|The trouble with close-out games||04.23.11 at 5:10 pm ET|
NEW YORK — In the Kevin Garnett era, the Celtics have won eight playoff series and lost only two, but they have had a strange inability to close out series, especially on the road. The Celtics are 8-11 in elimination games and 1-9 on the road in those situations.
The one win came against Detroit in Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals and was hailed at the time as a breakthrough for a team that was still learning how to play with each other in the playoffs. That 1-9 record has cost them twice. In 2009 they lost Game 6 in Orlando and then were knocked out on the TD Garden floor in Game 7. Last season the Celtics had two chances to beat the Lakers in Los Angeles and lost them both.
They have a chance to take care of the Knicks on Sunday and the odds are in their favor, considering point guard Chauncey Billups is not likely to play and Amar’e Stoudemire is having problems with his back.
But it’s never easy. Take last season’s first round matchup against Miami. The Celtics won a dramatic Game 3 on Paul Pierce‘s last-second game-winner and the talk in South Florida was about how the Heat didn’t want to get back on a plane and take their beating in Game 5 back in Boston. Instead, they rallied from a 77-71 deficit in the fourth quarter and rode Dwyane Wade‘s incredible shooting back to Boston.
“Close-out games are difficult because it’s the one game where you tend to let your guard down,” Kevin Garnett said. “[They] make you tend to relax versus remembering the things that got you there and how you put yourself in a position to close out.”
One would think that a veteran team like the Celtics would have an advantage in these situations because of their experience, but their record shows otherwise. Either way the Celtics are confident in their approach.
“It’s not difficult for me by any means,” Ray Allen said. “I don’t look it as a close-out game. I just look at it as another game we have to play and another game we have to win. Last night we didn’t win anything. We just have to go out and do our jobs and that’s how I look at it.”
One area they want to carryover from Game 3 is their execution offensively. Obviously Pierce and Allen aren’t going to make 25 of 37 shots again, but the shots were just the end result of an offensive that functioned better than it has in months.
“I attribute that to the bigs being in good position and setting great screens and [Rajon] Rondo playing with great speed,” Allen said. “If my guy has to shift just a little bit the one way and I go the other way then he’s beat already. All those little small things help.”
Still, they pointed to their 20 turnovers and the fact that they were so perimeter oriented.
“We made shots and we’re all really smart when we make shots,” Doc Rivers said. “Paul and Ray were 14-for-18 from the 3, if they had been 3-for-18 from the 3, you would have been saying, ‘Doc why didn’t you post the ball up more.’”
SHAQ UPDATE: The Celtics didn’t have a full practice on Saturday and there was no opportunity to see if Shaquille O’Neal was ready to play, so he was ruled out of Game 4. Rivers insisted that they are not holding him out for any strategic purposes because of their 3-0 lead.
“He didn’t feel great, so I’m not taking a chance,” Rivers said. “I’d still like to use him. If he could play I’d play him because I think it would be good for him. The minute he can play he’ll be on the floor.”
THE RAY AND PAUL SHOW: After Game 3, Pierce noted that he was enjoying watching Allen light it up from the outside. Allen had the same reaction.
“I just kept seeing Paul make shots, I was like man, Paul is hot right now, keep giving him the ball,” Allen said. “I felt like I was in the meantime, keep giving Paul the ball.”
Allen was asked if this game was the antidote to all their offensive problems over the last month and a half. “I didn’t question it,” he said. “I know what we need to do and we’ve always known that. It’s just going out and doing it.”
|Report: Shaquille O’Neal should play Game 1||04.11.11 at 6:09 pm ET|
Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal is expected to practice with the team on Thursday and be ready to return for Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs, according to a Globe beat reporter’s Twitter account.
“Celtics president Danny Ainge said Shaquille O’Neal unlikely to play Wed, but expected to practice Thursday and be ready for Game 1,” Globe reporter Gary Washburn wrote.
O’Neal has played once since Feb. 1, missing 26 games with an inflamed Achilles tendon before returning on April 3 — when he strained his calf against the Pistons after just five minutes on the floor. The 15-time NBA All-Star has averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 37 games for the Celtics this season.
As it stands now, the Celtics would be the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and face the Knicks in Round 1 of the playoffs (date, time TBA).
In other Celtics news, multiple reports indicate that Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen will not play against the Wizards in Washington on Monday night. Glen Davis, Delonte West and Jeff Green are expected to start in their place.
|Defending D Wade||04.16.10 at 5:25 pm ET|
WALTHAM – In three games against the Celtics this season, Dwyane Wade scored 101 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 26 assists. The Celtics won all three games.
However, if they are going win four over the next two weeks they know they have to do a better job of defending Wade.
“We’ve won the games but he’s been way too successful,” Doc Rivers said. “If he’s that successful in this playoff series it’s going to be a tough series. It’s not that he’s scoring 33.7, it’s that he’s shot over 50 percent. It’s that he shot 32 free throws. He’d had low turnovers and he’s had high assists. Other than that, I don’t know what else you want him to do. If he does all that then it will be one tough series for us.”
This is nothing new for the Celtics. Their entire scheme against the Magic, for example, is predicated on matching up Kendrick Perkins on Dwight Howard without help. If he scores 50 points that’s fine with the Celtics, provided the other Magic players don’t go off on their own.
But Wade is a different task because everything revolves around him.
“It’s a tough matchup,” Rivers said. “If it was easy he wouldn’t be Dwyane Wade. I think he’s a great offensive player, but what he’s really improved on is getting everyone else involved, as well. That’s the tough part. He’s a great ballhandling guard, he’s strong and he can pass.”
