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NY Got Rondo’d

Well I’m doing this post Saturday, but not posting it till Monday as part of my blog-a-week attempt. Ok, for those of you who watched the Celtics-Knicks game Friday night saw a clinic put on not only by Rajon Rondo, but almost the entire Celtics team. Rondo broke the team’s career playoff assist record set by Bob Cousy dropping a ridiculous 20 dimes to go with 11 rebounds and 15 points. If there was one flaw of Rondo’s game it was the fact that he shot 5 of 13, but hey I ain’t going to get nit-picky.

Rondo looked like the Rondo at the beginning of the year and was picking the Knick’s defense apart. He consistently found the hot hand whether it was Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. The two combined to go 14 of 19 from downtown…wait… what? ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Firstly Ray is 15-20 (75%) from downtown in the series and 26-41 (63.4%) from the field overall. Mr. Pierce isn’t doing too shabby himself as he dropped 38 Friday night on a very efficient 14 of 19 from the field while hitting all four free throw attempts. He has gradually increased his point total per game, and although I don’t expect that trend to continue I do believe that he will still score at least 25 in the Celtics game 4 victory.

Yes, that’s right I’ve changed my prediction (not by much as I predicted the C’s would win in 6) and now believe the C’s will pull the brooms out of the closet to sweep away NY. It may be a surprise to you, but the Celtics haven’t swept a playoff series since the “Big Three” was assembled.

Some of Rondo’s highlights include:

Ridiculous Layup

Find’s Pierce

and thanks to the RajonRondoVideo channel on youtube, you can watch the Rondo show against the Knicks in game 1 (I’ll update it when he posts the game 3 highlights)

Changing of the Guard

This New York-Boston series features a couple very interesting matchups. There is Carmelo Anthony vs Paul Pierce, as well Kevin Garnett against Amar’e Stoudemire. Besides those two prime-time matchups the next important was/is Rajon Rondo against Chauncey Billups.
Only problem here is that at the end of game one “Mr. Big shot” hurt his knee trying to draw a foul on the Celics defense. Toney Douglas tried to fill in for Billups in game 2, but he doesn’t have the defensive mentality or veteran knowledge Chauncey has to help limit Rondo.
RR exploited the mismatch with Douglas in game 2 dropping 30 points to go with seven assists. He scored 14 quick points in the first quarter, most of which came in transition.
For the Celtics to get past the Knicks they will need to combat Carmelo and Amar’e (who is hurt himself with back spasms) and need to keep Billups from being a potent scorer. Rondo doesn’t need to score 30 a night for the team to win. If he can limit the Knick guards, and Pierce can make Carmelos life hard then this team should have no problem beating an undermanned NY team.

Round 1: Halfway There

KG stealing Game Two

All the headlines before game two of the Celtics-Knicks series were about Chauncey Billups being out with a knee injury. As game two progressed they shifted to Amar’e Stoudemire getting hurt and then they became Carmelo Anthony being a one man wrecking crew. Anthony almost single-handedly defeated the Celtics with a group of scrubs around him. The green would hold on for a 96-93 despite Anthony dropping 42 (tying his playoff career high).

As a fan of basketball this game was so much fun to watch. It started with Rondo exploiting his mismatch and scoring 14 in the first quarter while Carmelo was scoring the whole game in a variety of ways, he even added 17 rebounds to go with six assists. The game got intense as the teams exchanged leads down the stretch and ultimately the Celtics would hang on (with the help of Carmelo not fouling Delonte right away). Rondo played spectacular basketball leading the team with 30 points and seven assists. He was just a problem for the Knicks all night as he got into the lane and found Ray on a couple occasions. He was at his best when he was looking to score though, as he shredded Toney Douglas apart.

