|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double cools Heat||02.13.11 at 3:46 pm ET|
The first half felt like a preseason exhibition, and the second half played like a postseason battle. In the end, the Celtics defeated the Heat, 85-82, recapturing first place in the Eastern Conference by a half-game on Sunday afternoon in the TD Garden.
With 12.5 seconds to go and Lebron James on the line with a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws, the Heat forward made just 1-of-2. Moments later, Glen Davis nailed a pair on the other end, and Mike Miller missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer, as the Heat (39-15) lost to the Celtics (39-14) for the third time in three tries this year.
Rajon Rondo‘s third triple-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists steered the Celtics, despite Paul Pierce‘s worst offensive performance (1 point) since March 9 of his rooke season. The C’s survived 62 combined points from the Heat’s Big Three of Chris Bosh (24), Lebron James (22) and Dwyane Wade (16).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Heat get chippy: When things got sloppy midway through the third quarter, it ignited the Celtics — and their crowd. First, Zydrunas Ilgauskas knocked Rondo to the ground on a legal screen, and then Kevin Garnett returned the favor on Miller. That’s when Wade decided to shove Garnett.
As the referees discussed the severity of Wade’s foul (a flagrant-1), Rondo listened in on the Heat’s non-timeout huddle. That’s when James decided to shove Rondo — twice. Those events came during a stretch in which the Celtics expanded a two-point lead to a 13-point advantage.
Don’t get Rajon Rondo angry: Rondo was playing well before Ilgauskas decked him. Afterwards? He was on a mission. The Celtics point guard produced his first triple-double since totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs on Jan. 5. Not to mention the fact he had just one turnover. As a result, Garnett, Davis, Ray Allen, Kendrick Perkins and Von Wafer all reached double figures as well.
Bench boost: Despite leaping 9.5 feet instead of 10 while missing a fast-break dunk attempt, and then belly-bumping Chris Bosh on the rebound, Glen Davis performed admirably off the bench. He totaled 16 points and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Over the previous eight days, in the Celtics’ three losses, he shot 5-of-18 and averaged six points. That was a far cry from the guy who cemented himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate earlier this season.
And despite looking lost at times, Von Wafer made two big second-half 3’s to total 10 points.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Paul Pierce feeling the Heat:: After missing practice with an illness earlier in the week, Pierce still appeared sluggish on Sunday against the Heat. He missed all 10 of his shots — including five 3-pointers. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, James, made 10-of-21 buckets and outscored him 22-1 for the game.
Easy like Sunday morning: Even the crowd didn’t seem entirely into the game in the first quarter. The Celtics took three more shots than the Heat in the opening 12 minutes, yet they trailed 20-15. That’s because the C’s shot just 6-of-20 (30 percent) while defensively allowing the Heat to connect on 9-of-17 field goals (52.9 percent) in that same span.
Riding the starters: Considering the Celtics’ depth was as shallow as a kiddie pool, and they still defeated the next-best team in the East, the C’s couldn’t have asked for much more. It’s a stretch in the “what went wrong” department, but Doc Rivers was forced to play Rondo and Allen 40-plus minutes, Perkins 30-plus minutes for the fifth straight game and a (less than 100 percent) Pierce 35-plus minutes. Since the C’s play just once (Wednesday) in the next nine days, that shouldn’t cause much concern.
|Doc Rivers: We weren’t up the challenge of the Lakers||02.11.11 at 10:57 am ET|
One characteristic Doc Rivers has always admired about his team was that it fights through almost every kind of adversity.
On Thursday night, he didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was the overwhelming number of injuries, the foul trouble of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kobe being Kobe or just all of the above, Rivers just didn’t have the feeling that his team had the energy or will to overcome all of it. And that, more than the 92-86 loss to the Lakers at TD Garden seem to bug him the most.
“I thought they came out and jumped on us early in the third quarter, first ‘scored the first 10 points,” Rivers began. “And I never thought we fought through it, really. I mean obviously the fatigue and all that ‘ you know, one of our concerns going into the game were Paul or Ray couldn’t get in foul trouble obviously, because of what we had left. And that happened.
“But I just thought mentally we were not a very good team tonight and usually we are. I didn’t think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we’re great at that usually.”
But not on this night. While the Celtics are not a great rebounding team to begin with, they usually find a knack of dominating their opponent in the paint. Not on this night when they were outscored, 50-32.
They usually get to loose balls and find a way to score on second-chance points. Not on this night. They were outscored, 16-9, in that category. And while Rajon Rondo posted his 21st double-double of the season, he was just 5-of-14 and – after feeding Ray Allen for his record-breaking three in transition – couldn’t let his team back. It didn’t help that Nate Robinson went down with a bruised right knee in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“It was one of those nights; I just thought we didn’t do a very good job of [battling],” Rivers said. “And we obviously did have a lot of adversity with the injury of Nate and foul trouble and the lack of bodies, but you know that that could happen before the game and I don’t think we handled that very well.’
