|Fast Break: Celtics capture 14th straight||12.22.10 at 10:11 pm ET|
Despite a poor shooting night, the Celtics held on for an 84-80 victory over the 76ers at the Garden on Wednesday night (recap), stretching their NBA-best winning streak to 14 games heading into a Christmas Day showdown in Orlando.
The Celtics made 10-of-12 free throws in the final four minutes — including a pair by Ray Allen with 5.6 seconds remaining — and Kevin Garnett blocked an Andre Iguadola shot with 14 seconds left to preserve an 82-80 lead, as the C’s held on to improve their Eastern Conference-leading record to 23-4. Allen scored a game-high 22 points, while Shaquille O’Neal (13 points, 9 rebounds), Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Pierce (11 points) all reached double figures.
Elton Brand totaled 16 points and 12 rebounds for Philadelphia before fouling out in the final minutes.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Relying on defense: It’s the staple of their success. Even when the Celtics aren’t shooting well, they can still play defense. They held the 76ers to 80 points on 43.1 percent shooting from the field (28-of-65), they forced 13 turnovers and everybody crashed the boards, as seven different Celtics had at least four boards.
Allen’s hot start: While most of his teammates struggled from the floor to start the game, Allen scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first quarter, helping the Celtics establish an early 23-17 lead. In all, Allen netted his game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting. He also made 5-of-6 free throws, including the game-clinching pair.
Cameo appearances: Off the bench, Von Wafer had his best performance of the season, scoring five points on a nifty up-and-under layup and big second-half 3-pointer. Avery Bradley showed a glimpse of his talent, picking Louis Williams’ pocket and converting on the other end. And Marquis Daniels totaled four points, four rebounds and five assists — including a nice alley-oop to O’Neal.
WHAT WENT WRONG
A rare poor shooting night: The Celtics aren’t used to shooting less than 50 percent from the field. In fact, they entered Wednesday night’s game against the 76ers shooting 51.2 percent as a team for the season.
However, against Philadelphia, they shot just 17-of-46 (37.0 percent) in the first half — scoring only 38 points and entering halftime with a six-point deficit at home against a team with an 11-17 record. For the game, the Celtics shot just 38.8 percent (31-of-80).
Foul trouble: Nate Robinson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had to sit for extended periods in the second half as they all picked up their fourth fouls in the third quarter. O’Neal got into some foul trouble of his own in the first half, as he sat out the last three minutes of the half.
After all was said and done, the Celtics’ reserves played a combined 38 minutes, and given the state of their bench due to the number of injuries that have piled up, that wasn’t going to translate into positive results.
Technical difficulties: In the third quarter, Garnett and Pierce each picked up technical fouls following calls against the Celtics — adding insult to injury. Doc Rivers wasn’t too happy with the officiating either, as he had a pointed discussion with referee Scott Foster midway through the third quarter. After a minute, Foster walked away from the conversation, shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head.
|Ray Allen drops some NBA knowledge||12.17.10 at 12:14 am ET|
The mood in the Celtics locker room was light. Extremely light. A bunch of the players were eager to leave and get some food together, but Ray Allen stayed behind to answer every last one of the reporters’ questions.
He sounded like a future NBA coach, discussing everything from rivalries to winning streaks to what today’s young players are lacking. Here’s what Allen, who scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, had to say after the Celtics’ 12th consecutive victory, a 102-90 win over the Hawks …
If the Knicks aren’t your rival, then who is?
(Waiting, waiting, waiting …) “I don’t really look at a Western Conference team, because we don’t play them enough. The playoff teams we’ve played are definitely rivals. In the Eastern Conference, we talked about Detroit … but they’re done. Cleveland’s now done. Orlando right now is the team that we’d have to say is our rivals.
“To me, it’s all based on playoffs. The regular season gets you warmed up for it, because you know you’re going to see them. You want to leave something for them to think about.”
How have the Big Three avoided the injury bug?
(Knocking on wood) “With me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin [Garnett], it’s not about the prestige of the job, it’s about the game itself. It’s about playing basketball and doing whatever you need to do to stay heatlhy and take care of our bodies.
