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Ray Allen: ‘We’ve been less than ourselves’ without Kendrick Perkins 01.25.11 at 11:49 pm ET
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Following Kendrick Perkins‘ early return to the Celtics lineup, just about everybody was asked about the team’s 26-year-old center, and Ray Allen — dressed in a Shaft-like leather jacket and a sweater that went up to his nose — was no different.

“We’ve kind of been less than ourselves over the last three or fourth months, just waiting,” said Allen of Perkins’ absence this season. “We’ve had great success with the guys we’ve been using, but we haven’t had the lineup that’s been consistent here over the last three and a half years, when we’ve been successful and won some big games, including the championship. So, it’s great to see him back out on the floor, and it just makes us that much stronger.”

The vibe in the Celtics locker room felt different after the team disposed of the Cavaliers, 112-95, and it’s because, like Jerry Maguire, Perkins completes them.

“When he went down, obviously eyes around the world were on him,” added Allen. “Everybody felt a little sympathy for us, because we weren’t whole. Him coming back has a great symbolism to it, because we know what we’re trying to get back to.”

Perkins’ return was a reminder of how close the Celtics came to winning another NBA title last season before he went down with his ACL injury in Game 6 of the finals, especially considering his six rebounds in 17 minutes on Tuesday night.

And before the C’s get back to where they want to go, they’ll have another reminder of that Game 7 loss when they visit the Staples Center for the first time since to take on the Lakers on Sunday afternoon. But Allen’s blocking that from his memory.

“I’d like that to sneak up on me,” he said, ”and just not think about it.”

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Fast Break: Perkins, Celtics hand Cavs 18th straight loss 01.25.11 at 9:55 pm ET
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In his first action since Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, Kendrick Perkins came off the bench to a standing ovation and contributed seven points and six rebounds in just over 17 minutes during a 112-95 blowout of the Cavaliers Tuesday night in Boston.

The Celtics (34-10) projected Perkins would play 12-15 minutes in his return, but he exceeded expectations all night. Of course, it helped that the C’s were playing Cleveland (8-37), losers of 18 straight.

Paul Pierce netted 24 points in just 23:58 on the floor. Shortly after coming down awkwardly on a shot attempt and moving gingerly on his right leg up and down the floor a few times, he exited the game with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter.

Ray Allen knocked down a trio of 3-pointers to close the game to 20 between he and Reggie Miller for the NBA’s all-time 3-point record.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Perk’s return: Even in a rusty 15 minutes a night, Perkins makes a huge difference in the Celtics lineup — especially with both Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal sidelined with leg injuries and the team in desperate need of big bodies.

Just under four minutes into the game, with starter Semih Erden picking up his second foul in the first 3:58, the Celtics turned to Perkins. And 35 seconds later, after a standing ovation, Perkins proved himself, converting a layup plus the foul. He ran the floor and hit the boards hard on both ends of the floor — a cruel reminder of what might have been had he played Game 7 of the finals last season.

Pierce starts fierce: Playing the entire first quarter, Pierce knocked down 6-of-8 shots to score 17 of the team’s 34 points in the opening 12 minutes. During that span, he also exchanged words with Cleveland’s Joey Graham, whoever that is.

The Celtics captain scored 24 points by halftime and left the game midway through the third quarter. He stayed on the bench for the rest of the game, without treatment, so there should be little concern about his slight limp before his exit.

The bench showed up: Given his recent struggles, the Celtics had to be pleased to see Nate Robinson knock down 3-of-8 3-point attempts. He led the charge, as the C’s got at least seven points from all five available guys off the bench (including Perkins). Glen Davis (11 points) and Von Wafer (10) also reached double figures.

Their collective performance allowed Doc Rivers to rest Pierce, Allen (25:16) and Kevin Garnett (17:45) — although, in somewhat of a strange move, Rajon Rondo played almost 44 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Slow start on defense: Allowing the worst team in the league to score 26 first-quarter points and shoot 53 percent from the field for the opening 12 minutes isn’t what the Celtics were looking for when they welcomed the Cavaliers to town.

Cleveland actually owned a 23-21 lead late in the first quarter. It took a 21-5 that stretched into the middle of the second quarter for the Celtics to take control.

