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Fast Break: Celtics-Magic

12.25.09 at 5:23 pm ET
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If Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has his way, the NBA would make like the rest of the world and take Christmas Day off. He has a point, but for the last two decades Dec. 25 has become the NBA’s early-season showcase event and there’s no chance of that changing anytime soon.The way his team played against the Celtics, he may get his wish.

Without Paul Pierce, the Celtics played a different brand of basketball than has been their norm this season. There was very little flash and not much in the way of offensive efficiency. Instead the Celtics played gritty, grind-it-out halfcourt hoops with a heavy emphasis on defense. It was playoff-style basketball, if not playoff-style execution. The Magic, meanwhile, played like they would have rather been knocking back some eggnog with the family.

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t anything that the NBA would want to put in its highlight packages, but for the Celtics this 86-77 win was their biggest of the season. The Magic have owned this matchup recently, but with Kevin Garnett back to check Rashard Lewis and Rajon Rondo playing far more aggressively than he has against Orlando, the Celtics were able to escape with the victory.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. Every time you think you have Rondo figured out, he does something to make you think otherwise. He has been one the game’s best distributors as a point guard, but he has struggled against Orlando. The Magic didn’t even pretend to guard Rondo on the perimeter. They ducked under screens and gave him a 10-foot cushion at the top of the key.

So, Rondo adjusted. Instead of looking to set up his teammates he attacked the basket throughout the first half. The result was a 13-point, zero-assist half. Rondo then completely reversed course and racked up eight assists in the second half. He dictated the outcome instead of allowing the Magic to take him out of the game.

Turning Point: With Garnett out of the game the Magic were able to attack the offensive glass in the fourth quarter. In one sequence they had four shots at the basket from deep inside the paint. Finally, Rasheed Wallace was able to tap the ball out to Rondo, who found Tony Allen on the break for a vicious dunk. It was a huge four-point swing.

* Glen Davis was limited to a few minutes in the first half, mainly because of foul trouble. He’s not in game shape yet, but he was able to soak up a few minutes and allowed Doc Rivers to rest Kevin Garnett and keep him on his regular rotation.

* You take the good with the bad when it comes to Tony Allen, and he offered a little bit of both starting for Paul Pierce. He went to the basket hard and did what he could on Vince Carter. He also turned into a bit of a ball stopper at times on offense. The good far outweighed the bad, however, and Allen continued his strong play of late with 16 points.

* Kendrick Perkins is one of the few individuals on the planet who can play Dwight Howard straight up. It’s past time that NBA officials recognized that and let him play. Instead, Perkins spent most of the afternoon on the bench in foul trouble. As ragged as the play was at times, the officials helped create the environment.

* The Celtics desperately missed Pierce’s ability to create good shots for himself down the stretch. Without Pierce they lack a closer.

* Garnett took a hard fall late in the game, but it appeared that it didn’t have anything to do with his knee.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Magic,

Pierce out two weeks

12.23.09 at 4:06 pm ET
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Paul Pierce is expected to miss the next two weeks following an arthroscopic procedure Wednesday on his right knee to clean a knee infection at New England Baptist Hospital this morning, the Celtics announced in a press release.

Celtics Team Physician Dr. Brian McKeon performed the procedure, which was termed “arthroscopic irrigation.” There was no reported structural damage to the knee and Pierce is expected to make a full recovery.

The 6’€™7’€ forward, has played in every game this season for the Celtics and is averaging a team-high 18.2 points.

He is currently shooting a career-high 47.3% from three-point land and is ranked fifth in the NBA. The Kansas product netted a season-high 33 points against the Knicks on November 22.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce,

Troy Murphy gets it right on Rondo

12.23.09 at 10:50 am ET
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Not sure if everyone’s noticed an emerging trend in the NBA where a large number of players stop short of giving Rajon Rondo his props. Indiana’s Danhtay Jones spoke for many who have conveyed similar statements when he said Tuesday night, “They have a great team. He compliments the guys around him. He’s a part of a great machine.”

