|Opinion: Danny Ainge correct to sound alarm for Celtics||12.21.12 at 7:21 am ET|
The Celtics no longer are one of the toughest teams to play in the NBA, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge does not appear content with that reality. After watching his team play mediocre defense over a 25-game sampling, Ainge on Thursday criticized the players’ collective play on The Big Show.
“We’ve got to prevent those runs by other teams and those droughts that we have at the offensive end and giving up so many lay-ins on the defensive end,” Ainge said. “There’s just no excuse for the way we’re playing. Yeah, you need to take time to find out who we are, but there’s no excuse for giving up 32 points in the paint in a half against Chicago, and there’s no excuse for giving up a 17-0 run to Cleveland.”
Last year’s Celtics delivered the template for a veteran NBA team looking to flip the proverbial switch in season. A five-game losing streak just before the All-Star break put the team’s record at 15-17. The Celtics went 24-10 after the break and eventually made a run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
So why is Ainge sounding the alarm in December? From a distance, the Celtics’ 13-12 start to this season appears to follow the same trend — a veteran team going through the motions some nights, saving its collective legs for the second half and postseason.
A closer look proves that this year’s team is much different than last year’s team, and perhaps not due the same measure of patience from Ainge.
The most glaring difference between this year’s Celtics and last year’s is their inability to play strong team defense. Even when last year’s team slogged through the first half of the season, it ranked as one of the top two teams in the NBA defensively. Before the break, the 2011-12 C’s held opposing teams to 89.4 points per game and a field goal percentage of 41.9. Those numbers increased slightly after the break to 90.1 points per game and a field goal percentage of 42.1. Despite the slight increases, the Celtics still finished the season as the second-ranked team in the NBA in points allowed, behind only the Bulls, and they ranked first in opponents’ field goal percentage.
The Celtics’ most marked improvements last season took place on the offensive end. The C’s scoring average jumped from 89.4 before the break to 94.1 in the 34 games after. Their field goal percentage improved from 45.8 to 46.5.
|Doc Rivers rolls the dice with Rajon Rondo and gets away with one||12.13.12 at 1:55 am ET|
The final box score Wednesday night reads that Rajon Rondo played 52 minutes, 30 seconds of the 58 minutes of Boston’s 117-115 double-overtime win over Dallas.
Doc Rivers said he could see Rondo’s minutes getting up there, especially toward the end of regulation and gambled by leaving him in the game, hoping the Celtics could hold onto their lead with four minutes left.
‘Well I thought we started walking the ball up the floor,” Rivers said. “I thought our tempo changed in the fourth quarter. You know, it’s funny: they went small, we went small, you would think your tempo would increase. We actually went the other way. I thought the biggest mistake I made, actually, is keeping Rondo in that long.
“I thought I took the gamble, and sometimes it’s a good one sometimes it’s a bad one and I didn’t think this was a good one. I just thought he got tired. You know, I didn’t give them that normal rest two minutes before the fourth and let him get some rest. I mean obviously I didn’t anticipate a double overtime game. But I thought that had an impact on him and on his speed in the game. I told our guys with like four minutes left ‘ my coaches, because then it was too late ‘ I said, ‘This was not a good decision.’ And that decision could’ve hurt us.’
But it didn’t cost the Celtics – in part – because Rondo and the Celtics forced 28 turnovers against the Mavericks, leading to 34 points.
‘Well, we’ve been trapping,” Rivers said. “I’ve been talking about it a lot and over the past seven games it’s been paying dividends for us. It’s been terrific. I told our guys, we also broke our own record with deflections. So we had ‘ I don’t know what the number was now ‘ but we had 100 deflections it felt like, we had 27 turnovers, because we couldn’t make a shot.
“You know, I didn’t like our shots that we got down the stretch. But overall we had a lot of good shots and they just wasn’t going in. So we won a game where a team shot 51 percent, and the other team, us, shot 43 percent. That was happening to us earlier in the year if you remember; we lost a couple games where it was the exact opposite. So, when you get more possessions like that, you give yourself a chance to win the game. I told the guys I was proud of them; I thought we made some mistakes that later in the year we can’t make down the stretch of games: the foul to give, didn’t call a time out, pass the ball so we couldn’t advance it before the first overtime. Those are plays that can’t happen. But through all those mistakes we still won the game, so as a coach we’ll take that.’
