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Fast break: Celtics suffer letdown against Cavaliers 10.27.10 at 9:54 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett dunks in the first half against Cleveland, but the Celtics fell short. (AP)

Kevin Garnett dunks in the first half against Cleveland, but the Celtics fell short. (AP)

It was the second night of the first back-to-back of the season and the Celtics were playing in a decidedly different atmosphere than the one they experienced in Boston on Tuesday. Still, there are no viable excuses for the Celtics, who blew a fourth-quarter lead in a 95-87 loss to the Cavaliers. (Recap.)

The Celtics played with fire throughout the game and it ultimately burned them, especially down the stretch where they were outscored, 13-3.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

Too many turnovers: The main problem with the Celtics offense remains turnovers. They had 10 in the first half and another nine in the second. The Cavs wound up with nine more shots than the Celtics, one reason why they were able to win despite shooting under 45 percent.

Jermaine O’Neal will need some time: Give Jermaine O’Neal credit for getting himself healthy enough to play after a variety of training camp injuries, but he was not effective at all in 12 lackluster minutes. O’Neal fouled out with two points — his first points of the season — along with three turnovers and two rebounds.

Fourth quarter techs: Nate Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal picked up technical fouls on the same play, which helped propel a Cavaliers run. Fourth-quarter techs are a major no-no for Doc Rivers.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

Kevin Garnett looks fresh: Garnett had his second-straight double-digit rebounding game with 15 boards. There’s a long way to go, but Garnett looks so much more athletic than he did at this time last season.

Glen Davis knows his role: The Celtics bench needs to fine-tune things, but Davis has assumed the role of sixth man. He saw action at both the center and power forward spots and scored 14 points to go with five rebounds in 33 minutes of action. He and Marquis Daniels have been the top reserves.

Managing minutes: Rivers acknowledged that he played his veterans too many minutes in the opener, and despite the second-half run by the Cavs, he kept his starters on the bench and let his team play through it. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce went from 40 minutes down to the mid-30′s and Garnett clocked in at a more reasonable 30 minutes. Managing minutes may have cost the Celtics the game, but Rivers is going to keep the long view throughout the season.

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Halftime observations: Celtics-Heat 10.26.10 at 8:42 pm ET
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After all the buildup and all the offcourt drama, there was finally a basketball game to be played between the Celtics and Heat. The start was ragged, which was either a by-product of all the hype, or simply two very good defenses playing all out and contesting every shot, rebound and pass.

Either way, the Celtics took a 45-30 lead into halftime thanks to spectacular defense that held Miami to 27 percent shooting (11-for-41) and forced nine turnovers.

The Celtics took a 16-9 lead after one quarter and the numbers were as ugly as the score suggested. The C’s shot 35 percent (7-for-20) with five turnovers. The Heat were much worse, making just 4-of-17 shots and registering six turnovers.

The Celtics settled down in the second quarter and led by as many as 18 points, but the Heat’s struggles on offense remained.

RAJON RONDO IS  ALREADY MAKING USE OF SHAQ

After a rough start where he missed a couple of chippies at the basket, Shaquille O’Neal came over to the Celtics bench where Kendrick Perkins whacked him twice in the head. It must have helped because O’Neal soon converted two dunks off gorgeous feeds from Rajon Rondo.

Rondo racked up six assists in the first quarter and will get a ton of easy assists simply lobbing the ball up to O’Neal. Rondo was the best player on the court in the first half.

CELTICS BIG THREE MAKES ITS POINT

They’re not the original Big Three, but the Celtics version reminded people that they’re still pretty good. Ray Allen led all scorers with 11 points, while Paul Pierce filled the stat sheet with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Kevin Garnett was active and had good spring in his step, but he also missed a dunk and had another shot blocked. Still, Garnett showed far better range on defense than he showed much of last season.

THE HEAT ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS

Any lingering notion that the Heat would storm the floor and become a juggernaut right off the bat were put to rest early in this game. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James shot a combined 2-for-11 in the first quarter and things didn’t improve much from there.

Carlos Arroyo started at point guard, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with Wade or James at the point for most of the first half. Miami hasn’t had much time together during the preseason and it showed in the first half. The Heat offense looked disorganized and was obviously inefficient.

NINE MAN ROTATION WITHOUT DELONTE

When Delonte West returns, the Celtics will be two-deep at every position. Until he returns from his 10-game suspension, however, Doc Rivers looks like he will go with a nine-man rotation with Marquis Daniels getting time at both wing positions behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

The Celtics bench was strong in the first half with 14 points and seven rebounds. Daniels led the way with six.

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Kendrick Perkins eyes late January return 10.26.10 at 7:25 pm ET
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If Kendrick Perkins had a choice he would have tried to play opening night, but it’s not his call and so he is resigned to making the most out of his current situation while he rehabs from knee surgery. Perkins is down 10 pounds to 271 (he’d like to lose 10 more) and has made it a goal to make 300 free throws every day. He doesn’t know a firm date yet for his return, but he said his goal is to be back by late January.

Perkins has been working to strengthen the muscles around his knee with squats and other leg exercises. He said his rehab was more of a mental test than anything. “It depends what kind of person you are,” Perkins said. “If you’re a mentally strong person, you can get through it.”

Perkins also said that he wasn’t threatened by the presence of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. “I can’t bring what they bring to the table and they can’t bring what I bring to the table,” he said.

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Celtics put Kendrick Perkins, Avery Bradley and Semih Erden on inactive list 10.25.10 at 8:36 pm ET
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The Celtics had already trimmed their roster to the league limit of 15 players, but their opening night roster is now official as they placed three players on the inactive list: Kendrick Perkins, Avery Bradley and Semih Erden. The Celtics will have to play the first 10 games of the NBA with just 11 active players because of Delonte West’s suspension. League rules dictate that suspended players must be carried on the active roster.

