|Fast Break: Celtics narrowly beat Wolves||03.27.11 at 9:33 pm ET|
For nine minutes the Celtics looked unbeatable. For the next 30 they looked like the Nets. They were able to pull off an 85-82 win because Paul Pierce found his offensive game just in time, Kevin Garnett did work on the post and the Wolves played like the Wolves, committing silly turnovers and throwing away chances to win the game.
The Celtics will take it, but this was not progress. This was against a team that had won 17 games and was playing without its best player in Kevin Love. Perhaps that first quarter gives them something to build on, or maybe the way they closed out the game defensively will give them a spark.
One way or another, however, the Celtics needed a win and here’s how they did it:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Fast start: The first quarter was a thing of beauty. The ball movement was crisp, the shots were well taken and there was an energy and bounce to the Celtics’ game. They shot 59 percent and had nine assists on 13 made field goal with zero turnovers. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, that kind of efficiency is hard to do against anyone. It was 15-5 after four minutes, 22-5 after six and 28-8 after nine. The Celtics then proceeded to do everything the opposite way after the opening quarter.
Kevin Garnett continues to bring it: If there’s one player who should escape scrutiny these days it’s Garnett, whose production has held steady this month. Garnett dominated the defensive glass when he was in the game and also served as a second point guard by making the extra pass and racking up assists. Garnett finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five assists and was once again the Celtics’ best all-around player.
Delonte West filled in nicely for Rajon Rondo: Early in the game when the Timberwolves went under screens, West buried two jump shots. The T-Wolves adjusted and when they went over the screen, West hit Garnett on the roll who found Nenad Krstic open underneath for a layup. He finished with eight points, five assists and one huge offensive rebound that prolonged a possession and put the Celtics up five.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Nenad Krstic is still fighting himself: The Celtics made a concerted effort to get their center the ball in a position to score and the results were mixed. There were times when he caught it and went up strong for dunks, and there were others when he pump-faked himself into oblivion. Krstic didn’t play in the fourth quarter and except for a few brief flashes, he continues to look lost.
Glen Davis was outplayed by Anthony Tolliver: With Krstic struggling, the Celtics needed something positive from their other big man, but Davis missed 11-of-15 shots and was outworked by Tolliver, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds. To Davis’ credit, he played almost the entire second half after Rivers benched Krstic.
Paul Pierce, also struggling: Pierce’s offense has come and gone lately. Fortunately for the Celtics he was able to turn it back on in the final three minutes and help the Celtics pull off the win. Pierce’s stat line of 23 points and 7 rebounds looks solid, but he shot 2-for-8 from 3-point range and continues to struggle with his shot. Like Davis, Pierce redeemed himself with solid play down the stretch.
|Fast Break: Celtics outlast Minnesota||01.03.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
The Celtics won’t get any style points for their 96-93 win over the Minnesota (recap), but no one will care about that in April. And after not closing out a similar game against New Orleans in their last home game, it was a win they were happy to get.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce came alive: After a dreadful start, Paul Pierce made his first shot with two minutes left in the first half. The second half was a completely different story as he made 5-of-8 shots and scored 15 points in the third quarter. Pierce made only one shot in the fourth quarter, but it was a huge 3-pointer.
He finished with 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and a very smart foul in the final seconds that prevented Michael Beasley from getting a good look at a 3-pointer.
Von Wafer: Wafer had his best stretch of minutes this season in the second quarter when he scored four points and emerged as the Celtics’ best rebounder (this was not a difficult honor to achieve on Monday). Still, Wafer showed some of the ability that has kept him employed by the Celtics this season. His timing couldn’t have been better because the deadline to guarantee contracts for the season is approaching next week.
Rajon Rondo is finding his groove: It seems clear that Rondo isn’t 100 percent back to being Rondo. Before the game Doc Rivers suggested that Rondo’s ankle would probably bother him all year. What remains to be seen is if he can recapture his explosiveness. He only took four shots and rarely drove to the basket.
