Original pic via AP:
Original pic via AP:
Many had thought that Rivers would step away from the NBA for a year at least, to spend time with his family.
And yet, instead of retiring, Rivers is sticking around for another five years with the Celtics to continue chasing another title.
With most of the Celtics’ starters aging, the window for that goal is closing after last week’s loss in the second round to the Miami Heat. The Big Three are a combined 102 years old and aren’t getting any younger.
However, Rajon Rondo is a premier point guard and is extremely talented, even with one arm, as we saw in the Celtics’ last few games. Surely his relationship with Doc had an impact on his decision to take the contract extension.
And even though the Celtics look to be on the downswing in their chances for a title with the current roster, Rivers is still an elite coach who can lead them to more rings. He gets his players to execute well and buy into a winning system. All in all, he’s one of the best coaches still in the league and the Celtics have to be glad he’s returning.
What the Celtics need to remember is a little phrase that Kevin Garnett himself screwed up in 2008; “anything is possible.” He meant to say “impossible is nothing”, the slogan of his former shoe sponsor, Adidas, but that’s besides the point. What matters here is the idea behind the phrase. While the Celitcs are looking at an improbable 2-0 hole, it’s not an impossible one. CelticsBlog did most of the leg work to breakdown the Celtics chances based on the NBA’s playoff history to actually come back and win this series. According to the numbers, NBA teams have come back to win a series after going down 2-0 only 14 times.
But the game of basketball isn’t a coin flip and historic percentages don’t guarantee future results. Adjustments need to be made if the Celtics want to comeback to win. Watching the first two games, Miami seemed to outclass Boston in all aspects of basketball. in Game 1, the Heat won on virtue of their outside shooting. Not only did they hit 47% of their 3-pointers, they continually knocked down improbable jumpers from 17-20 feet out, one of the most inefficient shots you can take. The final result in the game was a 9-point victory for Miami but as a Boston fan, you weren’t that fearful. Pierce had been ejected in the game and outside of Ray Allen, no one showed up. Looking at the box score to see that Miami held the Celtics to just 42.7% shooting (Boston leads the NBA in FG%) was the most encouraging sign. There was no way Miami would stay that hot from the floor and Boston was bound to find the basket sooner or later.
Game 2 came and Miami’s shooting returned back to Earth but Boston still couldn’t find the rim and their defense seemed to be more Clippers than Celtics. Boston gave up 38 points in the paint and was only able to get Miami to turn the ball over 10 times. Add to that Miami’s game leading 44 rebounds, 12 of them on the offensive glass, and you begin to paint a picture of exactly how the Heat ground the Celtics down to pulp.
But this can’t be all the Celtics have left int he tank, can it? The Celtics beat the Heat three out of four times in the regular season and, for the most part, did it convincingly. So what’s different here?
Shaq has missed the last four games vs. Miami. Boston won the first game he missed but they had the assistance of Kendrick Perkins but dropped the final match-up of the season after Shaq was sidelined with injuries and Perkins was delt to the Thunder. In the games without a big man to clog the middle, Boston has gone 0-3 against the Heat. Not to knock Jermaine O’Neal but he’s played no more than 21 minutes in each of the playoff games vs. Miami. He’s played well,
having an overall +/- of +2 despite the Celtics being an overall -20 for the series but his limited minutes lead to long stretches of the game where Garnett or the struggling Glen Davis have to man the middle.
So, can a 39-year old, oft-injured, Shaq really be the answer? Currently, the Celtics are struggling on both ends of the floor so they can use all the help they can get. According to 82games.com, the line-up of Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, S. O’Neal played 266 minutes together and produced an offensive rating of 117 points per 100 possessions while only allowing 99 points per 100 possession and producing a +/- of +101 points. It’s not that Shaq is an all-world defender or a threat to win his 4th finals MVP trophy. He’s just big. He’s big and he can still score one-on-one due to his massive size.
