NBA Monday Roundup: Celtics Back on Track; Knicks Slip by Hornets

Thomas HalzackAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2009

NBA Monday Night Round Up 1.12.09


Welcome to a career high Okur-rence, two overtimes, and a few Oh mans.


Mr. Boston Beats Canadian club


Boston (31-9) Has More Truth Than Toronto (16-23) Can Handle: 115-109 in OT

‘Mr. Boston’ Paul Pierce connected for 39 points (nine in overtime) to down the Toronto Raptors in a tightly contested game. Paul was 13-26, with nine rebounds, and four assists—all while playing with a very sore leg.

Both teams drained shot after shot. And they wouldn’t stop at normal closing time. After Paul Pierce made one of two free throws, an Andrea Bargnani three-point shot tied it at 93 when the last call was made.

Overtime found both teams over-tired as they did not defend very well.

The TDBanknorth Garden was like The Dew Drop Inn, the way they were hitting shots.

Both teams finished over 40 percent from the three-point line and near 50 percent (48 percent) for the game. Both teams scored in triple digits, though it took two final calls for both teams to get there.

What’s a Roko Ukic?

He is the Raptors 6' 5" twenty-four-year old point guard from Croatia. He scored 16 points, including nine-straight Toronto points in the last two and a half minutes of overtime to nearly ruin the Celtics strong finish.

Rajon Rondo might want to find out. He was supposed to be guarding Ukic when he drove to the basket three straight times sandwiched around a made three-point shot. Rondo must have been tired or hurt or…tired.

Back-to-back, away-and-home series are rare. But that is what the scheduling gods had the Celtics and Raptors play.

The Celtics headed home to make it a double shot of winning. The Celtics designated drivers scored 52 points in the paint to 30 for the jumpshooting Toronto team.

Boston’s Three Stars—it is Still About Them

Ray Allen’s 36 points led Boston on Sunday. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce keyed the win in Boston on Monday night.

In addition to scoring 20 points with 12 rebounds, Garnett was the Celtics’ defense. He played Raptors’ leading scorer Chris Bosh very tough, including a block on Bosh with the Raptors down two and trying to tie with four minutes left. He had an even bigger block on Joey Graham with Toronto down two (88-90) with 48 seconds left in regulation.

Pierce stepped up with a very sore leg to drop 39 points (Celtics’ season-high) in a game where a pesky Raptors’ team that would not quit. Paul was 3-8 from three-point land. He did have five turnovers, but made 10-11 foul shots, including some high-pressure ones.

With Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal both injured, both teams were without their starting centers. The Celtics started 6’9" Brian Scalabrine as they did two days ago, while 7’0” Andre Bargnani has been starting for Jermaine O’Neal for about two weeks. Scalabrine scored 11 points, while Bargnani led Toronto with 23 points.

Jose Calderon, the Raptors’ starting point guard, was also kept out of this game with an injury. 6’1" Will Solomon started in his place, scoring 11 points with five assists.

Though they trailed for three quarters, the Celtics finished strong enough to win two in row for the first time since their winning streak ended on Christmas Day. Even without Perkins, they looked pretty good, though their defense seemed to disappear in overtime.

Jamario Moon plays an effective, disruptive defense most of the time. If he can start to hit shots more consistently he will become a staple in this league.

Big Minutes

The Celtics need to rebuild their winning ways, so Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo all played about 40 minutes or more in this one. The Celtics’ bench is still unsteady.

Danny Ainge is expected to make a deal (trade or free-agent signing) for roster help within the next month. The word from Doc Rivers is that something other than a traditional trade is more likely. No one wants their bench players, he said. Doc most wants a legitimate center to back up Perkins.

The Celtics brought back Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens from the D-league. I’m hoping that 6’6" Walker will get a chance to play with Gabe Pruitt and Eddie House on the second unit, while Tony Allen recovers from his sprained ankle. He was among the D-league stars while he was there. The Celtics need more from their bench for the long regular season. Stay tuned.


Utah’s (23-15) Devastating Okur-rence Beats Indiana (13-25): 120-113

One team’s disappointment or flawed player is another team’s core player. Jerry Sloan has solidified a perennial playoff team with a few vaguely wanted players. Gordon Giricek was one. He was traded for another named Kyle Korver that has also done well in Utah. Matt Harpring seemed like the guy with acne at the teen dance who was running out of dates, after being passed around three teams in his first four years. He came to Utah and had a solid career.


Mehmet Okur was showing flashes of what he could do at Detroit with Larry “I-don’t-like-Euro-style-players-and-Rookies” Brown. But he was moved around from starter to bench to starter to whatever. Brown wanted to change him into a post player, if I recall correctly.

I just watched him drain jumpshots on the heads of the defenseless Indiana Pacers for 43 points, his career high. Three for four from the three-point line, Okur finished 13-19 from the floor, but more amazing, was 14-15 from the foul line. He was unstoppable. It was something to see, unless you were Jim O’Brien.

Mehmet Okur scored 43 points. Not impressed you say? Look who he did it against, right? Then how about this—he did it in 28 minutes, and grabbed nine rebounds and managed to pass for three assists along the way. I wonder if Larry Brown wants him back. I heard he is looking for a center for Charlotte.

Ever think that a Jim O’Brien team would be second to last in defense? (Andy Rooney voice) Me neither. Either the talent is really that bad, (probably), or they have started to tune Jim out, (improbably). I opt for the first option. One more thing—did you expect to hear that Danny Granger is fourth in the league in scoring this season? Me neither. The technical term for him is…‘really good.’ Now, if they can get some better players around him.


