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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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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, Paul Pierce
Shaq on Celtics’ effort: ‘Blame it on the sleet’ 01.20.11 at 1:00 am ET
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I’ve heard of “Blame It on the Rain” before, but “blame it on the sleet”? That’s a new one.

But Shaquille O’Neal has made a living off coming up with new slogans, and Wednesday night was no different. In a span of about five minutes after an ugly 86-82 Celtics victory against the Pistons, he blamed the Celtics’ sluggishness on the weather, invented a nickname for himself and Rajon Rondo, explained his team’s need to step on the Pistons’ throats, vowed to make free throws in the clutch and described how he got on Semih Erden‘s ass. Not bad.

O’Neal produced on the floor, too, for all 25 minutes. One of few Celtics to play inspired basketball throughout the game, he recorded a season-high 12 rebounds — including five on the offensive end — to go along with 12 points, three steals and a pair of blocks. He did miss a pair of free throws with three minutes to play that would’ve tied the game, but his effort sparked the comeback that eventually resulted in a four-point win.

It was all in a day’s work for Shaq. We’ll let him explain:

  • On the effort: “It was just a flat game. Blame it on one of those days. I’m going to blame it on the sleet. Is that the right word — rain and snow combined? Yeah, I’m going to blame it on the sleet.”
  • On the starters: “You got any one of the Big Three and ‘La Odda Dos’ — me and Rondo — that can take over a game at any time. We’ve just got to continue to play hard. We’ve got to learn to get up for everybody.” (I think Shaq actually meant “La Otra Dos,” the Spanish translation for “The Other Two”)
  • More on the effort: “We don’t make excuses. We’ve just got to get it done. … We just have to learn to put our foot on people’s necks and kill them right away. We can’t keep playing with people.”
  • On Erden: “I had to get on his ass tonight. He was out there messing around. We have a pretty great relationship. He listens to me, and after I got on his ass, he had a couple dunks and a couple rebounds.”
  • Even more on the effort: “We knew that we were out there messing around … and not really as focused. It’s kind of hard getting up for teams like that, but if we want to win the whole thing we’ve got to get up for everybody. We have to realize that teams are going to come in here and play way above their heads.”
  • On his free throws: “If we had lost the game, I would’ve been really upset. Keep in mind, when we really, really, really need them, I’ll be there, and you won’t have to worry about it — studies show.”
  • On his effort: “The whole team was flat. I just had to pick it up. I haven’t been playing that many minutes, so I’m not really tired. I really haven’t been rebounding all that well, so I just wanted to try to grab every loose ball, every rebound.”
Read More: "La Odda Dos", Boston Celtics, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal
Fast Break: Celtics not pretty, but squeak by Pistons 01.19.11 at 10:13 pm ET
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Well, that was just about the ugliest game of basketball the Celtics have played this season. Or at least one of them. But the Celtics prevailed against the Pistons at the TD Garden, 86-82, thanks to a Ray Allen (who else?) jump shot that gave the C’s the lead in the final minute.

Paul Pierce led the Celtics (32-9) with 22 points, while Shaquille O’Neal chipped in with a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) in an ugly victory that saw the C’s shoot 44.7 percent from the field. Rodney Stuckey (15 points) led five players in double figures for the Pistons, who fell to 15-27.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Even when he’s poor, he’s money: Through 47-plus minutes of basketball — about 37 of which he was on the floor — Allen was just 1-of-7 from the field, but that doesn’t bother great shooters. And Allen is a great one. No doubt about it. Coming off a screen, he nailed a 23-foot jumper with 24.5 seconds remaining that gave the Celtics the lead for good. The shot was originally ruled a 3-pointer but rescinded upon replay.

Shaq provides diesel fuel: Of all the Celtics to show the most determination, it was 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal — the oldest player in the league. On back-to-back plays, O’Neal chased an offensive rebound and got to the foul line on one end, and then blocked a Rodney Stuckey shot before chasing it into the stands on the other end. He finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes of hustle-filled basketball.

