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A House on fire

01.25.09 at 5:01 pm ET
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Question: How does a team win a game by 24 points when they are minus-22 at the free throw line? By making 10 more 3-pointers than the other team.

There is no one on the Celtics, not Ray Allen, not Paul Pierce, who can use the 3-pointer to more devastating effect than Eddie House. When House has it going from outside, as he did against Miami and as he did Sunday afternoon against Dallas, the Celtics second unit goes from a potential vulnerability to an undeniable strength. (Click here for a recap of the Celtics’ 124-100 blowout of the Mavericks).

In recent weeks, the Celtics starters have put great emphasis on getting out to big leads. During their current eight-game winning streak, the C’s have averaged a lead of greater than 10 points after the first quarter and have been outscored in the first 12 minutes just once. What has made them dominant has been a revitalized second unit that has maintained and extended those leads, often putting games out of reach by halftime.

“When the starters come back they don’t have to build the lead back up,” said second-year point guard Gabe Pruitt. “Our main focus is to defend and keep the other team from scoring.”

Defense is always the main focus with the Celtics, but you have to score, too, and Pruitt’s emergence as the team’s secondary ballhander has freed up House to do what he does best: come off screens and knock down 3-pointers. House hit seven 3’s against the Mavs and finished with 23 points, two off his season-high 25 against the Heat last week

“Our second unit doesn’t have the main guy that we constantly go to,” Pruitt said. “We look for Eddie coming off screens, or Leon (Powe) on the post.”

The 3-pointer is so devastating because it can completely negate all the hard work the opponent puts into coming back, and a couple of pops by House can make up for two or three empty offensive trips. “I’m just getting open looks,” House said. “It’s not like I’m forcing anything. I’m getting the ball in rhythm and open. It’s 50/50 when you shoot it.” With House these days it’s more like 60/40.

Tasked with being the primary ballhandler and the best outside shooting option, House had struggled to find consistency with his outside shot. But with his current hot streak, he has lifted his 3-point shooting to over 39 percent. Giving up the point to Pruitt has helped, but the insertion of Brian Scalabrine into the rotation has also been a factor, as Scal not only spaces the floor as well as any of the reserves, he’s also adept at setting screens.

“The biggest key for Eddie is instead of searching for shots, he’s letting shots come to him and he’s making shots,” Doc Rivers said. “Before he was rushing. He was forcing, taking some bad shots. I think actually Gabe has helped him.”

“Eddie’s a scorer,” said Rajon Rondo who turned in another stellar outing with 13 points and 14 assists. “When he doesn’t have to bring the ball up against pressure, he can come off screens and (Kevin Garnett), Baby (Davis), Leon and Scal do a great job of getting him open.”

The fear has always been playing House as an undersized two-guard, but so far teams have been unable to take advantage of any potential matchup problems, and the matchups have been favorable lately. But there again, playing with a big lead allows the Celtics to dictate those kinds of things.

Garnett, for one, feels that Celtics are playing better than they did during their 19-game winning streak when the players and coaching staff saw big red blinking warning signs around every victory. Defense, as always, is the primary reference point, but a 10-deep rotation that passes and shoots the ball as well as the Celtics have been is just as big a factor.

Against Dallas, the Celtics racked up 34 assists against only six turnovers. They probably won’t record a better ratio all season, but it’s indicative of the way the ball is moving that Paul Pierce scored exactly zero points after the first quarter and his offensive contributions were not missed in the slightest.

“It shows in the fourth quarter,” Rondo said. “The starters are able to rest. That’s big for us, especially down the stretch.”

And as the games get more spaced out, and the minutes go down, the Celtics become very frightening indeed. They have played 10 times this season with more than one day between games and they have won every single time.

Which brings us back to Eddie House. After the game, reporters wanted to know if he’d like to wrangle an invite to the NBA 3-point shooting contest. That wouldn’t have even been a question a couple of weeks ago, but things were different then. The bench was a major concern, people were openly salivating for Stephon Marbury and lamenting the loss of James Posey.

Credit the coaches with making the adjustments with the roster they have, not the one they might like to have, and credit House for continuing to be the ultimate professional.

Celtics-Mavericks Game Blog: Fourth Quarter

01.25.09 at 2:56 pm ET
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At the start of the fourth quarter … Celtics 103, Mavs 78

– The Celtics are in cruise control but they allowed the Mavericks to score 31 points in the third quarter.

– No dunks from Gerald Green tonight but there’s always the possibility of a few highlight clips with Bill Walker on the court. On the court for the Celtics: Walker, Davis, House, Scal, and Pruitt. For the Mavs: Nowitzki, Bass, Terry. Kidd, Howard. Rick Carlisle isn’t giving up just yet.

Brandon Bass wasn’t going to just let Big Baby get to the basket. Bass pushed around his former LSU teammate in a match up that will be fun to watch in the fourth.

