|Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter too much for Rajon Rondo, Celtics||02.09.14 at 8:17 pm ET|
The red-hot Dallas Mavericks weren’t about to let the Celtics match their season-high win streak.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Vince Carter added 14 off the bench to help the Mavericks pull away for a 102-91 win Sunday night at TD Garden. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak, which was one shy of the four straight at the beginning of the season.
That win streak in November put the Celtics at 4-4. Sunday’s loss dropped Boston to 18-34.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green with 18 points while Rajon Rondo returned from a night off Friday and scored 15 with 12 assists. Green was rumored to be trade talks between Atlanta and Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge while Rondo’s name was again in trade rumors involving the Knicks.
The Celtics could not overcome dreadful shooting Sunday night. They were down just six at the half, 44-38, despite shooting just 27.1 percent (13-of-48) from the floor.
The Mavericks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Boston 28-18 to take a 72-56 lead into the fourth. Avery Bradley (2-for-13), Jared Sullinger (4-for-13) and Green (6-for-15) highlighted the struggles of the Celtics. Sullinger extended his string of double-doubles to five games with 12 rebounds and 11 points, scoring a basket late in the fourth quarter to keep the streak alive.
Chris Johnson, signed to a multi-year deal on Friday, had a career high 14 off the bench for the Celtics.
Nowitizki had been averaging 28 points a game in his last six games entering Sunday’s contest but Dallas didn’t need him to be spectacular against a Celtics team that couldn’t find its offensive rhythm all night. Nowitzki was 7-for-16 from the field and his his three with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter put Dallas up, 81-58.
Dallas would build the lead to 24 in the fourth before a late Celtics run, sparked by the bench, cut the Mavs’ advantage down to nine, 98-89, with just over a minute left.
The Mavericks, who entered Sunday in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are making a push in the highly competitive conference. Sunday’s win on the parquet was their fourth straight and six in their last seven as they improved to 31-21.
The Celtics return to action Monday night in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is currently leading the NBA Lottery race with a league-worst 9-41 record.
|Would Vince Carter make sense for the Celtics?||12.05.11 at 6:00 pm ET|
Word leaked out over the weekend that the Suns were prepared to buy out the final year of Vince Carter‘s contract when the lockout officially ends at the end of the week. In other words, the Suns would rather pay the eight-time All-Star $4 million to not play for them then shell out the $18 million required for the final year of his services.
This move has been long-expected and comes as absolutely no surprise because the 34-year-old Carter has been declining since the 2007 season and is coming off the least productive season of his career. His rate of getting to the free throw line has fallen off substantially and he hasn’t been the one-on-one maestro that he was earlier in his career for several years. Defensively, Carter is suspect at best and at worst uninterested.
Sounds like a perfect candidate for the Celtics, right? Actually, yes.
Perfect may be stretching it — OK, a lot — but the question for the Celtics isn’t whether Carter would make sense for them, it’s do the Celtics make sense for Carter?
Barring a blockbuster demolition of his roster, team president Danny Ainge has about six roster spots to work with and not a lot of options to fill them. He reiterated last week that size was the team’s top priority and assuming that’s where he devotes most, if not all, of the taxpayer mid-level exception (a three-year deal starting at $3 million) he still needs to find some warm bodies on the perimeter, preferably ones that can score.
“We just need to get more talent,” Ainge said after the team had been eliminated from last season’s playoffs. “Scoring droughts have been a problem we’ve had the last few years. For whatever reason we’ve had too many scoring droughts at crucial points in games and that’s hurt us.”
Ainge is absolutely right. It was an undersold story of the Celtics season that their bench was a major problem area last season, particularly offensively. If you want to know why Ray Allen and Paul Pierce played 36 minutes a night, every night, it’s because Doc Rivers didn’t have a lot of options, especially after Delonte West missed so much time with injuries.
Too often, Allen and Pierce had to play major minutes because the bench unit couldn’t hold a lead. It wasn’t just the total time on the court either. Allen and Pierce had to play tough minutes in close games because 10-point leads suddenly became deficits. Rivers won’t have that option with a condensed 66-game schedule staring them in the face. But where will that help come from?
If Ainge devotes his scant free agent resources on big men, that leaves him with only the veteran minimum to offer for perimeter help. As tempting as names like Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and Shane Battier may appear, it’s going to take a lot more than that to get them to Boston. There are a handful of other options, some more realistic than others, like Shannon Brown and Anthony Parker, but even they may be too rich for what Ainge has to offer.
That would leave Ainge sifting through the likes of Michael Redd, Jason Kapono and Rasual Butler. Put it another way, would you rather have 10-15 minutes of Vince Carter or Michael Redd, who has played just 61 games total the last three seasons.
