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Fast Break: Down and out in Toronto 11.21.10 at 3:49 pm ET
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There were bad signs all around for the Celtics when they went to Toronto to play the Raptors. First, it was an afternoon game and the C’s have had well-documented issues playing in the daylight hours. Second, and most importantly, Rajon Rondo was held out of the game (and is questionable for Monday’s game with the Hawks) because of a strained left hamstring.

Nate Robinson played well in his absence, but the Celtics struggled to find any kind of consistency on offense and that’s Rondo’s department. The Celtics actually had a lead late in the game, but Ray Allen lost control of the ball and Amir Johnson made two free throws with 2.7 seconds left to secure the 102-101 victory for the Raptors.

The Celtics had won eight straight against Toronto and were 11-1 against them since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Interior defense: Where did it go? The Celtics are one of the best teams in the league at defending the paint, but without a big-time shot blocker they are dependent on stopping dribble penetration and playing their usual strong help-side defense. Glen Davis ability to take charges is a huge benefit as well. None of that was on display against the Raptors.

Foul trouble: Shaquille O’Neal picked up his third foul after only eight minutes. Davis had three before halftime and Semih Erden picked up four first-half fouls. In the third quarter, Paul Pierce and Garnett also picked up their fourth fouls. The Raptors went on an 11-1 run against the Celtics makeshift lineup.

Andrea Bargnani happened: The former No. 1 pick has had a much-maligned career with the Raptors, but he showed up big against the Celtics. Always a threat from long range, Bargnani put the ball on the floor and attacked the Celtics defense. He not only scored 29 points, he also got to the free throw line 13 times and put the entire Celtics frontcourt in foul trouble.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Nate Robinson: With Rondo out, Doc Rivers elected to start Robinson instead of Delonte West at the point. Robinson has struggled at times this season, but he was reborn playing with the starters. Robinson started hot and stayed that way. He scored 16 points in the first quarter and did an effective job of pushing the pace. The Celtics play differently with Robinson in the lineup, but he did the job.

KG in the post: The Celtics want Garnett to be more aggressive with his offense, which is nothing new. He’s one of the best perimeter shooting big men in the game and while that is a great skill, he sometimes settles for the 20-footer too much. Against the Raptors, who have no inside presence, Garnett went to the post-up game and was successful in the second quarter. They did it again in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were making their run.

Defense in the fourth: The Celtics played almost no defense in the first half, allowing the Raptors to shoot 55 percent and drive to the basket at will. They began to tighten up in the third quarter and then really put the hammer down in the fourth. They did the same thing Friday night, which is not a great omen. They consistency has just not been there.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Raptors,
Joe Lacob, who had stake in Celtics, completes Warriors Purchase 11.12.10 at 2:11 pm ET
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In 2006, Joe Lacob, joined the Celtics ownership group. On Thursday, Lacob and his business partner Peter Guber completed their purchase of the Golden State Warriors for a reported $450 million. The league announced the completion of the sale this afternoon.

Lacob did a Q+A with the San Francisco Chronicle and talked about his Celtics experiences, including wearing a Beat LA t-shirt to Staples Center during the 2008 finals. Marcus Thompson II has more details on the sale and what it means for the Warriors.

Read More: Celtics, Joe Lacob, Warriors,
Fast Break: Celtics beat the Heat 11.11.10 at 11:15 pm ET
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This was a game the Celtics were supposed to lose. Charles Barkley suggested on the TNT pregame show that the Heat would win in a blowout and, honestly, the Chuckster’s call made a lot of sense. This was a statement game for the Heat after losing to Utah and absorbing 48 hours of unrelenting criticism. This was the game that Chris Bosh either stood up for himself or became further emasculated.

The Celtics? Regular season games don’t mean anything to them. They’re too old, experienced and savvy for that kind of noise.

Um, no.

The Celtics didn’t just beat the Heat Thursday night, 112-107, they embarrassed them. While Ray Allen was knocking down 3’s at a staggering rate, Pat Riley could be seen jotting down notes in red ink like a professor grading papers. When Rajon Rondo drove to the basket, Bosh sat and watched while Rondo threw down a monster slam.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Veteran’s presence: In the first half, Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett shot a combined 16-for-21 for the Celtics. Their Miami counterparts — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh — were 9-for-22. Wade was an unsightly 0-for-6. The Celtics veterans came to play and while they didn’t win all of their individual matchups (James was spectacular) they got the better of two of them handily and Pierce gave James all he wanted.

Ray-Ray for the 3: There are so many things the Celtics did right in this game, that’s it’s hard to focus on a few specific things, but if Allen is making 7-of-9 3-pointers, they are practically impossible to beat.

