Celtics' plan to go to Garnett pays off

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Celtics' plan to go to Garnett pays off

BOSTON The Boston Celtics were intent on getting the ball into the hands of Kevin Garnett a lot.

Why?

Because from what they had seen through the first two games, there wasn't a whole lot Miami could do with Garnett once he had the ball in the post.

Garnett had his way around the basket for most of the night as the Celtics climbed back into this Eastern Conference finals series with a 101-91 victory.

They now trail the Heat 2-1 in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 in Boston on Sunday and Game 5 at Miami on Tuesday.

Garnett had another strong game with 24 points and 11 rebounds.

More impressive than the scoring, was where the majority of his points came from.

Of Garnett's 10 made baskets, seven came within a couple feet of the rim, as clear an indicator as to where the Celtics wanted to go - down low to Garnett, a lot.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had stressed to his players to get the ball to Garnett as much as possible in the post.

"Nobody can jump as high as Kevin," said C's point guard Rajon Rondo, with a number of his game-high 10 assists being passes to Garnett.

And it didn't seem to matter who the Heat put on Garnett.

Ronny Turiaf. Joel Anthony. Udonis Haslem. Even LeBron James.

It was pointless.

None of them could stop Garnett from controlling the action around the basket which factored heavily into Boston outscoring the Heat, 58-46, on points in the paint.

"He played great," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "They established him deep in the paint."

There was at least one Heat player who didn't seem all that impressed with Garnett's scoring.

"I don't really think he killed us one-on-one," said Haslem. "I think it was free throws and a couple of late shots down the stretch. I don't really think we had bad defense on KG. As a team, we just didn't defend well and they knocked down shots; and we gave them shots we wouldn't normally give them."

Garnett's strong game was due in part to the predicament that the C's came into the game facing.

After having lost the first two games in Miami, Garnett understands just how important Game 3 was for the C's to have any shot at rallying back to win this series.

"Desperation game, to be honest," Garnett said. "And we played like it, too. You don't want to be down 3-0 to a team like this. Very, very good team, very talented team, well coached team. I feel like we played desperation basketball."

As dominant as Garnett was, he did take his share of bumps and bruises.

At one point in the game, Garnett took a hard foul from Udonis Haslem. Moments later while still on the floor, Garnett began to do push-ups on his knuckles.

"As an athlete, you have to get yourself going, especially when you get knocked down, you don't want your opponent to see you vulnerable," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "So that was his opportunity to show them that they can keep hitting him. He loves it. he plays a lot of mental games with himself, and with others."

There were other instances where Garnett got tangled up with Heat players who suspected Garnett was trying to get under their skin whether it be trash talking or physical play.

"That's his game," said Heat guard Mario Chalmers. "We (have) to stick to our plan, not worry about him or let him get in our heads; which we didn't."

Maybe so, but he certainly got into the heads - and hearts - of Celtics Nation who seem to feed off his energy and intensity.

But in Game Three, the roles in many ways were reversed as the boisterous crowd seemed to provide even more energy - if that's even possible - to Garnett.

"We're playing at home, we have to give it our all out and it will be all-out," Garnett said. "The jungle was rocking' tonight. I want to thank all the fans who came out. (Expletive) jungle was rockin' tonight! I loved it. (Expletive) loved it."

Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

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Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

Danny Ainge recently hinted on Toucher & Rich that the Celtics were interested in drafting Dragan Bender.

And they need to do exactly that. 

No, I'm not crazy. Neither is Danny.

Drafting Bender is the Celtics' best option. As Ainge pointed out, his job is to make the move that's best for the team. Not just for the short term, but for the long haul.

Now, I can't say I've been to Croatia to work out Bender. Like many of you, I 've only seen him via the Internet.

It is easy to look at him and think he’s a project. That’s because he is. He’s 18 and, even though he's 7 feet tall, he only weighs about 220 soaking wet. He's a kid, too skinny at the moment for the NBA, and would no doubt get killed if you put in the post today.

And, like I said, I'm not crazy. I'm not committed to Bender. If  Sacramento calls and offers Boogie Cousins for any combination of picks the Celtics have, the deal should be made immediately. To a degree, I feel the same way about Jimmy Butler. However, the consensus is those two players aren't going anywhere. (And even if they are available, suppose the Lakers decide to dangle the No. 2 pick for either of them? That would make a trade nearly impossible for Boston.)

But if the Celtics keep the third pick -- and he isn't taken by either Philly or L.A. (highly unlikely) -- Dragen Bender should be Ainge's choice. And it will be the right move.

Let’s break it down.

There's just no one else in this draft with Bender's upside. Buddy Hield is a 22-year-old shooting guard who completely disappeared in the NCAA championship game. He has a shot to be a very good NBA player, but he won’t transform the organization. Neither would Jamal Murray from Kentucky. Nor Kris Dunn from Providence.

The risk for Bender is HUGE. The reward is even HUGER. Ah, that’s not a word, right? Well then, BIGGER THAN HUGE! Or HUGEST!

Bender could be that guy.

And, I also admit, he also wind up playing in Europe or Israel.

Still, Danny has to roll the dice on this guy.

Bender can handle the ball, block shots, shoot the 3, and -- like all European players -- is fundamentally sound. The issue for this kid is toughness in the low post and getting stronger. I put my money on Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo to get him ready for NBA life.

And I'm not one those boneheads who are pushing for Bender because Kristaps Porzingis has worked out for the Knicks. One has nothing to do with the other. For every Porzingis there's at least one Stojko Vrankovic. Or Darko Milicic.

Take Bender, Danny. In two years this guy may have gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, learned the rigors on and off the court of the NBA, and look like the next Porzingis, Or Dirk Nowitzki or Porzingis. Then use the other two Brooklyn first-round picks, and the Celtics could be back on their way to greatness.

But if you play it safe, Danny, and don't take Bender, the Green will simply be stuck in the mud of mediocrity.  

Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

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Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

BOSTON – Opportunity.

Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.

That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).

That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.

“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”

And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.

A journey that by all accounts is far from over.

Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.

This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.

In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.

A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”

A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.

“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”

That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.

“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.

At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.

And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.

Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.

Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.

And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.