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NBA Power Rankings, 3/31 03.31.11 at 7:41 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers (53-20): Kobe Bryant recently said if he weren’t a basketball player, he’d be a bum. The rest of the league wishes he were the latter right about now. The Lakers are 15-1 since the All-Star break.

2. Chicago (54-20): The Bulls are one of two teams that haven’t lost three straight games all season. The other? The Celtics. The difference is that the Bulls have been better bottom feeders, recording a 31-6 record against lottery-bound teams.

3. San Antonio (57-17): With Tim Duncan in the lineup, the Spurs are 56-13 (.812 winning percentage). Without him, they’re 1-4 (.200). The guy’s still got it, and he should be in the lineup on Thursday night against the Celtics.

4. Dallas (53-21): While the surging Bulls and Lakers get all the attention, the Mavericks have quietly reeled off another five-game winning streak. Meanwhile, owner Mark Cuban not-so-quietly explained how to beat the Lakers: “Anything that puts the ball in Ron Artest‘s hands is always a good thing.” Except when its Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

5. Boston (51-22): I maintain that the Celtics are better than the Mavericks, Spurs or Bulls — and should still be the favorites to win the East — but I can’t slot them any higher simply because of that atrocious loss to the Bobcats. Until they start trying again, this is where they’ll sit. While they’re at it, they should ponder why their record against playoff teams (25-11) is nearly identical to their record against non-playoff teams (Hint: effort).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: Celtics answer all questions 03.25.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Rather than fishing for answers to Celtics questions  — like, “Did Shaquille O’Neal suffer a setback?” … “Will Jermaine O’Neal ever return?” … “What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?” … “Is Doc Rivers gone after the season?” … and, “Why does Kevin Garnett obsess over ‘Big Love’?” — let’s just go straight to the leprechauns’ mouths.

All those questions were answered during interviews on WEEI’s Celtics Thursday when Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan morning show, Garnett appeared on Mut & Merloni and president Danny Ainge spoke on The Big Show. Here are the highlights:

Shaq reportedly received a cortisone shot last Tuesday, what gives?

Doc: “Hopefully Shaq will be back within the next five or six days. Again, that’s the estimated time of arrival.”

Danny: “He’s day-to-day starting about that time. I think Shaq is probably not going to play in Minnesota or Indiana, and I think from that point on it’s day-to-day. He could play in San Antonio, or he may play the next game or the game after that. I’m not certain.

“It’s up to him. Like, ‘Are you ready to play?’ He wants to practice before he goes out to play, so we’ll just wait for him to say, ‘I feel ready to go.’ You can’t just say, ‘Hey, you’re going to play tonight; get out there and play.’ …

“With Shaq, he’s got some soreness in the Achilles tendon, and he wants to try to have it as pain-free as possible before he goes out there to play, rather than play in these games right now. And that’s what we’re trying to wait for. It’s a lot more pain-free today than it was last week.”

KG: “We change dramatically [with Shaq]. You have not only a post presence but a presence, period. Shaq is physical on both ends. He lets that presence be known from the minute the ball goes up.”

Can the Celtics expect anything from Jermaine O’Neal?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers
NBA Power Rankings, 3/24 03.24.11 at 6:47 pm ET
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1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.

2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”

3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.

4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.

5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: Who wants the No. 1 seed more? 03.21.11 at 2:12 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Arguing that the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed is more important to the Bulls than the Celtics, Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen wrote, The Celtics know they can win on the road, while this Bulls team has yet to win a series under any circumstances.”

The logic is certainly sound, considering the veteran C’s defeated the Cavaliers and Magic and nearly won the 2010 NBA Finals as a No. 4 seed. But these are the Celtics’ probable Eastern Conference playoff matchups if they earn the No. 1 seed …

  • First Round: Pacers, Bucks or Bobcats
  • Eastern semis: Magic or Hawks
  • Conference finals: Bulls or Heat

And these are their probable conference playoff opponents if they get the No. 2 seed …

  • First Round: Knicks or 76ers
  • Eastern semis: Heat
  • Conference finals: Bulls

Now, which would you rather have? Door No. 1, right? Like, by a significant margin. Still, the Celtics seem to be aligning themselves with Thomsen’s thinking — at least, to NBA.com

Rajon Rondo: “If you ask me personally, I don’t think it’s so important. I think it’s important that we get our chemistry. We have a lot of new guys on our roster and lot of veterans. The focus should be on getting Shaq [O’Neal] back, getting J.O. [Jermaine O’Neal] back. Delonte [West] is getting acquainted. We’ve got to continue finding a way.”

