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Fast break: Celtics suffer letdown against Cavaliers 10.27.10 at 9:54 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett dunks in the first half against Cleveland, but the Celtics fell short. (AP)

Kevin Garnett dunks in the first half against Cleveland, but the Celtics fell short. (AP)

It was the second night of the first back-to-back of the season and the Celtics were playing in a decidedly different atmosphere than the one they experienced in Boston on Tuesday. Still, there are no viable excuses for the Celtics, who blew a fourth-quarter lead in a 95-87 loss to the Cavaliers. (Recap.)

The Celtics played with fire throughout the game and it ultimately burned them, especially down the stretch where they were outscored, 13-3.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

Too many turnovers: The main problem with the Celtics offense remains turnovers. They had 10 in the first half and another nine in the second. The Cavs wound up with nine more shots than the Celtics, one reason why they were able to win despite shooting under 45 percent.

Jermaine O’Neal will need some time: Give Jermaine O’Neal credit for getting himself healthy enough to play after a variety of training camp injuries, but he was not effective at all in 12 lackluster minutes. O’Neal fouled out with two points — his first points of the season — along with three turnovers and two rebounds.

Fourth quarter techs: Nate Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal picked up technical fouls on the same play, which helped propel a Cavaliers run. Fourth-quarter techs are a major no-no for Doc Rivers.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

Kevin Garnett looks fresh: Garnett had his second-straight double-digit rebounding game with 15 boards. There’s a long way to go, but Garnett looks so much more athletic than he did at this time last season.

Glen Davis knows his role: The Celtics bench needs to fine-tune things, but Davis has assumed the role of sixth man. He saw action at both the center and power forward spots and scored 14 points to go with five rebounds in 33 minutes of action. He and Marquis Daniels have been the top reserves.

Managing minutes: Rivers acknowledged that he played his veterans too many minutes in the opener, and despite the second-half run by the Cavs, he kept his starters on the bench and let his team play through it. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce went from 40 minutes down to the mid-30′s and Garnett clocked in at a more reasonable 30 minutes. Managing minutes may have cost the Celtics the game, but Rivers is going to keep the long view throughout the season.

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Fast Break: C’s right ship 04.07.10 at 9:30 pm ET
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No matter how much they insist that the regular season is meaningless from here on out, the Celtics needed a win Wednesday night against the Raptors. They needed one because of the way they played against the Knicks on Tuesday and they needed one because if they are going to go into the playoffs with any kind of momentum it has to start somewhere.

They might have needed a win, but that doesn’t mean they played like it. For two and a half quarters it was the same Celtics team we’ve seen over the last few weeks. They were fine offensively, but the defense lacked the ability or focus to get stops. That all changed late in the third quarter and the C’s were able to ride a strong effort from their reserves to a 115-104 win over Toronto.

They did it despite sitting Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins for major stretches of the second half. Michael Finley scored 14 points and had six rebounds in 23 minutes of action and Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis also checked in with 20+ minute evenings.

The Celtics had five players score in double figures, led by Rajon Rondo with 21 points and Kevin Garnett had 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting. They shot 56 percent and held the Raptors to under 50 percent shooting on the defensive end. It was a good win for the Celtics, and maybe even a necessary win.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo’s night started poorly but ended spectacularly. He had four turnovers in the first half, but didn’t commit another in the second. That was as big a factor in the win as his 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Turning Point: The Celtics were nursing a two-point lead midway through the third quarter when Doc Rivers went to his bench. The reserves pushed the lead to double-digits

* Sonny Weems had a career half for Toronto with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the first 24 minutes, but he scored just four points the rest of the way.

* Ray Allen had 18 points, including a gorgeous behind the back move for a layup.

* Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson both did not play rotation minutes again and Tony Allen was the nominal backup point guard.

* As expected, Chris Bosh did not play for the Raptors. He had surgery to repair a facial fracture after he caught an elbow from Cleveland’s Antawn Jamison in their game Tuesday. It is unlikely that Bosh will play again during the regular season. He will be a free agent this summer.

