|Preview: Celtics-Warriors||12.28.09 at 10:20 am ET|
Strange things have been known to happen to the Celtics in the city by the bay. Just last year, Stephen Jackson shot the C’s right out of the building in an amazing display that had to be seen to be believed. Of course Captain Jack is no longer with Don Nelson’s F Troop, having sulked/forced his way out of town. Perhaps Jackson is smarter and savvier then he is often given credit for.
With a third of the roster on the injured list, what’s left in Golden State is an odd collection of talent, mismatched in every which way and also said to be very available to anyone who would like anything from a long-range gunner (Anthony Morrow) to a 6-10 ball of weirdness (Anthony Randolph) and everything in between.
The Warriors problems don’t really interest the Celtics all that much who have given away their cushion on this west coast swing with their shoddy late-game performance against the Clippers Sunday night. It is impossible to take the Warriors seriously, but their enigmatic makeup marks them as seriously dangerous. Sometimes.
CELTICS (23-6, 8-2 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.6
Points Allowed: 91.5
Differential: +9.1 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 109.6 (Sixth)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.3 (First)
Pace: 91.8 (23rd)
WARRIORS (8-21, 2-8, last 10)
Points Per Game: 107.2
Points Allowed: 112.3
Differential: -5.1 (26th)
Offensive Efficiency: 105.4 (19th)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.4 (26th)
Pace: 101. 4 (First)
|Celtics-Pacers Preview||12.22.09 at 11:27 am ET|
Way back on Nov. 14, Danhtay Jones had a career night. This came as a bit of a surprise to various members of the Celtics, who were still shaking their collective heads several days after Jones burned them for 25 points in their only road loss of the season. Jones is not known as a scorer in any meaningful way, but at that moment in time he was in the midst of the best offensive month of his career, averaging 17.5 points and shooting over 46 percent from the floor.
Jones has returned to his regular ways in December (8.5 points per, 40 percent shooting), and his Pacers team has crash-landed along with him. It would be wrong to pin all that on him, of course. Jones is a small piece of his team, but it speaks to the danger of over-reacting to one game or one month.
Over the first 16 games of the season Rasheed Wallace took 146 shots and 96 of them were 3-pointers. In other words, two thirds of the shots that Sheed took were from beyond the arc. That would be Jason Kapono territory, but not even Kapono would take that many. Over the last 10 games Wallace has greatly cut back on his 3-point attempts, launching “just” 41 percent of his from 3-point range. The result is a much more efficient second unit that has a certified low-post option at its disposal.
All of which is to say that while it’s folly to place hope in veteran players like Jones becoming something they are not, it is possible to get different results from veteran players like Wallace by simply changing their approach.
CELTICS (21-5, 9-1 last 10)
Points Per Game: 101.5
Points Allowed: 91.9
Differential: 9.5 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.4 (Sixth)
Defensive Efficiency: 100.0 (Second)
Pace: 91.3 (23rd)
PACERS (9-17, 3-7 last 10)
Points Per Game: 97. 4
Points Allowed: 101.2
Differential: -3.8 (T-24th)
Offensive Efficiency: 1007.7 (26th)
Defensive Efficiency: 104.6 (10th)
Pace: 96.7 (Second)
|Celtics-Sixers Preview||12.18.09 at 11:37 am ET|
What a wonderful thing hindsight can be. In the summer of 2007, the Celtics traded most of their accumulated young talent and assets to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. This bold action by Danny Ainge has obviously proved to be brilliant thanks to a championship and two-plus years of contention. It seems obvious now, but at the time there was concern that Ainge had given away the store for a couple of vets with a lot of mileage on their odometers, even vets whose final destination was the Hall of Fame.
In the summer of 2008, new Sixers general manager Ed Stefansi thought he had also pulled off a brilliant coup by signing free agent Elton Brand to a massive five-year contract. It seemed obvious then that adding an automatic low-post scorer to a young, athletic, perimeter-oriented team would be a difference-maker. Less then two years in, Stefanski’s power play has proven dubious at best, and franchise-wrecking at worst.