‘Big Baby’ not a happy camper: When Glen Davis picked up his second foul with seven minutes to play in the half, he let his frustration be known as he returned to the bench. After he was whistled for a third personal a few minutes later, the referees heard it from louder this time — as he picked up a technical, too.

Not much: When the game is in control from the early portion of the second quarter on, and the Celtics cruised to victory, it’d be nitpicking to find too much wrong with their effort … other than Pierce’s rendition of Enrique Iglesias‘ “I Like It” on the Jumbotron. Then again, Enrique Iglesias’ version isn’t much better.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics succeed one possession at a time 01.25.11 at 1:58 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

 

Over the weekend, I stumbled across a New York Times article that claimed Derrick Rose is a better defender than Rajon Rondo, based on the individual statistical analysis of points allowed per possession:

Rose has allowed just 0.77 points per possession overall on defense this season, an elite mark for any defender, regardless of position. Chris Paul (0.86 points per possession allowed), Rajon Rondo (0.83 PPP allowed), and Russell Westbrook (0.92 PPP allowed) –- all excellent defenders -– have been trumped statistically this year, and by no slim margin. Rose has each of those players handily beat, and boasts a shockingly comprehensive defensive profile.

My natural reaction: How do I get my hands on these points per possession (PPP) statistics? It turns out Synergy Sports Technology tracks every possession — offensively and defensively – for every NBA player. On both sides of the ball, a team or player’s possessions are broken down into 11 categories: 1. isolations, 2. pick-and-rolls (ball-handler), 3. post-ups, 4. pick-and-rolls (roll man), 5. spot-ups, 6. off screens, 7. handoffs, 8. cuts, 9. offensive rebounds, 10. transitions and 11. all other plays.

Obviously, a player’s PPP offensively doesn’t account for the quality of the pass he’s receiving or the look he’s getting, but it’s a great tool to determine how well he’s performing overall and on which plays he’s succeeding.

Likewise, a player’s PPP allowed defensively doesn’t account for the quality of his help defense or who he’s defending, but it’s an accurate representation of whether or not he’s stopping his assignment as well as on what plays he’s being beaten.

Let’s first break down how efficient the Celtics have been offensively as a team; the first number is where they rank in the league in terms of PPP, and the percentage reflects how often they run each play:

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Irish Coffee: ‘The Association’ observations 01.24.11 at 11:36 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Episode 2 of “The Association: Boston Celtics” aired on Friday night, and like the first episode, it was a must-watch for any Celtics fan. Once again, there was a lot to take from the behind-the-scenes documentary. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:

  • Even in early December, Jermaine O’Neal was rubbing some serious ointment on his knee.
  • Doc Rivers‘ leash on Rajon Rondo can wrap around the TD Garden. With Rondo on the floor stretching his hamstring during game action, Rivers was asking him if he needed a blow.
  • Paul Pierce plays defense on Kevin Garnett like Mike Tyson played defense against Peter McNeeley — by knocking his head around.
  • Ray Allen: “At some point, somebody’s going to say, ‘Well, you guys are too old, and it’s time for you to go.’ But we all have too much competitve nature and fierceness to even show any weakness.”
  • Pierce’s leadership during the eight-man practice was great to see. Rivers called the Celtics captain “more focused” as opposed to more vocal. And Pierce believes the C’s can still “whoop some ass” despite all the injuries.
  • Rivers: “We’ve got a group of guys who lost in a Game 7, and they understand that it’s going to be hard to get back to that. We’re dealing with a ton of injuries, so we’re going to need all hands on deck.”
  • This episode really personalizes Luke Harangody’s season with the Celtics, and the portion where he compares joining this C’s team to fitting in on the first day of high school is probably the best portion of the show.
  • Earlier this season, Kendrick Perkins claimed to be working on a mid-range jumper, and he was indeed working on it during filming.
  • Shaquille O’Neal broke out a portion of my all-time favorite line of his: “A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.” The original quote — which he delivered after a 2004 game-winning dunk against the Rockets in the playoffs — ended with, “and I’m trying to give up carbohydrates.”
  • Glen Davis‘ pregame meal? Spaghetti and pancakes, of course.
  • Allen arrives at the gym four hours before tipoff to work on his shooting. A friend pointed out over the weekend that, based on his production in games and his work ethic around them, Allen may have made more 3-pointers in his lifetime than any other human being alive. As for the official NBA record? He’s 23 shy of Reggie Miller‘s record.
  • The shot Shaq made while he was sitting on the bench was fairly ridiculous.
  • Sam Jones: “They have a sense of playing like the Celtics of old. They know they have a chance of getting that NBA championship, but they must do it together.”
  • Was that Rondo in the background at Allen’s family Christmas? And was he wearing his warmups? I’m pretty sure he was.
  • Pierce: “We know we’re a great team, but we can’t win a championship without Kevin Garnett. He’s the one most important piece to the puzzle.”

