|Columnists: Less Kendrick Perkins is a good thing?||05.23.11 at 8:59 am ET|
While many Celtics fans wished Danny Ainge could hit the rewind button on the trade deadline and get more playoff minutes out of Kendrick Perkins, at least two NBA columnists have urged Thunder head coach Scott Brooks to do the exact opposite and give the former C’s center less playing time.
Mavericks center Tyson Chandler is averaging 8.7 points on 60 percent shooting and 12.0 rebounds in 33 minutes a night, leading Dallas to a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals. Meanwhile, Perkins has produced just 5.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 27 minutes a game.
Here’s Oklahoman columnist Darnell Mayberry’s take on the lopsided matchup:
In Perkins’ 82 minutes of playing time, the Thunder has been outscored by 32 points. With Perk on the bench, the Thunder has outscored the Mavs by 23. Furthermore, with Chandler on the court, Perkins’ plus/minus per 36 minutes is minus-17.7, according to NBA.com’s StatsCube data.
Perkins has the worst plus/minus of any Thunder player in this series.
By comparison, the Mavs have outscored the Thunder by 19 points with Chandler on the court. And Chandler has made his impact mostly against Perkins, compiling a per 36-minute plus/minus of plus-17.7 with Perkins on the court and a minus-15.8 with Perkins on the bench.
And here’s ESPN.com columnist and stats guru John Hollinger’s breakdown:
|Nenad Krstic: I’m lost a little because ‘Oklahoma is still in my head’||03.10.11 at 12:43 pm ET|
Nenad Krstic had a season-high 20 points in 38 minutes but he admitted afterward he wasn’t satisfied with his defense in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers at TD Garden.
Krstic and the Celtics had tremendous difficulty early on stopping DeAndre Jordan and the rest of the Clippers front court, which scored early and often en route to shooting 68 percent in the first half and building a 60-42 halftime lead.
Krstic came to Boston on deadline day, Feb. 24 with Jeff Green in exchange for the defensive-minded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson. Krstic is still trying to get accustomed to thinking the Celtics’ way – which begins and ends with defense.
“I just need to get better, need to be more focused,” Krstic said. “Sometimes, I’m a lost a little bit because of a different style of playing. Oklahoma is still in my head. I’m just really trying to get adjusted. It just takes time, especially when you play games. It’s different in practice but in games you just have to react.
“It’s going to come. I just need to get used to more of the guys. Sometimes, I’m trying to do too much, over help and have a couple of stupid fouls, too. I know I scored 20 points but I need to focus on my defense and help the team.”
Doc Rivers still has confidence in his new starting center.
“Krstic overall is playing pretty well,” Rivers said. “He’s got to hold his ground a little bit. The problem we had going into the game, and I’m kind of kicking myself, is I told our bigs — the two bigs that we have right now due to all the injuries — you can’t get in foul trouble. “So if it comes down to you getting out of the way, you almost had to. Because we couldn’t afford Kevin [Garnett] or Nenad in foul trouble.
“And it actually happened anyway.”
Krstic said he’s confident the defensive part of his game will come but it will take time.
“Just not having been on the court at the same time together is the problem,” Krstic said of the chemistry with his new teammates. “Sometimes, especially in the first half, our second unit is almost all new guys, and we’re not used to each other. I think that was a problem tonight, we just haven’t spent too much time together playing. It’s going to take some time, but obviously with this team, we pick it up really quickly.”
|NBA Power Rankings, 2/24||02.24.11 at 6:43 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (47-10): The Spurs have been conspicuously absent from the trade rumor bonanza. But it makes sense, considering their starters have missed one game all season between the five of them — and they’ve lost as many games as the Cavaliers have won.
2. Dallas (41-16): The Mavericks went hard after Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince (for injured Caron Butler and a first-round pick) and Denver’s J.R. Smith, but both deals fizzled quickly. Shocking that owner Mark Cuban was active around the trade deadline.
3. Boston (41-14): Who needs centers, anyway? There are other pieces to fall here, trust me. The Celtics aren’t finishing the season with 10 players. Until I know what their roster is going to look like, I’m not moving them anywhere.
4. Miami (42-15): The funniest tidbit I heard on the rumor mill was this: The Heat shopped Mike Miller in trade talks. Oh, sure, Mr. Riley, I’d love to take a 30-year-old guy with an extensive injury history, literal head problems and four years, $24 million remaining after this season. The one Miami rumor that’s intriguing is buyout candidate T.J. Ford.