But even in a reduced role, Rondo is still a great facilitator (he had 16 assists) and adept at finding, and exploiting mismatches. He worked Shaquille O’Neal against Kostas Koufos every time the opportunity presented itself.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding: This was predictable. Kevin Love is the best rebounding forward in the league and the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, who is the second best. But, the Celtics got killed on both the offensive and defensive glass and Love had more rebounds (15) in the first half than the Celtics had as a team (14).
But the Celtics also got killed on the defensive glass for the second night in a row, which is not something they can afford to have happen. Even without Garnett.
Glen Davis tried to do too much, again: Love destroyed Davis on the boards, and Davis didn’t do himself any favors by getting into foul trouble and launching too many jump shots. It has been a rough transition into the starting lineup for Davis, who had a not-as-good-as-it-looked line of 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting. One rebound in 30 minutes told a much different story.
Bench woes: In 29 minutes of court time, Nate Robinson and Luke Harangody took eight shots between them. They missed all of them. Neither player registered an assist, either. Thankfully for the Celtics, Wafer supplied some offense and a whole lot of energy off the bench. Robinson did make two clutch free throws in the final seconds to put the Celtics up by three for the game’s final margin.
|Preview: Timberwolves at Celtics, Game 33||at 11:24 am ET|
The Minnesota Timberwolves are a bad team. This comes as no surprise to even the most casual NBA fan. Since trading Kevin Garnett, the T-Wolves have won 70 games and lost 210. That’s losing three out of every four games for 3+ seasons. They don’t defend, they don’t shoot very well and they turn it over way too much. That’s pretty much the formula for bad in the NBA.
They are also knee-deep in one of the most convoluted rebuilding projects in recent memory.
It started when they traded Garnett, acquiring a package of players that included Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair. All of those players have been traded (although they did bring Telfair back where he continues to be a mediocre backup). They also got back their first round pick from the Celtics, which turned out to be Jonny Flynn, a shoot-first point guard who can’t shoot, and acquired the Celtics pick, which became Wayne Ellington, a scorer who can’t score.
General manager David Kahn didn’t make the Garnett trade, but he did run the draft where he also took Ricky Rubio, who has yet to play a second in the NBA, and yet another point guard in Ty Lawson, who he traded to Denver. Lawson has become an integral part of the Nuggets, the eventual replacement for Chauncey Billups and is a far better prospect than Flynn. (Rubio remains a dream).
This past year, Kahn drafted 23-year-old Wesley Johnson, ancient for a draft prospect, and passed over the talented, but enigmatic, DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 11 points and eight rebounds along with his various misdeeds and histrionics. Johnson is a wing player, so naturally Kahn traded for another young wing player in Martell Webster, who thankfully can shoot, but has missed all but nine games with injuries.
For good measure, Kahn gave Darko Millicic a contract extension, leading to this fantastic exchange between Kahn and Chris Webber.
Kahn still wasn’t done. He dumped Jefferson for a player named Kostas Koufos, which made people laugh, but it might have been the best move of his tenure because he shed a big contract on a player with bad knees and opened a spot for Michael Beasley, obtained from the Miami Heat during their contract firesale. Beasley has regained his game after a lost season in Miami and is averaging 22 points and six rebounds a game. Trading Jefferson also allowed Kevin Love to blossom into a full-blown star.
And he signed another point guard in Luke Ridnour, which has turned out to be a good thing because Flynn started the year on the injured list and has struggled in his return.
Against all odds, this bunch has become one of the weirdest, and most fun teams of the lower depths of the NBA. Part of that is Love, who pulled down an amazing 33 boards in a game. Then there’s Beasley, whose hair demands its own reality show, and the fact that they play at the fastest pace in the league. They have become, along with the Warriors and the Blake Griffin-Clippers a League Pass cult favorite. But they’re still a hot mess.
