|Paul Pierce speaks for starters: ‘No excuse to way we started out’||03.10.11 at 12:50 am ET|
It would seem after his bench was outscored, 26-12, in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden, Doc Rivers would have laid blame for the defeat at the hands of his reserves.
It’s a lot to ask any second unit to make up a 15-to-20 deficit in a game, let alone one that was making its debut. So, the way Rivers saw it, this loss really was at the feet of his “Big 4″ – namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
“I was concerned because in the first quarter, our four starters put us in a hole and then you needed to sub, and you knew nothing good was going to happen,” Rivers said, as his team fell behind by as much as 15 in the first quarter and 23 early in the third.
“It actually [wasn’t bad]. They held their ground,” Rivers said of his reserves, led by Carlos Arroyo and new starting center Nenad Krstic. “The problem was it was a 20-point ground [deficit] they were holding and that’s very difficult.
“We sub anyway. We sit guys down regardless of score. Obviously, we were down 20 and we’re subbing. It’s not something you want to do but you have to.”
Pierce couldn’t argue.
‘It’s tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters. How we come out at the beginning of the games, we’ve got to come out with a better focus,” Pierce said. “Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win.’
Pierce did point to the defensive struggles of the second unit but only as far as they had to pick up the pieces from the starters not playing defense, either.
‘I think some of it is the second unit, but a lot of that was at the start of the game with the first five so no excuses on that point,” Pierce said. “They came out and shot 70 percent and a lot of that was against the guys that know what we are doing night in and night out.
“You give some leeway to the newer guys, but there is no excuse to the way we started out giving them the big lead and then having to fight all the way to get back into the game.’
The reserves did a very respectable job on Blake Griffin, who had just 12 points in 37 minutes. Down 23, the Celtics slowly started to chip away, outscoring the Clippers, 24-16 in the third to cut the lead to 10.
Then the starters finally did their thing. Allen drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on a bullet pass from Rondo with 7:36 left to draw the Celtics within six, 86-80. Garnett’s jumper with just under six minutes left capped a 15-2 run to draw the Celtics within three.
But Mo Williams drained three free throws with 5:23 left to restore the lead to six. Jeff Green drilled a trey with 47.4 seconds left to get within four, 104-100. Allen’s three with 10.5 seconds left turned out to be too little, too late.
The Celtics will try to regroup and start a new winning streak on Friday against the upstart 76ers in Philadelphia. The Sixers are making a late-season push to finish in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break.
Friday would be a great time for a new start for the “Big 4.”
|What Carlos Arroyo brings to the Celtics||03.08.11 at 4:10 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Before their open practice on Tuesday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers introduced their newest player, Carlos Arroyo, to his teammates. His new team proceeded to pummel him like baseball players do at home plate after someone hits a game-winning home run. With that bit of bonding out of the way, Arroyo began his crash-course in running the Celtics’ offense.
“He’s a point guard,” Rivers said emphasizing the last two words. “He’s been a point guard all of his life. Some of the stuff he’ll pick up pretty quickly.”
The Celtics have essentially played without a true backup point guard since Rajon Rondo took over the starter’s job in 2007. Eddie House and Nate Robinson — two shoot-first small guards — mainly filled that role, while the Celtics also tried Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury as late-season experiments, with decidedly mixed results.
“It’s nice,” Rivers said of having a true backup point. “It’s just going to take him some time, but he knows how to run a team. That’s going to be great for us.”
Delonte West is supposed to be that player, but he has been unable to stay on the court; missing time with a broken wrist and a sprained ankle. Rivers said that West was definitely out Wednesday against the Clippers and called him “doubtful” for Friday’s Sixers game. The new hope is Sunday against the Bucks.
Rivers has been concerned about playing Rondo too many minutes. He has posted the following totals in his last six games: 43, 34, 42, 39, 42, 38. That 34 came in a relatively comfortable win over the Clippers. Rondo had to take himself out for a quick rest in the fourth quarter of their game against Golden State and looked a step slow on Sunday against the Bucks. While rookie Avery Bradley has stepped in admirably, the Celtics desperately needed a veteran hand at the position.
Into that spot steps Arroyo, who started 42 games for the Heat this season before being waived to make room for Mike Bibby. The 31-year-old Arroyo is the definition of a veteran journeyman, having played for six teams (the Celtics are his seventh) in his nine-year career.
His best season came back in 2003-04 when he started 71 games for the Jazz and averaged 12.6 points and five assists per game. Since then he’s bounced around between Orlando and Miami where he saw duty as a spot starter and backup. He was making 44 percent of his 3-pointers with the Heat, but he is a 34 percent shooter for his career.
“At this point in my career, everybody knows what I’m capable of,” Arroyo said. “Hopefully I can do a little bit more here and help the team. That’s what I came here for.”
