The Morning Walkthrough is a set of links to Boston Celtics articles throughout the internet, designed to get your day started the right way.
Paul Flannery, WEEI – “To watch the Celtics play at their best is to wonder how they ever lose. How can a team with this many weapons, that is this unselfish, that plays this kind of defense ever come up short? The obvious reasons include health, focus and the unrelenting NBA schedule. Put the Celtics in a game they really care about, with all their players available and a day off in-between, and it’s almost impossible to pick against them. So far this season they have defeated the Heat (twice), Bulls, Magic, Spurs and now the Lakers, who they beat 109-96 Sunday. They are now 17-5 against teams with winning records. The Magic, Heat and Lakers all have losing records against .500 teams, while the Bulls are a respectable 10-9. Only the Spurs at 18-6 have a comparable mark, but only the Celtics have recorded wins against the other five. The Celtics didn’t just beat the Lakers, they beat them in every phase of the game.”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “‘It’s another game, but it’s definitely an emotional game, especially since losing Game 7 here,’ admitted Celtics captain Paul Pierce, the offensive catalyst, who scored 14 of his team-high 32 points in a third quarter that helped Boston create its initial separation. ‘The thing is, when you win a game here now, it’s not for the championship. It’s a regular-season game. When we play against the Lakers, it really gets our juices going, because they are our rivals. It’s a big game just knowing that we can come into this building and get a win.’ … The Celtics wanted it more. They needed it more. They fully expect to see the Lakers again down the road and they needed to start the process of asserting that there won’t be a repeat of last year.”
Ramona Shelburne, ESPN – “Afterward, the Lakers found ways of coping with the loss. They spoke of getting back to work, of the need for patience and perseverance during a long season. They reminded themselves that the playoffs are still three months away, that there’s still time to get this right. ‘It’s not the playoffs yet, is it?’ Jackson asked with a hint of defiance. ‘We’re still playing regular-season games, right? We’ll get there in time.’ But beneath those proclamations of confidence, bubbles of urgency began to rise. ‘It’s definitely a work in progress,’ Walton said. ‘But it’s getting later and later in the season. At some point the work in progress has to become an identity, has to become to where other teams come in and they’re afraid to play us, where they’re not looking forward to it. Right now that’s not happening. We’re losing at home, we’re losing to all the other elite teams in the league and that’s not like us.’”
J.A. Adande, ESPN – “In the 2008 NBA Finals the Celtics showed the Lakers that the tougher team wins championships. The Lakers learned their lesson and were able to stand up to the Celtics in last year’s Finals. And it wasn’t as if the Celtics smacked the Lakers around Sunday. (In fact it was Kevin Garnett who shed the most blood and needed multiple stitches after catching a Pau Gasol elbow to the head.) The new standard the Celtics have established that the Lakers haven’t reached is in the decidedly less physical but more aesthetically pleasing category of teamwork. ‘When we play together as a team,’ said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 32 points, ‘we’re tough to beat.’ There was none of that from the Lakers, with Kobe Bryant taking as many shots as the Lakers’ entire starting frontcourt. Even though Bryant was more efficient than usual — he made 11 of his first 18 shots and 16 of 29 on his way to 41 points — the Lakers still couldn’t hang with Boston. Bryant’s offensive outburst caused his teammates to check out and stop participating in their sets.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “Bryant was piecing together his latest scoring binge, shot by difficult shot, dueling — in his mind, at least — with Paul Pierce, who was working on one of his own. Midway through the fourth quarter, Bryant drove into Pierce, stopping to release a floater that made it 89-82 Celtics, as Pierce tumbled backward to the Staples Center floor. Bryant shot a quick stare as Pierce picked himself up. It was almost a challenge to go one-on-one. But Pierce had long withdrawn from the individual battle. Ray Allen became Pierce’s reinforcement on defense, doing his best to blanket Bryant down the stretch. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo played a two-man game, and no matter how many times Bryant shot the ball, he found himself trying to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference as an army of one.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “‘I think everybody knew it was going to be a physical game,’ Garnett said. ‘It’s always interesting when you play Kobe and the Lakers, so that was no surprise, how tough it is to play in the Staples Center. We knew that. When you look at the wins, whoever’s won out of this series, it’s been the one that’s controlled the boards,’ Garnett added. ‘Doc , for about two days now, has been talking about rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. Having Shaq [O’Neal] back helps, having Perk back helps, having Paul and Ray in there on the boards helping the bigs out helps a lot.’”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “[Rajon Rondo] looked that way at times yesterday, making silly mistakes, taking some inexplicably poor shots, and refusing to attempt layups. In other stretches, he ran the offense with daring and not precision, taking far too many chances and wasting scoring opportunities against a team that possesses the most explosive scorer of this generation. The Rondo who orchestrated a masterful second half and enabled the Celtics to pull away in the fourth quarter is the one Rivers adores and trusts. The Rondo who recorded 11 assists and 13 turnovers in his previous two games is the Rondo Rivers has to closely watch. The one who appears to play mind games with himself, sometimes creating on-court quandaries; making the spectacular play and not the simple one, like a shortstop with too much trust in his cannon arm. Rondo has too much trust in his instincts and ability to thread passes into minuscule creases. Rondo is the NBA’s best at making the pinpoint pass at the precise moment, but he relies too much on that skill. In the second half yesterday, Rondo made matters simpler for himself and his teammates. Very rarely does Rondo play an entire half, but yesterday he played all 24 minutes and the Celtics shot a mind-boggling 69.4 percent from the floor.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “After the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers made it a point to tell the team that it was one of Rondo’s best games of the year. ‘I thought he called an absolutely perfect game,’ Rivers said. ‘He’s our pitcher. I thought he called a sensational game. Coming out of timeouts, he made sure guys were in their spots … I thought Rondo tonight played with a great speed. When he plays with speed, he has power and I thought he did that tonight.’”
