|Jared Sullinger and Paul Pierce get revenge on the Rockets||01.11.13 at 9:58 pm ET|
Paul Pierce scored 23 points while Jared Sullinger had 14 points and 11 rebounds off the bench as the Celtics withstood a late charge from the Rockets to win their fifth straight, 103-91, Friday night at TD Garden. Kevin Garnett added 17 points and eight rebounds and Courtney Lee had 14 points for the Celtics, who improve to 19-17 on the season.
James Harden had 21 and Jeremy Lin added 12 points for the Rockets, who had to settle for a season split of their series with the Celtics. Houston beat Boston, 101-89, on Dec. 14 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Early on, it was a game of runs. The Celtics jumped out to an 8-4 lead before the Rockets responded with a 13-0 spurt, as Jeremy Lin and James Harden hit 3-pointers in the spurt. But the Celtics came back with a 14-2 run of their own as Jeff Green and Courtney Lee hit consecutive threes. Boston took a 24-21 lead after 12 minutes.
Sullinger took over in the second quarter and led a bench effort that dominated for the second straight game. Sullinger had 14 points and eight rebounds in the first half. Those were the same numbers posted by Celtics starters combined until Pierce hit a three with 1:27 left in the second quarter. The Celtics bench had a season-high 36 points in the first half, outscoring the Houston reserves, 36-9, and taking a 53-45 halftime lead.
While the Celtics were held without a free throw in the first half, the Rockets self-destructed at the line, converting just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe. The Rockets finished the game a miserable 12-of-29 from the line.
Pierce came out on fire in the third quarter scoring eight of Boston’s first nine points in a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 17. Pierce finished the third with 11 points and the Celtics led 78-66 going into the fourth.
The Rockets finally heated up in the fourth quarter and took advantage of Celtics sloppiness and a key foul. Sullinger picked up his fifth foul with 10:01 left and the Celtics leading 83-69. Houston scored the next 12 points thanks to several turnovers. The run was finished off when Harden fed Parsons for a one-handed dunk over Pierce with 7:22 left in the fourth, cutting Boston’s lead to two, 83-81.
But it was Pierce to the rescue. Pierce ended the Rockets’ 12-0 run with a basket with just under seven minutes left. Moments later, he was fouled on his layup and converted the three-point play to put Boston up, 92-82, with 5:51 left. A Garnett fadeaway jumper with 4:42 put the Celtics up, 94-82.
|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.”
|Even Paul Pierce can’t save the Celtics from the Bucks||12.22.12 at 12:28 am ET|
Paul Pierce rescued the Celtics on Wednesday night when he scored 40 points to lead the Celtics over the Cavaliers after Boston blew a 20-point lead to a 5-21 team in the third quarter on their home court.
Pierce scored 35 points Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics blew a 10-point lead and lost 99-94 in overtime to the emerging Milwaukee Bucks.
‘It’s a team game, regardless of how I play,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to do better in stretches. I think when our offense isn’t going for long stretches we’ve got to be able to defend. You know, at the beginning of the fourth quarter we went into the quarter up like seven or eight and we instantly kind of gave away the lead. And that’s the kind of case where even though our shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to be able to come down and get stops after stops after stops. And it just comes and goes in stretches right now.’
The Celtics led by 10 in the first half and by eight, 70-62, heading into the fourth. But Milwaukee went on a 21-8 run to take command. Pierce appeared to rescue the Celtics yet again when he drained a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, even Pierce couldn’t overcome a 1-for-15 night from Jason Terry and a 6-for-22 night from Kevin Garnett.
‘That’s what we’ve been saying all year long’¦There’s going to be nights when shots won’t fall,” Pierce said. “And one thing we can control, I think, is our intensity on the defensive end, we are inconsistent. But we just ‘ a little bit of consistency in that department ‘ we play well for the most part and we look up there and we shoot 43% or whatnot, but it has to be throughout the whole game more consistency. You know, we can’t give up 17-0 runs to Cleveland. We can’t give up 10-0 runs to Milwaukee. And then decide that’s when we want to play defense.’
The Celtics are now 1-3 against the Bucks and won’t play them again this season, unless of course, it’s a playoff matchup.
