|Fast Break: Celtics-Warriors||12.29.09 at 1:18 am ET|
Playing the Warriors can sometimes be as much an exercise in restraint as anything else. There are so many open shots and available fast break opportunities that it can be incredibly enticing to settle for the first good thing that presents itself. The Celtics, who play such a tightly controlled form of basketball, were easy marks most of the night, especially after dominating the first quarter.
In retrospect, the first 12 minutes may have been the Celtics’ undoing in a 103-99 loss. (Recap.) Playing one of their best quarters of the season, the Celtics destroyed Golden State and took a 35-22 lead. But while those easy looks remained there all night, the Celtics never settled down and played their game, with 24 turnovers one of the results.
Instead, they played way too fast and way too much like the Warriors wanted them to play at right around 100 possessions. The Celtics average a tick over 91.This is the second time they have succumbed to the temptations of playing run and gun. The Phoenix Suns performed a similar helter-skelter number on the Celtics earlier in the season, although that game was played at a pedestrian pace compared to Monday night’s sprint.
Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. It’s getting repetitive, but Rondo is the engine and the catalyst that makes the Celtics offense go. The Warriors went with various modifications of the “leave Rondo alone in the halfcourt” defense. Taking a page from the Knicks playbook (via Jared Jeffries), they sometimes utilized 6-foot-10 Anthony Randolph playing way off Rondo and inviting him to shoot. Most of the time, Monta Ellis just sagged off him and hung back in the paint. The result was a 30-point, 15-assist effort for Rondo, who will continue to see gimmick defenses the rest of the season. Better that he sees them now.
Turning Point: In the second quarter, C.J. Watson had six steals and seemed to live in the Celtics passing lanes. He, along with Ronny Turiaf, completely changed the momentum and helped the Warriors get back in the game.
* This was a night when the Celtics dearly missed Paul Pierce. As much as Rondo controls the offense, Pierce acts as the calming influence. Halfcourt calm was in short supply against Golden State.
* In a game that featured a lot of physical play, and some uneven whistles, Glen Davis got hammered going up for a shot and appeared to be in pain when he came off the floor in the fourth quarter. The initial diagnosis was a sprained ankle and he did not return. His comeback was put on an accelerated timetable for this trip and it remains to be seen if he was actually physically ready to return to the court.
* Doc Rivers played a limited rotation and Ray Allen logged 44 minutes. That’s entirely too many, but with the Warriors’ small lineups, it did make sense. Allen’s increased minutes are yet another function of Pierce’s injury.
* Give the Warriors credit for executing correctly in the final seconds. With a three-point lead and five seconds remaining, Golden State intentionally fouled Allen rather then let him attempt a 3-pointer. It remains a mystery why more teams don’t do that automatically.
|Troy Murphy gets it right on Rondo||12.23.09 at 10:50 am ET|
Not sure if everyone’s noticed an emerging trend in the NBA where a large number of players stop short of giving Rajon Rondo his props. Indiana’s Danhtay Jones spoke for many who have conveyed similar statements when he said Tuesday night, “They have a great team. He compliments the guys around him. He’s a part of a great machine.”
There’s a couple of things happening in that quote. One, the players meme is that Rondo is beyond lucky to be on a team like the Celtics with veteran superstars and two, he’s a complimentary player.
The first part may be true. The second part not so much. At the very least Rondo is the third-most important player on the roster and you can make a strong argument that he is actually the most important. That’s not to call out Jones. Lots of players have made similar statements, and some in harsher tones than what Jones said after a tough loss.
Troy Murphy, however, got it just about right.
“He just kills your whole gameplan because you don’t know where he’s going to be,” Muprhy said. “He’s all over the place. He’s taking chances. He just creates havoc out there. He’s tough.”
Rondo leads the league in steals, which is part of taking chances and creating havoc, yet he’s doing it while playing “more solid” as Doc Rivers has pointed out several times. There are no metrics for staying under control both offensively and defensively, but that’s what Rondo is doing this year, while still maintaining his creativity offensively and his gameplan destroying nature defensively.
In other words, he’s putting it all together. People will start to notice soon off. Even the other players.
|Fast Break: Celtics vs. Wizards||12.10.09 at 11:18 pm ET|
A 7-12 record can be deceiving when the team that carries it features Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison. The Wizards came to play on Thursday night, but ultimately it was the Celtics‘ chemistry and experience that prevailed, 104-102, in Washington.
