|NBA Power Rankings, 11/4||11.04.10 at 4:45 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers (5-0): No Andrew Bynum? No problem. All the Lakers have done to begin their road to a third consecutive NBA championships is start 5-0 and beat opponents by an average of 13 points. The only bad news on their front is that Rick Fox got tossed from “Dancing with the Stars.”
2. Boston (4-1): The Celtics‘ 4-1 start — including victories against the playoff contending Heat, Knicks and Bucks — has proven that the Cleveland loss was only a fluke. Delonte West’s return from suspension in another five games will provide a much-needed boost.
3. Miami (4-1): The Heat are 4-0 since losing to the Celtics on opening night. It’s no surprise that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all scoring in the double digits for Miami, but James Jones‘ 11.6 points per game has to be a welcome surprise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.
4. Atlanta (5-0): Too high? Sure, they’ve only beaten the Grizzlies, 76ers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pistons. But other than the Lakers they’re the only 5-0 team in the league. And they’ll probably head into Orlando on Monday night with a 7-0 record. Now that’s a must-watch game.
5. New Orleans (4-0): I obviously don’t expect the Hornets to stay in the top five for too long, but it’s impossible to ignore what they’ve done so far: home victories against the Bucks and Nuggets, and road wins against the Spurs and Rockets. That’s four solid wins. A healthy Chris Paul David West once again give New Orleans a more-than-legit 1-2 punch.
|Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce’s legacy||at 1:40 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
O’Neal turned to Celtics assistant coach Armond Hill and said, “Didn’t I score my 20,000th career point on you?”
No, it wasn’t quite 26 years ago when Hill hung up his shoes that Shaq reached 20,000, but it was eight seasons ago — signaling just how far Pierce has to go in order to reach Shaq & Co. in the top-five scorers of all-time.
Still, what Pierce achieved Wednesday night againt the Bucks doesn’t happen too often in the NBA, although it may not seem that way, considering three of the 35 other players in the history of the league to accomplish the feat were just a few feet away from him in the locker room.
“He’s been one of the best players in the league for a very long time,” Jermaine O’Neal said after Wednesday night’s game. “It’s hard to be that good for a long time for multiple reasons: aging, injuries, change in regimes — sometimes that has an effect on your game. But he’s been very consistent at what he does, and he’s very deserving of it.”
Of the 36 NBA players to reach the 20,000-point plateau, only 18 of them scored their first 20,000 for a single team (that includes Pierce). Of those 18, only 16 scored their first 20 grand in the same city. And of those 16, only nine began and ended their careers with the same team. Obviously, Pierce has the opportunity to be the 10th.
“It makes me think about what I went through in my career — just how tough it is to play with one team,” Allen said. “At some points, it gets rocky, because you hit those low points where a team’s not winning.
“Franchises are cyclical in sports. In those lean years he was able to stick it out here, and people still stuck behind him and the team, so that’s commendable. It doesn’t happen a lot these days in sports.”
Pierce’s career in Boston hasn’t been without its ups and downs. In 2005, he was reportedly offered to the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 3 pick and Nick Van Exel, and the Blazers instead traded the pick to Utah (the Jazz turned that selection into Deron Williams).
“Things change, management changes, sometimes the view changes,” added Jermaine O’Neal. “Once that happens, players tend to move around. It’s a special thing to do it for one team and once city for 13 long years. You’ve got to tip your hat off to him as a peer, as a teammate, and someone that’s watched him. I’ve been a fan of him for a long time.”
None of Pierce’s Celtic teammates and fellow 20,000-point scorers — Garnett, Allen or Shaq — scored their first 20 grand for the same team.
FOUR PLAYERS, 80,000 POINTS
Among the Celtics’ four 20,000-point scorers, only Shaq scored his first 20,000 in fewer games (727) than Pierce (889). It took Allen (962) and Garnett (979) almost another season’s worth of scoring to reach the mark.
Our own Mike Petraglia captured Pierce’s reaction to reaching the plateau, so let’s take a look at how the other three felt when they reached 20 grand …
There’s a funny story (depending on how you look at it) surrounding Shaq’s 20,000th point. He scored it as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 20, 2008, in 107-99 victory against the Kings in Sacramento.
However, as a result of Shaq’s criticism of then-King Mike Bibby‘s selection to the Team USA roster over Allen Iverson, a friend of Bibby’s defaced the commemorative ball shortly after the game, inscribing “Shaq is an a**hole” on it.
The defamation clearly angered Shaq, as did the lack of acknowledgement from the Lakers organization on the achievement.
“I’ll just have to get another ball at 30,000,” O’Neal told The Los Angeles Times in 2003.
