Celtics' win streak reaches seven games after Thunderous victory

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Visit CitySwagUsa.com for high-quality custom-printed tees!If you read this site routinely, you're probably wondering why my recap didn't get posted until the day after the game. I always post my recaps as soon as I can, on the night of the game. So what the hell happened last night?

I went out. Now, you might think I went out and had a great time with my friends, or that I went to a party or a bar and immersed myself in the scene and had a wonderful time.

Come on, guys. You should know me better than that by now. You should know I went to a party and, instead of talking to anyone at the party, meeting new friends or chatting with old ones, I plopped myself down in front of the television and watched the Heat play the Lakers. My friends wanted to leave the party at around 1 o'clock, but it was the fourth quarter! We couldn't leave in the FOURTH QUARTER! Not in a close game, not in a game featuring Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, not when I knew, just knew, there was going to be a ridiculous finish. I made my friends stay for the end of it, and we watched Kobe Bryant's amazing off-the-glass, buzzer-beating three to end the game with a one-point Lakers win. I'd like to say I had a good time going out, but I did the exact same thing I would have done if I was home, except for two things:

1) I was sitting on someone else's couch, rather than my own, and 2) I didn't write my recap while watching another game. The second one is more concerning; I can adapt to new couches, but leaving to go out without offering my full analysis of the C's game was certainly troubling. So here's me righting my wrongs, and finally giving you a recap of last night's game.

In short, the Celtics did everything I wanted them to do. First, they looked to pound it down low early, starting almost every possession with a paint touch, either by a post-up or through dribble penetration. It seems strange to say, with Paul Pierce having 21 first-half points including three three-pointers, but Boston was completely intent on pounding Oklahoma City into submission down low. Actually, they have been looking down low to initiate offense for a long time. The Celtics seem to have become aware of just how big and skilled their post men are, and have made an effort every game since the Toronto game to at least start the game off by getting paint touches. They no longer act like three-pointers are worth five points, and they certainly understood last night that a front line starting Jeff Green and Nick Collison had absolutely no business defending Garnett and Perk.

The player of the game was Paul Pierce, despite the facts that a) he scored a whopping zero points in the second half and b) He gave up 36 points to Kevin Durant, the man he was defending. So how in the hell was he the player of the game, on a night when Garnett and Rajon Rondo led the way in a dominant third quarter that, for all intents and purposes, ended the game? Well, first off, Pierce was completely in control in the first half. He had 21 points, and he did it in such a cooly efficient manner I don't even think he broke a sweat. He started off by making three wide open, in-rhythm three-pointers, then took it to the rack, attacking the rim and finding himself easy looks and free throw opportunities. He disappeared in the second half, but it wasn't because Pierce didn't play well; it was just because everyone else was so unconscious he didn't even have to do anything. Pierce is like that; he bides his time, allowing his teammates to make plays when things are going well, but at the first sign of trouble, or if the C's need a bucket, Pierce becomes the Truth and demands the ball. So, with the C's playing so well, he was happy just watching the Rondo-and-Garnett show in his limited second-half playing time.

Now, on to his defense. Pierce gave up 36 points, but actually did a hell of a job on Kevin Durant. How the f--- can someone give up that many points, all while playing good defense, you ask? Durant was just so good that Pierce's great defense didn't matter. Remember last year's playoffs, and the job Shane Battier did on Kobe Bryant? I'm pretty sure Kobe scored 30+ points per game during that series, but every time he shot, it was a contested, tough jumper with Battier's hand directly in his line of vision. How did he score all those points when Battier's hand was just about poking his retinas on every shot? Good offense is more or less unguardable; Battier played about as well as a man can play defense, but Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant, and, as long as he's playing well, he can't really be stopped. Unfortunately for Pierce, Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant last night, and he's pretty damn good. How do you stop a 6'9" wing-man with freakishly long arms, the ball-handling skills of a guard, and the soft touch of a goddess? You can't, but you can make him work for his points, and that's precisely what Pierce did.

The C's turned this one into a laugher with a terrific third quarter, led by the efforts of Rondo and Garnett. What did they do that quarter? Well, Garnett was simply 5-5 from the field, while Rondo actually missed a shot in going 6-7. (What the f---, Rondo? A miss???) Rondo and Garnett were hotter than Jason McElwain out there. Garnett was great for the whole game, starting and finishing the game off by looking for his shot against the smaller Green, who couldn't match up with Garnett's height and length even if KG was 55 and in a wheelchair. And Rondo was aggressive on both ends, harassing Russell Westbrook into a poor game while getting into the lane on the other end. About the only thing he didn't do was make free throws but, then again, does he ever make free throws any more?

Other than Rondo's free throws, it was an offensive clinic for the boys in Green, who moved the ball seamlessly and found make-able shots just about every single possession. Plus, they actually hit their damn threes tonight, something it seems like they haven't done since a few months ago. 9-17 from behind the arc, even on a night when Ray Allen couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, is a pretty damn good performance from the land of the trifecta. The threes were a product of looking first for a paint touch, working inside-out and taking the open ones rather than forcing outside shots.

On the other side, the Thunder were pretty much a one-man team. (No, that man was not Mike Wilks.) What else can you say about Kevin Durant? One of these years, he's going to lead the league in scoring, and I expect that day to come sooner rather than later. It's not just that he scores, but how he scores, so effortlessly and gracefully. Watching Durant is like watching a figure skater. Everything he does is done with such ease and smoothness you expect him to whip out some triple-axles and double-lutzes, and the only way he can probably be stopped is if the Russian judge decides to screw him out of his deserved points. (Well, either that or someone goes all Tonya Harding on his ass.)

Besides Durant, though, nobody for the Thunder did much of anything. Westbrook scored 15 points, but took 16 shots to do so, and nobody besides Durant and Westbrook even reached double figures. OKC was completely overmatched by a bigger, more physical, and more experience Celtics team that was on a mission from the opening tip.

Despite the fact that he didn't play too well, I was impressed by Serge Ibaka. He's all arms and legs, but he has the length and athleticism to become a valuable player in the NBA. He screams potential, and he already seems to realize he's going to affect games mostly by using his superior athleticism to block shots, rebound, and score easy buckets. Another thing I was impressed by? James Harden's beard. That thing is rugged, man. At night, he takes it off and Earl Boykins uses it as a blanket. What I was not impressed by? Thabo Sefolosha. I know he's a very good defender, and did a good job on Ray Allen, but I don't care how many points you hold someone to if you score zero points yourself, in over 32 minutes. If you are that bad offensively, and I was your coach, you wouldn't be playing a single minute. I don't care if you're a mixture of Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace in their primes on defense, if you are that big an offensive liability you shouldn't be on the floor. I'm not saying Thabo is always that bad -- although he's never very good -- but, last night at least, he would have been just as helpful to the Thunder's cause if he'd come down with the swine flu and had to miss the game.

My other thoughts? Rasheed Wallace continues to cut the bad threes out of his game and focus more on his post play. That's a good thing. Eddie House is the king of garbage time, Jeff Green had a really sick baseline dunk, Kendrick Perkins continued his super-solid play, and Etan Thomas should shut the hell up the next time he realizes he's screaming and yelling after a putback basket with his team down 22 points. (I don't know if anyone else even remembers that play, but it happened in the late third quarter when Thomas started woofing after he ripped a rebound from a Celtic and put it back in. Your down more than 20, Etan. Just shut your mouth, run back on defense, and know your role. I know you were excited to score your only bucket of the game, but act like you've done it before.)

Anything else? Nope, I don't think so. Actually, yup, there's one more thing. I can't believe I almost forgot:

Kobe definitely didn't call glass.

Claws Decimate Armor

In front of a sold-out home crowd of 3,091, the Maine Red Claws opened the newly-renovated Portland Expo for their inaugural season. The crowd was boisterous, the team was clicking, and Portland got to see a big win for the new team as they rolled over the Springfield Armor 102-79. Head Coach Austin Ainge got his first win in his home arena - and again his father was there watching in person.

The Red Claws were in much better form than in the one preseason game barely two weeks ago. The new players acquired by the team in their flurry of moves seemed to be fit in relatively well, especially given that some hadn't even played a game with the Claws yet. It was clear that the Claws had improved dramatically since the preseason while the Armor had gone in the opposite direction. Indeed, despite being a relocated rather than an expansion franchise, the new Springfield team has started the season 0-3, while the Claws are now 2-1.

Despite the final 21-point margin, the game was close for much of the evening. At the half the Claws were only up by seven points, and the Armor came out of the gates strong, keeping the margin close in the third. The team played with an impressive level of energy. They have perhaps bonded on the recent road trip, finally becoming a real team rather than just a collection of players.

