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Opinion: Danny Ainge correct to sound alarm for Celtics 12.21.12 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.

The Celtics have struggled defensively this season, and there's no evidence that there will be an improvement similar to last season's. (AP)

“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
Irish Coffee: A brief Kevin Garnett lesson on chemistry and evolution 12.20.12 at 10:44 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.

While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.

“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”

Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per 82games.com.

  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
  • Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
  • Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small

One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Doc Rivers rolls the dice with Rajon Rondo and gets away with one 12.13.12 at 1:55 am ET
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The final box score Wednesday night reads that Rajon Rondo played 52 minutes, 30 seconds of the 58 minutes of Boston’s 117-115 double-overtime win over Dallas.

Doc Rivers said he could see Rondo’s minutes getting up there, especially toward the end of regulation and gambled by leaving him in the game, hoping the Celtics could hold onto their lead with four minutes left.

“Well I thought we started walking the ball up the floor,” Rivers said. “I thought our tempo changed in the fourth quarter. You know, it’s funny: they went small, we went small, you would think your tempo would increase. We actually went the other way. I thought the biggest mistake I made, actually, is keeping Rondo in that long.

“I thought I took the gamble, and sometimes it’s a good one sometimes it’s a bad one and I didn’t think this was a good one. I just thought he got tired. You know, I didn’t give them that normal rest two minutes before the fourth and let him get some rest. I mean obviously I didn’t anticipate a double overtime game. But I thought that had an impact on him and on his speed in the game. I told our guys with like four minutes left – my coaches, because then it was too late – I said, ‘This was not a good decision.’ And that decision could’ve hurt us.”

But it didn’t cost the Celtics – in part – because Rondo and the Celtics forced 28 turnovers against the Mavericks, leading to 34 points.

“Well, we’ve been trapping,” Rivers said. “I’ve been talking about it a lot and over the past seven games it’s been paying dividends for us. It’s been terrific. I told our guys, we also broke our own record with deflections. So we had – I don’t know what the number was now – but we had 100 deflections it felt like, we had 27 turnovers, because we couldn’t make a shot.

“You know, I didn’t like our shots that we got down the stretch. But overall we had a lot of good shots and they just wasn’t going in. So we won a game where a team shot 51 percent, and the other team, us, shot 43 percent. That was happening to us earlier in the year if you remember; we lost a couple games where it was the exact opposite. So, when you get more possessions like that, you give yourself a chance to win the game. I told the guys I was proud of them; I thought we made some mistakes that later in the year we can’t make down the stretch of games: the foul to give, didn’t call a time out, pass the ball so we couldn’t advance it before the first overtime. Those are plays that can’t happen. But through all those mistakes we still won the game, so as a coach we’ll take that.”

Kevin Garnett had 40 minutes himself in the marathon.

“He held up, and fortunately we are taking [Thursday] off,” Rivers said. “Whenever you have an 8 o’clock game you’re taking the day off anyway. So, you know, I don’t want that but it had to happen tonight.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Doc Rivers has learned a lot from Bill Belichick 12.11.12 at 9:58 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers had a special chance to go inside the Patriots game preparation minutes before kickoff Monday night. He learned a lot from the invitation from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. On Tuesday, he was asked about his experience and was asked if anyone on his team compares to Tom Brady.

“Rondo is our Tom Brady, as far as being the point guard/quarterback,” Rivers said after Tuesday’s practice. “Kevin [Kevin Garnett] probably as far as all of the relationship stuff. Tom Brady has got to be right there [as one of the best in history]. It’s surgical watching him play. Then to have that, plus the relationship with [Belichick], I don’t know if there’s been a better great quarterback relationship with their coach ever. Bill Walsh and Joe Montana would be the only other one that comes to mind for me. That’s pretty neat. And they’re so different as people. That’s pretty cool.”

Rivers was on the sideline with Mark Wahlberg while Rondo was also in attendance wearing a Wes Welker jersey. Rivers took in the game from the suite belonging to Belichick and watched with Belichick’s girl friend Linda Holliday.

“I was there most of the game,” Rivers said. “I left in the middle of the fourth. I asked Linda could I leave now? Is it safe so it was. I love watching that team play. I was telling our guys that today. It’s just really awesome watching them execute, how professional they are. Every time I go to a Patriots game, I get so much out of it.

“I got to sit in their offensive gameplan meetings before they went out on the field. It’s just really cool. It’s a neat atmosphere. You can’t be around it enough, you really can’t.”

Rivers was amazed at the Patriots’ execution of their game plan.

“To me, their execution and how serious and how they prepare for it,” Rivers said. “Obviously, it’s different, they have one game to prepare for a week. It does make a big difference when we have five in a week, four in a week, it’s a little harder to do. Everybody knows their job and they do their job.

