Unlike the game in Dallas, tonight's game was never in doubt as the Mavericks dominated from start to finish. They led by 17 at the end of 1 but the Celtics fought back and cut the lead to 5 at the half. But they were outscored 34-20 in the third and Dallas never looked back. The Celtics were out rebounded 41-34 and shot only 36% from the floor while allowing Dallas to shoot 56%.
Perk played only 15 minutes and I am not sure why. He wasn't in foul trouble and seemed to do a good job on Dirk defensively when he was in, but Doc kept him on the bench for most of the game. He finished with 2 points and 1 rebound. Al had the worst shooting night that he has had in a long time shooting only 1-11 for 4 points to go with 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals. Scal was out with a strained ham string and even though before the game, Doc said Powe would get Scal's minutes, he played only 10 minutes finishing with 7 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist. Gomes played 29 minutes and had 8 points on 4-11 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block.
Rondo started at the point and finished with 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. West started at shooting guard but switched to the point when Rondo went out. He shot 2-7 from the floor and had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Allan Ray shot 4-6 from the floor and had 13 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists.
Pierce shot only 5-18 from the floor but took a beating as he continually took the ball to the hoop and getting to the line 21 times, hitting 19 of them. He finished with 30 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. He went to the bench for good with 1:55 left in the 3rd and was holding his knee. In the post game show he said that he took a knee to the back of the knee and it would be fine. He also said that he wants to play the rest of the season but would consult the doctors about his elbow. Green had a very good game and won the Tommy Award. he finished with 19 points on 7-10 shooting along with 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal and showed a lot of hustle on the floor.
We were never in this game tonight. It seemed as though the players were trying and playing hard, but the Mavs were just too strong on both ends of the court.
All through this tough season, in spite of all the losing, I was able to console myself because we had such a close knit group. They were developing great chemistry and chemistry is very important in building a team. That is why I still consider the trade with the Wolves a success - we rid ourselves of players who were potential cancers on the team and were disrupting team chemistry.
I was happy that the team that we have now was building great chemistry. The kids really like each other and none of them want to leave this great group of players. But after the Charlotte game we heard a totally different story. From the Hoopsworld article:
Those are the guys that always [complain] about playing," Rivers said. "Everybody on the bench wants to play on every team. Everybody wants minutes. But when you get in, you have to fight … so I was upset by that."
Guys always complaining about not playing? I haven't heard complaints since Raef complained about not getting to start and Blount complaining about touches. Who is always complaining? I just don't see Powe complaining, even though he has reason to since every time he takes the floor, his play seems to earn more minutes but never does. Was Gomes complaining about not getting playing time while injured? I don't see Ray complaining about not getting playing time since he is so happy just to be back from the D-League and could very well be sent back to get playing time. Green has been getting playing time but hasn't made the most of it. I don't see him complaining. I guess that leaves Telfair, who has also gotten time but didn't make the most of it. So, who is it always complaining about not getting minutes?
The aftermath saw Rivers making a preemptive strike at the ``tanking'' questions, while the locker room was as frosty as any time this season. For a team that has only won 27 percent of its home games, that's saying a lot.
While Al Jefferson (22 points, 11 rebounds in 33 hard-played minutes) stoically gazed past reporters while repeatedly referring to the episode as a ``teaching moment,'' Paul Pierce uncharacteristically left the Garden without speaking to the media. Kendrick Perkins (13 points, 11 rebounds in 24 minutes over the first three quarters) was left to addresses previously unpublicized issues of bench players - presumably some of the same ones who couldn't hold the lead - griping about playing time.
So after the game the locker room was frosty? Are the players turning on each other because of Doc's "lesson"? And Perk having to address locker room issues? Maybe the issues were previously unpublished because they weren't issues before Doc's attempt at explaining his move to leave a group of mismatched bench players in to lose the lead and a game we could have won.
Rivers tried to play off his starters’ anger as a positive. “They were pouting - not at not going in. They were pouting at the group (on the floor) and how they were performing,” Rivers said. “When you walked in the locker room, the discussion was not about that they didn’t go back in. They were ripping the guys who were on the floor. So in a lot of ways, that was all good.” Yes Doc, that does sound like a healthy locker room.
That was all good? Ripping the guys who were on the floor? I don't think teammates ripping each other is good at any time. If a player isn't getting it done, pull them and the coach rips them. Whatever happened to all the talk about a player having to EARN minutes? It just seems like this is sowing the seeds of discontent among the players and it didn't need to happen.