It was clear from the outset why Alexis Ajinca was the first player sent to Maine by the Charlotte Bobcats. Although certainly a defensive force with 13 rebounds, the rest of his night left a bit to be desired. He took some unnecessary risks with his shooting, but I expect to see him improve over the course of the year - if he works hard and listens.

I will give him this: he does seem to be a very nice guy, being the only player who came over and said hello before the game. But that's not going to get him back in the NBA. The points leader for the night was Mario West, who was recently acquired by the Claws after the NBA's Atlanta Hawks sent him packing. While his NBA stats over the past two years aren't impressive, his 19 points in 25 minutes last night suggest that he's going to be a leader for the Claws. Clearly he was a good pick-up for Maine. The Claws' other addition from the NBA, Trey Gilder, wasn't quite as impressive, but he certainly had his moments.

Celtic Bill Walker had a decent, though not outstanding, night. He's clearly much more a part of the team now, but even though he spent the most time on the court he tied for second in points (14) and didn't make much of a dent in the other statistical categories. Walker had a much better game in last Friday's away loss to Sioux Falls, but then again, so did team captain and veteran player Billy Thomas. Last night the stars were Mario West and Tony Bobbitt, but the Red Claws were quite balanced, with almost every player on the roster getting in for at least twenty minutes and only one with more than thirty (Walker). This stands in stark contrast to the Springfield Armor, who had three players in for most of the game.

The refereeing, while relatively poor, at least doesn't have the kind of ridiculous favoritism at the D-League level as in the NBA. I will say that one of the interesting points about sitting courtside is getting a good picture of when the coach is upset about calls, and mostly every time I was pissed at the refs Austin was as well.

This is going to be a good season, and I have no doubt that several of the players signed by the Red Claws will get second looks from NBA teams as their season wears on. The Claws looked very good for the most part last night, with only a few gaping holes as a team. For example I think Austin will be running a few 3-point drills this week - they only had one all night. Still, for the very start of the season the Red Claws looked good. I expect they'll be a competitive team this year for sure.

UPDATE: The Red Claws thrashed the Armor again Saturday night 115-89, this time in Springfield, improving to 3-1 while the Armor fell to 0-4.

David Stern thinks women can play in the NBA

Via SI's Ian Thomsen:
On Tuesday in the conference room outside his NBA office in Manhattan, I asked the commissioner whether we'll see a woman playing in his league someday.

"Sure," he said matter-of-factly. "I think that's well within the range of probability."
And later in the piece:
I asked if we might see a woman playing NBA basketball within a decade.
"I think we might," said Stern. "I don't want to get into all kinds of arguments with players and coaches about the likelihood. But I really think it's a good possibility."

Thomsen admits the context of the question probably affected Stern's answers.  The way Thomsen asked him the questions, Stern might be seen as a chauvinist for saying he didn't think so.  Still...

With all due respect to Shelden Williams and his wife Candace Parker (is it Candace Williams now?), the time for a woman to play in the NBA is a long, long time away.  Just think about it:  Candace Parker is the single most athletic player in the WNBA today, and she can barely dunk a basketball.  In fact, she's no more athletic or physically imposing than your average male high school forward.  And she's the absolute cream of the WNBA crop.

Don't get me wrong, I think women's basketball is filled with highly skilled players, players who are just as skilled as their men counterparts.  But they are nowhere near athletic enough, nor strong enough, to compete in the NBA.

For a woman to ever make it into the NBA, it would have to be the perfect storm.  She'd have to be the most athletic player in the WNBA, and also the best shooter.  She'd have to play for a coach who doesn't mind playing zone to hide her defensively, and she'd have to be strong enough not to get destroyed even in a zone.

If you ask me, the time won't come nearly as soon as Stern and Ian Thomsen seem to think.  But who knows...

The perfect storm might come sooner than I think.

Doc Rivers: Boston Celtics "never that good" last season

Via NewsOK -
"Last year, I said it all year, and no one wanted to hear it. But as good as our record was, we were never that good,” Rivers said. "I didn’t think we had the right mindset the entire year last year. We had too many things going on.

"Two years ago, we had a one-agenda team — that was to win the title. I think this team has that same thought process. There’s not other stuff going on. This team is focused on winning. That doesn’t mean we’re playing well, yet. But we are focused on one thing, which gives you a chance to be a good team.”
It's nice to see Doc thinks this team is entirely focused on winning ball games and -- the ultimate goal -- winning a championship.  But let's not kid anyone, Doc: The Celtics are playing pretty damn good basketball right now.

The Morning Walkthrough: Kevin Durant is pretty good

The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn't mean we have to.  Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.

Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe - “Durant is awesome,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s going to lead the league in scoring very soon and he’s going to lead this team into the playoffs very soon, you can see it coming. He’s really just difficult to stop. I will say this, Paul had the best defensive job I’ve seen in a long time. He took the challenge - we challenged him and he took it, and I thought his leadership was a turning point in the third quarter."

Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub - Thing to keep in mind: Rondo’s last three baskets of the quarter—including the two contested lay-ins that made me drool—came with the 5′10” Mike Wilks guarding him. Rondo is not yet comfortable taking those shots over guys a bit taller than him, but he showed tonight that he can attack smaller guys one-on-one and punish them.  Related note: Jameer Nelson is 6′0” and Mo Williams is 6′1″. File it away.

Tom Halzack, Celtics Central - It was the 4th and last game of the Celtics’ road trip. They just played San Antonio in a tough game. It was the back game of a back-to-back. It’s what is called a trap game. It would be easy to get surprised, outplayed, and call it a week. (Remember last year’s Clippers game ?) They have three days until their next game. The aging Celtics had a lot of reasons to lose and go home 3-1 with a solid road trip. The Celtics had different ideas. Looking more and more like the Green Machine of the previous two years, they crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-87.

Gary Washburn, Boston Globe - Rivers has diverted comparisons with the 2008 title team, fully realizing this team - especially with Wallace and a healthy Garnett - needs to establish its personality. That evolution occurs during November games and sometimes the growing period is deceiving. The goal isn’t to win pretty, it is to win. And the pretty wins, such as last night against a talented Thunder team, will come in time. Rivers promised this, showing little distress when questioned by reporters about the team’s issues.

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald - “It starts with Rondo,” he said. “When our point guard is dictating the flow, turning the opposing point guard and getting everybody into the game - not just me but Paul (Pierce), Ray (Allen), Perk, and then he comes in with the second group, Rasheed (Wallace) and Eddie House, and gives them opportunity, it starts with the point.  “Rondo and I, it was just a flow,” Garnett added. “It starts with our point guard, and he controlled the flow from the beginning to the end. Just flowing with plays that just took eye contact, and he took the pace of the game and went.”

Celtics simply too good for Thunder in 105-87 win

Friday, December 4, 2009

Well that was easy enough.  The Celtics were completely dominant tonight, beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-87.  Honestly, there was only one period of time when the Thunder looked like they belonged on the same floor as the C's -- a small stretch in the middle of the second quarter, when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were attacking the rim, using their length and athleticism to their advantage.  Other than that little span, this game was all C's, all the time.

Though I will be posting a full recap tomorrow morning on the home page, here are a few notes from the blowout:

  • Kevin Garnett needs to do the stop, drop and roll.  He was absolutely on fire in the third quarter, with a parade of dunks and jumpers to blow this game wide open. (P.s. - sorry for the miserable stop, drop and roll joke.)
  • As good as Garnett was in the third quarter, Paul Pierce was that good in the first half.  21 points for the Truth in the first half, on incredibly efficient scoring.  He picked his spots, hit his threes, and got to the line in leading the C's terrific start to the game.
  • Extremely balanced scoring.  Boston had 7 players in double figures, and none attempted more than 11 shots.
  • Rondo was great, especially in the third quarter when he and KG completely dominated.
  • Kevin Durant is an absolute killer. Need I say more?
  • Thunder only had two players in double figures. (Westbrook, with 15, was the other.)
  • Now a 7-game win streak for the C's, who are atop the Eastern Conference standings.

Kendrick Perkins dominates Charlotte front line in easy 108-90 victory

Visit CitySwagUsa.com for high-quality custom-printed tees!This one was over when there were, well, about 36 minutes left. Actually, it might have been over even before that.

Honestly, the only reason I even watched the second half was to see when the Bobcats would surpass that ever-elusive 60-point barrier they fell short of last time (the answer: four minutes left in the third quarter), whether 'Sheed would pick up his second technical of the game (nope), and if KG would really come to blows with Nazr Mohammed. (And, if so, would Stephen Jackson fire bullets into midair to end the beef, only to get run over by a car -- or, in this case, Perk?) Sadly, none of that happened either.

