|Fast Break: Celtics survive another Wizards scare||11.07.12 at 10:21 pm ET|
Thanks to double-doubles from the Big Three, the Celtics survived a second straight game against a Wizards team missing two of its best players. It wasn’t pretty — and required OT — but the Cs’ evened their record at 2-2.
Rondo’s 18 points and 14 assists in the 100-94 victory moved him alone into third place in NBA history with 28 consecutive games with 10-plus assists (behind John Stockton‘s 29, Stockton’s 37 and Magic Johnson‘s 44).
Garnett (20 points, 13 rebounds) committed what could’ve been a costly technical foul when he jerked his elbow in Kevin Seraphin‘s direction late in the fourth quarter, but two Paul Pierce (15 points, 10 rebounds) steals and a Rondo 20-footer with 26 seconds left helped force overtime as Rondo’s 3-pionter at the end of regulation fell short. The C’s defense arrived just in time to salvage the game in OT.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
First things first: The Celtics repeatedly assure the offense will come once they can get back to playing the kind of defense that’s been the trademark of their success the past five seasons. Wednesday night’s first quarter was a start. Led by Garnett and Lee, the Celtics held the Wizards to 29.2 percent shooting (7-24 FG) in the first 12 minutes, building a 21-16 lead that should have been bigger if not for five C’s turnovers.
Garnett gold: Since nobody else put forth any effort in the opening 24 minutes, Garnett exerted twice as much. By halftime, he had 10 rebounds, seven points and two blocks. His final first-half defensive stand was remarkable, singlehandedly guarding the right side of the court and eventually blocking a Trevor Booker layup attempt with two seconds left on the shot clock. Without KG on the floor, the C’s finished minus-13 before the break.
Forward progress: Finally given an opportunity to contribute midway through the third quarter, Chris Wilcox ran the floor with Rondo, made his only field goal and got to the line five times for six points to go along with two boards and a block. In just four minutes of action, he finished a plus-11 — while Garnett sat on the bench.
Very Terry: After admitting it was an adjustment to mesh with a new system, Jason Terry finally asserted himself into the offense. He took 15 shots, made seven of them and scored 16 points off the bench. Somehow, the C’s reserves still got outscored, 53-41.
|Box and 2: Inside Celtics, Bucks and Wizards, oh my||11.05.12 at 2:39 pm ET|
— Called upon by Doc Rivers Friday night to protect the paint against the Bucks, when smaller lineups weren’t working, Darko Milicic played 4:30 of the first quarter. He missed his only shot — an air-balled baby left hook — and committed more turnovers (2) than he totaled rebounds (1) or blocks (0). Then, he didn’t play Saturday.
Kevin Garnett: “We’re still playing with the chemistry. We have different lineups in which Doc is playing with simultaneously, and we’re still working. No one said this was going to be an easy process.”
Translation: “The Darko Experiment is called that for a reason. Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face.”
— Over the weekend, Brandon Bass finished a minus-11 in 40:52 without Jared Sullinger on the floor. The Celtics outscored the opponent in just two of his 10 stints sans Sullinger — by one in the final 3:53 of the first quarter against the Wizards and by two Terry free throws in the final 1:35 of that game. Without Bass on the floor, Sullinger finished a plus-14 in 33:29, and the C’s outscored opponents in five of those eight stints. (In case you were wondering, the two played 14:40 together, finished a minus-9 and only outscored opponents once in six stints.)
Rivers (via the Herald): ‘[Sullinger] brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with our starting group.’
Translation: “Sorry Brandon, but you’re going to see a lot more Sullinger in the starting lineup.”
|Doc Rivers doesn’t want Rajon Rondo ‘pacing himself’||at 2:18 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Sometimes, too much of a good thing is not healthy for a basketball team.
Well, take a look at Rondo’s minutes and what the Celtics expect from him and you could make the argument they should be just as concerned.
In the first three games, Rondo has played 44, 41 and 41 minutes, averaging 41.5 minutes per contest, nine minutes over his career average per game. Yes, it’s just a three-game sample so far and yes, that average includes a season of 23.5 minutes in his rookie year in 2006-07 and 29.9 the next, when he led the Celtics to an NBA title running the point. But still, one look at Rondo’s lean body and you see the need to preserve the Rolls Royce of the Celtics engine for all 82 games.
But Rivers took it a step further after practice Monday when he said it’s not the number of minutes but how Rondo is playing on the court that he has to watch closely. Rivers wants to be the one pacing Rondo from the bench, not Rondo himself.
“I’m concerned but not as far as him getting tired but I don’t want him to save himself on the floor,” Rivers said. “There’s a minutes number for him. We don’t know what it is yet. We’ll figure it out where he can play his minutes at full pace instead of knowing he’s going to be on the floor too long and then he starts pacing himself. We need him to be a fast, quick, aggressive player.”
And the number?
“I think it’s 39, 38 but it’s not much lower than 40 but it’s in that area,” Rivers added.