But there is a voice of reason in all this. Delonte West is a glue guy. We need to keep him because of his play, but even more for his leadership on this team. Here is what Delonte had to say on NE Sports tonight when asked about the situation by Pierce:
"At some point, you have to start to view your team as just a team, not as who's starting and who's not starting," he said. "We trust all of our players and we have to be able to go out and compete at a high level."
I just hope that Doc's head games with these kids doesn't destroy the chemistry that they have been building all along. Doc may have been trying to teach them a lesson, but it was a very ill advised lesson if it drives a wedge between players.
Also, it was a very bad time to teach this particular lesson. If the league is fining a GM for sitting next to a player's mom and for making comments about a player, then what would they do if they perceive that a team is tanking. Teach them a lesson against a team that isn't vying with us for the first pick. Don't do it in a way that makes it look so much like tanking that you have to begin your press conference by saying that you weren't. Doc has put the team in a very precarious position. I am sure that the league is carefully watching every team now to assure that no tanking is going on and the Celtics are already on their radar. Doc may have been teaching the subs a lesson, but he used very poor judgement in doing so.
The Celtics played great ball in the first half and were up 54-39 at the half. Then, in the end of the third and much of the fourth, Doc had a lineup in that just caved in and he left them in there as they lost the lead and fell behind. In his post game conference, Doc said that he decided he was just leaving that group in and was going to win or lose with that unit. He felt that the Bobcats just took the game away from the group that was in minus Leon, who he said was phenomenal.
Pierce was poked in the eye in the third quarter and hit hard enough that he cut the inside of his mouth and spent the rest of the game on the bench, much of it holding a towel to his eye. But he seemed to be ok afterwards. He finished the game with 23 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 23 minutes.
There isn't much to talk about other than the play of our bigs. Perk was great and finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 24 minutes and he played great defense on Gerald Wallace and basically shut him down when he was in there. Al played his usual good game with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Powe played only 15 minutes but as he always does, made the most of them with 4 points, 8 rebounds and a block. But Doc didn't have Perk or Al on the floor as the Celtics blew the lead. Powe was out there, doing all he could, but nobody seemed to be able to hit a shot around him.
Gomes returned after being out with a foot injury and was obviously rusty hitting only 1 of 8 shots and finishing with 4 points with 3 rebounds. Green seems to be regressing and over thinking his shot. He is so good hitting off the catch but lately has been putting the ball on the floor and hasn't been near as effective. He finished with 8 points on 2-9 shooting with 1 rebound, 2 assists,and 2 steals.
Doc removed Rondo from the starting lineup in favor of Scal who went scoreless in 19 minutes with 2 rebounds. Why Doc insists on starting Scal I really don't have a clue. West and Rondo play very well off each other and so do Al and Perk and with Pierce at the 3, that lineup seems to play well. Scal would be much better suited to coming off the bench. Rondo came off the bench and finished with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. West had 10 points on 5-13 shooting with 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block. Ray played 17 scoreless minutes and finished with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
Once again, Doc's decision to leave the small lineup out there as the Bobcats caught up and passed us was the difference in the game. Losing with your best lineup on the floor is one thing, but Doc has been going with a small lineup with very little offense down the stretch in the last two games and we have lost because of it.
The Dallas Morning News said this morning that a sneaker deal could be deciding factor if Durant stays in school or declares for the draft.
Word is Kobe Bryant has already called Kevin Durant on behalf of Nike and that a shoe deal ranging between $30 million and $50 million simply needs to be presented.
Last Thursday, Texas coach Rick Barnes was taunted by a friend in Spokane, Wash., who said during a shoot-around that there's no way Durant comes back for his sophomore year. Barnes replied, "I'll bet you a steak dinner he does come back."
But if Texas' 18-year-old prodigy turns down life in the NBA to take biology and travel to Manhattan, Kan., instead of taking leather-couch charters to Madison Square Garden and Staples Center next season, we will all be witnesses to a minor miracle.
Even Taras Brown, the man who sculpted Durant's game back in Seat Pleasant, Md., and the man Durant calls his godfather, said a potential shoe deal – not Durant's draft placement – would be what shoves Durant to the NBA.
"Kevin will go two or three years at Texas, if he could," Brown said before the season. "It won't be because Kevin Durant or [Ohio State's] Greg Oden want to go. The shoe companies will make them an offer where it's impossible not to go."