All I need to do to explain to you how badly the Bobcats were outclassed is to tell you one thing: Nazr Mohammed (yes, THAT Nazr Mohammed) was arguably their best player. From my experience following the NBA, let me share some valuable knowledge with you: When Nazr Mohammed is your team's best player on any given night, you are going to lose on that night.

The player who's supposed to be their best player, Gerald Wallace, was completely non-existent. Greg Payne from CelticsBlog wrote an article titled "Paul Pierce Will Have His Hands Full With Gerald Wallace", but Pierce remained empty-handed the whole game, as Wallace more or less entirely disappeared. Mike Gorman noted, "Wallace wishes he didn't get up this morning," but his play was even worse than that. He probably wishes he doesn't get up tomorrow morning, either.

The Celtics, much like they've done recently, played great team basketball. They moved the ball terrifically, at times looking like a well-oiled machine. Playing against a Charlotte Bobcats team with an old, slow, and weak frontline, the C's did just what they should do; pound the ball inside. (Note: What the hell happened to Tyson Chandler? A few years ago, he was on the National Team. Yes, the USA National Team. And yes, for basketball. Now, he looks like Space Jam's Monstars took over every skill he ever had, as well as all of his athletic ability.)

Kendrick Perkins was dominant. He rebounded, he blocked shots, he scored, and he even threw in a between-the-legs crossover move to blow by Mohammed for good measure. (Okay, maybe "blow by" isn't the right phrase. How does "rumble by" sound? A little more accurate? Good.)

But you know what? That crossover, as nice and unexpected as it was, wasn't even my favorite part of Perk's game. So what was my favorite part, you ask? When he fouled a Charlotte player and, instead of sending a menacing scowl in the direction of Mr. Referee, he simply raised his hand and admitted the foul. It wasn't a nice play, and it wasn't positive for either Perk or the C's, but Damn! did it make me chuckle. Since when does Perk politely raise his arm after getting whistled for a foul? Seeing him do that proves true the old adage: There's a first time for everything.

Besides Perk, Ray Allen was Boston's other stud. After a prolonged slump left Ray shooting only 30% from behind the arc, it was nice to see the classy star break out for 27 points, including 5-6 shooting from three-point land. He drained a couple threes to start off the first quarter and, by that point, had already matched the total number of three-pointers the Bobcats would hit in the entire game. (Which, coincidentally, is also the number of threes they've drained against the Celtics ALL SEASON -- two.)

While just about everybody for the C's played well, one thing people might complain about is Doc's decision to put the starters back into a 20-point blowout with six minutes remaining. I see why you would complain; after all, who needs KG getting hurt playing useless garbage time? Still, I don't think it was all that bad. Even with those minutes, Ray Allen was the only starter above 33 minutes. (36 for Ray, 33 for Pierce, 31 for Rondo, 29 for Perk, and 26 for Garnett.) Maybe Doc shouldn't have put those guys back in -- and, really, I still don't get why he did. It was still a 20-point lead! -- but, with those minutes, nobody should be too worn out for Thursday night's game in San Antonio.

Anything else worth noting? Ummm... Garnett got into a little scuffle with Mohammed in the first half. Rasheed got another weak tech. (This time, he was walking off the floor when the whistle was blown. His reputation really kills him when it comes to techs.) Rondo was decent, Pierce had his first single-digit scoring output of the season, and Garnett continued his efficient play. D.J. Augustin barely played any minutes, Flip Murray was horrendous, and Boris Diaw is kind of chunky.

After winning in such convincing fashion, on the road -- again -- I want to say the Celtics are road warriors, but I think it has a lot more to do with who they played in their losses, rather than where they played those games. Had the Celtics played Atlanta, Phoenix and Orlando on the road rather than at home, they probably still would have lost all those games. Being on the road shouldn't help win games... right? Right?

Anyways, on a completely unrelated note, it sure is fun, ain't it?

Beating up on mediocre teams, that is.

Celtics beat Spurs, 90-83: Thank God for that sideline

Visit CitySwagUsa.com for high-quality custom-printed tees!If you're just a casual basketball fan, I'd advise you not to watch the Boston Celtics play the San Antonio Spurs.

You might never watch another basketball game again.

But if you are an avid fan, one who knows the ins and outs of the game, you can't help but appreciate the effort and execution the two teams exert every time they match up.

Those swift defensive rotations, the crisp ball movement and extra passes, the exquisite attention to detail paid both by coaches and, in effect, their teams. To some people, those things might not be exciting. Some of you would probably rather watch Golden St. play a game in the 130's against the Phoenix Suns. But that isn't basketball at its purest, that isn't a cohesive unit of five guys willing to bust their ass not only to score the basketball, but to keep the other team from scoring. Because it's at the defensive side of the ball where you find out who's truly selfless, who's gritty and willing to do whatever it takes to win. Anyone can try his hardest on offense: After all, his stats -- not to mention his next contract -- are based in huge part on offensive output. It takes a different kind of player, a different type of man, to dig in on the defensive end, to take a charge when his team needs it, to rotate to an open shooter when a teammate needs help, or to dive to the floor after a loose ball.

The Spurs and Celtics, for whatever reason, are filled with those tough, selfless types of players. They are throwbacks; they don't care who gets the glory, they don't care who takes (or makes) the most shots, they don't care who scores the most rebounds or gets the post-game interview. They just want to win games. And that's it.

Last night, you saw that selflessness in action, from all angles. You saw Tim Duncan working throughout entire positions in an attempt to seal his defender and get an angle for an easy lay-in. You saw Kevin Garnett foregoing ten-foot jumpers to throw bullet passes to Kendrick Perkins under the basket. You saw DeJuan Blair, 6'7" in high heels, a man with no ACL's, registering 18 points and 11 rebounds almost strictly by his non-stop activity and undeniable motor. (Not to mention his great hands.) You saw Rasheed Wallace, old and out of shape, hustling his rear end off to make a defensive rotation and contest shots that otherwise would have been open. You saw Matt Bonner -- slow, outmatched and, well, slow -- scratch and claw his way to nine rebounds, even though every other player on the court had considerably more athletic ability. You saw Paul Pierce, struggling to a 2 for 9 shooting performance, shake off his frustration and take it out while defending Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili, whom Pierce helped harass to combined 7 for 25 shooting. You saw pure heart, determination, and team play from everywhere.

While both teams executed, and both teams played hard, it was the Celtics who made more plays. And the player who made the most plays for the C's, Rajon Rondo, was their MVP. It was hard not to give my meaningless, made-up MVP award to KG, but the difference between when Rondo was on the court and when he wasn't was so great I couldn't help but give it to him. (Did you see that second unit with House running the show? Every bench player who played had a negative +/–, and House's ineptitude running an offense was at least partially to blame.) Back to Rondo -- the meaningless, made-up MVP -- he had 12 points, 12 assists, and the play of the day when he flung a no-look pass to Rasheed Wallace for a three-ball to end the third quarter and extend the C's cushion. (And by no-look pass, I mean I'm pretty damn sure he never once looked at Rasheed. Not once, during the entire play. At least from what I could see.) Rondo played Tony Parker very evenly, perhaps even getting the better of him, and that in and of itself says a lot about how good Rondo was on this night.

If it weren't for Rondo's performance, KG would have easily been the fictional MVP. He continued his torrid streak from the field, shooting 9 for 15 with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. If that's not enough, his alley-oop from Rondo (which he finished with a very, very contested layup instead of a dunk) was a huge momentum changer, as the Celtics came up with a big bucket every time they really needed one. As much as the Spurs fought to come back, they could never get over that hump to finally make it a one-possession game.

Actually, rewind a little, and let me take it all back. Rondo wasn't the game's meaningless MVP; it was the sideline. You know, the sideline Michael Finley inadvertently stepped on before canning a three-pointer that would have cut the lead to 2 points with 12 seconds remaining. The sideline Finley wishes could have been a couple inches farther back. The sideline that effectively ended the game when it snuck up on Finley and forced him into an unforced turnover.

For San Antonio, I was -- as always -- impressed by Duncan. The man is so fundamental. If you watch him, every second, he's always preparing for his next move. When a player fronts him, Duncan works to seal him towards the middle. When a player plays behind, Duncan keeps him pinned there so he can work his face-up game that often ends with a soft kiss off the glass. When a player comes to double, Duncan is passing out of the double-team to an open teammate before the double can become effective. He isn't as athletic as he used to be, but it was never athleticism that made Tim Duncan great. It was his fundamental play and ability to plan one step ahead of everybody else. It's as if he sees the game in slow motion while everyone else sees it in fast-forward.

