|Pierce: No window watching needed||10.20.10 at 11:51 pm ET|
Boston got off to a sluggish start, and while New Jersey figures to be much-improved this year with new head coach Avery Johnson, the Celtics had no business being down 14 points early in the second quarter, on their home court, in their final tuneup before the most important (or, at least, most hyped?) regular season game in NBA history on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
And their captain knew it. Paul Pierce, who finished with a game-high 17 points in a 107-92 win over the Nets, said the Celtics wanted a good feeling heading into the season.
‘We knew that was not our brand of basketball how we came out to start the game,” Pierce said of allowing the Nets to shoot 50 percent and score 55 points in the first half. “We wanted to try to establish the tone in the third quarter and we just have to do a better job on starting games off and understanding on what we need to do. But I think for the most part we are ready.
‘You want to sort of build something going into the season individually and as a team. It’s about getting the confidence going. You want to be playing well not just as a team. Trying to figure out some things I am trying to do offensively just to get some confidence to know I can get the job done during the regular season.’
But that wasn’t the only message Pierce sent after the game. He was asked if he views this season, starting with Tuesday’s showdown with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as a final shot at an NBA title with the current group of Celtics.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Pierce said. “I’ve got four years left, shoot. The window’s open as long as I’m here. Definitely, the sense of urgency is there every year we have our team [together]. We don’t look ahead at a window. The object is to have a sense of urgency now and then next year, worry about that.”
|Fast Break: Sharp Shaq ignites C’s win||at 10:04 pm ET|
Five Celtics scored in double figures — led by Paul Pierce‘s 17 points — and Rajon Rondo finished with 12 assists to ignite a 107-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets in the final game of the preseason. Boston finished the preseason at 7-1.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. Shaq looking sharp: A nifty spin move and another juke move around Joe Smith showed flashes of the Shaquille O’Neal of old. Sure, it was Joe Smith, but still. Playing 15 of the first 24 minutes, he finished the half with 12 points and seven boards.
Shaq did the little things, too. He tossed a nice outlet pass to Rondo for an easy bucket that put the C’s up 75-67 in the third quarter. He cleaned up the defensive glass, a serious deficiency for the Celtics in the 2010 game that shall not be named. And, believe it or not, he made 4-of-5 free throws, which raised his percentage to 69.2.
All in all, not too shabby for a 38-year-old.
2. Coming out of halftime firing on all cylinders: The Celtics could’ve easily packed it in and called it a night, trailing 55-48 at the half. If trap games existed in the preseason, this would’ve been it. The C’s started 6-1 in the expedition season, and if you haven’t heard yet they open the season against the new-look Heat on Tuesday.
Yet, the starters came out of the locker room and turned a seven-point deficit into a 13-point lead by the end of the third quarter, outscoring the Nets, 36-16.
3. Getting to the free throw line: The Celtics got to the line 24 times last night and made 18 of them. Shaq, Pierce and Glen Davis each got to the line five times, and only Big Baby (2-of-5) failed to knock them down.
Entering last night’s game, the C’s averaged 28.6 foul shots per game, and they were shooting 76.6 percent as a team. Last season, the Celtics attempted 25.5 free throws per game, making 74.6 percent of them.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. Starting the game in a last-game-of-the-preseason effort: Looking sloppy and lackadaisical, the Celtics gave up 11 fast break points and scored none in the first quarter. That left them coming from behind … until an epic third quarter. Making up a 14-point deficit might be easy against the Nets, but it won’t be a cakewalk against the NBA’s upper echelon.
2. Giving up high-percentage shots on defense: The Celtics still allowed New Jersey to shoot 48 percent from the floor through three quarters — and that’s with the Nets shooting just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. The C’s have plenty of bigs this year, so there’s no reason their interior defense shouldn’t be among the league’s best.
3. Do I really have to come up with three things that went wrong in a 20-point blowout during the last game of the preseason? OK, I guess the Celtics didn’t bring Gino out. What gives?
|Irish Coffee: One Reason Ray Allen Will Be Better||at 10:44 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
ESPN analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy piled on the anti-technical foul bandwagon in a conference call to promote the station’s NBA coverage this season. While most of what’s been said on the subject has been redundant over the last week — (a la Van Gundy: “More free throws is never the answer”) — Jackson made an interesting point that could benefit the Celtics:
‘If I was a guy like Reggie Miller I’d love the rule because it would add three or four points a night to my scoring total from technical fouls.’
Hmmm … I’m trying to think of a guy like Reggie Miller on the Celtics. Shaquille O’Neal? No. Rajon Rondo? Nope. Oh, I know: Ray Allen. Four current NBA players, including Allen, rank higher on the list of career free-throw percentage leaders than Miller (who is No. 9 at 88.8 percent): 2. Steve Nash (90.3 percent), 3. Peja Stojakovic (89.5), 4. Allen (89.4) and 6. Chauncey Billups (89.2).
