|Irish Coffee: Examining Celtics’ post-All-Star success||03.23.12 at 11:40 am ET|
A day after John Hollinger’s NBA playoff odds indicated the Celtics would be the odd team out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the C’s are statistically entrenched in his top eight thanks to a 100-91 win over the Bucks in Milwaukee. Now, if only they could make the 76ers’ odds of winning the Atlantic Division similarly vanish.
The 76ers have an 80.6 percent chance of winning the division, according to Hollinger. The Celtics? 11.9 percent. That could change in Philadelphia on Friday as the C’s (25-21) trail the Sixers by just one game in the win column.
If history is any indication, Friday in Philly won’t be pretty. The Celtics are 0-6 when they have to travel for the second night of a back-to-back (they did beat the Clippers a night after losing to the Lakers in the same Los Angeles arena), including a 32-point loss to the 76ers earlier this month.
However, the Celtics are 10-4 since the All-Star Game, owners of the league’s second-best record since the break — behind only the NBA’s No. 1 overall seed Bulls (12-2) and one win better than the surging Lakers (9-4). Who would have seen that coming with eight straight away games spread out over 6,000 miles looming?
But the Celtics will emerge from the season’s longest road trip no worse than 4-4, including hard-fought losses to the Lakers and Nuggets (the Western Conference’s current third and seventh seeds, respectively).
|Irish Coffee: How will this strange Celtics trip end?||03.20.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
The NBA lockout ended. Rajon Rondo nearly got traded for Chris Paul during a frenzied training camp. Paul Pierce has played his way into shape, Kevin Garnett has enjoyed a vintage Kevin Garnett season and Ray Allen is shooting better than ever because he’s wearing bigger shoes.
And that’s not all. Jermaine O’Neal played all of 25 games. Heart problems ended both Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox‘s seasons. Mickael Pietrus came on board, guaranteeing an NBA title. The Celtics lost five straight games — twice. They’ve also had two separate 10-game stretches where they’ve won nine and eight games.
Now, with one third left of this long, strange trip that has been the Celtics regular season, they sit in the Eastern Conference’s seventh playoff spot. Trailing the Bulls (38-10) and Heat (33-11) by a respective 12.5 and 9.5 games with 21 games left, the Celtics (24-21) can forget about catching either for the No. 1 or 2 seed.
Catching the Magic (29-18), owners of a four-game lead on the C’s for the No. 3 seed, isn’t inconceivable, but more likely the Celtics will vie with the 76ers (26-20), Pacers (25-18) and Hawks (26-20) for the No. 4 seed. All are within 1.5 games of each other. The Knicks (21-24) and Bucks (20-24) are battling for the final playoff spot.
Three division winners and the conference’s next best team are seeded 1-4 based on records, so the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers are slotted fourth, even though the Pacers own a better record. The remaining teams are ranked 5-8 based on record, but division winners are not guaranteed a home series. So, should a lower seed own the better record, they’d still play four road contests in a seven-game series — negating the seeding advantage.
For example, should the Celtics win the division but have a worse record than the Pacers, they’d still be playing the first two games of their playoff series on the road. With all that said, let’s see who has the best shot of getting those three and four seeds based on how the strength of their remaining schedules.
|Kevin Garnett and Celtics respond to Doc Rivers and his bitter ‘beer face’||03.10.12 at 10:49 am ET|
Everyone associated with the Celtics – from players and coaches to support staff – was embarrassed by Wednesday’s 32-point loss to the Sixers Wednesday night.
“That didn’t sit well with anybody,” Kevin Garnett said after Friday’s 104-86 redemption at the hands of the Blazers. “Tough schedule. Philly, they kicked our ass, plain and simple. This was about getting on the right track, taking care of home, and more importantly, creating that momentum going on this long road trip.”
That’s why no one was particularly surprised to see Doc Rivers with a special edge Friday morning during the team’s shootaround.
“Doc comes in, and you can tell how he’s looking, like he’s had no sleep and his hair standing on top of his head and he has the beer face,” Garnett said. “What happened in Philly wasn’t us but it happens and we accept it.
