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Kevin Garnett, Celtics lay smackdown on Pacers 01.04.13 at 9:53 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett was ejected after a flagrant-2 foul on Tyler Hansbrough, and unless you came to watch him dance during Gino Time, it didn’t even matter. The Celtics ended a four-game losing streak with a resounding 94-75 victory against the Pacers.

Combined with the Thunder’s blowout of the 76ers, the Celtics (15-17) leapfrogged Philadelphia (15-19) into the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Garnett totaled 18 points and seven rebounds before his ejection.

Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined for a triple-double (31 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) while Courtney Lee (13 points) and Jared Sullinger (10 rebounds) showed positive signs. Here’s what else happened.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Courtney Lee, Indiana Pacers, Kevin Garnett
Doc Rivers wants to give Brandon Bass a little confidence while staying ‘as big as possible’ at 9:14 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Doc Rivers announced before Friday’s game with the Pacers that he was inserting forward Brandon Bass back in the starting lineup, taking the place of Jason Collins.

“We want to stay as big as possible, what we didn’€™t like with Jason in the [starting] lineup was — now we’€™re going to play him every night — and when he and Kevin were off the floor, we got small quickly,” Rivers explained. “This way we can keep a big on the floor at all times.

“We could have done it the other night, but that was Avery’€™s first night. That is the group that helped us. But having Jason [play every night] will help Kevin, because he still won’t have to play ‘5’ the entire time. I just think the season’€™s too long now for Kevin to do that.”

The Celtics are also hoping the move will motivate Bass, who is averaging just 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

“That’€™s what we’€™re hoping,” Rivers added. “You don’€™t do it just for the group, you do it for the individual at times,” said Rivers. “Brandon’€™s played better when he’€™s playing with Kevin, though everyone has for that matter. I think clearly Brandon has. And that’€™s one of the reasons we are doing it.”

The lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Bass, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce marks the ninth different lineup Rivers has used in the first 32 games of the season. That lineup debuted on March 25, 2012 after Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in Philadelphia and two games after Ray Allen was sent to the bench. With that lineup, the Celtics went 11-3 down the stretch to help the Celtics win the Atlantic Division title for a fifth straight season.

Collins had started the previous seven games for the Celtics since being inserted in the lineup for Bass on Dec. 21 against the Cavaliers to take the load off Kevin Garnett in the low post.

Bass has strugged in his role off the bench, both offensively and defensively, and Rivers made the decision Friday to boost Bass’ game by putting him on the floor more with Garnett.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jason Collins, Kevin Garnett
Fab Melo and the debate over D-League dominance 12.27.12 at 2:59 pm ET
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Over his last two NBA Development League games, Fab Melo averaged 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.5 blocks. The Celtics rookie amassed 32 points, nine boards and nine rejections for the Red Claws on Wednesday, which, if nothing else, proved his 16 rebounds, 15 points and 14 blocks in Maine last week were no fluke.

After being selected No. 22 overall — one slot behind Jared Sullinger — in this past June’s NBA draft, Melo hasn’t seen action on the C’s, but has produced respectable numbers over 10 games for their D-League affiliate: 10.4 points (51.1 FG%, 66.7 FT%), 6.7 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in just 25.5 minutes a night. Of course, he’s playing against teams from South Dakota and Idaho, so those numbers should be taken with a heaping helping of salt.

Still, there’s always a spot on an NBA roster for bigs who defend the rim, especially on this Celtics team, which allows an atrocious 42.6 points in the paint per game and suffers worse when Kevin Garnett‘s not on the floor.

Exhibit A: Greg Stiemsma.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Fab Melo, Greg Stiemsma, Hasheem Thabeet
Even Paul Pierce can’t save the Celtics from the Bucks 12.22.12 at 12:28 am ET
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Paul Pierce rescued the Celtics on Wednesday night when he scored 40 points to lead the Celtics over the Cavaliers after Boston blew a 20-point lead to a 5-21 team in the third quarter on their home court.

Pierce scored 35 points Friday but it wasn’t enough as the Celtics blew a 10-point lead and lost 99-94 in overtime to the emerging Milwaukee Bucks.

‘€œIt’€™s a team game, regardless of how I play,” Pierce said. “We’€™ve got to do better in stretches. I think when our offense isn’€™t going for long stretches we’€™ve got to be able to defend. You know, at the beginning of the fourth quarter we went into the quarter up like seven or eight and we instantly kind of gave away the lead. And that’€™s the kind of case where even though our shots aren’€™t falling, we’€™ve got to be able to come down and get stops after stops after stops. And it just comes and goes in stretches right now.’€

The Celtics led by 10 in the first half and by eight, 70-62, heading into the fourth. But Milwaukee went on a 21-8 run to take command. Pierce appeared to rescue the Celtics yet again when he drained a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime. But in the end, even Pierce couldn’t overcome a 1-for-15 night from Jason Terry and a 6-for-22 night from Kevin Garnett.

‘€œThat’€™s what we’€™ve been saying all year long’€¦There’€™s going to be nights when shots won’€™t fall,” Pierce said. “And one thing we can control, I think, is our intensity on the defensive end, we are inconsistent. But we just ‘€“ a little bit of consistency in that department ‘€“ we play well for the most part and we look up there and we shoot 43% or whatnot, but it has to be throughout the whole game more consistency. You know, we can’€™t give up 17-0 runs to Cleveland. We can’€™t give up 10-0 runs to Milwaukee. And then decide that’€™s when we want to play defense.’€

The Celtics are now 1-3 against the Bucks and won’t play them again this season, unless of course, it’s a playoff matchup.