And watching Kobe Bryant – with just three shots in the first half – take over in the third quarter didn’t help either.
‘Well once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,” Rivers said. “I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought defensively he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. I mean, he just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring.’
The Celtics face another NBA superstar when LeBron James and the Heat come calling on Sunday. The same Heat team that has been dominated twice this year by the Green. And whether or not Delonte West returns from a broken right wrist, the C’s better find their fight on Sunday or history will repeat itself.
Ray Allen has always been known as a stoic, some would say ice-cold, figure on the court. You could never really truly ever figure out if he was happy or upset with his play or his shooting. Perhaps that’s what has made him ‘ now ‘ the most prolific 3-point artist in NBA history.
But Thursday night was different for Allen the moment he stepped on the parquet.
There were the extra media members on hand for a national broadcast between the two fiercest rivals in the NBA. There was the tremendous build-up and then, of course, there were the fans who were chanting his name and cheering, beginning in warm-ups.
Allen needed just two 3-pointers to pass Reggie Miller and make NBA history smack dab in the middle of a Lakers-Celtics game.
‘What I thought about is, is it really going to happen,” Allen said. “I know I only needed two 3’s, and on any other day, any other game, it seems like it would happen just like that, I wouldn’t have to think about it. But that second 3, almost, it seemed like it was slow motion for me, cause I’ve seen the whole thing develop. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve played the game and I can see it, somewhat in a second motion so to speak. Where the ball kind of comes so slow, like somebody is almost slow motioning it on TV. That’s exactly how it felt, because the minute we got the stop and Rondo got the ball. In my mind it just started, and I just said to myself this is it.”
|Three-Pointer: Celtics show age before beauty||02.07.11 at 11:42 pm ET|
‘We’re old,’ said Rondo, who at 24 is the youngest player on the roster outside of the last two guys on the bench, Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody.
The Celtics are indeed old, averaging 31.1 years of age. The good news is that with age comes experience. That’s 902 playoff games and 47 All-Star selections of experience. Generally, that means a lot of victories ‘ just ask the 1997-98 Bulls, who at an average age of 31.6 were the oldest team in NBA history to capture a title, winning 62 games in the regular season and 15 of 21 playoff contests.
But with age also comes aching bodies. Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal have a combined 14 feet and 550 pounds of bodies — logging a total of 66,669 minutes in their careers — that have translated into 47 missed games already this season. Their consistent absences from the lineup means when other injuries occur (i.e., Delonte West, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden), Doc Rivers‘ bench looks like Norman Dale’s in ‘Hoosiers’ when he was forced to play Ollie.
Remarkably, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are defying their ages of 35, 34 and 33, respectively, as the only players on the Celtics’ roster to start 40 of the team’s 51 games. Still, that doesn’t mean their old legs aren’t tired on the second night of back-to-back games.
‘I think we have 13 losses, and I know seven of them have come on back-to-backs,’ the Celtics coach told reporters after the C’s fell to 38-13 with a 94-89 loss to the Bobcats (click here for the complete recap). ‘And it’s the same script in five of them, where we win a decent game the day before, we come out, we kind of goof around and then all of a sudden you try to win it in the fourth. Well, then you don’t have anything left.’
|Fast Break: Bobcats’ bench bests Celtics||at 9:41 pm ET|
Despite leading scorer Stephen Jackson getting ejected, the Bobcats got 19 points and 16 rebounds from Gerald Wallace to hand the Celtics a 94-89 loss Monday night in Charlotte. Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson combined for 33 points off the bench for the Bobcats.
Ray Allen led all scorers with 25 points, and Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 rebounds) produced a double-double for the Celtics (38-13), who maintain a slim lead over the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Bench scoring: While a lineup of Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Luke Harangody, Glen Davis and Allen battled the Bobcats fairly even for the first five minutes of the second quarter, they scored just three points in that stretch. Overall, the Bobcats’ bench outscored its Boston counterpart 44-15 for the game. The 6-foot-7 Livingston (17 points) led the way, using his size advantage against Rondo and Robinson.
Off the mark: When the Celtics’ offense is running on all cylinders, they’ll shoot 60 percent as a team. Against the Bobcats, though, they hovered around 40 percent all night. That’s especially bad when you consider Rondo was seeing the floor well.
Banging the boards: Wallace (16 rebounds) and Kwame Brown (12 rebounds) owned the boards against the Celtics. Wallace is undertandable; Brown isn’t. Together, those two helped the Bobcats out-rebound the C’s by 14 (50-36) for the night. The Celtics really felt the absences of both Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden, who sat with injuries.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Ray Allen watch: Allen sunk a 3-pointer in the first minute of the game — bringing the magic number to three in order to break Reggie Miller‘s all-time 3-point record. He cut that number to two when he sunk another trey in the third quarter.
