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Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics cast spell on Magic 01.17.11 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Celtics handed Kevin Garnett a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf — had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.

A Paul Pierce jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.

Dwight Howard had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.

In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.

Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.

Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).

The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.

Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.

Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Orlando Magic
Saturday Night Live parodies Kevin Garnett 01.16.11 at 11:22 am ET
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Pretty weak impression of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett by Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharaoh, but an all-around good skit. The Tres Equis commercial and top-five plays are pretty hilarious. Worth checking out …

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jay Pharaoh, Kevin Garnett, Saturday Night Live
Doc Rivers needs more out of Semih Erden 01.15.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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Doc Rivers admitted after Friday’s escape against the Charlotte Bobcats – without Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo playing at another level, the Celtics wouldn’t have been too happy.

And rookie Semih Erden would’ve led the list of players feeling pretty miserable.

On a night when the depleted front court needed minutes from their Turkish import, Shaquille O’Neal had to play 35 minutes because Erden – still learning the intricacies of the NBA. Rivers was more than aware that Erden was playing one day after missing practice with a pulled groin.

“Semih, we just needed him more on the floor tonight,” Rivers said. “I just kept telling him, just point, and we’€™ll get you out, and then we’€™ll bring you back in and do whatever we can, but we need you tonight. And they went small and we did a great job of not forcing it to them, but letting it come to them in the flow without taking us out of our flow.”

Rivers would not give the rookie a free pass just because of the injury.

“I don’t ask,” Rivers said. “If a guy’s playing, he’s healthy. Listen, they don’t care on the other team.If you’re going to be out on the floor, I don’t want to hear about it and neither does the other team. That’s how we always function, and our guys know that.”

Rondo fell just four rebounds shy of another triple-double while Shaq scored a game-high 23 points in the Celtics’ 99-94 win over the Bobcats Friday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were very effective from long distance, draining 8-of-19 from beyond the arc.

The Celtics joined the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat as 30-game winners, improving to 30-9 on the season and 2-1 on their six-game homestand. They are off until Monday night when they host Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the possible return of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics lineup.

And, if called upon, Rivers hopes Erden does his level best to stay on the court.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Doc Rivers, NBA
Ageless wit and wisdom from Shaquille O’Neal after turning back the clock at 12:15 am ET
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The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.

That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.

On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.

The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”

“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’€™ve been in foul trouble and haven’€™t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’€

The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.

‘€œIt helps a lot when he’€™s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’€™s played well. It’€™s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.’€

O’Neal added that he’s on the Celtics to do whatever the team needs, especially while Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal are out of the lineup.

On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.

“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’€™s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’€™s not a big deal for one night; I don’€™t worry about it. And we don’€™t play again until Monday, so that’€™s nice. It came at the right moment.’€

It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.

‘€œYou know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”

So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?

“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”

As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.

“I’€™m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. ‘€œI knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’€™ve been in foul trouble and haven’€™t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.’€

The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.

Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Sorting through Celtics speak 01.14.11 at 11:21 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Check out this video of some chick named Kath singing Nate Robison‘s tweets. It starts to get pretty funny around the 53-second mark. My favorite lyric, courtesy of the Celtics’ backup guard: “Don’t you just feel like getting away from the world? I do, just me and my kids — eff everything else.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT …

Doc Rivers and Jermaine O’Neal discussed the injury-plagued Celtics on WEEI on Thursday, and Paul Pierce did the same in his blog on Celtics.com. If you listen to the links, you’ll learn a few things, like …

Rivers plans on sticking around for a while, as he discussed the possibility of passing Tommy Heinsohn for second among coaches on the team’s all-time winning list; he’s 119 games away, which would put him on the bench for at least another two seasons:

“Yeah, I could. That would be nice. That would mean that we’re doing well and playing well. That still takes a while. That would be nice to do. I would say that.”

Despite his original insistence that Kevin Garnett‘s absence didn’t hurt them in their loss to the Rockets, Rivers admitted that indeed the defense is falling apart without their All-Star forward:

“We watched tape the other day of our transition defense, and it screamed of no Kevin — that voice of telling guys to get back, get to your spot, look left, pick-and-roll defense. … It’s like losing the linebacker on your team who leads your team and tells everybody where they should go. Not having that hurts your defense.”

According to Rivers, Garnett is day-to-day but not ready to return yet, which seems to me like more than day-to-day:

“I hate dates, if you know what I mean. If anyone says two weeks or a week, that’s silly, because you don’t know how long anything’s going to take. He is day-to-day, very close, but just not ready yet.”