Besides Duncan, there was Blair. Ohhhhh mannnnnn, there was Blair. That kid plays with as much heart as Eddy Curry, only if Eddy Curry 1) actually had a heart and 2) it was enormous. Blair attacks every rebound like it's a free meal, using his great hands and strong frame to carve out space and snatch boards. Once he gets the ball, he knows what to do with it: Put it in the basket. (Even if, once, it was his own basket. Don't worry, it was accidental... I think. It actually looked like Blair intentionally tipped a rebound back into his own bucket, but that can't be true. Can it?) Blair helped lead the Spurs to a 55-32 advantage on the boards, including an outrageous 20-2 margin on the offensive glass.

Then there was Tony Parker, still one of the NBA's best point guards despite all the injury problems he's gone through lately. He's lightning fast, and it was at once comical and very sad to watch Parker and Rondo guard each other. They both laid off each other by about ten feet, scared of being blown by, and willing to allow the other to take open jumpshots all game long. Neither Parker nor Rondo decided to settle, both deciding they were better off being patient and getting to the hoop more often than not. (Though Rondo hit the biggest jumper of the game, in the closing minutes to push the lead to six. Well, I think it was six. I'm almost positive it was six.) Parker is a one-man fast break, capable of finishing in the lane over any human being ever created. It's uncanny, Parker's ability to not only get his shot off over bigger players in the lane, but to make those shots too.

What else to say, what else to say? Perk wasn't as good as he has been lately, but the C's will take 9 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks and a solid overall performance. Ray couldn't buy an outside shot and disappeared in the fourth quarter, but was nonetheless effective with his midrange game and in transition. (Note: Did you see Jesus Shuttlesworth sky for that dunk in the first half? Somewhere, LaLa watched that dunk with her other dude and felt a tinge of jealousy that Jesus escaped her grasp.) Rasheed was active, solid and willing to bang down low. Eddie House was bad, and Marquis Daniels was nonexistent, but neither compared to the inadequacy that was the Spurs' trio of Antonio McDyess, Keith Bogans, and Roger Mason. For those guys, a combined 50 minutes played, 0 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists between them. It's tough to win games with such meager production from three important players. (Normally, I wouldn't call Keith Bogans important under any circumstances. But he started! That has to give him some significance, doesn't it?)

Anyways, enjoy your night, and remember:

Thank God for that sideline. That sneaky, glorious sideline.

What if the Celtics had never traded for Ray Allen?

Visit CitySwagUsa.com for high-quality custom-printed tees!A long, long time ago, when the Boston Celtics were the NBA's worst team and the Oklahoma City Thunder were still the Seattle Supersonics, a trade occurred that would greatly change the fortunes of the two aforementioned teams.

Okay, it wasn't quite a "long, long time ago," but doesn't it feel like ages have passed since the Seattle Supersonics packaged Ray Allen and a second-round draft pick (which became Glen Davis) for the #5 pick (Jeff Green), Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West?

Way back when (again, aka three years ago), there was talk of the Celtics trading Paul Pierce away, tanking an entire season for the chance to draft Greg Oden seemed like a great idea, and the Celtics relied upon Tony Allen for big-time production. I guess it's a good thing times have changed.

In fact, that trade ended up working out perfectly for both teams. While the prospect of teaming Kevin Durant with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis seemed like a terrific opportunity, by the time Durant fully develops Allen will likely be on his way out of the league and Lewis will be co-authoring a tell-all book with Jose Canseco. (In case you didn't know, I'm just kidding.) The Sonics... I mean,Thunder, are set up perfectly for the future, with young talent at just about every position. Seriously, think about this lineup once they all mature: Russell Westbrook at point guard, James Harden at shooting guard, Durant at small forward, Green at power forward, and... B.J. Mullens at center. (I told you, they have young talent at just about every position, not every position.)

The Thunder are exciting, fun to watch, athletic, talented, young and perfectly positioned for being a contender down the road. Plus, they aren't even that bad now, with a 10-8 record and a surprisingly effective defense to go along with all the budding talent on offense.

And the Celtics? I could go on and on about how much better they are now than they were a few years ago, but I'll instead remind you of what would have happened to the Celts had that trade never been made. If the C's don't make that trade, they don't get Kevin Garnett because he didn't want to come to a non-contender. Then, they would have either had to decide to trade their youngsters for another player (maybe Pau Gasol?) or to keep their youngsters and build around them Let's say they chose to build around the youngsters, mostly because I can't stand the thought of the Big Poodle in Celtics Green. If they did that, the C's would have had a lineup the following season of Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, with Ryan Gomes, Tony Allen, Yi Jianlian (according to grumblings, would have been the Celtics fifth pick had they kept it), and Sebastian Telfair coming off the bench. You might think for a second that those guys could compete and win their share of games, but let me continue.

In all reality, playing with three highly professional future Hall-of-Famers every day has sped up the development of all the C's youngsters. Do you think Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins would be nearly as good as they are now if they didn't have the Big Three to show them the ropes? If the Big Three doesn't come together, Rondo would probably have ended up being traded to some other team, after causing such a big headache for Head Coach X (Doc would have been canned after another bad season) that General Manager Y (Ainge would have been fired too, after another losing season and the embarrassment of drafting Yi Jianlian with the fifth pick in the draft) decided to give him away for almost nothing. Perk might still be useless and out of shape, because he didn't have three guys to show him how hard you need to work to succeed in the NBA. Paul Pierce would either be so disgruntled with his poor teams that he'd be causing problems and destroying his legacy in Boston, or he'd be making All-NBA teams for some other organization after being traded himself. Al Jefferson has missed huge chunks of the last few seasons, and that would have meant Yi Jianlian (yes, THAT Yi Jianlian) would be relied on to be a starter for those chunks.

So would you rather have option #1) a misbehaved Rajon Rondo who hadn't yet gotten a good work ethic, a fat and useless Kendrick Perkins, a disgruntled Paul Pierce, a terrible Yi Jianlian and a nutty Delonte West, or option #2: the current Celtics starting five? If you want to say the first option, you are very drunk, very high, or a combination of both, so I'll first wait until you're sober and then ask you again. If you continue to say option #1, I will first check you into a mental hospital, then I will send you this picture in the mail.

Looking back on that trade, it was a real rarity in the NBA: A trade that made sense for both teams.

Austin Rivers, Doc's son, almost beat Paul Pierce in a one-on-one game

Via ESPNRise:
"I was just doing step-backs, really," recalls Austin, who was giving up about four inches and 50 pounds at the time. "Just shooting jump shots."
His size notwithstanding, Austin goes up 4-2 in the first-to-five matchup. Pierce, who has built a Hall of Fame career with his plodding, effective drives and crunch-time heroics, is suddenly serious.

He starts taking the youngster to the rack, and Austin -- just a high school sophomore at the time -- is powerless to do anything about it. Pierce prevails, 5-4.
Doc's son, ESPN's second-ranked high school junior, is apparently pretty damn good.  If you read the rest of the article, you'll see Doc's comment to Austin after Pierce told him Austin was tough to stop ("He never said anything about your defense"), and a rundown on Austin's game.

I think the C's should have Austin successfully challenge the NBA's age limit in court, then trade Tony Allen to Austin's high school team in exchange for his rights.  Whaddaya think?

Celtics take on Thunder in final game of four-game road trip

Celtics (15-4) vs. Thunder (10-8)
Time: 8:00 p.m

The Thunder are in town, meaning Ray Allen gets the chance to play against his old team... sort of.  Allen was a Seattle SuperSonic, and as you know Clay Bennett ripped the Sonics from Seattle and took them to Oklahoma City, demoralizing an entire city in the process.

Earlier, I wondered what would have happened had the Celtics never traded Ray Allen.  Now, I'm just going to preview the game.  Here are a few things to look for in tonight's game.

Kevin Durant
Enjoy watching this kid play tonight.  He is one of the most talented players in the NBA, one of the most skilled players in the NBA, and one of the physically weakest players in the NBA.  He is a skilled, 6'10" forward who can handle the rock, shoot it from anywhere, and is even starting to learn how to play defense.  The C's don't play the Thunder often, and the Thunder don't get too many nationally televised game, so enjoy watching Durant.  He's the real deal.

Thunder athleticism
Unfortunately for  the Celtics, they often have problems with the more athletic teams in the league.  Also unfortunately, the Thunder can throw waves of athletes at you.  Look for the C's to attempt to pound it down low, while the Thunder should try to get out in transition and take advantage of their young, bouncy legs.

Russell Westbrook vs. Rajon Rondo
This one should really be a treat.  Rondo can run circles around almost anyone in the league, but Westbrook can not only run circles around you, he can also jump over you or run through you.  These are two of the most scintillating performers in the league, point guards who can really do it all on a basketball court, and it should be fun to watch the go head-to-head.

Enjoy this one.

Prediction: 93-87, Celtics.

