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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.’€

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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,

Stock Up, Stock Down in 2009

04.11.09 at 5:56 pm ET
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Quick quiz. In April of 2008 Kevin Durant was, what?

A. A bust.

B. Way too thin to handle the rigors of the NBA, unfortunately, cause he was so much freaking fun to watch in college.

C. About to be named Rookie of the Year even though nobody really thought he had played all that well.

The answer is C, and if you ask people about Durant now, they will tell you that they would have taken him over Greg Oden (still not sure about that one myself) and that Durant might be the most important young player in the game (a different argument, but an interesting one). Point is, perceptions change in the NBA quickly and often from season to season.

With that in mind, here’s a look at who made a jump in 2008-09 and who took a hit in the Atlantic Division.


1. Doc Rivers (Celtics): I wrote about this earlier in the week, focusing on how the players view their coach. For these purposes it’s important to remember that even as late as the conference finals there were people who didn’t believe in Doc, like, at all. The criticisms were not without some merit and certainly Rivers had something to prove in the playoffs, but his work this season has been blessed by all corners of Celtics fandom.

2. Nate Robinson (New York): We can all agree that if Nate the Great were playing in Milwaukee and scoring
17 points a game off the bench he wouldn’t be getting profiled in major publications, or making Letterman appearances. But, whatever. He’s awesome to watch and in a normal year his restricted free agency would mean somebody would overpay to have him dunk on tall dudes. Not sure that’s going to happen in this economy, but the Knicks have gone from having fan pressure to sign restricted free agent David Lee to having fan pressure to sign David Lee and Nate Robinson. Wouldn’t have said that at the beginning of the year.

3. Devin Harris (New Jersey): From injury-prone complimentary guard to scoring machine All-Star. Would be higher if Nets had made the playoffs.

4. Mike D’Antoni (New York): He’s pretty much handled the New York media and the fans seem to be sold on what the Knicks are doing, which in turn buys he and Donnie Walsh some time to do whatever it is they will do by 2010. (You know how they say you can’t rebuild in New York because the fans won’t let you? It’s like Knicks fans are going out of their way to disprove that notion with this team).

At any rate, D’Antoni has received generally high marks and there is chatter in the stat-geek community that he’s not really the terrible defensive coach everyone makes him out to be. That’s good for now but even with all that if the wins don’t creep higher next year it won’t be long until the NY tabs are running Teflon D’an(toni) back pages.

5. Andre Miller (Philly): Miller has two things going for him as he heads into unrestricted free agency. He’s quietly putting together another highly efficient season and he’s also doing it at a time when people are starting to be less impressed with gaudy scoring numbers and looking deeper to value players. In uncertain times, Miller’s consistency is his greatest asset. You want to gamble or take a sure thing these days?


Stephon Marbury (seriously, but you’re not wrong for withholding judgment)

Rajon Rondo (on the cusp of national stardom)

Andre Iguodala (should be on the cusp of national stardom)

Andrea Bargnani (at least offensively)

Mareese Speights: (The under the radar stat geek rookie find of the year.)


1. Chris Bosh (Toronto): His numbers are about the same which makes this unfair, but remember, this is about perception and this has not been an easy season for a number of reasons. From the Raptors disappointing record to his 2010 free agency, plus the weird thing with Shaq and an off the court controversy, Bosh has seemed like the unhappiest 20 and 10 guy in the league.

If Toronto doesn’t make the right moves this summer get ready for a lot of, ‘What’s the matter with Chris Bosh?’ stories next season.

2. Everybody else in Toronto: The coach got fired a year and 17 games after winning Coach of the Year, the GM is taking on water and Shawn Marion hasn’t exactly set himself apart from the guy who played with Steve Nash in Phoenix. Just a bad year for the Raps. The most disappointing team in the NBA, especially when you consider Bosh and Jose Calderon had good years.

3. Elton Brand (Philly): It should have worked, and maybe it still will. From all indications the Sixers aren’t giving up on their prized free agent after a year in which he was hurt most of the year and ineffective when he did play. The Sixers played better without Brand, but that just meant that they were a 40-win or so team that won’t be favored to get out of the first round of the playoffs again. GM Ed Stefanski needs to see this play out next year, but this year? Not so much.

4. Lawrence Frank (New Jersey): There had been a lot of talk out of Jersey that Frank was in trouble, but that seems to have subsided a little bit. The question here is if everyone assumed that the Nets would be a 25-30 win team this season and it turns out that they are, why are people mad at the coach?

5. Eddy Curry (New York): Curry has gone from a wasted year on the court to a tragic figure off it. It’s so bad even Shaq is backing off. Curry’s at the point in his career where he has to decide if he wants to keep playing because the days of NBA teams wildly overpaying semi-decent big men large sums of money are probably over.

And some Celtics

It’s hard to pick on the Celtics for winning 60 games amidst all the injuries and there isn’t really anybody on the roster who has taken a dramatic step back this season, but Gabe Pruitt did not progress the way many people would have liked and first-round pick JR Giddens has been so far removed from Doc’s thought process that he’s whatever comes after afterthought. Patrick O’Bryant would count too, but he’s now the Raptors’ project.

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