|Dog days of March could lead to glory days in May for Celtics||03.07.12 at 9:31 am ET|
At the end of the season, we’ll look back at the schedule and see the Celtics‘ 97-92 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Rockets in early March. The box score and game details will show that Boston was down 10, with just over 5½ minutes left, and coming off an emotional overtime win over the Knicks. All of these components add up to the type of game that galvanizes a team.
Not in the 2011-12 season, though. This was ugly basketball at its finest (or sloppiest, depending on how you want to look at it). Tuesday night’s game featured more candidates to be on Sportscenter’s “Not Top 10 Moments” than actual sound basketball plays. But after 53 grueling minutes of basketball, the Celtics were the ones that don’t have to look back regretting they lost a game neither team deserved to win.
“It was a no-energy game,” Doc Rivers said. “You can feel it. I even said at halftime even the building had no energy. It’s just one of those nights. And our guys kept talking about grinding the game.”
The Celtics fell behind by seven after one quarter. Uncharacteristically, Boston had a great second quarter, and took a six-point lead into halftime. The C’s bolstered the margin to double digits in the third quarter. The Rockets responded by going on an impressive 35-11 run that propelled them to a 10-point lead with just over 5½ minutes left.
“It was definitely a strange game,” Paul Pierce said. “It was a battle of wills. One team wanted it one quarter, then the [other the next]. Like a seesaw battle. They make a run, we make a run, they make a run. Nobody could really just put the other team away.”
As the Celtics’ four-game winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy, they turned to the foundation that this team has been built on these past five seasons — defense. Their rotations were crisp. Houston muddled around the perimeter, and with every swing pass the recipient was greeted by a Boston defender. The imposing defensive style forced consecutive shot-clock violations, and with just under two minutes left the Houston lead had dwindled to just three.
“The defensive energy picked up,” Ray Allen said. “When they went on a run, we weren’t getting any stops. They kind of dictated how the game was being played. We changed that by pushing them up away from the basket. Everything that they had was contested, and we got rebounds.”
|Rajon Rondo makes his point and joins Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson in rare air||03.04.12 at 7:41 pm ET|
It’s almost as if Rajon Rondo wanted to make one final grand gesture to Danny Ainge that he’d be making a big mistake by trading him.
Rondo went out Sunday and posted the most impressive triple double in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain in 1968, scoring 18 points, dishing out 20 assists and hauling down 17 rebounds in Boston’s 115-111 overtime win over the Knicks at TD Garden.
Chamberlain was the last player in the NBA to match all of those numbers when he had 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists in a 131-121 Philly win over the Pistons on Feb. 2, 1968. Why is that comparison so significant?
Many NBA historians recall that as the best statistical game in league history, the only double triple-double ever recorded. Rondo was just two points and three rebounds shy of joining Chamberlain as the second ever with 20 in three different categories.
All the while the numbers were piling up, Rondo said he had no idea.
‘No, I didn’t, honestly,” Rondo said. “Just tried to make some great play calling and just worked out that my numbers showed up like they did.’
One thing Rondo has been more than aware of lately are the trade rumors involving his name that don’t show any indication of quieting. If anything, Sunday’s game might just perk up the eyes and ears of a GM or two.
“[Rondo] was more than above average,” Kevin Garnett said afterward. “Trade talks are a really, really big motivator for him.”
Another hall of fame name was thrown around after the game Rondo had. Magic Johnson was the last NBA player with at least 17 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists in a game before Sunday. Johnson had 24 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists on April 18, 1989.
‘I’m just playing,” Rondo said. “The biggest thing is we got the win. You know, [Paul Pierce] made that shot to send us into overtime, and that was big for us. You know, if you get those type of numbers and you lose, it’s kind of irrelevant.’
Of all the great numbers he had, the 47 minutes and 47 seconds of playing time might have been the most impressive of all.
‘I’m tired now. I wasn’t tired during the game. I had no time and no room to get tired.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics 115, Knicks 111 (OT)||at 4:02 pm ET|
You can count the number of times Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce both played well in the same game this season on one hand, but two of those occasions occurred this weekend. In a related story, the Celtics won their fourth straight game, 115-111 against the Knicks in overtime on Sunday afternoon.
Rondo recorded his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season — and second in three games — totaling 18 points, a season-high 20 assists and 17 rebounds. According to Elias, Rondo is just the third player in NBA history with at least 15 points, 20 assists and 15 rebounds in a single game, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson in that exclusive category. Pierce added 34 points, seven rebounds and three assists as the Celtics improved to 19-17 and moved to 1.5 games up on the Knicks (18-19) for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Absent for much of the game, Jeremy Lin (14 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers) led a fourth-quarter charge to help the Knicks take the lead twice in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Pierce made a game-tying 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to play, and Carmelo Anthony missed a jump shot at the end of regulation to force overtime.
And then Rondo put the finishing touches on the Knicks in overtime, as the Celtics made 45 field goals in the game, and Rondo had a hand in 27 of them.
|Paul Pierce consoles Rajon Rondo: ‘I was part of trade rumors… four or five straight years’||03.03.12 at 9:35 am ET|
As captain, Pierce felt the time was right before Friday night’s game against the Nets to deliver a message about the persistent trade rumors involving Boston’s mercurial point guard.
‘Well it’s nothing we haven’t been through before,” Pierce said after dropping 27 on the Nets in Boston’s 107-94 win that once again put the Celtics above .500 at 18-17. “Rondo’s been through it, I’ve been though it a number of times. The thing is you have to do your job, you can’t let that affect you. I kind of mentioned it to Rondo today, you know I was part of trade rumors for probably four or five straight years. I just didn’t let it affect me on how I approached each and every game. You know whatever happens, happens, it’s business. Sometimes you don’t have control of it.’
