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Three point play: Time for Plan B 11.29.10 at 4:25 pm ET
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Barely a month into the season, Doc Rivers is already seeing his plans go up in smoke. The hoped-for scenario, with all the accumulated talent on the roster, was to employ a 10-man rotation, almost in a platoon style. Now that Jermaine O’Neal and Delonte West are out, Rivers is forced to scramble a bit. The Celtics are down to a dozen able-bodied players and three of them are rookies.

“You come into the year with one plan and you got to change the plan sometimes and that’€™s something we’€™re doing as a staff,” Rivers said after the team conducted practice Monday. “The 10-man thing is not going to work right now. I believe it’€™s really important for us to have one because that allows [the starters] to get rest.”

Rivers said the injuries will force him to sub differently and you may see him go to his bench earlier in an attempt to jumpstart the minutes rotation. At the same time, he’s reluctant to leave all of his starters on the bench at any one time without veterans like West and O’Neal to take charge of the second unit.

“I’€™m just going to have to sub differently,” Rivers said. “It’€™s not what I wanted to do. The way our starters play, logically, I’€™d rather extend their minutes together. It’€™s just not going to work out that way.”

Rajon Rondo is already logging 39 minutes a night and Ray Allen checks in at 38 per game. Allen, Paul Pierce (36 minutes) and Kevin Garnett (33) have all seen their playing time increase from the previous season. Garnett said the veterans are ready for it.

“Everybody on here they’€™re going to have to be extended, not just us three,” Garnett said. “Guys have to anticipate playing more minutes.”

One player who has suddenly found himself with an unexpected role is Von Wafer, who has seen the court in small doses. Wafer is ahead of rookie Avery Bradley because of his experience, and also his shooting ability. “Obviously we need Von more than Avery in some ways,” Rivers said. “We need the guy to play the 2-spot. Avery can help us.” As for his defense, Rivers said that Wafer is working on it.

West is scheduled to have surgery on his wrist Tuesday and the Celtics will have a better idea how long he will be out after the procedure is performed. As for Jermaine O’Neal, his status is still up in the air. Rivers said that he was out for all of this week and that’s as far as they were willing to look.

Everyone knew injuries would be a part of this year’s team and now it’s time for the first of what could be many Plan B’s.

More practice notes after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Avery Bradley, Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo
Preview: Raptors at Celtics 11.26.10 at 12:52 pm ET
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In the five days since the Celtics were embarrassed in a Sunday afternoon matinee in Toronto, they regained their swagger in Atlanta, gutted out a win over New Jersey and lost one of their most indispensable reserves in Delonte West.

West’s injury casts a pall over the C’s, and there are no easy solutions for them right now. The immediate plan seems to be to stand pat with what they have, which means more playing time for Von Wafer and an accelerated learning curve for rookie Avery Bradley. This also means an increased role for Marquis Daniels, who was just getting comfortable as the backup small forward. he now has to return to being the team’s most versatile reserve.

These are tough times for the Celtics who didn’t begin to suffer team-wide injury breakdowns until after the new year last season. If they can survive this stretch, and continue to win games, it will serve them well in the second half of the season when Doc Rivers will likely ease off on his veterans. That luxury doesn’t exist right now, and so it will be up to Wafer, Daniels and Bradley to fill in the gaps.

The Raptors have won four straight after a dreadful start and serve as a strong test to the Celtics resolve.

RAPTORS (6-9, 5-5 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 106.2 (15)

Defensive Rating: 107.7 (19)

Pace: 94.6 (8)

Likely Starters: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Reggie Evans, Andrea Bargnani

Injuries: None

CELTICS (11-4, 7-3 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 108.2 (11)

Defensive Rating: 100.5 (3)

Pace: 90.4 (26)

Likely Starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Rajon Rondo (Hamstring, questionable), Delonte West (Wrist, out), Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Preview, Raptors,
Preview: Nets at Celtics 11.23.10 at 11:18 pm ET
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The Celtics did their Bruce Banner Monday night on the Hawks, as in, “You wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.” The question for the Celtics is how many nights can they rise to that level? How many games will it take for them to accomplish what they want out of the regular season?

The Heat’s early-season struggles have altered that equation a little bit. Not only because of their mounting losses, but also because they will be without Udonis Haslem for most, if not all, of the season and they are still missing Mike Miller.

Back in October it may have seemed like a fool’s errand, or a death wish, to ask the Celtics to keep pace with the Heat and Magic, but now the East seems wide open and with that comes the real possibility of gaining homecourt advantage in multiple rounds.

