|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics cast spell on Magic||01.17.11 at 11:00 pm ET|
The Celtics handed Kevin Garnett a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf — had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.
A Paul Pierce jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.
Dwight Howard had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.
In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.
Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.
Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).
The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.
Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.
Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.
|Doc Rivers needs more out of Semih Erden||01.15.11 at 2:05 pm ET|
And rookie Semih Erden would’ve led the list of players feeling pretty miserable.
On a night when the depleted front court needed minutes from their Turkish import, Shaquille O’Neal had to play 35 minutes because Erden – still learning the intricacies of the NBA. Rivers was more than aware that Erden was playing one day after missing practice with a pulled groin.
“Semih, we just needed him more on the floor tonight,” Rivers said. “I just kept telling him, just point, and we’ll get you out, and then we’ll bring you back in and do whatever we can, but we need you tonight. And they went small and we did a great job of not forcing it to them, but letting it come to them in the flow without taking us out of our flow.”
Rivers would not give the rookie a free pass just because of the injury.
“I don’t ask,” Rivers said. “If a guy’s playing, he’s healthy. Listen, they don’t care on the other team.If you’re going to be out on the floor, I don’t want to hear about it and neither does the other team. That’s how we always function, and our guys know that.”
Rondo fell just four rebounds shy of another triple-double while Shaq scored a game-high 23 points in the Celtics’ 99-94 win over the Bobcats Friday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were very effective from long distance, draining 8-of-19 from beyond the arc.
The Celtics joined the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat as 30-game winners, improving to 30-9 on the season and 2-1 on their six-game homestand. They are off until Monday night when they host Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the possible return of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics lineup.
And, if called upon, Rivers hopes Erden does his level best to stay on the court.
The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.
That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.
On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.
The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”
“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’
The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.
‘It helps a lot when he’s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’s played well. It’s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.’
On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.
“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’s not a big deal for one night; I don’t worry about it. And we don’t play again until Monday, so that’s nice. It came at the right moment.’
It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.
‘You know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”
So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?
“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”
As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.
“I’m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. ‘I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’
The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.
Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.
|Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett passed in latest All-Star voting||01.13.11 at 1:35 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett have been passed by Derrick Rose and Amar’e Stoudemire, respectively, in the latest round of All-Star voting numbers released by the league. Rondo and Garnett have had slim leads over their counterparts since the returns started coming in, but Rose and Stoudemire have been making steady gains each week.
Here’s the latest voting:
Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 1,518,807; Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 1,143,391; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 1,049,544; Paul Pierce (Bos) 578,473; Chris Bosh (Mia) 427,551; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 320,661; Josh Smith (Atl) 280,158; Danilo Gallinari (NYK) 259,619; Danny Granger (Ind) 201,653; Luol Deng (Chi) 191,312.
Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,499,768; Derrick Rose (Chi) 1,225,575; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 1,171,311; Ray Allen (Bos) 630,588; John Wall (Was) 260,893; Brandon Jennings (Mil) 254,614; Raymond Felton (NYK) 246,208; Gilbert Arenas (Orl) 240,586; Jamal Crawford (Atl) 163,971, Darren Collison (Ind) 156,230.
Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,537,619; Shaquille O’Neal (Bos) 639,661; Joakim Noah (Chi) 291,107; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 245,253; Al Horford (Atl) 193,449; Roy Hibbert (Ind) 183,092; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 162,364; Brook Lopez (NJ) 125,022; JaVale McGee (Was) 106,710; Ben Wallace (Det) 79,017.
Forwards: Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,270,729; Carmelo Anthony (Den) 945,720; Pau Gasol (LAL) 851,456; Blake Griffin (LAC) 702,784; Tim Duncan (SA) 663,487; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 615,243; Lamar Odom (LAL) 364,950; Luis Scola (Hou) 347,986; Kevin Love (Min) 301,529; Caron Butler (Dal) 205,146.
Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,757,216; Chris Paul (NOH) 949,049; Manu Ginobili (SA) 593,718; Steve Nash (Pho) 522,215; Deron Williams (Utah) 487,887; Russell Westbrook (OKC) 463,250; Tony Parker (SA) 355,993; Jason Kidd (Dal) 303,164; Vince Carter (Pho) 277,430; Kevin Martin (Hou) 266,037.
