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Fast break: Celtics-Magic 01.28.10 at 11:06 pm ET
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This is what it takes to win on the road against good teams in the NBA. The Celtics outplayed the Magic for three and a half quarters, but a combination of hot shooting and a one-sided free throw discrepency allowed Orlando to get back into the game.

Down the stretch the Celtics seemed to make all the right plays. Rajon Rondo stole a possession by diving on the floor and outhustling Vince Carter. Rondo then scored on a tough drive to the hoop to give the Celtics a three-point lead with less than a minute to play. They did everything right, and then they lost it in the final 34 seconds.

The Celtics lost 96-94 after Rashard Lewis drove around Kevin Garnett on a busted play, while Rasheed Wallace’s weakside help  was two steps too late. They lost after J.J. Redick made an improbable 3-pointer to tie the game seconds earlier. They lost after the Magic took 40 free throws to the Celtics 18, and they lost after two Eddie House 3-pointers were changed to 2′s.

After all that the Celtics still had a chance to come away with the victory, but Wallace’s 3-pointer at the buzzer sailed wide of the basket. It was a solid, even inspired performance for about 40 of the game’s 48 minutes, but it still wasn’t enough to get the win.

Player of the Game: Rashard Lewis made big shot after big shot for the Magic, but none was bigger than his drive to the hoop in the final seconds. The Celtics actually played good defense on the play as Paul Pierce denied Carter a chance to get the ball, which found its way into Lewis’ hands instead. He drove right around Garnett and laid in the winning points.

Turning Point: Stan Van Gundy made the biggest coaching move of the night, literally, when he brought Marcin Gortat into the game with Dwight Howard and played Lewis at the 3-spot. The Magic were down by double digits when Van Gundy went to the super-sized lineup, but took the lead late in the fourth quarter.

* Kendrick Perkins spent the majority of the first half in foul trouble, but so did Dwight Howard. Call it a draw.

* Orlando had just one assist in the first half and shot 33 percent.

* The Magic cut the Celtics lead to just six points midway through the first half. Then Brian Scalabrine knocked down a corner 3-pointer. On the next possession, Ray Allen hit from long distance on transition and the lead was back up to 12. This pattern repeated itself in the third quarter, but the Celtics once again made shots at the right time. Eddie House buried a 3-pointer with just over a second remaining to put the Celtics up 12 going into the fourth quarter.

* Wallace picked up a technical foul for yelling, “And one,” after a made basket. He also unleashed the loudest “BALL DON’T LIE,” of the season. Unofficially.

* Allen had a bounceback shooting night, going 8-for-12 and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. But he missed a shot that could have put the Celtics ahead late in the game.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Magic,
Preview: Celtics-Magic at 10:31 am ET
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The play of Rashard Lewis (left) and Kendrick Perkins should be key in Thursday night's Celtics-Magic showdown. (AP)

The play of Rashard Lewis (left) and Kendrick Perkins should be key in Thursday night's Celtics-Magic showdown. (AP)

During the course of a long season it is customary for players and coaches to downplay significant games on the schedule. In the matter of the Celtics‘ three-game stretch that begins tonight in Orlando, continues Friday in Atlanta and concludes back home on Sunday against the Lakers, a curious thing has happened. Everyone connected with the Celtics seems to view these games as meaningful and important.

“We understand that these are three great games to be able to play,” Doc Rivers said Wednesday on Dennis & Callahan. “Coaches look forward to them and players look forward to them as well. Once they’re over then they become one of the 82. There’s no doubt that players look forward to them.”

Danny Ainge also acknowledged their importance. “I think it will tell us a lot about our depth, our conditioning and the quality of our play right now,” he said on The Big Show.

Each game has its own personality. The Magic offer the most compelling 1-through-5 matchups, while the Hawks present their in-season mastery of the Celtics as a hurdle to climb. The Lakers provide their own drama, of course. This is not a make-or-break stretch for the Celtics by any means, but it will reveal something about who they are and where they are going.

