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Irish Coffee: It’s matter over mind for Celtics 11.23.10 at 11:47 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

When these veteran Boston Celtics are resting their aching bodies and losing back-to-back games to the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers in April, remember this four-game stretch in November.

Pundits enjoy saying things like, “Games in November don’t matter much in the NBA,” but these Celtics are more mentally prepared only when the games matter — if that makes sense. And come playoff time, as we all know, every game means something.

Exhibit A: Last Wednesday’s 31-point blowout of the Washington Wizards. If the Celtics suffer letdowns against meaningless teams, why would they care about a Wizards team without John Wall, its newest star?

Because it mattered to Kevin Garnett, who was undressed last April to the tune of 31 points and 11 boards by Washington’s Andray Blatche.

“This is a team that gave us problems last year, and we haven’t forgotten that. I haven’t,” Garnett told reporters after the win. “Paul [Pierce] and I got here and could hear [Wizards assistant coach] Sam Cassell voice about how young they were and how they were going to come at us. We made note of it. We talked about it, you know, before the game and coming out here, taking care of business. I thought we stayed with that for 48 minutes.”

Exhibit B: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green‘s Oklahoma City Thunder came to town, only Durant and Green didn’t suit up. The Celtics had already quieted the Thunder with those guys in uniform, in their house, two weeks before. They’d already proven themselves against OKC. No urgency to do it again.

“I think we underestimated that team,” Shaquille O’Neal told the media following the loss. “Shot ourselves in the foot. It’s kind of hard in this league to get up for certain people. Tonight, we disrespected the basketball gods. We paid for it.”

Exhibit C: On a lazy Sunday afternoon, the Celtics faced a Toronto Raptors club that was worse than usual, playing undermanned after a trade. The C’s thought a hard-fought first quarter and a solid six-minte stretch in the second half would be just enough effort to take care of Toronto. Think again.

Before the game, I tweeted, “Do you think a Celtics lineup of Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis and Semih Erden could give the Raptors a game? I kinda do.”

I figured the home loss to OKC and a day off in between would fuel the Celtics to a blowout in Toronto.  I thought this team had learned something from playing to the level of their opponents last season, but perhaps what they learned is that they can play that way — and still be successful.

The guys over at Gino’s Jungle tweeted back, “I thought a lineup of KG, Pierce, Ray Allen, Shaq and Rajon Rondo could beat a Durant and Green-less OKC, so no game’s a gimme with this team.” And they were right.

“We’re a better team than those two teams,” Pierce told reporters after the defeat. “I know we are. Just mentally, I don’t think we have the right mindset coming into these games.”

Exhibit D: Monday night in Atlanta, the game once again had meaning to the Celtics, who got swept by the Hawks last season. That led to a 99-76 dominating victory against the Hawks in Atlanta.

In the aftermath, one thing became clear: These Celtics will play hard when they want to play hard, regardless of how good of a motivational speech head coach Doc Rivers delivers before the game.

“I gave that up my first year coaching,” Rivers said postgame. “This group, that’s who they are. We’re going to have those poor nights. But I just thought the loss Sunday set the tone for us. You could feel it.”

The examples should have been evident right from the start, when the Celtics dominated the Miami Heat in Game 1 and then lost to a woeful Cleveland Cavaliers team in Game 2.

Remember all of this evidence when people are questioning how much the aged Celtics have left in the tank entering the NBA playoffs. When these C’s have something to play for, they are great — capable of wiping the floor with mere good teams like the Atlanta Hawks.

REACTIONS FROM ATLANTA

Yup, when these Celtics play hard, they can make any team question itself. And that’s exactly what the Hawks were doing on Monday night. Head coach Larry Drew thinks his team might have had a few too many Four Lokos the night before, and Mo Evans is asking, “Who am I?” like a heartbroken girl from a teenage drama.

  • “I told the guys I don’t know what you are doing the night before we play,” Drew told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I don’t know what you are doing away from the floor. Something is going on that is not allowing us to play with an energy and passion that we should be playing with. As a head coach, I’ve got to find out what it is.”
  • “The Celtics know who they are,” Evans added. “We don’t have an identity, unless it’s when things go bad we go the other way. Maybe that’s our identity and we don’t know it.”