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Irish Coffee: ‘Basketall Wives’ are pretty much insane 01.21.11 at 9:00 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

When you watch “Jersey Shore” on a regular basis and you find “Basketball Wives” tough to watch, you know the show’s insane. Created by Shaquille O’Neal‘s ex, it features a few Celtics who will make you wonder how you ever watched those teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Without further ado, here are the top four lowlights from the show …

1. Tami Roman (Kenny Anderson‘s ex) & Jennifer Williams (Eric Williams‘ wife) argue over food stamps

2. Shaunie O’Neal & Co. have an extremely awkward dinner conversation

3. Antoine Walker‘s ex-fiance, Evelyn Lozada, confronts her alleged stalker

4. Eric Williams‘ wife discusses the cheating of pro athletes with Matt Barnes

All of these videos can be viewed by CLICKING HERE.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

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NBA Power Rankings, 1/20 01.20.11 at 1:00 pm ET
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So much for the Year of the Streak, huh? After the Celtics, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Lakers and Hornets ripped off significant winning streaks earlier this season, everybody’s settling into midseason NBA mode (aka, “no heavy lifting”) — which makes sorting out the Power Rankings all that much more difficult.

In my mind, there are four heavy favorites to reach the two conference finals: Celtics vs. Heat, and Lakers vs. Spurs. And four other contenders: Bulls, Magic, Thunder and Jazz. Outside of that, it’s a matter of filling out the playoff picture now that we’re at the midway point, and that’s not a pretty picture at the bottom of the East. Here goes …


San Antonio Spurs1. San Antonio (36-6): The Spurs are 22-2 at home and riding a 16-game winning streak at the AT&T Center. Only the Lakers are within 8.5 games of San Antonio for the West’s No. 1 seed, and even they’re six games back. If the Spurs manage to snag homecourt advantage, L.A.’s reign could be over sooner than expected. And Shaq won’t be the only guy playing for a fifth ring this spring; Tim Duncan will be, too.

Boston Celtics2. Boston (32-9): The Celtics are 13-5 against teams with records above .500. They’ve beaten the Heat, Bulls, Magic, Spurs and Thunder already, and they play the Jazz (Friday) and Lakers (Jan. 30) over the next 10 days, so they could easily reclaim the top spot. That’s a remarkable feat for a team that’s never been fully healthy.

Los Angeles Lakers3. LA Lakers (31-13): The Lakers are now top-10 in points scored, points allowed, rebounds and assists, which is pretty good. They had won 8-of-9 before losing in Dallas on Wednesday night, which is also pretty good. And Lamar Odom granted Playboy an interview about basketball and marriage, which is beyond good.

Miami Heat4. Miami (30-13): You can’t really let the Heat slip too far down the rankings, despite their season-high four-game losing streak, considering LeBron James missed two of those contests and Chris Bosh missed another. Still, it’s midway through the season, and Miami still doesn’t have a defined rotation. That’s a problem.

Oklahoma City Thunder5. Oklahoma City (27-15): Would you rather have the Miami Thrice on your team or the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-Jeff Green triumvirate? The former, but the latter’s not far behind (Miami Thrice: 69.3 ppg, 13.3 apg; OKC Three: 65.9 ppg, 13.4 apg). Considering their respective salaries next season (Miami Thrice: $47.6 million; OKC Three: $24.6 million), it’s almost a toss-up as to who’s in better position for the future.

Chicago Bulls6. Chicago (28-14): This season, especially lately, Derrick Rose is getting a LOT of love. Charles Barkley called him the NBA’s best point guard. Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie gave him their midseason Most Improved Player award. There’s even some MVP chatter. Should he be crowned before he’s even won a playoff series?

