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Irish Coffee: Are referees screwing the Celtics? 11.22.10 at 12:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

In remembrance of the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination — and in the wake of the two worst officiated games of the Celtics season — we’ll examine an NBA conspiracy theory: Are the C’s getting screwed by the referees?

“You answer that,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told MSNBC.com. “I need my money, I have four kids. I’ll let you answer that. I didn’t see anything.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: The Celtics deserved to lose to the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. They coasted through both games like Rasheed Wallace sleepwalked through the entire 2009-10 regular season and should’ve won each game by double digits.

Still, after two absolutely terrible calls in the final seconds against the Raptors — the Ray Allen “forced” turnover and the Paul Pierce “blocking” foul — it’s worth taking a look at how the Celtics are being treated by the referees (Tommy Heinsohn, of course, might say “like a rented mule”).

Statistically speaking, the Celtics have been called for more personal fouls (292) than their opponents (278) in addition to attempting fewer free throws (295) than their opposition (335).

Given that the Celtics have led 11 of their 13 games in the final two minutes, when teams are purposely fouling in an attempt to make a comeback — you’d think that both those numbers would be flipped around in the C’s favor. At the very least, they should be much closer to an even split.

However, the C’s have only attempted more free throws than their opponent four times in 13 games. On two of those occasions — against the Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies — the opposition intentionally put the Celtics at the free throw line 10 times apiece at the end of regulation and overtime.

While other teams have shot five or more free throw attempts than the Celtics on five occasions, the C’s have only outshot an opponent at the free throw line once — an OT victory against the Bulls at home. For future reference, Tom Washington headed the officiating crew for that game.

Want to hear something really spooky? The Celtics’ lowest free throw total and one of their biggest free throw discrepancies of the season — a 20-7 margin in favor of Dallas during a two-point Mavericks win — one of the referees was … wait for it, wait for it … a Kennedy.

It was Bill Kennedy to be exact. Yup, the same Bill Kennedy who has had a long, tumultuous history with Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

Is it just Kennedy who has a score to settle with Rivers, or are there other officials on the grassy knoll contributing as well?

WORST LOSS EVER

The back-to-back losses to the Durant and Jeff Green-less Thunder and Raptors could possibly be the worst two-game stretch since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett arrived.

In 2007-08, the Celtics only lost consecutive games three times, including just one three-game losing streak. None of those stretches came in the first three months of the season.

The following year, during an injury-plagued 2008-09 season, the C’s only lost consecutive games four times (none before Christmas), which included a four-game losing streak in January.

Last season, in total, the Celtics lost back-to-back games 10 times (including four three-game losing streaks) — the first of which came in mid-November.

Their worst performance last season came in back-to-back losses to the Clippers (29-53) and Warriors (26-56). While that was pretty awful, it came on back-to-back nights during a four-game road trip that started on Christmas and took them through Florida, California and Arizona.

The bench was supposed to infuse this year’s team with enough energy to help them avoid losing streaks like they suffered last season. In their past two losses, however, the Celtics bench has been outscored by undermanned opponents, as a result of the Thunder’s Durant/Green injuries and the Raptors’ Jarrett Jack trade.

Could it be a 2009-10 regular season all over again? I thought this Celtics team would be hungrier after its loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.

SANS RONDO

So far this season, the Celtics are 0-2 in games they finish without a healthy Rajon Rondo. However, for fans looking for a glimmer of hope should Rondo not play against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, the C’s actually possess a winning record (5-4) since 2007-08 without Rondo in the starting lineup.

Here’s a look at the games he’s missed since taking over the starting point guard position (and how the backup did in his place) …

2007-08
Dec. 30: Celtics 110, Lakers 91 (Tony Allen: 16 points, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 12: Wizards 85, Celtics 78 (Allen: 8 points, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, 6 rebounds, 4 steals)
Jan. 16: Celtics 100, Blazers 90 (Eddie House: 10 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 18: Celtics 116, 76ers 89 (House: 15 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
April 16: Celtics 105, Nets 94 (Sam Cassell: 9 points, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 0 steals)

2008-09
March 8: Magic 86, Celtics 79 (Stephon Marbury: 4 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 0 steals)
March 11: Heat 107, Celtics 99 (Marbury: 0 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 2 steals)

2009-10
Jan. 2: Celtics 103, Raptors 96 (Allen: 14 points, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 1 steal)

2010-11
Nov. 21: Raptors 102, Celtics 101 (Nate Robinson: 22 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds, 0 steals)

Robinson is the best scoring option off the bench in Rondo’s stead, but what the Celtics really need is a guy to continue running the offense as a distributor (Delonte West?). In three of the C’s four losses without Rondo in the lineup, his replacement failed to dish out more than two assists.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, John F. Kennedy, NBA
Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result 11.08.10 at 10:52 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Last week, prior to the Celtics welcoming their former assistant coach Tom Thidodeau and the Chicago Bulls to town, Ray Allen asked a simple question: “Do they know everything we’re running?”

The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.

Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”

The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?

“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”

So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.

So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.

