An old Rocky once said, "it ain't how hard you can hit...it's how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward". Now, an old Celtics seem to be embodying that exact quote. They got hit hard by the Knicks early in the series, falling behind 0-3 and got hit again early in Game 5, falling behind 11-0. But, as was the case for Rocky, it became all about how the Celtics responded and, as always, this group of aged veterans answered the call with resolve and determination.
For the past six years, there has been but one constant amid a changing cast and a combination of winning and losing. You could see it every season, every game, and every possession for six years; the Celtics do not, cannot, and will not quit.
This quality is as indicative of the city as it is of the players. Celtics teams in the past have shared this trait. Do you think Larry Bird or Bill Russell would throw in the towel facing an 0-3 deficit? Never. And Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are the same way. They never appeared fazed by the prospect of the daunting hole they were in.
Yes, we have been blessed to root for a team with such a history of determination, but the city that calls these Celtics their own deserves just as much credit. Just a couple weeks ago, the city of Boston got hit much harder than the Celtics with bombings that killed three, injured over a hundred, and shook the entire community. The coming days saw more tragedy with a police officer murdered and more people injured in a shootout.
In the end, Boston won out, as we all hoped would happen. One terrorist was killed while the other was brought to justice.
The whole ordeal led to the new saying "Boston Strong". If you really think about it, Boston Strong says the same thing as Rocky did in Rocky Balboa. Boston got hit hard, but responded with enough strength and fortitude to move forward, stronger than ever.
A couple games ago, the Celtics were initially hit hard by the Knicks with an "impossible" road to a series victory, but they are slowly clawing their way back in this series, showing that they can get hit as hard as possible by the Knicks and continue to fight and claw and bring the series closer at 3-2 with a game in Boston on Friday.
Whether they end up successful in their response to the adversity they have been presented like the city of Boston or even Rocky were remains to be seen, but one thing will be certain, as it always has been, this Celtics team will go down swinging.
On the brink of elimination, the Boston Celtics held off the New York Knicks and kept their playoff hopes alive in Game 4 of the first round. Still, the Celtics find themselves in an overwhelming deficit. In order to advance, the C's need to win three straight games. This will be no small task, especially considering that they lost the first three games in the series. Therefore, they must look past the first three games and look at what they did right in Game 4 because they will need to duplicate that effort three more times in order to make it past the Knicks.
Most notably in Game 4, the Celtics were able to generate more offense, hold the Knick bench to limited scoring, and keep Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks as a whole to poor shooting. This was a winning combination for the C's and one they will need to replicate in the coming game(s).
In terms of offense, the Celtics relied almost exclusively on Jeff Green, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. Mostly, Green and Pierce have been productive all throughout the series, but Garnett and Terry have been more of wildcards in terms of scoring. In the first three games, both Terry and Garnett had a minimal impact which was a major cause of the 0-3 deficit that the Celtics found themselves in.
Now, the Celtics need consistent performances from Garnett and Terry to carry the offense. So far, the magic number for the Celtics has been 90. If they score over 90 points, combined with their solid defense, they will have an excellent chance of winning. They scored 97 in the last game (including overtime) with 86 of them coming from Pierce, Green, Terry, and Garnett.
In Game 5, the Celtics will need the bulk of the scoring to come from those four again, but, for good measure, they will need more scoring from the rest of the team as well, as it is unlikely that Green, Pierce, Garnett, and Terry will manage close to 90 points again. Players like Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass will need to score more to pick up any potential slack from the four biggest scorers.
If all of these players can fill their roles offensively, then the C's will have an excellent chance at winning. But, as always, they will need an equal if not greater effort defensively to win. For the most part, the Celtics have been solid defensively, but were at their best last game. Game 4 saw the Knicks shoot just 34% and Carmelo Anthony an even worse 28.5% while their bench scored just seven points.
It will be hard to limit the Knicks bench to that extent again with J.R. Smith back in the lineup, but the Celtics can limit the efficiency of the Knicks offense yet again. It's no secret that the offense is all about Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. If they shoot well, the Knicks offense will flourish, but if they miss a lot of shots then the offense will sputter.
Brandon Bass has done a great job covering Carmelo Anthony and will be able to hold Carmelo Anthony to poor shooting again if he can stay out of foul trouble (mainly by not biting on Carmelo's shot fakes). Similarly, Avery Bradley should continue to do well in covering J.R. Smith, forcing him to take bad shots and hopefully miss them.
