Monday, December 31, 2012
Both Aaron Brooks and Tyreke Evans sat out for the Kings, allowing Isaiah Thomas to step in to the starting lineup and take control of the game. Thomas had a game high 27 points, John Salmons finished with 23 and Jason Thompson had 20. DeMarcus Cousins showed the Celtics his diversity, posting his first career triple double with a stat line of 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The Celtics struggled to find their identity again, letting up 118 points to one of the worst teams in the NBA, while having a tough time scoring the ball themselves. Paul Pierce and Jason Terry led Boston with 20 points each. Kevin Garnett had a double-double with 16 points and 12 boards, and Jeff Green was strong off the bench with 16 points as well. But this team has major problems finding the type of game that they want to play. It is becoming a repetitive story, but forget the acquisitions that they need to make. Even within the team as it is built, players are not fulfilling their roles and it starts with Rondo.
Rondo posted his 10 assists as usual, but lacked any display of leadership or willingness to try and take over the game. He had the worst +/- of any player last night at -25, finishing with only two points. Yes he may have been struggling with a hip injury, but was able to play almost 36 minutes. Rondo shot 1-for-6 from the field including missing all three of his attempts from downtown. Rajon is not looking to play his game, if this team is to succeed he needs to be a player that is going to get into the paint and score.
There are a lot of problems on this Celtics team, but it's time to start considering that Rajon Rondo might be the biggest one.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
The Celtics will face the Kings in Sacramento Sunday night, and attempt to get back to the .500 mark. The sliding Celtics are much in need of a boost. One should be provided soon when Avery Bradley returns to the lineup, but that will not solve the rebounding and size issues that need to be addressed. Other names have been thrown around for the Celtics to go after, but none make as much sense as trying to add Cousins.
Cousins is a true center, young and loaded with talent, a scorer and a rebounder. He posses the abilities to solve at least a handful of Boston's issues that has them struggling to float around .500 this season. For his career Cousins has been around 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block per game. There are two issues that the Celtics front office must debate if they are to pounce on Cousins when/if he becomes available:
1. Is Cousins' maturity going to be an issue in Boston?
It certainly has been in Sacramento. Numerous scuffles with opponents, his teammates, and his coaches lead the list of mishaps that Cousins has been guilty of in his young careers. But he has had no mentor that he would respect and is still 22 years old. Would playing in the paint with Kevin Garnett provide him with that mentor? Would playing under a captain like Paul Pierce motivate him? Would learning from a coach like Doc Rivers help him mature? I think all the answers are yes which is why the Celtics pull the trigger on the move.
2. What would the Celtics offer that could intrigue the Kings?
Danny Ainge is working in the wake off dumping off Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green, a move that was not pleasing to fans, so he has to be careful to play his hand right on this one. Boston best two young pieces outside of Rondo are Bradley and Jared Sullinger... start by trying to KEEP those. An offer of Courtney Lee and Jeff Green paired with a first rounder would be the opening offer. Most likely it will be declined but the important thing is to find out why... is it the players, the contracts, or just not enough? Jeff Green's contract should be tough to move, so maybe Ainge tries swapping in Brandon Bass and Fab Melo (not as valuable anymore if Cousins is acquired to be the long term center) for Green. This gets the Kings thinking, maybe another draft pick puts the deal over the edge and the Kings accept it. The Celtics would most likely have to take on one of Sacramento's contracts they no longer want as well. Remember you can not trade your first rounder in back-to-back years so lets say the final trade looks like this:
Boston recieves John Salmons (due $8/$7.5/$7 million over the next 3 seasons/could also play a role off the bench) and DeMarcus Cousins.
Sacramento recieves Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Fab Melo, a 2013 1st round pick, a 2015 first round pick.
If you are the Kings, you get another big man who is a project in Fab Melo, two ready to play role players in Lee and Bass, and two future first rounders to do with as they please. The Celtics take on a bad contract but find a player to pair with Rondo for the future WHILE keeping Sullinger and Bradley to go along with them. This give Celtic fans a bright future to look forward to and ALSO gives Boston a better chance to win this year.
