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Fast Break: Celtics-Hawks 01.08.10 at 10:39 pm ET
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In the Eastern Conference hierarchy, the Magic have what the Celtics want and the Cavaliers have their attention. But it’s the Hawks that seem to bring out the best and the worst in the Celtics.

You could call it chippy. You could call it physical. Call it whatever you want but there’s a real edge when these two teams play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. The Celtics often play their best when they feel like they’ve been backed into a corner. But at times against the Hawks all that physical aggression resulted in some unseemly hoops.

The sequence went like this in a 93-85 Celtics loss Friday night: Bad first quarter, great second quarter, horrific third quarter, not good enough fourth quarter. The reason for the loss was fairly atypical. It wasn’t turnovers or offensive rebounds that did them in. It was an unsightly 41 percent shooting percentage.

This is developing into a good rivalry. Forget the playoff series from two seasons ago; that was another lifetime ago. The Hawks think they are on the level with the Celtics, and while they don’t have the playoff chops to prove it, they certainly have their number in the regular season.

Player of the Game: Josh Smith (Atlanta). The guy ESPN’s Jay Bilas once said was most likely to be a bust from the 2004 draft class (good call Jay) has quietly turned into one of the best forwards in the league. He finally has shelved the misguided 3-point game that stunted his growth and become a nightmare matchup on the post. Smith had two huge momentum-changing plays. One came on an alley-oop dunk. Another came on a clean block on what would have been a dunk by Kendrick Perkins.

Turning Point: The moment the second half started. The Celtics had played a solid road first half. They shot the ball well, took care of the ball and didn’t let the crowd into the game. And then, everything changed. The Hawks started making shots, which happens, but the Celtics stopped running their offense and like a batter taking a strikeout into the field, they let it affect their defense

* Perkins and Al Horford are part of a large group of Eastern Conference centers who wouldn’t look out of place on the All-Star team behind Dwight Howard. Both are complimentary players in the grand schemes of their teams, but both have also seen their roles, and their production, expand this season. Give the slight edge to Horford last night, but only slight.

* The Celtics shot almost 40 percent from 3-point range but don’t be fooled. They were 7-for-12 in the first half and 2-f0r-12 in the second. Rasheed Wallace was the worst offender going 1-for-8.

* Eddie House returned to the lineup and scored five points in 13 minutes, but the flu that’s been going around the team isn’t done with the Celtics. Tony Allen was sick and missed the game.

* The Celtics somehow only committed 14 fouls in the game. Considering the nature of the game, that was the definition of the refs “letting them play.”

* Lester Hudson wasn’t unemployed for long. The Grizzlies claimed him on waivers and that may be a good spot for him to get some minutes and somebody’s long-term attention. Hudson doesn’t have much time to make an impression as he’s already 25 years old.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Hawks,
Preview: Celtics-Hawks at 11:04 am ET
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By now we’ve all had a chance to watch and re-watch the inbound play that resulted in a layup for Rajon Rondo and helped the Celtics take Miami to overtime, where they eventually won. (If not, Jess has an excellent re-cap of Doc Rivers explaining the ins and outs on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday). The whole thing was wonderfully executed from Paul Pierce’s pass (“Paul is the only guy that can make the pass,” Rivers said.) to Glen Davis‘ screen that sprung Rondo to Rondo’s finish at the rim.

All of which brings up an interesting point. Rivers is generally acknowledged at a master of designing plays coming out of timeouts. That’s an anecdotal observation. It would be hard to track such a thing without watching tons of game tape from around the league. It might be possible to tell how successful a team was coming out of timeouts and tracing that back to the coach, but what if something hadn’t quite worked on that play? What if Rondo’s tip spun in and out? It was still a great play call.

A few seconds earlier Rivers had Ray Allen isolated at the top of the key. Dwyane Wade stripped Allen and went in for a dunk. We have no idea what play Rivers had drawn up because Allen never got a chance to run it. But on balance, we’ve seen the Celtics score many points of out of timeouts with well-designed calls. (As an aside: One of the best I’ve ever seen at it was Villanova women’s coach Harry Perretta. He shared some of his plays with Pat Summitt who used them to help win a national championship.)

It’s interesting that some coaches don’t seem to even want to try to take advantage of the situation. George Karl rather famously doesn’t have inbound plays at least until Chauncey Billups demand that he draw some up. The Wizards were running a promotion to have a fan draw up an inbound play, which seems ridiculous. But they’ve got other problems right now.

At the very least, it’s to Rivers credit that he takes these situations seriously and does what he can to put his team in a position to make succeed.