5. Chicago (38-17): Both Juwan Howard and Chris Bosh have endorsed Derrick Rose for Most Valuable Player over LeBron James. Is it just me, or does that say a lot about what his Heat teammates think about him? Do you think Joakim Noah would side with James? Would Ron Artest back anybody but Kobe … nevermind, scratch that.
|Doc Rivers: No superstar let-down this time for Celtics||12.09.10 at 2:06 am ET|
‘Yeah, they knew I was lying because I told them that Lawrence [Frank] didn’t know,” Rivers said after watching his team dispatch of the Nuggets without Melo, 105-89. “We went through the whole defensive added. Hey listen, the last time we used ‘ it didn’t work. So we tried something different. And, listen, the last time he didn’t play I think they scored 135 points. That was the other thing we told them. So I just thought we came out very professional and ready.”
The Celtics shot a scorching 68 percent in the first quarter, making 13-of-19 from the field, on their way to building a 19-point lead.
‘I think coach really made a point of that,” Paul Pierce said of Rivers’ Melo message before the game. “He really didn’t want to tell us that Carmelo wasn’t playing, I think he waited to the very last second cause he went over the game plan, so we took that to heart and went out there and just tried to establish ourselves in the first quarter. I think like Kevin said we’re on a roll defensively and that’s what were trying to do to start the game’
It was 30-11 with 2:47 left in the first quarter before the Nuggets closed to within 14, 35-21, heading into the second quarter.
Why the lesson? The Celtics’ only home court loss came to Oklahoma City on Nov. 19, as the Thunder played without superstar Kevin Durant.
What makes Rivers a great coach is he always seems to provide the right inspiration and lesson at the right time. Rivers knew the Nuggets lost 24 hours earlier in Charlotte, in a heart-breaker, 100-98. Anthony played 39 minutes and scored 22 points. His knee acted up and the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer (22.8 points/game) was unavailable in Boston.
“When you lose a star like that, it’s tough on the other team,” Rivers said. “They played last night, you lose Carmelo, and that’s a tough night for you. And the fact that for three of the four quarters, we were really good.’
Message delivered and well received.
|Delonte West knew the ‘basketball gods’ would be unkind||11.19.10 at 11:46 pm ET|
“This team didn’t even have to play with desperation to beat us tonight,” West said of the Thunder. “That’s one of our biggest concerns this year, being complacent, doing what we did tonight.”
The Celtics fell behind by as many as 10 in the third quarter before making a late charge and drawing to within one, 85-84, on West’s two free throws with 1:16 left in the fourth.
“It’s not like we put up a fight,” West said. “We just left it out on the table. Seemed like the whole game we were seaching for a challenge. It’s not like we put up a fight. We just left it out on the table. Seemed like the whole game we were seaching for a challenge. It was almost like in the third quarter we were like, ‘Ok, down 10. Let’s go.’ Basketball gods don’t reward you like that.”
The Celtics made just 2-of-12 shots in the final period and failed to score a field goal in the final 10:35 of the game, getting a jumper from Nate Robinson for their final field goal of the night.
West might get to show even more leadership on Sunday in Toronto when the Celtics take on the Raptors, possibly without Rajon Rondo, who strained his left hamstring with six minutes left in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game and is day-to-day.
Rondo will get treatment on Saturday and see how he feels.
“If he’s unable to go, I’ll be ready to do what I do best,” said West, who missed a potential game-tying three-pointer from the right baseline with 10 seconds left. “I prepare myself well and if my number is called I’ll be ready to go. Just like tonight, I prepare myself to shoot those type of shots. The ball didn’t bounce the way I wanted it to but I’m very confident in what I do.”
|Fast break: Thunder snap Celtics home run||at 9:55 pm ET|
The Celtics came out flat Friday night and it cost them against the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and dished out six assists as the Thunder became the first visiting team in six tries to beat the Celtics on the parquet this season, 89-84.
It was an ugly finish as neither team converted a field goal in the last nine minutes, 20 seconds.
