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Doc Rivers: Rajon Rondo, Big Baby and other things that made the Celtics super on Sunday 02.07.11 at 1:47 pm ET
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For many reasons, the first 12 minutes and 59 seconds didn’t start out very well for the Celtics on Sunday.

There was Orlando jumping out to a 12-2 lead as Dwight Howard dominated. There was Glen Davis leaving a mark in the parquet with the back of his head, suffering a bruised skull. But as he returned to the bench to start the second quarter, that paled in comparison to the bruise to the spinal cord of Marquis Daniels as he ran into the chest of Gilbert Arenas and fell suddenly to the floor.

Things were just completely out of whack. But then it was Rajon Rondo‘s time to take over the game. And did he ever. Immediately after kneeling to check on the well-being of Daniels, Rondo came out of the delay and drove to the basket for a lay-up exactly 20 seconds later that energized the crowd and – more importantly – his teammates. He was on his way to a season-high 26 points.

So, what was the difference in his point guard Sunday?

‘€œWell, after ‘€“ you mean after the first six minutes of horrendous basketball from our team?” Rivers replied rhetorically. It just looked like the first six minutes, we were there to play basketball but I thought they were really invested into the game. And you know, why that changed I don’€™t know, but it was good. We went to an open set which we rarely do. I just didn’€™t see us with any ‘€“ we didn’€™t have anything going.

“And Jameer [Nelson] picked up that one foul and we just decided to go basically open spread. And we told Rondo to get to the rim, and, you know, use his instincts. He’€™ll find open guys.’€

The Celtics went with a spread offense that allowed more lanes for Rondo to drive to the basket and create off the dribble.

‘€œWell it really depends on the game,” Rivers said. “I want him to be aggressive every game. We’€™re not going to run spread every game because it doesn’€™t make a lot of sense every night. We’€™d like to match up with him, especially Jameer wanted to stay on the floor because of his fouls, but that is how we want him to take the ball to the basket.

“Whenever he does go, we want him to go with power and speed and be willing to get fouled. And I thought over everything that was it. Obviously he made great shots and all that. I just liked the fact that he had no problem if he got fouled.’€

Then there were the 21 missed 3-pointers by the Magic, who missed 61-of-93 shots. After the Celtics allowed the Mavericks to beat them on 8-of-17 shooting from long range, Rivers realized early his team was committed to not allowing that again.

Rivers asked for prayers for Davis and Semih Erden, who drew the assignment of guarding Dwight Howard when Kendrick Perkins was forced to the bench to rest. Those prayers were essentially answered in the form of a 91-80 win. Yes, Howard ate up Big Baby, Perkins and Erden for 22 points in the first half. But he had just six points in the second half as the Celtics put on the defense clamps, led by Davis’ ball denial in the post.

‘€œPhenomenal,” Rivers said of the effort. “Great defense. I think any time you lose a game where you think you broke your principals and defensively you were not right, then the next time you play if you’€™re a defensive team, you’€™re probably going to have a good defensive effort. And I thought we did that. I said this with Baby and Perk, it was a test for them.

“It was tough because we were going to leave them on an island and Dwight had it going early. And we just kept telling them, ‘€˜We’€™re doing the right thing. Just keep doing it.’€™ And that was tough for them, and the fact that they stayed with it and stayed on it was good.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dwight Howard, Glen Davis
Inside the Kendrick Perkins-Dwight Howard matchup 02.05.11 at 5:19 pm ET
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Kendrick Perkins is renowned as one of the few men in the NBA who can go toe-to-toe with Dwight Howard. It’s a reputation that has grown over the years, ever since their meeting in the 2009 playoffs when Perkins stood tall with a shoulder injury so severe he couldn’t lift his arm over his head.

After missing the first two games against the Magic this season, Perkins is back in action — and the starting lineup — just in time for the rematch with Orlando on Sunday afternoon.

It’s been a fast climb for Perkins, who recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes against the Mavericks on Friday. He’s progressed so quickly that he’s obliterated the minutes restrictions that have been placed on him throughout his comeback.

After the Mavs game, thoughts naturally turned to the showdown with Howard. Perkins artfully streered clear of the questions.

