Boston Celtics: postgame thoughts
December, 4, 2009
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Celtics coach Doc Rivers stressed before the start of Boston's four-game road trip the need for his team to start strong, particularly on the defensive end, something the Green had struggled to do at times early in the season.
The Celtics opened an 11-point lead after the first quarter Friday night in Oklahoma City and breezed to a 105-87 triumph over the Thunder to cap a perfect 4-0 trek on Boston's first prolonged road trip of the season.
"This is the best, so far, that our starters have played," said Rivers, who also pointed to a third quarter in which Boston's starters helped the team outscore Oklahoma City, 28-16, to extend that 11-point cushion. "Our starters have been as inconsistent as anyone, but tonight they collectively played extremely well."
Boston led by double figures after the first quarter in three of their four road wins this trip, outscoring opponents, 114-84, in those first frames. Only Miami kept it close and, even then, the Celtics led by seven at the intermission.
Speaking of fast starts, the Celtics return home -- even if it's just for one game vs. Milwaukee on Tuesday night before embarking on another three-game road trip -- with a 16-4 record (including an NBA best 9-1 mark on the road).
Nearing the quarter mark of the season, the Celtics are on pace to finish 66-16. Sound familiar? That's the exact record of the 2007-08 Celtics. Only two Celtics teams in the storied history of the franchise have finished with more than 66 wins (the 1972-73 squad set a team-record with 68 wins, but lost in the conference finals, while the 1985-86 squad finished 67-15 and won it all).
"I don't try to compare us to any other team," said Rivers. "Last year's team, I said it all year and no one wanted to hear it, but as good as our record was, I didn't think we were that good. We didn't have the right mindset the entire year; We just had too many things going on.
"Two years ago, we were a one-agenda team and that was to win the title. I think this team has the same thought process. There's no other stuff going on with this team, just a focus on winning. That doesn't mean we're playing well, yet, but we are focused on one thing."
Suddenly that little lull in mid-November that had everyone canceling the Duck Boat reservations for June, doesn't seem so worrisome. Heck, with the win over the Thunder, Boston is now 3-3 on Fridays -- previously their most troublesome night of the season.
The Celtics did it all this trip. They won big (Charlotte), they won close (Miami), they won ugly (San Antonio), and they won with finesse (Oklahoma City).
Boston shot 52 percent or better in three of those wins and, more impressively, held opponents to 42 percent of less in three of the triumphs. Oklahoma City was the only team to buck that trend, shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, but the Thunder still lost by 18 on Friday.
And while the combined record of the four opponents on this trip is a mere 36-34, three of the four teams would be playoff bound if the season ended after Friday's game.
"We don't get excited because of a seven-game winning streak," said captain Paul Pierce. "The whole goal for us is to continue to play and get better. We learn from wins and we learn from losses. Throughout the course of the season, we're just trying to get better. We did that on this trip."
A handful of leftover thoughts from Friday's win:
Captain comeback: After scoring just eight points in Thursday's win over the Spurs, Pierce scored eight points in the first 5:06 of Friday's game and had 11 points at the end of the first frame. He finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists over 31 minutes. But his most impressive accomplishment might have been holding Thunder superstar Kevin Durant to two field goals (and seven points) in the third quarter.
Durant finished with a game-high 36 points on 13 of 19 shooting.
"Durant is awesome," said Rivers. "He's going to lead the league in scoring soon and lead this team to the playoffs soon. He's difficult to stop. I'll say this, Paul in the third quarter, that's the best defensive job I've seen in a long time. He took the challenge -- we challenged him at halftime and he took it. His leadership was the difference in the third quarter."
A rare miss: Celtics guard Ray Allen misfired on a free throw late in the first quarter, ending a streak of 32 consecutive makes. Allen has made 56 of 60 free throws this season for a sizzling 93.3 percent (but the miss dropped his mark more than a full percentage point overall).
Happy Homecoming?: Celtics forward Shelden Williams grew up in Oklahoma City, starring for Midwest City High School, where he was a two-time state player of the year. After logging a rare DNP in Thursday's win over the Spurs, Williams labored through a scoreless 12 minutes on his home turf -- finishing with a team-worst minus-12 in the plus/minus rating. He did have two rebounds and two steals.
Green get glimpse of Green: The Celtics drafted Jeff Green with the fifth pick in the 2007 NBA Draft before trading his rights to the Sonics in the deal that brought Ray Allen to Boston. Green endured an off-night by registering six points on 3 of 10 shooting (including 0 for 5 from beyond the arc) and a minus-21 in the plus/minus. Green is averaging 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game this season.
