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Sounds of the game… Celtics 115, Raptors 109 OT 01.13.09 at 6:42 am ET
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Maybe Kevin Garnett is right. Maybe the Celtics should play the theme from Superman every time Paul Pierce steps on the court. On a bum right knee, or at least very ‘ginger’ as Pierce himself said, the Celtics captain made 13 of his 26 shots and totaled a season-high 39 points to lead the Celtics to a 115-109 overtime win against the Toronto Raptors Monday night at TD Banknorth Garden. With the Celtics already missing starting center Kendrick Perkins with a bad left shoulder and Tony Allen in a protective boot with a sprained right ankle, Pierce picked it up a notch for the entire game, even when Andrea Bargnani hit a three with one second remaining. Pierce did have a supporting cast, as Kevin Garnett scored 20, Ray Allen 12 and Brian Scalabrine, playing for Perkins, chipped in with 11, including three three-pointers.

Paul Pierce said he can play through the injury.

Pierce and Garnett together talk about Pierce’s secret weapon on dealing with the pain.

Garnett has an idea for those running the music at the Garden.

Head coach Doc Rivers said Pierce has a way of playing through the pain.

Rivers said Scalabrine has a way of getting the job done.

Scalabrine said this was just a good win.

Doc Rivers describes what Kendrick Perkins is going through.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
What If: Tony Allen 01.10.09 at 1:56 pm ET
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On January 10, 2007 Tony Allen blew out his left knee in a post-whistle slam dunk. Two years later, he still isn’t the same player.

At the time of his injury Allen was one of the few bright spots on a dismal Boston Celtics team. He had stepped up in the absence of Paul Pierce and was doing his best to lead his team with explosiveness and  defensive hustle. He was also averaging a career high 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and shooting 51.4% from the field. In an instant, it was gone.

Reminders of Allen’s injury have come to mind with the recent struggles of the Celtics bench. He has missed the last three games with an ankle strain and has been inconsistent when healthy. Allen, who turns 27 on Sunday, has learned to accept his role as a defensive specialist. At times there are flashes of the old TA, slashing to the basket, getting up for a dunk, or attacking the hoop for a rebound. But those highlights have been few and far between.

On the date of his injury it’s easy to wonder, what if Tony Allen never went up for that dunk?

If Allen had continued his breakout season, he most likely would have been packaged in the Ray Allen trade instead of Delonte West. If not, the Minnesota Timberwolves probably would have pushed for him in the Kevin Garnett deal. Allen was playing too well to stay on a team desperate to make moves.

There would be no need to wonder what if. Chances are Tony Allen wouldn’t be on the Celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
Cs to be challenged by one of their own 01.08.09 at 11:42 pm ET
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Before Rajon Rondo was taking hard spills on the court, it was Delonte West who was sacrificing his body for the Boston Celtics. Two years after leaving the Cs as part of the Ray Allen deal, West has brought his hustle to the Cleveland where it has sparked LeBron James and the streaking Cavaliers. Those who played with West early in his career are not surprised by his success.

‘€œThere’s no doubt that I thought before Delonte even went there, I thought Delonte was a perfect fit for LeBron James,’€ said Brian Scalabrine, a teammate of two seasons. ‘€œWhen he got traded to Seattle and he wasn’t playing for whatever, it’s just all about the place you go and where you fit in.’€

West has fit in perfectly since being dealt from the Seattle SuperSonics last season. The addition of West, along with Mo Williams, is an upgrade to the Cavaliers backcourt that once relied heavily on James’ long-range game. Rather than compensating for the inconsistencies of Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic, James can play closer to the basket without worrying about their guards.

West’s gritty defense is also a factor in the Cavs’ NBA-low 89.1 points allowed per game (down from 96.7 last season). His intensity will be challenging for the Celtics to contain when they take on the Cavaliers on Friday night.

‘€œD-West has helped them a lot,’€ said Kendrick Perkins, who played three seasons with West. ‘€œHe puts another shooter out there on the court for LeBron to pass it to when he drives and penetrates. D-West can make plays. He’s a defender, he’s very feisty, and D-West helps their team a lot. We’ve just got to make sure we go out there and try to keep him under control, keep him off the offensive rebounding, try to get in his aspects a little bit, and just go from there.’€

After losing for three years in Boston and inexplicably riding the bench in Seattle, West inked a multi-year deal last summer to stay in Cleveland. Even though his tough play could burn the Celtics this season, his former teammates know he’s in the right place.