The AJC also caught up with Shaquille O’Neal, who said he picked the Celtics over the Hawks because Boston gave him a better shot at a title. And it sounds like the Hawks agree with him.

“They have a blend of veteran players with the core of their team, and it’s a lot easier to fit in a vet like Shaq,” Drew added. “If we brought him in here, it would be a little tougher. I don’t think his personality would have fit with our guys. It makes more sense to have veteran guys around him.”

Boston Celtics shooting guard Delonte West (13) looks for an open man during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards at the Garden in Boston, Wednesday night, Nov. 17, 2010. West returned to action Wednesday night after a 10-game suspension resulting from a NBA gun violation. The Celtics defeated the Wizards 114-83.

Putting his issues behind him, Delonte West is looking ahead to a successful season with the Celtics. (AP)

DELONTE WEST DISHES ON HIS DISORDER

CBS Sports.com senior writer Ken Berger wrote a fantastic piece on Delonte West’s battle with bipolar disorder.

However irresponsible West’s actions were when he was arrested on multiple weapons charges a year ago, it’s impossible not to root for a guy who is working as hard as he is to overcome his issues.

Here are a few highlights:

  • “Bipolar is like, when things are bad to you, they seem worse and when things are good, they seem great,” West said. “I’m at a place where things are behind me and I’m focused on what I love to do.”
  • “When you’re thinking about, ‘Am I going to go to jail after the season?’ and going through a tough divorce during the season, those things can weigh on you sometimes,” West said. “When you’re a professional athlete, you’ve got to be a robot sometimes. You’ve got to check your emotions at the door. But we’re humans. You can’t say, ‘OK, I’m not going to think about this,’ when it’s something to really think about. … When things are up in the air and all people can say to you, the courts and the lawyers, is, ‘You’ve got to wait and see,’ there’s a lot of nights when you’re not sleeping.”
  • “There’s only one way it’s going to play out,” West said. “I want it to play out that way and it’s going to play out that way. And that’s holding the trophy at the end of June. Man, that’d be a strong chapter in the book or the movie I’m going to write one day.”

I love that last quote. It comes from a man who is taking hold of his own destiny.

West also sat down with Chris Tomasson at NBA FanHouse to discuss being a role model, Gloria James and the Von Wafer fight.

“You’ve got to remember, this is just a game,” West told Tomasson. “Some people are die-hard fans and they paint their face and it’s all great. But you got to do unto others as you have unto yourself. People say something about your mother and drag your mother through something like that and your family, you’d be ready to do something yourself. So it’s sad that happened. But, you know, they hated Jesus, too. You got to keep going. So I wish [LeBron James] much success down there [in Miami] with his family, and I got to keep going here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Are referees screwing the Celtics? 11.22.10 at 12:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

In remembrance of the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination — and in the wake of the two worst officiated games of the Celtics season — we’ll examine an NBA conspiracy theory: Are the C’s getting screwed by the referees?

“You answer that,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told MSNBC.com. “I need my money, I have four kids. I’ll let you answer that. I didn’t see anything.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: The Celtics deserved to lose to the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. They coasted through both games like Rasheed Wallace sleepwalked through the entire 2009-10 regular season and should’ve won each game by double digits.

Still, after two absolutely terrible calls in the final seconds against the Raptors — the Ray Allen “forced” turnover and the Paul Pierce “blocking” foul — it’s worth taking a look at how the Celtics are being treated by the referees (Tommy Heinsohn, of course, might say “like a rented mule”).

Statistically speaking, the Celtics have been called for more personal fouls (292) than their opponents (278) in addition to attempting fewer free throws (295) than their opposition (335).

Given that the Celtics have led 11 of their 13 games in the final two minutes, when teams are purposely fouling in an attempt to make a comeback — you’d think that both those numbers would be flipped around in the C’s favor. At the very least, they should be much closer to an even split.

However, the C’s have only attempted more free throws than their opponent four times in 13 games. On two of those occasions — against the Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies — the opposition intentionally put the Celtics at the free throw line 10 times apiece at the end of regulation and overtime.

While other teams have shot five or more free throw attempts than the Celtics on five occasions, the C’s have only outshot an opponent at the free throw line once — an OT victory against the Bulls at home. For future reference, Tom Washington headed the officiating crew for that game.

