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Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result

11.08.10 at 10:52 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Last week, prior to the Celtics welcoming their former assistant coach Tom Thidodeau and the Chicago Bulls to town, Ray Allen asked a simple question: “Do they know everything we’re running?”

The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.

Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”

The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?

“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”

So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.

So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.

“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”

Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo

Preview: Celtics at Mavericks

11.08.10 at 10:11 am ET
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In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks reached the NBA finals. In 2007, they won 67 games and had the league’s MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. Those two seasons were the best in the 30-year history of the franchise and both ended in massive disappointment. The Mavs lost the finals despite winning the first two games of the series and they lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors the following season in what still ranks as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.

Since then the Mavericks have been good, winning over 50 games each season, but never great. Their best player is 32, their point guard is 37 and six of their eight rotation players are over 30.

They’ll be good again this year. Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can still play and Jason Terry can still score, but their success ultimately depends on whether the rest of the supporting cast can regain some of its past glory.

In the past year-plus, the Mavs have acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. All four have seen better days, but how much they have left holds the key to the Mavs season because their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, had a pin inserted into his broken foot and is out indefinitely.

The Mavericks are still formidable and as the second night of yet another back-to-back, they pose a serious challenge for the Celtics. The C’s have won five straight, including an impressive win over the Thunder Sunday night. This is also their fifth game in seven nights before they get a two-day break and a return date with the Heat on Thursday.

CELTICS (6-1)

OFFENSIVE RATING: 105.4 (NBA rank: 17th)

DEFENSIVE RATING: 98.8 (3rd)

PACE: 91.6 (24th)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injuries: Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out), Avery Bradley (Ankle, out), Shaquille O’Neal (Shin, questionable)

MAVERICKS (3-2)

OFFENSIVE RATING: 104.0 (20th)

DEFENSIVE RATING: 99.7 (5th)

PACE: 93.0 (20th)

Probable Starters: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler

Injuries: Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out)

KEY MATCHUP: Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Of all the matchups Garnett has had throughout his career, Nowitzki has to rank alongside Tim Duncan as one of the best. Their styles are a perfect compliment to each other because few big men have ever defended the perimeter better than Garnett. Nowitzki is still a fantastic player, averaging over 25 points and 9 rebounds early in the season.

KEY NUMBER: Celtics field goal percentage

The Mavs have held teams to just 39 percent shooting in their five games. The Celtics rank near the top of the NBA at 49 percent. If they can shoot somewhere in the middle — 45 percent or better — they’ll have a good chance at getting out Dallas with a win.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

In addition to Nowitzki and Garnett, the Rajon Rondo-Jason Kidd matchup is always good theater and there’s no telling how many miles Ray Allen and Jason Terry will run chasing each over all the court. This is another big test for the Celtics who are slowly building momentum. The Heat await on Thursday, but this is a solid bout before the main event.

Read More: Celtics, Mavericks, Preview,

Fast Break: Celtics silence Thunder

11.07.10 at 10:25 pm ET
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After beating Oklahoma City, 92-83 Sunday night, the Celtics have now won five straight games and six of their first seven, but they have not played a better 24 minutes of basketball than they did in the first half. There’s a decent chance the Celtics won’t play a better 24 minutes all season.

Of course NBA games last longer than 24 minutes and the Thunder made their inevitable run late in the third quarter and into the early stages of the fourth, cutting the Celtics lead to six. But this time it was the bench that saved the day as Glen Davis knocked down a couple of shots.

Ray Allen scored 19 points. Paul Pierce had 17 and Rajon Rondo had a tidy 10 points and 10 assists. The bench outscored OKC’s, 33-12. Add it all up and it equals the Celtics best win of the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Turnovers, or more specifically, the lack of turnovers: It’s really a simple equation for the Celtics. When they don’t turn the ball over they are almost impossible to stop because they shoot such a high percentage and almost everyone on the roster is a shooting threat.

The Celtics turned it over only four times in the first and that helped them build a 58-37 lead. They turned it over four times in the third quarter and that’s when OKC made its run. It’s really that simple for the Celtics right now.

The bench: Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels have been constants for the Celtics this season, but they received contributions from everyone in the rotation Sunday. Nate Robinson had nine points including a buzzer-beater 3 to the end the first half and Semih Erden also gave the Celtics quality minutes. They were even better in the second half as they helped stave off a big OKC run.

