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Ray Allen drops some NBA knowledge 12.17.10 at 12:14 am ET
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The mood in the Celtics locker room was light. Extremely light. A bunch of the players were eager to leave and get some food together, but Ray Allen stayed behind to answer every last one of the reporters’ questions.

He sounded like a future NBA coach, discussing everything from rivalries to winning streaks to what today’s young players are lacking. Here’s what Allen, who scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, had to say after the Celtics’ 12th consecutive victory, a 102-90 win over the Hawks …

If the Knicks aren’t your rival, then who is?

(Waiting, waiting, waiting …) “I don’t really look at a Western Conference team, because we don’t play them enough. The playoff teams we’ve played are definitely rivals. In the Eastern Conference, we talked about Detroit … but they’re done. Cleveland’s now done. Orlando right now is the team that we’d have to say is our rivals.

“To me, it’s all based on playoffs. The regular season gets you warmed up for it, because you know you’re going to see them. You want to leave something for them to think about.”

How have the Big Three avoided the injury bug?

(Knocking on wood) “With me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin [Garnett], it’s not about the prestige of the job, it’s about the game itself. It’s about playing basketball and doing whatever you need to do to stay heatlhy and take care of our bodies.

“That’s one thing between the three of us — whether we’re in the weight room or getting up shots — we’re going to do whatever we need to do to help this team.”

Are you surprised by Semih Erden’s success so far this season?

“I’m not surprised at all. He’s got great promise. He’s very talented. I think we all forget that he’s a rookie. We expect a lot from him in that position, and it’s only going to make him better in the long run. …

“I played with a lot of young big men who were just doomed, because they had nobody to offer tutelage, that had been through it and had done some good things in the league. For him to come here is probably one of the biggest blessings he could ever ask for. He probably doesn’t realize it now, but 6-7 years down the road he’s going to realize how special it was for him.”

How important are the veterans to Erden’s success?

“Whether they’re on the business side or player development, I don’t see enough past players on rosters. There’s too many young guys in the league nowadays who need the expertise on how to play this game — not just putting the ball in the whole but understanding how to be a teammate, be a professional, be that guy who knows how to take a hard foul. We don’t have those guys anymore.”

How was the offense different with Nate Robinson running the show?

“Offensively, we didn’t have a great rhythm early in the game. Even a week ago, when [Rajon] Rondo was out, it was different, because Shaq was out there and he gave us a better rhythm with Nate out there.

“[Thursday], it was different. We had to figure it out all over again with Nate and Semih out there. It took a while. About the third or fourth quarter, we established a rhythm offensively and then we locked down.”

Are you impressed by the team’s 12-game winning streak?

“Not really. If I had to guess who we beat these past 12 games, I couldn’t tell you. It’s behind me. I don’t have to worry about those teams we played.

“When you lose a game, that always haunts you. When you watch the highlights on SportsCenter, it kinda jabs you in the side knowing you lost to them the last time you played.”

Why do you think the team has had more success against the so-called “athletic” teams this season?

“A lot of that is Kevin being a little bit healthier, just having his legs underneath him. I don’t know what he’s averaging rebound-wise, but he’s bringing them down and he’s keeping those other guys off the glass. … It does make a difference when you keep those young guys off the glass.”

Even with a 21-4 record, can the Celtics still improve?

“I think we can work on everything. There’s not one thing we can’t improve on.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Ray Allen,
Fast Break: Celtics win 12th straight 12.16.10 at 10:42 pm ET
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If you were expecting a letdown by the Celtics after a thrilling last-second victory against the Knicks in New York on Wednesday night — followed by the news that Rajon Rondo would miss the next two weeks — guess again.

The Celtics had six players score in double figures — including Semih Erden — as they stretched their NBA-best winning streak to 12 games by disposing of the Hawks, 102-90, at the Garden on Thursday night.

Kevin Garnett anchored the effort with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Ray Allen and Glen Davis tied for the team lead with 18 points apiece.

Paul Pierce (15), Nate Robinson (14) and Erden (10) also reached double figures for the Celtics, who improved their Eastern Conference-leading record to 21-4.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Another KG double-double: Midway through the third quarter, Garnett had already notched his 14th double-double of the season. He entered the game tied with Amar’e Stoudemire for ninth in the NBA for double-doubles.

