|Preview: Celtics at Mavericks||11.08.10 at 10:11 am ET|
In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks reached the NBA finals. In 2007, they won 67 games and had the league’s MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. Those two seasons were the best in the 30-year history of the franchise and both ended in massive disappointment. The Mavs lost the finals despite winning the first two games of the series and they lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors the following season in what still ranks as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.
Since then the Mavericks have been good, winning over 50 games each season, but never great. Their best player is 32, their point guard is 37 and six of their eight rotation players are over 30.
They’ll be good again this year. Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can still play and Jason Terry can still score, but their success ultimately depends on whether the rest of the supporting cast can regain some of its past glory.
In the past year-plus, the Mavs have acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. All four have seen better days, but how much they have left holds the key to the Mavs season because their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, had a pin inserted into his broken foot and is out indefinitely.
The Mavericks are still formidable and as the second night of yet another back-to-back, they pose a serious challenge for the Celtics. The C’s have won five straight, including an impressive win over the Thunder Sunday night. This is also their fifth game in seven nights before they get a two-day break and a return date with the Heat on Thursday.
OFFENSIVE RATING: 105.4 (NBA rank: 17th)
DEFENSIVE RATING: 98.8 (3rd)
PACE: 91.6 (24th)
OFFENSIVE RATING: 104.0 (20th)
DEFENSIVE RATING: 99.7 (5th)
PACE: 93.0 (20th)
Probable Starters: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler
Injuries: Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out)
KEY MATCHUP: Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Of all the matchups Garnett has had throughout his career, Nowitzki has to rank alongside Tim Duncan as one of the best. Their styles are a perfect compliment to each other because few big men have ever defended the perimeter better than Garnett. Nowitzki is still a fantastic player, averaging over 25 points and 9 rebounds early in the season.
KEY NUMBER: Celtics field goal percentage
The Mavs have held teams to just 39 percent shooting in their five games. The Celtics rank near the top of the NBA at 49 percent. If they can shoot somewhere in the middle — 45 percent or better — they’ll have a good chance at getting out Dallas with a win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In addition to Nowitzki and Garnett, the Rajon Rondo-Jason Kidd matchup is always good theater and there’s no telling how many miles Ray Allen and Jason Terry will run chasing each over all the court. This is another big test for the Celtics who are slowly building momentum. The Heat await on Thursday, but this is a solid bout before the main event.
|Preview: Bucks at Celtics||11.03.10 at 11:54 am ET|
As the 2009-10 season entered the final stretch, the team that none of the Eastern Conference contenders wanted to play in the first round was the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks went 10-4 in February and 11-4 in March, but on the night of April, 3 Andrew Bogut lost control during a dunk and landed with a sickening thud, injuring his right hand, elbow and wrist.
Bogut had surgery on his broken hand a week later and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. Even without their center, who was named third-team All-NBA, the Bucks still took the Hawks to seven games in the first round. The Celtics missed matching up with Milwaukee after Miami beat New Jersey in overtime on the regular season’s final day making the Bogut injury an interesting what-if?
The Celtics didn’t really hit their stride until halfway through the Cavaliers series. Would they have even advanced that far against a healthy Bucks team? Would they be back as currently constituted if they had bombed out in the first round?
Bogut has returned, although he told the Journal-Sentinel that he doesn’t think he’ll be 100 percent this season. In four games this season, Bogut is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes a night. But Bogut isn’t the only Milwaukee player dealing with an injury. John Salmons sat out the entire preseason with a sprained knee and he has struggled early.
The Bucks were a surprisingly active player last summer, re-signing Salmons and adding Drew Gooden, while trading for Corey Maggette. Those moves suggested that the Bucks are trying to win now, and while they are off to a slow start they have the pieces to be in the East’s next tier of contenders behind Boston, Miami and Orlando.
This is the second night of a back-to-back for the Celtics as they enter a stretch of five games in seven days. They handled their business against Detroit in surprisingly easy fashion Tuesday and will look to build upon that performance tonight.