Ball movement: And how did Allen get so open, so often? Passing. The Celtics are the most unselfish team in the league in ways that go way beyond Rondo’s assists. They simply trust each other and that was a huge difference in this game.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Center concerns: Jermaine O’Neal told reporters in Miami that he was going to seek a second opinion on his injured left knee. That’s not good news at all for the Celtics, because despite O’Neal’s slow start, the Celtics need big bodies until Kendrick Perkins returns. Shaquille O’Neal played just 19 minutes and that’s the most the Celtics can expect from him right now. They may need another big and they may need one soon.

Free throw shooting: Here’s your fun NBA conspiracy fact of the night. The Celtics took 25 free throws. LeBron had 22 all by himself. The good news is the Celtics played through the discrepancy. The bad news is they made just 68 percent from the line.

Rather than try to come up with a third thing, let’s all enjoy the Rondo dunk over Bosh, courtesy of the incomparable Jose3030

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Heat,
Preview: Celtics at Mavericks 11.08.10 at 10:11 am ET
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In 2006, the Dallas Mavericks reached the NBA finals. In 2007, they won 67 games and had the league’s MVP in Dirk Nowitzki. Those two seasons were the best in the 30-year history of the franchise and both ended in massive disappointment. The Mavs lost the finals despite winning the first two games of the series and they lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors the following season in what still ranks as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.

Since then the Mavericks have been good, winning over 50 games each season, but never great. Their best player is 32, their point guard is 37 and six of their eight rotation players are over 30.

They’ll be good again this year. Nowitzki and Jason Kidd can still play and Jason Terry can still score, but their success ultimately depends on whether the rest of the supporting cast can regain some of its past glory.

In the past year-plus, the Mavs have acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. All four have seen better days, but how much they have left holds the key to the Mavs season because their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, had a pin inserted into his broken foot and is out indefinitely.

The Mavericks are still formidable and as the second night of yet another back-to-back, they pose a serious challenge for the Celtics. The C’s have won five straight, including an impressive win over the Thunder Sunday night. This is also their fifth game in seven nights before they get a two-day break and a return date with the Heat on Thursday.

CELTICS (6-1)

OFFENSIVE RATING: 105.4 (NBA rank: 17th)

DEFENSIVE RATING: 98.8 (3rd)

PACE: 91.6 (24th)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injuries: Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out), Avery Bradley (Ankle, out), Shaquille O’Neal (Shin, questionable)

MAVERICKS (3-2)

OFFENSIVE RATING: 104.0 (20th)

DEFENSIVE RATING: 99.7 (5th)

PACE: 93.0 (20th)

Probable Starters: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler

Injuries: Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out)

KEY MATCHUP: Kevin Garnett vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Of all the matchups Garnett has had throughout his career, Nowitzki has to rank alongside Tim Duncan as one of the best. Their styles are a perfect compliment to each other because few big men have ever defended the perimeter better than Garnett. Nowitzki is still a fantastic player, averaging over 25 points and 9 rebounds early in the season.

KEY NUMBER: Celtics field goal percentage

The Mavs have held teams to just 39 percent shooting in their five games. The Celtics rank near the top of the NBA at 49 percent. If they can shoot somewhere in the middle — 45 percent or better — they’ll have a good chance at getting out Dallas with a win.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

In addition to Nowitzki and Garnett, the Rajon Rondo-Jason Kidd matchup is always good theater and there’s no telling how many miles Ray Allen and Jason Terry will run chasing each over all the court. This is another big test for the Celtics who are slowly building momentum. The Heat await on Thursday, but this is a solid bout before the main event.

Read More: Celtics, Mavericks, Preview,
Fast Break: Celtics silence Thunder 11.07.10 at 10:25 pm ET
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After beating Oklahoma City, 92-83 Sunday night, the Celtics have now won five straight games and six of their first seven, but they have not played a better 24 minutes of basketball than they did in the first half. There’s a decent chance the Celtics won’t play a better 24 minutes all season.

Of course NBA games last longer than 24 minutes and the Thunder made their inevitable run late in the third quarter and into the early stages of the fourth, cutting the Celtics lead to six. But this time it was the bench that saved the day as Glen Davis knocked down a couple of shots.

Ray Allen scored 19 points. Paul Pierce had 17 and Rajon Rondo had a tidy 10 points and 10 assists. The bench outscored OKC’s, 33-12. Add it all up and it equals the Celtics best win of the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Turnovers, or more specifically, the lack of turnovers: It’s really a simple equation for the Celtics. When they don’t turn the ball over they are almost impossible to stop because they shoot such a high percentage and almost everyone on the roster is a shooting threat.