“That’s one thing between the three of us — whether we’re in the weight room or getting up shots — we’re going to do whatever we need to do to help this team.”
Are you surprised by Semih Erden’s success so far this season?
“I’m not surprised at all. He’s got great promise. He’s very talented. I think we all forget that he’s a rookie. We expect a lot from him in that position, and it’s only going to make him better in the long run. …
“I played with a lot of young big men who were just doomed, because they had nobody to offer tutelage, that had been through it and had done some good things in the league. For him to come here is probably one of the biggest blessings he could ever ask for. He probably doesn’t realize it now, but 6-7 years down the road he’s going to realize how special it was for him.”
How important are the veterans to Erden’s success?
“Whether they’re on the business side or player development, I don’t see enough past players on rosters. There’s too many young guys in the league nowadays who need the expertise on how to play this game — not just putting the ball in the whole but understanding how to be a teammate, be a professional, be that guy who knows how to take a hard foul. We don’t have those guys anymore.”
How was the offense different with Nate Robinson running the show?
“Offensively, we didn’t have a great rhythm early in the game. Even a week ago, when [Rajon] Rondo was out, it was different, because Shaq was out there and he gave us a better rhythm with Nate out there.
“[Thursday], it was different. We had to figure it out all over again with Nate and Semih out there. It took a while. About the third or fourth quarter, we established a rhythm offensively and then we locked down.”
Are you impressed by the team’s 12-game winning streak?
“Not really. If I had to guess who we beat these past 12 games, I couldn’t tell you. It’s behind me. I don’t have to worry about those teams we played.
“When you lose a game, that always haunts you. When you watch the highlights on SportsCenter, it kinda jabs you in the side knowing you lost to them the last time you played.”
Why do you think the team has had more success against the so-called “athletic” teams this season?
“A lot of that is Kevin being a little bit healthier, just having his legs underneath him. I don’t know what he’s averaging rebound-wise, but he’s bringing them down and he’s keeping those other guys off the glass. … It does make a difference when you keep those young guys off the glass.”
Even with a 21-4 record, can the Celtics still improve?
“I think we can work on everything. There’s not one thing we can’t improve on.”
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics’ homecourt advantage||12.09.10 at 11:24 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Asked, simply, if the Celtics enjoy a true homecourt advantage in Boston, Ray Allen responded, even more simply, “Always.”
Which is why last season’s 24-17 home record is all the more puzzling. After Wednesday’s victory against the Nuggets, the Celtics are 10-1 in the Garden. Their best 11-game stretch last year was 8-3 (also to start the season). Whatever the reason, the Celtics have regained the homecourt advantage they enjoyed when they finished 35-6 in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
“I think we do [have an advantage], just because our fans are the best in the world,” Nate Robinson said. “Other teams know when they’re coming here, they’re going to get the best of our fans every time they come.”
In theory, or at least in my theory, the Celtics benefit from fan support in the first quarter (when fans are fired up for the tip) and second half (when the game is more interesting — and important). A second-quarter letdown is understandble, considering the Celtics, their fans and opponents are getting comfortable at that point.
The stats certainly support that theory. Take a look at the team’s plus/minus in each quarter this season:
HOME: +54 (Q1), -2 (Q2), +30 (Q3), +18 (Q4)
ROAD: +51 (Q1), +44 (Q2), +12 (Q3), -8 (Q4)
|Fast Break: Celtics drop the Nuggets||12.08.10 at 9:41 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett added 17 points and nine rebounds, Paul Pierce also poured in 17 and Glen Davis contributed 16 points off the bench, as the Celtics won their eight straight and improved to 17-4 (10 of 11 at home).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Hot start: The Celtics went 7-for-7 in the first 3:20, jumping out to a 16-4 lead and forcing the Nuggets to call timeout in hopes of cooling them off. It never happened. While Denver cut the lead to one late in the second quarter, the C’s never relinquished that lead and shot 55.9 percent for the game.
