|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|
WALTHAM — Paul Pierce, as captain of the Celtics, has a way of sending a clear message to his team.
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 »
|Irish Coffee: 18 milestones 2012-13 Celtics will eclipse||10.30.12 at 5:13 pm ET|
Before the Celtics renew their rivalry with the Heat in Miami on Tuesday night and both teams begin their march toward what seems like an almost inevitable second straight Eastern Conference finals showdown, let’s predict 18 franchise and NBA milestones the C’s will eclipse during the 2012-13 season.
18. Considering he totaled 620 assists in just 53 games last season, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will shatter his own single-season franchise record for assists (794) and pass Bill Russell for fifth on the C’s career assists list. In doing so, he could become the first NBA player since the turn of the century to average 12 assists per game.
17. Kevin Garnett will score his 6,000th point in a Celtics uniform, passing Ray Allen (5,987) for 21st on the franchise scoring list. He should also surpass 3,000 rebounds, 1,000 assists, 400 steals and 400 blocks in green and white before the year is through, climbing a few more rungs on his ladder to the rafters.
16. Five ways Celtics captain Paul Pierce piles even more cement on his franchise legacy: 1) If he plays all 82, he’ll surpass Robert Parish by a single contest for second behind John Havlicek on the C’s career games played list; 2) If Pierce plays 2,941 minutes, which he did in 2008-09, he’ll pass Russell for second behind Hondo; 3) If he takes his usual 1,000-plus field goal attempts, he’ll pass Larry Bird for second behind Hondo; 4) If he makes 500, he’ll pass Parish for third behind Bird; and 5) Like Rondo, Pierce will pass Russell for fourth in career C’s assists.
15. When the Celtics win their 53rd game of the year — topping Bovada’s over/under of 50.5 — Doc Rivers passes Tommy Heinsohn for second behind Red Auerbach among coaches on the franchise’s career wins list.
|Irish Coffee: Don’t forget about Paul Pierce||10.29.12 at 12:18 pm ET|
Paul Pierce has been an afterthought this Celtics camp. Well, you know, as much as the captain and face of the NBA’s most storied franchise — and one of the league’s few legit title contenders — can remain in the shadows.
Think about it. The summer began with the return of Kevin Garnett, whose arrival five years ago saved a team relegated to mediocrity for two decades. And it ended with the emergence of Rajon Rondo, who grabbed the reins for the next 10 years. In between, Ray Allen spurned the Celtics, who in turn made their own headlines: Drafting Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph; adding Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jason Collins, Darko Milicic and Leandro Barbosa; re-signing Brandon Bass; and restoring Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.
Meanwhile, Pierce quietly shared a family photo at the beach here or a picture of his workout routine there. After all, he too rehabbed from injury — a sprained left MCL this past June that may have meant the difference between a Game 7 loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals and a third NBA finals appearance in five seasons.
Heck, Pierce had to share his 35th birthday on Oct. 13 with C’s coach Doc Rivers, who turned 51 the same day. Even his admission to potentially retiring or requesting a trade had Garnett not returned barely moved the needle, as they say. Such is the life now of the 10-time NBA All-Star entering his 15th season for the same franchise.
|Irish Coffee: C’s chemistry at a 9 or 10 but not ’08 level||10.23.12 at 6:57 pm ET|
After the Celtics started an unofficial training camp almost a month early, Rajon Rondo organized a players-only trip to Los Angeles and everyone drew parallels between the C’s Euro trip prior to the 2008 NBA championship run and their exhibition expedition to Turkey and Milan this preseason, we’re quick to assume this unit can form a bond on the court as quickly as that one did. After all, both groups returned only six players from the previous year.
On a scale from 1 to 10, Jeff Green called this team’s current chemistry a nine. In typical Rondo fashion, he placed it at a 10. And Kevin Garnett said, “Chemistry is very, very high, man.” But Paul Pierce disagrees.
“We’re still building chemistry,” he said. “Chemistry sometimes doesn’t happen overnight like in ’08, so we’re still trying to build that. When you look at the number of new players we’ve got, we’re still trying to implement them.”
Let’s get one thing straight: This group isn’t anything like the one five years ago. That 2007-08 team started 29-3. Twenty nine and freaking three. For a variety of reasons, don’t expect this team to replicate that feat.
“As far as being ready, we’re going to continue to get better as the year goes on,” added Pierce. “We’re not where we want to be, but that’s going to come as we play more games, as the year goes along, until we reach our peak.”
|Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options||10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.
In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce ends this Celtics-Nets debate||10.16.12 at 10:00 pm ET|
Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers couldn’t watch a full preseason game against a Nets team that didn’t send any of its starting five out for the opening tip. Conveniently, the second half of the C’s 97-96 loss coincided with the start of the presidential debate, and that’s when Rivers — an ardent support of President Barack Obama, a fellow former Chicagoan — excused himself, “allowing his assistant coaches to handle the bench duties.”
At least Paul Pierce stayed for the second half, capping a 29-point night on 10-of-17 shooting (6-8 3P) in 27 efficient minutes. Jeff Green (14 points) and Courtney Lee (13 points) also stuck around until the end of the C’s bench eventually coughed up a double-digit lead in the final minutes. Here’s what else Rivers missed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Sharp Pierce: After entering training camp out of shape and suffering a foot injury that lingered long past the three games he missed to start the 2011-12 NBA season, Pierce seems prepared to begin this season in much better shape, showing no ill effects of the knee injury that hobbled during the playoffs. The Celtics captain connected on four of his first seven shots against the Nets, scoring 10 of the C’s 14 points in the opening seven minutes.
Green party: After struggling for the first time all preseason against the 76ers, Green turned in another aggressive performance, recapturing his leadership role on the second unit. After falling hard to the floor early in the second quarter, he shook off the trainer and even drew a charge on the other end. If there were any lingering questions about Green’s hesitance after returning from heart surgery, he answered them in that stretch.
On guard: Lee’s outside shot wasn’t dropping (1-4 3P), but the C’s starting shooting guard once again demonstrated the athleticism and defensive ability that made him so coveted. Also, his chemistry with backcourt mate Rajon Rondo is clearly developing, as Lee found open spots on the perimeter and Rondo naturally found him with a few nice crosscourt passes. Eventually, the career 39 percent 3-point shooter’s stroke will connect.