The Celtics said all the usual things about making Wade work harder for his shots, but it seems clear that they intend to devote a team-wide effort to try to neutralize him. That, and a healthy dose of Tony Allen.
“Try to contain him, just keep him off the foul line,” Tony Allen said. “If you can do that and have your help-side bigs and your help-side guards alert when he’s driving, I think it will be more of a team concept than one-on-one.”
Ray Allen is likely to start the game on Wade, and while it would be nice if he returned the favor and spent his time on the defensive end chasing Ray Allen around the numerous picks the Celtics set for him, that probably won’t be the case.
“If [Wade] guards [Rajon] Rondo, we probably anticipate that he will, then you still have to chase Rondo,” Rivers said. “Even though you use guys on Rondo so you can be the rover, that’s still work.”
Interestingly, Rondo will be matched up with Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers who are more perimeter-oriented and thus he can help try to wreak havoc with his weakside ball-hawking skills, provided he can also recover in time to disrupt the shooters. “I think Rondo is the key to this series,” Kendrick Perkins said.
There will also be an onus on the big men, who will be tasked with stepping into the driving lanes when Wade goes to the basket.
“You have to show team defense first,” Perkins said. “Obviously he’s going to make plays. You can’t worry about if he’s making tough shots, make him work and all that, but at the same time it’s all about your pride.”
However they defend him, they know it won’t be easy.
“He’s quick, he’s aggressive and he’s a big guard,” Tony Allen said. “Therefore, that makes him Dwyane Wade.”
|Celtics schedule vs. Heat||04.15.10 at 10:21 am ET|
The Celtics will open their first round series with the Heat on Saturday night at TD Garden. Doc Rivers was hoping for a Sunday start, but he got a bit of a break with their first round in that they will have two days off in between Games 2 and 3. After that it will be every other day.
The full schedule:
Game 1: Miami at Boston, April 17, 8 p.m.
Game 2: Miami at Boston, April 20, 8 p.m.
Game 3: Boston at Miami, April 23, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Boston at Miami, April 25, 1 p.m.
Game 5: Miami at Boston, April 27 Time TBD (if necessary)
Game 6: Boston at Miami, April 29, TBD (if necessary)
Game 7: Miami at Boston, May 1 TBD (if necessary)
|Rivers: If you only knew||04.17.09 at 2:30 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Doc Rivers was in understandable shock on Thursday morning.
The Celtics coach had just told WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan that the C’s would be without their emotional leader and shutdown defender, Kevin Garnett, likely for the playoffs. And he had just found out that his boss and one of his closest friends in the game, Danny Ainge, had just suffered a heart attack.
So he could certainly be forgiven when he said on Friday that he couldn’t remember which came first.
“We make the Kevin decision and then literally, the next thing follows,” Rivers retold. “I don’t remember which was first. It was just not a good period. When someone calls you and says, ‘A guy had a heart attack.’ They should follow. It scares the hell out of you, because they stop. And it’s the pause is what killed me because obviously you think the worst but he’s lucky. And that’s good.”
But good was about the last thing you would call Thursday for anyone associated with the Celtics.
“It was awful,” Rivers said. “Someone said it didn’t look like I wasn’t giving the Kevin thing a lot of thought at the time and I said that’s because you didn’t know what was going through my mind at the time.
“At that time, he was going into surgery,” Rivers continued. “You’re scared, you’re worried. So it hit hard for that, it hit me hard because he’s my friend and it hit me hard because he’s my age. It was scary for me and for everybody but when you know somebody like I know Danny, it just really tugs at you.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Doc’s orders: Ainge told to stay away from Garden||at 1:59 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Friday that he has exchanged text messages with his boss, Danny Ainge, the Celtics GM, who suffered a mild heart attack on Thursday morning and was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.
Rivers said following practice Friday that Ainge is doing much better and that doctors have instructed him to stay away from the first two games of the playoff series with Chicago, which begins 12:30 p.m. Saturday at TD Banknorth Garden.
“I hope not,” Rivers said when asked if Ainge would try to fight the orders. “Knowing Danny, I wouldn’t be shocked. I know (Saturday) he will not be, I’m positive of that. And he shouldn’t be at Monday’s (game). I know there’s doctor’s orders, and not mine but the real doctors have told him he can’t come but I’ve never known Danny to really listen. I wouldn’t be shocked but he shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t watch probably.”
|Big Baby to Ticket Stub||at 1:34 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Glen Davis has just struck nickname gold.
On Friday, he was asked if he was ready to help assume the huge shoes of Kevin Garnett, who is out with a sore right knee.
“I thrive at situations like that, being the underdog,” Davis began. “No, I’m not KG, I’m not at all. I’m Big Baby from LSU, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’m not the Big Ticket, I’m the Ticket Stub.”
And he was far from done there.
“Don’t count the Ticket Stub out,” he added. “You might need the ticket to get into the game but you leave with the ticket stub because you’ll never forget this game. You’ll need it as a souvenir.”
Nicknames won’t beat the Chicago Bulls. Good defense will. And Davis, the likely starting replacement for Garnett, said he’s more than ready to accept the challenge of helping to contain the Bulls, especially in the paint, where Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Friday the series will be won.
“I am ready, I am excited, I am ready to embrace this opportunity,” Davis said. “You don’t get opportunities like this. This does not come. A second-year guy coming off the bench. Last year, coming off the bench, getting an opportunity to start and be a player in the playoffs, having a chance to go to The Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s unbelievable.”
Maybe it’s time to believe in Big Baby. The Celtics do.