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Fast Break: Nowitzki sinks Celtics 11.08.10 at 11:07 pm ET
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Dallas Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) pumps his fist after a basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Dallas on Monday, Nov. 8, 2010.

Dirk Nowitzki buried a 17-foot jumper with 17 seconds remaining to defeat the Celtics. (AP)

Dirk Nowitzki hit a 17-foot jumper over Glen Davis with 17 seconds remaining, breaking an 87-87 tie and giving the Mavericks an 89-87 victory over the Celtics on Monday night.

Rajon Rondo missed a wide-open 3-pointer to win it, and Kevin Garnett missed a fadeaway jumper to tie it in the final seconds. Paul Pierce scored a team-high 24 points, Garnett added 18 points and 15 rebounds, and Rondo produced 11 points, 15 assists and six rebounds for the C’s, who fell to 6-2.

Nowitzki led the Mavericks (4-2) with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. First-half defense: You’re probably not going to beat anybody — let alone the Mavericks — when you allow an opponent to shoot 55 percent from the field for the first half. Dallas made 21-of-38 field goals in the opening 24 minutes, building a lead as large as 14, en route to a 10-point halftime lead.

Mavericks big men Tyson Chandler and Nowitzki were the biggest benefactors of the C’s porous defense. Chandler finished 5-for-5 in the first half, scoring all 10 of those points within two feet of the basket. Nowitzki scored nine first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting.

2. Shooting: It’s bad enough when you allow 55 percent shooting, but it hurts twice as much when your own field-goal percentage is hovering around 35 percent for much of the night. A second-half streak only raised the Celtics’ field goal percentage to 41 percent for the night.

Ray Allen (4-of-11), Jermaine O’Neal (1-of-6) and Rondo (5-of-15) all struggled from the field.

3. Losing the free-throw battle: Sure, the Celtics shot 100 percent from the free-throw line, but they only had seven attempts. The C’s got just one free-throw attempt combined from Glen Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Garnett and Rondo.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks shot 20 free throws, making 17 (85 percent). Nowitzki alone matched the entire Celtics roster from the free-throw line, making all seven of his attempts. For the referees’ sake, it’s a good thing Tommy Heinsohn didn’t make the trip.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. The halftime speech must’ve worked: The Celtics were badly outplayed in the first half and lucky to be trailing by just 10 at the break. The few signs of grit the C’s showed in the opening 24 minutes didn’t pay dividends, as their own shots just weren’t falling.

Well, something clicked, as the Celtics went on a 22-9 run to start the second half, taking a three-point lead on a trey from (who else but) Ray Allen just 8:14 into the third quarter.

2. Team rebounding: Jermaine O’Neal may have left the game at halftime because of his ailing left knee, but the Celtics didn’t miss him. Garnett grabbed a team-high 15 rebounds, while Pierce (7 boards), Rondo (6) and Allen (5) also chipped in on the glass.

In all, the Celtics out-rebounded the Mavericks, 41-38.

3. Semih Erden continues to contribute: In Jermaine O’Neal’s absence, Semih Erden played 11 minutes, scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 shooting from the free-throw line.

Erden has yet to miss a free throw this season, entering Monday night’s game a perfect 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. Perhaps that production can offset any struggles Shaquille O’Neal has at the line this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett
A Celtics tribute to Conan O’Brien at 3:20 pm ET
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In honor of Conan O’Brien‘s return to television Monday night, I give you Paul Pierce on the “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” show after he won the 2008 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award during the Celtics‘ 2007-08 championship run …

… And here’s a great clip recorded during the 2010 NBA playoffs of Conan ripping Los Angeles Lakers fans and praising Boston fans while wearing a Pierce jersey. Funny stuff …

Read More: Boston Celtics, Conan O'Brien, Paul Pierce,
Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result at 10:52 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Last week, prior to the Celtics welcoming their former assistant coach Tom Thidodeau and the Chicago Bulls to town, Ray Allen asked a simple question: “Do they know everything we’re running?”

The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.

Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”

The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?

“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”

So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

In Tom Thibodeau's absence, Doc Rivers (right) and Jermaine O'Neal (left) have adjusted the team's defensive schemes. (AP)

This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.

So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.

“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”

Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo
Kevin Garnett on Charlie Villanueva: ‘He’s a nobody’ 11.06.10 at 1:12 am ET
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Kevin Garnett said he is tired of talking about his run-in with Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva on Tuesday in Boston’s win over the Pistons. Villanueva accused Garnett, via twitter, of calling him a cancer patient during a trash-talking session on the court. Garnett spent Wednesday trying to diffuse the situation, claiming there was a misunderstanding and he simply called the Pistons big man a ‘cancer’ to his team and the NBA.

Friday, Garnett said he’s done talking about it.

“He’s a nobody,” Garnett said. “I’m not paying attention to nobodies any more.”

It has been quite the emotional week for Garnett, who also got into a shoving match with Andrew Bogut the next night in a home-court win over Milwaukee.

Read More: Andrew Bogut, Boston Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons
Doc Rivers thinks Rajon Rondo has ‘mild’ plantar fascitis at 12:58 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his head trainer Ed Lacerte told him hours before Friday’s tip-off that Rajon Rondo wouldn’t be available to the team in their game against Chicago because of lingering soreness in his left foot.

“[Friday] morning, Eddie told me that Rondo wasn’t playing because of his foot,” Rivers said after Friday’s overtime game in which Rondo played 41 minutes, scored 10 points and dished out 11 assists. “And ten minutes later I go down so we can watch film and Rondo said, ‘I’m playing; I’m fine.’”

Asked if Rondo was dealing with plantar fascitis, Rivers said, “I think that’s what it is, and it’s a mild case but when those get fired up, those are extremely painful.”

But Rivers was impressed with the way Rondo managed himself through pain on Friday.

“Down the stretch, his defense, his hands – the steal on the in-bounds play, the deflection steal at the end of the game on the last shot,” Rivers said. “He was great. I mean, [Derrick] Rose got one drive in the over time and he yells to the bench, ‘My fault!’ He was just – he was locked in tonight. And that’s what we need.

“I told him that before the game, too. I walked right over to him before the tip and said, ‘Hey, listen, if I see anything…’ You could see he was good. The only thing we did and you could tell: we subbed him early. I think with five or six minutes in the first we subbed him. And then we did it again at half time. And overall that may have helped him with his wind.”

Rondo took treatment for 30 minutes after the game and then said he has been dealing with pain in both feet, with more pain in his left foot. He also said he’s been sleeping with both feet elevated to relieve the soreness.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Ed Lacerte, NBA
Tom Thibodeau gets hero’s welcome 11.05.10 at 11:56 pm ET
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Chicago Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau yells some instructions during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, in Chicago. Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-98.

Tom Thibodeau appreciated the warm welcome from the Celtics and their fans. (AP)

During the first timeout of Friday night’s 110-105 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics played a video tribute to current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and forward Brian Scalabrine, thanking them for their contributions to the C’s 2008 NBA championship.

Touched by the gesture, Scalabrine raised a hand to the crowd. Meanwhile, Thibodeau stood stoically on the sideline, ready to guide his new team against his former team.

After the game, though, the former Celtics assistant and defensive guru was clearly touched by the gesture.

“It’s great coming back here,” Thibodeau said following his team’s loss. “I wouldn’t be in this position without everything that this organization did for me. From ownership to Danny (Ainge) and, of course, Doc (Rivers), they treated me great. It was a lot of fun.”

It’s not every city that would recognize the contributions of an assistant coach to a team’s success with a pair of standing ovations (one to start the game and one throughout the video), but Thibodeau knows Boston is no ordinary fan base.

“This is a great sports town,” said Thibodeau. “Certainly, the history and the tradition of the Celtics is what makes this organization so special. It’s the fans, the people that run the team, the players. They’re leadership is off the charts. Doc and Danny — you’re not going to find two guys better than that. They’re just top-of-the-line guys. They’re smart. They know what they’re doing.