Want to hear something really spooky? The Celtics’ lowest free throw total and one of their biggest free throw discrepancies of the season — a 20-7 margin in favor of Dallas during a two-point Mavericks win — one of the referees was … wait for it, wait for it … a Kennedy.

It was Bill Kennedy to be exact. Yup, the same Bill Kennedy who has had a long, tumultuous history with Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

Is it just Kennedy who has a score to settle with Rivers, or are there other officials on the grassy knoll contributing as well?

WORST LOSS EVER

The back-to-back losses to the Durant and Jeff Green-less Thunder and Raptors could possibly be the worst two-game stretch since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett arrived.

In 2007-08, the Celtics only lost consecutive games three times, including just one three-game losing streak. None of those stretches came in the first three months of the season.

The following year, during an injury-plagued 2008-09 season, the C’s only lost consecutive games four times (none before Christmas), which included a four-game losing streak in January.

Last season, in total, the Celtics lost back-to-back games 10 times (including four three-game losing streaks) — the first of which came in mid-November.

Their worst performance last season came in back-to-back losses to the Clippers (29-53) and Warriors (26-56). While that was pretty awful, it came on back-to-back nights during a four-game road trip that started on Christmas and took them through Florida, California and Arizona.

The bench was supposed to infuse this year’s team with enough energy to help them avoid losing streaks like they suffered last season. In their past two losses, however, the Celtics bench has been outscored by undermanned opponents, as a result of the Thunder’s Durant/Green injuries and the Raptors’ Jarrett Jack trade.

Could it be a 2009-10 regular season all over again? I thought this Celtics team would be hungrier after its loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo lands upside-down after chasing the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Boston, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. The Thunder beat the Celtics 89-84.

Are the Celtics chances turned upside down when Rajon Rondo sits on the bench? (AP)

SANS RONDO

So far this season, the Celtics are 0-2 in games they finish without a healthy Rajon Rondo. However, for fans looking for a glimmer of hope should Rondo not play against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, the C’s actually possess a winning record (5-4) since 2007-08 without Rondo in the starting lineup.

Here’s a look at the games he’s missed since taking over the starting point guard position (and how the backup did in his place) …

2007-08
Dec. 30: Celtics 110, Lakers 91 (Tony Allen: 16 points, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 12: Wizards 85, Celtics 78 (Allen: 8 points, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, 6 rebounds, 4 steals)
Jan. 16: Celtics 100, Blazers 90 (Eddie House: 10 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 18: Celtics 116, 76ers 89 (House: 15 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
April 16: Celtics 105, Nets 94 (Sam Cassell: 9 points, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 0 steals)

2008-09
March 8: Magic 86, Celtics 79 (Stephon Marbury: 4 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 0 steals)
March 11: Heat 107, Celtics 99 (Marbury: 0 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 2 steals)

2009-10
Jan. 2: Celtics 103, Raptors 96 (Allen: 14 points, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 1 steal)

2010-11
Nov. 21: Raptors 102, Celtics 101 (Nate Robinson: 22 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds, 0 steals)

Robinson is the best scoring option off the bench in Rondo’s stead, but what the Celtics really need is a guy to continue running the offense as a distributor (Delonte West?). In three of the C’s four losses without Rondo in the lineup, his replacement failed to dish out more than two assists.

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

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Irish Coffee: Top 5 Celtics fan dances 11.19.10 at 10:46 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

It’s Irish Coffee’s version of a free-form Friday. One of my guilty pleasures in the Garden is watching the Jumbotron shenanigans during timeouts. So, just for fun, let’s take a look at the top five dances caught on tape at Celtics games …

1. The world-famous Bon Jovi dance.

2. A 7-year-old teaches Soulja Boy how to move.

3. A storm trooper dominates the disco (at the 1:10 mark).

4. A redhead breaks out the big guns.

5. Mr. Roboto dances to “Beat It” and kills it.

LASME COMES UP LAME

So much for the “call up Stephane Lasme and cut Von Wafer” discussion. The one-time UMass standout and final roster cut of the Celtics reportedly suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and underwent surgery.

Now, if the C’s opt for further depth in the post, they’ll have to turn to Magnum Rolle or Tiny Gallon on the Maine Red Claws.