Allen averaged 16.3 points per game for the Celtics last season, so an additional four points — which, for the NBA’s sake, better be an excessive estimate — would get him closer to his career average of 20.5 points a game.
The scariest name on that free-throw percentage list: Kevin Durant, whose 88.3 conversion rate ranks No. 11 all-time. Already an NBA MVP favorite, Durant’s 30.1 points per game led the league in scoring last year. An additional few points a game gets Durant that much closer to averaging 35 points. Only two players have done that since 1970: Michael Jordan (37.1 in 1986-87; 35.0 in 1987-88) and Kobe Bryant (35.4 in 2005-06).
NBA PRESEASON PREMONITION
The Sporting News produced the following NBA statistic: “Over the last nine preseasons, 17 teams have finished undefeated or with one loss. Of those 17 teams, 16 wound up in the playoffs. None went on to win a championship and only half survived to the second round, but the fact is, if you play well in October, there’s a good chance you’ll at least be playing in late April.”
Only four NBA teams currently have unbeaten or one-loss preseason records: the Celtics (6-1), Orlando Magic (6-0), Utah Jazz (7-0) and Memphis Grizzlies (7-0). I’m not sure this is good news for the Celtics, who need a monumental breakdown to miss the playoffs. Should they defeat the New Jersey Nets tonight, they would have to buck a recent trend to win the NBA title.
Along the same lines, 82games.com analyzed a five-year window to determine: Does the NBA preseason matter? Looking at records from 2001-02 to 2005-06, there was a corollary: successful preseason teams succeeded in the regular season; likewise, unsuccessful preseason teams failed in the regular season.
The most interesting statistic from the study: teams coming off less-than-30-win seasons that produced successful preseason teams gained an average of 19 wins the following season. The only team that fits that bill this season is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished 15-67 last season and are 5-2 this preseason.
MAGIC JOHNSON’S DISAPPEARING ACT?
What the heck is Magic Johnson up to? A day after selling his 4.5 ownership stake in the Los Angeles Lakers for an estimated $27 million, Magic reportedly sold his 105 Starbucks franchises for another $100 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Magic was rumored to have interest in the sales of the Detroit Pistons and Golden State Warriors, which have since been sold. Back in 2006, when the Seattle SuperSonics were sold for $350 million, five teams were supposedly available for the right price: the Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Magic and Grizzlies. None of those teams have been sold since.
Conspiracy Theory of the Day: Maybe Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are preparing to buy the Indiana Pacers. Bird did admit back in April that he’s fielded calls from people interested in buying the team. I’m pretty sure Magic has his number.
Just as long as Magic isn’t planning on investing in another edition of that godawful TV show, “The Magic Hour.”
The NBA banned its players from wearing Athletic Propulsion Labs’ $300 Concept 1 shoes. Apparently, the shoes are spring-loaded to increase vertical leap. According to the Associated Press story, 30 percent of NBA players had shown interest in the shoe produced by former USC walk-ons Adam and Ryan Goldston. Any chance the aging legs of Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were among that 30 percent?
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|KG: Celtics-Heat definitely a ‘soap opera’||10.19.10 at 8:50 pm ET|
Ray Allen has always had a special way with words.
He knows exactly how to say something with a smile and deliver the right tone and most importantly – the right message.
His message following Tuesday night’s intrasquad “Green-White” scrimmage at TD Garden was: Everyone knows we’re a team. Everyone wants to find out if Miami is, too.
“I believe so because there’s never been an opening game that has been more heavily anticipated,” Allen said. “I do believe that people are definitely excited to see them more than they’re excited about about seeing us. Truly they know, as a team, what we represent. The two teams are Eastern Conference powerhouses. It’s going to be a game.”
“I think with the anticipation [after] our exiting the finals last year and then with the new additions to Miami, they overly hyped the game,” Kevin Garnett added. “Yeah, I can see this has a lot of episodes, a lot of drama, if you will. It will have a lot of soap opera feel to it. Days of Our Lives, Another World, Santa Barbara.
“My grandmother was a big, big soap opera fan so it was either go outside or sit in there with her so I know that schedule quite well.”
Allen played Tuesday for the Green squad, which captured a 38-31 victory in an enhanced practice before season ticket holders and VIPs. The Celtics conclude their preseason Wednesday night against New Jersey at the Garden before opening the NBA season next Tuesday against the Heat, also at TD Garden.
|NBA Power Rankings, 10/14||10.14.10 at 12:12 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers: Lamar Odom hired his mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, as his new manager. If the knee injuries to Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum don’t spell doom for the Lakers, this could, as anybody who has seen “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” can attest. We’ll leave them in the top spot — until Kris makes Odom pose nude or something.
