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Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result 11.08.10 at 10:52 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Last week, prior to the Celtics welcoming their former assistant coach Tom Thidodeau and the Chicago Bulls to town, Ray Allen asked a simple question: “Do they know everything we’re running?”

The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.

Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”

The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?

“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”

So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.

So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.

“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”

Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo
Tom Thibodeau gets hero’s welcome 11.05.10 at 11:56 pm ET
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During the first timeout of Friday night’s 110-105 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics played a video tribute to current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and forward Brian Scalabrine, thanking them for their contributions to the C’s 2008 NBA championship.

Touched by the gesture, Scalabrine raised a hand to the crowd. Meanwhile, Thibodeau stood stoically on the sideline, ready to guide his new team against his former team.

After the game, though, the former Celtics assistant and defensive guru was clearly touched by the gesture.

“It’s great coming back here,” Thibodeau said following his team’s loss. “I wouldn’t be in this position without everything that this organization did for me. From ownership to Danny (Ainge) and, of course, Doc (Rivers), they treated me great. It was a lot of fun.”

It’s not every city that would recognize the contributions of an assistant coach to a team’s success with a pair of standing ovations (one to start the game and one throughout the video), but Thibodeau knows Boston is no ordinary fan base.

“This is a great sports town,” said Thibodeau. “Certainly, the history and the tradition of the Celtics is what makes this organization so special. It’s the fans, the people that run the team, the players. They’re leadership is off the charts. Doc and Danny — you’re not going to find two guys better than that. They’re just top-of-the-line guys. They’re smart. They know what they’re doing.

“The team is special,” he added. “You’ve got an unbelievable group of guys — not only talented, but great competitors. Those guys are going to fight and fight and fight. There’s no quit in that team. To beat them, you’ve got to beat them. They never quit.”

Thibodeau admitted after the game that while his new team may have the potential, the Bulls just don’t have the level of understanding of each other yet that his old team enjoys now.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’re experienced, they know how to work the game and their hard to guard,” said Thibodeau. “I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to hsare with each other. … It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’t get set, and that’s something we’re striving for.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics run past Bulls 11.05.10 at 11:10 pm ET
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All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, as the C’s escaped with a second straight overtime victory on Friday night — this time, a 110-105 win over the Chicago Bulls at the TD Garden. Ray Allen scored a team-high 25 points, while Kevin Garnett produced 16 points and 10 rebounds to improve Boston’s record to 5-1.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Spread the wealth: The Celtics went on a 22-3 run to start the third quarter, taking a 12-point cushion they didn’t relinquish until midway through the fourth quarter. In the span of 6:28, six different Celtics scored (Paul Pierce, Garnett, Glen Davis, Nate RobinsonMarquis Daniels and Semih Erden).

The C’s got a solid contribution from Daniels, who scored eight of his 11 points in that stretch. In all, seven Celtics reached double figures (Allen-25, Garnett-16, Davis-15, Daniels-11, Pierce-10, Rajon Rondo-10). Even Robinson got into a little groove, scoring seven points in 11 minutes.

Rondo had his usual double-digit assist night (11), but the Celtics also got at least three dimes from Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Daniels. The prettiest play of thenight highlighted the effort — as Pierce hit a streaking Allen underneath fo a dunk with 1:19 left in overtime that put the C’s up 108-103 in the victory.

2. Garnett continued to be aggressive: Last season, Garnett wasn’t throwing it down like he used to; he just didn’t have the lift in his knees. This season? He should be sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Garnett scored six of his eight first-half points at the rim — including a second-quarter dunk on Taj Gibson and another jam following Rondo on the break. Although he backed off a bit in the second half — finishing with eight of his 16 points in the paint — Garnett, who also grabbed 10 boards, established his tone early.

3. Big Baby drew (more) charges: Someone tweeted from Shaquille O’Neal‘s account during the game, “Big Baby is an offensive foul drawing machine!!” That couldn’t be more right. Glen Davis entered Friday night’s game with a team-leading nine charges (nobody else had more than one), and he added two more to that total in the first half alone. Along with his five steals this season, that’s 16 possessions he’s swung in the Celtics’ favor.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Second-half defense: After holding the Bulls to 38.9 percent shooting from the field (14-of-36) in the opening half, Chicago shot 59.5 percent (25-of-42) in the second half.

The Bulls top four performers — Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson – combined to shoot 19-of-33 from the field (in the second half. The Celtics returned to their first half defensive form in the overtime period, holding the Bulls to 3-of-9 shooting to close out the victory.

2. Centers of attention: I hate to harp on it, but two nights after Andrew Bogut totaled 21 points and 13 boards on Jermaine O’Neal, Erden and Davis, another talented center ate up the Celtics’ postmen.

Joakim Noah produced 26 points and 12 boards in the absence of Shaquille O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins. If someone doesn’t step up the interior defense, guys like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are going to have a field day.

