|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics take down Nets||02.16.11 at 10:10 pm ET|
In a game that was a lot closer than the final score indicated, the Celtics survived a scare from the Nets in their final game before the All-Star break Wednesday, capturing a 94-80 home victory. The win helped the C’s (40-14) keep first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Heat (41-15).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
At least they got the win: The Celtics didn’t play well against the Nets by any stretch of the imagination, but they earned home win No. 25 in just their 29th game at the Garden this season. The C’s were 24-17 all of last year at home, and games like they played on Wednesday night usually ended up in the loss column. If you’ll recall, the C’s lost to an even worse Nets team by eight on Feb. 27, 2010.
Paul Pierce started off on the right foot: Before most fans finished their first beer, the Celtics started on an 8-0 run and stretched that lead to 25-10. Through the first 9:50, Pierce played the Nets to a standstill at 10 points apiece — squashing any doubts about his lingering foot problem. He finished with 31 points on 10-of-18 shooting, attacking the basket with no signs of an injury.
Praise be to Gody: In desperate need of contributions from big bodies off the bench, Luke Harangody gave the Celtics just what Doc Rivers ordered. The rookie out of Notre Dame scored eight points in just eight minutes off the bench in the first half. While he didn’t score for the remainder of the night, the gave the C’s 15 productive minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Falling asleep at the wheel: After the start the Celtics enjoyed, there’s just no way it should’ve been a tie game at halftime. But it was, 46-46, thanks to Rivers’ understandable reliance on the bench for 35 combined minutes. The offensive efficiency that the Celtics have demonstrated for much of this season just wasn’t there for a long stretch from late in the first quarter until the break. Rajon Rondo‘s presence almost assures the C’s of leading their opponents (especially the Nets) in assists, but New Jersey won that battle, 19-18. That’s what Rivers often refers to as “hero ball,” and it gets them in trouble against the better teams in the league.
No immediate halftime adjustment: As well as the Celtics played in the opening few minutes of the game, they played equally as bad to start the second half, allowing the Nets to go on an 8-0 run of their own and take a 54-46 lead before many fans had taken their seats again. That translated into more taxing minutes for the C’s as they played from behind well into the third quarter.
Nothing but three Nets: Really, only a few guys gave the Celtics problems on Wednesday night: Lopez as well as guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow. The three combined for 48 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. And Lopez’s ability to score in the post forced Rivers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank to furiously figure out a way to stop him in the third quarter. As a result, New Jersey also won the battle in the paint, 34-28.
|Doc Rivers on D&C: Paul Pierce’s injury not enough to prevent All-Star appearance||02.15.11 at 11:41 am ET|
Rivers said the Celtics are searching outside the organization for help as injuries have left the team shorthanded.
“We’re looking. I can tell you that,” he said. “We’re not going to do anything, obviously, that just takes away from our team. But we’re looking pretty hard. Obviously, there’s not a lot out there right now. But as the deadline gets closer, we’re hoping some things open up.”
As for the team’s biggest need, he said: “Depending on what happens with Marquis [Daniels], I would say that’s our biggest need right now, the backup 3.”
Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Based on the fact that your main concern for your basketball team going into the second half is your health and your freshness and those things that you need for them to play with energy when it comes to the playoffs ‘¦ wouldn’t it be better for Paul Pierce to stay home on All-Star weekend, catch his breath and regroup for the second half of the season?
It depends on how serious it is. I don’t think it’s as serious as it’s made out to be. He was concerned more just because it was hurting, but it’s not even as close to as bad as we thought it could be. I think we’re overreacting a little bit on this one.
You’re going to keep an eye on their minutes, right?
I’m going to keep an eye on all of their minutes. I think [Rajon] Rondo will probably play the most, him or Ray [Allen], because Ray loves playing. He is perfect in those games, obviously. Other than that, I’m going to play LeBron [James] and Dwyane [Wade] probably 47-48 minutes, in that area.