2. Boston: After his jumper to beat the Knicks, Paul Pierce appears to be up to his old game-winning ways. And the Celtics bench seems to keep getting deeper and deeper. The play of Semih Erden, Stephane Lasme and Luke Harangody has been an encouraging sign. So far, the injury bug has only claimed Delonte West, and he’s suspended for 10 games anyway.
3. Miami: First it was Dwyane Wade’s hamstring, and now it’s LeBron James‘ leg cramps. I heard somewhere that if Wade really does miss the remainder of the preseason, the Heat’s Big 3 (do they have a nickname yet?) will have only played a few minutes together before taking on the Celtics on opening night. I think it’s just a marketing ploy.
4. Oklahoma City: Larry Brown recently called the Thunder everything that’s right with the NBA: young, talented and well-behaved. I couldn’t agree more. This team should be fun to watch all season long, especially if Longar Longar makes the roster.
5. Dallas: With this new technical foul rule, how much in fines do you think Mark Cuban will spend this year? I’m putting the over/under at $1 million. In other news, I love the nickname for Mavericks rookie Dominique Jones: DoJo.
|NBA Power Rankings, 10/7||10.07.10 at 12:48 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers: As the long as the Lakers avoid terrorist threats in Europe and manage to stay healthy, they’ll hang on to this spot throughout the preseason. I’m not too worried about a loss to the T-Wolves or Kobe’s knee being 60 percent. And they’re pretty used to surviving without Bynum at this point.
2. Boston: When your biggest question mark is whether Von Wafer or Mario West will fill the final spot on the roster, I’d say your team is in pretty good shape … as long as Nate Robinson doesn’t hurt Shaq with one of his pranks. Oh, and Semih Erden looks like he’ll actually contribute.
3. Miami: Don’t let D-Wade’s hamstring injury alarm you. Those things happen in the preseason, and he’s played through far worse. The Heat looked good. No surprise there. And if Udonis Haslem keeps contributing like he has, they just might slide up to No. 2 on opening night.
4. Oklahoma City: The Thunder recently invited the greatest name in the NBA to their training camp: Longar Longar. If he makes the team, watch out league. What better complement to Durant, Westbrook and Green?
5. Dallas: The Mavericks are a bunch of 30-somethings who have a limited window left to challenge for an NBA title. Sound familiar? Yup, they’re like the Celtics, only they don’t rebound much and play porous defense. Still, they’ll be tough out West.
|Mock NBA Fantasy Basketball Draft||10.05.10 at 4:58 pm ET|
A breakdown of the first five rounds of a mock 10-team fantasy basketball draft, in addition to the top-10 late-round sleepers and the top-10 players to avoid. Full disclosure: I am unstoppable at fantasy basketball. I also consulted commissioner James Hough of our annual league, Mondo Rondo.
(NOTE: Your season depends solely on the health of this pick.)
1. Kevin Durant: Team USA’s best player; absolute monster; fills every stat category.
2. LeBron James: Has a legit chance to average a triple-double.
3. Kobe Bryant: Even if not 100 percent, the game’s best player can’t slip past No. 3.
4. Chris Paul: Might be the No. 2 pick if not for the whole knee surgery thing.
5. Deron Williams: Averaged at least 18 points & 10 assists per game last 3 seasons.
6. Danny Granger: Most underrated player in the NBA on a bad team translates into numbers.
7. Dwight Howard: You’re giving up FT% with this pick … but likely winning FG%, blocks & boards.
8. Dwyane Wade: Stats will suffer beside LeBron, but still warrants first-round pick.
9. Dirk Nowitzki: The first-round guy I’d least like to have on my team still fills the statsheet.
10. Pau Gasol: He may look like a llama, but he’s the best offensive center in the game.
ROUND 2(NOTE: Either diversify your roster or lock categories down in your favor.)
11. Chris Bosh: He’ll still score, grab rebounds, block shots and make free throws.
12. Steve Nash: It’s a good thing defense isn’t really a category in fantasy hoops.
13. Amar’e Stoudemire: Last season under D’Antoni: 25.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 59.0 FG%, 80.5 FT%.
14. Josh Smith: Draft him with Howard, and you win blocks & boards every week.
15. Stephen Curry: A first-round pick on most boards, I wouldn’t take him until now.
16. Brook Lopez: Never would’ve predicted he’d be a top-20 pick.
17. Carmelo Anthony: A top-10 player, but on a team he doesn’t want to play for.
18. Rajon Rondo: Points, assists, steals and FG% have gone up every year.
19. Derrick Rose: Is anybody else thinking he’s going to have a huge season?
20. David Lee: You can count the number of centers who have average 20 and 12 on one hand.
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