The green have now squeaked by two games and reports say that Shaq might be out for the playoffs. Though the O’Neal report isn’t confirmed yet it would be a HUGE loss. This team needs the “Big Shamrock” to man the middle if they are going to make a deep playoff push. Though the C’s still have some size, its not the most talented size. Troy Murphy hasn’t done anything since his arrival in Beantown and though Nenad is serviceable, we can’t ride Kristic to the Finals.

The upside is that the Celtics are still in fact up 2-0. A win is a win no matter how you get it. I went out last night to celebrate the win and me and my friends wore our Celtic’s gear (well I wore my Pierce high school jersey, technically not Celtics gear) and some Knick’s fan came up to us and was complaining about how “lucky” we are to be up. I don’t if he realized but the Celtics have been doing this since the Big 3 was assembled. They beat teams late. This team hangs its hat on its defense and it usually is the factor separating them and their opponents. Last night for example, KG coming up with a clutch deflection, steal and timeout. You could argue that Carmelo dropped 42, but if you were watching you know that almost all of the shots were highly contested. Melo was just in the zone and when somebody with his skills gets in that zone its a fun show to watch.

Regardless, Anthony couldn’t lead his team to a victory so his scoring effort goes to no avail. The Celtics play Friday so I’ll make sure to cheer on from the Jersey Shore as I leave Morgantown for Easter break.

End of Season Grades

Rondo: "Is it playoff time?"

The regular season has come and gone and the playoffs are a day away (2 days for the Celtics) from starting. So its time to look back at the regular season and highlight some of the best plays, some of the worst, and give individual grades to the players.

I guess I’ll start with the worst play of the season since it was so recent… (drumrooooollllll) and the award for the worst play this season goes to… Von Wafer for this series of events against the Wizards on Monday.

The best moment of the season? Hands down it goes to Ray Allen when he passed Reggie Miller for the career leader in 3-pointers made. What it made it even more enjoyable was that it was against the hated Lakers.

For the best defensive play of the year I have to give it Kevin Garnett. His reaction after this is what make’s it so convincing.

Dunk(er) of the year goes to the Captain and the Truth, Paul Pierce. He had a few dunks that could have won but I think this one is the best.

Some other great moments to highlight this year:

-Pierce being thirsty

-Some pre-season goofing around

-Rondo and Nate-Rob taking the Big Shamrock down

-Here is NBA.com’s Top 10 plays of the Year for the Celtics

-Rondo’s “statement” against the Heat

Grades:

Rajon Rondo: He’s had a solid regular season finishing with 10.6 points and finished second in the league in assists with 11.2, just .2 behind Steve Nash. Its not secret that this team goes where Rondo takes them so for them to have a deep playoff run RR is going to need to step his game up from the late-season slump he went through. Grade: B+

Ray Allen: The UConn alumnus had a memorable season as he passed Reggie Miller to become the leagues all-time leader in 3-pointers made. He like the rest of the team have struggled down the final stretch of the season. It became a focal point to get Ray-Ray more shots as his shot total per game fell in the final two months of the season. Grade: B

Paul Pierce: The teams captain had another great year finishing the year with 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He also showed that age isn’t a factor, showing some young legs and dunking on people all over the league. He will need to step up and shoulder some of the offensive load in the playoffs for this team to have shot at a title. Grade: B

Kevin Garnett: He stayed healthy and played well. He lost his defensive counterpart when Perkins was traded but still knows that defensive tenacity is what separates this team from others. Garnett needs to be more of an inside presence instead of settling for outside jumpers. He has been the most consistent on the team still provides that burning fire and intensity to help chase a championship Grade: A-

Shaquille O’Neal: The “Big Shamrock” only played 37 games, missing time with various injuries (mainly an achilles heel injury). The team traded Perkins away with the hope that O’Neal can help anchor the inside in the playoffs. Grade: C

Jermaine O’Neal:He like the other O’Neal missed a lot of time with injury. He has played well since returning from his knee injury/rehab and hopefully he can provide a spark off the bench (if he doesn’t start). Grade: C-

