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Fast Break: Celtics vs. Lakers 02.19.10 at 1:26 am ET
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Danny Ainge made his trade deadline move and, all things considered, it was a relatively minor one. He effectively traded Eddie House for Nate Robinson and while it will give the second unit a different look, it doesn’t do a lot to alter the makeup of this team.

The Celtics hopes will still rise and fall primarily upon the health and effectiveness of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. To that end Allen looked positively rejuvenated and Garnett looked like the 2007 version of himself in an emotional 87-86 victory over the Lakers Thursday night in Los Angeles.

The Big Three will get at least one more chance to see if they can win a championship together. That’s what they have been asking for the last few weeks and now that the final decision has been made there can be no more excuses. It’s on them to turn it around in the final 30 games and through the playoffs.

Turning Point: For three quarters the Celtics controlled the matchup, but when the Lakers made their inevitable run to start the fourth quarter and turned a nine-point deficit into a four-point lead, the Celtics had a decision to make. They could retreat into a shell, as they have done so often the last few weeks, or they could stand and fight. They chose to fight.

Player of the Game: Ray Allen. It’s dangerous to read too much into a player’s one-game performance but Allen resembled the dangerous outside shooter that he’s been known for being throughout his career. He made his first four shots and finished with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Was he more relaxed after the trade deadline passed? Who knows for sure, but if this is the Allen the Celtics can get night in and night out for the rest of the season, it will go a long way toward making them a serious contender again.

* The game was physical throughout with several big dunks and a few minor staredowns. Ron Artest and Pierce continued their rivalry, Garnett and Lamar Odom exchanged words after a jump ball and Kendrick Perkins and Andrew Bynum battled under the glass.

* The officials let the two teams play for the most and both sides wanted calls in the final seconds of the game. Doc Rivers could be seen asking the refs, “That wasn’t a foul?” after Pierce drove to the basket. On the other end, the Lakers though Allen fouled Derek Fisher’s last-second shot.

* Rasheed Wallace missed nine of his first 10 shots and picked up a technical foul when he tangled with Pau Gasol at midcourt. After several solid outings, it was not a good night for Wallace.

* Kobe Bryant didn’t play for the Lakers. He is battling an assortment of injuries but it’s his ankle that seems to be giving him the most trouble.

* Robinson and Marcus Landry, the other player acquired from the Knicks in exchange for House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker did not play. The Celtics had only 11 players in uniform and lost Tony Allen with an ankle injury, but Doc Rivers stayed with a tight rotation throughout.

* All five started scored in double figures.

* Once again Rondo was on the floor for the final offensive possession. The play involved Pierce and Garnett in a high pick and roll, but without House, expect to see more of that.

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Halftime wrap: Celtics vs. Lakers 02.18.10 at 11:55 pm ET
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At the half, the Celtics have a 53-48 lead. The Lakers grabbed an slim advantage early in the second quarter, but the Celtics were able to build an 11-point lead capped by a thunderous Ray Allen dunk on Shannon Brown. LA came right back, however, led by Lamar Odom who had a big dunk of his own on Kendrick Perkins. Ron Artest leads the Lakers with 12 points.

Both teams will deal with foul trouble in the second half. Allen has three fouls as does LA’s Andrew Bynum.

Tony Allen and Glen Davis gave the Celtics energy, if uneven, minutes off the bench. Both players got on the glass and attacked the basket, but both had trouble finishing. Still, by the time the starters returned to the floor they had given them a 41-34 lead.

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First quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Lakers at 11:15 pm ET
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The Celtics started quickly with an 11-2 run to open the game, but the Lakers closed the gap in the final minute, leaving the Celtics with a 29-27 lead after one. Rajon Rondo scored eight points and had two assists, while Ray Allen made all four of his shots to finish the quarter with nine points.

The Lakers are playing without Kobe Bryant and repeatedly tried to establish themselves in the post with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who each scored points.

Newest Celtics Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry are not with the team.

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Poll: Do you like the Nate Robinson trade? at 5:38 pm ET
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Do you think trading for Nate Robinson was a good move for the Celtics?

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Fast Break: Celtics vs. Kings 02.17.10 at 12:40 am ET
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With trade rumors swirling around a possible acquisition of Nate Robinson, the Celtics found themselves locked in an offensive struggle against one of the fastest-paced teams in the league. That might have been OK to play the Sacramento Kings style earlier in the season, but the Celtics can’t afford to mess around with sub-.500 teams anymore.