Asked about what happened in Miami, Arroyo took the high road.
“I went from starting to not playing and I’ve got to respect that,” he said. “That’s coach [Erik Spoelstra‘s] decision. My job is to stay ready. I’m a true professional when it comes to that and I understand how the NBA works. I was just waiting for my time and hopefully my time is now.”
|Welcome to town, Carlos Arroyo||at 12:41 pm ET|
After celebrating his 39th birthday on Sunday, Shaquille O’Neal, meanwhile, was not at practice and has not been cleared yet from a strained right Achilles.
|Even Ray Allen finds it hard to believe how open he was||03.05.11 at 12:12 am ET|
Ray Allen could only imagine what Warriors fans were thinking when he was unconscious in the first half, drilling all four 3-point attempts on his was to 20 points and a 64-53 Celtics lead at the break.
‘Well, I think I’m the one guy that you look up and ask yourself, ‘How did he get so wide open in the corner?’ I think that everybody is thinking that ‘ everybody in the Bay Area is thinking that early in the game,” said Allen, who finished with 27 in Boston’s 107-103 win over those defenseless Warriors.
“You don’t really look at Paul [Pierce] and he’s wide open, and Jeff [Green] was wide open several times, Nenad [Krstic] was open a couple times; when Rondo get to the basket, I think that’s as the result of all the guys on the floor and the plays that we run.”
Good thing Allen’s sore right knee healed in time so he could play. But ice and a stat sheet that shows that Golden State is 28th of 30 NBA teams in points allowed can make you healthy in a hurry.
‘He shoots the ball pretty well most days,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s just an amazing shooter, he really is. And what’s more amazing is how many times he’s wide open. It’s just remarkable when you think about it, the Reggie Millers, I’ve been on teams where before the game the coach is, ‘Do not give this guy an open shot’ and you turn around and he’s standing there all by himself. It’s just amazing how they find the open spots.’
“You just make sure you run, make a sharp cut, stay spaced, and if a team has to double, you know that someone has to be open,” Allen explained.
But you get open with great defense. And when Monta Ellis wasn’t lighting up the Celtics as part of a 41-point night [matching Kobe Bryant for most by an opponent this year], the Celtics were playing enough defensive to allow them to get out in transition.
“The defensive end is really where it starts because when we get stops like that and we force them to miss, and then I’m gone. I don’t even wait, I just get to the corner. They have to get to the paint, and Rondo, he knows where I’m at so I just have to make sure that I’m ready.’
As for that bothersome knee, he wasn’t out on a driving range on Thursday but rather just resting. “Driving range? Who said that?”
Informed it was his coach, Allen replied, “And where am I going to hit golf balls at?”
He then turned slightly more serious when asked just how sore were his legs to require a day off from practice.
“My knee was bothering me a little bit. I just had a little bit of soreness in there that I worked through over the last day and a half,” Allen said. “Coming in this morning, it felt similar and I was kind of taking it hour-by-hour and seeing how it felt when I got down here and when I got down here, it felt better.
“This morning I just came in and got treatment and just try to play it by ear. That’s why I have a suit on in case I was on the bench. I honestly thought when I came down here, there might be a chance but I came down here as usual to be ready to play. It’s hard from one day to the next and then the day before say, ‘I’m not playing tomorrow’ because you feel a little soreness. You have to get in there and really put your body to the test and get it better. I got treatment and ice and by the time I got down here, I shot and felt a lot better and here I am.”
|Things end better for Kevin Garnett, Celtics vs. Suns this time around||03.02.11 at 11:52 pm ET|
Things didn’t end so pretty for Kevin Garnett the last time the Celtics faced the Suns. Think a shot to Channing Frye‘s groin, a pair of technical fouls, an early shower and weeks of media criticism for his style of play. It was probably those things, and not his 18 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes, that served as the lasting memory of the C’s 88-71 loss in Phoenix on Jan. 28.
Just over one month later, Garnett got his long-awaited revenge. He dropped a season-high 28 points on the Suns — often on Frye himself — on the night, all of which came in the first three quarters of play. Frye would leave the game with an eye contusion after a collision with Vince Carter, but regardless of his presence, Garnett made his presence felt.
“We were ready for this game,” Glen Davis said. “I know KG was.”
Indeed he was. Garnett didn’t take kindly to the way things played out in late January, so it wasn’t a major shock that he took it upon himself to change his personal fortune, as well as his team’s results.
“I just didn’t like the way I played last time I played the Suns, and I made it a point this time to play better,” Garnett said. “That’s what I did.”
Given the preexisting tension between the two sides, the game proved to be interesting even as the Celtics opened up a 29-point lead. The Suns crawled back to make it a nine-point contest in the fourth quarter, and didn’t relent right down to the last-second technical foul from Jared Dudley on Rajon Rondo. The foul came amidst a spat between Garnett and Suns coach Alvin Gentry, with Rondo launching a three-pointer despite a 10-point lead.
