|Fast Break: Deer in the Celtics headlights||03.22.12 at 10:22 pm ET|
Based on ESPN.com writer/mathematician John Hollinger’s latest NBA playoff odds, the Celtics (25-21) are the odd team out in the Eastern Conference playoff race — behind the Knicks (23-24) and Bucks (21-25), winners of five and six straight, respectively. Of course, that projection jibes with the most recent Irish Coffee breakdown.
Regardless, Thursday night’s matchup between the seventh-seeded Celtics and ninth-place Bucks was the biggest thing to hit Milwaukee since the filming of “Bridesmaids.” But only the Celtics showed up, cruising 100-91.
Paul Pierce (25 points, 9 rebounds) led the charge. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 assists) Kevin Garnett (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (12 points, 10 rebounds) all recorded double-doubles. And Greg Stiemsma (6 points, 5 blocks, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists) filled up the stat sheet during his first NBA game in his home state.
The Celtics travel to Philadelphia on Friday night, trailing the 76ers by just 0.5 games for the Atlantic Division lead (and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference). But first, let’s get to the Fast Break.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pushing for the cushion: The Celtics shot 58 percent from the field, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range, in the first quarter, taking an early 35-29 lead. Pierce scored 11 points in the frame, and Rondo added six. Whenever those two get involved early, good things happen for the C’s. At least for the first 12 minutes, they showed they could match Milwaukee’s newfound fast-paced offensive style of play. Obviously, it helps when the opposing team doesn’t play defense.
Oui, Oui, Oui: It’s no revelation at this point, but Mickael Pietrus‘ ability to make 3-pointers coming cold off the bench is remarkable. He knocked down a trio of triples in the first half, walking the walk after talking the talk. On top of his long-range shooting, a couple tough Pietrus (13 points) takes to the hoop in the fourth quarter helped the Celtics stretch their lead to double digits.
The Bucks stop here: On a nightly basis during this road trip, it seems Doc Rivers has said something to the tune of, “We’ve got to grind out games.” It didn’t appear Thursday night’s game would play out that way, as the two teams combined for 114 first-half points, but Stiemsma and Avery Bradley led an inspired defensive effort in the second half that turned the style-of-play tide in the Celtics favor.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turkish terror: For the second straight meeting, Bucks 6-foot-10 power forward Ersan Ilyasova burned the Celtics, totaling 12 points and eight rebounds by halftime (he had 25 and 10 against the Celtics last month). Ilysasova (12 points, 14 rebounds) entered the game averaging 12.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in 27.0 minutes a night. For the record, he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season (cc: Danny Ainge).
Oh, shoot: It wasn’t Ray Allen‘s night. He finished just 1-of-8 from the field, including 1-of-5 from 3-point range. And it’s not like he wasn’t getting good looks. Even wide open attempts weren’t falling for Allen. Luckily, the C’s held Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings (12-of-32 combined field goals) relatively in check.
Paint by numbers: Despite matching the Bucks on the glass for much of the night, Milwaukee owned a decided advantage in points in the paint (50-36). And that was on a night that Drew Gooden played awful basketball. The Celtics can get themselves in trouble when they settle for jumpers while the other team gets to the bucket, but even that didn’t seem to matter in Beertown.
|Paul Pierce raffles off tickets to Celtics-Heat game for charity||03.21.12 at 11:52 am ET|
Celtics fans have the chance to watch the Celtics take on the Heat on April 1 from Paul Pierce‘s personal luxury suite, as Pierce is offering 12 tickets to fans through a special online raffle. Raffle tickets cost $2 apiece with a minimum purchase of five tickets, and all proceeds go to benefit Pierce’s Truth on Health Campaign.
Truth on Health is Pierce’s non-profit organization that aims to encourage and empower young people to lead healthier lifestyles. Tickets can be purchased online at www.netraffle.org and the winner will be selected on March 30 at 11 a.m. In addition to the tickets, the winner will receiver $500 worth of food and drinks in the suite, a basketball autographed by Pierce, and 12 Pierce activity watches.
‘I am thrilled to offer my fans a chance to sit in my suite while helping to raise funds to support my Truth on Health Campaign,’ Pierce said in a press release. ‘It is critical for kids to understand that staying active and eating healthy are the keys to leading a happy and fulfilling life, and all of the funds we raise will help give kids the tools and information they need to live a healthy lifestyle.’
