|Paul Pierce: ‘When we set the tone defensively, that’s the Celtics I know’||12.01.12 at 5:19 pm ET|
Paul Pierce knows what the bread and butter is of a successful Celtics team.
It’s great defense that will lead the way out of the dark and uncertain times the team is experiencing right now.
When the team plays defense like it did Friday night, holding Portland to 23 percent shooting in the first half, easy offense will follow, and so will rhythm. That was particularly important with Rajon Rondo not available this weekend.
“It made things easier on our offense to come out and play the way we did and cause turnovers,” Pierce said of the Celtics D, which forced 22 turnovers on Friday. “Then we were able to get out in transition. Guys ran…got easy opportunities. When we come out and set the tone defensively like we did tonight, that’s the kind of team that we are and that’s the Celtics I know.”
Before Friday’s game, Doc Rivers said the combination of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry would have to pick up the ball-handling slack in the backcourt. But as it turned out, the offense wound up running through the bigs starting with Pierce – a style the Celtics have employed in the past when they haven’t had Rondo available.
“It’s a combination of guys, so Doc wanted us to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “He wanted us to move the ball and make the extra passes and I thought we did a good job of that most of the night. We could’ve toned down our turnovers, but I think we will be better tomorrow. It’s tough, we’re used to playing with Rondo and he makes a lot of our plays. We’ll get better and better.”
“Courtney he really ran the floor well. Defensively he did a good job on his man, He’s out there getting 4 or 5 assists tonight, he just shows you flashes of what he’s capable of. Jeff [Green] is running the break, getting easy opportunities for himself. He’s one of the fastest guys out there…when he’s able to use that length.”
As for the motivation of Rivers calling the Celtics “soft” after Wednesday’s loss, Pierce just shrugged his shoulders and generally discounted it.
“You know, I’m always a true believer that you just just be motivated to go out and play, regardless,” Pierce said. “As an NBA competitor, you shouldn’t need anybody else to go out and motivate you. Maybe some guys took it as motivation. I’m motivated for the opportunity to come out here night in and night out. Whatever is going to get guys going, hopefully they can build on on that, if that what it was, and continue to do it throughout the season.”
Jeff Green might have scored 19 points and Jason Terry might have had 17 in 31 minutes but it was Courtney Lee who was the key player in Boston’s 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics played the first of two straight games without the suspended Rajon Rondo.
Lee said the team responded well to Doc Rivers calling them soft after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at home.
“He can continue to call us soft,” Lee said afterward. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up.”
What really hit home with Lee was when Rivers rolled the film of Wednesday’s game, showing the team how many easy baskets they were giving up.
“We got called soft the other day and we didn’t like that,” Lee said. “When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”
No shock that the turnaround began on the defensive end, where the Celtics held the Blazers to 23 percent shooting in the first half.
“Yeah, definitely after that loss last game, we wanted to come out and just focus on the defensive end make sure we got stops,” Lee said. “Make sure we didn’t give up any easy buckets and so I think we started off and threw the first punch.”
Rivers gave Lee credit for stepping up and showing his play-making ability in the absence of Rondo.
“Courtney was great,” Rivers said. “You could see Courtney is getting better and better at what we’re asking him to do. He’s bought in completely, which you can see that. His shots will fall. I feel like him, with Avery (Avery Bradley) last year, where I kept telling you guys ‘Avery can shoot’ and you guys were looking at me like I was a Martian. And then he started making them. And Courtney is proving he can. He’s getting wide open ones, and eventually they’ll fall.”
“I mean that’s what you gotta do,” Lee said of his ball-handling skills. “Rondo is a great playmaker, the guy’s gonna rack up a lot of assists, so we just have to play within the offense, move the ball around, and you see the assists were spread out throughout the whole team. Without him we had to move the ball a lot more.
“I mean it shows good character for our team. We got beat bad on our own court then we went to practice, had a real tough practice. Doc was on us the whole time so we wanted to come in and protect home court, because we cant keep letting teams come in and beat us on our home court. We wanted to bounce back and we did that today.”
|Fast Break: No Rajon Rondo, no problem; Celtics smoke Blazers||11.30.12 at 10:04 pm ET|
As Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo sat the first of his two-game suspension, five of his teammates reached double figures, led by Jeff Green‘s 19 points, and just about every member of the Blazers not named LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points, 8 rebounds) didn’t bother to show up in a 96-78 blowout at the Garden.
Jason Terry (17 points), Paul Pierce (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers), Kevin Garnett (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Courtney Lee all joined Green in double digits. Here’s what else transpired.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Portlandia: The Celtics put away the Blazers early. They started 10-of-15 from the field, and by first quarter’s end the C’s owned a 25-18 advantage on 57.1 percent shooting as all five starters scored between 4-6 points. By halftime, three Celtics had already reached double figures, they shot 56.8 percent as a group and took a 56-33 lead into the break. In the meantime, Portland shot 5-of-16 (31.3 FG%) in the opening quarter and somehow managed worse in the second (2-14, 14.3 FG%).