In addition, the Celtics got out-rebounded by 12, as Jermaine O’Neal a whopping one rebound in 25 minutes.

3. Pierce couldn’t score on Scalabrine: In the first half, shortly after Brian Scalabrine received a standing ovation upon entering the game, Paul Pierce tried to shake him at the free-throw line. As Pierce attempted his signature lean-back 17-footer, Scalabrine reached up and blocked the shot.

The crowd paused, as if deciding whether to groan for Pierce or cheer for Scalabrine. I’m sure Scalabrine has seen that move a thousand times in practice.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett
The OG Sports Show: “Lakers Talk” is high comedy 11.05.10 at 5:43 pm ET
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Is “The OG Sports Show: ‘Lakers Talk’” the worst thing to ever happen to the internet? Then again, this could be the best analysis ever of the Rajon Rondo upside down headband issue and whether Shaquille O’Neal is “the most unprofessional athlete in the world.” I can’t decide. Either way, we need to get this guy on the Green Street payroll. Judge for yourself …

I think my favorite part is the guy who provides this analysis on Shaq:

“Disrespecting the great Dr. Jerry Buss, like, yelling, you know, while Jerry was there with his family on the, which is the owners, by the way — the Buss family, who own the franchise. So, he disrespected him there, and then in the same way he’s disrespected, like, Playboy lifestyle, Busses and ’70s. Like, I guess Shaq was saying, ‘Hang out with girls your own age’ and getting all disrespectful in the press. I mean, I don’t know. Who doesn’t? Nobody.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Hilarious.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Big Threes, by the numbers 11.05.10 at 11:58 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Sports Illustrated ranked the top 14 trios in the NBA, and the Celtics’ Big Three — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and … Rajon Rondo (not Ray Allen) — came in third, behind the Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well as the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Personally, I think the Celtics’ top three players are better than the Lakers’ (because of Odom), so I decided to take a look so far at the top-10 Big Threes by the numbers — their cumulative win score and their average player efficiency rating.

BIG THREE ………………………………………… PER ………. WIN SCORE

Heat (James, Wade, Bosh) ……………………… 20.89 ………….. 4.61
Lakers (Bryant, Gasol, Odom) ………………….. 25.87 …………. 12.06
Celtics (Rondo, Pierce, Garnett) ……………….. 19.34 …………. 10.09
Hawks (Johnson, Horford, Smith) ……………… 20.31 ………….. 6.44
Thunder (Durant, Westbrook, Green) ………….. 19.88 ………….. 1.76
Spurs (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) ………………. 19.92 ………….. 8.79
*Bulls (Rose, Noah, Deng) ……………………… 20.14 ………….. 5.54
Magic (Howard, Carter, Nelson) ………………… 23. 61 …………. 1.51
Mavericks (Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry) ………………. 22.06 ………….. 9.85
Jazz (Williams, Jefferson, Millsap) ……………… 20.88 …………. 7.84
(*replaced Boozer with Deng because of injury) 

It turns out, through the first two weeks of the season, of the top 10, the Lakers’ Big Three has been the most efficient and the most productive in their victories.

Among the top 10, the C’s Big Three actually has been the least efficient, mainly because of turnovers (9.4 per game). In terms of contributing to wins, though, the Boston trio has been the second-best of the group — because of their unselfishness (21.2 assists per game) and defense (4.6 steals per game).

All this points to one thing: As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. He turns the ball over (4.0 per game) more than any other Celtic,  but he also records more assists (an astounding 16.4 per game) and steals (2.6 per game). What these numbers don’t account for is the fact that Allen is the best fourth banana in the league.

The most surprising result is where the Heat’s Big Three finished in each category. They ranked fourth in efficiency and eighth in win score. Still, they’re 4-1, which means two things: 1) Miami Thrice has yet to learn how to optimize their efficiency together; and 2) they’re supporting cast may not be so bad.

THE ERRORS OF THEIR WAYS

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann took a look at the league’s top three teams — the Lakers, Celtics and Heat — and how they’re addressing they’re greatest flaws.

The Lakers have jumped from No. 11 last season to No. 1 through five games this season in offense — scoring 114 points per 100 possessions in their 5-0 start.

Last season, the Celtics grabbed 73.8 percent of available defensive rebounds, ranking 13th in the league. This season, the C’s have nabbed 76 percent, ranking fifth through five games. That makes them the fifth most improved rebounding team.

Miami owns the most improved defense in the league, allowing just 87.9 points per game. Considering the Heat have already faced Boston and Orlando, that’s even more impressive. As Schuhmann points out …

Three seasons ago, the Celtics had the best defense of the last 20 seasons, allowing 8.6 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average. Miami isn’t going to hold its opponents to 14.6 points fewer than the league average all season, but that five-game mark is impressive. In 2007-08, the Celtics had just three five-game stretches where they held their opponents under 88 points per 100 possessions.

