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Preview: Celtics-Suns

12.30.09 at 10:59 am ET
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It’s funny what a couple of losses can do to a team. Just last weekend everyone was hailing the Celtics resiliency and toughness after they found a way to beat the Magic in Orlando. Now, they’re careless and sloppy and not quite as dominant as everyone thought. Or maybe, they just miss Paul Pierce, especially late in games.

The C’s play the Suns Wednesday night and it’s a matchup that should have been circled back when the schedule came out because it’s two good teams who play an entertaining, but completely different, brand of basketball. If the Celtics lose, which they might, it would be three straight defeats and the ship will be sinking. Or something.

Do they need to tighten up? Absolutely. Do they need to play better? Sure. Are they headed for an inevitable playoff fall after a couple of lackluster games on the road in late December? Um, no. For one night, forget about the playoffs. Forget about wherever this team is eventually heading and just enjoy the hoops.

CELTICS (23-7, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.5

Points Allowed: 91.9

Differential: +8.7 (First)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.9 (10th)

Defensive Efficiency: 99.5 (First)

Pace: 92.0 (21st)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Paul Pierce (knee), Marquis Daniels (wrist), Glen Davis (ankle)

SUNS (20-12, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 109.8

Points Allowed: 106.0

Differential: +3.8 (Ninth)

Offensive Efficiency: 114.6 (First)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.6 (27th)

Pace: 95.8 (Fourth)

Likely Starters: Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Amar’e Stoudemire, Channing Frye

Injuries: None.

Key Matchup: Nash vs. Rondo

Nash won a couple of MVP’s earlier this decade that in retrospect most feel he probably shouldn’t have won. That’s not a knock on Nash who has been one of the game’s great guards of this or any other era, just the reality of suspect MVP voting. What’s interesting, however, is that Nash may be having an even better season than his MVP years. He ranks first in every assist category in the league, and in free throw shooting. He is the top-ranked guard in True Shooting Percentage and Effective Field Goal Percentage and owns the best Offensive Efficiency Rating in the NBA. He’s the key to everything the Suns do and represents yet another test for Rondo.

Celtics in a Paragraph: The Celtics turn the ball over a lot. They average a little more than 15 per game, which puts them in the lower half of the NBA. It’s even worse when you factor in pace where they rank near the very bottom of the league. More than a quarter of their possessions end in turnovers, which puts their 26-turnover performance in a 100-possession game against the Warriors in a little better perspective. That said, turnovers have always been an issue for the Celtics in this era. They had been doing a better job managing them this season, but even a little slippage in this area turns an issue into a full-blown problem.

Suns in a Paragraph: In the past 10 games the Suns have defeated the Lakers, Spurs and Magic and lost to the Blazers, Nuggets and Cavs. They remain a very good team in a hyper-competitive conference that is good enough to beat anyone, but probably not good enough to get to the Finals. That’s a shame for anyone who loves watching well-executed fast-break basketball. Until they break through, their style will always be suspect, but when the Suns did try to play a more conventional game they were not only boring, they were mediocre. For a league that prides itself on its creativity, the NBA can be surprisingly conservative.

What to watch For: Phoenix has four players that have already launched at least 100 3-pointers this season: Nash, Richardson, Frye and former Boston College star, Jared Dudley. Each of them shoot a high percentage, and as a team the Suns are shooting over 42 percent from 3-point range. Not coincidentally, Phoenix owns the best offensive efficiency rating in basketball. The Celtics are the top rated defense in terms of efficiency, so something has to give.

In their first meeting, Phoenix was able to spread the floor with high pick and rolls and with Nash running it there are no good options for defending it. The pressure will be on Rondo to fight through screens and provide pressure on the ball and the Celtics bigs to not leave Frye open for pick and pop jumpers.

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Report: Davis Ankle Injury May Not Be Serious

12.30.09 at 12:18 am ET
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Glen Davis‘ right ankle sprain may not be as serious as first thought, the Boston Globe reported. The injury occurred during Monday’s loss against the Warriors when Davis got tangled up with Rony Turiaf and fell to the ground. He reportedly left Oracle Arena on crutches and wearing a protective boot following the game.