For the first quarter, the Celtics shot 68.4 percent as a team to take a 35-21 lead (their second-highest first-quarter output of the season). And the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen led the way, shooting a combined 12-of-16 from the floor in the opening 12 minutes.
Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 17 of their 21 first-half field goals. That pace cooled off a bit as the lead got comfortable, and the C’s finished with 26 assists on 38 field goals.
Rajon Rondo, of course, led the way with 13 dimes in 30 minutes, while Allen and Pierce chipped in with four apiece. The C’s entered the game averaging more assists than any other team in the league. Rondo’s sensational season, along with the team’s knack for making the extra pass, is the reason the Celtics are also best shooting team in the NBA.
Interior offense: Taking advantage of the Nuggets’ lack of a 7-footer underneath, the Celtics pounded the ball into the post. That led to two positives: a ton of points in the paint, and a ton of free-throw attempts. The C’s outscored the Nuggets 38-28 in the paint, while Allen, Pierce, Davis and Shaquille O’Neal each got to the line at least five times.
In all, the Celtics shot 36 free throws, making 25 of them. They entered the game averaging 23.2 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 25.2 foul shots per game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Stopping Lawson: As good as Rondo looked in the passing game, he appeared equally as poor defensively. Whether it was his hamstring or feet bothering him, Rondo appeared a step slower than usual. As a result, Nuggets backup point guard Ty Lawson took advantage — totaling 24 points and seven assists. On multiple occasions, he took it right at Rondo, and the C’s point guard put up little defense.
Sloppy second quarter: In a span of 6:52 in the second quarter, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Pierce, O’Neal and Rondo all committed turnovers. During that same span, the Nuggets cut what was an 18-point Celtics lead to a 52-51 C’s advantage with three minutes to play in the first half.
Star watch: In the first 11 home games of the season, Celtics fans have already missed out on three of the league’s biggest draws, as Kevin Durant, John Wall and — on Wednesday night — Anthony didn’t play due to injury when their teams visited the Garden.
The Thunder and Nuggets visit Boston just once all season, so the C’s faithful will have to wait until the 2011-12 season to catch two of the NBA’s biggest established stars in person. Fortunately, the Wizards play in Boston again on April 8, so Rookie of the Year candidate Wall has another shot at a Boston debut.
|Fast Break: Celtics hold off Blazers||12.01.10 at 10:15 pm ET|
The Celtics led 96-80 with 5:09 left in the game, but the Blazers went on a 15-point run that closed the gap to one point in the final minute — until Paul Pierce found Allen in the corner.
Pierce netted a game-high 28 points to go along with seven rebounds, as the Celtics improved 14-4 on the season. Kevin Garnett (17), Glen Davis (16), Shaquille O’Neal (14) and Rajon Rondo (10) also reached double digits in scoring.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Pierce asserted himself: With the Celtics trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, Pierce took action — creating offense for himself. A nifty driving layup as he faked two defenders got him going, jumpstarting a 10-point second quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers that got the C’s back into the game.
Pierce didn’t miss his first shot until five minutes remained in the third quarter. In all, he finished with 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point range).
Big Baby buries jumpers: In a span of 2:49, Davis scored eight straight third-quarter points — including three 20-foot jump shots — to help the Celtics stay within striking distance of the Blazers. He scored 16 points on the night on 7-of-9 shooting.
Combined, Pierce and Davis scored 20 of the Celtics’ 31 third-quarter points, leading an otherwise stagnant offensive effort and giving the C’s a seven-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Shaq showing hustle: O’Neal turned in another solid performance. Running the floor throughout his 26 minutes, he totaled 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and he even made four of his six foul shots. His rebounding could’ve used some work, though, as he finished with just four boards on the night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Too many turnovers: How could the Celtics shoot 61 percent from the field while holding the Blazers to 45 percent shooting and still trail by one at the half? One word: Turnovers.
In the first quarter alone, the Celtics committed seven turnovers, including careless traveling violations on consecutive possessions by Garnett and Pierce. Meanwhile, the Blazers turned the ball over just twice in the first 12 minutes, taking a 26-20 lead into the second quarter.