The Celtics went up 14 at halftime but came out cold in the third quarter. The Wizards went on a 22-6 run to start the second half before the Celtics fought back, 13-2, to end the quarter. With both teams swapping buckets in the fourth, this game could have gone either way. It came down to clutch shots and free throws, with the Celtics ultimately claiming the two-point edge.
Player of the game: After being benched in the first quarter with two personal fouls, Rajon Rondo carried the Celtics to the win. Rondo posted 21 points (10-20 FG), 11 assists, and three rebounds. Six points and three assists came in the final nine minutes of the game. He recorded his ninth double-double of the season. Segue into …
Turning point of the game: With just over a minute to go and the game tied at 98 apiece, Kevin Garnett set a pick that opened up the baseline for Rondo. Rondo got up for a one-handed slam that made a statement and put the Celtics back on top.
– Ray Allen scored his 20,000th career point in the third quarter. He now ranks 33rd in career points all-time and fifth among current players behind Garnett (21,601). Click here for more on the milestone.
– The Celtics outrebounded the Wizards, the league’s third-best rebounding team, 40-34.
– The C’s improved to 10-2 both when leading at halftime and scoring 50+ points in the first half.
– All of the Celtics starters scored in double digits. Kendrick Perkins (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Rondo posted double-doubles.
– Tony Allen posted eight points and three rebounds in his second game back (ankle).
|Celtics-Spurs Preview||12.03.09 at 11:36 am ET|
Meanwhile, a certain team in San Antonio (9-6) might be hitting its own stride. After making a splash this summer by trading for former New Jersey Nets star Richard Jefferson (career 17.6 ppg), it appeared the Spurs positioning themselves to contend for another NBA title. But after a three-game skid dropped their season record to 4-6, questions began to surface about age, chemistry and hunger for winning.
So much for that.
Five straight victories for San Antonio and they’re right back in the title talks. That being said, the black and silver has been beating up mostly on second-tier teams; their game Thursday night against the Celtics will be another matter.
Both teams teams have been hot of late, and neither is a stranger to the NBA spotlight. The Celtics dominated the league in 2007 en route to their 17th NBA Championship, meanwhile seemingly every year the Spurs are on the brink of grabbing one of their own, including winning four titles in the past 10 years.
Tonight’s 8 p.m. clash has just about everything: the names, the legacy, and the anticipation. But how does everything else pan out? Let’s take a look:
On A Roll ‘ Both teams come in winners of five straight, though neither streaks have been star studded. Aside from Boston’s 92-85 win on Sunday over the 10-5 Miami Heat, none of the Celtic’s past five victories have come against opponents above .500. In fact, before taking down the Heat, the last time the Celtics beat a team with more notches in the win column than the loss column was back on Nov. 11, a 105-96 win over the now 10-7 Utah Jazz.
Similarly, San Antonio has benefited from a rather smooth stretch in their schedule, helping them get back on track after losing three straight in mid-November. The only above .500 team in the Spurs’ past five wins? The 10-8 Houston Rockets, whom San Antonio disposed of 92-84 back on November 27. But you’d have to travel all the way back to that same Nov. 11 to find the last time the Spurs beat an above .500 team prior to the Rockets, a 92-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Head to Head
Strangely Familiar ‘ They may not meet that often, but when they do, chances are it’ll be memorable. Boston and San Antonio have yet to collide this season, but last year they met two times – as they do every season ‘ and both games were spectacular. The Spurs took the first game, a 105-99 nail-biter that had San Antonio taking the lead with 20.4 seconds left off a Roger Mason three, stunning a packed house at the Garden. The second game, however, was taken by the Celtics in an equally exciting matchup, an 80-77 victory at the AT&T Center in Texas. Kendrick Perkins netted the game-winner for the Celtics, who escaped San Antonio with KG on the bench for the entire fourth quarter – in part thanks to the Spurs’ six consecutive free-throw misses to close out the game.
Boston swept the two-game series in 2007-08, but the two split again back in 2006-07 with both teams winning their home matchups.