Offensive Rating: 97.0 (28th)
Defensive Rating: 102.3 (8th)
Pace: 90.2 (28th)
Probable Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Drew Gooden, Andrew Bogut
Injuries: Michael Redd (Knee, out), Chris Douglas-Roberts (Eye, out), Darlington Hobson (Hip, out)
Offensive Rating: 105.6 (15th)
Defensive Rating: 98.2 (4th)
Pace: 92.1 (25th)
KEY MATCHUP: Brandon Jennings vs. Rajon Rondo
Rondo has decimated the opposition in the first four games, racking up 67 assists, the best four-game start in NBA history. Jennings is among a crop of young, talented point guards trying to make their own name in the league.
While still only 24 years old, Rondo has already ascended to the top tier which also consists of Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The order depends on your perspective. The challenge for Rondo this season is to play at a high level every night because he has gone from the hunter to the hunted.
KEY NUMBER: Field goal percentage
The big problem for the Bucks is that they are shooting 40 percent in their first four games. The only perimeter player who has shot a consistently high percentage has been Carlos Delfino, who 15-for-31 from 3-point range. Jennings, Salmons and Maggette have all struggled with their shooting, although Maggette is 29-for-29 from the free throw line.
The Celtics are off to a solid defensive start in all phases. They will need to continue to clamp down on the Bucks scorers and hit the glass when the shots are off.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
This is a chance for the Celtics to build some early-season momentum. They play the Bulls Friday and then hit the road for games at Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami and Memphis. The players have talked about reestablishing their home court advantage and the next few games would be a good time to start.
|Preview: Celtics at Pistons||11.02.10 at 12:53 am ET|
Strange things happened to the Celtics when they went into Detroit last year.
Desperately needing a win on March 2, the Celtics relied on Nate Robinson in the fourth quarter to pull it out instead of Rajon Rondo. The Fast Break posted that night had Rasheed Wallace as the Player of the Game for his defensive effort.
In a 92-86 loss on Jan. 20, Glen Davis swore at a heckler in a very quiet arena and was later fined $25,000.
What awaits the Celtics this season? From the looks of things a mediocre and slightly disjointed basketball team. Rondey Stuckey remains the point guard, although the Pistons just let the deadline pass to sign him to a extension. Rip Hamilton still starts at the other guard, while the younger and more talented Ben Gordon comes off the bench. Tayshaun Prince is an expiring contract and Tracy McGrady is getting minutes.
Still, the Pistons have some interesting young players such as Austin Daye who is now starting and rookie center Greg Monroe, who has yet to crack the rotation. Detroit is a team in transition, with enough proven veterans to make a run at one of the final playoff spots, but also a team with several young players to develop.
The Pistons have dropped their first three games of the season by a total of 14 points and would love to get a win. For the Celtics, this game has trap written all over it.
It’s the first night of a five games in seven days stretch with a back-to-back coming Wednesday against the Bucks at the Garden. They are not expecting to have Shaquille O’Neal and will likely insert Jermaine O’Neal into the starting center spot with rookie Semih Erden backing him up. They also struggled to close out the Cavaliers in their first road game, another also-ran Central Division team that is somewhere between rebuilding and competing.
Offensive Rating: 99.6 (23rd)
Defensive Rating: 98.1 (5th)
Pace: 93.7 (21st)
Offensive Rating: 103.3 (15th)
Defensive Rating: 108.3 (21st)
Pace: 94.5 (17th)
KEY MATCHUP: Pierce vs. Prince
In 2008-09, Prince held Pierce to 15.5 points over four games. That was the lowest per-game average Pierce had against any team other than the Clippers and Grizzlies.
The year before, Pierce again scored just 15 points a night in three games against the Pistons while shooting just 37 percent. Pierce has the same effect on Prince who shot below 40 percent against him those two seasons. Their matchup cooled a bit last season while Pierce was battling injuries and Prince missed one of the games entirely, but it’s still one of the better small forward battles in the East.
