The Morning Walkthrough is a set of links to Boston Celtics articles throughout the internet, designed to get your day started the right way.
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “At that third-quarter juncture, the Celtics had just let Danilo Gallinari drain a 3-pointer from in front of their bench. Rondo, frustrated as he went to inbound the ball, pounded the ball in frustration, then committed an ugly turnover on the other end, sailing an entry pass over Kevin Garnett’s outstretched arms in the post. Rondo came back to the bench upset. Rivers took him out and put Robinson in. ‘He was struggling and that’s why I took him out,’ Rivers said. ‘He wasn’t really happy with it, but we don’t mind that. The bench makes everybody calm down. It always has, and he did. I asked him if he wanted to go back in and he did. He wanted to play, and you knew he would. It won’t be the last time. But my focus was on winning that game, and emotionally you always have to stay under control.’ Rondo came back in to start the fourth, drove hard through the lane, but planted awkwardly, spraining his ankle. ‘It hurts,’ said Rondo, who has missed four games with foot and hamstring issues. ‘But all ankle sprains hurt.’ He returned with 8:35 left in the game. ‘We needed him,’ Rivers said. ‘If Rondo couldn’t have come in, I thought we would have been in a little trouble.’ Rondo said he would have X-rays this morning and expects to play tonight against the Hawks. ‘Hopefully it doesn’t swell up,’ he said.”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “Although Rondo is hopeful that he will play against the Hawks, his teammates are already gearing up as if their playmaker won’t be on the floor. ‘He’s been banged up over the last month,’ said Boston’s Paul Pierce, who hit the game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds to play. ‘Probably a slim chance we’ll have him tomorrow. We played a few games without him. It happens, but hey, what’s new for us? We’re used to guys going down. We keep finding ways.’ … And the C’s may have to give more serious thought to sitting him down for more than just a game or two. Because if they leave it up to Rondo, he’ll keep playing. When asked if there was a part of him that might benefit from stepping back from playing, he responded, “Nah, not really. Not really.’ The toughness that Rondo has shown all season, bouncing back from one injury after another, is something the C’s have come to expect from the 6-foot-1 All-star. ‘Just grit, man. This is NBA basketball,’ said Boston’s Kevin Garnett, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds for his 12th double-double this season. ‘This is what it is. Either you a chump or you go home. The weak don’t survive in this (league). You have to have something in you, something special about you; you have to have that extra hmmph in you, that’s gonna make you become what you want to be in this league. And that’s what it is. He’s a no-nonsense kid. He’s going to fight until the end. Leg hurt, foot hurt, he’s dealing with multiple injuries. The kid comes out and gives everything he has every night.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “Shaquille O’Neal lowered himself onto the Garden floor with a groan yesterday, and groaned again after he started sliding the back of his bruised right calf on a device shaped like a miniature candlepin. This alone was a challenge, never mind playing last night, which he didn’t. But that’s fine with O’Neal. History tells him that he might have a little more hardware if he hadn’t forced the issue in other stops during his 18-season career. ‘They don’t want me to do it the old conventional way, they want me to do it the right way,’ he said of missing his third straight game and eighth this season. ‘That’s not hard, because a couple of times it could have cost me. I have four (rings) and in my mind I could have had seven, so a couple of times it could have cost me. This is a team that we know if we do it right, we’re going to get it done.’ Thus a familiar refrain: If the Celtics center isn’t 100 percent, he won’t play. That likely will include tonight in Atlanta. ‘He didn’t even try (to practice),’ Rivers said at the shootaround. ‘We didn’t let him try. Obviously if it was a playoff game he would play, but not tonight. He’s just not 100 percent, and during the regular season, we want to get as healthy as possible.’”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “Finally, some good news on the injury front for the Boston Celtics. Semih Erden, who will make his third straight start tonight in place of an injured Shaquille O’Neal, said the left shoulder injury that has hampered him all season is ‘much better.’ While it will still likely require surgery in the offseason, it doesn’t appear to limit him nearly as much as it did earlier this season. ‘The shoulder is much, much better,’ Erden told CSNNE.com. ‘That’s good for me.