Shaq currently stands at 28,281 points — fifth all-time. Meanwhile, Garnett has 22,345 at 22nd all-time. KG scored his 20,000th point as a member of the Celtics on March 8, 2008, in a 119-89 blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies — oddly enough, on an assist from Pierce.
“I wasn’t aware coming in,” Garnett told The Boston Globe in 2008. “It’s a great accomplishment for me. I’m more grateful to every coach, point guard, staff member, everybody whose put me in a position to be successful and I just say thank you.
“It’s a bit more meaningful as a Celtic when it happened. It seems like things are lining up for something more beautiful, like a championship.”
A year and a half later, also as a Celtic, on December 10, 2009, Allen scored his 20,000th career point — fittingly, on a 3-pointer in a 104-102 victory against the Washington Wizards. Since then, he’s climbed to No. 28 all-time.
“It’s interesting how basketball’s such a team sport, but it’s governed by so many individual statistics,” Allen told The Globe. “I’m just grateful I’ve had great teammates, I’ve had great coaches, and I’ve had pretty good organizations, and that’s helped me be where I am today.”
In another strange coincidence that will forever tie the Celtics’ Big Three together, Allen scored his 18,000th point on the night Garnett reached 20,000, and Pierce scored his 19,000th point on the night Allen reached 20,000. Welcome to The Twilight Zone.
PIERCE: GREATEST CELTICS SCORER EVER?
Larry Bird (21,791; No. 25 all-time) and John Havlicek (26,395; No. 11 all-time) are each one of the nine NBA players to score more than 20,000 points, beginning and ending their careers with the same team. Of the two, only Bird got to 20 grand in fewer games (809) than Pierce.
Pierce will in all likelihood pass Bird in the 2011-12 season, but will he ever catch Havlicek?
Since he is signed through the 2013-14 season, Pierce would have to average 19.8 points while playing every single game throughout the course of his contract in order to tie Havlicek. That’s definitely unrealistic.
However, should he play an additional two seasons for the Celtics after his current deal, averaging 16 points and 67 games per year (including this one), he’ll surpass Havlicek to become the greatest scorer in Celtics history.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|‘The Truth’ about Paul Pierce and 20,000 points||at 1:24 am ET|
There are many reasons Paul Pierce is considered ‘The Truth’ around the NBA. He is the go-to guy and captain of the Celtics who leads the team by word and action. On Wednesday, he did both and his reward was a place in NBA history – a place only 35 others have reached – 20,000 points in a career.
‘Coming into the game I knew it, but I didn’t want to press it, but I knew I needed 23 I think tonight to get it, I knew once I got to 22 I looked up and it was a great opportunity, as a player about certain things and they know,” Pierce admitted.
With the TD Garden crowd rising in anticipation, Pierce became just the 36th player in NBA history to reach the milestone when he made the first of two free throws with 13.3 seconds left in overtime during the Celtics’ 105-102 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Pierce followed that by converting the second to put the Celtics up four points, giving them a cushion they would need to win their third straight.
He spoke the truth about his feelings afterward.
“You know it was an emotional moment for me, tough for me to swallow,” Pierce said. “I was just thinking about all the years I have been here and you don’t see it to often where a player accomplishes that kind of feat playing with one team. It is a great accomplishment. The fans seeing my ups and downs throughout the years and sticking with me, just to be able to accomplish this type of feat, it means a lot to me I am not going to downplay it.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics sear the deer in OT||11.03.10 at 11:21 pm ET|
The Celtics got another MVP-like performance out of Rajon Rondo, and it was just enough to edge the Milwaukee Bucks (1-4) in overtime, 105-102, at the TD Garden Wednesday night. Rondo finished with 17 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds to help the C’s improve to 4-1.
Paul Pierce led all scorers with 28 points — the final six at the free throw line in the last 13 seconds — to eclipse 20,000 career points and, fittingly, put the game away. The milestone carried undeniable significance for the 13-year Celtics veteran.
“You don’t see it too often where a player accomplishes that type of feat with one team,” an emotional Pierce said after the game. “It means a lot to me. I’m not even going to downplay it. … Five years ago, I wouldn’t have even dreamed that I would have scored 20,000 points in a Celtics uniform. The team was going in a direction, I was a disgruntled player at the time. To still be here talking about this feat, it’s an incredible moment for me.”
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
THEY FOUND THEIR FIFTH GEAR: After an Ersan Ilyasova 3-pointer put the Bucks up 80-74 with 3:29 to play, the Garden got awfully quiet. The Celtics’ closing five — Rondo, Ray Allen, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis — changed that, quickly.
Over the next 2:09, the C’s outscored Milwaukee, 16-4, taking a six-point lead with a minute to play and igniting the hometown crowd. In that two-minute span, Garnett and Bucks big Andrew Bogut picked up double technicals after the former dunked on the latter, leading to a shoving match.
