|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.
Maybe it was the effect of getting poked in the eye by Marcus Camby in the opening minutes Friday, leaving him with a nasty blood blister in his right eye, but Rajon Rondo just wasn’t himself after Boston’s 104-86 rout of the Blazers at TD Garden.
Before talking about his own night, which was pretty routine by his standards (eight points, five assists in 26 minutes), Rondo decided to become a character actor.
What could Rondo learn from a veteran like Sasha? ‘You’ll have to ask Rondo,” Rondo said, speaking in a very bizarre third-person manner.
What would Sasha say about the upcoming road trip? ‘He would probably say that we want to win every game possible, we have to have great focus, and get our proper rest, and stay together through adversity.’
“It’s an honor to play in that many games, only three have reached that level,” Rondo said, speaking this time for Pierce. He later added this on a serious tone, “It’s rare. You don’t take it for granted. I don’t think he takes it for granted, playing for one organization for his entire career. He’s one of the guys who’s going to probably retire with the Celtics. It’s an honor to play with him.”
As for his own thoughts from his own mind about where the Celtics are now, standing 21-18 and heading out on an eight-game road trip.
On jumping all over the Blazers and building a 43-point lead: “I just wanted to start with ball movement. I think it was kind of contagious. I was trying to advance the pass up the court a little bit and let guys create their own shots before guys were set [on defense].
On rebounding from a 32-point loss in Philly Wednesday night: “Regardless of the loss or the deficit we lost in Philly, we wanted to come out and get this West Coast swing off to a good start. We didn’t want to go off with two losses. We’ve been playing pretty good at home of late so it just kind of trickled down and we wanted to continue to get off to a good start.
On whether not playing the fourth quarter Wednesday and Friday will help this team as it goes on the road: “It’s our job. I don’t know if it plays a factor but having an older team, I think it’ll help us. But other than that, we’ll be ready to go. We have some big games ahead of us. We’re battling for seeding so we’re trying to capitalize on every game we can.”
On the trade deadline coming up this Wednesday: “I don’t think anyone is really worried about it, honestly. Whatever happens, happens. No one is really focused on all the trade talk. We’ve done a pretty good job through all this trade talk of just getting wins. We’ve done a pretty good job. We’re professionals. Trades happen.”
|Report: Josh Smith wants out of Atlanta||03.09.12 at 12:18 am ET|
Hawks forward Josh Smith is having one of his best seasons, averaging 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for a team that has stayed in the thick of the playoff chase without Al Horford. But the 26-year-old Smith has had his problems in Atlanta, and Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Smith would like to be traded before the March 15 deadline.
By the end of last season Smith wanted out of Atlanta because he believed he was singled out for unfair criticism by coaches and media. Those concerns have died down for the most part this season but now Smith believes he needs a fresh start with a franchise where he can better reach his potential on and off the court, according to one of the people with knowledge of Smith’s thinking.
The Hawks have been fielding phone calls on Smith, with the Warriors mentioned as one possibility. The Celtics have been very loosely tied to the forward, but team officials shot down a report last week involving Kevin Garnett.
Smith, who played his high school ball at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia with Rajon Rondo, remains friends with the All-Star guard and he has one year left after this season on a contract that pays him $13 million.
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