In all, the Celtics committed 17 turnovers, resulting in 19 Trail Blazers points.
Wesley Matthews happened: Shooting from pretty much everywhere on the court, Matthews shot a blistering 5-of-7 from beyond the arc (8-of-13 altogether), dropping 23 points on Allen and the Celtics.
On the other end, the stronger Matthews chased Allen around screen after screen, holding the Celtics shooting guard to just 2-of-11 shooting and six points — until Allen’s last-second 3-pointer that clinched the game.
Defensive rebounding: As if the Celtics’ 17 turnovers didn’t give the Trail Blazers enough extra possessions, Portland also collected seven offensive boards — including a putback dunk by LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points) that gave the Blazers an eight-point cushion in the third quarter. As a result, the Blazers outscored the Celtics 42-38 in the paint.
|Video: Celtics react to loss to Thunder||11.20.10 at 12:25 am ET|
|Irish Coffee: How the (Delonte) West has won||11.17.10 at 11:38 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Regardless of the weapons charges, his subsequent suspension, his reported scuffle with Von Wafer, the only thing that matters now is this: Does Delonte West‘s presence in the lineup make the Celtics a better team?
Since the Celtics traded him to Seatte three years ago, West played 185 games for the SuperSonics and Cleveland Cavaliers. In the same three seassons, those teams played a total of 143 games without him in the lineup — giving us a nice sample size to measure his value to a team. The results are fairly decisive …
With West: 117-68 (.632 winning percentage)
Without West: 75-68 (.525 winning percentage)
(NOTE: Because West was traded from Seattle to Cleveland midway through the 2007-08 season, those teams played 103 games without him.)
In 57 games off the bench for the Cavs last season, West averaged 9.0 points, 3.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 25.8 minutes while shooting 45.4 percent from the field, 33.8 from 3-point range and 82.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Outside of Glen Davis, those numbers are better than any other Celtics reserve this season — regardless of position. In fact, ever since they sent him to Seattle in the Ray Allen deal, the C’s have been searching for a guy like West, who can both spell Rajon Rondo at the point and assume a scoring load on the second unit.
The Celtics signed Sam Cassell in 2007-08 and Stephon Marbury in 2008-09 before trading for Nate Robinson last season. Let’s see how their contributions to the C’s compared to West’s production off the bench for the Cavaliers last season (leader in bold) …
- 2009-10 West (57 games): 25.8 minutes, 9.0 points, 3.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 45.4 FG%, 33.8 3-PT FG% and 82.5 FT%.
- 2009-10 Robinson (26 games): 14.7 minutes, 6.5 points, 2.0 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 40.1 FG%, 41.4 3-PT FG% and 61.5 FT%.
- 2008-09 Marbury (23 games): 18.0 minutes, 3.8 points, 3.3 assists, 1.2 rebounds, 0.4 steals, 34.2 FG%, 24.0 3-PT FG% and 46.2 FT%.
- 2007-08 Cassell (17 games): 17.6 minutes, 7.6 points, 2.1 assists, 1.8 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 38.5 FG%, 40.9 3-PT FG% and 84.0 FT%.
In terms of plus/minus, Robinson was a minus-53 last season when he was on the floor for the Celtics. IN 2008-09, Marbury was a minus-28. In 2007-08, Cassell was just a plus-17. Meanwhile, West was a plus-731 over the last three years. Essentially, with him on the floor, his teams have outscored opponents by an average of 4.0 points a game.
Clearly, West offers the C’s best option at guard off the bench in the Big Three era.
(For the record, my favorite line from the video that accompanies this blog is obviously: “You’d better have my doughnuts.” I’m going to start saying that to everybody I work with.)
RAY ALLEN SEPARATES CELTICS
The difference between the Celtics and Miami Heat, according to Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thompsen? Ray Allen. Despite being considered the fourth man on the C’s new Big Four, the 35-year-old shooting guard ranks second on the team in minutes (39.7, behind Rondo at 41.1) and points (18.8, behind Paul Pierce at 21.0) while shooting a blistering 45.9 percent from 3-point land.
