|Paul Pierce and the rest of the Celtics make sure the Luke Harangody ‘legend’ grows||01.08.11 at 12:13 am ET|
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:
|Paul Pierce on Rajon Rondo: ‘He did it all’||01.06.11 at 2:30 am ET|
‘We didn’t want to give up a three, that was kind of the only thing that could beat us, we sort of overplayed on the three point line,” Pierce said. “They made a two-pointer and I had to go out, or it would go into overtime, but that was the main thing just to take away the three point shot.’
Rajon Rondo made team history with 22 assists as part of a triple-double, as the Celtics held off the Spurs in a match-up of teams with the two best records in the NBA. Rondo – who also finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds – became the first player in Celtics history with at least 19 assists in three games in a season. He fell just two shy of his season high of 24 on Oct. 29 vs. the Knicks.
“He did it all, he rebounded, assisted, Doc’s kind of been on him about taking that shot there and he steps up when he needs to and knocks down those shots confidently,’ Pierce said.
Ray Allen scored a game-high 31 points in a fantastic shooting display, and made 13-of-16 shots on the night, including a three-pointer with 1:35 left in the game to put the Celtics up five. Rondo hit a runner in the lane that appeared to seal the game with 1:06 left.
But the Spurs went on a 7-0 run to draw within two. Allen then missed both free throws with 7.4 seconds left to give the Spurs a chance. But Pierce saved the day as the Celtics won their third straight.
‘You always can learn things from wins, not just from losses,” Pierce said. “I mean you can definitely learn things from wins, how we can be better down the stretch. And I think what’s important is that we won that game. We could have done some things better down the stretch, closing out the game but it’s a long season.’
Ginobili had 24 points to lead the Spurs (29-6), who lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. The win was all the more impressive as the Spurs suffered the night before in New York, 128-115.
The Celtics – who improved to 27-7 – were red-hot from the floor for the first three quarters, led by Allen. The sharpshooter was 11-of-14 entering the final quarter as the Celtics led, 77-72. As a team, the Celtics shot a blazing 61 percent from the floor for the game.
‘Maybe it was the tail end of a back to back for them, cause they’re a better defensive team then how they let us shoot,” Pierce said. “But you know we are one of the better offensive teams in the league, we run our stuff, make the pass, put the ball in Rondo’s hand, we can be a great team offensively.
‘You knew it was going to be a nip tuck game pretty much all night. You look up and it was hard to pull away from them. You could tell when we down the stretch put a nice little defensive run on them and then we do that and they come right back. But I mean you got two heavyweights battling and it was fun for me to be part of, I’m just glad that we won.’
|Glen Davis: I love Doc Rivers but wish he would ‘pipe it down sometimes’||01.05.11 at 11:42 pm ET|
Following his most productive night of the season in the scoring column, Davis said coach Doc Rivers continues to give him plenty of tough love this season. But Davis added that Rivers is working with him this season harder than ever to get the most out of him.
‘He has, he has worked with me,” Davis said after scoring a season-best 23 on 10-of-18 shooting from the field. “He’s given me the opportunity to show what I got. He is still hard on me. He’s still hard. It’s like a love hate thing. It’s like you love it but pipe it down sometimes.”
Asked to describe their relationship, Davis – who detailed his new role as father in December -said it’s a very complicated, but effective one.
‘For sure father son, like step-son,” Davis said of Rivers. “He loves me. But it’s like I still love you, but I’m hard on you. It is what it is.”
Davis and Rivers got into a heated argument on New Year’s Eve when the Celtics lost to the Hornets at the Garden, with Davis missing an ill-advised three-pointer to tie it late. Rivers afterward said Davis was guilty of playing too much “hero-ball.”
But then there was the loving part of their relationship, which Rivers clearly showed after Wednesday’s dramatic win, not possible, according to Rivers, without him.
“I’ve been saying it all year, he’s been terrific,” Rivers said. “Baby has his days but overall, he’s had very few of them. He’s been terrific all year. He’s had a tremendous team attitude in a contract year, which is very difficult. I don’t think he gets enough credit for that part of it. The only time he gets himself in trouble is when he forgets he’s Glen Davis, and I don’t know how you can forget something that big, personally.”
Rivers didn’t stop there, maintaining the team’s 27-7 mark wouldn’t be possible without Davis.
“He’s just been fantastic,” said the Celtics coach. “Our record is where it’s at because Glen Davis is on our basketball team. The minutes, playing him at four, playing him at five, he’s just turned into a terrific player for us.”
Speaking of contract, Davis is in the final year of a two-year, $6.3 million deal, a situation Davis said he’s not worried about – for now. When owner Wyc Grousbeck and GM Danny Ainge are ready, Davis will be ready to listen.
