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First quarter: Celtics-Bobcats 03.03.10 at 8:10 pm ET
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The Celtics came into this game with an obvious objective: Begin repairing their image at home. Through 27 games at the Garden, the Celtics have a 16-11 record. The only NBA team in playoff contention with a worse mark is the Miami Heat.

Poor starts have been to blame for the Celtics struggles at home and the starters got it half right against the Bobcats, clicking offensively but allowing the Bobcats to get what they wanted on the other end. Fortunately, the second unit flipped the script and led the Celtics to a 31-21 lead.

Nate Robinson made a pair of 3-pointers, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the quarter.

Kendrick Perkins returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with the flu and scored five points early. Ray Allen picked up two fouls and played only six minutes.

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Preview: Celtics-Bobcats at 10:14 am ET
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It has been said that athletic frontcourts are the Celtics Achilles heel. The Hawks, as everyone knows, swept the Celtics this season, and last week the Cavaliers unleashed the hounds once Shaquille O’Neal left the game. Those teams have proven to be too quick on the dribble and on the boards for the Celtics aging frontcourt to handle.

Of the teams alive in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, only one really fits that description: the Bobcats. Unlike the Hawks and the Cavs, however, Charlotte’s athletic frontcourt is better suited for defense than for offense. The Bobcats are one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA. They don’t shoot well, they’re not particularly strong on the offensive glass and they turn it over as much as the Celtics.

They are also thin in the backcourt and injured up front with three centers on the shelf for tonight’s game. But they are dangerous, more so now with the addition of Tyrus Thomas the one-time Chicago Bull headache. The Cats are dangerous because they slow the game down to a crawl and play terrific half-court defense, a staple of Larry Brown-coached teams.

If the Celtics were to meet the Bobcats in the playoffs (and if Charlotte was healthy) it could be the proverbial bad matchup for the C’s. Tonight’s game should give something of an indication if that indeed would be the case.

BOBCATS (28-30, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 94.9

Points Allowed: 94.3

Differential: +.6 (15th)

Offensive Efficiency: 103.9 (24th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.2 (5th)

Pace: 90.6 (27th)

Likely Starters: Ray Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Theo Ratliff

Injuries: Tyson Chandler (Knee), DeSagana Diop (Knee), Nazr Mohammed (Back, questionable)

CELTICS (37-21, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.6

Points Allowed: 94.3

Differential: +4.3 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.8 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.2 (2nd)

Pace: 91.7 (21st)

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

Injuries: Perkins (Flu, questionable) Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast break: Celtics-Pistons 03.02.10 at 10:15 pm ET
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The Celtics don’t need to care about style point right now, which is good because there weren’t many to be had Tuesday night in Detroit. For three quarters they couldn’t shake the Pistons, who at 21-39 are the definition of lackluster. That the Celtics came away with a 105-100 victory is really the only thing that matters.

The big picture is still cloudy for this team, and it will take much better efforts than this to compete with elite teams in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps a win like this will finally convince the Celtics that this is their reality now. Perhaps not. We’ll simply have to wait and see if they are ready to move beyond their professed “boredom” and get to work.

In the meantime they will surely take a win, no matter how unsightly or ugly it was. If they are looking for positive signs, their bench was the difference-maker, particularly Nate Robinson, who came to the rescue in the fourth quarter. Rajon Rondo, who had one of the worst 15-point, 11-assist games you will ever see, managed to make all four of his free throws in the final minute.

But the most important thing was the victory. Now they have to do it again Wednesday night in Boston.

Turning Point: Trailing by three points at the start of the fourth quarter, the Celtics bench took over. Up to that point there had not been much of note for the second unit. But then Nate Robinson got hot and Glen Davis got active. The bench went on 17-6 run that gave the Celtics an 89-81 lead.

Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace didn’t score the most points and he didn’t grab the most rebounds. He didn’t dominate in the paint and he didn’t bury a bunch of 3-pointers. He did, however, play the kind of defense the Celtics expect from him and he did take good shots within the rhythm of the offense. Wallace also had a big block on Jonas Jerkebo down the stretch, making his second game in Detroit a little more memorable than the first.

* Robinson played the majority of the fourth quarter and scored 14 points in just 15 minutes of action. He energized the Celtics offensively.

* Ray Allen scored 18 points and he did most of his damage in the second half when the Celtics needed it the most. He also had a bizarre turnover when he simply slipped and lost the ball out of bounds.

* Detroit shot 3-for-20 from 3-point range, while the C’s went 9-for-18.

* Paul Pierce returned to the lineup after missing the last three games games. Pierce drained a 3-pointer and didn’t appear to favor his injured thumb. He finished with nine points, one rebound and one assist in 29 minutes.

