Monday, March 25, 2013

Garnett Spotted in Walking Boot

The Celtics are limping home from their West coast road trip, both figuratively and literally. After an encouraging two point loss to the Heat without Garnett, the Celts have gone on to drop three more games. Close losses to the Hornets, Mavericks, and Grizzlies are of concern, but not nearly as much as the health of the team.

Both Courtney Lee and Kevin Garnett missed Saturday night's game in Memphis with left sprained ankles. Lee is expected to bounce back in the next couple of weeks, but KG is the concern here. After just returning from a hip problem and the flu, Garnett now has been spotted with a limp and in a walking boot. Garnett is the single most important piece to this team, and FAR above playoff seeding is the importance of his health.

MRI results are expected to be released when Doc Rivers meets with the media after Monday's practice in Waltham. Both Garnett and Lee's status is unknown for Tuesday night at home against the Knicks.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jeff Green Shines, Celtics Come Up Short

There are so many ways to look at Monday night's contest between the Celtics and Heat, and so many things to take away from it, it is hard to pick a place to begin. Unconventionally, lets start from the end.

Jeff Green may have been the best player in the game, but LeBron James was the most dominant when it counted. When James reentered the game with nine minutes left, the Heat were down 10 and LeBron completely reversed the flow of the game. In the 105-103 Miami victory, James finished with 37 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, a freakish dunk (over a helpless Jason Terry, pictured above), and the game winning jumper. A statement game for LeBron's MVP case while keeping the win streak alive on a night the Heat had no business doing so.

It was, in ways, a devastating loss. I can not remember being so into a regular season game, and wanting to win so badly. But put things into perspective and this will just go down as one in the loss column, but a potential huge boost in team moral... for a team that was not lacking any confidence to begin with.

Jeff Green was tremendous starting in place of Kevin Garnett (thigh/flu), stealing the show for much of the game and finishing with 43 points, seven rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Both the emergence of Green combine with Garnett not even being in uniform should give fans a lot of hope about this team. I have been writing about why you should love this team (click here), and last night was exactly why. Rallying against the best team, without your own best player to give them one of the games of the year.

The only big mistake last night was when Doc Rivers decided to rest Green. Green had to ask to come out of the game for about four minutes until only 3:30 remained. He never scored again after that. Had Doc rested him to start the fourth, Green may have been able to keep his groove in the clutch. However it is hard to blame Rivers for trying to squeeze every second of court time out of Green that he could.

No question this Celtics team is 100% confident in their chances against Miami in a playoff series with KG around to have their backs and defend the rim. Jeff Green's expectations have clearly become higher, but he can live up to being a 20 PPG scorer for the remainder of the season. His other high game this year (31 points at Phoenix) also came while KG was out and Green slipped into the starting lineup. As I said after that game, Jeff Green NEEDS to start. Play him alongside KG and bring Bass off the bench. Yes it gives the bench a little less fire power but look what Green has done given the opportunity!

Green showed the ability to get to the rim at will and both draw contact and finish the plays. Something that he must begin to look for in his game every night, especially when his three ball is falling like last night. Hopefully this will be the boost Green needed for his own confidence going forward, because he now has fans around Boston talking about his "superstar potential".

So before I ramble on, there was a lot to learn last night. But the two most important things are what we learned about the two teams overall:

What did we learn about the Heat? That they are damn good and if they can withstand what they did in Boston good luck to their upcoming opponents trying to end the streak. They are the clear favorites.

What did we learn about the Celtics? That the heart of this team is going to allow them to rise to any occasion, and you do not want to meet them in a playoff series. They just may be crazy enough to see themselves as the favorites with Garnett, and that's dangerous.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Garnett a Game Time Decision

Kevin Garnett will be a "50/50 at best" game time decision on Monday night when the Miami Heat bring their 22 game win streak to Boston. Garnett sat out Saturday with a left abductor strain, a game against the Bobcats that KG frankly was not needed in. Garnett was not present at the shoot around in Waltham Monday morning.

Doc Rivers does not believe the injury to be long-term at all, but it would be disappointing not to have him in uniform to challenge the Heat's streak. Obviously the most important factor here is keeping Garnett both healthy and rested for the postseason.

If he does not play it is hard to imagine Boston's chances not taking a huge hit. But the Celtics are a team that plays for pride, and with or without their best player, they will be looking to kill Miami's 22 game win streak on the anniversary of ending the Rockets' 22 game win streak 5 years ago.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gino and Celts Bounce Back

As expected the Celtics recovered from their loss to the Bobcats by beating down on the Raptors at home on Wednesday night. It was a historic night for both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett who go to celebrate achievements in front of their fans. KG passed Jerry West to move into 15th place on the all-time scoring list (25,192) and Pierce passed Charles Barkley to get into 20th place (23,757).

