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Perkins: Cavs better without Shaq

03.13.10 at 3:37 pm ET
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There is no denying that Shaquille O’€™Neal is one of the most challenging big men to go up against in the NBA. But in the case of the Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins thinks they are better suited without him.

The Cavaliers are 6-1 since O’€™Neal suffered a sprained thumb on February 25 against the Celtics. While it should be noted that wins during that stretch came against the sub-.500 Knicks, Nets, Pistons, and 76ers, Perkins believes that the Cavaliers have more options and speed without O’€™Neal.

‘€œIn my opinion, I think they’€™re better,’€ he said after practice on Saturday. ‘€œThey can run more, you’€™ve got Anderson Varejao who’€™s more of an active body, he gets LeBron open a lot, opens up the paint for him, so I think they’€™re a better team. I mean obviously Shaq could help them, but I think they’€™re a better, more fast-paced team.’€

Even without O’€™Neal on the court, Perkins will still have hands full in the paint. Anderson Varejao isn’€™t as big as O’€™Neal, but he causes problems for opponents in his own way.

‘€œYou’€™ve just got to take him out of the game,’€ said Perkins. ‘€œI think you’€™ve got to, all the time he’€™s more of the instigator. I think you’€™ve got to be more of the instigator when you’€™re playing against him. You’€™ve got to hit him first. He’€™s a guy who flops, gets a lot of calls, takes charges, offensive rebounds, so I think you’€™ve just got to keep a body on him and play against him hard.’€

Varejao is averaging 11.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two games against the Celtics this season, compared to 8.0 points and 6.0 rebounds from O’€™Neal.

Read More: Anderson Varejao, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins

Cavs measuring stick for Celtics?

03.13.10 at 3:18 pm ET
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Over the years, the Celtics have served as a measuring stick for their opponents. A win over the Big Three and Company has signified to many that they have what it takes to run with the best.

“The Celtics get the best game out of everybody they play,” Jamal Crawford said following a Hawks win over the C’€™s in January. “They are one of the best teams in the NBA and it’s a good measuring stick.”

‘€œI guess it just proves that we should have high expectations and we should continue to work hard and if we play hard ‘€“ I think that’€™s the biggest thing,’€ Steve Nash said after the Suns dealt the Celtics their first loss of the season.

But the Celtics are no longer at the top of the East. On Saturday, they were nine games behind the Cavaliers for first in the conference. That makes Sunday’€™s game in Cleveland that much more meaningful. A win on the Cavs home court, where the Cavs are 28-4, would be significant to the Celtics.

‘€œI’€™m looking forward to the game, seeing exactly where we’€™re at, just going out there and competing,’€ said Kendrick Perkins after practice on Saturday. ‘€œThey’€™re a great team, they’€™re at home, best in the NBA, just seeing where we’€™re at. I think it would be a great confidence boost for us if we could go in their home building and get a win.”

Perkins is quick to point out, however, that while a victory in Cleveland would help their confidence, the Celtics are not measurng their success against that of the Cavs. He says that using a game against the Cavs to assess the Celtics performance is like role reversal “in a way,” but the Cavaliers still have a lot to prove too.

“They still haven’€™t won anything, they’€™re just the best team in the league,’€ he said. ‘€œThey still haven’€™t done anything we haven’€™t done, so right now they’€™re just the best team in the league and we’€™ve got to go at them.’€

The Celtics will play the Cavs at 3:30 on Sunday. The season series is tied 1-1.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins,

KG, Pierce get to heart of the matter

03.12.10 at 11:41 pm ET
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The two players Doc Rivers pointed to as the keys to the playoff fortunes of the Celtics were all business on Friday.

And it started hours before they dismantled the Indiana Pacers, 122-103, at TD Garden.

It began with a team meeting in which Doc Rivers spoke and then asked for any and all feedback from everyone in the room.

“We really had a heart-to-heart this morning. To tell you the truth it really left a bad taste in our mouth the way we played last game,” Paul Pierce said of Wednesday’s 111-91 stinker to Memphis. “Nobody wants to be booed at home by their home crowd seeing everybody leave early. That really sat with me that night to be honest. I think it sat with everybody. Today we just came in, talked to each other, we just played like a team that was on a mission tonight and hopefully it can carry over for the rest of the season.’€

Kevin Garnett said Friday’s team chat was productive on many different levels.

“Just open dialogue this morning. Doc did the majority of the talking but he opened up the floor to everybody to give their two cents and we just spoke freely. It was the first time in a while that we’€™ve done that, we usually talk among ourselves and try to figure things out amongst the team without coaches or any other staff members. But today it included coaches and players, and just had open dialogue, it wasn’€™t anything negative, just general conversation about defensive schemes and things we can get better at.”

Rivers said before Friday’s game that the team did some old-fashioned film watching, reviewing whole parts of Wednesday’s horror show to let it sink in and let players understand the big picture of intensity and energy. Both were in high supply in Friday’s bounce-back laugher.

