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Five Things We Learned: Time to worry about KG 04.14.09 at 11:03 pm ET
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It is now permissible to be worried about Kevin Garnett. Not time to freak out, necessarily, but worried? Yup.

A week ago, KG was supposed to make his return against the Sixers. He did not, obviously. Before that he was supposed to sit out a game or two and be back for Charlotte. That was two weeks ago. Once the Celtics clinched the No. 2 seed, they had no reason to push him back on the court, and while it’s hard to argue with that decision, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Garnett is not 100 percent and probably won’t be in time for the playoffs.

The Celtics sent him home for more treatment and quotes like, “not progressing the way we would like,” and “needs more time,” do not bode well. At this point, it’s fair to say no one outside the team really knows how Garnett’s knee is doing, and while it’s conceivable that he could come out for Game 1 of the playoffs, wreak havoc for 35 or so minutes and have a big laugh at everyone’s expense, it just doesn’t seem likely.

1) PAUL PIERCE GETS HIS 3 ON

Without Garnett and without Ray Allen, there wasn’t a lot to take from Tuesday’s game with the Sixers (recap here), but Paul Pierce’s 3-point barrage was a good sign for the Celtics. Pierce has shot fewer 3-pointers per 36 minutes than at any other point in his career, but he has shot them effectively, making 38 percent.

Pierce made seven of nine 3-pointers Wednesday, (shades of 2002?) and had his step-back jumper working to perfection. The Truth is ready for the playoffs and so are…

2) TONY ALLEN AND LEON POWE GET THEIR GAME ON

The only important thing for the Celtics was getting some extended minutes for Tony Allen and working Leon Powe back into the action. Good results on both counts. Allen played 38 minutes and scored 18 points, displaying an aggressiveness that has been largely absent from his play during his comeback. Powe, meanwhile, was efficient, scoring 10 points in 14 minutes.

3) THE SIXERS DON’T RUN AS MUCH AS YOU THINK

Kenny Smith tried to make the argument that the Sixers reminded him of the Hawks because they’re young (but they’re not as young as Atlanta), they’re athletic (true, but they’re not that athletic) and they run (whoops).

You will hear about a thousand times between now and Saturday if the Celtics wind up playing the Sixers that Philly likes to run, but here’s the deal: In terms of pace — that is the number of possessions per game — the Sixers rank 22nd in the NBA. In other words, they play slower than Memphis, slower than Houston and (yes) slower than the Celtics.

Bringing the halftime conversation full circle, everyone agreed that the Sixers aren’t as good as the Hawks last season. A little perspective, please. Atlanta won 37 games last year and got blown out four times in Boston during the playoffs. They played great three times at home and have made a nice jump last year, but let’s not pretend that anyone thought the Hawks were “good” last season, and the comparison between last year’s Hawks and this year’s Sixers doesn’t hold up.

4) SEVENTH SEED  SHAKE-UP

The Sixers came into last night’s game holding the tiebreaker over Chicago for the sixth seed. They leave a game down with one to play and are staring at a road date with Cleveland tomorrow. If the Bulls beat Toronto at home tomorrow, they will be a trendy pick to beat Orlando in the first round, but that’s a story for another day.

So, it looks like it will be Philly in the first round and while the thought of a renewed Celtics-Sixers rivalry is enticing, the early line here is that this is the scenario Boston wanted all along. They avoid Detroit, and swoon or no swoon, every time the Celtics play the Pistons, it’s a struggle. They avoid Chicago, who is white hot and they avoid Miami and D Wade.

Not to mention, the Celtics are 4-0 against Philly this year, travel will be easier and there isn’t a single matchup that clearly favors the Sixers.

5) SUPERFERLOUS CHARLES BARKLEY QUOTE

“(The Celtics are) gonna beat them like they stole something. Starting this weekend.”

I’m just surprised Joey Crawford didn’t T up Sir Charles. He got everyone else.

To play or not to play 04.14.09 at 10:39 am ET
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The Celtics have an interesting dilemma tonight when they play the Sixers. They are locked into the No. 2 seed thanks to the Magic’s late-season tumble and have essentially nothing to play for. Doc Rivers has already ruled out Kevin Garnett, although he may want to get Leon Powe some run.

But what about the rest of the team? The Sixers are still fighting for either the sixth or the seventh playoff spot with Chicago who has a half-game lead on Philly. Rivers told reporters that he’s still trying to figure out how to play it.

‘€œPhilly’€™s fighting with other teams, and it will be tough to sit guys for that fact,’€ Rivers was quoted as saying in the Herald. ‘€œThat’€™s my first thought, though I also have to take care of my team first. But that was my first thought when I thought about the Philly game.’€

The Bulls finish their regular season tomorrow with a home game against Toronto, while the Sixers finish up in Cleveland, so a Celtics win tonight could effectively set up a Boston-Philly first round matchup.

The Celtics are 3-0 against Philly heading into tonight’s game and went 2-1 against the Bulls, dropping a St. Patrick’s Day game in Chicago.

UPDATE: Well that helps solve some of that issue. Ray Allen has been suspended by the NBA for one game for elbowing Anderson Varejao in the varejaos on Sunday. Allen is expected to serve his suspension tonight.

Seventh seed watch: Pistons out 04.14.09 at 12:21 am ET
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The Boston Celtics still don’t know who they will face in the first round of the playoffs, but one thing they do know is it will not be the Detroit Pistons. On Monday night the Pistons got locked into the eighth spot with a 91-88 loss to the Chicago Bulls. They will play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. So with two days left in the regular season, the battle for the sixth and seventh seeds is still up for grabs between the Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls have a half-game lead over the Sixers heading into Tuesday.

