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Celtics-Sixers Post-Mortem 12.23.08 at 9:29 pm ET
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What do you get for winning 19 straight games? Do you get a car, Paul Pierce asked. No, you don’t get a car, but you do get a place in the Celtics record book as the team with the longest winning streak in the history of the franchise, and that will have to suffice because for the 19th straight game everyone dismissed the streak as a happy accident of a team trying to get better.

OK, so what can we take from last night’s 110-91 win over Philly?

1. The bench, make that the much-maligned bench, was terrific. Doc Rivers credited the second unit with changing the energy in the second quarter, and it’s worth noting that Rivers played five reserves at once with Gabe Pruitt getting some action with Brian Scalabrine in addition to the usuals: Leon Powe, Eddie House and Tony Allen.

In the fourth quarter, the bench expanded the lead and allowed Rivers to keep the starters off the floor for the duration. Powe was a monster with 15 points and 10 rebounds and House knocked down three 3-pointers. Pruitt also had a sweet dish to Powe and got into it with 6-10 rookie Marreese Speights.

2. Kevin Garnett took 13 shots, which is about right for him. But here’s the interesting part. Those 13 shots were the highest individual total on the team. Rajon Rondo took 12, Pierce and House took 11 shots. When the Celtics are the balanced they are also very efficient. See Ray Allen who scored 16 points on just eight shots.

On Friday, they had 40 assists against Chicago. On Sunday they had 33 against the Knicks. Last night they had 27 assists on 37 made shots. High school teams in Indiana in the 1950’s don’t share the ball that well.

3. One reason why the Celtics aren’t throwing themselves a party for their winning streak is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs knocked off the Rockets last night and now stand at 24-4. To put it another way the Cavs are just 2.5 games behind the Celtics in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics believe homecourt advantage was the single biggest reason they won the championship last year and they are determined to have it again this year. Compare that to the attitude of the Pistons the last five years, which was: We know how to win in April, May and June so who cares about December?

And when they got to May and June they suddenly forgot how to win.

4. Remember when the Celtics couldn’t shoot free throws? They were 29-for-34 last night and they have raised their percentage above 75 percent.

5. This was not a vintage defensive performance by the Celtics. Philly shot 48 percent from the floor, but even then the Celtics defense is good enough to completely take things away. Witness the 3-point arc, where the Sixers launched 11 shots and made exactly zero shots. That doesn’t get you a car either.

Celtics-Sixers Game Blog: Third Quarter 12.23.08 at 7:00 pm ET
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You get the feeling the Celtics are just toying with Philly tonight? They had a nice little nine-point lead, the Sixers came back and tied it and now it’s back up to 14 points. Know this: Getting on a cross-country flight on Christmas Eve would be a king-hell bummer for the C’s, to quote Hunter S. Thompson.

Onward… Read the rest of this entry »

Celtics-Sixers Game Blog: First Quarter 12.23.08 at 5:28 pm ET
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We are live from the Garden where the word for tonight is “distractions.” Several of the Celtics were late arriving to the building, although they are all present and accounted for. Immediately after tonight’s game the team will head to the airport for a cross-country flight for a Christmas Day game with the Lakers you may be aware of.

Distractions? This team? “It’s tough,” Doc Rivers said. “Let’s be honest. That game has been built up since the season started.” Wow. A bit of candor from the coach.

But the Sixers had their own issues. Their bus from their downtown hotel took well over an hour to arrive and by 6:30 there were a sizable portion of ballers somewhere on the streets of Boston (Should have taken the MBTA, guys). But arrive they did.

So, what will it be tonight? Will it be 19 in a row? Will the Sixers continue their improved play under Tony DiLeo? Will people start booing Mark Teixeira, just because? Those answers and more tonight… Read the rest of this entry »

Things We’ve Learned 12.19.08 at 9:09 pm ET
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(For a recap of the Celtics‘ 126-108 blowout over the Bulls, click HERE.)

The last time the Celtics lost a game, Dustin Pedroia had yet to be named MVP, John Kerry still had a shot at Secretary of State and Bernard Madoff was the king of Palm Beach. It’s been a while, in other words.

