|#3Tweet: Celtics vs. 76ers back-to-back preview||12.07.12 at 2:11 pm ET|
Leading into this weekend’s back-to-back between the Celtics and 76ers, which could have serious Atlantic Division ramifications, we’re debuting Green Street’s #3Tweet: Three Twitter questions (and a money round) with the opposing city’s best NBA bloggers. On Friday, we interviewed Liberty Ballers blogger Michael Levin.
— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) December 7, 2012
|Rajon Rondo loves short answers, winter hats||12.06.12 at 12:58 am ET|
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo returned from his two-game suspension against the Timberwolves, unleashed a typical Rajon Rondo performance (17 points, 11 assists, 5 turnovers) in a 104-94 win and delivered a quintessential Rajon Rondo postgame press conference. The only thing different was his winter hat.
How did it feel to get back out there? “Good.”
Was the adrenaline pumping? “No.”
Kevin Garnett said the Celtics were hyped to have you back. Did you feel that? “No.”
How long did it take to to find your rhythm after missing two games? “Two seconds.”
How much easier is the game when you establish Garnett early? “He played well.”
What was working in the third quarter? “Ball movement, we got some stops and guys made plays.”
How important was it to outperform a good rebounding team? “We just rebounded the ball.”
What do you notice about Garnett when he faces his old team? “He plays well every time.”
Why do you think that is? “I don’t know. You’ve got to ask Kevin.”
Are you seeing more positives from this team? “It’s just one game. It’s hard to say.”
Are you sensing improved chemistry with the new guys? “I don’t know.”
What do you expect from the back-to-back against the 76ers this weekend? “A lot of running.”
Are these big games because the division is so tight? “For us, every game is big.”
After an oh so Rondo pregnant pause, he offered his most sincere sentiment of the night: “Our record is not where we want it to be, so every game counts and every game is big.”
|Irish Coffee: Why Atlantic Division matters to Celtics||12.04.12 at 1:36 pm ET|
The Celtics (9-8) are almost a quarter of a way through their season and rank fourth in the Atlantic Division.
The Knicks (12-4), Nets (11-5) and 76ers (10-7) all own better records. During the first four of their five consecutive Atlantic crowns, the Celtics owned no worse than a five-game lead through 20 games and seemingly had the division wrapped up by Christmas. Last year, the C’s started 10-10, fell behind by four games and spent the season chasing the Sixers for a fifth straight title. And that was without either of the New York teams involved.
“When you look from top to bottom, it’s a well-balanced division,” said Paul Pierce. “So, each and every game is important. At the end of the day, our goal isn’t to try to win the division; our goal is to win the championship. As far as the division is concerned, it’s about as competitive as it’s ever been since I’ve been a Boston Celtic.”
Declaring they’d rather win an NBA title than the Atlantic Division sounds nice and all, but announcing their aim “isn’t to try to win the division” is a mistake, since doing so gives them a better chance to reach that larger goal.
The Celtics need look no further than May as a prime example. If they hadn’t caught the 76ers, a) the C’s face the Bulls as the No. 7 seed on the road and likely lose in the first round if Derrick Rose doesn’t tear his ACL; and/or b) they play Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Philadelphia, where they lost 2-of-3 playoff games.
Can the Celtics win a sixth straight Atlantic Division crown and set themselves up for another date with the Heat in the conference finals? Of course, but it’s going to be a lot tougher to chase down three teams rather than one.
|Kevin Garnett finding out ‘who’s willing to fight’||11.10.12 at 11:15 am ET|
Doc Rivers said it: “We’re struggling” without Kevin Garnett on the court.
Rajon Rondo said it: “It’s chaos” when KG sits on the bench.
Perhaps more than his physical presence, the Celtics miss his voice on the defensive end. Forget Ronald Reagan, KG is The Great Communicator, and Paul Pierce said it: Without Garnett, “you just have to talk it out.” So, as I’m sure your wife or girlfriend has told you a million times, it’s all about communication and a little effort, and in these “grind days” of the early season Garnett is finding out who’s willing to show the love.
“I try to teach the things that I know to some of the younger guys, if not anybody,” said KG following the C’s 100-94 loss to the 76ers that dropped their record to 2-3. “The things that I know have been over the course over a couple decades. I’ve understood actually how to play this game, understood my role at this point of my career. A lot of the things are just how hard I’m doing it. I talk very loud. I’m continuous with some of the things that I do. …
“But the things that I know are through experience. Trying to give that to a younger guy or somebody who hasn’t played in the league that long is difficult at times, but I try to lead by example. Anybody that’s looking to learn, I’m always open to teach. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Sometimes the darker days and your harder days are some of the most obvious days. It shows you who’s with you, who’s willing to fight, who’s willing to be in the hole with you, so this is showing a lot.”
Somewhere, the Celtics hope, guys like Jeff Green are listening, or this relationship just isn’t going to work.
|Doc Rivers has had it with the lineup questions||at 2:11 am ET|
It wasn’t exactly what you would’ve expected after his team lost to the Sixers, 106-100. Doc RIvers was answering questions about what went wrong and toward the end of his five minute session with reporters decided to go off on a tangent about something that was really bugging him.
After the 106-100 loss to the Sixers Friday, Rivers was reminded that before the game he mentioned he might tweak the lineup when the team heads to Milwaukee and Chicago for games Saturday and Monday nights.