“We watched a little game film which is always good, that way as a whole we can sit there and critique each other,” Garnett said. “I think the best thing about this team since I’€™ve been here is that we’€™ve all been able to talk to one another and critique each other and be positive and get results out of it. It wasn’€™t just about the talking, I think what we talked about we actually did tonight. I think we played with 200 percent more energy tonight than obviously the other night.

“And to concur with what Paul said, you never want to be in a situation where you’€™re getting booed at home, home is supposed to be where you lay your head at and where you’€™re most comfortable at. We had to re-establish that here. I thought tonight, the results of us playing hard came out, obviously we hit some shots tonight. We watched the film from the Memphis game and what it came down to, pretty much our defensive energy was there, we just didn’€™t make any shots, and for that it’s almost like we weren’€™t doing anything on offense. It was determined by our energy on defense, and that can’t happen.’€

Read More: Celtics, Pacers, Paul Pierce,

Fast Break: Celtics 122, Pacers 103

03.12.10 at 10:00 pm ET
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After losing by 20 to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, the Celtics bounced back and were up by as many points at halftime over the Pacers en route to a convincing 122-103 victory over the Pacers on Friday at TD Garden. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points. Roy Hibbert led all players with 23.

The Celtics bench outscored the Pacers reserves, 54-38. They had a 26-12 advantage in the first half alone.

Turning Point: There were seven lead changes in the first quarter before Nate Robinson picked off a bad pass with 45 seconds left and nailed a three. It gave the Celtics a six-point lead that they never surrendered.

Player of the Game: Robinson shot 5-for-6 from behind the arc and finished the game with 15 points. His energy sparked the Celtics late in the first quarter and carried into the second quarter, where they led by as many as 21 points. Robinson scored more points in seven minutes than he had in the past four games combined.

– The Celtics scored 38 points in the second quarter to top their previous season-high of 37, set on December 10 against the Wizards. They tied their season-high in any quarter, having previously scoring 38 points on three other occasions (most recently in the first quarter on February 23 against the Knicks).

Glen Davis scored 15 points in 20 minutes. He had not scored more than seven points in any of the last three games.

– Gino made an appearance with 2:25 left in the game and the Celtics up 120-99. Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace watched the video together.

– The Celtics won the regular season series with the Pacers, 2-1. They previously won on December 22 (103-94) and lost on November 14 (113-104).

– Over 600 tickets were donated for Seats for Soldiers night at TD Garden. Earlier in the day, the Celtics and OmniPresence hosted a video conference for local families with loved  ones stationed in Baghdad, Iraq and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Nate Robinson,

Third quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Pacers

03.12.10 at 9:27 pm ET
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There was no let up in the Celtics in the third quarter on this night. The Celtics led 67-47 at the break and expanded their lead to as many as 25 in the third quarter, taking a 98-78 lead into the final 12 minutes.

Paul Pierce had another seven points in the quarter and leads the Celtics with 20 while Rajon Rondo has 16 points and 11 assists. Former Georgetown star Roy Hibbert is marking his alma mater’s 23-point thrashing of Marquette in the Big East Tournament with a big night. He has 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field to lead Indiana.

The entire second unit, which began the Celtics’ roll on this night late in the first quarter, finished out the third with Michael Finley, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson looking like a smooth functioning unit.

This is the type of rest Doc Rivers would like to give his starters. Up 20 points and cruising late in the second half.

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Pacers,

Second quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Pacers

03.12.10 at 8:47 pm ET
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So, this is why the Celtics traded for Nate Robinson.

He was Vinny Johnson, Vinny DelNegro and Vinny from New York all in one action-packed second quarter. Robinson, playing his most dominant minutes since being acquired from the Knicks at the trading deadline, filled it up in the second quarter with nine of his 12 points as the Celtics outscored Indiana by 14 to take a 67-47 halftime lead. Their 38 points were the most in the second quarter this season.

Robinson drilled all three of his 3-point attempts and has four for the game. Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 13 on 5-of-7 shooting and Rajon Rondo has 10. No wonder, the fans gave the C’s a standing ovation as they headed to the locker room. No boos tonight.

The other notable result of the quarter featured one of the better performances by the second unit in recent memory. The Celtics led 24-23 when the second unit came on late in the first quarter. They left the starters with a 45-32 advantage.

Read More: Celtics, Nate Robinson, Pacers,

Celtics trying to get in shape

03.12.10 at 8:14 pm ET
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Doc Rivers admitted before Friday’s game that he may have given his team too much of a break this season from practice and is thinking of increasing the frequency and intensity of practice as the season winds down.

“I would say I have probably balanced on the wrong side in some ways,” Rivers said. “Obviously, the rest was important but I do think we have to practice more and get more conditioning in. This late in the year, you rarely hear that but I think we’re one of the teams that have to actually do it.”

Read More: Celtics, Conditioning, Doc Rivers,
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