Garnett talked about all the records he and his teammate have achieved this season; "The joke around here is that every two days or something we're making history. It's not a bad joke to be a part of." Pierce had some fun to poke as well talking about passing Sir Charles on the list; "He always talks a lot of smack about us, so I'm happy it was him", he said while smiling.

Accomplishments aside it was another great team win, seven Celtics were in double digits scoring: Green (20), Pierce (15), Garnett (12), Crawford (12), Terry (12), Lee (11), and Bass (11). KG was enjoying Gino more than anyone, as he does during all home blowouts. The Celtics will host the Bobcats on a rare Saturday night home game. No doubt they will be looking for more revenge after dropping two games to Charlotte this year, including a blowout loss on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Brief Road Trip Ends in Horror

The Celtics dropped a game at OKC on Sunday afternoon. The defensive effort was excellent, holding the Thunder to 91 points. But Boston was only able to post 79 themselves. Avery Bradley showed why he is starting to gain some national hype by shutting down Russell Westbrook, but Kevin Durant and his teammates were too much to handle.

Although disappointing, it was an understandable loss by the Celtics who had to falter at some point. But Boston came back out on Tuesday night looking completely drained and getting run off the floor by the Bobcats for that matter.

Paul Pierce was given the night off and Kevin Garnett was limited to 20 minutes, but the Celtics should still be the hungrier team. The Bobcats have nothing to play for but lottery position whereas Boston is battling for playoff position in a tight Eastern Conference (excluding Miami). The bench showed lackluster effort, so much so that Doc Rivers turned to D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph early in the game. White has shown signs that he deserves to be on the NBA level, but Randolph appears to really be struggling to fit in.

The Celtics will have a quick turn around and look to bounce back on the right foot on Wednesday night at home against the Raptors. Paul Pierce will be back on the floor to right the ship, look for a strong performance at the Garden.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Why You Should Like This Team

The Boston Celtics have been a tight nit unit ever since Kevin Garnett arrived in July of 2007. Garnett along with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are the only remaining players from the 2008 championship roster, but each year has still been special. However this season seems to carry a feeling of "Ubunto" that hasn't been felt since KG went down with his knee injury in February of 2009, drowning Boston's high chances of going back-to-back.

The run to game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals was close to that feeling. It is hard to explain because this team is far different from the championship team in so many ways, yet the same. Without continuing to bash Rondo, lets say Boston's season began January 27th with a home win over the Heat.  The Celtics are 14-4, so why is this?

Boston is back to the basics like they were in 07-08. Remember back then Rondo was not who he is now. He was a shy second year point guard who would often look to defer to his hall of fame teammates. When I say defer I do not mean my dishing assists, I mean by allowing them to be themselves. Although his scoring was only a few PPG lower than it is now, Rondo was only averaging 29.9 minutes and a mere 5.1 assists per contest. Those numbers pale in comparison to his 37.4 minutes and 11.1 assists per game while he was in the lineup this season.

The success the Celtics enjoyed when they won their championship is based off of the same thing that it is now, featuring the immortal Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Despite what you want to say about Ray Allen, this was Pierce and KG's team and now is again (part of the reason Ray left anyway). The effort to make the Celtics "Rondo's Team" failed miserably, and when Rondo got hurt is was back to Plan B, the old guys. The problem is Plan B should have been Plan A all along! Pierce (primarily) is still capable of carrying this team offensively, and Garnett (primarily) is able to do the same defensively.

Now yes, despite the two first ballot hall of famers still being superstars, they have lost a (small) step. But Rondo is not the missing piece to pick up the slack. In 07-08 the Celts were often much better off with Tony Allen hounding the opposing ball handler as Avery Bradley is doing. Bradley is probably doing an even better job of that and is surely a better shooter and ball handler than Allen was.

James Posey was key off the bench in 07-08, he was just as important on both ends of the floor too which is hard to find. Now one year after open heart surgery Jeff Green appears to be finding his stride and doing the same for his team. And much like Bradley, Green is probably doing a better job than his predecessor. THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT MAKE UP FOR PIERCE AND GARNETT HAVING A FEW MORE MILES ON THE METER!

Now what they are missing is that Kendrick Perkins type presence. But in this era of small ball where Miami is the team to get through, that force is no longer required... until you face off against the west but lets worry about that later.