“I haven’t heard anything, which means nothing is serious,” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge told the Globe. “I sent (trainer) Eddie (Lacerte) a text and I haven’t heard anything and usually that means it’s not much.”

In other injury-related news, Ainge told the Globe Paul Pierce will have his right knee evaluated this week, while no definitive date has been set for his return.

The Boston Herald also reported Kevin Garnett, who was kicked in the right leg against the Warriors, and Rajon Rondo, who tweaked his left hamstring, received attention from Lacerte on Tuesday as well. Both players are expected to play on Wednesday against the Suns in Phoenix.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo

Fast Break: Celtics-Warriors

12.29.09 at 1:18 am ET
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Playing the Warriors can sometimes be as much an exercise in restraint as anything else. There are so many open shots and available fast break opportunities that it can be incredibly enticing to settle for the first good thing that presents itself. The Celtics, who play such a tightly controlled form of basketball, were easy marks most of the night, especially after dominating the first quarter.

In retrospect, the first 12 minutes may have been the Celtics’ undoing in a 103-99 loss. (Recap.) Playing one of their best quarters of the season, the Celtics destroyed Golden State and took a 35-22 lead. But while those easy looks remained there all night, the Celtics never settled down and played their game, with 24 turnovers one of the results.

Instead, they played way too fast and way too much like the Warriors wanted them to play at right around 100 possessions. The Celtics average a tick over 91.This is the second time they have succumbed to the temptations of playing run and gun. The Phoenix Suns performed a similar helter-skelter number on the Celtics earlier in the season, although that game was played at a pedestrian pace compared to Monday night’s sprint.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. It’s getting repetitive, but Rondo is the engine and the catalyst that makes the Celtics offense go. The Warriors went with various modifications of the “leave Rondo alone in the halfcourt” defense. Taking a page from the Knicks playbook (via Jared Jeffries), they sometimes utilized 6-foot-10 Anthony Randolph playing way off Rondo and inviting him to shoot. Most of the time, Monta Ellis just sagged off him and hung back in the paint. The result was a 30-point, 15-assist effort for Rondo, who will continue to see gimmick defenses the rest of the season. Better that he sees them now.

Turning Point: In the second quarter, C.J. Watson had six steals and seemed to live in the Celtics passing lanes. He, along with Ronny Turiaf, completely changed the momentum and helped the Warriors get back in the game.

* This was a night when the Celtics dearly missed Paul Pierce. As much as Rondo controls the offense, Pierce acts as the calming influence. Halfcourt calm was in short supply against Golden State.

* In a game that featured a lot of physical play, and some uneven whistles, Glen Davis got hammered going up for a shot and appeared to be in pain when he came off the floor in the fourth quarter. The initial diagnosis was a sprained ankle and he did not return. His comeback was put on an accelerated timetable for this trip and it remains to be seen if he was actually physically ready to return to the court.

* Doc Rivers played a limited rotation and Ray Allen logged 44 minutes. That’s entirely too many, but with the Warriors’ small lineups, it did make sense. Allen’s increased minutes are yet another function of Pierce’s injury.

* Give the Warriors credit for executing correctly in the final seconds. With a three-point lead and five seconds remaining, Golden State intentionally fouled Allen rather then let him attempt a 3-pointer. It remains a mystery why more teams don’t do that automatically.

Read More: Celtics, cj watson, Fast Break, Rajon Rondo

Looking back: KG injury derails Celtics’ season

12.28.09 at 2:04 pm ET
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(WEEI.com is counting down the ‘€œTop 10 Things We Couldn’€™t Shut Up About In 2009,’€ and No. 9 is the Celtics‘ 2008-09 season getting derailed by Kevin Garnett’s knee injury.. Here is a written, visual and audio look at the saga that was the loss of KG.)

No. 10: Bruins get bounced by Hurricanes.

