|Irish Coffee: Bulls consider Celtics ‘dangerous team’||02.13.12 at 11:17 am ET|
BOSTON — The Celtics haven’t had two days off between home games for more than a month — and won’t again until April — so the process of building a cohesive team capable of contending in the Eastern Conference continues for head coach Doc Rivers in Waltham on Monday and Tuesday.
“If you want quality product, you have to give time for quality product to be quality. And you have to have time for that,” said Kevin Garnett, who totaled 13 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in Sunday’s win over the Bulls. “It’s not just something just because you have four guys who have been together — you’ve got a whole group of guys that’s in here, and chemistry is everything. And I’m not going to back off that. So, we have some days where we do have some practice time, and you’ll see a better, more quality product, so I’m happy for that.”
Of course, the same was said on Jan. 7 when the Celtics had a stretch of four days off between home games, and then promptly lost four straight to cap the longest losing streak of this Big Three era (5 games). Since then, though, the Celtics have won 11 of their last 15 games — including a string of nine out of 10 — capped by the 95-91 victory against the Bulls, albeit without reigning MVP Derrick Rose in the lineup.
“That team is very experienced, and I think that they’re playing at a very high level,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who served as an assistant under Rivers during the 2007-10 glory years. “As I said before the game, even in the Lakers game I thought they played very well and could’ve won that, of course they won the nine out of 10 and I throw out the Toronto game because to me that was a scheduling game. They had back-to-back — a late start here and then the travel to Toronto — so that was a tough game for them.
“Throw that one out, they’re playing at a very high level,” added Thibs. “When you have [Paul] Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin and [Rajon] Rondo running the team, their bench has been playing very well, they’ve been getting a number of contributions from different people, so they’re going to be a dangerous team.”
|Doc Rivers is prepared for all the ‘Jurassic Park’ jokes||02.10.12 at 8:29 am ET|
Usually, even after a gut-punching loss like Thursday night to the Lakers, Doc Rivers can put a positive spin on things.
Such was definitely not the case after his team looked old and slow to loose balls and rebounds in an 88-87 overtime loss at the Garden.
Part of the problem was in the stat sheet where both teams shot 39 percent in a game that had just 11 combined points in the five-minute overtime.
“Listen, both teams shot 39 percent,” Rivers said. “Someone had to win. That’s how it looked. Game looked in slow motion at times. So, I’m sure all the jokes [are out there about] two old teams and Jurassic Park.”
Another issue was the Celtics‘ inability to deal with the Lakers’ size in the front court, as the visitors outrebounded the Green, 55-45.
One bright spot, however, was the defense of Mickael Pietrus on Kobe Bryant for most of the night. Bryant finished with a game-high 27 points but was 11-of-24 from the field and didn’t get a shot off until 2:54 left in the first quarter.
“They’re tough,” Rivers said. “They’re really long. They’re good. I thought we did a pretty good job on Kobe, overall. We mixed up our coverages. I thought every time we did trap, they got an offensive rebound because we’re scrambling as far as our rotations. I thought Pietrus did a phenomenal job on him.”
But oh, those rebounds, loose balls and intangibles when you play a team like the Lakers, even if they’re getting old, too. The Celtics were beaten in the paint, 46-38, and on second-chance points, 24-13.
‘We talked about it before the game: longer teams, you’ve got to go hit them,” Rivers said. “You’ve got to put a body on them. If you think you can just turn and rebound when a guy’s five inches taller than you, it’s not going to happen. I bet they got four or five rebounds where we were actually in the inside position; they just reached over us. But you know, if you drive them back, they can’t get those. Then it’s over your back.’
|Fast Break: Celtics suffer overtime loss to Lakers||02.09.12 at 10:51 pm ET|
The entire OT was a struggle for both teams, so an Andrew Bynum tip-in with 1:29 to play proved the difference. The Lakers outscored the Celtics 6-5 in the extra period.
