|Shaquille O’Neal: C’s are ‘best team I’ve been on’||11.25.10 at 1:33 am ET|
Kevin Garnett had certainly seen this from his frontcourt teammate before.
Garnett was on the Minnesota Timberwolves and Shaquille O’Neal on the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s when O’Neal – along with close friend Kobe Bryant – was leading the Lake Show to three straight NBA titles from 2000-02.
Shaq’s Lakers were always the team KG and the Wolves could never conquer out West. On Wednesday, he was reminded why.
Shaq turned back the clock 10 years, scoring 25 on 9-of-10 shooting from the field while hauling in 11 rebounds in Boston’s 89-83 win over the Nets at TD Garden. O’Neal played nearly 32 minutes, hit his last five shots from the floor and even sank a pair of key free throws which drew as loud a cheer from the sellout crowd as his alley-oop dunk moments earlier.
‘Well he has his family in town, so that’s tough to beat,” Garnett said. “I know he’s a huge family guy. His family’s not always with him, so maybe he got like a boost of adrenaline from his family or something, but he looked great I told him.
“But he looked the 2000 Shaq, the ‘99 Shaq, the 2001 and 2002 to 2003 to 2004 to 2005 to 2006. He looked fresh tonight. He looked really good. I thought he did a great job of getting us in the bonus early. He definitely was the target tonight and reload him. On this team night in and night out we are going to have a different guy from Truth to Ray to anybody, and tonight he was Shaq.’ Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Celtics catch a bad break||11.24.10 at 10:03 pm ET|
Despite falling behind by as many as 10 points in the third quarter and getting a season-high 25 points from Shaquille O’Neal to beat the New Jersey Nets at TD Garden Wednesday night, the overall mood was certainly one of concern after back-up point guard and key bench component Delonte West broke his right wrist late in the second quarter.
The Nets were powered by center Brook Lopez, who scored 16, and point guard Devin Harris, who added a team-high 20.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS:
The Big Shaq Daddy: O’Neal had unquestionably his best game in Celtics green as he was 9-of-10 from the field for a game-high 25 points, grabbing 11 rebounds. Most impressively, he was a force under the basket in his 31minutes. He was fed the ball early and often, responding with great energy and helping the Celtics outscore the Nets 44-28 in the paint.
Quisy Time: With Rajon Rondo on the sideline with a strained left hamstring, West carrying his broken right wrist and Nate Robinson in serious foul trouble at the worst time, Marquis Daniels came into the game 40 seconds in the third quarter and played 27 minutes off the bench, scoring just four point but dishing out four assists and handling the point nearly flawlessly.
Team composure: When the Celtics all saw West head to the locker room holding his right wrist, they knew he was almost certainly not returning. They didn’t mope – at least – on the court. While they fell behind by 10 early in the third, they kept going inside, attacking the Nets weakness and keeping O’Neal in the game. They had 25 assists on 35 baskets.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:
The obvious: Losing Delonte West to a broken right wrist on a lay-up with 2:48 left in the second quarter was the last thing a team with an injured Rajon Rondo needed. What makes West’s potentially extended stint away from the team so painful is he could switch seamlessly between the point and the two-guard and play exceptional defense at the same time. Remember, it was West who shut down Russell Westbrook in the fourth quarter defensively, giving the Celtics a chance to win the game against Oklahoma City.
Foul woes: Nate Robinson cannot pick up three fouls in seven minutes and his fourth foul 40 seconds into the third quarter. While Doc Rivers was defending him on the court, the Celtics coach knows Nate needs better game management and awareness while Rondo heals and West gets better. Nate did drill a huge 3-ball with 56 seconds remaining to lead a late surge that put away the Nets.
Rebounding: This team continues to struggle on the glass. They were out-rebounded, 42-33.
|Irish Coffee: It’s matter over mind for Celtics||11.23.10 at 11:47 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Pundits enjoy saying things like, “Games in November don’t matter much in the NBA,” but these Celtics are more mentally prepared only when the games matter — if that makes sense. And come playoff time, as we all know, every game means something.
Exhibit A: Last Wednesday’s 31-point blowout of the Washington Wizards. If the Celtics suffer letdowns against meaningless teams, why would they care about a Wizards team without John Wall, its newest star?
“This is a team that gave us problems last year, and we haven’t forgotten that. I haven’t,” Garnett told reporters after the win. “Paul [Pierce] and I got here and could hear [Wizards assistant coach] Sam Cassell voice about how young they were and how they were going to come at us. We made note of it. We talked about it, you know, before the game and coming out here, taking care of business. I thought we stayed with that for 48 minutes.”
