|Fast Break: Celtics extend win streak to four games||01.09.13 at 9:54 pm ET|
Riding the best game of Jared Sullinger‘s young NBA career, the Celtics won a season-best fourth straight game, 87-79 against the Suns, and improved to 4-1 since Avery Bradley’s return on Jan. 2.
Sullinger (12 points) grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to record the second double-double of his rookie season, as the C’s (18-17) climbed above .500 for the first time since Christmas Day.
In a balanced effort, Sullinger, Jeff Green (14 points), Jason Terry (13 points), Kevin Garnett (10 points), Bradley (9 points), Rajon Rondo (8 points, 8 assists), Paul Pierce (7 points, 7 rebounds), Brandon Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (6 points) all scored between 6-14 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Green machine: On back-to-back second-quarter possessions, Green threw down ferocious dunks on separate Suns to hand the Celtics a 38-33 lead and force a Phoenix timeout. The first came on a dribble drive over old friend Jermaine O’Neal, and he slammed the second on a fast break oop from Bradley over Michael Beasley.
Rotating schedule: Actually, the entire Celtics bench once again performed admirably. Green, Terry and Sullinger were the C’s three highest scorers as the reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 47-16. Bradley’s return has helped coach Doc Rivers find some consistency in his rotations, and the Celtics appear to be responding to their more clearly defined roles.
On the defense: The Celtics are slowly climbing the NBA’s defensive ranks. After allowing 98.1 points per game through December, the C’s have gave up an average of just 86.3 points in Bradley’s first four games back. In his fifth, the Suns didn’t reach 70 points until 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even lineups that contain Green and Terry, who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess, appear to be grasping the C’s defensive schemes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Dudley do right: Quietly, Boston College product Jared Dudley has carved out a nice NBA career for himself. He’s averaging double-digit points for the third straight season, shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range in his five-year career and dishing out a career-high 2.7 assists per game. Against the Celtics, he amassed 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, doing all the little things to keep the Suns in the game.
Bigs problem: It wasn’t a matter of whether the length of the Suns frontcourt would hurt the Celtics; it was a question of how much. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Marcin Gortat and 6-foot-9, 245-pound Luis Scola entered the game averaging 24.5 points and 15.1 rebounds between them, and they combined to surpass both those numbers against the Celtics (28 points, 22 rebounds). In all, the Suns totaled 50 points in the paint.
Aunt Chippy: Whether the Celtics instigate it or not, there’s been some serious chippiness in their recent stretch of games. Two games after Rondo’s suspension for bumping a ref and two nights after Carmelo Anthony grew infuriated with Garnett, Rondo and Suns forward P.J. Tucker logged technicals and both Green and Courtney Lee took hard falls to the parquet floor. While some of their success can be attributed to the intensity, there’s a line between aggressiveness and overaggressiveness, and the Celtics have been riding it.
|Avery Bradley happy NBA moving back to his hometown||at 9:04 pm ET|
|Videos: How Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Garnett feud unfolds during quintessential Celtics-Knicks battle||01.08.13 at 7:47 am ET|
Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony barked at each other throughout Monday night’s 102-96 Celtics victory against the rival Knicks, and for once KG didn’t appear to be the instigator. Instead, Anthony pushed and prodded Garnett every chance he got, stormed through the visiting tunnel towards the Celtics locker room after the game and eventually waited by the C’s team bus to confront his fellow All-Star.
Between the whistles, the referees did a poor job controlling the escalating feud. On the play preceding their double technicals, Garnett and Anthony exchange shoves for what seems like a lifetime directly in front of referee Violet Palmer, and as my wife said upon her first Dick Bavetta sighting, “Is he even alive?”
As Anthony’s Knicks teammate Marcus Camby said of Garnett, “He talks a lot, but that’s pretty much to pump himself up. He’s been doing that so long that it’s amazing how guys still succumb to it.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘This game was not some sort of foreplay’||01.05.13 at 10:09 am ET|
Kevin Garnett has a way with words unlike any other Celtic. He knows what to say and when to say it, especially to his teammates.
That showed Friday night after the Celtics disposed of the Pacers, 94-75, at TD Garden, a game in which he was ejected for a shot to the face of Tyler Hansbrough with just over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“I was firm, I didn’t mean to get him in the face like that, I was actually trying to swipe the ball but it was a physical game and they called it the way it was, part of the game,” Garnett said of the “flagrant-2″ foul that earned him the rest of the night off.
Garnett and Doc Rivers have been pleading with the Celtics to stay true to the defensive principles that have been the cornerstone of the Celtics for the past five seasons. Friday night, Garnett had plenty of help on defense from Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce.
Was this type of ugly game, one that featured 107 missed shots, the kind of game that the Celtics need to play to get themselves out of the funk they’ve been in?
