|Dog days of March could lead to glory days in May for Celtics||03.07.12 at 9:31 am ET|
At the end of the season, we’ll look back at the schedule and see the Celtics‘ 97-92 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Rockets in early March. The box score and game details will show that Boston was down 10, with just over 5½ minutes left, and coming off an emotional overtime win over the Knicks. All of these components add up to the type of game that galvanizes a team.
Not in the 2011-12 season, though. This was ugly basketball at its finest (or sloppiest, depending on how you want to look at it). Tuesday night’s game featured more candidates to be on Sportscenter’s “Not Top 10 Moments” than actual sound basketball plays. But after 53 grueling minutes of basketball, the Celtics were the ones that don’t have to look back regretting they lost a game neither team deserved to win.
“It was a no-energy game,” Doc Rivers said. “You can feel it. I even said at halftime even the building had no energy. It’s just one of those nights. And our guys kept talking about grinding the game.”
The Celtics fell behind by seven after one quarter. Uncharacteristically, Boston had a great second quarter, and took a six-point lead into halftime. The C’s bolstered the margin to double digits in the third quarter. The Rockets responded by going on an impressive 35-11 run that propelled them to a 10-point lead with just over 5½ minutes left.
“It was definitely a strange game,” Paul Pierce said. “It was a battle of wills. One team wanted it one quarter, then the [other the next]. Like a seesaw battle. They make a run, we make a run, they make a run. Nobody could really just put the other team away.”
As the Celtics’ four-game winning streak appeared to be in jeopardy, they turned to the foundation that this team has been built on these past five seasons — defense. Their rotations were crisp. Houston muddled around the perimeter, and with every swing pass the recipient was greeted by a Boston defender. The imposing defensive style forced consecutive shot-clock violations, and with just under two minutes left the Houston lead had dwindled to just three.
“The defensive energy picked up,” Ray Allen said. “When they went on a run, we weren’t getting any stops. They kind of dictated how the game was being played. We changed that by pushing them up away from the basket. Everything that they had was contested, and we got rebounds.”
It’s a move that’s vintage Ray Allen.
“When Lee jumped at me, I knew I was going to fake him and let him fly by me,” Allen said. “It’s like one of my favorite moves, Top Gun, I put on the brakes and let him fly by.’
He lets Lee fly by, just like in his favorite movie. And as was the case with Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun”, Allen made Lee pay by nailing a wide-open 3-pointer with 35.4 seconds remaining to put the Celtics on top, 84-82, capping a furious 14-2 run by Boston. The game would wind up going to overtime, with the Celtics willing themselves to a 97-92 overtime win over the Rockets at TD Garden.
The game didn’t begin so smoothly for Allen and the Celtics. Allen’s jumper was flat, as he missed his first three shots, all threes, and the Celtics fell behind 28-21 after a quarter.
“I had a couple early in the game that didn’t go in for me and I was watching how they were guarding me, so as the fourth quarter came along everytime I got the ball I knew they were trying to run me off the three so I just said this three was going to be on my terms,” Allen said.
Allen finished with 21 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including 3-of-8 from long range, in 41 grueling minutes.
If there’s anyone on the Celtics who can speak to the virtues of taking care of the body in the grind of a season, it’s No. 20. It’s certainly paying off this week, as Allen played his second straight game over 40 minutes in three days, with the prospects of playing the young and up-tempo Sixers on the road in Philly in less than 24 hours.
‘The in-between days were you really have to take care of your body and make sure that you focus on rest,” he said. “Even in the games you have to learn how to be efficient out there. Sometimes you have to run harder just to push that bad wind out of you and sometimes you have to just be efficient, and get to your spot and allow your body to recover out there.
“So it changes, you just have to listen to your body. Sometimes your body is telling you you can’t go more. When that happens you have to make sure you pass the ball. Still make a sharp cut, but our legs are so important when you get to the shot. So if I’m short on the shot I know it’s my legs. So I always make sure I pay attention to that. I think as a team we have to make sure we play more together in these stretches because it is going to require us to be a team unit when we play those games.’
With the Celtics dying on the vine with 5:33 left, and down 10, it was Allen who drew upon his freakish good conditioning to bring his team back from certain defeat. he scored in every way possible, lay-up, mid-range jumpers and, of course, his trademark – the 3-pointer. He accounted for half of Boston’s 14 points in the run that got the Celtics back in the game.
‘There’s so many facets of the game, you have to score in transition, you have to score in the paint,” Allen said. “In fast breaks, you have to score off easy buckets, you have to score free throws, you have to score 3-pointers. There’s so many different things so you have to be prepared for everything. I always feel like if I can be in better condition than my guy then that’s going to be four-to-six points a game I will be able to get.’
|Trade Rumor: Clippers interested in Ray Allen||03.05.12 at 10:03 am ET|
The Clippers have been looking for backcourt help ever since Chauncey Billups went down with a season-ending Achilles injury, and they have their eye on Celtics‘ guard Ray Allen, according to Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick. However, as Amick points out:
“The price is likely too high, as Boston wants a package that includes a young talent and a draft pick.”
