|Fast Break: Knicks Garden 3 party barrages Celtics||04.17.12 at 10:58 pm ET|
Another Atlantic Division title will have to wait. A record-setting 3-point barrage by the Knicks put the undermanned Celtics in a hole Paul Pierce couldn’t even dig them out of in a 118-110 defeat at Madison Square Garden.
Pierce (43 pionts, 11-19 FG, 4-6 3P, 17-18 FT) became the first Celtics player to eclipse 40 points since he scored 50 on Feb. 15, 2006, but Knicks reserves J.R. Smith (25 points, 7-10 3P) and Steve Novak (25 points, 8-10 3P) helped New York set an NBA record for 3-point field goals off the bench in a remarkable effort.
Carmelo Anthony‘s triple-double (35 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and Tyson Chandler‘s inside presence (20 points, 7 rebounds) also contributed to a 56.8 shooting night for the Knicks.
With the bench getting outscored 55-2, the Celtics dropped to 36-26 despite quality offensive nights from Rajon Rondo (13 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds) — who recorded 10-plus assists for the 23rd straight game — Kevin Garnett (20 points), Avery Bradley (17 points) and Brandon Bass (15 points).
The Knicks (32-29) moved a game ahead of the 76ers (31-30), who lost to the Pacers (40-22), so the C’s magic number for the division title and the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed remains at one. They also dropped a game back in the loss column behind the idle Magic (36-25) and Hawks (36-25), who would own homecourt advantage as the fifth seed should they finish with a better record.
WHAT WENT WRONG
New York 3 party: When the horn mercifully signaled halftime, the Knicks had made 14-of-21 3-pointers (66.7%) — including 11 in the second quarter — to enter the break with a 72-53 advantage after the worst defensive 24 minutes of the Celtics season. Victimized by J.R. Smith (7-9 3P) and Steve Novak (4-6 3P) helped the Knicks tie records for treys both in a half and a quarter, and the 14 triples tied the most the C’s allowed in a game all season.
Finishing touches: Led by the starting backcourt duo of Bradley and Rondo, the Celtics staked themselves to a 24-17 advantage with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter, but Anthony led a Knicks charge that resulted in a 32-26 deficit after the opening 12 minutes. Anthony finished the frame with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Forwards, backwards: The ailments of Ray Allen (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (knee) forced Celtics coach Doc Rivers to start the second quarter with a lineup that included Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and Keyon Dooling. That translated into the Knicks putting the finishing touches on an 18-0 run (and 23-2 overall) that began in the first quarter. And that was before New York’s 3-point onslaught really got going.
|Irish Coffee: An All-NBA case for Rajon Rondo||at 2:16 pm ET|
By now, you know Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 22 straight games with at least 10 assists trails John Stockton‘s record of 29 by seven. With only five games left, that record will stand at least until the 2012-13 NBA season begins.
But just how good has Rondo been during this streak, and this entire season for that matter?
In his last 22 games, Rondo has averaged 10.1 points, 13.8 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals, leading the Celtics to a 15-7 record. He has totaled 223 points and 303 assists — 57 of which led to 3-pointers — putting his hand in 886 of the C’s 2,050 points (43.2%) in that span.
To put that in perspective, NBA MVP favorite LeBron James has averaged 26.1 points and 5.5 assists in his last 22 games, leading the Heat to a 14-8 record. He has totaled 574 points and 121 assists (25 on 3P) in that span, generating 841 of Miami’s 2,081 points (40.4%).
And those numbers aren’t too far off Rondo’s season averages of 12.1 points, 11.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Out of all the players in NBA backcourts, Rondo may fall outside the top 50 in scoring, but he ranks first among guards in assists, fourth in rebounds (behind two guards Paul George, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade) and fourth in steals (behind only Chris Paul, Mike Conley and Ricky Rubio).
All of which begs the question: Should Rondo make First Team All-NBA?
|After a major scare, Brandon Bass is ‘more and more comfortable’ and it shows||04.12.12 at 11:28 am ET|
The irony of the situation was just too much for Brandon Bass to fully appreciate.
With just over a minute left in overtime Wednesday night, he had just tried to box out the Hawks for a rebound on one of the best rebounding nights of the season for the Celtics.
Bass went up under the basket and landed awkwardly, laying on the ground as the Celtics came rushing over to see how he was. Doc Rivers rolled his eyes to the heavens, pleading for good fortune. He and Bass got it as it was only a temporary injury to his right knee, and not the same knee that forced him to miss two weeks in February.