“The team is special,” he added. “You’ve got an unbelievable group of guys — not only talented, but great competitors. Those guys are going to fight and fight and fight. There’s no quit in that team. To beat them, you’ve got to beat them. They never quit.”

Thibodeau admitted after the game that while his new team may have the potential, the Bulls just don’t have the level of understanding of each other yet that his old team enjoys now.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’re experienced, they know how to work the game and their hard to guard,” said Thibodeau. “I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to hsare with each other. … It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’t get set, and that’s something we’re striving for.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics run past Bulls at 11:10 pm ET
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All five Celtics starters scored in double figures, as the C’s escaped with a second straight overtime victory on Friday night — this time, a 110-105 win over the Chicago Bulls at the TD Garden. Ray Allen scored a team-high 25 points, while Kevin Garnett produced 16 points and 10 rebounds to improve Boston’s record to 5-1.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Spread the wealth: The Celtics went on a 22-3 run to start the third quarter, taking a 12-point cushion they didn’t relinquish until midway through the fourth quarter. In the span of 6:28, six different Celtics scored (Paul Pierce, Garnett, Glen Davis, Nate RobinsonMarquis Daniels and Semih Erden).

The C’s got a solid contribution from Daniels, who scored eight of his 11 points in that stretch. In all, seven Celtics reached double figures (Allen-25, Garnett-16, Davis-15, Daniels-11, Pierce-10, Rajon Rondo-10). Even Robinson got into a little groove, scoring seven points in 11 minutes.

Rondo had his usual double-digit assist night (11), but the Celtics also got at least three dimes from Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Daniels. The prettiest play of thenight highlighted the effort — as Pierce hit a streaking Allen underneath fo a dunk with 1:19 left in overtime that put the C’s up 108-103 in the victory.

2. Garnett continued to be aggressive: Last season, Garnett wasn’t throwing it down like he used to; he just didn’t have the lift in his knees. This season? He should be sponsored by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Garnett scored six of his eight first-half points at the rim — including a second-quarter dunk on Taj Gibson and another jam following Rondo on the break. Although he backed off a bit in the second half — finishing with eight of his 16 points in the paint — Garnett, who also grabbed 10 boards, established his tone early.

3. Big Baby drew (more) charges: Someone tweeted from Shaquille O’Neal‘s account during the game, “Big Baby is an offensive foul drawing machine!!” That couldn’t be more right. Glen Davis entered Friday night’s game with a team-leading nine charges (nobody else had more than one), and he added two more to that total in the first half alone. Along with his five steals this season, that’s 16 possessions he’s swung in the Celtics’ favor.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Second-half defense: After holding the Bulls to 38.9 percent shooting from the field (14-of-36) in the opening half, Chicago shot 59.5 percent (25-of-42) in the second half.

The Bulls top four performers — Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson – combined to shoot 19-of-33 from the field (in the second half. The Celtics returned to their first half defensive form in the overtime period, holding the Bulls to 3-of-9 shooting to close out the victory.

2. Centers of attention: I hate to harp on it, but two nights after Andrew Bogut totaled 21 points and 13 boards on Jermaine O’Neal, Erden and Davis, another talented center ate up the Celtics’ postmen.

Joakim Noah produced 26 points and 12 boards in the absence of Shaquille O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins. If someone doesn’t step up the interior defense, guys like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are going to have a field day.

In addition, the Celtics got out-rebounded by 12, as Jermaine O’Neal a whopping one rebound in 25 minutes.

3. Pierce couldn’t score on Scalabrine: In the first half, shortly after Brian Scalabrine received a standing ovation upon entering the game, Paul Pierce tried to shake him at the free-throw line. As Pierce attempted his signature lean-back 17-footer, Scalabrine reached up and blocked the shot.

The crowd paused, as if deciding whether to groan for Pierce or cheer for Scalabrine. I’m sure Scalabrine has seen that move a thousand times in practice.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett
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