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Fast Break: Celtics regain luster against Blazers 02.20.10 at 1:12 am ET
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When the Celtics went out on their annual West Coast swing following the All-Star break, they were a team that was searching for itself. A narrow win over the Kings gave them some much-needed relief. A win over the Lakers gave them a much-needed victory over an elite team.

But it was Friday night against Portland, in the second game of a back-to-back, that the Celtics finally started to look like the Celtics of old in a 96-76 victory. (Recap.)

The Celtics put together a complete game that featured strong shooting (53.4 percent), low turnovers (11), solid rebounding and, most of all, defense. The Blazers shot just 34 percent for the game and scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter and 13 in the second.

The Celtics looked sharp early, making 14 of their first 18 shots. Kevin Garnett, in particular, was strong as he made his first six shots while Rajon Rondo had six assists in the first quarter. The Celtics then put the clamps down defensively, holding the Blazers to just three field goals in the quarter to take a 56-38 lead into halftime.

The Blazers closed to within nine early in the fourth quarter, but Ray Allen scored 11 of the next 14 points as part of a 14-2 run to put the game away. Allen led all scorers with 21 points and was 9-for-14 from the floor.

Turning Point: Portland scored just six points in the first six minutes of the second quarter as the Celtics built a 45-31 lead with their second unit. The starters picked it up from there as Garnett knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season on a desperation heave as the shot clock expired. Garnett followed that with a length-of-the-floor layup off a feed from Rondo.

Player of the Game: Rajon Rondo once again controlled the Celtics offense with 10 points and 11 assists in only 31 minutes.

* The Celtics’ physical defense got to the Blazers late in the first half as Kendrick Perkins and Andre Miller became entangled under the basket. Perkins and Juwan Howard were assessed double technical fouls.

* Rondo and Rasheed Wallace both picked up technical fouls in the third quarter. Wallace had his technical from Thursday night rescinded. Assuming he keeps this one, Wallace now has 13 technical fouls this season. His 16th would trigger an automatic suspension.

* The second unit played well with a combined 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Glen Davis was a force around the basket in the fourth quarter while the Celtics were able to pull away.

* Thanks to the lopsided final, Garnett played just 21 minutes, but he still scored 16 points and had seven rebounds.

* Paul Pierce was a game-time decision, but was in the starting lineup as usual. He scored just nine points on 3-for-9 shooting in 26 minutes. Danny Ainge said on The Big Show that Pierce was still fighting through his foot injury. (Click here for a full transcript of Ainge’s appearance Friday.)

* Portland’s Brandon Roy, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, also started. The Blazers had new addition Marcus Camby in the starting lineup, as well.

* Nate Robinson did not play and will likely miss Sunday’s game with the Nuggets as well. Robinson has had the flu. The other new Celtic, Marcus Landry, is also not expected to join the team until Tuesday, when they both newcomers are scheduled to make their debuts against their old team when the Knicks come to town.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Nate Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers, Rajon Rondo
Celtics vs. Lakers: Just Another Game? 02.18.10 at 12:18 am ET
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To Rajon Rondo, a trip to the Staples Center in the middle of February feels the same as a stop at any other arena.

He sees a basketball court, not the banners hanging above it. And regardless of the rivalry against the home team, he is simply focused on leaving with a win.

“It’s not like a championship game,” he explained. “It’s not a series. It’s one game. It helps our record or hurts our record, one way or the other. It’s another game.”

On Thursday, the Celtics will take on the Lakers in their final match up of the regular season. The last time the teams met on Jan. 31, the C’s blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead and watched Kobe Bryant sink a game-winner with 7.3 seconds left.

In spite of the desire to avenge their loss, Rondo’s right. This isn’t a championship game. In fact, at this point in the season it is more about the Celtics vs. themselves rather than the Celtics vs. the Lakers.

The C’s have been their own worst enemy lately, surrendering leads and making mistakes down the stretch. This game against Los Angeles, the second stop on a four-game West Coast road trip, will be a test for them to get back to Celtics basketball after a recent departure.

“It’s important,“ Paul Pierce said of the entire road trip. “We want to go out there and start playing better, start playing more consistent basketball. We know it’s a tough trip, and maybe this is a chance for us to get out on the road and get ourselves back together because we really struggled over the last month-and-a-half.”