Rather than disrupt the C’s momentum, especially in the wake of the day’s KG-Charlie Villanueva Twitter fiasco, the incident seemed to ignite their fire further. Led by another sparkplug (who else but Rondo?), the Celtics literally ran all over the Bucks to pour fast break layup after layup into the net.
The Celtics showed a gear that other teams — even the Bucks, a 2009-10 playoff team — just can’t match. And it came on the second night of a back-to-back, in the fourth quarter. Sure, it took overtime for the C’s to Sear the Dear, but Wednesday night was going Milwaukee’s way until that two-minute stretch.
ALLEN’S GOT HIS GROOVE BACK: The memory of Allen shooting just 3-of-14 in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals was burnt into the minds of many Celtics fans throughout the offseason. Critics claimed the veteran may have been entering the so-called twilight of his career.
But a shooter like Allen never loses his stroke, even at age 35, especially when it’s as sweet as Ray’s. Twice already this season — Wednesday night against the Bucks (23 points on 9-of-20 shooting) and opening night against the Heat (20 points on 7-of-13 shooting) — he has demonstrated that he can still fill it up against the league’s best.
DEFENDING THE POINT GUARD: We know what Rondo is capable of offensively, but the Celtics point guard is already making a run at a second straight All-Defensive First Team selection. He held Brandon Jennings — a legit Rookie of the Year candidate last season — to just 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Rondo also kept Jennings from finding open teammates, limiting him to four assists in 34 minutes.
Wednesday night’s performance came on the heels of Rondo’s defense against Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey, who was limited to 6-of-15 shooting and three assists Tuesday night.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
WHERE’S THE BENCH? The Celtics were essentially playing with a six-man roster for the majority of the game against the Bucks, as Glen Davis (14 points, 4 rebounds) provided the team’s only real contribution from the pine.
Meanwhile, Nate Robinson, Von Wafer and Semih Erden only played 10 minutes between them. The Small 3 combined for a whopping two points, six rebounds and one assist. When Rivers played a lineup of Erden, Davis, Daniels, Wafer and Robinson, they managed to make a 25-16 lead at the end of the first quarter turn into a 32-31 lead midway through the second quarter.
DEFENDING THE CENTER: Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Bucks, Celtics centers had to defend the following guys: Joel Anthony (Heat), Ryan Hollins (Cavaliers), Timofey Mozgov (Knicks) and an 87-year-old Ben Wallace (Pistons) — not exactly the Bill Russells of this era.
Bogut was the C’s first true test at the 5 spot. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft and an All-NBA Third Team selection last season, Bogut ate up the Celtics duo of Jermaine O’Neal and Erden to the tune of 21 points and 13 rebounds.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD: There are three statistics Doc Rivers is going to point to over and over again throughout this season: turnovers, rebounds and veteran minutes. The first two will likely determine when the Celtics end up in the loss column. And the third could signal how often they end up there.
The Bucks led the turnover (11-16) and held the rebounding advantage for much of the night, until the Celtics edged them out, 43-42, in the overtime period.
Meanwhile, Allen, Pierce and Garnett combined for 120 minutes. That’s a direct result of the bench’s lack of production. If the C’s need those kind of minutes — especially in the second of back-to-back games — to pull out wins against good teams, that spells trouble in the form of fatigue down the road.
|Ray Allen on Twitter & NBA: ‘It’s a very fragile world’||at 8:42 pm ET|
“I don’t want a mic on those guys in the NFL and I don’t want a mic on these guys in the NBA,” Allen said. “You have the opportunity to hear some things that maybe you don’t want to hear or some kids don’t need to hear but that’s the heat of the battle, that’s in competition. I’ve never been a trash-talker. I believe in close competition you can find something you can beat your guy at. Most guys know when they’re beat and I’m not a pound-on-my-chest player and never have been.
“If I just made a three or a dunk, whatever it may be, I think everybody saw it. I don’t need to draw more attention to it.”
Allen said the first he heard of the ‘Twitter war’ between Villanueva and Garnett was while he was on his way to Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Allen said athletes have to be careful what they say on and off the court and now on-line.
“It’s a very fragile world that we live in now,” Allen said. “You almost have to have people around you to protect everything that you say and do and somebody has to watch you. As athletes, I think we have to be more responsible.”
Villanueva, via his Twitter page after Tuesday’s game in Detroit, accused Garnett of calling him a ‘cancer patient’ while Garnett said in a statement Wednesday that it was a misunderstanding and and that he called Villanueva a ‘cancer’ to his team. Allen said he believes athletes are under a spotlight that’s getting hotter and hotter.
|Kevin Garnett: ‘I would never be insensitive’||at 4:48 pm ET|
I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night. My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.
