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Irish Coffee: Celtics failing first quarter 03.24.11 at 2:30 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

The Celtics are 4-5 since March 9, and in seven of those games they’ve trailed at the end of the first quarter. As Celtics Hub pointed out in a nice breakdown, the C’s have averaged 18.8 points in the first quarter during that stretch – 5.4 fewer than their season average of 24.2.

Playing from behind is never a good thing. After all, the Celtics are 34-8 after winning the first quarter and 16-12 after losing it. That’s absolutely significant. So, what’s the problem?

Considering the Big Four plays the large majority of the first-quarter minutes, this is on them. Are Rajon Rondo‘s struggles at fault? Should Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — the team’s top two scorers — be getting more touches in the first 12 minutes? Yes, yes and yes.

If I had 10,000 hours to dedicate to this particular blog, I’d calculate the average first-quarter field-goal attempts, points and assists for Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. But I don’t. So, the most recent quarter-by-quarter breakdown by 82games.com — from the 2008-09 season — will have to do. And that’s not a bad year to pick, considering the Big Four had one season under their belt together and were coming off an NBA title run.

The Big Four averaged 20.9 points on 16.5 field-goal attempts and 5.2 assists as a group in the first quarter during that 2008-09 season, according to 82games.com. Over the last nine games, they’ve produced 12.4 points on 12.9 field-goal attempts and 4.3 assists in the opening 12 minutes. Something’s not clicking. That’s 8.5 fewer points, and considering the Celtics have lost their last five games by an average of 7.2 points — there’s your difference.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Mike Krzyzewski, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Grizzlies guard Tony Allen: ‘I’m a Celtic’ 03.24.11 at 12:26 am ET
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Tony Allen spent the first six seasons of his career in a Celtics uniform and the last six months as a member of the Grizzlies, so forgive him if he blurred the lines of his allegiance following his new team’s 90-87 victory against his old team. Or don’t.

“I’m a Celtic, but unfortunately, I wear a Grizzlies jersey right now,” said Allen, who was the only member of the Memphis starting five to receive a positive response from the Garden crowd during Wednesday night’s game. “It was a nice reaction. I liked it.”

Allen signed a three-year, $9.5 million deal with the Grizzlies this past offseason. The Celtics reportedly offered Allen two years and $5.2 million to remain in Boston.

“Yeah, it’€™s strange, but most importantly I was just happy about the victory and how our guys stuck together and focused for 48 minutes,” said Allen. “That’€™s what it’€™s all about.”

Celtics fans weren’t cheering when Allen’s night was done, as his eight points and seven rebounds helped the Grizzlies drop the C’s a full game behind the Bulls in the standings.

“I wanted this win more than anything,” he said. “We got it.”

Following his first game in Boston wearing any other color than Celtics’ green — the Grizzlies only appearance at the Garden this season — Allen exchanged kind words with former teammate Kevin Garnett after the final whistle.

“He said, ”Good luck the rest of the way. I miss you,’” said Allen. “He showed me love. It was an emotional day, but I’€™m happy with the win.”

Another former Celtic, Leon Powe, joined Allen in Memphis after the Cavaliers bought out the remainder of his contract after the trade deadline. Prior to the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted that the Celtics expressed interest in Powe, but ultimately decided his knee concerns were too big a risk. Powe’s 13 points on Wednesday night begged to differ.

“Leon is a presence down there,” said Allen. “He’€™s a little undersized, but he’s strong. The more he puts in his work on that block, it kind of lightens the load for us. Leon’€™s just gotta keep being Leon.”

So, did their combined experience as members of the 2007-08 Celtics team that won the NBA title help aid the Grizzlies victory?

“I felt like I was in practice,” added Allen. “I knew all they’€™re plays. I knew everything they were going to run. It felt good. It was nice to see Doc with those nice suits that he wears. And it was a good overall experience coming here to Boston.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Leon Powe, Memphis Grizzlies
Fast Break: Grizzlies attack Celtics 03.23.11 at 10:06 pm ET
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Leon Powe and Tony Allen combined for 21 points and seven rebounds against their old team, and the Celtics fell a full game behind the Bulls in the race for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed after a 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies (40-32) Wednesday night at the Garden.

