Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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What's Going on with KG?

Despite some of the numbers you may see in the box score, Kevin Garnett has not been himself in the series against the Knicks. His scoring is primarily where the problem lies - 11.3 points per game. Down from 14.8 in the regular season; this is a number we expect to grow in the playoffs. If not for rising his level of play, simply for the fact that Doc Rivers saves many of Garnett's big minute games for the postseason.

Lets examine KG game by game:

Game 1: eight points (4-12 FG), nine rebounds, and four assists in 37 minutes. This is his worst game of the series to date. We gave him a mulligan on this one but KG clearly was not ready for the big stage. Only 12 shots was of concern.

Game 2: 12 points (4-9 FG), 11 rebounds to go with an assist in 24 minutes. Foul trouble plagued KG throughout this contest. Doc made a point of going to him early on offense, but the fouls made it impossible for him to find a rhythm. You would just like to see Garnett play a little smarter after having five fouls in game 1 to pickup two fouls in the first four minutes of game 2.

Game 3: 12 points (5-13 FG), 17 rebounds, two assists in 34 minutes. Garnett was complimented for playing hard and not giving up on this game. That is how he plays every night. None of this is a play hard issue, but a productivity issue. The FG attempts are up, but still not where they need to be. If they were with higher assist numbers it would be more clear he was getting his touches, but used more as a distributer.

Game 4: 13 points (5-7 FG), 17 rebounds, six assists in 37 minutes. This was KG's best game of the series... BUT seven shots attempted! This is Hall of Fame Kevin Garnett, too selfless at times. I've always said you can tell when KG is at his best (post knee operation) when he is rebounding. Well he pulled down 34 total boards in the two games in Boston, but he still was not himself. 13 points on seven shots is more than efficient, so why would that player not take 15 shots?

Averages: 11.3 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 3.3 APG in 33.0 minutes...10.3 FG attempts per game.

More simply put, if Garnett is healthy (he may not be), he NEEDS to be taking more shots for the Celtics to be successful. If he truly is the ultimate team player, he will realize his own personal production is sometimes most valuable to the Celtics' winning.

His rebounding is there which means he seems to have his legs under him, and Doc will certainly give him the minutes if KG is not in foul trouble. He needs to play smart and look for his shot. A little less fading away in the post and a little more attacking the basket could mean the difference. Catching the ball deeper in the paint could be the difference. Garnett is a tremendous jump shooter, but at 6'11 needs to establish his paint presence.

Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin clearly are not going to back away from the challenge of getting physical, so KG is going to have to rise to the challenge himself. Accepting that Chandler and Martin share that same intimidation factor that he does despite being smaller names may help get him there.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Celtics Force Game 5

The Celtics came out and started game 4 just like fans wanted them to. They showed emotion and played with Celtic Pride. Until Boston faltered and found themselves in a familiar second half slump. The Celtics were pummeled in the third quarter (outscored by Ray Felton alone), watching a 20 point lead fall to three after Felton beat the buzzer from downtown.

It was happening again. The Knicks were going to sweep after the Celtics blew their third halftime lead of the series and didn't even bother to show up game 3.

Then the elders finally showed they still had a pulse (it only took going to overtime in game 4 down 0-3), and were able to keep New York from taking out the brooms. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry were terrific. Pierce kept them in it the whole game (played 50 minutes), KG provided timely scores while hauling in 17 rebounds and setting up teammates with six dimes. There was actually a JET sighting as Terry scored the last nine points of the OT period to put Boston ahead for good.

It was a nice win, and like I said, if there is a team and a city that deserves this comeback, it is the 2013 Boston Celtics. Now back to reality.

The Celtics really JUST played well enough to win. Felton was fantastic, but J.R. Smith sat out (suspension) and Carmelo Anthony shot 10-for-35 on FG attempts. Really nothing too impressive by the Celtics that should indicate any concern for the Knicks in game 5. The Celtics should win that game without a need for overtime. Heck they should have won while resting their starters the last five minutes.

What's even scarier is when thinking about if Boston does win game 5. The hype would normally be about Boston's chance to even the series, and nationally would be. Many locally would find it hard not to think about how the Celtics got throttled on the last Friday night game when the series shifted to the TD Garden. Not to get too far ahead, but it is telling how much trust this team has lost.

Every game is game 7 for Boston and the Celtics showed that they know that now. The Knicks have yet to feel any pressure in the series, a Celtics game 5 win would change that. Doc Rivers will have them preparing one game at a time; so far watching them cling on to life was not pretty. We'll see if it's any prettier Wednesday night in New York.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Down But Not Out?

