|Fast Break: Celtics not pretty, but squeak by Pistons||01.19.11 at 10:13 pm ET|
Well, that was just about the ugliest game of basketball the Celtics have played this season. Or at least one of them. But the Celtics prevailed against the Pistons at the TD Garden, 86-82, thanks to a Ray Allen (who else?) jump shot that gave the C’s the lead in the final minute.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics (32-9) with 22 points, while Shaquille O’Neal chipped in with a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) in an ugly victory that saw the C’s shoot 44.7 percent from the field. Rodney Stuckey (15 points) led five players in double figures for the Pistons, who fell to 15-27.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Even when he’s poor, he’s money: Through 47-plus minutes of basketball — about 37 of which he was on the floor — Allen was just 1-of-7 from the field, but that doesn’t bother great shooters. And Allen is a great one. No doubt about it. Coming off a screen, he nailed a 23-foot jumper with 24.5 seconds remaining that gave the Celtics the lead for good. The shot was originally ruled a 3-pointer but rescinded upon replay.
Shaq provides diesel fuel: Of all the Celtics to show the most determination, it was 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal — the oldest player in the league. On back-to-back plays, O’Neal chased an offensive rebound and got to the foul line on one end, and then blocked a Rodney Stuckey shot before chasing it into the stands on the other end. He finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes of hustle-filled basketball.
Big Baby being Big Baby: With the Celtics trailing 56-50 midway through the third quarter, Glen Davis drew his 27,653rd charge of the season, or at least it seemed that way. Settling back into his Sixth Man role with Garnett returning to the starting lineup, Davis put together a typically efficient night off the bench: 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Celtics play “hero ball” in the first half: Where was the passing that had made the Celtics the No. 1 passing team in the NBA? The team’s two leading assist distributors — Rajon Rondo and Pierce — had just three assists at the half (they finished with 11 combined). Meanwhile, Tracy McGrady had six assists himself running the show for the Pistons in the opening 24 minutes (he finished with just seven). The Celtics looked sluggish in the opening half, hoping perhaps that the talent gap alone would carry them past the Pistons. It did, eventually.
Boston becomes brick city: Fans have become accustomed to 50 percent shooting nights from the field from the Celtics — not to mention a few 60 percent shooting nights — but the Celtics shot just 44.7 percent, and most of the night it was worst than that. Not to mention the 14-for-25 effort fromt the free-throw line. For the season, the Pistons had been allowing opponents to shoot 48.0 percent (27th out of 30 teams) from the field.
Charlie Villanueva played Kevin Garnett tough: Ever since the whole “cancer patient” vs. “cancer to your team” ordeal between Villanueva and Garnett, the former had the edge over the latter. Their last meeting wasn’t really fair, since that’s when Garnett went down with his strained calf, but there weren’t any excuses for Wednesday night.
For the large majority of the night, until the final minutes, Villanueva had the edge. He finished with 11 points and eight boards. More spirited play from Garnett down the stretch gave him 11 points (on 5-of-14 shooting) and six boards on the night.
|Kevin Garnett: ‘These two weeks have been dark days for me’||01.18.11 at 1:09 am ET|
How happy and relieved was Kevin Garnett to be back Monday night?
“I was just called up from the D-League,” he joked.
Playing his first game back from a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf, Garnett scored 19 points in 30 minutes while Paul Pierce converted the go-ahead three-point play with 38.7 seconds remaining to lift the Celtics to a 109-106 win over the Magic Monday night at TD Garden.
Ray Allen had a team-high 26 points and Rajon Rondo had 10 points and 13 assists in a contest that provided a thrilling rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals. No one seemed more excited about the turn of events than the man who was playing his first game of 2011.
“You get out of it what it what you put into it,” Garnett said.”These two weeks have been dark days for me, trying to keep my morale up, be around the guys, travel. But being hurt is not one of my things I like to be a part of. I hate it. I don’t deal with it well.
“But as I get older, along with these knuckleheads here keeping it real light for me, keeping my spirits up, I just worked through it. Tonight, I just felt stronger and I’m going to continue to build on this and not have any mishaps.”
He certainly showed no ill-effects of the strained right calf sustained on Dec. 29 in Detroit. Garnett ran and moved without a limp while starting out very strong. He had six rebounds, two assists and four points in nine minutes of the first quarter. Garnett also stole the ball from Jameer Nelson late to help seal Boston’s 31st win, keeping them on top in the Eastern Conference.
After scoring just six points on Christmas Day, Dwight Howard had one of his strongest games yet against the Celtics, scoring 33 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. But still, the Celtics, thanks to the interior passing of Garnett and Pierce dominated scoring in the paint, 52-26.
Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce were happy to have the noise back. That noise that comes from someone yelling non-stop throughout the game and playing with defensive intensity rarely seen in the history of the NBA.
The Celtics defensive coordinator was back on Monday night against the Magic, and within the first three minutes you could tell a difference in defensive energy as he was calling out plays on the court.
