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Preview: Celtics-Bucks 03.09.10 at 11:05 am ET
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Quick: Who is the hottest team in the Eastern Conference? The Celtics, who have won four straight and seven of their last 10? Nope. The Cavs? The Magic? No and no. The hottest team in the Eastern Conference is the Milwaukee Bucks and has been since the trade deadline when the acquired John Salmons from the Bulls.

The addition of Salmons has given the Bucks a much-needed perimeter threat to take the pressure off rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and also aided the development of Andrew Bogut, who is putting it all together in his fifth season. The Bucks have played great defense all season. They rank third in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) and their low-risk (fourth best at not turning it over), deliberate offensive sets don’t hurt their defensive rep either.

While Salmons gives them a shooter and a scorer that they lacked, the other reason for their success has been the play of backup point guard Luke Ridnour, who has been one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA. Ridnour is in the midst of a career-season and since Bucks coach Scott Skiles knows what he’s doing, Ridnour’s also plays crunch-time minutes when the situation arises.

A few weeks ago, the Bobcats looked like the emerging team in the bottom five of the East. Now that team appears to be the Bucks, a young team playing well with a solid coach and nothing to lose. That’s a tough combination in a first-round playoff matchup.

CELTICS (40-21, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.4

Points Allowed: 93.8

Differential: +4.6 (6th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

BUCKS (33-29, 9-1 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.1

Points Allowed: 96.5

Differential: +1.6 (13th)

Offensive Efficiency: 104.5 (23rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.8 (3rd)

Pace: 907. (26th)

Likely Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut

Injuries: Michael Redd (Knee surgery, out) Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics-Bucks 12.08.09 at 10:01 pm ET
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It’s apparently not going to be easy for the Celtics at home, where their inexplicable trend of playing sub-.500 teams close on the Garden floor continued Tuesday night against the Bucks. At various points, it looked like the Celtics would run away with the game, only to have the Bucks close the gap.

A fourth-quarter surge finally put some distance between them on the scoreboard and the Celtics were able to prevail with a 98-89 win, their eighth straight. The Bucks have now dropped eight of their last nine. Kevin Garnett scored 25 points and added nine rebounds to lead the scoring. Bucks center Andrew Bogut had a huge game with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo. In a game where all five Celtics starters (and Rasheed Wallace) scored in double figures, credit must go to the distributor. Rondo recorded a near triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists. Rondo also harassed super-rookie Brandon Jennings into an uneven 17-point performance. If Jennings wants to lay claim to the point guard throne he has a long way to go to match Rondo.

Turning Point: It wasn’t so much a turning “point” as it was a slow change in play. With the score tied at 86-86, the Celtics slowly began to put some distance between themselves and the Bucks outscoring them 12-3 down the stretch.

•Garnett continued his string of strong outings with 25 points and nine rebounds. He took the ball aggressively to the basket early in the game, which helped set the tone and made a huge basket late in the game. He also forced Ersan Ilyasova into a 6-for-17 shooting night.

•Milwaukee guard Luke Ridnour appeared to injure his wrist late in the third quarter. He has had problems with the wrist before. He didn’t return to the game.

•Tony Allen made his debut and played five rather eventful minutes. He made a number of hustle plays and also threw the ball out of bounds and barreled into a Buck defender on his way to the basket for an obvious charging call. The Celtics went 10 deep even without Marquis Daniels. Brian Scalabrine saw the majority of minutes ahead of Shelden Williams.

•Wallace had a superb shooting night making five of eight shots and hitting three of four from 3-point range. His shooting was a big reason the Celtics were able to scratch out a lead to start the fourth quarter.

Read More: Bucks, Celtics, Fast Break,
Celtics-Bucks preview at 11:48 am ET
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Fresh off their four-game road trip, the Celtics entertain the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at the TD Garden in a game featuring two teams heading in opposite directions. The Celtics swept their road trip and have won seven straight, while Milwaukee has dropped seven of its last eight after starting the season 8-3.

CELTICS (16-4, 8-2 last 10)

Points per game: 100.1

Offensive Rating: 109.4 (8th in NBA)

Points allowed: 90.6

Defensive Rating: 99.1 (1st)

Pace: 90.9 (26th)

Likely Starters

G Rajon Rondo

G Ray Allen

F Paul Pierce

F Kevin Garnett

C Kendrick Perkins

BUCKS (9-10, 3-7 last 10)

Points per game: 98.3

Offensive Rating: 103.4 (24th)

Points allowed: 98.3

Defensive Rating: 103.5 (8th)

Pace: 94.0 (9th)

Likely Starters

G Brandon Jennings

G Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

F Carlos Delfino

F Ersan Ilyasova

C Andrew Bogut

Key matchup: Rondo vs. Jennings. The Bucks offense revolves around its rookie guard, particularly with Michael Redd battling a knee injury. Jennings is far and away Milwaukee’s most dominant player, using almost 30 percent of the team’s possessions. The key for Rondo will be to try to keep Jennings in front of him and to challenge his 3-point shot on high pick and rolls. Jennings is in a shooting slump, but he is still shooting 3-pointers at a rate of almost 45 percent.

Milwaukee in a paragraph: Despite their recent struggles, the Bucks have been one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference this season. General manager John Hammond began the process of breaking up a team that was over the luxury tax but not producing wins on the court by cutting ties with Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions in the offseason. He will have to wait out the contracts of Redd, Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric before making any more drastic changes, but he hit a home run with the selection of Jennings, and coach Scott Skiles knows how to coach competitive defensive-minded teams.

Boston in a paragraph: The Celtics are rolling, but Marquis Daniels is expected to miss time with a wrist injury. That could allow for Tony Allen to make his season debut tonight. If there is a concern for the Celtics it has been their play at home, where they are 7-3 and have been plagued by slow starts in recent games.

What to watch for: This is the Celtics’ only home game before they head out on a three-game road swing. The only piece of unfinished business for them is to earn a convincing win at home. A reeling Bucks team should provide that opportunity.

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Sounds of the game… Nuggets 94, Celtics 85 11.15.08 at 2:49 pm ET
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Call it fatigue. Call it sluggishness, or being outplayed or a combination all three. But the Denver Nuggets showed the Celtics Friday night that they are human on their home court. They hadn’t lost at home in the regular season since last March 26 to Philadelphia, a string of 11 straight wins on the parquet. But that changed when the Nuggets closed the game with a 10-1 run. Now the focus is on the Bucks in Milwaukee, where the Celtics are right now, trying to make sure one bad night doesn’t turn into two.

Denver coach George Karl said his team played with the eye of the tiger.

Chauncey Billups said the Nuggets didn’t panic when the Celtics when they made their runs or made big plays like when Kevin Garnett slammed one home to tie the game at 82-82 with three minutes left.

Ray Allen, who scored 18 of his game-high 26 in the first quarter, said the Green has to do a better job with the little details to make sure losses like Friday don’t happen again.

Kevin Garnett said the Celtics were just a step slow.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers really doesn’t want to use fatigue as an excuse.

Rivers said falling behind finally burned Celtics.

Read More: Bucks, Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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