Celtics-Nuggets review: What we saw

706234.jpg

Celtics-Nuggets review: What we saw

DENVER Get beat by a team that makes a ton of shots. Get beat by a team that simply did a better job at executing.

But to get beat by a team that simply played harder, is a tough pill to swallow.

The Boston Celtics have no choice but to choke on that one, as the Denver Nuggets hung on for a 98-91 win.

"We just got out-worked tonight," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "It was nothing about game planning or Xs and Os. It was just they out-worked us. I hate for it to even come out my mouth. For me to come in here and say that, what happened tonight, it hurts me to say that."

Seeing how well the Celtics played in the second half, and woeful in the first, stings pretty bad as well.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers looks back at the team's win at Golden State, as being the precipitant of the team's struggles lately that have produced back-to-back losses. "We relaxed against Golden State, and we won the game," Rivers said. "And then we thought we could come out and do it again against Sacramento, and we got our butt kicked."

Much of the same was on display in the first half as Boston showed very few signs of being the aggressor that we've seen of late from them, especially defensively.

Effort was certainly one of the keys in the loss. But there were other factors at play, some of which were highlighted prior to the game. Here's a look at how those potential factors actually played out as the C's dropped their second in a row while the Nuggets (25-20) are in the midst of a nine-game home stand.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Boston has a tendency to ease their way into games, which can't happen tonight. While the Nuggets rank among the NBA's top 10 in points scored in the first quarter (25.4), they give up a ton of early points as well. Teams are averaging 26.1 points against Denver in the first quarter of games which ranks 28th in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Denver and its high-powered offense didn't waste much time getting the Celtics to play their brand of basketball. They shot a higher percentage and crushed the C's on the boards which both factored in the Nuggets leading 29-22 after the first quarter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Paul Pierce vs. Kenneith Faried: Pierce should win this battle rather convincingly, but the C's have to be on guard for not looking for Pierce too much so that it disrupts the flow offensively and leads to what Doc Rivers refers to at times, as the "ball sticking" on one side of the floor or in the hands of one particular player. Faried is a high-energy guy who seems to continue to get better with more experience. The 22-year-old rookie has started 17 games this season after not playing (coaches decision) in a number of games in January.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce usually struggles in the Mile High City, but had a respectable game shooting the ball (22 points, 8-for-17 from the field) despite being in foul trouble down the stretch and eventually fouling out. As for Faried, his energy and just flat-out hustle was too much for most of the night for Boston to handle. He finished with 18 points and a career-high 16 rebounds which included a rebound in the fourth in which Pierce picked up his sixth and final foul of the night.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Anytime the Celtics have a back-to-back situation and minutes become a concern, you always have to wonder how will it impact Kevin Garnett. However, because of the lopsided loss at Sacramento on Friday night, Garnett should not be too fatigued considering he was the only starter to play less than 30 minutes in the loss.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett showed no signs of fatigue, finishing with 22 points nine rebounds and five assists. Although disappointed with the loss, Garnett reached yet another milestone. He is the only player in NBA history with more than 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists and 1,500 steals. "To be honest, I'm not a stat guy," Garnett said. "But anytime you make accomplishments in the league, milestones, you gotta be grateful." For his career, Garnett has 23,945 points, 13,157 rebounds, 5,004 assists and 1,648 steals.

STAT TO TRACK: With lots of points come lots of mistakes by Denver. The Nuggets average 15.6 turnovers per game which ranks 27th in the NBA. Ironically, the Celtics average 15.6 forced turnovers per game which ranks sixth in the NBA. But a normal night in terms of forced turnovers by Boston, probably won't be enough for the win. The C's need to have another one of those nights in which they force 20 or so turnovers which should then lead to a few easy baskets in transition.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston forced the Nuggets into turning the ball over 22 times which led to 20 points scored. But that could not mask how poorly Boston's defense played in the first half, which set the tone for the C's to be outscored 48-40 on points in the paint, 20-4 on second-chance points and 21-6 in fast-break points - the kind of trifecta that put the Celtics in a hole that they could never fully dig their way out of all game.

Rondo says he will not play tonight

Rondo says he will not play tonight

Rajon Rondo, out with a fractured right thumb, will not play for the Chicago Bulls against the Celtics tonight in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series at TD Garden, according to multiple reports.

The series is tied at 2.

Rondo, the Bulls point guard who played the first two game of the series, was reportedly going to try and test the thumb tonight but told reporters Wednesday morning he couldn’t play. 

Game 6 is Friday in Chicago. Game 7, if necessary, is Sunday in Boston.  Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg called Rondo's return a "longshot."

More to come. 
 

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

POLITICO sees Epstein as potential savior for Democrats

A piece that ran on POLITICO Wednesday morning explored an interesting possibility: A potential political career for longtime baseball executive Theo Epstein. 

The piece, titled “Could Theo Epstein Perform a Miracle for the Democrats?” comes a month after Fortune magazine ranked the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on its annual ranking of the world’s greatest leaders. In the POLITICO article, Ben Strauss, in addition to noting the 43-year-old’s accomplishments with the Red Sox and Cubs, hits on several instances in which Epstein’s leadership has been mentioned in relation to politics. 

Strauss then goes on to interview CNN senior political commentator (and Cubs fan) David Axelrod about whether Epstein could be a saving grace with “Democrats on the lookout for a new generation of talent.”

The interview sees both POLITICO and Axelrod compare Epstein to Barack Obama. Says Axelrod: 

They both have two kinds of intelligence: emotional intelligence and a more linear intelligence. They both have the self-confidence to surround themselves with very smart people. Theo’s had a core group around him (general manager Jed Hoyer and head of amateur scouting Jason McLeod) since the beginning in Boston. It’s striking how much he relishes smart people around him and has the confidence to be challenged...Obama had it, too. I would add that Epstein has learned on the job. In Boston he was a pioneer [in using statistical analysis]...He’s told me that he used to be dismissive of the touchy-feely stuff [in evaluating baseball players], but now his scouts write five-page essays about the guys they’re going to draft. In the same way, Obama would tell you he was a better president at the end of eight years than at the beginning. He was smart enough to learn on the job, too.

Asked whether Epstein could win a statewide race for governor or Senate in Illinois, Axelrod replied, “Yeah, he could,” but questions whether Epstein has “the desire to hold public office.”

“I think Theo would be frustrated in public office because of the situation he’s in now,” Axelrod said. “He basically has free rein to do what he needs to do for the success of the organization. That is not the case in politics—you’re seeing that with the governor in Illinois (Bruce Rauner) right now. You have to deal with legislatures and all kinds of public stakeholders. And if you’re used to making things happen, I’m not sure the Senate would be a particularly satisfying job for you. When I talked to him on my podcast...about what he might want to do next...he allowed that he might want to own a team sometime and use that team or use that platform to try to impact on a community. He clearly cares about the larger world and wants to make an impact...But there are many, many reasons I think Cubs fans can relax and enjoy the benefits of his leadership for many years to come.”