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MIP: Most Indispensable Player

12.15.08 at 9:38 pm ET
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Paul Pierce had been knocked down, kneed, elbowed and the recipient of more than one collision already when his knee banged into Mehmet Okur. It was his left knee, not the one he injured against the Lakers in the Finals, and it was straight, as in prone for a devastating knee injury.

Pierce was able to bend his knee a bit before Okur went crashing into him, and he avoided disaster. But it still hurt like hell, and when he went down the Garden was deathly quiet. His teammates left the bench en masse to check on Pierce and Big Baby Davis and Leon Powe had to help him get back to the locker room.

The crowd chanted M-V-P as Pierce made his way off the court, but they should have been chanting M-I-P as in, Most Indispensable Player.

“It’s a little tender,” Pierce said after his club dispatched the Jazz, 100-91. “The knee kind of buckled. It should be all right.”

That’s good news, obviously, for the Celtics, because if there’s one player on the roster they can’t afford to lose, it’s Pierce.

That’s a funny statement to make when you look at what Rajon Rondo has done this year–and he turned in another gem against Deron Williams–and when you consider that Kevin Garnett is well, Kevin Garnett. But behind Pierce on the small forward depth chart is Tony Allen, who is not, in fact, a small forward, and Brian Scalabrine, who is a perfect 10th Man, but not exactly the guy you want knocking heads with Ron Artest or LeBron James for 38 minutes a night.

It’s also funny when you look at Pierce’s shooting numbers. Simply put, Pierce has not shot the ball well this season. His field goal percentage has hovered around 40 percent, the lowest of his career, and his 3-point shooting is a tick off (35 percent) his career average of 36 percent.

But Pierce is indispensable because he has become a player who can be great even when he’s not scoring at a high level. Take the simple act of making free throws, for instance, where he is shooting 84 percent. Pierce is getting to the line at a higher rate than he did last year, which is helping him keep his scoring average at around 18 a game.

That’s important because while his shot hasn’t been falling at his normal rate, he is shooting less and turning it over less than his career averages, proof that he is not forcing the issue in an effort to get himself going. Even more than last year, Pierce has been content to take his offense as it comes and let others, particularly Ray Allen, have the scoring glory.

Even when he is on the floor with the four mainstays off the bench, Pierce hasn’t imposed his strong personality on the proceedings. Before his knee scare, Pierce had logged 43 minutes and taken just 13 shots, none of them 3-pointers. Think about that for a second and let it roll around in your head. He remains the Celtics’ best one-on-one option. The guy you want to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line–as he proved against Toronto and Atlanta back in early November. Yet he is perfectly comfortable to not be The Man.

As great as Garnett is, Pierce’s willingness to defer to others, and take the reins when necessary, are the principal reasons the Celtics have worked offensively.

Then there’s the defense.

Oct. 28 LeBron James: 9-for-21, 22 points

Nov. 4 Ron Arrest: 3-for-16, 15 points

Nov. 14 Carmelo Anthony: 8-for-19, 18 points

Dec. 12: Peja Stojakovic: 1-for-6, 2 points

Nov. 1, Dec. 3, Dec. 7 Danny Granger: 21-for-55

There are all kinds of ways to measure toughness, particularly on the defensive end. Garnett is intimidating. Kendrick Perkins is, to coin a phrase, a beast. But Pierce gives the Celtics an edge, a street-tough nastiness that doesn’t back down.

This was Utah coach Jerry Sloan, one of the toughest SOB’s the NBA has ever seen, after last night’s game:

“It looked like we were scared to play against them to start the ballgame. Looked like we wanted to play out on the perimeter and take jump shots. They’re awfully hard to get the ball inside on, because they’re an excellent defensive team and they knock you around a bit. Our guys wanted to stay outside because I think they were afraid they’d get hurt. They had us intimidated a great deal and had us out on the perimeter.”

When Jerry Sloan says that his team was intimidated you have to take note.

People might not like the comparison, but the Celtics are an awful lot like the Detroit Pistons of the late 80’s, swaggering, intimidating and defense-first. They beat you up and then they tell you about it. All that went away for the Pistons when they traded Rick Mahorn, who was legitimately scary as hell. The Celtics have more than their share of tough guys, but Pierce is the one no one outside of Quentin Richardson wants to mess with.

He has been the Captain for a long time now, but this is truly his team now. The Celtics are in his image: tough, intimidating and just a little bit dangerous.

Read More: Celtics, jazz, jerry sloan, mehmet okur

Celtics-Jazz Game Blog: Fourth Quarter

12.15.08 at 7:30 pm ET
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Click here for Paul’s third quarter recap.

The final 12 minutes are going to be physical. Tony Allen is taking it hard to the basket and Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring aren’t letting him get there easily. Leon Powe got whistled for a controversial moving block and the Garden is not happy about this one.

– As we reported earlier, Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps arrived at the Garden at halftime. During the fourth quarter he made an appearance with Jared Fogle (aka: The Subway Guy) to promote his recent endorsement with Subway.