Jeff Green doesn't want Oklahoma City Thunder to get caught up in Celtics' trash talk

If you've ever watched the Celtics play, you know they're excitable, to say the least.  From Kevin Garnett incessantly screaming whatever four-letter word comes to his mind to Kendrick Perkins' mostly harmless yet constantly present scowl, the Celtics can rub people the wrong way.

Jeff Green knows the C's will bring their tough-guy act into Oklahoma City tonight, and doesn't want his team to get wrapped up in it.

Via News OK:
“If they want to talk, they can talk,” said Jeff Green. “We just have to worry about what we have to do. We can't fall into their little traps of trash talking and them getting in our heads and get us playing out of our (game). We have to continue what we've been doing — sharing the ball and playing defense.

“If they want to talk they can talk. If we win the game that will be our talk. We know they'll come in amped (up) and they'll talk a lot of trash. It is mostly Kevin, but guys feed off that. It goes into the way they play. I don't talk at all.”

Some people think the C's act is tired, that they shouldn't talk so much trash, that it's unsportsmanlike and unbecoming to be so hostile on the court.  (I was going to say "such assholes" rather than "so hostile", but I think you get the picture.)

To that I say, "Ha!"  Trash talk is a huge part of basketball.  It's been used for many decades, and probably since the very day in 1891 when Dr. James Naismith invented the game.  It has even had a huge place in Boston Celtics tradition.  Larry Bird is one of the most famous trash-talkers ever, and Bill Russell has discussed the importance of psyching out your opponent with a well-timed barb or two.

Plus, the Celtics talk a lot of trash, but you know what?  They back it up.  They are 15-4 and leading the Eastern Conference right now.  As long it's a great team or a great player talking trash, I'm fine with it.

Now, if the Nets were talking all this junk?  My opinion might be a little different.

Gregg Popovich impressed by Celtics early-season play

The season is still early, and the Boston Celtics have had a bit of an up-and-down start to their campaign.  But that hasn't stopped Gregg Popovich from calling them the NBA's best team.

Via the San Antonio Express-News:
“The game's a 48-minute game and you've got to play for 48, especially against a great team like Boston,” Popovich said. “Tonight, we played a quarter, and that's not good enough.

Popovich found no fault with his players' effort, but was perplexed by their lack of precision.
“They persevered all night long, but they were sloppy,” he said. “They turned it over, missed free throws, missed some assignments here and there, but against the best team in the league you've got to play for 48. You play other teams that aren't the best and you've still got to play for 48 or it's going to bite you in the butt.”
The Spurs were certainly sloppy.  On a couple of occasions, they simply threw passes out of bounds.  On another occasion, Richard Jefferson tossed the ball in directly to Rajon Rondo, prompting Mike Gorman to say, "Sometimes, Richard Jefferson just doesn't pay attention to detail."

But I pay attention to detail, and I read Pop's quote carefully and saw him call the C's the league's best team.   After the C's played an uneven game -- even in a win -- against Pop's team, missing a lot of outside shots and getting outrebounded like they were five guys the size of Muggsy Bogues, that's high praise.  Actually, it would have been high praise even after the Celtics played a flawless game.

But, coming from a coach who knows a little something about winning championships, that praise means a lot.  The C's have been playing very good ball lately, getting back to the two things that helped make them so tough the past two seasons: Defense and unselfishness.

So are they the best team in basketball?  I don't know yet.  But I do know it was nice to hear Pop say they were.

The Morning Walkthrough: Celtics exhibit road toughness to overcome DeJuan Blair and co.

The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn't mean we have to.  Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald - Any win over the Spurs at home is a sign of a team with rare focus. The Celtics,now 8-1 on the road after last night’s 90-83 win over the Spurs, are one of those teams. They are 3-0 on their current trip, heading into tonight’s game in Oklahoma City.  “We’ve been a good road team over the last couple of years,” Paul Pierce said. “We know what it takes when you get on the road, and the concentration you have to have. San Antonio’s a very good home team, but I think we’re really starting to get into our groove right now.”

Pounding the Rock - As inconsequential as RJ was, Blair was essential. Every one of his best qualities was on full display tonight: his soft hands, his relentless approach to rebounding, even his beyond-his-years post moves. His impressive outing is even more meaningful when you consider what kind of start he had to overcome: in his first minutes on court he tried to grab a defensive rebound with only one hand and scored a beautiful layup on the Celtics' hoop. It was that kind of night for the Spurs, but Blair didn't let it get him down for long.  Blair moves without thought: when he's on, everything's automatic for him.\

Me, Celtics Town - Last night, you saw that selflessness in action, from all angles. You saw Tim Duncan working throughout entire positions in an attempt to seal his defender and get an angle for an easy lay-in. You saw Kevin Garnett foregoing ten-foot jumpers to throw bullet passes to Kendrick Perkins under the basket. You saw DeJuan Blair, 6'7" in high heels, a man with no ACL's, registering 18 points and 11 rebounds almost strictly by his non-stop activity and undeniable motor. (Not to mention his great hands.) You saw Rasheed Wallace, old and out of shape, hustling his rear end off to make a defensive rotation and contest shots that otherwise would have been open. You saw Matt Bonner -- slow, outmatched and, well, slow -- scratch and claw his way to nine rebounds, even though every other player on the court had considerably more athletic ability. You saw Paul Pierce, struggling to a 2 for 9 shooting performance, shake off his frustration and take it out while defending Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili, whom Pierce helped harass to combined 7 for 25 shooting. You saw pure heart, determination, and team play from everywhere.

Boston Globe - After Brian Scalabrine missed a 3-pointer in the first quarter, Blair bounced up for the rebound -- then promptly shot the ball into his own basket. "That sums it up right there," Spurs guard George Hill said. "Things weren't going our way tonight." Asked in the locker room about the bucket he scored for Boston, Blair went silent for several seconds. Then he broke into a smile and said, "I tried to grab it with one hand but I should have grabbed it with two. That's never happened to me before."

A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE - While many stepped up for Boston, Rajon Rondo’s play once again stood out.  After Blair’s tip-in at the 2:47 mark, Rondo drained a 19-footer with two minutes to play that pushed Boston’s lead back to six points.  “When he steps into his shot, he’s a good shooter,” Rivers said. “When he thinks about his shot, he’s not and I don’t think anyone is for that matter. There was no thinking about passing in that shot.”  Defensively, Rondo blocked a shot attempt by Tony Parker with less than 30 seconds to play, and then had the presence of mind to knock the ball off Parker before it went out-of bounds.

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald - Not many nights have passed Doc Rivers’ 48-minute test, and even last night the vote was contested.  “We still haven’t played for 48 minutes,” Kendrick Perkins said. “They had 20 offensive rebounds tonight, and that’s not right. This wasn’t one of our best games, but we did a lot of good things during this game.”  Or maybe, like two years ago, they are destined to win ugly and ignore the aesthetics meter.

Are the Celtics the best road team in NBA history?

The question -- posed by Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston -- in case you didn't read the headline:  Could the Celtics be the best road team in NBA history?

The answer: No, absolutely not.  Sure, the C's have looked good on the road so far.  They've already defeated Cleveland, Miami, San Antonio, and a whole bunch of garbage teams on the road. (Knicks, T-Wolves, Nets, 76ers, Bobcats.)  But let's wait a little while before we christen them the best road team in NBA history.  Forsberg's already talking about the Celtics shattering the all-time best NBA single-season road record:
With a 90-83 triumph over the Spurs Thursday in San Antonio, the Celtics improved to 8-1 on the road this season. With approximately 22 percent of its road schedule completed for the season, Boston is on pace to post a 36-5 mark (87.8 percent), which would easily shatter the NBA record for road winning percentage currently held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (31-7, 81.6 percent).
Look, the Celtics haven't played the Lakers on the road yet.  They haven't played in Orlando, or Denver, or Phoenix, or Atlanta, or Portland.  To think they will continue their torrid road play all season, when they haven't played many of the NBA's elite teams and have already faced some of the NBA's worst teams, is nuts. 

Do I hope the Celtics will shatter the record and become all-time road warriors?  Of course.  But do I expect it to happen, or even give it a chance of happening?  No, and please, please, don't bring this up until much later in the season.  At least until the C's have played and defeated a few more of the NBA's best teams in their buildings.

Celtics- Spurs game preview: Tonight's game is must-see t.v.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Visit CitySwagUsa.com for high-quality custom-printed tees!Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan. The two best Power Forwards of this generation.

Boston vs. San Antonio. The two best teams of this decade.

Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley. The two best halftime guys. (Sorry, Ernie. We love you too!)

Throw in Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Richard Jefferson, Manu Ginobli, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker and we have one of those mark-the-calendar, circle-the-date kind of regular season game we see so rarely in the NBA.

