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Celtics-Spurs Preview 12.03.09 at 11:36 am ET
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After nailing down their fifth straight win on Tuesday night, a 108-90 thumping of the Charlotte Bobcats, it appears the Boston Celtics (14-4) might be regaining their swagger.

Meanwhile, a certain team in San Antonio (9-6) might be hitting its own stride. After making a splash this summer by trading for former New Jersey Nets star Richard Jefferson (career 17.6 ppg), it appeared the Spurs positioning themselves to contend for another NBA title. But after a three-game skid dropped their season record to 4-6, questions began to surface about age, chemistry and hunger for winning.

So much for that.

Five straight victories for San Antonio and they’€™re right back in the title talks. That being said, the black and silver has been beating up mostly on second-tier teams; their game Thursday night against the Celtics will be another matter.

Both teams teams have been hot of late, and neither is a stranger to the NBA spotlight. The Celtics dominated the league in 2007 en route to their 17th NBA Championship, meanwhile seemingly every year the Spurs are on the brink of grabbing one of their own, including winning four titles in the past 10 years.

Tonight’€™s 8 p.m. clash has just about everything: the names, the legacy, and the anticipation. But how does everything else pan out? Let’€™s take a look:

Recent Performance

On A Roll ‘€“ Both teams come in winners of five straight, though neither streaks have been star studded. Aside from Boston’€™s 92-85 win on Sunday over the 10-5 Miami Heat, none of the Celtic’€™s past five victories have come against opponents above .500. In fact, before taking down the Heat, the last time the Celtics beat a team with more notches in the win column than the loss column was back on Nov. 11, a 105-96 win over the now 10-7 Utah Jazz.

Similarly, San Antonio has benefited from a rather smooth stretch in their schedule, helping them get back on track after losing three straight in mid-November. The only above .500 team in the Spurs’€™ past five wins? The 10-8 Houston Rockets, whom San Antonio disposed of 92-84 back on November 27. But you’€™d have to travel all the way back to that same Nov. 11 to find the last time the Spurs beat an above .500 team prior to the Rockets, a 92-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Head to Head

Strangely Familiar ‘€“ They may not meet that often, but when they do, chances are it’€™ll be memorable. Boston and San Antonio have yet to collide this season, but last year they met two times – as they do every season ‘€“ and both games were spectacular. The Spurs took the first game, a 105-99 nail-biter that had San Antonio taking the lead with 20.4 seconds left off a Roger Mason three, stunning a packed house at the Garden. The second game, however, was taken by the Celtics in an equally exciting matchup, an 80-77 victory at the AT&T Center in Texas. Kendrick Perkins netted the game-winner for the Celtics, who escaped San Antonio with KG on the bench for the entire fourth quarter – in part thanks to the Spurs’€™ six consecutive free-throw misses to close out the game.

Boston swept the two-game series in 2007-08, but the two split again back in 2006-07 with both teams winning their home matchups.

Scouting Report

Defense Wins Championships ‘€“ It’€™s no secret to anyone in the NBA how the Spurs run their team: a combination of stout defense and scoring mainly from anyone on the floor named Duncan, Parker or Ginobli. But the addition of Richard Jefferson this season has helped alter that perception a little, giving the Spurs a potent fourth option when it comes to putting the ball in the net. So far in 2009, Jefferson has averaged a solid 13.5 points a game, a nice complement to point guard Tony Parker (16.5) in the absence of guard Manu Ginobli (groin injury). But regardless of how much or how little Jefferson steps up, the Spurs are still the same old Spurs, and they live and die by perennial All-Star forward and team-leader, Tim Duncan.

As a result, the most exciting matchup within the Spurs-Celtics rivalry is as it has been for the past three seasons ‘€“ Tim Duncan vs. Kevin Garnett. Seeing those two do battle in the paint is like watching history collide. Whenever two NBA greats the likes of Garnett and Duncan meet on the hardwood, it’€™s bound to be exciting, particularly considering that the two play the same position and will literally be matching up head-to-head.

