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Celtics-Bobcats Preview 12.01.09 at 1:15 pm ET
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The Charlotte Bobcats have come a long way from their season-opening stomping at the hands of the Celtics, a humiliating 92-59 defeat. After falling to 3-9 following a seven-game losing streak, Charlotte (7-9) rolls into Tuesday night’s rematch as winners of four straight, including a 94-87 victory over LeBron James and the Cavaliers and a 92-76 beat-down of the Washington Wizards.

The Celtics (13-4), meanwhile, are in the midst of ‘righting the ship’ after some mid-month struggles, riding their own four-game win streak – including a hard-fought, come-from-behind win over Dwyane Wade and the Heat on Sunday.

The two collide tonight at 7:00 pm in Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, the Bobcats looking to settle the score after their miserable showing to open the season, and Boston looking to continue its return to dominance in the NBA.

Here’s how things are shaping up heading into tonight’s game:

Recent Performance

Heating Up – Both teams head into Tuesday night winners of four straight, each with highlights in their streaks. Charlotte is fresh off a bombing of the Wizards in Washington, and before that a fairly convincing seven-point win over LeBron and his Cavs. Before that? A 116-81 punishing of the Raptors, a team that took Boston to the final quarter in the Garden.

The Celtics aren’t exactly flying low either, however, coming off a solid win over a Miami squad that had every reason to beat them last Sunday. The most important thing to take from the Celtics’ past four games, however, hasn’t been just the W’s so much as it’s been the play of Kevin Garnett. Amidst all the worries and concerns about his knee injury and recovery, Garnett answered critics with an 11-for-12 shooting night Sunday versus the Heat, posting 24 points and 8 rebounds – and, more importantly, putting Boston on his shoulders to seal up a win.

Head to Head

Tough Customers –Glancing at their overall records the past few seasons, you’d assume Boston usually has its way with Charlotte. In fact, it hasn’t exactly been that easy. Aside from their season-opening blowout of the Bobcats to open Charlotte’s 2009 season, Boston has disposed of the Cats in regulation only once in their past three meetings – a five point nail-biter. The other two times Charlotte took Boston to overtime, and one of them was a Celtic loss. Tuesday’s game marks the second of three games the two will play against each other this season, with Boston holding a 1-0 edge in 2009.

Scouting Report

The Bobcats added some punch to their offense when they traded for the Warriors’ Stephen Jackson a few weeks ago. He has totaled 17.4 points per game since he joined Charlotte. That being said, it still remains Gerald Wallace’s team. Wallace leads the Bobcats (aside from Jackson’s seven-game stat sample) in both points per game (15.9) and rebounds per game (11.8). During their four-game win streak, Wallace has led the Cats in boards in every single match, and topped the team in points in three of the four, including back-to-back 31 point nights against the Raptors and Cavaliers.

That being said, in Charlotte’s season opener against the Celtics, Boston was able to corral Wallace, holding him to a season-low 10 points.

The Bobcats do run a fairly diversified offense however, with Boris Diaw (11.7), Raymond Felton (10.3), and Flip Murray (10.3) getting in on the action when they’re called upon.

Key Statistic

.259 – Ray Allen’s three-point shooting percentage over the past six games. The veteran sniper has been struggling with his stroke to say the least. In fact, Allen has only hit multiple three-balls once in his past six games – and twice in his past 10. It hasn’t exactly killed the Celtics, because amidst it all they’ve won four straight. But if No. 20 does not heat up, it could start hurting the Celtics down the road.

6 – The amount of games in a row that Gerald Wallace has hit double figures in rebounds. He is a beast on the boards, and it’s going to be a key for Boston to keep him off them. If they don’t, he can dictate a game (20 boards, 24 points Nov. 2 vs. New Jersey).

Health/Injuries

Same Old – Nothing new for the Celtics, who are still without Big Baby and Tony Allen. Ray Allen had missed last Sunday’s practice because of his son’s illness, and his status for the Miami game was in doubt, but it appears it won’t be an issue for Tuesday’s match-up. Similar story for Charlotte, which is operating with a full complement of players after the recent return of Tyson Chandler following his back spasms earlier in the season.

Quotable

Pedal to the Metal – “This is a time where you have to concentrate more. We understand what being a successful road team is about in the past. It will give us more focus time. I think we understand being on the road, we have to focus a lot more. You can’t play the way we’ve been playing at home on the road because you won’t get those wins.”

