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Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

12.15.08 at 10:27 am ET
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On Monday night the Boston Celtics (22-2) will take on the Utah Jazz (15-10) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The Celtics are off to a franchise-best start and enter tonight on a 14-game winning streak. The Jazz, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, have been trying to find consistency without Carlos Boozer (left quad).

Celtics Out for Revenge
There were few teams last season who beat the Celtics, let alone blew them out. Of their 16 regular season losses, the 110-92 embarrassment at the Garden was the worst they suffered. Doc Rivers pointed out Deron Williams‘ 18 free-throw attempts in that game. It didn’t matter how many he made (17, for the record), 18 trips to the line was the problem in itself. Also that night, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 2-for-9 from the field and the Celtics shot 3-for-15 from long range.

“That was the one game that I can remember that they really, really beat us,” Paul Pierce said. “A lot of losses we had, it was like we had a chance to win. But we just had no chance versus Utah. They outplayed us, they out-hustled us, they out-executed us, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. They’re a very good team and well coached with some great players.”

Match Up to Watch: Rondo vs. Williams
Prior to last Friday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets, Rajon Rondo was unaware he would be going up against Chris Paul and Deron Williams in back-to-back games. Williams is averaging 10.3 assists, second in the league only to Paul, and 12.3 points. Nonetheless, Rondo does not use these match ups to measure his own progress.

‘€œI don’€™t look at it like that,’€ Rondo said. ‘€œEvery night I feel like at the point guard position is pretty tough no matter who we’€™re against. I didn’€™t know we played Utah next but last night I had Juan Dixon and tonight (Friday) I have Chris Paul, so that’€™s just part of the NBA. I think the point guard is the hardest position to guard each night.’€

In the Last Five Games …

Boston: 109.0 PPG, +16.8 margin of victory, 50.0% FG, 41.8% 3PG, 74.7% FT, 23.8 APG, 46.0 RPG, 8.4 SPG
Utah: 101.6 PPG, +5.6 margin of victory, 47.2% FG, 36.5% 3PG, 74.5% FT, 25.8 APG, 42.4 RPG, 10.4 SPG

Stay with WEEI’s Live Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the TD BankNorth Garden.

Hold the Fries for Pierce

12.14.08 at 9:33 pm ET
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‘€œI got a rotisserie, so you can pretty much throw anything in that and just sit it and forget it,’€ Paul Pierce said with a laugh.

If only his weight loss program was that simple. This summer Pierce estimates he dropped between eight to ten pounds, a step he took to enhance the quality of his career. Pierce, 31, had seen plenty of players gain weight around the same age and he couldn’t afford to do the same. Not when there is a championship to defend.

‘€œYou always want to improve. I’m at the stage and the age where I’m not getting any younger and it’s going to be more difficult to keep off weight,’€ he said. ‘€œBut it’s just making a conscious effort, especially as my career winds down for the last four or five years, to just be in the best shape possible.’€

Pierce became his own personal chef and said goodbye to many of the foods he had grown accustomed to.

‘€œI just cut back on a lot of meats, like red meats. I don’t eat a lot of steak as much as I did before, hamburgers, stuff like that,’€ he explained. ‘€œIt’s more chicken and fish, salads, pasta. Not as much pasta either, but you gotta sneak it in there sometimes. There are some great Italian places out here in Boston.’€

The NBA season keeps Pierce out of his kitchen so he has to be extra cautious on the road. The combination of eating in the locker room after games, late-night meals, and dining out are red flags he has to avoid, or pay the price the following day.

‘€œIt’s hard, especially when you go to Dallas and Mark Cuban puts all that food in [our locker room],’€ he said. ‘€œI’m not saying I don’t cheat though. I just know I’ve got to get some extra work in the next morning.’€

While Pierce decided to lose the weight on his own, he was impressed by how much shedding pounds transformed his teammate’s career. Kendrick Perkins lost 16 pounds heading into last season.