Key Statistic

.833 ‘€“ After posting a very less-than-Allen .259% from beyond the arc in his past six games, Ray Allen heated up in a big way in the Celtics win over the Bobcats. Allen nailed five of six shots from three-point range on Tuesday night, was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line and finished the night with a game-high 27 points. The Celtics would like that hot shooting to carry over to tonight’€™s game against a tough defensive squad in the San Antonio Spurs, who are surrendering 96.5 points a game, 10th in the NBA.

3/4 ‘€“ the amount of major statistical categories in which Tim Duncan leads the Spurs, furthering the notion that the black and silver go as No. 21 goes. So far in 2009, Duncan leads San Antonio with 18.5 points per game, 10.8 rebounds and an intimidating 2.00 blocks per contest. He even ranks third on the team in assists with 3.7, a rarity for a power forward with the size of Duncan.

Health/Injuries

The Ginobli We All Know and Love ‘€“ He’€™s back on the injured list ‘€“ again. Oh wait, never mind, he’€™s off. Wait, no, he’€™s back on. Okay, forget it ‘€“ he’€™s off it now. Ginobli finally returned to the Spurs lineup on Sunday, a 97-89 win over the 76ers that had the Spurs’€™ star bench-player contribute 17 minutes on the court, netting only eight points and grabbing three rebounds. Obviously a sub-par game for Ginobli, who is averaging 13.5 points a game in ‘€™09, but it’€™s apparent he doesn’€™t have his sea legs back yet after injuring his groin in the Spurs’€™ loss to the Jazz back on Nov. 19. Since then, the injury has kept the Argentinean born guard out for five-straight games until returning on Sunday. He’€™s only appeared in 10 games this season, and may not be at full-strength tonight against the Celtics, something that will undoubtedly hurt the Spurs both on the offensive and defensive ends.

On the other hand, San Antonio’€™s backup guard, Roger Mason (7.1), who was a thorn in the Celtics’ side last season, may be cleared to play Thursday night. The Spurs’€™ off-the-bench hot shooter has been dealing with a hamstring injury that held him off the court in Sunday’€™s win over the 76ers, but he is expected to be available for Thursday night’€™s clash with the Green. In his last two games before injuring the hamstring, Mason posted a combined 28 points, shooting a torrid 66.7 percent from the field.

Nothing new for the Celtics on the injury front, as the usuals — Glen “Big Baby” Davis” and Tony Allen — will be sidelined for tonight’€™s matchup. News for Tony Allen is that the Celtics will be without the 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard for the entirety of their four game road-trip, and he will be re-evaluated when the club returns to Boston.

Quotable

Big Four? – “Those situations were created by that little guy. He was excellent tonight, really. … I thought he controlled this game as well as anybody and I don’t know if his stat line is really as indicative of how much impact he had on this game.” – Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Celtics’€™ point guard Rajon Rondo after Sunday’€™s game.

He’€™s no longer a secret in the NBA. Rajon Rondo continues to improve daily, and the Celtics have all the confidence in the world in him, evident in his new five-year, $55 million contract. It will be another tough night for the point guard however, as he goes toe-to-toe with perennial All-Star Tony Parker, who is averaging 16.5 points a game this season. It’€™s apparent that a lot of this game hinges on Garnett vs. Duncan ‘€“ but make no mistake about it, it will be no small battle at the point.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Spurs
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 – ‘€œThis 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.

Read More: Charlotte Bobcats, gerald wallace, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen
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.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace
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.

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce,
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 »

Read More: 76ers, Andre Iguodala, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett
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 »

Read More: Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace
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.

‘€œIt’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). ‘€œYou 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.

‘€œI 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 — ‘€œAll 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.

‘€œYou’ve got to play defense,’€ said Lewis. ‘€œI 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.

‘€œWe’re not going to do that [back down] to anybody,’€ said Jason Williams. ‘€œI 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.

‘€œI don’t want to say we got their number because anything can happen on any given night,’€ said Lewis. ‘€œTonight 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.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Jason Williams, Kevin Garnett
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