If it came down to it would Ainge move Bradley and Sullinger for Cousins? Probably yes. But why not try and work around that before jumping to conclusions so quickly.
This is not to take anything away from the Clippers who were fantastic in their display of teamwork and athleticism. LA showed what a true balanced team looks like after Boston felt that they had put forward their best game of the season just one game earlier in Brooklyn. The starters played almost identical minutes to the bench (partly due to score), but make no mistake this Clippers team is the deepest in the league. Paul and Griffin played well when in the game as well as the rest of the starters, but lets focus strictly on the bench for a moment. Lamar Odom came in and scored only four points in 29 minutes, but also provided 13 rebounds, five assists, and four blocked shots. Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford both played 23 minutes scoring 21 (game high) and 17 respectively. Ronnie Turiaf and Eric Bledsoe also play significant minutes, and keep in mind that both Chauncy Billups and Grant Hill still have not played in a game this year.
If this team does not scare you, or you don't consider them elite, you don't know basketball.
Here is Paul Pierce after the loss on the identity of the team; "We gotta figure out who we want to be. Do we want to be a defense first team? If we're not going to be a defensive team, we gotta be a better offensive team. It's gotta be something. We still gotta find our way." Clearly Doc Rivers needs to establish what kind of team this is going to be when his Captain is questioning it. The Celtics will try to avoid being swept on their road trip Sunday night against the Kings.
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Here is how the Atlantic Division stands today:
New York Knicks 21-8
Boston Celtics 14-13
Brooklyn Nets 14-14
Philadelphia 76ers 14-15
Toronto Raptors 9-20
The Knicks hold the two seed in the East, Boston and Brooklyn are holding on to the last two playoff seeds at seven and eight. It's a pretty congested division in the middle at the moment, and now is the time for a team to break loose. The Knicks schedule gets much tougher, and they have some brutal road trips left on the schedule, Brooklyn is obviously in turmoil, and Philly has cooled off after a hot start. This division is open for the taking if Boston wants it, and even if the Knicks don't cool off from downtown, the Celtics can still emerge as an equal to the Knicks as they were expected to be.
It was nice to see the games that Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger provided off the bench on Christmas, but they have proven to be far too inconsistent to rely on for the entire season. Help needs to come in the form of a trade, which can be nerve racking when you consider Danny Ainge's last big deadline deal was the Kendrick Perkins - Jeff Green swap. Another forced trade could ruin this teams hope for this season and the future. But a calculated risk in the form of a DeMarcus Cousins could be perfect. After some issues in Sacramento, Cousins is on the trade block. The Celtics would be crazy not to at least inquire about a deal. Cousins comes with crazy upside that could finally prevail under the wing of Garnett and the guidance of Doc.
Rajon Rondo led the way for the Celts with 19 points, six rebounds, and five assists, coming up with timely plays throughout the game. Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green were huge off the bench finishing with 16 and 15 points respectively. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett scored eight each but both played large roles in the win. Pierce had 10 assists including a beautiful bounce pass to Sullinger from half court. Garnett had 10 rebounds, but most importantly held down the defensive end of the court with a pair of steals and blocks and altering countless shots. Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez were the top scorers for the Nets with 15 points a piece.
