|Celts’ struggles, by the numbers||11.23.09 at 2:37 pm ET|
After 14 games, the Celtics are 10-4, comfortably in first place in their division and just one game behind the league leaders (Atlanta, Orlando and Phoenix, who all beat the Celtics in the last 10 days). The Celtics also have the NBA’s best point differential at +8.8, and point differential is a more reliable indicator than record.
Despite all that, something seems wrong with the Celtics, who needed overtime to get past a dreadful Knicks team and have lost three of their last five, with all three losses coming against the aforementioned teams with better records. So, what gives?
First, their record and point differential are skewed from the first five games of the season, when the C’s ran roughshod over the league and people started seriously considering 72 wins. The Celtics won the next game, 92-90, against Minnesota, but that’s when their play started to slip.
Point differential: +21.6
Points for: 101.4
Points against: 79.8
Point differential: +1.7
Point for: 96.7
Points against: 95
By far the biggest slip in terms of individual offensive numbers belongs to Rasheed Wallace, who made 15 of his first 33 3-point attempts through the first five games and has been 7-for-48 from beyond the arc ever since. Wallace has acknowledged that he’s in a slump, but the general consensus is that he is taking good shots and they’re just not falling for him. That happens. On the positive side, it has not affected Wallace’s defense.
Ray Allen has been a similar 3-point shooting slump, although not nearly as pronounced. Through five games, Allen was 9-for-21. He is 7-for-29 in the last nine. Despite shooting 32 percent from 3-point range, Allen has continued to be a productive offensive player by shooting 57 percent on his 2-point shots (60-for-106).
Digging a little bit deeper, 82games.com has Allen as the Celtics’ most productive player in terms of on-court plus/minus with Wallace second, so while their shooting slumps may account for the Celtics’ drop offensively, the real issue is a defense that went from giving up less than 80 points a night (a number that is skewed by holding Charlotte to 59 points) to one that is surrendering 95.
After we plow through the numbers on 82games.com, a few things stand out.
The C’s defense on jump shots is worse than last year (.433, 48.1 points per game vs. .417, 43.4 points per game) and they are also struggling defending teams at the end of the shot clock compared to last season (.491 compared to .447). This brings up something Doc Rivers said last week:
“Some of our defensive sets have been very good, and then with five seconds left on the clock the guy dribbling the ball gets all the way to the basket and that’s not just the guy guarding the ball.”
That speaks to effort, fatigue or just plain understanding the defensive system. It’s probably safe to rule out effort with this group, and “understanding the system” should work itself out in time, but it does explain Rivers saying that the team was “making stuff up” after the Orlando loss. That leaves fatigue, and it’s worth noting that the Celtics’ biggest wins during this stretch — Utah and Golden State — came after multiple days off.
That, in a nutshell, is what makes people wary about the Celtics come playoff time. The good news is that we are a long way from April, and most teams would love to struggle out of the gate at 10-4. To be sure, there are other issues, particularly a lack of offensive rebounding and fewer trips to the free throw line, but age will continue to be the dominant theme from here on out.
|Magic know formula to beat Celtics||11.21.09 at 12:05 am ET|
BOSTON – It has been nearly a year since the Magic faced a healthy Celtics squad. On Friday they proved they can beat the Celtics with or without Kevin Garnett.
“It’s very important especially when they are full strength to show you that we’re still a good team,” Rashard Lewis told WEEI.com after the Magic’s 83-78 victory (Recap). “You know they’re a great team. This is only one game, it’s early in the season and I definitely would not count them out at all. Every time we play the Boston Celtics it’s going to be a tough, tough game.”
The Celtics were 0-2 last regular season against the Magic without Garnett and were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Magic without him. But the truth is, the Magic have held their own against the Celtics in recent years. They improved to 5-3 against the Cs since the 2007-08 regular season.
“I think the biggest thing playing their team is not allowing them to get a lot of second chance points, hold them to one shot, and then run,” said Dwight Howard.
The Celtics actually outshot the Magic 87-to-70 from the floor, but the Magic shot 10-for-22 from three-point range while Celtics were a mere 2-for-19. Vince Carter attempted 29 field goals — “All of them weren’t open, I’ll be the first to tell you that,” he said with a laugh — the same number as Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined. Stifling the Celtics offense was a must-do for the Magic.
“You’ve got to play defense,” said Lewis. “I think every time we play this team we really buckle down on the defensive end and we try to take their main guys out – Ray Allen at the three-point line, and we try to crowd Paul Pierce and make other guys beat us. Tonight I think we did a good job of that.”
The Celtics lost their lead just three minutes into the first quarter, and the Magic held off a 17-12 fourth quarter run after Rasheed Wallace tied the game at 78 apiece. Lewis said his team regained their composure after coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout and buckled down, realizing how easily the Celtics can fight back from a double-digit deficit. The Magic diminished the Celtics homecourt advantage and held on in the TD Garden’s playoff atmosphere.
“We’re not going to do that [back down] to anybody,” said Jason Williams. “I mean, we feel that we’re just as good as anybody else. So if we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to win more times than not.”
On Friday night, like they have so many times in recent games against the Celtics, the Magic came out on top. Neither team can read too much into this victory, though. While the Magic know how to beat the Celtics, but they also know either team is capable of winning at any time.
“I don’t want to say we got their number because anything can happen on any given night,” said Lewis. “Tonight the ball kind of bounced our way and towards the end of the game we were able to get away. It’s not like we blew them out. We won by like four points so it could have easily gone the other way.”
|Magic: Can’t Afford to Foul Rondo||11.20.09 at 7:46 pm ET|
BOSTON — Even though Rajon Rondo enters Friday’s game shooting a mere 25 percent from the free throw line, the Magic are not going to give him extra trips to the charity stripe. Just because free throws have been a weakness for Rondo this season that doesn’t mean the same is true for his teammates.
