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Third Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. 76ers

03.05.10 at 8:50 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo was quiet in the first half. But once he finally scored in the third, he didn’t stop. Rondo scored 14 points in just over eight minutes. He and Kevin Garnett combined for all but six of the Celtics points in the quarter.

The Celtics have their largest lead, 74-67, going into the final 12 minutes. They did not commit a single turnover in the third. Garnett and Ray Allen are tied with a game-high 16 points. Elton Brand still leads the 76ers with 15 points.

The C’s are 31-7 this season when leading or tied after three quarters.

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Second Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. 76ers

03.05.10 at 8:10 pm ET
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The Celtics second unit of Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Brian Scalabrine, and Rasheed Wallace outscored the 76ers 14-9 to give the veteran starters a break. Paul Pierce sat out the first 4:30, Kevin Garnett rested the first six, and Ray Allen got a seven-minute breather.

But the Sixers stayed in this game behind 14 points by Elton Brand and another combined 14 between Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams. The Celtics lead 46-43.

Kendrick Perkins and Marresse Speights issued technical fouls in separate incidents. Perkins picked up his 13th T of the season. Pierce was on the receiving end of a tough foul. He drew a charge against Willie Green, fell to the ground and the paint, and was applauded by Garnett before being helped help (translation: KG slapped his hands repeatedly and yelled in applause).

First Quarter Wrap: Celtics vs. 76ers

03.05.10 at 7:38 pm ET
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A scoring duel is brewing in Philadelphia. Elton Brand started the game a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor. He leads all players with 12 points. Ray Allen is right behind him, however, with 11. Allen tied Wednesday’s total (3 points) just over a minute into the game.

The 76ers opened the first quarter with a 3-point play by Andre Iguodala. They jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead but Kevin Garnett scored six consecutive points to propel a 10-2 Celtics run. Once the C’s tied it up, they kept the 76ers away from the line, committing just one foul in the quarter.

The Celtics trail 25-23 after the first.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen,

Preview: Celtics-Sixers

03.05.10 at 10:57 am ET
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A question that has been hanging in the air during this Celtics season: Should they be more aggressive? Should the Celtics be a little more (choose your adjective here) physical, punishing, nasty?

Paul Pierce certainly thought so. “That’s who are, truthfully,” he said after Wednesday’s game that featured a minor run-in with Stephen Jackson. “We’re a team that usually intimidates.” Pierce was quick to add that he didn’t advocate crossing whatever arbitrary line is drawn in the NBA sand these days regarding physical play.

Certainly the Celtics aren’t about to emulate the 90’s “no layups” Knicks, mostly because the rules have changed to the point where no one can play that kind of rough and tumble basketball without getting half the roster suspended. The Celtics are up among the league leaders in technical fouls with 77 (Orlando of all teams is the leader in the clubhouse with 79), but that’s more agitation than intimidation.

They’ve been called bullies and trash talkers before, but that’s a different thing, as well. The Celtics have played 59 games and they still seem like a team that is searching for an identity. Perhaps their old one fit just fine.

SIXERS (22-38, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 97.6

Points Allowed: 101.0

Differential: -3.4 (21st)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 (21st)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.2 (22nd)

Pace: 91.8 (21st)

Likely Staters: Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Sam Dalembert

Injuries: Elton Brand (Achilles, questionable), Mareese Speights (Knee, questionable), Allen Iverson (Personal)

CELTICS (38-21, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 94.1

Differential: +4.6 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.1 (2nd)

Pace: 91.7 (22nd)

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

Injuries: None.
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Meet Michael Finley

03.04.10 at 10:46 pm ET
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Proven veterans have become the norm on the Celtics, and Michael Finley looks to become the next one to add his playoff experience to the team. “It’s official now,” Finley told “I’m soon to be a Celtic.” Finley has never played for an Eastern Conference team, but he comes to Boston with several links to the C’s. Here are a few quick facts to know about Finley:

Position: Guard-Forward
Height/Weight: 6-7, 225 pounds
Birthdate: March 6, 1973
NBA Experience: 15th season

Class of ’95: The Suns selected Finley with the 21st overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. That year Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett were chosen with the fourth and fifth picks, respectively.

Before Beantown: Boston will be Finley’s first stint in the Eastern Conference. He played over a season for the Suns before being traded to the Mavericks as part of the Jason Kidd deal in 1996. He spent over eight years in Dallas, then signed with the Spurs as a free agent in 2005.

Most Recently: This season Finley played 25 games, including two starts, for the Spurs before being bought out on Monday. He averaged 3.7 points (38.1% FG, 31.7% 3PG) and 1.5 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game.

