|Rondo: ‘We’re starting to put it together’||03.25.10 at 12:05 am ET|
Echoing the thoughts of his general manager Danny Ainge on WEEI earlier in the day, Rajon Rondo can feel things finally start to come together for the Celtics.
And the timing couldn’t be any better.
While Paul Pierce led the team with 27 points, it was Rondo who was the floor general with his seventh career triple-double – fourth in the regular season – in Boston’s 113-99 win over the talented Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“We’re starting to put it together. We had a little hiccup at Utah but we’ve done a pretty good job. We’re getting better each game. We’re not going to play perfect every game. We’re not going to win every game from here on out probably but at the end of the day, as long as we continue to get better and work toward our goal, we’ll be fine.
“We haven’t blown as many leads as we did early on in the season so we’re getting better.”
Rondo had 11 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds in helping the Celtics hold off Denver and clinch a playoff spot in the East.
“We got to the line tonight,” Rondo said. “Myself, I was trying to be aggressive early. I thought they had a problem getting matched up with their man so I tried to push myself or advance the ball with the pass and Paul did as well. He started off the game great, got to the line, got a couple of easy layups and got his rhythm.”
As for avenging the loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Feb. 21, Rondo said it was no big deal.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “It’s just another game.”
Perhaps the Celtics showed why they are peaking at the right time when the game got close at the end of the third quarter. Earlier in the season, when J.R. Smith’s desperation 3-pointer went through the hoop, the collective shoulders of the Celtics might have sagged.
But not on this night. When the Celtics lead was cut to 87-80 at the end of the third, Nate Robinson sank a three himself to start the fourth and the Celtics steadily built their lead back up through the teens, eventually putting the game away.
“They made a run but that’s part of the game,” Rondo said. “We knew in the second half they would make a run so during halftime we just tried to stick together. We told ourselves we have to just handle adversity better. When teams do make a run, let’s not get down or bicker amongst each other. Let’s stick together and make a run ourselves.”
The Celtics won their fourth straight at home for the first time this season and now stand 22-12 at home after losing just six at home last year.
“Whether it’s home or away, it’s about time for us to get some momentum,” Rondo said, before admitting, “It might be too late for that. We feel we’re a team where it should be that way but we’ve lost a lot of games here. Twelve and we lost only six last year but at the end of the day, the playoffs are a totally different atmosphere so we’ll be ready.”
|Fast Break: Celtics hold off Nuggets||03.24.10 at 9:47 pm ET|
One of the most overused cliches in sports is saying a regular season game had “a playoff intensity” to it, and so without going that far it’s fair to say that Wednesday night’s game between the Celtics and Nuggets was as hard-fought a regular season game as you’re likely to see in the month of March.
Despite playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Nuggets hung around and sliced a 21-point third quarter lead to seven. But the Celtics were too much for them in a 113-99 victory. With the win the Celtics clinched a playoff spot.
The news wasn’t all good for the C’s as the Hawks finally figured out a way to beat the Magic. Boston and Atlanta remain tied for third place.
Both teams did what they wanted to offensively. The Celtics pounded the ball inside and wound up outscoring the Nuggets 58-28 in the paint. Denver, meanwhile, thrives on getting to the free throw line and they shot 37 free throws. Fortunately for the Celtics, they also missed 12 of them.
There were good signs throughout for the C’s who held off several Denver runs and despite allowing the Nuggets to shoot 49 percent played good defense for most of the game.
Player of the Game: You can make a strong case for Rajon Rondo who recorded a triple double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists or Kevin Garnet (20 points, 10 rebounds), but Paul Pierce was the star of the show. Any time he plays Carmelo Anthony it’s a chance to reassert himself as one of the dominant small forwards in the league. Pierce started the game aggressively and continued to play that way throughout en route to a 27-point performance.
Turning Point: With the Nuggets down 11 early in the fourth quarter, J.R. Smith picked up an ill-advised technical foul. That, combined with a shooting foul on Ray Allen, gave the Celtics three free throws and Allen cashed them in. The Celtics pushed the lead up to 17 and were afforded some much-needed breathing room.
* The Celtics turned it over just four times in the first half, which helped them put up 46 shots. They also assisted on 19 of their 25 made field goals.
* J.R. Smith scored 10 points in the second quarter and made all four of his shots from the field, but he was 2-for-5 from the free throw line.
* Tony Allen gave the Celtics great minutes in the second quarter when Pierce picked up his third foul. Allen finished the half with 10 points including a vicious dunk off a no-look pass from Rajon Rondo and a layup just before the final buzzer. Allen also played rotation minutes in the second half in place of Marquis Daniels and was on the floor down the stretch when Doc Rivers went to a small lineup.
* Michael Finley scored seven points in just six minutes and made three of his four shots. Finley continues to be an asset off the bench.
|Preview: Celtics-Nuggets||at 10:58 am ET|
In some ways, the Denver Nuggets are the Bizarro World version of the Celtics. The Nuggets win games with their offense, and their defense is just good enough to be able to do it at a very high level. Their offensive attack has balance between shooting 3-pointers and scoring inside, and they live at the free throw line, where the lead the league in attempts.
When the Nuggets are clicking, as they were in the first quarter in their earlier meeting with the Celtics, they can be devastating. Carmelo Anthony and his 29 points a game get a lot of attention, but Chauncey Billups is having a career season in terms of shooting efficiency and J.R. Smith remains one the of the league’s great X-factors.
As the Celtics begin a stretch of six straight home games against some of the best teams in the league, this is perhaps the most compelling matchup they will face.
CELTICS (45-25, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 98.8
Points Allowed: 94.4
Differential: +4.4 (9th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 102.4 (1st)
Pace: 91.7 (20th)
NUGGETS (47-24, 7-3 last 10)
Points Per Game: 107.5
Points Allowed: 102.4
Differential: 5.1 (6th)
Offensive Efficiency: 112.4 (2nd)
Defensive Efficiency: 107.0 (15th)
Pace: 95.1 (12th)
|Sounds of the game… Nuggets 94, Celtics 85||11.15.08 at 2:49 pm ET|
Call it fatigue. Call it sluggishness, or being outplayed or a combination all three. But the Denver Nuggets showed the Celtics Friday night that they are human on their home court. They hadn’t lost at home in the regular season since last March 26 to Philadelphia, a string of 11 straight wins on the parquet. But that changed when the Nuggets closed the game with a 10-1 run. Now the focus is on the Bucks in Milwaukee, where the Celtics are right now, trying to make sure one bad night doesn’t turn into two.
|Nuggets Pre-Game Odds and Sods||11.14.08 at 5:33 pm ET|
What was that sound that caught my sabermetrically-inclined ear in the runway before tonight’s game? Why it was George Karl, coach of the Denver Nuggets, talking about “efficiency.” Or, more specifically he was talking about recently acquired Chauncey Billups.
Someone asked the question about whether the Nuggets gained anything from Mr. Big Shot’s championship-tested mettle and Karl responded with some wonk about possessions and the like. In other words, Karl went from a question about an intangible to describing a tangible.
“(Billups) is a very efficient player,” Karl said. “He’s not going to be on SportsCenter (intangible). His efficiency is geared toward winning the game (tangible). It helps the coach. It helps the game’s flow.” OK, those last parts were intangible benefits of a tangible, but you all get the drift.
Let’s slow down and talk about what all this means. Read the rest of this entry »