Boston Celtics: 2011Round1Game1
In 2008, it was the upstart Atlanta Hawks who took the Celtics to seven games in the first round. A year later, the Chicago Bulls did the same thing, only they made sure a whopping seven overtimes were part of the proceedings. Even the Celtics' five-game series in the opening round last year against the Miami Heat wasn't a walk in the park. The Celtics needed to rally in Game 1, played without Kevin Garnett in Game 2, needed a buzzer-beater from Paul Pierce to win Game 3, and fell in Game 4 before closing out that series.
This year might not be much different, given a dangerous New York Knicks team is the introductory opponent. But if ever the Celtics could use a speedy first round victory, this is the time.
The reasons are simple: The Celtics are older than they were a year ago, and an in-and-out series would mean more time to rest their aging stars before the Eastern Conference semifinals, more time to practice, more time for Shaquille O'Neal to not only return, but to get back in working condition before another series unfolds, and more time for the second unit to establish itself.
The Celtics aren't looking for things to get too intense too soon, which is exactly what will happen should this series go the full tilt. Jermaine O'Neal already suggested Sunday's Game 1 had the intensity typically reserved for a Game 7, and if the first three regular-season games between these two teams in the regular season are any indication, this series could become downright grueling.
Asked for his thoughts on the sequence before the Celtics' practice at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, Rivers could barely keep a straight face as he said, "I thought that, uh, Douglas tried to trip Kevin. I thought that was awful. And it was great that Kevin stood up to it."
Turning more serious, Rivers defended his player, saying he thought it was a good non-call by the officials.
"Honestly, I thought Kevin's feet were down," said Rivers. "And the whole thing is if you go from a foot to a movement outside of your body. Kevin's foot was there. They did get tangled up. So that could have gone whatever way you wanted it to go."
Rivers went on to opine about others in the league that often get away with similar infractions by sticking out their feet and leaning in, ("I don't even want to say the guy's name, because he's not in this series," said Rivers), but stopped short as not to give the league reason to come after his wallet.
Added Celtics captain Paul Pierce: "I mean, everything is going to be hard, physical, tough. To me that was a tough, strong pick that a guy didn't get over. If we're going to say that then there's going to be a lot of times where I was fouled away from the ball just from cutting to the basket. It goes both ways so neither team can complain about how the calls are made because it goes both ways."
As for the controversial play in Sunday's game, you be the judge.
Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett checked in with another entry on his ANTA shoe blog following Sunday's Game 1 win over the New York Knicks. The post includes Garnett's thoughts on Boston's rally, including his role in the two key offensive plays at the end of the game.
Writes Garnett, "We did what we were supposed to (win at home), but still felt good to come back and lock up the win."
O'Neal, though, came through on his claims by registering 12 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting to go along with four rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes in the Celtics' 87-85 Game 1 victory over New York.
"J.O. was big," Kevin Garnett said. "It was the reason we acquired him, you know, he and some of the other guys. He's a defensive presence that can score the basketball. He definitely can score the ball in the post and he was huge for us tonight."
The rundown: Pierce's Defense Gets Offensive | Chaos on Final Play | Layup Line
Celtics captain Paul Pierce's biggest contribution in Sunday's win? It might have been his ability to sell an offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony that set into motion Boston's late-game heroics.
With the Knicks out front by a point with 21 seconds to go, Pierce got tangled with Anthony as the New York swingman attempted to establish position to receive a pass. Referees tagged Anthony with his fifth foul, an eyebrow-raising call at the late-game stage, and Ray Allen drilled the decisive 3-pointer at the other end off a Pierce feed.
"I don’t know if he drew it, but he took it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce's role on Anthony's offensive infraction. "And it was the right call. Heck of a call to make, but it was the right call. I mean, it was clear. And I give Paul a lot of credit. I give Paul credit in the second half -- Billy Walker and Carmelo in the first half, they got every shot, everything they wanted. In the second half, it went away. And I thought it was due to Paul.”
Over in the visitors' locker room, the Knicks weren't so sure it was an obvious offensive foul call.
“Well, in my eyes, obviously I’m biased, but I thought it was a tough call," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said, going on to comment on the Kevin Garnett screen that helped free Ray Allen for the winning shot with 11.6 seconds to play. "And I thought the [no] call [when] Toney [Douglas] went flying trying to chase Ray Allen was a tough no-call. Those things happen. I’m not happy about it, but it happens."
Anthony expressed frustration over the call and downplayed Pierce's impact in shutting him down in the second half.
"As far as that offensive foul goes, what I thought and what they called were two different things," Anthony said. "So it is what it is, he called it and it’s over with.
"As far as Paul Pierce, the matchup, I don’t think he did anything out of the ordinary or special tonight as far as defending me. I think the Celtics, they was themselves, they load the paint up. Every time I caught it, they loaded the side up, they shifted court. I missed some shots I normally make. I’m not too concerned about my individual performance or anything like that."
