|Irish Coffee: Examining Celtics’ post-All-Star success||03.23.12 at 11:40 am ET|
A day after John Hollinger’s NBA playoff odds indicated the Celtics would be the odd team out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the C’s are statistically entrenched in his top eight thanks to a 100-91 win over the Bucks in Milwaukee. Now, if only they could make the 76ers’ odds of winning the Atlantic Division similarly vanish.
The 76ers have an 80.6 percent chance of winning the division, according to Hollinger. The Celtics? 11.9 percent. That could change in Philadelphia on Friday as the C’s (25-21) trail the Sixers by just one game in the win column.
If history is any indication, Friday in Philly won’t be pretty. The Celtics are 0-6 when they have to travel for the second night of a back-to-back (they did beat the Clippers a night after losing to the Lakers in the same Los Angeles arena), including a 32-point loss to the 76ers earlier this month.
However, the Celtics are 10-4 since the All-Star Game, owners of the league’s second-best record since the break — behind only the NBA’s No. 1 overall seed Bulls (12-2) and one win better than the surging Lakers (9-4). Who would have seen that coming with eight straight away games spread out over 6,000 miles looming?
But the Celtics will emerge from the season’s longest road trip no worse than 4-4, including hard-fought losses to the Lakers and Nuggets (the Western Conference’s current third and seventh seeds, respectively).
|Irish Coffee: Bill Walton’s St. Patrick’s Day revisited||03.17.12 at 11:17 am ET|
The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year as a member of the 1985-86 Celtics that finished 67-15 during the regular season — and 41-1 at home in the Boston Garden — on their way to winning 15-of-18 playoff games and the franchise’s 16th NBA title, Bill Walton can wish you a St. Patrick’s Day far better than I can.
So, without further ado, I give you Walton uncensored, about five or six Guinesses deep most likely (from his appearance on the Big Show a year ago):
“Go Green. Go Guinness. I’m popping one right now. Ten million pints poured every day around this great globe of ours — the globe, the most perfect orb, just like the basketball. The basketball by itself does nothing, but when you make it an extension of your mind the way that [Rajon] Rondo does, the way that Danny Ainge did and DJ [Dennis Johnson] and Larry [Bird] and Kevin [McHale] and Chief [Robert Parish] and Jerry [Sichting] and Rick [Carlisle] and Scotty [Wedman] and all the guys did — but when you’re able to make an extension of your mind, of what it is you’re doing in life, whether it’s drinking a Guinness responsibly, whether you’re bouncing that magic basketball for the Celtic Green, you can make a difference, and that’s what we’re calling everybody to do on St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the college tournament, the most perfect harmonic convergence ever. Be bold, stand tall, quit your job and chase your dreams. …
“I only drink Guinness, the holy water falling from the sky, delivering spiritual guidance. We’re blessed. We’re so blessed. We’re on record pace, and we’re having the time of our life. …
“When this morning started, and it started more than 24 hours ago, the call to action was to take the day off. Who wants to lead a watered down life? C’mon. Let’s get up and be bold. Forget just taking the day off, just quit your job. Make your dream your job, and that’s what I was able to do. My parents ask me to this very day, ‘So, Billy, did you ever get a job?’ I’m closer than ever to being able to say yes. It’s so special. The remarkable thing about Guinness in our world is that in the mother country, Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. In Canada, St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. Somewhere, we got lost along the path, along the golden road to unlimited devotion. …
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett’s heroics slay Warriors||03.15.12 at 1:04 am ET|
Unable to get a defensive stop down the stretch, tied 93-93 with the Warriors after old friend Nate Robinson tied the game on yet another drive to an open basket, the Celtics turned to Kevin Garnett, who sunk a 20-footer with 5.1 seconds remaining to help the C’s survive 105-103 and improve to 2-1 on the West Coast road trip.