Rondo ignored the noise and went out in the first half and showed that as long as he’s in Boston, he will be the game-changer that Celtics fans have grown accustomed to. Like in the second quarter, when Rondo told everyone to get up-tempo on D and pressure the ball coming up the court.
The result: Five turnovers in a 14-0 Celtics run that – for all intents and purposes – put the game out of reach. Rondo finished with 14 points, 13 assists and five steals, with all five coming in the first half fury.
“He said before the game, ‘Let’s be aggressive. Defensively, let’s be active.’ And we followed his lead,” Kevin Garnett said of Rondo.
Rondo had help as Mickael Pietrus was a defensive force, implementing Rondo’s plan to perfection and getting nasty on whoever was trying to take the ball up the court.
‘Well you know Pietrus has started some games for us before and he’s been spectacular,” Pierce said. “He is able to come off the bench or start and give us great minutes for his defensive and shooting ability.
‘I think it definitely goes to another level, because he’s our energy guy that we use off the bench . You know when he’s out there to start the game he gets us off to a great start, he’s such a great rebounder for his size, and he can spread the floor with his point shooting. It was a real big lift to have him out there. We knew we were missing Ray tonight but we knew Pietrus could fill in.’
Now, the Celtics and their newfound pressure D will be tested by Jeremy Lin and the Knicks on Sunday, with Boston riding a three-game win streak.
‘I think we are moving the ball a lot better and hopefully hitting our stride right here at home,” Pierce said. “We are playing better basketball. We have a huge West coast trip coming up for us in the next couple weeks, so it’s important for us to get as many wins as we can under our belt before we hit the road.’
|Rajon Rondo brings back the headband||at 1:51 am ET|
Maybe it was the trade rumors. Maybe he was feeling nostalgic. Or, maybe, he just wanted to blow up everyone’s Twitter feed and create some mayhem on a Friday night.
“I just felt like a change,” Rondo said. “I just needed a change tonight. You may not ever see it again.”
For the majority of his six-year NBA career, Rondo wore a headband with the NBA logo facing upside down, but the league instituted a rule against wearing headbands inside out. After the 2009-10 season, the league instituted a policy outlawing Rondo’s inverted style. He hasn’t worn a headband in game-action since.
“I think it’s my statement — my signature statement when I won a championship,” Rondo said. “Who knows? People ask me all the time why I don’t wear it anymore. I tried to get a petition, but it didn’t go through.”
It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Celtics if Rondo kept his retro-look en vogue. His line Friday night: 14 points, 13 assists and five steals. And even though he mentioned that he wore the headband on a whim and possibly not donning it again, Rondo wasn’t ruling anything out.
“I’m 1-0 in the headband this year,” he said. “So I might try to keep the streak alive Sunday.”
|Fast Break: Rondo, headband of brothers take down Nets||03.02.12 at 9:57 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo has rarely worn a headband since NBA commissioner David Stern issued a rule against wearing the logo upside down (a slight to Lakers legend Jerry West) at the start of last season, but the Celtics point guard sported his good luck charm backwards against the Nets in a 107-94 win over the Nets.
Perhaps Rondo needed a change of scenery after all the recent talk of him maybe getting … well, a change of scenery before the March 15 trade deadline (a notion C’s president Danny Ainge denied on Thursday). Whatever the case, the three-time All-Star floor general submitted his second straight sublime performance, amassing 14 points, 13 assists, five steals and two rebounds just two nights after recording his third triple-double of the season.
Likewise, Kevin Garnett (20 points, 10 rebounds) — one of the few Celtics regulars sans headband — continued his productive stretch, dropping at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in two straight games for the first time in exactly one year. Paul Pierce (27 points) led five C’s scorers in double figures.
The win marked the third straight for the Celtics (18-17), who had dropped seven of eight previously. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 28 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Meet the press: As the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-20 in each of the first two quarters, they showed a different look — albeit one most middle school teams run on a regular basis. Still, the C’s 2-1-2 and 2-2-1 fullcourt presses confused New Jersey to no end, resulting in five first-half Rondo steals and a 14-0 advantage in fast break points by the break.
Seeing Green: There’s nothing like a little Gerald Green defense to help Pierce bust out of his recent offensive struggles (39.5 FG% in February). The captain abused the former Celtics first-round draft pick — and any other Nets wing who guarded him — in the early going, finishing the first quarter with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting (1-2 3P) and four assists. When Pierce plays well, generally so do the Celtics, and Friday night was no different.
Ball protection: The Celtics committed just two turnovers in the first half. Repeat: Two, leading to zero Nets points. Considering his team entered the game averaging 15.6 turnovers (good for 23rd in the NBA), coach Doc Rivers had to be pleased his team finally cleaned up an issue he’s had to address after most of its 17 losses.
The New York Daily News threw out the suggestion that the Celtics would be interested in Atlanta’s Josh Smith “and other young studs,” while using the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as bait.
“With the Big Three’s window now shut, Ainge is trying to land Atlanta’s Josh Smith and other young studs, while offering up Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen can also be had, for young players and draft picks. Rajon Rondo might be leaving, too, with the Lakers and Utah seen as possible destinations.”
The interesting part of this rumor is the suggestion of Garnett, which is the first time his name has been linked in any trade rumor since he’s come to Boston. Garnett is in the last year of a contract that pays him $21 million and Smith has another year left after this one at $13 million, so that wouldn’t work straight-up. The Hawks have other short contracts like Kirk Hinrich, who is in the last year of a deal that pays him $8 million.
Smith was high school teammates with Rajon Rondo at Oak Hill Academy and the two have remained close. He’s still just 26 years old and many felt that he deserved a spot on the All-Star team. He’d be the kind of player the Celtics would be looking to acquire if they move forward with Rondo.
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