“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “We’ll see. We just finished this game so I’m not thinking about it [yet]. I will say this guys, this lineup stuff you talk about, it lasts for four minutes. Then we switch the lineup [with substitutions]. It’s the whole game that matters. I could start everybody on our bench [Saturday in Milwaukee]. You think it’s going to matter at the end of the game? Really, that’s the way I think. Clearly, you guys don’t think that’s way but that’s how I think.”
Rivers started the first two games with a lineup of Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. In the next three games, including Friday against the Sixers, he started Jared Sullinger in place of Bass.
“I don’t think who starts matters,” Rivers continued. “It’s who plays well, who plays the most minutes. That’s what we’re focused on. I don’t think a guy in our locker room gives a flying crap about who’s starting.
“You have to find the right group. I think we have that. We’re just not playing well. The thing that’s hurting us right now is when Kevin is going off the floor. It happened again tonight. I thought in the second half it was better. Chris Wilcox gave us a lift. But right now, if y’all want to focus on something, that’s what you should focus on, is what are we going to do when Kevin goes off the floor in the first half. Every time we do it, and we have to do it, we’re struggling.
“And that’s on me. I have to figure that out because he’s not going to be on the floor. He’s coming out and he’s coming out at an exact time. We have to figure out something to make us click, and I think it’s on both ends. I don’t think it’s just our defense going down. I think our offense really struggles when he goes out. We have to do something about it.”
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|Bad Jeff Green is a sad Jeff Green||11.09.12 at 11:43 pm ET|
After shooting just 1-of-5 from the field and scoring four points in 18 minutes off the bench during a 100-94 loss to the 76ers, Celtics forward Jeff Green gave a few curt responses during his postgame press conference, eventually offering a “mmm-hmm” to one final question before catching the team’s flight to Milwaukee.
After scoring three points in the season opener, Green tallied 22 points over his next two games before netting just 10 points in 40 minutes over his past two — a drastic drop from his stellar preseason play. On Thursday, Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in Green’s adjustment, and Friday was coach Doc Rivers‘ turn.
“It’s a dilemma, but he’s going to be a good player for us this year,” said Rivers. “And sooner rather than later, I’m hoping. We’ve just got to unlock him. Right now, he’s just absolutely frustrated; you can see it in his play. But that’s on all of us; it’s not just on Jeff. Jeff’s the easy target right now. Jeff’s part of this team, just like everyone else, and we have to do a better job of getting him going. He’s probably got to do a better job of getting himself going.”
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s not enough vs. 76ers||at 10:11 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo may have continued his streak of games with double-digit assists, but the 76ers backcourt combined for 46 points, 18 assists and 15 rebounds, and the Celtics’ defense let another playoff foe from last season reach the century mark in a 106-100 loss to their Atlantic Division rivals.
Jrue Holiday (21 points, 14 assists) and Evan Turner (25 points, 11 rebounds) torched the C’s.
Rondo finished with 14 points and 20 assists while Paul Pierce (24 points), Kevin Garnett (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jason Terry (13 points) all reached double figures, but the Celtics got little help from the bench beyond the guy who dubbed their reserves the best in basketball, as Jeff Green (1-5 FG) struggled once again.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A little help: Outside of Garnett and Lee, the Celtics started an atrocious 1-of-18 from the field, settling for far too many jump shots. Rondo (1-5), Pierce (0-5), Green (0-3) and Bass (0-3) all couldn’t find the basket through most of the first half, and the Celtics fell behind by double digits for the third time in five games.
Wet paint: While the Celtics seemed content launching from mid-range, the Sixers attacked the rim. In the first half, Philly scored 30 points in the paint and added 18 fast break points — compared to 14 and two, respectively, for the C’s — resulting in a 57-45 Sixers lead at the break. Evan Turner, in particular, victimized Pierce, scoring four of his six first-half buckets at the rim. In all, the Sixers outscored the C’s 56-38 in the paint and 26-9 in transition.
Downtown daggers: Somehow, the Celtics failed to defend the basket and the 3-point line. In all, the 76ers shot 7-of-13 from beyond the arc, including a Jrue Holiday triple with five minutes to play that helped keep the surging C’s at bay. In all, Boston opponents are shooting 34-of-84 from long-distance (40.5 3P%). Both the number of makes and attempts illustrates the inability of Celtics wings to close out on the perimeter.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First five: The Celtics actually started off strong defensively, holding the 76ers to a 1-of-9 shooting start and building leads of 6-0 and 8-3 on the back of Garnett, but as has been the case all season, things went south when KG took his five-minute sabbaticals. Sullinger/Bass and Bass/Wilcox combinations quickly turned five- and six-point leads into five- and six-point deficits with Garnett on the bench.
Making a point: In the third quarter, Rondo did everything he could to will his lackadaisical team back into the game. He had his hand in the C’s first five buckets after the break (layup, jumper, assist, 1-2 FT, layup, assist). In the meantime, he notched his 10th assist, tying John Stockton for the NBA’s third-longest streak of 10-plus assists (29 games) and recording his fifth straight double-double to start the season.
Terry time: Often referring to himself as a clutch player, Jason Terry put his words into actions. Twice he drew the Celtics within three points in the fourth quarter — on a 3-pointer that trimmed the lead to 83-80 and a 12-foot floater that cut the edge to 93-90 — as he reached double digits off the bench for the third time in four games. Perhaps more importantly, Rivers has given the all-important closer’s role at shooting guard to Terry in the last two games, including all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter on Friday night.
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