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Irish Coffee: Celtics vs. Knicks tale of the tape 04.15.11 at 12:28 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Ah, the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The grass is greener, and Boston is Greener. The Celtics (56-26) and Knicks (42-40) are squaring off in the postseason for the first time since the former blew a two-game lead in a best-of-five series against the latter in 1990. Boston Garden vs. Madison Square Garden. Blue collar against big dollar. Hammer. Nail. You get the picture. Let’s go to the tape …

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Celtics 4, Knicks 0

107.8 … points … 101.3
9.8 … fast break points … 12.8
53.0 … points in the paint … 42.5
50.9FG% … 45.9
37.13P% … 33.6
79.5FT% … 75.8
45.3 … rebounds … 37.0
10.0 … o-rebounds … 9.8
35.3 … d-rebounds … 27.2
23.8 … assists … 21.3
8.3 … steals … 6.8
1.0 … blocks6.3
13.3 … turnovers … 14.0
21.0 … personal fouls19.3

That’s pretty lopsided, until you consider the Celtics and Knicks as currently constituted really only faced each other once. In fact, eight of the 24 guys that suited up for their first regular-season meeting are no longer playing for their respective teams. In that lone post-trades matchup — a 96-86 comeback Celtics victory — the C’s shot better, rebounded better, took care of the ball better and played better defense. They even dominated the paint (44-28) and the fast break (18-7).

Now, let’s examine how the Celtics and Knicks produced this season (league ranks in parentheses):

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs, New York Knicks, Shaquille O'Neal
NBA Power Rankings 4/15 04.14.11 at 7:30 pm ET
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1. Chicago (62-20): Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told ESPN.com Derrick Rose “will continue to get better throughout his career.” That’s a ridiculously scary thought, considering he’s a lock for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. But the real question remains, Can Rose capture NBA Finals MVP? Only five other guys under 6-foot-4 have captured that honor in NBA history: Tony Parker (2007), Chauncey Billups (’04), Isiah Thomas (’90), Joe Dumars (’89) and Jerry West (’69).

2. San Antonio (61-21): I’m not sure if Dr. Jack Ramsay prescribed himself some medical marijuana or what, but he picked Spurs guard Manu Ginobili as his MVP. I’d be surprised if Ginobili is named First Team All-NBA. Take nothing away from what the Spurs have accomplished, including a 2-1 record against the Lakers with Ginobili, Parker and Tim Duncan in the lineup.

3. LA Lakers (57-25): After losing five straight games, the Lakers got a bit of their swagger back. If you think about it, all signs point to the fact that they’re already in playoff form: They beat the Spurs in the penultimate game of the regular season, Phil Jackson is getting fined for his comments, Andrew Bynum‘s health is in question, Kobe Bryant is screaming homophobic slurs at referees and Lamar Odom wants to quit.

4. Miami (58-24): Just as Gloria James may not have thrown the first punch at a Florida valet, LeBron James & Co. didn’t deliver the first, second or third blow against the Celtics. But the Heat landed the biggest punch in the fight on Sunday, handing the Celtics their worst loss of the year during a game in which Mike Bibby actually played Rajon Rondo to a standstill.

5. Boston (56-26): Who holds the key to the Celtics’ figurative playoff switch? I’m guessing it’s not Danny Ainge. And they better hope it’s not Shaquille O’Neal. Is it Rondo? Kevin Garnett? Maybe it’s Paul Pierce, who told Mut & Merloni on Thursday, “I flipped the switch when I woke up this morning.” Whoever it is, Doc Rivers should remind him to keep it on Sunday.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: Harshing Celtics playoff buzz 04.14.11 at 12:17 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

If you don’t want your Celtics playoff buzz harshed, you might want to avoid The Wall Street Journal this week. First, Scott Cacciola wrote a Tony Allen feature, entitled, “The Most Unlikely Impact Player.” Then, WSJ reported that should Shaquille O’Neal start on Sunday the Celtics will be the sixth-oldest NBA Playoff team since 1992, and among the 20 oldest playoff squads in that span only Michael Jordan‘s 1998 Bulls took home championship rings.  And then came this interview with TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr:

“It seems to me that ever since the [Kendrick] Perkins trade, they’ve lost their soul,” Kerr said. “They’ve lost their identity and I think that team was really affected emotionally by that trade. And even though they played well early in the season without him when he was injured, I think knowing that Perkins would be back along with having Shaq playing pretty well at the time, I think that was a comforting time for them.

