Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Bass’

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 16


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Celtics getting in Asik trade mix? | Granger, Pacers set return date | Dalembert’s role dwindling in Dallas | Lin to miss next game

No. 1: Report: Celtics getting into Asik sweepstakes? — In case you missed it over the weekend, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled their name out of the hat as a team interested in acquiring Rockets center Omer Asik. (Basically, the Cavs would be interested in being part of a three-team deal for Asik, but don’t want him coming to Cleveland.) So where will Asik end up? ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Boston Celtics have emerged as a potential suitor for Asik, joining the Philadelphia 76ers (who remain the favorites to land Asik):

There is no hard proof yet to support the theory — first presented in this tweet from my USA Today colleague Sam Amick — that the Houston Rockets already have a trade framework in place to solve their Asik conundrum and are only waiting to see if someone else out there steps up to beat the mystery offer between now and Houston’s self-imposed Thursday deadline to deal Asik.

However …

While strong rumbles persist that the Philadelphia 76ers are the team most likely to go along with such an arrangement, given the close ties between Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Philly counterpart Sam Hinkie, there’s fresh talk in circulation about another potential co-conspirator.

The Boston Celtics.

The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first.

The same Rockets who happen to have a GM (Morey) and coach (Kevin McHale) who have long-standing relationships with Celts president Danny Ainge.

So, yes, I’d say you should keep an eye on Boston.

Question here that must be asked loudly: Can Houston, in whichever Asik trade it ultimately chooses, really afford to take back a player possessing substantial long-term money like Green (two seasons at $18.4 million after this one) or Philly’s Thaddeus Young (two seasons at $19.4 million after this one) when it knows it’s going to have to give an extension bump to Chandler Parsons as soon as Parsons is eligible for the raise his play merits via extension?

Which is another way of saying you shouldn’t be surprised if Young gets routed to a third team should the Rockets and Sixers officially join forces to construct an Asik deal, as some observers have been expecting all month.


VIDEO: TNT analyst David Aldridge addresses the Omer Asik rumors and more

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No. 2: Pacers, Granger set target return date — Just last week — before the much-anticipated Heat-Pacers showdown in Indianapolis — injured Pacers forward Danny Granger said he pondered returning for that game, but ruled it out so as not to put the spotlight on himself over the team. On Friday, Granger ruled himself out of the Pacers’ home game with the Charlotte Bobcats, but said he was closer than ever to a return. Indiana now is hoping for an early Christmas present as Granger is planning on a Dec. 20 return, writes Scott Agness of Pacers.com:

Might this finally be the week that Danny Granger makes his anticipated season debut? That’s the plan right now for the Pacers.

“I was waiting for the Danny Granger

,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said more than four minutes into a post-practice interview. “I finally have news on Danny Granger. We’re going to target next Friday for a hopeful return to see how this week of practices goes.”

Until now, the Pacers stayed away from publicly announcing a timeline after the initial diagnosis. Now, both Vogel and Granger appear giddy about the possibility of him playing Friday when the Houston Rockets are in town. Coincidentally, the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.

“I had a good practice today,” Granger said. “It’s really just fine-tuning my game, honestly. Making sure my timing is on, making sure I know all the plays. That’s a big thing when you haven’t played in awhile. I know the plays but I haven’t repped through the plays like all the other guys constantly get a lot of reps through the plays.”

Granger said he and coach Vogel are always on the same page, and that both agreed that he needed more practice time before putting on his game uniform.

“Me and Frank talk after practice — he’ll call me in or he’ll call me over,” said Granger. “Just because I said ‘Hopefully I can play on Friday,’ I was thinking hopefully. And then when I came and I practiced, and I dribbled the ball off my foot twice and I shot an airball on a layup, me and Frank met again and I’m like, ‘I’m not ready,’ and he was like, ‘No, you’re not ready yet.’ ”

Now in his ninth NBA season, Granger has typically been a slow starter. It’s fair to expect that again, though he doesn’t anticipate it.