Big Baby being Big Baby: With the Celtics trailing 56-50 midway through the third quarter, Glen Davis drew his 27,653rd charge of the season, or at least it seemed that way. Settling back into his Sixth Man role with Garnett returning to the starting lineup, Davis put together a typically efficient night off the bench: 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Celtics play “hero ball” in the first half: Where was the passing that had made the Celtics the No. 1 passing team in the NBA? The team’s two leading assist distributors — Rajon Rondo and Pierce — had just three assists at the half (they finished with 11 combined). Meanwhile, Tracy McGrady had six assists himself running the show for the Pistons in the opening 24 minutes (he finished with just seven). The Celtics looked sluggish in the opening half, hoping perhaps that the talent gap alone would carry them past the Pistons. It did, eventually.

Boston becomes brick city: Fans have become accustomed to 50 percent shooting nights from the field from the Celtics — not to mention a few 60 percent shooting nights — but the Celtics shot just 44.7 percent, and most of the night it was worst than that. Not to mention the 14-for-25 effort fromt the free-throw line. For the season, the Pistons had been allowing opponents to shoot 48.0 percent (27th out of 30 teams) from the field.

Charlie Villanueva played Kevin Garnett tough: Ever since the whole “cancer patient” vs. “cancer to your team” ordeal between Villanueva and Garnett, the former had the edge over the latter. Their last meeting wasn’t really fair, since that’s when Garnett went down with his strained calf, but there weren’t any excuses for Wednesday night.

For the large majority of the night, until the final minutes, Villanueva had the edge. He finished with 11 points and eight boards. More spirited play from Garnett down the stretch gave him 11 points (on 5-of-14 shooting) and six boards on the night.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Irish Coffee: Magic president claims Celtics ‘act tough’ 01.19.11 at 12:51 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The Orlando Sentinel executed a midseason Q&A session with the Magic’s version of Danny Ainge — president of basketball operations Otis Smith — and he essentially called the Celtics a bunch of what singer Everlast called “fake tough guys, trying to act hard.” Here’s the exchange:

  • Sentinel: One could argue the Celtics are tough.
  • Smith: They act tough. They’re not really tough. They act tough.

The Celtics are just 5-8 against the Magic during the regular season since the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but they own a 7-6 advantage against Orlando in the postseason — and that’s without Garnett in the lineup for a 4-3 Eastern Conference semifinals loss during the 2008-09 playoffs. The C’s ousted the Magic 4-2 in the conference finals last season, when many critics questioned the Magic’s toughness (rightfully so).

JERMAINE O’NEAL HAS A FASHION LINE?

Perhaps you'll be seeing Luke Harangody rock this Le Jaunty look from Jermaine O'Neal.

The future of Jermaine O’Neal‘s basketball career remains in limbo, as we await a decision Wednesday on how he’ll treat his knee moving forward this season, but he may already be setting himself up for his next venture as a fashion mogul.

O’Neal will be rolling out a new fashion line of casual sportswear, Le Jaunty, over the course of the 2011 calendar year.

“I’ve always been into fashion,” O’Neal told WWD.com. “I’m from Columbia, S.C., and my family is very religious. We’d go to church and Sunday school and we always had to dress up. I enjoyed that.”

Just when you thought O’Neal’s season couldn’t get less interesting …

THE ASSOCIATION: EPISODE 2

Eipsode 2 of the behind-the-scenes documentary “The Association: Boston Celtics” airs on Friday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Episode 1 was a must-see for any Celtics fan. Here’s the remaining schedule:

  • Episode 2: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Episode 3: Feb. 25, 7 p.m.
  • Episode 4: March 16, 7 p.m.
  • Episode 5: April 15, 8 p.m.

Don’t forget to set your DVR after checking out this preview of Episode 2 and these deleted scenes of Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Shaquille O’Neal, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Otis Smith, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Ray Allen’s ‘holy land’ 01.18.11 at 11:14 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Ray Allen may be closing in on Reggie Miller‘s all-time 3-point record, but there’s another elusive goal the Celtics shooting guard has in mind: The NBA’s holy trinity of shooting.

It’s what all professional shooters strive for — 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line — but it’s eluded Allen throughout his previous 14 seasons in the league.