One of the biggest issues Boston is having is with Wade and LeBron playing the passing lanes, essentially neutralizing Rondo’s greatest strength, passing. Rajon loves to get deep into the defense and then find the open man with a kick-out, but with Davis struggling and Jermaine not giving anything on offense, the Miami defense is able to rotate more and shoot the passing lanes in comfort. A few times in game 2 Rondo beat his defender off the dribble, got into the lane and had the defense collapse around him. He had no inside threat to hand the ball off to (Garnett loves to hang out at the 17-ft range) and was unable to get the ball to the shooters because Wade and LeBron had no need to rotate off of Allen and Pierce. The results from Rondo’s drives were a variation of a forced layup by Rondo, a blown lay up by Davis or steals on the desperation kick-out passes to the Boston shooters.
In the first three games with Miami, Boston won by a total of 16 points. In those games the Celtics had over 40 rebounds twice and had 19+ assist in all 3 games. They also got to the free throw line 25+ times in each game. Since the third game Boston hasn’t had a game of where they collected more than 39 rebounds, they haven’t had more 18 assists or gotten tot he line more than 22 times. They’ve also lost the battle for the paint. Boston scored a combined 112 points int he paint over the course of the first three games. over the last 3, they have scored just 90. They’ve also been outscored in the paint by 18 in those 3 games compared to their +22 point advantage in the paint over the previous 3 games.
Shaq’s ability to be that dump-down guy for Rondo will help immensely. Not to mention, it will probably force Spoelstra to play Big Z more minutes which will send unsung hero, Joel Anthony, to the bench for longer than Miami can afford. It worked in the first three match-ups and Boston has to hope it works in the playoffs. But the key, as has been since Danny Ainge decided to ship Perkins off, will be Shaq’s health. If he can fill in the 20+ minute void that Jermaine O’Neal is leaving behind, Boston will have a good chance to get back into this series, especially with three of the next four games being played in Boston.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work and some luck for the Celtics to turn this one around. Thankfully, the Big Shamrock is finally active for game three. Now let’s see if he’s effective.
Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.
I probably should have started this daily recap post 9 days ago, but I was to intrigued by the playoffs to even pull myself away from the television just to tweet let alone blog. (Translation: L.A.Z.Y.) But here I am and here we are, just past the halfway point in more of the first round match-ups and the playoffs feel as alive as ever. Although some of these series seem to be a bit lopsided, they have been as close as possible. Even the 4-0 sweep of the Knicks by the Celtics came down to two buzzer beating shots in the first two games. Sunday’s action was no different.
A lot of fuss was made (again…) about how LeBron missed another potential game winner. but I got to chalk that up to Elton Brand and the Sixers defense. They came up with a huge stop when Brand came over from the weakside to stamp LeBron’s layup with a return to sender. Speaking of defense, someone rewind the game tape and take a look at the suspect defense by Dwyane Wade on Sweet Lou down the stretch of that game. Williams dropped a cool 17 off the bench including the game winner in Wade’s eye. Phily gets to take their talents back to South Beach on Wednesday for Game 5 as Miami leads the series 3-1.
Knicks head coach, Mike O‘Antoni, had no clue on how to stop the bleeding. Let me give him a hint: “Defense”. Until he figures that part out, New York will not matter come playoff time. Some how the Celtics feel asleep at the wheel up 20+ points in the middle of the 3rd and the Knicks found their savior in Anthony Carter. (No, I didn’t mean Carmelo Anthony. ) But even Carter’s inspired play wasn’t enough to give the Knicks their first home playoff win in nearly a decade as the Celtics pushed the lead back to double digits and swept the Knicks and their win-starved fan base back into depression.
I have to admit, I used to view Jamal Crawford as an immature, black hole. Sure he had the sweetest crossover I had ever seen and the kid could score in bunches but he wasn’t exactly pragmatic to winning. There was a reason this guy had scored 50-points for three different teams and there was a reason he had never been to the playoffs despite being a well traveled player. But that perception of him has been erased from my mind since he won the 6th Man award last year. This is one dude, much like Zach Randolph, that’s grown up and now he’s carrying a team to the second round instead of sinking a them into the early lottery. He was electric last night, dropping 25 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds on 10-18 shooting. Quick, someone change the name on Joe Johnson’s contract.
