Boston Celtics: 2013Game2
"You want to perform at a high level but I wasn’t able to," admitted Daniels, who returned to TD Garden Friday night as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. He missed all five shots he took as part of a scoreless effort in Milwaukee's 99-88 triumph, but gushed with confidence about his potential now more than 18 months removed from a scary spine injury that nearly ended his career in 2011.
"I can understand that lot of people are expecting [players like Green] to come right out and shoot great," said Daniels. "There’s still those thoughts in your head: 'What if I get hurt?' or 'What if this happens?' I tried to find some way to channel that and be able to play through it. That first year coming off major surgery, it’s definitely not easy."
Daniels said he feels better and more confident entering the 2012-13 season. After three inconsistent and injury-plagued seasons with the Celtics, he's looking to make an impact as a veteran role player on a young team.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers showered him with praise for his attitude during his time with Boston.
"He was a great professional for us. He was terrific," said Rivers. "I talked to him yesterday, he we good for our team. He had a lot of guys in front of him, but he never complained about it. Last year in the playoffs, he hadn’t played in a while, but he came in and helped us win a game. That’s who you want, that’s the type of veteran you want."
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge admitted the team never truly entertained the idea of bringing Daniels back this season (this after three one-year stints with the squad), but saw his game progress last season as he worked his way back.
"I thought he got better as the season went on," said Ainge. "I think also, he wasn't really given a lot of opportunities to play. Doc really trusted him in the playoffs. We didn't practice hardly at all last year as most of you know. But I thought Marquis had a good training camp and a good exhibition season last year, so I'm not sure if it was the injury or just being out of sync."
Daniels said he keeps in touch with most of the players in the Celtics locker room and that bond is evident. When Daniels checked in at the start of the second quarter on Friday, he got a hug from Kevin Garnett (yes, the same guy who didn't even flinch when Ray Allen gave him a love tap the other night in Miami). You'll remember Garnett was one of the calming voices who talked to Daniels on the floor after his bruised spine injury in February 2011.
Read on for notes on when the rookies might head to Portland and the Red Claws' drafting a Celtics family member.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Break out your panic meters (OK, that's premature, but some will). It's one thing to lose to the defending world champs down in South Beach, but it's another for the unheralded Bucks to crash the home opener and emerge with a lopsided triumph. This one was never close, and Boston waived the white flag with rookie Kris Joseph on the floor with the Celtics down 20 with 2:37 to go. Kevin Garnett scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the third quarter, but Boston never got closer than 11 after the intermission (and only because of a late barrage of 3-pointers from Jason Terry, who was scoreless over the game's first 42 minutes but finished with 10 points). Rajon Rondo chipped in 14 points and 11 assists over 41 minutes, while Paul Pierce (11 points on 3-of-11 shooting), Brandon Bass (10) and Jeff Green (11) were in double figures for points for the Celtics. Brandon Jennings scored a game-high 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting while adding 13 assists and outplayed counterpart Rondo. Tobias Harris chipped in 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting for Milwaukee.
The Celtics trailed by seven after the first quarter and seemed lifeless. Turnovers (18 leading to 19 points on the night) and defensive indifference allowed Milwaukee to push its lead to 18 with 3:15 to go in the first half. The Bucks never looked back.
EARLY FOUL TROUBLE FOR PIERCE
Pierce picked up two early fouls, including a charge that sent him to the bench with 6:06 to play in the first quarter. Pierce came back at 8:44 of the second frame, only to pick up his third foul when he knocked down Jennings taking (and making) a 3-pointer with 4:47 remaining in the half. Pierce was 0-for-4 with two points at the intermission.
BOO BIRDS MAKE EARLY GARDEN ARRIVAL
The Celtics mustered a mere 30 first-half points while shooting 27.3 percent from the floor (12-of-39 overall) and were serenaded with some boos from the Garden faithful as they walked off the court at halftime on opening night. Those boo birds returned in the second half as Boston never put together a true charge.
WHAT IT MEANS
Celtics coach Doc Rivers preached patience, and Boston clearly is still ironing out the wrinkles from all the offseason additions. There's little time to dwell on this one, as the Celtics travel to Washington for the tail end of a back-to-back Saturday against the Wizards. Boston is 0-2 and it's probably no reason to panic, but for a team that preached starting strong, it's a disappointing start to the 2012-13 campaign.
* MAKING THE TRANSITION: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his team struggled to get back and properly set on defense against Miami, leading to breakdowns that helped the Heat put up a whopping 120 points in Tuesday's season-opener. Rivers implored his team Thursday to do a better job of forcing opponents to operate against a set defense. "We didn’t get back," said Rivers. "And we never set our defense. They saw it on the film [Thursday], it was us. I would love to say it was Miami’s great speed, and they have all that. You don’t get back on defense, you can’t play defense. To me that was the No. 1 thing."
* GETTING VOCAL: Celtics players stressed a desire to be more vocal on defense with the goal of eliminating some of the mistakes that plagued the team on Tuesday. "We didn't communicate," said Jeff Green. "If you don't communicate, it kind of throws everybody off the same page, and we didn't do a good job of that. That's something that we spoke on a lot today and that's something we've got to get better at." Captain Paul Pierce said that transition defense and communication go hand in hand. ""We've got to do a better job of talking to each other," said Pierce. "Transition defense, No. 1, [and] matching up with our guys. I think that's where it starts. Once we shoot the ball, whether we make or miss, we've got to make sure we get back and match up with our guy and talk to each other a lot better. That's something that we emphasized here [Thursday] morning, that we've got to have better communication."
* KEEP IT SIMPLE: Rivers admitted the week-long break leading up to the opener might have worked against Boston because players were overthinking plays and coverages against Miami. The Celtics might dumb things down a bit, particularly on the defensive end, and let players' natural instincts take over. "When you are used to doing something one way -- and we had too many coverages," said Rivers. "We’re a simplistic defensive team, it’s a system. But when you have start showing on the 1, show on another, go on another, then no one is playing at full speed because they are not sure of what they are doing. I thought that was on [the coaching staff]."
But they were bolstered for their Game 7 showdown by the Boston faithful chanting "Beat the Heat!" as the final seconds of their 98-79 blowout loss ticked away. They'll be hoping for that same energy from their home crowd Friday night as they look to rebound from their opening night loss to the Heat when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
"It's great to always be at home, get a chance to protect our home court and this is the start of it, so hopefully we can put on a better showing than we did in Game 1 on the road [in Miami]," captain Paul Pierce said after Thursday's practice.
The Celtics are hoping home turf will help bring out their best this season. Friday will be the first installment of a season-long effort to reestablish the TD Garden as a sanctuary for the C's and a nightmare arena for opponents. As Rajon Rondo noted after Thursday's practice, the Celtics have seen far more victories than losses at the Garden in recent seasons.
"I mean, we had a tough year last year. Other than that, I think years in the past, the Garden has been a tough place to play in," said Rondo. "I don't know our record to date, but, like I said, with the exception of last year, we have a pretty good home record."
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