Garnett finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds on the night. On the other end, Garnett limited Josh Smith — who is a very, very good NBA player — to just one point and four rebounds. All in all, not a bad night for Garnett.

Pierce & Allen assist: With Rondo sitting out the first of what is expected to be at least two weeks of games, somebody had to make up for his 14 assists a night. Pierce and Allen exceeded that number.

They entered the game averaging a combined 5.8 assists between them. Against the Hawks, Pierce doled out nine dimes and Allen contributed another six. Not to mention their combined 33 points.

Semih-automatic: Say what you will about Semih Erden, but he finishes around the rim. It’s his soft hands. Thursday night’s starting center finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting — all within five feet of the basket.

His solid night even included a dunk over Smith, who is one of the top six shot blockers in the league. Still, Erden could work on his rebounding (he had zero as a 7-footer) and free-throw shooting (0-for-2).

WHAT WENT WRONG

Defending the point: The Hawks’ point guards — starter Mike Bibby and backup Jeff Teague — combined for 29 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds against Nate Robinson.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley actually looked pretty sharp defensively in just four minutes on the floor. Offensively? Bradley was absent, and Robinson finished with 14 points (on 6-of-16 shooting) and four assists.

Cleaning the glass: Somehow, with Smith and Al Horford combining for just 11 rebounds (they average 18 between them), the Celtics still got out-rebounded by the Hawks, 37-34.

Atlanta also snatched 10 offensive rebounds (an ongoing issue for the C’s). Of course, it helps to shoot better than 50 percent — which the Celtics did … once again (53%).

All-Star absentees: First, it was Kevin Durant. Then, it was John Wall. Then, it was Carmelo Anthony. And Thursday it was former Celtics guard Joe Johnson. The list of NBA stars who have been relegated to the bench with injuries when they visited the Garden this season grew by two.

Johnson and 2010 Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford both sat out against the Celtics. On the Boston side, of course, Rondo and Shaquille O’Neal were in street clothes as well.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
NBA Power Rankings, 12/16 12.16.10 at 5:41 pm ET
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With all the injuries to the Celtics as the NBA storms into the second quarter of its 82-game season, what better time than now to sort through the injury lists of the league’s 30 teams — ranked from first to worst?

One quick observation before delving into this week’s Power Rankings: Perhaps the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom, isn’t THAT much worse than the West. Just as the top five teams in the East could give anybody out West a run for their money, the bottom three teams in the Western Conference (the Kings, Clips & T-Wolves) are just as bad — if not worse — than their counterparts back East.

So, without further ado …

1. Boston (20-4): While the injuries continue to mount (see: “brothers, O’Neal”not to mention Delonte West and Rajon Rondo), the Celtics continue to pile up victories, as their 11-game winning streak is the best in the NBA. That’s the single scariest thing about this team: They haven’t even played their best basketball.

2. San Antonio (21-3): Unlike the Celtics, the Spurs are healthier than ever, as Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson and Tim Duncan are all feeling fine. As a result, they’re all playing better, which is why they have the best record in the league. While its nothing major, Parker is listed as day-to-day with a splint on his right middle finger. Wonder how he got that.

3. Dallas (20-5): The Mavericks aren’t really missing the immense production (2.0 personal fouls & 1.5 points per game) of the immortal Rodrigue Beaubois. The health of Tyson Chandler might be the  biggest surprise — and biggest positive — for the Mavs, as he’s truly anchored their defense this season.

4. LA Lakers (19-7): A walking knee injury the past few seasons, Andrew Bynum returned once again from a lengthy sabbatical, totaling seven points, four boards and two blocks in 17 minutes. His presence should help their recent .500 stretch. Now their injuries are limited to Theo Ratliff, who’s been listed since 1983.

5. Miami (19-8): The Heat haven’t skipped a beat since Udonis Haslem suffered a potential season-ending injury on Nov. 20. Now, the only two guys outside of Miami Thrice who were supposed to contribute (the other one: Mike Miller & his thumb) haven’t been a part of their current 10-game win streak. So, are they the team that was 9-8 through 17 games, or the 10-0 team from the last couple weeks?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, NBA, power rankings
Irish Coffee: The Celtics & Knicks aftermath 12.16.10 at 11:28 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

Amid all the glory that was Wednesday night’s 118-116 Celtics last-second win over the Knicks was Nate Robinson‘s faceplant into the floor of Madison Square Garden as he attempted to climb atop the game’s hero — Paul Pierce.

