Christmas at the Garden

Kevin Garnett likes playing Santa. Who on earth knew? But Ray Allen won’t a gift, which could make him feel a bit blue. (http://www.celticslife.com)

‘Twas Christmas at the Garden, and there was plenty of mirth.

But someone was missing: Jesus Shuttlesworth.

While the Celtics were happily giving each other gifts,

Ray Allen’s in Miami, playing on the Heat’s second shift.

Ray-ray left the Celtics; some found that uncouth.

Players like Kevin Garnett, and of course The Truth!

Garnett’s written off Allen, and now all but ignores him.

To Garnett, Allen’s efforts do nothing but bore him.

So when the C’s play Secret Santa, Allen’s off the list.

His old friends now focus on those still in their midst.

Continue reading Christmas at the Garden

Brian Scalabrine Returns to Boston

Celtics fans may not get to see THIS again, but Brian Scalabrine’s retirement and migration to CSN means the return of a player whose popularity defies both his own talent and logic in general. (basketbawful.blogspot.com)

Bust out the “Hope” signs. Dust off those ironic posters you used to bring with you to the TD Garden. Heck, gas up the duck boats while you’re at it.

Brian Scalabrine is coming back to Boston… sort of.

Fans hoping to see basketball’s version of the red-headed stepchild once again jogging eagerly up and down the court in a green jersey for 13 minutes or so every night are in for some disappointment: according to multiple sources, Scal’s retiring and joining the CSN broadcast team.

The decision makes complete sense. As a player, Scalabrine’s playing time dropped over eight minutes per game when he left Boston for Chicago. Averaging under five minutes a game, Scalabrine’s numbers dropped below even one basket, rebound and assist per game.

Basically, that means Scalabrine played a little defense for the Bulls every game, and that’s all. And already 34, Scalabrine knew that numbers like that wouldn’t get him anywhere near the $3.4 million salary (seriously?) he earned with the Celtics for the 2009-10 season, or even the $1.3 million (again, seriously?) he took home with the Bulls last season.

Between diminished salary prospects and the demands of an again-81-game season, Scalabrine decided to hang up the sneakers for good. Taking the route of so many ex-athletes, Scalabrine took his talents to the broadcast booth, and what better place to do it than Boston?

Few cities know and honor the totality of their sports history the way Boston does. We don’t just know the greats, we know everybody. And because of that, second- or third-tier athletes who’ve played for Boston can always come back home.

Scalabrine isn’t the first non-star to become a Boston broadcaster or analyst. Ex-Red Sox David McCarty’s gig with NESN has extended his longevity long past what a player as inconsequential as he rightfully deserves. The same could be said of ex-Celtic Dana Barros, though at least Barros’ outreach work and youth camps gives him a little more street cred.

Scal shares the same place in Celtics lore as Barros, and McCarty holds a parallel spot in the annals of Fenway. That place, for lack of a more nuanced description, is at the bottom. Arguing that Scalabrine meant little more to the Celtics than as a bench-warmer would be ludicrous.

But who cares? It’s Scal! If CSN can keep him around the only fan base that ever loved him, why shouldn’t he come back?

Continue reading Brian Scalabrine Returns to Boston

A Letter to the Boston Celtics

To the Big 3 and the rest of the Boston Celtics: thank you for fighting unceasingly until the final buzzer of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis)

Dear Boston Celtics,

Thank you.

Thank you for the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Thank you for fighting from the opening jump to the final seconds of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Thank you for keeping us riveted to our seats night in and night out.

I know how easy it would’ve been to check out during these playoffs. No one really ever believed you could win a championship. And when Avery Bradley‘s shoulder injury against the 76ers cost the team its only perimeter defender young enough to hang with the Heat, you could’ve basically thrown in the towel.

But that wouldn’t be the Celtics’ way. It wouldn’t be how Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have approached their entire careers. It wouldn’t have been “ubuntu.”

Continue reading A Letter to the Boston Celtics

Celtics Implode in Second Half of Game 4; Series Tied 2-2

Andre Iguodala dunks against Kevin Garnett in Friday's Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics built a big lead Friday night in Philadelphia, then quit.

The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, never quit. And once they pulled back into the game, that sustained effort translated into unstoppable momentum, a 92-83 victory over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and a 2-2 series tie.

Game 5 takes place Monday back in Boston.