Loose balls: Kendrick Perkins picked up a technical foul for jawing at the officials late in the first half… Perkins (5 for 7 from the floor) and Kevin Garnett (10 of 11, team-high 23 points) highlighted another phenomenal shooting night for the Celtics starters. Boston's starting 5 combined to go 32 of 51 overall (62.7 percent) for 83 points. All five finished in double figures for points and all five had plus/minus ratings of plus-24 or better… Rasheed Wallace (2 for 2) and Eddie House (3 of 5) helped the Celtics finish 9 of 17 from beyond the arc. The Celtics are 11-0 when Wallace makes at least two 3-pointers in a game… One night after getting dominated on the glass, Boston held a 40-30 advantage in rebounding… Friday was the 12-year anniversary of Latrell Sprewell being suspended for one year by the NBA after choking coach PJ Carlesimo. The Thunder fired Carlesimo as their coach last November.
December, 1, 2009
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
The Charlotte Bobcats have had a way of making the Boston Celtics look good this season, but it's going to be mighty tough for coach Doc Rivers to find fault with much of anything following Tuesday night's 108-90 triumph over Charlotte at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Boston walked off the floor with the best record in the Atlantic Division (tied with Orlando at 14-4) and playing its most inspired ball since the start of the season. The Celtics continue a four-game road trip Thursday in San Antonio looking to match the six-game winning streak they opened the 2009-10 season with.
And they'll do it oozing confidence. The Celtics were dominant at both ends of the floor Tuesday night, setting the tone early on the defensive end, while showcasing an inside/outside attack for which Charlotte has no answer. Sure, they did it against a Bobcats team they blew out by 33 points at the Garden earlier this season, but Charlotte was riding a four-game winning streak after the recent addition of Stephen Jackson.
Some of the highlights from Tuesday's game:
- Disappearing act: Jackson, Charlotte's big-splash acquisition in a recent swap with Golden State, labored through 4-of-13 shooting and finished with 11 points, while his plus/minus was a team-worst minus-21 (shared by Raymond Felton). Gerald Wallace, who put up back-to-back 31-point efforts in wins over Toronto and Cleveland, finished 6 of 12 from the field for 14 points.
- Defense does it: While the Celtics have allowed opponents to put up some big numbers this season, they've been downright Scrooge-like against Charlotte. After giving up 31 first-half points in the first meeting (and just 59 points overall), the Celtics limited the Bobcats to 39 first-half points and led by 23 at the intermission Tuesday. Charlotte shot 40.5 percent overall and made just 2 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc."In the first quarter, and maybe the whole first half, our defense was as good as it has been all year," said Rivers.Before the four-game road trip began, Rivers pleaded with his team to bring defensive intensity at the start of games to prevent the home team from getting any momentum early. Charlotte seemed to be staring at a double-digit deficit from the opening tip.
"It was something we talked about before going on the trip and we've done it in the two games so far," said Rivers. "At home, we were getting in the habit of slow starts and battling back -- winning some of them. The last two games we've gotten off to great starts and that's important on the road."
- Ball movement: The Celtics finished with a 24-13 advantage in assists. That number doesn't quite tell the whole story, as Boston did a phenomenal job making the extra pass -- almost passing too much, according to Rivers. Kevin Garnett (five assists) in particular did a great job finding teammates alone near the basket. Rajon Rondo had a team-high nine assists."Offensively, we were extremely unselfish, almost to the point of over-passing," said Rivers. "One of the things I told our coaches was that I'd rather have that problem than the other way around."Allen, who had five assists himself, finished with a team-high 27 points, including 5 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc, and a team-best plus-20 in plus/minus.
- Perk's a beast: Rivers confirmed as much, using that exact (and familiar) reference during his postgame chat with reporters. Kendrick Perkins registered 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting with a game-high 12 rebounds in a monster effort."We're getting him the ball and we're getting to him in his spot," said Rivers. "I keep telling him, if he's the best pick setter, he's going to get the ball on the post. He's doing that, setting great picks, and he gets in deep because [the defense has] to help. If you set picks for Ray and Paul [Pierce], you have to help, and that allows Perk to roll to the paint and he's got great catches."
- Loose balls: Boston's starters combined to shoot 63.9 percent (26 of 41 overall, 7 of 9 3-pointers) with 80 points, 27 rebounds and 21 assists ... Rasheed Wallace picked up his NBA-leading eighth technical foul for jawing at referee Derek Richardson in the second quarter ... Gerald Henderson, the son of the former Celtics standout with the same name, was the lone bright spot for the Bobcats with a plus-13 over 13 minutes off the bench. Maybe he should have stayed on the floor longer ... Rondo hasn't missed a free throw in four games -- then again, he's only had four attempts in that span -- raising his free-throw percentage to 38.5 percent.