Garnett finished with 24 points (12 in the fourth quarter), seven rebounds and five assists, as the Celtics (23-19) moved within 1.5 games of the 76ers in the Atlantic Division. Brandon Bass added 22 points and nine rebounds, Mickael Pietrus scored 15 points off the bench and Rajon Rondo dished out 14 assists.
Robinson totaled 20 points and 11 assists, Klay Thompson scored a career-high 26 points and David Lee had 22 points and eight rebounds for the Warriors in the losing effort.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hanging tough: Playing their third game in four nights, 3,000 miles from home, the Celtics started slow (shooting just 8-of-21 from the floor in the first quarter), and watching Robinson get to the rim with regularity didn’t help matters. Still, the Celtics managed to stay within 25-21 after the first quarter — setting the tone for a tight game the remainder of the night.
The French quota: Just 3-of-18 from long distance in the month of March, Pietrus connected on his first four 3-pointers of the night and finished 5-of-6 from downtown, giving the Celtics some much needed offense (and minutes) off the bench. Whispers suggested his knee may be the reason for the recent struggles, but it didn’t seem to bother him in Oakland.
Full Stiem ahead: Without a trade deadline deal, the Celtics will rely more and more on Greg Stiemsma, and the former D-League Defensive Player of the Year responded with eight points and eight rebounds. He’s still got plenty of work to do, especially on the defensive end, but he’s already given the C’s more than they could’ve expected when they invited him to training camp in December.
Sharing is caring: Facing the younger, more athletic Warriors, the Celtics had to rely on ball movement and execution to keep up with them. Check and check. The C’s assisted on 32 of their 40 field goals, making the extra pass time and time again to get buckets down the stretch — with the exception of a possession that resulted in the classic Paul Pierce fadeaway elbow jumper with 36.7 seconds left.
|Score one for Rajon Rondo against Chris Paul||03.13.12 at 4:37 am ET|
LOS ANGELES — The Celtics tried to trade Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul back in December and the two have had a contentious history in the past. How would Rondo handle the matchup? Quite well as it turned out.
“Just wanted to get the win,” Rondo said.
He was in control of the matchup from the beginning, scoring 12 points on just eight shots — along with a perfect 4-for-4 at the free throw line — while handing out 10 assists in the Celtics 94-85 win. But it was his defense that caught his coach’s eye.
“Defensively he was sensational,” Doc Rivers said. “He was absolutely wonderful.”
At one point Rondo dropped Paul on a switch, but Rivers called timeout and reinforced the gameplan. “No, no,” the coach said. “We’re not switching you off of Chris Paul. Ever.”
Paul made just one of his six shots through the first three quarters and while he picked up his game in the fourth, his 3-for-12 shooting night told the story. Not that Rondo took any of the credit.
“It was a team effort,” he said simply.
But you’re the first line of defense.
“Yeah, but it was a team effort,” Rondo countered. “He wasn’t just going one on one on those pick and rolls. That involves two people, so, team effort.”
Before the game, Rivers was asked how he thought his point guard would approach the matchup. “I know how I would,” Rivers joked. “But I can’t tell you how Rondo would.”
Afterward, Rivers finished the answer. “He approached it just like we thought he would. He was more concerned with winning the game.”
Rondo didn’t have much to say about Paul, but he did question one aspect of a game that saw five technical fouls.
“It wasn’t really physical,” he said. “The flopping surprised me. They seemed pretty tough but there was a lot of flopping out there tonight. That was shocking, I couldn’t believe the refs kept going for it. But it’s part of it.”
|Irish Coffee: Danny Ainge’s dreams of Celtics future||03.12.12 at 12:10 pm ET|
We’re three days from the NBA trade deadline, and still no serious sign of a blockbuster deal involving the Celtics. Then again, the same could’ve been said last season, when Danny Ainge shipped Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and the Clippers’ 2012 first-round draft pick.
All that remains from that deal is the top-10 protected No. 1 pick, which currently slots into the low-to-mid 20s. That’s still not a bad haul for a center who is currently averaging 4.4 points (45.1 FG%) and 4.6 rebounds in 26.7 minutes, but considering the negative hype surrounding that trade it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Ainge gets cold feet on dealing any of the Old Three or Rajon Rondo.
