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Fast Break: How the Hawks swept the Celtics 01.29.10 at 10:24 pm ET
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The inability to play 48 minutes of basketball has been detrimental to the Celtics this season. But on Friday, they had difficulty playing just 12. The C’s jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the first but  failed to maintain the advantage. The Hawks quickly erased their deficit, kicked up their energy, and controlled the rest of the game.

In the end, the Celtics were outscored 29-8 on fastbreak points. The combination of the Hawks’ athleticism and long-range shooting dealt the Celtics a 100-91 loss on Friday in Atlanta. (Recap.) The Hawks completed a 4-0 sweep of the regular season series.

Turning Point: The C’s were up by nine with 3:40 to go in the first quarter until the Hawks picked up their energy and began slicing away at the lead. When Jamal Crawford drained a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the quarter, the Celtics found themselves trailing by one. The shift in momentum set the tone for the rest of the game.

Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored a game-high 35 points (11-15 FG, 12-13 FT) for the Celtics in the losing effort. On Friday, though, it was a different player who took over in the fourth. Joe Johnson scored 16 points in the fourth alone (27 for the game), and his three-pointer in the face of Pierce with a minute to go iced the win.

– The Celtics’ second unit hurt their team tonight. Not only were they unable to prevent the Hawks from adding to their lead early in the second quarter, but they also made it difficult for Doc Rivers to give his starters a rest. The Celtics bench was outscored 44-18.

Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, and Zaza Pachulia were all whistled for technical fouls. Josh Smith was called for a flagrant against Perkins.

– The Celtics have lost two in a row, and dropped to 4-5 in back-to-back games. They will return to Boston to face the Lakers on Sunday.

Read More: Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce,
Celtics recall Giddens from Red Claws 01.29.10 at 6:54 pm ET
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The Celtics recalled J.R. Giddens from the Maine Red Claws, their NBA D-League affiliate, the team announced on Friday.

The recall is procedural, according to multiple reports. Giddens recently injured the meniscus in his left knee and is scheduled for surgery.

Giddens played in four games for the Red Claws during his recent assignment, averaging 18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He is averaging 1.1 points and 1.1 rebounds in 21 games for the Celtics this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, J.R. Giddens, Maine Red Claws,
Preview: Celtics-Hawks 01.29.10 at 10:18 am ET
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Kevin Garnett insisted to one and all Thursday night that he wasn’t hurt and that he just played like a euphemism for garbage. Certainly Garnett is entitled to an off night just three games into his comeback, but the problem is that no one really believes him.

Because of the way his comeback ended last season and because of the way his injuries were handled this season (10 days, 10 more days, etc.), he and the Celtics, frankly, don’t have a lot of credibility on the issue. However, Garnett had a string of lackluster performances earlier in the season where he looked slow and old and then rebounded to play his best stretch in over a calendar year. So, perhaps there’s hope that Thursday was just a momentary blip.

We should find out a lot Friday night when the Celtics play the Hawks and Garnett matches up against what should be a highly-motivated Josh Smith. Not only is it the second game of a back-to-back, but Garnett will be facing a player who is a decade younger and who should be (justifiably) ticked that he was left off the All-Star team. If you’re on the KG watch, it starts tonight.

CELTICS (29-14, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.6

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.9 (3rd)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.9 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

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

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb)

HAWKS (29-15, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.6

Points Allowed: 97.3

Differential: +5.3 (Fifth)

Offensive Efficiency: 111.9 (3rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 106.1 (12th)

Pace: 91.1 (25th)

Likely Starters: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford

Injuries: None Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Hawks, Preview,
Fast break: Celtics-Magic 01.28.10 at 11:06 pm ET
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This is what it takes to win on the road against good teams in the NBA. The Celtics outplayed the Magic for three and a half quarters, but a combination of hot shooting and a one-sided free throw discrepency allowed Orlando to get back into the game.

Down the stretch the Celtics seemed to make all the right plays. Rajon Rondo stole a possession by diving on the floor and outhustling Vince Carter. Rondo then scored on a tough drive to the hoop to give the Celtics a three-point lead with less than a minute to play. They did everything right, and then they lost it in the final 34 seconds.

The Celtics lost 96-94 after Rashard Lewis drove around Kevin Garnett on a busted play, while Rasheed Wallace’s weakside help  was two steps too late. They lost after J.J. Redick made an improbable 3-pointer to tie the game seconds earlier. They lost after the Magic took 40 free throws to the Celtics 18, and they lost after two Eddie House 3-pointers were changed to 2’s.

After all that the Celtics still had a chance to come away with the victory, but Wallace’s 3-pointer at the buzzer sailed wide of the basket. It was a solid, even inspired performance for about 40 of the game’s 48 minutes, but it still wasn’t enough to get the win.

Player of the Game: Rashard Lewis made big shot after big shot for the Magic, but none was bigger than his drive to the hoop in the final seconds. The Celtics actually played good defense on the play as Paul Pierce denied Carter a chance to get the ball, which found its way into Lewis’ hands instead. He drove right around Garnett and laid in the winning points.