Defense Wins Championships ‘ It’s no secret to anyone in the NBA how the Spurs run their team: a combination of stout defense and scoring mainly from anyone on the floor named Duncan, Parker or Ginobli. But the addition of Richard Jefferson this season has helped alter that perception a little, giving the Spurs a potent fourth option when it comes to putting the ball in the net. So far in 2009, Jefferson has averaged a solid 13.5 points a game, a nice complement to point guard Tony Parker (16.5) in the absence of guard Manu Ginobli (groin injury). But regardless of how much or how little Jefferson steps up, the Spurs are still the same old Spurs, and they live and die by perennial All-Star forward and team-leader, Tim Duncan.
As a result, the most exciting matchup within the Spurs-Celtics rivalry is as it has been for the past three seasons ‘ Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Garnett. Seeing those two do battle in the paint is like watching history collide. Whenever two NBA greats the likes of Garnett and Duncan meet on the hardwood, it’s bound to be exciting, particularly considering that the two play the same position and will literally be matching up head-to-head.
.833 ‘ After posting a very less-than-Allen .259% from beyond the arc in his past six games, Ray Allen heated up in a big way in the Celtics win over the Bobcats. Allen nailed five of six shots from three-point range on Tuesday night, was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and finished the night with a game-high 27 points. The Celtics would like that hot shooting to carry over to tonight’s game against a tough defensive squad in the San Antonio Spurs, who are surrendering 96.5 points a game, 10th in the NBA.
3/4 ‘ the amount of major statistical categories in which Tim Duncan leads the Spurs, furthering the notion that the black and silver go as No. 21 goes. So far in 2009, Duncan leads San Antonio with 18.5 points per game, 10.8 rebounds and an intimidating 2.00 blocks per contest. He even ranks third on the team in assists with 3.7, a rarity for a power forward with the size of Duncan.
The Ginobli We All Know and Love ‘ He’s back on the injured list ‘ again. Oh wait, never mind, he’s off. Wait, no, he’s back on. Okay, forget it ‘ he’s off it now. Ginobli finally returned to the Spurs lineup on Sunday, a 97-89 win over the 76ers that had the Spurs’ star bench-player contribute 17 minutes on the court, netting only eight points and grabbing three rebounds. Obviously a sub-par game for Ginobli, who is averaging 13.5 points a game in ‘09, but it’s apparent he doesn’t have his sea legs back yet after injuring his groin in the Spurs’ loss to the Jazz back on Nov. 19. Since then, the injury has kept the Argentinean born guard out for five-straight games until returning on Sunday. He’s only appeared in 10 games this season, and may not be at full-strength tonight against the Celtics, something that will undoubtedly hurt the Spurs both on the offensive and defensive ends.
On the other hand, San Antonio’s backup guard, Roger Mason (7.1), who was a thorn in the Celtics’ side last season, may be cleared to play Thursday night. The Spurs’ off-the-bench hot shooter has been dealing with a hamstring injury that held him off the court in Sunday’s win over the 76ers, but he is expected to be available for Thursday night’s clash with the Green. In his last two games before injuring the hamstring, Mason posted a combined 28 points, shooting a torrid 66.7 percent from the field.
Nothing new for the Celtics on the injury front, as the usuals — Glen “Big Baby” Davis” and Tony Allen — will be sidelined for tonight’s matchup. News for Tony Allen is that the Celtics will be without the 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard for the entirety of their four game road-trip, and he will be re-evaluated when the club returns to Boston.
Big Four? – “Those situations were created by that little guy. He was excellent tonight, really. … I thought he controlled this game as well as anybody and I don’t know if his stat line is really as indicative of how much impact he had on this game.” – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo after Sunday’s game.
He’s no longer a secret in the NBA. Rajon Rondo continues to improve daily, and the Celtics have all the confidence in the world in him, evident in his new five-year, $55 million contract. It will be another tough night for the point guard however, as he goes toe-to-toe with perennial All-Star Tony Parker, who is averaging 16.5 points a game this season. It’s apparent that a lot of this game hinges on Garnett vs. Duncan ‘ but make no mistake about it, it will be no small battle at the point.
|Danny Ainge on The Big Show||11.24.09 at 6:09 pm ET|
Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations and GM Danny Ainge joined the Big Show on Tuesday to discuss the Celtics’ recent play, the development of Rajon Rondo, the three-point difficulties of Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett’s recovery from injury. To listen to the interview, visit the Big Show’s Audio On Demand page.
Do you think the team’s recent play has anything to do with the fact the players are getting older?