The Celtics turned it over only four times in the first and that helped them build a 58-37 lead. They turned it over four times in the third quarter and that’s when OKC made its run. It’s really that simple for the Celtics right now.

The bench: Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels have been constants for the Celtics this season, but they received contributions from everyone in the rotation Sunday. Nate Robinson had nine points including a buzzer-beater 3 to the end the first half and Semih Erden also gave the Celtics quality minutes. They were even better in the second half as they helped stave off a big OKC run.

Ray Allen has his shot back: Did it ever actually leave? A handful of off shooting nights is no reason to panic when it comes to Allen and he showed again Sunday night why he is one of the best in the business.  Allen knocked down 8-of-16 shots and scored 19 points. He also made big shots. He was on the floor with the reserves in the fourth quarter when the Celtics made their last move, proving once again how valuable he is.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The third quarter: It was unlikely the Celtics would be able to keep up their first-half play for 48 minutes, but they started the second half like they were going to try, opening a 71-51 lead. But the Thunder came right back led by Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who scored 14 of his 34 points.

Second half runs are inevitable after a visiting team opens up a big second-half lead, particularly when the opponent is as good as Oklahoma City. What was encouraging for the Celtics was that they held it off and rebuild the lead.

That was really the only thing that didn’t go right. When you beat Oklahoma City by nine points in their building to start a four-game road trip, there’s not much to apologize for.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Kevin Durant, Thunder
Preview: Bucks at Celtics 11.03.10 at 11:54 am ET
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As the 2009-10 season entered the final stretch, the team that none of the Eastern Conference contenders wanted to play in the first round was the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks went 10-4 in February and 11-4 in March, but on the night of April, 3 Andrew Bogut lost control during a dunk and landed with a sickening thud, injuring his right hand, elbow and wrist.

Bogut had surgery on his broken hand a week later and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. Even without their center, who was named third-team All-NBA, the Bucks still took the Hawks to seven games in the first round. The Celtics missed matching up with Milwaukee after Miami beat New Jersey in overtime on the regular season’s final day making the Bogut injury an interesting what-if?

The Celtics didn’t really hit their stride until halfway through the Cavaliers series. Would they have even advanced that far against a healthy Bucks team? Would they be back as currently constituted if they had bombed out in the first round?

Bogut has returned, although he told the Journal-Sentinel that he doesn’t think he’ll be 100 percent this season. In four games this season, Bogut is averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes a night. But Bogut isn’t the only Milwaukee player dealing with an injury. John Salmons sat out the entire preseason with a sprained knee and he has struggled early.

The Bucks were a surprisingly active player last summer, re-signing Salmons and adding Drew Gooden, while trading for Corey Maggette. Those moves suggested that the Bucks are trying to win now, and while they are off to a slow start they have the pieces to be in the East’s next tier of contenders behind Boston, Miami and Orlando.

This is the second night of a back-to-back for the Celtics as they enter a stretch of five games in seven days. They handled their business against Detroit in surprisingly easy fashion Tuesday and will look to build upon that performance tonight.

BUCKS (1-3)

Offensive Rating: 97.0 (28th)

Defensive Rating: 102.3 (8th)

Pace: 90.2 (28th)

Probable Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Drew Gooden, Andrew Bogut

Injuries: Michael Redd (Knee, out), Chris Douglas-Roberts (Eye, out), Darlington Hobson (Hip, out)

CELTICS (3-1)

Offensive Rating: 105.6 (15th)

Defensive Rating: 98.2 (4th)

Pace: 92.1 (25th)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injuries: Shaquille O’Neal (Knee, questionable), Avery Bradley (Ankle, out), Kendrick Perkins (Knee, out), Delonte West (Suspension)

KEY MATCHUP: Brandon Jennings vs. Rajon Rondo

Rondo has decimated the opposition in the first four games, racking up 67 assists, the best four-game start in NBA history. Jennings is among a crop of young, talented point guards trying to make their own name in the league.

While still only 24 years old, Rondo has already ascended to the top tier which also consists of Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The order depends on your perspective. The challenge for Rondo this season is to play at a high level every night because he has gone from the hunter to the hunted.

KEY NUMBER: Field goal percentage

The big problem for the Bucks is that they are shooting 40 percent in their first four games. The only perimeter player who has shot a consistently high percentage has been Carlos Delfino, who 15-for-31 from 3-point range. Jennings, Salmons and Maggette have all struggled with their shooting, although Maggette is 29-for-29 from the free throw line.