“Contract? You know what, I’m going to be honest with you,” Davis began. “Do you think about your job? You do, right. Man, I hope I get that next bonus or that next check. You have to think about it but you try to stay within yourself and the team and know that it’s going to happen. You have to control yourself. You can’t control what Danny or Wyc might put on the table. You just have to control yourself. That’s what I’ve come to realize. You have to keep wishing and don’t worry about that kind of stuff.”
‘He’s given us a big spark for us playing for Kevin, the things he’s given us off the bench as a sixth man, probably the best sixth man in basketball right now if you ask me,” Pierce said. “He’s doing a lovely job at that, we’re asking him to do so many jobs, things that Kevin does, asking him to duplicate what Kevin does, but defensively he’s really given us a spark, offensively the way he spreads the floor. I just get on him a little bit, when it comes to rebounding but he’s playing great’
|Paul Pierce ‘forgot’ Rajon Rondo was back playing||01.04.11 at 9:45 am ET|
Rajon Rondo can be the quiet type in the locker room but when he’s on the court everyone knows he’s out there by his leadership and presence — at least almost everyone.
Doc Rivers pulled Paul Pierce aside at halftime during Monday night’s survival test against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves and reminded him that he didn’t need to run the offense and distribute when Rondo was on the court.
All good intentions aside, getting others involved wasn’t working out that well for Pierce and the Celtics. He had just five points and had handed out just one assist as the C’s trailed, 47-43.
‘Doc at the half wanted me to be a little more aggressive,” Pierce said. “I was out there trying to make plays and I forgot that we had Rondo out there doing that so I can go back to my customary role of scoring the ball. That’s what I tried to do in the second half.’
As any coach would, Rivers wanted Pierce to do what he does best.
‘I thought Paul in the first half tried way too hard to get everybody else involved,” Rivers said of his captain, who leads the team at 19.0 points per game. “And I told him that at halftime. I said, ‘Paul, you no longer have to be the play maker. We need you to be the aggressive scorer.’ And even he, right after the game he walked up to me and it was the first thing he said was, ‘Ah, gosh, I was, I was way too passive.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, I just thought you were trying to set everybody else up,'” Rivers continued. “Consciously, you know, twice he had shots and he passed it to Nate [Robinson]. Nate’s struggling with his shot right now, but I still want Paul to shoot the ball if he’s open. And I just thought he did a little too much of that tonight.’
Pierce heard Rivers loud and clear after the intermission, remembered that Rondo was indeed in his second game back, and lit up the T’Wolves for 18 second-half points as the Celtics rallied for a 96-93 win.
Once Pierce did allow Rondo to run the show, Pierce and the rest of the team reaped the rewards.
“We got Ray [Allen] open, I thought that was the key,” Pierce said. “Rondo really pushed the ball. Got some really good looks. Defense buckled down so we were able to make a run and get back into the game. Rondo with a big shot and some big passes [to] [Shaquille O’Neal] and that’s what he’s capable of doing and that’s why I’m glad to have him back.”
Observers might have wondered if his sprained right ankle from Sunday night in Toronto might have been affecting his play in the first half.
‘A little bit. I was a little stiff, slow,” Pierce admitted. “But, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Just going to get treatment throughout the week. I don’t see any problems coming up.’
That’s good news for Wednesday as the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs come calling at the Garden. In that matchup, thanks to the second half of Monday’s contest, no one will need to remind Pierce about Rondo when No. 9 is on the court.
|Fast Break: Celtics outlast Minnesota||01.03.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
The Celtics won’t get any style points for their 96-93 win over the Minnesota (recap), but no one will care about that in April. And after not closing out a similar game against New Orleans in their last home game, it was a win they were happy to get.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce came alive: After a dreadful start, Paul Pierce made his first shot with two minutes left in the first half. The second half was a completely different story as he made 5-of-8 shots and scored 15 points in the third quarter. Pierce made only one shot in the fourth quarter, but it was a huge 3-pointer.
He finished with 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and a very smart foul in the final seconds that prevented Michael Beasley from getting a good look at a 3-pointer.
Von Wafer: Wafer had his best stretch of minutes this season in the second quarter when he scored four points and emerged as the Celtics’ best rebounder (this was not a difficult honor to achieve on Monday). Still, Wafer showed some of the ability that has kept him employed by the Celtics this season. His timing couldn’t have been better because the deadline to guarantee contracts for the season is approaching next week.
Rajon Rondo is finding his groove: It seems clear that Rondo isn’t 100 percent back to being Rondo. Before the game Doc Rivers suggested that Rondo’s ankle would probably bother him all year. What remains to be seen is if he can recapture his explosiveness. He only took four shots and rarely drove to the basket.