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “Like a play that opened off Broadway, the New York Knicks knew the ending before it unfolded Wednesday night. Some had seen the closing scene unfold during runs in other cities, but the entire team got an in-person sneak peek a little more than two months ago when the cast swung through New York in mid-October for a limited engagement. On Wednesday, Paul Pierce and his Boston Celtics castmates returned for another Big Apple performance and didn’t miss a step. The scenes unfolded virtually identically to the preseason preview: A seesaw battle with a late rally by the antagonist, closed out by the villainous Pierce coldly burying a late-game jumper to steal a win. Try as they might, the upstart Knicks could do little to alter the climax. An arena shaking with emotion for more than 2½ hours went silent as Pierce did a familiar home run trot across the famed Madison Square Garden parquet, his 14-foot jumper over Amare Stoudemire having lifted the big bully Celtics toward another victory in a still-lopsided rivalry between Atlantic Division foes. Many fans didn’t even stick around for the cruel twist at the end, trickling out into the cold before referees even reviewed Stoudemire’s just-missed-the-buzzer 3-pointer that came after what Pierce admitted was his lone misstep: leaving a fraction of a second — four-tenths, to be exact — on the clock. And while it was to merely scattered boos and a couple of groans from what remained of the sellout crowd to witness the official declaration of Boston’s thrilling 118-116 triumph, Pierce, like any good performer, took a bow before departing the stage. (Nate Robinson wasn’t nearly as graceful, nearly suffering a face-plant while trying to leap on Pierce’s back after the winner.)”
Chris Sheridan, ESPN New York – “Make no mistake, the Knicks clearly considered this a moral victory while conveniently overlooking the fact that Boston was missing 21 feet worth of injured centers and a key backup guard (Delonte West), and was using an All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, who turned his ankle and appeared to be tuning out his coach when he stayed away from the huddle after a prolonged stint on the bench midway through the second half. And no matter what you want to say about moral victories (and the false hope they usually inspire), the Knicks did show a feistiness and an aggressiveness that nobody in a Celtics uniform had ever seen from them in this building, with the exception of Kevin Garnett back when he was a fresh face straight out of high school.”
Ian O’Connor, ESPN New York – “Pierce was the one who had scoffed at the idea that his Boston Celtics had any rivalry going with the New York Knicks, and guess what? He was right. The Knicks have been a practical joke for the vast majority of Pierce’s career, and they didn’t deserve to be elevated as some sort of legitimate foil. But as the refs were checking the replays that would settle this wild and wonderful basketball game, the brand of regular-season game this building used to stage on muscle memory, Pierce did something that marked the birth of the very thing he’d maintained did not exist. The Celtics star faced the south side of a Garden crowd that was standing and waiting and murmuring, like a boxing crowd dying to hear the judges’ scores after a big heavyweight fight. Pierce planted his arm against his belly button, took a bow and then repeated the gesture for the north side. The fans booed. It was Pierce’s way of assuming the role of villain, of delivering the choke sign Reggie Miller once gave the Knicks. So some of that bad Yankees-Red Sox blood is finally boiling around the city game. As surely as there is a Santa Claus, Virginia, there could be an honest-to-God rivalry between the Celtics and the Knicks. ‘Boston-New York is a rivalry in every sport, no matter what the situation is,’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a former Knicks guard who adored New York as much as any player who has come through here. ‘And when the two teams are playing like this, it sure helps. But I just think the two cities, they can play croquet and people are not going to like the other team.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “Pierce had missed a career-high 17 consecutive 3-pointers before canning a trifecta 1:28 into Wednesday’s game. Pierce, last year’s NBA 3-point champion at All-Star weekend, watched his percentage dip from 46.4 percent (well above the career-high 41.4 percent he shot last year) to 35.6 percent entering Wednesday’s game. Pierce connected on 2-of-4 triples Wednesday, another sign he’s feeling better after battling flu-like symptoms recently. ‘I thought the three days’ rest, you guys actually saw it [Tuesday] and I made the point before the game, he hadn’t played 1-on-1 in three weeks because he hadn’t felt great,’ said Rivers. ‘[Tuesday] he played 1-on-1 for about an hour, and you could see it. He actually did it after practice too. That’s when we knew he had his rhythm back.’”