We bring all this up because the Celtics are beginning a three-game stretch of games against the Nets, Raptors and Cavaliers. There’s no reason the Celtics should lose any of these games, but then again two of their four losses have come against Toronto and Cleveland.

If they are going to win 60 games and compete for homecourt, these are the games they have to win and it wouldn’t hurt to do it convincingly. They probably don’t even need to be angry. Mildly annoyed should work just fine.

NEW JERSEY NETS (5-9, 3-7 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 104.2 (NBA rank: 22)

Defensive Rating: 107.9 (17)

Pace: 88.9 (30)

Likely starters: Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez

Injuries: Troy Murphy (Foot, questionable), Quinton Ross (Calf, questionable)

CELTICS  (10-4, 7-3 last 10)

Offensive Rating: 108.6 (8)

Defensive Rating: 100.8 (4)

Pace: 90.6 (25)

Likely starters: Nate Robinson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal

Injuries: Rajon Rondo (Hamstring, questionable), Jermaine O’Neal (Knee, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out) Read the rest of this entry »

Fast Break: Celtics turn the lights out in Georgia 11.22.10 at 9:21 pm ET
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One day after dropping words like “bored,” the Celtics added another word to their lexicon: angry.

Right from the opening tip on Monday, the Celtics seemed determined to not just beat the Hawks, but crush them and in the process atone for their last two games. It was basically over after the Celtics opened up a 16-3 lead, but it would get much worse for the Hawks.

After 12 minutes the Celtics led 39-13 in what will be a candidate for the most perfectly-played quarter of the season. The Celtics 72 percent (18-for-25) and outrebounded the Hawks, 16-3.

Nate Robinson had more assists in the first quarter (five) than the Hawks had baskets (four). The Celtics didn’t let up, another problem area the last few games, and cruised to a 99-76 victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rebounding: After a strong start to this season on the glass, the Celtics have tailed off a bit in the rebounding department. The Thunder feasted on the offensive glass and the Raptors came up with the kind of long, loose-ball rebounds that drive coaches crazy. The Celtics tightened all that up against the Hawks, outrebouding them 16-3 in the first quarter and 26-10 (with one offensive rebound) in the first half.

Physical mismatches: Al Horford is a good player, an All-Star last season and maybe again this season, but he has no chance guarding Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq used his size and also showed some good quickness in dominating this matchup. At the other end of the floor, Robinson ran circles around Mike Bibby, who is basically a stationary jump shooter these days. The one matchup where the Hawks should have been competitive: Kevin Garnett destroyed the younger Josh Smith, holding him without a field goal and just three rebounds.

Robinson continues to impress: Rajon Rondo missed his second straight game with a strained left hamstring, and for the second straight day, Robinson filled in admirably. He recorded his first double-double as a member of the Celtics with 16 points and 10 assists. Regardless of how long Rondo is out, this has been a great opportunity for Robinson to get his game back on track.

Since not much can go wrong in a 23-point win, here’s one more bonus thing that went right for the Celtics

No let-ups: Not that it was much in doubt, but the Hawks did “win” the second quarter, 29-25. The Celtics left no doubt in the third quarter, holding Atlanta to 4-for-21 shooting and beating them with defense. This was the kind of thorough, 48-minute performance that Doc Rivers has been waiting for.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Hawks,
Fast Break: Down and out in Toronto 11.21.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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There were bad signs all around for the Celtics when they went to Toronto to play the Raptors. First, it was an afternoon game and the C’s have had well-documented issues playing in the daylight hours. Second, and most importantly, Rajon Rondo was held out of the game (and is questionable for Monday’s game with the Hawks) because of a strained left hamstring.

Nate Robinson played well in his absence, but the Celtics struggled to find any kind of consistency on offense and that’s Rondo’s department. The Celtics actually had a lead late in the game, but Ray Allen lost control of the ball and Amir Johnson made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to secure the 102-101 victory for the Raptors.

The Celtics had won eight straight against Toronto and were 11-1 against them since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Interior defense: Where did it go? The Celtics are one of the best teams in the league at defending the paint, but without a big-time shot blocker they are dependent on stopping dribble penetration and playing their usual strong help-side defense. Glen Davis ability to take charges is a huge benefit as well. None of that was on display against the Raptors.

Foul trouble: Shaquille O’Neal picked up his third foul after only eight minutes. Davis had three before halftime and Semih Erden picked up four first-half fouls. In the third quarter, Paul Pierce and Garnett also picked up their fourth fouls. The Raptors went on an 11-1 run against the Celtics makeshift lineup.