“I don’t even know our record,” Kevin Garnett said after yet another blowout win, this time over the Bulls. “I just know that we’ve got a couple of losses.”

The record, for the record, is 25-2 and the winning streak is 17 in a row. It’s getting to be like a broken record with this team. They’re just taking it one game at a time, yada, yada, yada. But with each win, we learn a little bit more about the 2008-09 Celtics.

1. Perk is a beast–who also has a nice touch.

Kendrick Perkins turned in a career-best performance with 25 points on 12-for-15 shooting. Most of those shots were of the high-percentage variety, but he is doing things, like putting the ball on the floor on the perimeter, for example, that would have been unthinkable even back in November.

The key for Perkins against the Bulls wasn’t his shotmaking ability, however, it was his willingness to do the little things, specifically setting screens to get Ray Allen open that was important. Doc Rivers had a conversation with him about that very subject before Friday night’s game and when he did, and the Bulls didn’t follow him off the screen, he was wide open underneath.

“They rotated to the other guys, to the shooters, and left Perk kind of right there,” Paul Pierce said. “We put pressure on them with our penetration, and as you know when Rondo gets into the lane it just seems like everyone collapses on him. A number of times he was able to find Perk for a layup or a dunk.”

2. Rajon Rondo is not faster than Usain Bolt

But he’d probably like the chance at trying his luck against the Jamaican sprinter who was in attendance Friday. That was the joke in the locker room after Rondo dished out 15 assists (against just one turnover). As a team the Celtics had 40 assists. That’s 4 and a 0. Even if that number was slightly inflated by the hometown stat keepers it was proof that the Celtics are back to their pass-happy ways.

“I thought a couple of times we over-passed, but that’s a problem I’d like to have all the time,” Rivers said. The Celtics scored 126 points and no one took more than 18 shots. Offensive efficiency, meet your definition.

3. Kevin Garnett is not getting traded

“I got one rebound,” KG said when he walked into the post-game press conference. “On this team, with Rondo and Perkins you can’t get a rebound. They’re going to trade me.”

Not happening, of course, but even with Garnett getting just a solitary board, the Celtics still out-rebounded the Bulls, 35-31. Not only did they have more rebounds, the Celtics had a whopping 13 offensive rebounds on only 34 missed shots. That’s not an edge, that’s domination.

4. They really don’t care about the streak

They have said it so many times that it’s become Belichickian and the subject of press-room jokes, but they really, really mean it. They just don’t care.

“We know what our goal is and we just kind of go what we said last year and take it one game at a time,” Pierce said. “And not get bored by the process.”

Wait. Back it up. That’s the key phrase right there: Not get bored by the process.

It’s impossible to not get bored by the process. It’s December, there’s 55 games left in the regular season, there’s a foot of snow on the ground and there’s a trip to LA looming. And yet, the Celtics played one of their best offensive games of this season, or any other season. Maybe it’s time to start believing the locker room cliches.

Celtics-Bulls Game Blog: Fourth Quarter 12.19.08 at 7:24 pm ET
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After one the lead was 12. After two, it was well, two. After three, it’s 16. So now we have a bench referendum for the final 12 minutes. That’s not entirely fair, but that’s the way this works when a team is 24-2 and on a 15-game winning streak. Obviously, they’re playing great ball, but are they any cracks in the foundation?

Let’s find out… Read the rest of this entry »

Celtics-Bulls Game Blog: Third Quarter 12.19.08 at 6:49 pm ET
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And we’re back for the second half. Don’t you hate it when announcers say, “welcome back” after a commercial break? You didn’t go anywhere. You were trying to drown out the Saved by Zero ad. Sorry about that. It’s been a long day.

Ok, Here we go…. Read the rest of this entry »

Celtics-Bulls Game Blog: Second Quarter 12.19.08 at 6:10 pm ET
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Hey, look who’s back. Jess is out of town on business–yes we do have day jobs–so I will be your host all night. Let’s skip the formalities and get on with it, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »

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