“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”

Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo
Doc Rivers thinks Rajon Rondo has ‘mild’ plantar fascitis 11.06.10 at 12:58 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his head trainer Ed Lacerte told him hours before Friday’s tip-off that Rajon Rondo wouldn’t be available to the team in their game against Chicago because of lingering soreness in his left foot.

“[Friday] morning, Eddie told me that Rondo wasn’€™t playing because of his foot,” Rivers said after Friday’s overtime game in which Rondo played 41 minutes, scored 10 points and dished out 11 assists. “And ten minutes later I go down so we can watch film and Rondo said, ‘€˜I’€™m playing; I’€™m fine.’€™”

Asked if Rondo was dealing with plantar fascitis, Rivers said, “I think that’s what it is, and it’s a mild case but when those get fired up, those are extremely painful.”

But Rivers was impressed with the way Rondo managed himself through pain on Friday.

“Down the stretch, his defense, his hands ‘€“ the steal on the in-bounds play, the deflection steal at the end of the game on the last shot,” Rivers said. “He was great. I mean, [Derrick] Rose got one drive in the over time and he yells to the bench, ‘€˜My fault!’€™ He was just ‘€“ he was locked in tonight. And that’€™s what we need.

‘€œI told him that before the game, too. I walked right over to him before the tip and said, ‘€˜Hey, listen, if I see anything’€¦’€™ You could see he was good. The only thing we did and you could tell: we subbed him early. I think with five or six minutes in the first we subbed him. And then we did it again at half time. And overall that may have helped him with his wind.’€

Rondo took treatment for 30 minutes after the game and then said he has been dealing with pain in both feet, with more pain in his left foot. He also said he’s been sleeping with both feet elevated to relieve the soreness.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Ed Lacerte, NBA
Doc Rivers on D&C: Villanueva broke ‘unwritten rule’ to press after game 11.04.10 at 2:16 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined the Dennis & Callahan show this morning to talk about Kevin Garnett‘s alleged comments on the floor the other night against the Pistons, Paul Pierce‘s 20,000th point, as well as his thoughts on the team’s start to the new season.

“I’ve played the game, and I couldn’t imagine someone going to the press after the game because someone said something to you on the floor,” Rivers said, “I just, I don’t know, that’s an unwritten rule here; I thought that we didn’t cross, and we did that the other night.”

To hear the interview, check out the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Wasn’t that the perfect scenario for Paul Pierce to get his 20,000th point, going to the free-throw line to ice the game?

Well, I guess you can call it a perfect scenario; I would’ve liked it done a little bit earlier in the game.

Not in overtime?

No, exactly. But, I’ll take it, and for him it really was a special moment.

Is last night a perfect example of why no one should complain and moan during the end-of-practice free throws?

Yeah, I mean, they’re so important, and there’s so many games, if you go back and look at book, that are won and lost form that line, that, um, and you know, the only thing we did well last night, as far as executing, is we got the ball to the right people to shoot free throws. Other than that, um, we didn’t have one of our better end-of-the-game execution games at all.

Can you tell us how a stats sheet can lie? Because if you looked at just the stats from last night’s game, one would think you guys blew them out.

Well, it was almost the exact stat sheet of the Cleveland game at halftime. I mean, we were shooting I think 52, 53, 54 percent. The other team was shooting 39 percent and it was a tied game. And you don’t even have to look at the stat sheet, when you see that, you know exactly that that’s an effort game. That means that they’re outworking you, they’re getting rebounds, they’re getting loose balls, and those don’t show up at times in the stat sheet.

What’s the one stat that doesn’t lie? The one that when you pick it up in the post-game and say to yourself ‘This is going to tell me something’?”

Well, one stat is rebounds, and then the other one is turnovers, you know, for us. Those are the two stats.

You’re not liking that turnover stat?

Yeah, I am, because we’re really, we came out of the gate struggling, and now we’re doing a better job , but turnovers are big for us. You know, we scored I think, I don’t know what it is this year, but last year I think we were fourth in the league in points-per-possession. That means that we score every time we get the ball, I think it was one point whatever  per possession. But we were 29th in turnovers, so, you know, when you were a great efficient offensive team, and you turn the ball over, it really hurts you, because we’ve really been taking points off the board.

You talked about how you don’t like this whole tweeting thing. Can you stop it?

No. I mean, I can come in and say ‘Hey guys, let’s make a rule that there’s no Tweeting.’ That’s nothing I’m going to do. And the Tweeting thing doesn’t bother me, it’s what we’re Tweeting about and when. That bothers me. After a game, you know guys, let’s not, you know, like I said yesterday, I’ve played the game, and I couldn’t imagine someone going to the press after the game because someone said something to you on the floor. I just, I don’t know, that’s an unwritten rule here; I thought that we didn’t cross, and we did that the other night.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
‘The Truth’ about Paul Pierce and 20,000 points at 1:24 am ET
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There are many reasons Paul Pierce is considered ‘The Truth’ around the NBA. He is the go-to guy and captain of the Celtics who leads the team by word and action. On Wednesday, he did both and his reward was a place in NBA history – a place only 35 others have reached – 20,000 points in a career.

