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Fab Melo and the debate over D-League dominance 12.27.12 at 2:59 pm ET
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Over his last two NBA Development League games, Fab Melo averaged 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.5 blocks. The Celtics rookie amassed 32 points, nine boards and nine rejections for the Red Claws on Wednesday, which, if nothing else, proved his 16 rebounds, 15 points and 14 blocks in Maine last week were no fluke.

After being selected No. 22 overall — one slot behind Jared Sullinger — in this past June’s NBA draft, Melo hasn’t seen action on the C’s, but has produced respectable numbers over 10 games for their D-League affiliate: 10.4 points (51.1 FG%, 66.7 FT%), 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in just 25.5 minutes a night. Of course, he’s playing against teams from South Dakota and Idaho, so those numbers should be taken with a heaping helping of salt.

Still, there’s always a spot on an NBA roster for bigs who defend the rim, especially on this Celtics team, which allows an atrocious 42.6 points in the paint per game and suffers worse when Kevin Garnett‘s not on the floor.

Exhibit A: Greg Stiemsma.

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Even Paul Pierce can’t save the Celtics from the Bucks 12.22.12 at 12:28 am ET
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Paul Pierce rescued the Celtics on Wednesday night when he scored 40 points to lead the Celtics over the Cavaliers after Boston blew a 20-point lead to a 5-21 team in the third quarter on their home court.

Pierce scored 35 points Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics blew a 10-point lead and lost 99-94 in overtime to the emerging Milwaukee Bucks.

“It’s a team game, regardless of how I play,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to do better in stretches. I think when our offense isn’t going for long stretches we’ve got to be able to defend. You know, at the beginning of the fourth quarter we went into the quarter up like seven or eight and we instantly kind of gave away the lead. And that’s the kind of case where even though our shots aren’t falling, we’ve got to be able to come down and get stops after stops after stops. And it just comes and goes in stretches right now.”

The Celtics led by 10 in the first half and by eight, 70-62, heading into the fourth. But Milwaukee went on a 21-8 run to take command. Pierce appeared to rescue the Celtics yet again when he drained a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, even Pierce couldn’t overcome a 1-for-15 night from Jason Terry and a 6-for-22 night from Kevin Garnett.

“That’s what we’ve been saying all year long…There’s going to be nights when shots won’t fall,” Pierce said. “And one thing we can control, I think, is our intensity on the defensive end, we are inconsistent. But we just – a little bit of consistency in that department – we play well for the most part and we look up there and we shoot 43% or whatnot, but it has to be throughout the whole game more consistency. You know, we can’t give up 17-0 runs to Cleveland. We can’t give up 10-0 runs to Milwaukee. And then decide that’s when we want to play defense.”

The Celtics are now 1-3 against the Bucks and won’t play them again this season, unless of course, it’s a playoff matchup.

“They have great guard play, and they have pretty good intangibles, you know, they have guys that you really don’t expect to play well that really play well,” Pierce said. “I mean (Larry) Sanders kind of has been a thorn in my side, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, he’s played well the last two games. And you focus so much on their two guards, that what happens: other guys like that step up and carry you.”

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Kevin Garnett on the loss and missed opportunities 12.21.12 at 11:44 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett made just 6 of 22 shots from the field on Friday night as the Celtics lost in overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks 99-94 at TD Garden. Garnett talked about the frustration of losing a game the Celtics had so many open look and had a 10-point lead.

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Doc Rivers pregame on the Bucks again, ‘The Jasons’ lineup and Larry Sanders at 7:40 pm ET
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Chris Wilcox (right thumb) and Leandro Barbosa (personal matter, not with the team) will be out for Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

With those two out, the Celtics recalled rookie forward Kris Joseph from the Maine Red Claws on Friday.

Other notes:

The Celtics are playing the Bucks for a fourth time in the first six weeks of the season, with Boston trailing the series 1-2. That could be a factor if the two are vying for playoff positioning late in the season. Boston stands 13-12 heading into the game while the Bucks are a half-game better at 13-11.

“What’s funny is, I don’t think any of the lineups have been the same on either team,” Rivers said. “It’s four new games every time we play them. It’s early, I tell you, I obviously don’t love that. I just think you should play a team in your conference late in the season. But we’re going to make it up, we’re going to play the Knicks four times after this.”