It was the funniest of all the videos Robinson has produced this season, and only because he lived to talk about it (thank God his high-top fade broke his fall).

As Robinson tweeted after the game, Pierce “damn near killed me today, but we won, so hey.” Maybe Robinson could somehow work the faceplant into the dunk contest, since he’s the heavy favorite now that Dwight Howard retired from it.

THE NEW YORK MEDIA THINKS THE KNICKS WON

I watched Wednesday night’s Celtics game with a diehard Knicks fan friend of mine at The Four’s in Boston. The Celtics fans who braved the cold — including the bartender — kept telling him the same thing: “I had no idea the Knicks were this good; I had no idea Amar’e Stoudemire was this good.”

“They are this good,” he responded. “They’ve won eight in a row and 13-of-14. And they’re just getting warmed up.”

There was no “I’m just glad to be competitive!” discussion from his perspective. In his eyes, they should be competitive. They’re the New York freakin’ Knicks.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Celtics going streaking! 12.15.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

It’s the year of the streak. The 2010-11 NBA season has already seen three teams pile up double-digit win streaks, and four others have won at least eight straight.

Four of those streaks have been snapped, and one more will end on Wednesday night, as the Celtics (winners of 10 straight) visit the Knicks (winners of eight straight). The Heat also put their nine-game win streak on the line Wednesday when they host the Cavaliers.

Just for fun, let’s rank those seven streaks in terms of level of difficulty, and then compare them to the 1971-72 Lakers’ all-time record of 33 consecutive victories:

1. MAVERICKS

  • Streak: 12 games (snapped by Bucks, 103-99, on Dec. 13)
  • Opponents’ win %: .505 (151-148)
  • Opponents above .500: 6
  • Average margin of victory: 8.3 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 5
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: This was truly remarkable, considering it included wins over the Thunder, Spurs, Heat and Jazz (twice).

2. SPURS

  • Streak: 12 games (snapped by Mavericks, 103-94, on Nov. 26)
  • Opponents’ win %: .437 (128-165)
  • Opponents above .500: 4
  • Average margin of victory: 9.5 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 5
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: The fact that their streak was snapped by the Mavs makes the Dallas run that much more impressive.

3. HEAT

  • Streak: 9 games (ongoing)
  • Opponents’ win %: .425 (93-126)
  • Opponents above .500: 3
  • Average margin of victory: 17.1 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 9
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 4
  • Observation: Not only have the Heat been winning, they’ve been blowing people out — even without Udonis Haslem.

4. CELTICS

  • Streak: 10 games (ongoing)
  • Opponents’ win %: .425 (104-141)
  • Opponents above .500: 3
  • Average margin of victory: 14.6 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 6
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: Not so impressive, considering they beat the Nuggets without Carmelo Anthony and Bulls without Carlos Boozer.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, New York Knicks
Irish Coffee: Betting on the Celtics 12.14.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Do the sportsbook oddsmakers know something that the people who cover the NBA don’t? I know, I know, you’d be shocked to find out that sportswriters aren’t always right. And it’s not like they have millions of dollars riding on their prognostications, as the bookies do.

In most publications’ NBA Power Rankings — including, likely, when WEEI’s come out on Thursday – the Celtics, Spurs and Mavericks are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, in some order. Yet, in most online sportsbooks, the Heat and Lakers are still heavy favorites to win the NBA title. Take a look:

THE SPORTSWRITERS

NBA.com …………………………………. ESPN.com ………………………………….. CBSSports.com
1. Celtics ………………………………… 1. Mavericks …………………………………….. 1. Mavericks
2. Spurs …………………………………….. 2. Celtics ………………………………………….. 2. Spurs
3. Mavericks ……………………………….. 3. Spurs …………………………………………… 3. Celtics
4. Lakers …………………………………….. 4. Bulls …………………………………………….. 4. Heat
5. Heat ……………………………………….. 5. Heat ……………………………………………. 5. Magic
6. Thunder ………………………………… 6. Lakers …………………………………………….. 6. Jazz
7. Jazz ………………………………………… 7. Jazz ……………………………………………. 7. Hawks
8. Magic ……………………………………… 8. Magic …………………………………………. 8. Nuggets
9. Knicks ……………………………………. 9. Thunder ………………………………………… 9. Lakers
10. Hawks ………………………………….. 10. Knicks ………………………………………. 10. Hornets

