|Fast Break: The Truth sets Celtics free||01.22.12 at 3:37 pm ET|
The Celtics have been waiting for Paul Pierce to arrive, and the captain delivered on Sunday afternoon in a 100-94 road win over the Wizards. Pierce scored 34 points to go with seven rebounds and 10 assists and looked like the Pierce of old, as opposed to an old version of Paul Pierce.
While Pierce helped lead the Celtics’ best offensive performance in weeks, the team’s defense was routinely burned in transition by the younger, faster Wizards and a double-digit third quarter lead quickly evaporated. The Celtics were able to hold on down the stretch thanks to Pierce and solid games from Brandon Bass — 13 points and nine rebounds — and Kevin Garnett, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
They were once again without Rajon Rondo, who missed his second straight game with a sprained right wrist. They also lost Ray Allen to a sprained left ankle early in the second quarter. He went back to the locker room and did not return.
The Celtics had lost six of seven games heading into Sunday and are now 6-8. Half of their wins have come against Washington, but they’ll take them any way they can get them right now. They’re back in action on Monday at the Garden against the Magic as Glen Davis makes his return to Boston.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Pierce had his breakout game for the Celtics, doing a little bit of everything. His effect on his teammates was evident by his 10 assists. When the Wizards doubled him off pick and rolls he found Bass for a jumper. He also got Garnett going in the second half with solid pick-and-pop action.
— The Celtics had assists on 13 of 16 makes in the first half and had much better ball movement and spacing than in recent games. That went away in the second half as they relied on Pierce to generate their offense, but it was a positive step.
— Mickael Pietrus had to play big minutes after Allen jammed his left ankle and the veteran swingman played well. He knocked down two 3-pointers, but he also went to the post and drew a foul and put the ball on the floor to create a jump shot. Pietrus also committed two bad fouls in the fourth quarter, but he played well in his first game with major minutes.
— Bass also had a solid game, scoring 13 points to go with nine rebounds. He looked much more comfortable in the Celtics’ sets and had a strong finish going through JaVale McGee.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— Allen began the game making three of his first four shots as the Celtics made a concerted effort to get him off screens. But Allen jammed his left ankle early in the second quarter when he ran around a screen set by the Wizards’ Jan Vesely. There was no contact on the play. Allen went back to the locker room and did not return.
— E’Twaun Moore has had his moments thus far in his rookie season, but so far that hasn’t translated into production. He’s made only one of his last 15 shots. Marquis Daniels has also struggled and beyond Bass and Pietrus, the Celtics bench has yielded few results.
— Avery Bradley remains a work in progress. He took several wild shots and careened into three Wizards on the fast break and got called for a charge. Bradley had six rebounds and seven assists, but he also was 1-for-8 from the floor and 1-for-4 from the free throw line with six turnovers. Wizards guard John Wall had his way with him on the defensive end, scoring 27 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
|Avery Bradley’s successful first NBA start||01.21.12 at 1:44 am ET|
In the first quarter of Friday night’s loss against the Suns, Avery Bradley picked off a pass at midcourt and converted an easy layup. In the fourth quarter, Bradley lunged after a loose ball underneath Boston’s basket, saving a possession that led to a score.
That’s his job: Provide energy and defense.
“It builds my confidence a lot,” said Bradley. “Every game I play I know what Doc [Rivers] and my teammates expect from me — to bring that energy every time I step on the floor.”
He was tasked with defending two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Bradley felt his best chance to combat the 37-year-old was to antagonize him with aggressive defense.
“I tried to get him tired,” Bradley said. “[I] picked him up full court to let him know I was going to bother him the whole game.”
|Paul Pierce: ‘Of course’ I still want to retire a Celtic||at 12:59 am ET|
This isn’t the first time Celtics captain Paul Pierce‘s name has emerged in trade discussion. Prior to the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007, rumors consistently swirled that team president Danny Ainge would deal his star and enter full-blown rebuild mode. Flash forward five years, same story.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been down that road,” said Pierce, addressing the issue for the first time after the Celtics suffered their sixth loss in seven games, 79-71 at home to the Suns, “but I don’t think about it actually.”
In the midst of a 5-9 start and the first real signs that this might truly be the end of another Big Three era in Boston, Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this week that several contending teams made inquiries about Pierce’s potential availability before the March 15 trade deadline. Then CBSSports.com reported Friday that Ainge may be willing to wait 10 or more games before deciding to deal one of his three stars.
“It’s just obvious,” Ainge told WEEI’s Big Show on Thursday. “Of course if we get the opportunity to make a trade that will help our team, we’ll do it. I guess I was stating obvious answers and it became like a really big story. We’ve all known there’s a window for this group, so we’re constantly evaluating that and been evaluating it for the last couple of years. I don’t have anything on the books. I don’t have have anything imminent. There’s nothing out there that I’m actively doing. I’m being patient with this group of guys.”
As Pierce said, this isn’t his first rodeo. He’s seen teammates from Antoine Walker to Kendrick Perkins come and go. “I understand,” he said. “What the Celtics have done for me in my career, I’m more than happy. They’ve kept me this long, and I’ve been able to play in a lot of good situations. You’ve got to understand the business.”
|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 »
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