CAST YOUR ALL-STAR BALLOT

The NBA released the 2011 All-Star Game ballot, and all five Celtics starters made the cut. That’s not nearly as ridiculous as some of the names listed. Here are the worst of the bunch:

  • Mario Chalmers: He’s tearing up the league to the tune of 1.1 points and 1.4 assists per game.
  • Carlos Boozer: He’s only been injured all year, but maybe he got nominated as the best-dressed player in the league?
  • Linas Kleiza: I forgot he was even in the league (if you consider the Raptors part of the league).
  • Corey Brewer: Well, he is the fifth-leading scorer on a 4-9 Timberwolves team.
  • Derek Fisher: In the discussion of great point guards out West, he’s right up there with Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Oh, wait, no he’s not.

ARENAS HEAPS PRAISE ON RONDO

Count Gilbert Arenas among the many NBA players whose attention Rajon Rondo has grabbed this season. He raved about Rondo after Wednesday night’s 31-point loss to the Celtics …

“As a point guard, uh, former point guard watching what he’s done with his talent, it’s amazing,” Arenas told the Washington Post. “With players like Rondo, Steve Nash, point guards that have the ball so much, you have the ball so much that you’re going to have assists. Just run around finding players. He’s great at it. It’s amazing what people were saying when the Big Three first got here, and now he’s just come into his own.”

MORE FRIDAY VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT

After watching five videos of people dancing at Celtics games, if you feel like wasting more time at work on this Friday morning, here are two more videos: 1) Justin Bieber gets booed in Boston for saying he’s a Lakers fan, and 2) Chris Bosh says “[Erik Spoelstra wants to work; we want to chill.” Good times.

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

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Hilarious ‘Fan up, Miami’ promo 11.18.10 at 3:50 pm ET
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Here’s the “Fan up, Miami” promo that the Big Show guys were talking about on WEEI this afternoon. I like how they found a ton of people who look like they’ve never watched a basketball game in their life to plead for fans to come to the games and root, root, root for the home team. “Are you showing up on time?” “Are you too cool to cheer?” This is the NBA, people. Not the local recreation league …

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Irish Coffee: Delonte West discusses Kevin Durant 11.18.10 at 11:23 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

One day, Delonte West is the talk of the town, returning to a Celtics uniform three years after being traded and 10 additional games after being suspended. The next day? He’s just another member of a championship contender.

And that’s the way he likes it.

“Now you guys can go back to bothering them and leaving me alone,” West told reporters after Wednesday night’s 114-83 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Now, he’s left to do his thing, which Wednesday night was knocking down 5-of-7 shots for 12 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and a block — a little bit of everything.

“Once I left here, in my journey in the league, I’ve matured as a player,” added West. “I’ve come into my own a little bit. I’m just really scratching my potential, as far as playmaking. Right now, I’m embracing my role as a bench player. I don’t want to say Sixth Man. You have a team like this, the whole bench is the Sixth Man.

“I know what I can do. I know I can play at a high level, so it helps the team when I can come off the bench and bring that high level of play out there.”

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant goes up for a dunk against the Portland Trail Blazers in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. Oklahoma City won 110-108.

The Celtics welcome Kevin Durant and the Thunder to town on Friday night. (AP)

With his Celtics debut behind him, West can answer the day-to-day questions, like what he thinks of Kevin Durant, his former teammate on the Seattle SuperSonics.

“Y’all seen him,” West told WEEI.com. “I watched him grow up in D.C. He by far scores the easiest [in the NBA]. You watched him in college. I watched him on the playgrounds in D.C. On the outside, he could shoot the ball from anywhere. He’s so smooth with it.

“We’re from the same area. We keep track of each other. I got a chance to play with him a little bit in Seattle, give him some pointers and root him on. The sky’s the limit for the guy.”

West and Durant both grew up in Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. On Friday night, they’ll be reunited when the Celtics host Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder. And West knows from experience — defending Durant is no easy task.

“You’ve got to give him a little bit of everything [defensively],” said West. “Put a hand in his face and hope he misses. Guys like that, there’s really no defense for him. He’s either going to make it or he’s going to miss. That’s the kind of player he is. Once he steps across half-court, he’s dangerous.”

