|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.
|Steve Pagliuca on D&C: ‘Put the emotions aside,’ and deal is good for C’s||02.25.11 at 9:21 am ET|
Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show and guest hosts Mike Adams and Bob Halloran on Friday morning to talk about the C’s flurry of moves before Thursday’s trade deadline. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The big trade was Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Pagliuca said he has confidence president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made the right call.
“I have mixed emotions,” Pagliuca said. “I loved Kendrick Perkins as a person and a player, and he helped us get a championship. So, that’s the tough part of the sports business. You’ve got to try to make the club better if you have opportunities. Danny’s done a great job at that over the last eight years, since we’ve been here. He assessed that this was something that would be great for the short run to help us win a championship again, and the longer run.
“I think it could be a win-win for both clubs. Because their club is full of shooters and they need somebody tough inside, and there’s nobody tougher than Kendrick. We picked up a guy, Jeff Green, who was drafted fifth, averaging 15 points a game, he can play the 3, the 4, maybe even the 2 at times. And Nenad Krstic, who’s a great shooter, which really balances [Rajon] Rondo out. Rondo will have a free lane now, because they’ve got to go out and cover Nenad, because he can hit the shot.”
Added Pagliuca: “Danny, again, I think has done a great job. Put the emotions aside ‘ because he loves Kendrick as well ‘ but this will be good for the club.”
The C’s also traded Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to the Cavaliers for a draft pick and shipped the injured Marquis Daniels to the Kings for another pick. This leaves some questions at the center position, as Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal remain sidelined with injuries. Pagliuca said that should turn around soon, as the Celtics’ bench will become a major strength.
“We got two starting players ‘ one averaging 15 points a game; I think Kristic is averaging close to 10 ‘ so, yeah, it’s going to make us very deep,” he said. “And on top of that, Shaq is working really hard to come back, and Jermaine is looking good; I saw him on the bike the other day. If all the things go our way, we’re going to have a very deep team going into the playoffs. And I think that’s what Danny wanted to accomplish.”
The other question concerns the toughness the Celtics lost with the departure of Perkins. “We’ve got a lot of tough players,” Pagliuca said. “Shaq’s a pretty tough player, and he’s coming back. He’s pretty tough in the paint there. [Glen Davis] is a tough player. Baby can bang with anybody. Krstic is also a fighter. He’s no wallflower as well. ‘¦ He’s a fiery player and he wants to win. So, I think we’re going to be very tough and our guys will bring it up a notch.”
|Irish Coffee: Kobe Bryant’s Ray Allen praise wasn’t easy||02.17.11 at 12:11 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
For the first half of this month, Boston was the hub of the NBA universe, as the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics welcomed four other championship contenders to the TD Garden — the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat — in a span of nine days. Sports Illustrated writer Ian Thomsen followed the C’s every step of the way for a cover story in the magazine’s issue that hits stores this week.
From each game, Thomsen uncovered some pretty juicy anecdotes. Here are the highlights …
Mavericks 101, Celtics 97
- Paul Pierce didn’t know Mavericks guard J.J. Barea spent his college days in Boston: “I’m an NBA player, I’m a Celtic! I came from Kansas! What would I be doing watching Northeastern play?”
- Mavericks center Tyson Chandler idolized Kevin Garnett: “What I try to do for my team is what he’s done his entire career. I respect what he’s accomplished, so I’m just trying to mirror that.”
- Like many players, Barea thinks Garnett isn’t always nice: “He likes to pick on little guys, I think.”
Celtics 91, Magic 80
- Magic swingman Quentin Richardson joined the anti-Garnett club: “Garnett is a great player, he’ll be a Hall of Famer, and his rÃ©sumÃ© speaks for itself. But at the same time you may not have a lot of respect for some of the things he’ll do. He picks fights with [the Raptors’ 6’3” Jose] Calderon or with Barea. Come on, man, that’s not showing that you’re big or bad. You’re trying to fight point guards.”
- And Celtics coach Doc Rivers once again came to Garnett’s defense: “This guy should be the model. He is as pure a team player as I’ve ever been around. Does he say things the wrong way at times? Clearly Kevin has used the ‘F’ word as a noun, adjective and verb, and it’s mean-spirited if you’re not on his team. With his teammates he talks the same way, but it’s all about help, it’s all about team. The players who don’t like him are usually the players who aren’t winning, and maybe they should be more like him instead of talking about him.”
- Pierce didn’t enjoy 25-year-old Magic center Dwight Howard‘s imitation of Garnett’s chest-thumping pregame regimen: “I don’t know if they’ve won a game when he’s mocked anybody. I think he’s got to stop it. I saw LeBron [James] go for 51 [in a Feb. 3 win at Orlando] when he mocked him.”
