Tag Archives: Al Horford

Rajon Rondo’s ACL Tear Doesn’t Finish the 2012-’13 Celtics

The Boston Celtics will need to improve their play without point guard Rajon Rondo.

The Boston Celtics will need to improve their play without point guard Rajon Rondo.

The loss of Rajon Rondo certainly hurts the Boston Celtics chances of winning the Eastern Conference, let alone the NBA title.  Rondo is the type of player that is hard for any opponent to stop, but the New York Knicks and Miami Heat don’t have anyone who can defend him one-on-one.

Since the Celtics are perilously close to the $74.3 million luxury tax threshold, it will be tough for the Celtics to sign or trade for a significant name. The Celtics are either reserved to bringing in a veteran like Delonte West at the league minimum or getting a point guard from the Development League.

This isn’t necessarily the end for the Celtics 2012-’13 season. Everyone will have to share the load.

The Celtics don’t have a certified reserve point guard who could create shots for his teammates. Paul Pierce will have to assume the role of point-forward that he had last year when Rondo missed games early in the season due to a sprained ankle as well as his suspensions. This year the Celtics have mostly used Pierce to come off screens and take outside shots. Now, Pierce will have to become the facilitator. He will need to improve his shooting because the onus falls on him even more with Rondo’s absence. The Celtics cannot afford Pierce to go 6-for-36 from beyond the arc in the next eight games. Kevin Garnett’s interior passing was huge in the Celtics 100-98 double overtime victory over the Heat. Garnett will be set up more in the post and the Celtics will look to have players cut to the basket. The problem is these two players are in the latter stages of their careers and they cannot play 35-plus minutes per game.

The role players will need to step it up and put forth consistent efforts whenever they step on the court. Jeff Green’s defense on Heat forward LeBron James was a critical factor on Sunday. Late in the game, James was scoring off of switches and picks. Green also prevented James from getting the ball in the final possession of double overtime. This is what Danny Ainge had in mind when he sent Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Green. Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Leandro Barbosa have not performed up to expectations this year.  Terry and Barbosa are more shoot-first guards and they are not that strong defensively. If those two struggle scoring points, the Celtics will be in trouble. Earlier in the season, Terry and Lee worked well together, especially when the Celtics beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the first of Rondo’s two-game suspension. Terry and Lee have really struggled with their outside shots this year. These players will really need to find their touch. Barbosa’s quickness can be an asset, but he can be over aggressive at times. The best example was Barbosa’s offensive foul when Heat forward Shane Battier stepped in to stop a transition basket in the fourth quarter.

In the frontcourt, Brandon Bass has basically been nonexistent over the past few weeks. Chad Finn of The Boston Globe wrote last week that he lets his offense affect his defense like Glen Davis did with the Celtics. Finn’s statement is correct. Bass needs to be the player he was last year when he was contributing on both ends of the court. He needs to free himself for baskets in the paint. There have been times when Bass has blown by his defender or gotten open in the paint, but his midrange jumper has failed him. He brought great energy off the bench against the Heat, but he faded after his first five minutes of play. Jared Sullinger must continue to play strong in the paint. Opposing teams are noticing Sullinger’s penchant for fouling and they are going to set up plays for their big men to post up Sullinger like the Atlanta Hawks did with Al Horford in Friday night’s 123-111 double overtime loss. Rashard Lewis frustrated Sullinger by holding his hands around his neck and getting Sullinger to retaliate with a shove. Sullinger has to adjust to the way the officials are blowing their whistles and the tactics veteran opponents will use to take Sullinger out of the game.

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Jared Sullinger Plays Big Role for Celtics’ Reserves

Boston Celtics forward seemed to be getting to every loose rebound against Marcin Gortat and the Phoenix Suns last Wendesday.

Boston Celtics forward seemed to be getting to every loose rebound against Luis Scola and the Phoenix Suns on January 9th.

It is no coincidence that the Boston Celtics won six consecutive games (before they fell to the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday) because of their improvements on the defensive end. The Celtics are getting consistent production from their bench and the rebounding of rookie forward Jared Sullinger.

Sullinger posted double digit rebounds in wins over the Phoenix Suns (16) and the Houston Rockets (11). The 6-foot-9-inch forward has accumulated most of his boards on the offensive end and he has helped the Celtics get out of last place in offensive rebounding.

During the winning streak, Sullinger averaged nearly 10 points and nine rebounds per game. He also corralled 21 offensive rebounds in this stretch against players such as Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Smith and Al Horford, and the duo of Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola of the Suns.

Despite Sullinger being undersized, he is able to outmuscle bigger players with a big lower mass that is able to push opponents away from the basket. He is also able to do this on the defensive end of the court.