“In the past in preseason, I always would tinker with different things in my game,” he explained. “I always used it as a time to do the things you’re good at, but just experiment with other things and notoriously I would always have a slow start. I’m trying to avoid that this year.

“I don’t know if (fans) think we’re just machines that you just turn on and all of sudden we’re playing in rhythm. Every basketball player is a rhythm player. It’s takes awhile. That’s why we have a preseason.

“I’m hoping the practices that I’ve been getting now, and the playing that I’ve been getting now is very similar to what I will do in a game. Obviously, when you get in a game you got adrenaline that you have to account for and that changes things a little bit. Just me practicing fullcourt, playing everyday, playing one-on-one, shooting a lot of shots, doing ball handling drills, I’m hoping that’ll be my time where I can get some of these kinks out.”

The team’s medical staff continues to keep a close eye on Granger.

“They’re not out of it,” said Vogel. “They’re still very much involved because part of the final process of recovery from a calf strain is, is his body going to respond to the extra work? Is the calf going to flare up? They’re still checking it everyday and not ruling him 100 percent healthy until they see he can go through added work and the calf can still respond the right way.”

Should Granger step onto the floor Friday night, as hoped, it’ll be his first regular-season appearance since March 3, when he left the game (also against the Bulls) due to soreness in his left knee, which kept him out all but five games last season. The knee is really good, according to Granger, and he’s motivated more than ever to return to game action.


VIDEO:
Danny Granger addresses is potential return on Dec. 20

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No. 3: Dalembert’s role dwindling in Dallas — The Dallas Mavericks signed big man Samuel Dalembert in the offseason in hopes of seeing him provide the kind of interior defense and paint protection that Tyson Chandler gave the Mavs during their run to the title in 2011. That hasn’t been the case so far, though, as Dalembert has gone from starting 16 of Dallas’ first 19 games to seeing his minutes cut as coach Rick Carlisle has given DeJuan Blair the starting job. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News has more on how the return of Brandan Wright may force Dalembert even further out of the rotation:

The return of Brandan Wright had a ripple effect on the Mavericks’ interior rotation, though it’s difficult to draw conclusions from Saturday night because Dallas was playing without Dirk Nowitzki.

On this night, at least, Samuel Dalembert dropped to fourth-team center, behind starter DeJuan Blair, second-teamer Brandan Wright and late third-quarter sub Bernard James.

Dalembert started 17 of Dallas’ first 18 games, but Saturday marked Blair’s sixth straight start. Dalembert did not play.

Dalembert, who as a free agent signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract over the summer, is averaging 6.7 points and 6.5 rebounds.

“He’s shown his moments,” said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “I just don’t think he’s been in a position where he’s been expected to perform to help a team win since his first or second years.”

Last season, the Mavericks signed Chris Kaman to a one-year, $8 million contract and anointed him the starter. Though he wound up starting 52 games, his minutes decreased as the season wore on and so, it appeared, did Kaman’s effort level.

In other words, rather than inspiring Kaman, cutting his minutes seemed to have an adverse effect. Are the Mavericks concerned the same will happen with Dalembert?

“No, I think Sam is the exact opposite,” Cuban said. “Sam is figuring out how to contribute. I think he’s disappointed in himself. I don’t think he thinks he’s playing well. He wants to get better.”

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No. 4: Rockets’ Lin expected to miss game vs. Bulls — A knee injury in November kept point guard Jeremy Lin from the Rockets’ lineup for six games. Although he returned to play in Friday’s win over Golden State, he suffered a back injury when he collided with Warriors big man Andrew Bogut. Lin sat out last night’s loss to the Sacramento Kings and seems sure to miss Houston’s date with Chicago this week, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

The Rockets’ injury issues took another unexpected turn when guard Jeremy Lin developed back spasms following a collision Friday with Golden State center Andrew Bogut.

Lin missed Sunday’s loss and is expected to be out Wednesday against Chicago, having played two games after missing six with a sprained and bruised right knee.

Lin said he ran into Bogut on a screen in the first half, but kept playing. He played 21 minutes in that game and returned in the final minutes after Pat Beverley fouled out.