“[Friday] was a defensive mindset all the way through. A team we’re going to see only once, it was important for us to start the game with a force. Paul kept saying in the huddle, before we went out [to start the game] that it was important that we get this game to start the road trip. I’ve always said for the momentum, you’ve got to get games like this. This is kind of like playing on the road because we are going to be away from home for a while so this game was very important.”
As for this eight-game haul, a haul that began early Saturday morning with a cross-country flight, and will include a walk-through when the team lands in LA, Garnett said it’s important not to be overwhelmed.
“One game at a time,” he began. “When you look at it, it’s actually kind of quite scary, just because of the lack of rest, the back-to-backs, the travel. But when you take it a game at a time… it’s still what it is, actually.
“I was going to dress that up like it was something else. Nah, it’s all messed up, it’s all messed up. It is. I want to use another word but I won’t. It’s difficult but we’re going to take it a game at a time. This is the longest I can remember.”
Certainly the longest in his head coach’s career as Rivers said he can never remember a trip like the one the Celtics are about to embark on.
‘In my career, I’ve been in the league for 26 years,” Rivers said, when asked if it’s the longest one in several years. “It’s a long road trip but I do think there’s rest in it. The first two games are tough because of the long flight, you play and then you play the next day. But then after that, there’s days off in between. I think the other one is the last, the Denver game before we go back East, that’s a hard game. Whenever you play Denver on a back-to-back, that’s a hard game because there’s no oxygen.’
The Celtics hope they aren’t grasping for too much air by the time they return home on March 25 to battle the Wizards.
|NBA Offseason Review: Atlantic Division||12.24.11 at 10:00 am ET|
Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fifth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division
NBA Offseason Review: Central Division
2010-11 record: 42-40
2010-11 standing: 2nd in Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference first round to Celtics, 4-0
NBA draft picks: 17. Iman Shumpert; 45. Josh Harrellson
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (free agent); Baron Davis (amnesty); Mike Bibby (FA)
Key substractions: Chauncey Billups (amnesty); Shawne Williams (free agent); Ronny Turiaf (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Toney Douglas; SG Landry Fields; SF Melo Anthony; PF Amare Stoudemire; C Chandler
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 39.5
2011-12 prediction: 40-26
2010-11 record: 24-58
2010-11 standing: 4th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 25. Marshon Brooks; 31. Bojan Bogdanovic; 36. Jordan Williams
Key additions: Shawne Williams (free agent); Shelden Williams (FA)
Key substractions: Sasha Vujacic (free agent); Travis Outlaw (amnesty)
2011-12 starters: PG Deron Williams; SG Tony Morrow; SF Damion James; PF Kris Humphries; C Brook Lopez
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 21.5
2011-12 prediction: 25-41
2010-11 record: 41-41
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 16. Nikola Vucevic; 50. Lavoy Allen
Key additions: None
Key substractions: None
2011-12 starters: PG Jrue Holiday; SG Jodie Meeks; SF Andre Iguadola; PF Elton Brand; C Spencer Hawes
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 30.5
2011-12 prediction: 34-32
2010-11 record: 56-26
2010-11 standing: Won Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference semis to Heat, 4-1
NBA draft picks: 27. JaJuan Johnson; 55. E’Twuan Moore
Key additions: Brandon Bass (trade); Keyon Dooling (trade); Chris Wilcox (free agent)
Key substractions: Jeff Green (injury); Glen Davis (trade); Shaquille O’Neal (retired); Nenad Krstic (Russia)
2011-12 starters: PG Rajon Rondo; SG Ray Allen; SF Paul Pierce; PF Kevin Garnett; C Jermaine O’Neal
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 41-25
2010-11 record: 22-60
2010-11 standing: 5th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 5. Jonas Valanciunas
Key additions: Aaron Gray (free agent); Jamaal Magloire (FA); Rasual Butler (FA)
Key substractions: Sonny Weems (free agent); Reggie Evans (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Jose Calderon; SG DeMar DeRozan; SF James Johnson; PF Andrea Bargnani; C Amir Johnson
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 16.5
2011-12 prediction: 13-53
|Hypothetical 2011-12 Celtics preseason schedule||08.18.11 at 2:29 pm ET|
The NBA announced a preseason schedule that would begin Oct. 9. Let’s just say the likelihood of this schedule actually taking place as scheduled is up in the air. Keep your popcorn unpopped. Anyhow, here’s the hypothetical preseason schedule for the Celtics …
- Oct. 10: 76ers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, R.I.)
