|Sasha Vujacic: Celtics ‘trying to act up’||02.16.11 at 11:53 pm ET|
Nets forward Kris Humprhies got into a jawing match with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett in the first half, while New Jersey guard Sasha Vujacic and C’s center Kendrick Perkins exchanged words in the second half. On the court, the C’s got the last word in a 94-80 victory. Off the court? Vujacic explained the chippiness.
“I think we started a little bit too soft in the game,” said Vujacic. “They’re a team that plays very well, and they’re trying to act up most of the time, so that’s how they are and how they play. We just can’t back down from that. We’ve got to deliver the first punch and not let them get us on our heels.”
Asked about the Celtics’ trash talk, Nets point guard Devin Harris added, ‘Nothing surprises me.’
Surprisingly, Vujacic wasn’t overly critical of the Celtics’ style of play; in fact, he credited their experience and ability to play together as a team.
‘We played in their home, so everything’s going to be on their side,” added Vujacic. “But let’s face it, they’re one of the teams that are chasing the championship, and they are one of the favorites. They know each other. They know where everybody’s going to be.’
Vujacic and Nets teammate Jordan Farmar both played on another contender to finish last season, as the former was traded from the Lakers to New Jersey for Joe Smith in mid-December and the latter signed with the Nets in the offseason. Told that the Lakers (38-19) lost to the last-place Cavaliers (10-46) on Wednesday night, both guys did a double take.
‘Cleveland beat the Lakers?” asked Vujacic. “You’re kidding, right? I guess miracles do happen.’
Added Farmar, ‘They’re going to be pissed. That’s three straight.’
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics take down Nets||at 10:10 pm ET|
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the Celtics survived a scare from the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday, capturing a 94-80 home victory. The win helped the C’s (40-14) keep first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Heat (41-15).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
At least they got the win: The Celtics didn’t play well against the Nets by any stretch of the imagination, but they earned home win No. 25 in just their 29th game at the Garden this season. The C’s were 24-17 all of last year at home, and games like they played on Wednesday night usually ended up in the loss column. If you’ll recall, the C’s lost to an even worse Nets team by eight on Feb. 27, 2010.
Paul Pierce started off on the right foot: Before most fans finished their first beer, the Celtics started on an 8-0 run and stretched that lead to 25-10. Through the first 9:50, Pierce played the Nets to a standstill at 10 points apiece — squashing any doubts about his lingering foot problem. He finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, attacking the basket with no signs of an injury.
Praise be to Gody: In desperate need of contributions from big bodies off the bench, Luke Harangody gave the Celtics just what Doc Rivers ordered. The rookie out of Notre Dame scored eight points in just eight minutes off the bench in the first half. While he didn’t score for the remainder of the night, the gave the C’s 15 productive minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Falling asleep at the wheel: After the start the Celtics enjoyed, there’s just no way it should’ve been a tie game at halftime. But it was, 46-46, thanks to Rivers’ understandable reliance on the bench for 35 combined minutes. The offensive efficiency that the Celtics have demonstrated for much of this season just wasn’t there for a long stretch from late in the first quarter until the break. Rajon Rondo‘s presence almost assures the C’s of leading their opponents (especially the Nets) in assists, but New Jersey won that battle, 19-18. That’s what Rivers often refers to as “hero ball,” and it gets them in trouble against the better teams in the league.
No immediate halftime adjustment: As well as the Celtics played in the opening few minutes of the game, they played equally as bad to start the second half, allowing the Nets to go on an 8-0 run of their own and take a 54-46 lead before many fans had taken their seats again. That translated into more taxing minutes for the C’s as they played from behind well into the third quarter.
Nothing but three Nets: Really, only a few guys gave the Celtics problems on Wednesday night: Lopez as well as guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow. The three combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. And Lopez’s ability to score in the post forced Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank to furiously figure out a way to stop him in the third quarter. As a result, New Jersey also won the battle in the paint, 34-28.
|Fast Break: Celtics catch a bad break||11.24.10 at 10:03 pm ET|
Despite falling behind by as many as 10 points in the third quarter and getting a season-high 25 points from Shaquille O’Neal to beat the New Jersey Nets at TD Garden Wednesday night, the overall mood was certainly one of concern after back-up point guard and key bench component Delonte West broke his right wrist late in the second quarter.
The Nets were powered by center Brook Lopez, who scored 16, and point guard Devin Harris, who added a team-high 20.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS:
The Big Shaq Daddy: O’Neal had unquestionably his best game in Celtics green as he was 9-of-10 from the field for a game-high 25 points, grabbing 11 rebounds. Most impressively, he was a force under the basket in his 31minutes. He was fed the ball early and often, responding with great energy and helping the Celtics outscore the Nets 44-28 in the paint.
