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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
Saturday Night Live parodies Kevin Garnett 01.16.11 at 11:22 am ET
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Pretty weak impression of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett by Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharaoh, but an all-around good skit. The Tres Equis commercial and top-five plays are pretty hilarious. Worth checking out …

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jay Pharaoh, Kevin Garnett, Saturday Night Live
Irish Coffee: Sorting through Celtics speak 01.14.11 at 11:21 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Check out this video of some chick named Kath singing Nate Robison‘s tweets. It starts to get pretty funny around the 53-second mark. My favorite lyric, courtesy of the Celtics’ backup guard: “Don’t you just feel like getting away from the world? I do, just me and my kids — eff everything else.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …

Doc Rivers and Jermaine O’Neal discussed the injury-plagued Celtics on WEEI on Thursday, and Paul Pierce did the same in his blog on Celtics.com. If you listen to the links, you’ll learn a few things, like …

Rivers plans on sticking around for a while, as he discussed the possibility of passing Tommy Heinsohn for second among coaches on the team’s all-time winning list; he’s 119 games away, which would put him on the bench for at least another two seasons:

“Yeah, I could. That would be nice. That would mean that we’re doing well and playing well. That still takes a while. That would be nice to do. I would say that.”

Despite his original insistence that Kevin Garnett‘s absence didn’t hurt them in their loss to the Rockets, Rivers admitted that indeed the defense is falling apart without their All-Star forward:

“We watched tape the other day of our transition defense, and it screamed of no Kevin — that voice of telling guys to get back, get to your spot, look left, pick-and-roll defense. … It’s like losing the linebacker on your team who leads your team and tells everybody where they should go. Not having that hurts your defense.”

According to Rivers, Garnett is day-to-day but not ready to return yet, which seems to me like more than day-to-day:

“I hate dates, if you know what I mean. If anyone says two weeks or a week, that’s silly, because you don’t know how long anything’s going to take. He is day-to-day, very close, but just not ready yet.”

According to Jermaine O’Neal, his role on this team is to defend the pick-and-roll, block shots and rebound — which seems pretty simple for a guy who makes more than Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden combined:

“This team is built a certain way, and it’s one of the rare teams that is really a system team, and it needs different components for the system to run right. You don’t need two batteries in the motor. You need different parts in the car to make it run, and I’m one of those parts — to help defensively to stop the pick and roll, block shots and get some rebounds.”

O’Neal also admitted that in-season knee surgery is not completely out of the question:

“That was definitely something we talked about the first time I was out for an extended period of time. We wanted to try a couple options, and that may be something that we’re looking at now. It’s something I will eventually need at the end of the season. You want to be around, and you don’t want to miss an extended period of time, and I’ve already done that. So, you make decisions as a player. … We’re going to make a decision on what’s best for me to get better, be done with the ailment and be back on the court full-time.”

The Celtics’ backup bigman believes that — if healthy — the Celtics are pretty much unstoppable:

“To have one of the best records in the league, and we haven’t had a full complement of players all year, that makes us feel a certain way. We feel like once we do get everyone back it’s going to be extremely, extremely tough to beat our team.”

The following guys are battling through injuries, according to Pierce: the O’Neal “brothers”, Robinson, Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Semih Erden and Delonte West:

“We’€™re taking it game by game. Fighting through injuries with Shaq, Jermaine, Rajon, Nate and Semih and KG all dinged up. It hurt me a lot to see Delonte go down with the broken wrist, but in the NBA, it’€™s always go time, so we can’€™t lose our focus when something like that happens.”

Good times all around. If the Celtics can hobble through Friday night’s game against the Bobcats, they’ll have two days off before facing the Magic on Monday. By then, Garnett could be back in the lineup for a much-needed boost.

CELTICS’ TRADE CHIPS 

The NBA trade deadline is approaching in February, so HoopsWorld is detailing where each team stands in terms of needs, trade bait and salary cap. Here’s how they depict the Celtics:

Notable Trade Chips: Von Wafer (one year/$900K), Avery Bradley (two years/$3 million plus team options for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014), Marquis Daniels (one year/$2.5 million), Glen Davis (one year/$3.3 million), Luke Harangody (two years/$1.2 million) and Nate Robinson (two years/$8.7 million).

Salary Cap Situation: The Celtics are nearly $31 million over the cap this season and are $7.4 million over the luxury tax threshold.

Trade Exceptions: None

Their contention that the Celtics will be looking to deal for a backup point guard and center is fairly ridiculous, considering they’ll be adding West and Perkins over the next month, but it is at least worth noting who has value around the league and how much the C’s owners are investing in this team.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail to brohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Nate Robinson
Irish Coffee: Semih Erden vs. Jermaine O’Neal 01.13.11 at 11:56 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

It’s a hodgepodge edition of Irish Coffee this morning, so stay alert. While Brent Barry may have compared Glen “Big Baby” Davis to an actual baby in the video that accompanies this blog, we’re going to take a look at the per-minute averages of Celtics centers Jermaine O’Neal and Semih Erden:

J. O’Neal: 0.29 points, 0.21 rebounds, 0.16 personal fouls, 0.07 blocks, 0.06 turnovers, 0.03 assists, 0.01 steals, 44.7 field-goal percentage, 77.8 free-throw percentage.

