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Fast Break: Celtics – Timberwolves 11.04.09 at 10:42 pm ET
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Playing in front of a sea of No. 5 jerseys, the Timberwolves were determined to prove themselves against Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. But in the end it was Garnett himself who forced a jumball to secure a 92-90 win for the Celtics, in Minnesota.

Player of the game: Rajon Rondo was outplayed by rookie Jonny Flynn in the first half, scoring just two points. Then he turned it on in the third quarter. Rondo posted 14 points in the third to bring the Celtics back into the game. He didn’t just put the ball in the hoop ‘€“ he baffled the Timberwolves defense, fought to get open, and burned his opponents with quick-thinking plays at the basket. Rondo finished the night with 18 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds, and 3 steals.

Turning point of the game: With over 10 lead changes in this game, the deciding play came with 3.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Up 92-90, the Celtics were fighting to fend off the Timberwolves game-winning/tying attempt. Garnett forced the jumpball against a driving Corey Brewer and eventually iced the victory for the Celtics.

* Big men dominated the first quarter. Al Jefferson led all scorers with 13 points (6-10 FG) while Kendrick Perkins led the Celtics with a perfect 4-for-4 from the field (8 points).

* Rasheed Wallace added another T to his resume when he got whistled for a technical from the Celtics bench during the second quarter. It was reminiscent of Sam Cassell getting ejected from the sidelines last season without ever actually playing in the game.

* The Celtics were outrebounded 21-16 in the first half. Pierce was the only starter without a board in the first two quarters. Ryan Gomes, on the other hand, had five for the Timberwolves at the three-spot.

* Even though Rondo had the hot hand coming out of halftime, Doc Rivers played up the Celtics strengths and subbed in House at the end of the quarter. The strategy paid off as a well-defended Pierce kicked the ball off to House for the game-tying three as time expired in the quarter. The Celtics carried that momentum into the fourth.

* Kevin Garnett recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. It was his first since opening night against the Cavaliers (13 points, 10 rebounds).

* Timberwolves big man Oleksiy Pecherov made a name for himself with 24 points (9-14 FG) to lead all scorers.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo,
Stat geekery: KG rules at 10:46 am ET
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Another day another stat geek model (stat geek is a term of endearment). This one comes courtesy of Joe Sill at Hoopnumbers, who describes himself as an analytics consultant from Chicago. Sill has a PhD in Computation and Neural Systems from Cal Tech and a BS in Applied Math from Yale, so he’s a pretty smart dude.

Sill works in the field of Adjusted +/-, which is a system that has drawn some attention due to its orginators Wayne Winston and Jeff Sagarin and their work with the Dallas Mavericks. In layman’s terms, Simple +/- ratings, which can be found in most online box scores, account for how many points a team is better or worse with an individual player on the floor. For example, Marquis Daniels was +31 against Philly Tuesday night.

Simple +/- doesn’t factor in context, which is where Adjusted +/- comes into play. (If you want to see the math, see Joe’s page explaining his concepts). Adjusted +/- is said to be “noisy,” which means you might get some odd results over a short period of time, but it’s an interesting concept and it’s getting more and more play in NBA front offices.

The takeway from Sill’s analysis over the last three years, which he calls Regularized Adjusted +/- (RAPM) is that Kevin Garnett grades out the highest of any NBA player, and by a fairly wide margin. The second-highest ranked Celtic is Rajon Rondo, followed by Paul Pierce and then Ray Allen. Interestingly, Allen graded out highest last season on the Celtics.

A good rule of thumb for advanced NBA metrics is that they are a useful way to help tell a story. John Hollinger’s PER rating, for example, is a number derived strictly from the box score and he will tell you that it doesn’t account for individual defense beyond getting numbers like steals, blocks and rebounds. It’s a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole puzzle.

As yet, no one has advanced a truly credible single number that completely explains performance, like VORP in baseball, and there’s a strong thought in the stat community that it may be impossible to find such a number in basketball analysis.

With that in mind, what Sill’s numbers might tell us is that Garnett is far and away the “most valuable” Celtic in ways that don’t necessarily show up in the box score and that Allen had something of a late-career renaissance last season. We saw that manifest itself on the floor last season, especially when Garnett was not on the floor, so the numbers make intuitive sense.

(Hat tip to basketball-reference’s layups blog for directing me to Sill’s site, Hoopnumbers)

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Stat Geeks,
Garnett safe at second 10.29.09 at 12:50 am ET
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Kevin Garnett has already expressed fatigue with the number of questions about his right knee, but any time there’s a hard fall or a slip he’s going to be asked about it. He had such a play midway through the third quarter against the Bobcats when he dove for a loose ball and came up gingerly.

After the play concluded, Doc Rivers replaced Garnett who didn’t return to the court. That may have had as much to do with the score as anything else. The Celtics were up big at the time and things were beginning to get chippy with Kendrick Perkins, Tyson Chandler and Gerald Wallace all picking up technicals.

“My first intention was to get back and run,” Garnett said. “Then I saw Paul [Pierce] and [Rajon] Rondo in the break and I was like, ‘Know what? They got that.’ Let me just sit back here, rub this hip and that was it. It wasn’t nothing. Doc said it looked really bad, but it wasn’t nothing. I slid into second base. The ump said I was safe. I’m good with that.”