Celtics Captain Paul Pierce knows these games are important. The Bobcats aren’t a division rival. They aren’t really even a conference rival, and at 7-9, aren’t considered a playoff threat. But it doesn’t matter. The Celtics know they need to get all the wins they can find, and Tuesday night is no different.

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The Book on ‘Kevin and Sheed’ 11.28.09 at 2:19 pm ET
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WALTHAM — It doesn’t take long for Rasheed Wallace to make an impression.  Ask Paul Pierce, who just one month into the regular season has already heard so many stories and jokes that he could pen a literary masterpiece.

“He’s an extension of Kevin [Garnett],” Pierce said with a laugh after Saturday’s practice. “Between the two you hear a lot of stories. It’s fun. I could write a 400-page book right now.”

Garnett and Wallace are seated next to each other in the Celtics locker room. So it is only fitting that the title of Pierce’s hypothetical book would include both of them.

“I’d keep it simple: Kevin and Sheed,” Pierce said, adding, “[The cover would] probably have them two face to face, smiling.”

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Turn up the volume: Pierce imposes his will 11.26.09 at 12:14 am ET
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Kevin Garnett was considered the missing piece last year as the Celtics missed out on defending their NBA title.

But listen to Garnett and Doc Rivers following Boston’s 113-110 win over the Philadelphia 76ers and you get the unmistakable sense that so far this season, it’s Paul Pierce who is indispensable.

Garnett said Pierce imposed his will on the game, leading the Celtics with a game-high 27 points and taking a charge on Andre Iguodala down the stretch.

Doc Rivers calls Pierce the MVP, at least of the team if not the NBA.

Paul Pierce said he was just trying to do his thing.

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Celtics-76ers Preview 11.24.09 at 10:28 pm ET
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Philadelphia has been riddled with mediocrity all season. The Celtics are fighting with it right now.

At 7:30 p.m., the Celtics (10-4) will play host to the 76ers (5-9) in a collision of two teams that have been struggling of late – though Philly’s struggles suggest more far-reaching problems than do Boston’s. Despite the skewed skill levels, records and anything else that might separate a 10th-place Philly team from a playoff-bound Boston club, Friday night’s game carries a decent amount of intrigue – especially from the Boston perspective.

Of late, the Celtics have seemingly lost some of the swagger that they displayed during a 6-0 start. After dropping two straight to the Hawks and Pacers, Boston seemed to get back on track against Golden State in what was a pretty convincing win. But another slip-up against the Magic and an overtime buzzer-beating win against the 3-10 Knicks have made it appear that the Celtics are not in sync.

Center Kendrick Perkins attributed it to a lack of focus. But regardless of what’s been plaguing them, the Celtics need to improve – and what better team to straighten things out against then the 76ers? Read the rest of this entry »

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Danny Ainge on The Big Show at 6:09 pm ET
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Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations and GM Danny Ainge joined the Big Show on Tuesday to discuss the Celtics’ recent play, the development of Rajon Rondo, the three-point difficulties of Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett’s recovery from injury. To listen to the interview, visit the Big Show’s Audio On Demand page.

Do you think the team’s recent play has anything to do with the fact the players are getting older?

I don’t think so, no. I think our team has played well in a lot of scenarios and I just think that we haven’t been as consistent. But, shooting the ball accounts for a lot. We haven’t been hitting a lot of fairways but we have been hitting a lot of puts. Right now we are a shot of two shots away from winning these games and we have been shooting the ball very poorly from the outside.

You can’t be happy with the defense thus far though?

No, I have been happy with the defense we’ve played in a lot of the stretch but I think we get sloppy and we get lazy and we lose our focus a little bit. Defensively, statistically we were doing well defensively.

Two things that are worrying about Rondo: lack of defensive pressure at the point and that he is not breaking down the defense quite as much. Is this the same guy we saw last year?

I think he is playing better than last year. I think his defense is significantly better than last year. I think he is not getting to the line as much but I think part of that is that we are getting the ball inside more to our post players and not relying on his penetration as much but he is shooting a much better percentage than he did last year which says he is getting to the basket more, he is just not getting to the line more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Magic know formula to beat Celtics 11.21.09 at 12:05 am ET
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BOSTON – It has been nearly a year since the Magic faced a healthy Celtics squad. On Friday they proved they can beat the Celtics with or without Kevin Garnett.