Ray Allen has his shot back: Did it ever actually leave? A handful of off shooting nights is no reason to panic when it comes to Allen and he showed again Sunday night why he is one of the best in the business.  Allen knocked down 8-of-16 shots and scored 19 points. He also made big shots. He was on the floor with the reserves in the fourth quarter when the Celtics made their last move, proving once again how valuable he is.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The third quarter: It was unlikely the Celtics would be able to keep up their first-half play for 48 minutes, but they started the second half like they were going to try, opening a 71-51 lead. But the Thunder came right back led by Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who scored 14 of his 34 points.

Second half runs are inevitable after a visiting team opens up a big second-half lead, particularly when the opponent is as good as Oklahoma City. What was encouraging for the Celtics was that they held it off and rebuild the lead.

That was really the only thing that didn’t go right. When you beat Oklahoma City by nine points in their building to start a four-game road trip, there’s not much to apologize for.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Kevin Durant, Thunder

Kevin Garnett on Charlie Villanueva: ‘He’s a nobody’

11.06.10 at 1:12 am ET
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Kevin Garnett said he is tired of talking about his run-in with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva on Tuesday in Boston’s win over the Pistons. Villanueva accused Garnett, via twitter, of calling him a cancer patient during a trash-talking session on the court. Garnett spent Wednesday trying to diffuse the situation, claiming there was a misunderstanding and he simply called the Pistons big man a ‘cancer’ to his team and the NBA.

Friday, Garnett said he’s done talking about it.

“He’s a nobody,” Garnett said. “I’m not paying attention to nobodies any more.”

It has been quite the emotional week for Garnett, who also got into a shoving match with Andrew Bogut the next night in a home-court win over Milwaukee.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons

Doc Rivers thinks Rajon Rondo has ‘mild’ plantar fascitis

11.06.10 at 12:58 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his head trainer Ed Lacerte told him hours before Friday’s tip-off that Rajon Rondo wouldn’t be available to the team in their game against Chicago because of lingering soreness in his left foot.

“[Friday] morning, Eddie told me that Rondo wasn’€™t playing because of his foot,” Rivers said after Friday’s overtime game in which Rondo played 41 minutes, scored 10 points and dished out 11 assists. “And ten minutes later I go down so we can watch film and Rondo said, ‘€˜I’€™m playing; I’€™m fine.’€™”

Asked if Rondo was dealing with plantar fascitis, Rivers said, “I think that’s what it is, and it’s a mild case but when those get fired up, those are extremely painful.”

But Rivers was impressed with the way Rondo managed himself through pain on Friday.

“Down the stretch, his defense, his hands ‘€“ the steal on the in-bounds play, the deflection steal at the end of the game on the last shot,” Rivers said. “He was great. I mean, [Derrick] Rose got one drive in the over time and he yells to the bench, ‘€˜My fault!’€™ He was just ‘€“ he was locked in tonight. And that’€™s what we need.

‘€œI told him that before the game, too. I walked right over to him before the tip and said, ‘€˜Hey, listen, if I see anything’€¦’€™ You could see he was good. The only thing we did and you could tell: we subbed him early. I think with five or six minutes in the first we subbed him. And then we did it again at half time. And overall that may have helped him with his wind.’€

Rondo took treatment for 30 minutes after the game and then said he has been dealing with pain in both feet, with more pain in his left foot. He also said he’s been sleeping with both feet elevated to relieve the soreness.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Ed Lacerte, NBA

Tom Thibodeau gets hero’s welcome

11.05.10 at 11:56 pm ET
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During the first timeout of Friday night’s 110-105 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics played a video tribute to current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and forward Brian Scalabrine, thanking them for their contributions to the C’s 2008 NBA championship.

Touched by the gesture, Scalabrine raised a hand to the crowd. Meanwhile, Thibodeau stood stoically on the sideline, ready to guide his new team against his former team.

After the game, though, the former Celtics assistant and defensive guru was clearly touched by the gesture.

“It’s great coming back here,” Thibodeau said following his team’s loss. “I wouldn’t be in this position without everything that this organization did for me. From ownership to Danny (Ainge) and, of course, Doc (Rivers), they treated me great. It was a lot of fun.”

It’s not every city that would recognize the contributions of an assistant coach to a team’s success with a pair of standing ovations (one to start the game and one throughout the video), but Thibodeau knows Boston is no ordinary fan base.