WARNING: This is more of an angry rant than a column... but I can't help myself at this point. We are the Boston Celtics and we are being brutally embarrassed. The first possession of the game told the whole story, missed layups by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, symbolic of the Celtics effort in the entire series.

Now if you ask me I say the Knicks will be sweeping things up Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden, but can we at least have some pride? If there's a team that deserves to comeback in a series like this it's the Celtics. If there were ever a city at the perfect time that deserves a comeback, it's Boston. Unfortunately just showing up and jogging up and down the court for 48 minutes won't get that done.

I want to make myself believe. With J.R. Smith out maybe they can finally win a low scoring game and get some momentum right? After that elbow to the face they are going to come out angry shouldn't they? There is no way Pierce doesn't finally step up and throw this team on his back, he has to? Questions just keep coming up, then I remember what I have seen in the first three games and realize that they have no chance.

Becoming the first NBA team to ever dig themselves out of a 0-3 hole by rallying around the "Boston Strong" motto, just feels stupid to mention when you consider the effort being given on the court. All I ask is in game 4 we see Celtic basketball being played, not whatever product we have gotten recently.

If you are looking to have a little bit more positive of an attitude heading into the game try Marc D'Amico here:

C's still believe

Can't break KG

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tale of Two Halves; Game 3 Preview

Just when we felt things couldn't get any uglier... YIKES. The Celtics were once again very competitive, proving that they can indeed beat the Knicks... in a 24 minute game. Boston followed up game 1's 25 point second half (eight in the fourth quarter) with a 23 point second half in game 2! The Celtics shot a laughable 19% in the second frame, after shooting 56% before the break.

The game-plan was clearly to get Kevin Garnett more touches, but foul trouble followed KG throughout the entire game, until it got to the point on the scoreboard it was not even worth putting him back in. Although it was nice to see KG so heavily involved in what Doc Rivers wants to do on offense, it didn't work.

There were numerous problems in game 2 for the Celtics; here is what stuck out. Garnett is not healthy. Even though we only saw him in limited minutes he does not seem comfortable attacking the rim, too many fade aways from him. On top of whatever previous injury is nagging him, KG was also holding his stomach area a lot late in the game, potentially suffering another injury. Garnett is a warrior and will play as hard as he can through it all, but Boston truly needs 100% of his capable production more than anything to turn this series around.

The other major issue is the point guard position, it is non existent. Now I have been one of the Rondo haters all year long, but I'm sticking to my guns and saying that this is not a "no Rondo problem", this is a "no point guard problem". Avery Bradley looks like a deer in headlights handling the ball. He is having issues with turnovers, and besides being a good cutter to find around the rim has provided nothing on offense. Rondo certainly would have shined in the pace of game 2, but Boston is not finding a true PG before Friday night.

So how can Doc Rivers stop the bleeding? I see two ways to fill the void and Courtney Lee is not one of them (although Lee should be getting Jordan Crawford's minutes - smaller issue). The first, and most likely, is to give Jason Terry a big bump in minutes. He played 34 minutes last game without turning the ball over, and seemed to find a bit more of a rhythm. Maybe coming back home he can improve even more off his game 2 performance. Getting Terry off the bench early for Bradley could be a good boost, especially going to him early (or even starting him) in the second half where Boston has seen their problems.

The more unlikely option is to have Paul Pierce play the point guard spot. Bradley would be the two guard (and I would still get Terry in there early), but Pierce would be the prime ball handler and decision maker. Now Pierce has been turning the ball over a lot himself, but Doc trusts him, maybe turning the rains over to him gives Pierce more confidence. If the Celtics were ever in need of a classic Paul Pierce playoff performance, Friday night is the time.

IF the Celtics can get Garnett going and solve the lead guard crisis, who is to say they can't make a series of this? But that is a big if that we will see play out on Friday night at our Garden. The Knicks will be hungry and would love to get the brooms out in Boston. Hope for some home cooking in the first game at the TD Garden since Patriots Day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Game 2 Preview

The Boston Celtics find themselves in a frustrating 0-1 hole heading into Tuesday's game 2. It was a frustrating loss after the Celts put their best foot forward in the first half, only to let a win slip away. If Boston is to even the score tonight on the road, there are some things they are going to need to do.

Stopping Carmelo Anthony is not a realistic option. Many defenders, ranging in size from Avery Bradley to Brandon Bass, will see time on Melo, but one way to take him out of the game may be on the other side of the ball. Anthony has never been known as a great defender, and will have to spend a lot of time covering Jeff Green or Paul Pierce. Both players are great at getting to the rim and drawing contact. If Melo is on Bass, set the screens and get the switches that are needed. Getting Melo in early foul trouble could put the Knicks offense in shambles for the stretches Anthony is on the bench.