Rajon Rondo missed 10 of his 12 shots from the field — including what would have been the go-ahead runner with 19 seconds left – but managed 11 assists and 11 rebounds for the Celtics (50-20). The C’s had two more chances to tie the game trailing 90-87 with 13 seconds remaining, but the first attempt ended up in a Glen Davis missed a 3-pointer. Memphis’ Marc Gasol missed both free throws on the other end, and Paul Pierce (game-high 22 points) had a chance for a triple — but that fell short, too.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Slow shooting start: The Celtics shot just 5-of-15 (0-for-2 from 3-point range) from the field in the first quarter, and the Big Four were to blame, making only 2-of-11 attempts. In fact, Tony Allen had more points in the opening 12 minutes as Pierce and Ray Allen combined. Of course, anybody with two points could’ve made that claim. As a result, the Celtics trailed 20-15 and found themselves once again playing from behind in the early going.

Leon Powe: Prior to the game, Doc Rivers said the Celtics had interest in Powe as a buyout option, but hesitated based on the condition of his knee. Well, the knee appeared just fine against the C’s, as Powe (at one point) led all scorers on Wednesday. He finished with 13 points.

The Grizzlies other bigs — Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — also combined for 24 points and 19 rebounds. O’Neal brothers, where art thou?

Taking care of the ball: The Celtics committed 20 turnovers — leading to 16 Grizzlies’ points – and the biggest culprit was their center, Nenad Krstic. After a 2-for-2 start from the field, it wasn’t a good night for Krstic overall. The C’s big man committed four of those turnovers, missed his final four shots and committed more fouls (5) than he grabbed rebounds (2).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon Rondo attacking the basket: With the Celtics falling behind by 10 early in the second quarter, Rondo sliced to the basket, took on a defender and wrapped a layup underneath him. The C’s closed out the half on a 21-10 run that included a nice give-and-go between Rondo and Delonte West, a nifty Rondo pick that resulted in an and-one for Glen Davis, and a heads-up play in which Rondo fired a ball off a Grizzly to prevent a turnover.

At the break, Rondo had already accumulated six points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, prompting some early triple-double whispers throughout the Garden.

Free-throw shooting: Entering the game, the Celtics ranked in the middle of the pack (16th) in terms of team free-throw percentage (76.4), but they’ve picked it up of late, shooting a combined 63-of-78 (80.8 percent) in their last three victories. Wednesday night was no different, as the Celtics made 22-of-23 free-throw attempts (95.7 percent) in defeat.

3-point shooting … until the final seconds: After starting 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, the Celtics made seven of their next 11 longballs. Two back-to-back treys from Allen in the second quarter helped the Celtics draw within two points. And a Pierce triple late in the fourth quarter brought the C’s within one at 86-85 with three minutes remaining in the game. But the Celtics missed those two game-tying attempts in the final 13 seconds.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Preview: Grizzlies at Celtics, Game 70 03.23.11 at 2:55 pm ET
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In advance of Wednesday night’€™s game between the Celtics (50-19) and Grizzlies (39-32) at the TD Garden (7:30 p.m.), we caught up with Chip Crain at the ‘€œ3 Shades of Blue‘€ blog. He answered our five most pressing questions on the Western Conference’s current eighth seed (He did the same for a preview of November’s 116-110 C’s overtime victory) ‘€¦

1. In the wake of the Tony Allen-O.J. Mayo brawl fiasco, has the team dynamic or chemistry changed?

Yes and No. The fight is one of those things that should never have reached the media first of all. “What happens on the team plane stays on the team plane,” so to speak.

I imagine players get into scraps from time to time during an 82-game season. What made this one so newsworthy was that it involved a well-known player (Mayo), the man who recently took his starting job (Allen) and the severity of the beating (Mayo had a black eye for over a week).

What happened was that Mayo was upset over not being the starting shooting guard once Xavier Henry, who originally started in place of Mayo, was hurt. Instead, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins turned to Allen.

Allen is not a quiet personality. His talking probably irritated Mayo long before the plane flight, but the gambling debt was the last straw. Mayo was pouting and completely in the wrong, and the beating he received was likely justified.

It was unfortunate that it happened, embarrassing that it was reported in the media but it did have a silver lining. The team bonded together after it. Instead of the battle splitting the team apart, they became more focused and united on the team goals. The Grizzlies were 15-19 at the time of the disagreement. They are 24-13 since.

