|Irish Coffee: 5 awful Celtics statistics, 1 good one||02.21.12 at 12:55 pm ET|
Following a 89-73 loss to the Mavericks, the Celtics dropped to 15-16 and the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed (just two games ahead of the lowly Cavaliers) — the worst start to any season of the Kevin Garnett era.
Facing the Thunder on Wednesday night without the suspended Rajon Rondo and possibly sans KG (personal reasons), things don’t stand to get any better, especially with injuries to bigs Jermaine O’Neal (wrist), Chris Wilcox (adductor) and Brandon Bass (knee).
Should all be unavailable in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, the C’s starting center midway through the 2011-12 season will come down to a choice between rookies Greg Stiemsma and JaJuan Johnson. Generally, that’s the kind of thing that happens when a team enters the year with an injury-plagued 15-year veteran as its only established center. Not to mention Kendrick Perkins will be starting for the opposing team.
In some respect Celtics president Danny Ainge had to see this coming, although nobody could have expected them to be this bad. Here are five shockingly awful statistics the 2011-12 Celtics have produced.
|Irish Coffee: How the Celtics can score more points||02.15.12 at 12:47 pm ET|
While the Celtics rank eighth in field-goal percentage (45.8%), they’re 26th in points scored. Why? Two reasons: They don’t get to the free throw line, and they don’t attempt enough 3-pointers.
To the first point, free throws are down across the NBA, but the Celtics have been particularly inept in that regard. The C’s are one of only two teams that attempt fewer than 30 field goals per game from 0-10 feet, where the majority of fouls occur. Only the Nets (8-21) take fewer shots within 10 feet (27.9) than the Celtics (29.5). From 2007-10, when the C’s made two trips to the NBA Finals, they averaged more than 25 free throws per game and ranked in the NBA’s top 10 each season. This season, they attempt just 19.8 a night.
That last number has gotten increasingly worse as this season has progressed. The C’s nightly free throw attempts have declined from 23.8 in December to 20.2 in January and an NBA-worst 16.4 in February. For the season, the Celtics are being outscored by an average of 2.2 points per game at the free throw line.
|VIDEO: The night Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the Celtics all-time scoring list||02.08.12 at 1:11 pm ET|
|Irish Coffee: Ray Allen’s guide to being a Celtic||02.02.12 at 6:55 pm ET|
BOSTON — The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Ever since he first arrived in New England as a University of Connecticut freshman in 1993 (the same year he became a Patriots fan, by the way), Celtics guard Ray Allen‘s work ethic has remained as steadfast as Fort Independence. Even now, after three years of college, 15 NBA seasons and about 3.5 million shots, his role continues to mutate annually — but his approach never will.
“Every year, no matter what team I played on, my role changes,” said the 36-year-old Allen. “You come to training camp, even when I was in Milwaukee, you change things and the league changes a little bit, so you have to figure out how different you’re going to play and you’re going to be played and guarded defensively. I always just said, well, let’s see how everything works and how it goes.”
So far, so good. Before being traded to Boston, Allen had built a Hall of Fame career during 11 seasons on the Bucks and SuperSonics, averaging at least 20 points, four rebounds and three assists for 10 straight years before being dealt for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and Jeff Green during the 2007 NBA draft.
Joining forces with fellow superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett under head coach Doc Rivers, Allen like the others had to sacrifice numbers for the greater good of the team. In his first season on the Celtics, his attempts dipped by 7.5 field goals per game while his shooting percentages rose across the board.
“When I got here, that was extremely hard, because I wanted to do more,” he said. “I still want to do more, but then I was going off what I’d done my whole career, so I wanted to come here and do the same thing. But in order for this team to be successful I had to take a couple step backwards to fit in a system where it’s going to work, because it wasn’t built around me. That’s just being part of a team and trying to win on your team’s terms and not yours.”
|‘I’d love to be Paul Pierce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus’||01.28.12 at 1:29 am ET|
Mickael Pietrus isn’t Ray Allen, even though he played him on TV Friday night — starting in place of the injured NBA 3-point champion for the second straight night. And he knows he isn’t Celtics teammate Paul Pierce either.
“That man been a 10-time All-Star,” Pietrus said of Pierce. “I’d love to be Paul PIerce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus. … I’m happy to get Paul back. It was hard for me to guard him on the opposing team. I’m glad I’m his teammate. It’s Paul Pierce. He’s a 10-time All-Star. He knows how to play basketball.”
Pietrus knows how to play basketball, too, and he’s filled in admirably for Allen. In back-to-back starts against the Magic and Pacers, he has totaled 25 points — including five 3-pointers — and 12 rebounds.
‘He’s been huge,” said Pierce. “You talk about a guy who can really knock down shots and make plays. He’s a really scrappy defender and a great athlete. He’s been huge in Ray’s absence, just filling in that role and being that constant threat from the outside and filling in gaps on defense.’
|Paul Pierce: ‘I’m probably at about 83.7 percent’||at 12:47 am ET|
After totaling 52 points, 18 assists and 16 rebounds in consecutive wins against the Magic and Pacers, Celtics captain Paul Pierce discussed the improving health of the sore right heel that kept him out of training camp.
Pierce’s recent hot stretch raises his career total to 21,676 points, just 115 behind Pacers president Larry Bird for second on the C’s all-time scoring list. There’s at least a chance Pierce could achieve the mark in seven games (if not sooner) against the Lakers in Boston on Feb. 9. Of course, you’ll remember Allen set the NBA’s all-time 3-point record against Kobe Bryant & Co. in the Garden last season.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s ‘goddamn bar fight’||01.27.12 at 12:23 pm ET|
Three nights after holding the Magic to a record low 16 field goals in an 87-56 victory at the Garden, the Celtics dealt Dwight Howard & Co. another embarrassing blow in Orlando — storming back from 27 points to steal a 91-83 win in one of the 10 greatest comebacks in NBA history. And one of the great postgame interviews in history.
“It was a goddamn bar fight,” Celtics forward Kevin Garnett told TNT’s Craig Sager after the game. “A goddamn bar fight, man. It was a bar fight, Craig. Tonight was a bar fight, man. We knew they were going to come in with a lot of energy. Tonight was a bar fight. You ever been in a bar fight? Ask Charles [Barkley], he’s been in a bar fight. This is what it was tonight. We won in the second half. We came out with a lot of energy.”
At some point, KG remembered Sager was conducting an interview, so he allowed him to ask a couple questions.
We heard Doc Rivers say late in that third quarter, “This is not over yet.” Did you believe him?
“Since I’ve been here in Boston, Doc has never told me nothing that wasn’t true. We were in the Finals one time, we were down whatever it was, and he told us we could come back. And I believed him. And we did. So, tonight was no different.”
Does this victory mean even more than holding the Magic to 56 points on Monday?
“When you’re down and you fight back, you’ve got reason to be proud of yourself. That’s what this was. This was a Celtics win right here, man.”
Of course, Garnett proved a big part of that win, notching his second straight double-double and fifth of the season. More importantly, he helped hold All-NBA center Dwight Howard to fewer than 20 points.
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