And Rivers didn’t feel the two teams played very good defense in the first 45 minutes, the last three were what mattered in a 109-106 Celtics win Monday night over the team they eliminated in the Eastern Finals last year. So, Garnett yelling out defensive calls and making plays like a steal on Jameer Nelson with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win was music to Rivers’ ears.
‘Listen, they all talk, but no one talks like Kevin,” Rivers said. “He’s the best talker in the league. When you’re talking defense. And I think Perk [Kendrick Perkins] may be the second best. So, it is clear tonight ‘ and I didn’t think we had a great defensive night; I thought we were actually average ‘ but it was clear the communication, especially those last four possessions, you could hear it. He was calling their sets out. He’s a defensive coach on the floor.’
Rivers had no doubt the energy would be there. His stamina and effectiveness were another thing altogether.
‘I knew he’d play with energy,” Rivers said after Garnett scored 19 points and hauled in eight rebounds in 30 intensity-filled minutes. “You could see that. You could see it [Sunday], and I was telling guys that our practice was just crazy with energy. And so, you knew that. I was concerned about his wind; I wasn’t concerned about his health at all.”
One area where it was noticeable that Garnett might have been a little rusty was in the foul column where he came within one of disqualification.
“I knew one of the things we said: he wasn’t playing until he was 100 percent,” Rivers said. “But [Sunday], we went an hour and after about ten minutes he was ‘ he looked like he needed an oxygen tank. And that’s why I took him out early in the first quarter; I thought he was struggling then. And then he came back and he felt great. So, yeah, he surprises you all the time.’
But don’t take Rivers’ word for it. Ask the man whom Garnett was helping to direct on the court, Paul Pierce.
“I mean I said to somebody else that we look like a totally different team,” Pierce said. “Just with Kevin on the court, and also people you can’t replace what Kevin gives to a ball club. He doesn’t always show up with his numbers but his presence and his feel for the game and everything he does for this team goes far beyond the numbers and you see it tonight. We look like a team who is ready, who is energized, who is locked in, and you know that’s the culture he’s brought here since day 1 he’s been here and its infectious. He raises everyone’s play when he’s on the court.’
|With an eye on big picture, Doc Rivers admits ‘I don’t like where we’re at right now’||01.11.11 at 2:16 am ET|
With or without Kevin Garnett and with or without the high-scoring Kevin Martin in the game for the Rockets, Rivers felt his team was capable of a whole lot better than they showed in a 108-102 loss at TD Garden.
But the trademark defense that has been a staple of these championship-driven Celtics has not been there in the last week, and Rivers fears that if they start falling in love with scoring instead of doing the dirty work, they’ll lose something a lot more important – home court advantage in the NBA playoffs.
Don’t look now but not only are the Spurs putting some distance between themselves and the Celtics – who fell to 28-9 – but the Miami Heat have, in the space of about three weeks, caught up to them with a torrid winning streak.
If the Celtics aren’t careful, they not only might have to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road like last year in LA but they may have to do the same thing against Miami just to get there.
“To me, you can see them thinking about the individual game and not the ramifications of the entire season,” Rivers said of his team. “And playing Game 7 on the road. And hell, not just in the Finals if you make it there, but in the playoffs. In the East, which is going to be difficult. This year’s not like last year where you can coast. You don’t have home court this year, you could go home.
‘You know especially at home, I think we need to really take advantage of games where their best player isn’t playing, guys coming off injury,” captain Paul Pierce added. “These games mean a lot down the road, and but at the same time, they’re going to suit up and play, and we got to understand that nothing is given to us cause their down a man, or they’ve been struggling for most of the year. We got to put our work boots on and come with our A game, we’re not taking advantage of this, there are a lot of games that we’re letting slip away that we’re supposed to win’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Bulls bury Celtics||01.08.11 at 10:42 pm ET|
The NBA schedule is sometimes a cruel beast. Take the Celtics and Bulls, put them in a vacuum and the result is usually a fantastic game. But put them on a Saturday night with both teams on the second end of back-to-backs and you get a slow, ugly contest, like the one these two teams played.
The Celtics were able to hang in until the bitter end, mostly thanks to 21 Chicago turnovers, but the combination of Derrick Rose (36 points) and Carlos Boozer (22) was too much to overcome in a 90-79 loss that snapped Boston’s four-game winning streak. (Recap.)
Credit Tom Thibodeau‘s defense, which held the Celtics to 38 percent shooting and kept them out of the paint all night. Not many teams can make the Celtics look as bad as they did Saturday night, but Thibodeau knows them as well as anyone and he has Chicago ranked second (behind the Celtics) in defensive efficiency.
The Celtics return home for a six-game homestand against only two teams with winning records: Utah and Orlando. They are also expected to get Kevin Garnett back, possibly as early as Monday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding: In case there was still any confusion about how the Celtics feel about offensive rebounds, Doc Rivers said it as plainly as he could Friday night.
“I don’t care about offensive rebounds,” the coach said. “I care about defensive rebounds.”
In that case, the first half was very discouraging as the Bulls grabbed eight offensive rebounds. It didn’t get any better in the second half as the Celtics got pounded on the boards. They gave up 11 offensive boards and lost the overall battle, 48-27.