Prince’s length has been a problem for Pierce over the years, but he is off to a quietly efficient start to this season, averaging 19 points a game and making 8-of-12 from 3-point range. The focus has been on Pierce’s rebounding after he grabbed 14 boards against the Knicks, but the Celtics need his shooting more while Ray Allen works out his shot (6-for-18 from 3) and Nate Robinson tries to get untracked (1-for-9).
It’s not exactly the most enjoyable matchup to watch, but it should be a good one.
KEY NUMBER: 3-point shooting
The Pistons have bee defensively-challenged in their first three games, giving up over 100 points in all three games, but they have defended the arc well, allowing only 28 percent shooting.
The Celtics, with the notable exception of Pierce, have struggled from beyond the arc and need to start making some shots to take the pressure off the inside game. Take Pierce out of the equation and they have made just 25 percent of their 3′s (8-for-32).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Detroit is desperate for win and the Celtics would like to get through a road game and get Jermaine O’Neal on track.
These two teams never quite renewed their rivalry for the modern era. They battled throughout the Celtics championship year of 2007-08, but the Pistons fell of quickly once they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson.
Still, these two teams have history and you never know, maybe Sheed will show up.
|Preview: Celtics-Knicks||10.28.10 at 11:27 pm ET|
For the last two seasons, the New York Knicks tried to pretend that their team didn’t exist. The goal, which was carefully articulated and plotted by Donnie Walsh, was to remove contracts, not to win games. The fans bought into this strategy and in truth, it was an easy sell. They had their fill of shortsighted quick fixes with long-term implications and two years of penance wasn’t so bad if the return turned out to be LeBron James.
There were two problems with this plan. One, Walsh and his coach Mike D’Antoni did very little to make the last two years anything more than a chore. The only development players on the roster were Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Tony Douglas and Bill Walker, which left a roster full of players who knew they were going elsewhere eventually and they reacted accordingly. The other was that there was no guarantee LeBron would want to go to New York, and when he didn’t, Walsh was forced to scramble.
On the whole, the scramble doesn’t look so bad as the Knicks were able to sign Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton and acquire Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf for David Lee. Throw in a potential second-round steal in Landry Fields and a 7-foot Russian named Timofey Mozgov and suddenly the Knicks look like an actual team with direction and a directive to be competitive.
If the Celtics are going to have any competition in the Atlantic Division it’s going to come from the Knicks. Stoudemire is an A-list scorer and Gallinari doesn’t look to be too far behind. Felton is a solid point guard, which alone is a huge upgrade from what they were running out in previous seasons, and now there is depth.
To be sure there are still holes on New York’s roster, especially when it comes to size and rebounding and a team that plays D’Antoni’s system could always use more shooters, but the Knicks finally resemble a coherent basketball team whose goal is winning games, not shedding contracts.
NEW YORK (1-0)
Probable Starters: Felton, Fields, Gallinari, Stoudemire, Mozgov
Injuries: Randolph (ankle), Azubuike (knee surgery), Eddy Curry (hamstring)
KEY MATCHUP: Stoudemire vs. Garnett
Garnett shutdown Chris Bosh in the first game of the season to such an enormous degree that people are already questioning whether Stoudemire would have been a better frontcourt running mate for James and Dwyane Wade. In his second game, Garnett recorded 15 rebounds, which is more than he had in any game last season.
He will have his hands full with Stoudemire who is the focal point on the Knicks offense. Stoudemire had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks opening night win over Toronto, but he also turned it over nine times. This will be a solid early-season test for Garnett because Stoudemire is one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league and he will Garnett work all game.
KEY STAT: Turnovers
The Celtics have already turned it over 39 times. That’s how a team that is shooting 47 percent for the floor and 39 percent from 3-point range has an efficiency rating in the 20′s and has scored less than 90 points in both of its games. The Celtics simply must take better care of the ball. (Related: Zach Lowe had an interesting post about the Celtics turnover problems on The Point Forward).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Celtics have not yet played a complete, 48-minute game and their struggles in the fourth quarter against Cleveland brought back bad memories of regular season collapses from a year ago. This will be their third game in four nights and it will be interesting to see how Doc Rivers uses his bench in what should be fast-paced game.