Leon Powe and Patrick O’Bryant got their first minutes of the game with less than ten minutes to go.

– Six minutes to go … is it Gino Time already? A 29-point lead warrants a celebration.

– The Celtics starters outscored the Mavs starting five 75-52.

– Celtics win 124-100 and reclaim the lead in the Eastern Conference.

Celtics-Mavericks Game Blog: Third Quarter

01.25.09 at 2:24 pm ET
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I suppose there exists a possibility wherein the Mavericks could get back in this one, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Celtics probably won’t shoot 65 percent in the second half, nor are they likely to hit 10-of-13 from 3-point range again. But this is the end of a long road trip for the Mavs and it shows.

The other big number from the first half? Four, as in the number of turnovers for the Celtics. Turnovers remain the biggest chink in their armor, offensively, and honestly they’re part of the bargain for the way they play, but when they limit them the Celtics are basically unstoppable.

The third quarter awaits…

THIRD QUARTER WRAP: The only question now is, ‘how much?’ The Mavs came out after getting humiliated in the first half and promptly gave up the first eight points of the quarter. Not the way one wants to come back. Give the Celtics credit for not letting up in their intensity, but you can hang a lot of this on the Mavericks.

Expect lots of time for Bill Walker and Patrick O’Bryant in the fourth quarter.

Third Quarter Observations

Rajon Rondo now has 11 points. He also has four rebounds and six assists meaning he’s got an outside shot at a triple-double. Ray Allen is in the same boat with 20 points, four boards and six assists, but Ray doesn’t fill up the state sheet like Rondo. Doubtful either of them will play long enough in the second half to get there, but maybe…

— I’m wondering if Rick Carlisle will spontaneously combust like the drummer from Spinal Tap.

— Apologies. The Game Day blog was experiencing technical difficulties. We now return to your regularly scheduled beatdown.

Jason Terry is the only Maverick playing with a pulse this afternoon. At the same time the fact that the Celtics are being merciless is nothing but a good thing. How many times have you seen an NBA team build a big lead and then give it back because of laziness or a lack of focus?

— It’s hard to take a lot out of a blowout like this, but the fact that Eddie House is still hot is a great thing for the Celtics second unit. His ability to make 3’s can cover for a lot of things.

— From the land of the strange and unusual, I’m not sure how many times we’ve seen a lineup that has Rondo, House and Ray Allen on the floor at the same time (except at the end of quarters and halves), but it’s a fun mix.

Celtics-Mavericks Game Blog: Second Quarter

01.25.09 at 1:37 pm ET
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At the half … Celtics 74, Mavs 47

Second Quarter Observations:

7: the number of field goals Dirk Nowitzki has attempted.

0: the number of field goals he has made.

– The Dallas Mavericks looked unmotivated in the first quarter and the Celtics enter the second with a 38-23 lead. The Garden crowd, which was a bit sleepy at the start of the game, have more energy than the Mavs right now.

– The Mavs are trying to take advantage of the Celtics second unit at the start of the quarter. Scal on Nowtizki could be worrisome as Dirk is getting wide open looks and rebounds.

– That didn’t last long for Gabe Pruitt. He got called for three fouls in two minutes, sending him to the bench.

– No jumpshot? Rondo has hit three Js against a Mavericks team who two seasons ago purposely left him open … to miss.

– For those of you waiting to catch a dunk from Gerald Green, there’ll be no dunking going on in street clothes. Green is inactive for this game.

Nomar Garciaparra and Lou Merloni are in the building.

– Ray Allen’s getting a breather with six minutes to go after scoring 19 points in 17 minutes. He has made more field goals than Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, and Josh Howard combined.

– 6’1 Rondo picked off an overhead pass from 6’11 Erick Dampier. This is the type of focus the Mavs have been playing with today.

- At the half … Celtics 74, Mavs 47

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks,

Celtics-Mavericks Game Blog: First Quarter

01.25.09 at 12:51 pm ET
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We are live on a Sunday afternoon from the Garden for today’s matinee between the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Celtics. The champs come into this one on a roll, winners of seven straight and off a mighty impressive Florida sweep.

The Mavs have won three of four, including a blowout win at Detroit on Friday, but they are coming through a very tough stretch. This is their fourth road game this week, and they have been away from Dallas for seven of their last nine. After this, the Mavs go home for one game and then head back out to do the Florida thing (see, every team has insane schedule issues).

At any rate, the Celtics have narrowly regained the top spot in the Eastern Conference (although they are down a game in the loss column to Cleveland), while Dallas is holding on in seventh in the West. Fun matchups will be the flavor of the day with Rajon Rondo going against Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce and Josh Howard and the always-fun Kevin Garnett-Dirk Nowitzki battle serving as the main event.