Andrea Bargnani happened: The former No. 1 pick has had a much-maligned career with the Raptors, but he showed up big against the Celtics. Always a threat from long range, Bargnani put the ball on the floor and attacked the Celtics defense. He not only scored 29 points, he also got to the free throw line 13 times and put the entire Celtics frontcourt in foul trouble.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Nate Robinson: With Rondo out, Doc Rivers elected to start Robinson instead of Delonte West at the point. Robinson has struggled at times this season, but he was reborn playing with the starters. Robinson started hot and stayed that way. He scored 16 points in the first quarter and did an effective job of pushing the pace. The Celtics play differently with Robinson in the lineup, but he did the job.

KG in the post: The Celtics want Garnett to be more aggressive with his offense, which is nothing new. He’s one of the best perimeter shooting big men in the game and while that is a great skill, he sometimes settles for the 20-footer too much. Against the Raptors, who have no inside presence, Garnett went to the post-up game and was successful in the second quarter. They did it again in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were making their run.

Defense in the fourth: The Celtics played almost no defense in the first half, allowing the Raptors to shoot 55 percent and drive to the basket at will. They began to tighten up in the third quarter and then really put the hammer down in the fourth. They did the same thing Friday night, which is not a great omen. They consistency has just not been there.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Raptors,
NBA Power Rankings, 11/18 11.18.10 at 12:50 pm ET
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As a general rule of thumb, 10 games in the NBA is a decent time to start making some conclusions, such as:

A. The Lakers and Celtics will have ebbs and flows, but barring injury, they remain the class of their respective conferences until further notice.

B. The difference between the team ranked fifth in this week’s power rankings (Dallas) and the one ranked 12th (Oklahoma City) is as small as former Northeastern star J.J. Barea.

C. The back end of the Eastern Conference is really soft.

D. Speaking of soft, the video by The Basketball Jones, ‘Like a Bosh’ defined the Chris Bosh era in 108 seconds.

This may be my only chance to do the Power Rankings, so without further delay, here they are:

1. Lakers (10-2) Los Angeles lost two games this week, which caused a minor freakout in LA. Since then, they won two games on the road by double digits. The Lakers are back in cruise control for the rest of the month, but their December could get rough with seven straight road games and a three-game stretch starting with Miami on Christmas Day and then New Orleans and San Antonio.

2. Boston (9-2) Here’s the thing that concerns Doc Rivers: The Celtics have been good defensively, but they haven’t put it all together and become dominant for 48 minutes. Rivers said they’ve played their defense “in spurts,” which is good enough to win most nights, but not what they’re after long-term. It’s all part of the process, etc.

3. New Orleans (9-1) The Hornets lost their only game of the season to Dallas earlier this week and then got the better of the Mavs in the rematch. They’re getting help from a number of different sources, but did you know Marco Belinelli is their fourth-leading scorer? Did you know Belinelli was even on the Hornets?

4. San Antonio (9-1) Before we get into that other story, we should point out that the Spurs have been the hottest team in the league, winning eight straight and playing good old Spurs basketball in the process. Pause. Tony Parker got divorced this week after his wife, Eva Longoria, allegedly found hundreds of texts from another woman, a story that was covered by outlets from MTV to the Hindustan Times. And people thought the Spurs were boring.

5. Dallas (7-3) The Mavs had won four straight before dropping the second part of a home and home with the Hornets. Actually six of their 10 games have been against just three teams: New Orleans, Denver and Memphis and they split against all of them.  That’s not really that noteworthy, but they are the only team with wins against two of the four teams at the top of the rankings. It’s quality, not quantity that we’re after here. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: NBA Power Rankings,
Marquis Daniels returns to Celtics in time for Wizards 11.17.10 at 7:03 pm ET
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The Celtics got some good news when Marquis Daniels returned to the team after being away from the team for personal reasons and will play tonight against the Wizards. Daniels was in the locker room, sitting at his locker as usual before the Celtics played the Wizards.

Doc Rivers was asked if it was difficult to throw Daniels back into the lineup after being away for two days. “We have no choice so I’€™m just going to throw him out there and see what he can give us and judge it once the game starts,” Rivers said. “Sometimes life gets involved and there’€™s nothing you can do about it, so we just kind of roll with it.”

The Celtics are welcoming back Delonte West, who will make his season debut after missing the first 10 games with a suspension. Rivers said he didn’t have a minutes number in mind, but that he would watch carefully. “Usually you have to watch one guy,” Rivers said. “You watch Shaq every night. Now you have Delonte and Marquis, that unit, you just have to watch how they’re functioning together as a group.

Avery Bradley, Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins are the inactives for the Celtics.

Read More: Delonte West, Marquis Daniels,
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