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C’s Suffer First Loss, Look To Bounce Back

Posted by r1zzo23 on November 7, 2009

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The 6-0 Boston Celtics hosted the 4-1 Phoenix Suns at home last night and ended up suffering their first loss of the season, 110-103. Defense seemed to be optional in this game as both teams shot over 50% from the floor. Amar’e Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett had great games against each other, but Jason Richardson exploded, once again, to the tune of 34 points and ten rebounds. That was JRich’s 6th 30+ point game in his career against the Celtics. Steve Nash contributed 16 points and 12 assists, including a dagger three in the final minutes of the game to really put the game away.

The difference in three-point shooting was staggering as the Suns were 13-24 from deep while the Celtics bricked 14 of their 18 attempts from the great beyond. A +27 from three is going to kill any chance at winning a game, but when you dominate the points in the paint category, it helps to even that margin. Free throw shooting was also a huge problem as the Suns were 23-30 from the line while the Celtics shot a high school-like 9-18 from the so-called “charity stripe”.

There were people speculating how long the Celtics could go before losing a game. People were saying we had a great chance to break the 72-win mark set by the Bulls in the 90’s. I say this is a good loss for the team to be brought down to reality. There is no longer the pressure to stay undefeated and we can go out and focus on just winning games rather than continuing a streak.

Tonight, they head down to New Jersey to take on the struggling Nets, who will be without all-star point guard Devin Harris. Brook Lopez is an emerging center and looked great against us during the pre-season, but this should be an easy win for the Big Green Machine tonight. After coming off of a loss, I would be very surprised if they don’t come out firing on all cylinders and have this game wrapped up after only three quarters of play.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis, Game Preview | 1 Comment »

C’s Top Timberwolves In Sloppy Performance

Posted by r1zzo23 on November 5, 2009

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When a jump ball is the key play, you know you've just watched an ugly game.

After destroying their Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia 76ers at home, the Celtics took to the road and headed to the chilly north to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves. In what was billed as Al Jefferson against his former Boston Celtic squad and Kevin Garnett’s return to the franchise he carried for 12 seasons, it looked as like it was going to be the Oleksiy Pecherov show in route to a Minnesota win. Fortunately, that didn’t happen as the Boston Celtics held on to secure a 92-90 win.

The one shining star for the Celtics I saw last night (only caught the 2nd have) was Rajon Rondo. Yes, he benefited from some questionable defensive decisions by Minnesota as well as some great passing from Kevin Garnett, but he asserted himself in the third quarter, where he scored the majority of his team-high 18 points. He was also all over the place on defense, jumping passing lanes and finishing for uncontested fast break layups.

The Celtics’ defense, which is still the best in the league, had an off-night as they allowed the Timberwolves to shoot 52% from the floor as a team with Pecherov scoring a career-high 24 points on nine of 14 shooting. Al Jefferson had a good offensive game with 18 points, but was limited to only four rebounds and seemed to just be out-sized by both Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace. Their length really seemed to help them both defend him and keep him off of the glass.

The one reason, in my mind, why this game was so close was the shooting of the Boston Celtics. Shooting 44.6% from the floor (37-83) and a miserable 5-19 from three, they just didn’t have the fire power to run away with this game. They dominated the points in the paint category, but when it came to open jumpers, nobody on the team was knocking them down with any consistency. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Eddie House… You name a player on the Celtics’ roster, he most likely wasn’t going to hit two consecutive jumpers in a row last night.

Being arguably the best team in the league will mean the Celtics will get their opponent’s best game night in and night out. If we head out on the road and shoot like we did last night, we’re going to need to find ways to win, which we did last night. That’s the sign of a championship team. That’s what we are seeing with this Boston Celtics squad.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | Leave a Comment »

C’s Continue to Roll, Stomp 76ers 105-74

Posted by r1zzo23 on November 3, 2009

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Pierce's 21, Rasheed's 20 points off bench pace C's offense.

Another game, another blow out and I enjoyed every minute of it. The team came out very sloppy and fell behind 10-4 to start the game and ended up coming back and taking a two-point lead after the first quarter. The second team really took this game and put Philadelphia away in the 2nd period. Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House and Marquis Daniels all went to work in the quarter and allowed the Celtics to take an 8-point lead into the half. ‘Sheed and House were draining threes while Daniels went to work on Jason Kapono, who had no chance to stop him whatsoever.