Exhibit B: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green‘s Oklahoma City Thunder came to town, only Durant and Green didn’t suit up. The Celtics had already quieted the Thunder with those guys in uniform, in their house, two weeks before. They’d already proven themselves against OKC. No urgency to do it again.
“I think we underestimated that team,” Shaquille O’Neal told the media following the loss. “Shot ourselves in the foot. It’s kind of hard in this league to get up for certain people. Tonight, we disrespected the basketball gods. We paid for it.”
Exhibit C: On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the Celtics faced a Toronto Raptors club that was worse than usual, playing undermanned after a trade. The C’s thought a hard-fought first quarter and a solid six-minte stretch in the second half would be just enough effort to take care of Toronto. Think again.
I figured the home loss to OKC and a day off in between would fuel the Celtics to a blowout in Toronto. I thought this team had learned something from playing to the level of their opponents last season, but perhaps what they learned is that they can play that way — and still be successful.
The guys over at Gino’s Jungle tweeted back, “I thought a lineup of KG, Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaq and Rajon Rondo could beat a Durant and Green-less OKC, so no game’s a gimme with this team.” And they were right.
“We’re a better team than those two teams,” Pierce told reporters after the defeat. “I know we are. Just mentally, I don’t think we have the right mindset coming into these games.”
Exhibit D: Monday night in Atlanta, the game once again had meaning to the Celtics, who got swept by the Hawks last season. That led to a 99-76 dominating victory against the Hawks in Atlanta.
In the aftermath, one thing became clear: These Celtics will play hard when they want to play hard, regardless of how good of a motivational speech head coach Doc Rivers delivers before the game.
“I gave that up my first year coaching,” Rivers said postgame. “This group, that’s who they are. We’re going to have those poor nights. But I just thought the loss Sunday set the tone for us. You could feel it.”
Remember all of this evidence when people are questioning how much the aged Celtics have left in the tank entering the NBA playoffs. When these C’s have something to play for, they are great — capable of wiping the floor with mere good teams like the Atlanta Hawks.
REACTIONS FROM ATLANTA
Yup, when these Celtics play hard, they can make any team question itself. And that’s exactly what the Hawks were doing on Monday night. Head coach Larry Drew thinks his team might have had a few too many Four Lokos the night before, and Mo Evans is asking, “Who am I?” like a heartbroken girl from a teenage drama.
- “I told the guys I don’t know what you are doing the night before we play,” Drew told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t know what you are doing away from the floor. Something is going on that is not allowing us to play with an energy and passion that we should be playing with. As a head coach, I’ve got to find out what it is.”
- “The Celtics know who they are,” Evans added. “We don’t have an identity, unless it’s when things go bad we go the other way. Maybe that’s our identity and we don’t know it.”
The AJC also caught up with Shaquille O’Neal, who said he picked the Celtics over the Hawks because Boston gave him a better shot at a title. And it sounds like the Hawks agree with him.
“They have a blend of veteran players with the core of their team, and it’s a lot easier to fit in a vet like Shaq,” Drew added. “If we brought him in here, it would be a little tougher. I don’t think his personality would have fit with our guys. It makes more sense to have veteran guys around him.”
DELONTE WEST DISHES ON HIS DISORDER
CBS Sports.com senior writer Ken Berger wrote a fantastic piece on Delonte West’s battle with bipolar disorder.
However irresponsible West’s actions were when he was arrested on multiple weapons charges a year ago, it’s impossible not to root for a guy who is working as hard as he is to overcome his issues.
Here are a few highlights:
- “Bipolar is like, when things are bad to you, they seem worse and when things are good, they seem great,” West said. “I’m at a place where things are behind me and I’m focused on what I love to do.”
- “When you’re thinking about, ‘Am I going to go to jail after the season?’ and going through a tough divorce during the season, those things can weigh on you sometimes,” West said. “When you’re a professional athlete, you’ve got to be a robot sometimes. You’ve got to check your emotions at the door. But we’re humans. You can’t say, ‘OK, I’m not going to think about this,’ when it’s something to really think about. … When things are up in the air and all people can say to you, the courts and the lawyers, is, ‘You’ve got to wait and see,’ there’s a lot of nights when you’re not sleeping.”
- “There’s only one way it’s going to play out,” West said. “I want it to play out that way and it’s going to play out that way. And that’s holding the trophy at the end of June. Man, that’d be a strong chapter in the book or the movie I’m going to write one day.”
I love that last quote. It comes from a man who is taking hold of his own destiny.
