|Danny Ainge on Big Show: Shaq can’t give us 12 minutes right now||04.28.11 at 5:17 pm ET|
Shaquille O’Neal will try to practice on Friday and the Celtics haven’t given up hope that he will be able to come back from his Achilles injury before the playoffs are over, but they also don’t want to put him in a position to play him before he’s ready.
“Right now he could not give us 12 minutes,” Celtics president Danny Ainge said on The Big Show Thursday afternoon. “We want Shaq healthy. If Shaq could give us 12 minutes in the first game without jeopardizing the following game he would probably be out there doing that but he’s not ready to do that yet.”
Ainge said the team was hopeful and that O’Neal was making progress, but they just don’t when he’ll be able to return.
“I wish I had an answer to that one,” Ainge said. “He looks better today. There’s progress. We’re still hopeful that he’ll be ready to play but it’s just taking longer to heal, or taking a while to heal and Shaq was determined to play Game 1 of the first playoff series and it’s just not been that way. He could probably go out and some thing but I’m not sure he could help much.”
Here are some other highlights from the conversation: Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics and Heat offer interesting matchups||at 1:40 pm ET|
All along the Celtics and Heat figured that they would meet in the playoffs.”It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go through them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters in Miami after his team eliminated Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Celtics had a similar reaction. “We assumed when they put this team together, at some point if we want to put another banner up then we’ll probably have to go through them,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the team went through practice on Thursday.
Now that it’s upon us expect no small amount of hype to emerge. But when you break through the thicket of noise, the thing that makes this series so compelling from a basketball standpoint are the individual matchups. There are seven members of the 2011 Eastern Conference All-Star team competing in this series and six of them will be matched directly against each other:
Dwyane Wade vs. Ray Allen
LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce
Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnett
Expect the Celtics to approach their defensive assignments in a straightforward manner.
“The numbers bare out when we guard our own guys we’re pretty good and when we guard other guys we’re pretty bad, against this team in particular,” Rivers said. “They may look good on paper and they look good visually for two minutes, statistically they’ve been horrendous for us.”
Rivers was referring directly to the fullcourt defense Rajon Rondo employed against James in the Celtics 85-82 win back in February. While Rondo’s gambit stirred the Garden crowd and provided some inspirational moments, once the postgame fog of exuberance gave way to sober analysis, the matchup did more harm than good for the Celtics.
But Rondo is the wild card in this series because asking Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers to stay with him for 48 minutes may be asking too much. That could mean Wade or James switching their assignments to try to contain Rondo. “We’ll see one of those guys guarding Rondo, which means one of them aren’t guarding Ray or Paul, so we’re good with all those,” Rivers said.
One thing the Celtics want to avoid are having to rely on double-teams or switches, but that’s easier said than done against this team.
“Every time we’ve overhelped in any series, including the New York series, we tend to hurt ourselves more than just playing our solid one-on-one defense with support,” Rivers said. “They run some stuff that’s honestly difficult to not switch, but we really try to avoid the switch as much as possible.”
Beyond the starters, Delonte West and Jeff Green will be asked to provide support.
“Jeff is going to have to be a great defender,” Rivers said. “He ran into that in the New York series where by the end of the series he was terrific on Carmelo [Anthony. That’s gives us another big, athletic body." Asked if Green could help with Wade, Rivers said, "We may do it in stretches, but you’re asking for trouble in the long run."
The plan is for Shaquille O'Neal to participate in the walkthrough segment of Thursday's practice and then try to get on the floor for for the full session on Friday. The Celtics will fly to Miami on Saturday so Friday will be the last chance for O'Neal to get on the floor before Sunday's Game 1.
The Celtics know the hype will approach histrionic levels throughout the series, but they also know this is ultimately just one step in a larger process.
"It's the second round," Paul Pierce said. "It's the halfway point of where our goal is. I know there's going to be a lot of hype around it, like it's a championship series, but you've got to understand it's still just the second round. But a very big second round [series] because you’ve got two potential teams that can win it all. I’m excited. This is a great stage for basketball. It’s going to be great for fans and the guys that we have here love these type of series.”