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “‘I don’t want to get into a gunfight with Kobe,’ said sheriff Doc Rivers after the 109-96 victory over the Lakers. ‘I don’t care who it is. I just would prefer not to. But at that point we needed Paul, and we told the guys that. It wasn’t because Kobe had it going; we just needed Paul in that stretch.’ Pierce had 16 points in the first half to keep the sinking Celts afloat and 14 in the third quarter when they were making their move. Each possession seemed almost a one-act play. Pierce would slink around a pick and squeeze in a shot. Kobe would hit a floater in the lane and pointedly look down at Pierce, who had fallen. ‘It was like being a little kid at the playground watching a great one-on-one game,’ said Nate Robinson. ‘Both guys got it going. Paul’s one of the best players in the league, and Kobe, as well. Just watching two greats go at it like that, it’s clash of the titans. But today we had more firepower to help out with our team. We had a complete team, and it just looked real good out there.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “‘When he was going on his run, he was going both ways into the paint,’ said Allen. ‘When you look at the dynamics of their team, he was taking tough shots and making tough shots, but we were keeping everyone else out of the game. When we made him miss, we were able to run.’ But don’t call him a Kobe stopper. There probably isn’t a player in the league who carries those credentials. ‘No. The same thing that makes you laugh makes you cry,” said Allen. “It’s always more than a one-man effort. In this league you’re definitely not guarded by one-on-one. I got in foul trouble early, and then they had to put Paul on him with a bigger body. Make him shoot over the top. Paul and I play defense differently, so make him try to guess.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “Robinson said he was unaware of any sort of short leash Rivers had with him, but responded by scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting with a trio of trifectas over 13:47. Over his previous eight games, Robinson had connected on a mere 16-of-54 shots (29.6 percent) and the start of Boston’s four-game road trip hadn’t been very friendly to him. Robinson was a combined 2-of-11 shooting, including 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. ‘Honestly, I was going back and forth on whether to play [Robinson] at all,’ said Rivers. ‘But he was huge for us.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “Two days after that ugly loss in Phoenix, the C’s returned to the efficiency that’s made them the best-shooting team in the league. They’re the only squad in the NBA shooting over 50 percent (50.1). ‘That’s phenomenal,’ coach Doc Rivers said. ‘We lead the league in field goal percentage, and we didn’t act like that in the last two games. Tonight, our execution was great coming out of timeouts. We had a focus tonight, and it’s amazing that we played with that. We don’t do that every night, unfortunately. As a coach I would like that.’”
Mark Heisler, LA Times – “Whether it’s good news or not in Lakerdom, this was a special effort by your team. Of course, if the Lakers played this hard all the time, they would be two or three games behind San Antonio instead of 7½ and Sunday would have felt more like a loss in January than the latest sign the end is near. Before Sunday’s game, the question was whether the Lakers could play at the Celtics’ level. I guess they settled that.”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “Bryant’s 41 points came on 16-for-29 shooting from the field. The rest of the Lakers shot a combined 20-for-52 from the floor. ‘I didn’t think anybody else wanted the ball,’ said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. ‘We did run a couple other plays to get guys into position, but I thought those times he had the best opportunities when other people were moving to the ball. But, a lot of times it didn’t look like we were running anything out there offensively.’”
Mike Bresnahan, LA Times – “Jackson chose his words carefully when asked about it, cognizant that Artest yelled at him during a practice this month because Jackson continually criticized him to reporters and in front of teammates. ‘Ron took a couple shots that I thought were, like, perhaps not in the context of what we were trying to do,’ Jackson said. ‘I thought maybe we’d go another direction.’ Artest said he was slowed after getting kneed in the right thigh on a first-quarter drive by Shaquille O’Neal. ‘I wasn’t able to continue to take [Pierce] and be aggressive,’ Artest said. Artest, however, wasn’t disappointed that Bryant gave the team an ‘F’ grade for its defense against Boston. He took the optimistic approach. ‘I got ‘F’s in elementary school,’ Artest said, ‘and I still went to college.’” Got a tip? An article you think should be included? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @CelticsTown.