CELTICS (29-13, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.7

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +6.0 (3rd)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.9 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.4 (1st)

Pace: 91.7 (22nd)

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

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb), Brian Scalabrine (shoulder)

MAGIC (29-16, 505 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.1

Points Allowed: 96.3

Differential: +4.8 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.4 (11th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.2 (5th)

Pace: 93.1 (12th)

Likely Starters: Jameer Nelson, Matt Barnes, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Dwight Howard

Injuries: None Read the rest of this entry »

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How Rondo is like Brett Favre 01.26.10 at 9:57 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo has improved this season with a focus on defense, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers. (AP)

Rajon Rondo has improved this season with a focus on defense, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers. (AP)

WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers wants his supremely talented point guard to get downright defensive.

Rivers has spent the last three years trying to instill in Rajon Rondo the kind of traits Rivers used to gain a reputation as one of the best defensive guards in the NBA in the 1980s.

Right now, Rivers knows the reputation Rondo has around the league. Go at Rondo and make him try to stop you, since defense hasn’t always come naturally for the guard. On Tuesday, following practice, Rivers drew a analogy between Rondo and another pro athlete.

“I think teams try to go at Rondo because of his size and because they want to try and get him to gamble,” Rivers said. “It’s like trying to make Brett Favre try and throw across his body. It’s who you are, and teams know that and try to take advantage of that.”

[Click here to hear Doc Rivers talk about how defense led to Rondo's development into a possible All-Star]

Like Favre on Sunday with an ill-advised cross-body pass that was picked, Rondo’s season came to a bitter end in Game 7 last spring against the Orlando Magic, a game in which some critics felt Rondo hurt the team by constantly gambling for steals instead of playing solid defense on Orlando’s dangerous backcourt. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, NBA, nfl, Packers
Glen Davis: Don’t play if you’re not a competitor at 7:44 pm ET
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WALTHAM  –  The Celtics leave Wednesday morning to begin one of their toughest four-day stretches of the season. On Thursday, they play in Orlando, followed by a road game in Atlanta the next night.

The man who started the spanish numero craze.

The man who started the spanish numero craze.

They return home on Sunday to host Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. All three teams have a combined 91 wins entering Tuesday’s play.

“Huge,” Glen Davis said of the week. “These are big, big, big games. If you’re not a competitor, you don’t need to play in these games. This is a great opportunity for us to keep our win streak alive and also get better with playoff-contending teams. We’re looking forward to the challenge. Every game is big but these games are bigger.”

Speaking of Davis, he said he is on a new path when it comes to his former moniker – ‘Big Baby’

“Big Baby will always be a part of me. But I’m going to put Big Baby on the shelf – for now,” he said.

Asked why Davis, No. 11,  is leaning toward ‘Uno, Uno’ as a new nickname, Davis pointed toward Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Davis doesn’t feel the need to formally change his last name, just his handle.

“Every sport has their version of nicknames,” Davis said. “He paved the way. Knock off or not, I’m a different player than Ochocinco. He plays football. I play basketball.”

Davis wouldn’t be the first pro athlete in Boston to follow the Cincinnati receiver’s lead. In 2008, Jonathan Papelbon had ‘Cinco Ocho’ T-shirts made up sporting the reverse of the famous wide receiver, and representing the No. 58 on the back of Papelbon’s uniform.

Read More: Celtics, Glen Davis, NBA,
Scal cleared to play, Marquis begins drills at 4:12 pm ET
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WALTHAM  –  Brian Scalabrine returned to Celtics practice on Tuesday and was cleared to play on the team’s upcoming trip to Orlando and Atlanta. He had missed two games with separated right shoulder, injured on Jan. 6 in Miami.

“Scal practiced today and showed no sign of injury,” coach Doc Rivers announced following practice. “He shot two airballs and I was like, ‘Scal’s back.’ He’s good. He’ll play.”

Rivers said that Marquis Daniels participated in passing drills for the first time since surgery on his left thumb. Rivers is hopeful Daniels could re-join the team the first game back from the All-Star break.

Daniels missed his 22nd straight game on Monday night, before which Rivers indicated there was a “slight chance” the guard/forward could return on Feb. 10 in New Orleans, the final game before the All-Star break.