I don’t think so, no. I think our team has played well in a lot of scenarios and I just think that we haven’t been as consistent. But, shooting the ball accounts for a lot. We haven’t been hitting a lot of fairways but we have been hitting a lot of puts. Right now we are a shot of two shots away from winning these games and we have been shooting the ball very poorly from the outside.
You can’t be happy with the defense thus far though?
No, I have been happy with the defense we’ve played in a lot of the stretch but I think we get sloppy and we get lazy and we lose our focus a little bit. Defensively, statistically we were doing well defensively.
Two things that are worrying about Rondo: lack of defensive pressure at the point and that he is not breaking down the defense quite as much. Is this the same guy we saw last year?
I think he is playing better than last year. I think his defense is significantly better than last year. I think he is not getting to the line as much but I think part of that is that we are getting the ball inside more to our post players and not relying on his penetration as much but he is shooting a much better percentage than he did last year which says he is getting to the basket more, he is just not getting to the line more. Read the rest of this entry »
|Rondo helping Hudson improve defense||11.21.09 at 3:33 pm ET|
The two point guards were in the midst of an intense post-practice drill and neither wanted to stop. Rondo drove, pulled up for shots, and tried to shake Hudson on the way to the basket. Hudson buckled down and tried to stay one step ahead of him.
‘I just play defense and he’s on offense the whole time,’ Hudson explained.
The drill, while competitive, was friendly in nature — ‘Me and Lester are pretty close. I like Les,’ said Rondo. They decided some extra practice time would help Hudson improve on defense and Rondo was happy to help him out.
‘[I’ve learned] you’ve got to be ready,’ said Hudson. ‘There are multiple pick-and-rolls in practice. Just he’s very quick so he’s going to help me out guarding quicker guards in the NBA, so hopefully I can get my defense right.’
Rondo participated in similar drills as a rookie against Sebastian Telfair and Delonte West and knows the benefits of additional time on the court. It is especially valuable for Hudson, who has clocked just 37 minutes so far in his first season.
‘He can play D, he’s long, he’s athletic, he’s quick,’ Rondo said of Hudson. ‘He’s going to be a great player in the league one day. He’s young, he’s just trying to learn the way and try to find his way on the team.’
Hudson also learned about Rondo’s game as well. Rondo is shooting 55.9% from the field this season, the second best percentage among all guards behind Chris Paul, but his offense has been criticized in the past.
‘He can shoot better than I thought he could. He’s very quick, so it helps me on my defense. I’m trying to get my defense up,’ Hudson said. ‘He can shoot from the three. In one-on-ones he’s been hitting, so I think he can shoot it. He just has to shoot the ball.’
Neither player keeps score in this drill. It just comes down to shots and stops.
Said Hudson, ‘We just go til we say we’re done.’
|Magic: Can’t Afford to Foul Rondo||11.20.09 at 7:46 pm ET|
BOSTON — Even though Rajon Rondo enters Friday’s game shooting a mere 25 percent from the free throw line, the Magic are not going to give him extra trips to the charity stripe. Just because free throws have been a weakness for Rondo this season that doesn’t mean the same is true for his teammates.
‘With their team you don’t want to foul unnecessarily,’ said Anthony Johnson. ‘Even though maybe he’s not shooting well, Paul Pierce, KG, all the other guys, they’re going to draw fouls.’
In spite of Rondo’s struggle (4-16 FG), the Celtics are still in the middle of the pack around the league. Ray Allen is ranked eighth in the NBA (89.3%) while Shelden Williams and Pierce are both shooting better than 80 percent.
‘If you waste your fouls on Rondo, it’s going to help them as a team get into the bonus and it’s going to give those guys free points,’ Johnson said. ‘So as much as possible we want to keep them off the line, including him, and try to make them make tough shots over the top of us.’
The Magic have a lot more to worry about with Rondo than just free throws. They are without starting point guard Jameer Nelson (knee) and will depend on veterans Johnson and Jason Williams to contain Rondo.
“He’s a guy that plays with a lot of energy offensively and defensively so you’ve got to always keep him in front of you, don’t allow him to really dictate the tempo with his ball pressure and just putting pressure on our defense getting into the paint,” said Johnson. “So we’re going to have to keep him in front of us and not let him orchestrate and make all the big plays.”
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