Erden: 0.28 points, 0.18 rebounds, 0.17 personal fouls, 0.06 turnovers, 0.04 blocks, 0.03 assists, 0.02 steals, 57.7 field-goal percentage, 60.5 free-throw percentage.

After Erden dropped 10 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes against the Kings while O’Neal sat out his 21st game of the season with a sore knee, I thought to myself: Would Erden be a better option than O’Neal? Considering these numbers at this point, why not invest your time in a 24-year-old rookie with room for improvement rather than a 32-year-old veteran who has logged 24,757 minutes and has a sore knee for life?

Paul Flannery has more on the growing concern that is Jermaine O’Neal’s knee in his Three-Pointer.

SACTOWN REACTION

The difference between the Celtics and Kings is so glaring that Sacramento’s players and coach not only openly admitted that fact, they expressed their desire to essentially grow up to be the C’s:

Kings coach Paul Westphal (via the Sacramento Bee): “You could pick up how they work together to take away your first and second options. They were really on the same page doing that. … They really don’t care who shoots. They run their stuff, and they know they have threats at all the places, and they get the shot they want.”

Kings guard Beno Udrih (also via the Bee): “On offense, nobody’s worrying about who’s going to score. They just hit the guy that’s open. They set screens. They play basketball basically the way it should be played.”

And then there’s my favorite quote of the day, also from Westphal, on the starting matchup between Kings rookie Eugene “Pooh” Jeter (Boston fans have probably used that nickname for another guy) and Rajon Rondo:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Semih Erden
Irish Coffee: Does poor Celtics offensive rebounding matter? 01.12.11 at 11:48 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Despite losing two straight games, if you look at the Celtics’ statistics, there’s not much they’re doing poorly over the course of this season. They’ve made more field goals than their opponents while taking fewer shots. They’ve dished out more assists, snatched more steals, swatted more blocks and committed fewer turnovers.

In fact, only one number sticks out. The Celtics have been out-rebounded overall by four. More specifically, they’ve been out-boarded on the offensive glass by 97 and rank last this year in the category that Red Auerbach called “the hardest single phase of basketball.”

When you consider the fact that the C’s are shooting a league-leading 50.2 percent from the field — leaving fewer chances for themselves — that number is less glaring than at first glance, but does it matter at all? C’s head coach Doc Rivers doesn’t think so.

“I’m not a big believer in offensive rebounds,” said Rivers. “I think if you if you get back every single time and not get offensive rebounds, you probably save more points in the long run. So, that’s not a concern.”

Anyone who watched Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals — when the Lakers out-rebounded the Celtics 23-8 on the offensive end — might disagree with Rivers on that contention. While fans often rely on emotions for their arguments, Rivers can generally point to statistics to back up his statements, so let’s look to the numbers.

Here are the top-five NBA teams record-wise with their rank in offensive rebounds per game in parentheses:

  • 1. Spurs (15th)
  • 2. Heat (25th)
  • 3. Celtics (30th)
  • 4. Lakers (5th)
  • 5. Mavericks (29th)

Here are the bottom-five NBA teams record-wise with their rank in offensive rebounds per game in parentheses:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson
Irish Coffee: The transformation of Von Wafer 01.11.11 at 11:17 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Optimus Prime. Wheeljack. Von Wafer. The name even sounds like a “Transformers” character.

For Doc Rivers and the Celtics, that’s exactly what he is. Wafer left Houston as an established offensive player and came to Boston as a defensive project.

‘€œHe played very well for us,” Rockets head coach Rick Adelman said prior to Monday night’s 108-102 defeat of the Celtics. “He was a real spark off the bench. He won a lot of games for us. He’€™s a guy who once he gets comfortable he’€™s a real threat. I think eventually he’€™s going to help them.’€

In 2008-09, as a member of the Rockets, Wafer played 20 minutes a night, averaging 9.7 points in 63 games — including 11 starts. He even hit a clutch 3-pointer that sunk the Celtics almost two years ago to the day. This season, with this Celtics team, he might not get more than five minutes on a given night.

“Whether you play five minutes or 15, you’€™ve got to play hard,” added Adelman. “You’€™ve got to make a contribution to the team. Some guys don’€™t feel like that. They feel like they have to get minutes to help the team. You can’€™t do that.”

When Wafer first arrived in Boston, he fell into the camp of guys who felt like they needed minutes to contribute — and by contribute, he meant score. After all, that’s what Adelman wanted from him in Houston.

“He’€™s unbelievable,” Wafer said of his former coach. “He just let me do whatever, let me be who I was. It didn’€™t matter how many shots I missed. He just let me play.” Even at the expense of his defense.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Jermaine O'Neal, NBA
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