|Irish Coffee: Cutting Big Three’s minutes to win it||05.13.11 at 1:04 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Plenty of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s comments on The Big Show on Thursday incited debate, and perhaps none more than the potential of bringing team captain Paul Pierce off the bench in favor of starting Jeff Green next season.
“Maybe Paul comes off the bench to cut down on his minutes. ‘¦ That’s just hypothetical,” said Ainge. “I have no idea if that’s going to happen. If Jeff is back next year, I think his role will be expanded, and it wouldn’t shock me if the starting five is different.”
Now, whether or not Pierce becomes the team’s Sixth Man in 2011-12 (doubtful, in my eyes), Ainge’s larger point is a good one: The Celtics need to cut down on the minutes next year for Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and possibly even Rajon Rondo, and the best way to do that is to increase opportunities for young talent like Green (age 24), Avery Bradley (20) and Free Agent X.
As a result of injuries to Delonte West, Marquis Daniels and the O’Neal “brothers,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers called on the Big Four more over the course of this regular season than he did in 2009-10, when the C’s reached the NBA Finals. With three of those guys entering the autumn of their careers and the other dealing with injuries to almost every part of his body, that’s not what the Doc was looking for.
Here are the per-minute averages for the Celtics’ core for the last two regular seasons …
- Paul Pierce: 34.0 in 2009-10, and 34.7 in 2010-11
- Ray Allen: 35.2 in 2009-10, and 36.1 in 2010-11
- Kevin Garnett: 29.9 in 2009-10, and 31.3 in 2010-11
- Rajon Rondo: 36.6 in 2009-10, and 37.2 in 2010-11
Those numbers should be declining, not climbing (unless, in Rondo’s case, he’s completely healthy). It’s kind of like when people sell their grandfather’s 1988 Buick with only 97,000 miles on it: “Other than running a few errands during the week, he mostly drove it on the highway to see his grandchildren every Sunday.” In this scenario, the playoffs would be that Sunday drive out on the highway.
|Fast Break: Celtics fall as Heat turn it on in overtime||05.09.11 at 10:06 pm ET|
Behind 35 points and 14 rebounds from LeBron James, the Heat took the Celtics to overtime, where Miami outscored the C’s 12-4 and captured a 98-90 victory Monday night that pushed Boston to the brink of elimination entering Game 5 on Wednesday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
LeBron James goes off: As impressive as Pierce was, James matched him every step of the way. He scored 20 first-half points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed five rebounds before the break. He and Dwyane Wade combined for 34 of the Heat’s 50 first-half points. Outside of that duo, who kept their team with three points in the opening 24 minutes, the Heat role players struggled severely, shooting just 7-of-18 in the first half.
Second-half offense: Probably fatigued, the Celtics ran a stagnant offense in the second half — moving the ball slowly. After shooting 58.1 percent from the field as a team in the first half, the C’s made just 12-of-39 (30.8 percent) in the second half and overtime.
Chris Bosh’s third quarter: The Heat desperately needed somebody other than James or Wade to step up in the second half, and Bosh answered that call. In the third quarter alone, he made 3-of-4 shots for six points in addition to grabbing seven rebounds — actually pushing the Heat lead to four points at one point. Meanwhile, Garnett missed all four of his shots in the third quarter. The third member of Miami’s Big Three kept the Heat within striking distance entering the fourth quarter (73-69). Bosh outscored Garnett by 13 points.
Big Baby’s funk is severe: Struggling for most of the playoffs, Davis took two jump shots that didn’t even approach touching the rim. He scored just four points on 1-of-4 shooting and did not grab a rebound or dish out an assist. This is a guy who received votes for Sixth Man of the Year, and he’s been giving the Celtics nothing in this series.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce heats up early, again: Despite a less than capacity crowd at the start the game as a result of a traffic jam, Pierce showed up early — recording 16 points on six shots to go along with four rebounds in the first quarter. The Celtics led by as many as eight points and led 31-28 after the opening 12 minutes, giving the late-arriving fans plenty to cheer.
Jermaine O’Neal contributes: O’Neal produced eight points, three rebounds and two assists before halftime, providing much-needed energy at the center position. However, he did not score and grabbed only one rebound after halftime. Defensively, O’Neal neutralized Joel Anthony (4 points, 4 rebounds), who got his first start of the playoffs.
The bench presses the Heat: In perhaps their most impressive stretch of the postseason, a Celtics lineup of Jeff Green, Delonte West, Glen Davis, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal played the first 5:06 of the second quarter, actually stretching the C’s lead to as many as 11 points (42-31). A Green corner 3-pointer and a pair of West pull-up jumpers highlighted a run that forced the Heat to call for a timeout.
The NBA announced the referee crew for Game 4 of the Celtics‘ playoff series with the Heat, and it consists of Monty McCutchen, Tony Brothers and Derrick Stafford. Rodney Mott is the alternate.