In addition to leaving the Rockets short-handed, it took away another game for Lin to work his way back from the six games out.

“I only played him 14 or 15 minutes in Portland because you could tell he was out of rhythm,” assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said. “The game kind of dictates your substitution patterns, … but I certainly made an effort against Golden State to get him more minutes. He needs to get in a rhythm.

“We’re disappointed that he’s out, not nearly as disappointed as he is, I’m sure.”

Guard James Harden left Sunday’s game with a sprained ankle. With Lin and center Omer Asik out, Rockets players have been out for a combined 43 games. The entire roster was out for a combined 50 games last season.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Heat might be looking to work a trade for the Celtics’ Jordan Crawford … Good look at how rookie point guard Trey Burke has proven to be worth the Draft-day gamble for the Jazz … Magic rookie swingman Victor Oladipo got some preseason pointers from fellow a guy he long looked up to: fellow D.C.-area star Kevin Durant

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: You all know we love Kenneth Faried around these parts, so here’s the latest must-see alley-oop from “The Manimal” last night …


VIDEO: Kenneth Faried gets up high to finish off the Randy Foye alley-oop

Game 6 Comes Down To Melo’s Mentality

NEW YORK — More important than the color of the clothes the New York Knicks wore to Game 5 was the color of their shot chart. It was very red.

For the second straight game, the Knicks couldn’t buy a bucket. They’ve played well defensively in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, but their offense has come to a screeching halt.

The Knicks ranked third in the league offensively in the regular season, scoring 108.6 points per 100 possessions. And when they were playing well, both in early in the season and late, their success was all about the points they were scoring.

Knicks efficiency

Timeframe W L OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Oct. 30 – Dec. 16 18 5 111.1 2 102.3 16 +8.8 3
Dec. 17 – March 17 20 21 104.6 11 103.8 15 +0.8 11
March 18 – April 17 16 2 114.6 1 104.4 17 +10.2 3

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Whether they were winning or losing, the Knicks’ defense was rather mediocre all season. So it’s nice that they’ve held the Celtics to the lowest postseason efficiency among the 14 teams that didn’t get swept. But Boston is a bad offensive team, and against most opponents, the Knicks need to score a lot of points to win. So it’s not nice that only the Lakers – who were missing the fourth leading scorer in NBA history – regressed more offensively from the regular season to the playoffs.

Most regressed offenses (OffRtg), regular season to playoffs

Team Reg. Season Rank Playoffs Rank Diff.
L.A. Lakers 105.6 8 90.6 16 -15.0
New York 108.6 3 96.3 13 -12.3
Milwaukee 100.9 21 91.5 15 -9.4
Boston 101.1 20 91.7 14 -9.4
Denver 107.6 5 102.4 9 -5.2

Not only has the Knicks’ offensive regression made this series a lot more interesting than it was five days ago, but it’s also a bad sign regarding their ability to get past the Indiana Pacers – the league’s best defensive team – should they meet them in the next round.

So, as they head back to Boston for Game 6 on Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Knicks have some problems to fix. The issues are painfully obvious, and they start and end with a lack of ball movement.

The Knicks ranked dead last in assist rate in the regular season, assisting on just 52.7 percent of their field goals. That number is down to just 43.6 percent in the postseason. While isolation basketball was a big part of the Knicks’ offense most of the year, it has completely taken over in these last two games, in which the Knicks have assisted on just 23 assists of their 63 field goals (37 percent).

Knicks possessions mostly start off with the right intentions and they will run the first few actions of their offense, most of the time. But the Celtics’ defense is designed to take away those primary options. And far too often, New York’s possessions devolve into isolations once Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith get the ball.

Now, both Anthony and Smith are great one-on-one players, but they’re better players when they’re shooting off the pass or creating for others. The problem is that they’re stopping the ball, allowing the Celtics’ defense to load up, and turning their teammates into bystanders. With as much time as the ball has been in their hands in this series, Anthony (six) and Smith (six) have combined for just 12 assists.