New Jersey (19-19) Outlasts Oklahoma City (6-33): 103-99 OT

The night’s second overtime game puts the Nets even at .500 …again.

Brook Lopez gave the best answer why the Nets didn’t match the Thunder’s offer for former Net Nenad Krstic. He scored 31 points for his very young career-high, grabbed 13 rebounds, and blocked two shots. (Lopez is among the league leaders in blocks). Lopez will only get better and brings a true big man presence, something Krstic could not.

But if Krstic can take the losing, he should be able to flourish in OKC.

After losing 9-12 games, the Nets have won their last 4-6, but almost didn’t.


Coach Frank almost lost the game for the Nets by running on the court and calling a timeout as Vince Carter sank a jump shot that would have won the game in regulation. The shot went in, but was called off because of Frank’s timeout. Coach Frank apologized to his players in the timeout and asked them to go out and get the game back in overtime. Luckily they did that, starting the OT with a 7-0 run. Whew.


New York (14-22) Out Passes New Orleans (22-12): 101-95

The chameleon Knicks are at it again. Can you figure them out?

Remember when they beat the Celtics…by playing incredible team defense?

They beat another top team. This time they decided they should be a passing team. Not one or two passes. Not three, four, five, six, or seven passes, but 30 assists on 39 baskets. You can’t make this up.

The Hornets were stunned.

After beating the Celtics with defense they will never play again this season (unless they play the Celtics) they lost to the Thunder, Mavericks, and Rockets.

The last road game before going home in New Orleans when you’re 5–14 on the road and the Hornets are 12-4 at home, should mean an easy win for the Hornets. Of course not, Quigley. So it looks like one in every four games, this Knick team will play hard and smart enough to beat anyone. I guess that’s improvement.

What is next? D’Antoni’s Knicks play slow down, deliberate basketball and beat the Spurs?

Seriously, I think D’Antoni is doing some serious motivation experimentation in the Knicks’ heads. He must be writing a book. That’s it. He’s writing a book. The Puppet Master.

Really seriously, Coach D’Antoni has just gone up two levels to the fascinating category with me. He obviously sees that the quick three-point offense won’t get it done with this roster. So he goes back to the lab and shoots some bolts of electricity into the team that changes their brain patterns.

Players start to grunt "Uhmmm, passing… good. Yeessss, me pass now."

D’Antoni wrings his hands while muttering, "Muahaha."

"Okay men. Let’s go play New Orleans."

(If this gets printed, I guess I’ll never get a press pass to the Knicks locker room.)


Milwaukee (19-21) Overtakes Washington (7-30): 97-91

For the twelfth time this season, the Wizards blew a lead in the 4th quarter. Before the year started, after looking at the stats for last season, I asked what was holding this team up. Their perimeter defense was terrible. They weren’t a good rebounding team. They didn’t do anything exceptionally well. But I thought "Hey. They must be doing something right."

The preseason and early season games showed that something was awry. There was literally no passing and very little energy in the players.

But I never expected this collapse. With Haywood, Arenas, and Stevenson injured, they should be bad. But this bad?

I know one thing. Caron Butler played 37 minutes and had no assists. Even if you’re hurt, you can pass the ball. Even if some shots are missed (Mike James 2-12), Nick Young made 12-19 shots for 30 points, a career high. Pass the ball to him. He’s got that herky-jerky kind of thing going on. But it seems like it works. Now if he will just rebound a little (none in 31 minutes). One guy has no assists in 30-plus minutes. One guy has no rebounds in 30-plus minutes. There is something wrong here.

On the other hand, Michael Redd had 29 points to lead the Bucks. This Scott Skiles team (300th win tonight) is doing as well as they can and better than I thought they would. Luke Ridnour has been fairly steady and taken control of the point guard spot. He’s got a talented understudy in D-league poster boy, Ramon (pronounced Ra-mahn) Sessions, watching and learning.

Skiles has his new team two games ahead of his old team (Chicago) in the division at the moment.

Portland (23-14) Over Chicago (16-22): 109-95

Speak of the Bulls….

Drew Gooden is back as well as Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich is playing for the first time all season. One of the Bulls’ problems is defense (102.9 points allowed) and they give up the second most (Warriors are first) offensive rebounds in the league. Bulls have lost 5-7 including an overtime loss to the Thunder recently.

Talent is there, but Vinny Del Negro has to figure out who is in and who is out. Rumors have them trying to trade Larry Hughes. Surprise.

With Derrick Rose entrenched at PG, will Hinrich be a useful off guard? Luol Deng hasn’t really gotten comfortable in this new season with the new point guard. Ben Gordon has been very consistent offensively as the starting two guard. What happens now with captain Kirk back?

They are still trying to figure things out. Tyrus Thomas has been more productive this season, as well. Too bad they can’t convince him to be a low post player.

Portland is the best offensive rebounding teams in the league (13 per game).

Portland prevails for its third straight win as bench player Outlaw scores 33 points (three less than his career high) with 4-5 from the arc, grabs seven boards, and blocks three shots for good measure.

Greg Oden has a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Steve Blake continues to be solid if not spectacular with 10 assists, 16 points, 3 three-pointers, and three steals. He is shooting a career best 43 percent from the arc this season.

Portland (and Olympic) Coach Jim McMillian were given credit by LeBron James recently for helping him be a better defensive player from the time with the Olympic team. I wonder how that makes Cavs coach Mike Brown feel? I thought that a bit odd.

That is everything for Monday. P.J. Brown…please call the Celtics.










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