Read More: Brian Scalabrine, Celtics, Hawks, Magic
Mr. Smith comes back to Boston at 2:24 am ET
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Former Boston College star Craig Smith defends Rajon Rondo during the Celtics' win over the Clippers Monday night. (AP)

Former Boston College star Craig Smith defends Rajon Rondo during the Celtics' win over the Clippers Monday night. (AP)

BOSTON — For all the attention paid to the return of Marcus Camby to town as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, it’s easy to forget another former New England college star who came back on Monday night at TD Garden.

Craig Smith scored 2,349 points in his collegiate career at Boston College (2002-06), placing him second on the school’s career scoring list, trailing only Troy Bell.

In his senior season, he averaged 17.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.8 blocked shots as the Eagles reached the Sweet 16. There, they lost a heartbreaker to Villanova at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. He also attended Worcester Academy for a year as a post-graduate student before college.

When the time arrived to turn pro following his four years at BC, he was regarded as one of the most promising young power forwards in the draft. Yes, he was just 6-7 but he could rebound and proved he had a scorer’s mentality in college. Those factors were enough for the Timberwolves to take him in the second round (36th overall) in the 2006 NBA draft.

After two seasons in Minny, he was dealt this past summer, along with Sebastian Telfair and Mark Madsen to the Clippers in exchange for Quentin Richardson.

On Monday night, Smith scored 13 points in 21 minutes for the Clippers in a 95-89 loss to the Celtics.

“Craig’s been giving us a lot of good work off the bench the last couple of weeks, and you know when we’re scoring down there, we’ve been going to him and he’s been able to deliver for us and we had a good mix,” Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. “Like I said, hey, we had good inside opportunities, we got to the free throw line some, and we didn’t convert on some fast break opportunities and some wide open shots and that was the big difference for us.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Clippers, Craig Smith, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics-Clippers 01.25.10 at 10:10 pm ET
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This was the Celtics team we have grown accustomed to watching over the last few seasons. The passing was crisp, the open man was found and the Celtics played from the inside out. It’s been several weeks since we’ve seen that Celtics team on a regular basis and they picked a perfect time to rediscover the formula.

The result was loads of wide-open looks and four starters scoring in double figures (Kendrick Perkins had nine points) in a 95-89 win over the Clippers Monday night at TD Garden. The Celtics also clamped down defensively, holding the Clippers to just 15 points in the third quarter. It was their second-straight win, their first winning streak since Jan. 6.

It wasn’t all peaches and cream, to quote a favorite Kevin Garnett saying. They played uninspired basketball in the first 12 minutes, turning the ball over six times and allowing four offensive rebounds.

The Celtics also had trouble putting the Clips away in the fourth quarter, but give Los Angeles’ other team credit: They came to play. Former Boston College star Craig Smith was a beast in the fourth quarter, scoring all 13 of his points in the final 12 minutes, but none down the stretch after Garnett picked him up.

Player of the Game: If Rajon Rondo wanted to make one last good impression before the All-Star teams are announced he certainly stated his case well with 16 points, seven rebounds and 12 assists. Like the rest of his teammates Rondo started slowly, but he picked his game up early in the second quarter. It was one of his finest performances in weeks.

Turning Point: With the Celtics trailing by nine points early in the second quarter Doc Rivers subbed out his second team for the starters. That was when Ray Allen got hot, scoring 10 quick points and knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. The Celtics didn’t retake the lead until early in the second half, but that’s when they began to build momentum

* Kevin Garnett looked strong taking the ball to the basket on a couple of occasions. On one drive he made former Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby look foolish with a pump fake before jamming over a defenseless Clipper.

* There was a lot of talk about Rondo’s defense before the game, but none of it seemed to bother him before, and during the game. Rondo spent most of the pregame watching video of Baron Davis and talking strategy with assistant coach Armond Hill. He put that into practice keeping Davis in check, holding him to 5-for-13 shooting.

* Things got heated late in the game with Garnett going strong with Smith, Ricky Davis jawing with Ray Allen and Kendrick Perkins and Baron Davis also going at it.

* Speaking of Ray Allen, he scored 10 of his 14 points during a key stretch of the second quarter. He finished with a pedestrian 5-for-14 shooting line, but his hot streak was a big reason the Celtics were able to get back in the game.

* Perkins had a huge rebounding night with 15 boards. Paul Pierce led the scoring with 22 points and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the line.

Read More: Celtics, Clippers, Fast Break,
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