The bottom line is that this team has another month to maintain stride and learn what this new Celtics team is all about before they make another (and maybe their last) run at the finals. I don't want to make Boston out as favorites by any means, but this team is going to surprise people. My money is on them finding themselves right back in a game 7 in Miami... and this time with the much needed help of Bradley and Green.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Pierce a Hawk?

The trade deadline came and went in Boston with no major deals being made... but that doesn't mean one wasn't close. Reports surfaced today that the Celtics were very close to moving Paul Pierce for Josh Smith in a three way deal that would have landed Pierce in Dallas.

The Hawks asking price on Smith was Pierce and a first round draft pick which Danny Ainge was unwilling to part with. Dallas would have been sending a first rounder Atlanta's way as well as some role players. Josh Smith would have been the only piece coming to Boston, but the deal fell through and Pierce is still in green.

Would have been interesting to see, but Josh Smith would have been tough to re-sign, and it may have been even tougher to see the captain playing in a Dallas uniform. But tonight Pierce and Smith will face off playing for the only teams they have ever represented in the NBA.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Back to Back Road Wins

The Celtics have had some impressive wins this year over the likes of the Heat, Thunder, Knicks and even this gutsy road win over the Suns that I wrote about. But Wednesday night in Indiana ranks up with all of them for a few reasons.

It came just one night after getting a win in Philadelphia, and doing it while playing Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford down the stretch. Coach Rivers is certainly showing that he has confidence in his complete roster. Avery Bradley was the leading scorer with a season high 22, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were right behind him with 18 each. Pierce had a spectacular all around effort, adding on 11 boards and seven assists.

The bench was productive as well, led by Jeff Green's 16 points, and the newcomer Crawford had his best game in green with 12. But little was expected of the playing the very next night at the Pacer's building, against one of the hottest teams in the league.

After a quick start to the game, the scoring really slowed down and the Celtics found themselves down 10 in the fourth quarter. But they came to life ending the game on an 11-0 run, capped on a Jeff Green game winner. It was on a beautiful play by Doc Rivers, using Pierce as a decoy on a high-low pass from KG, check out the play here.

Much like playing Williams and Crawford down the stretch the night before, Doc proved his confidence in everyone by letting Bradley run the clock, and then going to Green for the kill when everyone expected the ball to go to Pierce. Garnett got the team going with a hot start, carrying much of the load (18 points 10 rebounds). With his effort, Garnett moved into 10th all-time on the rebounding list with 13,774 passing Wes Unseld.

Boston clearly has their sights set on home-court in the first round of the playoffs. They have a tough road ahead but at the rate they are going, the Celtics have a shot.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Back From Some Time Off

The Celtics have had a pretty easy schedule of late. After a close loss in Portland on February 24th, the Celtics got a win on the Jazz home floor the next night, led by Paul Pierce in overtime, to end their west coast trip.

The Celts then returned home and didn't have to play until March 1st, when they were able to cool Stephen Curry down after his 54 point performance at MSG, and collect another "W" in the process. Boston got another break after the win and have been off until they have to play in Philly on Tuesday night (3/5). It has been a relaxing stretch of games, especially for a team that needs the practice time to get all their new players up to speed. Here are some videos from Monday's practice from ESPN Chris Forsberg's piece.

This practice time could prove to be a key point in Boston's season, where the new players find their roles and learn the Celtics way that has been embodied by the team's stars. That's not to mention the post All-Star break rest for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett before the home stretch.

They will need the fresh legs going into a back to back tonight in Philly and tomorrow in Indiana.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Williams Signed for Season Plus

After Friday night's home game against the Warriors, Terrence Williams' 10 day contract would have expired. But the Celtics decided today to sign Williams for the rest of the season, with a conditional deal for next season as well.

Williams has been a great fit in his three games with Boston, and has already built chemistry with his teammates according to coaches. What has been most impressive has been Williams' ability to play the point guard spot. Despite his size, it is his natural position and he is a true pass first player amongst his other talents.

Not too far back Williams was a lottery pick and has posted a triple double on the NBA level. The talent is certainly there, and the Celtics seem to be finding a way to maximize it.

Shavlik Randolph Joins Celtics

The Celtics are getting all they can from the Chinese leagues. Both D.J. White and Terrence Williams signed 10 day contracts coming over from China, and now Shavlik Randolph joins the team on the same deal.

I would expect the Celtics to look to maintain the better of White and Randolph after there deals are up, it would be surprising to see both of them on the roster at the end of the year. Assuming one of them gets let go, another roster spot will open up for a signing.

Randolph has had a pretty shaky NBA career, with averages of 2.4 PPG and 2.4 RPG. Not much of a signing by Boston here, frankly they can do better.