Boston’s best defensive five-game stretch came right after Thanksgiving that season, when the Celtics held five opponents to 86.1 points per 100 possessions. They were actually more dominant to start last season, when they were holding their opponents to 85.2 points per 100 possessions after five games and 85.4 after six.

Looking at all these numbers is telling me one thing: Miami is going to be very scary this season. If indeed the Heat’s defense is this good and they’ve yet to maximize their offensive efficiency, they’ll win 65 games — at worst.

THE BEST NUMBER OF ALL

Speaking of numbers, Basketball Reference ranked each uniform number by the number of win shares accumulated by the players who wore that number.

And guess which number finished at the top of the list: No. 33. The Celtics had a player who wore that number. I think his name was Bird.

Here are where the uniform numbers of the current Celtics ranked …

No. 0 Avery Bradley (44th)
No. 4 Nate Robinson (6th)
No. 5 Kevin Garnett (18th)
No. 7 Jermaine O’Neal (22nd)
No. 8 Marquis Daniels (24th)
No. 9 Rajon Rondo (28th)
No. 11 Glen Davis (10th)
No. 12 Von Wafer (11th)
No. 13 Delonte West (23rd)
No. 20 Ray Allen (17th)
No. 34 Paul Pierce (7th)
No. 36 Shaquille O’Neal (46th)
No. 43 Kendrick Perkins (34th)
No. 55 Luke Harangody (42nd)
No. 86 Semih Erden (unranked)

Obviously, based on this, Robinson and Wafer are going to have a huge impact this season, while Shaq and Rondo will have little to no effect whatsoever. Right?

FORBES’ HIGHEST-PAID NBA PLAYERS

The list of highest-paid NBA players, gathered by Forbes Magazine, is fairly hilarious. Sure, Bryant is legitimately slotted as the league’s No. 1 earner. After that, it all falls apart.

Rashard Lewis is the second highest-paid player in the NBA? Ouch. He’s making $20,236.92 for every point he scored last season.

Garnett is the lone Celtic on the list at No. 3 — earning $18.8 million this season.

Michael Redd is only making $18.3 million this season. Practically a bargain. He’s played 51 games combined over the last three seasons — half the length of his six-year, $91 million contract. On the bright side, it’s only about $1 million per game.

How would you like to be paying Andrei Kirilenko $17.8 million this season? Thankfully, Gilbert Arenas only has four years and $80,154,460 left on his deal.

No wonder David Stern wants to slash NBA salaries. Not that it’s going to happen.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 11/4 11.04.10 at 4:45 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers (5-0): No Andrew Bynum? No problem. All the Lakers have done to begin their road to a third consecutive NBA championships is start 5-0 and beat opponents by an average of 13 points. The only bad news on their front is that Rick Fox got tossed from “Dancing with the Stars.”

2. Boston (4-1): The Celtics‘ 4-1 start — including victories against the playoff contending Heat, Knicks and Bucks — has proven that the Cleveland loss was only a fluke. Delonte West’s return from suspension in another five games will provide a much-needed boost.

3. Miami (4-1): The Heat are 4-0 since losing to the Celtics on opening night. It’s no surprise that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all scoring in the double digits for Miami, but James Jones‘ 11.6 points per game has to be a welcome surprise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.

4. Atlanta (5-0): Too high? Sure, they’ve only beaten the Grizzlies, 76ers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pistons. But other than the Lakers they’re the only 5-0 team in the league. And they’ll probably head into Orlando on Monday night with a 7-0 record. Now that’s a must-watch game.

5. New Orleans (4-0): I obviously don’t expect the Hornets to stay in the top five for too long, but it’s impossible to ignore what they’ve done so far: home victories against the Bucks and Nuggets, and road wins against the Spurs and Rockets. That’s four solid wins. A healthy Chris Paul David West once again give New Orleans a more-than-legit 1-2 punch.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce’s legacy 11.04.10 at 1:40 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Shaquille O’Neal watched in the locker room as Paul Pierce passed, clinging to the ball commemorating his 20,000th career point and smiling, ear-to-ear.

O’Neal turned to Celtics assistant coach Armond Hill and said, “Didn’t I score my 20,000th career point on you?”

No, it wasn’t quite 26 years ago when Hill hung up his shoes that Shaq reached 20,000, but it was eight seasons ago — signaling just how far Pierce has to go in order to reach Shaq & Co. in the top-five scorers of all-time.

Still, what Pierce achieved Wednesday night againt the Bucks doesn’t happen too often in the NBA, although it may not seem that way, considering three of the 35 other players in the history of the league to accomplish the feat were just a few feet away from him in the locker room.

