|Celtics undergoing a defensive identity crisis||11.22.12 at 1:14 am ET|
When Brandon Bass tipped home a Paul Pierce jumper with 1:28 left in their 112-100 loss to the Spurs, the Celtics avoided joining San Antonio as the only other team in the last 25 years not to grab an offensive rebound. Instead, they grabbed one — an NBA statistic that’s occurred just 16 times in the past quarter-century.
Of course, three of those 16 occurrences now belong to the Celtics. Only the other two games produced an entirely different result: a 103-79 blowout of the 76ers this past April and a 122-103 defeat of the Pacers during the 2008 championship season. The C’s shot better than 50 percent on both occasions, just as they did in Wednesday night’s loss to the Spurs, so there weren’t exactly a lot of offensive rebounds to be grabbed.
In other words, the Celtics should hope they only have one offensive rebound every night.
“You’re a big believer in offensive rebounds I think; I’m not,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “You can pick on that all you want. That is a number I rarely look at. Statistically, it holds up. I can tell you: You don’t offensive rebound, you stop transition, you win more games than when you get offensive rebounds. I can guarantee you that.”
Sounds great in theory, except for the fact that MySynergySports.com ranks the C’s rank dead last statistically in transition defense, which is a entirely different problem. And a much bigger one.
|Rajon Rondo: ‘We’re not taking away anything’ on defense||11.21.12 at 11:34 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo can see what everyone else sees, including his head coach. The Celtics are not doing a good job defending in half-court. That has been a trademark of the Celtics success of the last five years.
But again on Wednesday night, it failed them as the Spurs not only won the game, 112-100, but they outscored the Celtics, 58-34, in the paint, thanks in large part to San Antonio’s passing and Boston’s inability to stop it.
“I don’t know,” Rondo said. “Can’t pinpoint one thing. Their players got into the paint. They did a good job of having their bigs passing [the ball]. They did a good job of everything. We didn’t take away anything we wanted to tonight.
“We’re making the same mistakes in our defense, night in and night out so I think we just have to do a better job of focusing in shootaround in the mornings when we’re given the assignments because each team varies. We’re making a lot of easy mistakes that allow teams to get to 112 points.”
It wasn’t quite “Dead men walking” as Doc Rivers put it after the loss by 20 in Detroit on Sunday night. But still, it’s alarming to these Celtics that they can’t defend for some reason in half-court.
“Basketball, you’re going to make mistakes in this game,” Rondo added. “The other team gets paid as well and they’re going to make you make mistakes but we pride ourselves on defense and we’re just not getting it done.
“We’re not taking away anything. We gave up the corner three tonight. We gave up the paint, touches and paint finishes. We gave up too many ‘And-1s’ again. I think we probably lead the league in ‘And-1s.’ So, we have to do a better job, not to hurt anyone but not let guys finish at the rim. We’re not finishing at all. It’s a collective team effort. It starts with me. I have to do a better job on pick-and-roll coverage and get back and help my bigs rebound.”
Talk about going from the frying pan into the fire, the Celtics welcome Kevin Durant and the Thunder Friday night to TD Garden. The 10:30 shootaround should be much more intense than normal.
“We have to try and bounce back and the best thing about the league is you don’t have to wait a week to play another game,” Rondo said. “So, after Thanksgiving we’ll try to get back and get focused for Oklahoma City.”
|Fast Break: Tim Duncan, Spurs board Celtics to death||at 9:52 pm ET|
The Celtics came within 90 seconds of becoming only the second team in the last 25 years to fail to record an offensive rebound — against the only other team do so. Only the Spurs won when they did it on Jan. 23, 2002. This time around, the C’s lost, 112-100.
Rajon Rondo (22 points, 15 assists) did his best to breathe life into a Celtics team seemingly already suffering a Thanksgiving Day tryptophan hangover, contributing to 19 of the C’s final 21 points. Brandon Bass broke his string of 19 straight when he mercifully tipped in an offensive rebound with 1:28 remaining.
Paul Pierce (19 points), Kevin Garnett (14 points) and Jeff Green combined for just three rebounds. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan totaled 20 points and 15 boards. Here’s what else went wrong:
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers before Wednesday night’s game with the San Antonio Spurs talked about Grinnell College’s Jack Taylor and his 138-point performance on Tuesday, a comparison between Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, a comparison of Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker and the status of Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle.
Doc on Rondo vs. Parker: “I’d rather have just one of the game’s best playing tonight. It’s amazing. They’re both terrific, obviously. They’re so different in how they play. It’s amazing how many different point guards there are in the league right now, and they’re all really good. You have to prepare for each one of them in a different way. The big ones, the strong ones, the fast ones, the witty ones. It’s different right now with all the different types of point guards, and each team has built their team around that style of point guard. It’s a good time in the league right now for that position.”
|Kevin Garnett puts Rajon Rondo on the same level as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James||11.17.12 at 6:48 pm ET|
After Rajon Rondo tallied 20 assists for the second time in nine games in a 107-89 victory against the Raptors on Saturday, new Celtics teammate Jason Terry declared him an NBA Most Valuable Player candidate — and even Rondo himself admitted “MVP is in the picture” — but Kevin Garnett saw this coming three days after first coming to Boston five years ago. We’ll let the league’s 2004 MVP explain.