McCutchen was on the TD Garden court for the Celtics’ 87-85 comeback victory over the Knicks in Game 1 of the first round on April 17. That game featured a couple a couple of controversial calls that went the Celtics’ way. McCutchen called Carmelo Anthony for an offensive foul for pushing off Paul Pierce while trying to get room to receive the ball with 21 seconds left and the Knicks holding a one-point lead. Then, when Knicks guard Toney Douglas tripped over Kevin Garnett‘s leg on a screen while Ray Allen hit the game-winning shot, no foul was called.
In the last three playoff games McCutchen has officiated this postseason (Mavericks-Trail Blazers on April 28, Hawks-Bulls on May 2, Mavericks-Lakers on May 4), the visiting team has won.
Brothers has refereed four games this postseason, all wins by the home team. He officiated the Heat in the first round, a 97-91 victory over the 76ers on April 27 that ended that series in five games.
Stafford will be officiating a Celtics game for the first time this postseason. According to former referee Tim Donaghy, Stafford has had some issues with the Heat in past years. Donaghy wrote in his book about his gambling problems that Stafford “despised Heat coach Pat Riley” in reference to a 2007 game between the Heat and Knicks, although Donaghy’s assertion that Stafford was biased in that game was debunked by reporters’ analysis. Riley now is Miami’s team president.
|Kevin Garnett’s blog: ‘You got a flash of what we got’||05.08.11 at 2:37 pm ET|
Fight night tonight! Big game tonight and props to my boy No. 9 [Rajon Rondo] fighting back from injury. Team was in sync and ball moved well. We got big stops when we needed it. P2 [Paul Pierce] fought through cramps tonight, so props to him as well. Thanks to ZICO [coconut water] for getting me through the fourth quarter! No cramps and felt good.
Having the Big Shamrock [Shaquille O’Neal] with us was big, and everyone played a role! If you watched the game, you got a flash of what we got left. Felt good and had on the new Antas!!!!
Keep believing in us and Reach higher.
Garnett’s 28 points in the 97-81 Game 3 victory against the Heat tied for his second-highest total in green — and best since the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals. His 18 rebounds set a new high for his Celtics career. As he did in his blog, Garnett deflected praise to his teammates in his postgame press conference.
“I’ve been in a zone, and that wasn’t it,” he said. “Man, I’ve been in a zone, and that wasn’t it. I had a nice rhythm going. Guys looked for me. I had Rondo and Paul encouraging me. Like I said, I’ve got to continue to be aggressive. It gives us a force and another source of scoring. At the same time, I can’t lose my focus on trying to slow [Chris] Bosh down and making sure that that is even ground.”
Equally as impressive as his offensive output was Garnett’s defense. He held Bosh to six points on 1-of-6 shooting and five rebounds in 30 minutes of Game 3 action. The Heat forward had averaged a double-double and outplayed Garnett in the first two games.
|Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I believe Shaq’s playing’ in Game 3||05.06.11 at 4:29 pm ET|
It’s becoming clearer that Shaquille O’Neal is finally ready to return to the court. Celtics president Danny Ainge was a guest on The Big Show Friday afternoon and he said that yes, he believes O’Neal will be ready to play Saturday when the Celtics resume their series with Miami. “I think Shaq is going to give it a go tomorrow,” Ainge said. “We’ll see. I believe Shaq’s playing tomorrow.”
Asked about expectations for him, Ainge said it was impossible to predict. “I don’t know the answer to that yet,” Ainge said. “It will be determined by how well he plays and how effective he is and how he feels.”
Reminded that there was skepticism that Shaq would play after so many false starts, Ainge said, “I think all those times there was some hope because he was making progress but I see more in him right now than any of those times. I understand. I can’t sit here and say 100 percent either. I’m not skeptical of what I’m saying but there’s no certainty until you see him out there.”
Here are more highlights from a wide-ranging interview:
On what concerns him the most: “My biggest concern is that I have a great deal of respect for our opponents. I think they’re playing very well. The second biggest thing is were not playing at a high enough level. We’re having too many breakdowns. We’re not playing our best basketball. We need to. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re playing this team.”
On Paul Pierce’s ejection in Game 1: “I still don’t agree with the ejection. I’ve argued my case to the league. They disagreed with me obviously but I don’t agree with the ejection.”
On the play that led to Pierce and Dwyane Wade getting double technicals and an automatic ejection for Pierce: There’s a screen. There was a guy that hit the screen hard and there’s some taunting, both sides sort of chirping at each other I think you can justify the play from an official’s standpoint. When you look at how Dwyane Wade goes through screens throughout the course of the game and you look at that particular play, you see that he did not try to fight through the screen, he was intentionally running through the screen. I think that was much more of flagrant foul than Jermaine O’Neal’s who bumped a cutter going through the lane, which you’re sort of taught to do in practice. The league rescinded that but those were two huge calls.