“With their team you don’t want to foul unnecessarily,” said Anthony Johnson. “Even though maybe he’s not shooting well, Paul Pierce, KG, all the other guys, they’re going to draw fouls.”
In spite of Rondo’s struggle (4-16 FG), the Celtics are still in the middle of the pack around the league. Ray Allen is ranked eighth in the NBA (89.3%) while Shelden Williams and Pierce are both shooting better than 80 percent.
“If you waste your fouls on Rondo, it’s going to help them as a team get into the bonus and it’s going to give those guys free points,” Johnson said. “So as much as possible we want to keep them off the line, including him, and try to make them make tough shots over the top of us.”
The Magic have a lot more to worry about with Rondo than just free throws. They are without starting point guard Jameer Nelson (knee) and will depend on veterans Johnson and Jason Williams to contain Rondo.
“He’s a guy that plays with a lot of energy offensively and defensively so you’ve got to always keep him in front of you, don’t allow him to really dictate the tempo with his ball pressure and just putting pressure on our defense getting into the paint,” said Johnson. “So we’re going to have to keep him in front of us and not let him orchestrate and make all the big plays.”
|Ray Allen’s Ray of Hope Fundraiser||at 10:20 am ET|
Ray Allen teams up with Wyc Grousbeck and French Lick for the Ray of Hope Foundation benefit at the Lansdowne Pub.
|Kevin Garnett on D&H, 11/19||11.19.09 at 4:01 pm ET|
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett joined the Dale & Holley Show on Thursday. The Celtics star discussed his health, the challenge of returning from injury, the impact of Rasheed Wallace on the Celtics and the state of this season’s team.
Highlights are transcribed below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.
Last week Rasheed Wallace said he might not have an outside range. What’s yours, 75-feet?
Well, if you want to take that shot last night, probably about 80 to 75-feet, yeah, that’s about accurate, yeah.
You called it in the air didn’t you?
I called it when I let it go, and then Don Nelson sort of said something to me. That’s why my reaction was the way it was, because I knew when I let it go, it felt good, but you never know in those situations. I let it go, it felt good, ooh, went in.
I’m wondering if fear is the right word to use when you had a major injury for the first time in your career. When you didn’t know what was going on, were you fearful at all about what was going on in there?
I fear God and I fear my mother, that’s about the only thing in life, other than that it was just straight up pain. At one point I thought it was something that I could play through, I knew when I got home and when I was in my own personal space, that’s when I knew it was something serious. Walking up steps, sitting down, laying out on the floor, stretched out on the floor, my leg was constantly bothering me.
And you’re talking about a lot of activity, so when I really started to take it serious and the more I got educated on what was going on, that’s when I started to make decisions health wise, what was best for me. I was running like I was running with a peg leg, and Doc in practice was like, this is terrible to watch. My effort, I pretty much through was there, I tried to come back, play a couple games, I knew that I was hurt, I knew that I was really hurt, but I was trying to grind through it, trying to give Paul and the rest of these guys some support.
But I just knew at the same time I was probably making it worse by playing. I had a very, very, very rare injury, obviously bone spurs but the size of the spur was pretty irregular, and pretty dramatic. It wasn’t until I got to see it then I took it a lot more serious, but until that point I was built off hard work and dedication to your craft. I haven’t changed that since I got here, I’ve always felt like mind over matter, you know the mind tells the body, but at some point the mind has to listen to the body. Read the rest of this entry »
|Raising Ray||at 3:03 pm ET|
WALTHAM – Following today’s practice, Ray Allen will be getting ready to host a special charity event to raise money for his big turkey giveaway next week.
Tonight’s event at The Lansdowne Pub will be open to the public for a minimum $20 donation at the door, with money raised to benefit the Ray of Hope Foundation’s efforts to purchase turkey dinners for the needy for Thanksgiving.
The vouchers for next Tuesday’s giveaway have already been distributed to pre-selected families at various Centers for Youth & Families around Boston.
A limited number of VIP tables are still available tonight for $1,000 by calling 617-247-1222.
|Allen takes on second generation of shooters||11.18.09 at 7:32 pm ET|
Ray Allen reveres Dell Curry as one of the best players he ever competed against – and with – in the NBA. Ten years after playing with him on the Milwaukee Bucks, Allen is playing against Curry’s son, rookie Stephen, as the Celtics take on the Warriors.
“It doesn’t make me feel old,” Allen, 34, said before the game. “It just makes me feel privileged to be able to play in two generations of players. I always say Dell was the one guy I feared playing against because he shot the ball so quick. And then when I played with him, it was a privilege because he was the one guy that I loved watching.”
21-year-old Stephen looks forward to the match up as well. Allen was one of his favorite basketball players growing up and he has carefully watched Allen’s game with his father over the years.
“We would watch the Celtics play and he would point out how well Ray would move without the ball and how quickly he could get his shot off,” he told WEEI.com before tip-off. “I don’t think he figured out how to defend him so he couldn’t give me any advice. But you’ve just got to be able to chase him around the court because Ray Allen’s going to find a shot.”
Allen believes Stephen will find his shoot, too, but he points out the bar has been raised for the young guard.
“Dell was a pure shooter. Dell’s a big guard, Dell was pretty slow. Stephen is quicker but his jumpshoot doesn’t compare to his dad’s,” he said. “As good as Stephen’s jumpshot is, people ask me who the best star is and I say Dell Curry and Dale Ellis that I’ve seen. And so you’re talking about 30 years combined of great shooting, so that’s lineage that Stephen has to live up to.”