Quisy Time: With Rajon Rondo on the sideline with a strained left hamstring, West carrying his broken right wrist and Nate Robinson in serious foul trouble at the worst time, Marquis Daniels came into the game 40 seconds in the third quarter and played 27 minutes off the bench, scoring just four point but dishing out four assists and handling the point nearly flawlessly.
Team composure: When the Celtics all saw West head to the locker room holding his right wrist, they knew he was almost certainly not returning. They didn’t mope – at least – on the court. While they fell behind by 10 early in the third, they kept going inside, attacking the Nets weakness and keeping O’Neal in the game. They had 25 assists on 35 baskets.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:
The obvious: Losing Delonte West to a broken right wrist on a lay-up with 2:48 left in the second quarter was the last thing a team with an injured Rajon Rondo needed. What makes West’s potentially extended stint away from the team so painful is he could switch seamlessly between the point and the two-guard and play exceptional defense at the same time. Remember, it was West who shut down Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter defensively, giving the Celtics a chance to win the game against Oklahoma City.
Foul woes: Nate Robinson cannot pick up three fouls in seven minutes and his fourth foul 40 seconds into the third quarter. While Doc Rivers was defending him on the court, the Celtics coach knows Nate needs better game management and awareness while Rondo heals and West gets better. Nate did drill a huge 3-ball with 56 seconds remaining to lead a late surge that put away the Nets.
Rebounding: This team continues to struggle on the glass. They were out-rebounded, 42-33.
|Delonte West breaks his right wrist||at 8:41 pm ET|
The Celtics guard depth – already down with the left hamstring injury to Rajon Rondo – took a major hit Wednesday night when Delonte West broke his right wrist when he fell to the ground under the Celtics basket after making a spectacular lay-up with 2:48 left in the second quarter. He was on the court for about two minutes as trainer Ed Lacerte tended to him.
He got up holding his wrist in place and wincing in pain. He went immediately to the Celtics locker room with Lacerte for further evaluation.
Dr. Brian McKeon and Lacerte administered the exam during halftime. The team said there is no immediate timetable for his return.
West, a left-handed shooter, broke the same wrist in 2008-09 but only missed 16 games. Nate Robinson started Friday night for the third straight game in place of Rondo but picked up his fourth foul just 40 seconds into the third quarter.
Marquis Daniels entered the game for the Celtics and ran the point.
|Rajon Rondo out again, Nate Robinson gets 3rd start||at 7:38 pm ET|
The Celtics are taking every precaution with the left hamstring of Rajon Rondo and have ruled him out of tonight’s game against New Jersey at TD Garden. He likely will miss Friday’s contest against Toronto as well, coach Doc Rivers said before Wednesday’s game.
‘I don’t think it’s a bad hamstring, but you just have to be careful with it,’ said Rivers, who added Rondo is “iffy” against the Raptors on Friday night.
Nate Robinson makes his third straight start in Rondo’s absence.
Rivers said Rondo, who will miss his third straight game, was leading the NBA in assists, dishing out 14.3 per game. The Celtics are 1-1 in the two games without him, losing at Toronto on Sunday before a big win on Monday in Atlanta.
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (6 of 7)||10.26.10 at 1:14 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
ON THE NETS: I think the Nets are going to surprise some people this year and be a lot better than last year.
Not Oklahoma City Thunder good, but maybe eighth seed in the East good, which could still be below .500.
I think Brook Lopez is going to go a long way in establishing himself as an All-Star, and while I’m advocating being patient with Derrick Favors, I see him being used to lure a superstar over to New Jersey this season (Carmelo Anthony?).
ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics are clearly the class of the Atlantic Division this season, and they’re once again one of the favorites to be representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
With their age, I can see them hitting some ruts during the regular season, and of course all of their core guys have to be healthy for the playoff run, but the Celtics are one of the few teams out there that I think are capable of defensively shutting down Superfriends in Miami.
With that in mind, I’ll be rooting for them if/when their paths cross.
ON THE KNICKS: The Knicks will be improved, assuming Amar’e Stoudemire stays healthy.
They need the trio of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chander and Anthony Randolph to make strides on both sides of the ball to get the most out of Mike D’Antoni‘s transition offense quarterbacked by Raymond Felton.
Of course, the Carmelo Anthony situation will continue to loom, and this is a pressure-packed season for the coach, seeing that his system has taken a tremendous hit with fans over the last two years.
They still have roster flexibility, and I expect them to land Anthony, but in the meantime they have to consistently win free-throw attempt battles and out-rebound their opponents. Those are two constants for playoff teams.