‘€œComing into the game I knew it, but I didn’€™t want to press it, but I knew I needed 23 I think tonight to get it, I knew once I got to 22 I looked up and it was a great opportunity, as a player about certain things and they know,” Pierce admitted.

With the TD Garden crowd rising in anticipation, Pierce became just the 36th player in NBA history to reach the milestone when he made the first of two free throws with 13.3 seconds left in overtime during the Celtics’ 105-102 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday night. Pierce followed that by converting the second to put the Celtics up four points, giving them a cushion they would need to win their third straight.

He spoke the truth about his feelings afterward.

“You know it was an emotional moment for me, tough for me to swallow,” Pierce said. “I was just thinking about all the years I have been here and you don’€™t see it to often where a player accomplishes that kind of feat playing with one team. It is a great accomplishment. The fans seeing my ups and downs throughout the years and sticking with me, just to be able to accomplish this type of feat, it means a lot to me I am not going to downplay it.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 20000 points, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dominique Wilkins
Doc Rivers backs Kevin Garnett’s version 11.03.10 at 7:59 pm ET
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Doc Rivers said he was standing next to Kevin Garnett when he said whatever it was that he said to Charlie Villanueva Tuesday night and the coach stands by his player’s account. “I’€™m not going to go off on a tangent on this whole thing,” Rivers said before the C’s played the Bucks. “I actually heard what Kevin said. I was standing right there. What he released is what he said. I’€™m going to leave it at that.”

Villanueva wrote on his Twitter account: “KG called me a cancer patient.”

Garnett responded in a statement: “My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact ‘€˜You are cancerous to your team and our league.’€™”

Rivers didn’t care for the way Villanueva handled the situation. “I used to play and I can’€™t imagine us running and talking about what was said,’ Rivers said. He then joked, “Larry [Bird] has said some terrible stuff to me and I’€™m still hurt by it. There are times when guys do cross the line, but you get over that too. I don’€™t think talking about what guys said during the game… I just don’€™t find a place for it.”

Rivers acknowledged that he’s uncomfortable with Twitter and the Celtics have a roster full of players who actively tweet.

“What we try to tell them is it’€™s your life and have fun and all that, but what goes on [with] the team stays on the team,” Rivers said. “I think so far they’€™ve been pretty good with it, but this is a new generation and we’€™re going to continue to have problems with this until we figure it out.”

Read More: Charlie Villanueva, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird
Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘We have a chance to be really special’ 10.28.10 at 10:39 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly visit and talked about the loss to the Cavaliers, the win over the Heat and the longest second in his life. It’s been a whirlwind beginning to the season, but Rivers likes what he sees from his team.

“I enjoy this group,” he said. “I enjoy coaching them. We’ve got to solidify ourselves as a group, as a team. I think we’re on our way to doing that. I think we have a chance to be really special, but we’re not there yet and we have work to do.”

(To hear the whole interview, visit the team Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page).

Rivers conceded that the opening night win over the Heat was more than just another game. “We’d be lying if we said it was a normal game,” Rivers said. “It was still only one game, but it didn’t have a lot of meaning. A lot of people wanted to see us play Miami and a lot of people wanted to see Miami.” But Wednesday night in Cleveland, the Celtics ran into a team that was also on an emotional high. “You could feel the energy in the building in Cleveland,” Rivers said. “It was important for everybody. But those are the game you still try to find a way to win.”

The key play came late in the game when Anthony Parker made a 3-pointer with one second on the shot clock that appeared to take longer. “The tough part for the officials was, they could not overrule it,” Rivers said. “All they could do was go by video and look at the light when the light comes on. They were in a tough position. I think they knew that, but there’s nothing they could do about it. That has to be one of the longest seconds that I’ve ever experienced.”

Rivers also didn’t feel like Wednesday night was one of Rajon Rondo‘s better performances, despite scoring 18 points and having nine assists. “His numbers were great but it wasn’t his best game,” Rivers said. “It was one of those games where the ball was in his hands too much. We played the Cleveland game like we played the second half of the Miami game. Last night was an execution night. Rondo’s offense will come from transition, pushing the ball up the floor, attacking the paint.”

On the technical foul that Shaquille O’Neal picked up in the fourth quarter against the Cavs, Rivers said he was “blown away” by the call. “It’s a work in progress, obviously, whatever this is,” Rivers said of the new technical foul enforcement. “I was blown away by that tech. It’s hard to believe Shaq did enough to get that tech.”

Rivers also said he wanted to have his whole team together before making an assessment of whether this is his most talented team.

“When we get Delonte [West] and [Kendrick Perkins] back, then you can make that argument,” he said. “Until then, I’m not so sure yet. Shaq’s going to give us stuff, I don’t know every night he can and what he’s capable of. We’ve got to get more out of [Jermaine O’Neal]. We look at him as a defensive player. He can be a terrific defensive player with our unit, but he’s just not there yet.”

Read More: Doc Rivers, Rajon Rondo, Shaquille O'Neal,
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