Garnett’s version of the story is far more tame than Villanueva’s claim on Twitter that KG called him “a cancer patient.”
Side note: If KG’s take is accurate, I’ve got to say … that’s some pretty good trash talk. And shame on Villanueva for not only taking to Twitter — but misconstruing Garnett’s message. It’ll be interesting to hear Villanueva’s reaction to KG’s reaction.
|Irish Coffee: Did Kevin Garnett go too far?||at 11:04 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
First, the evidence, which is circumstantial so far, considering it comes from Charlie Villanueva‘s Twitter account. Still, here are the pointed comments the Detroit Pistons wingman made about Kevin Garnett between 2 and 3 a.m. this morning …
- “KG talks alot of crap, he’s prob never been in a fight, I would love to get in a ring with him, I will expose him”
- “KG called me a cancer patient, I’m pissed because, u know how many people died from cancer, and he’s tossing it like it’s a joke.”
- “I wouldn’t even trip about that, but a cancer patient, I know way 2 many people who passed away from it, and I have a special place 4 those.”
Villanueva suffers from alopecia universalis, a skin disease that results in hair loss on the scalp. He won the 2006 Community Assist Award for his work as a spokesman for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
If Villanueva’s accusations are proven to be true, man, he’s sure gone too far this time.
In his time with the Celtics, he’s had some notable taunting episodes with Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless — among countless others. He’s been suspended for striking Andrew Bogut and Quentin Richardson.
But this would be the worst of them all.
Talk about a low blow. There may not be a person alive who hasn’t been touched by cancer, and that includes Garnett. I’m not saying he was badmouthing cancer. He’s done his share of charity work — including when he made a dream come true for one 17-year-old kid who was suffering from the disease. Still, it would be a bad choice of words. A terrible choice of words.
Sure, this stuff might be said on a nightly basis in the NBA, but does that make it right?
Whether he likes or not, by wearing Celtics green, Garnett represents the city of Boston — the same city where the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was founded.
If KG indeed made a comment about Villanueva being a cancer patient, an apology — at the very least — is in order. A charitable donation to Dana-Farber wouldn’t hurt, either.
GUARDING RAJON RONDO
HoopSpeak’s Beckley Mason suggested setting up a trap against Rondo, denying him the ball to force the offense through his teammates, dare him to score 40 points, or, at the very least, guard him close …
In his phenomenal 24 assist game, Rondo only had one assist on a pure dribble drive. Three were on cuts or catch-and-slashes, five were on fast breaks, five came from just handling the ball and finding an open shooter coming off a screen and 11 were out of the pick and pop or roll. So how smart of a strategy is applying no pressure to Rondo when he’s more than happy to hook up his skilled teammates?
After discussing the issue with NBA Analyst David Thorpe, TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott agreed wholeheartedly — guard Rondo, closely, or allow him to do “whatever he wants.” Here’s how Thorpe told Abbott he would guard the C’s record-setter …
I’d get in his face. You can go with size, or you can go with speed. But either way I’d try to hunt like lions do. One lioness goes out there and chases the prey right into the trap, where the other lions are waiting. I wouldn’t need my one defender to keep him on the perimeter — that’s impossible — but you can at least push him to places on the floor where things might be tougher for him.
For instance, almost every team knows almost every other team’s play calls. So you know which direction he wants to go as he crosses midcourt. I’d look at the data and see, of the different way he approaches the hoop, which areas of the floor, or approaches to the rim, give him the most trouble. Then I’d steer him there, with my best help defenders and shot-blockers ready to meet him.
Then I’d mix it up. Keep him from getting comfortable. Out of timeouts, you might try someone else on him. If he brings the ball up the left side of the floor, maybe have the defense ready to force him to a different spot. Keep him from getting comfortable. It might not work, but sagging off him all night, that’s clearly not working. At least you give yourself a shot. Maybe you can force a few more turnovers, and inspire a few more tough shots. That can turn a game.
There are a few problems with these theories: 1) You actually have to have someone on your team quick enough to guard Rondo up close; 2) If you’re throwing multiple defenders at him, that leaves guys open (and Rondo will find them); 3) You can deny Rondo the ball all you want, but the Celtics are going to find a way to get it into his hands; and 4) How do you dare him to score 40 points, other than to sag off of him defensively?
In other Rondo news, last night he became just the 16th player since 1986 to record at least 17 assists without a turnover. Celtics coach Doc Rivers actually did it in 2002 with the Hawks. John Stockton actually achieved that feat three separate times against the C’s.
RICK CRAZY LIKE A FOX
After getting booted from “Dancing with the Stars” last night, former Celtic and Laker Rick Fox said dancing on the show was harder than Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Of course, he never played a Game 7 in the NBA Finals, but still …
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
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