So dubious that Stefanski was compelled to hire Allen Iverson for one last go-round in a desperate attempt to boost attendance. After a sold-out debut, the fans have stayed away and Iverson is hurt after playing too many minutes too fast. Now the Sixers are just another bad NBA team with too many bad contracts and no direction.
CELTICS (20-4, 10-0 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.8
Points Allowed: 91.2
Differential: +9.6 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 110.0 (Ninth)
Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (First)
Pace: 91.3 (24th)
SIXERS (6-19, 1-9 last 10)
Points Per Game: 97.2
Points Allowed: 101.6
Differential: – 4.4 (26th)
Offensive Efficiency: 106. 7 (17th)
Defensive Efficiency: 111.4 (28th)
Pace: 90.8 (27th)
Key Matchup: Allen and Pierce vs. Iguodala and Young
One of the side effects of the Brand signing is that Iguodala was forced to slide down to the off-guard position and Young to the small forward spot. During their short time together, Iguodala and Young have proven far more capable as forwards, albeit undersized forwards. Brand changed that dynamic and while it’s not his fault that his general manager didn’t understand his own team’s dynamic, it has proven to be an ill fit. Still, Iguodala and Young are a tough matchup for whoever draws the assignment.
Celtics in a Paragraph: The regular season is a process. A long, slow, drawn-out process. Right now the Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season, and have a nice stretch of spread-out home games to continue their winning ways before embarking on a west coast road trip with a stopover in Orlando on Christmas Day. Until then their enemy is the process.
Sixers in a Paragraph: For all that is wrong with Philly, there is one thing they do well and that one thing has proven to be the Celtics Achilles heel — offensive rebounding. Keep the Sixers off the offensive glass and there isn’t much left in their bag of tricks. Philly racked up 12 offensive rebounds in its last meeting with the Celtics, which helped the Sixers stay in the game until Rondo took over in the fourth quarter.
What to Watch For: In one of the more bizarre subplots of the NBA season, three of the Celtics four losses have come at home on Friday nights. It’s not much to go on if you’re the Sixers, but it beats hoping Holiday can keep up with Rondo.
|Celtics-Grizzlies Preview||12.14.09 at 10:45 am ET|
Poor Allen Iverson. He gets traded from Philadelphia to Denver and the Sixers spend the next two years in the playoffs. He goes from Denver to Detroit and the Nuggets go to the conference finals. He gets waived by the Memphis Grizzlies after one game and the Grizzlies become good? There might be a pattern developing here.
Memphis has won four of its last five and included in that are wins over Dallas, Cleveland and a 28-point victory Sunday night in Miami. The Grizz might not be playoff good, but they probably would be if they were in the East. So, does A.I. get the blame, or does Jamaal Tinsley get the credit? (That was a rhetorical question).
CELTICS (19-4, 10-0 last 10)
Points Per Game: 100.4
Points Allowed: 90.6
Differential: 9.8 (First)
Offensive Efficiency: 109.3 (Ninth)
Defensive Efficiency: 98.6 (First)
Pace: 91.4 (25th)
GRIZZLIES (10-13, 6-4 last 10)
Points Per Game: 101.5
Points Allowed: 104.4
Differential: -2.9 (19th)
Offensive Efficiency: 107.8 (14th)
Defensive Efficiency: 110.8 (28th)
Pace: 93.3 (12th)
Injuries: Darrell Arthur (Torn pec muscle)
Key Matchup: We’re going to talk about offensive rebounding again. The Grizzlies rate as the NBA top offensive rebounding team and Randolph is the primary reason. He’s getting almost five offensive boards per game — a number that is a little inflated after he pulled down 11 in a game against Oklahoma City last week. The Celtics have done a better job on the boards in recent games, but they will have to keep a body on Randolph. It will also be interesting to see how the Celtics matchup Garnett and Perkins with Randolph and Gasol.