Enter the bench. The very same bench that Danny Ainge seems determined to try to tweak between now and the trade deadline Thursday.

Playing one of their most inspired quarters, the second unit took an 11-point lead behind the hot shooting of Eddie House and the interior defense of Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. The Celtics rode that effort, and survived a shaky fourth quarter, en route to a 95-92 win over the Kings Tuesday night.

Wallace, Davis, House and Marquis Daniels all played major roles in the victory and helped the Celtics overcome a lackluster performance from the starting five. It’s only one game, of course, but if they had played that well for the majority of the season (and been healthy enough to try) Ainge wouldn’t be attempting to perform a makeover at the deadline.

Turning Point: Despite the bench’s efforts, the Celtics still had to work for it. Paul Pierce, who had a sub-par shooting game otherwise, drilled a 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining that put the Celtics ahead, 89-87. The Kings helped out mightily by missing four free throws down the stretch.

Player of the Game: Rasheed Wallace. The backup big man has maintained throughout the season that he, and the Celtics, will get things right when it counts. Tuesday night was a step in the right direction. Wallace finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks, but it was his play down low that was so effective. Wallace dominated on the block in the first half and was also an active presence defensively. He shifted back outside in the second half, but he served a reminder that once again he is the Celtics best post-up player. When he wants to be.

* The starters were shredded defensively in the first quarter as the Kings shot 55 percent and made 5-of-8 from 3-point range. A balanced scoring effort and a lack of turnovers helped the Celtics match the Kings, 30-30.

* Ray Allen and Paul Pierce both went 5-for-15. Rajon Rondo also struggled, going 1-for-6.

* Kevin Garnett had nine rebounds through the first three quarters and almost recorded his first double-digit rebounding game since Dec. 18 against the Sixers, but he couldn’t get over the hump.

* Eddie House made four 3-pointers, something he hasn’t been able to do since a Dec. 30 blowout loss to the Suns.

* Glen Davis had five offensive rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.

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Halftime wrap: Celtics vs. Kings 02.16.10 at 11:11 pm ET
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After a sloppy first quarter defensively, the Celtics rode their bench to a 57-52 halftime lead over the Kings. Led by Rasheed Wallace’s 10 points, and inspired defensive play, the Celtics took control midway through the quarter and led by as many as 11 points.

Wallace was hardly the only bench contributor. Eddie House knocked down three 3-pointers, Glen Davis had six points and six rebounds and Marquis Daniels did his usual all-around number with seven points, three rebounds and a steal.

The second unit’s production was critical because Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo shot a combined 4-for-15. Despite that, there were other positive signs for the Celtics offensively. They only turned the ball over five times and made half of their 12 3-point attempts.

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Preview: Celtics vs. Kings at 10:12 am ET
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Taking a much-needed break from the trade deadline rumors the Celtics return to the court Tuesday night to play the Kings… who happen to employ one of the few names actually linked to a Ray Allen trade; Kevin Martin. Obviously all eyes will be on the two shooting guards this evening, if for no other reason than idle curiosity.

Even if Danny Ainge was somehow able to swing major trade (which doesn’t seem likely) the Celtics have problems that only they can fix. They don’t rebound very well. They turn the ball over too much and they don’t shoot as well from 3-point range as they have in the past.

All those things are symptoms of other things. Their defense has allowed too much dribble penetration, which has led to defensive breakdowns and clear alleys for opponents to hit the glass. The offense has gone stagnant too often, leading to bad passes and forced shots.

These have in turn been referred to as “issues” and “agendas,” which is way more exciting and intriguing then simply noting that they are not playing well. The question, then, for the Celtics in the final 32 games is: Are their breakdowns mental or are they physical? They continue to insist that they are mental and that they can fix their problems. Now they have to prove it.

CELTICS (32-18, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.0 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)

Pace: 91.5 (23rd)

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

Injuries: None.

KINGS (18-34, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.0

Points Allowed: 105.8

Differential: -3.8 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (17th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.5 (26th)

Pace: 94.6 (6th)

Likely Starters: Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Donte Greene, Omri Casspi, Spencer Hawes

Injuries: Francisco Garcia (Wrist) Read the rest of this entry »

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