But even in a reduced role, Rondo is still a great facilitator (he had 16 assists) and adept at finding, and exploiting mismatches. He worked Shaquille O’Neal against Kostas Koufos every time the opportunity presented itself.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding: This was predictable. Kevin Love is the best rebounding forward in the league and the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, who is the second best. But, the Celtics got killed on both the offensive and defensive glass and Love had more rebounds (15) in the first half than the Celtics had as a team (14).
But the Celtics also got killed on the defensive glass for the second night in a row, which is not something they can afford to have happen. Even without Garnett.
Glen Davis tried to do too much, again: Love destroyed Davis on the boards, and Davis didn’t do himself any favors by getting into foul trouble and launching too many jump shots. It has been a rough transition into the starting lineup for Davis, who had a not-as-good-as-it-looked line of 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting. One rebound in 30 minutes told a much different story.
Bench woes: In 29 minutes of court time, Nate Robinson and Luke Harangody took eight shots between them. They missed all of them. Neither player registered an assist, either. Thankfully for the Celtics, Wafer supplied some offense and a whole lot of energy off the bench. Robinson did make two clutch free throws in the final seconds to put the Celtics up by three for the game’s final margin.
|Irish Coffee: Who means most to Celtics’ success?||at 11:42 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Add Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle to the ever-growing list of injuries that have plagued the Celtics through their first 32 games this season.
Following Sunday’s 93-79 victory in Toronto against the Raptors, Doc Rivers told reporters, “We have a game [Monday] night, so he’ll be OK.” But it was another “not again” moment that reminded Celtics fans of the team’s fragility.
It also reminded me of this article from the Los Angeles Times, which made the following statement:
Rajon Rondo, their lone indispensable player, has an ankle injury and has been out three times but keeps returning before he’s 100 percent.
Is Rondo really their only indispensable player? Could they legitimately reach their goal of an 18th NBA title without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or — for that matter — any of the starters who are undefeated as a unit in the playoffs?
That’s when I decided to look at the Celtics’ record with and without each player in the lineup during The New Big Three era. Here’s how it shakes out with and without each guy (winning percentages in parentheses):
- Paul Pierce … With: 195-69 (.739); Without: 8-6 (.571)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .168
- Rajon Rondo … With: 191-68 (.738); Without: 12-7 (.632)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .106
- Kevin Garnett … With: 169-58 (.745); Without: 34-17 (.667)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .078
- Ray Allen … With: 192-72 (.727); Without: 11-3 (.786)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.059
- Kendrick Perkins … With: 167-65 (.720); Without: 36-10 (.783)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.063
Based on these numbers, Pierce has been the most valuable player on the team over the last three-plus regular seasons. Not Rondo. It’s also interesting to note the Celtics’ success without Allen or Perkins in the lineup.
One thing is certainly clear: Pierce, Rondo and Garnett are all indispensable. Well, at least that L.A. Times piece gave us one interesting note:
From the last four openers to Christmas Eve, Boston has gone an astounding 94-14 … a 71-win pace. Not even the Bill Russell teams that won 11 titles in 13 seasons ever did as well in that time frame.
The Celtics’ best four-year opener-to-Christmas Eve run in the Russell era was 94-26 from 1959-1962. Even posting win totals of 72-69-62 in Michael Jordan‘s last three seasons, the Bulls were 64-14 before Christmas.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, after the last three Christmases, they went 84-54 when injuries hit … as they have once more.
Just for fun, let’s look at the same numbers for each of the top-10 rotation players for this year’s team. How have the 2010-11 Celtics performed in their absences, taking into account the relatively small sample size?
- Kevin Garnett … With: 24-6 (.800); Without: 1-1 (.500)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .300
- Rajon Rondo … With: 18-3 (.857); Without: 7-4 (.636)
Winning percentage discrepancy: .221
- Shaquille O’Neal … With: 17-6 (.739); Without: 8-1 (.889)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.150
- Delonte West … With: 3-2 (.600); Without: 22-5 (.815)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.215
- Jermaine O’Neal … With: 7-5 (.583); Without: 18-2 (.900)
Winning percentage discrepancy: –.317
The order of these players’ importance to the Celtics is certainly not surprising, but one thing is: How little an impact Jermaine O’Neal has had on this team. The Celtics have been a significantly better team when he doesn’t see the floor.
PAUL PIERCE THE COMEDIAN
On his Twitter page, Pierce made no mention of how his ankle was feeling on Monday morning, but he did offer this: “Excuse me I need to get thru please” — accompanied by the following video …
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