Title Run: In 2007, Finley won a championship with the Spurs. That postseason he posted 11.3 points in 26.9 minutes over 20 games. He also led the Spurs in three-point field goals and attempts (44-for-105). Finley has a career postseason average of 13.6 points (39.1% 3PG), 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists in 111 games.

Long-Range Momentum: Finley is averaging 37.4% from long range over his career. He currently ranks ninth among all active players in three-point field goals, trailing Paul Pierce by ten treys. He ranks eighth among all active players in three-point attempts. (Ray Allen is the leader in both categories.)

Major Minutes: He led the league in minutes in 1998, 2000, and 2001, averaging more than 41 per game in each of those seasons. He currently ranks fourth among all active players in total minutes played (37,683), behind only Jason Kidd, Shaquille O’€™Neal, and Kevin Garnett.

All-Star Accolades: Finley is a two-time NBA All-Star. He played on the Western Conference team in 2001 and 2002 with Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace.

Dunking Duel: Finley faced off against Ray Allen and former Celtic Chris Carr in the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. He finished third in the finals that year. The previous year, Finley came in second place to Brent Barry.

School Ties: Finley attended the same high school as Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Proviso East HS in Maywood, Illinois. He played college basketball at the University of Wisconsin, the same school as recently acquired Marcus Landry.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Michael Finley, Ray Allen

Doc on D&C: Trash-talking no big deal

03.04.10 at 9:06 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined guest hosts Butch Stearns and Steve DeOssie on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to shed some light on what happened in Wednesday night’s game between Paul Pierce and Charlotte’s Stephen Jackson. The guys also talked about some of the great trash-talkers in the NBA, including Boston’s own Larry Bird, as well as how the coach keeps his team focused and healthy during the monotony of an 82-game season.

What happened last night with Pierce and Stephen Jackson?

I don’€™t know what was going on, it was strange actually. All I can think of, I guess there was some talking on the free-throw line, and you know I thought more of it was frustration on Stephen’€™s part ‘€” he was struggling, he was having a tough night and it was really Ray more than Paul, I thought Ray did a terrific job on him, and got a little frustrated. After that, who knows, it was a strange one, it wasn’€™t like they were entangled under the basket, it was odd.

Was it about average for what you see in the NBA every day?

It was just average ‘€” you hear talking all the time. In this day and time, talking escalates more than it used to, and it did in this case. But I don’€™t think it was that big of a deal, I don’€™t even think I got up off my seat, I just let them go, what the heck.

There were legendary trash-talkers when you played ‘€” what were you like on the court talking?

If you talked trash to me, I just tried to get you back during the game with the play. If you could get to a guy with your mouth during the game, you would do it. You would do whatever it took to win when you were out on the floor. Times have changed in that way, it just seems like players are far more sensitive then they used to be. And I think because of the three referees, just think I played three or four years with just two officials, and it was accepted ‘€” it was like baseball with the inside pitch and the brush-off pitch, and you just accept it. Being physical, getting hit if you drove to the basket, and it no longer is accepted, guys lose their cool over it.

Anything that you remember specifically?

Not much that you can say on the air, but I can tell you one of the best trash-talkers played in Boston and his name was Larry Bird and he was terrific. And he said things that hurt ‘€” not personal family stuff, but about your game and about his game. And it bothered you sometimes, but not to the fact that you wanted to fight, what you wanted to do was get him back on the floor with your game.

Don’€™t you have to back it up, too?

Exactly right. The great players were the great trash-talkers because they could. Now everyone does it. The game [Bird] had 61, I was in the game unfortunately, in New Orleans, and he started calling shots. The last 3 that Bird made, bringing the ball down the floor, he leaned and said, 3-pointer, falling into the trainer’€™s lap, and that’€™s what he did. So either we were awful defensively or Larry Bird was really good.

All talking aside, you had to be pleased with the Celtics’€™ effort last night.

Yeah, I really was, you know the last two games I was pleased with a lot of things we were doing. Last night, defensively, I thought we were terrific, we didn’€™t start the game off great defensively, but at the end of the game, we were great. Our bench in the last two games has been terrific, and it was good to see Paul Pierce assert himself again, being injured, not having great rhythm two games ago, you can see last night he got back last night. Paul has to be our go-to guy for us to be a great team, and he has to be healthy to do that. And it’€™s good to see him healthy again.

Nate Robinson had a good game last night, and he seems to have a nice role here now.

Obviously we need him, as more of an x-factor. Nate’€™s not going to be great every night, but he’€™s going to have a lot of good nights for us, because he’€™s an offensive player. He’€™s a terrific shooter, he can handle the ball, which takes some pressure off the second unit, and when he plays like that, it makes us really good. You know I said yesterday, I don’€™t know if we need Nate to be great to win games, but when he plays well, it’€™s very difficult for us to lose games.

Are you trying to find a combination that works for sitting starters and playing bench players?