Orlando Magic7. Orlando (27-15): It’s funny how Otis Smith decided to pick this week — after losing 3-of-4, including one to the Celtics — to essentially call the C’s a bunch of posers. Because, you know, Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick are essentially Randy Couture and Mickey Ward. What’s that saying about glass houses?

Utah Jazz8. Utah (27-15): The Celtics are welcoming the Jazz to Boston on Friday, and let’s hope a stomach bug doesn’t keep Deron Williams from playing. Boston fans have already missed Durant and Carmelo Anthony in their teams’ only trips to the hub. Missing a battle between Williams and Rajon Rondo would be a shame.

Atlanta Hawks9. Atlanta (28-15): It’ll be interesting to see how much attention Jamal Crawford will get in free agency after this season. Even though he’s the returning Sixth Man of the Year, he’s not a guy I’d really want on my team. Same goes for a lot of guys on the Hawks, except for Al Horford.

New Orleans Hornets10. New Orleans (27-16): Welcome back to the top 10, Chris Paul. A six-game winning streak — including wins over the Magic and Nuggets — will do that for you. The Hornets accomplished it with defense, allowing fewer than 90 points in four of those six contests.

Dallas Mavericks11. Dallas (27-14): After Dirk Nowitzki missed nine games, he returned against the Grizzlies, only to be tossed by the referees midway through the third quarter. And then the Mavericks lost their sixth straight to the lowly Pistons. Good times. Mark Cuban was probably sticking forks in light sockets before they beat the Lakers.

Denver Nuggets12. Denver (24-17): I hate the fact that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called off the ‘Melo trade discussion for two reasons: 1) he robbed us of a meeting between them and Jay-Z, which may have been the greatest meeting of all-time; and 2) now we have to listen to another few weeks of people speculating where he’ll go.

New York Knicks13. New York (22-19): How does the NBA’s top scoring team produce 83 points at home against the Kings? Seriously. It’s the Kings!?!? Since winning 13-of-14 from mid-November to mid-December, the Knicks are 6-10. There’s a lot less optimism around them since they played the C’s tough and were in the ‘Melo sweepstakes.

Portland Trail Blazers14. Portland (23-20): Another Trail Blazers player (Marcus Camby) injured his knee. In other news: The sky is blue. At this point, should opposing teams just rest their stars when they visit, for fear that their knees might disintegrate into the Portland air?

Houston Rockets15. Houston (20-23): Rockets GM Daryl Morey is on Twitter and gives insightful comments about his team, like: “Our shot making disguised issues in our transition offense.” Can we lobby to get Danny Ainge on Twitter?

Memphis Grizzles16. Memphis (19-23): When Zach Randolph is the one saying, “We’ve got to get some heart,” you’ve got problems. The Grizzlies still have an outside shot at a playoff berth, but Randolph’s words aren’t a good sign.

Phoenix Suns17. Phoenix (19-21): The only two players that have scored 20,000 points, are eligible for the Hall of Fame and haven’t been inducted are Mitch Richmond and Tom Chambers. Now that Vince Carter has joined the 20,000-point club, will he be the third to fall short of the Hall?

Indiana Pacers18. Indiana (16-23): Pacers wing Mike Dunleavey has been in the league since 2002 and never sniffed the playoffs, but this could be his year — even if Indiana doesn’t make the postseason. The Pacers are shopping him, and he’d be a nice pickup for any team looking to deepen their rotation.

Los Angeles Clippers19. LA Clippers (16-25): When Blake Griffin scored 47 points on 24 shots, he became just the 13th player in the last 20 seasons to score such a high figure on so few shots. TrueHoop did a nice job of breaking it down.

Golden State Warriors20. Golden State (18-23): According to the Contra Costa Times, over the last 13 games, Dorell Wright has averaged 20.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Think the Miami Heat could use him in their rotation now?

Philadelphia 76ers21. Philadelphia (17-24): The 76ers might be the most confusing team in the NBA. They’ll lose to the Raptors twice in one week, and then play the Celtics tough. They’ll lose to the Bulls by 45 points one night, and then beat them by six another. Chalk that up to youth and the fact Andre Iguadola is their leader.

Milwaukee Bucks22. Milwaukee (15-24): A back injury has flared up for Bucks center Andrew Bogut. You wonder if the issue is something that will plague him for a while, considering that nasty fall he took last April. You know what they say: the bigger they are, the harder they fall … and the tougher it is to come back from it.