PIERCE VS. LEBRON, III
Pierce has faced James two other times in the playoffs and the Celtics have won both series. In 2008 they beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game epic that featured brilliant Game 7 performances for both players. James scored 45 points in the 97-92 Celtics win, while Pierce went for 41 of his own. James got the better of Pierce in their individual matchup last season, but the Celtics won in six games.
Asked if it was personal for James to finally get past the Celtics, Pierce said, “Probably so at this point. When you lose to a team consecutive times in the playoffs — I mean, it would be personal for me. I’m sure he’s going to take it personal and you’ve got to expect his best.”
|Celtics-Heat schedule||04.27.11 at 9:54 pm ET|
The schedule is set for the Celtics Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Heat.
Game 1 – Sun May 1 Boston at Miami 3:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Tue May 3 Boston at Miami TBD
Game 3 – Sat May 7 Miami at Boston 8 p.m.
Game 4 – Mon May 9 Miami at Boston TBD
Game 5 * Wed May 11 Boston at Miami TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 13 Miami at Boston TBD
Game 7 * Mon May 16 Boston at Miami 8 p.m
* If necessary
|Glen Davis: ‘We’re way deeper than [Miami]‘||at 1:43 pm ET|
As the Celtics returned to practice on Wednesday they still don’t know who their next playoff opponent will be, but that gives them a chance to focus on what has been their toughest adversary at times this season: themselves.
“I’ve told you all year our opponent has been us, so we get a chance to work on our stuff,” Doc Rivers said. “[This week is] very similar to training camp. When you start camp you really don’t have an opponent.”
That said, they clearly have an eye on Miami, who has a chance to close out its first round playoff series with Philadelphia on Wednesday night. As long as there’s not a Game 7 in that series, the Celtics will be in Miami for Game 1 on Sunday.
In the interim, their focus will be on what they do, especially their reserves. Glen Davis, for one, isn’t lacking any confidence.
“I feel like our bench is way stronger than theirs,” Davis said. “We’re way deeper than them. We just have to make sure we use our depth.”
The Heat have primarily used three reserves in their first round series with Philadelphia — Joel Anthony, Mario Chalmers and James Jones — but they may get a boost if Udonis Haslem is able to return from foot surgery that has kept him out since late November. An ineffective Mike Miller has fallen out of the rotation.
The Celtics may be deeper on paper, but their second unit didn’t exactly distinguish itself in their series with the Knicks except for a strong showing in the first half of Game 4. Rivers feels like he has gained some insight from that series, however.
“We knew what the starters could do,” Rivers said. “We weren’t sure what the fifth guy with the starters could do and you had no idea going into a playoff series what your bench, not only what they were going to give you, but what worked for them. As the playoffs went on we kind of figured out more and more what they’re comfortable with, what they can’t run more than what they can run.”
Despite their struggles, Rivers was encouraged by some of what he saw in New York, particularly on the block. “The one thing they do well is post,” Rivers said. “That second group is a great post group. Jeff Green, Delonte [West] and Baby, so we have to try to run a package more suited to them.”
The Celtics don’t incorporate a lot of post-ups in their offense, mainly because they haven’t had a reliable presence on the block since Shaquille O’Neal got hurt. Green got more work on the block in New York and for a second unit that sometimes struggled to run a functioning offense that would be a positive development.
Rivers also hinted at a bigger role for Green in the next round. “The other fifth guy [with the starters] is Jeff Green,” Rivers said. “That may be our biggest plus of all the groups, but we just haven’t used it a lot.”
SHAQ UPDATE: O’Neal didn’t practice on Wednesday and he won’t practice Thursday either. The Celtics are targeting Friday as a possible date, but as with all things Shaq, that is subject to change. “We hope he practices [Friday],” Rivers said. “But we don’t know that. We’ll see.”
Everyone else was on the floor at the start of practice, which was closed to the press.
STAYING IN RHYTHM: Everyone knows the Celtics play better with rest, but is there such a thing as too much? Assuming they play again on Sunday that would be a full week between games for the Celtics. They were 1-3 in the playoffs last season with three or more days between games.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Rivers said. “It’s not like we can say, ‘Hey listen we want to start now,’ so let’s take advantage of what we have.”