Said Scalabrine, ‘€œI told him when he came here (with the Cavs), ‘Listen, you’re in a place where you can be, as long as LeBron is there, you can be there for the rest of your career and you can thrive in that situation.”€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Cleveland Cavaliers, Delonte West
LeBron isn’t Celtics biggest competition at 9:54 pm ET
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Ask the Boston Celtics who their toughest competition in the East is and they won’t say LeBron James. They’ll tell you it is themselves who stand in their way of another title, that only they can control the fate of their season. On Friday night when the suddenly skidding Celtics take the court against the Cleveland Cavaliers, their biggest challenge is not stopping King James. It is simply not getting beat by their own mistakes.

‘€œI really don’t care who we play next,’€ Ray Allen said. ‘€œIt’s just, I look at it personally as an opportunity to get back on track to do what I need to do to help this team. Every little thing that I look at that has my input or my stamp individually for this team, I’ve got to find out ways to do it better, to make it better out there.’€

After winning 19-straight, the Celtics are on a three-game losing streak and have dropped six of their last eight contests. At this point they aren’t seeing Friday as a chance to beat an Eastern Conference rival but rather an opportunity to get back on track.

‘€œThe thing about our team is that we don’t ever look ahead. Now that we’ve got Cleveland, we’re concentrating on Cleveland. But we never once had just talked about beating Cleveland,’€ Kendrick Perkins said. ‘€œWe need a win. We’re desperate for one right now.’€

Even though winning on the road has been a struggle for the Celtics this season, spoiling the Cavs perfect home record is a test they are up for.

‘€œWe have an opportunity to go in down there playing one of the best teams in the league,’€ Leon Powe said. ‘€œThey’re real hot at home too. I think they’ve won about 18 straight in their house. Man, it’s going to be a challenge. But we’ve got a wonderful opportunity to go in there and play well and hopefully pull out a win to give us a big confidence boost.’€

A win in Cleveland would do more than get the Celtics back on the winning side. The Eastern Conference standings are so close this season that an early January victory could pay dividends in the playoffs.

‘€œReally, we’re just trying to win all the games we possibly can and get homecourt advantage,’€ Perkins said. ‘€œThat just would make it a little bit easier for us in the playoffs. But if we don’t get homecourt advantage I’m not saying we won’t win he championship, but it’d really be a whole lot harder.’€

With an electrified crowd behind them, the Cavs will also look to avenge last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals elimination. The biggest key is matching their intensity.

‘€œIt has the same sense of urgency,’€ Powe said. ‘€œWe’ve got to go out there, play hard, it’s going to be just like a Game 7.  They’re going to come at us and try to hit us in the mouth first. We’ve got to take it and then respond back. We haven’t been doing that as of lately but I think we should be alright going out there. Our captains and everybody on this team know what we’ve got to do to win the game.’€

Playing hard is one thing, but the Celtics don’t have a panicked attitude toward the game. Allen added the team has not reached the point of frustration yet, and Sam Cassell, the only member of the Celtics who has won back-to-back titles, explained there’s no need to get flustered this early in January.

‘€œWhen you’re repeating you’ve got all that stuff with big matchups, but it doesn’t matter,’€ he said. ‘€œYou want to win every game possible but it doesn’t make you or break you. A team that got its rhythm in April going into the playoffs is a team that can win a championship … Why should we [worry]? We aren’t breaking .500. When I won a championship we were 10 games over .500, that’s all.’€

The Celtics won 19 straight by focusing on one day at a time. After Friday night they have 44 more regular season games left and each one is just as important as a match up against LeBron James. It doesn’t matter who’s on the opposite side of the court. The Celtics have to take care of the five guys in green first.

‘€œIt wouldn’t have made a difference if it were Cleveland or Sacramento,’€ Allen said. ‘€œIt wouldn’t have made a difference. We lost three in a row and that’s the mentality we have to have going into the game.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kendrick Perkins, LeBron James
Sounds of the game… Rockets 89, Celtics 85 at 8:14 am ET
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You can sense the concern growing each and every day. What was a juggernaut headed for 70+ wins two weeks ago is now a team that has lost three straight, six of eight and in second place, IN ITS OWN CONFERENCE. Talk about a change of direction. The Celtics haven’t hit a bump in the road, they’ve hit a Boston-sized pothole that has messed up their alignment and they desperately need a trip to the garage to get it fixed. Problem is their next pit stop is against the Cavaliers, the team ahead of them in the East, in Cleveland Friday night where they haven’t lost at home this season in 18 games. Wednesday night, someone named Von Wafer drilled a three with 44 seconds remaining and the Celtics couldn’t overcome Yao Ming’s 26 points as Houston handed the Green their sixth loss in eight games since Christmas.

