|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|
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.”
|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.
|Doc Rivers has another unmistakable message for his team||11.08.12 at 1:32 pm ET|
This has been an early season of “message sending” for Doc Rivers.
After the first two games, the Celtics head coach talked about not trying to win games by playing one-on-one basketball.
On Monday, after barely surviving blowing a 16-point second-half lead in Washington Saturday night and watching the Wizards reserves dominate the Celtics second unit, the theme turned to the bench. “I’m not going to change the way I use [Kevin Garnett]. If our bench doesn’t score, then we’ll lose, simple.”
Well, he got a much better effort from Chris Wilcox (albeit four minutes), Jason Terry and Brandon Bass off the bench on Wednesday night and it was the biggest reason why the Celtics won, 100-94 in overtime.
But what Rivers saw early on as his team fell behind and what he saw late in the fourth quarter were the two things he focused on afterward.
‘Well, we won the game,” Rivers said. “And right now that’s the type of team we are. We’re not playing great. It’s good to win a game like that. We’ve won two like that. You knew coming into this night, no matter who you’re playing, when you’re play a team back-to-back games, you give them three days, you knew it’d be a tough game. But we made it so much harder. I thought we played for the first five minutes great, and then we went back to old habits. I thought our energy was terrible.
“I thought Chris Wilcox saved the game for us, singlehandedly, with his effort. And I thought it was obvious. He didn’t do anything but played hard and played with great effort. And I thought that that leadership led everybody else into doing. Kevin, always, I always exclude him because he always plays the right way. But we’ve got to get more guys that play harder, better. I don’t care about ‘well,’ you know, I don’t care if we play ‘well’ or not, because that’s just human. If you can make shots or not, it happens. But we just have to play with a better focus and we’ve got to run our schemes better.’
Next up for the 2-2 Celtics, the 2-2 Sixers, who are coming off a win in New Orleans Wednesday night and will be in town Friday night. What will Doc’s message be? Stay tuned.
|Fast Break: 76ers sink Celtics in final preseason game||10.21.12 at 10:02 pm ET|
Dorell Wright (20 points) and Nick Young (15 points) led the 76ers in scoring, and no member of the Celtics scored more than 12 points. It was that kind of night at the Garden in the C’s eighth and final preseason game — an 88-79 loss to Philadelphia.
The Celtics finished 3-5 during the preseason (2-4 against NBA teams), but more importantly emerged from those eight games with a healthy Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett entering their final week of training camp before facing the Heat on opening night.
Rondo (12 points, 10 assists) and Jeff Green (12 points, 10 rebounds) each notched a double-double, but the rest of the Celtics shot a combined 17-of-44 (38.6%). Here’s what else went wrong (and a few things that went right, too).
WHAT WENT WRONG
Captain lost at sea: With all the attention that Rondo, Garnett and even Ray Allen garnered this past offseason, Pierce has been somewhat of a forgotten star entering this year — as much as the franchise fixture can be. Still, over his previous three games, he shot 58 percent and scored 63 points on 36 shots. Last night? Not so much. Pierce finished his night 3-for-12 from the field and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
Sloppy second: Despite sticking to an eight-man rotation that included the usual suspects (except for Jason Terry), the Celtics got completely outplayed by an undermanned Sixers squad in the second quarter. Pierce, Green and Courtney Lee shot a combined 3-for-13, and the C’s shot 33.3 percent as a group. Suddenly, a 22-21 Celtics lead transformed into a 51-41 halftime hole from which they couldn’t escape.
Turnovers: For all that’s changed from last Celtics season to this one, one aspect certainly hasn’t. The turnover bug continues to plague these C’s, as they racked up 21 turnovers that led to 19 76ers points. Pierce was the biggest culprit, committing five, but multiple giveaways by Green and Brandon Bass didn’t help, either.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pointed in the right direction: After the summer of Rondo, when he declared himself the game’s best point guard, the C’s floor general has emboldened the belief that he’ll enjoy a career year — no small feat for a 26-year-old with four All-Defensive bids and three All-Star nods in addition to an All-NBA selection, an assist crown, a steals title and an NBA championship. Once again, he looked sharp, collecting 12 points, 10 assists and four rebounds against just one turnover.
Two’s a crowd: With a wealth of options at his disposal — including Terry, Lee and eventually both Avery Bradley and Leandro Barbosa — Celtics coach Doc Rivers continued to try just about anything and everything, opting for Green as his starting shooting guard. As he’s done in just about every role he’s been asked to play this preseason, Green produced at the 2, totaling four points, five rebounds, two steals and a pair of blocks in the opening quarter. The logjam at the off-guard spot isn’t such a bad problem for a coach to have.
Lee from 3: Shooting just 4-for-17 from 3-point range in his first seven preseason games, Lee had yet to knock down multiple triples in a single game. This from a career 39 percent 3-point shooter. In his final attempt before the regular season begins on Oct. 30, Lee connected on 2-of-3 long-balls. He also reached double-digit scoring (10 points) for the fifth time in eight games.
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