The inactive list is not like injury lists in other sports. Players don’t actually have to be injured to be on it and there is no mandatory amount of time that a player has to stay on it once he is deemed inactive. It can also change from game to game. There were no surprises for the Celtics. Perkins and Bradley are rehabbing injuries, while Erden is dealing with a shoulder injury.

The Heat had a minor surprise as they placed Mario Chalmers on the injured list along with Mike Miller, who is out until January with hand injury, and rookie Dexter Pittman.

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Celtics practice what Doc preaches 10.23.10 at 4:08 pm ET
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Coach Perk?

Coach Perk? (AP)

The Celtics went through a hard practice at Waltham Saturday. This was a different sort of workout than the one they endured Friday, which stretched out past three hours. As the curtain lifted, they were going through a scrimmage, complete with refs and all the intensity you would expect from a regular season game.

“It was the best practice we’ve had in a while,” Doc Rivers said. “It was good to see. Following yesterday’s fiasco of a practice, I thought today was phenomenal.”

But what really stood out was the sight of Kendrick Perkins, whiteboard in hand, drawing up a play for the second team (usually referred to as the White Team for their jerseys, as opposed to the starters, who wear green). The play was for Von Wafer to come off a back pick, but it didn’t go according to plan.

“We needed a 3 at the time,” coach Perk explained. “We were down six. So I went with a Doc play. We didn’t execute it right.”

This whole exercise was by design. It’s something Rivers learned from Mike Fratello when he played for him in Atlanta. “I saw  something during the game,” Rivers said. “We came into the huddle and I said we’ve got to run this. We did it and we won the game, but that was the last time he let me do it.”

Rivers has tried this out with his players at various times — Gabe Pruitt called up a game-winner a few years back — and the benefits work both ways.

“You see a lot when you’re hurt and on the sidelines,” Perkins said. “You put yourself in the coach’s shoes and see what they’re going through. I’m just trying to install it in my head so when I get in there I won’t make the same mistakes.”

“You learn a lot,” Rivers said. “You see what they’re thinking. You see who they think should take the shots. Who they think can make plays. What they learn is they get frustrated when guys don’t execute. That’s how I feel the whole game. It’s good learning tool for everybody.”

Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen usually take the honors for the Green Team, Rivers said, while Perkins, Glen Davis and Delonte West often take charge of the White Team. So who calls the best plays?

“Ray,” Rivers said. “Because it’s always for him. Rondo and Ray are pretty darn good.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Garnett on Celtic pride, Beverly Cleary 10.23.10 at 3:29 pm ET
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Beverly Cleary as inspiration.

Beverly Cleary as inspiration.

You never know what you’re going to get from Kevin Garnett in an interview setting. Some days he might be terse. Other days he may be expansive. On Saturday after the C’s went through practice, KG was in a chatty mood.

The subject was Celtic pride, and more specifically, the standard that he, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were able to instill with the team when they joined forces in 2007.

“We’ve done a good job of policing ourselves, making sure the standard that we’ve built,” Garnett said. “I can’t speak on other franchises other than one that I played with, but I know that when you come in here and you look up and see all the retired numbers and banners and see the dedication and the sweat and tears that have been poured into this club, that’s a responsibility.”

Wanting to keep the conversation going, I mentioned that when veterans come to the Celtics, they find that attitude refreshing. That was when KG dropped a reference to noted children’s author Beverly Cleary.

“Think about it,” Garnett said. “You’re a writer. If you looked up to Beverly Cleary and different writers who were monumental and whatever it is that inspired you, and you come into their office or to their desk or type at their typewriter, if you have any kind of passion, I don’t know you personally, but if you have any kind of passion about something and you were able to put yourself in their place while they were writing their stories, then you would feel that. It’s no different from basketball. It’s a very prideful thing. It’s a very honorable thing.”

For the record, your correspondent is more of a F. Scott Fitzgerald man, but point taken.

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Jermaine O’Neal has torn cartilage in left wrist 10.22.10 at 4:26 pm ET
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Jermaine O'Neal. (AP Image)

Jermaine O'Neal (AP)

It happened in the first quarter of a preseason game last Friday in Toronto. Jermaine O’Neal went to take a charge and the impact left him with torn cartilage in his left wrist. His latest injury has kept him out of practice and preseason games for the past week, but after going through a full workout Friday, O’Neal said he would be ready to play Tuesday when the Celtics open up the regular season against his former team, the Miami Heat.

“I feel good,” he said. “Felt pretty good today. I got a little wrap that keeps it safe. I’m not worried about it.”

O’Neal previously missed a week of camp because of a hamstring injury and, earlier this week, Doc Rivers termed this latest setback, “disappointing.”

“He has not had the preseason that we would have liked him to have so far,” Rivers said Tuesday. “Sometimes you can’t avoid it.”

While he has missed time, O’Neal seems to have been passed by the other O’Neal, Shaq, in the competition for the starting center spot. But Jermaine O’Neal isn’t worried about that aspect.

“We don’t compete for the starting time,” he said. “We challenge each other just like everybody else challenges each other. It’s not about who’s starting, who’s coming off the bench, it’s about making each other better and getting ready for the game.”

Jermaine O’Neal said that he and Shaq have had long conversations about their roles, but not about who starts. They know that it will be an adjustment for them, but they both have stressed that they are ready for it.

“We don’t talk about anything else,” Jermaine O’Neal said. “We don’t talk about who starts. There’s no animosity. We understand that we’re going to need everybody to win a championship this year. There’s going to be times where I play well. There’s going to be times where he plays well. The key is picking each other up when we need each other. That’s all we worry about. Everything else is going to play itself out.”

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