The third quarter allowed the Celtics to extend the lead to 15 points, but it could have been so much more. The defense was stifling all game, holding the 76ers to just 36.2% shooting on the night, but watching the Celtics on offense in the third period was downright ugly at times. They were turning the ball over on almost every other possession (or so it seemed) and that’s what kept them from really blowing them out earlier than they did.

One huge number that stood out was the Celtics’ bench scoring 62 points. Philadelphia’s bench, on the other hand, only chipped in for 25 points. This is going to be how this team wins a bunch of games this season. Even when the starters come out and don’t exactly play well, you have faith that this bench will not only even the game up against the opposing bench, but they can easily take the game over.

One game after Rondo’s big extension, he only had five assists, but he played a great game. He was all over the place on defense, hitting the glass (even if it didn’t result in his own rebound) and knocked down a nice jumper, which he is definitely showing a grown confidence in. With five assists, he led the team in that category as the team amassed 27 assists on their 41 baskets over the course of the game. The 27 assists are nice, but the 17 turnovers have got to be tuned down a bit.

What it comes down to is that when you’re winning so convincingly, this is the time to nit-pick on the problems. When your team is high, you’ve got to knock them down a bit in practice and point out their deficiencies. Doc voiced his displeasure in the post-game press conference about the turnovers and the sloppy play in the third quarter. He also went on to say that he called a timeout because it just wasn’t a close game and wanted to keep it somewhat respectable and organized.

Other than the turnovers, there are absolutely no complaints from me on how this game was played by the Boston Celtics. They continue to steamroll any and every team that is put in front of them. Tomorrow night, they will be on the road again at Minnesota to visit our old friend, Al Jefferson. In what should be an easy win, let’s hope we can allow our starters to rest for the entire fourth quarter again to be ready for yet another back-to-back starting Friday night at home against the Suns.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | Leave a Comment »

Pierce, Celtics Drop Hornets

Posted by r1zzo23 on November 1, 2009

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Another win for the Boston Celtics. It looked like going into the half that the Celtics had a chance to run away with it, but Chris Paul just wouldn’t let it happen. It took a total team effort to secure this win, and that’s exactly what happened. The entire starting five contributed exactly how you would imagine them on a nightly basis and Rasheed came off the bench to chip in 12 points. Here’s a few notes from the game:

  • Chris Paul is the quickest & fastest player in the league
  • Paul Pierce can still carry a team offensively
  • Rajon Rondo thinks he belongs in CP3’s elite group of point guards and was willing to fight him for it
  • Rasheed Wallace’s threes may actually energize the crowd more than Eddie House’s
  • Peja Stojakovic can still stroke it.
  • Kevin Garnett looks fresh and springy, while his jumper is still smooth as ever
  • Chris Paul showed in the 3rd quarter alone that, if he wanted, could average 30 points a game
  • The Celtics’ big men were just too much for the Hornets (38 points combined for Garnett, Perkins and Rasheed)
  • Kendrick Perkins will benefit greatly from that 8-foot jumper he’s developed
  • Ray Allen punished Devin Brown and Chris Paul in the post in the 2nd quarter

We’ve run our record to 4-0 and look very good doing so. With an off day tomorrow, we head on the road for a back-to-back at Philadelphia and then at Minnesota. Thursday is a travel day to come home to take on the Phoenix Suns at home Friday, only to head back on the road to New Jersey for a game Saturday night. Four games in five nights will test this team’s stamina. Hopefully we can manage a blowout in one of those games to preserve some of the elder statesmen’s legs.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | Leave a Comment »

Celtics Win Laugher Against Bobkittens

Posted by r1zzo23 on October 29, 2009

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The Boston Celtics came into the season saying they wanted to be one of, if not the, best defenses in NBA history. Today, they put on a performance that will be remembered for a long time. The Bobcats didn’t score more than 18 points in any one quarter and only had 41 points after three quarters of play. Those are staggering numbers when you really look at it. Now I know that Raja Bell, DeSagana Diop and Flip Murray, three of their more veteran players, didn’t play, but any professional basketball team that is a member of the NBA should be able to muster at least 60 points in a game.

Does this game speak more of how great the Celtics’ defense is/can be or how bad the Bobcats were/could be? I personally think that it speaks volumes about how stingy Boston can be on the defensive side of the ball. Naturally, to have such a dominant defensive performance you’re going to need the opposition to have a horrible night on the offensive end, and Charlotte did just that. The Bobcats shot just 31% from the floor, 0-10 from beyond the arc and miserable 13-25 from the “charity stripe”. Those are about as bad as of numbers as you will see the entire season. Good thing the Bobcats got that stinker out of the way.