Especially when you add in the fact that both teams have won their previous 5 games and are playing perhaps their best basketball of the young season.

The Boston Celtics are coming off two huge road wins against Miami and Charlotte, but will face a San Antonio Spurs team that is 8-2 at home this season, and looking to prove they are among the NBA's elite on national television.

Boston will be led by the Energizer Bunny, Kevin Garnett, who is playing like he got a new set of battteries after burying the game-winning shot at MSG against the Knicks last week.

Since the game-winner, KG is shooting a ridiculous 27-35 from the field, and 19-22 from the FT line. More importantly, Garnett has regained his swagger; he's returned to picking up guards in the full-court, whoofing at anybody who will listen, and outrunning teams down the floor.

KG is the heart of the Boston Celtics. And with their heart once again pumping vigorously, the blood is flowing out to the rest of the team, re-energizing what has looked like an old team so far this season.

Boston's offense looked magnificent against Charlotte, but they will have to continue to play team basketball, crisply moving the ball against a stout Spurs defense, which is anchored by future Hall-of-Famers Tim Duncan and Greg Poppovich.

(And yes, to those fans who are a little confused, I know Poppovich is the Spurs coach. But he is as responsible as any player for how the Spurs defense plays.)

On the other side of the ball, Tim Duncan is as rock-solid as ever, leading the Spurs with 18.5 pts, 10.8 rebs and 2 blocks a game.

As we've written before at Celtics Town, individual regular season games don't matter much, but big games do.

This is a big game. So, don't miss it.

It might be one of your only chances to really LEARN something new about two old title contenders.

And if that doesn't interest you?

You are at the wrong website........

1. Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan. Nuff' said.
2. Rajon Rondo vs. Tony Parker. Whichever speedy PG creates more easy opportunites for his team will likely pull out the win.
3. Manu Ginobli vs. Celtics bench. Ginobli has struggled adjusting to his new role with addition Richard Jefferson, but he has been an absolute killer of the Celtics in year's past and I suspect that trend will continue.

Boston Celtics defeat San Antonio Spurs

The Boston Celtics have defeated the San Antonio Spurs 90-83 to move to 3-0 on the current road trip, and 15-4 overall.

The first-quarter malaise that has plagued the Celtics so far this season is only a memory now. For the third straight game, Boston has jumped out of the gates with a great first-quarter on their way to an impressive victory.

Once again, Kevin Garnett lead the attack with 20 pts, 7 rebs 5 asts, while Rajon Rondo chipped in 12 pts and 12 asts on a rare off night from Paul Pierce, who shot 2-9 on his way to only 8 pts.

Rasheed Wallace was huge off the bench, contributing 13 pts and adding 4 blocks.

Most impressive, however, was the defensive effort against Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobli, who combined to shoot 7-25 for a measly 17 pts.

For the Spurs, Tim Duncan (16 pts, 15 rebs) and Tony Parker (17 pts, 7 asts) were steady as always and rookie forward Dejuan Blair was a spark off the bench, adding 18 pts and 11 rebs.

Stay tuned for more to come from Celtics Town on perhaps the biggest win of the season.

Glen Davis staying in shape while out with injury

Via the Globe:
“He’s really worked hard and he looks in better shape,” coach Doc Rivers said before the Celtics met the San Antonio Spurs. “He looks like he’s really put some time into conditioning and that’s a great way of winning your teammates back, coming back in better shape than when you left.”
 I hope he hasn't been doing too many MMA workouts.  That's the crap that got him injured in the first place.  (On second thought, maybe I should wish he did a lot more MMA work.  Then, maybe he'll hurt the other guy next time rather than himself.)

Whatever he's doing to work out, he'll be back fairly soon, and from the sounds of it he'll be svelte (or, at least, a bit svelte-er) when he returns.

Remember good ole Orien Greene?

Via D-League Digest:
Somewhere in the middle of all the offensive frustration and the flashes of defensive potential, there is something about Orien Greene that intrigues me. Maybe I’m just one more Celtics fan remembering the days when potential was all we faithful had (there should really be more party games that incorporate cruising down Celtics forums for “Bring back Gerald Green!” threads).

Man, it's really the night for updates on former Celtics bums point guards who couldn't quite cut it with the big guys.  Do you remember Greene, a throwback to the old days, back when it was more or less Paul Pierce and four unnamed teammates?  In case you don't, he was a very capable defender, with a strong frame (6'4", 200 lbs.), athleticism, and long arms.  He looked the part of a professional athlete, even if he didn't always play like it.

According to D-League Digest, Greene is really making his presence felt in the D-League... for better or worse. He had eight steals in his last game, and seems to be flashing the defensive potential that made him so intriguing in the first place.  On the other end, though?  Uh-oh.  Greene isn't exactly what one would call a "pure scorer", missing a whopping 21 of his first 31 shots.

Gabe Pruitt signs with the D-League's L.A. Defenders

According to ESPNBoston, Gabe Pruitt has signed with the D-League's L.A. Defenders.  You might remember Pruitt as the player who was drafted in the second round with big hopes but never made a big (any?) impact on the C's organization.  A tall, decently-athletic point guard who can shoot, Pruitt lacked the aggressiveness to make his presence felt in the NBA.

He'll get his chance now to make an impact in the D-League, where my friend has been stuck for over two seasons (in NBA2k10).  No joke, he created a player, and he's been in the D-League for two seasons, averaging 40 points and 11 rebounds per game but not getting called up to the NBA once.  He ended up getting so frustrated with his extended stay in the D-League that he researched -- yes, researched -- why he wasn't getting promoted to the big leagues.

Apparently, there's some glitch in the game that makes certain created players get stuck in the D-League forever, with no hopes of ever getting called up.

Hopefully, Pruitt won't experience that same glitch.  I'm still rooting for him, even though he's playing for the f---ing Lakers' affiliate.

Boston Celtics: "48-hour rule"

The Celtics won't have morning shootarounds this season... well, that is, if they have touched a basketball at some point within the 48 hours before a game.  If the C's have had at least 48 consecutive hours off, they will assemble in the morning for a normal walkthrough, just like any other boring team (via ESPNBoston):
"One thing we decided is a new rule -- the 48-hour rule," said Rivers. "If we go 48 hours without touching a basketball, we'll have a [morning] shootaround. We didn't practice [Wednesday], so if you go game to no practice, to a game the next night, it's too long without a ball. I think this is, what, our second [shootaround]? Otherwise, there's no shootarounds."
As a player, I always hated morning shootarounds.  Waking up when I would otherwise be sleeping seemed pointless and counter-productive to me; I always wanted a good rest before a game, rather than a pointless walkthrough.  I can understand the reasoning behind a shootatound:  Wake everyone up, make sure they don't go out too late the night before, attempt to focus everyone on the game.  But I was always a fan of that extra couple hours of sleep.

Apparently, Gregg Popovich agrees with me and Doc about considering a morning shootaround to be more or less worthless (via the San Antonio Express-News):
“We’ve been thinking for several years now: How can we maximize their rest and recovery?” Popovich said. “The shootarounds were the beginning. The next step was actually giving them more time to get more sleep.

“You need sleep. Sleep means recovery, mental and physical. Your body rejuvenates. So we felt getting out of the morning practices was important.”
Amen.  I only wish my college coach had felt the same way.  Those 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. wakeup calls were no fun.

Dizzy Yet? Claws Make Moves

With the home opener looming Friday night in Portland (8PM vs. Springfield, Portland Expo, sold out), the Maine Red Claws have made a number of roster moves since the preseason game. Players were cut by the team, some were assigned, and the Charlotte Bobcats made their first assignment of the season.

Only one of the recent roster moves was the result of an NBA assignment; most were independent actions by the Red Claws. The day of the preseason game Scooter McFadgon was waived, so Maine fans never saw the 6'5" shooting guard in action. Mike Williams, signed through tryouts, was activated for the preseason game.

The following day, Blair and Clement were waived. Clement, a Maine native and a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, was a fan favorite in the preseason. In that game he only played 4:35 with 2 points and 1 rebound. Tyrelle Blair, a Boston College graduate, played 15:15 in the preseason game with 2 points and 5 rebounds.

After the Claws returned from their Dakotas road trip, the Charlotte Bobcats assigned Frenchman Alexis Ajinca, a 7-foot center, to the team. His first appearance will be in tomorrow's home opener. Last year Ajinca appeared in 11 D-League games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

Finally, the Claws gained a few players with NBA experience. On Monday, the Claws acquired Trey Gilder, recently of the Memphis Grizzlies, dropping Gary Ervin to make room. Gilder, a 6’9" forward from Northwestern State, had seen little playing time in the NBA. Then on Tuesday, the Claws acquired Mario West, a 6’5" swingman who’s seen NBA time with the Atlanta Hawks, sending Stanley Thomas packing.