– Gabe Pruitt’s back in and showing no hesitation on the long-range shot. After he drained a three a fan near me said, “I like this Pruitt kid.” Could he become this season’s Leon Powe? He got a standing O when he left the game.

Kevin Garnett needs the fans to feel it, at least that’s what he said on the Jumbotron. KG is feeling it with a seven point lead heading into the final five. The starters are back in and all are in double digits tonight.

– Rondo and Williams are engaged in a battle of daring shots.

– After this game P.J. Brown isn’t the only Louisiana Tech alum the Celtics will remember. Paul Millsap has been the offensive spark for the Jazz and will finish as the game’s leading scorer barring a freakish offensive spree.

Paul Pierce left the game with less than a minute left after a collision under the basket. Pierce grabbed his knee and was helped off the court by Glen Davis and Leon Powe.

- Game over. Celtics 100, Jazz 91. Recap here.

Celtics-Jazz Game Blog: Third Quarter

12.15.08 at 6:54 pm ET
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The Celtics strange run of poor second quarters continues as a double-digit lead is now a tie as we head to the second half.

The good: Kendrick Perkins with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The bad: 14 turnovers.

On we go… Read the rest of this entry »

Celtics-Jazz Game Blog: Second Quarter

12.15.08 at 6:12 pm ET
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Before the start of the second quarter Kevin Garnett pulled Rajon Rondo … and a ball boy … aside to demonstrate an offensive scheme. KG ran over the move three times while the ball boy had a quiet smile on his face.

– There’s a man two rows from the court wearing a Sebastian Telfair jersey. Either he’s a diehard fan or he scored on the sale rack.

– Talk about a true second unit: Gabe Pruitt, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Glen Davis, and Leon Powe. I’m waiting for Patrick O’Bryant to check-in and then it’d feel like a real fourth quarter blow out.

– The Scal experiment has been short-lived tonight. Ray Allen’s back on the court with 8:30 left in the game, looking to push the Celtics lead back up to double-digits. Here comes KG … and Rondo. Doc’s going for defense with Ray and Tony Allen, Leon Powe, Garnett, and Rondo.

– With the Celtics starters on the court the Jazz have tied it up at 37. Doc Rivers said it would be difficult to control the ball tonight and the Jazz have the Celtics playing sloppy.

– Here’s the problem: the Celtics aren’t hitting their shots and the Jazz are having their way in the paint. The Celtics shot 6-for-18 from the field and scored just six points in the paint in the second quarter. The Jazz, on the other hand, scored 10 points in the paint. It’s tied 43-43 at the half and still anyone’s game.

Celtics-Jazz Game Blog: First Quarter

12.15.08 at 5:34 pm ET
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We are live at the Garden for tonight’s game between the Celtics and the Utah Jazz. Some pregame drama surrounded the C’s as traffic delayed several players arrival. At last check Rajon Rondo was the last one to to make it in, but he is here and on the court warming up. That’s good news for the C’s because Eddie House is not here. He is with his family after his aunt died, and is expected to be back on Wednesday in Atlanta.

That means Gabe Pruitt will be first off the bench behind Rondo and Tony Allen may see some time as well. Sam Cassell is also in uniform and according to Doc Rivers “might play.” Might being a particularly strong word.

Regardless, we’re ready to go. Will it be 15 in a row for the C’s? Will the Jazz repeat last year’s blowout? Will another coach get fired between now and then? Let’s find out… Read the rest of this entry »

Celtics Battle Traffic, Then Jazz

12.15.08 at 5:30 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics had to battle a different kind of opponent before their game against the Utah Jazz: Traffic. A mid-afternoon accident caused major delays on 93 North in Boston, a popular route to the TD BankNorth Garden. Twenty minute rides turned into hour-long endeavors as many of the players sat in gridlock traffic. Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, and Brian Scalabrine showed up after 6pm and hurried to get in their pregame shots. Rajon Rondo arrived around 6:45.

This is a game where Rondo would probably appreciate extra practice time. Even though Deron Williams is recovering from an ankle injury, he still poses a oversized challenge for the Celtics point guard. Rondo will look to use his speed and length to outplay Williams, who is second in the league in assists. Williams couldn’t quantify just how fast Rondo is but noted that rookies Russell Westbrook and Mario Chalmers are already showing the most similarities to Rondo’s game.

Another NBA Coach Fired

12.15.08 at 12:38 pm ET
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The Sacramento Kings will have a new head coach when they take on the Boston Celtics at the end of the month. On Monday the Kings fired head coach Reggie Theus, the sixth NBA head coach to be let go this season. The team is 6-18 without their leading scorer Kevin Martin (ankle) and 1-9 over the last ten games. Theus was hired at the start of last season and recorded 44 wins and 62 losses (.415) during his tenure. He attended the same high school as Paul Pierce, Inglewood High School in California. Assistant coach Kenny Natt will serve as interim head coach. The Celtics play the Kings on December 28 in California.

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