Bob Ryan, Boston Globe – “The Knicks made the Celtics dig very deep to bag this one. The score doesn’t lie: This was an old-fashioned NBA game showcasing extraordinary offensive skill, the kind of entertainment spectacle that made the league great before the game was hijacked by the fraidy-cat coaches who were happier when their team did not have the ball than when it did. Happily, D’Antoni is the polar opposite of those coaches. His Knicks will make it or break it on their own terms. They will be offensively aggressive and will dare you to match them. ‘I think we take away a lot,’ he said. ‘I told the guys we had 50, 60 more games left, and this was a test. I thought we matched them point for point. We just have to get a little better.’ If this was indeed a Preview of Coming Atlantic Division Attractions, the good news for Rivers is that, unlike last year, his club will have a little healthy competition. There will be no 27-27 sleepwalk to the finish line this year. Competition is good. Competition is the American Way. Hey, Knicks, welcome to the race.”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “And Pierce finished with shot from his favorite spot on the floor — the right elbow, albeit with an athletic 7-footer jumping to block his shot. ‘We wanted a switch, but when he caught it they had already switched Felton on him,’ Rivers said. ‘I tried to wave the pick off because Paul can shoot over him, but Paul said in the locker room he actually wanted the big guy because he wanted the step-back. He’s the scorer, so he would know. I was never a scorer.’”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “Rivers said after the game that the C’s wanted to get Pierce into a one-on-one isolation, and allow him to decide whether to attack with a shot or find a teammate. He choose the former, in part because Stoudemire let him get to his sweet spot. ‘I knew what I wanted to do,’ Pierce said. ‘We ran the pick-and-roll going to the right. I was actually surprised that Amar’e actually gave me the right; he gave it to me, he kind of played me to go right. I thought he was up so far on me that I thought I could get a lay-up, so I tried to go for the lay-up but he cut it off and I was able to create the space and get the shot.’ It had been a while since Pierce delivered a game-winner, but there was little doubt in the minds of his teammates that Pierce’s shot was going to go down. ‘You kind of get spoiled by playing with Paul,’ Rajon Rondo said. ‘You expect him to make that shot. But it’s definitely a tough shot to make, especially over [Stoudemire] who can jump. But that’s P’s shot. He’s hit that shot time after time, fading back going right. It’s a shot you can’t block.’”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “Defensive intensity is what has brought the Celtics success the last few years. The Knicks had relied on outscoring teams in shootouts during their recent eight-game win streak. Last night was a shootout, but the Celtics won their 11th straight game with their usual style, showing savvy and executing well while the Knicks appeared frazzled in the final minutes. With accomplishment comes assurance, and the Celtics never allowed the intensity of the game to affect their emotions. To players such as Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal, who sat on the bench in street clothes because they are injured, it was a tennis match, and their teammates picked up on their composure. While the Knicks were losing their minds at the prospect of a victory, the O’Neals were joking about a security guard’s shoes during a fourth-quarter timeout. … The Celtics are champions of the Atlantic Division for at least another couple of weeks, or until they come back to MSG on March 21. A team that hasn’t reached the postseason in nearly seven years is truly enjoying the fruits of its laborious transformation under coach Mike D’Antoni, but the Knicks have a long way to go before they reach the Celtics’ level. They have to act like they’ve been there, even when they haven’t. They were rattled down the stretch and the Celtics finished with a flurry of game-changing plays. Meanwhile, the Knicks were clinging to the hope of a miracle shot that didn’t count. Their celebration ended up being futile and their enthusiasm was replaced by disappointment. And the Celtics walked away calmly in victory, ready for another one tonight against Atlanta.”