At times, though, it appeared Allen might want to wait until Thursday’s home game against the Lakers to set the mark. He must’ve taken more pullup jumpers inside the arc than he had all season. Still, Allen finished with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
Getting under Stephen Jackson’s skin: Earlier this week, when he was sitting on 11 technical fouls for the season and had already been suspended for berating a referee, Jackson said, “If me speaking my mend gets me a tech, hey.” Well, that attitude got him another two technical fouls — in succession — when he thought he got fouled going to the basket. As a result, he was tossed from the game while leading the Bobcats with 11 points at the time.
Rajon Rondo’s strong start: Just as he did against the Magic, Rondo made it a point to get to the basket right from the opening whistle, which he did rather easily against Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin. Rondo had 10 points and five assists in the first quarter alone.
|Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo, Big Baby and other things that made the Celtics super on Sunday||at 1:47 pm ET|
For many reasons, the first 12 minutes and 59 seconds didn’t start out very well for the Celtics on Sunday.
There was Orlando jumping out to a 12-2 lead as Dwight Howard dominated. There was Glen Davis leaving a mark in the parquet with the back of his head, suffering a bruised skull. But as he returned to the bench to start the second quarter, that paled in comparison to the bruise to the spinal cord of Marquis Daniels as he ran into the chest of Gilbert Arenas and fell suddenly to the floor.
Things were just completely out of whack. But then it was Rajon Rondo‘s time to take over the game. And did he ever. Immediately after kneeling to check on the well-being of Daniels, Rondo came out of the delay and drove to the basket for a lay-up exactly 20 seconds later that energized the crowd and – more importantly – his teammates. He was on his way to a season-high 26 points.
So, what was the difference in his point guard Sunday?
‘Well, after ‘ you mean after the first six minutes of horrendous basketball from our team?” Rivers replied rhetorically. It just looked like the first six minutes, we were there to play basketball but I thought they were really invested into the game. And you know, why that changed I don’t know, but it was good. We went to an open set which we rarely do. I just didn’t see us with any ‘ we didn’t have anything going.
“And Jameer [Nelson] picked up that one foul and we just decided to go basically open spread. And we told Rondo to get to the rim, and, you know, use his instincts. He’ll find open guys.’
The Celtics went with a spread offense that allowed more lanes for Rondo to drive to the basket and create off the dribble.
‘Well it really depends on the game,” Rivers said. “I want him to be aggressive every game. We’re not going to run spread every game because it doesn’t make a lot of sense every night. We’d like to match up with him, especially Jameer wanted to stay on the floor because of his fouls, but that is how we want him to take the ball to the basket.
“Whenever he does go, we want him to go with power and speed and be willing to get fouled. And I thought over everything that was it. Obviously he made great shots and all that. I just liked the fact that he had no problem if he got fouled.’
Then there were the 21 missed 3-pointers by the Magic, who missed 61-of-93 shots. After the Celtics allowed the Mavericks to beat them on 8-of-17 shooting from long range, Rivers realized early his team was committed to not allowing that again.
Rivers asked for prayers for Davis and Semih Erden, who drew the assignment of guarding Dwight Howard when Kendrick Perkins was forced to the bench to rest. Those prayers were essentially answered in the form of a 91-80 win. Yes, Howard ate up Big Baby, Perkins and Erden for 22 points in the first half. But he had just six points in the second half as the Celtics put on the defense clamps, led by Davis’ ball denial in the post.
‘Phenomenal,” Rivers said of the effort. “Great defense. I think any time you lose a game where you think you broke your principals and defensively you were not right, then the next time you play if you’re a defensive team, you’re probably going to have a good defensive effort. And I thought we did that. I said this with Baby and Perk, it was a test for them.
“It was tough because we were going to leave them on an island and Dwight had it going early. And we just kept telling them, ‘We’re doing the right thing. Just keep doing it.’ And that was tough for them, and the fact that they stayed with it and stayed on it was good.’
|Delonte West plans to return Feb. 22||02.06.11 at 6:23 pm ET|
In the aftermath of the Celtics‘ 91-80 win over the Eastern Conference rival Magic on Sunday afternoon, Delonte West said he plans to return from his wrist injury on Feb. 22 against the Warriors in Oakland.
“Righ now, they think I’ll be back the first game after the All-Star break,” said West, adding that he will be returning to full-contact practice soon.
West hasn’t played since breaking his right wrist against the Nets on Nov. 24. The Celtics’ reserve guard played just five games after serving a 10-game suspension to open the season for a weapons charge . He averaged 6.8 points and 2.0 assists in 17.6 minutes in those games.
After recently getting his cast removed, West has participated in non-contact drills at practice in addition to shooting prior to games.
As for Sunday’s game action, West expressed concern for Marquis Daniels, who suffered a bruised spine and is expected to miss a month. West also said of Rajon Rondo, who scored a season-high 26 points: “In my opinion, Rondo is the best point guard in the NBA, but I guess you’ll have to leave that to the experts.”