How will they get along? Clearly Rondo got under their skin Sunday, you guys as a team got under their skin and maybe in their heads a little bit. Is that all forgotten Sunday in LA?
It usually is. I don’t know if they got under their skin or not, but they pestered them, especially Rondo, but that’s just in that single game. Athletes have a great way of kind of getting over it and moving on.
|Paul Pierce to have MRI on left foot Monday, right hand is also hurting||02.13.11 at 6:08 pm ET|
After missing all 10 shots from the field on Sunday, an ailing Paul Pierce said he will have an MRI on his aching left foot on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Pierce also aggravated his sprained right hand, which he first injured Saturday in practice.
“I sprained my hand yesterday in practice, it got hit today and then just have to get my foot checked out tomorrow, going to get an MRI on it and go from there.”
Despite scoring just one point, Pierce played 40 minutes and the Celtics beat the Heat for the third time in as many tries this season, 85-82.
‘It was tough, you know right now, just battling a couple minor injuries to my hand and my foot,” Pierce said after his least productive game of the season. “So I think that really explains my tentativeness and my off-shooting today. I told Doc that I really didn’t have it today but I just tried to grind it out and thank goodness we came out with a win.’
Asked when he injured it, Pierce said, “it happened about a week ago, actually.”
Pierce, who missed Wednesday’s practice home sick with flu-like symptoms, said he wasn’t sick on Sunday.
|Doc Rivers: We weren’t up the challenge of the Lakers||02.11.11 at 10:57 am ET|
One characteristic Doc Rivers has always admired about his team was that it fights through almost every kind of adversity.
On Thursday night, he didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was the overwhelming number of injuries, the foul trouble of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kobe being Kobe or just all of the above, Rivers just didn’t have the feeling that his team had the energy or will to overcome all of it. And that, more than the 92-86 loss to the Lakers at TD Garden seem to bug him the most.
“I thought they came out and jumped on us early in the third quarter, first ‘scored the first 10 points,” Rivers began. “And I never thought we fought through it, really. I mean obviously the fatigue and all that ‘ you know, one of our concerns going into the game were Paul or Ray couldn’t get in foul trouble obviously, because of what we had left. And that happened.
“But I just thought mentally we were not a very good team tonight and usually we are. I didn’t think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we’re great at that usually.”
But not on this night. While the Celtics are not a great rebounding team to begin with, they usually find a knack of dominating their opponent in the paint. Not on this night when they were outscored, 50-32.
They usually get to loose balls and find a way to score on second-chance points. Not on this night. They were outscored, 16-9, in that category. And while Rajon Rondo posted his 21st double-double of the season, he was just 5-of-14 and – after feeding Ray Allen for his record-breaking three in transition – couldn’t let his team back. It didn’t help that Nate Robinson went down with a bruised right knee in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“It was one of those nights; I just thought we didn’t do a very good job of [battling],” Rivers said. “And we obviously did have a lot of adversity with the injury of Nate and foul trouble and the lack of bodies, but you know that that could happen before the game and I don’t think we handled that very well.’
And watching Kobe Bryant – with just three shots in the first half – take over in the third quarter didn’t help either.
‘Well once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,” Rivers said. “I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought defensively he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. I mean, he just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring.’
The Celtics face another NBA superstar when LeBron James and the Heat come calling on Sunday. The same Heat team that has been dominated twice this year by the Green. And whether or not Delonte West returns from a broken right wrist, the C’s better find their fight on Sunday or history will repeat itself.
|Celtics prepare for life without Marquis Daniels||02.09.11 at 4:22 pm ET|
“It puts us in a terrible spot,” Rivers said after practice Wednesday. “Going into the year, that was the area of concern because we knew we were one injury away from being very thin and unfortunately it happened.”
The Celtics simply don’t know how long Daniels will be out after he suffered a bruised spinal cord during Sunday’s game with the Magic. Team president Danny Ainge said they would hopefully know more next week after Daniels consults with various doctors and is offered an array of medical opinions.