There’s a couple of things happening in that quote. One, the players meme is that Rondo is beyond lucky to be on a team like the Celtics with veteran superstars and two, he’s a complimentary player.

The first part may be true. The second part not so much. At the very least Rondo is the third-most important player on the roster and you can make a strong argument that he is actually the most important. That’s not to call out Jones. Lots of players have made similar statements, and some in harsher tones than what  Jones said after a tough loss.

Troy Murphy, however, got it just about right.

“He just kills your whole gameplan because you don’t know where he’s going to be,” Muprhy said. “He’s all over the place. He’s taking chances. He just creates havoc out there. He’s tough.”

Rondo leads the league in steals, which is part of taking chances and creating havoc, yet he’s doing it while playing “more solid” as Doc Rivers has pointed out several times. There are no metrics for staying under control both offensively and defensively, but that’s what Rondo is doing this year, while still maintaining his creativity offensively and his gameplan destroying nature defensively.

In other words, he’s putting it all together. People will start to notice soon off. Even the other players.

Read More: Dahntay Jones, Rajon Rondo, Troy Murphy,

C’s can’t be Mickey Mouse on this trip

12.23.09 at 1:45 am ET
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Doc Rivers figured his team would be distracted on Tuesday for their game against the nine-win Indiana Pacers.

The Celtics and their families were planning to fly to Orlando on Wednesday morning for a trip to Orlando, two days in advance of their Christmas Day game against the Magic.

Then add to that the fact Kevin Garnett was a late scratch, and the Celtics coach figured the start of the game would be a tough go. He was right. His team basically slept-walked through the first half, falling down 15 points on their home court.

‘€œBasically all I told them at halftime was that our defense was awful and our effort was awful, and our offense was fine,” Rivers said. “We were missing good shots for the most part.  But we couldn’€™t get any early baskets because they scored every time down.  And so it was a walk-up-the-floor game for us and they were running it down our throats.   Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce,

Doc on KG: ‘He wasn’t thrilled’

12.22.09 at 11:37 pm ET
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Doc Rivers was asked the most obvious question in his post-game news conference on Tuesday.

What was the deal with the late scratch of Kevin Garnett from the lineup with a right knee bruise and was it related to the knee injury of last year?

‘€œWell I made up ‘€“ I didn’€™t tell the players at all,” Rivers said. “I never told them.  They were ‘€“ it was funny, because I don’€™t think they realized it, maybe until the starting lineup and until Kevin didn’€™t come out on the floor.  I just didn’€™t think it was anything ‘€“ I didn’€™t want them thinking.  I just wanted them to go out and play.  And I decided when we went in that walk-through right before.  Just the way he was walking.  And I just told Rasheed (Wallace) and Kevin to switch spots.  And I hadn’€™t told Kevin at that point.  I just told him to go to the second unit; let Rasheed walk through the stuff.  And then after that I told him that I was shutting him down.

Rivers admitted that Garnett wasn’t too happy with not playing.

‘€œAh, he wasn’€™t thrilled with it, but I think he’€™s better this year than he was last year,” Rivers said. “You know, yesterday he actually sat down in the practice and Paul (Pierce) walked over to him and said, ‘€˜Wow, someone’€™s growing up.’€™  You know, instead of fighting through it.  He’€™s such a ‘€“ has that warrior mentality, sometimes it’€™s to his detriment.  And yesterday he did a good job.  You know he wanted to fight it today and then he kind of just said, ‘€˜You’€™re right.’€™’€

And when did Garnett get hurt?

‘€œSince Memphis,” Rivers added. “He said that’€™s where he got it hit.  And of course he hadn’€™t told anyone until I think today, or yesterday he told (trainer) Eddie (Lacerte).’€

Read More: Kevin Garnett, NBA,

Wallace Makes Unexpected Return to Starting Five

12.22.09 at 11:31 pm ET
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It had been nearly eight months since Rasheed Wallace found himself in this position.

