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Preview: Celtics-Bucks

03.09.10 at 11:05 am ET
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Quick: Who is the hottest team in the Eastern Conference? The Celtics, who have won four straight and seven of their last 10? Nope. The Cavs? The Magic? No and no. The hottest team in the Eastern Conference is the Milwaukee Bucks and has been since the trade deadline when the acquired John Salmons from the Bulls.

The addition of Salmons has given the Bucks a much-needed perimeter threat to take the pressure off rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and also aided the development of Andrew Bogut, who is putting it all together in his fifth season. The Bucks have played great defense all season. They rank third in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) and their low-risk (fourth best at not turning it over), deliberate offensive sets don’t hurt their defensive rep either.

While Salmons gives them a shooter and a scorer that they lacked, the other reason for their success has been the play of backup point guard Luke Ridnour, who has been one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA. Ridnour is in the midst of a career-season and since Bucks coach Scott Skiles knows what he’s doing, Ridnour’s also plays crunch-time minutes when the situation arises.

A few weeks ago, the Bobcats looked like the emerging team in the bottom five of the East. Now that team appears to be the Bucks, a young team playing well with a solid coach and nothing to lose. That’s a tough combination in a first-round playoff matchup.

CELTICS (40-21, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.4

Points Allowed: 93.8

Differential: +4.6 (6th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

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

Injuries: None.

BUCKS (33-29, 9-1 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.1

Points Allowed: 96.5

Differential: +1.6 (13th)

Offensive Efficiency: 104.5 (23rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.8 (3rd)

Pace: 907. (26th)

Likely Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut

Injuries: Michael Redd (Knee surgery, out) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bucks, Celtics, Preview,

Report: Marbury demanding more money in China

03.09.10 at 9:01 am ET
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Former Celtic Stephon Marbury is demanding an additional $2 million to return to the Chinese team Shanxi Zhongyu, according to The Hoops Market (via Sina).

Marbury reportedly is unhappy with the cold weather and is asking for more money, a huge jump from the $25,000 a month he signed for in January. Just a month ago, Brave Dragons coach Wu Qinglong praised Marbury for being easy to get along with.

‘€œPeople say this and that about him, but let me tell you, I had dinner with him last night and it was so simple, chicken fried rice. That’€™s it,’€ he said. ‘€œHe was happy. He said it was really good. He didn’€™t even want anything to drink, just some bottled water.’€

Marbury is averaging over 23 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. However Shanxi Zhongyu did not qualify for the Chinese Basketball Association playoffs.

Garnett: Ray is playing ‘beautiful basketball’

03.08.10 at 1:02 pm ET
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Ray Allen’s clutch performance on Sunday night was a thing of beauty – to fans and teammates alike.

Just ask Kevin Garnett who watched as Allen’s back-to-back 3-pointers helped the Celtics erase a 13-point-hole in the final six minutes and come away with an 86-83 win over Washington.

‘€œA huge weapon,” Garnett said. “You know him and P [Paul Pierce] can put up a lot of points in a hurry. That’€™s big. We have to get them open. You know our job is to get them open. I thought that once he got into a nice, little rhythm, I think that everyone else, you know fed off of that a little bit. When it was time to really get him opened for the three, we got him open, and he hit a big shot.’€

Garnett has seen Allen suddenly get hot after the All-Star break, carrying the Celtics offense while Pierce nursed a sore thumb.

‘€œI can just say that each player has their time where they play up and down,” Garnett said. “That is the nature of the season. You know, you guys don’€™t know but he deals with a lot of different things with injuries, you know we all deal with different types of physical stuff. He is no different than that. At the same time he had talks of business, about where he was going to be in his future and stuff. I can just tell that he is a lot more healthier. Everything that he is doing is a lot more fluid. He is not thinking a lot, he is just reacting and his beautiful basketball.’€

Paul Pierce had a slightly different take.

