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Starting five: Thoughts on the Celtics’ struggles through season’s first five days 12.29.11 at 10:13 pm ET
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Last Friday, before leaving for their Christmas day showdown against the Knicks, Celtics coach Doc Rivers joked that the media would have to calm fans down if his team started the season slowly. Unfortunately for Rivers, Boston’s first three games have left the team winless, with the very panic that Rivers seemed to anticipate ensuing.

Perhaps the most glaring issue through three games is Boston’s proclivity to fall behind early in contests. The Celtics have trailed by sizable margins at the half in each of their three games, the smallest deficit being nine.

Although Boston displayed strong fortitude against both Miami and New York — finding itself within striking distance in the last two minutes of each game after falling behind by double-digits — they know playing catchup is not a winning recipe.

“All the teams were the aggressors initially,” back-up guard Keyon Dooling told reporters Wednesday night, following the team’s loss to New Orleans. “We were on our heels trying to bounce back. We can’t be that type of team. We have to be a hit-first team if we want to be successful.”

Boston showed some of Dooling’s “hit-first” mentality against the Hornets, jumping out to a 9-2 advantage. However, playing in the second game of a back-to-back caught up to the Celtics, as New Orleans finished the first quarter on a 22-9 run. “We played tired,” Rivers told reporters. “We looked tired. It happens.”

Another alarming trend is overall team defense. In the previous four years of the new “Big Three” era, Boston has allowed an average of 92.6 points per game. Meanwhile, this season the Celtics are allowing 106 points per game. Looking even closer, the Celtics gave up 60 or more points in the first half only four times last season. This season Boston allowed 62 points in the first half against New York, and followed that performance by giving up 69 points through 24 minutes two days later in Miami. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Brandon Bass, Glen Davis, Greg Stiemsma, Jermaine O'Neal
The legend of Greg Stiemsma, Celtics player at large 12.22.11 at 10:24 am ET
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As Celtics training camp invitee Greg Stiemsma‘s buckets started to pile up Wednesday night against the Raptors, so too did his potential nicknames. “Stiemroller” or “McStiemy” were just two of the many batted around.

Regardless, one thing is for certain: Stiemsma made a name for himself in Boston, as the Garden crowd grew louder and louder with each of his seven points (3-8 FG), five rebounds and two blocks.

“It was fun,” Stiemsma said of the fan reaction. “It’€™s fun to have those guys behind you. I know Boston is a great sports town. They love their Celtics. I’€™m just having fun out there and trying to stick around for as long as I can.”

Indeed, just how long Stiemsma sticks around remains to be seen. The Celtics could make final roster cuts as soon as Thursday, and coach Doc Rivers suggested the C’s would leave the 15th spot open for a potential free agent signing. Draft picks JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore should make the roster out of camp, so that leaves one open spot to be filled by Stiemsma, Gilbert Brown, Michael Sweetney or Jamal Sampson.

“I just hope I showed I belong, that I can play at this level and that I can help this team,” said the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Stiemsma. “Whether it’€™s three- or four-minute stretches or whatever it may be, in practice, whatever it is, I feel like I can step in and help them out.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Greg Stiemsma, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics steamroll Raptors in preseason 12.21.11 at 10:03 pm ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (17 points, 6 assists) got the preseason Garden party started, Greg Stiemsma (7 points, 5 rebounds) kept it going and E’Twaun Moore (11 points) closed it out in a 81-73 victory against the lowly Raptors finale on Wednesday night.

Heck, C’s fans were even treated to a Michael Sweetney sighting, whose bucket in the waning moments of the fourth quarter brought the house down and signaled closing time on the preseason.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Steamroller: Playing for a roster spot, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Greg Stiemsma turned in what might have been his best performance since leading the Randolph High Rockets to three straight Division 4 Wisconsin state titles. In between, he’s played in renowned basketball hotbeds like South Korea and Sioux Falls, S.D. Wednesday night, Stiemsma totaled all seven of his points in the first half, garnering more applause from the Garden crowd with each bucket. Then again, the Celtics were playing the Raptors … in the preseason.

JO’s D: In limited action, the 33-year-old Jermaine O’Neal let his presence be known. Showing what Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been saying throughout training camp — that his starting center has looked better than ever in green — O’Neal owned the paint on the defensive end, blocking four shots in 11 minutes. Although, O’Neal did leave the game to return to the locker room in the third quarter never to return (with no visible injury).

Rondo’s jumper: Perhaps the most encouraging sign — and the one that could benefit the Celtics the most throughout the season — was not only Rajon Rondo‘s willingness to shoot from the perimeter, drive through the lane looking for his shot and get to the free throw line, but his ability to score in all three aspects of the game. Rondo established himself early and often as the best player on the floor, draining a couple 18-footers, getting to the line six times and totaling 17 points in 22 minutes.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, E'Twaun Moore, Greg Stiemsma, Rajon Rondo
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