|Fast Break: Suns rise, Celtics fall … again||01.20.12 at 9:56 pm ET|
Friday night’s Celtics game against the Suns at the Garden was a familiar story: Get off to a slow start, fall behind by double digits, make it close and fall behind again after exerting too much energy playing from behind all night.
The final result: A 79-71 Phoenix victory in Boston.
Suns center Marcin Gortat totaled 24 points (14 in the first quarter) and 12 rebounds to lead the Suns (6-9). Steve Nash added 11 points and nine assists.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Pole position: Gortat scored almost as many points in the first quarter (14) as the Celtics (15) — on just as many field goals (7) and eight fewer shots (19-11). If Jermaine O’Neal wants to be judged on his defense, let’s just say it wasn’t so good early, and the Celtics were forced to play catch-up all night once again.
Poor paint job: The Celtics simply had nobody capable of getting to the rim and scoring. Their guards weren’t deft enough to get to the hoop, and their bigs weren’t athletic enough to get their shot off cleanly. On multiple occasions, Paul Pierce worked his way into the paint, only to be contested by a quicker defender who could simply jump higher.
Rondo a no go: Let’s face it: At this point, Rondo is the Celtics offense. Without him orchestrating and finding Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the wings or Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass for open jumpers, everything else falls apart. Even with Rondo, the Celtics offense hasn’t exactly looked pretty this season. Without him, it’s downright ugly. The Celtics succeeded in keeping their turnover total high (18), leading to 20 Phoenix points.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics weekly report card, part deux||at 2:11 pm ET|
Father Red, for it’s been two weeks since my last report card. As I’ve mentioned before, with 66 games crammed into 17 weeks, each seven-day stretch of this NBA season takes on the importance of an NFL week. As NFL writers are won’t to do, we’ll continue our (bi)weekly series of Celtics report cards. Since last marking period, when the Celtics had just won four straight, Doc Rivers and Co. have endured a five-game losing streak snapped Wednesday night against the mighty Raptors. That being said, let’s get to the grades.
MICKAEL PIETRUS: A
Last Grade: N/A
The Celtics desperately needed scoring and defense off the bench, and Pietrus has filled both roles better than cream fills a Hostess cupcake. Since debuting against the Mavericks, he’s averaged 8.2 points on 41 percent from beyond the arc in addition to snagging four steals against zero turnovers. In his last two games, he’s scored 26 points (7-13 3P), culminating in his first Celtics win and his rendition of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”
KEVIN GARNETT: B+
Last Grade: A-
Rivers wanted Garnett to take more shots, and KG listened, attempting 19 field goals in consecutive games. It worked one night (21 points at Pacers) and failed another (12 points vs. Thunder), which seems to be a running theme for Garnett 2.0, who just doesn’t have the same lift as the Timberwolves prototype. In all other aspects of his game, he’s lived up to his self-proclaimed “X-factor” role: “Whatever you need me to do, I’m gonna do.”
|Celtics encouraged despite losing five straight||01.17.12 at 10:13 am ET|
Monday night’s loss to the upstart Thunder marked the first time in the Big Three era that the team has lost five straight games, and it’s also the second time in the young season that Boston has lost three games in the span of four days. Even though the natural inclination is to panic, collectively the Celtics feel the team is improving.
“I really like the effort we had tonight,” said Paul Pierce. “I was the telling the guys if we compete like that night in and night out — we’ll get closer to where we want to be.”
Certainly it’s easy to point to Boston’s 4-8 record and feel underwhelmed at any notion of optimism, but the Celtics are starting to click individually. Now, the team needs to find some semblance of consistency.
“We’re still chasing putting four quarters of good basketball together,” said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder. “I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I’m sure if y’all rewind your tapes, I’m in a different outfit saying the same thing, but we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get this thing better. I really believe that, and you’ve got to believe that.”
Ray Allen and Brandon Bass helped carry Boston earlier this season. Bass, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Through the first seven games of the season he averaged 14 points off the bench. However, during this five-game losing streak, Bass has seen his production cut in half, only averaging 7.4 points per game.
|Kendrick Perkins: ‘I’m just really glad it’s over’||at 1:50 am ET|
After playing his first game against his former teammates since being traded for Jeff Green last February, Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins didn’t hesitate when asked if part of him still felt like a Celtic.
“Yeah,” said Perkins, the C’s starting center during the 2008 NBA title and 2010 NBA Finals runs. “I mean, I have much love and I’m greatly appreciative about being in Oklahoma and stuff like that — I love Oklahoma — but being here for eight years and winning a championship, it’s hard to replace it. Just from what I learned, it’s still got a special place in my heart here. That’s all it is.’
A night that included a Jumbotron montage in his honor and a rousing standing ovation from the Garden crowd clearly affected Perkins, who finished with seven points and five rebounds in a 97-88 Oklahoma City victory. Here’s what he had to say in his postgame press conference. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Back to back blues continue||01.14.12 at 9:33 pm ET|
It wasn’t like anyone expected the Celtics to fly out of Indiana on the second night of a back-to-back with a victory, if you needed any more evidence that they have a long way to go, it was provided in a 97-83 loss. It’s also worth noting that the Pacers were also on the second end of a back-to-back.
