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Preview: Celtics-Jazz 03.22.10 at 12:09 pm ET
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How many times have you written off the Celtics this season? The official count varies, but there have been at least five times when people have begun writing their obituary.

Jan. 20: After losing to a dreadful Detroit team on the road, the banged-up Celtics began to look old and possibly disinterested.

Jan. 31: Capping off three straight heartbreaking defeats against the best teams in the NBA, the Celtics collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Lakers.

Feb. 10: The All-Star break can’t come soon enough as the Celts sleepwalk through a game with New Orleans.

Feb. 27: New Jersey.

March 14: One game removed from getting crushed by Memphis at home, the Celtics can’t keep up with the Cavaliers.

Here they are, back from the dead again, winners of four straight and a Texas sweep. The Celtics defy easy characterization, or maybe they just enjoy making things hard on themselves. Either way, no mater how things turn out in the final month of the regular season, we really will have no idea how they are going to perform once the playoffs start.

They have shown just enough life to encourage optimism among the constant pessimism of the last half of the season, but we really won’t know just how good this team really is until May at the earliest.

CELTICS (45-24, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.8

Points Allowed: 94.1

Differential: +4.7 (8th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.3 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.2 (1st)

Pace: 91.7 (21st)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

JAZZ (45-25, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 103.6

Points Allowed: 98.0

Differential: 5.6 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 110.8 (6th)

Defensive Efficiency: 104.8 (10th)

Pace: 93.2 (12th)

Likely Starters: Deron Williams, Wes Matthews, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur (Flu, Questionable)

Injuries: Andrei Kirilenko (Strained calf, Doubtful) Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics-Mavericks 03.20.10 at 10:33 pm ET
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Paul Pierce scored 29 points to lead the Celtics to victory against the Mavericks. (AP)

Paul Pierce scored 29 points to lead the Celtics to victory against the Mavericks. (AP)

The last time the Celtics played the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki scored 37 points and had Rasheed Wallace vowing “retribution.” For three quarters the Celtics held Nowitzki in check, but in the final 12 minutes the most under-appreciated superstar in the NBA began to get rolling.

Nowitzki shot the Mavs back into the game — and a seven-point fourth quarter lead — and the Celtics knew that if they were going to steal another one on the road, they would have to stop him to do it.

Kevin Garnett drew the assignment down the stretch, but he was not alone. Wherever Nowitzki went, help followed. The Celtics allowed open jump shots to whomever wanted one, but wouldn’t let Nowitzki breathe. While he finished with 28 points, the Celtics held him to just one field goal in the final five minutes.

The Celtics did escape with a 102-93 win in Dallas (recap) against a Mavs team that had been 14-2 since acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. In doing so they not only completed the sweep of the back-to-back, they also capped off a sweep of the Texas triangle after beating Houston Friday night and San Antonio earlier in the year.

Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined for 70 points on 26-for-45 shooting, 16 rebounds and 14 assists. It was the Celtics’ fourth straight win and their fifth in the last six games. It was also their most significant win since beating the Lakers and Portland back-to-back in February.

Retribution? Maybe not, but it was certainly a satisfying win for the Celtics.

Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting, but it was his last points that were the most important. With the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, Pierce drained a 3-pointer from the top of they key. He then came up with a steal on the other end and found Rajon Rondo for an easy layup and a 99-93 lead. It was Pierce’s third straight game where he has scored more than 20 points.

Turning Point: After J.J. Barea sank a 3-pointer to put Dallas ahead, 82-75, the Celtics looked like they might be in trouble. But Ray Allen came back and hit a 20-footer and then a long 3-pointer to get the C’s back within two, 84-82. The Mavs are a notorious second-half team and looked like they were about to make one of their patented fourth-quarter runs before Allen’s big shots.

* The C’s opened up a 60-52 lead with a 12-5 run to start the second half, but the Mavericks rallied, highlighted by an emphatic dunk by Caron Butler on Kendrick Perkins.

* Both teams got off to a slow start as the Celtics missed their first five shots and the Mavs missed five of their first six. But things picked up quickly after that and the Celtics took a 30-24 lead after one quarter.