Celtics in a Paragraph: There is no hotter team in the NBA now that the Lakers had to move out of the cozy confines of their home arena and venture out on the road. In their 10-game winning streak Rondo has averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds and has pushed his free throw percentage above 50 percent. That he’s not higher in the All-Star voting is a joke.
Grizzlies in a Paragraph: Speaking of the All-Star game, there was a story in the Memphis paper last week about Randolph getting left off the ballot, which seems ridiculous on its face until you start to take a look at what the bizarre big man has been doing this year. He’s averaging better than 18 points and 10 rebounds and has teamed with Gasol to give Memphis one of the better low-post tandems in the league. At least from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, Randolph and Gasol are not exactly Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason.
What to Watch For: Memphis is no longer a pushover. The Celtics are playing the final game of their road trip before heading home for a nice stretch. Will this be the NBA’s version of the get-away game, or will the Celtics continue their road dominance?
|Celtics-Wizards Preview||12.10.09 at 11:18 am ET|
What to make of the Washington Wizards? They started the 2009-10 season losing seven of their first nine games, which pretty much knocked them out of sleeper contender status in the Eastern Conference. Then Antawn Jamison returned from an injury and the Wizards went 5-5, which gets them back into playoff contention. (Hey, it is the Eastern Conference). When healthy — they are also without Mike Miller — the Wizards are probably a playoff team and they have played the Celtics tough over the last few years.
The Celtics have their own health issues with Marquis Daniels expected to be out for up to two months after wrist surgery. Tony Allen made his return Tuesday and provided the usual Tony Allen delights — a couple of hustle plays, a turnover on a pass to a guy in the courtside seats, a charging foul that a bull in Pamplona would have avoided. But not even the return of TA could derail the Celtics express. The C’s have won eight straight and are sure to be gracing the top of various power rankings shortly.
CELTICS (17-4, 9-1 last 10)
Points Per Game : 100.0
Offensive Efficiency: 109.4 (8th)
Points Allowed: 90.5
Defensive Efficiency: 99.0 (First)
Pace: 91.0 (25th)
WIZARDS (7-12, 5-5 last 10)
Points Per Game: 96.7
Offensive Efficiency: 103.8 (24th)
Points Allowed: 100.4
Defensive Efficiency: 107.8 (20th)
Pace: 92.6 (15th)
Key Matchup: Perkins vs. Haywood. The Celtics are not a good rebounding team. Doc Rivers and the players have pegged it as a team-wide issue. The bigs have taken responsibility. The guards have taken responsibility. That’s all good from an Ubuntu perspective, but it wouldn’t hurt if players started putting bodies on their opponents. The Wizards don’t do a lot of things well, but they do hit the offensive glass, particularly Haywood who is one of the best in the league. Also keep an eye on Andray Blatche and Rasheed Wallace when the second units are on the floor.
The Wizards in a Paragraph: We’ve gone this far and we haven’t mentioned Agent Zero. Possibly because it seems that Gilbert Arenas doesn’t know who Gilbert Arenas is anymore. He started the year being all business, then he dropped that for his “old” persona which now seems as dated as Windows XP. Ernie Grunfeld made a bold move in the offseason bringing in Miller and Randy Foye to compliment his veterans and intriguing collection of young talent. It was always going to take time, but injuries have set back the timetable and the Wizards don’t have much time left.
The Celtics in a Paragraph: The C’s are back on the road for three straight, which brings up an interesting point. Did you know the Lakers have played 16 of their first 20 games at home? To put it another way, the Celtics played as many road games last week as the Lakers have played all season.
What to Watch For: This seems simple. Keep the Wizards off the offensive glass. Now that Daniels will be out for a significant chunk of time, who takes his minutes? Tony Allen gets first crack. Can he handle the job?