Wallace had not started a game since April 26, when the Pistons were eliminated by the Cavaliers in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. Back then, Wallace had hours to prepare. On Tuesday night, he didn’t have the same luxury when he was called upon to start in place of Kevin Garnett, who was suffering from a bruised right thigh.

‘€œKG’s telling me his leg is a little sore, so I knew it was a 50-50 chance,’€ Wallace explained after the game. ‘€œSo its just preparing yourself mentally, and I found out about maybe 10-20 minutes before our meeting started.’€

After establishing himself as the leader of the second unit this season, Wallace was thrown into a situation he had never been in before in Boston. He had to quickly shift his mindset to adjust to his new role and new matchups to make his first start as a Celtic.

‘€œIt’€™s a different preparation,’€ he said. ‘€œYou know when you’€™re coming off the bench, you’€™re looking more at the guys that they have coming off of the bench. At first I was more focused on [Tyler] Hansborough and what they have coming. But I had to turn that focus to [Roy] Hibbert and [Troy] Murphy and try to do what I can with them.’€

Wallace jumped out early in the first quarter. He scored five points (including a three-pointer), grabbed five rebounds, and dished two assists in the first 12 minutes. Hibbert was held scoreless while Murphy posted only three points.

He honed in on defense as the game went on. Wallace nabbed seven boards in the second half to finish the game with nine points and 13 rebounds. He banged his shoulder and was sidelined as Murphy got hot late in the final two quarters. But fortunately for the Celtics, the other starters picked up the pace while their leading rebounder was on the bench.

‘€œIt’s cool. A little sore but nagging injuries, I’m good,’€ he said of his shoulder, which was wrapped in ice after the game. ‘€œLord knows [how it happened], scuffling around in there with those big guys and came up a little bit sore. But I’m alright though. It’s all normal.’€

Although his start was unexpected, the Celtics like what they saw from his impromptu performance. Once the first unit gelled with their new member ‘€” Doc Rivers was happy to see them making the extra pass ‘€” they clicked with Wallace in the lineup.

‘€œHe’s just got like a totally different focus [as a starter],’€ Kendrick Perkins said. ‘€œHe goes out there and rebounds, his defens[ive] energy is up, and he just goes out there and does the little things. He doesn’t worry about scoring the ball or nothing like that.

“He just goes out there and plays his role to the fullest.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace

Fast Break: Celtics vs. Pacers

12.22.09 at 10:04 pm ET
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BOSTON ‘€“ It was one of the ugliest first half performances the Celtics have displayed in a while. But as they have done so many times, they owned the third quarter to fight back for a 103-94 win over the Pacers on Tuesday night at the Garden.

Turning Point: After being outscored by 15 in the first half, Celtics went on a 31-14 run to take a 73-71 lead off a Rasheed Wallace fastbreak dunk. Kendrick Perkins dropped 13 points in the third quarter alone while Ray Allen added 11 in 12 minutes. The Celtics outscored the Pacers 35-20 in the quarter to get back in the game.

Player of the Game: This win was a combined effort throughout the second half. After Perkins and Allen scored 13 and 11 points in the third, respectively, it was Paul Pierce who got hot late in the game. He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to finish the night with 21.

Kevin Garnett did not play (bruised right thigh) and did not join the Celtics on the bench. According to team sources, the decision was Doc Rivers‘, not Garnett’s. Rasheed Wallace got his first start of the season in place of Garnett.

– The Celtics gave up 57 points in the first half, tying the season-high set by the Suns on November 6. This is the eighth time this season the Celtics have allowed more than 50 points in the first half.

– Perkins was whistled for his 8th technical of the season. He moved ahead of Carmelo Anthony to rank second in the league, behind only Wallace.

– Pierce shot 6-for-6 from three-point range on Sunday. He started Tuesday’s game 0-for-6 from the field.

– Wallace banged his right shoulder in the second half but did return to the game.

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