THE BOOKMAKERS

BetUS.com ……………………………… Sportsbook.com ………………………………. Bodog.com
1. Lakers (+210) …………………………… 1. Heat (+180) ………………………………. 1. Lakers (+210)
2. Heat (+220) ……………………………. 2. Lakers (+200) ………………………………… 2. Heat (+220)
3. Celtics (+500) …………………………. 3. Celtics (+220) ………………………………. 3. Celtics (+500)
4. Magic (+1,000) …………………………. 4. Spurs (+800) ……………………………… 4. Magic (+1,000)
5. Spurs (+1,100) ………………………… 5. Magic (+1,200) ……………………………. 5. Spurs (+1,100)
6. Mavericks (+1,200) ……………………. 6. Bulls (+1,500) ………………………… 6. Mavericks (+1,500)
7. Bulls (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Mavericks (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Thunder (+2,000)
7. Thunder (+2,000) ……………………. 7. Knicks (+2,000) ……………………………… 8. Bulls (+2,200)
9. Jazz (+2,500) ………………………… 9. Thunder (+3,000) …………………………….. 9. Jazz (+2,500)
10. Hornets/Nuggets (+4,000) …………. 9. Jazz (+3,000) ………………………….. 10. Hornets (+3,500)

There are two possible conclusions to draw from this: either 1) the bookmakers are right to anoint the Lakers and Heat as the NBA title favorites; or 2) there’s a lot of money to be made (you know, if online sports gambling were legal).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jimmer Fredette, NBA, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Celtics passing the test 12.13.10 at 12:43 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Yes, the Celtics allow the fewest points in the NBA. That’s obviously one reason for their success this season. But they’re also the best passing team — and, as a result — the best shooting team in the league.

And that’s why this Celtics team is riding a 10-game winning streak and ranked No. 1 in most power rankings. During the win streak, the C’s have knocked down 51.7 percent of their field goals, shooting at least 50 percent eight times.

For the season, the Celtics are shooting better than any other team in the last 10 years, making 50.9 percent of their shots. The next-best team (Phoenix) is shooting 47.8 percent.

So, why are the Celtics shooting so well? They’re passing the ball better than everybody. In essence, they give up good shots to get better shots.

The C’s average 25.9 assists per game; only one other team (Utah) averages 24. What’s even more remarkable is that they’re doing that while shooting fewer shots than any other team in the league. The Celtics have averaged just 76.7 field goal attempts per game; no other team shoots fewer than 77.

The Celtics are shooting fewer shots but taking better shots than everybody else in the league. How do you get better shots? By making the extra pass.

The Celtics have recorded an assist on 66.6 percent of their field goals this year. That mark is better than any Celtics team of the last 20 years. In fact, the NBA’s best all-time passing team — the 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers — averaged 31.4 assists a game but assisted on just 65.2 percent of their field goals.

Obviously, Rajon Rondo is the main reason. He’s averaging 13.7 assists per game – a 40 percent improvement from last year – and threatening to break John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA single-season record (14.5 per game).

But just how big a role has Rondo played in the C’s passing success? The team is averaging 10 percent more assists per game this season than last — all while Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels are averaging fewer assists than they did last season. In fact, only Ray Allen and Glen Davis are averaging more assists than they did in 2009-10.

During their current 10-game winning streak, the Celtics have committed more turnovers than their opponents four times and have been out-rebounded three times, but they owned the assist advantage in all 10 games.

In fact, the Celtics have not been out-assisted once this season. Through 23 games, they’ve recorded 168  (39.2 percent) more assists despite shooting 11 (1 percent) fewer shots than their opponents.

So, what do all these numbers mean? Essentially, game in and game out, the Celtics’ superb passing ability can make up for deficiencies in other areas.

KOBE BRYANT VS. JOHN HAVLICEK

As Kobe Bryant approaced John Havlicek‘s career scoring mark (he surpassed it Friday), NBA.com caught up with Hondo to talk Lakers and Celtics.