Do I believe Ainge would ever let public perception stop him from making a deal that improves the Celtics moving forward? Not really, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it made him think twice about pulling the trigger on a deal that only marginally improves his team.
Over the next three days, teams will likely call about Rondo, which is probably the case in the latest Pau Gasol rumor in the Los Angeles Times after the Lakers beat the Celtics 97-94 (Rondo: 24 points, 10 assists; Gasol: 13 points, 13 rebounds). The same speculation was floated a couple weeks ago by HoopsWorld’s Eric Pincus.
According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, the Celtics and Lakers talked about a trade for Rajon Rondo. The discussions didn’t get anywhere, according to the story, with the Lakers evidently unwilling to include Pau Gasol in any deal. Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists in the Celtics’ 97-94 loss to the Lakers Sunday.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told The Big Show in his March 1 appearance that he was not actively attempting to trade Rondo.
|Bright lights, big game? A Rajon Rondo meme||03.10.12 at 7:26 pm ET|
As everyone knows, Rajon Rondo plays his best in big games, especially when the national spotlight shines brightest. He’s recorded 17 triple doubles in his career including playoffs and 13 of them have come on national television.
He had an outrageous 18-17-20 line against Jeremy Lin and the Knicks and dropped a 32-10-15 on the Bulls three weeks earlier. Both games were on Sunday on ABC. On the flip side, his worst games have come against the Cavs, Raptors and Pistons.
Some days he shares history with Oscar Roberston and Wilt Chamberlain. Other times he plays more like Brevin Knight.
Some wonder why he can’t be more consistent. Others gaze in wonder at his historic performances and praise his clutch play. (Shouldn’t he want to play better in big games?) To put it another way: It wouldn’t be historic if he was able to do it every night.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
Per basketball-reference, Rondo has had five games this season with a Game Score over 20:
Note that two of those games have come against the Knicks whose helter-skelter style of play fits right into Rondo’s abilities and two that two of them have come against the Pistons and Wizards, not exactly red-letter opponents. Conversely, he’s had five games with a Game Score of less that five:
It is notable that four of those games came on the road and two were on the second end of back-to-backs. The Knicks game was his first back from a wrist injury. In between, he’s had seven between 15-20, five between 10-15 and seven between 5-10. That’s roughly the same ratio as Paul Pierce, to cite one example.
Judging Rondo by his statistics is not always the best way to measure his impact. The Celtics are 5-0 when he has 14 assists or more and they’ve won all three games when he’s had five or less. They’re 2-4 when he scores 20 or more points and 8-4 when he scores 10 or less.
“I don’t even look at his numbers,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I look at the way we play.”
If the ball is moving and the Celtics are running, then Rivers feels that Rondo has done his job. Like most players, he’s also dependent on his teammates for help. Some of his worst games have come on the second nights of back-to-backs where the Celtics have notably struggled. It’s hard to run when you can’t get rebounds and the Celtics are one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league.
None of that is to excuse him or give him a free pass for some of his poor performances, but it is a measure of how difficult it is to gauge his true value around the league. It’s not a coincidence that the trade talk around him has cooled off noticeably. What, exactly, would fair value for a player like Rondo actually look like? He’s not a superstar on the order of LeBron James, Chris Paul or Kobe Bryant, but he is capable of superstar moments.
He’ll have another chance on the biggest stage when the Celtics play the Lakers Sunday at Staples. More than most teams, the Lakers have given him trouble with the deadly combination of Bryant’s sagging defense and the twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum clogging the lane.
Other teams have tried the same tactic, but they don’t have the same personnel. Not counting the two finals series, the Lakers have won five of the last seven games and if form holds, Rondo will post good but not take-over numbers on Sunday. Of course, if he finds a way to go off, everyone will nod and say that’s what they expected him to do.
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