|Opinion: Celtics have to find out what they have with Jeff Green||11.15.12 at 11:20 pm ET|
A technical foul was the perfect punctuation to Jeff Green’s dunk on Al Jefferson Wednesday night ‘ not because Green deserved the penalty, but because the stoppage in play provided the opportunity for Celtics fans to digest what they had just seen.
Up to that point this season, Green had been a bust. His contract seemed like an albatross of Carl Crawford proportions. With his four-year, $32 million deal, Green is the fourth-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. The problem is Green is playing like the seventh- or eighth-best player on the team, depending on where you rank Jason Terry, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee.
Thursday night failed to offer any additional clarity to Green’s situation, with the forward scoring five points in 25 minutes during the Celtics’ 102-97 loss to the Nets in Brooklyn. It was a performance that made Wednesday’s heroics seem like an aberration.
Even after Green’s 16-point contribution in the win over Utah, he ranked sixth on the team in scoring (8.8 points per game) and seventh in minutes (21.6 per game). At best, he’s marginally overpaid when you consider Bass and Terry will earn $6.5 million and $5 million this year, respectively. At worst, he’s Danny Ainge‘s recurring mistake, first as the centerpiece of the trade that cost the Celtics Kendrick Perkins, and then as a $32 million version of Rashard Lewis.
The dunk of the season so far gave us a chance to see what Ainge saw in Green all along. The 6-foot-9 forward can flush on Al Jefferson in traffic. He can score 16 points in the flow of the game without having a single play run for him. And evidently, his teammates love him.
After Green threw it down on Jefferson, the ensuing scene seemed reminiscent of an And1 Mixtape Tour. Green didn’t deserve a technical; he almost seemed to be staring down Al Jefferson to make sure he did, in fact, dunk on an All-Star center. But perhaps Green’s teammates deserved the technical. Garnett followed Green around the court, cursing in his ear and pushing him in the chest. Other teammates took turns pushing Green, who typically shies away from that kind of contact.
The celebration seemed to stem from the fact that the Celtics need THAT Jeff Green. Garnett’s been saying it, and he’s right. Green needs to be meaner, more aggressive. He needs to dish out more NBA fouls, and he needs to get down low in the paint when Garnett is on the bench.
|Paul Pierce explains why Celtics ‘really disturbing’ transition D is his biggest worry||11.10.12 at 9:54 am ET|
Paul Pierce has seen a lot since his entrance into the NBA in 1998. For that reason, the Celtics captain says he’s ready to be very patient with this team, even after the C’s lost their third game in five tries to open the season Friday night at TD Garden. Pierce scored a team-high 24 points but it wasn’t enough as the Sixers pulled out a 106-100 win that dropped Boston to 2-3 on the season with road games Saturday in Milwaukee and Monday in Chicago.
“I’m very patient,” Pierce said. “I understand that it’s a process. We’re only five games in. We’re still building. Even though we lost today, we’re down, there are some positive things that can come from that. And so, it’s still a long season. We have to get some things together. Maybe a road trip like this one, against two pretty good teams can solve it. We’ll see.
“I’ve been a patient person for the most part. The thing is you just have to talk it out. Young teams get frustrated with one another; they start pointing fingers. You can’t do that. That’s a losing team, that’s losing genetics. We don’t have that in here. We are a team that is just going to try and solve it by talking to one another, trying to figure out what we need to do to get better and build from there.”
Pierce says all the talk about the bench is overrated since it’s the first unit that need to play better in transition on both ends.
“It’s just that we have to put the time in at practice figuring out the second unit but that’s going to come,” Pierce said. “Our identity is going to be a defensive team first. We have the talent offensively where we think it will come together. We have to do a better job sharing the ball, making the extra passes but the main concern is the transition defense and rebounding the ball.”
The Celtics were beaten badly again in transition Friday night. Two stats prove his point. They were outscored 26-9 on fast break point – a stat Doc Rivers said was actually much worse than the number – and Philly beat up Boston in the paint 56-38, many coming on layups in transition.
“When I look at this game if I had to point out one thing that’s a major concern for us, and has been for these last five games, it’s probably our transition defense,” Pierce said. “That’s the No. 1 thing right now. When you look up and we’re playing well half-court wise, and then you give teams that many layups in transition, it’s really disturbing so that’s one thing we have to look at the film, address that. If we can do a better a job of getting back on defense, limit those easy opportunities, then we give ourselves a better chance.
“Getting back, talking, matching up with the nearest guy, loading up to the ball, helping one another. Just basically when the [shot] goes up, you either go get the rebound or get back. It’s one of the two things. For the most part, it has to come from the guys on the perimeter, we have to do a better job of getting back from the 1, 2 and the 3-positions, the point guard, the 2-guard and myself. Our big men are crashing for offensive rebounds. If they’re not, they have to get back also.”
|Brandon Bass says he’s just going to play ‘with a whole lot of energy’||11.08.12 at 9:40 am ET|
Doc Rivers made a point of telling his team Wednesday night that he didn’t care how well they played but rather how hard they played.
His point was that if you play with great energy, good results will follow even when the execution isn’t always there.
Brandon Bass got that message, even if it took overtime to do it.
Bass scored five straight points in overtime, reading his teammates and running down the floor, as the Celtics overcame the Wizards, 100-94, in overtime. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes off the bench as the Celtics reserves, including Chris Wilcox, finally found a way to help in a win.
“That’s part of me improving as a player,” Bass said. “That’s what I want to do for this team this year, help any way l can.”
After hitting one of two free throws with 2:21 left in overtime, Bass took a pass from Rondo after a Wizards turnover and went to the basket for a layup, putting Boston up, 95-92.
Then, after a missed shot by the Wizards on a chance to tie, Rajon Rondo hauled in the rebound and rewarded Bass who was sprinting up the court all by himself.
“Me and Rondo had switched on that play and he got the rebound so I sprinted out and finished,” Bass said.
Paul Pierce said what he liked about Bass’ play so much Wednesday was the fact he didn’t think but rather played instinctively. Bass agreed.
“That was huge,” Bass said. “That’s how I’m going to be at my best, when I’m out there just reacting, just defending and playing with a whole lot of energy. That’s what I tried to do.
“Be mentally tougher. On a team like this, watching the guys and how they deal with adversity, it can only help me and that’s what it did.”
|Fast Break: Celtics survive another Wizards scare||11.07.12 at 10:21 pm ET|
Thanks to double-doubles from the Big Three, the Celtics survived a second straight game against a Wizards team missing two of its best players. It wasn’t pretty — and required OT — but the Cs’ evened their record at 2-2.
Rondo’s 18 points and 14 assists in the 100-94 victory moved him alone into third place in NBA history with 28 consecutive games with 10-plus assists (behind John Stockton‘s 29, Stockton’s 37 and Magic Johnson‘s 44).
Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds) committed what could’ve been a costly technical foul when he jerked his elbow in Kevin Seraphin‘s direction late in the fourth quarter, but two Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds) steals and a Rondo 20-footer with 26 seconds left helped force overtime as Rondo’s 3-pionter at the end of regulation fell short. The C’s defense arrived just in time to salvage the game in OT.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First things first: The Celtics repeatedly assure the offense will come once they can get back to playing the kind of defense that’s been the trademark of their success the past five seasons. Wednesday night’s first quarter was a start. Led by Garnett and Lee, the Celtics held the Wizards to 29.2 percent shooting (7-24 FG) in the first 12 minutes, building a 21-16 lead that should have been bigger if not for five C’s turnovers.
Garnett gold: Since nobody else put forth any effort in the opening 24 minutes, Garnett exerted twice as much. By halftime, he had 10 rebounds, seven points and two blocks. His final first-half defensive stand was remarkable, singlehandedly guarding the right side of the court and eventually blocking a Trevor Booker layup attempt with two seconds left on the shot clock. Without KG on the floor, the C’s finished minus-13 before the break.
Forward progress: Finally given an opportunity to contribute midway through the third quarter, Chris Wilcox ran the floor with Rondo, made his only field goal and got to the line five times for six points to go along with two boards and a block. In just four minutes of action, he finished a plus-11 — while Garnett sat on the bench.
Very Terry: After admitting it was an adjustment to mesh with a new system, Jason Terry finally asserted himself into the offense. He took 15 shots, made seven of them and scored 16 points off the bench. Somehow, the C’s reserves still got outscored, 53-41.
|Box and 2: Inside Celtics, Bucks and Wizards, oh my||11.05.12 at 2:39 pm ET|
— Called upon by Doc Rivers Friday night to protect the paint against the Bucks, when smaller lineups weren’t working, Darko Milicic played 4:30 of the first quarter. He missed his only shot — an air-balled baby left hook — and committed more turnovers (2) than he totaled rebounds (1) or blocks (0). Then, he didn’t play Saturday.
Kevin Garnett: “We’re still playing with the chemistry. We have different lineups in which Doc is playing with simultaneously, and we’re still working. No one said this was going to be an easy process.”
Translation: “The Darko Experiment is called that for a reason. Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face.”
— Over the weekend, Brandon Bass finished a minus-11 in 40:52 without Jared Sullinger on the floor. The Celtics outscored the opponent in just two of his 10 stints sans Sullinger — by one in the final 3:53 of the first quarter against the Wizards and by two Terry free throws in the final 1:35 of that game. Without Bass on the floor, Sullinger finished a plus-14 in 33:29, and the C’s outscored opponents in five of those eight stints. (In case you were wondering, the two played 14:40 together, finished a minus-9 and only outscored opponents once in six stints.)
Rivers (via the Herald): ‘[Sullinger] brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with our starting group.’
Translation: “Sorry Brandon, but you’re going to see a lot more Sullinger in the starting lineup.”
|Paul Pierce: ‘Our goal is to keep our home court clean’||11.02.12 at 11:29 am ET|
WALTHAM — In the labor-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, the Celtics were 24-9 at home on the parquet. They were 8-2 at the Garden in the playoffs.
But the sour taste from the last game they played before the home crowd remains. With a chance to eliminate the Heat on their home court, they came up flat, losing, 98-79, to LeBron James and company.
Everyone in attendance remembers the fans at the end of the game chanting “Let’s Go Celtics” and the players haven’t forgotten either, as they take the same court for the first time in a meaningful game since then tonight when they host the Bucks in the home opener.
“We’re excited,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re excited to be at home, especially after taking a loss in the first game so hopefully, we can come back home and establish ourselves. That’s going to be the emphasis this year – establish ourselves at home. No team should be able to come in here and get any wins. Our goal is to keep our home court clean so it can be an intimidating factor when they come to the Garden.”
“We had a tough year last year,” Rajon Rondo said. “Other than that, I think years in the past the Garden has been a tough place to play in.”
The team that will be trying to spoil the Celtics home opening party tonight is the Milwaukee Bucks, led by the dynamic duo backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. The Bucks will be playing their regular season opener tonight.
“I know they’ve got two explosive guards in the backcourt and I think a lot of things start with them,” Pierce said. “I’m very familiar with Ilyasova [Ersan Ilyasova] and that’s pretty much that core. They have good role players in Dunleavy [Mike Dunleavy] and more than capable guys like Drew Gooden so they pose a threat for us. They gave us trouble last year from what I remember so they have a good, talented team. This is their first game so they’ll be hungry to get out to a good start.”
“They’re a scrappy team,” Rondo added. “They play with a lot of intensity on defense. Jennings and Monta is their backcourt. That’s their firepower. Courtney [Courtney Lee] and I will have our hands full but it will be a team effort to win the game.”
|Paul Pierce: Celtics ‘defense has got to come a lot faster’||at 10:08 am ET|
That was evident during the TNT telecast of Tuesday night’s season-opening loss in Miami.
He was wearing a microphone and barking out calls on the floor and words of encouragement to Rajon Rondo when things weren’t always going well.
On Thursday, before the Celtics home opener tonight against the Bucks, he was barking out something else.
“The defense has got to come a lot faster, and that’s something that’s come a lot faster in the past than the offense,” Pierce said of Boston’s 120 points allowed in a 120-107 loss to the Heat. “I’m pretty surprised we scored 107 points, to tell you the truth. Usually, the defense, we pick it up pretty fast. We understand our schemes, our rotations. But I just think we have to understand the type of atmosphere it was going to be. Some of the guys have never been in that atmosphere before, first game, playing against the defending champs on the road. We have to pick up our intensity, understand the moment, understand where we’re at and understand the type of game it’s going to be and raise our game.”
Doc Rivers thought his coaching staff had too much time to prepare and filled their players’ minds with too much information.
“I think our on-ball defense was average because our help defense was worse,” Rivers said. “If everybody is up guarding their own man and there’s no help and guys see gaps [in the defense], they’re taking it. What really upset us, every key guy got every shot he wanted, where they wanted the whole, and that’s a bad defensive night.
“It was team wide. It was spread. Like I told them, from the coaching standpoint, I thought we had way too much time to prepare for it and we put way too much stuff in their head. I thought they were thinking more than playing on instinct. I told our coaches we share in that. We had them doing a couple of different things and that’s not who we are defensively.” Read the rest of this entry »
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