|The puzzle changes shape||03.18.09 at 11:15 pm ET|
There are two ways to look at Doc Rivers‘ statement before the Celtics took the court against the Heat. “We’re not going to catch Cleveland,” Rivers told the press without being asked about whether they could catch the Cavaliers. “We have a chance to hold on to that second spot.” (Click here for a recap of the Miami game.)
The first is this. The coach is absolutely right. There are 13 games left in the regular season and the Celtics are down five in the loss column. It’s math.
Now that kind of unprompted candor, even from one of the more honest and realistic coaches in the NBA, is not generally expected. Someone who has been around competitive sports for as long as Rivers knows there’s always a chance, and to concede anything less is to admit to defeat on a certain level.
But admitting defeat is not in this team’s nature (and they have the championship banner to prove it) so clearly this was a different sort of message. After the game, which was as good a win as his team has had in almost two weeks, Rivers talked about a jigsaw puzzle. “It’s corny,” he said. “But we were talking about it today that the only way you can put a puzzle together is with the box. You have to have the picture. So we just don’t have all our pieces together right now. They’re kind of scattered but we’re going to have a chance to put them back together and we know that. And we know the picture and that’s what we want.”
The puzzle pieces are scattered throughout Eddie Lacerte’s training room. They have hyper-extended elbows, sprained ankles and strained knees. But the picture is clearer now after suffering losses to Milwaukee and Chicago and it involves getting the home-court advantage against Orlando in the second round. That’s the puzzle they will try to solve over the next 13 games: Get healthy and stay ahead of the Magic.
That’s a different picture than what was in place a few weeks ago when there was a realistic chance at catching the Cavaliers, but that was then and this is now. There were a lot of words spoken in the aftermath of their gritty win over the Heat without two of their stars and with only three able-bodied big men, but none of them were “Cleveland.”
“One, for us to get on the same page and two, to solidify that second spot,” was how Stephon Marbury put it. “Once everyone gets healthy I think this team will be totally different.”
“Either way, I still feel good about us winning a championship,” Kendrick Perkins said. “I don’t care if we play home or away.”
Say this for the Celtics, when the coach talks about something like this it’s not an accident and it’s not a sub-conscious slip of the tongue. The players were briefed about this subtle change in expectations and they are on board.
“That’s the one great thing about this team,” Paul Pierce said. “We’ve never been down. We never look at one another, point the finger at one another, and we understand that we just have to keep working. The situation is what it is and we have to go out there and put our hard hats on and our work boots on and continue to work, regardless of who’s out there.”
To that end, they milked 41 minutes out of Big Baby Davis, who has been out the last four games with an ankle injury. They had three (relatively) healthy big men and when Davis and Mikki Moore fouled out, they turned to rookie Bill Walker in the final minute of an overtime game.
It was, as they say, a good win. A win that clinched them the Atlantic Division, not that any of them cared because that’s not part of the puzzle they’re trying to solve.
“(The division) doesn’t really mean anything to the Boston Celtics,” Pierce said. “They don’t put that banner up. Maybe in other arenas they put that banner up, but here, it doesn’t really mean a thing.”
Getting healthy matters. Staying ahead of Orlando matters. That was the message the coach delivered Wednesday night and it was heard, and well-received by his team.
|Not over yet||at 9:38 pm ET|
|Luck of the Irish runs out||03.17.09 at 11:29 pm ET|
The Luck of the Irish had been on the Boston Celtics side on St. Patrick’s Day. On Tuesday night, it ran out in Chicago (RECAP HERE). In spite of this loss, the Celtics have enjoyed success on March 17 over the last 10 years:
2009: Chicago Bulls 127, Boston Celtics 121
Already undermanned, the Celtics lost Leon Powe (knee) in the first half. Paul Pierce tried to keep the Celtics alive with 37 points and seven rebounds, while Rajon Rondo posted 26 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds. The Celtics, however, could not overcome injuries and foul trouble. They fell 4.5 games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Look ahead: The Celtics will take on the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in Boston.
2008: Boston Celtics 93, San Antonio Spurs 91
The Celtics overcame a 22-point deficit to top the Spurs and jumpstart their sweep of the Texas Triangle. Sam Cassell stepped up his game in place of Ray Allen (ankle) to contribute 17 points off the bench. Despite a scoreless evening from Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics starters outscored the Spurs starting five 67-39.
Flashback: A day later, the Celtics snapped the Houston Rockets 22-game winning streak.
2007: Boston Celtics 91, San Antonio Spurs 85
In the midst of a dismal season, the Celtics won in San Antonio for the first time in 17 years. And this wasn’t the Big Three version of the Celtics. Paul Pierce (30 points) got help from Delonte West (23 points) and Al Jefferson (20 points) while Rajon Rondo added 14 rebounds. It was just the Celtics 20th win of the season.
Flashback: The Celtics had not won in San Antonio since February 14, 1990.
2006: Orlando Magic 84, Boston Celtics 77
The Celtics blew a fourth quarter lead and gave up 18 points and 13 rebounds to a then-20-year-old Dwight Howard. The Cs went cold in the final 12 minutes, shooting 3-for-23, and no one on the team made more than five field goals. They also had six shots blocked by Darko Milicic.