Delonte West: Another player, another injury. West missed the first 10 games of the year, came back for 5 before breaking his right wrist and missing over 2 months. When returning he got injured again. When West is in the lineup he provides Rondo with a serviceable replacement (aka not Carlos Arroyo) and offers a lot of versatility. Grade: C+

Jeff Green: I really like Jeff Greens game, I do. I liked the Celtics before the trade though. Green provides mismatches on offense and can be on the wrong end of a mismatch on defense. He is a solid offensive threat that will need to step it up come playoff time. Grade: B-

Glen Davis: He was solid ALL year and I’m assuming he will be leaving as his contract expires, plus there is the potential NBA lockout. Grade: B+

The rest of the bench: Well Carlos Arroyo, Troy Murphy, Avery Bradley, and Von Wafer don’t make a very serviceable crew. Bradley is my favorite of the group and I hope he turns into a solid player. Grade: D+

Assignments aren't always bad, they can be cool like this one was

Celtics vs. Knicks Playoff Preview

Pierce and Allen getting rest before the playoffs

Its playoff time baby! The Celtics finish the regular season tonight against their first opponent in the playoffs, the New York Knicks. I’m actually going back to Boston tomorrow so I may try to go to the game Saturday if I can find some cheap tickets. Anyway, is anybody else as fired up as me and my roommate? We sat there the other day until we realized, ‘hey, playoffs start Saturday… holy shit the playoffs start Saturday!’ I can’t believe the season has come and gone already, we’ve seen so much over the course of the season but it all seems like a giant blur. We had Rondo’s ridiculous start to the year, Perkins returning from injury, all the injuries to various players (mainly the O’Neal’s and Delonte), the move at the deadline to make the Thunder a championship contender for years to come, and most recently the team’s struggles right before playoff time. This post isn’t about the season but rather a positional breakdown of the starting match-ups heading into the post season.

Point Guards: Rajon Rondo vs. Chauncey Billups

A couple year ago I wouldn’t have liked this match-up. Billups was in his prime and when you have a guard as big and strong as the former Colorado product against a player as light as Rondo its not going to bode well. That isn’t the case anymore, Chauncey is still a solid player that can make you pay from long distance and has the veteran presence and playoff experience teams desire this time of the year. The problem for Billups is that Rondo is fast, arguably one of the fastest in the league. Its no secret that the Celtics go where Rondo takes them and if the green are going to have success against a potent Knicks offense¬† their going to need Rondo to attack Billups, get in the lane and dstribute and take over. Hopefully these couple days off will let “ragin’ Rondo” get some rest so he can get full ready come playoff time. Advantage: Rondo

Shooting Guards: Ray Allen vs. Landry Fields

There isn’t much debate here. Sugar Ray has the clear advantage, he’s been here before and he’s been in the league forever. Fields is a really solid rookie that I’m sure will continue to develop into a solid role player for the Knicks. In this match-up Ray Allen hanging out on the perimeter will combat Fields ability to crash the boards (which is something he does really well for a guard) and I’m sure Allen running around will wear Fields out over the course of the series. Advantage: Allen

Small Forwards: Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony

This is going to be an interesting match-up. Anthony is one of the leagues premier scorers while Pierce has his own way of scoring with his “bag of tricks”. When Pierce is matched up against potent offensive scorers he tends to get into a defensive mode (see 2nd half of game 6 of the 2008 finals or anytime he guards LeBron), but to be most successful against ‘Melo he’s going to need to make him work on both ends of the court. At the end of the day though I think Carmelo is too talented and has the slight advantage over “The Truth” Advantage: Anthony

Power Forwards: Kevin Garnett vs. Amar’e Stoudemire

This will an interesting match-up partly because of their history, but also because their two of the best at their positions. Both players can stretch the floor with their shooting abilities and can take over a game at any time. Stoudemire has the athleticisim that KG once used to have, but Garnett is the team’s defensive leader whereas Amar’e is a defensive liability. This match-up will be huge in determining the series. Advantage: Even
Centers: Shaquille O’Neal vs. Ronnie Turiaf