The Knicks’ best offense has come from Raymond Felton in the pick-and-roll. But there just hasn’t been enough of those possessions. Now, sometimes a Felton pick-and-roll gets snuffed out, and the Celtics’ defense certainly deserves a lot of credit for how poorly the Knicks have played offensively. But it’s clear that Anthony and Smith are trying to do too much by themselves.

Smith obviously deserves scrutiny for his intentional elbow to Jason Terry‘s head that got him suspended for Game 4, and for how poorly he shot in Game 5. But Game 6 (and then maybe Game 7) is all about Melo.

This entire season has pretty much been a referendum on Anthony’s game and career. He has famously made it out of the first round only once and had a putrid 17-37 postseason record prior to these playoffs.

Things went so well in the regular season. Anthony led the league in scoring and, more important, led the Knicks to their best record in 18 years. With some veterans around him to show him the way, he learned to trust his teammates, make quicker decisions in the Knicks’ offense, and avoid being the ball-stopper that he was previously.

But things have changed in the playoffs, especially over the last couple of games. Anthony has seemingly regressed back to his old self, playing a style that’s not going to get it done against the best defenses in this league. He’s the second-leading scorer in these playoffs, but has been anything but efficient, shooting 39 percent from the field and 8-for-28 from 3-point range, where he has missed his last 15 attempts. As tempting as it is to go one-on-one with Brandon Bass 25 times a game and as impressive as those fadeaway, contested 20-footers look when they go in, the rate of success on those plays just isn’t good enough.

The Knicks are the better team here. But they’ve put themselves in a bad spot and will feel even more pressure if they can’t finish the series off on Friday. The path back to the win column begins with a change in Anthony’s mentality. These Celtics aren’t quite the Celtics of old, but you still don’t beat them by yourself.

Melo’s Regression Helps Celts Stay Alive

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BOSTON —
In a season of improvement, this was a day of regression.

This was Carmelo Anthony‘s year. Though the numbers don’t really show it, he matured this season, learned to trust his teammates, and learned how to be a great scorer without stopping the ball so much. He made quicker, smarter decisions.

On Sunday though, with his New York Knicks trying to close out the Boston Celtics, Anthony seemingly turned back the clock and played like it was 2011 again. He tried to beat the Celtics by himself, and his regression helped Boston stave off elimination with a 97-90, overtime victory. The series now heads back to New York for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Anthony’s regression basically trumped Raymond Felton‘s podium game. The Knicks’ point guard continued to tear up Boston’s pick-and-roll defense, tying his season high with 27 points, 16 of them as the Knicks came back from a 20-point deficit in the third quarter. As great an on-ball defender as Avery Bradley is, he couldn’t stay in front of Felton, who gave the Knicks their only lead of the game with a pick-and-roll, pull-up jumper with just over a minute to go in regulation.

The Knicks even had success when Anthony ran the pick-and-roll. Their 5-0 run to tie the game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter came off two Anthony/Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls, one that produced an open Iman Shumpert 3-pointer, and another that got Anthony an easy drive to the basket.

But too many times, Anthony preferred to play isolation basketball. And too many times, he forced bad shots. In fact, on the two Knicks possessions that sandwiched Felton’s go-ahead jumper, Anthony ran five different isolations (thanks to three offensive rebounds from his teammates). Those five isolations produced four missed shots, two missed free throws, and zero points.

This wasn’t the worst game of Anthony’s career. On an afternoon when his team was struggling to score, he was able to get to the free throw line 20 times. Eleven of those trips helped keep the Knicks within striking distance in the first half.

But Anthony finished the game 10-for-35 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range, adding seven turnovers. Of his 35 shots, 19 came from mid-range, the least efficient area of the floor.

“He missed some shots,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said, “but as a team, we couldn’t make shots.”

But Anthony missed more shots than any three of his teammates combined. He had just two assists, and the Knicks had just 10 as a team.

