|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 »
|Fast Break: Bulls bury Celtics||01.08.11 at 10:42 pm ET|
The NBA schedule is sometimes a cruel beast. Take the Celtics and Bulls, put them in a vacuum and the result is usually a fantastic game. But put them on a Saturday night with both teams on the second end of back-to-backs and you get a slow, ugly contest, like the one these two teams played.
The Celtics were able to hang in until the bitter end, mostly thanks to 21 Chicago turnovers, but the combination of Derrick Rose (36 points) and Carlos Boozer (22) was too much to overcome in a 90-79 loss that snapped Boston’s four-game winning streak. (Recap.)
Credit Tom Thibodeau‘s defense, which held the Celtics to 38 percent shooting and kept them out of the paint all night. Not many teams can make the Celtics look as bad as they did Saturday night, but Thibodeau knows them as well as anyone and he has Chicago ranked second (behind the Celtics) in defensive efficiency.
The Celtics return home for a six-game homestand against only two teams with winning records: Utah and Orlando. They are also expected to get Kevin Garnett back, possibly as early as Monday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding: In case there was still any confusion about how the Celtics feel about offensive rebounds, Doc Rivers said it as plainly as he could Friday night.
“I don’t care about offensive rebounds,” the coach said. “I care about defensive rebounds.”
In that case, the first half was very discouraging as the Bulls grabbed eight offensive rebounds. It didn’t get any better in the second half as the Celtics got pounded on the boards. They gave up 11 offensive boards and lost the overall battle, 48-27.
Derrick Rose at the free throw line: Derrick Rose established a new career-high in free throw attempts and makes midway through the third quarter. He went on to make 15-of-19 as he wore the Celtics out with the pick-and-roll. The Bulls wound up only being +7 at the line, despite taking 13 more shots (35-22).
Bench production: Or the lack, thereof. Outside of Jermaine O’Neal who had six points and three rebounds, the Celtics reserves combined to shoot 1-for-7 with three rebounds and four assists. Once again, the Celtics offense without Rajon Rondo on the floor was disjointed and out of sync.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen: The two veterans basically are the Celtics offense right now with Garnett out, so it’s a good thing that they are both playing at a high level. They combined for 40 points, or more than half the Celtics’ total. Along with Rondo, they shot 20-for-43. The rest of the team? A horrific 8-for-31.
Turnovers: Yes, this is the right column. The Bulls turned it over 21 times compared to the Celtics’ eight times. The Celtics recorded 12 steals, which helped, but this was the only thing that kept the Celtics in the game.
Rajon Rondo was decent: Rondo had a solid line with 13 points, five rebounds, five steals and eight assists, but he was also responsible (along with the big men) for Rose’s big night.
|Irish Coffee: What’s your Celtics Banner Moment?||01.07.11 at 10:40 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The Celtics launched the Banner Moments program, encouraging fans to share their favorite C’s moments through video, photos and text. Until March, two Banner Moments are chosen each month. Prizes include Celtics tickets, meet and greets with legends, and practice facility shoot-arounds.
In March, the C’s will put the top-10 moments up for a vote on Celtics.com. The winner will be recognized during an April 13 Knicks game in addition to potentially watching a playoff game from their own private suite.
I’d have to say my “Banner Moment would be the Celtics’ 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals. That was the unquestionable highlight of a Celtics season that shouldn’t have sniffed the NBA Finals, yet came within two games of playing the Lakers for a title. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the new Garden louder. The building was literally shaking.
It’s between that and the time my buddy started running down the Garden stairs — only to slip, throwing his arms upward and splashing an entire beer in some poor Blazers fan’s face by accident. I mean, he couldn’t have tried to spill more on this guy than he did. Let’s just say the dude was none too happy.
Part 1 of that comeback against the Nets accompanies this post. You can revisit Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 on YouTube. As part of the program, members of the Celtics, their mascot, dance team and celebrity fans shared a few of their Banner Moments:
|Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘Saw improvement’ on Rondo’s elbow jumper last night||01.06.11 at 5:08 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly segment on Thursday morning, talking about the Celtics big win over the Spurs last night, and Rajon Rondo‘s immediate return to prominence following his injury. Rivers also discussed current NBA hot topics, including in-flight fights and gambling, and how Kevin Garnett‘s hopeful return next week will get the team back to top form.
“To me, the most important thing was that [Rondo] took shots down the stretch,” Rivers said. “I’ve said this before, as good as he’s playing and we’re playing right now at times, it’s a different game in the playoffs.”
To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Last night’s game certainly qualified as a great game, but I don’t know as the coach if you could be entertained by it. But it was by all means a great game.
Well it did as far as the shot-making game. I mean, you saw our team shoot 60 percent in the game, you saw [Manu] Ginobili make shots down the stretch that were unbelievable. So I guess in that way, yeah, it was. You knew both teams wanted to win the game, you could feel that right at the start of the game. So there was a chance for that to happen.
How do you shoot 61 percent and they shoot 45 percent and you win by two? Is it the disparity of the offensive rebounds and the number of shots they took?
Yeah, it’s both of those. They took more shots and the offensive rebounds. Obviously, they’re going to have a couple more offensive rebounds when they shoot 45 and we shoot 60.
There’s going to be a discrepancy, but it just can’t be as big as it has been the last three games.
Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show to talk about Wednesday’s night victory over the Spurs, the importance of Jermaine O’Neal and who among the big four is the most irreplaceable. Ainge called Rajon Rondo’s performance, “one of the best games Rondo’s ever played,” but Ainge was more impressed by his defense against Tony Parker, than his triple-double stat line.