Find Jason Terry some room to shoot, eventually he will come through. There is no way Terry is actually as horrific as he is playing at the moment. Although we are learning he is no Ray Allen, he certainly is a viable three point shooter that needs to gain the respect of Knicks defenders to open up the Boston offense. Look for Terry to get some open looks when he enters the game... and hope that he can make the most of them.

Kevin Garnett needs to be the most important player on the floor. Green and Pierce can carry the scoring load and play Melo as tough as they are able to, but Celtic playoff success has stemmed from The Big Ticket over the past six years. After sitting for a week, lets give KG a mulligan in game 1. But he is awake now and fully aware of the situation. All indications over his illustrious career point to Garnett being ready to roll in game 2.

Boston's ball handling in the fourth quarter NEEDS to be better. With no Rondo, all Celtics fans can agree the most safe place the ball can be down the stretch is in the hands of Pierce. Doc Rivers is too good a coach to let his team lose because of silly turnovers again. Look for some shakeups in late play calling if the score is close.

Prediction: Despite the ugly loss, the Celtics showed that they can beat the Knicks on the road. The score was right in the neighborhood the Celtics like it, Rivers and Co. will not let this one slip away. Expect more from Terry and particularly Garnett, expect Green and Pierce to try and force Melo to the bench, and expect Pierce to control the tempo late. The series heads back to Boston tied.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gearing Up For Game 2

Game 1 against the New York Knicks already feels like ages ago with the ups and downs Boston has been through lately. Not only that, but it almost feels like it was two different games.

The first half Boston showed us why they are considered one of the most feared seven seeds in recent memory. They outplayed the Knicks on both ends of the floor with moderate play by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Boston was led by Jeff Green's 20 first half points, and went into the locker room feeling good with a 53-49 lead.

The second half was another story. As Jeff Green faded Carmelo Anthony shined. Melo finished with a game high 36 points, consistently dominating the game as opposed to Green's tentative approach. Turnovers were killer for the Celtics down the stretch, particularly from Pierce, Green and Avery Bradley. Three players you certainly do not want to see turnovers from are you captain, your leading scorer and your starting point guard, but that was the scenario for Boston. Pierce and Green has six turnovers each, including a huge one from Pierce that led to an Anthony fast-break basket with 2:30 remaining. Bradley also had four turnovers, two of them on what should have been easy entry passes to the post that Avery simply did not throw high enough.

The bench scored four points for Boston in this game. Moving Green into the starting lineup makes a dip in production expected, but not this severe. Jason Terry went scoreless, the same guy that was the clear cut second option on the NBA champion two years ago. Celtic fans were missing Ray Allen (20 points off the bench in his playoff debut with Miami), Terry does not need to be Ray, but he does need to challenge the NBA Sixth Man of the year J.R. Smith in bench production.

Finally the Knicks won the fourth quarter 18-8 to seal the deal. Not much else to say about that, but here are the three most important things going into game 2:

1. Crunch time scoring. No matter how well Jeff Green plays, this is Paul Pierce's team. Although Pierce picked up his scoring in the second half, he needs to be the clutch scorer for this team even if Green carries them the majority of the way there. They can not count of stopping Melo, so they are going to have to counter with Pierce.

2. Sorry to be repetitive, but TURNOVERS! A stretch of the game looked like a youth league team that could just not pass the ball against high pressure defense. Bradley not getting the ball high enough, Pierce getting his passes tipped. These lead directly to Knick fast-breaks and three pointers. Lets hope this was a one time thing, otherwise it is going to be a quick series.

3. Eight points and nine rebounds from Kevin Garnett is not enough. Garnett is the force that must be present for this Celtic team to beat anybody and it was not there on Saturday. KG shot 4-12 in 36 minutes. Simply put, expect more from him or expect to lose.

Game 2 is Tuesday night at 8 PM, lets hope the team that played the first half Saturday shows and up not the other one.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

4/16 Game Vs. Pacers Canceled

The NBA and the Boston Celtics have mutually agreed to cancel Tuesday night's home game against the Pacers. Here is the statement by the Celtics:

"The notion of playing a basketball game a day later didn't feel right. Some things are bigger than basketball. We didn't cancel this event out of public security fear. Our venue is going to be safe when we play our next game. The NBA and the Celtics were on the same page. There was not a debate about not playing this game."

