The Morning Walkthrough is a set of links to Boston Celtics articles throughout the internet, designed to get your day started the right way.
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “Generally speaking, a win over the now 7-15 Philadelphia 76ers is no great cause for exultation. But mix in a game-winning Rajon Rondo-Kevin Garnett hookup with 1.4 seconds left and the fact the battered Bostonians were playing on the second night of a back-to-back without their first three centers and — voila — you have a bunch of coaches and aging veterans jumping around as if they’d just won the state high school championship. ‘Truthfully I think this is one of our biggest wins of the year,’ said Paul Pierce after the Celtics’ ninth straight victory, a thrilling 102-101 decision. ‘With the injuries, with the mental and physical fatigue, we were just wondering how we were going to get through.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “As though the NBA needed just one more reminder that this isn’t the Kevin Garnett of last season, the Boston Celtics drew up a final play Thursday involving the 15-year veteran that it wouldn’t have even considered a season ago when Garnett was still hobbled in the aftermath of knee surgery. No, lobs were out of the question last season. So many times they failed to be executed that Rajon Rondo rarely even considered tossing them. This season, with a rejuvenated — and healthy — Garnett, the lob has practically become as common as Ray Allen 3-pointers or Paul Pierce mid-range jumpers. So it was with almost a smug assuredness that, with the game in the balance, Celtics coach Doc Rivers sketched out a play the team had worked on for much of the past two weeks, featuring a lob to the rim for Garnett. A play in which Allen and Pierce, Boston’s two most common late-game weapons, were essentially decoys, stretching the court to open space for Garnett to run freely to the basket. … ‘His body is back,’ Pierce said of Garnett. ‘Last year, when he was hurt, he didn’t have the same mentality. That kind of happens. I’m the same way — when you can’t do things that you know you can do, it’s frustrating. Now he’s completely healthy and you can see it in his attitude off the court and on the court. It’s amazing. A lot of people wrote him off last year, but he’s proving everybody wrong.’”
Ben Rohrbach, WEEI – “Not many point guards can throw a perfect blind lob over a taller defender in the final moments of a game. But the Celtics have Rajon Rondo, who picked up his 14th assist of the night with 1.4 seconds left when he dropped a pretty pass over the heads of Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday that led to the basket that resulted in his team’s ninth consecutive victory. Not many post players have the length and athleticism to get from the top of the key to the rim in a blink of an eye. But the Celtics have a healthy Kevin Garnett, who rolled to the basket, caught the lob pass and converted it all in one fluid motion to improve the C’s Eastern Conference-best record to 18-4. ‘Last year, Kevin would’ve missed the lob,’ Rivers added. ‘Actually, we wouldn’t have thrown it. We can do it now.’ And not many teams have three deadly shooters who opponents absolutely have to respect in the waning seconds of a one-point game. But the Celtics have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson, who all hovered around the 3-point line — drawing Andre Iguadola, Jodie Meeks and Louis Williams from the basket and allowing Rivers’ design to play out on the floor. ‘t was just a gutsy win for us,’ said Rivers. ‘They played great, and we stole one.’”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “It’s amazing that it worked when you listen to the players involved, who each had a different take on what was supposed to happen. If you ask Rivers, he’ll tell you that the key was Paul Pierce ‘selling’ the play. Garnett said it was a play for Allen. Allen said that he was a decoy. And then there’s Rondo’s version of the play. ‘[Pierce] and I were kind of decoys,’ Rondo said. ‘We tried to disguise it like we were going to a 1-3 pick-and-roll. Kevin came with a step up, and we got the switch. There’s no way you can help; you have Nate [Robinson] and Paul on opposite sides. If you help off of those shooters, I’m probably going to throw it to one of those guys. We got a great switch, and Kevin took it from there.’ Certainly the execution of the play was impressive, but to call that play at that moment in the game was impressive as well. ‘Doc, I think he’s the best at that,’ Rondo said.”