Despite all his red flags, Carter still shot 36 percent from 3-point range. He still has size at 6-foot-5 and despite his reputation, he’s managed to play at least 70 games every year since 2003. Still, it remains to be seen if Carter can adapt from his role as a starter who plays 30 minutes a night to a bench spot that would require him to bring energy and instant offense. That’s the choice he’s going to have to make if he signs on with a contender.
Is he an ideal fit for the Celtics? Probably not thanks to his declining playmaking skills and defensive lapses, but the Celtics aren’t exactly in an ideal position either.
|What the Orlando moves mean for the Celtics||12.18.10 at 10:31 pm ET|
In two separate trades over the course of one day, the Orlando Magic turned over almost half of their rotation for an upgrade at the scoring guard position (Jason Richardson) and high-priced gambles on two of the league’s worst contracts (Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas). In doing so, they ditched the services of two former All-Star wing players whose production has plummeted (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) and two well-paid role players (Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat).
There are a lot of moving parts for the Magic, who over the last two and half weeks have lost six of seven games and watched as the Celtics asserted themselves as the favorites in the East and the Heat established themselves as the best team in their division.
The Celtics have always considered the Magic their toughest conference challenger and many of their offseason moves have been done with the Magic in mind. Orlando general manager Otis Smith clearly felt that his team needed an overhaul to try and keep pace.
The particulars are as follows:
Orlando gets: Gilbert Arenas from Washington and Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkulgu and Earl Clark from Phoenix.
Orlando gives up: Rashard Lewis to Washington and Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, a 2011 No. 1 pick and $3 million to Phoenix.
Phoenix and Washington’s motivations are clear. The Suns, who are going nowhere fast, shed Turkoglu’s onerous contract, which still has two years remaining after this season and get an intriguing big man with potential in Gortat along with a serviceable player in Pietrus. The cash will help the inevitable $4 million buyout on the last year of Carter’s contract. The Wizards obviously get rid of Arenas, who still has three years, $60 million and just as much baggage next to his name.
But these trades are all about the Magic, or more specifically, Dwight Howard, who as Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer points out, can opt out after the 2012 season. If this team had reached its limit, then it does them no good to continue playing out the string until Howard becomes a free agent.
Assuming for the sake of argument that the personalities of the new players will mesh with coach Stan Van Gundy, which is the huge blinking neon light of an X-factor in this discussion, the Magic have gotten better offensively. They have shooters everywhere to put around Howard and in Arenas they have a scoring guard who can create his own shot.
That is particularly important against the Celtics, who are one of the few teams capable of playing Howard straight-up. Without the double-teams, the Magic had trouble getting their shooters open for shots against the Celtics in the playoffs until they switched to a constant pick-and-roll attack. Carter was supposed to be that player, but he wasn’t able to do it.
The Magic should also play faster, an obvious adjustment for a team with so many perimeter players, a dominant rebounder and a lack of size beyond Howard. All of this makes it even more important that Delonte West is able to return from his broken wrist because Van Gundy now has a number of different lineup combinations he can use and the Celtics could use West’s defensive versatility.
Here are five essential realities of the deal from Orlando’s perspective. Read the rest of this entry »
|Five Reasons Why The Celtics Won Game 3||05.22.10 at 11:19 pm ET|
The Celtics are just a win away from the NBA Finals following a 94-71 win over the Magic on Saturday night, a victory that was exactly as close as the score revealed. The Magic never led in the contest, and the Celtics held a double-digit lead during the final 39 minutes of the game. Glen Davis led the Celtics with 17 points off the bench and Paul Pierce added 15. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 12 assists for the winners. The defense has been the calling card of this team and it continued in Game 3, as the C’s held the Magic to 36.9 percent shooting.
Before tipoff, the formula for a Celtics victory on Saturday seemed simple. Hang in during the inevitable fast start from a Magic team that was playing for its postseason life and eventually wear down Orlando with defense and toughness. Turns out the group that played with desperation right from the start was the team up 2-0, and the defense and toughness never slowed down.
The Celtics led 27-12 after the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 23.5 percent shooting. The Magic’s three stars — Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis — scored a total of three points on 1-of-11 shooting in the quarter. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, taking a 21-6 lead (following a 14-0 run) to, incredibly, basically put this game away. The opening 12 minutes told you all you need to know about both teams. One played with heart, urgency and smarts and the other played as if they were finishing up a home-and-home series with Memphis in February.