We’ll be here all day. You should be too…

FIRST QUARTER WRAP: Tremendous start by the Celtics. They opened by running everything through Garnett to take advantage of the matchup with Nowitzki and it paid off. It was an incredibly efficient quarter; no turnovers, 67 percent shooting. Garnett and Ray Allen both have 11 points, while Nowitzki opened up going 0-for-7.

First Quarter Observations

— Jason Kidd: Still getting booed.

— The Celtics are pounding it into KG to start. Makes sense with Nowitzki on him, but they should probably be careful not to overdo that strategy. They work best when they are free-flowing and there are clear lines to the hoop available. (addendum: I take back everything I said in that first sentence).

— Fun start with lots of movement on both ends offensively. Safe to say that both teams are into it. The crowd, however, is kind of dead.

— Every time the Celtics go down low, Kidd is doubling off Rondo. So far Garnett got Rondo twice, once on a backdoor layup attempt, which Rondo missed, and then Rondo found Paul Pierce wide-open for a 3-pointer.
The Mavs, meanwhile are basically playing 3-on-5 on offense. Antoine Wright and Erick Dampier just take up space.

— Good play call by Doc coming out of the timeout to get Ray Allen a jumper. That’s something he doesn’t get enough credit for. He’s one of the best in the league at getting good shots out of timeouts.

— You know how announcers like to call a play where a guy makes a shot, gets fouled and converts a free-throw an “old-fashioned three-point play?” Not sure why people still do that. I mean the 3-point line has been in existence since 1980. There’s nothing particularly new about shooting 3-pointers, but anyway, Garnett just got a three-point play in an entirely unique way. He made one free throw, missed the second, and then hit a jumper after Rondo got the offensive board.

— Great defensive sequence by the Celtics. They had two or three terrific rotations and wound up with a steal that led to a Pierce 3-pointer.

— The Celtics are putting on a clinic right now. Every shot they are getting is wide open.

Celtics practice notes

01.24.09 at 3:12 pm ET
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There was a media circus on Saturday at Health Point with several outlets taking advantage of what has become a rare Boston Celtics practice.

Tony Allen, who has missed the last 10 games with an ankle injury, consistently knocked down long-range jumpshots after practice. However Doc Rivers, who does not get involved in the medical side of the game, has not been given the green light yet from Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte.

‘€œI have no idea [how he’s feeling],’€ Rivers said. ‘€œHe seems like he’s doing well, smiling and laughing today. I didn’t check updates. He’s not playing so I just talk to him as a guy. I don’t even ask him about the injury. So he’s feeling good.’€

Rajon Rondo was also working on his jumpshot, a hot topic as of late. Rondo attests that Rivers has not asked him to spend any more time on his J than he usually does.

‘€œIn practice when I have the opportunity, I shoot it,’€ he said. ‘€œBut other than that I try to continue to do what I do best.’€

– The Celtics spent an extra day in Florida on Friday after beating the Orlando Magic on Thursday night. Temperatures reached nearly 70 degrees in Orlando yesterday compared to 40 in Boston.

‘€œIt’s great, any time you can stay in warm weather it’s got to be good for the body, good for the soul,’€ Rivers said. ‘€œThe players wanted that and they earned it, so they got to stay.’€

As for Rivers, he used the extra day to spend time with his family. ‘€œI slept at home, I never saw the team,’€ he said before adding with a laugh, ‘€œSo it was perfect for me.’€

– The Celtics will take on the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at 1pm at the TD BankNorth Garden.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Rajon Rondo, Roc Rivers

A Big All-Star Push

01.23.09 at 9:47 am ET
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When is there a possibility that 22 points and nearly 11 rebounds per game not good enough for an All-Star selection? When you play on the 13-27 Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Big Al” Jefferson has been quietly running up the leaderboards since being traded from the Boston Celtics in July of 2007. His performance, which includes 22 double-doubles, went relatively unnoticed in fan voting. So the T’€™Wolves are doing everything they can to make sure Jefferson receives the recognition he deserves in spite of their losing record.

The organization has less than a week to win the votes of the Western Conference coaches who will vote on All-Star reserves. They have developed a marketing campaign ‘€“ ‘€œBig Al’s Road Trip: Navigating his way to Phoenix’€ ‘€“ and mailed each coach a Sony GPS device. The devices have been named the ‘€œDouble-Double Machine’€ and play a highlight video set to Lupe Fiasco’€™s ‘€œSuperstar.’€

“It would mean a lot,” Jefferson told the media. “Just growing up, before I even knew I was going to be an NBA player, just watching the All-Star games on TV you always wanted to be there as a kid. Me having that chance to make it, it would mean a lot to me. It’s something I could talk about for the rest of my life.”

All-Star reserves will be revealed next Thursday, January 29. Celtics Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins are also on the Eastern Conference ballot. Kevin Garnett was named as a starting forward for the East.

Read More: Al Jefferson, Boston Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett
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