As West proved on Wednesday night, he can be dangerous on the court, too.

THE OBLIGATORY SHAQ UPDATE

A 2010-11 Celtics victory just wouldn’t be the same without a postgame interview with Shaquille O’Neal. Heres’ a few highlights:

  • On Delonte West: “He’s a great player. He played well. I had the opportunity to play with him last year. Great player and a great guy. He can be a sparkplug sometimes. You guys think he’s crazy, but he’s not. Not at all. I can handle him. We always have conversations about the game. He’s very smart. He’s just misunderstood sometimes.” (Mike Petraglia has more.)
  • On the C’s interior dominance: “I’m going to have the advantage on every center that we play. … It’s paying off very nicely. Once we get Jermaine [O'Neal]and Kendrick [Perkins] back, it’s going to be really, really nice – really, really difficult for teams to match up.”
  • On his chemistry with Rondo: “Rondo’s a great passer. He gets me the ball. I do what I’ve been doing for 18 years. … It’s not really something you need to work on with him. He’s just a great player. He reads the court very well. … Two great players just working together. He passes it to me, and I put it in the basket.”
  • On Rondo’s alley-oop to Kevin Garnett: “[Garnett] understands how the defense is playing, and he actually orchestrated that play. He said, ‘This dude’s overplaying me; this dude’s disrespecting me.’ He’s great like that.”
  • On what he told Semih Erden: “I told him to be mean out there, be aggressive. Semih’s a nice guy. … I told him to go out and play and dominate.”

REACTIONS FROM D.C.

As you can imagine, Wednesday night’s 31-point blowout by the Celtics against the John Wall-less Wizards didn’t sit well with anybody on Washington’s side …

  • Head coach Flip Saunders (courtesy of the Washington Post): “It was like men playing against boys. I told our guys, they just reached right into our chest and tore our heart out, and just took away our will.”
  • Gilbert Arenas: “This is one of them games, where you’re on the playground and you beat somebody up – and the real bully comes and beats you up. They are built for a championship. We’re rebuilding. Until we feel we’re on that level, we have a long way to go. The two championship-caliber teams that we’ve played, we got blown out.”
  • Nick Young: “They’re an all-star team. … Obviously, they know how to win.”

WHITE HOUSE HONORS BILL RUSSELL

The White House announced that Bill Russell is one of 15 people who will receive the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, “the nation’s highest civilian honor.”

Bill Russell“Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of 11 championships in 13 years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA — indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States — Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.”

Russell will be the first former NBA player to receive the honor, and based on his contributions to civil rights alone — regardless of the fact that he’s the greatest winner in the history of sports — there’s no question he deserves it. The only question is, right now, could Russell still beat President Obama 1-on-1? I say definitely.

MORE RONDO FOR MVP DISCUSSION

The Sporting News is the latest publication to consider Rondo a contender for the 2010-11 NBA MVP honor. The most interesting tidbit to come from their take is the fact that Garnett believes Rondo can keep up his current rate of 14.9 assists per game — which would eclipse John Stockton‘s NBA record of 14.5 set in 1989-90.

“Why not?” Garnett said. “Who says that he can’t? Let’s see. It’s all about the flow. It’s all about guys hitting shots. He’s in a real good groove. He knows when to attack. He’s picking and choosing when to do certain things. He’s mixing it up really well. He’s keeping defenses off balance. Who says he can’t?”

Well, if the Celtics keep shooting 65 percent from the floor as they did Wednesday night against the Wizards, there’s no reason he can’t.

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

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Celtics’ Glen Davis taking charge 11.17.10 at 10:56 pm ET
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Boston Celtics' Glen Davis dunks over Miami Heat's Chris Bosh during the second half of Boston's 88-80 win in an NBA basketball game in Boston on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010.

Glen Davis is doing more than just scoring off the bench for the Celtics. (AP)

Glen Davis is leading the charge on, well, charges. The Celtics’ Sixth Man drew his league-leading 17th offensive foul in Tuesday night’s 114-83 blowout victory over the Washington Wizards.

“A wise man once told me a pig sacrifices more than a chicken,” said Davis. “I just want to be a pig.”

The statistic isn’t officially tracked by the NBA, but Davis is lobbying for it, arguing that they work two ways — turning the ball over in your favor and giving the opposing team an additional foul.