‘€œJust seeing him where he was day one,’€ Pierce said. ‘€œI watched him from a kid to now and if you look at his pictures from his rookie year, you’d be like, ‘Man, who was that?”€

So now that Pierce has traded in fried food for fresh fruit, what guilty pleasure does he miss the most?

‘€œMan, Mexican food,’€ he said. ‘€œGrowing up in Los Angeles you’ve got all the good Mexican places. I’m a taco guy, burritos, stuff like that. I cut back on those but I kind of sneak those in here and there. My mom makes the best chicken enchiladas. (Pauses) Man!”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Kendrick Perkins, Mark Cuban

Celtics Host Party for Home for Little Wanderers

12.14.08 at 12:45 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics were in the holiday spirit after Sunday’s practice, hosting a party in conjunction with RFK Childrens Action Corp for 90 children from the Home for Little Wanderers, a non-profit child and family service agency in Boston. The list of activities included shooting drills, Connect Four and Jenga contest, arts and crafts, and gifts handed out by the Celtics themselves at the Sports Authority Training Center.

‘€œIt’s very rewarding, just knowing you can make a difference in people’s lives,’€ Paul Pierce said. ‘€œWe’re looked up as role models whether we like it or not and if you can make a difference in just one kid’s life. You try to change a lot of kids and give them some inspiration and bring to joy to their heart knowing that a lot of us have been through a lot of things these kids go through.’€

Even after an NBA championship and a franchise-best 22-2 start, giving back is one of Pierce’s favorite perks to being on the Celtics.

‘€œWe’re fortunate to play in the NBA and do the things we like to do, but not everybody is as fortunate,” he said. “So for us to come out here and give our time to the community, to the kids, to be an influence on them, that’s what I enjoy the most off the court.’€

Darius Miles Finds a Home

12.13.08 at 3:42 pm ET
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On Saturday the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported former Boston Celtics training camp invitee Darius Miles signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. Miles, who was waived by the Celtics before the start of the season, recently worked out with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Commercial Appeal reported the Charlotte Bobcats and Chicago Bulls had also expressed interest in the 27-year-old forward. Miles will have to serve a 10-game suspension for violation of the NBA’s anti-drug policy before he can hit the floor for the 8-15 Grizzlies.

Sounds of the Game… Celtics 94, Hornets 82

12.13.08 at 8:53 am ET
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Yet another sign on Friday night that these Celtics may be even better and more focused than last year’s 66-win, NBA-champion group. The C’s came in after an 8 p.m. game the night before in Washington and had to battle the talented New Orleans Hornets, with James Posey making his return and collecting his ring. After circling at midcourt and doing Ubuntu one more time with the man Doc Rivers said understood it as well as anyone, the Celtics went out and won their 14th straight, matching their longest since March-April 1986. Rajon Rondo didn’t have his finest game but Paul Pierce more than picked up the slack with 28 points. Even Pose had to concede that this team may be even better than last year’s group.

James Posey said the Celtics know each other now.

Posey was touched by the Celtics’ pregame tribute to him at midcourt.

Paul Pierce said it was nice to see Posey get his ring.

Pierce on winning this game in a back-to-back situation.

Pierce said the streak is nice but there’s work to be done.

Tony Allen on reuniting with Posey.

Doc Rivers on facing Posey for the first time.

Doc Rivers said the win was a struggle.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, James Posey, Paul Pierce

Stojakovic Done with Three-Point Shootout

12.13.08 at 1:06 am ET
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Sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic is saving his long range game for the regular season. The two-time Three-Point Shootout champion will no longer compete in the All-Star Weekend contest.

“I did that so many times so I don’t think I need to do it again,” he said on Friday night prior to the New Orleans Hornets-Boston Celtics game.

Stojakovic participated in five Three-Point Shootouts, dating back to 2001 as a member of the Sacramento Kings. He dethroned Celtics guard Ray Allen to win back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. Stojakovic took a three-year hiatus before returning this past February to show his appreciation for the host city of New Orleans. He looks forward to spending time with his family during the All-Star Break.