RONDO DOES HIS BEST LARRY LEGEND:
THE play of the series, without question, came in the second quarter when Rondo dove for a loose ball at the Magic foul line, taking the ball from Jason Williams (who, it appeared, didn’t feel much like hitting the floor). Rondo then got up, put a wicked cross-over on Williams and banked in a layup. Williams, it should be noted, put exactly the same amount of effort trying to defend Rondo as he did trying to get the loose ball. That kind of play by Rondo works perfectly when you need an example to show why one team is totally dominating the other in a series where the talent level doesn’t seem that different (though that can now be debated).
Through three games in this series, Rashard Lewis ($110 million) has scored a total of 15 points in 111 minutes played. That is two fewer points than Big Baby (two years, $6.3 million) scored in his 23:15 on the floor in Game 3. Davis also took nine free throw attempts in Game 3, one more than the entire Orlando starting five combined. And unlike Game 2, where he had trouble matching up with Howard physically, Davis did an expert job on the post defensively.
DWIGHT HOWARD: NON-FACTOR
Howard’s line in the most important game of his season: 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the free throw line, a plus/minus rating of -29 (worst of any player on the Magic in a game they lost by 23 points). Credit Perkins, Davis, Rasheed Wallace and the game plan but Howard has to take a hit. If you are going to be thought of as a truly great player that kind of effort cannot happen in a must win. Shades of LeBron in Game 5.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL:
This stat will probably be lost in all the postgame “What’s wrong with the Magic?/Are the Celtics better than 2008?” stuff, but maybe the biggest reason this was never a competitive game was the assist-to-turnover ratios of the teams. The Celtics finished with 23 assists and just eight turnovers, compared to a ghastly 10-17 mark for the Magic. Rondo, in fact, finished with two more assists than the Magic team.
|C’s anticipate changes, don’t care||05.21.10 at 2:50 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The talk out of Orlando is that Matt Barnes wants Paul Pierce in Game 3. Barnes also went on to call Pierce a flopper for good measure.
The Celtics heard all that and frankly don’t really care how the Magic decide to match up with Pierce.
“Obviously they want to play better defensively, probably on me,” Pierce said Friday. “Who knows what they’re going to do as far as trapping and different matchups. We’re going to make some adjustments ourselves. We still feel like we haven’t played our perfect game yet. We’re still in search of that. It doesn’t affect anything that I’m trying to do offensively when we play the Magic.”
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy changed things up before Game 1 by having Barnes guard Ray Allen and Vince Carter on Pierce, who has turned Carter inside out by scoring 50 points on just 24 shots in the first two games.
“It doesn’t affect us,” Doc Rivers said. “When you’re down 2-0 you do make some changes. We have to anticipate that. But they’re not going to make many changes. We are who we are, they are who they are, they’re just going to try to do it better. Barnes or [Mikael] Pietrus will probably guard Paul. Vince will go to Ray. That’s how a lot of us thought it would start in the series and now they’re just going to back that.”
Rivers expects Orlando will try to go big with Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat playing a Twin Towers look and possibly Rashard Lewis sliding over to the 3-spot. But the Celtics won’t vary their personnel much, mainly because they can’t.
“Some teams have the ability to go big, small or change,” Rivers said. “We unfortunately, or fortunately, do not. We’re just going to be who we are and just be the best at that.”
|Barnes or Carter, Celtics aren’t changing||05.16.10 at 2:58 pm ET|
ORLANDO — Stan Van Gundy started the chess match early when he suggested that he would have Matt Barnes guard Ray Allen instead of Paul Pierce, who would then become Vince Carter’s assignment.
This opens up a number of interesting questions such as: Does Van Gundy think Allen is a bigger threat than Pierce? Would the Celtics switch up their coverages? Then there’s the issue of Barnes’ health. He has been struggling with back spasms.
On the latter, Van Gundy said that Barnes is feeling better and will be ready to play. As for the other? “We’ll see,” Van Gundy said before Game 1.
The Celtics are unconcerned. They’re not going to change up their assignments.
“We’re not changing.,” Doc Rivers said. “We’re going the same way we’re going to go. Whenever there’s a switch like in the last series when [Anthony] Parker guarded [Rajon] Rondo, you’re always concerned about the cross matchup in transition because the guy you’re guarding is not in front of you. You have to resist the temptation to cross the court and try to find your guy and leave a guy open. That actually works both ways.”
Interesting, because Allen thinks this could play in the Celtics advantage.
“I would think that they’d be more worried about Carter getting back on defense, so maybe the cross matchup would probably work better in our favor,” Allen said. “If I’m guarding Vince he’d have to run back in transition on me. I’ve noticed throughout the year, Vince would be on one side running back with me and then the other man will run all the way back across the floor.”
Once again, the key for the Celtics is getting out on the break.
“Transition is big,” Allen said. “You get the rebound, push it up and Paul and I just run, they have to make a decision because sometimes you can’t get back to your guy. It does make you think.”
|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.”