“The Marquis situation is still a little bit up in the air,” Ainge said. “We’ll probably know more in a week or so what’s going on there, what’s going on in Marquis’ mind, get some different opinion from doctors. That is complicated and the fact that we don’t have Delonte [West] healthy, that complicates the matter as well. We’re thin now. If we had Delonte and Von [Wafer] we’d be fine.”
Ainge expressed confidence in Wafer’s ability to handle the backup small forward role, but Rivers was a little more skeptical.
“He’s not big enough to be that guy,” Rivers said. “We’re going to have to do something. We worked on it today and I’ve been here seven years and you’ve seen me trap probably 10 times. We’re going to have to start trapping, which weakens your defense. I hate it. But we worked on it today and we’re going to work on it every day until we get another [small forward].”
There are still a few ways for Rivers to get creative with his lineups. “It depends on who we have, and what we can get away with honestly,” Rivers said.
He can play a small lineup with Ray Allen in the spot alongside Rajon Rondo and either Wafer or Nate Robinson. He might consider going the other way and using Glen Davis in the spot. Of particular concern is Sunday’s game with the Heat and a certain someone named LeBron James.
“When Paul goes out, somebody’s going to have to guard LeBron,” Rivers said. “We don’t have that someone.”
They don’t care that the Celtics had just 10 players for practice Wednesday. They don’t care that Paul Pierce was home sick instead of gearing up for the rematch with the Lakers Thursday night at TD Garden. They don’t care that 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal is nursing a sore right Achilles tendon that has forced him to miss the last three games.
They don’t care that Semih Erden is about to miss his second straight game with a right adductor strain. They don’t care that the Celtics don’t have a proven replacement for Marquis Daniels, who went down with a bruised spinal cord on Sunday afternoon.
“You come to play the game,” Rivers said. “We don’t worry about the body count. They’re not going to worry about the body count, I can guarantee you that. We’ll be read. We’ll be fine.”
All the Lakers care about is getting revenge for that 109-96 Celtics win on Jan. 30 at Staples Center.
The Celtics were reduced to 10 healthy players in practice on Wednesday.
On the bright side, Delonte West participated in his first full contact practice since his broken right wrist, suffered on Nov. 24 against New Jersey.
“We had 10,” Rivers said following Wednesday’s practice. “Paul’s is sick so he stayed at home. Semih is out, Shaq is out. Delonte practiced today but he won’t play [Thursday] or probably won’t play until after the break.”
Rivers said he does expect Pierce to play Thursday but not O’Neal or Erden. “I expect him to play,” Rivers said of Pierce. “He’s just not feeling good. We’ll see [Thursday]. I don’t expect Shaq, I don’t expect Semih. I don’t think [O'Neal] can go yet so we’re just going to wait until he gets healthy.”
Rivers said West was allowed to return but cautioned his players to try and use good judgment so that West’s right wrist wouldn’t be hit.
“We told [players] no reaching which is impossible with some of our guys but other than that, we got through it,” Rivers said.
|Paul Pierce joins Ray Allen in 3-point contest||02.08.11 at 2:20 pm ET|
Paul Pierce gets his wish. The defending champion in the 3-point contest, Pierce wanted to go head-to-head with teammate Ray Allen, who won the contest in 2001. The two Celtics will have serious competition. Joining them in the field are Daniel Gibson, James Jones, Dorrell Wright and for added star power, Kevin Durant.
While Durant is obviously a big name, his addition to the contest is a little curious as he’s shooting just 36 percent from 3-point range this season. Matt Bonner, who’s shooting over 50 percent on 3’s was passed over, as was Denver’s Arron Afflalo and New Jersey’s Anthony Morrow.
The contest has two rounds with the top three scorers advancing to the finals and will be held Saturday, Feb. 19 as part of All-Star weekend.