- Oct. 15: Knicks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y.)
- Oct. 16: Celtics at Raptors, 6 p.m. (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ont.)
- Oct. 19: Celtics at 76ers, 7 p.m. (Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.)
- Oct. 21: Raptors at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, Mass.)
- Oct. 22: Knicks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (XL Center, Hartford, Conn.)
- Oct. 24: Celtics at Nets, 7:30 p.m. (Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.)
- Oct. 26: Nets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, Mass.)
Please note that the venue for each game does not necessarily dictate which team is considered the home team.
|Message or not, Doug Collins was certainly impressed with the Celtics||04.06.11 at 12:00 pm ET|
It took nearly 20 minutes after the final buzzer of the Celtics‘ 99-82 win over the Sixers Tuesday night for Doc Rivers to show up for his postgame news conference in the small media room at TD Garden.
Turns out, he was being showered with praise by Sixers coach Doug Collins.
‘We ran up against a team that played probably as well as they’ve played in a long time,” Collins said. “I talked to Doc after the game, 29 assists, they executed brilliantly, they had two or three really great defensive spurts. To start the third quarter, we fought to get back in, and we cut it to four again, and then they had another defensive spurt.”
Then came the really sugar-coated stuff.
“I told our guys how that’s really what championship teams do, they might not play it for 48 minutes, but they’re going to lock you down for stretches, and win those what I call five minute skirmishes. And I thought they won two five-minute skirmishes in the second half which I really thought gave them separation.”
As for the message sent and received business that was in vogue after the game should this be a playoff preview, Rivers said he was really only concerned about the final score, nothing less, nothing more.
‘No. No. Not at all,” Rivers said, downplaying the mere suggestion. “I just think we won today, and they lost today, and they’re going to watch film and we’re going to watch film. But it’s good to win.’
That doesn’t mean everyone was buying it. Rondo admitted he thought the Celtics made a ‘little statement’ about just how hard it’s going to be for the Sixers to knock off the Celtics in a seven-game series.
But back to Collins. Without mentioning him by name, the Sixers coach also had praise for the way C’s GM Danny Ainge has rebuilt the depth of the bench to support his starting guards.
“Delonte West really helps them, Jeff Green has played very well against us, and they played a very very good game,” Collins said. “Rondo once again leading their team, Ray Allen shooting a high percentage. So when they play like that, it should make Doc smile because they’re one of the best teams in the league.’
Collins has been around long enough to know that trash-talking a superior opponent, especially one you might see in the first round of the playoffs in 10 days, almost never does any good.
|Paul Pierce on Celtics’ future hopes: ‘As Rondo goes, we go’||at 10:38 am ET|
Paul Pierce could see it. Doc Rivers could see it. So could Kevin Garnett. All of the Celtics‘ leaders essentially said the same thing following Tuesday’s 99-82 win over the 76ers at TD Garden. The Celtics are slowly but surely getting in playoff form, and if they are going anywhere, they’re going to need Rajon Rondo to get them there.
Rondo had 16 points and 13 assists and led the charge all night long as the Celtics were pressed early and often by a young Philadelphia team trying to show it could be a legitimate threat come the playoffs if the two meet in the first round.
“You expect Rajon to play that way every night,” Pierce said. “He’s set a standard for himself over the last couple of years with his play. It’s no surprise when I look up and he has those type of numbers. I just think his next step is being more consistent with it to where he’s putting up 13, 14, 15 assists every night, but that comes as you get older. I was in that position, too, as a young player, just learning how to be consistent with it. As Rondo goes, we go. When he has these monster assist games, we usually win.”
“He was just aggressive and attacking and shooting,” Rivers said of Rondo, his prized floor general. “You can see he’s getting himself ready, you can just feel that. I don’t know if he plays with great focus all game right now, or if any of our guys do. But you can see what they’re all doing. They’re in some ways sharpening their tools in spurts. It’s tough for coaches. You’d like for them to do that and keep doing it. But they know where they’re at.”
As for team consistency, the captain said the Celtics showed enough to overcome the Sixers, learning from recent history where they have had a hard time protecting a double-digit lead. Read the rest of this entry »