Derrick Rose at the free throw line: Derrick Rose established a new career-high in free throw attempts and makes midway through the third quarter. He went on to make 15-of-19 as he wore the Celtics out with the pick-and-roll. The Bulls wound up only being +7 at the line, despite taking 13 more shots (35-22).
Bench production: Or the lack, thereof. Outside of Jermaine O’Neal who had six points and three rebounds, the Celtics reserves combined to shoot 1-for-7 with three rebounds and four assists. Once again, the Celtics offense without Rajon Rondo on the floor was disjointed and out of sync.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen: The two veterans basically are the Celtics offense right now with Garnett out, so it’s a good thing that they are both playing at a high level. They combined for 40 points, or more than half the Celtics’ total. Along with Rondo, they shot 20-for-43. The rest of the team? A horrific 8-for-31.
Turnovers: Yes, this is the right column. The Bulls turned it over 21 times compared to the Celtics’ eight times. The Celtics recorded 12 steals, which helped, but this was the only thing that kept the Celtics in the game.
Rajon Rondo was decent: Rondo had a solid line with 13 points, five rebounds, five steals and eight assists, but he was also responsible (along with the big men) for Rose’s big night.
After each home game of late, Paul Pierce usually takes his place – right in front of the doorway to the training room – to speak to the media about what went right and/or wrong in the just-completed game.
But this night was different. Luke Harangody made sure of that with his first career double-double, 17 points and 11 rebounds in Boston’s 122-102 laugher at the Garden.
“Paul Pierce is officially taking the the night off,” the captain announced on his way to the vanity where the Celtics usually check themselves in the mirror to make sure they’re presentable. “There’s plenty of players to give you great quotes today. All my quotes will be coming from Luke Harangody… and tweets.”
Friday night, Harangody’s play spoke volumes. The rookie out of Notre Dame has been used by Doc Rivers to come off the bench in the last two weeks to provide energy, a strategy that began against New Orleans on New Year’s Eve and continued against Minnesota and San Antonio this week.
But on Friday, he showed that when he focuses and doesn’t rush his rhythm, he can be much more than just an energy upgrade from Semih Erden. After all, he had over 2,400 points and 1,200 rebounds in four years with the Fighting Irish.
‘Yeah, he can do that, and that’s the one thing we knew,” Rivers said of the rookie’s ability to draw a big man away from the basket and shoot the ball. “And when he slows down like he did today, he makes those shots, and that was good. You know, every time he makes a shot, you know the legend of Luke grows, in a lot of ways. We laugh, but it does, because the next game you’ll hear the other team yelling ‘Get back out to him’ and that creates space for [Rajon] Rondo and everybody else.’
And that’s what the starters on the bench really love to see.
“I think he was in all of a half-second and he took a shot and the whole bench started laughing, because that’s who he is,” Rivers said. “And we want him to stay that way. He’ll make mistakes because he’s young, he’ll make mistakes because he’s going fast but he’ll never make mistakes because he’s not going hard.
“The guys appreciate that, honestly. They love effort. When you get guys that come off the bench and play with the effort and intensity he plays with, the starters love that. That’s what gets them up and cheering and that’s why they like him so much. They see his effort everyday.”
And what about his habit of jacking up shots as soon as he gets in the game? Blame it on his coach at Notre Dame.
“I think we should blame, or thank [coach] Mike Bray for that,” Rivers joked of the Irish head coach. “I watched him a couple times against Georgetown when my son [Jeremiah] was there. He shot it basically every time he touched it there, too. He’s just got that tradition and he’s going to keep it going.”
Bray won’t be there Saturday night in Chicago as his team has a little date with St. John’s about 70 miles away in South Bend. But he will have friends and family, no doubt all of whom are expecting Harangody to do exactly what the Celtics now expect – shoot from the hip.
|Irish Coffee: What’s your Celtics Banner Moment?||01.07.11 at 10:40 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The Celtics launched the Banner Moments program, encouraging fans to share their favorite C’s moments through video, photos and text. Until March, two Banner Moments are chosen each month. Prizes include Celtics tickets, meet and greets with legends, and practice facility shoot-arounds.
In March, the C’s will put the top-10 moments up for a vote on Celtics.com. The winner will be recognized during an April 13 Knicks game in addition to potentially watching a playoff game from their own private suite.
I’d have to say my “Banner Moment would be the Celtics’ 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals. That was the unquestionable highlight of a Celtics season that shouldn’t have sniffed the NBA Finals, yet came within two games of playing the Lakers for a title. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the new Garden louder. The building was literally shaking.
It’s between that and the time my buddy started running down the Garden stairs — only to slip, throwing his arms upward and splashing an entire beer in some poor Blazers fan’s face by accident. I mean, he couldn’t have tried to spill more on this guy than he did. Let’s just say the dude was none too happy.
Part 1 of that comeback against the Nets accompanies this post. You can revisit Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 on YouTube. As part of the program, members of the Celtics, their mascot, dance team and celebrity fans shared a few of their Banner Moments:
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