Paul Flannery, WEEI – “The rivalry question: In the end, who cares? Whether or not the players on these two teams consider their future meetings to be a rivalry, or whatever you want to call it, is immaterial. The feeling Wednesday night in basketball’s most special arena was tense and electric and it brought out the best in both teams. ‘It was awesome,’ Rivers said. ‘It was good to see Spike [Lee] yelling again. It really was. It was a great atmosphere. You know you can’t get this atmosphere in a lot of places. I think you can get it in Boston, even with the new arena, after that… I don’t know. There’s some other places. But it’s really neat.’ If that’s all this winds up being, then at least we have this one night, and in the NBA you take your special regular season evenings where you can find them. The reality is that while the Knicks have a long way to go to get back into the elite teams conversation, they are clearly a good basketball team and more than that, their style represents a unique challenge to the Celtics and the way they play defense. ‘They test our defense,’ Pierce said. ‘There are few teams in the NBA that test our defense. That’s one of them because they go small ball and they put four shooters on the court. Then when you got a big man who’s an elite scorer in this league, who can shoot from everywhere, they’re a tough guard.’ ‘I’ll say one thing about the Knicks, they’re confidence is obviously through the roof,’ Garnett said. ‘Definitely a team to reckon with.’ So, it’s something and one can only hope that the next time will be even better and the time after that, although this one will be hard to top. Who knows? Maybe they will meet in the playoffs because that’s where real rivalries are formed. We’ll leave the last word to the man who made the final statement on the court. ‘It’s a start,’ Pierce said. ‘You got to start somewhere. Who knows where it’s going to take us, but it’s definitely a good start if you guys want to call it a rivalry, but hey, that’s how they start.’”
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! – “When New York teetered on implosion in the first weeks of the season, it was Stoudemire raging in that locker room against the Knicks giving into futility the way they had for so long. For all the belief that Steve Nash(notes) elevated Stoudemire’s game, Stoudemire’s showing now how much he meant to Nash. ‘I’m proud of the way that I’ve developed,’ Stoudemire would say in a private moment outside the Knicks’ locker room on Wednesday night. ‘I played with some great leaders in Phoenix, and maybe sometimes you get overlooked in that way. But to prove that I’m a franchise player now? No, I don’t have to prove anything. … I don’t have to prove that.’ Perhaps, but he’s done it, and the Celtics know that, too. They’re still grateful they didn’t have to see him in the Eastern Conference playoffs a year ago, but perhaps they won’t be so fortunate this time. Stoudemire had Miami and Chicago higher on his list of choices, because privately he felt about New York like a lot of players in free agency: Do I want to be the guy getting torn apart when they don’t get LeBron? And yet, what became a union of convenience – perhaps even necessity – has blossomed into something that neither the Knicks, nor Stoudemire, believed could be such a perfect fit. Stoudemire has restored credibility to the franchise and gone a long way toward making it easier for the next star player to commit to New York. No one wanted to go it alone here, but Stoudemire made the leap of faith on the Knicks, the way that they made a leap with his knees. The Celtics couldn’t help themselves, and taunted these Knicks, these fans, all the way out of the Garden on Wednesday night. They’ve won 11 straight games now, and they know the Knicks still need more than the greatness of Stoudemire to make a true run at them in the East. ‘They test our defense,’ Pierce said. ‘There are a couple of teams that test our defense and they’re one of them. … They’re playing great basketball.’ Mostly, Stoudemire tests them. No one on the Celtics could stop him, and they were fortunate to keep him under 40 points, to get out of New York with a victory. Stoudemire is a monster, and, yes, there’s a gathering storm in the distance that could change everything here. Near the freight elevator late Wednesday, one of the Celtics coaches turned and asked a final question before the doors shut and the staff slipped into the cold, New York night with a steal of a victory.”
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