The starters got off to a much better offensive start, but it was the second unit that couldn’t keep the momentum going and they had nothing left in the second half. Defensively, they let the Pacers control the paint (they allowed 20 offensive rebounds) and they couldn’t keep them off the free throw line.
The one bright spot was Kevin Garnett who had a bounceback game with 21 points and six rebounds and was much more aggressive offensively. Paul Pierce also scored 21 points by getting to the free throw line and knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The bench didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus combined to shoot 3-for-10 in the first half and that was the only offense they received from the second unit. Avery Bradley was replaced by rookie E’Twaun Moore after badly bricking a jumpshot.
— Paul George is an impossible cover for Ray Allen. At 6-foot-8, there’s little that Allen can do with him and the Pacers smartly took advantage of that as George went to the free throw line six times in the first half. Pietrus came in and did a solid job defensively.
— Danny Granger is the latest small forward to have a big game on Pierce. He went for 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half and finished with 21.
— Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to shoot 6-for-17 and finished with just 13 points. Rondo did have nine assists and Allen contributed six rebounds, but Darren Collison and George put up 34 points.
WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »
The “Big 3” of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have been the backbone of the Celtics title runs in the last four seasons, winning it all in 2008, coming within a Game 7 of another in 2010 and getting to the second round of the playoffs in ’09 and last spring.
All three admitted Friday night after losing to the younger, more energetic Bulls, if they don’t help get the team off to better starts in games, they’re going nowhere.
“It’s up to the starters, and myself, to play better basketball at the start of games,” Pierce said. ‘I think we started to play better defense, and move the ball a lot better, but the bottom line is we can’t dig ourselves these holes in the first quarter. It seems like it’s getting repetitive every game, the starters need to do a better job with getting better starts. The last couple of games we’ve gotten off to poor starts and half to scratch and claw our way back and exert so much energy that by the time we catch up with them our guys are tired and can’t get over the hump.
‘I have to play better for us to win ball games and I realize that. Right now we’re going through a little lull, and we’ve just got to get through it.’
Pierce, Allen and Garnett combined to shoot 6-for-18 in the first half Friday, as the Celtics fell behind by 19 points at halftime.
“It’s very concerning,” Allen said. “Look at the stats for tonight, in the second, third and fourth, we picked up our scoring. It’s the five starters, we have to have better starts.”
“Slow start, they came out firing on all cylinders and created a hole for ourselves early,” Garnett said. “For any team, you can’t really do that. Second half was obviously a better effort. Somehow, someway we’ve got to figure out starting games with a lot more energy. You’re probably getting tired of hearing that and it’s repetitive but it’s something we have to act on and do. This ain’t perfect and we’re going to continue to work.
Garnett started the game by missing his first six shots, including 0-of-5 in the first half.
“Frustration starts with the man in the mirror,” Garnett said. “I definitely have to do better, I’m going to do better, watch tons of film and just continue to better myself and that’s all I can do. I’ll continue to encourage teammates and continue to be the glue, or one of the pieces of the glue and just stay supportive. You don’t win anything in the first month, I do know that.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics at a loss to explain slow starts||01.07.12 at 2:07 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo pushed the ball forward trying to lead a Celtics fast break as time was running out in the first half of Friday night’s game against the Pacers. Indiana thwarted any easy opportunities for the Boston point guard by getting back on defense. Rondo pulled the ball out to just beyond midcourt to receive instruction from coach Doc Rivers. Less than 10 seconds remained, though, and the Celtics found themselves out of sorts offensively. Rondo was trapped by two Indiana defenders and was forced to pass the ball to Kevin Garnett, who launched a wild, off-balance jumper to end the half.
The TD Garden crowd serenaded the Celtics with boos while they left the court with their heads hung low. The possession exemplified Boston’s dreadful 25-point first-half output. The anemic offensive display tied a franchise record set in 1995 and repeated in 1999.
“It sucks to be on the wrong side of history,” Ray Allen said. “Especially with the firepower we have, you never think we could score so few points. We can always look back and remember this game.”
Allen, who missed Wednesday’s game against the Nets due to flu-like symptoms, remarkably was the game’s high scorer at halftime with eight points. As a team, Boston shot 9-of-34 (26.5 percent) from the field in the first half. Nine of those 34 attempts came from Paul Pierce, who struggled mightily, only hitting one attempt.
Boston’s captain finished the game with 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting, to go along with a team-high five turnovers (three of which came in the first half). Even though Pierce didn’t convert his opportunities, he was satisfied with the looks he got at the basket. “I took a lot of good shots tonight,” Pierce said. “They just didn’t fall, but I feel good about [the shot selection].”
Rondo made no excuses for his team’s performance Friday night, but he noted that Pierce’s shooting struggles were something he doesn’t think the 13-year veteran will replicate going forward. Meanwhile, Jermaine O’Neal said a rare break in the schedule will give the Celtics an opportunity to sharpen their offensive execution in practice, something the compacted season has made difficult with limited off days.
Perhaps more alarming for Boston is that this is the second consecutive game the team has struggled to produce offense in the first half. Wednesday against New Jersey, the Celtics scored a paltry 34 points through 24 minutes. The Nets were playing without two starters (Deron Williams and Kris Humphries), and were only able to counter Boston with a woeful 35-point effort themselves. The Celtics found their groove offensively and would go on to enjoy 55-point second half, cruising to an 89-70 victory.
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