* The news wasn’t so good on Kendrick Perkins who sat out the game with the flu. This is the first game that Perkins has missed all season. With Perkins out, Shelden Williams became the second big man off the bench in Doc Rivers’ rotation. He has played just seven minutes since Jan. 14.

* Austin Daye, the son of former Celtic Darren Daye, had a big half with nine points and four rebounds for Detroit.

* Kevin Garnett picked up a technical foul late in the half.

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Third quarter: Celtics-Pistons at 9:34 pm ET
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After three quarters, the Piston lead 75-72 and this game looks like it’s going to go down to the wire. The Celtics led by as many as eight points, but they haven’t been able to put Detroit away.

The Celtics have had balanced scoring at least. All five starters have at least seven points. Ray Allen leads them with 12 points, while Rajon Rondo has 11 points and 11 assists.

Rookie Jonas Jerkebo has been a major problem for the Celtics tonight. He has 14 points and six rebounds and has been all over the floor offensively and defensively. Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince rolled his ankle on teammate Ben Gordon’s foot late in the quarter.

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Halftime: Celtics-Pistons at 8:52 pm ET
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After 24 minutes at the Palace the Celtics once again find themselves with work to do against a sub. 500 team. Still, the Celtics will take their 55-52 lead, no matter how poorly they played.

Detroit still can’t find the range from long distance (0-for-10), but the Pistons have done their work inside, particularly Jason Maxiell who has four of their nine offensive rebounds.

Rajon Rondo has 11 points and six assists, but he also has four turnovers, and did not play well until the final minutes of the half. The one bright spot for the Celtics was the play of Shelden Williams who saw his first significant action in over a month and responded with four points and two rebounds in eight minutes.

Austin Daye, the son of former Celtic Darren Daye, had a big half with nine points and four rebounds for Detroit.

Kevin Garnett picked up a technical foul late in the half.

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First quarter: Celtics-Pistons at 8:14 pm ET
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It wasn’t a thing of beauty but the Celtics and Pistons played to a 25-25 tie after one quarter. The Celtics shot just 39 percent, but went 3-for-5 from 3-point range. The Pistons weren’t much better missing all five of their 3-point attempts and turning the ball over five times.

Paul Pierce returned to the lineup after missing the last three games games. Pierce drained a 3-pointer and didn’t appear to favor his injured thumb. The news wasn’t so good on Kendrick Perkins who sat out the game with the flu. This is the first game that Perkins has missed all season.

With Perkins out, Shelden Williams became the second big man off the bench in Doc Rivers’ rotation. He has played just seven minutes since Jan. 14.

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Doc: ‘You’ve got to get your hands dirty’ 03.01.10 at 4:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Following a day off Sunday to reflect on a stunningly bad performance in a 104-96 loss to the hapless Nets, Doc Rivers played the part of coach/philosopher/team psychologist on Monday at Celtics practice as his team prepared for Detroit on the road Tuesday night.

“I would like it not to but this is basketball and these are teams,” Rivers said of a possible wake-up call courtesy the six-win Nets. “It happens. We’re not used to it happening here but it happens. I’m not going to overreact to it. I can tell you that. But we just need work on it and we need to see it. Sometimes you can see it on film, sometimes you can see it on the floor and sometimes you’ve got to get your butt whipped a couple of times before you realize it’s a problem. I’m hoping all of those are going to help us.”

The Celtics are 36-21, a half-game behind third-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference. But a closer check of the standings reveals that only the Cavaliers appear clearly out of reach. The Celtics have just one more loss than second seed Orlando in the East and Denver in the West. Dallas, Boston, Utah and Atlanta all have 21 losses.

[Click here to listen to Doc Rivers break down what's been bothering him and his team.]

“We’re a game behind Denver, three or four behind the Lakers. As bad as we ‘so called’ have played, we’re still in the thick of things, and that’s what you want at this time because we haven’t played well. In some ways, maybe we’re lucky in that way that other teams have faltered  in other places as well. But we have a lot of games to get it right and we’re going to have to do that.”

But Rivers did isolate one area that needs to improve. The Celtics are just 16-11 at home. Of the 13 teams in the NBA with more losses on their home court, only No. 8 Portland in the West would be a playoff team.

“I don’t know why. Blame the wives.” Rivers joked before offering perspective. “It is troubling. Of all the things to me, even with the rebounding and everything, is how we have performed at home. If you ask me, the one thing that has bothered me more than anything is that because I don’t care what your injuries are, whatever, you should win at home. On the road, it becomes difficult. At home, you should win those games. And we haven’t.”

So, in short, the Celtics coach has the mother of all motivational jobs ahead of him, with a talented team that is clearly underachieving right now.

“It’s a great challenge,” he said. “Obviously, you would love it to be easy but if you want to do something special, I don’t think it’s ever going to be easy. You’ve got to get your hands dirty. You have to dive into it and see what you can come out with. It’s a good challenge. It really is.”

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