Pierce finished with 6-of-16 shooting with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 4 turnovers over 39:21. Anthony overcame constant foul trouble to chip in 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers (maybe none as important as the late-game offensive foul) over 33:39.
The big difference? Anthony finished with only three points in the second half on 1-of-11 shooting, missing all five 3-pointers he put up. Pierce chipped in nine points on each side of intermission, generating seven fourth-quarter points and one monster assist in the final frame.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON
After putting up only three shots in the first half, Ray Allen finished 9-of-15 shooting for 24 points, hitting the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final seconds as the Celtics rallied to steal Game 1. Kevin Garnett overcame a poor shooting night (5-of-14) to chip in 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo flirted with a triple-double with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Amare Stoudemire scored a game-high 28 points, while Carmelo Anthony, plagued by foul trouble, finished 5-of-18 shooting for 15 points and missed a final 3-pointer with a chance to win the game.
Toney Douglas wasn't supposed to be Mr. Big Shot, but after Chauncey Billups limped off the court late in the fourth quarter, Douglas stepped up and canned a monster 3-pointer with 37.8 seconds to play to put the Knicks out front, 85-82. The Celtics answered with a beautiful inbounds play that featured a perfect out-of-bounds lob from Rajon Rondo to Kevin Garnett that took a mere half-second off the clock. After Anthony got tagged with an offensive foul, Boston got Allen for the pivotal 3-pointer off a feed from Paul Pierce.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Celtics got virtually nothing from their bench (8 points on 4-of-15 shooting), but their Big Four put the team on their shoulders, exactly what Boston needs in the postseason.
Jermaine O'Neal turned in a magnificent 23 minutes, making all six shots he attempted while chipping in 12 points and four rebounds. O'Neal also drew two charges and blocked four shots, maybe single-handedly turning around this game in the third quarter with his defensive play.
WHAT IT MEANS
Can anyone's heart take seven games of this? Boston emerges with a monster victory, the type that could easily deflate New York, who gave their best punch and still couldn't escape with the win. For a Boston team that struggled mightily in late-game situations toward the end of the year, their performance in the final minutes is a very encouraging sign moving forward. Of course, Boston has to smooth out the wrinkles after falling behind by 12 in the first half and having to claw out of a big hole yet again.
BOSTON -- As the Boston Celtics prepared to dive into postseason play, those who haven't been around for recent playoff runs admitted to some nerves as the quest for a world title shifts to another gear.
"Anxious, just to get going," said Jeff Green, acquired with Nenad Krstic at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City. "We've been watching [playoff games] for the past day and a half now, so we're ready to start our own series and get going on our quest to win a championship."
The Celtics utilized the last three days of practice to get Green and Krstic further acclimated to the Boston system, granting them the extended practice time that didn't exist during the grind of the final month of the season.
"Practices were great, very competitive," Green said. "I mean, that's what you've got to do to get ready for this type of thing that we're about to try to do, and Doc has put me in positions where I'll be with the first group, second group. It's been a wonderful couple of days and now it's time to put it to use on the court."
A few more pregame nuggets:
* Reserve guards Carlos Arroyo and Avery Bradley were the healthy scratches along with Shaquille O'Neal (right calf strain). Given the amount of minutes Rajon Rondo logs, the Celtics seem content to go with just him and Delonte West as ball-handlers. That provides a little more depth behind Paul Pierce should the team enter foul trouble on the wing.
* Krstic admitted he's hobbled a bit, not just by the bone bruise to his right knee suffered in late March, but a similar (yet minor) injury he endured to his left knee at Saturday's practice.
"I'm not 100 percent healthy because I have two bone bruises in my knees, but it's nothing really serious," Krstic said. "But I can't really say I'm 100 percent."
Pressed on where he'd put himself, Krstic added: "I don't know. I don't really know. I never really think in that way, like 85-86 percent. I'm not 100 percent, but in this part of the year, not a lot of guys are 100 percent. A lot of guys are sore, but then you go out there and play and forget about everything."
* Rivers downplayed any fallout after Glen Davis offhandedly, and rather harmlessly, suggested at Saturday's practice that guarding Amare Stoudemire is no big deal. Essentially, Davis was trying to say he sometimes psyches himself out going against a big name. Rivers says it'll all play out on the court.
"It’s all talk," Rivers said. "I don’t like it, I never liked it. But it’s going to happen and it's all talk at the end of the day."
Asked if he had warned his players to avoid bulletin board material, Rivers shrugged it off.