GreenLee: As Twitter follower @EricJsaint noted, Green and Lee each probably played their best game of the season (with the possible exception of Green’s 17-point night against the Thunder). On a sprained right knee, Green shot 6-of-13 (2-4 3P) to go along with four steals, three rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes off the bench. Meanwhile, starting in Rondo’s absence, Lee amassed 10 points (4-10 FG), seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Rest home: Given the fact they led by as many as 25 points in the first half, elder Celtics statesman Garnett and Pierce played just 23 and 27 minutes, respectively. An unexpected bonus with Rondo out of the lineup, for sure, considering the C’s head to Milwaukee for the second night of a back-to-back against the Bucks on Saturday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Depth perception: Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers claimed he would only break the Chris Wilcox glass in case of emergency. Well, when backup center Jason Collins picked up his third personal foul in a span of 5:36, Rivers turned to Wilcox — with a minute left in the first quarter.
Lone star: The Celtics appeared content letting LaMarcus Aldridge try to beat them, as long as he had to do it all by himself. At halftime, the 2012 NBA All-Star had 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. His teammates? 16 on 2-of-19.
Running afoul: Portland attempted 27 free throws in the first 24 minutes (37 in all). Blazers bigs Aldridge and J.J. Hickson combined for 17 by the break while the C’s had just 12. Just a guess: Tommy Heinsohn wasn’t pleased.
|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.
Maybe it was the effect of getting poked in the eye by Marcus Camby in the opening minutes Friday, leaving him with a nasty blood blister in his right eye, but Rajon Rondo just wasn’t himself after Boston’s 104-86 rout of the Blazers at TD Garden.
Before talking about his own night, which was pretty routine by his standards (eight points, five assists in 26 minutes), Rondo decided to become a character actor.
He took on the personality of Sasha Pavlovic and Paul Pierce.
What could Rondo learn from a veteran like Sasha? “You’ll have to ask Rondo,” Rondo said, speaking in a very bizarre third-person manner.
What would Sasha say about the upcoming road trip? “He would probably say that we want to win every game possible, we have to have great focus, and get our proper rest, and stay together through adversity.”
OK then. What about Paul Pierce joining John Havlicek and Robert Parish as the only Celtics players in history to reach 1,000 games?
“It’s an honor to play in that many games, only three have reached that level,” Rondo said, speaking this time for Pierce. He later added this on a serious tone, “It’s rare. You don’t take it for granted. I don’t think he takes it for granted, playing for one organization for his entire career. He’s one of the guys who’s going to probably retire with the Celtics. It’s an honor to play with him.”
As for his own thoughts from his own mind about where the Celtics are now, standing 21-18 and heading out on an eight-game road trip.
On jumping all over the Blazers and building a 43-point lead: “I just wanted to start with ball movement. I think it was kind of contagious. I was trying to advance the pass up the court a little bit and let guys create their own shots before guys were set [on defense].
On rebounding from a 32-point loss in Philly Wednesday night: “Regardless of the loss or the deficit we lost in Philly, we wanted to come out and get this West Coast swing off to a good start. We didn’t want to go off with two losses. We’ve been playing pretty good at home of late so it just kind of trickled down and we wanted to continue to get off to a good start.
On whether not playing the fourth quarter Wednesday and Friday will help this team as it goes on the road: “It’s our job. I don’t know if it plays a factor but having an older team, I think it’ll help us. But other than that, we’ll be ready to go. We have some big games ahead of us. We’re battling for seeding so we’re trying to capitalize on every game we can.”
On the trade deadline coming up this Wednesday: “I don’t think anyone is really worried about it, honestly. Whatever happens, happens. No one is really focused on all the trade talk. We’ve done a pretty good job through all this trade talk of just getting wins. We’ve done a pretty good job. We’re professionals. Trades happen.”
|NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division||12.20.11 at 7:43 pm 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 second of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
2010-11 record: 17-65
2010-11 standing: 5th in Northwest Division
NBA draft picks: 2. Derrick Williams; 43. Malcolm Lee
Key additions: Ricky Rubio (Spain); J.J. Barea (free agent); Brad Miller (trade)
Key substractions: Jonny Flynn (trade); Lazar Hayward (trade)
2011-12 starters: PG Ricky Rubio; SG Wesley Johnson; SF Michael Beasley; PF Kevin Love; C Darko Milicic
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 15.5
2011-12 prediction: 21-45
2010-11 record: 48-34
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Northwest Division; lost Western Conference first round, 4-2
NBA draft picks: 21. Nolan Smith; 51. Jon Diebler; 57. Tanguy Ngombo
Key additions: Jamal Crawford (free agent) Raymond Felton (trade); Kurt Thomas (free agent)
Key substractions: Andre Miller (trade); Brandon Roy (retired); Patrick Mills (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Felton; SG Wesley Matthews; SF Gerald Wallace; PF LaMarcus Aldridge; C Marcus Camby
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 39-27
|Irish Coffee: Why Celtics should fear Suns||01.28.11 at 12:33 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
I’ve got to hand it to colleague Jerry Spar for this one. It’s not surprising that the Celtics haven’t performed well on back-to-back nights when the second game is on the road, regardless of where the first game is played. What’s surprising is how putrid they’ve been in those situations this season.