“We knew coming in to expect a little trash talk. It was an intense game but it wasn’t,” Rondo said. “They made a run at it, but we had it under control the whole game.”
With the victory, the Celtics grabbed their six win in their last seven games. Just as importantly, it seems, they countered their ugly January loss and got the last laugh.
“Yeah, it was serious,” Davis said. “We owed them.”
|Fast Break: New Celtics, familiar results||02.28.11 at 11:37 pm ET|
This is going to take some time, but while Celtics coach Doc Rivers learns how to use his new toys (he had Jeff Green playing everything from the 2-guard through the four-spot), the Celtics remain the Celtics in the fourth quarter. Locked in a tight battle with Utah, the veterans made the right plays and executed down the stretch.
Ray Allen and Paul Pierce made huge shots. Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively and on the boards and Rajon Rondo made the right decisions and also sank a crucial jumper. The Celtics won 107-102, which gave them a 3-1 West Coast trip and also kept them two games ahead of the Heat in the loss column for the best record in the conference.
They have the next six weeks to figure out what kind of team they will be, but when it comes time to win games, they haven’t forgotten their formula.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kevin Garnett is Kevin Garnett again: In the midst of all the turmoil, Garnett has very quietly run off a string of double-doubles on this West Coast trip. After scoring 18 points to go with 14 rebounds he now has seven in his last eight games. Garnett was at his best, though, on the defensive end, where he switched over to Al Jefferson late in the game and shut the big man down.
The key moment came when Garnett and Jefferson were called for double technicals late in the fourth quarter. The T’s didn’t stop the chatter between the two players and Jefferson was obviously primed to get the ball and score. He got the ball, but Garnett gave ground at the right moment and caused a travel. It was a classic veteran trap and Jefferson fell right into it.
Rajon Rondo takeover: Rondo scored only six points in the first half and passed up a couple of easy looks to make passes instead, but in the second half he reverted back into an attacking machine. When Rondo doesn’t look for his offense he makes himself so much easier to defend. But when he keeps the threat of scoring alive, it makes him nearly impossible to defend.
Nenad Krstic is no Perk offensively: Krstic is known as a player who can step outside and make jump shots, but he’s also shown in limited time an ability to score with his back to the basket. The Celtics don’t use a lot of post-ups as part of their regular offense, but Krstic has a nice touch around the basket and is also able to roll smoothly to the basket. Offensively, he is a definite upgrade from Kendrick Perkins‘ limited repertoire.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Krstic is no Perk, defensively: Then there’s the other end of the floor. Krstic will get better as he gets used to playing in the Celtics’ defensive scheme (and also gets used to playing alongside Garnett). Early on he’s looked slow in rotations and a step behind the play. Krstic was also abused by Jefferson, who scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. It wasn’t all Krstic’s fault, but the Jazz went flying through the lane time and again for layups. The Celtics will have to adjust to Krstic as much as he will have to adjust to them.
Glen Davis continues to struggle: Over his last three games, Davis has shot 9-for-28. Over the last two months Davis has been as up and down as any Celtic, but they keep using him in the fourth quarter. Davis remains the best — and maybe only — option for getting crunch-time minutes with the other four starters, but if Rivers wants to continue to experiment he may take a look at his closing lineup over the next month and a half.
Delonte West is hurt again: The Celtics got bad news even before this one started as West rolled his right ankle during an informal workout on Sunday. He missed Monday’s game with Utah and is likely to miss Wednesday’s game when the Celtics return home to play the Suns. With Nate Robinson in Oklahoma City, the Celtics are relying on West to be the third guard, not only backing up Rajon Rondo, but Ray Allen as well.
But it’s at backup point guard where they desperately need his steady hand and veteran experience. Rookie Avery Bradley took those minutes against Utah and was more aggressive and confident than he’s been to date, but Bradley is not the answer this season. The Celtics need West to be healthy.
|Delonte West sprains ankle, out for Utah game||at 1:28 pm ET|
During an informal workout Sunday, Celtics guard Delonte West sprained his right ankle when he stepped on another player’s foot and will be out for the Celtics game Monday night against Utah. Doc Ricers told reporters in Utah that West is also questionable for Wednesday’s game with Phoenix when the team returns to the Garden.
This latest injury once again puts the Celtics in a bind as West is the only experienced point guard on the roster behind Rajon Rondo, following Nate Robinson‘s trade to the Thunder. Rookie Avery Bradley, who has played 10 minutes in his five games since returning from the D-League will likely back up Rondo for the time being.
Another option for Rivers is using Paul Pierce as a point-forward. That worked in stretches earlier in the season when Rondo was out with injuries.
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