Bad Third for Celtics Keys Comeback Fourth for 76ers

The Celtics built a 17-point lead on a Paul Pierce (game-high 24 points) technical just over two minutes into the third quarter. Elton Brand picked up the technical, but his physicality ignited the previously lazy 76er defense. Over the first seven minutes of the third, the Celtics didn’t score a field goal. The 76ers, meanwhile scored 10 unanswered to cut the Celtics’ lead to 50-43.

Pierce’s three-pointer (one of four) built Boston’s lead back to 54-46 with five minutes left, but Philadelphia played the rest of the game fully confident they could win. Boston held just a 63-59 lead after three, and Philadelphia tied the game on back-to-back buckets from Thaddeus Young to start the fourth.

The two teams traded baskets throughout most the final quarter, with neither team building too big a lead. Pierce’s free throws put the Celtics up 74-72, but Young tied it again, then backup point guard Lou Williams hit a jumper for a 76-74 76er lead.

Ray Allen‘s three-pointer – his only field goal of the night – put the Celtics back up by one, and Kevin Garnett‘s free throws stretched the lead to 79-76. But the 76ers answered again, with Andre Iguodala tying the game with a three. Iguodala scored eight of his 16 total points in the closing 3:11, combining a jumper with a three-pointer to break an 83-83 tie and put the 76ers up five.

The Celtics couldn’t answer the 76ers again, and the 76ers finished the game on a 9-0 stretch. They out-rebounded the Celtics 52-38 Friday, using a 17-5 advantage on the offensive glass to extend possessions and exhaust a Celtics defense that had held them to 23 percent shooting in the first half.

Continue reading Celtics Implode in Second Half of Game 4; Series Tied 2-2

Garnett Powers Celtics Past Hawks in Clinching Game 6

Kevin Garnett shoots against Josh Smith during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Celtics and the Hawks, played Thursday night at TD Garden. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics have asked so much of Kevin Garnett this season. They’ve asked him to play with few days off and even fewer days for practice. They’ve asked him to play center on team without a shred of depth at the big-man positions.

And with the Celtics’ best chance to close out their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks coming in Game 6 Thursday night at TD Garden, they asked him to carry the team home.

The Celtics asked, and as he’s done all season long, Garnett answered. Garnett scored 28 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked five shots and stole three passes, helping the Celtics edge past the Hawks, 83-80, and clinch the series in six games.

Garnett’s turn-around jumper with 8:41 left in the fourth capped a 7-0 fourth-quarter run that pushed the Celtics’ lead to 74-65. Having already played Garnett for 35 minutes, Doc Rivers subbed out Garnett two minutes later.

The decision proved costly, as the Hawks went on a 10-2 over the next 1:42. Now free of Garnett’s pesky defense, center Al Horford fueled the charge with six points. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in a Herculean 46 minutes.

Garnett came back in with 3:51 to go, but even that couldn’t halt Atlanta’s run, as Josh Smith (18 points, nine rebounds) and Horford put the Hawks up 79-76 with two more unanswered baskets.

Needing something from someone other than Garnett, Paul Pierce cut the Hawks’ lead to one with a layup with just over two minutes left. Garnett capped two straight Celtics defensive stops with two emphatic rebounds, then put the Celtic back up 80-79 with another turn-around jumper.

The Celtics crushed the Hawks in the paint, out-scoring them 42-30. They also out-rebounded the Hawks by four, recording more offensive and defensive boards.

Continue reading Garnett Powers Celtics Past Hawks in Clinching Game 6

Pierce, Rondo Help Celtics Crush Hawks in Game 4

Paul Pierce shoots against Jason Collins during Sunday's Game 4 of the Celtics-Hawks Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the TD Garden. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Atlanta Hawk Joe Johnson drained a jumper 19 seconds into Sunday’s Game 4 against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden.

The Hawks never led after that. What should have been a basketball game turned out to be a massacre.

Between Paul Pierce‘s lethal shooting and Rajon Rondo‘s mesmerizing passing, the Celtics crushed the Hawks, 101-79, taking a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Pierce Lights Up Hawks Early

Pierce only played about 16 minutes Sunday, but while on the court he couldn’t be stopped. The Hawks put as many as three players in Pierce’s face, and he still knocked down jumpers using his trademark step-back shot.

Doc Rivers didn’t have Pierce waste energy guarding Johnson on defense, and Pierce rewarded Rivers with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting. He knocked down four three-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots.

Pierce scored 10 first-quarter points, including the Celtics’ first basket on the first of 16 assists from Rondo. Between Pierce’s penetration and Kevin Garnett‘s domination in the low post (13 points on 6-of-8 shooting), the Celtics built a 32-19 lead after one quarter. Pierce continued humiliating the Hawks in the second, hitting two more three-pointers without even noticing defenders around him.