TIMBERWOLVES (9-25, 3-7 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 105.3 (Points per 100 possessions, 18th)
Defensive Rating: 111.3 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 29th)
Pace: 97.6 (Possessions per game, 1st)
Likely Starters: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Millicic
Injuries: Jonny Flynn (Ankle, questionable), Anthony Tolliver (Knee, out).
CELTICS (25-7,7-3 last 10 games)
Offensive Rating: 107.7 (11th)
Defensive Rating: 98.9 (1st)
Pace: 90.8 (23rd)
KEY MATCHUP: Glen Davis vs. Kevin Love
In the 2008 draft, then-GM Kevin McHale swapped picks with Memphis to obtain Love for the rights to O.J. Mayo. There was some talk last season that this was yet another Minnesota screw-up, but there’s no question who got the better end of this transaction. Love is one of the best rebounders in the league, maybe the best, and his offensive game is rounding into shape. If there is any justice, the NBA will find a way to put Love on the All-Star team, even in the stacked Western Conference.
All of which is to say that Glen Davis will have his hands full with Love. Davis shook off a rough first half against Toronto to finish with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. He’ll have to be good for all 36 minutes against Love.
1. How will Rajon Rondo hold up on the second night of a back-to-back?
Doc Rivers didn’t think Rondo was going to play until about an hour before Sunday’s game, which raises the inevitable question: Was he actually ready to play? Rondo looked predictably rusty, but did flash his athleticism on a couple of plays. He also had his left ankle stepped on inadvertently by Linas Kleiza, which led to some anxious moments.
There’s a game Wednesday against the Spurs, another Friday against Toronto and then a quick trip to Chicago on Saturday so Rondo won’t have much time to recuperate.
2. Will the Celtics be able to slow the Timberwolves down?
Minnesota plays at the fastest tempo in the league, while the Celtics play much slower. There have been times when the Celtics have tried to run with faster teams, and there is no question they enjoy these kinds of games in the regular season. They should be careful not to get too caught up in Minnesota’s pace and let the Timberwolves hang around in the process.
3. How is Paul Pierce?
Pierce rolled his ankle late in the game against the Raptors after a late-game uncontested dunk. The Celtics don’t think it will be serious, but that was before their flight. The last thing they need is a lingering ankle injury affecting Pierce.
|Celtics looking at McCants and Morrison||09.15.10 at 1:24 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Two former college stars are in Waltham this week, working out with the Celtics, a source familiar with the team told WEEI.com.
Former North Carolina star Rashad McCants and Gonzaga standout Adam Morrison are in town this week working out for the Celtics. Morrison worked out on Tuesday and had a second session scheduled for Wednesday. The third overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Bobcats, Morrison spent 2½ seasons in Charlotte ‘ missing one season with a knee injury ‘ before being traded to the Lakers, where he played limited minutes while his team won two NBA titles.
McCants starred on the 2005 Tar Heels team that captured the NCAA title and played with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings and was involved with reality TV star Khloe Kardashian before she met and married Lamar Odom.
Yahoo! Sports reported that the Celtics are set to hire Nets assistant Roy Rogers to coach the big men. He would replace Clifford Ray. Rogers briefly played for the Celtics during his three seasons in the NBA in the late 1990s.
|No big surprise: Jefferson and Perkins expected success||02.01.09 at 4:26 pm ET|
If someone had said during the Boston Celtics 18-game losing streak Kendrick Perkins would win an NBA Championship and Al Jefferson would become an All-Star caliber player in less than two years, they would have been laughed at. Yet the pair of big men have made a remarkable turnaround from the dismal 2007 season. And while their accomplishments may have seemed unlikely just a few seasons ago, neither are surprised by the others success.
‘It’s funny because his game has improved a lot, of course, because every year you have in this league you get better and better,’ Jefferson said of Perkins. ‘But the things he’s doing now, I’d even seen them when I was here.’