The best young player the Clippers have — besides Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, let’s be serious, folks — is second-year guard Eric Bledsoe, and he’s out with a knee injury. The Clips also don’t have a draft pick to offer because it already belongs to the Celtics, who acquired it in the Kendrick Perkins trade.
There doesn’t appear to be a match here, but expect more chatter to follow Allen who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $10 million. His overall game has fallen off a bit, but Allen remains one of the best shooters in the league.
|Report: Celtics-Hawks talks were ‘purely exploratory’||03.03.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
Wojnarowski’s report comes one day after another rumor suggested that the Celtics were interested in acquiring forward Josh Smith from the Hawks while dangling Kevin Garnett.
|Trade Rumor: Celtics eye Josh Smith, possibly for Kevin Garnett||03.02.12 at 3:31 pm ET|
The New York Daily News threw out the suggestion that the Celtics would be interested in Atlanta’s Josh Smith “and other young studs,” while using the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce as bait.
“With the Big Three’s window now shut, Ainge is trying to land Atlanta’s Josh Smith and other young studs, while offering up Kevin Garnett. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen can also be had, for young players and draft picks. Rajon Rondo might be leaving, too, with the Lakers and Utah seen as possible destinations.”
The interesting part of this rumor is the suggestion of Garnett, which is the first time his name has been linked in any trade rumor since he’s come to Boston. Garnett is in the last year of a contract that pays him $21 million and Smith has another year left after this one at $13 million, so that wouldn’t work straight-up. The Hawks have other short contracts like Kirk Hinrich, who is in the last year of a deal that pays him $8 million.
Smith was high school teammates with Rajon Rondo at Oak Hill Academy and the two have remained close. He’s still just 26 years old and many felt that he deserved a spot on the All-Star team. He’d be the kind of player the Celtics would be looking to acquire if they move forward with Rondo.
|Fast Break: Nothing Cavalier about Celtics victory||02.28.12 at 9:44 pm ET|
In a battle between two teams vying for eighth in the Eastern Conference (yup, you read that right), the Celtics blew a 16-point lead but salvaged the night when Ray Allen sandwiched a fast-break layup and two free throws around a big Kevin Garnett offensive rebound in the final minute to secure an 86-83 win over the Cavaliers.
Allen (22) and Garnett (18) combined for 40 points to help the Celtics (16-17) avoid the first six-game losing streak of the new Big Three era and stretch their lead over the Cavs (13-19) to 2.5 games for the eighth seed.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Welcome back Bass: The Celtics finished 1-5 in Bass’ recent six-game absence, and it didn’t take long for the consistent big man to demonstrate his value on the court, scoring 10 points on six shots by halftime. Bass brings a combination of scoring and toughness that the C’s simply don’t have outside of Garnett. If the Celtics have any hope for success in the second half of the season, they need a healthy Bass contributing like this.
Nothing but Garnett: Garnett reportedly called a team meeting prior to the All-Star break, and even if the entire team didn’t respond in its first game since, at least KG came to play. Wincing at times, possibly still battling the hip injury that kept him out of a game before the break, Garnett totaled 18 points and eight boards while playing his usual staunch defense. In the final seconds with the C’s leading by one, Garnett willed an offensive rebound off his own miss, got fouled and made both foul shots.
Jumping the run: Perhaps the result of an aging team benefiting from the five-day NBA All-Star break, the Celtics rattled off runs of 9-0 and 13-0 in the first quarter to establish a rare double-digit lead early (28-15 after one). Rondo recorded six assists in the first 12 minutes, including one on another fast break with his new running mate Chris Wilcox. The have only led after the first quarter in 16 of their 33 games, accumulating a 12-4 record.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics midseason report card||02.24.12 at 1:58 pm ET|
If Danny Ainge shook a Magic 8-Ball right now, the odds of “outlook not so good” coming up are probably even. After losing seven of their past eight games for the first time since he acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen prior to the 2007-08 NBA season, Ainge’s aging Celtics are 15-17 entering the All-Star break.
It’s an uphill battle the rest of the season, but it might be all downhill from here for Doc Rivers & Co. Needless to say, based on the expectations they’ve set the past four years, this Celtics group isn’t making the grade. Let’s take a look at how the C’s have stacked up individually this year.
MICKAEL PIETRUS: A-
Last Grade: A
When the news broke that Jeff Green would undergo heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm, the Celtics once again had a hole to fill behind Paul Pierce at the small forward position. Pietrus has bridged that gap, and then some. Charged with 3-point shooting and bringing energy defensively, he has shot 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and defended vigorously (at the end of the blowout loss to the Thunder, Pietrus was one of few C’s who played to the buzzer). In an attempt to improve the team’s terrible rebounding, Pietrus has also begun to assert himself on the glass, grabbing 19 rebounds in his last two games.
KEVIN GARNETT: A-
Last Grade: B+
Of the aging Big Three, the one with the most mileage and the worst knees has enjoyed the best season. Garnett entered the NBA All-Star break by recording 23 points and 13 rebounds for the first time since December 2008. That marked his ninth double-double of the season, bringing his averages to 14.4 points and 7.9 rebounds in only 30.8 minutes. Paired with his usual defensive prowess, he’s played all but three games — missing only one due to a tweaked hip and two for personal reasons — and it’s no surprise the Celtics are 0-3 in those contests.
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