“They keep track of how many shots of yours you get blocked, don’t they?” said Davis, who contributed two points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win. “I think I led the league in that one year. So, why not charges?”

Big Baby said he learned how to take a charge from former teammate James Posey during the 2007-08 season. According to Davis, the key to the charge is deception — making opponents believe you’re going to foul them and holding your ground in the final moment (“I look at my feet every time”). It’s that timing in addition to his knowledge of help defense, the team’s rotations and thier scouting reports that have led to Davis’ success in that area.

“I don’t like to flop,” said Davis. “When I take a charge, somebody is going to have to run into me.”

Davis said it took a week to fully shake off a charge he took against the Dallas Mavericks’ Caron Butler. So, do they all hurt that much?

“All of them do,” said Davis. “There’s not one that does not hurt. But every one is worth it. The only one that’s not is the one where I get hit in the gonads.”

Just don’t hit the pig in the gonads. Got that everybody?

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Fast Break: Celtics beat the Wiz 11.17.10 at 9:55 pm ET
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All five Celtics starters reached double figures as the Celtics built a 20-point lead early in the third quarter and coasted to a 114-83 victory over the John Wall-less Washington Wizards at the TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Paul Pierce scored a game-high 23 points while Kevin Garnett added 18 points and seven boards and Delonte West netted 12 points off the bench in his return to lead the Celtics (9-2) to a 65 percent shooting night.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Hot shooting: Despite looking sluggish defensively in the early going, the Celtics hit their first six shots and made 15-of19 on the offensive end in the first quarter. And they didn’t let up for the rest of the night.

In all, the Celtics starters shot 71 percent (35-of-49) from the field. Pierce’s 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting — including a trio of 3-pointers — led the effort, as the C’s grabbed a 33-25 lead in the first 12 minutes, stretched it to 16 at the half, 20 after three and as much as 37 in the fourth quarter.

2. Vintage Shaq: Showing signs of the player who made 14 straight All-Star Games, Shaquille O’Neal grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds in a swarm of three Wizards, gathered himself and nearly took down the rim with a dunk over all three of them.

Forced into more playing time than usual because of Semih Erden‘s four personal fouls in his first six minutes of action, O’Neal totaled 13 points and six rebounds in his first 16 minutes on the floor. By the time he cooled off, the Celtics had already built a 20-point lead and were coasting to victory.

3. Welcome back, Delonte: Within a minute of his re-debut, Delonte West worked his way under the basket, drew a defender and found an open Pierce for 3. It was skilled, smart basketball — exactly the type of play the C’s are hoping to get all season long from the backup guard.

West had a personal 5-0 run against the Wizards in the fourth quarter, giving him 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and a block on the night. Not bad for a guy coming off a 10-game suspension.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Boxing out: Sounds easy enough, but the Celtics apparently didn’t feel like doing it in the first half. On one play, the C’s ran up the court, leaving the ball behind for the Wizards to clean up and score an easy bucket.

The C’s actually out-rebounded the Wizards on the night, 40-36, but 18 of Washington’s 36 boards came on the offensive glass. Javale McGee led the effort, grabbing six offensive boards and 10 total.

2. Semih awkward: After showing flashes of brilliance in his first 10 games, Semih Erden fell back to earth a bit against the Wizards. Facing a tough interior defender in Javale McGee, Erden got into early foul trouble, picking up four personals in his first six minutes on the floor.

It may have been his nagging shoulder bothering him, but Erden (3 turnovers) didn’t seem to have the sure hands that made him so effective in his first 10 appearances.

With that being said, his ability to score inside and knock down free throws put nine points on the board for the Celtics.

3. All quiet on the West front: This one falls more on the Celtics crowd. After playing for some woeful teams in Boston and being traded as part of the deal that brought Ray Allen — and subsequently an NBA championship — to the city three years ago, Delonte West returned to the Garden in a Celtics uniform on Wednesday night.

Yet, when West entered the game, the crowd reacted as if Lester Hudson was returning to the building (which he did), giving a half-hearted ovation. They cheered louder when the Noise Meter popped up on the Jumbotron.

Generally, Boston crowds deliver in those moments — one reason they’re considered great fans — but they missed the boat on that one.

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