- When Celtics 26-year-old center Kendrick Perkins baited Howard into a technical foul, that showed maturity on Perkins’ part, according to Rivers: “First time in his life — he fouled Dwight, holds him and holds him, Dwight hits him with an elbow, hits him with another one, and Perk just stands there. At halftime I said to the team, ‘That is toughness. Toughness is somebody hitting you in the freaking face, and you’re looking at him and laughing and walking away. That’s a tough mother.'”
- Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t believe his team can contend with the Celtics: “Not even in the same ballpark as these guys. We can be, but we’re not right now.”
|Doc Rivers on D&C: Paul Pierce’s injury not enough to prevent All-Star appearance||02.15.11 at 11:41 am ET|
Rivers said the Celtics are searching outside the organization for help as injuries have left the team shorthanded.
“We’re looking. I can tell you that,” he said. “We’re not going to do anything, obviously, that just takes away from our team. But we’re looking pretty hard. Obviously, there’s not a lot out there right now. But as the deadline gets closer, we’re hoping some things open up.”
As for the team’s biggest need, he said: “Depending on what happens with Marquis [Daniels], I would say that’s our biggest need right now, the backup 3.”
Following are highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Based on the fact that your main concern for your basketball team going into the second half is your health and your freshness and those things that you need for them to play with energy when it comes to the playoffs ‘¦ wouldn’t it be better for Paul Pierce to stay home on All-Star weekend, catch his breath and regroup for the second half of the season?
It depends on how serious it is. I don’t think it’s as serious as it’s made out to be. He was concerned more just because it was hurting, but it’s not even as close to as bad as we thought it could be. I think we’re overreacting a little bit on this one.
You’re going to keep an eye on their minutes, right?
I’m going to keep an eye on all of their minutes. I think [Rajon] Rondo will probably play the most, him or Ray [Allen], because Ray loves playing. He is perfect in those games, obviously. Other than that, I’m going to play LeBron [James] and Dwyane [Wade] probably 47-48 minutes, in that area.
How will they get along? Clearly Rondo got under their skin Sunday, you guys as a team got under their skin and maybe in their heads a little bit. Is that all forgotten Sunday in LA?
It usually is. I don’t know if they got under their skin or not, but they pestered them, especially Rondo, but that’s just in that single game. Athletes have a great way of kind of getting over it and moving on.
|Chris Bosh: ‘I really hate losing to’ the Celtics||02.13.11 at 8:36 pm ET|
Chris Bosh tripled his scoring output from his Heat’s 88-80 opening-night loss to the Celtics, and it still didn’t matter. The C’s held Miami to 82 points in a three-point victory on Sunday that gave the East leaders a 3-0 season advantage over the conference’s second-place team.
“We’ll just have to wait to beat the Celtics in another month or so,” said Bosh. “I really hate losing to these guys, man. We’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer. Things like this are going to make us better. Coming into an environment like this, against tough teams like this, battling for first place, it’s going to add to our experience and add to our trust. We’re just going to have to keep going and learn from it.’
The two teams don’t actually face each other until April 10 — three days before the end of the regular season — but the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed could already be determined by then. As it stands now, the Celtics (39-14) own a half-game lead on the Heat (39-15).
“We’re in each other’s way of winning an NBA championship with other teams in the Eastern Conference like Chicago and Orlando and a few other teams,” said Lebron James. “This is a team that everybody is trying to catch. They’re the defending Eastern Conference champions.”
Despite the fact that the Heat only committed two more turnovers than the Celtics (15-13) and led 43-39 at the half, Miami attributed much of the loss to their 12 first-half turnovers.
“The margin for error against a great team like that is very small. ‘¦ We dug ourselves a hole, and we just couldn’t get out of it,” said Bosh. “Like I said, against a good team like that, you can’t really do that.”
“You can tell I’m upset,” added James. “I just want to win. We all want to win. We know for the most part it was our mistakes. Give a lot of credit to Boston, of course, but we had a lot of unforced turnovers. We were shooting 56 percent from the floor in the first half, but we had 12 turnovers. We’ve got to at least give ourselves a chance to get the ball up on the rim. In the third quarter, they caught fire, and you can’t get behind a team like that.”
The Celtics outscored the Heat 35-18 in the third quarter. Interestingly enough, Rajon Rondo opted to play defense on James in that same quarter. But don’t look for James to credit Rondo, as the former shoved the latter twice for listening in on a Heat huddle.
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