Celtics Not Making Excuses
As Doc Rivers suggested following the Celtics' 83-81 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, no one is going to feel sorry for his team as it attempts to overcome a rash of injuries that has brought down a number of key players, which means there's no time for excuses these days. Jermaine O'Neal, who's steadily been improving on the court since his Christmas Day return, echoed a similar statement (Courtesy of The Boston Herald):
"If we want to be a championship-caliber team then you can't have excuses," Jermaine O'Neal said. "The conversation coming into the season was how deep we are. When Kevin's out for a while and Rondo's been out, do we say we should lose? No, we don't say that."
As I've said in the past (because this certainly isn't the first time in the last three seasons this team has dealt with these types of injuries) it's all well and good to say the right things, which the Celtics are doing, but it only gains substance when those words are turned into actions on the court and we see results in the win column. Let's see how they fare tonight against the 11-21 Toronto Raptors.
Luke Harangody Looks to Make Impact
The Celtics' rookie, taken in the second round of last year's draft, played a career-high 13 minutes against the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, and made his impact felt during two key stretches (one in each half) in which Boston's bench retook the lead for the club. His effort was not unlike what we used to expect out of a young Glen Davis.
So as Davis got drafted up to the starting unit in place of the injured Garnett on Friday, it was Harangody trying to fill a Big Baby-like void on the second unit. And despite only 48 minutes of NBA court time to his credit over the first 30 games of the season, Harangody gave a glimpse of why the Celtics were willing to offer the late second-round pick a two-year contract this past summer.
Doc praised Harangody's effort after the game, citing how hard he was playing, even against larger and stronger opponents like Emeka Okafor. He finished the game with four rebounds, including one offensive rebound that he turned into two points.
Pierce Fined $15,000
I posted this as a fanshot yesterday, but more details have been revealed. Pierce was fined $15,000 by the NBA for throwing an object into the stands when the Celtics were playing the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. It has been determined that the object was a piece of gum Pierce had been chewing on. Pierce drew two early fouls in the first quarter against the Pacers, and the incident occurred as he was retreating to the bench. While it was likely an act of frustration, I don't think we can condone this behavior.
Checking Out the Standings
A quick glance at the Eastern Conference standings shows the Celtics and the Heat are now deadlocked at the top. Boston stands at 24-7, while Miami's right there at 26-9, having won five straight games. However, the Celtics' winning percentage (.774) is just slightly better than Miami's (.773). The Chicago Bulls, meanwhile, are coming on strong as well, despite the absence of Joakim Noah. Winners of four in a row, the Bulls now boast a 22-10 record and are just 2.5 games behind the Celtics and the Heat. And we can't discount the 21-12 Magic, either. Despite its early struggles with the newly put together unit, the Magic have now won five straight games, including a Christmas Day victory against the Celtics, and are only four games behind the Celtics and Heat.
Other Quick Notes
- Rajon Rondo is once again listed as questionable for tonight's game against the Toronto Raptors. The point guard has missed seven straight games with a sprained left ankle (on top of lingering hamstring and foot issues).
- Caron Butler of the Dallas Mavericks (currently second in the Western Conference) injured his right knee last night, and head coach (and former Celtic) Rick Carlisle said the injury might be serious.