“You’ve got to remember, this is just a game,” West told Tomasson. “Some people are die-hard fans and they paint their face and it’s all great. But you got to do unto others as you have unto yourself. People say something about your mother and drag your mother through something like that and your family, you’d be ready to do something yourself. So it’s sad that happened. But, you know, they hated Jesus, too. You got to keep going. So I wish [LeBron James] much success down there [in Miami] with his family, and I got to keep going here.”
|Fast break: Thunder snap Celtics home run||11.19.10 at 9:55 pm ET|
The Celtics came out flat Friday night and it cost them against the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and dished out six assists as the Thunder became the first visiting team in six tries to beat the Celtics on the parquet this season, 89-84.
It was an ugly finish as neither team converted a field goal in the last nine minutes, 20 seconds.
Durant sprained his ankle on Wednesday night and did not play.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG:
Lack of energy. Whether it was a understandable letdown from not having to gear up for Durant or losing Kevin Garnett for most of the first quarter after taking an elbow in the back of the head, the Celtics looked lethargic out of the gate. Though he played the first three minutes and hit his only field goal attempt, It showed practically from the onset of the game as the Celtics were getting beaten to loose balls and not rotating on defense, allowing the Thunder to find the open man.
No rebounding presence. The Celtics were beaten on the glass, 20-11, in the first half. Shaquille O’Neal collected four rebounds in the first half, but that led the team. Garnett – perhaps due to his early inactivity – couldn’t get going on the boards. With the lack of rebounding came foul trouble. Rondo picked up his fifth personal foul with just over six minutes left in the fourth while Shaq picked up two quick fouls to begin the second half. In all, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls in the third and the Thunder just five. Oklahoma City capitalized at the stripe, hitting 13-of-16 in the quarter to extend their lead to 77-69 heading into the final quarter.
Ray Allen had an off night: The Celtics couldn’t seem to get their sharp-shooter into a rhythm for any extended stretch. With the Thunder up, 71-63, Paul Pierce woke up the crowd with a bucket and Allen followed with a mid-range jumper from the free throw line-extended and the crowd sense a rally. But he remained in single-figures in the scoring column as the Thunder threw all types of defensive switches at the Celtics all night. Allen finished with eight points.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT:
Tis just as good to give than receive: The Celtics had 17 assists at halftime on 21 baskets and finished with 20 on 33 buckets in the game. Like with the Patriots and Tom Brady, as long as Rajon Rondo is the quarterback of the offense, the Celtics should be in good shape. Rondo was held to seven assists.
Shaq playing big in the paint. This is exactly what the Celtics got him for when they signed him for a ‘730-day contract’ in the summer. He played 16 of the 24 minutes in the first half. He also threw his considerable weight around, like when he nearly body-slammed Russell Westbrook to the court on a drive down what appeared to be an open lane. Shaq was whistled for a flagrant against Westbrook with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter and Westbrook hit a key free throw to extend the lead to five. Again, that’s exactly what they wanted from Shaq – a mean presence in the middle that the Celtics desperately wanted for this season.
As a result, the Celtics again dominated the paint, 44-16.
Winning the turnover battle: It’s ironic that the one thing that seemed to be the Achilles’ heel of the Celtics in their 9-2 start was the one thing they corrected on Friday night. They committed 15 turnovers while the Thunder committed 20 – leading to 20 Boston points.
|Kevin Garnett on D&H: ‘I’m not speaking to nobodies’ like Charlie Villanueva||11.18.10 at 12:29 pm ET|
Garnett has returned to form after struggling for much of last season following knee surgery in May 2009.
“Rest is everything,” Garnett said. “And being healthy is another thing. I don’t like speaking about my own personal health, because everybody in the league has something they’re dealing with, and I was no different from it. Obviously, you can see the difference in the play. I have a little pep in my step, I’ve got a little bounce in my hop. And it feels good.
“A lot of times last year I was playing subpar guys, man, and they were getting by me, doing different things to where I knew that if I was 100 percent, no way that some of those things were happening. To be honest, I’m blessed. It’s something I have to deal with every day. But you can see the difference. You can see the difference. The confidence is there. When you get hurt ‘ one of the things I’ve never had to battle was dealing with health issues to where it damages and messes with your confidence. I’m a very confident person. I would be lying if I said it didn’t test me. But it made me a stronger person mentally.”
The addition of Shaquille O’Neal to the roster brought a unique personality to Boston. The high-intensity Garnett was asked if he agreed that Shaq has lightened the mood in the locker room.