Beyond Smith and Melo, the Celtics need to keep Raymond Felton to out of the paint and run the other Knicks off the three-point line.
This overall defensive effort combined with a balanced offensive attack will surely lead the Celtics to victory in any and hopefully all of the remaining games in this series. It sounds like a lot, and, although it won't be easy, it is definitely possible, as this is exactly what they did in Game 4. They set the precedent for how to beat the Knicks and they must follow it. If they can't do this, then they will have an early exit from the playoffs.
After two straight second-half meltdowns at Madison Square Garden, the Boston Celtics find themselves in an 0-2 hole against the New York Knicks. Overcoming this deficit will not be impossible, as the Knicks have really only maintained their home-court advantage, but the C’s need to reverse their missteps in the first couple of games in order to have a chance in this series. Unfortunately, their play has been at an all-time low for the first two games. Therefore, there is a lot to improve on. Below is a list of everything that has gone wrong in the first two games and how they can avoid these mistakes going forward.
1. Second Half Troubles
I have never, in my recollection, seen a Celtics team perform so poorly during the second half of two straight playoff games. It has been downright embarrassing. In the two games, the Celtics have set and broken their record for worst second half performance by mustering just 25 points in the second half of Game 1 and an even worse 23 points in the second half of Game 2. What’s worse is that the Celtics were leading heading into both second halves, but they quickly let the lead slip through their fingers as they struggled to find ways to put the ball in the basket. Although they have tried the past couple games, it is literally impossible to win a game in which you only score around 24 points in the second half, regardless of how good of defense you play. It’s about time the Celtics realize this.
2. Lack of Offense
This one goes hand-in-hand with their second half troubles. Upon further analysis, their offensive woes don’t only come from a lack of execution, but also poor selection of sets which are leading to bad shots. They have displayed little variety on offense and most possessions are ending with isolations at the end of the shot clock. Realistically, no Celtics player, besides Paul Pierce or Jeff Green, should get an isolation set an even they should only get few isolation opportunities. More variety of sets and less isolations will serve the Celtics well because clearly, what they have done in the first two games offensively has not worked.
3. Kevin Garnett
Sooner or later, every professional sports player loses their battle with Father Time once and for all. Unfortunately, it seems that is what we are witnessing right now with Kevin Garnett. Last year, he turned back the clock in the postseason. So far this postseason, Garnett has aged to the point where he is noticeably less effective. Defensively, he is still the anchor, but is a step behind on defending pick-and-rolls, allowing Raymond Felton to slip by him for layups. On offense, he is even worse. He is averaging just ten points a game on under 40% shooting, the worse numbers that have ever appeared next to his name on a stat sheet in the playoffs. Based on this, we can only surmise that KG has finally lost his battle told age. His time is running out to prove that assumption wrong.
4. No Help from the Reserves
The Celtics stars are not good enough to beat the Knicks stars. Plain and simple, they need help. However, the role players have done very little to help Paul Pierce and Jeff Green. Besides Avery Bradley, no other role player is averaging over five points per game. For some reason, every reserve has seen a drastic drop in their play. With no help from these players, the Celtics will get swept. It’s time for them to start carrying their load.
With just one game left in the 2012-2013 regular season and the Boston Celtics already locked into their first round playoff matchup with the New York Knicks, it is time to set the postseason expectations for each Celtics player. As is the case in any basketball game or series, the Celtics fate will be determined by the players. Success will only come if each player meets or exceeds their expectations. With that in mind, let's start from the top and set the expectations for the three most important players on the Celtics: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jeff Green.
No, Kevin Garnett was not the most important player on the Celtics this season. Actually, his regular season was quite forgettable. Yet, despite his mediocrity through these past 80 games, I can guarantee that KG will be the most important player in green throughout the playoffs. That does not mean that he will be the best player for the Celtics, it just means that he will have the greatest impact on the Celtics ability to survive their first-round tilt with the New York Knicks.
As we have seen in the past few years, Kevin Garnett, in his older age, usually saves his best play for the playoffs. Last season, he transformed so seamlessly back into an elite big man that he almost brought the Celtics to another Finals. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas just before the finish line, but not before proving that he still could be elite when called upon.