It was a bad game, nothing more than that. The Knicks’ 3-0 series lead afforded him such, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to redeem himself going forward. He’ll also have J.R. Smith back from his one-game suspension, though Anthony wouldn’t admit that Smith’s absence played a roll in his own tunnel-vision.

“I missed him out there,” Anthony said of Smith. “But J.R. being out there doesn’t change the way I shoot the basketball. Those are the shots I’ve been taking the whole series. They weren’t falling tonight. My mother always said, ‘There’ll be days like this.’ We’ll take it for what it’s worth, put this one behind us, and get ready for Wednesday.”

If Smith’s absence wasn’t a fact, the Celtics’ defense was. Boston had no intention of rolling over and seeing their season end any earlier than it had to. They dug in and made the Knicks work for their baskets.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers went back to his original starting lineup, believing it would be better defensively, and Brandon Bass proved him right. Before eventually fouling out, Bass took on the Anthony assignment and defended the league’s leading scorer about as well as you can.

“He was the star of the game, as far as I’m concerned,” Rivers said of Bass. “He just defended, and did it over and over and over again.”

“The more he does it, the fresher Paul [Pierce], the fresher Jeff [Green] can be offensively for us.”

Pierce and Green were indeed fresh offensively, combining for 55 of the Celtics’ 97 points. Kevin Garnett hit two big jumpers down the stretch and Jason Terry scored Boston’s final nine points in overtime. It was the definition of a team win for the prideful Celtics.

But none of that would have mattered if Anthony didn’t try to beat them all by himself.

“I was trying to win the basketball game,” he said. “It would have been a great feeling to close it out here in Boston, so I was trying to do whatever I could to win the basketball game. I was just trying to be aggressive. I missed a lot – a ton – of shots today.”

For Celtics, Return Home Doesn’t Necessarily Bring More Offense

 

BOSTON — Down 0-2 to the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics are in a desperate situation. If they don’t win Game 3 on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), they can start packing for their summer vacations.

The good news is that the Celtics were a much better team at home than they were on the road this season. In terms of winning percentage, only three teams had a bigger home-road discrepancy. And in terms of point differential, only five teams had a bigger discrepancy. One of those five was the Knicks, so that’s more good news.

Biggest home-road discrepancy, NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions)

Team Home Rank Road Rank Diff. Win% Diff.
Denver +11.7 3 -0.5 10 +12.2 0.463
Charlotte -4.8 29 -16.5 30 +11.7 0.220
Utah +5.1 12 -6.4 20 +11.5 0.415
Washington +3.0 14 -8.5 26 +11.5 0.366
New York +10.5 6 -0.3 9 +10.8 0.195
Boston +5.9 11 -4.6 17 +10.5 0.334

Here’s the bad news: The difference between the home Celtics and the road Celtics has been mostly on the defensive end of the floor, where they were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better at TD Garden than they were elsewhere.

Celtics efficiency, home vs. road

Location OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Home 101.9 22 95.9 3 +5.9 11
Road 100.3 18 104.9 14 -4.6 17
Difference +1.5 22 -9.0 2 +10.5 6

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Over the course of the season, Boston was an elite defensive team in Boston and a mediocre defensive team outside The Hub.

Why is that bad news? Because the Celtics were pretty darn good defensively in New York, holding a team that scored almost 115 points per 100 possessions over its last 18 regular season games to just 100 per 100 in the first two games of this series. It’s hard to believe they can defend much better than that going forward. The Knicks scored 32 points in the third quarter of Game 2, but the Knicks are going to have their 32-point quarters, no matter who’s defending them.

If the Celtics are going to win at least one of these next two games, they need something close to a 32-point quarter for themselves … or at least something close to a 40-point second half. But playing at home hasn’t given them much of a boost on that end of the floor. They’re really a bad offensive team no matter where they play.

Back to some good news: 82 games of regular season data says that the Knicks aren’t nearly as good defensively as they were in the first two games. They regressed and ranked 16th on that end of the floor this year. And New York’s defense was 4.2 points per 100 possessions worse on the road. In particular, they didn’t force turnovers or defend the 3-point line as well as they did at Madison Square Garden. And those are two areas where the Celtics really struggled in Games 1 and 2.