It seems rather odd to me that players like Kobe and shoe companies can approach these kids and pressure them and if GM's just mention that they are good prospects or even innocently sit next to their parents at a game they are fined.
On the other side, Mike Conley, Sr, the father of Greg Oden's best friend and Oden's coach in the summer time, has formed an agency to represent players. This could be the signal that Oden is also preparing to come out. Stay tuned. Things are heating up.
We are heading down the stretch and a couple of things stand out. The players on this team want to win. They play hard and they may be inconsistent and sometimes can be frustrating, but they come to play every night. While many fans have been cheering for losses, the players aren't going to stop playing for wins. The Hornets game aside, they have been putting out tremendous effort game in and game out.
With that in mind, a couple of things stood out to me in today's papers. First, in the Herald, Doc has this to say:
“ “but I think you’ve got to have integrity and character. I’m a big believer in both, and at the end of the day all that other stuff will shake out.
“It’s not the players’ job to get us a pick, you know what I mean. Their job is to not get you a pick, if you know what I mean. Their job is to go out each night and play hard and try to win.”
The players have gone out and played hard every night, in spite of some having to play with injuries. The young players are playing for contracts right now, and playing to stay in Boston. They are going to give it their all every time out.
The other article that caught my attention is from the Globe.
During the final few weeks of the season, Rivers plans to try a few different strategies (though "nothing big," he said). The most noticeable will be putting players at different positions. For example, Allan Ray has seen some time at point guard recently.
Our best secret weapon for losing games is still our coach. Even when he is not experimenting with players at different positions, his rotations, matchups and in game decisions are, at best, questionable. But now he will be experimenting... why not try Perk at the point? He did pretty well on that drive in San Antonio. Or Maybe Rondo at center... he has been pulling down some rebounds lately. That doesn't seem any more bizarre than playing Green and Ray down the stretch in San Antonio and giving Al no help in the center against Duncan. Have no fear, fantankers, our players may play hard and try to win games, but we still have Doc.
The Celtics started off like they were going to dominate this game. They hit their first 9 shots and seemed in control. Score at the end of 1 quarter was Celtics 31 and Hornets 26. Then the wheels came off in the second quarter. When Doc went to the bench, they couldn't seem to get it going and we were outscored 31-9 in the second quarter and we never recovered.
We had trouble hitting shots and shot 43% from the field for the game. And on the other end we allowed the Hornets to shoot 52%. We did out rebound them 39-37 but our lack of offense and inability to get stops did us in. Chalk it up to let down after the big win in San Antonio, or maybe they were just tired playing the final game of a 3 game road trip and nearly beating Dallas and putting it all out there to beat San Antonio,, but the effort just wasn't there tonight. After the first quarter, they seemed out of sync and a step behind.
Pierce won the Tommy Award and was one of the only players who shot the ball well. He scored 28 points on 11-18 shooting with 1 rebound, 3 assists, and 1 steal. Green shot 4-9 for 11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block. He seemed to be thinking too much about his shot instead of shooting off the catch as he has been very effective doing, he would fake the shot and then dribble in to mixed results.
Rondo played well with 6 points (4-11), 4 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 steals. Telfair came off the bench for 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal. Allan Ray had 12 points on 4-15 shooting with 5 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal. West had only 4 points on 2-7 shooting with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. He may still be feeling some after effects of playing 40+ minutes on a day when he had a 103 degree fever most of the day.
Al didn't see get the ball inside very much and went for long stretches without touching the ball on offense. He finished with 9 points on 4-7 shooting with 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1 steal. We need Al taking more than 7 shots if we want to win. Most of our shots were from the outside. Perk scored 3 points and pulled down 3 rebounds with 1 assist. Powe played 23 minutes and as always made the best of them scoring 8 points on 4-7 shooting with 6 rebounds and 1 steal. Kandi played only 4 minutes and pulled down 1 rebound.
It was a very ugly game for us. It was disappointing to see them play so poorly after what we saw in Dallas and San Antonio. They are capable of much better play. I have to believe that fatigue had something to do with it in that their shots were mostly short and they just didn't have the hustle on the defensive end that we have seen recently. We go home now for a very important game against the Bobcats. The Bobcats are 4 games ahead of us with the 3rd worst record. If we win, we make up a game on them and the team gains confidence. If we lose, we go 5 games behind and stay firmly in 2nd place for the worst record.
