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KG still finding his way

01.31.10 at 5:06 pm ET
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BOSTON — It’s pretty obvious Kevin Garnett is not the same player he was two years ago when he was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year and the centerpiece of Boston’s run to a 17th NBA title.

Surgery to remove bone spurs behind his right knee last summer and a hyperextended right knee suffered late in December has slowed his return to form.

Doc Rivers still believes Garnett can get back to the top defensively ‘€” hopefully taking the Celtics along for the ride. More than that, he still expects it.

‘€œI can [expect Garnett back to form], but not right now,” Rivers said conditionally. “But really, none of our guys who have come back, you can’€™t hold any of them to their normal standards right now. Our biggest issue with our injuries is that they’€™re healthy but they’€™re not ready to play basketball at this level yet.

Paul [Pierce] had his first big game in Atlanta since he’€™s been back. Kevin is still [getting back]. The key is you still have to play them the minutes. The only way they’€™re going to get back is by keeping them on the floor and let them get their minutes. The tough part is while you’€™re doing that, the team struggles a little bit.’€

[Click here to hear Doc Rivers talk about Garnett’s return.]

Rivers has maintained all along that the Celtics need Garnett back to form late in the spring ‘€” when the season truly is on the line. In the meantime, they’ll have to live with the inconsistencies.

‘€œI think he can do it,” Rivers said of Garnett returning to form. “The No. 1 thing is getting them back to that level. I just think it’€™s more timing. When you look at Kevin, it’€™s amazing watching him. The Orlando game, his timing was completely off the entire game. Then the Atlanta game, all of sudden he had good timing.

“I just think it’€™s going to be that way for a while. The guy it’€™s most frustrating to is him because he’€™s knows it. The Orlando game at halftime, I thought he was going to beat himself up if he could, because he knew it. He was trying to talk himself into slowing down. I was just telling him, ‘€˜Just play. It is what it is. It’€™s going to happen for you. You just have to keep playing.’€™ ‘€

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA,

Doc on Lakers: ‘Better than last year’

01.31.10 at 3:51 pm ET
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BOSTON  —  Doc Rivers knows how tough it is to repeat. The Celtics won the title in 2008 and won 66 games.

Last year, the Celtics won 62 but lost in seven games to the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals when being without Kevin Garnett proved to be just too much to overcome.

Instead of a repeat, the Lakers won the title. And before Sunday’s game, Rivers sounded just a tad envious because instead of losing two key players like Boston lost in James Posey and P.J. Brown, the Lakers added Ron Artest, Shannon Brown and a healthy Andrew Bynum.

‘€œI think having won the title, having the same title back , adding Artest, that continuity and health I think those have been three pretty good things for them,” Rivers said. “Gasol has been in and out for them, which hurt them early in the year, too. It’€™s rare when you get a championship team that adds to their team and they did. You don’€™t see that very often. People are taking away from championship teams. It’€™s rare that they come back better and they’€™re better than last year.

‘€œI thought we took away from it. Losing Posey hurt us, losing P.J. Brown hurt us. But I think we’€™ve addressed that. Bringing in Marquis this year, bringing in Rasheed this year.”

[Click here to listen to Rivers compare his 2009 Celtics to the 2010 Lakers, teams attempting to defend a title.]

Read More: Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, NBA

Fast Break: How the Hawks swept the Celtics

01.29.10 at 10:24 pm ET
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The inability to play 48 minutes of basketball has been detrimental to the Celtics this season. But on Friday, they had difficulty playing just 12. The C’s jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the first but  failed to maintain the advantage. The Hawks quickly erased their deficit, kicked up their energy, and controlled the rest of the game.

In the end, the Celtics were outscored 29-8 on fastbreak points. The combination of the Hawks’ athleticism and long-range shooting dealt the Celtics a 100-91 loss on Friday in Atlanta. (Recap.) The Hawks completed a 4-0 sweep of the regular season series.

Turning Point: The C’s were up by nine with 3:40 to go in the first quarter until the Hawks picked up their energy and began slicing away at the lead. When Jamal Crawford drained a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the quarter, the Celtics found themselves trailing by one. The shift in momentum set the tone for the rest of the game.

Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored a game-high 35 points (11-15 FG, 12-13 FT) for the Celtics in the losing effort. On Friday, though, it was a different player who took over in the fourth. Joe Johnson scored 16 points in the fourth alone (27 for the game), and his three-pointer in the face of Pierce with a minute to go iced the win.

– The Celtics’ second unit hurt their team tonight. Not only were they unable to prevent the Hawks from adding to their lead early in the second quarter, but they also made it difficult for Doc Rivers to give his starters a rest. The Celtics bench was outscored 44-18.

Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, and Zaza Pachulia were all whistled for technical fouls. Josh Smith was called for a flagrant against Perkins.

– The Celtics have lost two in a row, and dropped to 4-5 in back-to-back games. They will return to Boston to face the Lakers on Sunday.