For the Celtics, there was no real dominant performance from any one player as all 11 healthy players all saw some considerable floor time. The lone double-double in the game went to Rajon Rondo, who finished with 10 points, 11 assists as well as three steals. Four other players finished with double-digit points: Ray Allen (18), Kevin Garnett (10), Paul Pierce (15) and the offensively challenged Shelden Williams (12). Looking at the plus/minus numbers for the team, the starters were all at least +19 while the Celtics were a stunning +34 with Garnett on the floor. The starting five plus Rasheed are showing that they can be the best collection of six players in the entire league, hands down.

Now I didn’t get to see any of the second half as I was too busy dropping 30 points myself in my own game (shameless plug), but it looks like I didn’t miss much. Lester Hudson and JR Giddens both got to play some real minutes, but they only took one shot each and neither connected. I would have liked to get to see them both play to see how their stints on the floor went, but it looks as if Shelden Williams may have been the focus of the offense for the bench players.

This is yet another great win to start the season for the Celtics, but in such a different fashion than last night. We beat our rivals on their own floor last night and then came out and dominated a team that shouldn’t challenge us. This is how championship teams should play, so let’s hope this keeps up for the entire season.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | 1 Comment »

C’s Clip Cavs On Opening Night

Posted by r1zzo23 on October 27, 2009

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It may not have started off well, but it ended just fine as the Celtics beat their rival Cavaliers in Cleveland to start the season. The Cavs were 39-2 at home last season and will start this season 0-1 at the Q. Everyone had to know that the great start from Cleveland was going to happen and the question was whether or not the Celtics could weather the storm. They did that and much more as they went from down seven after one quarter to up six at the half.

The Celtics never relinquished the lead at all in the second half. It was comfortable for most of the third quarter, but when it got tight in the fourth, the Celtics just seemed to make buckets and get stops when it was needed most. LeBron James had a good game (38 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks) but he didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to get his team in a position to win. He had some crucial turnovers that really kept the momentum from swinging in Cleveland’s favor.

The MVP of the game has to go to The Truth, Paul Pierce. He paced the Celtics’ scoring in the first half with 13 points, but was held scoreless in the third quarter. But tonight, like any other night, Paul was Mr. Fourth Quarter. No matter how cold he gets at any point of the game, there is still very few players in the entire league who I would want to have the ball in the final quarter. He finished the fourth quarter with ten points, finishing the game with 23 and knocking down three huge buckets while dishing out a beautiful assist to Kendrick Perkins for an and-one finish under the rim.

Garnett played 33 minutes in his first serious game action since his knee injury and looked good, but still rusty. He finished with 13 points, ten rebounds and three block shots, but he missed a dunk that he would finish 98 out of a hundred times. His knee didn’t look to bother him much and he just needs time to strengthen it and get back into game shape.

Ray Allen got hot in the second quarter along with Paul Pierce to spark a huge Celtics run, but cooled off considerably in the second half and finished with 16 points on five of 16 shooting. Rajon Rondo played a good game. He knocked down a couple jumpers and got to the rim for a bucket or two. He did get blocked badly by LeBron in the first quarter on a layup he should have just sprinted down the floor instead and that seemed to deter him from getting to the rim from then on. He finished the game with eight points, six boards, three steals and a game-high ten assists.

The three newcomers, I thought, played very well as a group. Rasheed Wallace led all bench players with 12 points on four of nine shooting including three of six from deep. His defense was as advertised, but he seemed very trigger happy. He took a couple bad shots early in the game and he may just have been anxious to get his Boston career off to a good start, but he seemed to settle down and hit a few big buckets for us. Marquis Daniels looked very smooth out there. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but his penetration with and without the ball got others some good looks. He slashed to the rim, posted up once or twice and hit a big three from the corner, too. Shelden Williams played as I thought he would. His defense was good, as was to be expected, and grabbed three boards. He finished with four points, all on free throws, and we shouldn’t expect much more from him on that front.