Doc Rivers and many members of the team expressed that they felt this was for the best, and this situation is so much bigger than basketball. Great call by the entire Celtics organization here. The game will not be made up, but with both teams locked into their playoff seeds their was virtually nothing to play for.

We can all bicker about Danny Ainge and if he has held on to this team for too long, but when it comes to big calls like this, Celtics ownership and management gets it. This is not a time for basketball, especially for a game that has zero playoff implications. The first home game since the tragedy will now be game 3 of the first round of the playoffs against the Knicks. You can bet it will be an emotional and proud night for Boston.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Prayers to All Affected in Boston

Off topic, but much more important than anything else you will read here. What a tragic day in Boston. Why something like this would happen remains a mystery, but as Boston is evacuated please pray for everyone who lost their lives, were injured, and all of their families and friends as well as all the participants of the Boston Marathon.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Celtics News

With the sixth and even fifth seeds still potentially in the Celtics reach, it appears that Doc Rivers and company have decided to nuzzle into the seventh seed in the east. After Wednesday night's one sided loss to Brooklyn, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will both be traveling to Miami with the team, but neither will play on Friday night. This has already been confirmed by the team twitter account.

Rajon Rondo recently discussed his knee injury and said he is "in a place where [he's] OK with it", sitting down with ESPN to talk publicly about the ACL tear for the first time. Here is a link to the article on the Boston Celtic's website. Rondo still plans to be ready for training camp in October.

In other updates for fans, this weekend will be the Boston Sports Memorabilia show in Wilmington. Celtics legends like Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Bill Walton and current Celtic Jared Sullinger will be signing autographs at the event. Many others will be there as well. Get all the info here about the event including the schedule.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Garnett Factor

Even with age Kevin Garnett continues to prove his value to the Boston Celtics. Most recently without even being on the floor. Fortunately Garnett, as well as Paul Pierce, returned to the lineup Sunday night and we were able to catch a glimpse of this season's full strength Celtics (keeping in mind Rondo and Sullinger are on the shelf for the year).

Boston has struggled to win what should be easy games, by letting up far too many points against subpar offenses. Since Jeff Green's game winner in Indiana on March 6th, two home wins against Atlanta are really all the Celtics have to brag about and that is not much to go on. Simple put this team is lost without Garnett. I wrote here why you should love this team so much, take Garnett away and all of that becomes worthless. It starts with his defense and trickles down to the emotion that he infects his teammates with. Garnett is the single most important piece to Boston's success.

After Sunday's victory  over the Washington Wizards (a team that has been over .500 with John Wall in uniform) teammates crowded around Garnett to photobomb his post game interview. Smiles on all their faces to have the veteran back in the lineup. It had noting to do with why they won the game, but plenty to do with why the Celtics will give the Knicks or Pacers a run for their money as first round underdogs in the playoffs. The kids on this team look up to KG, and his presence on the floor makes them better players.

Alongside a healthy Garnett, it's no secret that captain Paul Pierce will need to get his ankle healthy enough to put forward the clutch playoff performances his team is accustom to. Despite all the recent struggles, who is to say this team will not find themselves right back in the East Finals against Miami if they find good health?

Three things become vital outside of the obvious need for Pierce and Garnett for a shot at Miami to become reality. The first is some kind of emergence of Jason Terry. Terry has shown flashes this year, but is still yet to be a consistent contributor off the bench. If JET can put forward a strong postseason he could be a big shot in the arm for Boston.

The second thing is Avery Bradley handling the point guard role. No doubt Bradley is going to be key to success starting with his role to lock down a key perimeter opponent. But he also is going to be in charge of a lot of ball handling duties. He will get help from Pierce and Jeff Green, but Bradley is going to have to bring the ball up in some pressure situations that are normally overlooked as a problem if Rondo is around.

And finally there is Jeff Green. On nights he is the best player on the team... on one night he was almost the best player on the floor in a game that LeBron James played in. But then there are the inconsistent nights. He finally seems to be coming around though, the Wizards game was his first game in single digits in points since March 12th. In his last six games, four of them he has scored 23, 27, 27, and 34 points.

Doc Rivers has given in and now starts Green and has moved Pierce to the shooting guard spot. The playoffs are going to be Green's stage to establish himself as a star in the NBA, time will tell what he is able to make of it.

Now those are all the reasons the Celtics could fight their way back to the Conference Finals, but can they beat Miami? Highly doubtful. But last time they met Boston gave themselves plenty of reasons to believe they can without their centerpiece in the lineup, with Garnett back anything could be possible.