Teammates have praised Sullinger for his basketball intelligence, his interior passing, and the ability to score. Sullinger can also make 15-foot jumpers outside the paint. Most of Sullinger’s scoring has come from within five feet of the basket because he has strong post moves and of his rebounding ability.

At the beginning of the year, the Celtics believed they had strong depth inside with Sullinger or Brandon Bass and Darko Milicic as reserves along with Chris Wilcox. The Celtics lost Milicic because he went back to Serbia to take care of his ailing mother. Bass has struggled with inconsistency. Wilcox suffered a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb and has been out since December 18th. Bass was just reinserted into the starting lineup and Jason Collins is playing limited minutes due to nagging injuries. This has left Sullinger to be a force and to play a big role in the reserve unit.

The biggest reason why Sullinger has struggled is his propensity to accumulate fouls early. This issue has not gone away since Sullinger fouled out in the final minute in the 103-91 victory over the Rockets last Friday. He committed three fouls in the first half of the 100-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday. He also got into early foul trouble against the Hornets. Officials will pick on Sullinger because he is a rookie. Sullinger’s size forces him to be physical when defending taller forwards, which means he will get called if the officials are calling a tight game.

At this time last year, Sullinger was battling injuries while playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes against Big Ten competition. He fell to the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft in June because teams were worried about his back and conditioning problems.  Now, he is in the running for Rookie of the Year while helping the Celtics climb back into the Eastern Conference race. Currently, the Celtics are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but they are just four and a half games behind the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat.

Sullinger has provided the Celtics with energy off the bench. If the Celtics continue to win, they will also need continued production from Sullinger.

Assertive KG leading Boston Celtics

Garnett has taken over the early part of this postseason

Some said he was all bark and no bite, the Atlanta Hawks owner called him “the dirtiest player in the league,” keep talking and he’ll keep coming back for more.  Since he has come to the Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett has single handily changed the culture of an entire franchise, won a championship, a defensive player of the year award, but those are all in the past.  Good thing KG has shown the ability to adapt because right now it is most important that he has decided it is time to be a little more selfish.  Every Boston fan knows that the Celtics wouldn’t have a chance without KG anchoring the defensive end of the floor; however, over the course of these 2012 playoffs it is becoming rather apparent that the Celtics also won’t have a shot at a championship unless KG is a little more self-centered on the offensive end of the floor.  Wednesday nights game against the 76ers was a perfect example of what happens when KG is aggressive:  He scored 27 points on 17 field goal attempts, converting 12.  Compare that to Game 2 where KG only took 12 attempts the entire game and the Celtics lost.  In fact, since the start of these playoffs this was the 4th game in which Garnett has scored 20+ points in game, all Celtics wins (Boston is 1-2 in games where he doesn’t score 20).  With 27 points and 13 boards KG, who turns 36 this coming weekend, became the third-oldest player in the past 20 plus years to record those stats in a playoff contest.

Since the beginning of the season, Doc Rivers has been lauding Garnett to be more aggressive saying that, “Early offense and we’re going to you every single time we can.”  It finally seems as though Kevin has been responding to Doc’s pleas.  In the first series against Atlanta, he found ways to score in the paint over smaller defenders in Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jason Collins while also executing his trademark pick-n-pop play with Rajon Rondo.  The past few seasons, since his knee injury, it had become clear that KG considers the jump shot to be his bread and butter.  Unfortunately, while that transformation took place, he became much more of a one-dimensional player often times looking to pass the ball instead of using his length in the post.  It is now CLEAR that he has changed that philosophy in the playoffs, becoming a lot more aggressive inside and taking advantage of match-ups given.  Plain and simple: KG has no interest in letting Elton Brand, Lavoy Allen, or Spencer Hawes even come close to checking him.  While he continues to fire away from the perimeter, he is just as inclined to post up his defender and get a closer look at the basket. This transformation is exactly what the Celtics need to boost them.

There is now no doubt that the Celtics will only go as far as a passionate Garnett will take them

While it is clear that Paul Pierce is the leader of the Celtics when it comes to scoring, it is becoming more and more apparent that Garnett is the real reason for the Celtics success this postseason. He has been the team’s best player.  Just today Ray Allen was quoted as saying that he didn’t mind giving up his jump shots as long as Garnett continued his dominance down low.  In fact Ray was honest in telling the big man, “we’re going to keep giving you the ball.”  If this is indeed the Big 3’s “last rodeo” we all know know that the C’s need #5 to cowboy up so they can ride him all the way to the promised land.

The Celtics came out and took care of business in Game 3.  Pierce, and Rondo were also responsible but it always starts with the Big Ticket. His fire, and passion, will be the fuel that drives the Celtics forward as they look to come out hot on Friday for Game 4.  Plain and simple, if these playoffs are another one of his “bar fights” the Celtics definitely need Kevin Garnett to keep throwing a whole lot of punches.

