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Halftime: Celtics-Jazz 03.22.10 at 10:16 pm ET
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The Celtics won the first two games on their road trip, but after one half in Utah it’s clear that they want the three-game sweep. Glen Davis scored 13 points off the bench and made all seven of his free throws, while Nate Robinson added eight points on just three shots and the Celtics have a 54-49 lead.

The Celtics bench has outscored Utah’s 26-11. Ray Allen scored 10 points and Paul Pierce, who was named the NBA’s Player of the Week, added nine points and four rebounds. It hasn’t been pretty. The two teams have combined for 32 free throws 23 turnovers and 21 fouls.

Foul trouble affected both teams early as Kendrick Perkins and Carlos Boozer each got two in the first quarter. Boozer and Paul Millsap each have three fouls for the Jazz, while Rajon Rondo got his third right before the half.

With Millsap and Boozer out, the Celtics are enjoying a 21-11 edge on the boards. Utah has just one offensive rebound and the Celtics have six.

It’s also been a half of runs. The Celtics opened up a 13-6 lead before Utah came back and scored eight straight. The C’s then ran off their own 8-0 run to take control of the game. Late in the first half, an Allen 3-pointer gave them a 54-42 lead, but the Jazz sliced it to five with a 7-0 run. C.J. Miles and Deron Williams have kept Utah in the game with 13 points apiece.

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Pierce named NBA Player of the Week at 2:44 pm ET
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The NBA issued the following release on the NBA Players of the Week:

The Boston Celtics‘€™ Paul Pierce and the Los Angeles Lakers‘€™ Pau Gasol today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played March 15-21.

Pierce led Boston to a 4-0 week, with wins over Detroit, New York, Houston and Dallas. Pierce averaged 24.8 points ‘€“ 6.7 points above than his season average (18.1 ppg) ‘€“ on .630 shooting in 26.4 minutes. Pierce also added 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals. On March 20, Pierce scored 29 points and added five assists, three rebounds and two steals in the Celtics’€™ 102-93 win at Dallas.

Gasol averaged 24.8 points on .685 shooting (third in the NBA), 11.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.0 block, leading the Lakers to a 4-0 week with wins over Golden State, Sacramento, Minnesota and Washington. Gasol recorded three point-rebounds double-doubles and on March 16, tallied 28 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in the Lakers’€™ 106-99 win at Sacramento.

Here is a recap of the week for Pierce and Gasol:

Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
March 15 vs. Detroit: Posted 15 points, three assists and two steals in a 119-93 win over the Pistons.
March 17 vs. New York: Tallied 29 points and six rebounds in a 109-97 win over the Knicks.
March 19 @ Houston: Totaled 26 points, five rebounds and two steals in a 94-87 win over the Rockets.
March 20 @ Dallas: Collected 29 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in a 102-93 win over the Mavericks.

Paul Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
March 15 @ Golden State: Posted 26 points, nine rebounds and four assists in a 124-121 win over the Warriors.
March 16 @ Sacramento: Totaled 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in a 106-99 win over the Kings.
March 19 vs. Minnesota: Collected 17 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in a 104-96 win over the Timberwolves.
March 21 vs. Washington: Tallied 28 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in a 99-92 win over the Wizards.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’€™s Jamal Crawford and Al Horford, Cleveland’€™s LeBron James, Houston’€™s Aaron Brooks, Indiana’€™s Danny Granger, Milwaukee’€™s Brandon Jennings and Phoenix’€™s Amar’€™e Stoudemire.

Read More: Celtics, Pa Gasol, Paul Pierce,
Preview: Celtics-Jazz at 12:09 pm ET
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How many times have you written off the Celtics this season? The official count varies, but there have been at least five times when people have begun writing their obituary.

Jan. 20: After losing to a dreadful Detroit team on the road, the banged-up Celtics began to look old and possibly disinterested.

Jan. 31: Capping off three straight heartbreaking defeats against the best teams in the NBA, the Celtics collapsed in the fourth quarter against the Lakers.

Feb. 10: The All-Star break can’t come soon enough as the Celts sleepwalk through a game with New Orleans.

Feb. 27: New Jersey.

March 14: One game removed from getting crushed by Memphis at home, the Celtics can’t keep up with the Cavaliers.

Here they are, back from the dead again, winners of four straight and a Texas sweep. The Celtics defy easy characterization, or maybe they just enjoy making things hard on themselves. Either way, no mater how things turn out in the final month of the regular season, we really will have no idea how they are going to perform once the playoffs start.

They have shown just enough life to encourage optimism among the constant pessimism of the last half of the season, but we really won’t know just how good this team really is until May at the earliest.

CELTICS (45-24, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.8

Points Allowed: 94.1

Differential: +4.7 (8th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.3 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.2 (1st)

Pace: 91.7 (21st)

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

Injuries: None.

JAZZ (45-25, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 103.6

Points Allowed: 98.0

Differential: 5.6 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 110.8 (6th)

Defensive Efficiency: 104.8 (10th)

Pace: 93.2 (12th)

Likely Starters: Deron Williams, Wes Matthews, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur (Flu, Questionable)

Injuries: Andrei Kirilenko (Strained calf, Doubtful) Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Celtics-Mavericks 03.20.10 at 10:33 pm ET
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The last time the Celtics played the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki scored 37 points and had Rasheed Wallace vowing “retribution.” For three quarters the Celtics held Nowitzki in check, but in the final 12 minutes the most under-appreciated superstar in the NBA began to get rolling.

Nowitzki shot the Mavs back into the game — and a seven-point fourth quarter lead — and the Celtics knew that if they were going to steal another one on the road, they would have to stop him to do it.