Last Week: Unranked Rondo has started the last six games for the Celtics, averaging 8.7 points, 5.2 boards, 6.0 assists and 2.00 steals per game during that stretch. But his poor shooting extends to the free throw line where he's made just five of his last 15 attempts.
Rondo is the leader in steals among rookies. If Rondo continues to get the minutes, I expect him to rise in the listings. We are just scratching the surface of his talent. Experience giddyupidness .... Experience Rondoism.
The recent play of this team is showing to one and all that this team isn't as far away from contending as their record may indicate. Several factors have affected the Celtics this season that both gave us the second worst record and make us a much better team today.
First, you can't discuss the Celtics' season without mentioning the injuries. It started right from training camp when Ratliff was unable to play due to the injured back. He played in just 2 games this season. Also in training camp, Delonte West was out with the bad back and then an injured toe and infection.
We never really had a healthy Wally this season because just as he was getting his legs under him from the off season knee surgery, he started spraining ankles and kept spraining them all season. He had 5 ankle sprains in all, alternating ankles with 3 on the left and 2 on the right. He finally had season ending surgery on March 8 in hopes to be back strong next season.
Big Al went out early with an emergency appendectomy. He was expected to be out 4-6 weeks but he put to rest the "soft" lable once and for all by coming back just 2 weeks later. Perk had off season surgery on his shoulder after the second dislocation occurred early in the summer and was unable to really work over the summer, although he did sneak in some work when he thought he could get away with it. He was just getting going when he developed plantar fasciitis. He was out 10 games and came back basically 50% healthy. He has been playing through pain all season and still isn't 100%. Kandi went out with an abdominal tear and missed a big chunk of time at the same time Perk was out, making us a team without a true center. We had 21 feet of centers on the injured list, as Doc would joke.
Then Pierce was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his foot. He was originally expected to miss 2-3 weeks but was out over 8 weeks during which the Celtics won only 2 games. He was diagnosed on December 21 and it wasn't until February 10 that he was cleared for his first full practice. But, and this is key, on February 6, he had a procedure performed on his elbow as it was once again swollen and sore. Even though he is back and playing, he isn't 100%. He is struggling to get his conditioning back, has little lift in his legs, and continues to struggle with swelling and pain in his elbow. We see flashes of the old Pierce when he can make the big shots as he did in San Antonio, but only flashes because he is playing hurt.
On January 11, Tony Allen was just hitting his stride and playing excellent ball. He brought energy and a tough defensive player to the lineup. He was leading the Celtics in Pierce's absence and then disaster struck once again. Going in for a dunk after the whistle blew on a foul, Tony crumbled to a heap on the floor with a torn ACL. This injury was more devastating to the team than Pierce's because Tony was our main defensive stopper and was stepping up his game and taking it to the next level when he went down and it really shook the team.
Ryan Gomes, who has been a very steady player for the team, went out in December with a strained calf muscle and again in March with a sprained right foot. Gomes hasn't been spectacular but he is steady and makes very few mistakes. He gives us another weapon on offense and is a very good rebounder. Since Delonte's injury in training camp he has misses periods with his back and recently, a concussion. Scal missed time in January with a knee injury that he received in the same game that Tony went down.
When you look at the number of injuries and the players who have been in and out of the lineup because of those injuries, it is staggering. Every time a player would go out, the team has to adjust and then readjust when the player returned. There has been little time for the team to build chemistry or trust on the court. Right from training camp and continuing throughout the year, injuries have disrupted the team and kept them from developing any kind of chemistry.
But the injuries weren't all bad. Even though the injuries have dashed any hopes for a playoff berth this season, they have given our young players a chance to get more minutes and more experience. These players have grown in leaps and bounds. Consider the experience that Al got from being the first, and sometimes only, option on offense as well as having to play center with Perk, Ratliff and Kandi out. Also consider the experience that Green got with Pierce out where he got extended minutes on the court. Consider the experience that Rondo go with West being out and that is paying off as we see Rondo with increasing confidence taking over the starting PG spot.
Now that Pierce is back and the young players are playing with more confidence, we are seeing good things. Perk and Al are developing into a great low post tandem and play very well off of each other. West and Rondo are also developing great on court chemistry and play very well together. Pierce is developing an impressive inside outside game with Al and we haven't had a combination like this for many, many, many years. The team is building chemistry and trust in each other and it is resulting in wins, most spectacularly, one in San Antonio to end the Duncan curse.