For more information on Truth on Health, visit truthonhealth.org.
|Paul Pierce looks back after 1,000th game as a Celtic||03.10.12 at 10:26 am ET|
Paul Pierce played in his 1,000th game for the Celtics in Friday night’s 104-86 victory over the Blazers. Only Robert Parish (1,106 games) and John Havlicek (1,270 games) have played more games for the franchise than Pierce. Earlier this season, Pierce passed legend Kevin McHale on the all-time list for games played as a Celtic.
“When you think about your first game ever here at the Garden and your just excited to get your career started,” Pierce said. “Now so many years have past and I’ve reached a thousand games. You think, wow, it’s a combination of being here a long time and I’m getting older.”
In February, Pierce reached new heights in Celtic lure, passing Larry Bird for second place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. Overall, however, this season has been a roller-coaster ride for Pierce, like most of the Celtics. After missing the first three games because of a right-heel injury, Pierce struggled to find his game. This led to speculation that Pierce was involved in trade talks.
The captain regained form when the Celtics needed him most though. Pierce led the Celtics during a critical stretch, when Rajon Rondo was out of the lineup because of a wrist injury, earning Eastern conference Player of the Week honors in early February, and also a trip to his 10th All-Star selection.
For Pierce the milestones seem to resonate in the right way. He wants to retire a Celtic, wants to be mentioned among the all-time greats, but his main goals are rings, not statistics.
“I think the fans will really appreciate another championship more than me passing Hondo,’ Pierce said the night he passed Bird. ‘So, you know, that’s my ultimate goal.”
|Trade Rumor: Celtics interested in Michael Beasley||03.08.12 at 3:06 pm ET|
Minnesota forward Michael Beasley turned 23 less than two months ago, and in four seasons in the NBA he’s averaged 15.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He’s also making 42 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Beasley has also been durable more than you’d expect. He missed only 14 games in his first three seasons in the league, and while he missed 11 games with a foot injury, he’s been back in the Wolves lineup since late January.
But Beasley doesn’t really fit with Minnesota, who have Kevin Love entrenched at the power forward spot and rookie Derrick Williams ready for more playing time. He will be a restricted free agent this summer with a qualifying offer of $8.1 million, per Sham Sports contract database. He can be had, but the question is for how much?
Ken Berger of CBS Sports notes the Celtics, Lakers and Orlando are interested in Beasley. A trade for free agent center Jermaine O’Neal straight-up works cap-wise, but the Wolves would certainly want more than an aging center contemplating wrist surgery. The Celtics will have two first round picks in this year’s draft — their own and one obtained from the Clippers, via the Kendrick Perkins trade. (The pick is top-10 protected through 2016, but the Clips are headed for the playoffs and have the fourth-best record in the Western Conference).
Celtics president Danny Ainge has never been afraid to take chances on talent that hasn’t fit in other places. Beasley was the No. 2 pick in the draft, but was dumped on the Wolves for cash and second round draft picks when the Heat cleared cap space to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Would he be worth a mid to late-round pick in what has been described as a deep draft?
In the same report, Berger also notes that the Celtics are “prepared to entertain offers for Paul Pierce,” and that while the Clippers may be interested in Ray Allen, they don’t have the assets for a deal. Finally, Berger writes that Ainge would have to be “blown away” for a deal involving Rajon Rondo.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to discuss his team’s 103-71 blowout loss to the Sixers, his reported relationship troubles with Rajon Rondo, and the outlook for the rest of the season.
This lockout-shortened season has been mediocre at best for the 20-18 Celtics, who, after Wednesday’s loss, remain seventh in the conference. Wednesday’s loss marked a definitive low point, as the Celtics had a chance to take over the top-spot in the Atlantic Division against a Sixers team that lost eight of its last 10. Instead, Boston never stood a chance. The 32-point blowout was the worst of the Big Three era, and the 71-point effort matched a season-low in total points. The Celtics also did not make a single three-pointer, going 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in the worst three-point performance since an 0-for-10 showing against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 21, 2005.
“Two stats [stand out], really,” Rivers said. “The ‘0’ stands out and the eight. We usually take more threes, number one, and we usually make a couple. What’s amazing, the first half, that’s when I was concerned because we were getting really good shots, open shots and everything was front-rim, so you just knew it was going to be one of those nights.”