Yeah, I like the combination that we’€™ve had, you know Rasheed and Baby, if one of those two are struggling, you can go with Sheldon which is great. Marquis and Tony with Nate, and if one of those two are struggling, you can go with Scal. So this is only our second game this year, if you can believe that, where we’€™ve had our entire team intact. So our rotation and our minutes are pretty easy, it’€™s just good to have everybody on the floor.

Shelden seems to now be a bit of a wild-card as far as playing time, how can we see him getting into the rotations?

It’€™s like the back-up quarterback in the NFL ‘€” everybody wants to see the other guy. When you’€™re winning, they don’€™t care who’€™s playing, everybody’€™s good. But if you lose a couple games, why don’€™t you do this and why don’€™t you play this – who are you going to play him in front of? Rasheed Wallace is our backup center, so you’€™re not going to put him there. And Baby has not played bad at all, Baby has played pretty well, so that’€™s why it’€™s tough. And you also have Scalabrine. The thing we know about Shelden is he’€™s ready when he’€™s called upon, and so is Scalabrine. And on the depth chart right now Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace are in front of Sheldon, but Shelden stays ready and that’€™s what you need.

You mention this was only the second game with your whole roster available, how important is that heading toward the playoffs, keeping everyone healthy?

It’€™s funny, our minutes have been good all year, so I’€™m not concerned by that. The bottom line is you play them and knock on wood, you just hope they stay healthy, because you have to play them. I tell you what we need the most, is in practice. Even in games, the two they’€™ve been there, we still haven’€™t had a lot of practice time with them on the floor, and we need good practices, we need good practices the rest of the year to get good rhythm. I like where were at, I like our team, I’€™ve said that all year, we just need to get them all healthy together.

You have a good connection with your players because you were a player. Do you think it gets harder to get to them over time?

It’€™s always a concern as a coach, but you have to keep your message going, you have to keep changing it. And I’€™ve got a group of guys that are pretty coachable. This year has been very difficult, I knew that coming into the year, when you think about two years ago you won it, last year you go two seven games series, we’€™ve had a lot of injuries. There’€™s a lot of reasons our record is what it is. But I don’€™t think guys tune you out is one of them. I look at our record, I’€™m amazed, and you guys have lived here, you understand that, we have the best record in the league on the road. We’€™ve struggled at home, and if I have one disappointment, it’€™s that. If we play decent at home, we probably have the best record in the NBA this year. If we just play normal at home, we do. I like this team, I like what we’€™ve done. Would I like us to have three or four more wins, yeah, there’€™s no doubt about that. But I like this team, I just think this team has something in them.

Is it tough to keep veterans focused during the season ‘€” not bored ‘€” so they don’€™t look to the playoffs?

Oh yea, it happens to all of them. It’€™s different in football because there’€™s only a certain amount of games, where we have the 82 games. But it’€™s something as a coach you have to keep pushing through. You have to keep pushing their energy through. You use different combinations during the regular season to get the win during that single game. Players are smart ‘€“ they understand that they want to be healthy, they want to be at their best when the playoffs start, so you have to watch their minutes, you have to do everything to keep it going.

And there’€™s no worry about being able to flip that switch before the playoffs?

Oh, always it is, as a coach. As a player that may be different, but as a coach you’€™re always concerned by that. But I don’€™t really think our team has done that, I just think our team haven’€™t played well. For a lot of reasons we haven’€™t, but I don’€™t think it’€™s the switch. I think some of the veterans maybe, but I think you look at Kevin Garnett who’€™s been injured and working his way back to health, I think that’€™s been an issue. I know Paul Pierces is the same way. So I don’€™t think it is as much as people think it is.

Have you ever been around a team that plays better on the road than at home like this team?

No, I haven’€™t. A lot of coaches would take that problem, and I’€™m in that belief, because you know at some point you’€™re going to get your rhythm at home, and you believe that. If you can maintain and be a great playoff team going into the playoffs, and turn it around at home, things are looking pretty good for your basketball team. But no, I’€™ve never been on a team that has played so much better on the road than at home.

A lot of games coming up, taking on Philly, Washington, Milwaukee ‘€” but it’€™s become a lot more about what your teams doing than who you’€™re playing.

That’€™s all it is. Before the year, and unfortunately it’€™s been proven right, I gave our guys a schedule, and the 82 games, the opponent every night was us. And right now, that’€™s more true than ever.

Reports: Finley chooses Celtics

03.04.10 at 4:32 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, forward Michael Finley agreed to join the Celtics for the rest of the season. The 6-foot-7 veteran, who was waived by the Spurs this week, is expected to join the C’s this weekend. The 37-year-old Finley played just 25 games for San Antonio this season, averaging 3.7 points per game. Over his 15-year career, he has averaged 15.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

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