‘They have great guard play, and they have pretty good intangibles, you know, they have guys that you really don’t expect to play well that really play well,” Pierce said. “I mean (Larry) Sanders kind of has been a thorn in my side, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, he’s played well the last two games. And you focus so much on their two guards, that what happens: other guys like that step up and carry you.’
|Opinion: Danny Ainge correct to sound alarm for Celtics||12.21.12 at 7:21 am ET|
The Celtics no longer are one of the toughest teams to play in the NBA, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge does not appear content with that reality. After watching his team play mediocre defense over a 25-game sampling, Ainge on Thursday criticized the players’ collective play on The Big Show.
“We’ve got to prevent those runs by other teams and those droughts that we have at the offensive end and giving up so many lay-ins on the defensive end,” Ainge said. “There’s just no excuse for the way we’re playing. Yeah, you need to take time to find out who we are, but there’s no excuse for giving up 32 points in the paint in a half against Chicago, and there’s no excuse for giving up a 17-0 run to Cleveland.”
Last year’s Celtics delivered the template for a veteran NBA team looking to flip the proverbial switch in season. A five-game losing streak just before the All-Star break put the team’s record at 15-17. The Celtics went 24-10 after the break and eventually made a run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
So why is Ainge sounding the alarm in December? From a distance, the Celtics’ 13-12 start to this season appears to follow the same trend — a veteran team going through the motions some nights, saving its collective legs for the second half and postseason.
A closer look proves that this year’s team is much different than last year’s team, and perhaps not due the same measure of patience from Ainge.
The most glaring difference between this year’s Celtics and last year’s is their inability to play strong team defense. Even when last year’s team slogged through the first half of the season, it ranked as one of the top two teams in the NBA defensively. Before the break, the 2011-12 C’s held opposing teams to 89.4 points per game and a field goal percentage of 41.9. Those numbers increased slightly after the break to 90.1 points per game and a field goal percentage of 42.1. Despite the slight increases, the Celtics still finished the season as the second-ranked team in the NBA in points allowed, behind only the Bulls, and they ranked first in opponents’ field goal percentage.
The Celtics’ most marked improvements last season took place on the offensive end. The C’s scoring average jumped from 89.4 before the break to 94.1 in the 34 games after. Their field goal percentage improved from 45.8 to 46.5.
|Jason Terry praises Paul Pierce, blasts LeBron James||12.20.12 at 1:10 am ET|
Two months after his 35th birthday, Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored 40 points on 16 shots in Wednesday night’s 103-91 victory against the Cavaliers. It took a superhuman effort, as his three most veteran teammates can attest. Maybe that’s why Jason Terry called him Kryptonite in the locker room afterwards.
Pierce, Terry, Kevin Garnett and Jason Collins have a combined 55 years of NBA experience between them, but this was a first. The Celtics captain became the oldest player in franchise history to eclipse 40 points in a regulation game (at 35 and three months, Larry Bird scored 49 in double overtime in 1992).
“Not a lot of guys in this league stay in one franchise,” said Terry. “You can count them on your hand right now. It’s not many that are superstars, that have been in the league longer than 12-13 years, and he’s one of them.”
Terry played his last eight seasons alongside one of those other guys in Dirk Nowitzki, who has stayed in Dallas ever since being selected one spot ahead of Pierce in the 1998 NBA draft. There’s a certain respect among veterans around the league for loyalty like that, Terry said, especially after younger superstars like LeBron James and Dwight Howard jumped ship for the Heat and Lakers early in their careers over the past several years.
As Terry elaborated, Pierce has demonstrated a “willingness to stick through the tough times and not just jump off: ‘I’m outta here.’ ‘I’m going to go join forces with Kobe [Bryant].’ Or, ‘I’m going to go play with Dwyane Wade.’ That’s a shot right there. … I think that’s what guys look at, and they respect him.”
How’s this for respect? Pierce joined Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Clyde Drexler, Alex English, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and Walter Davis as the only players since 1985 to scored 40 points in regulation after turning 35 years old. None of the others accomplished that feat on 16 shots.