According to Danny Ainge, Shaq should be healthy and ready for the start of the playoffs… well see if he can stay healthy for more then five minutes. If he can he should EAT the Knicks at the center position, nobody on that team can handle the “Big Shaqrock” although Turiaf is a solid defender he’s giving up A LOT of size. O’Neal is listed at 7’1 325 pounds while Turiaf is a more nimble 6’10 247, but I think the 6’10 is generous as most people admit that he is undersized. Advantage: O’Neal

Bench:

The Celtics have the advantage in terms of players coming off the pine. Jermaine O’Neal and Glen Davis will provide depth in the frontcourt while Jeff Green will provide the versatility to create problems. The team also has Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo to help if their number is called. The Knicks have Toney Douglas and not much else off their bench… Advantage: Celtics

Prediction: Celtics in 5

P.S. I’m growing a playoff beard, though my roommate from New Jersey is convinced it wont be growing very long.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I don't know what wrong either Doc

Did the playoffs start early or is it just me? Since the Celtics recent drop in play, and consequently in the standings too the playoffs seem to have come early. The green got into a great Texas showdown against the Spurs Thursday night before traveling to Atlanta for another battle against the young Hawks.

The Good: We finally won… over a Spurs team that hasn’t struggled like this since 1997 (aka pre Tim Duncan). The game was good in many ways as Jermaine O’Neal returned from his season (or what seems like career) long battle with a knee injury and he actually played fairly well. He looked slow and sluggish but I didn’t expect him to just jump back into NBA action and compete at the same speed as everybody else. Speaking of speed, this game showcased two of the fastest point guards in the league as Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker battled it out.

Parker outscored Rondo by a point, but Rondo got his team the win and dished out 14 assists while turning the ball over… 0 times! RR was knocking jumpers in left and right (which is something we don’t see often) and took the team on his shoulders for about a 5 minute span. This game was a tease in a sense because it makes Celtics fans out there wonder how unstoppable the team would be if Rondo could consistently make his jump shots. For those watching the game, they were probably wondering where the interior defense was as Parker drove by Rondo on numerous occasions for layups. With Perkins in Oklahoma City, the team lacks a real inside defensive presence and it showed. The team also had strong performances from Paul Pierce (21 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists), Kevin Garnett (20 points and 9 rebounds), and Glen Davis (16 points and 8 rebounds).

The Bad: We blew another lead… what the hell! It looked like the team was going to coast to an easy victory after going up 12 points in the third quarter. Then Zaza Pachulia took over… ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!? that’s inexcusable! Look at this guy. He tallied 10 points and 6 rebounds in the final frame as the Hawks outscored the C’s 26-15 in the fourth. After Boston scored 31 points in the second quarter, they only managed 31 in the second half! Though there were some plays worthy of the highlight reel, highlights don’t win games. Atlanta out-rebounded Boston 52-38. The most important came with 7.9 seconds when Al Horford tipped in a miss which put the game away.

The Ugly: We cant stay healthy… Nenad Kristic went out with a knee injury (UPDATE: MRI came back negative and he’s listed day-to-day) in the San Antonio game. Shaq is still out with an achilles injury, although he is supposed to be back sometime this week.

Boston comes back home after the road trip to play the Pistons and 76ers before a HUGE game against the Bulls in Chicago.

“What Is Going On?!?”