Rivers called this week a mini training camp, but there’s no doubt they don’t want to stray too far from what made them successful against the Knicks, especially the last two games offensively. “When we run our stuff right defensively and offensively we tend to not turn the ball over and we tend to rebound better,” Rivers said.
RUN RONDO RUN: While no one would come out and say it before the series becomes official, Rajon Rondo will be one of the most scrutinized players in a showdown series with the Heat. He is the one obvious advantage the Celtics have from a personnel standpoint. He showed in the Knicks series that he can kick it up a gear and play with the kind of speed the Celtics need from him.
“It’s night and day when you see it,” Ray Allen said. “When he’s out there and he’s going and he’s got the energy, he doesn’t care whether you make a shot or not, he’s still having an impact on both ends of the floor. He’s on us about running the floor. I’m thinking I’m running, but let me run a little bit harder.”
Still, the Celtics emphasized that all four of their star players are tied together.
“Rondo’s key for us but all of them are,” Rivers said. “If Rondo’s playing well and Ray is not playing well then we struggle. If Ray is playing well and Paul [Pierce] or Kevin [Garnett] struggle then we struggle. It’s not just one guy. This really is a team that is pretty much tied together and each guy has to carry his own load.”
|Fast Break: Celtics complete sweep of Knicks||04.24.11 at 6:16 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Bring on the Heat. It got more hectic than it should have in the fourth quarter as the Celtics almost blew a 23-point lead, but all that matters is that they survived in Game 4 of their first round playoff series and escaped with a 101-89 win over the Knicks on Sunday.
The win completed the sweep, their first since the 1992 season when they brushed off the Pacers in three games. It also allowed them at least a week worth of rest before they start their semifinal series with Miami (assuming the Heat take care of Philadelphia).
The Knicks series is over. Every game except for the third one had its anxious moments, but the Celtics did what that they had to do and made progress along the way. Here’s how they closed it out:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo at his best: Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised eyebrows before the game when he wondered aloud how Rajon Rondo would look if he played for Minnesota, instead of on a team with three future Hall of Famers. No doubt word was relayed to Rondo about the subtle jab, but whether it bothers him or not is a different story. “He doesn’t bring it up a lot,” Doc Rivers said in response. “It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”
Whatever the case, Rondo went right at the Knicks from the outset. He went strong to the basket even when he didn’t have the numbers and made solid decisions with the ball. He also pulled up for jumpers in transition and drained team. How would Rondo do with a bad team? It doesn’t really matter because he’s the right point guard for this team.
The bench comes alive: For three games the Celtics played shorthanded. Their second unit was no unit at all, but in Game 4 that all changed. Glen Davis made four of his first five shots and put up 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. Nenad Krstic scored inside — his first made field goals of the playoffs. Delonte West brought his usual tough defense and Jeff Green was aggressive on the post and putting the ball on the floor. The Celtics had a six-point lead after the first quarter. They led by 17 at the half. Credit the bench, which will be a major part of the next rounds of the playoffs.
The second half? Not so much, but at long last the play of the second unit was a positive development.
De-fense, De-fense: In the building where the chant took on a life of its own, the Celtics clamped down defensively in an impressive, and overwhelming, performance. Carmelo Anthony started hot, making five of his first nine shots, but he was the only threat and the Celtics eventually cooled him off too. Amar’e Stoudemire was clearly not himself, missing his first eight shots. Outside of Anthony, the Knicks shot a woeful 6-for-34 in the first half. Even with him they still made just 28 percent in the first half.
And then the second half happened …
WHAT WENT WRONG
Third quarter letdown: It was bound to happen. After dominating the first half and taking that into the opening minutes of the second half, the Celtics displayed every bad habit that has marked the last two months of the regular season. They held the ball on offense, didn’t get back in transition and didn’t close out on shooters. The Knicks sliced an 18-point lead down to 10 and made the fourth quarter way more interesting than it needed to be.
