|Fast Break: Grizzlies attack Celtics||03.23.11 at 10:06 pm ET|
Leon Powe and Tony Allen combined for 21 points and seven rebounds against their old team, and the Celtics fell a full game behind the Bulls in the race for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed after a 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies (40-32) Wednesday night at the Garden.
Rajon Rondo missed 10 of his 12 shots from the field — including what would have been the go-ahead runner with 19 seconds left — but managed 11 assists and 11 rebounds for the Celtics (50-20). The C’s had two more chances to tie the game trailing 90-87 with 13 seconds remaining, but the first attempt ended up in a Glen Davis missed a 3-pointer. Memphis’ Marc Gasol missed both free throws on the other end, and Paul Pierce (game-high 22 points) had a chance for a triple — but that fell short, too.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Slow shooting start: The Celtics shot just 5-of-15 (0-for-2 from 3-point range) from the field in the first quarter, and the Big Four were to blame, making only 2-of-11 attempts. In fact, Tony Allen had more points in the opening 12 minutes as Pierce and Ray Allen combined. Of course, anybody with two points could’ve made that claim. As a result, the Celtics trailed 20-15 and found themselves once again playing from behind in the early going.
Leon Powe: Prior to the game, Doc Rivers said the Celtics had interest in Powe as a buyout option, but hesitated based on the condition of his knee. Well, the knee appeared just fine against the C’s, as Powe (at one point) led all scorers on Wednesday. He finished with 13 points.
Taking care of the ball: The Celtics committed 20 turnovers — leading to 16 Grizzlies’ points — and the biggest culprit was their center, Nenad Krstic. After a 2-for-2 start from the field, it wasn’t a good night for Krstic overall. The C’s big man committed four of those turnovers, missed his final four shots and committed more fouls (5) than he grabbed rebounds (2).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rajon Rondo attacking the basket: With the Celtics falling behind by 10 early in the second quarter, Rondo sliced to the basket, took on a defender and wrapped a layup underneath him. The C’s closed out the half on a 21-10 run that included a nice give-and-go between Rondo and Delonte West, a nifty Rondo pick that resulted in an and-one for Glen Davis, and a heads-up play in which Rondo fired a ball off a Grizzly to prevent a turnover.
At the break, Rondo had already accumulated six points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, prompting some early triple-double whispers throughout the Garden.
Free-throw shooting: Entering the game, the Celtics ranked in the middle of the pack (16th) in terms of team free-throw percentage (76.4), but they’ve picked it up of late, shooting a combined 63-of-78 (80.8 percent) in their last three victories. Wednesday night was no different, as the Celtics made 22-of-23 free-throw attempts (95.7 percent) in defeat.
3-point shooting … until the final seconds: After starting 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, the Celtics made seven of their next 11 longballs. Two back-to-back treys from Allen in the second quarter helped the Celtics draw within two points. And a Pierce triple late in the fourth quarter brought the C’s within one at 86-85 with three minutes remaining in the game. But the Celtics missed those two game-tying attempts in the final 13 seconds.
|Doc Rivers on Paul Pierce: ‘He’s the sneakiest athlete in the league’||03.17.11 at 2:52 pm ET|
This has been an ongoing, and underrated, part of the Celtics season, but Paul Pierce has been finishing at the rim at a 72.4 percent clip. To put that in perspective, that percentage ranks fourth among NBA small forwards and is a slight tick ahead of LeBron James, who admittedly gets there more often.
For most of the season Pierce has quietly gone about his business, but in recent weeks he has been executing highlight-film poster dunks on players ranging from Kris Humphries to Carlos Delfino to the entire Clipper frontline and extending into Wednesday night’s dunk on Roy Hibbert. (Reds Army has the video highlights).
