veteran minimum.
- September 27: Officially donning a Celtics uniform again on Media Day, West denied rumors that sufraced during the 2010 NBA Playoffs that he and LeBron James‘ mother, Gloria, had engaged in a relationship.
“Not at all,” he told reporters. “I come from an era where you don’t say nothing bad about someone’s parent, so not at all.”
- October 11: In an open diary to the public on ESPN.com, West praised the camaraderie of this veteran Celtics team. He also commented on his past:
“People make mistakes but that’s what life is,” West wrote. “You’ve got to learn from them and keep going. This team is here to win. The unselfishness stands out. Everyone is just submerging themselves within the team. It’s all about team here. That’s the type of player I am anyway, I’m always about the team. I put the team before my individual goals my whole career. It’s good to be on a team like this.”
- October 13: On a preseason road trip, the Celtics sent West back to Boston from New York to undergo testing for the back spasms that had been ailing him throughout training camp.
- October 22: Still healing from his lower back injury, West returned to practice in a limited fashion.
- October 24: In a game of 2-on-2 (West and Semih Erden vs. Wafer and Luke Harangody), West and Wafer exchanged words after West drove hard to the basket and scored consecutive baskets against Wafer — with West telling Wafer to “do something about it.”
- October 26: Shaquille O’Neal told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that he encouraged Celtics vice president Danny Ainge to sign West, because the two had respect for each other as teammates in Cleveland.
“I know he won’t get out of line,” O’Neal told Windhorst. “There’s five or six guys that he truly respects here. Last year I don’t think he respected anybody but me on that team. So I was able to talk to him.”
“He got out of control a lot of times and usually when people get out of control they shut their buttons off to somebody they respect,” O’Neal added. “I know he respected me because I can get out of control too. I had to yoke (sic) him up once or twice, tell him to let it go bro.”
- October 26: In an interview with WEEI’s Big Show, Ainge admitted that the team considered the risks of re-signing West.
“I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court,” Ainge told The Big Show. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.”
- October 29: Following a physical game of 3-on-3 in practice, Wafer returned to the locker room as West taunted him with obscenities, according to HoopsWorld. West allegedly threw a punch at Wafer in the locker room, leading to a scuffle. Now, Ainge is reportedly considering terminating West’s deal.