Your not the only one with a headache KG

I last left a post discussing the Celtics troubles. I then proceeded to go on a road trip legends are made of, only to return to find out that the Celtics are still having troubles! The great part of having a smart phone is that I can check scores and stats when I want, the problem is sometimes I get annoyed seeing it on my cell phone and not on a computer screen. Only problem was our hotel in Panama City didn’t have the internet (which is complete bs if you ask me… c’mon do they know what day and age we live in?!) Anyways, the Celtics have been struggling lately and this isn’t the time of year that you want to be slumping. There is only 9 games left in the season and the Green play some heavy weights along the way. They play Washington twice, Miami, New York, Chicago, Detroit, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

The Celtics have fallen two games back of the conference leading Bulls and are just 5-5 in the last 10 games. Rondo has been struggling lately, although he did have a solid game against the Pacers dropping 22 point and eight assists. He has been really off this month as he has recorded double-figure assists only four times in the 15 games (27%) the teams played this month. Just to put that into perspective he had 34 in the teams previous 62 games (55%). He (like the rest of the team) might be running out of gas. Is this where age really catches up to us? Some suggest the team needs to get Ray Allen more looks, and I completely agree. When Ray scores and gets involved this team is a lot better holding a 20-4 record when he scores 20-plus points.

Boston will need to make a statement against a San Antonio team that has been injury plagued with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili being out. The Spurs are also 5-5 in their last 10, except they have lost their last four games. I was hoping that this time of year we could just rest our starters to keep them fresh for the playoffs (and technically we still can) but with LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Heat only .5 game back, I think the Celtics should play for the home court advantage. The Bulls are still within striking distance except they play a fairly soft final stretch which features Toronto, Phoenix, Cleveland, and Minnesota… some of the worst teams in the NBA. Thing is everybody is trying to take them down so they could drop a few unexpectedly… Just saying the Celtics can still take the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Heat also have a joke of a schedule down the stretch, so its basically all up to the Celtics to make their move.

Besides all the losing there is a bit of good news. Shaq is supposed to be back soon, along with Jermaine O’Neal. Also Troy Murphy is out with an injury but he should be back in the lineup soon. This is great because we can give Garnett and Davis a little bit of a breather heading toward the playoffs.

Ill either do a live blog during the Celtics Spurs game or do a recap of either how much we suck or how important of a win that was. Oh and side-note, I haven’t seen any highlights really since being back, but I did see this and made me wonder how he could do that, when he did this before… kind of a tongue twister there huh?

Jinx

Hopefully Rondo is pointing to better performances

So here we are… just a couple days removed from me blogging about the Celtics upcoming laughter stretch. Yet here I am scratching my head! So we lost to the Clippers by 5… hey, ya know what Mo Williams and DeAndre Jordan had the best games of their season, that’s fine it happens. THEN we go to the “City of brotherly love,” except there was no love from the 76ers as they beat the Celtics by 3, despite a late charge by the green. Again, you think to yourself, ‘damn, we lost two close ones in a row, to two pretty bad teams, its ok it happens, Pierce still had another nasty dunk‘ Following that loss the team responds with a statement, blowing the Bucks out by 31 and only allowing Milwaukee to 56 points. I started feeling good again hoping the team realized they shouldn’t be losing to crappy teams. Then the Green laid a stinker last night against the Nets (who have been playing better of late) as Deron Williams killed us down the stretch, and the whole game really.

So I’m sitting here scratching my head… playing with my stubbly chin hair… staring at my Celtics poster wondering WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG! Ok that was really dramatic, I’m really not that worried, YET. Last nights loss to New Jersey could be the product of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Jeff Green combining to shoot 6 for 31, in case your not a math major thats 19%. I don’t care what you say, when three of your most important players combine to shoot that poorly, your never going to win. Also when Glen Davis is your leader in shots attempted that usually doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.

Over this last stretch people have began to question Rondo’s performances. I touched on this in my last post also, but it seems to becoming a significant story. Coach Doc Rivers said Rondo is healthy and is just going through a tough stretch similar to what Paul, Ray and Kevin have gone through. My opinion on the whole Rondo slump is this. The guy is playing near 40 minutes a game and all the extra minutes have caused him to sustain a few minor injuries. Those minor injuries add up, especially when you consider that he is about 180 pounds taking contact from bigger guys over the course of an 82 game season. The team really needs Delonte West to return and stay healthy because I feel we need to reduce Rondo’s minutes and keep him fresh for playoff time. West is supposed to return tomorrow night against the Pacer, making only his 9th appearance of the year.

