The NBA: I Worry for the Celtics

Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics are struggling
out of the gates after five games.
(image by Michael Dwyer/AP)
The original super team, albeit one of veterans drafted in the 90s, has all but crumbled.

The mighty Celtics’ new big three no longer includes Ray Allen, who has since moved to archrival Miami and is currently busy hitting game-winners left and right. Instead, the playmaking prowess of Rajon Rondo has now combined with the aging duo of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to make a competitive, if nebulous, core. Then again, one might make the argument that Ray Allen stopped being the third member of Boston’s big three as far back as two years ago.

Still, the entry of Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, and re-entry of Jeff Green, should have more than made up for Allen’s defection, right?

Right, at least in theory, but a big fat WRONG in reality.

Terry is norming about 4 points less than he was last year, Barbosa’s value has steadily declined along with his offensive prowess, and Green is still trying to find his place in the whole scheme of things.

Still, these are THE Boston Celtics. They should be better than their 2-3 record, where both wins were against the effin’ Washington Wizards. THE WIZARDS. Heck, both those games even went down the wire.

In their latest game, the Celts were beaten by the young and restless Philadelphia 76ers, the team, the 8th seed to boot, that unexpectedly pushed Boston to seven games in the Conference Semifinals last season. In this game, the Sixers, now without Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, and Lou Williams, spanked the Celtics worse than the 6-point spread implies.

If the Cs are to get better, it should start with their defense, which has been horrible of late.

Boston Coach Doc Rivers had this to say after the Sixers loss, ''I thought we hung in the game, kind of fought back, but every time we needed a stop tonight, we didn't get it.''

One reason for Philly keeping Boston at bay was getting easy points in transition, something that bothered Pierce.

''If we can do a better job of getting back on defense, limit the easy opportunities, we give ourselves a better chance,'' Pierce said. ''Guys on the perimeter have to get back.''

Right now, only Charlotte, Detroit, and Cleveland allow more points in the Eastern Conference. Right now, Boston’s foes are scoring, on average, 4 more points than the Celts are. Right now, Boston is allowing its opponents to shoot better than 46% from the field, which is 7th worst in the league.

Things will probably get better, because these are THE Boston Celtics. Somewhere down the line, their collective experience should enable them to get back on track. That, however, will probably be later rather than sooner, and even the Celts themselves expect that.

''I'm very patient,'' Pierce said. ''I understand it's a process. We're only five games in. We're still building.''

Yes, Paul, it’s a process, but I worry about you guys. I worry about the Celtics.

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network):
Brooklyn 107, Orlando 68
Brook Lopez produced a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Brooklyn Nets trounced the Orlando Magic, 107-68, at the Amway Center in the opener of a home-and-home series. Four others scored in double-figures as well for Brooklyn, and despite injuries to Gerald Wallace and Marshon Brooks, the Nets played their most complete game of the season, albeit it was against an injury-riddle Magic squad. Andray Blatche and Jerry Stackhouse fueled the Brooklyn bench, which outscored Orlando's 55-18. Blatche scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed nine boards while Stackhouse poured in 11 in his Nets debut. Starters Deron Williams and Joe Johnson chipped in 12 and 13, respectively, for the Nets, who led by as many as 39 points in snapping a 10-game losing streak against the Magic.

Andray Blatche and the Nets embarrassed the Magic.
(image by Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

Milwaukee 101, Washington 91
Monta Ellis poured in 22 points and Brandon Jennings had 12 points and seven assists to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 101-91 win over the Washington Wizards on Friday. Mike Dunleavy and Larry Sanders each scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds off the bench and Ersan Ilyasova had 11 points for the Bucks, who bounced back from an 18-point loss to Memphis on Wednesday. Bradley Beal netted a career-high 22 points and Trevor Ariza added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Wizards, who fell to 0-4 in the setback.

Miami 95, Atlanta 89
Ray Allen drained the go-ahead baseline jumper with under two minutes remaining and LeBron James narrowly missed a triple- double, as the Miami Heat topped the Atlanta Hawks, 95-89, at Philips Arena. The Heat played without star guard Dwyane Wade, who remained at the team hotel due to a cold. James, who had 21 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, hit a key jumper with 13.6 seconds left. Chris Bosh had 24 points and Allen netted 17. James limped off the court with 36.4 seconds left in the first half after banging knees with Josh Smith. James was driving to the hoop when his right knee collided with Smith's left knee. James exited immediately to the locker room, but was on the court to start the second half.

Philadelphia 106, Boston 100
Jrue Holiday netted 21 points and handed out a career-high 14 assists as the Philadelphia 76ers knocked off the Boston Celtics, 106-100, on Friday at TD Garden. Evan Turner scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Thaddeus Young laced 15 points and grabbed five boards for the Sixers, who have won two straight. Dorrell Wright added 15 points in the triumph. Paul Pierce scored a team-high 24 points to go with five assists and Kevin Garnett contributed 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Rajon Rondo scored 14 points and dished out 20 assists in the setback. It was Rondo's 27th consecutive game with 11 or more assists, which tied an NBA record set by John Stockton.

New York 104, Dallas 94
Carmelo Anthony had 31 points and seven rebounds as the New York Knicks remained undefeated with a 104-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden. J.R. Smith added 22 points off the bench, while Ronnie Brewer finished with 13 points and eight rebounds for New York, which improved to 4-0 on the season and is off to its best start since beginning the 1993-94 campaign 7-0. Tyson Chandler contributed 11 points and nine boards in the win. O.J. Mayo netted 23 points to pace the Mavericks, who had their three-game win streak snapped.