* It got worse for the Raptors as Hedo Turkoglu was inadvertently hit in the face by Tony Allen late in the first quarter and had to leave the game. He did not return and is listed as questionable with a nasal contusion.

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Fast Break: Thunderstruck 03.31.10 at 10:04 pm ET
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Game of the year? No question. Best regular season game of the Big Three era? It would have to be in the discussion.

The Celtics lost to the Thunder Wednesday night, 109-104 and while there are implications to the defeat, it’s not hard to appreciate just how good this game was.

You want numbers? the Celtics shot 17-for-20 in the second quarter and 70 percent in the first half… and they only led led by four. Six different Celtics scored in double figures, but no one scored as many as 18 and they had assists on 30 of their 44 made baskets

You want moments? With four seconds left in the third quarter Rajon Rondo raced the length of the floor, knifed through the Oklahoma City defense and laid one off the glass as the buzzer expired. As Rondo skipped away from the shot he had a slight grin on his face as if to say he knew how good it was. That was only one of a dozen or more example of individual brilliance.

Or how about Rasheed Wallace going 7-for-8 from the floor, with almost all of that working off the low post where he dominated a host of OKC defenders?

And Kevin Durant was ridiculous. He scored 37 points and made impossible shots from all corners of the court. He also lived at the free throw line where he went 15-for-15. As a team the Celtics attempted just 17 free throws.

This game had everything you could possibly want in a regular season NBA contest, except for maybe a Celtics win. They are now a game behind Atlanta for third place in the East. They have two more home games to regroup during this stretch and carry some momentum into the playoffs.

Player of the Game: If you have to pick one player from this game it has to be Durant. He scored 37 points and drew so much attention from the Celtics that Jeff Green found himself open for two huge 3-pointers in the final minutes.

Turning Point: The Green 3-pointers. They were both killers.

* Paul Pierce started despite suffering a stinger in his shoulder and scored 14 points to go with four rebounds and four assists in the first half. Kendrick Perkins also returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with knee tendinitis.

* The Celtics turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter, but committed only one in the second.

* The Thunder had never beaten the Celtics in the Kevin Durant era.

* Durant was awesome, obviously, but the Celtics made him work much harder for shots in the second half. They had their big men hedge off screens to initiate double teams and throw his timing off. It really didn’t matter though. Durant also got the benefit of several whistles and shot 15 free throws. He made them all, of course.

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Fast Break: Celtics run over by Spurs 03.28.10 at 10:41 pm ET
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The Celtics and the Spurs are alike in so many way and after one half of basketball they were practically mirror images of each other on the stat sheet and on the scoreboard. But in the third quarter, the Spurs completely dominated the action en route to a 94-73 victory Sunday night at the Garden.

It was the Celtics lowest point total of the season and their largest margin of defeat, as well. The Spurs shot 65 percent in the third quarter and outscored the C’s 33-17, turning a one-point halftime lead into a romp. The Celtics scored just 30 points in the second half, or two less than Manu Ginobli who finished with 28 points.

The Celtics had won six out of seven games before this loss. The Hawks also won Sunday and moved back into a tie with the Celtics for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics own the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the Atlantic Division.

There were very few bright spots for the Celtics, although Kevin Garnett recorded his third-straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Shelden Williams scored 11 points.

Player of the Game: Manu Ginobli controlled every aspect of this game and wound up with 28 points and seven assists.

Turning Point: A close game at halftime turned into a rout as the Spurs outscored the Celtics 33-17 in the third quarter. The forgettable 12 minutes was capped off by an off-the-glass Ginobli 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

* Garnett hit the deck hard after he was fouled by Ginobli in the second quarter, but he bounced up after a minute and appeared to be fine.

* Tony Allen got rotation minutes again in place of Marquis Daniels, but Daniels did check in midway through the third quarter after Paul Pierce hurt his left shoulder. Neither player distinguished themselves.

* Garnett’s old nemesis, Tim Duncan, missed his first four shots and finished with eight points and nine rebounds.

* A 3-pointer by Rajon Rondo was later ruled to be after the shot clock had expired.