Turning Point: Stan Van Gundy made the biggest coaching move of the night, literally, when he brought Marcin Gortat into the game with Dwight Howard and played Lewis at the 3-spot. The Magic were down by double digits when Van Gundy went to the super-sized lineup, but took the lead late in the fourth quarter.

* Kendrick Perkins spent the majority of the first half in foul trouble, but so did Dwight Howard. Call it a draw.

* Orlando had just one assist in the first half and shot 33 percent.

* The Magic cut the Celtics lead to just six points midway through the first half. Then Brian Scalabrine knocked down a corner 3-pointer. On the next possession, Ray Allen hit from long distance on transition and the lead was back up to 12. This pattern repeated itself in the third quarter, but the Celtics once again made shots at the right time. Eddie House buried a 3-pointer with just over a second remaining to put the Celtics up 12 going into the fourth quarter.

* Wallace picked up a technical foul for yelling, “And one,” after a made basket. He also unleashed the loudest “BALL DON’T LIE,” of the season. Unofficially.

* Allen had a bounceback shooting night, going 8-for-12 and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. But he missed a shot that could have put the Celtics ahead late in the game.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Magic,
Rondo, Pierce named to All-Star team 01.28.10 at 7:31 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were officially added to the Eastern Conference All-Star team Thursday. Rondo and Pierce join teammate Kevin Garnett, who was voted in as a starter, to give the Celtics three representatives; more than any other team.

This is Rondo’s first selection to the All-Star team. This is Pierce’s eighth All-Star nod.

The rest of the Eastern Conference reserves:

Derrick Rose

Joe Johnson

Gerald Wallace

Al Horford

Chris Bosh

Read More: all star, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo,
Preview: Celtics-Magic 01.28.10 at 10:31 am ET
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During the course of a long season it is customary for players and coaches to downplay significant games on the schedule. In the matter of the Celtics‘ three-game stretch that begins tonight in Orlando, continues Friday in Atlanta and concludes back home on Sunday against the Lakers, a curious thing has happened. Everyone connected with the Celtics seems to view these games as meaningful and important.

“We understand that these are three great games to be able to play,” Doc Rivers said Wednesday on Dennis & Callahan. “Coaches look forward to them and players look forward to them as well. Once they’€™re over then they become one of the 82. There’€™s no doubt that players look forward to them.”

Danny Ainge also acknowledged their importance. “I think it will tell us a lot about our depth, our conditioning and the quality of our play right now,” he said on The Big Show.

Each game has its own personality. The Magic offer the most compelling 1-through-5 matchups, while the Hawks present their in-season mastery of the Celtics as a hurdle to climb. The Lakers provide their own drama, of course. This is not a make-or-break stretch for the Celtics by any means, but it will reveal something about who they are and where they are going.

CELTICS (29-13, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.7

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +6.0 (3rd)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.9 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.4 (1st)

Pace: 91.7 (22nd)

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

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb), Brian Scalabrine (shoulder)

MAGIC (29-16, 505 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.1

Points Allowed: 96.3

Differential: +4.8 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.4 (11th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.2 (5th)

Pace: 93.1 (12th)

Likely Starters: Jameer Nelson, Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard

Injuries: None Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Magic, Preview,
NBA Power Rankings, 1/28 01.28.10 at 9:15 am ET
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1. Cleveland (2): It’s surprising how well the Cavaliers have matched up with the Lakers this year. With or without Shaq in Cleveland’s lineup, I just didn’t think that they had the big men to deal with LA’s size. As for player-coach-mayor LeBron, I’ve seen him carry a worse team than this to the Finals … but he did it when the Eastern Conference was worse, too. After last year, regular-season dominance means nothing. Can this team be this good in late May and early June?

2. LA Lakers (1): What fickle person comes up with these rankings, anyway? Wasn’t it just last week that “it’s going to be hard for someone to knock them from this [No. 1] perch”? That someone was the Cavaliers, who swept the season series from the Lakers. (An aside, from the world of trashy TV: The fellas might think I’m crazy on this one, but do you know which Kardashian is really starting to grow on me? Khloe. Lamar Odom’s girl. Kim and Kourtney get all the hype, but … I’m just saying … never mind.)

3. Denver (5): What the Nuggets have done this year is amazing. They’ve won some games without Carmelo Anthony, they’ve won some games without Chauncey Billups, they’ve won some games without bench guy J.R. Smith. They were conference finalists last year, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they were able to return and make it even more interesting than last time.

4. Dallas (3): I love the way they’re playing, but I don’t believe in the way they’re playing. It’s great for the regular season. But when the playoffs arrive and scouting and defense becomes more intense, there’s one player I definitely trust (Dirk, of course) and two maybes (the Jasons: Terry and Kidd).

5. Boston (6) KG is back and the world is back to normal for the C’s. They closed out two games, against the Clippers and Blazers, that they probably would have lost without the presence, sound and fury of No. 5. Speaking of which, does anyone know any good lip readers? I swear, before the year is over, I’m going to the Garden with a lip reader whose only assignment will be to focus on KG the entire night. Some people are offended by his rants. I’m not. I just want to know what he’s saying beyond the obvious, you know, “Take that, mother…” and other assorted f-bombs.

Read the rest of this entry »

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