There’s also the matter of establishing their homecourt advantage, something that the players have noted over the past few days. The C’s are off until Tuesday and this would be a good spot to finish their first week on a winning note at home against a team in their division.
|Preview: Celtics-Wizards||04.09.10 at 10:49 am ET|
It is now open season on Rasheed Wallace after Bill Simmons ripped him apart in an ESPN column. It’s convenient to blame all the Celtics woes on Wallace, who has not played well at all this season, and most of Simmon’s critique was completely fair.
The subtext to everything is that Wallace has somehow infected the Celtics with his own unique blend of overconfidence and laissez-faire attitude. That’s both impossible to prove and equally as difficult to disprove.
Wallace isn’t responsible for Ray Allen’s inconsistent shooting in the first half of the season, Kevin Garnett’s limited mobility or Paul Pierce’s long list of injuries. There are many reasons for the Celtics lackluster play and Wallace has certainly contributed to a lot of it with his beyond-awful 3-point shooting, shoddy rebounding and wayward attention to help-side defense
What we do know is that Wallace hasn’t left himself any wiggle room. The only way he escapes this season without any further damage to his reputation is if he plays lights out in the playoffs. The same could be said for the rest of the Celtics.
WIZARDS (24-54, 4-6 last 10)
Points Per Game: 96.0
Points Allowed: 100.9
Differential: -4.9 (26th)
Offensive Efficiency: 104.0 (25th)
Defensive Efficiency: 109.3 (18th)
Pace: 91.6 (21st)
CELTICS (49-29, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 99.3
Points Allowed: 95.3
Differential: +4.0 (10th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.7 (15th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.3 (4th)
Pace: 91.8 (20th)
Injuries: None. Read the rest of this entry »
|Preview: Celtics-Raptors||04.07.10 at 10:41 am ET|
The Celtics are like the kid that doesn’t do their homework, and then is surprised when they fail the test. But failing the test does little to chasten them because — they seem to have reasoned collectively — if they had studied they would have done just fine.
Kendrick Perkins told reporters after Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks that they were making up defenses on the fly. Doc Rivers continues to insist that he’s not holding open tryouts for bench spots even though the rotation seems to change on a nightly basis. Kevin Garnett said the gods were punishing them.
Whatever. The Celtics, frankly, are a mess and what’s most disturbing about it is that they can’t seem to get it right even when they want to. They play the Raptors tonight, a team that is without Chris Bosh who broke his face Tuesday against the Cavs, and who have their own internal problems.
If you were a betting person you would take this game off your board because with these two teams, who knows which one will show up to play.
CELTICS (48-29, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 99.1
Points Allowed: 95.2
Differential: +3.9 (9th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (15th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.1 (4th)
Pace: 91.8 (20th)
RAPTORS (38-39, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 103.9
Points Allowed: 105.8
Differential: -1.9 (18th)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.9 (7th)
Defensive Efficiency: 112.9 (30th)
Pace: 93.2 (11th)
|Preview: Celtics-Knicks||04.06.10 at 10:42 am ET|
The Celtics went 3-3 on their homestand and there was some good mixed with the continuation of a disturbing pattern.
And the bad. They have been absolutely terrible in the second half. Even in two of their wins the Celtics melted down in the fourth quarter, barely beating the Kings and Cleveland. They also collapsed in the second half against San Antonio and didn’t execute at the end of losses to Houston and Oklahoma City.
Paul Pierce called them learning experiences, but why should a veteran team at this stage of the season have to go through them? With six games left in the regular season we either know everything there is to know about the Celtics, or we know nothing at all, because based on their regular-season performance this is not a team that is capable of winning a championship.
CELTICS (48-28, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 99.1
Points Allowed: 95.1
Differential: +4.0 (9th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (15th)
Defensive Efficiency: 103.0 (2nd)
Pace: 91.8 (20th)
KNICKS (27-49, 4-6 last 10)
Points Per Game: 101.8
Points Allowed: 105.4
Differential: -3.6 (22nd)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (18th)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.7 (24th)
Pace: 94.2 (6th)