Jefferson and Perkins faced off on Sunday when the Celtics took on the Timberwolves in Boston. (RECAP HERE) Perkins was nonchalant about the match up — ‘Man, I just want to hoop’ — and seemed unfazed by the success of his close friend. The two had a strong chemistry on and off the court, and saw potential in one another early on. So when Jefferson was the centerpiece of the Kevin Garnett deal, Perkins wasn’t shocked.
‘He’s grown a lot, but he was doing the same thing when he was here,’ Perkins said. ‘It’s not like he just developed into this star player when he got to Minnesota. That’s why he got traded for Garnett, because he was that type of player before he left here.’
In Jefferson’s last season with the Celtics, he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds. This season he is ranked first among all centers in scoring (23.2 ppg), fifth in rebounds (10.6), and has recorded 26 double-doubles.
‘I think Al is really learning how to be a leader,’ Perkins said. ‘You can tell he’s talking more, he’s communicating on the court, he’s telling guys where they need to be. I think Al’s stepping up, being more of a vocal leader. He’s taking pride in playing defense and it’s really just going from there.’
Even when the Celtics were losing, Jefferson was one of the bright spots on the team. Perkins, however, struggled to learn his role as a defensive presence. He forced baskets and was reluctant to scale down his offensive game.
‘The biggest thing when I was here was he was the type of guy who wanted to rush his offense, he wanted to take shots, he wanted to kind of like be a scorer,’ Jefferson said. ‘And Doc (Rivers) used to always tell him, ‘You’re not a scorer. You’re the type of guy who sets pick and rolls. That’s how you get your point.’ And I think that’s what he’s doing now. He finally accepted that and now he gets his points. He scores just as much now just doing his role by setting picks and rolling to the front of the basket, getting offensive rebounds. He’s getting his points that way and I think he’s finally accepted his role and that’s what’s making him a great player.’
It took losing the player he relied on the most for Perkins to improve his game. He is averaging 8.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, and shooting 59.5% from the field this season, compared to 4.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 49.1% FG in his last season before the trade. Perkins soaked up Garnett’s veteran knowledge and even began to implement a high-low pass that he learned from Jefferson.
‘That’s all he really needed was a guy like KG who was defensive-minded just to bring him up even more,’ Jefferson said. ‘So the things he’s doing now, I’d seen them when I was here. Perk was always one of the guys that was hard for me to score on even in practice. We used to go at each other so it’s fun watching him grow as a player.’
At just 24 years old, Jefferson and Perkins are only beginning to reach their potential. But regardless of how successful the other becomes, it’ll be no big surprise for these big men.
Perkins Cool With Call – By Jessica Camerato
The Captain and the Truth – By Paul Flannery
|Celtics-TWolves Game Blog: Fourth Quarter||at 2:01 pm ET|
For Paul’s third quarter recap, click here.
Fourth Quarter Observations
- Doc started the fourth quarter with Pierce and the second unit in. Jefferson is taking a breather so this would be a good opportunity for Powe and Davis to take advantage at the hoop.
- Still waiting for Kevin Love to score. He was, after all, a top five draft pick but has struggled with first-year inconsistencies this season.
- I have to give the T’Wolves credit today. They’re managing to keep it close without Rashad McCants, who was favoring his right elbow before the game. McCants it their leading scorer off the bench and so far they’ve got just 11 points out of the reserves so far.
- Big Al has developed into such a versatile player since leaving Boston. Guys like Dwight Howard and Shaq get credit for being a big body in the paint but Jefferson has added a dangerous mid-range shot to his repertoire. Have I mentioned Jefferson was snubbed??
- A trey and three-point play from Randy Foye closed the gap, but Pierce thrives in close games. The captain is already pushing 40 points and there is still two minutes to go.
- The Garden’s clearing out with the Celtics up by eight at the 30-second mark.
- Celtics win, 109-101.