As for Dwight Howard, he had 29 and 17 last night on 9 of 14 shooting and is averaging 32 points, 17.5 rebounds and 2 blocks a game yet his team is down 3 games to 1 to the Atlanta Hawks. The HAWKS! Each loss shovels in more coal to the burning fire in Orlando. If you’re a Magic fan, you’ve got to be concerned with how fast the Magic’s chances of keeping Howard around long term are burning up in these playoffs.
Is it hot in here or am I just sitting on Otis Smith’s chair?
Not, that’s not a typo. This game was all Chris Paul or as Phillip from Forum Blue & Gold calls him, the Point God. Between dicing up Bynum’s knees and abusing Kobe’s bum ankles, CP3 somehow found time to drop a historic triple-double. Just so you don’t think I’m garnishing this dish with too much spice, Paul’s 27 point, 15 assist, 13 rebound foray last night was the first 25+/15+/10+ performance since the gods created basketball (at least not since 1986-87).
On the flip side of this game, Gasol, Bynum and Odom were nearly out rebounded by Chris Paul and they were most certainly outplayed by him. Kobe scored ZERO points in the first half (first time since 2004) and finished the game with 17 points on 5 of 18 shooting. People are worried about Mamba’s hurt ankle but they should really worry about the Lakers overall defense. Fisher can’t check CP3, Kobe can’t check CP3, and the Lakers bigs were abused by CP3. Maybe it’s time to instill the Matt Barnes defense onto Paul. Whatever the Lakers do, they need to figure it out and quick as the series is tied up at 2-2 heading back to Los Angeles.
San Antonio Spurs@ Memphis Grizzlies – 8:00 PM EST on TNT: Memphis leads the Spurs 2-1 and they still have another home game remaining. Tony Allen is calling Manu out, Mike Conley is outplaying Tony Parker and Spurs fans might seriously consider a Zach Randolph for Tim Duncan trade (if Chris Wallace was dumb enough to offer it). Not sure what world we are living in but can any of you confidently tell me the Spurs will win this series?
Portland Trailblazers @ Dallas Mavericks – 8:30 PM EST on NBAtv: Just as Dallas was removing their “Mr. Choke” name tags, they suffered another classic come-from-ahead-loss to the Blazers to even things up at 2 games each. A lot of NBA blogheads picked the Blazers to upset Dallas is Brandon Roy could put things together. Looks like that might actually happen here. This is by far my favorite series of the playoffs as both teams have stacked rosters, good coaching, strong narratives and incredible fans. Wish this game was on TNT but I’m thankful that it’s on somewhere.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets – 10:30 PM EST on TNT: The Nuggets might be in denial, but this series is all but over. With that said, this is still a crucial game for the Thunder. Can they show some championship heart and deliver the death blow to the desperate Nuggets or will they lallygag through this close-out game knowing they can go back home and finish the series off. There is still a lot to learn about this young Thunder team and tonight we could get a glimpse of exactly what this team is capable of.
See y’all on tonight.
Shane is a contributor to Stacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.
The playoffs are FINALLY here. Listen in on the Double Dribble Podcast as Ben Swanson joins Erroll and Shane as they breakdown playoff match ups, highlight advantages and give you their first round series predictions. A lot of interesting takes including some shocking upset predictions. Who? Tune in to find out!
Many of us think that this is all an act put on by Garnett to self-motivate as his skills begin to slip. Kevin doesn’t see it the same way. He’s been telling us forever that this is just who he has been, well, forever. Many of us just didn’t have the opportunity to watch The Big Ticket struggle in a small market and now that he’s in a huge market, everything has come to light.