Flashback: Raef LaFrentz was the Celtics starting center.
2004: Boston Celtics 104, Denver Nuggets 100
Paul Pierce, Chucky Atkins, and Mark Blount combined for 68 points, 27 rebounds, and 16 assists while Walter McCarty added 17 points off the bench. Then-rookie Carmelo Anthony posted 20 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in his Boston debut. But the Celtics got hot from long-range (10-16 3PG) and a jumper from Pierce iced the win with less than 30 seconds to go.
Flashback: John Carroll was the interim head coach.
2000: Boston Celtics 114, Atlanta Hawks 90
Antoine Walker scored 30 points to lead the Celtics to a 24-point victory. Paul Pierce and Vitaly Potapenko scored 16 points apiece. Pierce picked five steals from Dikembe Mutombo and the Hawks.
Flashback: Less than 12,000 people attended this game in Atlanta.
1999: Boston Celtics 118, Los Angeles Clippers 84
The Celtics outshot the Clippers 57% to 37% from the field in their commanding win. Kenny Anderson led the Celtics with 21 points. Then-rookie Paul Pierce scored 12. The Celtics outrebonded the Clippers by 19 boards.
Flashback: Future Celtic Michael Olowokandi posted 17 points and eight rebounds for the Clippers.
|Sounds of the game… Celtics 102, Grizzlies 92||03.13.09 at 11:10 pm ET|
They also knew there was plenty of time to catch their breath and, thanks to Leon Powe’s career night as well as solid contributions from the bench, the Celtics outscored the Grizz, 81-65, the rest of the way and cruised to their 50th win of the season.
Some quick takes on Friday’s game.
Leon Powe played 41 minutes and committed ZERO turnovers two days after playing 43 in a loss at Miami. He is showing fresh legs and that’s going to be key to protecting Kevin Garnett when he comes back.
Ray Allen had 22 points in 31 minutes.
The Celtics were tougher than the Grizzlies, outscoring them, 48-30, in the paint.
The Celtics clinched a tie for the Atlantic Division title, missing a clinching when Philly beat Chicago in the final game ever at the Spectrum.
Here’s what the Celtics had to say in their final home game before St. Patrick’s Day.
|Best of Delonte West||03.06.09 at 1:19 am ET|
LeBron James steals the spotlight on the Cleveland Cavaliers, but former Boston Celtic Delonte West doesn’t shy away from the camera either. Here is a look at some of West’s most memorable moments upon his return to Boston for Friday’s Celtics-Cavaliers game.
Celtics Promo: Childhood dreams and wire hangers
Dime Magazine Photo Shoot: Tattoos and a lifelong sense of style
And who can forget his ESPN Page 2 Valentine’s Day interview: Popeye’s, yachts, and “Rico Suave-ing it”
|Backcourt steps up||02.22.09 at 6:57 pm ET|
Shaquille O’Neal was supposed to be a problem for the Boston Celtics. He was supposed to push around their little big men and have the Celtics counting down the days until Kevin Garnett returned from his knee injury. But it was one of the smallest guys on the court who caused the biggest problems. Led by Rajon Rondo, the Celtics backcourt dominated the Phoenix Suns. (RECAP HERE)
32 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 13-18 FG, 1-1 3PG, 5-9 FT, 3 STL
On his 23rd birthday, Rondo made 35-year-old Steve Nash look about ten years older. The Suns had no way of stopping Rondo, not even O’Neal’s presence made a difference — Rondo scored however and from wherever he pleased. The absence of Garnett creates more opportunities for him to take his jumpshot, and judging by his shot chart, there is little need to question whether or not he has developed one.
31 points, 4 rebounds, 10-15 FG, 4-8 3PG, 7-8 FT
It’s no secret that Allen can’t be left alone on the arc. On Sunday he couldn’t be left alone, period. Allen spread the Suns defense with a balanced attack of long and mid-range shots. Allen was on his mark, hitting 10 field goals and scoring 30 points for the first time since January 11 against the Toronto Raptors. He also set a new franchise record with 72 consecutive free throws made, passing Larry Bird’s previous mark of 71.
26 points, 6 rebounds, 8-17 FG, 10-10 FT
The Celtics couldn’t score 128 points without Pierce making an impact. Pierce struggled in the first half (1-8 FG), so when his shot didn’t fall he got to the line (6-6 FT). Then he turned it on in the second half to score 18 points in 22 minutes. The captain played a team-high 44 minutes and by the end of the game had gone to the line 10 times. The Celtics improved to 12-3 when Pierce attempts at least 10 free throws.
The Celtics will travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets on Monday night.
|Pierce fighting for a cure||02.17.09 at 3:07 pm ET|
Paul Pierce is reaching out to help find a cure for a five-year-old girl with leukemia. Jasmina Anema of New York City requires a bone marrow transplant for a rare and aggressive form of the disease. Pierce made a plea for donors on his website, www.paulpierce.net:
“As a father myself, it is awful to see such a little girl have to fight such a challenging disease like leukemia. I encourage the African American community to join the National Registry to help children like Jasmina.”
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