If they do that — and knock down their open jumpers — they’ll be a playoff team. If they don’t, it could be another lost season in the Big Apple.
ON THE CELTICS: I actually love what the Celtics did this offseason. To this day, I think they beat the Lakers if Kendrick Perkins doesn’t get hurt.
But they’ve loaded up the front line with size, and age, with both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, which is key because of the status of Perkins’ health — and it makes them deeper up front against the likes of Miami and Orlando.
The Celts owned the Magic last postseason because they chose to guard Dwight Howard 1-on-1 in the post, and it proved effective as he couldn’t kick out to open shooters. Perhaps more importantly, with the Big 3 in Miami, I believe the Heat are vulnerable up front. That’s the way to attack them.
If Rajon Rondo continues off his impressive playoff performance and the Celtics maintain health, then they should be right there in the end once again.
Off the floor, I love the addition of Lawrence Frank, one of the most prepared minds in the game today.
ON THE 76ERS: The Sixers had an up-and-down summer. New general manager Rod Thorn and head coach Doug Collins are both clear upgrades.
Sending Willie Green and Jason Smith out of town was a case of addition by subtraction.
Evan Turner is taking his lumps right now, but while he may not be scoring as much as we’d hoped, he’s producing in other areas and contributing while figuring out the difference between the Big Ten and the NBA.
I’d be feeling much better about the Sixers’ prospects if it wasn’t for the Samuel Dalembert trade. Ed Stefanski pulled the trigger on a deal that basically gutted the Sixers interior defense and defensive rebounding without a thought to who would fill that void.
To make matters worse, he took back the second year on Andres Nocioni‘s contract in the deal, which submarined the Sixers’ cap space for next summer. It was a horrible trade from every angle.
If the Dalembert trade hadn’t been made, I’d feel pretty confident in predicting a 10-15 game turnaround for this team and probably a trip to the playoffs in Colllins’ first season at the helm.
As things stand, however, the Sixers’ talented perimeter players won’t be able to cover for their feeble stable of bigs, and it’s a stretch to think they’ll win 35 games. If I had to make a prediction today, I’d say 30-52.
ON THE CELTICS: From the outside, looking in, the Celtics don’t look as strong as they did last season.
Their core is a year older, and the addition of Shaq is going to open some major holes in their defense.
That being said, they have a cakewalk through the Atlantic, and they’ll probably finish somewhere between the No. 2 and 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, depending on health.
If Kendrick Perkins comes back healthy in time for the playoffs, they could make a return trip to the Finals, but I think that’s a bit of a long shot.
ON THE RAPTORS: 26 wins.
The Raptors aren’t as bad as ESPN is making them out to be. They could be on par or better than teams like Philadelphia, Indiana, New Jersey, Detroit, Washington and New York, so there will be wins to be had.
The defensive effort has been solid in training camp, and if the Raptors can get consistent offensive production out of Andrea Bargnani and the Italian improves his defensive awareness, they have enough players who can play and carry the load.
Jarrett Jack, Linas Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa can complement the youth of DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, but the question will be whether the Raptors can rely on their defense to keep them in games when their star-starved offense goes into a funk.
Last year, they were dead last in defensive rating. If they can become a middle-of-the-pack team, it could be a decent rebuilding year, but I don’t see the playoffs on the horizon.
ON THE CELTICS: The health of the two O’Neals and Kevin Garnett will dictate how the Celtics will fare.
The Raptors saw first-hand how volatile things can be with Jermaine O’Neal if he’s injured, and if you have to rely on Shaq giving you cover at center, then the Celtics could be in trouble in the postseason, much like they were when Perkins went down in the Finals.
From what I’ve seen of Rajon Rondo, he looks to have improved his outside game to the point where he can make a sagging defense pay.
Barring injury, I’d pick the Celtics to win 57 games but lose to the Bulls in the postseason (yes, I think the Bulls will be good) as Tom Thibodeau comes back to haunt you.
If injuries hit early, there will be a firesale.
Stay tuned for the final portion of this seven-part series: the Boston Celtics.
|Celtics’ preseason schedule||08.13.10 at 11:33 am ET|
Wednesday, October 6 – Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena
Sunday, October 10 – Toronto, 6:00 p.m. at TD Garden
Tuesday, October 12 – Philadelphia, 7:00 p.m. at Wachovia Center
Wednesday, October 13 – New York, 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden
Friday, October 15 – Toronto, 7:00 p.m. at Air Canada Centre
Saturday, October 16 – New York, 7:30 p.m. at XL Center
Wednesday, October 20 – New Jersey, 7:30 p.m. at TD Garden
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