While happy with the win, Pierce realizes the team should have had that intensity all along against a Washington team that has just 21 wins this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Paul Pierce

Flip: ‘We choked’ against Celtics

03.08.10 at 2:04 am ET
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Flip Saunders knows Kevin Garnett well enough. For 10 seasons, Saunders coached the perennial All-Star with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With all apologizes to Jim Croce, Saunders, now the head coach of the Wizards, knows you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and you don’t tick off the Big Ticket.

The last part of that equation was especially troublesome in Saunders’ eyes as he watched his Wizards blow a 79-66 lead with just over six minutes to go Sunday night.

‘€œWell, we choked,” Saunders began. “Six minutes to go, we’€™re up 13. We’ve got young guys, they don’€™t know what it’€™s like to be in a situation. We start talking to Garnett, start talking trash and everything else. Got Garnett and those guys juiced up and we just pissed down our leg the last six minutes.

“You have a veteran team that knows how to close out games against a young team that hasn’€™t been there, and instead of just letting a sleeping dog lie, we juiced up their energies. We had plays coming off timeouts and we had guys going to the wrong side of the floor, we were so discombobulated.’€

[Click here to hear Saunders rip into his team for coming unglued at the end of the game.] Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Flip Saunders, NBA, Washington Wizards

Ray: We probably got away with one

03.08.10 at 12:20 am ET
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Ray Allen felt comfortable all night.

With a game-high 25 points and 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the 3-point line, the stats say as much.

The problem was ‘€” for 42 minutes ‘€” the Washington Wizards felt just as good in nearly everything they did.

With the Celtics down 13 points, that’s when Allen said the C’s finally got to their opponent, opening the door for him to play hero in the final 93 seconds.

‘€œIt was night and day. We put a lot of pressure on them. We made them play away from the basket. We forced them to be more uncomfortable than we did in the first half,” said Allen, whose trey with 17.1 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in Boston’s 86-83 win.

Asked if the Celtics might have gotten away with a win when maybe they didn’t deserve one, Allen was as honest as he could be.

‘€œYou could say probably in a small way we did,” he admitted. “But we fought for it, we never gave up or thought it was over with, so it bowed in our favor tonight.’€

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Ray Allen, Wizards

Fast Break: Celtics vs. Wizards

03.07.10 at 10:46 pm ET
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It looked like another disappointing home loss for the Celtics. Down by 12 in the third quarter, the C’s were on the verge of falling to the Wizards just a week after being upset by the Nets.

But that’s when their winning experience came into play. The Celtics outscored the Wizards 24-17 in the fourth quarter to secure a 86-83 comeback victory.

Turning Point: Down 81-77, Rajon Rondo scored a fastbreak layup and drew the foul on Al Thornton with 1:37 to go. He missed the free throw, but Kendrick Perkins kicked out the offensive rebound to Ray Allen, who drained a trey. This capped a 16-2 Celtics run and put them up, 82-81.

Player of the game: Ray Allen (25 points) got the Celtics momentum back with a pair of treys in the third quarter. Not only did he hit a go-ahead 3-pointer in the fourth, he knocked down the game-winning 3 with 17 seconds left.

– Rondo scored just two points in the first half. He got hot late in the third to score seven points in a span of two-minutes. He finished the game with 15 points.

Michael Finley was inactive and watched the game from the end of the Celtics bench in a charcoal suit.

Tony Allen played two minutes in his first game back since injuring his hip on Wednesday against the Bobcats.

The Celtics are now 6-5 on Sundays and improved to 25-6 against sub-.500 opponents.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Ray Allen,

Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. Wizards

03.07.10 at 10:00 pm ET
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If the Celtics are going to take back this game, they have just 12 more minutes to do so. They trail 66-62 after three quarters.

The C’s struggled to piece together a total team effort coming out of halftime. Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins were the only players to score for the first 5:49 of the quarter. The C’s also went scoreless during a 3:45 stretch in which the Wizards pushed their lead up to 11 points.

Ray Allen gave the Celtics a spark midway through the quarter with a pair of 3s. Then it was Rajon Rondo’s turn. He scored seven points two minutes to bring the Celtics back within four.

The Celtics have momentum heading into the fourth, but they still have to dig themselves out of a deficit. They are 7-14 when trailing after three quarters.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo, Washington Wizards,
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