“Don’t know,” he said when asked if he was ready. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Perkins also called Howard ‘€œa great player,’€ and noted that the Celtics‘ team defense is just as important as any one-on-one performance. Perkins is well aware that while his reputation has been enhanced by his individual battles with Howard, he’€™s also been on the receiving ends of some tough games and the respect is real.

After holding him to 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting in Game 1 of last year’€™s conference finals, Perkins was told that the local media was calling on Howard to do more in Game 2. His eyes grew wide as he said, “See, what happens is, y’€™all gas the man up. Then I have to deal with it.” Howard went out and promptly scored 30 points.

In the 2009 series, Howard averaged better than 17 points and 14 rebounds while shooting close to 60 percent. In 2010, Howard averaged 26.3 points and 16 rebounds over the final three games. It’s not that Perkins is a Howard-stopper; it’s more that Perkins is capable of slowing him down, and more importantly, he’s also willing to take him on without the help of double-teams. That, in turn, helps take away the Magic’s ability to get open looks on kickouts off double-teams.

But there’s more to it than that. One of the Celtics’ basic defensive principles is they don’t mind if a superstar player scores a ton of points. Their philosophy is that great players will be great. Their main concern is making it as difficult for them as possible, and if a guy hits a shot with a hand in his face, that’s life. Celtics coach Doc Rivers has also said in the past that he doesn’t care if Howard scores 30 points, because that just means that someone isn’t taking a 3-pointer.

None of that makes it any easier to handle the assignment, however. Perkins likely won’€™t have Shaquille O’€™Neal backing him up, as Shaq is dealing with an Achilles injury. That leaves Semih Erden as the nominal backup center, but look for the Celtics to use Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis in spots as well.

Make no mistake: Perkins loves the challenge. He’€™s faced down the Lakers frontline and the Mavericks’ Tyson Chandler, but this will be his biggest test to date, as it always is.

Read More: Dwight Howard, Kendrick Perkins, Magic,
Kevin Garnett: ‘These two weeks have been dark days for me’ 01.18.11 at 1:09 am ET
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How happy and relieved was Kevin Garnett to be back Monday night?

“I was just called up from the D-League,” he joked.

Playing his first game back from a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf, Garnett scored 19 points in 30 minutes while Paul Pierce converted the go-ahead three-point play with 38.7 seconds remaining to lift the Celtics to a 109-106 win over the Magic Monday night at TD Garden.

Ray Allen had a team-high 26 points and Rajon Rondo had 10 points and 13 assists in a contest that provided a thrilling rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals. No one seemed more excited about the turn of events than the man who was playing his first game of 2011.

“You get out of it what it what you put into it,” Garnett said.”These two weeks have been dark days for me, trying to keep my morale up, be around the guys, travel. But being hurt is not one of my things I like to be a part of. I hate it. I don’t deal with it well.

“But as I get older, along with these knuckleheads here keeping it real light for me, keeping my spirits up, I just worked through it. Tonight, I just felt stronger and I’m going to continue to build on this and not have any mishaps.”

He certainly showed no ill-effects of the strained right calf sustained on Dec. 29 in Detroit. Garnett ran and moved without a limp while starting out very strong. He had six rebounds, two assists and four points in nine minutes of the first quarter. Garnett also stole the ball from Jameer Nelson late to help seal Boston’s 31st win, keeping them on top in the Eastern Conference.

After scoring just six points on Christmas Day, Dwight Howard had one of his strongest games yet against the Celtics, scoring 33 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. But still, the Celtics, thanks to the interior passing of Garnett and Pierce dominated scoring in the paint, 52-26.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Garnett
Dwight Howard: ‘We will win the war’ vs. Shaq, Celtics at 12:47 am ET
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After all the hullabaloo over who’s the real Superman, there’s no wonder Dwight Howard rolls his eyes when he’s asked about Shaquille O’Neal. Thinking for a moment, the Magic center made a bold prediction.

“The matchup is awesome,” said Howard, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “He won the victory tonight, but we will win the war.”

Howard actually dominated the individual battle during Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Magic. He totaled 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Shaq finished with just 12 and 2. But the C’s walked away with a 109-106 win to even the season series between the two Eastern Conference rivals, 1-1.