This was the most well rounded game we have seen from the Celtics all year. They were led by strong defense transitioning into smooth offense and balanced by their bench. Here is what Rivers said about the team's progress after the win; "I think we're getting better. I think we're very, very close to becoming a good team, but we're not yet." The Celtics will take a great test to see how close they are when they take on the hottest team in the league on Thursday in LA... but not the Lakers. The LA Clippers have won 14 games in a row to achieve their 22-6 record. The Clippers are everything that Boston is not: young, athletic, fast, and play above the rim. The game will be a fantastic measuring stick, but a very tough matchup for the Celtics to keep pace with.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Varnado will be taking over Darko Milicic's spot on the team, so the roster now stands at 15. I still feel pretty strongly that Boston will have to make a deal by the deadline, but in the meantime this is a signing that puts them in the right direction. Varnado is the type of aggressive and athletic big that this roster lacks. It is still to be seen if he can make an impact, but the Celtics are giving a second chance. If he is able to prove himself the reward could be high.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Larry Sanders continued to give the Celtics fits, grabbing a monster double-double of 17 points and 20 boards to go along with his three assists, two blocks, and two steals. Monte Ellis led the way in scoring with 27 for Milwaukee, and Luke Mbah a Moute had a strong night with 20. The Bucks displayed a very versatile attack as Brandon Jennings neared a triple double as well (12 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists). The Bucks have clearly showed they are the better team so far this season, Doc Rivers agrees; "Give the Bucks credit. They've beaten us three times. They're the better team right now."
The Bucks showed everything the Celtics lack. A pair of speedy guards that can get to the hoop (at least till Bradley returns), toughness, and rebounding. Most importantly the Celtics don't have Larry Sanders who kills them every time. Sanders represents what Boston needs to add to their roster. An energetic player that is active around the hoop on both sides of the court and can rebound the hell out of the ball.
Again, Boston can not rely on big nights from Pierce to stay in games all year, they need to find that piece to add, but Rajon Rondo needs to step up and become a scorer to help the cause. The bench was better against the Bucks but not good enough. If the extra production is not coming from the bench it needs to come from Rondo. He finished with six points on eight shots in 45 minutes. Rondo's aggression and ability to score is the key to this teams success, and a stat line like that is not going to cut it. I have said he has to make himself a 25 PPG type player to make this team a playoff contender, and nights like last night only further prove that. We'll find out if he has it in him Christmas day in Brooklyn.
Friday, December 21, 2012
The Celtics bounced back strong from their three losses with a 103-91 victory against Cleveland at home on Wednesday night. Paul Pierce played a huge role finishing with a season high 40 points while also tallying eight boards and five assists. Here was what Pierce had to say about his performance; "I feel like the last few games I've been shooting the ball a lot better, three or four games now. I'm really coming along where I'm starting to get into a good groove offensively. The way my shot's going, picking my spots. So even before tonight I felt good." Rajon Rondo also chipped in 20 points, and Cleveland was led by Kyrie Irving and Tyler Zeller (made his first career start) with 22 and 20 points respectively. Boston made a couple shifts in the starting lineup, reinserting Jason Terry for Courtney Lee, and surprisingly brining Jason Collins in to start at center (moving KG to the 4) in an attempt to fix the rebounding/size problem the Celtics have battled all year. Collins fouled out in 23 minutes with a point, two rebounds, a block and a steal.
It was an exciting night to be in the building as a fan while Pierce took us back in the time machine putting up his 40 points on 13-for-16 shooting (6-for-7 from downtown and perfect on his eight free throw attempts). But lets take a step back and look at this one for a second. Pierce very well may go the rest of the season without having another game like this, so it certainly is not something we can rely on. Anderson Varejao was out for the Cavs, a player that this rebounding challenged team would have had a miserable time keeping up with. The Cavs were able to go on a 17-0 run in the second half before Boston had to bring Pierce back in to close out the game. Despite winning, there are a LOT of things Boston has to work on to have the type of season they hope for. The bench was awful again with 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE! Besides staying healthy, here are the 3 things that must happen in Boston if this team will make a playoff push.
1. Avery Bradley has to return in early January and make a significant impact on defense and fast break points. He is the perfect backcourt mate for Rondo and they need to gel again like they did last season.
2. Danny Ainge has to make a move to bring another active big man to the roster. Kevin Garnett is still giving everything he has and you have to tip your cap to how he holds down the defense. But KG plays only 25-30 minutes a night and the wheels fall off every time he is on the bench. Chris Wilcox has been the teams next best big and has been in and out of the lineup. Whoever is brought in needs to be able to defend and rebound, good offense would be a bonus. The three top names floating around: Varejao (would be perfect), Marcin Gortat, and Kenyon Martin.