Dizzy yet? We can only hope the roster settles somewhat as the season continues. So here’s your summary of moves made since the preseason game:

IN: Mario West, Trey Gilder, Mike Williams

OUT: Scooter McFadgon, Tyrelle Blair, Matt Clement, Gary Ervin and Stanley Thomas

ASSIGNED: Alexis Ajinca, from the Charlotte Bobcats

You can watch tomorrow's home opener (and all D-League games) for free online at http://www.nba.com/dleague

Spurs firing on all cylinders coming into game with Celtics

The San Antonio Express-News is giving Gregg Popovich credit for simplifying the offense and allowing his talent to make plays:
With seven new players to teach, coach Gregg Popovich tore entire chapters out of one of the league's thickest playbooks before opening training camp. Then he entrusted point guard Tony Parker with more offensive leadership than at any time in his career, an act of faith for someone not easily given to ceding control.

The results bear out both the simplification and forbearance. The Spurs are averaging 101.1 points per game, up from the 97.0 they averaged last season. Through Monday's game, that ranked them 12th in the NBA, a big jump from last season, when they were No. 23 in scoring. It is an even bigger increase over 2007-08, when they were No. 28, at 95.4 points per game.
Specifically, Tony Parker has seen more free reign than he's used to:
"I'm really trying to make an effort to call fewer and fewer plays and let Tony run the show and let the flow of the motion and the reads they make dictate most of the offense,” Popovich said. “I get more involved after timeouts, and that kind of thing, but I'd really like them to read the situations on the court and play without my orchestrating much of anything.”
While their offense has operated so well, the Spurs defense wasn't performing admirably, at all... until, that is, their recent five-game winning streak:
“Some guys are playing better defense than others, so we're making sure they're on the court at critical times,” Popovich said. “Some guys are just starting to figure out the program, what to do in reaction to their teammates. It's an on-going process, but they're getting it and going in the right direction.”

With their recent defensive muscle-flexing, the Spurs have risen to seventh in the league in field-goal percentage defense (44.1 percent) and 10th in points allowed (96.5 per game). As recently as two weeks ago, they were in the bottom half of the league in both categories.
As usual, the Spurs are rounding into a more than formidable opponent. Is anyone surprised? They made a lot of additions over the offseason, and it isn't surprising it took this group a little time to gel. I know they haven't beaten any team of real significance during their streak but, then again, neither have the Celtics during their's. 

When it comes down to it, Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich is still Gregg Popovich, and the Spurs are still the Spurs.

The Sporting News picks four Celtics in NBA top 50 players

The Sporting News came out with its list of top 50 NBA players, and four Celtics made the cut:  Rajon Rondo (38), Ray Allen (27), Paul Pierce (10), and Kevin Garnett (7).

Frankly, I would have put Rondo higher and Garnett lower.  Rondo's behind Derrick Rose, a player he routinely kills, Tracy McGrady, a player who routinely misses games, Devin Harris, Al Horford, and Nene.  Garnett, meanwhile, still has a huge effect on games and has been playing great basketball of late, but has clearly struggled to be the same player he once was.

I guess it's a tough list to make, but I have a lot of qualms with whoever made this one, starting with the choice at the top.

The Sporting News chose Kobe Bryant; I would have chosen Lebron James.  Check the list out for yourself, and let me know if you agree.

Rasheed Wallace surprised Antonio McDyess by signing with Boston

Via the San Antonio Express-News:
The things (the Pistons) had going with Boston the last couple years, I was surprised he signed there, and not only me,” McDyess said. “A lot of the other guys on our team in Detroit were surprised.

“It wasn’t genuine dislike between us and the Celtics, but when you compete so hard against a team, well, it would have been like Reggie Miller going to New York from the Pacers. You know the guys on his team would have been saying, ‘Oh, you want to go to New York?’
Umm, Antonio, for most of Rasheed's time in Detroit, the Celtics were bottom-feeders.  The Pistons played the C's in one playoff series during Rasheed's time, two years ago during Boston's championship run.  This wasn't exactly an epic rivalry by any sorts.  They weren't trading blow for blow like the Pacers and the Knicks in the 1990's.  Where'd you expect Rasheed to go, anyways?  Milwaukee?  Minnesota?

Still, McDyess considers Wallace to a nice person to play with:
“He’s a great, great teammate, with a lot of enthusiasm on the court,” McDyess said. “I played with him so many years, and now having an opportunity to play against him is going to be weird. At this point, we’re just trying to get a win. I have to put all that friendship behind me.”
So what does Rasheed think about the Spurs?
“Not taking anything away from San Antonio,” he said then, “but I would have to say a few of the changes that they made on their bench and on their roster didn’t quite sit with me too well.”
I'm not quite sure exactly what in the world 'Sheed meant by that. Maybe he doesn't like that they traded for Richard Jefferson. Or maybe he wishes they would have signed him. Maybe he just misses dear, sweet Bruce Bowen.

(h/t TrueHoop)

Kendrick Perkins, fourth-best shooter in Celtics history

He's mostly known for his defensive exploits.  In fact, if you had to choose the crowning individual moment of his career, you'd probably have to say it was handling Dwight Howard so effectively in last season's playoffs.

So how, then, is Kendrick Perkins the fourth-best shooter in Celtics' history?  That's right, the "offensively challenged" Perkins is not the fourth-best shooter on this year's team, or the fourth-best shooter in his immediate family, or the fourth-best shooter who scowls 450 times per game, but the fourth-best shooter in the entire history of the proud Boston Celtics franchise.

Via the Herald:
Perkins, now fourth in the NBA with a .644 shooting percentage, has a career .550 field-goal percentage that is fourth in Celtics history, trailing only Cedric Maxwell (.559), Kevin McHale (.554) and Parish (.552).

With Tuesday’s 21-point, 9-for-10 performance, his high water mark for the season, Perkins has shot 33-for-41 over his last six games.

“Perk is just taking his time, man,” said Kevin Garnett, who has also made Perkins one of his favorite targets. “He’s a lot patient. He’s doing great at what’s been given to him. At the same time, he’s taking his time. Offense is just patience, and (letting) the defense react. As an offensive player you have to be a lot more aggressive than just finishing. He’s focused on catching the ball and finishing. He’s been offensive rebounding. He’s been a beast. He’s definitely growing as a player.”
First off, let me say that Perkins is first in the NBA with his .644 shooting percentage, not fourth.  Now that doing my second job as editor of the Herald is over, let me explain how Perk, despite entering the league with all the offensive talent of DeSagana Diop, has managed to become such an efficient scorer.

The most important reason is Perk's willingness to do the dirty work.  A lot of players, especially straight-out-of-high-school players like Perk, come into the NBA thinking they are going to light the league on fire, and try to do a lot more than they're capable of.

Not Perk.  Just about from day one, he's been content to handle his role of rebounding and defending.  He realized that he isn't the most gifted scorer ever -- not as talented as his former teammate Al Jefferson, for instance -- and decided to focus on the other aspects of the game, the parts he was better suited for.  Showing maturation far beyond his years, Perk settled into his niche as a low-post presence who didn't need the ball in his hands to be effective.

Surprisingly, it was Perk's willingness to focus on the other aspects of his game that allowed him to be such an efficient scorer.  For the first several years of his career, Perk never forced the issue down low, only looking to score when A) he had a mismatch, or B) he was so wide open and so close to the basket he had no choice.  Otherwise, Perkins was fine with letting his more skilled teammates do the scoring, while he focused on the other, sometimes more important, areas of the game.

This year, Perkins has been doing more scoring than ever, all while shooting at a higher clip than ever before.  His game has improved to the point where the C's now often look to dump it into Perkins in the post, counting on him to provide scoring punch in the paint.  Obviously, Perk has put a ton of time and energy into improving his game, spending time specifically with highly-regarded big man coach Clifford Ray

Along the lines of Perk's work ethic, here's my favorite Perk story ever:  After Perkins got married this summer, he declined a honeymoon because he didn't want to miss any more workouts.  (Note: It's actually true.)  Can you imagine telling your new wife, "Sorry, honey, but I have decided against a honeymoon.  I know you have probably looked forward to your honeymoon your whole life, but I'd rather lift weights and practice my jump hooks."?  I know I can't.  I'm sorry guys, but if I were an NBA player getting married, I'd still be going on my honeymoon.  My training regimen could wait a few days.

But Perk thought differently.  He just wanted to get back to work, back to honing his craft.  He's worked on his game every year he's been in the league and, while he's still more than willing to do the dirty work, Perk is now capable of being the C's leading scorer on some nights.  He won't remind anybody of Kareem in the post -- and, in Boston, that might be a good thing -- but Perk understands his abilities and gets the most out of them.