Continue reading Pierce, Rondo Help Celtics Crush Hawks in Game 4

Pierce and Bradley Carry Celtics Past Magic, Clinch Fifth Straight Atlantic Title

Paul Pierce drives to the basket during Wednesday's Celtics-Magic game at the TD Garden. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Paul Pierce might be nearing the finish line of a career that will end in the Hall of Fame and a spot in the TD Garden rafters. But if these are Pierce’s last games, The Truth wants to go out in style.

Pierce scored a game-high 29 points and recorded a career-best 14 assists, carrying the Boston Celtics to a 102-98 victory over the Orlando Magic and their fifth consecutive Atlantic Division title Wednesday night at the TD Garden. Avery Bradley backed up Pierce with 23 points, tying his career-high.

With home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs locked up, the short-handed Celtics can now focus on rest and recovery. Ray Allen hasn’t played in over a week, and Rajon Rondo sat Wednesday with a lower back injury.

Pierce Holds Back Magic in Fourth

Up 79-70 heading into the fourth quarter, Boston built their lead as high as 13, but a combination of outside shooting by Jameer Nelson (21 points, 3-for-6 from downtown) and dominating play inside (54 points in the paint, 17 offensive rebounds without Dwight Howard) kept Orlando in the game. Orlando cut Boston’s lead to 92-90 with three minutes left before Pierce drew a foul and sank one of two.

A Glen Davis (27 points) steal and sprint to the basket – how many times has that ever been written? – made it 98-96 Celtics, setting up the play of the game. Pierce – who split ball-handling duties with Bradley Wednesday – brought the ball to the three-point line, nearly slipping and losing control of the ball.

With the shot-clock winding down, Pierce regained control and penetrated to just outside the foul line, hitting a 17-foot step-back jumper with 7.6 seconds left in the game. He also sank two free throws in the final seconds to maintain the two-possession lead.

Continue reading Pierce and Bradley Carry Celtics Past Magic, Clinch Fifth Straight Atlantic Title

Garnett Leads Celtics Over Warriors in Defenseless Third Game of Road Trip

Kevin Garnett shoots over David Lee during Wednesday's Celtics-Warriors game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sometimes in basketball you can win shooting worse than your opponent. You can get beat in the paint, you can turn the ball over too much. You can even do all three and still win.

Because sometimes, all you need is Kevin Garnett.

Garnett scored 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting, including a jumper with the shot-clock expiring and 5.7 seconds left in the game. The Boston Celtics beat the Golden State Warriors, 105-103. The Celtics have now won two in a row on their eight-game road trip.

Garnett’s Jumper Highlights Lights-Out Fourth

Garnett scored 12 of his 24 in the fourth quarter. No Warrior could contain him in the post or on jump-shots: Even when power forward David Lee knocked Garnett to the court early in the fourth, Garnett still sank his shot. The resulting free throw put the Celtics up 89-81 with just over 10 minutes left.

Rookie guard Klay Thompson‘s third three-pointer (part of a career-best 26-point night) helped cut the lead to three, but Garnett then scored the next two Celtics buckets on two passes – one alley-oop – from Rajon Rondo, who finished with a “serviceable” 14 assists.

Still, Warrior reserve Brandon Rush‘s free throw tied the game 95-95 with just over four minutes left. Rondo broke the tie with an offensive rebound and basket, then found Brandon Bass (22 points, nine rebounds) twice for slam dunks (plus two free throws) and a 103-97 lead.

A fired-up Nate Robinson (20 points, 11 assists) helped tie the game 103-103 with 30 seconds left, setting up Garnett’s eventual game-winner. Paul Pierce used up most of the shot-clock, penetrating inside and drawing in several defenders before kicking it out to Garnett.

Garnett had just over a second to beat the buzzed, and he swished his shot from 20 feet away. He didn’t miss a single second-half shot.

The Warriors got off one more shot, but Robinson missed from deep, and Garnett grabbed both it and the game-ending inbound pass.

Continue reading Garnett Leads Celtics Over Warriors in Defenseless Third Game of Road Trip

Nowitzki, Mavericks Crush Shorthanded Celtics

Dirk Nowitzki takes a shot against Chris Wilcox during Monday's Celtics-Mavericks game in Dallas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hmm… let’s see. The Celtics struggled badly with rebounds Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks. They also couldn’t move the ball offensively, find open shots or accomplish anything in the paint.