Kevin Garnett drew the assignment down the stretch, but he was not alone. Wherever Nowitzki went, help followed. The Celtics allowed open jump shots to whomever wanted one, but wouldn’t let Nowitzki breathe. While he finished with 28 points, the Celtics held him to just one field goal in the final five minutes.

The Celtics did escape with a 102-93 win in Dallas (recap) against a Mavs team that had been 14-2 since acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. In doing so they not only completed the sweep of the back-to-back, they also capped off a sweep of the Texas triangle after beating Houston Friday night and San Antonio earlier in the year.

Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined for 70 points on 26-for-45 shooting, 16 rebounds and 14 assists. It was the Celtics’ fourth straight win and their fifth in the last six games. It was also their most significant win since beating the Lakers and Portland back-to-back in February.

Retribution? Maybe not, but it was certainly a satisfying win for the Celtics.

Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting, but it was his last points that were the most important. With the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, Pierce drained a 3-pointer from the top of they key. He then came up with a steal on the other end and found Rajon Rondo for an easy layup and a 99-93 lead. It was Pierce’s third straight game where he has scored more than 20 points.

Turning Point: After J.J. Barea sank a 3-pointer to put Dallas ahead, 82-75, the Celtics looked like they might be in trouble. But Ray Allen came back and hit a 20-footer and then a long 3-pointer to get the C’s back within two, 84-82. The Mavs are a notorious second-half team and looked like they were about to make one of their patented fourth-quarter runs before Allen’s big shots.

* The C’s opened up a 60-52 lead with a 12-5 run to start the second half, but the Mavericks rallied, highlighted by an emphatic dunk by Caron Butler on Kendrick Perkins.

* Both teams got off to a slow start as the Celtics missed their first five shots and the Mavs missed five of their first six. But things picked up quickly after that and the Celtics took a 30-24 lead after one quarter.

* Jason Terry scored 14 points in the first half. The Mavericks bench completely outplayed the Celtics reserves.

* The teams combined for 26 free throws in the first half.

* Garnett had a strange stat line in the first half when he had eight rebounds and five steals to go with just two points. Garnett missed all four shots that he took, but he appeared to be moving well.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Mavericks,
Halftime: Celtics-Mavs at 9:09 pm ET
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At the half, the Celtics have a 48-47 lead in Dallas.

Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 12 points, while Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen each have eight.In the strangest stat line from the first half, Kevin Garnett is 0-for-4 from the floor, but has seven rebound and five steals.

Both teams got off to a slow start as the Celtics missed their first five shots and the Mavs missed five of their first six. But things picked up quickly after that and the Celtics took a 30-24 lead after one quarter.

Pierce scored 10 points in the quarter, but the biggest difference was at the free throw line where the Celtics made 12-of-13 shots and were plus-eight at the line compared to Dallas. The Mavs got up 23 shots in the first quarter, but shot only 43 percent.

Read More: Celtics, Mavericks,
Preview: Celtics-Rockets 03.19.10 at 9:26 am ET
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With three games in four days, all on the road, against teams from the Western Conference, the Celtics once again have a stretch of games that have been deemed “important.” Most people have concluded by now that the regular season means nothing to the Celtics and therefore will tell us nothing about how good they actually are.

Maybe so, but the players seem to believe that this trip would be an interesting barometer. They have won seven of their last 10, with most of that coming against teams with losing records. Their next eight games are all against teams from the Western Conference and seven of them have winning records.

With a month to go in the regular season, this is the beginning of the stretch run and if the Celtics were ever going to “turn it on” after tuning out for most of the last two months, now would be a good time.

CELTICS (43-24, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.9

Points Allowed: 94.3

Differential: +4.6 (8th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (15th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.3 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

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

Injuries: None.

ROCKETS (35-31, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.9

Points Allowed: 101.5

Differential: .4 (16th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.3 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 107.0 (15th)

Pace: 93.7 (8th)

Likely Starters: Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Trevor Ariza, Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola

Injuries: Yao Ming (Foot surgery) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Preview, Rockets,
Rondo getting the point of Paul and KG 03.17.10 at 11:16 pm ET
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No one – not even Doc Rivers – needs to remind Rajon Rondo just how important it is to get Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett playing at their peak come April.

Rondo knows if Pierce and Garnett play like they did on Wednesday, whether it’s the lowly Knicks or the mighty Cavs, the Celtics become a whole different beast.

Even with two early fouls, Pierce finished with 29 points and Garnett added 22. Most impressive were the open looks Rondo was getting the pair – one major reason Pierce made 11 of his 17 shots and Garnett 9-of-his-11.

‘€œI do [take pride in setting up],” Rondo said. “You know you can’t leave out Ray [Allen]. He’€™s a jump shooter, so you got to get them looks early. Paul and Kevin create their shots anytime on the court. Get them looks and transitions I think is key. Get them easy looks an going to the free throw lines, and aggressive. I think that both of those guys, talking to Paul and Kevin early on in the game.’€

After the game, Rivers said it was Rondo who stepped up his scoring when he could, getting to the basket and taking more open shots.

That’s all changed now and Rondo said he is more than happy to revert to just running the show and getting the team’s scorers involved.

‘€œWhen I feel like I need to score,” Rondo explained, “I try and do it but otherwise, you know we are rolling. Take shots that’€™s fine with me, as long as we win. Getting assists better for me than scoring.

‘€œFirst and for most. Everybody is back by now, and guys are playing well. Paul played well tonight. You we are winning so be it, regardless of the outcome of how many shots I take, as long as we win.’€

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Knicks, NBA
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