On what Pierce said to Dwyane Wade: “He said, ‘That’s not going to bother me.’ With a little bit more colorful language. The bottom line is Paul was not taunting. Paul was not starting a confrontation. He knew what Wade was doing. Wade ran right through them and he was basically like you’re going to get me to that way. There’s trash talking that goes on throughout the game. You can make a case that you can call a technical overtime down the court if you’re going to base it on what [Pierce] did.”
On what Ainge told Pierce: “What I told was this, ‘Paul I think it was ridiculous that you were ejected from the game. I did not think that warranted a technical foul. But the first technical in your little nose-rubbing with James Jones, you can’t do that because it takes away any room for error.’ You just never know what’s going to happen. I thought that one was uncalled for and he should have avoided that one. He was flagrantly fouled by James Jones, but so what? Get up and make the free throws, take the ball out of bounds and stay away from that confrontation. I think Paul’s emotions were in control. I think Paul was playing the game the way he always plays the game.”
Ainge added that the officials weren’t the reason the Celtics lost in Miami. “I will just say this: As frustrating as it at times for me, we do have the best officials in any league,” Ainge said. “We have the best of the best. It’s frustrating that they’re not perfect. It’s frustrating that they don’t see it the way I see it all the time. The officials are not the reason that we’re down 0-2.”
On Jeff Green: “I think he has provided us a lot. I’m not down on Jeff Green in any way. I think Jeff is a good player who’s trying to find his way. The other night you saw he was capable.”
On Nenad Krstic: “What happened with Krstic, he got off to a great start and then he went into a little bit of a funk. I thought he was going through a phase where he was just thinking too much. Then he bruised his knee. Then he bruised his knee a second time. I would say right now he’s just back healthy. Right now. He’s been able to play. He’s not been 100 percent.”
|Doc Rivers says Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce are good to go Saturday||05.05.11 at 3:04 pm ET|
WALTHAM — After a lengthy film session and practice Thursday at their facility in Waltham, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pronounced everyone ready to play in Saturday’s Game 3 against the Heat at TD Garden.
Most notably, Shaquille O’Neal – according to Rivers – will be able to make his playoff debut for the Celtics after missing the first round and first two games of the Heat series with a sore right calf. Rivers said Paul Pierce also will be able to play, despite a sore Achilles that cropped up during the Game 2 loss Tuesday night in Miami. Pierce, however, was held out of Thursday’s practice as a precaution.
“Everybody’s good,” Rivers said. “Everybody is feeling pretty good. Shaq went through practice. We didn’t do anything today, we just watched film and walked over [some] stuff. Then, the second unit worked on their stuff but right now, we expect every single guy, including Shaq, to play in Game 3.
“Honestly, today, [Pierce] could’ve played in a real game but we were not going to let him practice today because his foot, Achilles, is bothering him but he would be fine.”
Rajon Rondo (back) and Ray Allen (bruised chest) took part in Thursday’s workout and are also expected to be ready. The Celtics will practice again on Friday before taking on the Heat Saturday night, trailing the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series, 2-0.
|Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce must captain Celtics ship||05.04.11 at 12:31 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
This was Paul Pierce‘s signature season. Reaching the 20,000-point plateau, he had left the 2005 version of himself behind — turning in the most efficient season of his 13-year career during the hunt for a second NBA championship banner that would further cement his legacy as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time.
“I’m trying to get another one,” Pierce told Celtics legend Bill Russell in a recent conversation on NBA.com. “I’m going to go out and get it, just like you did.”
And then the first two games of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals happened.
Now, Pierce finds himself in a place he’s only been twice in his great Boston tenure — down 2-0 in a playoff series — and both times he’s been swept. But that was before he partnered with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, before he matured into an unselfish player who put team first and before he earned an NBA Finals MVP.
That partnership, maturity and unselfishness was nowhere to be found in Game 1, when he lost his head not once but twice in the heat of playoff battle — an all too familiar reminder of the guy who got tossed from Game 6 of a 2005 playoff series against the Pacers, waved his jersey over his head to incite the Indiana crowd and wore a mock bandage around his jaw during the post-game press conference.
In Game 2, Pierce took just 11 shots and two free throws for 13 points; he recorded only one assist. Where is the guy that shot nearly 50 percent for the regular season and dished out more than three assists per game? Sure, you could blame that in part on his strained left Achilles tendon, but he still played 33 minutes and said, “It didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.”
Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, LeBron James, turned in a signature performance with 35 points on 14-of-25 shooting. There was a time, not too long ago, when Pierce was capable of giving James a run for his money. Remember Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, when The Truth lived up to his nickname and negated LeBron’s 45-point outing with 41 points of his own?
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