|Fast Break: Grizzlies maul Celtics in 4th straight loss||01.02.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
Despite a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that slashed a Grizzlies lead that had grown as large as 18 points to just five with a handful of minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to make up for three quarters of dreadful play that left the C’s three games under .500 (14-17) for the first time this season.
Bradley made his first bucket after missing the opening 30 games of the season, finishing with four points in 18 minutes. Rajon Rondo (11 points, 9 assists), who battled a bruised hip, Paul Pierce (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) were the only Celtics in double figures. Hence, the team’s fourth straight loss and eighth in the last 10 games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Memphis shooting: In the first half, the Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 61.1 percent and scored 50 points on 36 shots. Mike Conley (23 points, 9 assists) and old friend Tony Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds) shot a combined 9-of-11 before the break. Heck, even Darrell Arthur (10 points), who entered without a 3-pointer in 204 career games, drained two triples in the span of 1:43 in the second quarter.
Garnett’s first half: Whether it was a New Year’s hangover or not, Garnett started an atrocious 1-of-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers as the Grizzlies took a 50-41 lead into the break. It’s no surprise the defense also struggled on a night when KG didn’t have his best performance.
The Collins experiment: Celtics starting center Jason Collins may have limited Marc Gasol‘s scoring, but he did little to quell the C’s overall defense and rebounding woes. (The Celtics were out-rebouned 39-27 and gave up eight offensive boards). Plus, he’s essentially nonexistent on the offensive end. In what’s been a trend for Collins, he had as many personal fouls (2) as points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce’s first quarter: The Celtics captain started a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the first quarter. He may not have been as successful in the paint, but his effort from long distance helped keep the C’s afloat as the Grizzlies made two-thirds of their shots in the early going.
Avery’s arrival: Bradley started opposite Mike Conley and held the Memphis guard to two shots (a successful 3-pointer and a runner from 6 feet) and two assists in 13:22 of shared floor time in the first half. In Conley’s remaining first-half minutes (8:22), he made 4-of-6 shots and generated three assists. In other words, even if Bradley’s offense was rusty (1-4 FG), he’s still effective on the defensive end.
The bench: Bradley’s presence also pushes Jason Terry (8 points) to the bench, creating some semblance of consistency at Doc Rivers‘ disposal. Believe it or not, the second unit actually turned a 14-12 deficit when Garnett sat in the first quarter into a 31-27 advantage when KG returned — thanks in large part to Brandon Bass (9 points).
Doc Rivers announced before Wednesday’s game that Rajon Rondo had been cleared to play and would start with Avery Bradley in the Celtics backcourt as the team looks for a defensive spark to turn around its three-game losing streak.
Rondo suffered a bruised right hip against the Clippers on Thursday and missed Saturday’s game against the Warriors before returning on Sunday in the loss to the Kings. Rondo sat out Tuesday’s practice before working out two hours before Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies and getting cleared to play.
Meanwhile, Bradley is making his season debut after surgery on both shoulders in the offseason. Rivers said before the game there would be no minutes limitations on Bradley in his first appearance of the season.
“I just think the quicker we get to our lineup, the better,” Rivers said. “We’re going to get to it anyway, so why wait?”
“If he’s hurting us, we take him out; if he’s playing well, we let him play,” said Rivers. “I think it’ll be vision, but listen, we gotta play with some kind of pace, offensively and defensively, obviously. So it’ll be pretty easy to see.”
Rivers said he hasn’t paid attention to reports that Bradley will be the key to a turnaround.
“I haven’t paid too much attention to all this stuff. Is he [Bill] Russell yet? Or [Bob] Cousy? I don’t know,” Rivers said. “If that’s what [media has] made him, and if he lives up to that, then I’m good with that. I hope everyone’s right.”
Can Bradley make the rest of the Celtics better defenders?
“If you take one great defensive player and you put him on a team, the team is going to be a better defensive team,” Rivers added. “And as important as bigs are, I’ve always thought, especially if it’s a guard that applies pressure, that kinda fuels energy. You see it and it’s hard for you not to do it. You got this guy doing it and then, what, are you not going to do anything? It clearly helps. Again, because this is his first game this year, the other players have a 30-game advantage on him as far as timing and stuff, as far as running their stuff. I’m not looking for the world today or tomorrow, even in a week. But it’s going to come.”
|Judging by this, Avery Bradley looks real close to returning||12.21.12 at 6:23 pm ET|
Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley, Kris Joseph and Courtney Lee play a game of 2-on-2 before Friday’s game between the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. Rondo and Bradley took turns guarding one another.
Bradley was cleared to return to contact practice Monday in Chicago and judging by this, he looks real close to returning. In this video, he shows why he is considered the best on-ball defender on the Celtics and one of the best in the NBA.
|Opinion: Danny Ainge correct to sound alarm for Celtics||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.”