CELTICS (25-8, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.9

Points Allowed: 92.3

Differential: +7.7

Offensive Efficiency: 108.9 (10th)

Defensive Efficiency: 100.6 (First)

Pace: 92.0 (19th)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Kevin Garnett (hyper-extended knee), Marquis Daniels (thumb), Eddie House (flu, questionable)

HAWKS (22-12, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 104.4

Points Allowed: 97.8

Differential: +6.6 (Fourth)

Offensive Efficiency: 112.7 (Second)

Defensive Efficiency: 105.5 (12th)

Pace: 91.8 (22nd)

Likely Starters: Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Al Horford

Injuries: None. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Hawks, Preview,
Celtics practice ‘good and bad’ 01.04.10 at 3:36 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  The Celtics have already proven they can beat a lesser team on the parquet of TD Garden without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. But on Wednesday, they might have to do the same against the Miami Heat on the road.

Rondo [left hamstring], Pierce and Garnett [both right knees] were all observers again on Monday as Tony Allen, J.R. Giddens and Rasheed Wallace filled in during practice.

“Practice was good and bad,” said Tom Thibodeau, who was filling in for Doc Rivers. “Normally, coming off a day off, it’s a little sloppy but the intensity was good and the intentions were good.”

Read between those lines and the man who ran practice for Rivers on Monday was trying to be kind to the healthy players who are trying to get ready for Miami without Garnett and possibly Rondo and Pierce missing again.

The coaching staff will gather with the players and trainer Ed Lacerte on Tuesday before their flight to Miami and make a determination if it’s even worth traveling the players.

“I didn’t talk to Eddie today,” Thibodeau said. “[Rondo] came out and coaching and involved and he’s chomping at the bit. I assume he’s feeling better but I don’t know that he’s ready yet.

“Paul was moving around and did some shooting and things like that. He’s feeling pretty good. He’s improving day by day.”

Meanwhile, Garnett was spotted lifting weights and conditioning while he recovers from a sore right knee that has him like out another week.

Read More: Celtics, Garnett, KG, Pierce
Pierce, Rondo question marks for Miami at 3:05 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo took some shots and did some light running but didn’t practice with the Celtics on Monday.

Assistant Tom Thibodeau, who filled in for Doc Rivers, ran practice and said Pierce and Rondo are day-to-day with right knee and left hamstring issues, respectively.

Thibodeau said no decision has been made on whether Pierce would travel with the team to Miami for Wednesday’s game against the Heat.

Read More: Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
‘Personal matter’ keeps Doc from practice at 1:46 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  Head coach Doc Rivers was not at Celtics practice on Monday as he tended to a personal matter, according to team spokesman Jeff Twiss.

Rivers is expected back at practice on Tuesday and is expected to travel with the team to Miami for Wednesday’s game against the Heat.

Assistant Tom Thibodeau ran practice in Rivers’ place.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers,
Rasheed: We had guys step up 01.03.10 at 3:01 am ET
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Rasheed Wallace has been around the NBA long enough to know not to get discouraged even when times look most bleak.

Another valuable lesson was taught Saturday night and it was Wallace and the Celtics schooling the Toronto Raptors, making the visitors North of the border look woefully unprepared for the woefully undermanned Celtics. Even without Paul Pierce [right knee], Kevin Garnett [right knee] and Rajon Rondo [left hamstring], the Celtics led virtually from the beginning of the game.

Here’s a sample of what Wallace and Celtics coach Doc Rivers had to say after they snapped a three-game skid with a 103-96 win over the Raptors.

Doc Rivers said his team had the right attitude on Saturday after dropping three straight.

Rivers said Wallace was huge in picking up the slack of the three missing starters.

Rivers said his reserves kept it simple, providing the key to victory.

Rasheed Wallace said they had guys step up on Saturday.

Read More: Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, Raptors
Another bump and bruise for T.Allen at 2:24 am ET
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The last thing the Celtics needed was another injury to a player who is already filling in for an injured starter. Tony Allen said he hyperextended his left shoulder when he collided with Marcus Banks, who was setting a screen as Allen was going for a steal on Hedo Turkoglu late in the fourth quarter of Boston’s win over Toronto at TD Garden on Saturday night.

“It hyperextended when I tried to get the steal and Marcus Banks came in with the screen,” Allen said. “I don’t think he meant anything bad by it.”

Allen, who started in place of Rajon Rondo, said he will come in and get stimulation treatment on the shoulder on Sunday and should be ready to go for practice on Monday in Waltham.

Read More: Celtics, Marcus Banks, NBA, Tony Allen
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