Al Jefferson is the best low post player since McHale came to work on the parquet. Rondo is a pure point with all the tools it takes to become a top point guard. He only lacks a consistent shot to get him to the elite level and he is such a hard worker, that isn't far off. Perk is a solid center. I know he has gotten a lot of criticism this season, but just as Al took a leap this season when he was finally healthy, Perk will do the same thing next season. Green is still inconsistent but has grown in leaps and bounds this year and should be a consistent threat next season along with being better defensively. Delonte proves over and over that he is a player, whether at the point or the 2 and gives us a defensive presence as well as an offensive threat. Powe, Gomes, Ray and Telfair have also impressed at times this season. Powe has gotten little playing time but every time he is on the floor he does good things, showing that he is going to be another low post threat that we can bring off the bench.
Just read the quote from Tim Duncan about our team.
"Impressive young guys," said Tim Duncan. "Al's going to be a great one. Paul's been very solid for his entire career, and then they have some young guards there that have some real promise to them. They have really built a bright future for them, and they're going to be a good team in years to come if they keep developing the way they are."
Anyone watching this team has to agree that we are going to be a good team for many years to come as these players continue to develop.
And when you think that they are still without Tony and Wally who figure to be key players, and without Gomes who is still out with the foot injury, you can't help but be excited about the future of this team. Add to this that all the injuries will give us a very good draft pick this season. We have a good chance at a top 2 pick in a year when two franchise players are expected to go first and second. Even if we don't get Oden or Durant, we have a chance at a very, very good player as well as a great bargaining chip to bring in another top veteran if we choose not to use it. The future is indeed bright again in Boston. For the first time in years, I have hope.
The Celtics got some St Patrick's Day luck as they finally ended an 18 game losing streak to the Spurs that dated back to January 8, 1997. Tim Duncan had never lost to the Celtics and Paul Pierce had never beaten the Spurs. But that all ended with a 91-85 win over the Spurs in San Antonio tonight.
The Celtics led by as many as 19 and led for most of the game but in the 4th quarter the Spurs went on a run and took the lead briefly before Pierce hit a couple of big shots and Green went in for a fast break dunk to give the Celtics a lead for good. Even when the Spurs made their run, the Celtics kept their composure and didn't give up. They played well on both ends of the floor and showed that they are a much better team than their record.
Rondo played incredibly well tonight. He scored only 2 points but had 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal and only 1 turnover in 34 minutes of play. He did a great job defending against Parker as well. But for some reason, in spite of his great play, Doc didn't play him down the stretch and that is when the Spurs made their run. Rondo deserved to play down the stretch and it had to be a blow to his psyche to have to sit after playing so well early. Delonte also played very well with 23 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and only 1 turnover in 45 minutes. He had problems staying with Parker on defense, though. Telfair notched another DNP.
Allan Ray played 20 minutes and didn't score but had 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Doc kept Ray on the floor during crunch time. Green played 12 minutes and only took one shot. He got ahead of the defense on a fast break for a two handed dunk. He also pulled down 1 rebound and had 1 assist. Pierce hit a couple of huge shots down the stretch to assure the win. He finished with 30 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block. There was a scare in the 4th quarter when Pierce was scrambling for a loose ball and was lying on the floor holding his knee. Thankfully he was fine but it was scary for a few minutes.
Perk got into early foul trouble and played only 16 minutes but finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Doc went with small ball down the stretch with Al being the only big on the floor. This is what allowed Duncan to come up big in the 4th quarter. Al was again a monster inside and finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block. Powe played only 4 minutes and had 2 points and 1 rebound. Kandi came in for Perk and did a good job with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 22 minutes.
We won tonight in spite of Doc's coaching, not because of it. If Doc had played Rondo and Perk in the 4th quarter, it wouldn't have been near as close. When he went to small ball and put West on Parker and left Al as the only big, both Duncan and Parker were able to get inside and that allowed them to erase the lead that we had built. I love this team and can't help but wonder what they could do with a better coach.
Inspite of playing in the second of back to back games on the road, and in spite of some terrible officiating, the Celtics finally got the gorilla off their backs and won in San Antonio. I have to say that I really don't want to trade any of these kids. I'd love to keep this group together and see what they can do next season. Things are coming together and they are playing some exciting ball in spite of still having injuries plaguing several players. Maybe the Luck of the Irish is indeed back in Boston.