|Fast Break: Celtics escape, but continue to progress||03.04.11 at 10:00 pm ET|
With each passing day, the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson begins to look a little better from the Celtics‘ perspective. Word came down today that Robinson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be out 4-6 weeks. Considering the fact that the Celtics traded four players who are injured (including Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden) and replaced them with healthy players, that’s already a net positive.
But what about the on-court results? New center Nenad Krstic has already shown his value as an offensive threat and against the Warriors on Friday night, Jeff Green had his coming out party. Green, who had scored just 18 points in his first three games, erupted for 13 in the first half and finished with 21 points in 28 minutes.
Despite some anxious moments at the end, the Celtics have now won four games in a row after their 107-103 win (recap) and while they would certainly like to close games out better, they’ll gladly take the wins while sorting things out.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ray Allen should take more days off: The veteran sharpshooter took Thursday off from practice as a precaution. Doc Rivers said that Allen told him his legs were feeling a little sore so Rivers told him to hit some golf balls. Allen showed up for Friday’s game wearing a compression sleeve on his right leg, but any concerns soon evaporated as he made his first seven shots and finished 9-for-13 with 27 points.
A glimpse of what Green can do: The problem for the Celtics and their new forward is simply one of opportunity. Beyond playing the minutes behind Paul Pierce, what else can they do with him? That’s a question Rivers raised Thursday at practice and really, there isn’t a good answer.
But with Glen Davis out for a few days with a strained knee, Rivers used Green with the starters and it resulted in unreal production. Of all the things Green provides, the ability to get out on the break with Rajon Rondo is the most appealing and the two connected for a series of highlight-worthy plays. Unlocking Green’s potential is one of the priorities of the last six weeks and Friday night was a positive step.
Paul Pierce’s quiet excellence: Just another 27-point, seven-rebound night for Pierce, who is the glue that holds everything together.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Troy Murphy will need some time: Murphy has now played 26 minutes and missed all seven shots that he’s attempted. Rivers said he wanted to run him until he dropped and he’ll have to keep giving him minutes while he figures things out on the fly.
Von Wafer strains his right calf: It never ends for the Celtics. After dropping seven points in just six minutes, Von Wafer limped off the court with what the team called a strained right calf. There was no immediate update on how long Wafer will be out, but he did not return to the game. That’s a tough blow for Wafer, who has played well in limited opportunities this season.
Second half fades: It happened late in the third quarter against the Suns, but this time the culprits were the starters as they allowed the Warriors to almost erase a huge lead late in the game. Monta Ellis scored 41 points, tying the mark set by Kobe Bryant for most against the Celtics this season. The Celtics escaped, but this late-game trend needs to stop.
|Delonte West sprains ankle, out for Utah game||02.28.11 at 1:28 pm ET|
During an informal workout Sunday, Celtics guard Delonte West sprained his right ankle when he stepped on another player’s foot and will be out for the Celtics game Monday night against Utah. Doc Ricers told reporters in Utah that West is also questionable for Wednesday’s game with Phoenix when the team returns to the Garden.
This latest injury once again puts the Celtics in a bind as West is the only experienced point guard on the roster behind Rajon Rondo, following Nate Robinson‘s trade to the Thunder. Rookie Avery Bradley, who has played 10 minutes in his five games since returning from the D-League will likely back up Rondo for the time being.
Another option for Rivers is using Paul Pierce as a point-forward. That worked in stretches earlier in the season when Rondo was out with injuries.
|Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’||02.25.11 at 1:56 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.
“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O’Neal] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.
“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers ‘ like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.
“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy ‘ 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”
Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.
“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.
“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”
|Kevin Garnett: My boys ‘forgot to beat’ James Jones||02.22.11 at 2:30 pm ET|
He touched on everything from the 3-Point Shootout to Doc Rivers‘ pre-All-Star Game speech to the team’s focus going forward. Here are the highlights …
On the dunk contest: “The dunk contest was unreal. Those young fellas did some different things. Serge [Ibaka] with the dunk and grabbed the monkey with his teeth, [JaVale] McGee with the old “[Larry] Nance” rock the cradle, Blake [Griffin] with the 360 pump with power and [Demar] DeRozan with the reverse 360 flush. Cool stuff.”
On the 3-point contest: “My boys were worried about themselves and forgot to beat [James] Jones in the 3-point contest. Both Ray [Allen] and P2 [Paul Pierce] made it to the finals. Sitting with [Dwyane] Wade, [Rajon] Rondo, [Shaquille O’Neal]. Things were cool. I got my Anta swag on and feel like I was looking good.”
On All-Star Game appearances: “No. 14 for me, which says to me, gotta keep working. Not many men can say they laced them up for 14 All-Stars. Hard work, little luck and having the drive. I’m happy to be a part of this day and to be with my homies. P2, Ray and young fella (Rondo). The Coaches are here, [strength and conditioning coach Bryan] Doo, Lynchie [director of team security Phil Lynch] and [vice president of media services Jeff] Twiss. Feel like we doing something.”
On All-Star Game adversaries: “Not often do I see the other players in a situation like this, so giving them a dap or catching up. Cool stuff.”
On All-Star Game intensity: “The game prep wasn’t the same, but as Doc said, “Any time there is a score, then someone has to win and someone has to lose. Let’s make it them.”
On All-Star Game minutes: “Didn’t want to play that much so I could rest a little, but got up and down. We played with our four and [Chris] Bosh first. It’s funny when you run a play and it doesn’t go all the way through because of the fifth person. Played with Amare [Stoudemire] and some of the other cats. We didn’t get the win, but what you gonna do. NOW WE FOCUS on BANNER No. 18.”
|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.
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