To me, the unsung hero award goes to Kendrick Perkins. Looking at the box score does him no justice. He finished with nine points, one rebound and one blocked shot, but his impact was so much more than that. It was clear as day that his jumper from the short corner will be there for him all game off of penetration by Rondo, Pierce and Garnett. He was knocking it down and had a couple rattle in and out, so that is a great part of his game that will be utilized accordingly. He may have only had one rebound, but he kept Shaquille O’Neal, Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskus from getting offensive rebounds. Garnett, Pierce and Rondo got a lot of their rebounds off of Perkins’ defense and box outs.

Tonight was a great way to open the season. Those who were on the floor for the Celtics looked healthy. The defense was great, holding the Cavs to 41% shooting. TNT had a graphic that showed the plus/minus in three categories: bench points, three-point shooting and fast-break points. In all three categories, the Celtics heavily dominated the Cavs. If we continue to do that, we should win a lot of games going away. We can happy that the season has started the way it is, but let’s not get satisfied yet because we have a pesky Charlotte Bobcat team coming to town tomorrow night. This is the same Bobcat team that ALWAYS seems to steal two games from us each season. Let’s hope we can put them down tomorrow in front of a raucous home crowd.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | 1 Comment »

C’s Soar Past Nets

Posted by r1zzo23 on October 11, 2009

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The Boston Celtics hosted the New Jersey Nets today in their third preseason game. With the Red Sox battling for their season just down the street and the Patriots on the road at the undefeated Denver Broncos, it seemed that the Celtics were an after-thought, even to those in the arena. As I sat two rows behind the basket closest to the Celtics’ bench (compliments of my lovely girlfriend), I could feel that the crowd just wasn’t there from the start of this game. The loudest cheers came when they would post the Red Sox’s score on the jumbotron (when they were actually leading in the game). I think the lack of excitement inside the arena helped keep the Nets in the game for the first half, but in the end, the Celtics flexed their collective muscles and pulled away late. With my great seats, I had a great view of the game and got an up-close look at everyone on the court. Here are my impressions:

  • Brook Lopez is very good. Perkins, Sheed, Big Baby all had trouble with him in the first half. He also has a very nice stroke from the charity stripe for a 7-foot bruiser.
  • Paul Pierce put this team on his back offensively in the first three quarters. He had 14 in the first half and 11 in the third quarter alone to finish with a game-high 25 points. Terrence Williams and Bobby Simmons had no chance of guarding him.
  • Kevin Garnett looked very good early in the game. At one point I looked up and saw he was five-for-five from the field and was asserting himself physically in the post against Yi. Very encouraging to see him bang at full force.
  • Rondo struggled for most of the game. He just never got into a groove, missed all of his jumpshots and was trying too hard to make an unnecessary pass under the basket with the Nets’ big men swarming. His shining moment was his highlight dunk (pictured above) on a nice pass from Pierce.
  • Rasheed Wallace electrifies the crowd almost as much as Garnett. The man Celtics fans all hated just a few short months ago is now turning into a fan favorite.
  • The lineup of House, Hudson, Daniels, Baby and Sheed did the most damage and pulled away for the win in the fourth quarter. Very interesting lineup to watch, but I was pleasantly pleased to see how they played together.
  • Eddie House is by far the most exciting shooter to watch in the NBA. Every time the ball leaves his hands, you can’t help but to think it is going in.
  • Marquis Daniels looks very comfortable playing point guard, and that is very reassuring. He plays great with Eddie House already and seems to be great at finishing around the rim. Our second unit will be very good because of Daniels.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | Leave a Comment »

Dwight Drives Magic Past Cavs Into Finals

Posted by r1zzo23 on May 30, 2009

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Looks like Nike will have to put the MVPuppet commercials on hold until next season. Either that or they better come up with a new commercial where LeBron James’ puppet is watching Kobe Bryant play in the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic.

After going up 3-1 in the series, the Orlando Magic dropped Game 5 in Cleveland and all the pressure was squarely on Dwight Howard and the Magic to seal the deal at home rather than face a do-or-die Game 7 in Cleveland. Game 6 belonged to Dwight Howard and the Magic right from the beginning.

Dwight Howard showed the world in this series that maybe he belongs to be mentioned in the same breathe as Kobe and LeBron for best player in the league. This is a very different outlook on Dwight coming off a sub-par series against Boston. The fact is that Cleveland doesn’t have a big man like Kendrick Perkins that can hold his ground and can almost keep up with Dwight athletically in the post. This weakness of the Cavaliers was exploited all series and was a huge reason why the Magic will be playing for an NBA title.