“He’s been one of the best players in the league for a very long time,” Jermaine O’Neal said after Wednesday night’s game. “It’s hard to be that good for a long time for multiple reasons: aging, injuries, change in regimes — sometimes that has an effect on your game. But he’s been very consistent at what he does, and he’s very deserving of it.”

Of the 36 NBA players to reach the 20,000-point plateau, only 18 of them scored their first 20,000 for a single team (that includes Pierce). Of those 18, only 16 scored their first 20 grand in the same city. And of those 16, only nine began and ended their careers with the same team. Obviously, Pierce has the opportunity to be the 10th.

“It makes me think about what I went through in my career — just how tough it is to play with one team,” Allen said. “At some points, it gets rocky, because you hit those low points where a team’s not winning.

“Franchises are cyclical in sports. In those lean years he was able to stick it out here, and people still stuck behind him and the team, so that’s commendable. It doesn’t happen a lot these days in sports.”

Pierce’s career in Boston hasn’t been without its ups and downs. In 2005, he was reportedly offered to the Portland Trail Blazers for the No. 3 pick and Nick Van Exel, and the Blazers instead traded the pick to Utah (the Jazz turned that selection into Deron Williams).

“Things change, management changes, sometimes the view changes,” added Jermaine O’Neal. “Once that happens, players tend to move around. It’s a special thing to do it for one team and once city for 13 long years. You’ve got to tip your hat off to him as a peer, as a teammate, and someone that’s watched him. I’ve been a fan of him for a long time.”

None of Pierce’s Celtic teammates and fellow 20,000-point scorers — Garnett, Allen or Shaq — scored their first 20 grand for the same team.

FOUR PLAYERS, 80,000 POINTS

Among the Celtics’ four 20,000-point scorers, only Shaq scored his first 20,000 in fewer games (727) than Pierce (889). It took Allen (962) and Garnett (979) almost another season’s worth of scoring to reach the mark.

Our own Mike Petraglia captured Pierce’s reaction to reaching the plateau, so let’s take a look at how the other three felt when they reached 20 grand …

There’s a funny story (depending on how you look at it) surrounding Shaq’s 20,000th point. He scored it as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on March 20, 2008, in 107-99 victory against the Kings in Sacramento.

However, as a result of Shaq’s criticism of then-King Mike Bibby‘s selection to the Team USA roster over Allen Iverson, a friend of Bibby’s defaced the commemorative ball shortly after the game, inscribing “Shaq is an a**hole” on it.

The defamation clearly angered Shaq, as did the lack of acknowledgement from the Lakers organization on the achievement.

“I’ll just have to get another ball at 30,000,” O’Neal told The Los Angeles Times in 2003.

Shaq currently stands at 28,281 points — fifth all-time. Meanwhile, Garnett has 22,345 at 22nd all-time. KG scored his 20,000th point as a member of the Celtics on March 8, 2008, in a 119-89 blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies — oddly enough, on an assist from Pierce.

“I wasn’t aware coming in,” Garnett told The Boston Globe in 2008. “It’s a great accomplishment for me. I’m more grateful to every coach, point guard, staff member, everybody whose put me in a position to be successful and I just say thank you.

“It’s a bit more meaningful as a Celtic when it happened. It seems like things are lining up for something more beautiful, like a championship.”

A year and a half later, also as a Celtic, on December 10, 2009, Allen scored his 20,000th career point — fittingly, on a 3-pointer in a 104-102 victory against the Washington Wizards. Since then, he’s climbed to No. 28 all-time.

“It’s interesting how basketball’s such a team sport, but it’s governed by so many individual statistics,” Allen told The Globe. “I’m just grateful I’ve had great teammates, I’ve had great coaches, and I’ve had pretty good organizations, and that’s helped me be where I am today.”

In another  strange coincidence that will forever tie the Celtics’ Big Three together, Allen scored his 18,000th point on the night Garnett reached 20,000, and Pierce scored his 19,000th point on the night Allen reached 20,000. Welcome to The Twilight Zone.

PIERCE: GREATEST CELTICS SCORER EVER?

Larry Bird (21,791; No. 25 all-time) and John Havlicek (26,395; No. 11 all-time) are each one of the nine NBA players to score more than 20,000 points, beginning and ending their careers with the same team. Of the two, only Bird got to 20 grand in fewer games (809) than Pierce.

Pierce will in all likelihood pass Bird in the 2011-12 season, but will he ever catch Havlicek?

Since he is signed through the 2013-14 season, Pierce would have to average 19.8 points while playing every single game throughout the course of his contract in order to tie Havlicek. That’s definitely unrealistic.

However, should he play an additional two seasons for the Celtics after his current deal, averaging 16 points and 67 games per year (including this one), he’ll surpass Havlicek to become the greatest scorer in Celtics history.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Paul Pierce
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