Kevin Garnett had 40 minutes himself in the marathon.
‘He held up, and fortunately we are taking [Thursday] off,” Rivers said. “Whenever you have an 8 o’clock game you’re taking the day off anyway. So, you know, I don’t want that but it had to happen tonight.’
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics outlast Mavericks in double OT||12.12.12 at 11:28 pm ET|
After Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce each missed potential game-winnters to end regulation and the first overtime, they combined for 10-of-12 points in the second OT as the Celtics outlasted the Mavericks, 117-115. Courtney Lee scored the other two, a pair of free throws that kept an O.J. Mayo 3-pointer at the buzzer from forcing a third overtime.
Pierce finished with a season-high 34 points, Rondo missed his second triple-double in three games by a single rebound (16 points, 15 assists, 9 rebounds) and four other Celtics reached double figures: Kevin Garnett (16 points), Jeff Green (15 points), Jason Terry (10 points) and Chris Wilcox (10 points).
In a wild final two minutes of regulation, Derek Fisher‘s 3-pointer gave the Mavericks their first lead, 95-94 with 1:47 to play in the fourth quarter. A Pierce jumper briefly gave the Celtics the lead back, but O.J. Mayo made 1-of-2 free throws to force a tie. That resulted in a seven-second span in which Rondo poked the ball loose from Mayo with 6.9 seconds left and got his shot blocked by Fisher as time expired on the other end.
Likewise, in the first overtime, Pierce and Garnett each drilled go-ahead jump shots in the final minute, but Shawn Marion (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Mayo (team-high 21 points) answered on both occasions. And the unimaginative Pierce elbow jumper failed as the clock ran out on OT No. 1.
A Pierce triple to begin the second overtime gave the Celtics the lead for good, as they held off every run the Mavericks had left in them, including a Vince Carter trey that brought them within one in the final minute.
|Doc Rivers has learned a lot from Bill Belichick||12.11.12 at 9:58 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers had a special chance to go inside the Patriots game preparation minutes before kickoff Monday night. He learned a lot from the invitation from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. On Tuesday, he was asked about his experience and was asked if anyone on his team compares to Tom Brady.
“Rondo is our Tom Brady, as far as being the point guard/quarterback,” Rivers said after Tuesday’s practice. “Kevin [Kevin Garnett] probably as far as all of the relationship stuff. Tom Brady has got to be right there [as one of the best in history]. It’s surgical watching him play. Then to have that, plus the relationship with [Belichick], I don’t know if there’s been a better great quarterback relationship with their coach ever. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana would be the only other one that comes to mind for me. That’s pretty neat. And they’re so different as people. That’s pretty cool.”
Rivers was on the sideline with Mark Wahlberg while Rondo was also in attendance wearing a Wes Welker jersey. Rivers took in the game from the suite belonging to Belichick and watched with Belichick’s girl friend Linda Holliday.
“I was there most of the game,” Rivers said. “I left in the middle of the fourth. I asked Linda could I leave now? Is it safe so it was. I love watching that team play. I was telling our guys that today. It’s just really awesome watching them execute, how professional they are. Every time I go to a Patriots game, I get so much out of it.
“I got to sit in their offensive gameplan meetings before they went out on the field. It’s just really cool. It’s a neat atmosphere. You can’t be around it enough, you really can’t.”
Rivers was amazed at the Patriots’ execution of their game plan.
“To me, their execution and how serious and how they prepare for it,” Rivers said. “Obviously, it’s different, they have one game to prepare for a week. It does make a big difference when we have five in a week, four in a week, it’s a little harder to do. Everybody knows their job and they do their job.
“It’s a neat atmosphere,” Rivers added. “Football [teams] in general [game plan weekly] but the Patriots do it on another level. Just the execution. Listening to what they said they wanted to do on offense before the game and then watching them actually do was pretty impressive.”