The Celtics also have some guys who shot better at home. Jason Terry, in particular, seems to like the gym on Causeway St.

Celtics effective field goal percentage, home vs. road

Player Home Road Diff.
Jason Terry 59.4% 45.6% +13.8%
Jeff Green 54.4% 47.7% +6.7%
Brandon Bass 50.3% 46.7% +3.6%
Paul Pierce 51.7% 48.8% +2.8%
Chris Wilcox 71.6% 72.2% -0.6%
Kevin Garnett 48.6% 51.0% -2.4%
Courtney Lee 50.0% 53.4% -3.4%
Jordan Crawford 44.0% 48.9% -4.9%
Avery Bradley 40.0% 48.2% -8.3%

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA

So there is some hope for the Celtics to break through offensively, take care of the ball, make some shots, and score more than 25 points in the second half on Friday.

If they don’t, you can break out the brooms.

Game 2: Knicks-Celtics’ Changes Afoot

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NEW YORK — They say that every game in a playoff series has its own personality. And a couple of rotation changes should give Game 2 of the Knicks-Celtics’ series (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, TNT) a new look.

The Knicks hope to have Pablo Prigioni back from a sprained ankle for Game 2. And if they do, he will start and join Raymond Felton in the backcourt. The Knicks went 15-1 with the two point guards starting together in the final month of the regular season.

The Knicks have been incredibly efficient offensively, scoring almost 120 points per 100 possessions in 298 minutes, with Felton and Prigioni on the floor together. And after a game in which they scored 85 points on 88 possessions, they could certainly use an offensive boost. After assisting on just 13 of their 32 buckets in Game 1, the team hopes that Prigioni will bring better ball movement.

But the lineup change could have an adverse effect on the other end of the floor. Woodson said Sunday that if Prigioni is back, Felton will guard Paul Pierce to start the game (the original plan had Prigioni been healthy in Game 1), with Iman Shumpert defending Jeff Green.

Shumpert was guarding Pierce to start Game 1, and the Celtics posted Pierce on three of the first four possessions. When the Knicks doubled the post, the Celtics got a jumper for Kevin Garnett and a layup for Avery Bradley.

Mismatches on Pierce were a big part of the Celtics’ offense all day Saturday. Later in the first quarter, they ran the same play several times to get J.R. Smith switched onto Pierce at the foul line. And they had some more success with Pierce posting Jason Kidd on a few possessions midway through the second.

With their lineup change, the Knicks will be handing the Celtics a mismatch from the start. And Boston will obviously go to Pierce in the post early and often. New York will send double-teams, and it will be up to Pierce’s teammates to make them pay.

Green was a pretty good corner 3-point shooter (45.7 percent) in the regular season, but didn’t attempt any shots from the corners on Saturday. As a team, Boston was just 1-for-5 from the corners, an obvious area for improvement in Game 2.

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Doc Rivers plans on making some rotation changes of his own. He went only eight deep in Game 1, using just three guards — Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry — off the bench. The trio combined to shoot 0-for-7.

Rivers said Sunday that we could see a big man off the bench — presumably Chris Wilcox or Shavlik Randolph — on Tuesday. If it’s Wilcox, it will be the first playoff appearance of his 11-year career.

We’ll have to see if that results in less minutes for Brandon Bass or if Rivers plans on playing with two bigs more than he did in Game 1. The Celtics were a plus-1 (and particularly strong on the defensive glass) in 21 minutes with both Bass and Garnett on the floor on Saturday, and a minus-8 in 27 minutes with one of the two on the bench.

The Celtics weren’t very good defensively, allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions, in 396 regular season minutes with Bass and Wilcox on the floor together. And the Garnett-Wilcox pair played just 73 minutes.

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Rivers also wants to see a bigger role for Crawford. Amazingly, Crawford didn’t take a single shot in his 10:46 on Saturday. And it surely goes without saying that it was the first time in the gunner’s career that he’s played at least 10 minutes without taking a shot.