“Now that he’s gone, especially with the way that they’ve built that team the last couple of years and sustained their confidence through Doc [Rivers]’ comments that we’re undefeated when we’re fully healthy, the celebrated Ubuntu philosophy, it’s like they sort of threw that out the window and I don’t see the belief in their eyes right now. …

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the East that scares the daylights out of Boston. But with that said, they’re going to have to recapture the old glory, the old spirit somehow in the next couple of weeks and I haven’t seen anything to indicate that that’s going to happen,” Kerr said. “I was convinced that Boston was the best most of the season, but that’s kind of thrown out the window now for me.”

As if on cue, the trailer for the final episode of “The Association: Boston Celtics” dropped, and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo opened up about the Perkins trade like never before:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Mr. Big Talk (a.k.a. Chauncey Billups) 04.13.11 at 10:41 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

The New York papers have already rolled out their NBA playoff coverage of the Knicks’ first-round series against the Celtics, and while nobody has pulled an Antonio Cromartie and claimed they hate Kevin Garnett, the confidence in New York is oddly high for a team that has an 0-3 record against its Atlantic Division rival.

Maybe it’s because they believe the Celtics coaching staff preferred a first-round matchup against the 76ers, as a New York Post source indicated.

Maybe it’s because Bobcats coach Paul Silas — a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics in the 1970s — told the New York Daily News, “It’s not just that [the Celtics] don’t have the defense or the rebounding at the center position that they once did, which could be a very difficult problem for them. But I wonder about the mindset of their guys. They thought they should have kept [Kendrick] Perkins. They still believe that. I’m not sure that they have the right mindset now to deal with that. As players, you’ve got to let that go.”

Wherever the confidence stems from, it’s there. Just listen to Chauncey Billups:

“We are probably, most certainly, the most dangerous first-round team in the NBA. When I say that it’s because we are new, and we are dangerous. We’ve got a lot of weapons. We can move the scoreboard. I think our defense is a lot better. We’re going to be a tough out, man.”

That confidence is tempered a bit by their president and their coach (via the New York Post):

  • Knicks president Donnie Walsh: “We’re two of the longest-tenured franchises, but those rivalries are engendered by the teams playing right now. There was one rivalry way back. But the rivalry will have to come in the playoffs. For us, we have to beat them. We have to beat them once to be considered that.”
  • Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni: “They’re veterans and they’re champions. That’s the biggest concern. Their mentality is probably better than anybody’s.”

And then there’s two former Celtics — one in New York and one with the Bulls — sound more confident in the third-seeded Celtics than the No. 6 Knicks:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett
Biggest bonehead play of Celtics season? 04.12.11 at 2:54 pm ET
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Because Von Wafer provided us with perhaps the most boneheaded play of the entire Celtics season — which, when you think about it, cost the Celtics the game and an outside shot at the No. 2 seed — I’d be remiss if I didn’t include video of such an historic event on Green Street …

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Von Wafer,
Irish Coffee: Celtics weary, even on rest 04.12.11 at 11:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Mercifully, the Celtics have no more back-to-back games. After recording an 8-11 record in 19 back-to-backs this year — including a 2-8 record in their last 10 — the C’s won’t be playing on consecutive nights in the playoffs. So, just how much better are the Celtics with one or more days rest?

Before we attempt to answer that, it’s important to consider these three things:

  • 1) The Celtics have allowed an NBA-best 91.0 points per game, and even in back-to-back games they held opponents to an average of 92.3 points, which still would’ve ranked third in the league this year.
  • 2) The Celtics scored 96.3 points per game, ranking 24th out of 30 NBA teams. In back-to-backs, they averaged just 91.6 points a game, which would’ve ranked last in the league this season.
  • 3) While the 2011 NBA Playoff schedule hasn’t been released yet, in their 24 playoff games last season the Celtics played 14 on one day rest, six on two days rest and four on three or more days rest.
  • 4) The Celtics will go as far as the Big Four take them. Plain and simple. And considering Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are the only C’s to play 30-plus minutes a night, they’re in need of the most rest.

Now, let’s compare the Big Four’s performances on one, two, three or more days rest as opposed to their numbers in back-to-back games. How significant is their improvement with fresher legs (individual bests in bold)?