According to Jermaine O’Neal, his role on this team is to defend the pick-and-roll, block shots and rebound — which seems pretty simple for a guy who makes more than Glen Davis, Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden combined:

“This team is built a certain way, and it’s one of the rare teams that is really a system team, and it needs different components for the system to run right. You don’t need two batteries in the motor. You need different parts in the car to make it run, and I’m one of those parts — to help defensively to stop the pick and roll, block shots and get some rebounds.”

O’Neal also admitted that in-season knee surgery is not completely out of the question:

“That was definitely something we talked about the first time I was out for an extended period of time. We wanted to try a couple options, and that may be something that we’re looking at now. It’s something I will eventually need at the end of the season. You want to be around, and you don’t want to miss an extended period of time, and I’ve already done that. So, you make decisions as a player. … We’re going to make a decision on what’s best for me to get better, be done with the ailment and be back on the court full-time.”

The Celtics’ backup bigman believes that — if healthy — the Celtics are pretty much unstoppable:

“To have one of the best records in the league, and we haven’t had a full complement of players all year, that makes us feel a certain way. We feel like once we do get everyone back it’s going to be extremely, extremely tough to beat our team.”

The following guys are battling through injuries, according to Pierce: the O’Neal “brothers”, Robinson, Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Semih Erden and Delonte West:

“We’€™re taking it game by game. Fighting through injuries with Shaq, Jermaine, Rajon, Nate and Semih and KG all dinged up. It hurt me a lot to see Delonte go down with the broken wrist, but in the NBA, it’€™s always go time, so we can’€™t lose our focus when something like that happens.”

Good times all around. If the Celtics can hobble through Friday night’s game against the Bobcats, they’ll have two days off before facing the Magic on Monday. By then, Garnett could be back in the lineup for a much-needed boost.

CELTICS’ TRADE CHIPS 

The NBA trade deadline is approaching in February, so HoopsWorld is detailing where each team stands in terms of needs, trade bait and salary cap. Here’s how they depict the Celtics:

Notable Trade Chips: Von Wafer (one year/$900K), Avery Bradley (two years/$3 million plus team options for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014), Marquis Daniels (one year/$2.5 million), Glen Davis (one year/$3.3 million), Luke Harangody (two years/$1.2 million) and Nate Robinson (two years/$8.7 million).

Salary Cap Situation: The Celtics are nearly $31 million over the cap this season and are $7.4 million over the luxury tax threshold.

Trade Exceptions: None

Their contention that the Celtics will be looking to deal for a backup point guard and center is fairly ridiculous, considering they’ll be adding West and Perkins over the next month, but it is at least worth noting who has value around the league and how much the C’s owners are investing in this team.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail to brohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Nate Robinson
Shootaround: Delonte West looks smooth in practice 01.13.11 at 8:08 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Delonte West continues to work on shooting drills before and after practice as he rehabs his broken right wrist.

With a protective brace on his right wrist, West can dribble to his left and right but has yet to be cleared to return to contact in practice. He is still two weeks away from beginning his formal rehab to strengthen the wrist.

West suffered a nasty fracture of the wrist on Nov. 24 against the Nets at TD Garden. The initial prognosis was that he would be lost for the regular season and was “hopeful” to return for the playoffs.

But following surgery on the wrist, West has been steady progress and last week received good news that he could discard the hard cast and go with just the protective brace. He is still at least two weeks away from aggressive rehab on the wrist and is hopeful to return to action sometime at or around the All-Star break.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, NBA,
Kevin Garnett is ‘pretty close’ to returning but that won’t happen Friday night at 4:16 pm ET
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WALTHAM — In a sign that he is close to returning to game action, Kevin Garnett took part in contact practice with the Celtics on Thursday for the first time since straining his right calf against Detroit on Dec. 29. Coach Doc Rivers said that Garnett participated in a little more than half the practice, going through plays and running up and down the court but ruled him out of Friday’s home game against Charlotte.

“He went through half the practice or more than that, actually,” Rivers said. “He looked pretty good. He’s not playing [Friday] but he looked pretty good. Besides just his wind, I thought his movement was very good. I want to see him another practice but he’s getting close.”

Rivers said trainer Ed Lacerte and team doctor Brian McKeon checked out Garnett and cleared him to participate in all of the contact drills and plays in practice.

“That was him and Eddie, they just thought he could go and Dr. McKeon, all three, thought he’s fine so we let him go,” Rivers added. “There were a couple of times I wanted him off the floor and he stayed on the floor and did all the pick-and-roll defense live. We went up and down and he did all that live.”

The Celtics are 5-3 in the eight games without Garnett in the lineup.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, right calf
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