“It’s a neat atmosphere,” Rivers added. “Football [teams] in general [game plan weekly] but the Patriots do it on another level. Just the execution. Listening to what they said they wanted to do on offense before the game and then watching them actually do was pretty impressive.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: How Celtics perform in clutch situations 12.10.12 at 5:10 pm ET
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After Rajon Rondo missed not one, but both game-winning opportunities in a 95-94 Celtics loss to the 76ers over the weekend — a failed 19-footer to end regulation and the infamous slippery 16-footer as overtime ran out — I got to wondering how the C’s are performing in clutch situations (either team within five points with five minutes remaining in regulation and overtime), since half of their 20 games have been decided by six points or less.

The C’s are 6-4 in those 10 games despite shooting 37.4 percent as a team in a whopping 60.2 clutch minutes, including three overtime games. They’ve had four potential game-winning shots at the buzzer — all misses on long jumpers — and Rondo has taken three of them. Paul Pierce attempted the fourth (from the elbow, of course).

Before we started reading into who’s doing what in the clutch, here are the numbers (Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger have all played sparingly in crunch time, but not a large enough sample size). Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry
Kevin Garnett: Being called soft ‘still lives in the back of our minds’ 12.06.12 at 1:51 am ET
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Kevin Garnett had heard enough about how the Celtics couldn’t rebound. He had heard it from the fans, media and even his head coach.

Doc Rivers put another carrot in front of his team this week when he said Kevin Love and the Timberwolves would kill the Celtics on the glass if they didn’t bring energy Wednesday night. Safe to say, the message hit home with Garnett and the Celtics, who outrebounded Minnesota, 45-41 in a 104-94 win at TD Garden.

“I think what you see here is that we as a team are trying to be better at rebounding,” Garnett said. “Doc’s been on our [butt] about giving up offensive rebounds, playing tougher, establishing something. Obviously, being called soft is not something that you want to be called. It still lives in the back of our minds. Still a work in progress.”

“This is a very good team we played tonight,” Garnett said beating a Timberwolves team that handled the Sixers a night before in Philadelphia. “They put it to Philly the night before and obviously they played back to back, but a very good team. Kevin Love has been a cast over there and it was by no means an easy game for us.”

Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds as his energy and attack mentality against Kevin Love led the way.

“When I’m out there hoopin’, I’m not really conscious of when it comes to defense,” Garnett said. “I know where my energy needs to be. I know my primary role. But I’m efficient. I know what I’m doing. I try to be aggressive when they need to be.”

Love had 19 points and 13 rebounds but the Celtics we able to control the Minnesota front court.

“We were aggressive, and we were aggressive from the early part of the game,” Garnett said. “We established a post early on. I thought defensively we played with a lot of energy. We made them go to their second and third options which is something they don’t like to do, but we did a decent job on Kevin. He obviously had a double double but for the most part we slowed him down a little bit and controlled the tempo. Having Rondo back was big for us, I thought he brought a lot of big energy. He was excited that he was back and probably fed off that.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Fast Break: Whole lotta Kevin Love can’t stop Celtics 12.05.12 at 9:52 pm ET
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Maybe Celtics coach Doc Rivers should give his aging stars the day off more often.

Two days after resting the over-36 crowd for a practice, Rivers watched Kevin Garnett (18 points, 10 rebounds), Jason Terry (17 points, 5 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 4 rebounds) lead his C’s to a 104-94 win over the visiting Timberwolves. Of course, Rajon Rondo (17 points, 11 assists) returning from suspension didn’t hurt.

A whole lot of Kevin Love (19 points, 13 rebounds) couldn’t even help the T-Wolves (8-9), whose porous defense helped the Celtics improve to 10-8 on the season and 5-4 at the Garden.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Minny driver: Last season, Garnett said he has “nothing positive to say” about his former NBA home, and he clearly played with an added edge against Minnesota. Not that Garnett doesn’t play with an edge every night, but he had a little something extra in the tank for the Timberwolves, starting 6-of-7 from the field and scoring 12 points in his first 11 minutes — his lone miss a failed shot clock buzzer-beater. He finished with his third double-double in his last five games to go along with four assists and an infinite number of dance moves during Gino Time.

Viejos amigos: Off the bench, the T-Wolves matched “6-foot” guard J.J. Barea against former Mavericks teammate Terry, who took advantage of his old friend. The Celtics guard made four of his six shots in the first half (1-2 3P), taking nine points, three rebounds and two assists into the break. He finished with 17 points on 10 shots.

Return of Rondo: Depending on how you look at it, Rondo either extended his streak of double-digit assists to 38 in games that he finishes or he just started a renewed march towards Magic Johnson‘s record of 46 straight games with 10 or more assists. Either way, Rondo returned to form after his two-game suspension for shoving Kris Humphries into the crowd. Apparently, his Mexican vacation served him well.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Bearing gifts: As usual, the Celtics were in a giving mood, turning the ball over five times in their last six possessions before the half, including the final four. As a result, they turned what was once a seven-point lead into a 51-47 deficit at the break — thanks to Minnesota’s 10 fast-break points on a perfect 5-of-5 transition attempts. They cleaned it up a bit in the second half but still finished with 16 turnovers.

No Love lost: Leading up to the game, Pierce said, “Our main objective is to try and slow [Kevin Love] down. He’s shown he can dominate the game with his offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding. That’s definitely an emphasis.” Easier said than done. