|Irish Coffee: Summer of Rajon Rondo gives way to winter||11.29.12 at 2:12 am ET|
All summer, everyone from president Danny Ainge to coach Doc Rivers and on down the line told anyone who would listen that this is the 26-year-old point guard’s team now. No longer Paul Pierce‘s. Not Kevin Garnett‘s. But a matured Rondo’s. Then, Wednesday night’s Nets game happened.
Just as he did last season, when he thew a ball at one referee and chest-bumped another, Rondo let his emotions get the best of him, completely overreacting to a hard Kris Humphries foul on Kevin Garnett late in the first half.
As referee crew chief James Caper said after a home Celtics loss to the Nets that was much uglier than the 95-83 final at the TD Garden, “Rondo initiated everything that proceeded after the foul.”
In other words, just as he was last season, Rondo will be suspended, especially considering he threw closed fists as he shoved Humphries into the stands. His history won’t help, either. Speculation sets the over/under on games the Celtics will be without their so-called leader at 3-5 games, but as New York Times reporter Howard Beck suggested, “Nate Robinson and J.R. Smith got 10 games each because they continued fight into the stands.”
Just like his legendary 37-game double-digit assist streak of John Stockton proportions, Rondo’s maturation process came to a screeching halt against the Nets. With it, probably, goes his Most Valuable Player aspirations. When’s the last time an NBA MVP was suspended for fighting during a season? This was the year he was supposed to make the leap. Instead, he takes a step backwards. After the game, Rondo left without speaking to the media, leaving Pierce, Garnett and the rest of his Celtics teammates to face questions only he could answer.
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo stops Magic, ties John Stockton for consecutive double-digit assists||11.25.12 at 8:57 pm ET|
The Magic finally missed a couple of 3-pointers, and for the Celtics, the misses couldn’t have come at a better time. Both Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis missed treys in the final minute, and the Celtics made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch to escape Orlando with a 116-110 overtime victory.
Rajon Rondo (15 points, 16 assists, 9 rebounds) fell one rebound short of his first triple-double of the season (and 24th of his career), but he did eclipse double-digit assists for the 37th straight game, tying John Stockton for the second-longest streak in NBA history, trailing only Magic Johnson (46).
Kevin Garnett (24 points, 10 rebounds) notched his first double-double since Nov. 9, and Paul Pierce added 23 points despite missing his signature elbow jumper at the end of regulation. Leandro Barbosa (15 points), Brandon Bass (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (11 points) also reached double figures for the Celtics (8-6).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Blurring the lines: In four first-half minutes, Leandro Barbosa scored 11 points, making all four of his shots, including a pair of 3-pointers and a traditional three-point play. He entered the game averaging 15.8 points, 4.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and that kind of production can’t be ignored. Makes you wonder how many guard minutes will be left for Courtney Lee once Avery Bradley returns.
Painting a masterpiece: Without Dwight Howard to stop them, the Celtics took full advantage of a rare frontcourt strength advantage. At halftime, when the Celtics built a 58-48 advantage, the Celtics owned the advantage in points in the paint (30-16) rebounds (23-21) and second-chance points (10-4). Rarely do the C’s lead any of those three categories, but it’s nice to see Pierce, Garnett and Bass deliver when they should.
Sully tapped: Less than two minutes into his night, Jared Sullinger‘s first attempt got swatted back into his face by Josh McRoberts. It was the beginning of an 0-for-3 start for the Celtics rookie. The larger concern: Opponents have blocked 19.4 percent of Sullinger’s shots this season, which ranks fifth-worst among NBA players who average at least 15 minutes a night. But Sullinger responded, taking a page out of Glen Davis‘ around-the-basket book, making five of his next nine shots to finish with 11 points and six boards in 19:25 off the bench.
|Kendrick Perkins on Paul Pierce: ‘He’s got a lot of tricks’||11.23.12 at 11:32 pm ET|
Perkins was witness to Pierce’s greatness again on Friday night as the Celtics captain went 4-of-6 from long range and finished with 27 points in Boston’s 108-100 win over the Thunder at TD Garden.
‘He’s got a lot of tricks,” Perkins said. “That’s the reason he’s been scoring the ball like he has for years. Got a lot of tricks man. He did a great job tonight of just playing smart. He’s moving well and it looks like he’s in great shape, he’s doing his job’
Perkins was held to five points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes for the Thunder in his return to Boston.
‘Yeah, it does (feel strange) but at the same time we’re both out there trying to get wins and it’s over with now,” Perkins said. “You can’t change the past’
|Celtics undergoing a defensive identity crisis||11.22.12 at 1:14 am ET|
When Brandon Bass tipped home a Paul Pierce jumper with 1:28 left in their 112-100 loss to the Spurs, the Celtics avoided joining San Antonio as the only other team in the last 25 years not to grab an offensive rebound. Instead, they grabbed one — an NBA statistic that’s occurred just 16 times in the past quarter-century.
Of course, three of those 16 occurrences now belong to the Celtics. Only the other two games produced an entirely different result: a 103-79 blowout of the 76ers this past April and a 122-103 defeat of the Pacers during the 2008 championship season. The C’s shot better than 50 percent on both occasions, just as they did in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs, so there weren’t exactly a lot of offensive rebounds to be grabbed.
In other words, the Celtics should hope they only have one offensive rebound every night.
“You’re a big believer in offensive rebounds I think; I’m not,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “You can pick on that all you want. That is a number I rarely look at. Statistically, it holds up. I can tell you: You don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that.”
Sounds great in theory, except for the fact that MySynergySports.com ranks the C’s rank dead last statistically in transition defense, which is a entirely different problem. And a much bigger one.
|Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan: ‘Just put up a mirror’||11.21.12 at 7:18 pm ET|
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers before Wednesday night’s game with the San Antonio Spurs talked about Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor and his 138-point performance on Tuesday, a comparison between Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, a comparison of Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker and the status of Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle.
Doc on Rondo vs. Parker: “I’d rather have just one of the game’s best playing tonight. It’s amazing. They’re both terrific, obviously. They’re so different in how they play. It’s amazing how many different point guards there are in the league right now, and they’re all really good. You have to prepare for each one of them in a different way. The big ones, the strong ones, the fast ones, the witty ones. It’s different right now with all the different types of point guards, and each team has built their team around that style of point guard. It’s a good time in the league right now for that position.”
|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.”
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