“Paul was on fire tonight, man,” added Garnett, who was traded to Boston after 12 up-and-down seasons for the Timberwolves. “Paul had a flashback to like ’03 or ’04 or something, man. It was good to see, though. As we walked in tonight, I could tell — just because it was a long day — that he felt kind of down in the dumps. After the game, I told him, ‘You need to feel more down in the dumps a little more often.’ But he had the rhythm going, and we were just trying to feed him. I thought he did a good job getting it out of the offense and letting it come to him.”
|Doc Rivers: ‘We still haven’t sustained a 48-minute game’||12.19.12 at 11:39 pm ET|
At this point, Doc Rivers will take any victory, any way he can get them.
But even Wednesday night, what looked like a 20-point laugher late in the third quarter against a 5-21 team on the parquet turned into nail-biting time in a matter of six minutes.
The Celtics led 80-60 with just over three minutes left in the third. Then Rivers subbed his starters and turned to his bench. The unit that was very productive and active in the first half, fell apart, allowing the Cavs to start a 20-2 run that got them back in the game.
‘Honestly, our bench came in and didn’t give us a lift,” Rivers said. “And they were fantastic in the first half. We still haven’t sustained a 48 minute game; we had that one stretch. We have to get better. We had a 20-point lead, you sub in, and I think guys think when you have that lead it’s scoring time now. And it’s really defensive time; you’ve got to continue to get stops. Then you can score. And I thought we short-cutted that part of it.’
The Celtics finished shooting 59.7 percent on the night and scored 103 points, thanks in large part to their captain Paul Pierce, who had 40. Did Pierce just get tired of losing?
‘Well I don’t know. Whatever it was, it was great,” Rivers said. “It was efficient, though. A lot of open shots. A lot of ball movement down the stretch. He caught fire and created his own. For the most part, I just thought the ball movement was really good for our guys. We shoot 60 percent, basically; a lot of good things are happening. And then we hold a team to 40 or 41 percent, a lot of good things happen. I thought Jason Collins play with one point, two rebounds ‘ I thought he had a main impact on the game for us. Especially for Kevin (Kevin Garnett). I thought Kevin enjoyed playing with him.’
A three-game losing streak ended Wednesday because the Celtics found some resiliency against a 5-21 team. Not pretty but Rivers will take it.
“I think [Pierce] and Kevin and (Rajon Rondo), they all took it to heart,” Rivers said. “They don’t like the way we’re playing, they believe we’re better than what we’re playing, but we haven’t done it. And at some point, you’ve got to stop talking about it. And Paul did that tonight.’
He had lost a step or two, didn’t have the explosion at the basket and … was getting old.
So, his answer Wednesday was to go out and score a season-high 40 points, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, as the Celtics outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-91 Wednesday night at TD Garden. Pierce, at 35 years of age, became the oldest Celtics player ever with a 40-point game in regulation.
Afterward, Pierce was reminded of that fact and reflected on his 14-year career.
“I think maybe I can play a little longer than anticipated,” Pierce said. “Who knows?”
Larry Bird scored 49 points in a game when he was 35 years, 99 days old but that game was in double-overtime.
“Oh wow. Another one for the records, I guess,” Pierce said. “I’ve been here long enough. Maybe I’ll go for 50 now.”
But to Pierce, who questioned the team’s identity just 24 hours earlier after a loss in Chicago, Wednesday night was much more about a badly-needed win than his 40 points.
“It’s a make or miss league. Who knew I was going to come in and shoot the ball the way I did, but the one thing I could control was how hard I was going to play today and the effort I was going to put out,” Pierce said.
The Celtics fed off Pierce all night, building a 20-point lead late in the third and staving off the young, hungry Cavs when they cut it to two points midway through the fourth.
‘I think when you play like that it can be contagious,” he said. “Offensively, guys knocking down shots, and then other guys getting up in there and defending. Things can definitely be contagious. I know I think everybody definitely wanted to get off this slide that we’re on so it was a good win, it’s a start.
‘I feel like the last few games I’ve been shooting the ball a lot better, three or four games now. So I feeling like I’m really coming along where I’m starting to get into a good groove offensively. The way my shot’s going, picking my spots. So even before tonight I felt good.’ Read the rest of this entry »
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