Also, Carlos Arroyo has played well in the minutes he has received and if I were Doc I would give Rondo a couple nights off. The team has an off day Thursday, then I would sit him against Houston on Friday and New Orleans Saturday before the team has another off day Sunday. This would give RR a nice four day break to rest and try to recover a little more because I’m sure Doc plans on resting some of the starters down the final stretch. The only catch with this is that Rondo makes the team go, and since Rondo isn’t playing well the team isn’t playing well. If we sit young Rajon and lose a couple games it is not going to bode well for the Green as the Chicago Bulls have now pulled even with the Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, with the Heat only trailing by 2 games. The Celtics are going to need to pull together here before people start questioning this team and the trade Danny pulled off. They play a some beatable teams (Indiana, Houston, and New Orleans), with the best being Houston (their 7-3 over their last 10).¬† So they will need a couple of wins and hopefully they can do it in convincing fashion to prove they are still the team to beat in the East and NBA because the last thing they need is another monkey on their back.

‘Clipped’

Don't worry Paul, its just one loss, no need to cry like the Heat

Clippers 108-Celtics 103… Did anybody see that one coming? If you did give me a call, because you must be a fortune teller. In my last post I had talked about how the upcoming schedule was an easy one and how the team could be well on its way to passing the 66 win mark from the 07-08 season… then last night rolls around and the C’s drop a stinker to the Clips. I mean I’ll give the team credit for trying to claw back in the final minutes as they hit a barrage of 3′s, but it was too little too late.

I didn’t get to watch the game as I was tuned into the West Virginia-Marquette game, but part of me is glad I didn’t see it because I probably would have freaked. The Celtics are 27-6 at home, but 8-6 against the western conference at the Garden. Its well known that the Celtics rise up for the “big” games and tend to play down to their competition, and I know that every once in a while the other team is going to play phenomenally, because its kind of like their superbowl (its the big game for them). It’s just painful knowing that a team with a 24-40 record came into the home of arguably the best team in the association and were up 23 at one point.

The fact that Mo Williams lit the green up for 28 makes me sick, although he seems rejuvenated in his time in LA. Also DeAndre Jordan lit the Celtics frontcourt up for 21 points and 9 rebounds, it was 2 points off his career high and just the fourth time in his career he has scored more than 20. If Jordan is giving the green problems, what could centers like Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, and Amar’e Stoudemire do now that Kendrick Perkins is gone. Nenad isn’t long enough to deal with players like that and is not nearly athletic enough to try to keep highfliers like Stoudemire and Howard away from the rim.

Boston didn’t get much support from the bench as only 4 players came in off the bench (we wont count Avery Bradley playing 1 second). Troy Murphy only played four minutes, Sasha Pavlovic played 8, Carlos Arroyo played 15 in his debut, and Jeff Green led the bench with 22 minutes of action. Those four combined to score 12 points, led by Green who had 6. This team is injury-plagued right now and if we want to go deep in the playoffs we’re going to need to start giving the starters some rest. They CANNOT be playing 35 minutes a night if were going to make noise during the playoffs. In case you haven’t picked up from my links, I’m a big advocate for dunks and anytime Blake Griffin is on the court watch out… He only had one noteworthy flush but Pierce had a nice drive to the basket (seems like these are becoming more common) and the aforementioned DeAndre Jordan had a nice dunk over Nenad as well.

In terms of last nights game, Rondo turned in a solid performance racking up 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists and picked up 3 steals along the way. Me and my roommate (and a lot of other people) picked up on the fact that Rondo hasn’t been playing up to his usual standards and Tom at Celticsblog wrote a great piece analyzing the “recent Rondo struggles.” I don’t know if there is anything wrong or if he is just getting tired from playing almost 40 minutes a game but Rondo doesn’t seem like Rondo.

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