WALTHAM — The Celtics sure enjoyed themselves at the Patriots game on Monday night. After Tuesday’s practice, Jason Terry dubbed coach Doc Rivers “the Bill Belichick of basketball,” Rivers called Rajon Rondo “our Tom Brady” and Rondo left believing he could’ve played in the NFL.
“I don’t take what those guys do lightly,” said Rondo, “but I think I could’ve played. I could’ve given it a shot.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Rondo grew up playing quarterback in football, point guard in basketball and pitcher in baseball before focusing on hoops at Eastern High (Louisville, Ky.) and Oak HIll Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).
“I didn’t think about playing at Kentucky,” said the former Wildcats basketball star. “High school days, but not college. When I got to college, it was just one-track minded, which was basketball and getting to the league.”
The closest Rondo came to playing college football was warming up Kentucky’s QB (Although, his brother Will Rondo played briefly at Murray State), but at least Rondo’s not putting himself in Brady’s class. “Quarterback and point guard are pretty much the same thing,” he said of the comparison, “but I don’t know about Tom Brady.”
In classic Rondo fashion, he ended his interview after Tuesday’s practice with one last quip that made everyone wonder whether he was ever serious for the previous five minutes.
“I don’t know Tom at all,” he said. “I tried to get his autograph. I just couldn’t reach him.”
Considering Rondo has attended Patriots practices in the past and developed a friendly relationship with avid Celtics fan Vince Wilfork, it’s hard to imagine he’d have a hard time getting Brady’s signature if he really wanted it.
|Irish Coffee: How Celtics perform in clutch situations||12.10.12 at 5:10 pm ET|
After Rajon Rondo missed not one, but both game-winning opportunities in a 95-94 Celtics loss to the 76ers over the weekend — a failed 19-footer to end regulation and the infamous slippery 16-footer as overtime ran out — I got to wondering how the C’s are performing in clutch situations (either team within five points with five minutes remaining in regulation and overtime), since half of their 20 games have been decided by six points or less.
The C’s are 6-4 in those 10 games despite shooting 37.4 percent as a team in a whopping 60.2 clutch minutes, including three overtime games. They’ve had four potential game-winning shots at the buzzer — all misses on long jumpers — and Rondo has taken three of them. Paul Pierce attempted the fourth (from the elbow, of course).
Before we started reading into who’s doing what in the clutch, here are the numbers (Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger have all played sparingly in crunch time, but not a large enough sample size). Read the rest of this entry »
|Jeff Green thinks ‘things are turning the corner’||12.09.12 at 6:23 pm ET|
In the last five games, Green has become the go-to guy off the bench, reaching double figures four times while averaging 16 points and 4.2 rebounds.
To top it all off, his long-range shot has been starting to fall much more consistently. He is shooting 54 percent from the field.
That’s a far cry from the 7.7 points and 2.5 rebounds he was averaging in the previous 15 games. In that stretch, he was shooting just 40 percent from the floor.
“I just went through a slump,” Green said. “Every player goes through one. Now shots are going in for me; things are turning the corner.”
“It’s just about being more aggressive, getting the rim so I can get into a rhythm, offensively. Get easy looks and the other shots will start to fall.
What makes Doc Rivers so happy is that he isn’t being forced to draw up new plays to get Green good looks. They’re all coming from Green himself.
“I think Jeff is just freeing himself up,” Rivers said after Saturday’s 92-79 win over the Sixers, in which he scored 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench, converting 7-of-12 shots from the floor. “He’s starting to do it and it’s really been good.”
Finally, it looks like Green isn’t worried about meeting the expectations of a four-year, $36 million contract signed this summer.
The more he plays like Saturday, the more confident he gets. And when Green plays with confidence, he begins to fly all over the court. Green converted a pair of dunks, including a slam on a alley-oop from Rajon Rondo that put the Celtics up, 81-63 with 7:44 left in the game.
“I’m getting there. My bounce is getting there,” Green said. “It’s been a slow process but it’s coming along.”