No. 9: Garnett’s knee injury alters Celtics’ fate

Coming off a championship 2007-08 season, Kevin Garnett and the Celtics’€™ spirits were high coming out of the All-Star break in 2009. Garnett had celebrated a 12th consecutive All Star bid and the Celtics trailed only the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference lead. All of this, of course, until February 19.

To Celtics fans, February 19 could almost live in infamy. Just four days following the All Star game, the Celtics began the second half of their season with a road trip out West. The four-game trip began in Utah, where the Celtics had jumped out to a 22-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. It was in thesecond quarter, however, that things in the game, road trip, and season went south.

A second-quarter injury to Garnett’€™s right knee seemed less scary than initially thought. After all, Garnett warmed up as though he would play in the second half, but in the end was kept out in what became a 90-85 loss. Following the game, Garnett said that his knee would require a re-examination.

‘€œI would much rather be playing instead of giving this statement,’€ Garnett said.

As Garnett went on to miss 13 games due to his sprained knee, the Celtics treaded water without the Big Ticket. The team went just 7-6 in the span, including losses to eventual playoff nemeses Chicago and Orlando. Garnett returned to action March 20 in San Antonio, playing just under 15 minutes and contributing 10 points with four boards.

The Green went 3-1 in four games with Garnett back, with the one loss coming against the Magic. The 84-82 defeat would prove to be the final game of Garnett’€™s season, as he went on to miss the final nine game of the Celtics’€™ season. The team looked strong without him, however, as they posted an 8-1 record to finish out the regular season and secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

As rumors began to swirl regarding whether Garnett could potentially contribute in the playoffs, Doc Rivers made it clear that he didn’€™t expect No. 5 to grace the parquet in April and beyond.

“It’s not official that he’s out for the entire playoffs, but it’s official as far as I’m concerned,” the coach said prior to the first round against the Bulls. “I just don’t see how. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.”

The opening round made no liar out of Rivers, as Garnett donned his finest suits throughout the seven-game series that culminated with a 109-99 Celtics victory at the TD Banknorth Garden. If the surprising Bulls had appeared to be all the KG-less Celtics could handle, the Dwight Howard-led Magic could have been Boston’€™s worst nightmare.

Garnett would miss the second round as well, and despite splitting the first two games with the Magic at home, the Celtics took two of three in Orlando behind strong performances by Paul Pierce and Glen Davis. Heading home with a 3-2 series lead, the Green needed just one home victory to send them to Cleveland to face LeBron James and the top-seeded Cavaliers. Davis scored just 19 total points in Games 6 and 7 combined, however, and Hedo Turkoglu buried the Celtics with 25 points in the series-clinching game, a 101-82 Magic victory.

Kevin Garnett, Celtics Forward: Kevin talked about if he had any fears about his injury last year, how the injury was actually a blessing in disguise, if he can tell a difference in his game this year after sitting out a lot of last year, that he is close to where he wants to be but not all the way back, what Rasheed Wallace brings to the Celtics, and that his bowling game is “straight trash”:http://audio.weei.com/m/27476875/kevin-garnett-celtics-forward.htm

Wyc Grousbeck, Celtics Managing Partner: After Doc Rivers broke the news about KG’s playoff status on WEEI, Wyc joined the guys to say how the Celts are a totally different team if KG doesn’t play at all but still believes they can make a run like the 2004 Pistons: http://audio.weei.com/m/22107525/wyc-grousbeck-celtics-managing-partner-governor.htm

Doc Rivers, Celtics Head Coach: Doc breaks the news to D&C that KG is not going to be ready for the 1st round and maybe the whole postseason: http://audio.weei.com/m/22107174/doc-rivers-celtics-head-coach.htm

Donny Marshall, Comcast SportsNet: Donny talked about how the Garnett injury will impact the Celtics as they enter the playoffs this weekend: http://audio.weei.com/m/22099127/donny-marshall-comcast-sportsnet.htm

Preview: Celtics-Warriors

12.28.09 at 10:20 am ET
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Strange things have been known to happen to the Celtics in the city by the bay. Just last year, Stephen Jackson shot the C’s right out of the building in an amazing display that had to be seen to be believed. Of course Captain Jack is no longer with Don Nelson’s F Troop, having sulked/forced his way out of town. Perhaps Jackson is smarter and savvier then he is often given credit for.