“Unfortunately, I do [agree],” Garnett said. “I don’t like my mood to be lightened too much, man. I like to have an edge. When I take the floor, I like to be a certain way. I don’t do well when I’m giddy and kind of light. I do well when I’m dark and sort of concentrated. When I’m locked in, I look at myself as a threat. I don’t want to be too lighthearted when I go out there. Shaq is the opposite. He likes things light. He likes to keep you laughing. He likes the mood to be light.
“I think from [Doc Rivers‘] perspective ‘ or anybody’s perspective ‘ they tend to think that I’m too intense at times. And I can understand that. But hey, man, this is my makeup. This is who I am. This is what I’ve been for a long time. It’s gotten me to this point. Like anybody else’s personality it’s who they are. This is my makeup. This is who I am.”
|Irish Coffee: MTV destroys Teen Wolf & other NBA thoughts||11.16.10 at 11:56 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
I’m shocked, shocked to find what MTV is doing here! Teen Wolf as a lacrosse player? If you’re going to remake one of the finest achievements in cinematic history, stay true to the story.
Teen Wolf was a basketball player, and at 5-foot-4 maybe the best pound-for-pound baller in the history of the sport. How the legendary 1985 film wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award alongside “Out of Africa”, “The Color Purple” and “Prizzi’s Honor” is beyond me.
The crescendo of the film revolved around basketball, as Michael J. Fox decided to play as just another member of his team rather than as the dominating Teen Wolf. It was downright Celtics-esque, with Fox assuming the role of Rajon Rondo (I guess that would make Shaquille O’Neal “Fat Boy”, Kevin Garnett “No. 45”, Paul Pierce as “No. 33” and Doc Rivers “Coach Finstock”).
It’s the very essence of the C’s success of the 1980s and 2000s: Forego individual greatness for team glory. Michael J. Fox‘s workmanlike performance in the championship is game film that every NBA coach worth his weight in championship rings should dissect with his starting point guard every offseason. And MTV is attempting to destroy it. I say: Over my dead body.
So, I give you Fox’s Rondo-like effort in the infamous “Win in the End” montage …
YOUR DAILY SHAQ UPDATE
Believe it or not, Shaquille O’Neal made news again. It’s why he made WEEI.com’s Most Interesting Person in Boston Sports list.
In an interview with USA Today, Shaq discussed — among other things — his pre-retirement home and why he joined the “old and musty” Celtics …
“It’s nice and peaceful,” he said of living in Sudbury. “It’s good for an old man to just chill out. I’ve got a nice little chair. I see wild turkeys and fox and coyotes on my grass. I’m loving it.”
Can’t you just picture Shaq, sipping a warm cup of cocoa out on his porch, rocking back and forth in his rocking chair, looking out on his Sudbury farm? Perhaps he thinks of how the Celtics defeated his Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season …
“Kevin kicked it to Paul, Paul kicked it to Ray. They played liked a team,” O’Neal said. “They have three first-ballot Hall of Famers on the team. They didn’t care who had all the points. It was beautiful to watch.”
Or perhaps, as he did in the USA Today article, he considers the irony of finishing his career in Boston for a team he once called “old and musty” 1y years ago in the book “Shaq Attaq!” …
“What comes around goes around,” said O’Neal. “Now, I’m old and musty.”
I think I could listen to Shaq’s thoughts from his “nice little chair” on his Sudbury farm all day long. May I suggest a podcast, a la Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s fireside chats? It would be a constant stream of gems on basketball, politics and life, like this response to a question about why NBA players don’t want to play in Canada from a recent interview with AskMen.com.
“It’s the double taxes that deter players from going there. Also [Chris] Bosh obviously couldn’t handle the pressure, so he had to go join two other people to help him out. Listen to what I tell you: Toronto is in the top three NBA cities for every NBA player. Trust me on that, brother.”
HOW TO STOP RAJON RONDO?
NBA Playbook believes the Dallas Mavericks discovered the blueprint for stopping Rondo. The reasoning? Dallas forced the C’s into their “worst shooting game (in terms of eFG%), worst performance when it came to getting to the line (7.7 FTR), worst shooting performance at the rim, and the least amount of 3-pointers attempted.”
It seems counterintuitive to think that the blueprint for stopping Rondo was executed in a game where he finished with 11 points, 15 assists and six rebounds, but NBA Playbook has its reasons –accompanied by video evidence. Without further ado …
SAGGED OFF RONDO/CHASED DEFENDERS: The Mavericks chased Boston’s shooters around screens and challenge shots hard. … This was a theme during this game. Boston averages around 13.5 3s per game this year; they took eight against Dallas.
Is there a team out there that doesn’t try to chase shooters around screens and challenge shots hard? And if there is, wouldn’t that just be bad defense? Challenging shots is the most fundamental defensive strategy out there.