6. Chicago Bulls (41-40)
Wednesday, April 15 vs. Toronto Raptors

7.  Philadelphia 76ers (40-40)
Tuesday, April 14 vs. (2) Boston Celtics
Wednesday, April 15 @ (1) Cleveland Cavaliers

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers,
Kevin Garnett’s Effect 04.13.09 at 10:45 am ET
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Over on Basketball Prospectus, Bradford Doolittle has an interesting number to quantify what Kevin Garnett’s absence has made on the Celtics. Doolittle writes:

“When Garnett was injured, Boston was 44-11 and had an efficiency margin of +10.4 points per 100 possessions. Since then, Boston has gone 15-8 with a margin of +5.8. The offense has barely dropped (113.2 offensive efficiency down to 112.9) but the defensive efficiency has risen by 4.3 points. That’s the effect of Kevin Garnett. With a full-strength Garnett, the Celtics are right there with the Cavs, Magic and Lakers. Without him, they’re at the approximate level of the Blazers or Spurs.”

That’s about it in a nutshell, which is why it wouldn’t be surprising if the Celtics eased Garnett back into the lineup in the first round. Without him they are still one of the top seven or eight teams in the league, but they will certainly need him if they are going to successfully defend their title.

Also of interest: The Magic are reeling and Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis are not expected to play tonight against Milwaukee. Lewis has tendinitis and Turkoglu sprained his ankle over the weekend, but X-rays were negative and Turk is quoted in the story as saying the injury is not serious.

Read More: Hedo Turkoglu, Kevin Garnett,
First round still up for grabs 04.12.09 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics locked up the second seed in the Eastern Conference on Saturday, but their first round opponent is still uncertain. This weekend the Chicago Bulls rose to the occasion, the Detroit Pistons continued to be mediocre, and the Philadelphia 76ers came up short. With only three days left in the regular season, the sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds are still up for grabs.

6. Philadelphia 76ers (40-40)
The Sixers are slipping on a five-game losing streak. This weekend they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, putting their hold on the sixth spot in jeopardy as they gear up to face the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

Rest of the season:
Tuesday, April 14 vs. (2) Boston Celtics
Wednesday, April 15 @ (1) Cleveland Cavaliers

7. Chicago Bulls (40-40)
The Bulls enter the final week of the regular season on a four-game winning streak, including Saturday’s victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. They will wrap up the season at home where they are 28-12.

Rest of the season:
Monday, April 13 @ (8) Detroit Pistons
Wednesday, April 15 vs. Toronto Raptors

8. Detroit Pistons (39-41)
Despite beating the New Jersey Nets on Friday, a loss on Saturday to the Indiana Pacers landed the Pistons one game behind the Chicago Bulls in the eighth spot. They are 1-2 this season against both of their upcoming opponents.

Rest of the season:
Monday, April 13 vs. (7) Chicago Bulls
Wednesday, April 15 @ (5) Miami Heat

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers,
More than a flopper 04.12.09 at 7:13 pm ET
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Anderson Varejao has been called a flopper. He has been called emotional. But the  Celtics‘ front office has another name for him.

‘€œHe’s a beast, though,’€ Celtics managing partner Steve Pagliuca said on Celtics Now. ‘€œHe’s a beast.’€

Varejao made an impression when he worked out with the Celtics prior to the 2004 NBA Draft. Even though they decided to go with Al Jefferson a the 15th pick (Varejao was later picked up by Cleveland at the 30th spot), his workout was still memorable five years later.

‘€œWe tried him out for the Celtics and I thought we had to stop the tryout because he was going to kill somebody,’€ Pagliuca said. ‘€œHe was hacking. I thought our players were in jeopardy. He’s a very physical player.’€

That day stood out to Varejao as well. He recalls going hard against David Harrison, who was selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 29th pick that summer.

‘€œIt was a very physical workout. I remember that,’€ Varejao said. ‘€œIt was pretty physical and that’s what I like. I like to play like that and that’s why he probably remembers me.’€

There is no ignoring Varejao this season. He averaged 11 points and 7.8 rebounds in four regular season games against the Celtics. The pairing of 6-foot-11 Varejao and 7-foot-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas has stifled the Cs down low without Kevin Garnett, Leon Powe, and Brian Scalabrine.

He made another impression on the Celtics on Sunday when he rattled the even-keeled Ray Allen. (Click here for a recap of the Cavaliers 107-76 victory.) They got tangled up trying to box one another out at the line and Allen ended up on the ground. After Allen dealt Varejao an elbow on his way back up, both were called for technical fouls.

‘€œHe’s kind of an energy, hard-hitting player,’€ Pagliuca said.

No kidding. Even though a language barrier prevented Brazilian-born Varejao from receiving compliments from Pagliuca at the time, he still appreciates them five years after his workout.

‘€œThat means a lot to me,’€ he said. ‘€œIt means a lot because hearing that from somebody who’s in the situation that he’s in right now, and he’s still talking about me, it means a lot. I just want to say thanks for his words.’€

Read More: Anderson Varejao,
Allen reveals favorite five shooters 04.12.09 at 4:59 pm ET
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ABC revealed Ray Allen’s five favorite all-time shooters during Sunday’s game against Cleveland:

Reggie Miller
Dell Curry
Dale Ellis
Craig Hodges
Michael Cooper

No Celtics? Allen’s list includes players who have burned him in the past, just as he has done to so many other teams during his career.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Ray Allen,
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