“This is a great sports town,” said Thibodeau. “Certainly, the history and the tradition of the Celtics is what makes this organization so special. It’s the fans, the people that run the team, the players. They’re leadership is off the charts. Doc and Danny — you’re not going to find two guys better than that. They’re just top-of-the-line guys. They’re smart. They know what they’re doing.

“The team is special,” he added. “You’ve got an unbelievable group of guys — not only talented, but great competitors. Those guys are going to fight and fight and fight. There’s no quit in that team. To beat them, you’ve got to beat them. They never quit.”

Thibodeau admitted after the game that while his new team may have the potential, the Bulls just don’t have the level of understanding of each other yet that his old team enjoys now.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’re experienced, they know how to work the game and their hard to guard,” said Thibodeau. “I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to hsare with each other. … It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’t get set, and that’s something we’re striving for.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Chicago Bulls, NBA

Fast Break: Celtics run past Bulls

11.05.10 at 11:10 pm ET
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All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, as the C’s escaped with a second straight overtime victory on Friday night — this time, a 110-105 win over the Chicago Bulls at the TD Garden. Ray Allen scored a team-high 25 points, while Kevin Garnett produced 16 points and 10 rebounds to improve Boston’s record to 5-1.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Spread the wealth: The Celtics went on a 22-3 run to start the third quarter, taking a 12-point cushion they didn’t relinquish until midway through the fourth quarter. In the span of 6:28, six different Celtics scored (Paul Pierce, Garnett, Glen Davis, Nate RobinsonMarquis Daniels and Semih Erden).

The C’s got a solid contribution from Daniels, who scored eight of his 11 points in that stretch. In all, seven Celtics reached double figures (Allen-25, Garnett-16, Davis-15, Daniels-11, Pierce-10, Rajon Rondo-10). Even Robinson got into a little groove, scoring seven points in 11 minutes.

Rondo had his usual double-digit assist night (11), but the Celtics also got at least three dimes from Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Daniels. The prettiest play of thenight highlighted the effort — as Pierce hit a streaking Allen underneath fo a dunk with 1:19 left in overtime that put the C’s up 108-103 in the victory.

2. Garnett continued to be aggressive: Last season, Garnett wasn’t throwing it down like he used to; he just didn’t have the lift in his knees. This season? He should be sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Garnett scored six of his eight first-half points at the rim — including a second-quarter dunk on Taj Gibson and another jam following Rondo on the break. Although he backed off a bit in the second half — finishing with eight of his 16 points in the paint — Garnett, who also grabbed 10 boards, established his tone early.

3. Big Baby drew (more) charges: Someone tweeted from Shaquille O’Neal‘s account during the game, “Big Baby is an offensive foul drawing machine!!” That couldn’t be more right. Glen Davis entered Friday night’s game with a team-leading nine charges (nobody else had more than one), and he added two more to that total in the first half alone. Along with his five steals this season, that’s 16 possessions he’s swung in the Celtics’ favor.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Second-half defense: After holding the Bulls to 38.9 percent shooting from the field (14-of-36) in the opening half, Chicago shot 59.5 percent (25-of-42) in the second half.

The Bulls top four performers — Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson — combined to shoot 19-of-33 from the field (in the second half. The Celtics returned to their first half defensive form in the overtime period, holding the Bulls to 3-of-9 shooting to close out the victory.

2. Centers of attention: I hate to harp on it, but two nights after Andrew Bogut totaled 21 points and 13 boards on Jermaine O’Neal, Erden and Davis, another talented center ate up the Celtics’ postmen.

Joakim Noah produced 26 points and 12 boards in the absence of Shaquille O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins. If someone doesn’t step up the interior defense, guys like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are going to have a field day.

In addition, the Celtics got out-rebounded by 12, as Jermaine O’Neal a whopping one rebound in 25 minutes.

3. Pierce couldn’t score on Scalabrine: In the first half, shortly after Brian Scalabrine received a standing ovation upon entering the game, Paul Pierce tried to shake him at the free-throw line. As Pierce attempted his signature lean-back 17-footer, Scalabrine reached up and blocked the shot.

The crowd paused, as if deciding whether to groan for Pierce or cheer for Scalabrine. I’m sure Scalabrine has seen that move a thousand times in practice.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett
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