Doc Rivers: “We’re gonna lean on the health side. I’m gonna always go that way, and we hope we can still win games and still get the No. 1 seed. But we’re not gonna get it if it means that we’re gonna have to give up health. Health is gonna be No. 1.

“Any timing when you get healthy is good timing. But I obviously would have preferred it to be right after the All-Star break. That’s when we hoped that everyone would be back and that we’d be able to kind of put the parts together. It just hasn’t happened. There’s nothing we can do about it. So we have to hope to figure it out on the fly.”

We should be able to determine if either team cares less about the top seed than the other simply by taking a look at whether or not Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau are limiting their respective team’s minutes.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Doc Rivers
Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo & Derrick Rose’s contrasting styles 03.15.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has only been held to fewer than 10 points once all season — and never fewer than six. Conversely, his Celtics counterpart, Rajon Rondo, has been held to single-digit scoring 21 times in the 2010-11 season — and less than six points nine times.

Meanwhile, Rose has recorded double-digit assists just 16 times — and never more than 14. On the other hand, Rondo has produced 10 or more assists 36 times — and more than 14, well, 14 times.

To say the least, Rose and Rondo have led the Celtics and Bulls to a tie atop the Eastern Conference by playing different styles as the floor generals of their respective teams. But which is more successful?

In the 29 times since 1980 that someone has recorded at least 11 assists per game, that player has reached the conference finals nearly half the time (14-of-29). Those are favorable odds for the Celtics, as Rondo has produced 11.7 assists per game this season.

Still, only six times in that span has someone averaged 11 assists and led his team to the NBA Finals. Each time his name was Magic Johnson, who led the Lakers three titles in such seasons (1985, ’87 and ’88).

Fear not, Celtics fans, for no point guard who has averaged at least 24 points per game has even won a playoff series in the last 30 years. Michael Adams (1991), Gary Payton (2000), Allen Iverson (2005, ’06, ’08) and Gilbert Arenas (’06, ’07) have all produced 24-plus points a game as the primary point guard on their roster and never made it out of the first round.

Before you say, ‘Hey, Rose has had a better year in 2010-11 than any of those four players in those seven seasons — and he’s surrounded by better talent,’ consider Iverson’s 2007-08 season with the Nuggets:

  • Rose (’10-11): 24.7 points, 8.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 3.5 turnovers, 44.1 FG%, 33.7 3-PT FG%, 84.5 FT%
  • Iverson (’07-’08): 26.4 points, 7.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 45.8 FG%, 34.5 3-PT FG%, 80.9 FT%

I’d say Iverson’s supporting cast of Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby and a healthy Kenyon Martin are fairly comparable to Rose’s supporting cast of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and a questionably healthy Carlos Boozer. And that Nuggets team got swept in the first round.

There’s no question that Magic’s three 11-assist championship seasons were better than Rondo’s performance this year, but would you also concede that Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and a 39-year-old Shaquille O’Neal are a better supporting cast than Magic’s 1988 supporting cast of James Worthy, Byron Scott, A.C. Green and a 41-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that won the title?

I think I just talked myself into betting on the Celtics to win the Eastern Conference. If not, I can take solace in the fact that Brian Scalabrine would make the NBA Finals as a member of three different franchises (2002-03 Nets, 2007-08 & 2009-10 Celtics, 2010-11 Bulls).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Odds are, Celtics not No. 1? 03.14.11 at 11:47 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

We’re entering the home stretch of the NBA season, and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is a definite possiblity for the Celtics. But according to John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds, the Bulls have a better shot — and the Heat have almost no shot — at that top spot.

While an Eastern Conference finals Game 7 at home is an added bonus, the ultimate prize for whichever of those three teams captures the No. 1 seed is the simple fact that the other two would have to battle each other in the conference semifinals, while the No. 1 seed would face either the Magic or Hawks in Round 2 — regardless of what Celtics head coach Doc Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would have you believe …

Rivers: “I would like it. It’s not going to be a deal-breaker for us, honestly. I want it, though. I think it’s important. But right now I can say I’m not focused on that at all. I’m not thinking about the one-seed at all. Early in the year we were clearly thinking about it, but right now I think about getting guys back healthy. Let’s act like a one-seed even if we’re not.”