Here are a few of the highlights from the interview:

NBA.com: What are your thoughts on Kobe being on the cusp of passing you for the 11th spot on the all-time scoring list?

Havlicek: Actually, I thought he already surpassed me and that is was a foregone conclusion that he would eclipse me because he’s been playing a number of years.

He came right out of high school and with the career that he’s had and the teams that he’s played with — he’s been surrounded by good players and championship-caliber coaches  — it’s not surprising.

Who knows how far he’s going to go? How long he’s going to play? He could end up second or third. I don’t know if he can reach Kareem. He’s been a fantastic player.

Kobe came in with a little bit of an attitude early on and a lot of people thought that it was a little bit too much for a high school player to have that type of attitude. But he certainly made people realize that he wanted to be one of the best and comparing him to Michael is something that people have done, so it puts him in a class above most people.

NBA.com: When he retires, where will Kobe rank among the all-time great Lakers?

Havlicek: Well, Jerry West said Kobe is the all-time Laker as he sees it, but I never played against Kobe, so Jerry West is my all-time Laker.

If Jerry West says Kobe is the all-time great Laker, I’ll go along with him, but Jerry’s my favorite all-time Laker.

NBA.com: Do you wish you played with the 3-point line?

Havlicek: I’m just as happy to get an old fashioned three I guess. It would have added a few more points to my career and it would have probably changed the way I played but I can’t really say how much it would have changed my game because I never played under that ruling.

NBA.com: One record that appears to be safe is your Celtics all-time scoring mark. At 33 years old, Pierce would need to score 6,000 points just to tie you.

Havlicek: Well, I don’t know how long Paul is going to play but I think he’s probably the best 1-on-1 Celtic player of all time because the game that he has is much different than the game other people play. His ability to score and create shots is something that he’s done better than any other Celtic. If he plays long enough, he’ll break the record. I don’t know if that’s something he has on his mind or not.

NBA.com: Talk about Rajon Rondo’s emergence into an elite point guard.

Havlicek: He’s unlike any point that I’ve ever seen. He rebounds. He doesn’t shoot the ball that well. He’s not a great free-throw shooter. But his ability to create situations on the floor is uncanny. He’s not like a Chris Paul who breaks down defenses and that type of thing. He’s totally a different kind of point guard.

 I don’t know how you can compare him to anyone. He can play defense. He’s one of the great steals leaders of the league. His quickness is probably the thing that separates him from most players. He doesn’t appear to be that quick but he sort of leaves people in the dust.

He’s a surprising type of point guard that’s unlike any I’ve ever seen. He gets the job done.

DOC RIVERS VS. PHIL JACKSON

Speaking of Celtics vs. Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal knows the rivalry fairly well at this point. So, the Boston Herald asked him to compare C’s head coach Doc Rivers and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Here’s what he said:

“I’m going to call Doc an ebonic Phil Jackson. And what I mean by that is Phil Jackson has his Buddha ways, but Doc got his homeboy ways because he was once one of us and he really relates to us very well. I think the guys respect him for that. You know, he treats us like men. He only expects one thing from us: Do what he says and play hard. If you could substitute a better word than ‘ebonic Phil Jackson,’ I’d like you guys to put your degrees to work. But it’s sort of like that, on that level.”

As a player, Rivers averaged 10.9 points and 5.7 assists, making one All-Star Game and never winning a title in 13 seasons. Jackson averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds, never making an All-Star team and winning the 1973 NBA title.

As a coach, Rivers has won 55.0 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year honor and the 2008 NBA championship in 12 seasons. Jackson has won 70.5 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year award and 11 NBA titles in 20 years.

WHO IS THE BEST RIVERS?

Gatorsports.com caught up with University of Florida volleyball standout Callie Rivers — Doc’s daughter — who broke down the family basketball dynamics:

Q: If there was a Rivers family 1-on-1 basketball tournament, who would win?

A: (Younger brother and the nation’s top high school recruit) Austin. Maybe (Indiana University senior) Jeremiah. Maybe my dad, actually.

Q: You think your brothers can beat your dad?

A: I don’t know. My dad doesn’t take to losing very well. He’s got some weight on all of my brothers, so he’d probably find some way to pull it out. He’s a better shooter now than what he was when he was playing, which is weird. Maybe there’s no pressure now.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, John Havlicek, Kobe Bryant, NBA
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