“I’ve never played with a point guard who is in control of the flow the way he is,” said the 14-time NBA All-Star. “Probably if anybody comes to mind I’m thinking Sam Cassell. He was pretty good at controlling the flow; he could score the ball. But as far as both ends, controlling the game, understanding the flow, knowing when to slow it down, [Rondo]‘s probably the best at it. He’s very conscious of the game from both ends. Usually, you have a point guard who’s a scoring point guard or you have a point guard on the other side of the ball, which is the defensive side, but but as far as 48 minutes on both sides of the ball, he’s the best at it.
“I’ve always looked at someone as the MVP as someone who makes his player not only better, but is able to dictate the game from different stat-wise, is able to get rebounds, does multiple things for his team. That’s personnel. That’s preference. Obviously, I’m going to be biased, because I play with him, and I see his growth and I see how hard he works, but when it comes to his presence on the game, that’s hard. That’s up there with the modern day Kobe [Bryant]s and LeBron [James]es and all that, so I think he gets his knock, because he doesn’t score the ball and all that stuff. But when you look at the overall package, it’s unbelievable what he’s doing.
“After the third day when I first got here, we were doing pickup without you guys knowing, and you could see his potential from how he was dictating the pickup games. I’m not saying he was scoring the ball, but he was dictating a lot of plays from both ends. I evaluate the game from not just a scoring perspective, but a defensive perspective, too. I told him a long time ago, when I first met him, that he had the potential to do both — that he had the energy and the IQ to do both — and it was up to him. Obviously, you all see what this product is coming out to be, and the future is whatever he wants it to be. I’ve always said with Rondo it’s always between his ears, and consistency is everything. Whatever you put into this, that’s what your’e going to get out of it, and he’s doing a great job of it.”
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics tame Raptors||at 2:59 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo didn’t just reach double-digit assists for his 33rd straight game, he notched 20 dimes for the second time in nine games, and the Celtics rolled to a 107-89 Atlantic Division victory against the Raptors.
Rondo reached that plateau while playing just 32 minutes and sitting the final 10:33 of the C’s first comfortable victory of the season (and, obviously, Gino’s first appearance in the Garden this year).
Jared Sullinger (12 points, 11 rebounds) posted his first career double-double, Jason Terry reached 20 points for the first time this season and the triumvirate of Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jeff Green all scored at least eight points off the bench, giving Paul Pierce (19 points in 25 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (15 points in 17 minutes) the rest they’ll need in Detroit on Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Early Bird special: Despite the 12:30 p.m. Saturday start, the C’s Big Three awoke early. Garnett started 3-for-3 in his first five-minute stint, Pierce netted eight points in the opening 10 minutes and Rondo showed no ill effects from the sprained right ankle that kept him out of Thursday’s game, finishing the first quarter with seven assists. As a result, the Celtics shot 73.7 percent as a team and established a 30-17 lead through 12 minutes.
Domesticated dinosaurs: Raptors attack in packs, like hyenas. Unless they’re the Toronto kind. Even when the Celtics fell into their usual jump-shooting comfort zone, at least they were open shots. Wide open shots, to be clear. Toronto imports Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas were particular dreadful defensively. That repeatedly left Wilcox open for lobs, inflating Rondo’s ballooning assist total.
Tapping Sully: In recent games, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has avoided giving Jared Sullinger minutes without Garnett on the floor, but some Brandon Bass foul trouble forced the issue. And Sullinger delivered, grabbing six first-half boards off the bench and establishing a rare rebounding advantage for the C’s.
|Al Jefferson: ‘I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too’ and other memories of Rajon Rondo and the 2006-07 Celtics||11.15.12 at 1:40 pm ET|
During the 2006-07 NBA season, when the Celtics finished last in the Atlantic Division and earned the No. 5 overall pick (Jeff Green) that became Ray Allen trade bait and eventually altered the franchise’s future, I bought a ticket to the Garden for $8. Eight dollars. Even on a measly sportswriter’s salary, that was a bargain.
As Tommy Heinsohn said, the young core of Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Tony Allen and Delonte West consisted of players who were “like puppies: Every time you saw them, you wanted to pet them.”
“We used to have a lot of laughs together, because when I was here, things weren’t going too well as far as winning,” Jefferson said. “But we always had the locker room live with me, [Rondo], Tony Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West. We all kept it live, and we were fun guys to be around. In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out. It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”
Considering how those players evolved — a double-double machine (Jefferson), a three-time NBA All-Star point guard (Rondo), a first-team All-Defensive wing (Allen), a starting center on a title team (Perkins) and one tough motherbleeper (West) — that team would’ve gotten better. Those Celtics wouldn’t have won a title in 2008, but you can see why some folks (wrongfully) thought twice about trading Jefferson as the centerpiece of a fairly famous 2007 trade.
“If I were Danny Ainge,” said Jefferson, “I would’ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”