|Paul Pierce: Celtics can beat any team in the East||01.05.13 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.”
|Kevin Garnett, Celtics lay smackdown on Pacers||01.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was ejected after a flagrant-2 foul on Tyler Hansbrough, and unless you came to watch him dance during Gino Time, it didn’t even matter. The Celtics ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 94-75 victory against the Pacers.
Combined with the Thunder’s blowout of the 76ers, the Celtics (15-17) leapfrogged Philadelphia (15-19) into the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Garnett totaled 18 points and seven rebounds before his ejection.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for a triple-double (31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) while Courtney Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 rebounds) showed positive signs. Here’s what else happened.
|Doc Rivers wants to give Brandon Bass a little confidence while staying ‘as big as possible’||at 9:14 pm ET|
“We want to stay as big as possible, what we didn’t like with Jason in the [starting] lineup was — now we’re going to play him every night — and when he and Kevin were off the floor, we got small quickly,” Rivers explained. “This way we can keep a big on the floor at all times.
“We could have done it the other night, but that was Avery’s first night. That is the group that helped us. But having Jason [play every night] will help Kevin, because he still won’t have to play ‘5’ the entire time. I just think the season’s too long now for Kevin to do that.”
The Celtics are also hoping the move will motivate Bass, who is averaging just 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.
“That’s what we’re hoping,” Rivers added. “You don’t do it just for the group, you do it for the individual at times,” said Rivers. “Brandon’s played better when he’s playing with Kevin, though everyone has for that matter. I think clearly Brandon has. And that’s one of the reasons we are doing it.”
The lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Bass, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce marks the ninth different lineup Rivers has used in the first 32 games of the season. That lineup debuted on March 25, 2012 after Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in Philadelphia and two games after Ray Allen was sent to the bench. With that lineup, the Celtics went 11-3 down the stretch to help the Celtics win the Atlantic Division title for a fifth straight season.
Collins had started the previous seven games for the Celtics since being inserted in the lineup for Bass on Dec. 21 against the Cavaliers to take the load off Kevin Garnett in the low post.
Bass has strugged in his role off the bench, both offensively and defensively, and Rivers made the decision Friday to boost Bass’ game by putting him on the floor more with Garnett.
|Avery Bradley’s philosophy: ‘Defense is just effort’||01.03.13 at 9:38 am ET|
“Defense is just effort,” he said after his return from double shoulder surgery. “If you give effort, you can never have a bad defensive game. That’s how I think of it. You play as hard as you can. That’s all you have to do.”
Outside of Kevin Garnett and possibly Jason Collins, it’s hard to say there’s anybody else on the Celtics who offers a consistent effort on the defensive end every night. Just ask Tony Allen. Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce often conserve themselves for the offensive end, Courtney Lee hasn’t come as advertised defensively and nobody else on the C’s roster has developed much of a defensive reputation, unless you include Fab Melo, who started the season falling into a folding chair and currently suffers from a concussion after walking into a doorway.
In addition to being the NBA’s worst rebounding team, the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in almost every defensive statistical category after ranking among the top five teams in defensive rating every season since 2008.
“Every team has its up and downs,” said Bradley, who scored four points on six shots during Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies. “The best teams are the ones that can go through the adversity and overcome it. With the veteran leadership we have, I feel like we’re going to overcome it. We’ve just got to keep improving.”
|Tony Allen: Celtics ‘missing a lot of pieces’||at 12:21 am ET|
“They’re missing a lot of pieces,” said Allen, who left Boston for a three-year deal in Memphis two summers ago.
Somewhat offering his stamp of approval on the replacement of Ray Allen‘s 3-point shooting prowess with fellow veteran Jason Terry, Allen instead harped on the absence of players … well … like himself.
“I don’t think they’ve really got a defensive-minded guy yet,” added Allen. “I mean, they’ve got one [Avery Bradley], but I can’t say he’s 100 percent just yet. I don’t think they’ve got the center like Perk [Kendrick Perkins]. It’s kind of hard finding a guy like — a guy who clogs up the paint, talks trash to you and can actually back it up. They’re just missing a lot. I don’t know. I don’t see the same team from 2008.”
|Fast Break: Grizzlies maul Celtics in 4th straight loss||01.02.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
Despite a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that slashed a Grizzlies lead that had grown as large as 18 points to just five with a handful of minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to make up for three quarters of dreadful play that left the C’s three games under .500 (14-17) for the first time this season.
Bradley made his first bucket after missing the opening 30 games of the season, finishing with four points in 18 minutes. Rajon Rondo (11 points, 9 assists), who battled a bruised hip, Paul Pierce (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) were the only Celtics in double figures. Hence, the team’s fourth straight loss and eighth in the last 10 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Memphis shooting: In the first half, the Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 61.1 percent and scored 50 points on 36 shots. Mike Conley (23 points, 9 assists) and old friend Tony Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds) shot a combined 9-of-11 before the break. Heck, even Darrell Arthur (10 points), who entered without a 3-pointer in 204 career games, drained two triples in the span of 1:43 in the second quarter.
Garnett’s first half: Whether it was a New Year’s hangover or not, Garnett started an atrocious 1-of-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers as the Grizzlies took a 50-41 lead into the break. It’s no surprise the defense also struggled on a night when KG didn’t have his best performance.
The Collins experiment: Celtics starting center Jason Collins may have limited Marc Gasol‘s scoring, but he did little to quell the C’s overall defense and rebounding woes. (The Celtics were out-rebouned 39-27 and gave up eight offensive boards). Plus, he’s essentially nonexistent on the offensive end. In what’s been a trend for Collins, he had as many personal fouls (2) as points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce’s first quarter: The Celtics captain started a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the first quarter. He may not have been as successful in the paint, but his effort from long distance helped keep the C’s afloat as the Grizzlies made two-thirds of their shots in the early going.
Avery’s arrival: Bradley started opposite Mike Conley and held the Memphis guard to two shots (a successful 3-pointer and a runner from 6 feet) and two assists in 13:22 of shared floor time in the first half. In Conley’s remaining first-half minutes (8:22), he made 4-of-6 shots and generated three assists. In other words, even if Bradley’s offense was rusty (1-4 FG), he’s still effective on the defensive end.
The bench: Bradley’s presence also pushes Jason Terry (8 points) to the bench, creating some semblance of consistency at Doc Rivers‘ disposal. Believe it or not, the second unit actually turned a 14-12 deficit when Garnett sat in the first quarter into a 31-27 advantage when KG returned — thanks in large part to Brandon Bass (9 points).
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