Read More: Boston Celtics, New Orleans Hornets, Peja Stojakovic, Ray Allen

The Main Event Fizzles (But It’s Only Round One)

12.12.08 at 9:58 pm ET
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All the talk before the Celtics-Hornets game was about the point guards. That’s not unusual when a player like Chris Paul comes to town, but what was unusual was the use of the plural. Guards. Rajon Rondo has put himself in some select company, and yes that includes CP3, even if Paul did wind up outplaying him this time around.

“This year, they’re calling it a matchup,” Doc Rivers said before tip-off. “That shows you far he’s come.”

Respect has come the hard way for Rondo, who played Paul to a standstill in two epic encounters last season, but is just now beginning to receive the league-wide accolades. Relaxing in his chair and holding court with reporters before the game–he’s one of the few Celtics who does–Rondo was nonplussed about facing Paul, dishing out the usual boilerplate about it being a team game and a team effort.

In that sense, Rondo was right because of all the reasons for the Celtics win, Rondo’s play was not high on the list. “We had to go with different lineups,” Rivers said. “You know, Rondo wasn’t Rondo and Eddie had to step in.” The kid is entitled to a mulligan, especially considering the way he’s played over the last month, but after tonight, it doesn’t get any easier.

Deron Williams and Utah come to town on Monday. On Wednesday Rondo matches up with one his mentors, Mike Bibby of Atlanta, and then on Friday it’s a return engagement with leading Rookie of the Year contender, Derrick Rose and Chicago. Not that it should, but if anyone is still waiting to put Rondo in the elite class of point guards, this week will be a referendum.

Don’t tell New Orleans coach Byron Scott that Rondo has anything left to prove. “He’s playing at a high level,” Scott said. “He doesn’t get himself into trouble. He’s got different speeds, which is important, and he finishes. There’s nothing he can’t do well, except shoot from the outside.”

It seems rather amazing that everyone in the league knows this, and Friday night notwithstanding, very few teams are able to take advantage of Rondo’s still-shaky jumper. ESPN’s David Thorpe pointed out in a story on Rondo (Insider only) that he takes more than half of his shots from inside the paint and has an Effective Field Goal percentage of 72 percent. (You can see those numbers on 82games.com).

For a player who is listed at 6-1, 171 pounds, that’s unheard of. Paul, for example, takes a little more than a third of his shots from close range. Despite Rondo’s off-night, he didn’t play that poorly, scoring 10 points to go with six rebounds, and helping limit Paul to a 5-for-16 shooting night. Again, a sign of how far he’s come when that is considered a poor performance.

Don’t expect his off night to linger. As always with Rondo, the word “confidence” is the primary adjective. It’s not cockiness, necessarily, it’s more a strong sense of self that Rondo exudes. In the pregame he was asked when it was that he began to assert himself. “Pretty much from Day One,” he said. “I had to get these guys respect. I asked Doc if that was all right and he said that it was. I respect the years those guys have in the game, but I’m the point guard. I have to be the leader.”

There has been this notion that it’s hard for Rondo to be that leader, what with strong personalities like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the floor. Ask him about that and he just shrugs. Besides, gaining the respect of his coach is the most important thing.

Rivers has been hard on his point guard. That’s just his way. That’s how Mike Fratello was with him when he a young player trying to make his mark on a Hawks team with Dominique Wilkins, no shrinking violet. A good game by Rondo would be met with a request for more, a bad one would have Rivers shaking his head.

It wasn’t until the conference championship against the Pistons when everyone was conceding the matchup with Chauncey Billups, that Rivers began to loudly advocate for his guard. Rondo repaid that trust by completely outplaying the veteran.

“With every team, the point guard and the coach have to have a relationship,” Rivers said. “With Rajon he’s been able to go and run the sets without looking at me.”

One more Rondo story. Apparently the flight home from Washington was a little rough. “It was rocky,” he said. “KG was screaming.” How did he take the turbulence? “I was calm.” He’s the point guard. He has to be calm.

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