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To play or not to play

04.14.09 at 10:39 am ET
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The Celtics have an interesting dilemma tonight when they play the Sixers. They are locked into the No. 2 seed thanks to the Magic’s late-season tumble and have essentially nothing to play for. Doc Rivers has already ruled out Kevin Garnett, although he may want to get Leon Powe some run.

But what about the rest of the team? The Sixers are still fighting for either the sixth or the seventh playoff spot with Chicago who has a half-game lead on Philly. Rivers told reporters that he’s still trying to figure out how to play it.

‘€œPhilly’€™s fighting with other teams, and it will be tough to sit guys for that fact,’€ Rivers was quoted as saying in the Herald. ‘€œThat’€™s my first thought, though I also have to take care of my team first. But that was my first thought when I thought about the Philly game.’€

The Bulls finish their regular season tomorrow with a home game against Toronto, while the Sixers finish up in Cleveland, so a Celtics win tonight could effectively set up a Boston-Philly first round matchup.

The Celtics are 3-0 against Philly heading into tonight’s game and went 2-1 against the Bulls, dropping a St. Patrick’s Day game in Chicago.

UPDATE: Well that helps solve some of that issue. Ray Allen has been suspended by the NBA for one game for elbowing Anderson Varejao in the varejaos on Sunday. Allen is expected to serve his suspension tonight.

Seventh seed watch: Pistons out

04.14.09 at 12:21 am ET
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The Boston Celtics still don’t know who they will face in the first round of the playoffs, but one thing they do know is it will not be the Detroit Pistons. On Monday night the Pistons got locked into the eighth spot with a 91-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls. They will play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. So with two days left in the regular season, the battle for the sixth and seventh seeds is still up for grabs between the Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls have a half-game lead over the Sixers heading into Tuesday.

6. Chicago Bulls (41-40)
Wednesday, April 15 vs. Toronto Raptors

7.  Philadelphia 76ers (40-40)
Tuesday, April 14 vs. (2) Boston Celtics
Wednesday, April 15 @ (1) Cleveland Cavaliers

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers,

Kevin Garnett’s Effect

04.13.09 at 10:45 am ET
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Over on Basketball Prospectus, Bradford Doolittle has an interesting number to quantify what Kevin Garnett’s absence has made on the Celtics. Doolittle writes:

“When Garnett was injured, Boston was 44-11 and had an efficiency margin of +10.4 points per 100 possessions. Since then, Boston has gone 15-8 with a margin of +5.8. The offense has barely dropped (113.2 offensive efficiency down to 112.9) but the defensive efficiency has risen by 4.3 points. That’s the effect of Kevin Garnett. With a full-strength Garnett, the Celtics are right there with the Cavs, Magic and Lakers. Without him, they’re at the approximate level of the Blazers or Spurs.”

That’s about it in a nutshell, which is why it wouldn’t be surprising if the Celtics eased Garnett back into the lineup in the first round. Without him they are still one of the top seven or eight teams in the league, but they will certainly need him if they are going to successfully defend their title.

Also of interest: The Magic are reeling and Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are not expected to play tonight against Milwaukee. Lewis has tendinitis and Turkoglu sprained his ankle over the weekend, but X-rays were negative and Turk is quoted in the story as saying the injury is not serious.

Read More: Hedo Turkoglu, Kevin Garnett,

First round still up for grabs

04.12.09 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics locked up the second seed in the Eastern Conference on Saturday, but their first round opponent is still uncertain. This weekend the Chicago Bulls rose to the occasion, the Detroit Pistons continued to be mediocre, and the Philadelphia 76ers came up short. With only three days left in the regular season, the sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds are still up for grabs.

6. Philadelphia 76ers (40-40)
The Sixers are slipping on a five-game losing streak. This weekend they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, putting their hold on the sixth spot in jeopardy as they gear up to face the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Rest of the season:
Tuesday, April 14 vs. (2) Boston Celtics
Wednesday, April 15 @ (1) Cleveland Cavaliers

7. Chicago Bulls (40-40)
The Bulls enter the final week of the regular season on a four-game winning streak, including Saturday’s victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. They will wrap up the season at home where they are 28-12.

Rest of the season:
Monday, April 13 @ (8) Detroit Pistons
Wednesday, April 15 vs. Toronto Raptors

8. Detroit Pistons (39-41)
Despite beating the New Jersey Nets on Friday, a loss on Saturday to the Indiana Pacers landed the Pistons one game behind the Chicago Bulls in the eighth spot. They are 1-2 this season against both of their upcoming opponents.

Rest of the season:
Monday, April 13 vs. (7) Chicago Bulls
Wednesday, April 15 @ (5) Miami Heat

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers,

More than a flopper

04.12.09 at 7:13 pm ET
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Anderson Varejao has been called a flopper. He has been called emotional. But the  Celtics‘ front office has another name for him.

‘€œHe’s a beast, though,’€ Celtics managing partner Steve Pagliuca said on Celtics Now. ‘€œHe’s a beast.’€

Varejao made an impression when he worked out with the Celtics prior to the 2004 NBA Draft. Even though they decided to go with Al Jefferson a the 15th pick (Varejao was later picked up by Cleveland at the 30th spot), his workout was still memorable five years later.

‘€œWe tried him out for the Celtics and I thought we had to stop the tryout because he was going to kill somebody,’€ Pagliuca said. ‘€œHe was hacking. I thought our players were in jeopardy. He’s a very physical player.’€

That day stood out to Varejao as well. He recalls going hard against David Harrison, who was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 29th pick that summer.

‘€œIt was a very physical workout. I remember that,’€ Varejao said. ‘€œIt was pretty physical and that’s what I like. I like to play like that and that’s why he probably remembers me.’€

There is no ignoring Varejao this season. He averaged 11 points and 7.8 rebounds in four regular season games against the Celtics. The pairing of 6-foot-11 Varejao and 7-foot-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas has stifled the Cs down low without Kevin Garnett, Leon Powe, and Brian Scalabrine.

He made another impression on the Celtics on Sunday when he rattled the even-keeled Ray Allen. (Click here for a recap of the Cavaliers 107-76 victory.) They got tangled up trying to box one another out at the line and Allen ended up on the ground. After Allen dealt Varejao an elbow on his way back up, both were called for technical fouls.

‘€œHe’s kind of an energy, hard-hitting player,’€ Pagliuca said.

No kidding. Even though a language barrier prevented Brazilian-born Varejao from receiving compliments from Pagliuca at the time, he still appreciates them five years after his workout.

‘€œThat means a lot to me,’€ he said. ‘€œIt means a lot because hearing that from somebody who’s in the situation that he’s in right now, and he’s still talking about me, it means a lot. I just want to say thanks for his words.’€

Read More: Anderson Varejao,

Allen reveals favorite five shooters

04.12.09 at 4:59 pm ET
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ABC revealed Ray Allen’s five favorite all-time shooters during Sunday’s game against Cleveland:

Reggie Miller
Dell Curry
Dale Ellis
Craig Hodges
Michael Cooper

No Celtics? Allen’s list includes players who have burned him in the past, just as he has done to so many other teams during his career.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Ray Allen,

Celtics lock up second seed

04.11.09 at 11:32 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics locked up the second seed in the Eastern Conference after the Orlando Magic lost to the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night. Not only did the Magic fall to the third spot, they also lost Hedo Turkoglu in the fourth quarter after he suffered a sprained ankle. They were already playing without Rashard Lewis (knee). The Celtics are 2.5 games ahead of the Magic and four behind the Cleveland Cavaliers, who they face on Sunday afternoon.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic,
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