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Ray Allen drops some NBA knowledge 12.17.10 at 12:14 am ET
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Ray Allen was talking like a future coach after Thursday night's win over the Hawks. (AP)

The mood in the Celtics locker room was light. Extremely light. A bunch of the players were eager to leave and get some food together, but Ray Allen stayed behind to answer every last one of the reporters’ questions.

He sounded like a future NBA coach, discussing everything from rivalries to winning streaks to what today’s young players are lacking. Here’s what Allen, who scored 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting, had to say after the Celtics’ 12th consecutive victory, a 102-90 win over the Hawks …

If the Knicks aren’t your rival, then who is?

(Waiting, waiting, waiting …) “I don’t really look at a Western Conference team, because we don’t play them enough. The playoff teams we’ve played are definitely rivals. In the Eastern Conference, we talked about Detroit … but they’re done. Cleveland’s now done. Orlando right now is the team that we’d have to say is our rivals.

“To me, it’s all based on playoffs. The regular season gets you warmed up for it, because you know you’re going to see them. You want to leave something for them to think about.”

How have the Big Three avoided the injury bug?

(Knocking on wood) “With me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin [Garnett], it’s not about the prestige of the job, it’s about the game itself. It’s about playing basketball and doing whatever you need to do to stay heatlhy and take care of our bodies.

“That’s one thing between the three of us — whether we’re in the weight room or getting up shots — we’re going to do whatever we need to do to help this team.”

Are you surprised by Semih Erden’s success so far this season?

“I’m not surprised at all. He’s got great promise. He’s very talented. I think we all forget that he’s a rookie. We expect a lot from him in that position, and it’s only going to make him better in the long run. …

“I played with a lot of young big men who were just doomed, because they had nobody to offer tutelage, that had been through it and had done some good things in the league. For him to come here is probably one of the biggest blessings he could ever ask for. He probably doesn’t realize it now, but 6-7 years down the road he’s going to realize how special it was for him.”

How important are the veterans to Erden’s success?

“Whether they’re on the business side or player development, I don’t see enough past players on rosters. There’s too many young guys in the league nowadays who need the expertise on how to play this game — not just putting the ball in the whole but understanding how to be a teammate, be a professional, be that guy who knows how to take a hard foul. We don’t have those guys anymore.”

How was the offense different with Nate Robinson running the show?

“Offensively, we didn’t have a great rhythm early in the game. Even a week ago, when [Rajon] Rondo was out, it was different, because Shaq was out there and he gave us a better rhythm with Nate out there.

“[Thursday], it was different. We had to figure it out all over again with Nate and Semih out there. It took a while. About the third or fourth quarter, we established a rhythm offensively and then we locked down.”

Are you impressed by the team’s 12-game winning streak?

“Not really. If I had to guess who we beat these past 12 games, I couldn’t tell you. It’s behind me. I don’t have to worry about those teams we played.

“When you lose a game, that always haunts you. When you watch the highlights on SportsCenter, it kinda jabs you in the side knowing you lost to them the last time you played.”

Why do you think the team has had more success against the so-called “athletic” teams this season?

“A lot of that is Kevin being a little bit healthier, just having his legs underneath him. I don’t know what he’s averaging rebound-wise, but he’s bringing them down and he’s keeping those other guys off the glass. … It does make a difference when you keep those young guys off the glass.”

Even with a 21-4 record, can the Celtics still improve?

“I think we can work on everything. There’s not one thing we can’t improve on.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Ray Allen,
Fast Break: Celtics win 12th straight 12.16.10 at 10:42 pm ET
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If you were expecting a letdown by the Celtics after a thrilling last-second victory against the Knicks in New York on Wednesday night — followed by the news that Rajon Rondo would miss the next two weeks — guess again.

The Celtics had six players score in double figures — including Semih Erden — as they stretched their NBA-best winning streak to 12 games by disposing of the Hawks, 102-90, at the Garden on Thursday night.

