|Jared Sullinger and Paul Pierce get revenge on the Rockets||01.11.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Paul Pierce scored 23 points while Jared Sullinger had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Celtics withstood a late charge from the Rockets to win their fifth straight, 103-91, Friday night at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds and Courtney Lee had 14 points for the Celtics, who improve to 19-17 on the season.
James Harden had 21 and Jeremy Lin added 12 points for the Rockets, who had to settle for a season split of their series with the Celtics. Houston beat Boston, 101-89, on Dec. 14 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Early on, it was a game of runs. The Celtics jumped out to an 8-4 lead before the Rockets responded with a 13-0 spurt, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden hit 3-pointers in the spurt. But the Celtics came back with a 14-2 run of their own as Jeff Green and Courtney Lee hit consecutive threes. Boston took a 24-21 lead after 12 minutes.
Sullinger took over in the second quarter and led a bench effort that dominated for the second straight game. Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Those were the same numbers posted by Celtics starters combined until Pierce hit a three with 1:27 left in the second quarter. The Celtics bench had a season-high 36 points in the first half, outscoring the Houston reserves, 36-9, and taking a 53-45 halftime lead.
While the Celtics were held without a free throw in the first half, the Rockets self-destructed at the line, converting just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe. The Rockets finished the game a miserable 12-of-29 from the line.
Pierce came out on fire in the third quarter scoring eight of Boston’s first nine points in a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 17. Pierce finished the third with 11 points and the Celtics led 78-66 going into the fourth.
The Rockets finally heated up in the fourth quarter and took advantage of Celtics sloppiness and a key foul. Sullinger picked up his fifth foul with 10:01 left and the Celtics leading 83-69. Houston scored the next 12 points thanks to several turnovers. The run was finished off when Harden fed Parsons for a one-handed dunk over Pierce with 7:22 left in the fourth, cutting Boston’s lead to two, 83-81.
But it was Pierce to the rescue. Pierce ended the Rockets’ 12-0 run with a basket with just under seven minutes left. Moments later, he was fouled on his layup and converted the three-point play to put Boston up, 92-82, with 5:51 left. A Garnett fadeaway jumper with 4:42 put the Celtics up, 94-82.
The last time Kevin McHale and Kevin Garnett saw each other they shared a heartfelt embrace after a Rockets win. Before Friday’s game, they shared a crowded hallway between the Celtics and Rockets locker rooms and talked about their unique relationship that included a controversial trade in the summer of 2007.
“We spent a lot of time in the gym together,” McHale reminisced. “Great kid, great work ethic; turned himself into a fantastic player for years and years and years. His energy level, what he’s been able to accomplish still in the NBA, it’s not so much his age, it’s the minutes he’s played. Look at the amount of minutes he’s played, it’s just phenomenal. And I’m happy for him. But not tonight.
“We worked on stuff. But he had such a unique skill set. We worked on fadeaways, worked on some post stuff. Especially when teams were more physical, he really learned how to post and get his spot. We worked a lot on positioning. With him, he had such a different skill set, that turnaround fadeaway, and that became kinda his go-to move. But he was such a good player from the elbow, such a good player from all over, that just putting him in the low post, that really was a disservice to KG.
“He was a great high-post passer, elbow passer. He passed out of the post. I’ve said this before, he’s one of the most unique players because he’s going to get 25,000 points before it’s over with and he’s a pass-first player. Which is amazing. Most pass-first players score 8,000 points. He’s going to have numbers that shoot-first guys don’t get. That just goes to show how talented — he’s been a first-pass, he’d much rather just make the play whatever it is than shoot the ball. That just goes to show how gifted he is.”
The biggest difference between the two power forwards? McHale was shoot first while KG is one of the all-time best big-man passers in NBA history.
“I told him pass was a bad word. It was a four-letter word.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers could relate, as he did before Friday’s game.
“They are the exact opposite,” Rivers said. “Other than that, they are both great players. It’s funny, our Kevin kills you with intensity; that Kevin, we laugh about it now, some of the stuff he said on the floor, he joked around half the time and ended up with 30 points and 20 rebounds or whatever.
“We were laughing, he would always ask me on the first free throw: ‘When are you trapping me? Because I know you are.’ And he would say, ‘I just want to know so I can shoot it quicker when I have to shoot. I’m going to shoot it, I just want to know when.’ He was a fun-loving, great player. Still, I think him and [Hakeem Olajuwon], I don’t know a third, as far as footwork, those two guys were as good as we ever see.”
|Marlon Wayans on Kevin Garnett vs. Carmelo Anthony||01.10.13 at 7:54 am ET|
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I knew Wayans brothers movies were bad, but this bad? Maybe supposed Knicks fan Marlon Wayans should have taken a cue from Kevin Garnett after Wednesday night’s Celtics game and responded to any questions from TMZ about Carmelo Anthony by saying, “Y’all have a good night, OK?’
|Jared Sullinger: ‘We’re the Underground Railroads’||at 12:57 am ET|
Over the years, we’ve been treated to KG’s lectures on everything from zoology to culinary arts to technology, so there’s no telling how he’ll grade this attempt at an historical metaphor from Sullinger.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Sullinger said after recording the second double-double of his career (12 points, 16 rebounds) in an 87-79 win over the Suns, “but the train doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep going. We’ve got to make it to the next stop, after that the next stop, after that the next stop, so we’re the Underground Railroads.”
|Jeff Green: ‘Just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball’||01.09.13 at 11:51 pm ET|
Just one year ago Wednesday, Jeff Green went under the knife to repair the aortic valve in his heart. Doc Rivers thought his career was over and Green had to lay in a certain way on his hospital bed to make sure he healed correctly.
One year to the day later, he had three spectacular dunks and led a potent Boston bench with 14 points as the Celtics beat the Suns, 87-79, at TD Garden.
‘It felt good. (long pause) I can’t put it into words,” Green said. “I mean it’s a wonderful day, I had a good game, I’m just glad to be here man. You know, I reflect a lot about what I’ve been through and it’s just a blessing and I’m glad to be here.’
The Celtics couldn’t have done it without Green and Jared Sullinger leading the way.
‘We’re just playing together. Things are starting to click, were just playing hard. Our main focus is defense. Defense defense defense.’ KG’s been playing unbelievable with this energy, Countney, myself and Jet, everyone is playing unbelievable.
‘I don’t cry, but, it was. A year ago I had heart surgery. When I think about laying in the bed when I woke up from it, and to where I am now’¦it’s a big deal to me. Like I said, I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball.’
Rivers wasn’t tearing up either but he was clearly happy for Green.
“It’s a good night,” Rivers said. “He got some dunks and looked good. And who would’ve thought it a year ago? So it’s really a ‘ I mean, the doctors, and all that ‘ but it’s really a testament to Jeff in general. The fact that he worked himself into the condition that he did; there had to be some kind of fear somewhere, because to work yourself into condition you have to use that muscle. So it’s just really cool that he’s playing, and he’s playing well of us.
“I was more concerned about Jeff’s health; I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I can tell you that. I didn’t, honestly, at that time I didn’t think he’d ever play. So the basketball part wasn’t even a concern. You know, the two things that bugged me the most, obviously, was his condition, was number one, and then the contract that was voided, because it had to be, legally. And I was thinking, ‘Man, this kid’s worked his whole life to make a living,’ and now he’s signing the biggest deal of his life at that point and it’s gone. You know? And so now he’s back playing, doing well in all those areas, and I’m very happy for him. He deserves it.’
What did Green think Wednesday looking back 12 months?
‘First time I stood up from surgery, the first time I walked, it was painful, but I had to make progress and take steps to get back on the court,” Green said. “Those are memories that Ill never forget. Anything between now and that first step, you know, it was a wonderful journey for myself and an unbelievable process that I went through.”
Does it push him every day?
‘Oh, most definitely, because I never want to be back at that point, the way I felt when I woke up, I never want to feel that way again, taking 10 steps and getting tired’¦I never want to feel that way again,” he said. “I’m gonna push myself to the limits and never be out of shape.’
|Kevin Garnett talks Jared Sullinger but not Carmelo Anthony||at 11:34 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett thinks Jared Sullinger is playing like a “madman” on the glass. And that’s just what these Celtics need right now. On Wednesday night, the rookie out of Ohio State had 16 rebounds and 12 points and powered the Celtics to an 87-79 win over the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.
What makes a great rebounder?
‘First off is effort,” Garnett began. “Anytime you’re playing defense, anytime youre stealing the ball, rebounding’¦all that’s effort. Obviously his timing, body positioning, he has the perfect body for rebounding. He can take the pounding and bump a little bit and he has great anticipation when it comes to the ball, and he has great hands. Put all that in the pot, you got Jared Sullinger, that’s what makes him great.’
Apparently, Sullinger has been paying close attention to Garnett when learning how to respond, using his words carefully and economically when asked about his secret to good rebounding.
‘You gotta have a go get it attitude when it comes to rebounding and that’s what I have,” a confident Sullinger said.
Sullinger is just one part of a Celtics bench that carried the load Wednesday night, as Sullinger, Jason Terry and Jeff Green were all in double figures in scoring. But Garnett pointed out another member of the bench who shouldn’t be overlooked.
‘I think the combination of Courtney Lee and no disrespect to Rondo or any other guards we got, but Courtney Lee and Avery are impacting the game from a defensive stand point from the guard position where it all trickles down to all the forwards,” Garnett said. “When we see them up like that, we get up and then we up to what we call major pressure. Any time you can pressure the guards and take time off the shot clock, you put the other team into a panic and now they gotta go into a pic and roll versus some play the were gonna call on us.
‘I don’t know, you know. But they’ll definitely start to make some noise. I think Doc’s starting to understand the rotation he’s going with, and I think the rotation we are going with, he’s confident in it, and everybody kind of knows their niche right now.’
But as for his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony and his one-game suspension for waiting outside the Celtics locker room and team bus to confront him after Monday’s game, Garnett had only this to say: “Okay, you all have a good night, okay?”
|Fast Break: Celtics extend win streak to four games||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.