The loss to the Lakers capped off a three-game losing streak and a month of January in which the Celtics went 6-8. They entered the All-Star Break on a two-game skid, still struggling to put together 48 minutes of basketball.

A win over the Lakers would give them momentum to jumpstart the second half of the season. They narrowly edged the 18-win Kings on Tuesday night and will face the playoff contending Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Cavaliers over the course of the next week.

“Next is down to business,” said Kevin Garnett. “Obviously trying to play better, consistent basketball for the Celtics and being productive. So that’s what’s next for us.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
KG video: ‘It’s unpleasant’ 02.07.10 at 7:10 pm ET
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Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett reacted to Sunday’s 96-89 loss to the Orlando Magic.

“It’s unpleasant,” Garnett said. “We don’t like that at all. Our goal is to establish home court and try to add that as an advantage and we really haven’t done that consistently, at least against good teams.”

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Magic, NBA
Van Gundy won’t ‘bury’ Pierce, KG in All-Star Game at 4:14 pm ET
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Stan Van Gundy, who coached his Magic to a victory over the Celtics Sunday, will coach the East team in Sunday's All-Star Game. (AP)

Stan Van Gundy, who coached his Magic to a victory over the Celtics Sunday, will coach the East team in Sunday's All-Star Game. (AP)

The temptation is there for Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. As coach of the East in the NBA All-Star Game on Valentine’s Day, he knows he’ll have three Celtics at his beck and call. He would love to play them a lot, put a few more miles on their tires.

But with the two teams squaring off Sunday at the Garden, a week before the big game at Cowboys Stadium, he doesn’t see much point in wearing out Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo so Celtics coach Doc Rivers doesn’t have to worry too much.

“He’s got a better chance of me resting his guys because we don’t play him again. So, if we played him the week after the All-Star Game, they’d all go about 42 minutes,” Van Gundy joked before Sunday’s game. “But with us not playing them again, I can’t get much out of burying them.”

But seriously, Van Gundy has the challenge every coach in every sport has in an in-season All-Star Game. How do you manage players on competing teams in an exhibition game that means nothing in the standings?

“I would plan to get together with all of them, but particularly I know Paul and Kevin have had injury concerns and see where they are.”

[Click here to hear Van Gundy dish on the Celtics and the All-Star Game.]

So, in doing his homework, Van Gundy is consulting the Celtics — specifically assistant coach Mike Longabardi.

“I just told Michael Longbardi to make sure if Doc has concerns that he lets me know, too, ahead of time,” Van Gundy said.

“I’m not looking to hurt anybody, and at the same time, obviously, Kevin was voted into the game by the fans and Paul’s a perennial All-Star, so fans are going to want to see those guys, so you can’t play them five or six minutes. Particularly Kevin as a starter, he’s got to put in some minutes, but we’ll see where they are and where Doc is.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Magic, NBA All-Star Game
Ian Thomsen on D&C: C’s need to adjust game 02.01.10 at 11:08 am ET
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Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen said Rajon Rondo is being asked to do too much for the Celtics. (AP)

Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen said Rajon Rondo is being asked to do too much for the Celtics. (AP)

Sports Illustrated NBA writer Ian Thomsen made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Monday morning to talk about the Celtics’ recent woes. He explored the team’s current struggles, whether the Big Three still has the legs to mount a championship run, whether the team might consider a major deal along the lines of a trade of Ray Allen or whether a move to acquire a player such as Kirk Hinrich of the Bulls could help the team to pull out of its current funk.

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, click here.

How quickly is the window closing?

It’s going to close fast if they don’t make the adjustments they need to make. They aren’t themselves, and I’m talking about [Kevin] Garnett especially, and [Paul] Pierce a little bit, and even Ray Allen. They’re just going to need to adjust the way they play, to try to make the best of it while they get through this transition. If they still think they can win a championship, they can’t do it the way they are playing now. They have to sort of do a transitional style to get them to March and April with a chance to win it.

Meaning what? Get new people?

Garnett needs to be more of a center right now. He’s not himself. He’s not beating guys down the floor in transition. [Lakers coach] Phil Jackson brought that up yesterday. He needs to be more that post-up guy, play a little bit more inside, they can play the ball through him. He needs to figure out what he can do and do that. Because what he’s doing now isn’t very productive.