The truth is, KG’s been a violent yet beautiful marvel on the court since his high school days in Chicago. Don’t believe me? Check out the video below and see how it compares to his dunk on Ronny Turiaf and the Knicks from Monday night:
High School Version of Kevin Garrnet:
2011 Version of Kevin Garnett:
The similarities are uncanny. In fact, most of the celebrations and motivational techniques are identical. Right down to the body language and the facial expressions.
Here is what former NBA coach, Clariance Gains, had to say about Garnett when he saw Kevin play in high school (including the scouting report):
Kevin Garnett – The best prospect that I have seen this year. Has the skills & mentality of a small forward & height & extension of a PF/Center. Very skilled BB player who has a tremendous understanding of the game of BB. If declares for 1995 draft,would recommend we take him, regardless of our drafting position.
That year in the 1995 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up selecting KG with the #5 overall pick. The rest has been an expletive-filled historic career.
(H/T @ClarenceGaines2, Photo via Yahoo! Sports/AP)
Shane is a contributor toStacheketball.com, LarryBrownSports.com & NBAoffseason.com. You can find him babbling about basketball all over the net or tune in as he tweets nonsense on twitter @Suga_Shane.
With the trade deadline and waiver period in the rear view mirror and NBA rosters set for the stretch run, it’s only appropriate to do an exhaustive study on the teams with the best benches, right? Right.
And since we already know which teams have the best starters – all that takes is a quick look at the standings, for the most part – let’s take a look at how much help they get off the pine. First, a disclaimer: there are many ways to quantify the contributions of a bench, but for this exercise we will focus on quality over quantity whenever possible. In the case of some teams, of course, there is value in both.
Portland: It’s almost not fair, but Portland’s bench has to be considered the best in the league, if for no other reason than the presence of Brandon Roy. Obviously a starter and one of the best players in the league if he didn’t have to deal with devastatingly balky knees, there are still few players who you’d rather have with the ball down the stretch. The very definition of a bench player is someone who can’t quite handle the workload of a starter for one reason or another (in his case, long-term health concerns), but what he gives in spurts is as valuable to his team as many starters. And despite attempts to limit playing time, he’s still playing over 31 minutes a game.
The addition of Gerald Wallace has also served to strengthen this unit, allowing Nate McMillan to play matchups with Wallace at the four and Aldridge at the five against smaller lineups, or using Camby at the five and bringing Wallace off the bench. Either way, there is enough firepower at the top to give them the top spot despite a relative lack of depth compared to some of the other teams on this list.
Clippers: What was once justifiably considered a glaring weakness has all of a sudden become a real strength for the Clips, who can now realistically be called “deep.” DeAndre Jordan’s emergence as a certifiable NBA starting center has allowed them to bring now-healthy Chris Kaman off the bench, and Kaman has accepted and responded to his new role with nearly 13 points a game since coming back from ankle injuries. Always a gifted shooter, especially for a 7-footer, he has upped his averages from 10-15 feet (53%) and 16-23 feet (45%) this season. Few teams in the league have centers capable of scoring like he does, and none can say they are able to bring one off the bench.
Their precocious 19-year old backup point guard, Eric Bledsoe, was thrust into a starting role with Baron Davis out to start the season, but has come on strong of late (averaging 16 points over the last seven games) and shown the capability to impact the game in a variety of ways. He ranks fourth among point guards in Rebound Rate and brings energy and athleticism on both ends of the floor that teams hope for from guards off the bench. Al-Farouq Aminu’s 3-point shooting has cooled off considerably since the beginning of the season, but he has found a niche by using his length and finishing ability to impact the game. While both rookies remain vulnerable to lapses in decision-making and are prone to playing out of control at times, they have contributed significantly to many of the team’s wins, and still offer gobs of upside. Add efficiency-monster Craig Smith (60.6 True Shooting Percentage) and Randy Foye (10 games of 20 or more points) to the mix, and you have a formidable second unit.