“I looked at my percentages, and the one thing I can’t control is how many points I score, but I can control how efficient I am,” said Allen after his two late 3-pointers helped bury the Magic on Monday night. “The holy land of shooting is 50, 40 and 90. That’s been something I’ve aimed for my whole career.”

Currently, Allen is shooting career highs of 51.7 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from 3-point land, but his free-throw shooting sits at 88.3 percent. Imagine that, the NBA’s No. 5 free-throw shooter of all-time actually needs to improve his free-throw shooting. It’s nowhere near out of the realm of possibility, as Allen has shot 90 percent from the charity stripe nine times in his career, including the previous five seasons.

To qualify for the 50-40-90 club, a player must make at least 300 field goals, 55 3-pointers and 125 free throws. Only five players in the history of the league have qualified: Steve Nash (four times), Larry Bird (twice), Mark Price, Dirk Nowitzki and Reggie Miller. Interestingly enough, both Allen and Paul Pierce (51.4 FG%, 40.6 3P% & 86.1 FT&) could join that club by the end of the season.

Of course, Allen is also chasing Miller’s all-time 3-point record. He’s just 28 away from surpassing the retired Pacer’s 2,560 career 3-pointers. Miller was part of the TNT crew that broadcasted Monday night’s Celtics game at TD Garden, and Allen admitted he may have given him a look after one of his three treys on the night. The two began a friendship when Allen tried to recruit Miller to come out of retirement and play for the Celtics in 2008.

“He always has great things to say,” said Allen of Miller. “He’s been such a great mentor. He’s never been envious or showed animosity towards me because I’m potentially going to break his record. It’s a great lesson for me to learn as a young guy compared to him, and me passing along the things I know to the young guys who come after me.”

Because of the “$3 for 3s” program that Allen’s mother, Flora, started on behalf of her son, Allen has been able to pay particular attention to his chase for the record. The initiative asks people to pledge $3 to the Joslin Diabetes Center’s High Hopes Fund for every 3-point shot he makes this season. His stepfather is always reminding him, too, because he’s counting down to the record every morning on his chalkboard at Cheshire High School.

It’s fun for Allen to discuss with his family and friends off the court, but not on the court with his teammates.

“Once we get in the locker room, it’s all business,” said Allen. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s running around the court trying to shoot a shoot a 3-pointer all day long. I don’t want to be thirsty from behind the 3-point line, so I just make sure I play the game that I’ve always played.”

Only slightly more efficiently.

KEVIN GARNETT: CELTICS CAN LEARN FROM PATRIOTS

On his blog for his Chinese shoe sponsor, Anta, Kevin Garnett explained that the entire Celtics team went to the Patriots loss to the Jets, and the C’s can learn a lot from the No. 1 seed getting bumped from the playoffs:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
Dwight Howard: ‘We will win the war’ vs. Shaq, Celtics 01.18.11 at 12:47 am ET
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After all the hullabaloo over who’s the real Superman, there’s no wonder Dwight Howard rolls his eyes when he’s asked about Shaquille O’Neal. Thinking for a moment, the Magic center made a bold prediction.

“The matchup is awesome,” said Howard, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “He won the victory tonight, but we will win the war.”

Howard actually dominated the individual battle during Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Magic. He totaled 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Shaq finished with just 12 and 2. But the C’s walked away with a 109-106 win to even the season series between the two Eastern Conference rivals, 1-1.

Asked about the defense Glen Davis and Shaq played on Howard, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t too impressed.

“It was OK, I guess,” he said. “They combined did a good job. They held him to 33, and you know — whatever.”

The Celtics lost to the Magic on Christmas Day in Orlando, 86-78. Shaq and Howard combined for eight points and 11 personal fouls in that matchup. Round 3 of the battle for Superman supremacy is Feb. 6, in Boston again.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Shaquille O'Neal
Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics cast spell on Magic 01.17.11 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Celtics handed Kevin Garnett a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf – had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.

A Paul Pierce jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.

Dwight Howard had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.

In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.

Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.

Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).

The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.

Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.

Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Orlando Magic
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