The Celtics probably don’t want to get to the point where Crawford’s shooting determines the outcome of any particular game, but he can help make the Knicks pay for double-teams on Pierce if he’s aggressive and looking to make plays for his teammates as well as himself. He can also take some of the ball-handling duties from Bradley.

Rondo’s End Starts Future in Boston

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HANG TIME, Texas — Sometimes the decisions are made for you.

Danny Ainge can stop wondering about what to do, which direction to take with his Celtics as the NBA trade deadline of Feb. 21 draws near.

The future arrived in Boston like a punch in the gut with the sickening news that Rajon Rondo has a torn ACL in his right knee and is lost for the season.

Now it’s time to start over.

If Ray Allen having swapped jerseys for Sunday’s homecoming to the TD Garden with the Heat was first crack in the Celtics 21st century golden run that began in 2007, then Rondo’s injury sent the remnants crashing to the parquet floor.

Rondo was averaging 13.7 points, 11.1 assists and had just been named an All-Star starter for the first time. He was coming off back-to-back triple-doubles, including the double-overtime loss in Atlanta, where the injury evidently occurred.

After complaining of pain while trying to warm up prior to Sunday’s game, the point guard was taken to New England Baptist Hospital where an MRI revealed the tear.

The rest of the Celtics were given the bad news during the game and word circulated like whispers of a death in the family through the arena and the rest of the NBA world.

“We just got to rally round each other,” teammate Paul Pierce told ABC’s Doris Burke. “I feel for him. He was having such a great season … It’s disappointing news. Guys just got to step up.”

But it is one thing for Pierce to come through with a gutty triple-double performance of his own and for the Celtics to persevere through a double-overtime against Miami. It is quite another to believe that a Boston team without Rondo could take down the defending champion Heat in a seven-game playoff series. That is, assuming the Celtics even limp into the playoffs.

The win over Miami ended a six-game Celtics losing streak that already had coach Doc Rivers threatening to get one-way tickets out of town for anybody that couldn’t step up. He changed his lineup, putting rookie Jared Sullinger in to start at center in place of Brandon Bass. The Celtics are still two games below .500.

The harsh truth is that the blow is not just the end of a season for Rondo, but the end of the road for this core group of Celtics that won a championship in 2008 and lost in The Finals to the Lakers in 2010.

Ainge and Rivers might have been tempted to shake things up last summer, but wishful thinking and, perhaps, sentiment told them to try making one last run with their aging warriors. But Garnett at 36 is already playing greatly reduced minutes and Pierce at 35 had been mired in a slump of his own before Sunday and is no longer the workhorse.

Rondo, for all of his personality quirks and clashes with Rivers, was the on-court leader of these Celtics and had been for the past several seasons. He had developed a knack for rising up on nationally-televised games and in the playoffs and his efforts that often came with the gale force of a hurricane were what gave the Celtics any so-called puncher’s chance that existed.

The time now is to find out if there is a market to move Pierce as a “designated hitter” on a contending team. He’s got just one more year on his contract at $15.3 million. The two years and $23.5 million owed to Garnett could be problematic.

The bottom line is the Celtics can take a day to celebrate an emotional win in honor of their fallen star. But whenever Rondo does return, it has to be as the centerpiece to a new era in Boston.

Sometimes the decisions are made for you.

Rivers Plans To Mix And Match

 

BROOKLYN — In the first three seasons of the KG era, the Boston Celtics’ starting lineup was constant.

Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. That’s what you expected to see when you arrived at the arena or turned on your TV to watch the Celtics, and that’s what you got. Over those three seasons, that group started 214 of a possible 304 games and played 4,172 minutes together, which was 1,709 more than any other lineup around the league over that time. And they were very, very good.