Lakers: The Lakers essentially have six starters, with Lamar Odom perfectly capable of filling in without missing a beat. As it stands now, with Andrew Bynum healthy, he brings tremendous versatility off the bench. He has a career highs in PER (19.8) and 3-point shooting (38%), and is 54% from the floor with his typically strong rebounding ability (8.7/game). Regardless of his role, he remains an integral part of the team’s system, a perfect fit in the triangle offense with his length, passing, and ability to stretch the floor. Given the fragile nature of the team’s starting center, his value cannot be overstated.
Perhaps the biggest addition in the offseason for the defending champs was Steve Blake, especially considering the defensive deficiencies of the starter, Derek Fisher. But while Blake has struggled to contribute as hoped, another guard, Shannon Brown, has stepped up and provided a big boost. He has upped his shooting percentages across the board and gives an older team much-needed athleticism and finishing ability that, again, fits the mold of an ideal guard off the bench. Matt Barnes has only played in 42 of the team’s 68 games, but he adds toughness and defense along with 47% shooting that the Lakers hoped for when they brought him on. It’s obviously a team that gets most of its production from the starters, but like most contenders not playing in Miami, they have their share of weapons in reserve.
Celtics: Some – many, maybe – questioned the wisdom of trading Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City in return for Jeff Green. Perk was a physical force for the Celts and a contributor to their strong defensive identity, but in trading their starting center, they may have actually strengthened their chances of a title run by augmenting their bench with Green, a case that Assistant Director of Basketball Operations, Mike Zarren, made at Sloan (did I mention how much I learned there?). Green adds length and shooting off the bench, and is arguably better suited to contribute in Boston with a master distributor like Rajon Rondo and a system less reliant on individual scorers like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Like the game I saw against the Warriors, Doc Rivers is often able to play a small lineup with Kevin Garnett as center and Green at the four because many teams lack a traditional center. In addition to Green, the Celtics feature Glen Davis, another big capable of mitigating their relative lack of size with his bulk and scoring ability. He has become a vital role player in his fourth year with Boston, averaging nearly 30 minutes a game. The team has struggled at times to find a capable backup to Rondo with Delonte West unable to stay healthy, but between him and rookie Avery Bradley, there is at least the potential for capable fill-ins when Rondo needs a rest.
Phoenix: Behind Steve Nash, the Suns may not have the most impressive starting group, but thanks, in part, to their early season trade with Orlando, they actually boast one a pretty strong second unit. As evidenced by his success backing up Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat has the ability to play starters minutes at center. He ranks 12th in the league among centers in Rebound Rate and 14th in Adjusted PER despite coming off the bench, and remains one of the most underrated big men in the game. Jared Dudley has become an incredibly valuable bench piece (40% from three), showing he is capable of contributing this year with a career high usage rate without any drop in efficiency. In Aaron Brooks, they have one of the strongest backup point guards in the league, his style a nice fit for Phoenix’s uptempo offense. Another piece from the Orlando trade, Mickael Pietrus, provides strong defense and scoring (53% True Shooting) on the wing.
Dallas: For a team that “goes 10-deep,” the bench really gets most of its production from two guys: Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. In his 12th season, Terry remains the prototype for a reserve guard, able to score in bunches as a deadly complement to Dirk Nowitzki. He is around his career high in Usage Rate, but remains efficient from deep (38%) on his way to 16 points per game. Though he is no longer the kind of disruptive force that made him a perennial first round fantasy pick, Marion has quietly continued to score efficiently (51% from the floor) and adapted his game to suit the needs of the team by shooting fewer than one three-pointer every other game.
Along with those two, the team has two “energy guys” in J.J. Barea and Corey Brewer and a very solid backup center in Brendan Haywood. Barea is a worthy backup to Jason Kidd, with his energy and ability push the pace while knicking down threes at a solid clip (35%). The newly-signed Brewer is 6’9” and a very strong wing defender who can finish at the rim (although he should never be allowed from farther away). Haywood is efficient around the hoop (nearly 57% from the floor) and provides the team with a strong backup to Tyson Chandler. In sum, it’s a group that supplements Nowitzki and Kidd to form one of the deepest units in the league.