"You want me to warn them against [the media]?" he quipped. "We talked about it a little. Honestly, I’m more focused on playing basketball. At the end of the day, if you can talk and play, that’s good. If you can’t talk, play and stop talking. We’ll find out who does what."
|(56-26, 33-8 home)||-- vs. --||(42-40, 19-22 away)|
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Star Power: This series features a host of future Hall of Famers and All-Stars, and in the playoffs, those are the players who typically determine how far a team advances. The Celtics' Big Four might have had their respective shares of up and downs over the final weeks of the season, but if Boston hopes to get through New York and move on to the second round, it will need Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett to play well. Likewise, the Knicks will be counting primarily on the production of Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billups.
- Center By Committee: If the Celtics had their druthers, a healthy Shaquille O'Neal would start at center for Boston tonight, but due to his lingering Achilles heel and calf injuries, the Celtics will instead use the combined services of Jermaine O'Neal, Nenad Krstic, and Glen Davis in the middle (possibly Kevin Garnett and Troy Murphy at times as well). Both coach Doc Rivers and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge have said in the days leading up to the postseason that such an approach can work throughout the playoffs and Sunday we'll get a look at how that experiment unfolds. The Knicks are not very deep in the middle, with only Ronny Turiaf and Shelden Williams as their primary options. But they will, at times, employ a lineup that features Stoudemire at the center position as well.
- Green Power: The integration of Jeff Green has taken longer than what might have been originally expected, but one of the Celtics' main goals over the last three days of practice was to establish a set role for Green in this series. As much as Boston will be relying on its starters, Green could serve as a sort of X-Factor not only in this series, but throughout the entire postseason. He'll spend time guarding Carmelo Anthony (this after being the Anthony dummy in the team's practices), and the Celtics are hoping he'll be that consistent spark of offense off the bench throughout the series.
The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics took big gambles when they shook up their rosters less than two months ago.
They're about to find out which team was the winner.
On Feb. 22, the Carmelo Anthony soap opera ended when he and Chauncey Billups came to the Knicks from the Denver Nuggets, a trade that cost New York three regulars. Two days later, the Celtics obtained Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic from Oklahoma City and gave up starting center Kendrick Perkins, a stout defender and strong physical presence.
The transitions haven't been smooth for either team.
And now they face each other in Sunday night's opener of a best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoff series.
"It was risky for both of us," Boston coach Doc Rivers said Saturday. "Both teams, when they first made the trade, started winning right away and then started losing right after that. It happens all the time."
The Celtics were 41-15 at the time of the deal and 15-11 since then, finishing third in the East at 56-26. The Knicks were 28-26 before their trade and 14-14 after it, ending up at 42-40.
Boston did win its first five games with Green and Krstic and New York went 6-3 immediately after Anthony and Billups arrived.
"When you first make (the trade), everyone's just kind of playing," Rivers said. "Then, all of a sudden, the new system starts kicking in, their old system is still in and you completely lose the rhythm. I'd say both teams did that.
"But now, I think, we've had some time together. These three, four days (of practice) have been tremendous for us. I think we'll both be ready."
Read the full preview HERE.
Even still, Rivers wouldn't tip his hand Saturday when asked who will fill out the end of the roster, but you can pencil in two of the three inactive spots with rookie guard Avery Bradley and injured center Shaquille O'Neal.
"No, we'll [announce the inactives] tomorrow, whatever time it is, 6 p.m. or 4:30 a.m.," quipped Rivers. "I'd rather have [one active spot] filled up [by O'Neal], but it does [make things easier]. It would have been a bigger deal, honestly, with the list if [reserve guard] Delonte [West] had not have been healthy. But he's healthy, so I don't think the list is going to be that big of a deal."
The final inactive is likely come from a group of Carlos Arroyo, Von Wafer, and Sasha Pavlovic. Reserve forward Troy Murphy, who has yet to show much in game action since being picked off the buyout scrap heap, is just about assured a spot given O'Neal's absence and the frailty of Boston's front line (both Jermaine O'Neal and Nenad Krstic have had recent knee injuries). Arroyo would provide veteran depth behind Rajon Rondo and West, who is also injury prone and coming off a recent re-aggravation of his sprained right ankle.
Wafer and Pavlovic are competing to provide depth at a thin wing position behind Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Jeff Green, and it would seem likely one of them would be deactivated should the Celtics elect to carry Arroyo as the third point guard. Both Wafer and Pavlovic have had their moments -- both good and bad -- late in the season.
The other thing to reiterate here is that active/inactive players can be changed on a game-to-game basis, so it's not like deactivating a player for Game 1 means much beyond that night. In the past, rosters were less flexible.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- While chatter about Shaquille O'Neal's inability to get back on the court dominated Saturday's post-practice media session, the 14 healthy bodies on Boston's roster went through a near-two-hour workout while putting the finishing touches on preparations for Sunday's Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the New York Knicks.
"Practice was good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose troops got the luxury of three days on the practice court with the Sunday night start. "Typically this is the worst day for a practice. Coaches want to do a lot and players want to do very little on the day before a playoff game. They’re trying to do whatever they can to not run into each other and get ready for a game, and their focus is usually moved on. It was that type of practice and it was pretty much anticipated."