The Celtics are off to a solid defensive start in all phases. They will need to continue to clamp down on the Bucks scorers and hit the glass when the shots are off.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

This is a chance for the Celtics to build some early-season momentum. They play the Bulls Friday and then hit the road for games at Oklahoma City, Dallas, Miami and Memphis. The players have talked about reestablishing their home court advantage and the next few games would be a good time to start.

Read More: Bucks, Celtics, Preview, Rajon Rondo
Preview: Celtics at Pistons 11.02.10 at 12:53 am ET
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Strange things happened to the Celtics when they went into Detroit last year.

Desperately needing a win on March 2, the Celtics relied on Nate Robinson in the fourth quarter to pull it out instead of Rajon Rondo. The Fast Break posted that night had Rasheed Wallace as the Player of the Game for his defensive effort.

In a 92-86 loss on Jan. 20, Glen Davis swore at a heckler in a very quiet arena and was later fined $25,000.

What awaits the Celtics this season? From the looks of things a mediocre and slightly disjointed basketball team. Rondey Stuckey remains the point guard, although the Pistons just let the deadline pass to sign him to a extension. Rip Hamilton still starts at the other guard, while the younger and more talented Ben Gordon comes off the bench. Tayshaun Prince is an expiring contract and Tracy McGrady is getting minutes.

Still, the Pistons have some interesting young players such as Austin Daye who is now starting and rookie center Greg Monroe, who has yet to crack the rotation. Detroit is a team in transition, with enough proven veterans to make a run at one of the final playoff spots, but also a team with several young players to develop.

The Pistons have dropped their first three games of the season by a total of 14 points and would love to get a win. For the Celtics, this game has trap written all over it.

It’s the first night of a five games in seven days stretch with a back-to-back coming Wednesday against the Bucks at the Garden. They are not expecting to have Shaquille O’Neal and will likely insert Jermaine O’Neal into the starting center spot with rookie Semih Erden backing him up. They also struggled to close out the Cavaliers in their first road game, another also-ran Central Division team that is somewhere between rebuilding and competing.

CELTICS (2-1)

Offensive Rating: 99.6 (23rd)

Defensive Rating: 98.1 (5th)

Pace: 93.7 (21st)

Probable Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injuries: Avery Bradley (ankle, out), Kendrick Perkins (ankle, out), Delonte West (suspension), Shaquille O’Neal (shin, doubtful)

PISTONS (0-3)

Offensive Rating: 103.3 (15th)

Defensive Rating: 108.3 (21st)

Pace: 94.5 (17th)

Probable Starters: Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, Ben Wallace

Injuries: Will Bynum (hamstring, questionable), Chris Wilcox (hamstring, questionable), Terico White (foot, out), Jonas Jerkobo (Achilles, out).

KEY MATCHUP: Pierce vs. Prince

In 2008-09, Prince held Pierce to 15.5 points over four games. That was the lowest per-game average Pierce had against any team other than the Clippers and Grizzlies.

The year before, Pierce again scored just 15 points a night in three games against the Pistons while shooting just 37 percent. Pierce has the same effect on Prince who shot below 40 percent against him those two seasons. Their matchup cooled a bit last season while Pierce was battling injuries and Prince missed one of the games entirely, but it’s still one of the better small forward battles in the East.

Prince’s length has been a problem for Pierce over the years, but he is off to a quietly efficient start to this season, averaging 19 points a game and making 8-of-12 from 3-point range. The focus has been on Pierce’s rebounding after he grabbed 14 boards against the Knicks, but the Celtics need his shooting more while Ray Allen works out his shot (6-for-18 from 3) and Nate Robinson tries to get untracked (1-for-9).

It’s not exactly the most enjoyable matchup to watch, but it should be a good one.

KEY NUMBER: 3-point shooting

The Pistons have bee defensively-challenged in their first three games, giving up over 100 points in all three games, but they have defended the arc well, allowing only 28 percent shooting.

The Celtics, with the notable exception of Pierce, have struggled from beyond the arc and need to start making some shots to take the pressure off the inside game. Take Pierce out of the equation and they have made just 25 percent of their 3’s (8-for-32).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Detroit is desperate for win and the Celtics would like to get through a road game and get Jermaine O’Neal on track.

These two teams never quite renewed their rivalry for the modern era. They battled throughout the Celtics championship year of 2007-08, but the Pistons fell of quickly once they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson.

Still, these two teams have history and you never know, maybe Sheed will show up.

Read More: Celtics, Pistons, Preview, Rasheed Wallace
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