Thibodeau: “That doesn’t guarantee anything. Where I think it does make a difference is Game 7 of a playoff series, to have it at home. You want to do your best to put as many things in your favor as possible.” 

So, the No. 1 seed has been the C’s ultimate goal all season, but it’s no longer the priority now that the Bulls have threatened to take it from them? I’m not buying it. The Celtics want that top seed, and they just might need it. How close will the race for the No. 1 seed be? Down to the wire, for sure. See for yourself …

CELTICS (47-17; 18 games remaining)

  • at New Jersey (21-43)
  • vs. Indiana (28-38)
  • at Houston (33-34)
  • at New Orleans (39-29)
  • at New York (34-31)
  • vs. Memphis (36-31)
  • vs. Charlotte (28-38)
  • at Minnesota (17-51)
  • at Indiana (28-38)
  • at San Antonio (54-12)
  • at Atlanta (38-28)
  • vs. Detroit (23-44)
  • vs. Philadelphia (34-32)
  • at Chicago (47-18)
  • vs. Washington (16-48)
  • at Miami (45-21)
  • at Washington (16-48)
  • vs. New York (34-31)

Home games remaining: 7
Opponents’ winning percentage: .482 (571-615)
ESPN.com odds to capture No. 1 seed: 39.4 percent
Record vs. remaining teams on schedule: 29-8 (.784)
Games remaining against .500-plus teams: 9
Games remaining against potential playoff teams: 12

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Doc Rivers, Miami Heat
What it means to have Nutty Professor Glen Davis back at 9:12 am ET
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Glen Davis looked the part of a teacher at an institute of higher learning following his return to the Celtics Sunday night after a four-game absence.

And while it was only a four-games, the Celtics could feel the loss of their nutty professor in their lineup. They beat Golden State and Milwaukee but fell very flat against the Clippers and Sixers. As a matter of fact, one could easily make the argument that he is the single-most important bench player of any of the favored teams to win the NBA title.

The Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Bulls and Heat all have star-studded players among their starting five but none of them have Big Baby. He can come off the bench and provide an instant jolt of energy to the reserves and this is precisely why Doc Rivers wants to keep him coming off the bench come April, May and hopefully, June.

But Sunday, it was all about getting acquainted with some players he’d never played with or had just seen in practice. There was no more ‘Shrek-ing’ with Nate Robinson. He has been replaced with Carlos Arroyo. Davis has played just three games with the troika of Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy.

“First half, I felt a little weird a little bit,” Davis said. “I didn’t remember anybody on the team. Nate? Carlos?”

And what about that No. 77, Sasha Pavlovic? Davis was wondering how to pronounce his name, let alone learn his game.

“I knew his name but I couldn’t pronounce it so I didn’t call him anything,” Davis said. “Just, ‘What’s up?’ and ‘hey.'”

Sunday night was clearly an example of shaking off the rust as he played just 18 minutes, going 3-for-6 from the floor with seven rebounds and nine points, with all nine coming in the fourth quarter.

“I saw a guy that needs to run more,” Rivers said. “He did well. He played with a lot of patience offensively and he let the ball come to him instead of hunting it down and that’s how we should play all the time. He just needs the minutes. He was starting to get his legs. I asked him how he felt and he said he felt great, except he can’t feel his lungs anymore.”

He missed a lay-up 90 seconds into the fourth as he had flashbacks to the Heat game on Feb. 13 when he went up on the wrong foot and missed a dunk. This time he missed the layup but 90 seconds later he was pounded by Jon Brockman and finally felt like he was back. More importantly, his knee felt OK with the contact.

“I was kind of trying to feeling it out,” Davis said. “I felt it a little bit more when I missed my first layup I was like, ‘Oh!’ I was trying to jump. I felt it but I didn’t feel it. But then when Brockman hit me, I felt like, ‘OK, you’re back.'”

No one means more to their bench than Glen Davis to the Celtics and here’s why:

First, after Krstic, the Celtics – as Rivers was all too willing to point out – had really no one to play the center position. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Glen Davis
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