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Mr. Smith comes back to Boston 01.26.10 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,
Marcus Camby all grown up at 10:41 am ET
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WALTHAM — Marcus Camby has come a long way from his days at the University of Massachusetts.

He is no longer just a lanky, talented big man in the middle. He is widely regarded as one of  the best defensive post players in the league.

Camby led the John Calipari-coached Minutemen to the 1996 Final Four and was the second overall pick in the first round by the Toronto Raptors. And yes, he showed signs of dominating his Atlantic-10 competition. And yes, he set the career record with 43 blocked shots in 11 NCAA tourney games.

But then trouble hit. Following his junior season, the Hartford native was tied to two sports agents, a scandal that eventually led to the NCAA stripping UMass of its Final Four appearance in its record books. He had no future left at UMass and declared for the NBA draft as a junior.

After two seasons in Toronto, he led the Knicks to the NBA Finals against the Spurs in 1999. But that was his highlight as he played four seasons in New York before being dealt to Denver. He spent six seasons in the Rockies, earning the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 2007. Another trade in the summer of 2008 landed him in Los Angeles, where he’s now in his second season with the Clippers.

Camby, who turns 36 on March 22, is one of the best defenders in the best basketball league in the world. A close look at the numbers shows that.

He is third in the NBA in the rebounding, grabbing 12.0 boards per contest. He has been in double figures in eight of 11 games this month, including 20 or more rebounds twice.

In a Jan. 20 win over the Bulls, Camby pulled down 25 rebounds. Exactly a week earlier, he had 20 rebounds in a loss at Memphis.

Then on Sunday, in a win over the Wizards in Washington, Camby had 19 rebounds while showing he is also one of the best shot-blockers in the game (see below).

But listen to Doc Rivers and he’ll tell you that Camby also can get it done on the offensive side.

“We say he’s overlooked, but it was three years ago, he was Defensive Player of the Year,” Rivers said. “So, he’s not that overlooked. Where I think people sleep on him is he is a far better offensive player than you think because he can make that little elbow jump shot.”

The Celtics won’t be overlooking No. 23 when he steps on the “Red Auerbach Parquet” at TD Garden.

Read More: Celtics, Clippers, Marcus Camby, NBA
Preview: Celtics-Clippers at 10:39 am ET
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The second half of the season begins with what might be the most important week the Celtics will have in the regular season. They start with the Clippers but then run through a back-to-back session with Orlando and Atlanta and finish with a home showdown against the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.

With Kevin Garnett back in the lineup, it’s time to seriously consider how good the Celtics are, and whether Danny Ainge needs to make a move to shore up the roster for the stretch run. How well they do this week, and how well Garnett holds up, should help fill in some of the blanks in terms of what this team needs.

The two primary areas of concern are turnovers and defensive rebounding. They have lived with being a high-turnover team in the past, mainly because they shoot the ball so well and they have also been among the best teams in the league in rebounding. They still are a great shooting team, but by giving away so many possessions, and failing to recover them on the defensive end, their shooting isn’t the cure-all that it’s been in the past. For that reason, another big man would probably make sense, but there aren’t any P.J. Browns out there right now.

Tonight’s game is a chance to provide some breathing room in what will be an arduous test.

CLIPPERS (20-23, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 96.2

Points Allowed: 98.7

Differential: -2.5 (20th)

Offensive Efficiency: 104.5 (23rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 107.3 (18th)

Pace: 91.8 (20th)

Likely Starters: Baron Davis, Rasual Butler, Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman

Injuries: Eric Gordon (toe, questionable), Blake Griffin (knee), Sebastian Telfair (groin).

CELTICS (28-13, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.8

Points Allowed: 93.8

Differential: +6.0 (Third)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.1 (12th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.6 (Second)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

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

Injuries: Marquis Daniels (thumb) Read the rest of this entry »

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