Read More: Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce,

Celtics recall Giddens from Red Claws

01.29.10 at 6:54 pm ET
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The Celtics recalled J.R. Giddens from the Maine Red Claws, their NBA D-League affiliate, the team announced on Friday.

The recall is procedural, according to multiple reports. Giddens recently injured the meniscus in his left knee and is scheduled for surgery.

Giddens played in four games for the Red Claws during his recent assignment, averaging 18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He is averaging 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in 21 games for the Celtics this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, J.R. Giddens, Maine Red Claws,

Preview: Celtics-Hawks

01.29.10 at 10:18 am ET
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Kevin Garnett insisted to one and all Thursday night that he wasn’t hurt and that he just played like a euphemism for garbage. Certainly Garnett is entitled to an off night just three games into his comeback, but the problem is that no one really believes him.

Because of the way his comeback ended last season and because of the way his injuries were handled this season (10 days, 10 more days, etc.), he and the Celtics, frankly, don’t have a lot of credibility on the issue. However, Garnett had a string of lackluster performances earlier in the season where he looked slow and old and then rebounded to play his best stretch in over a calendar year. So, perhaps there’s hope that Thursday was just a momentary blip.

We should find out a lot Friday night when the Celtics play the Hawks and Garnett matches up against what should be a highly-motivated Josh Smith. Not only is it the second game of a back-to-back, but Garnett will be facing a player who is a decade younger and who should be (justifiably) ticked that he was left off the All-Star team. If you’re on the KG watch, it starts tonight.

CELTICS (29-14, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.6

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.9 (3rd)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.9 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

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

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb)

HAWKS (29-15, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.6

Points Allowed: 97.3

Differential: +5.3 (Fifth)

Offensive Efficiency: 111.9 (3rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 106.1 (12th)

Pace: 91.1 (25th)

Likely Starters: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford

Injuries: None Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Hawks, Preview,

Fast break: Celtics-Magic

01.28.10 at 11:06 pm ET
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This is what it takes to win on the road against good teams in the NBA. The Celtics outplayed the Magic for three and a half quarters, but a combination of hot shooting and a one-sided free throw discrepency allowed Orlando to get back into the game.

Down the stretch the Celtics seemed to make all the right plays. Rajon Rondo stole a possession by diving on the floor and outhustling Vince Carter. Rondo then scored on a tough drive to the hoop to give the Celtics a three-point lead with less than a minute to play. They did everything right, and then they lost it in the final 34 seconds.

The Celtics lost 96-94 after Rashard Lewis drove around Kevin Garnett on a busted play, while Rasheed Wallace’s weakside help  was two steps too late. They lost after J.J. Redick made an improbable 3-pointer to tie the game seconds earlier. They lost after the Magic took 40 free throws to the Celtics 18, and they lost after two Eddie House 3-pointers were changed to 2’s.

After all that the Celtics still had a chance to come away with the victory, but Wallace’s 3-pointer at the buzzer sailed wide of the basket. It was a solid, even inspired performance for about 40 of the game’s 48 minutes, but it still wasn’t enough to get the win.

Player of the Game: Rashard Lewis made big shot after big shot for the Magic, but none was bigger than his drive to the hoop in the final seconds. The Celtics actually played good defense on the play as Paul Pierce denied Carter a chance to get the ball, which found its way into Lewis’ hands instead. He drove right around Garnett and laid in the winning points.

Turning Point: Stan Van Gundy made the biggest coaching move of the night, literally, when he brought Marcin Gortat into the game with Dwight Howard and played Lewis at the 3-spot. The Magic were down by double digits when Van Gundy went to the super-sized lineup, but took the lead late in the fourth quarter.

* Kendrick Perkins spent the majority of the first half in foul trouble, but so did Dwight Howard. Call it a draw.

* Orlando had just one assist in the first half and shot 33 percent.

* The Magic cut the Celtics lead to just six points midway through the first half. Then Brian Scalabrine knocked down a corner 3-pointer. On the next possession, Ray Allen hit from long distance on transition and the lead was back up to 12. This pattern repeated itself in the third quarter, but the Celtics once again made shots at the right time. Eddie House buried a 3-pointer with just over a second remaining to put the Celtics up 12 going into the fourth quarter.

* Wallace picked up a technical foul for yelling, “And one,” after a made basket. He also unleashed the loudest “BALL DON’T LIE,” of the season. Unofficially.

* Allen had a bounceback shooting night, going 8-for-12 and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. But he missed a shot that could have put the Celtics ahead late in the game.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Magic,

Rondo, Pierce named to All-Star team

01.28.10 at 7:31 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were officially added to the Eastern Conference All-Star team Thursday. Rondo and Pierce join teammate Kevin Garnett, who was voted in as a starter, to give the Celtics three representatives; more than any other team.

This is Rondo’s first selection to the All-Star team. This is Pierce’s eighth All-Star nod.

The rest of the Eastern Conference reserves:

Derrick Rose

Joe Johnson

Gerald Wallace

Al Horford

Chris Bosh

Read More: all star, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo,
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