PAUL PIERCE

  • Totals (80 games): 34.7 min, 18.9 pts, 49.7 fg%, 37.4 3p%, 86.0 ft%, 5.4 reb, 3.3 apg, 2.1 to
  • 0 days rest (18 games): 35.7 min, 19.0 pts, 46.4 fg%, 41.4 3p%, 88.9 ft%, 5.9 reb, 3.2 apg, 2.3 to
  • 1 day rest (42 games): 34.0 min, 18.9 pts, 50.5 fg%, 36.3 3p%, 83.4 ft%, 5.2 reb, 3.0 apg, 2.2 to
  • 2 days rest (14 games): 36.4 min, 17.6 pts, 47.0 fg%, 26.3 3p%, 87.0 ft%, 5.1 reb, 4.2 apg, 2.1 to
  • 3+ days rest (5 games): 31.6 min, 22.0 pts, 61.2 fg%, 57.1 3p%, 94.1 ft%, 4.8 reb, 3.2 apg, 1.2 to

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Carlos Arroyo, Danny Granger, Delonte West
Fast Break: Celtics lose No. 2 seed, Delonte West 04.11.11 at 10:19 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers rested the Big Four to keep them healthy for the playoffs, Delonte West re-injured his right ankle and the Celtics officially dropped to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs after an ugly 95-94 overtime road loss to the Wizards on Monday.

When Wizards center JaVale McGee trampled West at midcourt in the third quarter, the Celtics guard sprained his right ankle again and did not return after producing 11 points and five assists in 23 minutes. Meanwhile, the Celtics (55-26) clinched the No. 3 seed and will face the Knicks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Resting the starters: Despite owning an identical record to the Lakers and trailing the Heat by one game for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, Celtics coach Doc Rivers elected to start a lineup of Delonte West, Von Wafer, Jeff Green, Glen Davis and Jermaine O’Neal. Rivers said the value of physical and — more importantly — mental rest outweighed foregoing rest to play for potential homecourt advantages against the Lakers and Heat.

Delonte West re-injuring his ankle: West missed 57 of the team’s first 80 games with a 10-game suspension, a broken right wrist and a right ankle sprain that he initially suffered during a late February practice. And now it appears as if he’s going to miss at least one more, as he left Monday night’s game against the Wizards in the third quarter after spraining his right ankle again when McGee ran him over at midcourt. Even after initially returning on March 16, West admitted he had a chipped bone in that same right ankle, which could signal a dependency on Carlos Arroyo at the backup point guard position.

Not so sweet 16-point run: After taking an early 11-point lead in the first quarter, the Celtics gave up a 16-0 run that spanned 5:25 between the first and second quarters while delivering a 28-23 lead to the Wizards. For the most part, Nenad Krstic‘s presence coincided with that run. The C’s led 12-3 when Krstic entered for O’Neal and trailed 25-23 when O’Neal subbed back in. Once Krstic exited, the Celtics finished the first half on a 21-14 run, taking a 44-37 lead into the break and making it a game for the remainder of the night.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

A healthy Jermaine O’Neal: Because of Krstic’s inability to contribute defensively, Rivers was forced to play Jermaine O’Neal more minutes than he had indicated he would prior to the game. And O’Neal responded. He nearly reached a double-double by hafltime and finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in 36 minutes of action. He entered the game averaging 5.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 17.1 minutes a night.

Jeff Green’s monster night: Insterted back into a role he had become accustomed to with the Thunder, Green started and proved to be the best player on the court for either team. He totaled 20 points — albeit on 8-of-20 shooting — a season-high 15 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Prior to Monday night, Green hadn’t had a 20-point night since March 4 and had not reached double-digits rebounds in a Celtics uniform. The C’s can only hope that he can translate that effort into effectiveness off the bench moving forward.

Replacements starting well: Behind the aggressive play of Jermaine O’Neal, West and Green, the Celtics jumped out to a 23-12 lead. During that stretch, Green scored six points in the first 9:37, West assisted on four of the C’s first nine field goals and O’Neal grabbed four rebounds in his first-quarter minutes. Those four boards gave O’Neal more rebounds in  5:37 against the Wizards than he had totaled in his three previous games combined — against the Heat, Bulls and 76ers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal
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