‘€œThey have great guard play, and they have pretty good intangibles, you know, they have guys that you really don’€™t expect to play well that really play well,” Pierce said. “I mean (Larry) Sanders kind of has been a thorn in my side, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, he’€™s played well the last two games. And you focus so much on their two guards, that what happens: other guys like that step up and carry you.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, Milwaukee Bucks
Kevin Garnett on the loss and missed opportunities 12.21.12 at 11:44 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett made just 6 of 22 shots from the field on Friday night as the Celtics lost in overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks 99-94 at TD Garden. Garnett talked about the frustration of losing a game the Celtics had so many open look and had a 10-point lead.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA
Doc Rivers pregame on the Bucks again, ‘The Jasons’ lineup and Larry Sanders at 7:40 pm ET
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Chris Wilcox (right thumb) and Leandro Barbosa (personal matter, not with the team) will be out for Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

With those two out, the Celtics recalled rookie forward Kris Joseph from the Maine Red Claws on Friday.

Other notes:

The Celtics are playing the Bucks for a fourth time in the first six weeks of the season, with Boston trailing the series 1-2. That could be a factor if the two are vying for playoff positioning late in the season. Boston stands 13-12 heading into the game while the Bucks are a half-game better at 13-11.

“What’€™s funny is, I don’€™t think any of the lineups have been the same on either team,” Rivers said. “It’s four new games every time we play them. It’€™s early, I tell you, I obviously don’€™t love that. I just think you should play a team in your conference late in the season. But we’€™re going to make it up, we’€™re going to play the Knicks four times after this.”

Doc Rivers will stick with “The Jasons” lineup featuring Jason Terry at shooting guard and Jason Collins at center for a second straight game.

“I’€™ve said this 100 times – the starting lineup is not as important as everyone thinks it is,” said Rivers. “I did that more from Kevin. In one way, just to get him some minutes at the 4 instead of the 5. And then, until Avery [Bradley] comes back, for Jason Terry to get a shot. But other than that, I did like it, because Jason — you don’€™t know which one, so I’€™ll let you figure it out — his talking was terrific, it helped Kevin. I hope you guys can figure that one out.”

Rivers said he did like the impact it had on Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes of the win over Cleveland.

“He seemed like he had more energy,” Rivers said. “It’€™s one game, so it’€™s tough thing to look at. If we play well tonight — we’€™ll find out in a month what it does really. It looks like he had more energy, because he had another guy covering for him and he didn’€™t feel like he had to do everything on defense.”

Rivers compared Bucks shot-blocker and big man Larry Sanders to Thunder big Serge Ibaka: “We should probably stop shooting when he’€™s right there. That would probably help, because he always blocks your shot. It’€™s funny, he does it to everybody. I actually told my son, Austin, when they played the Bucks, I said, ‘€˜Hey Austin, be careful with Sanders, you get a step deep and he’€™ll get you.’€™ I think his first two shots were blocked, so I was thinking, ‘€˜Nothing changes. No one listens.’€™”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jason Collins, Jason Terry
Opinion: Danny Ainge correct to sound alarm for Celtics at 7:21 am ET
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The Celtics no longer are one of the toughest teams to play in the NBA, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge does not appear content with that reality. After watching his team play mediocre defense over a 25-game sampling, Ainge on Thursday criticized the players’ collective play on The Big Show.

“We’ve got to prevent those runs by other teams and those droughts that we have at the offensive end and giving up so many lay-ins on the defensive end,” Ainge said. “There’s just no excuse for the way we’re playing. Yeah, you need to take time to find out who we are, but there’s no excuse for giving up 32 points in the paint in a half against Chicago, and there’s no excuse for giving up a 17-0 run to Cleveland.”

Last year’s Celtics delivered the template for a veteran NBA team looking to flip the proverbial switch in season. A five-game losing streak just before the All-Star break put the team’s record at 15-17. The Celtics went 24-10 after the break and eventually made a run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

So why is Ainge sounding the alarm in December? From a distance, the Celtics’ 13-12 start to this season appears to follow the same trend — a veteran team going through the motions some nights, saving its collective legs for the second half and postseason.

A closer look proves that this year’s team is much different than last year’s team, and perhaps not due the same measure of patience from Ainge.

The most glaring difference between this year’s Celtics and last year’s is their inability to play strong team defense. Even when last year’s team slogged through the first half of the season, it ranked as one of the top two teams in the NBA defensively. Before the break, the 2011-12 C’s held opposing teams to 89.4 points per game and a field goal percentage of 41.9. Those numbers increased slightly after the break to 90.1 points per game and a field goal percentage of 42.1. Despite the slight increases, the Celtics still finished the season as the second-ranked team in the NBA in points allowed, behind only the Bulls, and they ranked first in opponents’ field goal percentage.

The Celtics’ most marked improvements last season took place on the offensive end. The C’s scoring average jumped from 89.4 before the break to 94.1 in the 34 games after. Their field goal percentage improved from 45.8 to 46.5.

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Read More: Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
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