Centers: Yao Ming (Hou) 928,928; Andrew Bynum (LAL) 660,576; Nene (Den) 389,263; Marc Gasol 352,136; Emeka Okafor (NOH) 317,677; Brendan Haywood (Dal) 276,777; Marcus Camby (Por) 201,133; Chris Kaman (LAC) 165,684; Andris Biedrins (GS) 126,567; DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 110,230.
|Ray Allen dealing with a ‘sore’ left shoulder||01.10.11 at 11:58 pm ET|
Everyone who saw Ray Allen sprawled on the court with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter Monday night had the same thought – Oh no, not again. The Celtics have already had two starters miss significant time with significant injuries as Kevin Garnett hopes to come back Wednesday night from a strained right calf and Rajon Rondo continues to play through sore feet.
As for Allen, he said he will need a night of sleep and then see how he feels after taking a vicious hit on a pick early in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to Houston.
“I just took a hard hit, and kind of collapsed on the side,” Allen said of the screen set with 10:56 left in the fourth. “I’m sore, I’ll feel it [Tuesday]. My shoulder but kind of my side, you got so much adrenaline running that you don’t really feel it, once I got in the back I felt it.”
Allen added that he didn’t think it was a legal screen since – as he said, ‘The rule states that, if there’s a screen set, you have to give the person a chance to see the screen and then move out the way. I didn’t even know the screen was there and when I went to step I just hit the screen, and it caught me like on the side of my hip.”
Allen, who matched Marquis Daniels with a team-high 19 points, did return with 5:40 left in the game and hit a big three-pointer with 2:04 left to pull the Celtics to within seven, 106-99.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics’ shooting aim historically high||at 1:42 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
In the past 20 seasons, only a handful of teams have shot at least .500 from the field for an entire season. Despite shooting just .378 against the Bulls on Saturday night, the Celtics are still shooting .502 as a team this year, keeping pace with some pretty remarkable company historically.
Here are the teams that have shot better than .500 for an entire season since 1991-92:
- 1994-95 Utah Jazz (.512)
- 1991-92 Chicago Bulls (.508)
- 1991-92 Golden State Warriors (.507)
- 2008-09 Phoenix Suns (.504)
- 1996-97 Utah Jazz (.504)
- 1994-95 Orlando Magic (.502)
- 2007-08 Phoenix Suns (.500)
There are plenty of conclusions to draw based on that list. Here are a few:
- Of those seven teams, two — the 1991-92 NBA champion Bulls and 1994-95 Magic — reached the NBA Finals.
- The guys who those offenses ran through: Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Hardaway — which means Rajon Rondo would join some pretty remarkable players.
- The fact that the 1984-85 Lakers shot .545 from the field for the season is simply ridiculous.
- The last time the Celtics eclipsed .500 was in 1990-91, when Larry Bird & Co. shot .512 for the season.
The overwhelming positive for the Celtics is that they’re only allowing their opponents to shoot .437 from the field — better than any of the seven teams on that list. Six of those teams let their opponents shoot better than .450, and only the 1996-97 Jazz came close to this year’s C’s, allowing their opponents to shoot .438 from the field.
|What to watch for on the Celtics homestand||01.09.11 at 12:19 am ET|
Last season, while in the midst of a depressing spring swoon, the schedule gods handed the Celtics a gift: six straight games at TD Garden to help them right their sinking ship. There were two problems. First, the Celtics simply weren’t very good at the Garden last season (for whatever reason) and second, they played five playoff teams including the Thunder, Spurs and Cavaliers.
The Celtics actually did all right for themselves, splitting those six games and winning an emotional game over the Cavs on Easter Sunday that served as a rallying point when they ultimately faced them in the playoffs. But there were also some ugly setbacks, such as a 21-point loss to San Antonio and the memorable Kevin Durant gets calls like Michael Bleeping Jordan game (in the words of Kevin Garnett).
Ultimately their six-game homestand was neither defining nor damning. It simply was another signpost in the Celtics up and down 2010.
This season, however, the expectations are much different. The Celtics are rolling (or were rolling until the Bulls wiped them out Saturday night in an ugly, defensive game) and they are playing much better at the Garden where their 16-2 record is tops in the Eastern Conference and tied for first in the loss column with the Spurs, who are 19-2 at home.
The Celtics will also get the benefit of playing four teams who are under .500. They get the Rockets, Kings and Bobcats this week and the Pistons in between visits from Orlando and Utah next week and it’s a golden opportunity for the Celtics to continue to pad their record. Even with Saturday night’s loss to the Bulls, at 28-8 the Celtics still hold a one-game lead on Miami for the best conference record and are four games ahead of Chicago and Orlando in the loss column for second.
Here are five things to look for on this homestand: Read the rest of this entry »
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