“I just hyperextended my knee but I’m alright,” Bass said after an 88-86 overtime win over the Hawks. “I was blocking out and I guess I tried to jump. I don’t know what I did to be honest with you.
“I felt like a little kid. I was just scared. I didn’t know what had happened. It was hurting so bad but I think it was because I was so tensed up. Once I breathed and relaxed, everything started calming down.”
“They said a bunch of things. Some said I was tired. Some said I was acting and had gone Hollywood. But man, I was scared and it was hurting, too. I wasn’t going to let the team down.”
Rivers was scared, too, as he had flashbacks to his own career-changing knee injury.
‘Well I thought he was hurt,” Rivers said. “I’ve had that injury,” Rivers said of the dreaded ACL. “I don’t even like saying the word. And where he was grabbing. I didn’t think it was going to be a good thing, so that was great.
‘The guys were laughing that he was exhausted and he needed some rest. I’m not sure what it was, actually. I’m not sure.’
Bass didn’t even miss a beat – or a play for that matter. He stayed in the game and finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in 42 massive minutes for the Celtics, who outrebounded the younger, more rested Hawks, 56-39.
“We needed a night like that to build on,” Bass said. “We had been struggling on the boards, and that’s an area we want to improve on, and we have been improving on and I just want to keep it going.”
Bass was a big reason the Celtics, playing 24 hours after an emotional battle in Miami, were able to overcome Atlanta in overtime.
“Doc just came in and laid it out and let us know, ‘No excuses tonight.’ It’s a back-to-back and everybody’s tired. He just told us to go out and fight and do what we do every night, and that’s grind,” Bass said.
Grinding is something that the Celtics loved about Bass when they traded Glen Davis to Orlando and got him in return over the summer. After 58 games this season, the Celtics are reaping the benefits of the man who has helped fill the void left by the injury to Jermaine O’Neal.
“I would say I’m getting comfortable,” Bass said. “Being with the guys, they talk to talk to me. Rondo’s out there to shoot the ball, telling me to be ready. Doc is calling plays and I feel like it’s for me. Every game I’m feeling better and more comfortable in the system. I just want to keep it going and build on it.”
In many ways, it was the ugliest of the 19 triple-doubles in the career of Rajon Rondo.
But no Celtics fan alive cares that he made just three of his 16 field goal attempts. They’ll live with that when you’re talking about a point guard on a record-setting pace few have ever seen in NBA history. Wednesday, he had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 20 assists to lead the Celtics over the Hawks, 88-86 in overtime at delirious TD Garden.
‘Putting the ball in the hole, pretty simple,” was Rondo’s answer when asked how one goes about getting 20 assists in a game, referring to his teammates. “They were concentrating a little bit more today. I don’t know you got to ask them. I think a lot of them were uncontested shots, we got out, we got stops. We did a great job rebounding and that hasn’t been what we do best but tonight we did an excellent ball rebounding the ball.’
The 13 missed shots weren’t the only ugly part of the game. The Celtics again could not take care of the ball in the first half, committing 12 of their 23 turnovers in 53 minutes of play.
And there were the questionable calls. The two on Greg Steimsma and the one on Kevin Garnett that sent both to the bench for the night with six fouls. And there was the offensive foul on Paul Pierce with 5.3 seconds remaining that gave Atlanta one last shot. But still and all, Rondo and the Celtics found a way to win.
It’s just how it is, you win some you lose some,” Rondo said. “We kept fighting regardless of the other stuff out there, we stuck together and we followed through and got the win.’
There were no reported outbursts tonight at halftime or bets with assistant coach Ty Lue. Everyone was just too tired to expend the energy. And who can blame them. But still, they knew they had to cut down on the turnovers.
‘It starts with me, if I take care of the ball I think we do as a team because I think I dominate the ball a lot, more than anybody, so I try to be more conscious when I am turning the ball over in the first half, but overall I think we got to slow down as a team and try to execute our assists and not try to force anything,” Rondo said.
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics tame Heat again||04.10.12 at 9:48 pm ET|
On 60.6 percent shooting, led by Kevin Garnett (24 points, 9 rebounds), the Celtics defeated the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seeded Heat 115-107 for the second time in nine days, taking a 2-1 series lead with one matchup left between the possible playoff opponents in the penultimate game of the season.