“Not only did he control the game offensively — he had a lot of assists last night because Ray [Allen] was shooting the ball so well. His numbers can be deceiving. His defense against Tony Parker, he was fighting through the screens. I think the two games he played prior to that he was just out there. I don’t think he was playing 100 percent. I don’t think he could. He was just out there just to get us in our offense. It was helpful but he wasn’t playing the defense like he did.”
Ainge also noted Allen’s night, in which the veteran sharpshooter made 13-of-16 shots with many coming off the same play. “I don’t know who else in the league can do what Ray did last night. Just catching and shooting going away from the basket off down screens, other than guys like Reggie Miller and Dale Ellis, there really aren’t that many guys that are proficient at it.”
Here are more highlights from the interview: Read the rest of this entry »
|Paul Pierce on Rajon Rondo: ‘He did it all’||at 2:30 am ET|
‘We didn’t want to give up a three, that was kind of the only thing that could beat us, we sort of overplayed on the three point line,” Pierce said. “They made a two-pointer and I had to go out, or it would go into overtime, but that was the main thing just to take away the three point shot.’
Rajon Rondo made team history with 22 assists as part of a triple-double, as the Celtics held off the Spurs in a match-up of teams with the two best records in the NBA. Rondo – who also finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds – became the first player in Celtics history with at least 19 assists in three games in a season. He fell just two shy of his season high of 24 on Oct. 29 vs. the Knicks.
“He did it all, he rebounded, assisted, Doc’s kind of been on him about taking that shot there and he steps up when he needs to and knocks down those shots confidently,’ Pierce said.
Ray Allen scored a game-high 31 points in a fantastic shooting display, and made 13-of-16 shots on the night, including a three-pointer with 1:35 left in the game to put the Celtics up five. Rondo hit a runner in the lane that appeared to seal the game with 1:06 left.
But the Spurs went on a 7-0 run to draw within two. Allen then missed both free throws with 7.4 seconds left to give the Spurs a chance. But Pierce saved the day as the Celtics won their third straight.
‘You always can learn things from wins, not just from losses,” Pierce said. “I mean you can definitely learn things from wins, how we can be better down the stretch. And I think what’s important is that we won that game. We could have done some things better down the stretch, closing out the game but it’s a long season.’
Ginobili had 24 points to lead the Spurs (29-6), who lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. The win was all the more impressive as the Spurs suffered the night before in New York, 128-115.
The Celtics – who improved to 27-7 – were red-hot from the floor for the first three quarters, led by Allen. The sharpshooter was 11-of-14 entering the final quarter as the Celtics led, 77-72. As a team, the Celtics shot a blazing 61 percent from the floor for the game.
‘Maybe it was the tail end of a back to back for them, cause they’re a better defensive team then how they let us shoot,” Pierce said. “But you know we are one of the better offensive teams in the league, we run our stuff, make the pass, put the ball in Rondo’s hand, we can be a great team offensively.
‘You knew it was going to be a nip tuck game pretty much all night. You look up and it was hard to pull away from them. You could tell when we down the stretch put a nice little defensive run on them and then we do that and they come right back. But I mean you got two heavyweights battling and it was fun for me to be part of, I’m just glad that we won.’
|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double helps Celtics past Spurs||01.05.11 at 10:15 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo recorded his second triple-double of the season — totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds — as the Celtics handed the Spurs just their sixth lost all season, 105-103, at the TD Garden on Wednesday night. And they did it without Kevin Garnett.
The Celtics (27-7) and Spurs (29-6) have the two best records in the NBA, and the C’s moved one step closer to San Antonio thanks to 31 points from Ray Allen, a season-high 23 from Glen Davis and 18 from Paul Pierce.
Allen missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds, but Pierce blocked a last-second Manu Ginobili attempt to secure the victory.
What Went Right
Rajon Rondo dished it out: Rondo had 10 assists … with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Needless to say, he guided the offense as he had before missing seven games with a sprained ankle, finding the open man with Tom Brady-like regularity. The Celtics’ 46-of-75 (61.3 percent) shooting was evidence of that.
By the time the final buzzer sounded, Rondo delivered 22 assists. Pierce and Allen were the biggest benefactors, knocking down a combined 20-of-26 field goals on the night.
Ray Allen came to play: Allen hit seven of his first 10 shots to enter the locker room with a team-high 14 points at the break. While both the Celtics and Spurs struggled to generate offense during long stretches in the first half, Allen remained consistent. He finished with 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting.
Big Baby won the battle of the Big Bodies: In a battle of undersized (in terms of height, not waistline) power forwards who weren’t projected to be NBA talents despite their college success, Davis (6-foot-9, 290 pounds) owned DeJuan Blair (6-foot-7, 270 pounds). Starting at power forward in place of the injured Garnett, Davis produced 23 points. Blair, also starting, had just two points.
What Went Wrong
The bench: The starters were all forced to play big minutes because Marquis Daniels, Luke Harangody, Von Wafer & Co. couldn’t hold down a lead. In fact, those three guys combined for six points. Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’Neal had 11 between them, but that paled in comparison to the Spurs’ 27 bench points — highlighted, of course, by New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner (10 points).
Offensive rebounding: It’s worth mentioning again, because it’s been an ongoing problem for the Celtics all season. Entering their game against the Spurs, the C’s had given up 80 more offensive rebounds than their opponents. And Wednesday night’s game didn’t help, as San Antonio out-rebounded Boston on the offensive glass, 15-5.
Jermaine O’Neal fouled out: O’Neal recorded more fouls (6) than rebounds (5). That’s not good. That meant Shaquille O’Neal played down the stretch of a close game, and considering he was 0-for-3 from the free-throw line, that could have hurt them. It didn’t, but it could’ve. A stretch? Probably, considering the effort the C’s put forth against the team with the NBA’s best record — without Garnett.
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