“It’s very important especially when they are full strength to show you that we’re still a good team,” Rashard Lewis told WEEI.com after the Magic’s 83-78 victory (Recap). “You know they’re a great team. This is only one game, it’s early in the season and I definitely would not count them out at all. Every time we play the Boston Celtics it’s going to be a tough, tough game.”

The Celtics were 0-2 last regular season against the Magic without Garnett and were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Magic without him. But the truth is, the Magic have held their own against the Celtics in recent years. They improved to 5-3 against the Cs since the 2007-08 regular season.

“I think the biggest thing playing their team is not allowing them to get a lot of second chance points, hold them to one shot, and then run,” said Dwight Howard.

The Celtics actually outshot the Magic 87-to-70 from the floor, but the Magic shot 10-for-22 from three-point range while Celtics were a mere 2-for-19. Vince Carter attempted 29 field goals — “All of them weren’t open, I’ll be the first to tell you that,” he said with a laugh — the same number as Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined. Stifling the Celtics offense was a must-do for the Magic.

“You’ve got to play defense,” said Lewis. “I think every time we play this team we really buckle down on the defensive end and we try to take their main guys out – Ray Allen at the three-point line, and we try to crowd Paul Pierce and make other guys beat us. Tonight I think we did a good job of that.”

The Celtics lost their lead just three minutes into the first quarter, and the Magic held off a 17-12 fourth quarter run after Rasheed Wallace tied the game at 78 apiece. Lewis said his team regained their composure after coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout and buckled down, realizing how easily the Celtics can fight back from a double-digit deficit. The Magic diminished the Celtics homecourt advantage and held on in the TD Garden’s playoff atmosphere.

“We’re not going to do that [back down] to anybody,” said Jason Williams. “I mean, we feel that we’re just as good as anybody else. So if we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to win more times than not.”

On Friday night, like they have so many times in recent games against the Celtics, the Magic came out on top. Neither team can read too much into this victory, though. While the Magic know how to beat the Celtics, but they also know either team is capable of winning at any time.

“I don’t want to say we got their number because anything can happen on any given night,” said Lewis. “Tonight the ball kind of bounced our way and towards the end of the game we were able to get away. It’s not like we blew them out. We won by like four points so it could have easily gone the other way.”

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Kevin Garnett on D&H, 11/19 11.19.09 at 4:01 pm ET
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Celtics forward Kevin Garnett joined the Dale & Holley Show on Thursday. The Celtics star discussed his health, the challenge of returning from injury, the impact of Rasheed Wallace on the Celtics and the state of this season’s team.

Highlights are transcribed below. To listen to the complete interview, click here.

Last week Rasheed Wallace said he might not have an outside range. What’s yours, 75-feet?

Well, if you want to take that shot last night, probably about 80 to 75-feet, yeah, that’s about accurate, yeah.

You called it in the air didn’t you?

I called it when I let it go, and then Don Nelson sort of said something to me. That’s why my reaction was the way it was, because I knew when I let it go, it felt good, but you never know in those situations. I let it go, it felt good, ooh, went in.

I’m wondering if fear is the right word to use when you had a major injury for the first time in your career. When you didn’t know what was going on, were you fearful at all about what was going on in there?

I fear God and I fear my mother, that’s about the only thing in life, other than that it was just straight up pain. At one point I thought it was something that I could play through, I knew when I got home and when I was in my own personal space, that’s when I knew it was something serious. Walking up steps, sitting down, laying out on the floor, stretched out on the floor, my leg was constantly bothering me.

And you’re talking about a lot of activity, so when I really started to take it serious and the more I got educated on what was going on, that’s when I started to make decisions health wise, what was best for me. I was running like I was running with a peg leg, and Doc in practice was like, this is terrible to watch. My effort, I pretty much through was there, I tried to come back, play a couple games, I knew that I was hurt, I knew that I was really hurt, but I was trying to grind through it, trying to give Paul and the rest of these guys some support.

But I just knew at the same time I was probably making it worse by playing. I had a very, very, very rare injury, obviously bone spurs but the size of the spur was pretty irregular, and pretty dramatic. It wasn’t until I got to see it then I took it a lot more serious, but until that point I was built off hard work and dedication to your craft. I haven’t changed that since I got here, I’ve always felt like mind over matter, you know the mind tells the body, but at some point the mind has to listen to the body. Read the rest of this entry »

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