Rivers has said in years past just what a physical drain it is for a guard like Rondo to not only run the offense but play top-end defense that is a staple in the Celtics scheme.
The answers right now off the bench are Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, with the latter coming to Boston in late October as Danny Ainge realized the need for ball-handling depth on the roster. Courtney Lee can also help lighten the load, switching from his starting role as shooting guard to the point.
But the biggest help of all will come when Avery Bradley comes back with two healthy shoulders – likely in December – to take a big defensive burden off Rondo.
Until then, Rivers will be watching Rondo very closely.
|This Rajon Rondo play was pretty awesome||11.03.12 at 9:51 pm ET|
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’ve got to do a better job on the ball’||at 1:48 am ET|
Rajon Rondo pointed to himself as one reason for the Celtics 0-2 start to the season. Rondo finished with 14 points and 11 assists but couldn’t get his teammates into any consistent offensive rhythm for a second straight game as the Celtics lost their home opener, 99-88, to the Bucks Friday night at TD Garden.
“Just trust one another defensively,” Rondo said when asked what’s missing in the Celtics’ game right now. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job on the ball and go from there.”
As was the case against the Heat, the Celtics were again beaten in transition throughout the game.
“I don’t know [if we trust each other defensively],” said Rondo. “I mean, we can say we do, but on the court it shows, we’re not pulling in weak side. But it’s a lot of things. We’ve got to start from somewhere. The good thing about it is we could start [Saturday].”
The Celtics play the Wizards on Saturday night in Washington.
|Paul Pierce: ‘Our goal is to keep our home court clean’||11.02.12 at 11:29 am ET|
WALTHAM — In the labor-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, the Celtics were 24-9 at home on the parquet. They were 8-2 at the Garden in the playoffs.
But the sour taste from the last game they played before the home crowd remains. With a chance to eliminate the Heat on their home court, they came up flat, losing, 98-79, to LeBron James and company.
Everyone in attendance remembers the fans at the end of the game chanting “Let’s Go Celtics” and the players haven’t forgotten either, as they take the same court for the first time in a meaningful game since then tonight when they host the Bucks in the home opener.
“We’re excited,” Paul Pierce said. “We’re excited to be at home, especially after taking a loss in the first game so hopefully, we can come back home and establish ourselves. That’s going to be the emphasis this year – establish ourselves at home. No team should be able to come in here and get any wins. Our goal is to keep our home court clean so it can be an intimidating factor when they come to the Garden.”
“We had a tough year last year,” Rajon Rondo said. “Other than that, I think years in the past the Garden has been a tough place to play in.”
The team that will be trying to spoil the Celtics home opening party tonight is the Milwaukee Bucks, led by the dynamic duo backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. The Bucks will be playing their regular season opener tonight.
“I know they’ve got two explosive guards in the backcourt and I think a lot of things start with them,” Pierce said. “I’m very familiar with Ilyasova [Ersan Ilyasova] and that’s pretty much that core. They have good role players in Dunleavy [Mike Dunleavy] and more than capable guys like Drew Gooden so they pose a threat for us. They gave us trouble last year from what I remember so they have a good, talented team. This is their first game so they’ll be hungry to get out to a good start.”
“They’re a scrappy team,” Rondo added. “They play with a lot of intensity on defense. Jennings and Monta is their backcourt. That’s their firepower. Courtney [Courtney Lee] and I will have our hands full but it will be a team effort to win the game.”
|Paul Pierce: Celtics ‘defense has got to come a lot faster’||at 10:08 am ET|
That was evident during the TNT telecast of Tuesday night’s season-opening loss in Miami.
He was wearing a microphone and barking out calls on the floor and words of encouragement to Rajon Rondo when things weren’t always going well.
On Thursday, before the Celtics home opener tonight against the Bucks, he was barking out something else.
“The defense has got to come a lot faster, and that’s something that’s come a lot faster in the past than the offense,” Pierce said of Boston’s 120 points allowed in a 120-107 loss to the Heat. “I’m pretty surprised we scored 107 points, to tell you the truth. Usually, the defense, we pick it up pretty fast. We understand our schemes, our rotations. But I just think we have to understand the type of atmosphere it was going to be. Some of the guys have never been in that atmosphere before, first game, playing against the defending champs on the road. We have to pick up our intensity, understand the moment, understand where we’re at and understand the type of game it’s going to be and raise our game.”
Doc Rivers thought his coaching staff had too much time to prepare and filled their players’ minds with too much information.
“I think our on-ball defense was average because our help defense was worse,” Rivers said. “If everybody is up guarding their own man and there’s no help and guys see gaps [in the defense], they’re taking it. What really upset us, every key guy got every shot he wanted, where they wanted the whole, and that’s a bad defensive night.
“It was team wide. It was spread. Like I told them, from the coaching standpoint, I thought we had way too much time to prepare for it and we put way too much stuff in their head. I thought they were thinking more than playing on instinct. I told our coaches we share in that. We had them doing a couple of different things and that’s not who we are defensively.” Read the rest of this entry »
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