2. What led to Tony Allen getting a starting spot, and why has he been so successful?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Leon Powe, Memphis Grizzlies, Rudy Gay
Irish Coffee: Larry Bird says Rajon Rondo can’t shoot 03.23.11 at 11:17 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I’m not sure how I missed this — probably because it took place on St. Patrick’s day – but Celtics legend Larry Bird joined The Dan Patrick Show and had this exchange with the host about C’s point guard Rajon Rondo:

  • Dan Patrick: “Who’s the guy you didn’t draft, look back on and go, ‘You know what, I’m surprised by how good he is’?”
  • Larry Bird: “Rondo.”
  • DP: “What was it about Rondo that made you nervous about drafting him?”
  • LB: “His shooting.”
  • DP: “He still can’t shoot.”
  • LB: “No, but he can play.”
  • DP: “Could you teach him to shoot?”
  • LB: “It’d take awhile.”

Rondo ranks 27th in true shooting percentage among NBA point guards who play at least 25 minutes per game. His field-goal percentage (48.0) ranks sixth for players at his position, but as you get further from the rim — where he’s shooting 54.0 percent — he gets awful shaky. Rondo is shooting 33.0 percent from 3-9 feet, 41.0 percent from 10-15 feet, 27.0 percent from 16-23 feet and 27.8 percent from 3-point range, according to HoopData.com.

You can’t really blame Bird for claiming Rondo can’t shoot, but you can blame him for selecting Shawne Williams four slots ahead of Rondo at No. 21 in the 2006 NBA draft. Here are a few other highlights from what proved to be a great interview with Bird:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Larry Bird, Lawrence Frank, Rajon Rondo
Irish Coffee: Celtics make statement(s) in New York 03.22.11 at 2:15 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Make no mistake that Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Knicks was a statement by Doc Rivers & Co. that a) any discussion of a Celtics-Knicks rivalry still ends in a hammer-nail declaration, b) they care about the No. 1 seed more than people think, c) the Eastern Conference crown still belongs in Boston and d) Kendrick Perkins wasn’t the only tough guy in Green. The Associated Press pictures tell the whole story, so let’s let them (NOTE: click on the pictures in the rest of this entry to follow the links) …

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Irish Coffee: Who wants the No. 1 seed more? 03.21.11 at 2:12 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Arguing that the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed is more important to the Bulls than the Celtics, Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen wrote, The Celtics know they can win on the road, while this Bulls team has yet to win a series under any circumstances.”

The logic is certainly sound, considering the veteran C’s defeated the Cavaliers and Magic and nearly won the 2010 NBA Finals as a No. 4 seed. But these are the Celtics’ probable Eastern Conference playoff matchups if they earn the No. 1 seed …

  • First Round: Pacers, Bucks or Bobcats
  • Eastern semis: Magic or Hawks
  • Conference finals: Bulls or Heat

And these are their probable conference playoff opponents if they get the No. 2 seed …

  • First Round: Knicks or 76ers
  • Eastern semis: Heat
  • Conference finals: Bulls

Now, which would you rather have? Door No. 1, right? Like, by a significant margin. Still, the Celtics seem to be aligning themselves with Thomsen’s thinking — at least, to NBA.com

Rajon Rondo: “If you ask me personally, I don’t think it’s so important. I think it’s important that we get our chemistry. We have a lot of new guys on our roster and lot of veterans. The focus should be on getting Shaq [O'Neal] back, getting J.O. [Jermaine O'Neal] back. Delonte [West] is getting acquainted. We’ve got to continue finding a way.”

Doc Rivers: “We’re gonna lean on the health side. I’m gonna always go that way, and we hope we can still win games and still get the No. 1 seed. But we’re not gonna get it if it means that we’re gonna have to give up health. Health is gonna be No. 1.

“Any timing when you get healthy is good timing. But I obviously would have preferred it to be right after the All-Star break. That’s when we hoped that everyone would be back and that we’d be able to kind of put the parts together. It just hasn’t happened. There’s nothing we can do about it. So we have to hope to figure it out on the fly.”

We should be able to determine if either team cares less about the top seed than the other simply by taking a look at whether or not Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau are limiting their respective team’s minutes.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Doc Rivers
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