Charlotte Bobcats23. Charlotte (16-24): A Bobcats player was suspended for elbowing Hornets center Emeka Okafor in the head, and it wasn’t Stephen Jackson?!?! That must be a typo.

Detroit Pistons24. Detroit (15-27): Good thing the Pistons benched Richard Hamilton against the Celtics amid the trade rumors that would’ve sent him to New Jersey as part of a three-team ‘Melo trade — now that there’s no way the Nets are going to take on Rip’s contract without landing the big fish, too.

Washington Wizards25. Washington (12-28): I saw this headline: “Lewis provides a steady influence for young Wizards.” Are we talking about Rashard Lewis? Well, I guess the headline didn’t distinguish whether it was a good or bad influence.

Toronto Raptors26. Toronto (13-29): The Raptors and Cavaliers have a combined 21 wins after the departures of Bosh and James. The Heat have 30 victories. Those guys were kind of important to their teams. Just a little.

New Jersey Nets27. New Jersey (11-31): Is anybody shocked by the fact that Prokhorov is pursuing Andrei Kirilenko. Next up: Timofey Mozgov. Let’s just hope they don’t turn out to be like Angelina Jolie‘s character in “Salt”.

Minnesota Timberwolves28. Minnesota (10-33): I had to steal this line from Canis Hoopus: “Wesley Johnson: DNP (coach’s decision); Jonny Flynn: 15 minutes, 2 points; Ricky Rubio: tanning. What an awesome use of top lotto picks.”

Sacramento Kings29. Sacramento (9-31): The Maloofs could move to Anaheim. Sounds like a bad CBS comedy. Unfortunately, it could be a reality for Sacramento fans. If there are any of those.

Cleveland Cavaliers30. Cleveland (8-33): Anderson Verajao out for the season. Mo Williams out for a couple weeks. Believe it or not, those are the Cavalier’s two best players. Now Cleveland fans literally have nothing to root for but a potential No. 1 pick in the lottery. Knowing their luck, though, that won’t happen.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics midseason report card 01.20.11 at 10:53 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

After Wednesday night’s game against the Pistons , the Celtics have played 41 games and are exactly halfway through the NBA regular season. It’s time for a report card (you can check out the first-quarter grades here) …

PAUL PIERCE

  • Grade: A
  • Comments: Among the NBA’s small forwards, Pierce ranks second in free-throw percentage, third in field-goal percentage and ninth in 3-point percentage. That’s efficient. He’s also ran the offense in Rondo’s absence and rebounded in Garnett’s absence. Save for Allen, the Celtics have struggled to stay healthy, but Pierce has played all 41 games, remaining the constant he’s been for this team since his selection in the 1998 draft.

RAY ALLEN

  • Grade: A
  • Comments: Allen’s numbers are pretty much up across the board from last season, while his field-goal percentage (51.3 percent) and 3-point percentage (46.8!) are the highest of his career. And that’s saying something for a guy who’s 28 treys away from breaking the all-time record. Allen ranks second on the team in minutes and first (unofficially) in clutch shots down the stretch.

KEVIN GARNETT

  • Grade: A–
  • Comments: When he’s on the court, he’s an A-plus. Easily the leading candidate for a second Defensive Player of the Year honor in the last four years, Garnett is averaging 15.0 points and 9.3 boards — but those numbers don’t demonstrate the rejuvenation he’s enjoyed, the lift in his legs or the bite to go with his bark. His calf strain struck a scare into Celtics fans, though, and he’ll have to prove he can stay healthy to cement his A.

GLEN DAVIS

  • Grade: A–
  • Comments: Averaging 29.7 minutes in 32 games off the bench, Davis has established himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, shooting 48.4 percent from the field and grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game. Averaging 34.6 minutes in nine games as a starter, he’s shot 41.1 percent from the field and grabbed 4.4 boards a game. The former is precisely what the Celtics need. The latter? Not so much.

RAJON RONDO

  • Grade: B+
  • Comments: Rondo averages a league-leading 13.2 assists per game, and only one other guy (Steve Nash) is averaging double-digits in that category. He’s also second in the league in steals. But to the naked eye he simply hasn’t had the same impact he had in the first few weeks of the season. His turnovers (3.9 per game) are too high, and he’s shooting worse from the free-throw line (46.0) than Allen is from 3-point range.

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