Kevin Garnett anchored the effort with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Ray Allen and Glen Davis tied for the team lead with 18 points apiece.

Paul Pierce (15), Nate Robinson (14) and Erden (10) also reached double figures for the Celtics, who improved their Eastern Conference-leading record to 21-4.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Another KG double-double: Midway through the third quarter, Garnett had already notched his 14th double-double of the season. He entered the game tied with Amar’e Stoudemire for ninth in the NBA for double-doubles.

Garnett finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds on the night. On the other end, Garnett limited Josh Smith — who is a very, very good NBA player — to just one point and four rebounds. All in all, not a bad night for Garnett.

Pierce & Allen assist: With Rondo sitting out the first of what is expected to be at least two weeks of games, somebody had to make up for his 14 assists a night. Pierce and Allen exceeded that number.

They entered the game averaging a combined 5.8 assists between them. Against the Hawks, Pierce doled out nine dimes and Allen contributed another six. Not to mention their combined 33 points.

Semih-automatic: Say what you will about Semih Erden, but he finishes around the rim. It’s his soft hands. Thursday night’s starting center finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting — all within five feet of the basket.

His solid night even included a dunk over Smith, who is one of the top six shot blockers in the league. Still, Erden could work on his rebounding (he had zero as a 7-footer) and free-throw shooting (0-for-2).

WHAT WENT WRONG

Defending the point: The Hawks’ point guards — starter Mike Bibby and backup Jeff Teague — combined for 29 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds against Nate Robinson.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley actually looked pretty sharp defensively in just four minutes on the floor. Offensively? Bradley was absent, and Robinson finished with 14 points (on 6-of-16 shooting) and four assists.

Cleaning the glass: Somehow, with Smith and Al Horford combining for just 11 rebounds (they average 18 between them), the Celtics still got out-rebounded by the Hawks, 37-34.

Atlanta also snatched 10 offensive rebounds (an ongoing issue for the C’s). Of course, it helps to shoot better than 50 percent — which the Celtics did … once again (53%).

All-Star absentees: First, it was Kevin Durant. Then, it was John Wall. Then, it was Carmelo Anthony. And Thursday it was former Celtics guard Joe Johnson. The list of NBA stars who have been relegated to the bench with injuries when they visited the Garden this season grew by two.

Johnson and 2010 Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford both sat out against the Celtics. On the Boston side, of course, Rondo and Shaquille O’Neal were in street clothes as well.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
NBA Power Rankings, 12/16 at 5:41 pm ET
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With all the injuries to the Celtics as the NBA storms into the second quarter of its 82-game season, what better time than now to sort through the injury lists of the league’s 30 teams — ranked from first to worst?

One quick observation before delving into this week’s Power Rankings: Perhaps the Eastern Conference, from top to bottom, isn’t THAT much worse than the West. Just as the top five teams in the East could give anybody out West a run for their money, the bottom three teams in the Western Conference (the Kings, Clips & T-Wolves) are just as bad — if not worse — than their counterparts back East.

So, without further ado …

Boston Celtics1. Boston (20-4): While the injuries continue to mount (see: “brothers, O’Neal”not to mention Delonte West and Rajon Rondo), the Celtics continue to pile up victories, as their 11-game winning streak is the best in the NBA. That’s the single scariest thing about this team: They haven’t even played their best basketball.

San Antonio Spurs2. San Antonio (21-3): Unlike the Celtics, the Spurs are healthier than ever, as Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson and Tim Duncan are all feeling fine. As a result, they’re all playing better, which is why they have the best record in the league. While its nothing major, Parker is listed as day-to-day with a splint on his right middle finger. Wonder how he got that.

Dallas Mavericks3. Dallas (20-5): The Mavericks aren’t really missing the immense production (2.0 personal fouls & 1.5 points per game) of the immortal Rodrigue Beaubois. The health of Tyson Chandler might be the  biggest surprise — and biggest positive — for the Mavs, as he’s truly anchored their defense this season.