Garnett was smiling by the time he got to the bench.

“It was enough because of the lead, and it was just time for him to come out anyway at that point,” Rivers said. “But obviously every time he goes to the floor you just want him to get back up, and he did. He’s fine, but it does scare you because it was an awkward fall. The rarity is that you see a big [man] diving with a 25-point lead at the time. And that’s who he is, and that’s who you want him to continue to be.”

Read More: Kevin Garnett,
Turn up the volume: C’s not living in past 10.23.09 at 5:25 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  Before this season ever starts, nearly everyone in a Celtics uniform wants to make one thing clear. This is NOT 2008.

On Friday, the Celtics held a two-hour practice before going home to get clean and ready for their team dinner Friday night in Boston.

Here’s what a number of them had to say about this year, comparisons to two seasons ago and other miscellaneous items.

Paul Pierce said the team is plenty motivated this season.

Pierce said he hasn’t heard any ‘experts’ picking the Celtics.

Doc Rivers said there’s only one set of expectations that matter.

Rivers said he likes where the team is at.

Kevin Garnett said he likes what he saw in the preseason.

Garnett said Tuesday in Cleveland against LeBron and Shaq will be exciting.

Read More: Cavaliers, Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
C’s going with later practices, shootarounds at 4:54 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  If Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce want later practices to make sure players get their rest, then Kevin Garnett is totally fine with it.

This year, the Celtics are likely to do away with many shootarounds on the day of a game and move practices to a slightly later start in the day so that players can sleep in and be well-rested for games.

“Later practices are alright,” Kevin Garnett said on Friday. “It is what it is. Whatever Doc wants. It’s not my cup of tea but whatever the Captain wants that’s what it is.”

Garnett is a notorious early riser and has a reputation of functioning on little or no sleep, especially following road trips. Garnett, like Junior Seau with the Patriots, is known for getting to work early in the morning, getting warmed up and ready to go with practice.

Now, he’s likely going to be able to sleep in, at least a little.

“I don’t sleep anyway,” Garnett said. “It’s good. You’ve got to find good in everything so if that means I get to sleep until 8:30 or 9 [a.m.], then so be it.”

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett,
KG on knee questions: ‘That [stuff] is getting old’ at 3:57 pm ET
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WALTHAM  —  Kevin Garnett reached his breaking point on Friday afternoon with questions about whether he is physically ready and back to 100 percent following surgery last May to remove bone spurs behind his right knee.

“Next question,” he answered when asked.

But the question was asked moments later, in a different way.

“I just told you. That [stuff] is getting old, now. That [stuff] getting real old. You’re going to have to sit in your offices and come up with some new questions. Drink a little more beer now or whatever gets you going to come up with your questions.”

Told that he’s likely going to hear that same question all season long, Garnett replied, “You’re going to get the same answer, alright?”

Eddie House drew a comparison to another famous New England athlete returning from a knee injury.

“I’m very happy he’s back, he’s moving well,” House said. “He’s even taken a few blows to the spot where he had the surgery and he bounced back up. It’s kind of like the Tom Brady effect. At first, he’s kind of ginger. He doesn’t really know until he gets hit a couple of times. ‘I can plant, I can throw.’ Like Kevin, now he can catch lobs, can plant, step-backs. He’s doing everything Kevin Garnett does.”

Read More: Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Tom Brady
Celtics Bench Falls to Knicks 10.20.09 at 10:41 pm ET
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The Celtics and Knicks entered Tuesday’s game with the same goal: to win. But the two teams had different underlying objectives. For the Knicks, it was about getting a victory from their starting unit. For the Celtics, it was about developing the bench in what looks to be the Big Three’s final game of the preseason.

Despite losing, 108-103 (recap here), Doc Rivers told the media after the game there were plenty of things for him to be pleased with, including the development of the second unit. Below are numbers and notes from Tuesday’s game:

  • Managing Minutes: None of the Celtics starters played over 30 minutes. In fact they only combined for 130 minutes, compared to the Knicks starters with 157. Final counts for the starting five: Rajon Rondo (27), Ray Allen (30), Kevin Garnett (24), Paul Pierce (26), Kendrick Perkins (23).
  • More than the Second Unit: Rivers added Brian Scalabrine and J.R. Giddens to the mix with Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, and Rasheed Wallace in the fourth quarter. Scalabrine and Giddens came into the game down 98-90 and were part of an 11-1 Celtics run.
  • Getting Chippy: Preseason action got heated in the second quarter as the Celtics and Knicks exchanged flagrant fouls in a matter of a minute. First House was whistled for a flagrant against Jared Jeffries, which sent Jeffries to the ground. (House did help him to his feet.) Nate Robinson followed up with a push that sent Rondo into the scorers table. Garnett was also called for a technical foul in the third quarter.
  • Three’s Not Company: Last season the Celtics were hampered by the Magic’s long-range shooting during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. On Tuesday they faced the same challenge as the Knicks shot 13-for-36 (36.1%),  compared to the Celtics 6-for-24 (25.0%). The Knicks’ missed their fair amount of three-pointers, but at the end of the game they still put 39 points on the board from behind the arc.

The Celtics will take on the Cavaliers on the road on Wednesday night. Don’t expect to see Pierce, Allen, or Garnett on the court for the final game of the preseason. Catch their regular season debuts in Cleveland next Tuesday.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen,
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