With a little more than a minute remaining in regulation and the Celtics trailing by one, Allen converted his second 3-pointer of the night to give the Celtics an 82-80 lead as “Beat L.A.” chants rained down from the Garden rafters. But Pau Gasol tied the game with nine seconds remaining, and the final Celtics play before overtime resulted in a wild, failed 30-footer by Mickael PIetrus.
Gasol (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Andrew Bynum (16 points, 17 rebounds) both registered double-doubles, and Kobe Bryant added 27 points for the Lakers (15-11).
Allen’s 22 points led the Celtics (14-11) in scoring, Kevin Garnett (12 points, 12 rebounds) recorded a double-double, and Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for 32 points and 14 assists. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the C’s.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Spry Bynum: Jermaine O’Neal and the other veteran Boston bigs had trouble with Lakers 24-year-old center Andrew Bynum‘s youth and athleticism. A healthy Bynum is a dangerous Bynum, as the 7-footer nearly had a double-double by halftime. In fact, Doc Rivers turned to Chris Wilcox for a stretch — his first extended minutes with the Big Four.
Board room: Along similar lines, the Lakers size exploited an issue that’s plagued the Celtics this season — namely, rebounding. Bynum, Gasol and old friend Troy Murphy of all people corralled 40 rebounds as the Lakers out-boarded the Celtics, 55-45. Uncharacteristically, Rondo didn’t record a rebound until there was three minutes to play.
Backing up the point: With Keyon Dooling still sidelined and a suited up Avery Bradley considered doubtful before the game, Rivers could only turn to E’Twaun Moore for backup point guard minutes behind Rondo. Moore played four first-half minutes and registered a minus-8, so the Celtics had no choice but to play Rondo 40-plus minutes.
|The All-Star cases for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo||at 12:33 am ET|
Through his first 11 games of the season, Paul Pierce averaged less than 15 points a game and shot 37 percent from the floor. He also averaged fewer than five rebounds and a little more than four assists.
The Celtics lost six of those 11 games, including the first-ever five-game losing streak in the new Big Three era, and when that was combined with an 0-3 start without Pierce while he was recovering from a bone bruise in his heel, there were naturally questions about whether it was all over for this group of Celtics.
Then Pierce scored 34 points against the Wizards to go with eight rebounds and 10 assists, and that kickstarted a remarkable renaissance. Over the next 10 games, Pierce averaged 22.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists and the Celtics went 9-1 with Pierce leading the way.
Are those 10 games enough to make Pierce an All-Star?
Through the first 13 games of the Celtics season, Rajon Rondo essentially carried the offense. With Pierce injured and then working his way back into game condition and Kevin Garnett off to a slow start, the Celtics asked Rondo to take on more of an aggressive role and he attempted almost 200 shots (making 52 percent of them) while handing out 122 assists.
The Celtics weren’t good, but Rondo was, rebuilding his reputation after a late-season swoon in 2011 and an offseason of trade rumors. Then Rondo fell awkwardly on his right wrist and missed eight games. The Celtics went 6-2 and when he came back he was able to return to his preferred playmaking role, racking up 28 assists in his last two games.
Are 16 games enough to make the All-Star team?
After the starters are chosen by the fans, the reserves are selected by the coaches who vote for two guards, two forwards, a center and two wild-card choices. They will be announced before the Celtics play the Lakers on TNT on Thursday night. There are roughly 20 players in the East who could be considered for the honor, but only a few truly stand out. Compare that to the West where the competition is tighter, but also much tougher.
It says more about the Eastern Conference than it does the seasons that Pierce and Rondo are having that the answer is yes — although there is more of a debate in Rondo’s case.
With the obvious exception of LeBron James — who is the clear front-runner for MVP — Pierce has been the most productive small forward in the East. Among players at his position in the Eastern Conference, Pierce ranks second in true shooting and assist percentage behind LeBron and he grabs rebounds at roughly the same rate as Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng.
That’s including the first 11 games when even considering Pierce for an All-Star berth would have been laughable. His last 10 make his selection an obvious choice.