NBA Playoffs Rapid Reaction: Celtics Clip Hawks, Advance to Eastern Conference Semifinals

Garnett notched one of his best performances in Celtics green as they moved on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals

 

“Thank you to their owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett said. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth to know what he’s talking about with X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”- Kevin Garnett

In what many can call a vintage Kevin Garnett performance, the “Big Ticket” punched Boston’s ticket to the second round.

Garnett had a throwback game of sorts, registering 39 minutes worth of quality basketball in response to the Atlanta owner’s recent string of name calling. His 28 point, 14 rebound and 5 block performance lifted the Celtics, from a hobbled Paul Pierce and a struggling Ray Allen, to a 83-80 victory and another First Round victory.

NBA Playoffs Rapid Reaction: Boston Celtics Throw One Away, Al Horford and Hawks Force Game 6

Josh Smith was a deciding factor in forcing Game 6 in Boston

When it was announced Al Horford might return for the postseason, many were unsure of what kind of impact he could make.

The Atlanta Hawks went back to what got them to the second round of the postseason in 2010, a “big” lineup of Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Horford.

This lineup pushed the Boston Celtics backwards, into a shootout, instead of a drag-out defensive battle that has been the norm throughout the first four games. It culminated in a Game 5 victory, 87-86, sending the series back to Boston for a decisive Game 6.

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Celtics’ Ball Movement Keyed Game 4 Victory

The Boston Celtics' offensive efficiency starts with the play of point guard Rajon Rondo.

There was a clear difference between Games 3 and 4 of the Boston Celtics’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks. Game 4 showcased the Celtics  moving the ball with efficiency and precision to take a 3-1 cushion.

Sure, the Celtics were able to make shots from everywhere on the court, including Rajon Rondo knocking down two shots from beyond the arc. Those shots were there because of the ability to find the open man and keep the Hawks’ defense chasing the ball.

The Celtics are not a team that relies on one-on-one with a star player dribbling the ball and crossing over the opposing defenders like the Miami Heat does with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Instead, the Celtics would prefer to outwork the defense by spreading the ball around and having multiple scorers while applying pressure on the defensive end.

In the Game 3 90-84 overtime victory, the Celtics were late getting into their offense and they forced themselves to take shots just before the shot clock expired. The Celtics shot 40.5% for the game. There was one point when Tracy McGrady was lying on the other end of the court after suffering a knee injury, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley were passing to each other on the perimeter and there was no off-ball movement from the other players on the court. Fortunately for the Celtics, Pierce was called for a foul while he threw up a tough outside shot.

Meanwhile in Game 4, the Celtics were spacing themselves and the ball was not stuck in one player’s hands. Rondo, who committed 5 turnovers in an erratic first half of Game 3, made just 1 turnover in Game 4. This was why Rondo was much more effective than his triple-double performance in the Game 3 win.  At about the 8:00 mark of the third quarter, the Celtics were 33-for-49 from the floor. Rondo recorded 13 assists by halftime and he finished with 16 dimes. The team had 24 helpers in this outing.

Pierce’s performances have been just as uneven as Rondo’s in this series, but he may have been even better in Game 4 than his “turn back the clock to 2002” accomplishments of last Tuesday’s 87-80 victory. He was 10-for-13 from the field in just 17 minutes despite a sprained knee he suffered in the morning shootaround, and he forced the Hawks to fold the tent with hopes of salvaging their 2011-’12 season in Game 5.

On defense, the Celtics set the tone early by getting eight turnovers in the opening frame. Overall, the Celtics’ defense forced 18 turnovers from their counterparts and scoring 18 points while they were at it.

The other encouraging sign was  Ray Allen’s return from bone spurs in his ankle. Allen played nearly 37 minutes in Game 3 and scored 13 points. Last night, Allen helped clinch the game by throwing a pass to an open Rondo for a trey to put the Celtics ahead by 25 and then on the next offensive sequence, he drilled a 3-pointer to hand the Celtics a 28-point lead. This ended any hope the Hawks had about making a comeback.  After the demolition of the Hawks, Allen said he may not need surgery in the offseason. The Celtics were able to blow out the Hawks with two of their best players, Josh Smith and Al Horford, coming back from injuries that kept them out of Game 3

This series has played out as the first team to 80 points will win. The Celtics should not expect to be as hot in Game 5  as they were in Game 4 because the Hawks are playing at home with an opportunity to play for another day. If the Celtics want to close out this series, they will move the ball and attack the Hawks on defense, especially with three key players (Pierce, Bradley, and Mickael Pietrus) battling ailments.

 

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