While Pierce doesn’t fit the mold of a high-flyer, this doesn’t come as a surprise to Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
“I told you this years ago when I first got here. I used to get so pissed when we played the Celtics because I used to think this non-athletic guy keeps beating us,” Rivers said. “Then when you coach him you realize he’s a super athlete. He just plays at a pace [where] he doesn’t show it. He’s the sneakiest athlete in the league.”
|Celtics don’t see a big point to setting a new team record||03.14.11 at 7:41 am ET|
No team in the shot clock era had ever scored a few as the 56 points the Bucks managed Sunday night in an 87-56 Celtics’ win.
But the Celtics weren’t exactly popping champagne corks afterward.
Asked if he were aware of the new record his team just set, Paul Pierce quipped, ‘No, I didn’t have my NBA record book on the bench with me tonight so I didn’t realize.’
To Pierce and the rest of the Celtics, Sunday night was more about getting back to 48 minutes of quality defensive basketball and not suffering breakdowns and let downs in communication following losses to the Clippers and Sixers.
‘It was definitely encouraging just to put together a four-quarter game of defense,” Pierce said. “I definitely thought we did that tonight. Especially when we are integrating a lot of new players, coming back home after coming off of two losses, it was just to get back comfortable in our building and play the type of defense that we like to play.’
Doc Rivers looked at it a different way. He saw the schedule and took into consideration the hour lost due to daylight savings time and the travel the Bucks went through to get to Boston to play a 6 p.m. game less than 24 hours after beating the Sixers at home.
‘No, honestly, did we set a record? I didn’t know that,” Rivers said. “I really thought this was one of those schedule losses for Milwaukee. I just thought this was very similar to the game we had against Phoenix where you play a game and you lose an hour going backwards and then they lost another hour with the time change, and then we started the game at 6:00.
“So, I just thought ‘ you looked at the schedule ‘ I was concerned early in the game because we were up 10 and we were blowing layups; we were missing a lot of shots. You could see they were tired. So, we took advantage of that and that was great, but a lot of it had to do with their schedule.’
So, to be honest about it, Rivers said it’s great to win a game by 31 but he’s not about to draw any long-range conclusions about the quality of his team or how well his team got the message of toughening up in the fourth quarter.
‘Our defense was good, but we don’t know how good our defense was tonight, even though ‘ I would say our effort was phenomenal. And that’s all we talked about, we’re trying to sustain effort loner defensively and get back to doing that. Now that we’re starting to get ‘ we have one body back. Hopefully Delonte (West) is back, not tomorrow but the game after that. So you know, it’s what we need to do.’
|Irish Coffee: Celtics a slam dunk||03.10.11 at 12:38 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Between Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, the Clippers own four of the top 10 throwdowns on NBA.com’s Dunk Ladder. Not to mention the fact that DeAndre Jordan had more than twice as many dunks (7) during the Clips’ 108-103 victory against the Celtics on Wednesday night as Rajon Rondo has had all season (3).
So, I figured now is as good a time as any to check out the dunk statistics for the Celtics, especially in comparison to their performance during the 2007-08 season. Thanks to CBS Sports’ Dunk-O-Meter and Roto Evil’s Slam Dunk Stats, we can do that.
If an aging NBA veteran has almost twice as many dunks through 62 games this season than he did during a year in which he captured the NBA Finals MVP, that seems to say a lot about the kind of lift and athleticism that’s still in his legs, right?
Of course, I’m talking about Paul Pierce, who according to CBS Sports has slammed 28 dunks already this season — including the highlight-reel one last night that can be seen in the video that accompanies this blog (thanks to @MrTripleDouble10). By comparison, Pierce recorded just 16 dunks in the 2007-08 regular season.
Count Ray Allen in the same category, as his 11 dunks so far this year are two more than he produced during the entire season three years ago. Glen Davis has already more than doubled his dunking output (11 in 2010-11, compared to 5 in 2007-08), but that can be credited to his increased role as the Sixth Man on this year’s squad.