This postseason, Garnett will be called upon to be elite yet again. The Celtics playoff chances depend on how well he can answer that call. My guess is that Garnett will answer the call as he has done over and over in his career and will fight until the end.
Statistical Prediction: 18.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg
Paul Pierce is still the Captain of this team and, without Rajon Rondo, his penchant for carrying the Celtics will be more necessary than ever before. Last year, the Celtics could lean on either Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, or Paul Pierce. This year, they will not have that luxury. Pierce will need to be on his A-game every night. To be honest, Pierce probably needs to score at least 18 points in every game for the Celtics to be competitive. There is just not enough other scoring to rely on.
Luckily, Pierce has shown over the years that he is always up to the task of scoring and leading the Celtics in crunch time. Expect no different this postseason.
Statistical Prediction: 21.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.7 apg
Just like Pierce and Garnett, Green will be absolutely critical in the playoffs. Throughout the second half of the season, Green has looked like the best player on the team. He needs to carry this momentum into the playoffs and continue his volume scoring that seems to come so easily.
Perhaps his most important role, besides filling the box score, will be harassing Carmelo Anthony on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Green has the length to bother Carmelo's jump shot and the quickness to keep him from driving. On the offensive end, Green must tire Carmelo out by attacking him over and over again because, as good of a scorer as Carmelo is, he is not great on defense and Green must exploit that.
What will be most important for Jeff Green in the playoffs, though, will be his confidence. Right now, his confidence is near an all-time high and it is evident in his play. Let's hope that he can maintain this confidence and level of play in the playoffs.
Statistical Prediction: 17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.8 apg
As of right now, the Boston Celtics sit comfortably at the seven-seed in the Eastern Conference and it seems that this is where they will be come playoff time. With the New York Knicks in the two-spot, the Celtics will likely face them in the first round. However, regardless of their seeding and first-round matchup, the Celtics need to make a lot of improvements before they can be an effective playoff team. Mostly, the Celtics success or lack thereof will depend on the players and their ability to perform. Both budding star Jeff Green and the role players starting and coming off the bench alike will be incredibly important in their playoff run.
The Celtics have been able to play well in the absence of star point-guard Rajon Rondo, but they will need to elevate their play even more to be an upset team. First and foremost, Jeff Green needs to continue his dominance. Since Rondo’s injury, Green has scored in double-digits in all but four games. Even better, has been his production as a starter. In the ten games he has started, he has impressive averages of 21.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game all in an efficient manner—shooting over 50 percent from both the field and three. Comparatively speaking, All-Star swingman Paul George averages less points per game and is far less efficient as a starter. So Green’s production has exceeded the play of some of the best at his position. If he can continue to play at this All-Star pace, the Celtics have a great chance of shocking a lot of people in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, though, Green can’t carry the Celtics on his own. He needs help from the whole rest of the team, mainly the role players. A lot of these role players—Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jordan Crawford, Jason Terry and Chris Wilcox—have struggled to consistently produce. In the playoffs, consistency among all of these players will be an absolute necessity.
For these players, the key to consistency is doing exactly what their role should be. Avery Bradley, for example, must understand that he is a lock-down defender first and a spot-up shooter second. Likewise, Courtney Lee needs to focus on defense, but, rather than be a spot-up shooter like Bradley, he should try to attack the basket more.
The guards off the bench—Jordan Crawford and Jason Terry—who are much more offensively oriented need to generate a lot of scoring when they come in to the game. However, in the case of Crawford specifically, poor shot selection should not be confused with solid scoring opportunities. It’s no secret that Crawford loves to shoot, but he can’t be so trigger-happy in the playoffs. Jason Terry, on the other hand, needs to shoot more because he can be much more efficient and effective in a playoff setting. This is the same player who helped lead the Dallas Mavericks to a title just two years ago. In other words, fewer shots for Crawford and more shots for Terry will certainly be beneficial for the Celtics in the postseason.
Brandon Bass, too, needs to carefully monitor his shots. For Bass, it is less about his number of shots and more about what kind of shots he is taking. He must realize that he is not Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett and, thus, does not belong in the post. Too often, he tries to back down a larger defender or take a tough, contested fade-away on the block. In both cases, his success rate is discouraging. The area where Bass does most of his damage is in the mid-range game. Pick-and-pops leading to open elbow or baseline jumpers should make up most of his shots, with the occasional take to the hoop or put back dunk.