Asked about the defense Glen Davis and Shaq played on Howard, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t too impressed.

“It was OK, I guess,” he said. “They combined did a good job. They held him to 33, and you know — whatever.”

The Celtics lost to the Magic on Christmas Day in Orlando, 86-78. Shaq and Howard combined for eight points and 11 personal fouls in that matchup. Round 3 of the battle for Superman supremacy is Feb. 6, in Boston again.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Shaquille O'Neal
Fast Break: Kevin Garnett, Celtics cast spell on Magic 01.17.11 at 11:00 pm ET
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The Celtics handed Kevin Garnett a pretty nice welcome home present, delivering a 109-106 victory against the Magic at TD Garden on Monday night. Of course, the C’s All-Star forward — who returned for his first game of 2011 after missing nine games with a strained calf — had a hand in the win, totaling 19 points and eight rebounds.

A Paul Pierce jumper plus the foul with 38 seconds left put the Celtics up 107-104, and a Garnett steal with 15 seconds to go led to a pair of Ray Allen free throws that sealed the victory. Allen led six Celtics in double figures with 26 points as the Celtics improved to 31-9. Rajon Rondo (10 points, 13 assists) notched his 16th double-double of the season, as the C’s avenged their Christmas Day loss in Orlando.

Dwight Howard had a monster game for the Magic (26-15), finishing with 33 points and 13 rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The return of KG: Obviously, any time a former Defensive Player of the Year returns to the lineup, it’s a bonus. When that guy also averages 15 points a night, it’s basketball’s version of a double rainbow.

In his return, Garnett showed no signs of the strained calf that kept him out of the last nine games. He was active on both ends of the floor — especially the defensive end — and saw plenty of playing time until foul trouble somewhat limited his minutes. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.

Banging the (defensive) boards: Entering the game, the Magic owned the league’s fourth-best rebounding percentage because they have a guy named Dwight Howard who’s fairly tall, pretty strong and kind of good at grabbing boards (13.3 per game upon arriving in Boston). Led by the Big Three’s combined 18 rebounds, the Celtics out-rebounded the Magic on the defensive end, 24-21. However, the Magic grabbed 13 offensive boards to take the overall rebounding edge, 34-30. Still, not a bad showing against one of the NBA’s best boarding teams.

Rajon Rondo’d Jameer Nelson: Lost in the discussion of the recoveries of Garnett, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins is any talk about Rondo’s resurgence after missing time for an ankle sprain. The Celtics point guard had a remarkably efficient night, recording 10 points (on 5-of-6 shooting), 13 assists (and only 1 turnover), four rebounds and three steals. His best pass of the night — a transition delivery to Allen that led to a pair of free throws — didn’t even result in an assist. Rondo’s counterpart, Nelson, had just nine points and five assists.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Hack-a-Howard: Whether Howard forced the issue or not, the Celtics went to this strategy early and often. In the first half alone, Howard took almost as many free-throw attempts (12) as the entire Celtics team (13).

The results were two-fold: 1) Howard made 13-of-18 foul shots for the game, which was a win for Orlando, considering he entered the game shooting just 58.9 percent; and 2) the Celtics’ bigs got into foul trouble, as Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal and Luke Harangody all had three personals at the break.

Defending the perimeter: The Celtics ranked sixth in the NBA in opponents’ 3-point percentage, but on a few occasions they’ve failed to successfully get out and defend the 3-point shot. Orlando takes more treys per game than any other team. When the Magic are making them, they’ll be in the game. That was the case Monday night, as they shot 11-of-27 from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson killed the C’s, making 4-of-6 from downtown.

Technical difficulty: Doc Rivers was all over the refs all night, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season (arguing a Howard walk that wasn’t called) and he very well could’ve gotten whistled for his sixth. Shockingly, Rivers’ archnemesis — referee Bill Kennedy — was not involved in the game. Rivers and Pierce are now tied for the team lead in technical fouls with five apiece.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Orlando Magic
Irish Coffee: Shaq & Big Baby unimpressed in Orlando 12.27.10 at 10:28 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

In the aftermath of the Magic’s 86-78 streak-busting win over the Celtics on Christmas Day, both Shaquille O’Neal and Glen “Big Baby” Davis couldn’t keep quiet.

