|Fast Break: Rockets shoot past Celtics||01.10.11 at 10:06 pm ET|
This is not how Doc Rivers and the Celtics envisioned starting a season-long six-game homestand.
The Rockets came to Boston without the services of their leading scorer, as Kevin Martin was out with a sore right wrist. They had lost their last five and six of seven.
But the Celtics fell behind at halftime and couldn’t overcome the energy of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola and the rest of the Rockets in a 108-102 loss to Houston Monday night at TD Garden. (Recap.) It’s the third straight win for Houston in Boston.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Defense: Quite simply, on a night when Kevin Garnett remained in street clothes, it wasn’t there in this one. Forget the fact that Houston shot 53 percent for the game — they made 11 of 19 shots in the third quarter alone to build a six-point lead heading into the fourth. Worse yet, every time the Celtics got a big lay-up from Paul Pierce or an offensive rebound or jumper from Glen Davis, the Rockets not only scored on the next possession, but got very open looks, including Aaron Brooks on a killer 3-ball with 4:26 left that put Rockets up, 101-90. Another three by Brooks with 3:10 left put Houston up by 12.
Glen Davis’ stamina: He worked hard but looked very, very tired in the third quarter. He had huge problems keeping up with Scola in the third quarter as the Rockets improbably built upon their lead by going inside and the Celtics didn’t play very good defense, allowing Houston to score 30 in the quarter on 58 percent shooting. Rivers was also on Davis early about the number of passes he was dishing out and the Celtics were guilty of shot clock violations on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter.
Not taking Kyle Lowry seriously: Yes, the Rockets didn’t have their leading scorer, Martin - out with a sore right wrist. But the Celtics apparently forgot that Lowry is very quick and developing as a legitimate two-way guard in his fourth year. Lowry played 18 minutes in the first half and had 11 points. But more than that, the former Villanova Wildcat brought the energy on both sides of the court. It continued into the third quarter as he took it to the basket just like he did when he played with Randy Foye and Allan Ray on the Main Line. Tough kid.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Marquis Daniels and the bench: After a rough showing on Saturday night in Chicago, the Celtics’ bench woke up Wednesday out of necessity as Daniels led the way, making 7-of-8 shots from the field and finishing with 19 points, tied with Allen for the team lead. He also chipped in with seven rebounds. He played practically the entire fourth quarter as Rivers held Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’Neal on the bench.
Domination in the paint: When they made the commitment to get there, the Celtics owned the paint, with mid-range jumpers, cuts and lay-ups. They finished with a 48-22 advantage over the Rockets.
Ray Allen takes a licking and keeps on ticking: The last thing – obviously – the Celtics need is another star to go down with an injury, and so the sight of Allen taking a vicious hit on a blindside pick early in the fourth quarter was troubling for Boston. But after Allen had his left shoulder examined briefly by trainer Ed Lacerte, he returned with five minutes to go. He drilled a 3-pointer with 2:10 left to bring the Celtics to within seven, 106-99.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics’ shooting aim historically high||at 1:42 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
In the past 20 seasons, only a handful of teams have shot at least .500 from the field for an entire season. Despite shooting just .378 against the Bulls on Saturday night, the Celtics are still shooting .502 as a team this year, keeping pace with some pretty remarkable company historically.
Here are the teams that have shot better than .500 for an entire season since 1991-92:
- 1994-95 Utah Jazz (.512)
- 1991-92 Chicago Bulls (.508)
- 1991-92 Golden State Warriors (.507)
- 2008-09 Phoenix Suns (.504)
- 1996-97 Utah Jazz (.504)
- 1994-95 Orlando Magic (.502)
- 2007-08 Phoenix Suns (.500)
There are plenty of conclusions to draw based on that list. Here are a few:
- Of those seven teams, two — the 1991-92 NBA champion Bulls and 1994-95 Magic — reached the NBA Finals.
- The guys who those offenses ran through: Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Hardaway — which means Rajon Rondo would join some pretty remarkable players.
- The fact that the 1984-85 Lakers shot .545 from the field for the season is simply ridiculous.
- The last time the Celtics eclipsed .500 was in 1990-91, when Larry Bird & Co. shot .512 for the season.