Head coach Doc Rivers is philosophical about the losing ways of late.

Rivers thinks the defense at the end of games is what needs to improve.

Paul Pierce says the team needs to get back to trusting each other again.

Pierce says this is where Ubuntu comes in handy.

Kevin Garnett says the team needs some good practice time together.

Ron Artest says last year’s Celtics taught the Rockets a good lesson.

Ray Allen says the Celtics need to be tougher against hungry teams.

Allen isn’t worried about facing Cleveland on Friday night.

Glen Davis said the Celtics will be ready for the Cavs on Friday.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Cavaliers, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Mutombo couldn’t wait for Celtics 01.07.09 at 5:13 pm ET
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Dikembe Mutombo wanted to play for the Boston Celtics. The problem is, he wasn’t sure how much the Celtics wanted him to play for them. Mutombo was on the list of rumored possible mid-season acquisitions and the big man was on board to play with the champs. But the Celtics weren’t ready to commit and Mutombo, 42, didn’t feel like waiting around any longer.

Prior to Tuesday’s Celtics-Rockets game, he explained why he went back to Houston on New Year’s Eve:

“In the last minutes, especially on the 24th and 25th, I was feeling like I was not the only one in the picture no more that they were looking at,” he said. “It kind of discouraged me a little bit. I said ok, I have about seven organizations here that want me and this organization that I want to go to, I thought they wanted me but they’re looking at somebody else. Should I be on the waiting list or should I just go take another offer that was there on the table? And I think by having a talk that night with Yao and T-Mac and calling me on the phone saying, please come on man. We want you here. I was like ok. Let me just go be with guys who are talking to me who want me to be part of their family than wait for the organization who are waiting on their decision making. I think they were in between. They were looking at, I heard about Alonzo (Mourning), then I heard about Joe Smith, then I heard about P.J. Brown. I was like ok, I’m not going to be in the middle of this. I just have to walk away the way I want to walk. I wanted to come to your cold city, but they did not want me.”

This is Mutombo’s 18th season in the NBA. He has a career average of 9.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dikembe Mutombo, Houston Rockets, Tracy McGrady
Are the Celtics in trouble? 01.06.09 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Boston Celtics knew there would be a target on their backs this season. But the threats sounded empty after winning 19 straight and blowing out their opponents in embarrassing fashion. Eventually, though, the rest of the league began to fight back. The Los Angeles Lakers were the first to take a stand. The Golden State Warriors followed suit and soon the Portland Trail Blazers, New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats wanted in. (CLICK HERE for a recap of Tuesday’s loss to the Bobcats.)

For every game the Celtics win, there is an opponent circling their next meeting. The problem is, the Celtics can’t mark every game as their biggest and defending their title is taking a toll on them. They are 2-5 since losing to the Lakers on Christmas Day and holes in the roster are being exposed. The once unstoppable Rajon Rondo has been contained by big men. The bench that was supposed to compensate for the loss of James Posey has blown numerous leads. Final minutes that used to be garbage time are now seconds of desperation.

December 25, 2008: Lakers 92, Celtics 83

The Celtics made the Lakers look soft last season during the NBA Finals. The Lakers got payback by snapping the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day, challenging the Celtics to test them again for the title. Phil Jackson inspired other coaches to put their bigs on Rondo, which stifled the Cs soaring offense.

December 26, 2008: Warriors 99, Celtics 89

The Warriors kicked the Celtics while they were down and handed them their second consecutive loss of the season in Oakland. It was a rude awakening that offered a reminder that, no matter what kind of advantage the Celtics have on paper, stats can’t compensate for the motivation of their opponents.

December 30, 2008: Trail Blazers 91, Celtics 86

The Brandon Roy-less Trail Blazers forced the Celtics to make bad plays and dealt Boston its first loss in Portland in four years. The Celtics were outrebounded by 15 in a sloppy defensive effort.

January 4, 2009: Knicks 100, Celtics 88

Thirty points from Al Harrington served as a reminder to the Cs of what a deep bench can do for you. The Celtics were simply outhustled and there was no secret who wanted this win more.

January 6, 2009: Bobcats 114, Celtics 106 (OT)

The Celtics practically welcomed the Bobcats into the paint with open arms early on to jumpstart this loss. They forced far too many shots from long range (6-23 3PG) and did not hit enough from the line (22-30 FT). This game affirmed the concern that the Celtics have work to do.

As long as the Celtics wear the rings, they will also wear a target. It is an inevitable struggle they will have to overcome if they want to face the same curse next season.

Read More: Al Harrington, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Kevin Garnett
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