If we can draw conclusions about how much more lift or aggressiveness Pierce has this year compared to three seasons ago based on his increased number of dunks, is the same true for those going in reverse? That means you, Kevin Garnett.
The naked eye test suggests Garnett has been more active and aggressive around the basket than he’s ever been in a Celtics uniform, but could it be that we’re simply remembering the guy who’s been hobbled by knee problems the last two years?
It would seem after his bench was outscored, 26-12, in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden, Doc Rivers would have laid blame for the defeat at the hands of his reserves.
It’s a lot to ask any second unit to make up a 15-to-20 deficit in a game, let alone one that was making its debut. So, the way Rivers saw it, this loss really was at the feet of his “Big 4″ – namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
“I was concerned because in the first quarter, our four starters put us in a hole and then you needed to sub, and you knew nothing good was going to happen,” Rivers said, as his team fell behind by as much as 15 in the first quarter and 23 early in the third.
“It actually [wasn’t bad]. They held their ground,” Rivers said of his reserves, led by Carlos Arroyo and new starting center Nenad Krstic. “The problem was it was a 20-point ground [deficit] they were holding and that’s very difficult.
“We sub anyway. We sit guys down regardless of score. Obviously, we were down 20 and we’re subbing. It’s not something you want to do but you have to.”
Pierce couldn’t argue.
‘It’s tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters. How we come out at the beginning of the games, we’ve got to come out with a better focus,” Pierce said. “Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win.’
Pierce did point to the defensive struggles of the second unit but only as far as they had to pick up the pieces from the starters not playing defense, either.
‘I think some of it is the second unit, but a lot of that was at the start of the game with the first five so no excuses on that point,” Pierce said. “They came out and shot 70 percent and a lot of that was against the guys that know what we are doing night in and night out.
“You give some leeway to the newer guys, but there is no excuse to the way we started out giving them the big lead and then having to fight all the way to get back into the game.’
The reserves did a very respectable job on Blake Griffin, who had just 12 points in 37 minutes. Down 23, the Celtics slowly started to chip away, outscoring the Clippers, 24-16 in the third to cut the lead to 10.
Then the starters finally did their thing. Allen drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on a bullet pass from Rondo with 7:36 left to draw the Celtics within six, 86-80. Garnett’s jumper with just under six minutes left capped a 15-2 run to draw the Celtics within three.
But Mo Williams drained three free throws with 5:23 left to restore the lead to six. Jeff Green drilled a trey with 47.4 seconds left to get within four, 104-100. Allen’s three with 10.5 seconds left turned out to be too little, too late.
The Celtics will try to regroup and start a new winning streak on Friday against the upstart 76ers in Philadelphia. The Sixers are making a late-season push to finish in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break.
Friday would be a great time for a new start for the “Big 4.”
|Irish Coffee: The Shaqtionary||03.08.11 at 11:04 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The oldest player in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal celebrated his 39th birthday where most almost over-the-hill men celebrate their birthdays — at Boston Children’s Museum.
The Celtics center who hasn’t played since Feb. 1 — and has already missed 25 games this season — told reporters he was 85 percent and would not return until he’s fully healthy, which could be as soon as next week. Here are the quotes from his birthday celebration, courtesy of The Globe:
‘Hopefully, in the next week [I’ll be back]. They want me back at 100 percent. I tried to run on it the other day, and it felt pretty good, but I took a step back and I’m going to get back out there in a few days. I don’t really feel like I’m 39.’’
‘If I can walk, I can play, and I asked many times to shoot it up, and you know, they refuse. And the Big Three said they want me at 100 percent healthy, so I’m getting there.’’
‘I have a little Achilles soreness. It gets better, it comes back, it gets better, it comes back. It’s better. Dr. [Brian] McKeon is doing a great job. I’ve been working out twice a day, getting treatment. It’ll be right.’’