Do you want to know something funny about Perk being the fourth-best shooter in C's history?

He's probably more proud of the job he did on Dwight Howard.

The Morning Walkthrough: Kendrick Perkins earning a little admiration

The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn't mean we have to.  Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.

Gary Washburn, Boston Globe - "When Doc Rivers took over as Celtics coach in 2004-05, he inherited an overweight Perkins, then watched as his mammoth center trimmed his weight and bulked up his skills. He marveled at Perkins’s condition in training camp and his focus on improvement.  “You know who’s playing great for us is Perk,’’ Rivers said following Sunday’s victory in Miami. “He’s doing all the little things, a lot of the dirty work that you don’t get the credit for.  “One of the things we’ve talked about for years is if he can get it in the paint, they are going to have to foul. If he goes through bodies, he’s going to get to the foul line.’’"

Brian Robb, Celtics Hub - "Kendrick Perkins is leading the league in FG Percentage at 64.3% per game. Let that register for a little bit for a guy who use to be one of the most hesitant shooters on the team, if not the league.  The guy has surely come a long way but Perk’s continued progression on the offensive end has been a pleasure to watch, as he firmly establishes himself as one of the premiere big men, not only in the Eastern Conference, but the entire league."

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports - "The Nets didn’t back into this record, but earned it Wednesday. All together, the New Jersey Nets laid down and quit on themselves, the way the owner quit on Jersey six years ago. Bruce Ratner will go down as one of the most destructive owners in NBA history, and for one night until the Russian billionaire takes over, one more inglorious night, everyone wanted to celebrate that man’s incompetence and failure in the odd kind of way they could only do here, in Jersey, where NBA basketball seasons have long come to die."

Pounding the Rock - "I may be crazy, but I think RJ [Richard Jefferson] can run with Paul Pierce. The stats don't bear me out--Pierce averages higher in points, rebounds, assists, and efficiency--but let's call it a hunch. In mid-November, Pierce bruised a knee, but it didn't seem to slow him down much. He is aggressive, and Jefferson is going to have to push back."

Celtics power rankings

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Let me just go on the record as saying power rankings are more or less completely, utterly useless.  Beat up on a couple bad teams, and you sky up the rankings.  Lose a couple tough games to good teams, and you are bound to fall.

That said, they are also a lot of fun.  It's fun to see where people are ranking your team, and even more fun when they're pretty damn high.  Here are some notable power rankings, and the C's position:

"Ray Allen is shooting 30.1 percent from long range. Sheed is 12-for-63 on 3s since sinking six 3s in Philly on Nov. 3. And Boston has given up 110 or more points three times ... after doing so just six times in '08-09."
"Teams are starting to become green with envy over Gang Green. The team many believed has a good shot of winning its second title in three years is starting to show up. The Celtics won their fifth straight Tuesday at Charlotte. Forward Kevin Garnett, rounding into form after coming back this season from a knee injury, has made an incredible 22 of his past 26 shots."
"@thegarz88 Celtics go undefeated as Paul Pierce picks his spots; 2nd amongst non-centers in EFG% and 1st in Chris Bosh ego crushing"
It's interesting that no human observers have the Celtics higher than third, yet both the rankings found by statistics have the C's in first place.  Let's hope the statistics are right, eh?

Cheers to the basketball geeks and the formulas that say the C's are the NBA's top team, but wow, Marc Stein, are the Celtics really that low?  Looking at the teams ahead of the C's, though, you could certainly make his argument that the C's don't deserve to be any higher:  They lost to three of the teams ahead of them and, of the two they didn't lose to, the Cavs have been playing very good basketball and the Lakers are an easy choice for the top spot.

And if you don't agree, send your hate mail to Marc Stein, not me.  I am only a messenger.

Doc Rivers (again) discusses minutes

Remember last night, when Doc Rivers put KG, Paul, Perk and Rondo back into the game with about six minutes left and approximately a 20-point lead?  If you were like me, you wondered 1) What the hell is Doc Rivers doing?, 2) Does Doc think the C's actually have a chance to lose this game?, and 3) Does Doc realize KG, Ray and Paul aren't 25 anymore, and need rest whenever they can get it?

Well, apparently Doc does realize they aren't 25, even though he does a good job sometimes of pretending he doesn't:

Via the Herald:
Doc Rivers acknowledged that alloting minutes has been a challenge.

“It’s a fine line,” the Celtics coach said before the game. “You can’t shut them down from practice or game minutes. They need both of them. But there’s a line you can go over that hurts them.

“(Rajon) Rondo and Perk you don’t worry about, but the other three you do. It’s a work in progress so far.

“We’ve been good with Kevin - he’s at a career-low right now in minutes played. But where we struggle at times with Ray (Allen) and Paul (Pierce) - it’s one or the other who plays more minutes than we probably want them to.”
Doc, you've had three years to figure this out.  You have the deepest team you've ever had, and Marquis Daniels is a guy who can spell both Ray and Paul.  It's not like you have to put Tony Allen out there anymore.  Whenever you see Ray or Paul on the court for too long, just look down the bench, call Marquis or Eddie House's name, and tell them to check in at the scorer's table.

It isn't rocket science.  At this point, the C's should be more interested in resting their three Hall-of-Famers rather than trying to win meaningless early-season games.  Doc has been better at allotting minutes, but putting his starters back into a blowout with six minutes left isn't the way to keep their minutes down.

In Doc's defense, his substitutions last night weren't indefensible either.  The bench looked dreadful in that fourth quarter, and Doc didn't want things to get too sloppy, even in a win.

Still, Doc, just keep them on the bench in blowouts.  Methinks it's worth a little sloppy play to give your aging superstars a rest.

In case you didn't know, Ron Artest is crazy

Via The Sporting News:
"I used to drink Hennessy … at halftime," Artest says in the interview, which hits newsstands this week. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."
At halftime, Ron?  Here we are at home, just thinking that Ron Artest has a screw loose (actually, quite a few screws loose), but really he was just that crazy because he was hammered half the time.

When I played basketball, for the worst Division Three program in the country (not really, but close to it), we had protein packets at halftime to help us return for a strong second half.  Meanwhile, Ron Artest, getting paid millions to play basketball in the world's greatest basketball league, drank Hennessy instead.

Didn't anyone smell it on his breath?  Or see him drinking it?  Wasn't there a coach, or a teammate, who said to him, "Hey, Ron, cut the shit, we're trying to win some f---ing games here?  You can't be getting stiff at halftime."

It boggles my mind that Artest drank at halftime, and it further boggles my mind nobody stopped him from doing it.

That wasn't all from the article, though. Artest further admitted his craziness:
"When I was a 19-year-old father, whew. I was a single pimp! I was wild. A lot of marijuana and alcohol—even before (that age). … I (still) party and I have fun, but not like I used to. I used to drink every night and party every night."
That's definitely the way to react to becoming a father: Just go out every night, become a "pimp", drink a lot of alcohol, and smoke a lot of weed.  Wow, Ron, we thought you were crazy for your role in the Palace Brawl, but it goes way beyond that.  Oh, by the way, Ron doesn't see that he could have done anything differently in the Brawl:
"It wasn't my fault. … I don't see anything I could have done different. The only thing I could have done was have God pause time so I could have said, 'Oh, look, you're about to run in some stands, so stop.'"
So he's trying to say he got a beer thrown on him by a fan, and there was nothing he could have done differently other than going into the stands and trying to beat that fan's ass.  (And, if you didn't remember, going after somebody else first.)  Right, Ron.

And Ben Wallace, the player Ron Artest chose not to fight before fighting with half the crowd that night?  Well, Artest still holds a grudge:
"I see Ben, I'm on my guard now. I'm always in the mood to fight him. … I'll get suspended 10 games, 15 games (because) I'll just fight him right there. It won't go into the stands."
Artest must have read Aggassi's book and decided, "That's just what I want to do.  Cleanse myself of all my sins."

Can you believe this stuff?  Because I can't.  Actually, I can.  It's Ron Artest!

Kendrick Perkins improving shot release

Via ESPNBoston:

As Celtics coach Doc Rivers recently noted, "If you been around here enough, it sometimes felt like it took him forever to get it up. [Editor's note: That's what she said.)  He's a gatherer, that's what we call it. He has to gather the ball to go up. You see him doing drills each day, catch and going up quick. He's doing it better."
Watching him, it's easy to see the improvements Perkins has made.  I used to complain all the time about Perk bringing the basketball down, giving both time for big men to recover and an opportunity for guards to swipe at the basketball.  But now he is keeping it high, getting rid of it faster, and becoming a little bit of an offensive threat.

By the way, can't you just see Perk doing the Mikan Drill with a huge scowl on his face?