Rondo’s competition among point guards comes from the trio of Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams and rookie Kyrie Irving. In Rondo’s favor he has the highest True Shooting, assist percentage and rebound rate among the four guards. Working against him is the simple fact that he’s missed a third of the team’s games in this condensed schedule.
It should also be noted that picking an All-Star team after 24 games of a season like this essentially comes down to subjective arguments. Does Rondo get credit for picking up his game when his team needed him, or penalized for not winning more games? Without Williams, are the Nets the Bobcats? The argument here is that Rondo has been statistically the second-best point guard in the East after Derrick Rose, but the margin is thin.
Here are my selections for both the East and Western Conference All-Stars.
Guards: Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson
Forwards: Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh
Center: Tyson Chandler (narrowly over Anderson Varejao)
Wild cards: Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith
Toughest omissions: Deron Williams, Greg Monroe, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Garnett, somebody from the Pacers
Forwards: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge
Center: Marc Gasol
Wild cards: Tony Parker, Paul Millsap
Toughest omission by far: James Harden
|VIDEO: The night Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the Celtics all-time scoring list||02.08.12 at 1:11 pm ET|
|Paul Pierce vs. John Havlicek according to Paul Silas||at 12:45 am ET|
BOSTON — On the night Celtics captain Paul Pierce surpassed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the team’s all-time scoring list behind John Havlicek, one of Hondo’s former teammates happened to be on the opposing bench.
While Pierce and Havlicek now rank 1-2 among C’s career points leaders, Bobcats head coach Paul Silas — who won two NBA titles in four seasons on the Celtics from 1972-76 — knows they took different paths to get there.
“Theyr’e kind of different players,” said Silas. “Havlicek was just very aggressive, running all the time. He’d get up and down the floor, ran and banked shots off the board. Pierce is more of a guy going 1-on-1. Havlicek didn’t do that. And Pierce is more of a long-range shooter. Havlicek could shoot long-range, but that wasn’t really his game.”
|Fast Break: Pierce, Celtics take down Bird, Bobcats||02.07.12 at 9:47 pm ET|
BOSTON — All went according to plan for the Celtics in a 94-84 defeat of the Bobcats. Captain Paul Pierce climbed another rung on the team’s all-time scoring list, passing Larry Bird for No. 2 behind John Havlicek, and the C’s picked up their season-best fifth straight victory and ninth win in their last 10 in the process.
PIerce amassed 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Celtics (14-10) reached four games over .500 for the first time this season. The remaining Big Four and Brandon Bass (13 points) all reached double figures as well (Kevin Garnett 22, Ray Allen 17 and Rajon Rondo 10).
UConn’s Kemba Walker totaled 16 points and seven rebounds in defeat for the lowly Bobcats (3-22).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
A Bird in hand: With 10:22 remaining in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Bobcats, Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the team’s all-time scoring list. After 13-plus seasons in a Celtics uniform, the 34-year-old Pierce entered the game needing just nine points to tie (and 10 to pass) Bird, who finished his 13-year career with 21,791 points. After scoring seven first-half points to close within two of Larry Legend, The Truth made his fourth 3-point attempt to clip Bird’s wings.
KG’s hot start: Garnett made four of his first five field goal attempts and reached double figures by halftime. He even attempted another 3-pointer, which he missed (But he can shoot 3s, Ok!). Rivers has been on KG all season to assert himself into the offense more regularly, and Garnett did just that — leading all Celtics scorers with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go along with seven boards.
Rounding into form: For much of the season, somebody in the Celtics nine-man rotation (the starters plus Bass, Mickael Pietrus, Chris Wilcox and Avery Bradley) has either been sidelined or still recovering from injury. Not so against the Bobcats. All played, and all — with the possible exception of Wilcox — played admirably. Five of the nine reached double figures, Rondo recorded double-digit assists for the third consecutive night, O’Neal grabbed eight rebounds and Bradley made both of his field goals while playing his usual pesky defense and spelling Rondo for the entire fourth quarter. The C’s are hitting their stride.
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