Durant sprained his ankle on Wednesday night and did not play.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG:
Lack of energy. Whether it was a understandable letdown from not having to gear up for Durant or losing Kevin Garnett for most of the first quarter after taking an elbow in the back of the head, the Celtics looked lethargic out of the gate. Though he played the first three minutes and hit his only field goal attempt, It showed practically from the onset of the game as the Celtics were getting beaten to loose balls and not rotating on defense, allowing the Thunder to find the open man.
No rebounding presence. The Celtics were beaten on the glass, 20-11, in the first half. Shaquille O’Neal collected four rebounds in the first half, but that led the team. Garnett – perhaps due to his early inactivity – couldn’t get going on the boards. With the lack of rebounding came foul trouble. Rondo picked up his fifth personal foul with just over six minutes left in the fourth while Shaq picked up two quick fouls to begin the second half. In all, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls in the third and the Thunder just five. Oklahoma City capitalized at the stripe, hitting 13-of-16 in the quarter to extend their lead to 77-69 heading into the final quarter.
Ray Allen had an off night: The Celtics couldn’t seem to get their sharp-shooter into a rhythm for any extended stretch. With the Thunder up, 71-63, Paul Pierce woke up the crowd with a bucket and Allen followed with a mid-range jumper from the free throw line-extended and the crowd sense a rally. But he remained in single-figures in the scoring column as the Thunder threw all types of defensive switches at the Celtics all night. Allen finished with eight points.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT:
Tis just as good to give than receive: The Celtics had 17 assists at halftime on 21 baskets and finished with 20 on 33 buckets in the game. Like with the Patriots and Tom Brady, as long as Rajon Rondo is the quarterback of the offense, the Celtics should be in good shape. Rondo was held to seven assists.
Shaq playing big in the paint. This is exactly what the Celtics got him for when they signed him for a ‘730-day contract’ in the summer. He played 16 of the 24 minutes in the first half. He also threw his considerable weight around, like when he nearly body-slammed Russell Westbrook to the court on a drive down what appeared to be an open lane. Shaq was whistled for a flagrant against Westbrook with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter and Westbrook hit a key free throw to extend the lead to five. Again, that’s exactly what they wanted from Shaq – a mean presence in the middle that the Celtics desperately wanted for this season.
As a result, the Celtics again dominated the paint, 44-16.
Winning the turnover battle: It’s ironic that the one thing that seemed to be the Achilles’ heel of the Celtics in their 9-2 start was the one thing they corrected on Friday night. They committed 15 turnovers while the Thunder committed 20 – leading to 20 Boston points.
|Rondo eyes matchup with Westbrook||03.31.10 at 12:36 am ET|
For the past four years, Rajon Rondo has been catching the eyes of veteran point guards around the league as he developed into an All-Star. Now there is another up-and-coming player who has caught his attention.
Rondo has been impressed by the play of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook.
‘He’s a mature guy,’ Rondo said. ‘He’s running the show, he’s getting his main guy the ball, and at times he knows when to attack.’
In just his second season in the NBA, Westbrook is averaging over 16 points and ranks eighth in the league with 7.9 assists per game. (Rondo is fourth with 9.8 apg.) Many of those have been dished to teammate Kevin Durant, the league’s second-leading scorer.
Not only is Westbrook moving the ball, he also is helping his team win. The young Thunder squad currently holds the sixth seed in the Western Conference and has just two less wins than the Celtics this season.
On Wednesday, the C’s will look to push that differential up to three wins when they face the Thunder at TD Garden. Rondo knows he will have to buckle down on defense to stop Westbrook. Both players scored 15 points in their first meeting of the season (a Celtics win) in December.
‘[I have to] try to keep him in front of me, keep him out of transition,’ Rondo said. ‘He loves to attack in transition, so just try to keep between him and the basket.’
Rondo understands how to stop Westbrook for a reason. Prior to the his first All-Star appearance, Rondo pointed out Westbrook as the player in the Rookie-Sophomore game who reminds him most of himself. He drew similarities between their quickness and aggressiveness with the ball.
If it were up to Rondo, Westbrook would have been joining him on the court in Dallas.
‘I think he could’ve gotten into the All-Star Game this year too as well,’ Rondo said. ‘Hopefully he’ll make it next year. He got overlooked, but he’s definitely a good player.’
Even though Rondo and Westbrook are only in their early 20s, Rondo believes this matchup has the potential to become one to watch over the next few seasons.
‘You know you’ll be going against him for hopefully another six or seven years,’ he said.
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