First, O’Neal ripped official Bob Delaney — the only man to wear No. 26 on the floor during the game — and that might cost him a hefty fine from the NBA offices. Here’s what he said, according to ESPN.com:

“We have two premier big men out there.  He is pushing, I’€™m pushing. Let us play. I guess they [fans] come out to see No. 26 play. He was a great player out there today. They paid all that money to see No. 26 come play. My thing is, if you’re going to call it, call it the same way every time. Don’t pick and choose who you are going to call it against.”

Then, Davis sounded off about the weaknesses of both the Magic and their superstar center, Dwight Howard. Just a few days before Christmas, Davis said he didn’t “really care” about Orlando, and it turns out he still doesn’t. Here’s what Big Baby had to say:

“They can’€™t beat us. They can’€™t. With Shaq in the game. We just have too many guys. They came out and played better than us today, but if you are talking about a seven-game series. I don’€™t think they can beat us.” (via the Orlando Sentinel)

“I have been playing Dwight since 2004, when I was playing against him in the AAU circuit. His game hasn’t really changed. It’s not like he has a jump shot, or a new spin move. He has the same moves since high school. He has the same post moves.” (via CSNNE.com)

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’€™s Irish Coffee or a future mailbag? Send an e-mail to brohrbach@weei.com or a Twitter message to @brohrbach.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, NBA
What the Orlando moves mean for the Celtics 12.18.10 at 10:31 pm ET
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In two separate trades over the course of one day, the Orlando Magic turned over almost half of their rotation for an upgrade at the scoring guard position (Jason Richardson) and high-priced gambles on two of the league’s worst contracts (Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas). In doing so, they ditched the services of two former All-Star wing players whose production has plummeted (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) and two well-paid role players (Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat).

There are a lot of moving parts for the Magic, who over the last two and half weeks have lost six of seven games and watched as the Celtics asserted themselves as the favorites in the East and the Heat established themselves as the best team in their division.

The Celtics have always considered the Magic their toughest conference challenger and many of their offseason moves have been done with the Magic in mind. Orlando general manager Otis Smith clearly felt that his team needed an overhaul to try and keep pace.

The particulars are as follows:

Orlando gets: Gilbert Arenas from Washington and Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkulgu and Earl Clark from Phoenix.

Orlando gives up: Rashard Lewis to Washington and Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, a 2011 No. 1 pick and $3 million to Phoenix.

Phoenix and Washington’s motivations are clear. The Suns, who are going nowhere fast, shed Turkoglu’s onerous contract, which still has two years remaining after this season and get an intriguing big man with potential in Gortat along with a serviceable player in Pietrus. The cash will help the inevitable $4 million buyout on the last year of Carter’s contract. The Wizards obviously get rid of Arenas, who still has three years, $60 million and just as much baggage next to his name.

But these trades are all about the Magic, or more specifically, Dwight Howard, who as Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer points out, can opt out after the 2012 season. If this team had reached its limit, then it does them no good to continue playing out the string until Howard becomes a free agent.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the personalities of the new players will mesh with coach Stan Van Gundy, which is the huge blinking neon light of an X-factor in this discussion, the Magic have gotten better offensively. They have shooters everywhere to put around Howard and in Arenas they have a scoring guard who can create his own shot.

That is particularly important against the Celtics, who are one of the few teams capable of playing Howard straight-up. Without the double-teams, the Magic had trouble getting their shooters open for shots against the Celtics in the playoffs until they switched to a constant pick-and-roll attack. Carter was supposed to be that player, but he wasn’t able to do it.

The Magic should also play faster, an obvious adjustment for a team with so many perimeter players, a dominant rebounder and a lack of size beyond Howard. All of this makes it even more important that Delonte West is able to return from his broken wrist because Van Gundy now has a number of different lineup combinations he can use and the Celtics could use West’s defensive versatility.

Here are five essential realities of the deal from Orlando’s perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dwight Howard, gilbert arenas, Jason Richardson, Orlando Magic
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