* Jason Terry scored 14 points in the first half. The Mavericks bench completely outplayed the Celtics reserves.

* The teams combined for 26 free throws in the first half.

* Garnett had a strange stat line in the first half when he had eight rebounds and five steals to go with just two points. Garnett missed all four shots that he took, but he appeared to be moving well.

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Halftime: Celtics-Mavs 03.20.10 at 9:09 pm ET
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At the half, the Celtics have a 48-47 lead in Dallas.

Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 12 points, while Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen each have eight.In the strangest stat line from the first half, Kevin Garnett is 0-for-4 from the floor, but has seven rebound and five steals.

Both teams got off to a slow start as the Celtics missed their first five shots and the Mavs missed five of their first six. But things picked up quickly after that and the Celtics took a 30-24 lead after one quarter.

Pierce scored 10 points in the quarter, but the biggest difference was at the free throw line where the Celtics made 12-of-13 shots and were plus-eight at the line compared to Dallas. The Mavs got up 23 shots in the first quarter, but shot only 43 percent.

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Preview: Celtics-Rockets 03.19.10 at 9:26 am ET
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With three games in four days, all on the road, against teams from the Western Conference, the Celtics once again have a stretch of games that have been deemed “important.” Most people have concluded by now that the regular season means nothing to the Celtics and therefore will tell us nothing about how good they actually are.

Maybe so, but the players seem to believe that this trip would be an interesting barometer. They have won seven of their last 10, with most of that coming against teams with losing records. Their next eight games are all against teams from the Western Conference and seven of them have winning records.

With a month to go in the regular season, this is the beginning of the stretch run and if the Celtics were ever going to “turn it on” after tuning out for most of the last two months, now would be a good time.

CELTICS (43-24, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.9

Points Allowed: 94.3

Differential: +4.6 (8th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (15th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.3 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

ROCKETS (35-31, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.9

Points Allowed: 101.5

Differential: .4 (16th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.3 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 107.0 (15th)

Pace: 93.7 (8th)

Likely Starters: Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza, Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola

Injuries: Yao Ming (Foot surgery) Read the rest of this entry »

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Halftime: Celtics-Knicks 03.17.10 at 7:45 pm ET
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After a dreadful start, the Knicks were able to get back in the game a little bit, but a late Celtics run gave them a commanding 68-49 at the half. The Celtics are shooting 63 percent.

All of the starters had solid halves. Kevin Garnett made his six first shots and leads the Celtics with 16 points. Paul Pierce added 13 and Ray Allen added nine. Kendrick Perkins has nine points and nine rebounds and Rajon Rondo has seven assists.

The bench also played well. Rasheed Wallace spent most of his time in the post and scored seven points.Ex-Celtics Bill Walker and JR Giddens each scored four points in limited minutes.

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First quarter: Celtics-Knicks 03.17.10 at 7:11 pm ET
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After one, the Celtics lead 32-19 and for the second straight game, the Celtics got off to a fast start against a mediocre team. The C’s scored the first seven points against the Knicks, who missed their first six shots and made only two of their first 12 shots to start the game.

Kevin Garnett led the way with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting and Kendrick Perkins added five points and five rebounds. Rajon Rondo already has five assists. It could have been worse but a Nate Robinson 3-pointer was actually after the shot clock expired.

Paul Pierce went to the bench with two fouls just two minutes into the game. Pierce also had early foul trouble against Detroit on Monday.

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Halftime: Celtics-Pistons 03.15.10 at 8:15 pm ET
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So far so good for the Celtics through 24 minutes. They have a 64-35 lead and it feels like much more.

Paul Pierce has 12 points and Ray Allen has 11, but this is one instance when it’s not individual efforts that are carrying the Celtics, it’s the collective team. Cliche though it may be, that’s the case at the Garden tonight. The C’s are shooting 55 percent and have only one turnover. Detroit is shooting 34 percent and has 11.

The Celtics also got great production from the bench. Glen Davis had nine points and three rebounds, while Michael Finley scored eight points and knocked down two 3-pointers.

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