“This game was not some type of foreplay,” Garnett said. “I thought we came out firm and aggressive on both ends, but more importantly defensively. I thought we stayed sound for 48 minutes no matter who was in. Avery made a very very big impact on the game, I thought Paul’s defense was very energetic, and we followed those guys lead. You could tell from how we came into the locker room that we really needed this win.
“You know, since we’ve been in this funk, Doc’s been saying that through out this tough ordeal that we have to continue to play defense no matter what we’re doing. Offense cannot dictate defense. I feel like for the most part we did just that. Some nights you click, some nights you don’t, and tonight we just knew we needed to win to stop the bleeding and I feel like we went out and did it.”
The message to Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jeff Green?
“There’s no perfect answer to this, there’s no perfect situations,” Garnett said. “Everyone has to accept their roles wholeheartedly and embrace it, and tonight I think we did. Being consistent with those roles is what we want to be, if we want to be anything of a good team, everyone is going to have to fill those roles. It was just a full team effort from a defensive standpoint.”
This was the lineup and the effort Doc Rivers had been waiting for. But more to the point, this was the effort everyone had been expecting from the Celtics.
Avery Bradley at the ’2′ providing smothering defense with a cast of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo around him. Brandon Bass was even inserted back into the starting lineup Friday, giving the Celtics the lineup they had when they made their run at the end of last season.
The result was a 94-75 win over the Pacers in which defense was the main attraction and Bradley, according to Rivers, was the MVP.
“Avery was 3-for-11 and he may have been the most valuable player tonight because his defensive pressure, just on the ball, it made them take so much time to get into their sets and when they got in their sets it wasn’t the right spot,” Rivers said. “They had to go in places they didn’t want to, and it allowed our entire defense to be dominant. And so Rondo was part of it as well. Where I was real happy with Rondo was in the second and third especially. His speed he played on offense, where he attacked the basket and made things happen, that’s a good sign for us.”
The Celtics held the Pacers to 27-of-85 shooting (31.8 percent). They held Indiana to 75 points, the fewest they’ve allowed all season. Bradley was in the face of Lance Stephenson all night, holding him to 1-for-6 from the floor.
“That’s what I try to bring every night,” Bradley said. “I try to bring that intensity on the defensive end but that’s my role, to be the energy when I come into the game. I just try to make it hard on the opponent every single night, and that’s all I did tonight. It means nothing to me, it just means that I’m taking steps forward, and next game I gotta continue to get better and better.
“We’ve been making steps forward on that defensive end and offensive end and everything’s starting to come together as a team and we just gotta continue to keep taking steps forward and we’ll be the team that we want to be from the beginning of the year” Read the rest of this entry »
|Paul Pierce: Celtics can beat any team in the East||at 1:09 am ET|
When the Grizzlies briefly knocked the Celtics out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, handing them a fourth straight loss and their eighth in the last 10, many buried the C’s. Just like they did the 2010 and 2012 versions. Even some of members of the team questioned their contender status. But this isn’t Paul Pierce‘s first rodeo.
“I was telling the guys before the game, you know, I told them to look at the East,” said the Celtics captain, who totaled 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in his team’s dismantling of the Pacers that lifted them back into the eighth spot in the conference. “There’s not one team out there that we feel like we can’t beat.
“You’ve got a couple of elite teams out there — San Antonio, Oklahoma City — and I was telling them how well we played against Oklahoma City. There’s no reason that we can’t play well against everybody like that. If you look at the elite teams, and we’re able to compete with them, then why can’t we compete with the other teams are coming here, like the Milwaukees, like the [Pacers], like the Grizzlies. I just want to keep the confidence going in the locker room and help them understand that when we want to, we can be this type of team.”
|Tyler Hansbrough: Kevin Garnett ‘just hit me in my face’||at 12:20 am ET|
On the Celtics PR staff’s quote sheets, the first sentence in Kevin Garnett‘s post-ejection press conference reads: “This game was not about foreplay.” There’s a chance he said “floor plan,” but foreplay seems more appropriate.
After being pushed around in four embarrassing blowout losses, the C’s finally fought back. Maybe a little too hard, as Garnett decked Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough across the face midway through the fourth quarter of a lopsided victory of their own, earning a flagrant-2 foul and an early trip to the massage table.
“He just hit me in my face,” said Hansbrough, who scored a game-high 19 points. “I went to the basket and took a blow to the head. I didn’t really see the replay. I’ve got nothing to say about it. It is what it is.”
“I was firm,” countered KG (18 points, 7 rebounds). “I didn’t mean to get him in the face like that. I was actually trying to swipe the ball, but it was a physical game, and they called it that way. It was part of the game.”
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