The Celtics played the Mavericks without Kevin Garnett (family matter), Brandon Bass (knee) and Rajon Rondo (two-game suspension). They lost to the Mavericks, 89-73.

For some reason, I can’t help but think the two previous paragraphs are related.

Nowitzki’s Double-Double Highlights Celtics Struggles

Without Garnett or Bass, the Celtics had few options for defending Dirk Nowitzki. Whoever Boston sent at Nowitzki, he made that defender look silly.

It didn’t matter if Nowitzki was in the low post, high post, top of the key, whatever. Nowitzki scored 21 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, including a run of 10 consecutive points in the second quarter. A particularly abusive move on Jermaine O’Neal highlighted that run.

Along with all those points came 16 rebounds and two blocks. The Mavericks out-rebounded the Celtics eight, grabbing 13 offensive rebounds to the Celtics’ five. They also out-scored the Celtics 32-18 in the paint, getting a solid nine points from reserve power forward Brandan Wright.

Wright scored an alley-oop bucket from reserve guard Jason Terry (16 points on 6-of-11 shooting) in the second, then added an emphatic dunk in the fourth. He also grabbed two offensive rebounds in the same possession, eventually kicking it out to Terry for a three-pointer that put the Mavericks up 40-26 in the second.

The Celtics showed moments of offensive consistency that led to moves in the paint, in particular a fast-break dunk by Ray Allen followed by a dribble-penetration from Paul Pierce that made it 44-34 late in the second. But overall the Celtics never looked in rhythm, throwing up crazy shots in the lanes or running anemically into defenders for easy blocks.

Pierce (20 points), Allen (15) and Avery Bradley (12) did their best, but with Bradley running the offense the Celtics lose most of the fluidity Rondo typically brings. And with so few second-chance scoring opportunities, the Celtics’ stiff, disjointed offense just meant more minutes on defense.

The Celtics didn’t lead at any point during Monday’s game. Their five-point deficit after one quarter became 10 after two and 17 after three.

Continue reading Nowitzki, Mavericks Crush Shorthanded Celtics

Celtics Twice Nearly Claimed Knicks’ Jeremy Lin Off Waivers

Had either of the Celtics' two waiver claims on the Knicks' Jeremy Lin gone through this offseason, he and Kevin Garnett would have been teammates instead of opponents. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Apparently, some dude on the Knicks is having a decent season. Jerry something-or-other. Played for Yale, I think.

Were he a Celtic, I might show more enthusiasm for point guard Jeremy Lin and the seven consecutive wins his team has rattled off since his move into the starting spot. And it appears I nearly got my wish… twice.

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald reported Thursday that the Celtics twice submitted waiver claims for Lin when the Golden State Warriors cut him prior to the start of this season. The Houston Rockets claimed Lin ahead of the Celtics, cut him, and then the Knicks took him, again ahead of the Celtics. The rest is media-magnified history.

But oh, what might have been.

Lin Would Have Thrived in Boston

Though overall a feel-good story, Lin’s sudden success still bears a small shadow: the return of Carmelo Anthony. When Anthony returns, Lin will have to give back many of the 17-plus shots per night he’s averaged over the last seven games. The arrogant, needy Anthony will demand the ball whenever he’s on the court, and the humble Lin will probably give it away willingly.

If this works, the story dies. But if it fails, and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni has to take the ball away from Anthony, a schism could form in the locker room that derails a Knicks season that finally looks back on track.

Unlike the Knicks, the Celtics don’t play selfishly. Rajon Rondo usually passes to the open shooter, whoever that may be. While that doesn’t always work – there’s really no reason to ever pass to Jermaine O’Neal or Marquis Daniels – it creates a system that rewards humility and team effort over individual skill-sets.

Lin would have succeeded in such a system. He’s said that despite scoring 20 points or more in six of the last seven games, he still sees himself as a distributor. No one distributes like Rondo does, and Lin would have learned infinitely more about passing from Rondo than garbage Knicks guards like Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas.

Lin also would have provided a scoring threat off the bench, something the Celtics have especially lacked since the loss of Brandon Bass. Lin would have covered some of the scoring lost with Bass’ knee injury, and once healthy, Bass, Lin and Chris Wilcox would have found openings in just about any defense. Just as the Celtics’ starters dominate when they play complimentary basketball, so too would the second unit.

Continue reading Celtics Twice Nearly Claimed Knicks’ Jeremy Lin Off Waivers