SWITCHING SCREENS: The Mavericks did a whole lot of switching on screens with the goal being to keep Rondo out of the lane. … Most teams tend to go under screens rather than switch, because they don’t want to have to deal with mismatches. One of the reasons the Mavericks were able to switch screens is that they have Jason Kidd as their starting point guard. Kidd isn’t the fastest guy, but he’s big enough that when they switch there isn’t really a mismatch.
Doesn’t this depend on who Kidd is switching with? Sure, if Allen sets the pick, Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson could switch and avoid a mismatch. But if Garnett is setting the pick, that creates two mismatches: the bigger KG rolling to the basket against the smaller Kidd and the quicker Rondo on the perimeter against the slower Dirk Nowitzki.
TEAM EFFORT: Most teams play off of Rondo, and they don’t really commit double teams or other defenders to him. Since the Mavericks’ main focus was to keep Rondo out of the lane, they were willing to send multiple defenders at him to do so, and it worked out for the Mavs.
Double-teaming Rondo on his way into the lane is exactly what Rondo is hoping for — somebody open for an assist opportunity. If defenders sag from the wings, that leaves one of two 44 percent 3-point shooters (Allen or Pierce) open. If defenders step up from the post, that leaves either Garnett or O’Neal open for a lob opportunity.
In fact, the first video example of this strategy leaves a wide-open Garnett under the basket. While KG might’ve missed that attempt, I’m sure the Celtics will take an open layup every time.
FORCING THE PASSBACK: Because of the Mavericks’ team effort when trying to keep Rondo out of the lane, they have to give up something else. What they were willing to give up was the pass back to the elbow/foul line area.
As NBA Playbook notes, this strategy leaves guys like Garnett and Glen Davis open at the top of the key, and those two were a combined 6-of-11 from there in the Mavericks game.
All I’m saying is that the blueprint for stopping Rondo — and as a result the Celtics — is playing good, solid defense on the rest of the Celtics. Challenging outside shots, properly defending the pick and roll, keeping guys out of the lane and forcing big men to shoot jump shots isn’t a blueprint for stopping Rondo. It’s a blueprint for stopping any NBA team.
“The Celtics and the Lakers have fantastic histories, but there is no reason in the world that we can’t be as successful as those teams,” Lacob told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There is no reason that we can’t turn this into a championship contender.”
All Lacob expects is that the Warriors adopt the defense of the Celtics and the “Showtime” offense of the Lakeers. You know, no big deal. Sounds like a job for MacGruber rather than Gruber. …
“He is looking great,” McKeon told ESPN.com. “He’s keeping his weight down. He’s sticking to the proper diet. But it was a major surgery, and I always tell athletes that it could be 18 months before it’s the best that it can be.”
In Marc Stein‘s latest Power Rankings for ESPN.com, the C’s moved into the No. 1 spot — ahead of the unbeaten New Orleans Hornets and two-time defending champion Lakers. The reasoning? “The Celts’ only two losses came on the road on the second night of a back-to-back.” …
Not their finest effort, but any time The Onion takes on the Celtics it’s worth checking out. This time, they parodied Garnett and his defensive intensity:
“This is my house! You hear me? Mine! This is where I watch my TV and eat my cereal! Where I eat cereal every day!”
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
|Jermaine O’Neal out indefinitely||11.15.10 at 4:45 pm ET|
The Celtics don’t know how long Jermaine O’Neal will be out with his knee injury, but it will be measured in weeks, not days. “Two, three weeks would be a guestimate,” Doc Rivers said Monday. “We don’t know exactly. We’re going through a couple of more evaluations.”
O’Neal sought a second opinion in Miami on his injured left knee and didn’t travel with the team to Memphis for the last game on their road trip. Rivers said he hasn’t “heard the word ‘surgery,'” yet, but there’s still no real timetable on O’Neal’s return.
Shaquille O’Neal returned to the Celtics lineup and for now he and Semih Erden are playing 30-32 minutes a night in the post, while Glen Davis takes up the rest of the minutes. It’s not perfect, but the Celtics are hanging on for now with the arrangement.
“Semih and Shaq are playing through whatever they’re playing through,” Rivers said. “Semih’s shoulder and Shaq’s everything, really. It’s a concern but there’s nothing we can do about it. We’re not going to go out and get anyone else. There are not a lot of really good 7-footers walking the earth that are not signed in the NBA, so we just have to make do.”
The Celtics may also be without Marquis Daniels who missed practice and isn’t expected back Tuesday with what Rivers called a family issue. There is some doubt as to whether Daniels will be with the team Wednesday when they play the Wizards.
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