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “[Shaquille] O’Neal continues to have problems with his right shin and calf, injured in a collision with New York’s Amare Stoudemire on Oct. 29, and was forced to miss last night’s 102-101 win over the 76ers. ‘It’s been tightening up,’ O’Neal said. ‘I’ve been ordered to at least take this game off. I even tried to go old school and shoot it up, but Ed (Lacerte, the trainer) won’t let me. So I’ll just take it easy and hopefully it feels better.’ The anti-inflammatory drugs that allowed him to play are also becoming a problem. ‘I was starting to take too much, so I had to back off,’ he said. O’Neal said he appreciates that the Celtics are being cautious with him, but added, ‘I would rather be out there with (Kevin) Garnett. He’s having a fabulous year, and I’m sort of his protector out there. The good thing about this staff is we’re all looking after the long picture. I’ve been in places where, ‘Hey, shoot it up.’ ’ Doc Rivers concurred, though he acknowledged Celtics life is much easier when O’Neal can play. ‘We want him to be healthy,’ the coach said. ‘We want him to play as many minutes as he can. We need him to play for a lot of reasons because we have J.O. (Jermaine O’Neal) and Perk (Kendrick Perkins) out. But at the end of the day we need him healthy, so we’re not going to do anything that can possibly take him out for the long haul.’ ‘I don’t know what line to walk with Shaq,’ Rivers added. ‘He’s 38 years old. He’s got a lot of mileage. And we want to keep him in playing shape and in the rhythm of our offense and defense so he knows our schemes. So it’s a fine line to walk. I don’t know if we’re walking it right or not.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston – “‘I never thought this day would come,’ O’Neal admitted before Thursday’s game. ‘Especially for me. When I was young, I thought I could play through anything… I could get stabbed, go to the hospital, and come back ready to play. Sometimes nick-knack injuries don’t go away. The thing about this team, this staff, they don’t want you to rush back. I’m from the old school, so I’m like, ‘Shoot it up,’ give me some drugs. But the focus is on 1825.’ That year references is Shaq shorthand for winning another title this season which would mean 18 world titles for Boston; 2 for the Big Three and coach Doc Rivers; and 5 for Shaq’s cumulative total.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “The last thing Semih Erden wanted to be was nervous. ‘I don’t like nerves,’ he said. He was the starting center last night with Shaquille O’Neal nursing a sore right calf. The crash course with the first-teamers at shootaround was a rough one. ‘They were pretty hard on him this morning about defense. ‘You don’t come in our group and screw things up,’ ’ said coach Doc Rivers. There’s a certain standard the first unit expects. ‘Any time you start, you know the expectation level goes up a little bit,’ Kevin Garnett said.”
Christopher L. Gasper, Boston Globe – “Kevin Garnett faced up Nuggets center/power forward Nene, looked at the rim, looked back at Nene, took a dribble, and blew right by the Brazilian big man as the whistle shrieked for a defensive three-second violation. Garnett, who always goaltends opponents shots when they launch after the whistle to send a message, had another deadball missive this time, effortlessly throwing down a one-handed jam. Just because he could. The message was: I’m back. Now get the bleep out my way. Garnett’s return to form from the knee surgery he underwent in 2009 to remove painful bone spurs is the biggest reason that the Celtics, who won their eighth straight last night, dispatching the Carmelo Anthony-free Denver Nuggets (get used to that phrase), are ready to take their talents back to the NBA Finals. Last year, Garnett wouldn’t have wasted what little lift he could muster on such a superfluous play. He couldn’t afford to. It is impossible to overestimate the difference a healthy Garnett can make for the Celtics. It’s like watching the Patriots this season with quarterback Tom Brady versus last season with Brady. You know it when you see it.”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “Dropping games to losing teams is a habit of the past, especially with the rejuvenation of Garnett, who sparked the fourth-quarter run with his vocal presence on defense. The Celtics began getting consistent stops in the fourth quarter after the 76ers sliced their defense through the first three with open jumpers. Garnett screamed at his teammates to increase their defensive intensity, realizing the game was slipping away. And while final plays are usually called for Paul Pierce or Ray Allen, they served as decoys while Garnett simply slipped a screen and banked home the winner. After a shower and a few deep breaths, Garnett was able to reflect on the accomplishment of winning when the circumstances were less than optimal. The Celtics started Semih Erden because Shaquille O’Neal missed the game with a sore right calf. ‘It was a grind-out win,’ Garnett said. ‘The Sixers have been playing unbelievable. They play with so much confidence. And we knew that, but tonight I thought we did a good job of sustaining runs. This was one of those classic Boston-Philly bar fights, alley fights, whatever you call it out here. These guys are getting better and better. Their record doesn’t reflect on how good they are.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “The crazy part, Kevin Garnett said, was that the Celtics worked on it over and over again in practice, and Garnett messed it up over and over. Still, with six seconds left in their fourth quarter tug-of-war with the Philadelphia 76ers, Doc Rivers huddled everyone up and called the play. He scattered the usual array of shooters on the floor — Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Nate Robinson — but they were more or less accessories. ‘I was a decoy,’ Allen said. ‘But when the other team doesn’t know it, it’s, ‘Don’t leave me.’ There’s so many things going through a coach’s mind, like, ‘Oh [snap], what’s going to happen?’ Because anything could happen.’ Rivers’s ideal ‘anything’ was for Rajon Rondo to connect with Garnett. On a lob pass.”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “If the NBA does in fact have a lockout in 2011-12, Shaquille O’Neal won’t have to make sure his passport is current. A report earlier this week indicated that O’Neal would consider playing in Turkey if the league shuts down over a labor dispute. But O’Neal told CSNNE.com on Wednesday that he does not have any plans to play overseas. ‘If it’s a lockout, a major lockout, I’ll put one of my 3 1/2 degrees to work,’ he said.”
Jessica Camerato, CSNNE – “Kendrick Perkins has been focused on his return to basketball all season. Now he’s taken another step closer. Perkins was measured for a new right knee brace on Wednesday, he told CSNNE.com. ‘Just taking it one day at a time,’ he said. ‘I think I’m starting to do more basketball things. Today I got measured for my knee brace, so it’s been cool.’ Perkins expects to begin wearing the new brace next Tuesday, which will allow him to do more court work. His rehab regimen includes going to the gym twice a day.”
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