Los Angeles Lakers4. LA Lakers (19-7): A walking knee injury the past few seasons, Andrew Bynum returned once again from a lengthy sabbatical, totaling seven points, four boards and two blocks in 17 minutes. His presence should help their recent .500 stretch. Now their injuries are limited to Theo Ratliff, who’s been listed since 1983.

Miami Heat5. Miami (19-8): The Heat haven’t skipped a beat since Udonis Haslem suffered a potential season-ending injury on Nov. 20. Now, the only two guys outside of Miami Thrice who were supposed to contribute (the other one: Mike Miller & his thumb) haven’t been a part of their current 10-game win streak. So, are they the team that was 9-8 through 17 games, or the 10-0 team from the last couple weeks?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, NBA, power rankings
Irish Coffee: The Celtics & Knicks aftermath at 11:28 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

 

Amid all the glory that was Wednesday night’s 118-116 Celtics last-second win over the Knicks was Nate Robinson‘s faceplant into the floor of Madison Square Garden as he attempted to climb atop the game’s hero — Paul Pierce.

It was the funniest of all the videos Robinson has produced this season, and only because he lived to talk about it (thank God his high-top fade broke his fall).

As Robinson tweeted after the game, Pierce “damn near killed me today, but we won, so hey.” Maybe Robinson could somehow work the faceplant into the dunk contest, since he’s the heavy favorite now that Dwight Howard retired from it.

Paul Pierce takes a bow after he ripped the heart out of Knicks fans. (AP)

THE NEW YORK MEDIA THINKS THE KNICKS WON

I watched Wednesday night’s Celtics game with a diehard Knicks fan friend of mine at The Four’s in Boston. The Celtics fans who braved the cold — including the bartender — kept telling him the same thing: “I had no idea the Knicks were this good; I had no idea Amar’e Stoudemire was this good.”

“They are this good,” he responded. “They’ve won eight in a row and 13-of-14. And they’re just getting warmed up.”

There was no “I’m just glad to be competitive!” discussion from his perspective. In his eyes, they should be competitive. They’re the New York freakin’ Knicks.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Celtics going streaking! 12.15.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

It’s the year of the streak. The 2010-11 NBA season has already seen three teams pile up double-digit win streaks, and four others have won at least eight straight.

Four of those streaks have been snapped, and one more will end on Wednesday night, as the Celtics (winners of 10 straight) visit the Knicks (winners of eight straight). The Heat also put their nine-game win streak on the line Wednesday when they host the Cavaliers.

Just for fun, let’s rank those seven streaks in terms of level of difficulty, and then compare them to the 1971-72 Lakers’ all-time record of 33 consecutive victories:

1. MAVERICKS

  • Streak: 12 games (snapped by Bucks, 103-99, on Dec. 13)
  • Opponents’ win %: .505 (151-148)
  • Opponents above .500: 6
  • Average margin of victory: 8.3 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 5
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: This was truly remarkable, considering it included wins over the Thunder, Spurs, Heat and Jazz (twice).

2. SPURS

  • Streak: 12 games (snapped by Mavericks, 103-94, on Nov. 26)
  • Opponents’ win %: .437 (128-165)
  • Opponents above .500: 4
  • Average margin of victory: 9.5 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 5
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: The fact that their streak was snapped by the Mavs makes the Dallas run that much more impressive.

3. HEAT

  • Streak: 9 games (ongoing)
  • Opponents’ win %: .425 (93-126)
  • Opponents above .500: 3
  • Average margin of victory: 17.1 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 9
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 4
  • Observation: Not only have the Heat been winning, they’ve been blowing people out — even without Udonis Haslem.

4. CELTICS

  • Streak: 10 games (ongoing)
  • Opponents’ win %: .425 (104-141)
  • Opponents above .500: 3
  • Average margin of victory: 14.6 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 6
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: Not so impressive, considering they beat the Nuggets without Carmelo Anthony and Bulls without Carlos Boozer.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, New York Knicks
Irish Coffee: Betting on the Celtics 12.14.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Do the sportsbook oddsmakers know something that the people who cover the NBA don’t? I know, I know, you’d be shocked to find out that sportswriters aren’t always right. And it’s not like they have millions of dollars riding on their prognostications, as the bookies do.