The Celtics (33-24) won their third straight and eighth of their last 10 games, moving within two games of the idle Pacers for third in the Eastern Conference. Paul Pierce (26 points) and Rajon Rondo (18 points, 15 assists) helped the C’s set a new season high for points scored.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Opening statement: When the first quarter came to a close, the top six Celtics rotation players all had between 4-6 points, handing the Heat a 33-22 deficit. The C’s shot 61.1 percent (11-18 FG) offensively, holding Miami to 42.9 percent (9-21 FG) defensively. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, was Boston’s 13-5 rebounding advantage after the first 12 minutes.
Three party: Taking advantage of a Heat defense that entered the game ranked 28th in 3-point defense, the Celtics converted 7-of-10 treys in the first half (9-14 for the game), establishing a 65-57 lead at the break on 61.5 percent shooting as a team. Pierce and Sasha Pavlovic led the effort, each converting a pair of 3-pointers.
Two-guard duo: As for the Avery Bradley/Ray Allen shooting guard combination, the pair combined for 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 10 points in a first quarter that saw both the defensive-first Bradley lineup and the offensively boosted Allen group. Not only that, but they frustrated Dwyane Wade to the tune of 20 points on 21 shots — lowlighted by a fourth-quarter technical foul after he fell for a Rondo fake 20 feet from the basket.
|Should the Heat be worried about the Celtics?||at 2:14 pm ET|
As things sit currently in the jumbled Eastern Conference, the Celtics are holding the fourth seed, which would put them in the Bulls’ bracket. They have a three-game lead on Philadelphia and New York with 10 games to play and while nothing is assured for the Celtics, it’s looking like a safe bet that they will walk away with the Atlantic Division title for the fifth straight season, thus landing the fourth seed, as opposed to the seventh.
(Note: Winning the division does not guarantee homecourt advantage in the first round. The Celtics would still have to finish with a better record than the fifth seed and they enter play on Tuesday a game and a half behind Atlanta and Orlando.)
There’s a chance that Miami, which is just one game back in the loss column, could overtake Chicago for the top spot in the conference and set up a rematch of last season’s semifinal series that the Heat won rather convincingly, 4-1. The Celtics felt then — and feel now — that if not for a couple of bad breaks like Paul Pierce‘s dubious ejection in Game 1 and Rajon Rondo‘s elbow injury in Game 3, they could have made it a much tougher series. Still, four games to one speaks for itself.
And yet, there’s a feeling that the Heat should be afraid of the Celtics in the playoffs for the simple reason of matchups. Miami has no real answer for Rondo, who was brilliant in Boston’s 91-72 victory a week and a half ago when he went for 16 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists and was a plus-28.
Additionally, Pierce is one of the few small forwards in the league who can hope to guard LeBron James for 40 minutes and match his production, if not come out ahead. Pierce went for 23-7-3 in their last meeting, while LeBron posted a 24-4-0. It was James’ first assist-free game since 2009.
The real revelation in the April 1 meeting was the play of Avery Bradley, who held Dwyane Wade to 6-for-17 shooting, including a memorable block at the rim. Bradley also scored an efficient 13 points on 10 shots and presented a problem with his cuts to the basket.
|Irish Coffee: Do Celtics own NBA’s best defense?||04.09.12 at 2:03 pm ET|
Over their last five games, the Celtics have held the Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Pacers and 76ers — all likely playoff-bound teams — to just 80.6 points per game. That ridiculous stretch included the lowest scoring output of the Miami Thrice era and Indiana’s worst offensive game this season (both 72 points).
The point? A case can be made, rather easily, that the C’s now own the NBA’s best defense.
This recent run vaulted the Celtics to No. 1 in points allowed per 100 possessions (95.3). Their 89.3 points allowed per game still ranks third behind the only other teams that give up fewer than 90 points a night — the Sixers (88.5) and Bulls (88.9) — but that’s dropped to an NBA best 83.4 points surrendered over the past 10 games.
In fact, as colleague Paul Flannery noted, the Celtics have allowed 80 points or fewer in six of their last 12 games (including four of their last six), holding opponents to 40 percent shooting or worse in eight of those 12 contests.
For the season, the Celtics have held opponents to the league’s lowest field goal percentage (41.8%) and 3-point percentage (29.8%), both still tops in the NBA and even better over the past 10 games (38.7 FG%, 25.2 3P%). They make an offense’s life miserable everywhere on the court, ranking top-10 everywhere from at the rim (3rd) to 3-9 feet (8th) to 10-15 feet (1st) to 16-23 feet (7th) to 3-point range (1st).