They’ve been outscored in the fourth quarter in 12 of their last 14 games. Is that age and injury?

It’s age and injury, and I really think they’re asking too much of Rajon Rondo in his [fourth] year to be doing so much, to be carrying them, playing a lot of minutes, and then to lead them in the fourth quarters the way he’s been having to do. I think he’s come a long way, he’s a terrific player, he’s going to be even better in a couple of years. But right now they’re asking too much of him.

A lot of it just doesn’t make sense. The team doesn’t make sense, when you look at the hierarchy. Think about two years ago. When you looked at the stats for the season, it just all made sense the way the shots were divvied out, the order of things. And they don’t have that order right now. Rondo’s a big part of the offense as a point guard who is not a great shooter. Really, it all just comes down to not having Garnett be himself, and he’s got to figure out some way to be productive right now.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, Kirk Hinrich, Marquis Daniels
KG still finding his way 01.31.10 at 5:06 pm ET
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BOSTON — It’s pretty obvious Kevin Garnett is not the same player he was two years ago when he was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year and the centerpiece of Boston’s run to a 17th NBA title.

Surgery to remove bone spurs behind his right knee last summer and a hyperextended right knee suffered late in December has slowed his return to form.

Doc Rivers still believes Garnett can get back to the top defensively — hopefully taking the Celtics along for the ride. More than that, he still expects it.

“I can [expect Garnett back to form], but not right now,” Rivers said conditionally. “But really, none of our guys who have come back, you can’t hold any of them to their normal standards right now. Our biggest issue with our injuries is that they’re healthy but they’re not ready to play basketball at this level yet.

“Paul [Pierce] had his first big game in Atlanta since he’s been back. Kevin is still [getting back]. The key is you still have to play them the minutes. The only way they’re going to get back is by keeping them on the floor and let them get their minutes. The tough part is while you’re doing that, the team struggles a little bit.”

[Click here to hear Doc Rivers talk about Garnett's return.]

Rivers has maintained all along that the Celtics need Garnett back to form late in the spring — when the season truly is on the line. In the meantime, they’ll have to live with the inconsistencies.

“I think he can do it,” Rivers said of Garnett returning to form. “The No. 1 thing is getting them back to that level. I just think it’s more timing. When you look at Kevin, it’s amazing watching him. The Orlando game, his timing was completely off the entire game. Then the Atlanta game, all of sudden he had good timing.

“I just think it’s going to be that way for a while. The guy it’s most frustrating to is him because he’s knows it. The Orlando game at halftime, I thought he was going to beat himself up if he could, because he knew it. He was trying to talk himself into slowing down. I was just telling him, ‘Just play. It is what it is. It’s going to happen for you. You just have to keep playing.’ ”

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA,
Car & Driver: Garnett cruises through practice 01.24.10 at 6:25 pm ET
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WALTHAM  –  No, Doc Rivers didn’t have a 1976 Pinto in his younger years. He had a Buick Skylark.

Skylark vs. Pinto. Who you got?

Skylark vs. Pinto: Who you got?

“I didn’t have a Pinto, that’s for sure,” Rivers said Sunday, two days after Kevin Garnett compared himself to a mid-’70s Pinto. “I didn’t have a back seat in my car, but that’s good. I was driving in front.

“It was burned somehow. Mysteriously, the back seat caught on fire and my dad wouldn’t replace it. So, I had to drive around with a Skylark. It only had the front seat. You could see the trunk through the back seat. No double dates. So, that’s that my car story. It smelled like smoke and that’s the way it was.”

Garnett apparently was on to something when he drew an analogy to an old beat-up mid-’70s economy car to describe his physical condition following Friday’s game — his first since a hyperextended right knee forced him to the sideline for 10 games.

“Some minor adjustments to it and it’s ready to roll,” Garnett said. “Tires changed, transmission checked and everything is pretty much where it needs to be. But at the same time, it’s still, it’s a ’76 vs. a ’10. That’s what it is.”

That was Garnett’s way of saying he had a little bit of rust but feels ready to get back to action on Monday after scoring 13 points, hauling in two rebounds and dishing out three assists in 30 minutes of action in Friday’s overtime win against Portland.

Read More: Buick Skylark, Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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