* One game after being held to just one rebound, Rasheed Wallace grabbed six in the first eight minutes. Wallace started in place of Kendrick Perkins who missed his second game with tendinitis in his knee. Doc Rivers said before the game that he anticipates Perkins being ready to play Wednesday against the Thunder.

* Michael Finley played 14 minutes against his former team and was held scoreless. He attempted just two shots.

* Nate Robinson did play after spraining his ankle Friday against the Kings.

* DeJuan Blair was a monster with 11 rebounds in 21 minutes.

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Fast Break: Celtics roll Kings 03.26.10 at 10:03 pm ET
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The Celtics treated the Kings exactly the way they should have Friday night at the Garden. The final score was 94-86, and despite some anxious moments in the fourth quarter it wasn’t really that close.

The Kings cut down what had been a 24-point Celtics lead down to six late in the game, but that came mostly against the second unit that had logged considerably more time than usual. The starters returned in the final five minutes and held serve.

The Celtics have now six of their last seven games since losing in Cleveland two weeks ago. With the win, and a Toronto loss, the Celtics clinched their third straight Atlantic Division title. That officially gives them the tiebreaker for third place in the East with the Hawks if they wind up with the same record.

The Celtics received even more good news Friday as the Hawks lost in Philadelphia. That puts the C’s a full game ahead of Atlanta.

The Kings were missing rookie Tyreke Evans, but it wouldn’t have mattered all that much if he had played. The Celtics jumped on Sacramento early and never looked back. They led by 15 points after one quarter and by 20 at the half.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo passed Rick Fox for the Celtics single-season record for steals with 167 and he moved passed Sherman Douglas for second on the single-season assists list. Next up for Rondo is Bob Cousy who has held the mark since the 1959-60 season (715). With a career-high 18 assists Friday night, Rondo has 696 for the season for the season. He could pass Cooz on this homestand.

Turning Point: With the Celtics leading by nine with 1:45 left in the game, they forced a 24-second shot clock violation and Kevin Garnett threw down a dunk at the other end to push the lead back up to double digits.

* Tony Allen came off the bench with the first wave of reserves and Marquis Daniels did not. Doc Rivers said before the game that Allen had earned some more playing time and he was as good as his word. This will be an interesting dynamic as the season plays out.

* Kevin Garnett had an incredibly active first quarter with seven rebounds. Garnett recorded his second straight double double with 18 points and 13 rebounds.

* Kendrick Perkins sat the game out with soreness in his knee. Rasheed Wallace started in his place and drew two quick fouls. Wallace wound up fouling out in 25 minutes with six points and just one rebound.

With Perkins out Shelden Williams got some extended time and played well with six points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.

* Ray Allen scored 18 points in the first half on 7-for-11 shooting.

* Nate Robinson sprained his left ankle at the 7-minute mark of the second quarter. Robinson was taken to the locker room and did not return.

* Brian Scalabrine entered the game late in the third quarter. It was his first action since March 7 against the Wizards. That was also the last game before the Celtics activated Michael Finley.

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Fast Break: Celtics hold off Nuggets 03.24.10 at 9:47 pm ET
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One of the most overused cliches in sports is saying a regular season game had “a playoff intensity” to it, and so without going that far it’s fair to say that Wednesday night’s game between the Celtics and Nuggets was as hard-fought a regular season game as you’re likely to see in the month of March.

Despite playing the second night of a back-to-back, the Nuggets hung around and sliced a 21-point third quarter lead to seven. But the Celtics were too much for them in a 113-99 victory. With the win the Celtics clinched a playoff spot.

The news wasn’t all good for the C’s as the Hawks finally figured out a way to beat the Magic. Boston and Atlanta remain tied for third place.

Both teams did what they wanted to offensively. The Celtics pounded the ball inside and wound up outscoring the Nuggets 58-28 in the paint. Denver, meanwhile, thrives on getting to the free throw line and they shot 37 free throws. Fortunately for the Celtics, they also missed 12 of them.

There were good signs throughout for the C’s who held off several Denver runs and despite allowing the Nuggets to shoot 49 percent played good defense for most of the game.