3. Rondo has to step up and truly be the leader of this team. Pierce and Garnett both refer to Rondo as the leader, he has to accept that role. Pierce and Garnett's scoring is down and the bench isn't picking it up like they were suppose to. Rondo must become a 25 PPG player while maintaining his assist numbers. Not that it will be easy for him to do, but it is the player that he needs to become if he is going to be the man on this team, and the piece Ainge builds around in the future.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer were Chicago's top scorers with 21 apiece, but Joakim Noah had his second career triple double to carry the Bulls (11 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists). It was an overall dominating performance by the Bulls in all aspects of the game. Nate Robinson was able to outscore the Boston bench by himself, finishing with 18 points while shooting 5-for-7 from three point range. "Nothing better," said Joakim Noah after being asked what it feels like to beat the Celtics.
The Celtics will try and get back on track when they play the Cleveland Cavaliers at the TD Garden on Wednesday December 19th.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The following evening the Celtics were in San Antonio taking on a Spurs team that had their number earlier this season at the Garden. Another tough game on the road for the C's ended with their second double digit loss in a row, 103-88. The Spurs went on a 13-3 run in the fourth that put the game out of Boston's reach, solidifying a win despite only five points from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili playing only four minutes. The Celtics were led by Paul Pierce and Jason Terry who finished with 18 points each, Kevin Garnett chipped in with 13 to go along with six rebounds. But the Spurs proved to be too much, Tony Parker had 22 points and Gary Neal was right behind him with 20.
The Celts will try and finish the three game road trip strong Tuesday night in Chicago, before returning home to play the Cavs on Wednesday.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Paul Pierce netted a game high 34 points, his first 30 plus point effort of the young season. Pierce was one of six Celtics in double figures, highlighted by Rondo with 16 to go along with 9 rebounds and 15 assists. Mayo was Dallas' high man with 24 and got good help from Collison who finished with 20. They were joined by five other Mavericks in double figures.
The Celtics had chances to win at the end of regulation and the first overtime, but missed shots by Rondo and Pierce respectively kept the game going. Pierce opened the second OT with a three pointer that gave Boston the lead and they never looked back. Pierce went on to shoot five for six from the free throw line to eventually ice the game for the Celtics ending a long night. Despite coming into the game rested, the Celtics play back to back in Houston and San Antonio on Friday and Saturday night, and the heavy minutes tonight were not ideal for Doc Rivers.
Evan Turner hit the go ahead bucket for Philly and finished with 26 points, 10 boards, and five dimes. Jrue Holiday played well, and did a great job controlling the pace for the Sixers like he has all year, despite not having one of his better statistical games. Thaddeus Young also finished with a double double of 17 points and 12 rebounds. It was a well balanced performance by Philadelphia, but the Celtics felt they should have come out on top in this game, and showed why the next night.
"I love the way we responded tonight," Pierce said afterwards, "A lot of guys were mad for the fact we lost yesterday and we wanted to take it out on them today. We came up with something to prove." The captain seemed happy with the win, as was coach Doc Rivers; "Our defense is why we won... When you play defense like that, you win games." Rivers kept it simple, but clearly was impressed with the effort. The Celtics will try and make it two in a row at home on Wednesday night against Jason Terry's former team, the Dallas Mavericks.
It was a balanced attack from Minnesota with Kevin Love at the head (19 points, 13 rebounds), but the Wolves could never get it together enough to make the late push they needed. Doc Rivers feels as though things are not there yet, good things are around the corner for this team; "You can feel it starting to come. It's not here, but it's coming and you feel that. We've just got to push through. It's going to be a great month for us." Up next for Boston is a home and home Vs. the 76ers, starting in Philly Friday night and in Boston the following evening.