Doc Rivers will stick with “The Jasons” lineup featuring Jason Terry at shooting guard and Jason Collins at center for a second straight game.

“I’ve said this 100 times – the starting lineup is not as important as everyone thinks it is,” said Rivers. “I did that more from Kevin. In one way, just to get him some minutes at the 4 instead of the 5. And then, until Avery [Bradley] comes back, for Jason Terry to get a shot. But other than that, I did like it, because Jason — you don’t know which one, so I’ll let you figure it out — his talking was terrific, it helped Kevin. I hope you guys can figure that one out.”

Rivers said he did like the impact it had on Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes of the win over Cleveland.

“He seemed like he had more energy,” Rivers said. “It’s one game, so it’s tough thing to look at. If we play well tonight — we’ll find out in a month what it does really. It looks like he had more energy, because he had another guy covering for him and he didn’t feel like he had to do everything on defense.”

Rivers compared Bucks shot-blocker and big man Larry Sanders to Thunder big Serge Ibaka: “We should probably stop shooting when he’s right there. That would probably help, because he always blocks your shot. It’s funny, he does it to everybody. I actually told my son, Austin, when they played the Bucks, I said, ‘Hey Austin, be careful with Sanders, you get a step deep and he’ll get you.’ I think his first two shots were blocked, so I was thinking, ‘Nothing changes. No one listens.’”

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Judging by this, Avery Bradley looks real close to returning at 6:23 pm ET
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Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley, Kris Joseph and Courtney Lee play a game of 2-on-2 before Friday’s game between the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. Rondo and Bradley took turns guarding one another.

Bradley was cleared to return to contact practice Monday in Chicago and judging by this, he looks real close to returning. In this video, he shows why he is considered the best on-ball defender on the Celtics and one of the best in the NBA.

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Irish Coffee: A brief Kevin Garnett lesson on chemistry and evolution 12.20.12 at 10:44 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.

While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.

“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”

Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per 82games.com.

  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
  • Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
  • Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small

One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.

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Jason Terry praises Paul Pierce, blasts LeBron James at 1:10 am ET
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Two months after his 35th birthday, Celtics captain Paul Pierce scored 40 points on 16 shots in Wednesday night’s 103-91 victory against the Cavaliers. It took a superhuman effort, as his three most veteran teammates can attest. Maybe that’s why Jason Terry called him Kryptonite in the locker room afterwards.

Pierce, Terry, Kevin Garnett and Jason Collins have a combined 55 years of NBA experience between them, but this was a first. The Celtics captain became the oldest player in franchise history to eclipse 40 points in a regulation game (at 35 and three months, Larry Bird scored 49 in double overtime in 1992).

“Not a lot of guys in this league stay in one franchise,” said Terry. “You can count them on your hand right now. It’s not many that are superstars, that have been in the league longer than 12-13 years, and he’s one of them.”

Terry played his last eight seasons alongside one of those other guys in Dirk Nowitzki, who has stayed in Dallas ever since being selected one spot ahead of Pierce in the 1998 NBA draft. There’s a certain respect among veterans around the league for loyalty like that, Terry said, especially after younger superstars like LeBron James and Dwight Howard jumped ship for the Heat and Lakers early in their careers over the past several years.

As Terry elaborated, Pierce has demonstrated a “willingness to stick through the tough times and not just jump off: ‘I’m outta here.’ ‘I’m going to go join forces with Kobe [Bryant].’ Or, ‘I’m going to go play with Dwyane Wade.’ That’s a shot right there. … I think that’s what guys look at, and they respect him.”

How’s this for respect? Pierce joined Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Clyde Drexler, Alex English, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and Walter Davis as the only players since 1985 to scored 40 points in regulation after turning 35 years old. None of the others accomplished that feat on 16 shots.

“Paul was on fire tonight, man,” added Garnett, who was traded to Boston after 12 up-and-down seasons for the Timberwolves. “Paul had a flashback to like ’03 or ’04 or something, man. It was good to see, though. As we walked in tonight, I could tell — just because it was a long day — that he felt kind of down in the dumps. After the game, I told him, ‘You need to feel more down in the dumps a little more often.’ But he had the rhythm going, and we were just trying to feed him. I thought he did a good job getting it out of the offense and letting it come to him.”

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