‘[Kendrick] Perkins has meant a lot to this city, and he really helped them get No. 17 and we’re going to miss him. He was my main man. Everybody loves Perk. I love him. We became real good friends, and I congratulated him on his new deal. But this is a business. He’s going to be missed. We had a great time this year being on the same team.’’
So, there you have it. Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, trainer Ed Lacerte, Dr. Brian McKeon and the Big Three all want Shaq to wait until he’s 100 percent before he returns to the court. He could play right now, but he’s won’t. The Celtics don’t need him now; they need him in the playoffs, so why rush him back? It’s a smart move by the Celtics, so can we just take it easy on the Shaq Watch?
Which brings me to a much more important topic. In honor of Shaq’s 39th birthday — which he called ShaqDay, which makes almost no sense — we scoured UrbanDictionary.com for the ultimate Shaqtionary, described as “the book that will be used to document all of the words that Shaquille O’Neal manages to create during his scrabble games.”
Of course, we eliminated the dirtiest definitions — like Shaq Off and Shaq’s Arm (use your imagination) — and came up with the following list …
|Even Ray Allen finds it hard to believe how open he was||03.05.11 at 12:12 am ET|
Ray Allen could only imagine what Warriors fans were thinking when he was unconscious in the first half, drilling all four 3-point attempts on his was to 20 points and a 64-53 Celtics lead at the break.
‘Well, I think I’m the one guy that you look up and ask yourself, ‘How did he get so wide open in the corner?’ I think that everybody is thinking that ‘ everybody in the Bay Area is thinking that early in the game,” said Allen, who finished with 27 in Boston’s 107-103 win over those defenseless Warriors.
“You don’t really look at Paul [Pierce] and he’s wide open, and Jeff [Green] was wide open several times, Nenad [Krstic] was open a couple times; when Rondo get to the basket, I think that’s as the result of all the guys on the floor and the plays that we run.”
Good thing Allen’s sore right knee healed in time so he could play. But ice and a stat sheet that shows that Golden State is 28th of 30 NBA teams in points allowed can make you healthy in a hurry.
‘He shoots the ball pretty well most days,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s just an amazing shooter, he really is. And what’s more amazing is how many times he’s wide open. It’s just remarkable when you think about it, the Reggie Millers, I’ve been on teams where before the game the coach is, ‘Do not give this guy an open shot’ and you turn around and he’s standing there all by himself. It’s just amazing how they find the open spots.’
“You just make sure you run, make a sharp cut, stay spaced, and if a team has to double, you know that someone has to be open,” Allen explained.
But you get open with great defense. And when Monta Ellis wasn’t lighting up the Celtics as part of a 41-point night [matching Kobe Bryant for most by an opponent this year], the Celtics were playing enough defensive to allow them to get out in transition.
“The defensive end is really where it starts because when we get stops like that and we force them to miss, and then I’m gone. I don’t even wait, I just get to the corner. They have to get to the paint, and Rondo, he knows where I’m at so I just have to make sure that I’m ready.’
As for that bothersome knee, he wasn’t out on a driving range on Thursday but rather just resting. “Driving range? Who said that?”
Informed it was his coach, Allen replied, “And where am I going to hit golf balls at?”
He then turned slightly more serious when asked just how sore were his legs to require a day off from practice.
“My knee was bothering me a little bit. I just had a little bit of soreness in there that I worked through over the last day and a half,” Allen said. “Coming in this morning, it felt similar and I was kind of taking it hour-by-hour and seeing how it felt when I got down here and when I got down here, it felt better.
“This morning I just came in and got treatment and just try to play it by ear. That’s why I have a suit on in case I was on the bench. I honestly thought when I came down here, there might be a chance but I came down here as usual to be ready to play. It’s hard from one day to the next and then the day before say, ‘I’m not playing tomorrow’ because you feel a little soreness. You have to get in there and really put your body to the test and get it better. I got treatment and ice and by the time I got down here, I shot and felt a lot better and here I am.”
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