“I know how to manage being part of the team and being productive,” Allen told SI. “You can never let it slip. Like you can’t say, ‘OK, I’m going to just take it by the wayside [and relax].’ You’ve still got to get your shots up and take care of your body and make sure you’re eating right and sleeping right. The minute you start thinking, ‘Well, I don’t want to do this anymore,’ or you start slowing down, then that’s when your game slows down and people start giving you less responsibility.”
Averaging 2.8 3-pointers per game this season, Allen is just 89 treys away from breaking Reggie Miller‘s all-time record. At the rate he’s going this fall, he’ll break the mark around the All-Star break. Just for fun, let’s take a loot at Allen vs. Miller at age 35 …
- Allen: 39.7 minutes, 18.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 47.9 FG%, 45.9 3-PT FG% and 91.7 FT%.
- Miller: 39.3 minutes, 18.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 44.0 FG%, 36.6 3-PT FG% and 92.8 FT%.
MEET JOHN WALL
If Wall is anything like Rondo, though, he’ll play, just to guage his level of play against one of the best point guards in the leagu — even if he doesn’t consider Rondo among the NBA‘s elite.
If you’ll recall, in Grant Wahl‘s Sports Illustrated piece on Wall as a freshman at the University of Kentucky, he listed “today’s gold standard: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose.” Absent from the list was Rondo — the only guy to also play at Kentucky.
Speaking of the two point guards, in ESPN’s NBA Awards Watch, Rondo currently ranks second in the MVP race, while Wall ranks first among Rookie of the Year candidates.
HOW THE WEST WOULD BE WON
Well, we started with Delonte West, and we’ll end with him. While reintroducing West to Boston fans, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recall the romantic advice he gave to ESPN’s Page 2 during his previous tenure in the city. Here are a few highlights …
“So, I pick her up in my white convertible. From there, I’d have the music pumping on the radio. The Jim Jones pumping, you know, ‘Summer in Miami’ pumping. Got to keep a little gangsta; you can’t be too soft. You can’t be in there playing some guy that’s crying, talking about don’t leave me and love me baby, wah wah and all that. So Jim Jones pumping and then from there, wind blowing through the hair, boom, we get straight to the point — we eat afterwards because I don’t want to kiss no onions. I don’t want to kiss you tasting like onions and steak and mushrooms and everything.”
“We’re going to my yacht. We’ll pull up at the docks and got a guy waiting for us, open our door up and we walk down a lit-up dock and onto the yacht, where we have dinner set up on the boat and we just cruise out on the water. Sit down and have some dinner, some shrimps and steaks, keep it nice and breezy. Pop some bottles, some Moet Rose. The red Moet, we ain’t popping no Kristal, it tastes like urination. We ain’t popping no Kris, that’s $500 a bottle. It ain’t that serious. It ain’t going to get you drunk. Make sure you put that in there. We ain’t doing a $500 bottle, we’re doing a $99 wine and dine.”
“One more thing: When we’re on the yacht eating, we’re going to have some Popeye’s chicken. That’s for dinner. It’s to let her know, put a mental image on her mind, first and foremost, if you ain’t from the hood, you don’t like Popeye’s chicken. Everyone there loves Popeye’s chicken and the biscuits — phew. But that’s just getting it on her mind, saying, you know, ‘Yeah, I can wine and dine you, but I’m a little rough around the edges and I’m keeping it real with you. I can be romantic, but this is real, we’re going to eat some chicken tonight. Chicken and biscuits.'”
“OK, so from there, we’re doing a midnight skinny-dipping jump. Alright? From there, hopefully she’s got money because I hope Jaws gets her, boom, make sure she got me in the will, bank, I’m good. Oh well, shark got her! Jaws got her.”
So, let me get this straight: The perfect romantic night is a pre-onions hookup followed by a Popeye’s chicken and biscuits dinner with Moet Rose (not Kristal, because it tastes like urination) and, finally, a skinny-dipping expedition where your date hopefully gets eaten by a shark. Got it.
Actually, I think if you follow the exact opposite of West’s advice, you’ll be good.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
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