The main offensive play for the Eastern Conference champions on this night was to get the rock to Dwight on the post. From there, he would go to work in the paint if he was single-teamed. If the double-team came, he would kick to the open shooter. If the Cavs were closing out on the first shooter, the ball movement was impeccable around the perimeter and ended up with either an open three from the corner or a huge lane to the rim. Funny to think that the NBA’s Coach of the Year couldn’t figure out a way to stop it. Perhaps the only way to stop that sort of offense is for the Magic shooters to miss their jumpers. Fortunately for the team in blue, that wasn’t the case tonight.

Orlando finished the game 12-29 from deep, four of which came from super-sub Mickael Pietrus. Pietrus finished the game with 14 points, once again out-scoring Cleveland’s entire bench. Rafter Alston, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu knocked down the other eight three-pointers to keep the defense honest on the man of the night, Dwight Howard.

Starting from the first minutes of the game, Howard was too much for the Cavaliers to handle. This was the first game where I really saw the fire and desire from the Defensive Player of the Year to put the Magic on his back and will the team to a huge win. Howard poured in a career playoff-high 40 points on 14-21 shooting (edited for Dwight’s three at the end of the game). On top of that, he hauled in 14 rebounds and also dished out four assists. Although he only had one block, he deterred many other shots and his height and length was enough to bother Cleveland’s drives to the hoop.

LeBron James, the second best player in the league, failed to reach the NBA Finals once again after leading the Cavs to the league’s best regular season record as well as series sweeps against Detroit and Atlanta. Other than the Boston Celtics, it seems like Cleveland and Orlando will be on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals on a yearly basis, assuming James stays in Cleveland in 2010.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis, Playoffs | 1 Comment »

Props to the Prince

Posted by r1zzo23 on May 23, 2009

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Watching last night’s game between the Magic and the Cavaliers was a roller coaster ride of emotions. For those who don’t know, I am rooting for the Magic to win because I don’t believe they can beat either the Lakers or the Nuggets and I just don’t want Cleveland or LeBron James to win a title. So as the Magic have the ball with 13.6 seconds remaining and the shot clock turned off in a tied game, I assumed that they would get the last shot of regulation. If they hit it, they win. If they don’t, they go to overtime.

The Magic put the ball in Hedo Turkoglu’s hands and he went isolation on Sasha Pavlovic. The execution was pretty ugly, but the end result was a 2-point basket with only one second remaining in isolation. It was great to see the Magic hit a shot, but they left Cleveland just one second of life to tie or win the game. Unfortunately, it was the latter.

As Cleveland was inbounding, they tried to get LeBron James a lob pass for two points, only Stan Van Gundy warned Turkoglu about it and it was halted. I noticed Zydrunas Ilgauskus was open in the near corner, but Mo Williams didn’t even look his way. He told LeBron the ball was coming to him no matter what. So after Hedo stopped the lob attempt, James nudges him off, runs back towards the three-point line and nails a game-winning shot at the buzzer. The place goes crazy and Prince James, theoretically, saves the season. The Cavaliers went wild as they knew the importance of that shot.

The post-game interview with LeBron was just a lot of him tooting his own horn, but Marv Albert Craig Sager didn’t exactly help the situation by continuing to ask him about how great the shot was. I have to give LeBron props where they are due: that was by far the biggest shot of his career. He has officially earned the name Prince James in my book. I won’t be calling him the king until he wins an NBA title. Still, that was a dagger shot to my heart and all the Magic fans and Cavalier haters in the world.

Posted in 2009, Game Analysis, Players | 2 Comments »

Magic Steal Game 1 From Cavs at the Q

Posted by r1zzo23 on May 21, 2009

Rashard Lewis hits go-ahead three to win it for Orlando.

Rashard Lewis hits go-ahead three to win it for Orlando.

The Cavaliers were 8-0 to start this playoff season and were on nine days of rest. The Magic were coming off an emotional seven game series against the defending champion Boston Celtics, where they did the nearly impossible of winning a Game 7 in Boston. No way they could walk into Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers were 39-2 on the season, and steal the first game of the series.

If I told you before the game started that LeBron James would finish with 49 points (20-30 FGs, 3-6 from deep), six rebounds, eight assists, two steals and three blocks, would you think the Magic had a chance at winning the game or would you immediately think blow out? I, personally, would have thought the latter.

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Posted in 2009, Game Analysis | Leave a Comment »