In most publications’ NBA Power Rankings — including, likely, when WEEI’s come out on Thursday – the Celtics, Spurs and Mavericks are ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, in some order. Yet, in most online sportsbooks, the Heat and Lakers are still heavy favorites to win the NBA title. Take a look:

THE SPORTSWRITERS

NBA.com …………………………………. ESPN.com ………………………………….. CBSSports.com
1. Celtics ………………………………… 1. Mavericks …………………………………….. 1. Mavericks
2. Spurs …………………………………….. 2. Celtics ………………………………………….. 2. Spurs
3. Mavericks ……………………………….. 3. Spurs …………………………………………… 3. Celtics
4. Lakers …………………………………….. 4. Bulls …………………………………………….. 4. Heat
5. Heat ……………………………………….. 5. Heat ……………………………………………. 5. Magic
6. Thunder ………………………………… 6. Lakers …………………………………………….. 6. Jazz
7. Jazz ………………………………………… 7. Jazz ……………………………………………. 7. Hawks
8. Magic ……………………………………… 8. Magic …………………………………………. 8. Nuggets
9. Knicks ……………………………………. 9. Thunder ………………………………………… 9. Lakers
10. Hawks ………………………………….. 10. Knicks ………………………………………. 10. Hornets

THE BOOKMAKERS

BetUS.com ……………………………… Sportsbook.com ………………………………. Bodog.com
1. Lakers (+210) …………………………… 1. Heat (+180) ………………………………. 1. Lakers (+210)
2. Heat (+220) ……………………………. 2. Lakers (+200) ………………………………… 2. Heat (+220)
3. Celtics (+500) …………………………. 3. Celtics (+220) ………………………………. 3. Celtics (+500)
4. Magic (+1,000) …………………………. 4. Spurs (+800) ……………………………… 4. Magic (+1,000)
5. Spurs (+1,100) ………………………… 5. Magic (+1,200) ……………………………. 5. Spurs (+1,100)
6. Mavericks (+1,200) ……………………. 6. Bulls (+1,500) ………………………… 6. Mavericks (+1,500)
7. Bulls (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Mavericks (+2,000) ………………………. 7. Thunder (+2,000)
7. Thunder (+2,000) ……………………. 7. Knicks (+2,000) ……………………………… 8. Bulls (+2,200)
9. Jazz (+2,500) ………………………… 9. Thunder (+3,000) …………………………….. 9. Jazz (+2,500)
10. Hornets/Nuggets (+4,000) …………. 9. Jazz (+3,000) ………………………….. 10. Hornets (+3,500)

There are two possible conclusions to draw from this: either 1) the bookmakers are right to anoint the Lakers and Heat as the NBA title favorites; or 2) there’s a lot of money to be made (you know, if online sports gambling were legal).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jimmer Fredette, NBA, Paul Pierce
Good news: Shaquille O’Neal and his ‘calf juices’ are improving at 11:48 am ET
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WALTHAM — You’ve heard of getting your juices going to get into a game. Well, Shaquille O’Neal put a whole new twist on that approach Tuesday when asked to describe how’s he feeling after missing the last two games.

O’Neal said before Tuesday’s practice that his sore right calf is “getting better” and is optimistic that he will be ready for Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden against Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks. He worked out on the side and in the weight room but did not practice with the team.

“I’m doing better,” O’Neal said. “My calf juices are getting back up there. I’ll be alright.”

Doc Rivers said that he would see how O’Neal comes through Tuesday’s practice before making a determination on whether to play him Wednesday night against a revitalized Knicks team that has won eight straight and stands just four games behind the 19-4 Celtics in the Atlantic Division.

Semih Erden has filled in for O’Neal the last two games in the starting lineup.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, New York Knicks
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