Memphis 93, Houston 85
Zach Randolph had 15 points and 14 rebounds in the Memphis Grizzlies' 93-85 win over the Houston Rockets. Rudy Gay added 21 points and seven boards, while Mike Conley chipped in 14 points for Memphis, which has won four straight on the heels of its season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Chandler Parsons tallied 19 points, while James Harden registered 18 points, but on just 4-of-18 shooting for the Rockets, who dropped their first road game in three chances.

Minnesota 96, Indiana 94
Chase Budinger's game-winning layup in the waining seconds of the game gave the Minnesota Timberwolves a 96-94 triumph over the Indiana Pacers on Friday. Budinger, who notched a team-high 18 points off the bench, put in an uncontested layup with less than a second to play to give the Timberwolves their third straight win, matching their longest streak from all of last season. Derrick Williams tallied 15 points and Nikola Pekovic totaled 13 points and eight rebounds, while Alexey Shved and Dante Cunningham each added 11 off the bench for Minnesota in the victory. George Hill, who scored a game-high 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting, drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 94-94 before Budinger's decisive score. David West contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds in the defeat.

New Orleans 107, Charlotte 99
Anthony Davis returned to the lineup Friday night and had the best game of his young career, scoring 23 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and blocking five shots in the New Orleans Hornets' 107-99 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, had missed the Hornets' previous two contests after sustaining a concussion last Friday against Utah. Fellow rookie Austin Rivers, taken by New Orleans with the 10th overall selection, had four points and four assists after sitting out Wednesday's 77-62 loss to Philadelphia with a sprained finger. Ryan Anderson made five 3-pointers en route to 25 points for the Hornets, who improved to 3-2 on the young season. Brian Roberts and Al-Farouq Aminu tallied 16 and 14 points, respectively. Ben Gordon had 34 points to pace the Bobcats, who have lost three in a row since opening the season with a win over the Indiana Pacers. Ramon Sessions and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who played with Davis at Kentucky, added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Oklahoma City 105, Detroit 94
Serge Ibaka poured in a career-high 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds on Friday night, as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the winless Detroit Pistons, 105-94, at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Kevin Durant recorded a double-double with 25 points and 13 boards, while Kevin Martin tallied 16 points and Eric Maynor netted 13 points for the Thunder, who have won seven straight over the Pistons and three straight overall. Rookie Andre Drummond paced the Pistons with 22 points and eight rebounds and Greg Monroe added 14 points, 10 boards and six assists in a losing effort, as Detroit dropped to 0-6 for the first time since the 1980-81 squad went 0-7 to begin the season.

Phoenix 107, Cleveland 105
Goran Dragic scored a game-high 26 points and Shannon Brown added 22 points off the bench as the Phoenix Suns edged the Cleveland Cavaliers, 107-105, on Friday. The Suns trailed by seven with 4:35 left, but used a 14-4 run to take a 105-102 lead with 37.4 seconds remaining. Kyrie Irving's layup was blocked by Marcin Gortat and Cleveland was forced to foul Dragic, who made 1-of-2 free throws. Daniel Gibson buried a 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left and the Cavs quickly fouled Sebastian Telfair, who split a pair of free throws. Cleveland turned to Irving for a game-winning shot, but the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year's three was off target and the Suns held on for the win.

San Antonio 97, Sacramento 86
Tim Duncan seems to have found the fountain of youth. The 36-year old big man poured in a game-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and pulled down 12 rebounds, leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 97-86 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Duncan has posted double-doubles in four of his team's first six games this season. Patty Mills netted 18 points off the bench for the Spurs, who bounced back from a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Kawhi Leonard contributed 11 points and nine rebounds in the victory. Jason Thompson scored 17 points to go with six rebounds, while Marcus Thornton donated 17 points for the Kings, who fell to 2-4 on the young season. DeMarcus Cousins added 14 points and nine boards and Tyreke Evans finished with 12 and six rebounds in the setback.

Denver 104, Utah 84
Corey Brewer scored 20 points off the bench and Kenneth Faried added 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 104-84 rout of the Utah Jazz. Andre Iguodala tallied 15 points and seven boards, while Kosta Koufos finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, which has won three straight since beginning the year with three consecutive losses. Gordon Hayward netted 15 points to lead the Jazz, who have lost three of their last four games since opening their campaign with a victory. Randy Foye and Enes Kanter poured in 13 points apiece off the bench, while Derrick Favors registered 10 points and 11 boards off the pine in defeat.

LA Lakers 101, Golden State 77
Kobe Bryant poured in a game-high 27 points on Friday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers got the post-Mike Brown era off on the right foot with a resounding 101-77 victory over the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center. Brown was fired earlier on Friday in the wake of a dismal 1-4 start for a team which many national pundits pegged as the favorites to win the Western Conference. Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff coached Los Angeles to victory on Friday, but the team announced the search for a permanent replacement would begin immediately, with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson and former Knicks bench boss Mike D'Antoni emerging as the frontrunners. On the court, Bryant added nine rebounds and seven assists, while Pau Gasol recorded a double-double with 14 points and 16 boards to help the Lakers earn their fifth consecutive victory over the Warriors. Stephen Curry paced Golden State with 18 points and five assists and Klay Thompson chipped in 15 points for the Warriors, who have alternated wins and losses through the first six games.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers opened the
post-Mike Brown era with a rousing win.
(image by Mark J. Terrill/AP)

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