Most used lineups, 2007-08 through 2009-10, including postseason

Team Lineup GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins 214 4,172 109.2 95.5 +13.7 +1,063
ATL Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford 161 2,463 105.1 104.7 +0.4 +5
OKC Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic 99 1,674 102.5 105.8 -3.3 -86
UTA Williams, Brewer, Kirilenko, Boozer, Okur 109 1,615 109.9 106.7 +3.2 +100
NOH Paul, Peterson, Stojakovic, West, Chandler 83 1,548 112.9 102.5 +10.4 +325

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Then Perkins blew out his knee and was eventually traded. Over the last two seasons, the Celtics’ starting lineup wasn’t nearly as consistent, with Glen Davis, Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass taking turns as the other big man next to Garnett. And after Bass finally became the starting power forward in the second half of last season, Avery Bradley replaced Allen at the two.

This season, there could be even more flux in the Celtics’ lineup. First of all, Bradley is out to start the season, still recovering from shoulder surgery. But beyond that, it may just be that Doc Rivers decides to mix and match. (more…)

Sullinger Could Be Key For Celtics

 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — If the Boston Celtics are going to compete with the Miami Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference this season, they’re going to need a lift from their bench.

Over the last couple of years, the Celtics’ starting lineup has been just fine. In fact, the lineup that Doc Rivers employed at the end of last season — Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett — outscored its opponents by an amazing 21.1 points per 100 possessions in 342 minutes (including postseason). That was easily the best mark of any lineup that played at least 200 minutes together.

But the Celtics struggled whenever Garnett rested. In the regular season, Boston was outscored by 2.6 points per 100 possessions when KG was on the bench, and in the playoffs that number rose to an amazing 27.6 points per 100 possessions. Overall, the Celtics actually fell off more offensively than defensively in Garnett’s absence.

So while Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Bradley (once he’s healthy) and Jeff Green help Boston stay afloat when their starters sit, the key to their season just might be rookie Jared Sullinger. (more…)

Doc, Celtics Focused On Heat


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS —
No one can accuse Doc Rivers of being anything other than a pragmatist.

It makes no sense for the coach of the Boston Celtics to worry himself with the Los Angeles Lakers and what goes on in the Western Conference when Rivers and his crew have to contend with the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in their own conference.

Rivers said it himself when he uttered this line: “I have my eye squarely on Miami,” to Bob Ryan during an interview at the Action For Boston Community Development’s Hoop Dreams event (check video, above):

“Honestly, I don’t care about the Lakers … I have my eye squarely on Miami. I come up to my players during the year — they’re in the facility now — I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s gotta be our focus.”

Rivers is right to keep his focus on the Heat and right to make sure his team does the same. The Celtics pushed the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, showing a bit more fight than many of us expected while sending a clear message to the crew in Miami — that they were not going to ride roughshod over Boston on their way to what could be several appearances in The Finals with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the controls.

(That has to be painful for Celtics, Bulls and Pacers fans to hear, but it’s the truth … we could be in the midst of a Heat championship era unless someone in the East rises up and stops them.)

(more…)

Report: Allen decides to leave Celtics, joins Heat

The Big Four are no more. At least not in Boston.

Free agent guard Ray Allen agreed to sign Friday evening with the Miami Heat, ending his five-year run in Boston that was highlighted by two Finals trips for the Celtics, including the 2008 championship. Allen chose Miami over Boston, Memphis and Minnesota, giving the Heat a potentially lethal perimeter option to go along with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh next season.

The 37-year-old Allen visited Miami Thursday and left town Friday morning after being courted by the Heat organization. He was supposed to visit the Clippers on Friday, but that visit was cancelled after Los Angeles agreed to terms with free agent guard Jamal Crawford on Wednesday. Allen never met with the Grizzlies or Timberwolves.

The Celtics had been optimistic that they’d be able to re-sign Allen after agreeing to terms last week with Kevin Garnett on a three-year deal and reaching terms on Thursday with forward Brandon Bass.

Allen took less money to go to Miami. All the Heat had to offer was the taxpayer’s exception that starts at $3.09 million next season and can go out a maximum of three years and $9.5 million. Boston had offered a two-year, $12 million deal, and the Grizzlies were willing to give Allen their full non-taxpayer mid-level exception that starts at $5 million next season and can go out as long as four years.

(more…)