Careless turnovers: These are the Celtics we’re talking about. Turnovers have been a problem forever with this team and they reared their head in the fourth quarter. Really they were a function of all the bad offensive habits the Celtics developed late in the year — holding the ball, waiting too long to get into their sets. They may be playing with an extra sense of urgency during the playoffs, but teams simply don’t become something they’re not overnight and the Celtics’ turnover problem will not go away any time soon.
|Mike D’Antoni on Rajon Rondo: ‘I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does’||at 3:09 pm ET|
NEW YORK — For as long as Rajon Rondo plays with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, people will question his place in the great point guard hierarchy. Is he a product of the environment of playing with three future Hall of Famers or a great player in his own right? Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised the issue prior to Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series with New York.
“He’s a very good player,” D’Antoni said. “I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does. Everybody’s tied together and they have three Hall of Famers playing out there. But Rondo’s a very, very good basketball player. Really good. There’s no doubt about that.”
Rondo had 20 assists against the Knicks in Game 3 and at least nine of those were on jump shots, according to Synergy Sports, which tracks every play. But Rondo also had a triple double in the game, his sixth in his postseason career.
“You play with those guys, that’s probably what you’re going to get,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think he would trade it. I think he enjoys playing with them. If there is a negative side — I guess — that would be it. No matter how well you play, the question will be [that]. And someday that will be answered, too. I’ve got a feeling he’ll answer them all in the way he’s answering them now.”
Asked if this kind of talk fueled Rondo, Rivers said, “I don’t talk about it a whole bunch. He doesn’t bring it up a lot. It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”
|Celtics need more in reserve||04.23.11 at 6:44 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Step one was getting the defense in order. Step two was finding a way to make the offense function better. Step three, and possibly the final step in getting the Celtics on the right track for the rest of the playoffs is unlocking the potential of the second unit.
Delonte West, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic have all started at various times in their career. Glen Davis is practically a starter for the Celtics, so the talent is there. But for whatever reason those four have not functioned well either as a group, or individually.
The numbers are not pretty. Through three games of the postseason, those four have averaged just nine points, nine rebounds and three assists, while shooting 14-for-45 in 179 minutes.
“It’s something I’ve got to do, I know that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Saturday after the team had a brief walkthrough at Madison Square Garden. “I’ve got to get them playing right. We’re searching I can tell you that because we need them in this series and we need them to play well.”
No one is standing out for the bench crew right now, which has magnified the pressure on all of them. Rivers had a quiet conversation with Davis after practice and simply told him to keep playing hard.
“We need him,” Rivers said. “He can play better. I can help him play better. I told him I was going to try keeping to do that as long as he keeps his end. Baby’s an energy player for us. As Pat Riley used to tell me — and everyone else — thinking hurts the team. When you start thinking what’s wrong you usually play poorly.”
Davis has struggled shooting jumpers all season and while he’s started trying to maneuver closer to the basket in recent games, he has had a difficult time shooting over the Knicks more athletic players. Davis is the Celtics most important reserve, but they also need more from Green.
Game 3 wasn’t a breakout game for Green, but it was his best of the playoffs as he scored nine points and earned praise from Rivers for his defense.
“He played much better,” the coach said. “Defensively, he was terrific. He’s starting to cut better for us. We got him a couple of nice cuts where he got deep posts and got his spot. He’s getting there. Jeff is going to help us.”
This is Green’s first time coming off the bench since his rookie season. He has said that the adjustment is all mental and it’s something he’s still getting used to doing. He also has to be something of a go-to guy for the reserves because they lack a dominant scorer with this group. Should the Celtics advance, Green will become a very important player in their series with the Heat because they play so many unorthodox lineups.
Even with all that no one has struggled more than Krstic. He has attempted just one shot, a jumper in Game 1 when he had a clear path to the basket. He saw second-half minutes in Game 3 only because of the score and he has grabbed just three rebounds in the series.
Rivers hasn’t given up on Krstic yet, but there are other options, namely Troy Murphy.
“There’s always another guy when the other guy’s not working,” Rivers said. “Troy’s working his butt off, I can tell you that. Him and Von [Wafer], they may be guys that help us win a game.”