And they’ve found themselves in that situation again Friday night, as the Celtics take on the Suns in Phoenix less than 24 hours and 1,300 miles removed from defeating the Trail Blazers 88-78 in Portland Thursday night.
Here’s how the Celtics have fared on the road during the second leg of back-to-back nights:
- Oct. 27 at Cleveland: 95-87 loss
- Nov. 8 at Dallas: 89-87 loss
- Dec. 9 at Philadelphia: 102-101 win
- Dec. 29 at Detroit: 104-92 loss
- Jan. 8 at Chicago: 90-79 loss
- Jan. 22 at Washington: 85-83 loss
Note: This doesn’t include the Nov. 22 game at Atlanta (a 99-76 win), because the game the day before (at Toronto) was played in the afternoon, not at night — allowing for extra travel/recovery time.
For those of you counting at home, that’s a 1-5 record in such instances, with the lone win a one-point decision over a 20-25 Sixers team that required a Kevin Garnett alley-oop with 1.4 seconds left.
The Celtics have five remaining games in these situations:
- Friday at Phoenix
- March 14 at New Jersey
- March 19 at New Orleans
- March 28 at Indiana
- April 1 at Atlanta
Note: This doesn’t include Feb. 7 at Charlotte or April 11 at Washington because the games the previous days are in the afternoon.
Spar took this breakdown further, noting that the C’s have had four occurrences when they’ve played the second game on back-to-back nights at home (the first game was on the road each time). They’re 4-0 in those instances.
The fact that the Celtics are four-point favorites tonight in Phoenix makes all this even more interesting.
THE CASE FOR KENDRICK PERKINS
I won’t bore you with in-depth statistical analysis like I did the other day, so I’ll let the New York Times do it for me. If you like this stuff, as I do, you’ll love this piece about why Kendrick Perkins makes a huge difference.
While Perkins’ 36-minute averages last season of 13.2 points and 9.8 rebounds are good, they don’t reflect the Celtics center’s impact, particularly defensively. Even the adjusted plus/minus statistics that author Michael Lewis unveiled to portray the relative value of a player like Shane Battier don’t help Perkins’ case.
Over his last two seasons of action, Perkins has posted a -5.76 adjusted plus/minus, one of the worst marks in the league. Adjusted plus/minus is far from infallible, but characteristically it favors guys who fall in line with Perkins’ reputation: tough-defending, solid-rebounding, low-usage role players on winning teams.
Furthermore, when you look at the production of his individual opponents, Perkins’ 2009-10 numbers aren’t so favorable, either, as they were for Battier.
In each of his last two seasons, Perkins has allowed opposing centers to produce at an above average rate, a curiosity for a well-regarded player whose primary contributions come on the defensive end.
Yet, when you examine his per-possession statistics, it sheds some light on Perkins’ value.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Perkins allowed just 0.77 points per possession in the post during the 2009-10 season, a truly impressive mark. Opponents on the low block shot just 38.5 percent despite their proximity to the basket, and Perkins, amazingly, fouled opponents on only 6.3 percent of their post-up possessions. Go back to the 2008-09 season and the numbers get even better: 0.73 points per possession allowed and 35.4 percent shooting.
Following an ugly, ugly game that saw the Celtics tie a season-high for turnovers (21), the Trail Blazers still had high praise for their Eastern Conference foes. Here‘s what they told the Oregonian:
LaMarcus Aldridge: “They showed why they are champions. They played championship basketball. They do a good job of taking away the paint. Every time I wanted to go middle, I never saw anything [open]. I tried to force it a couple times, turned it over, but I think they are one of the best teams at not … letting you get to the basket.”
Nate McMillan: “That’s a great team. That team is prepared and built to win a championship. I thought our guys scrapped. I thought they played hard. They battled tonight. But they have so many options that they can go to. When you have that many options and that team is locked in to playing that way, knowing how to win. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Two other interesting statistics from the Celtics’ victory on Thursday night:
- Portland out-shot the C’s, 90-64, but made only three more field goals (33-30).
- In just 31 minutes, Kevin Garnett nearly recorded his first triple-double of the season (10 points, 9 rebounds and a season-high 9 assists).
- SBNation's Blogger Mock Draft
- Doc Rivers will make first public comments on future since end of season
- 2013 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Where do the Celtics go from here? Post failed deal fallout
- Danny and Doc had a Splittsville On Ubuntu!!!!
- Boston Celtics Daily Links 6/18
- What is Value?