As for the final integral big man not named Kevin Garnett, Chris Wilcox, he already knows his role very well. He plays defense, rebounds and only takes shots he knows he can make. For players with over one hundred shot attempts, Wilcox has the best field-goal percentage with 71.4%. Alley-oops and put backs are the only offense that the Celtics need from Wilcox and that is exactly what they will continue to get in the playoffs.
Wilcox knows his role about as well as anyone. The rest of the role players need to follow his lead and play within themselves like Wilcox does on a nightly basis. The final necessity for a playoff push is health. This is harder to monitor, except in the case of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Both of them have fought nagging injuries all season. With the playoffs coming up, coach Doc Rivers must limit both of their minutes to make sure they will be one hundred percent for the playoffs. If both of them are healthy, they can be incredibly effective, as they have been in years past.
It will all come down to these few factors: health, role players and Jeff Green. If these factors work in the Celtics favor, they have the opportunity to make a run in the playoffs. However, if Jeff Green and the role players don’t play well and the Celtics can’t maintain their health, then you can start writing the eulogy now.
Apparently, Michael Jordan played in a an Italian exhibition game in 1985 and threw down this ridiculous, backboard-shattering dunk. For some reason, the video has just been released this year and it seems that not many people have ever even seen this. Pretty unbelievable that a dunk of this caliber could get lost in the shuffle, but it just goes to show you how unbelievable a career Jordan had. Any other player would have this dunk as a their number one highlight. Jordan, on the other hand, has had highlight videos made for over 20 years and this is the first anyone has seen this dunk. Just unbelievable. Makes me wonder if there are any more hidden highlights out there.
A jam-packed gym complete with fans, athletes, Celtics cheerleaders, and plenty of excitement. Basketballs are flying as the fans, complete with signs, cheer for the participating athletes. No, this is not a Boston Celtics game at the TD Garden; it is the Special Olympics at Blake Middle School.
Last Friday, for the first time ever, Blake Middle School hosted the Basketball Day Games for students from Medfield, Medway, Ashland, Holliston, and Millis. The event was completed with around 65 athletes, plenty of volunteers, and a few special guests, including several Celtics cheerleaders, mascot Lucky the Leprechaun, President Mr. Rich Gotham, and former player Dana Barros.
The integral part of the event was the athletes who, for a couple of hours, participated in eight different stations, practicing the fundamentals of basketball including dribbling, passing, and shooting.
In retrospect, Mr. Matthew LaCava, Medfield Public Schools Director of Pupil Services, says Blake was the ideal place for the games “due to its size” and because Medfield “had the greatest number of athletes attending.”
He went on to discuss the immense planning for the event—a process that lasted for nearly a year with many people involved, including Medfield senior Anna Poirier who says that “being on the committee was a huge honor.”
After all of the planning, both Poirier and LaCava were happy with how it all turned out because, as LaCava says, “It appeared as though everyone had a great time.”
As a volunteer at the event, I can personally concur with Mr. LaCava’s assessment on the success of the event. Fellow volunteer, Mike Lamb, too, said, “I think the kids had an incredible amount of fun throughout the day.”
Lamb also said, after the event, that he “will absolutely sign up to do it again,” adding, “It was a fantastic experience.”
Going forward, LaCava says that the games could “possibly” be at Blake Middle School again, but, in any case, “There will be another event next spring.” Hopefully, next year’s event will prove as successful as this year’s for it was a great inaugural Basketball Day Games at Blake Middle School.
Poor Brandon Knight, the guy just can't catch a break. First, he gets dunked on by DeAndre Jordan and humiliated and now this. With the Pistons down by just three in a winnable game, Brandon Knight got just about the easiest shot in basketball: a wide-open layup. It wasn't so easy for Knight, though, and he missed it just about as poorly as he could. I don't get to say this very often, but I could have definitely made that shot. I guess the game wasn't going to lose itself for the Pistons.
Every once in a while, as a writer, I get really caught up in something and can't seem to write about anything else. It happened last year with Avery Bradley. This season, it is happening again with Jeff Green. At first, I thought I was just getting caught up, but he is proving me right again and again. Right now, he is the best player on the Celtics and is becoming a superstar before our eyes. Last night, he scored 34 points, grabbed six boards and blocked four shots and he was the main cause of the Celtics win. He continues to tear it up and keep the Celtics afloat as they clinch a playoff spot yet again.