The overwhelming positive for the Celtics is that they’re only allowing their opponents to shoot .437 from the field — better than any of the seven teams on that list. Six of those teams let their opponents shoot better than .450, and only the 1996-97 Jazz came close to this year’s C’s, allowing their opponents to shoot .438 from the field.
|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.
|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.
|Irish Coffee: Ray Allen ‘really isn’t Jesus’||at 12:37 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Considering Ray Allen has shot 89.4 percent from the free-throw line in his career, he’ll miss two straight about once every 100 times he goes to the charity stripe.
And that’s exactly what happened with eight seconds left as the Celtics clung to a 105-103 lead against the Spurs — owners of the NBA‘s best record. Thankfully, for Allen and the C’s, Paul Pierce blocked Manu Ginobili‘s last-second 24-footer to preserve the victory.
“I would’ve put my whole salary that he made at least one,” said Glen “Big Baby” Davis. “I would’ve been in trouble. It’s Ray Allen. It just goes to show you he’s really not Jesus. You know? I swear to God … if he misses, I’m like, ‘That must be Ray Allen.’ When he makes it, every time I think it’s Jesus Shuttlesworth. I swear. I’m surprised when he misses.”
Obviously, the mention of Jesus was a reference to Allen’s character in the film “He Got Game”. But even Jesus Shuttlesworth couldn’t make 13-of-16 shots from the field, as Allen did Wednesday night.
“I was pretty confident in Ray going to the line, but he’s human,” added Rajon Rondo. “He did almost everything else perfect today, so you can fault him. The bottom line is we got the win.”
Allen is shooting 50.1 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range — both career highs for a single season. That’s saying something, considering Allen has been considered one of the league’s best shooters since entering the NBA in 1996.
“Ray needs to work on his shooting a bit,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joked. “He only hit 13 out of 16. If it was practice and you did pindowns and you came off of that, I don’t know if anyone in the league would hit 13 out of 16. He does it in a game.”
|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.
|Paul Pierce ‘forgot’ Rajon Rondo was back playing||01.04.11 at 9:45 am ET|
Rajon Rondo can be the quiet type in the locker room but when he’s on the court everyone knows he’s out there by his leadership and presence — at least almost everyone.
Doc Rivers pulled Paul Pierce aside at halftime during Monday night’s survival test against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves and reminded him that he didn’t need to run the offense and distribute when Rondo was on the court.
All good intentions aside, getting others involved wasn’t working out that well for Pierce and the Celtics. He had just five points and had handed out just one assist as the C’s trailed, 47-43.
“Doc at the half wanted me to be a little more aggressive,” Pierce said. “I was out there trying to make plays and I forgot that we had Rondo out there doing that so I can go back to my customary role of scoring the ball. That’s what I tried to do in the second half.”
As any coach would, Rivers wanted Pierce to do what he does best.
“I thought Paul in the first half tried way too hard to get everybody else involved,” Rivers said of his captain, who leads the team at 19.0 points per game. “And I told him that at halftime. I said, ‘Paul, you no longer have to be the play maker. We need you to be the aggressive scorer.’ And even he, right after the game he walked up to me and it was the first thing he said was, ‘Ah, gosh, I was, I was way too passive.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, I just thought you were trying to set everybody else up,’” Rivers continued. “Consciously, you know, twice he had shots and he passed it to Nate [Robinson]. Nate’s struggling with his shot right now, but I still want Paul to shoot the ball if he’s open. And I just thought he did a little too much of that tonight.”
Pierce heard Rivers loud and clear after the intermission, remembered that Rondo was indeed in his second game back, and lit up the T’Wolves for 18 second-half points as the Celtics rallied for a 96-93 win.
Once Pierce did allow Rondo to run the show, Pierce and the rest of the team reaped the rewards.
“We got Ray [Allen] open, I thought that was the key,” Pierce said. “Rondo really pushed the ball. Got some really good looks. Defense buckled down so we were able to make a run and get back into the game. Rondo with a big shot and some big passes [to] [Shaquille O'Neal] and that’s what he’s capable of doing and that’s why I’m glad to have him back.”
Observers might have wondered if his sprained right ankle from Sunday night in Toronto might have been affecting his play in the first half.
“A little bit. I was a little stiff, slow,” Pierce admitted. “But, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Just going to get treatment throughout the week. I don’t see any problems coming up.”
That’s good news for Wednesday as the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs come calling at the Garden. In that matchup, thanks to the second half of Monday’s contest, no one will need to remind Pierce about Rondo when No. 9 is on the court.