With a third of the roster on the injured list, what’s left in Golden State is an odd collection of talent, mismatched in every which way and also said to be very available to anyone who would like anything from a long-range gunner (Anthony Morrow) to a 6-10 ball of weirdness (Anthony Randolph) and everything in between.

The Warriors problems don’t really interest the Celtics all that much who have given away their cushion on this west coast swing with their shoddy late-game performance against the Clippers Sunday night. It is impossible to take the Warriors seriously, but their enigmatic makeup marks them as seriously dangerous. Sometimes.

CELTICS (23-6, 8-2 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.6

Points Allowed: 91.5

Differential: +9.1 (First)

Offensive Efficiency: 109.6 (Sixth)

Defensive Efficiency: 99.3 (First)

Pace: 91.8 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Paul Pierce (knee surgery), Marquis Daniels (thumb surgery)

WARRIORS (8-21, 2-8, last 10)

Points Per Game: 107.2

Points Allowed: 112.3

Differential: -5.1 (26th)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.4 (19th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.4 (26th)

Pace: 101. 4 (First)

Likely Starters: Monta Ellis, Steph Curry, Anthony Morrow, Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph

Injuries: Kelenna Azubuike (knee surgery), Raja Bell (wrist surgery), Andris Biedrinis (ab strain), Mikki Moore (heel surgery), Brandan Wright (shoulder surgery) Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics Clipped At Buzzer

12.28.09 at 12:21 am ET
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The Celtics took their league-leading road record to Los Angeles and had it snapped by the Clippers, 92-90, on Sunday.

Player of the Game: Baron Davis iced the victory for the Clippers. Down 90-87, he drove the lane late in the fourth quarter to find Rasual Butler open behind the arc for a game-tying trey. Davis fouled Rondo on the following possession, but after Rondo missed the chance to put Boston ahead, Davis drained the game-winning jumper. He led all players with 24 points (7-11 FG, 9-9 FT).

Turning Point: Tied at 90 apiece, Rondo drew a foul on Davis with 1.5 seconds left to go. Rondo, who is shooting less then 54 percent from the line this season, missed both. Davis responded to his foul by knocking down the game-winning jumper over Rondo as time expired.

– The Celtics shot 1-for-12 from long range (8.3 percent). Rasheed Wallace was 0-for-6.

– The Celtics were outrebounded, 14-8, in the first quarter but bounced back to outrebound the Clippers, 11-5, in the second. Boston posted a 37-33 advantage on the boards for the game.

Tony Allen posted 10 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

Kevin Garnett started the game 0-for-5, including a missed alley-oop. He went on to finish 5-of-13 from the floor.

– The Celtics fell to 4-1 on  Sundays.

Celtics reassign Hudson to Red Claws

12.26.09 at 3:43 pm ET
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The Celtics reassigned rookie Lester Hudson to the NBA Development League’s Maine Red Claws, the team announced on Saturday. This will be Hudson’s second D-League stint this season. He was assigned to the Red Claws earlier this month and averaged 16.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in three games.

‘€œI learned a lot,’€ he previously told WEEI.com about his first assignment. ‘€œI learned a lot about the pick-and-roll, team defense. Those were things my coach, (head coach) Doc [Rivers] and (President of Basketball Operations) Danny [Ainge] told me to work on so I tried to work on that and I think I got a little better at that. I’€™ve just got to work hard on every possession. I got in a little better shape because I was playing a lot of minutes in those three games, so I’€™m going to try not to get out of shape.’€

Click here to read more about Hudson’s time with the Red Claws.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Lester Hudson, Maine Red Claws,
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