Did the Celtics get as much accomplished as Rivers would have liked?
"We did a lot," he said. "I don’t think a coach’s list is ever filled. I don’t think you ever think you got everything done, but we got enough done, and we’ll be ready."
As the Celtics wrapped up their session, Pierce sneaked into the locker room to check out some of the Chicago-Indiana game, then emerged to chat with reporters.
"I'm just ready to get going," said Pierce. "Right now we're just watching some of the games in the locker room. [It's] not my first rodeo."
The third-seeded Celtics continue to lob verbal bouquets at the sixth-seeded Knicks, talking up the Empire Trio (Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billups) and their supporting cast for much of the past three days.
"You can't take any of those guys lightly when they swing the ball from their stars' hands, even though Melo and Amare are going to have the ball a lot," said Pierce. "They have more-than-capable guys that have played well throughout the course of the season, when left unattended, such as Chauncey, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas. These guys, they're more than capable and they've shown it throughout the regular season."
Rivers continues to focus on the fact that New York has three guys who are not afraid to take a big late-game shot.
"That’s a tough one because every time you’re in a close game with them, they're extremely dangerous," said Rivers. "They have three guys that can make shots, whether you play good defense or not. That's what makes this series so tough. The playoffs are about taking you out of your sets and players making plays. Well, they have three guys that can make plays. We have to be ready for that."
WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics attempted to get Shaquille O'Neal back on the practice court Saturday morning, but his ailing right Achilles and strained calf would not allow him to go through the activity and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge announced soon after that O'Neal will not be ready for Sunday's Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinals series against the New York Knicks.
"[Shaq's] been making progress and we tried to get him out there to practice today, to simulate a game as much as we could and he's not ready," said Ainge. "We don't know when he'll be ready, and we'll just keep evaluating him day-to-day. So he won't play in tomorrow's game."
Added team physician Dr. Brian McKeon: "This guy's been working his tail off. He's worked so, so hard, and today we did a mock trial pre-game workout and he failed. It didn't work. Just too sore. We'll get back to work tomorrow and keep knowing what we're doing and hopefully we can get him back soon."
Hop HERE to read more. Jump HERE to watch more video from Ainge and McKeon.
--SHAQ KEEPS CELTICS' PLANS IN THE AIR--
But the one 7-foot-1, 325-pound question mark remains: whether the Celtics will have the services of O'Neal at the start of the postseason. And, if nothing else, it's causing extra work for Rivers and his staff. "I'm anxious, but listen, if he can't go, we've got other guys," Rivers said Friday after his team engaged in a rigorous two-hour-plus session, all of which O'Neal simply observed from the periphery after previously hoping to test out the right calf he sprained earlier this month in his first and only game appearance since Feb. 1. "If [Shaq] can go, it helps us. I literally have two plans. That's why our staff, I told them to prepare two plans, and that's what we're doing."
* More: Shaq sits out Friday's practice | Jermaine O'Neal healthy and ready for postseason
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal remained sidelined Friday as the rest of his teammates engaged in a practice session that spanned more than two hours as Boston ramped up its activity in advance of Sunday's Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Knicks.
One day after coach Doc Rivers suggested O'Neal might be back on the court to test out the sprained right calf -- the latest malady in a season that's seen O'Neal miss a total of 45 games due to a hodgepodge of injuries -- Shaq simply observed the session in full practice gear and departed without speaking to the media.
Rivers said the team had audibled to that no-contact plan Friday, but expects O'Neal on the floor Saturday.
"He watched the entire practice," said Rivers. "We knew that. We planned that. [Saturday] we’ll see what he can do. He did some of the walkthrough stuff [Thursday], but I just don’t want to take the chance. We’ll find out [Saturday]."
Asked if he would rule O'Neal out for Game 1, Rivers said it was still too early to do that.
"No, we'll find out [Saturday]," said Rivers. "He’ll practice, hopefully [Saturday], then we’ll make a decision after that."
Rivers admitted he essentially has two games plans written up and will simply pick one based on Shaq's availability.
On the more definitive side, the Celtics enjoyed having 14 healthy bodies on the court, including Delonte West, who moved without limitation just four days after re-aggravating a right ankle injury. West originally sprained the ankle in late February during an informal offday workout and missed eight games. On Monday in Washington, he got steamrolled by the Wizards' JaVale McGee in transition and left the game.
Despite appearing glum about his prognosis and sitting out Wednesday's regular-season finale against the New York Knicks, West looked in full health Friday during 5-on-5 drills to close out the session, and remains on target to play in Game 1 on Sunday.
"Delonte's fine," said Rivers. "We're 100 percent, except for Shaq. Everybody else is pretty good, and that's good."
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