The schedule only gets worse for the Celtics, who will play one game at home before embarking on an eight-game, 12-day road trip. Rivers said the road trip will be especially difficult for his team, as they are older and not in typical form after the lockout altered their preseason preparation. Rivers admitted that he underestimated how much the lockout would affect the team, and said he thinks some of the results of the lockout are manifesting in his team’s play.
“I underestimated a couple of things,” Rivers said. “Number one, the lack of practice time, how that all was going to affect us and every team. And you know, one thing we didn’t do where some teams did, I don’t think all of our guys came in to the beginning of camp in great shape. And I thought when you’re an older team and you’re not in great shape and you don’t have a lot of time to get in shape, I thought that really affected us.”
In spite of the many issues currently facing the Celtics, Rivers said a reported personnel feud between Rondo and him is a non-factor. Rivers denied any personal problem with Rondo despite reports from multiple media members to the contrary.
“We have had arguments,” River said. “So have Paul [Pierce] and I. … You don’t get along all the time. But when it becomes personal is when I think you have a personality clash. Our personal relationship is very good. So it keeps coming up and I guess it will. I don’t know why.”
|Fast Break: Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT)||03.04.12 at 4:02 pm ET|
You can count the number of times Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce both played well in the same game this season on one hand, but two of those occasions occurred this weekend. In a related story, the Celtics won their fourth straight game, 115-111 against the Knicks in overtime on Sunday afternoon.
Rondo recorded his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season — and second in three games — totaling 18 points, a season-high 20 assists and 17 rebounds. According to Elias, Rondo is just the third player in NBA history with at least 15 points, 20 assists and 15 rebounds in a single game, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson in that exclusive category. Pierce added 34 points, seven rebounds and three assists as the Celtics improved to 19-17 and moved to 1.5 games up on the Knicks (18-19) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Absent for much of the game, Jeremy Lin (14 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) led a fourth-quarter charge to help the Knicks take the lead twice in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Pierce made a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to play, and Carmelo Anthony missed a jump shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.
And then Rondo put the finishing touches on the Knicks in overtime, as the Celtics made 45 field goals in the game, and Rondo had a hand in 27 of them.
|Paul Pierce consoles Rajon Rondo: ‘I was part of trade rumors… four or five straight years’||03.03.12 at 9:35 am ET|
As captain, Pierce felt the time was right before Friday night’s game against the Nets to deliver a message about the persistent trade rumors involving Boston’s mercurial point guard.
‘Well it’s nothing we haven’t been through before,” Pierce said after dropping 27 on the Nets in Boston’s 107-94 win that once again put the Celtics above .500 at 18-17. “Rondo’s been through it, I’ve been though it a number of times. The thing is you have to do your job, you can’t let that affect you. I kind of mentioned it to Rondo today, you know I was part of trade rumors for probably four or five straight years. I just didn’t let it affect me on how I approached each and every game. You know whatever happens, happens, it’s business. Sometimes you don’t have control of it.’
Rondo ignored the noise and went out in the first half and showed that as long as he’s in Boston, he will be the game-changer that Celtics fans have grown accustomed to. Like in the second quarter, when Rondo told everyone to get up-tempo on D and pressure the ball coming up the court.
The result: Five turnovers in a 14-0 Celtics run that – for all intents and purposes – put the game out of reach. Rondo finished with 14 points, 13 assists and five steals, with all five coming in the first half fury.
“He said before the game, ‘Let’s be aggressive. Defensively, let’s be active.’ And we followed his lead,” Kevin Garnett said of Rondo.
Rondo had help as Mickael Pietrus was a defensive force, implementing Rondo’s plan to perfection and getting nasty on whoever was trying to take the ball up the court.
‘Well you know Pietrus has started some games for us before and he’s been spectacular,” Pierce said. “He is able to come off the bench or start and give us great minutes for his defensive and shooting ability.
‘I think it definitely goes to another level, because he’s our energy guy that we use off the bench . You know when he’s out there to start the game he gets us off to a great start, he’s such a great rebounder for his size, and he can spread the floor with his point shooting. It was a real big lift to have him out there. We knew we were missing Ray tonight but we knew Pietrus could fill in.’
Now, the Celtics and their newfound pressure D will be tested by Jeremy Lin and the Knicks on Sunday, with Boston riding a three-game win streak.
‘I think we are moving the ball a lot better and hopefully hitting our stride right here at home,” Pierce said. “We are playing better basketball. We have a huge West coast trip coming up for us in the next couple weeks, so it’s important for us to get as many wins as we can under our belt before we hit the road.’
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