Player of the Game: You can make a strong case for Rajon Rondo who recorded a triple double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists or Kevin Garnet (20 points, 10 rebounds), but Paul Pierce was the star of the show. Any time he plays Carmelo Anthony it’s a chance to reassert himself as one of the dominant small forwards in the league. Pierce started the game aggressively and continued to play that way throughout en route to a 27-point performance.

Turning Point: With the Nuggets down 11 early in the fourth quarter, J.R. Smith picked up an ill-advised technical foul. That, combined with a shooting foul on Ray Allen, gave the Celtics three free throws and Allen cashed them in. The Celtics pushed the lead up to 17 and were afforded some much-needed breathing room.

* The Celtics turned it over just four times in the first half, which helped them put up 46 shots. They also assisted on 19 of their 25 made field goals.

* J.R. Smith scored 10 points in the second quarter and made all four of his shots from the field, but he was 2-for-5 from the free throw line.

* Tony Allen gave the Celtics great minutes in the second quarter when Pierce picked up his third foul. Allen finished the half with 10 points including a vicious dunk off a no-look pass from Rajon Rondo and a layup just before the final buzzer. Allen also played rotation minutes in the second half in place of Marquis Daniels and was on the floor down the stretch when Doc Rivers went to a small lineup.

* Michael Finley scored seven points in just six minutes and made three of his four shots. Finley continues to be an asset off the bench.

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Fast Break: Celtics-Mavericks 03.20.10 at 10:33 pm ET
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Paul Pierce scored 29 points to lead the Celtics to victory against the Mavericks. (AP)

Paul Pierce scored 29 points to lead the Celtics to victory against the Mavericks. (AP)

The last time the Celtics played the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki scored 37 points and had Rasheed Wallace vowing “retribution.” For three quarters the Celtics held Nowitzki in check, but in the final 12 minutes the most under-appreciated superstar in the NBA began to get rolling.

Nowitzki shot the Mavs back into the game — and a seven-point fourth quarter lead — and the Celtics knew that if they were going to steal another one on the road, they would have to stop him to do it.

Kevin Garnett drew the assignment down the stretch, but he was not alone. Wherever Nowitzki went, help followed. The Celtics allowed open jump shots to whomever wanted one, but wouldn’t let Nowitzki breathe. While he finished with 28 points, the Celtics held him to just one field goal in the final five minutes.

The Celtics did escape with a 102-93 win in Dallas (recap) against a Mavs team that had been 14-2 since acquiring Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. In doing so they not only completed the sweep of the back-to-back, they also capped off a sweep of the Texas triangle after beating Houston Friday night and San Antonio earlier in the year.

Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo combined for 70 points on 26-for-45 shooting, 16 rebounds and 14 assists. It was the Celtics’ fourth straight win and their fifth in the last six games. It was also their most significant win since beating the Lakers and Portland back-to-back in February.

Retribution? Maybe not, but it was certainly a satisfying win for the Celtics.

Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting, but it was his last points that were the most important. With the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, Pierce drained a 3-pointer from the top of they key. He then came up with a steal on the other end and found Rajon Rondo for an easy layup and a 99-93 lead. It was Pierce’s third straight game where he has scored more than 20 points.

Turning Point: After J.J. Barea sank a 3-pointer to put Dallas ahead, 82-75, the Celtics looked like they might be in trouble. But Ray Allen came back and hit a 20-footer and then a long 3-pointer to get the C’s back within two, 84-82. The Mavs are a notorious second-half team and looked like they were about to make one of their patented fourth-quarter runs before Allen’s big shots.

* The C’s opened up a 60-52 lead with a 12-5 run to start the second half, but the Mavericks rallied, highlighted by an emphatic dunk by Caron Butler on Kendrick Perkins.

* Both teams got off to a slow start as the Celtics missed their first five shots and the Mavs missed five of their first six. But things picked up quickly after that and the Celtics took a 30-24 lead after one quarter.

* Jason Terry scored 14 points in the first half. The Mavericks bench completely outplayed the Celtics reserves.

* The teams combined for 26 free throws in the first half.

* Garnett had a strange stat line in the first half when he had eight rebounds and five steals to go with just two points. Garnett missed all four shots that he took, but he appeared to be moving well.

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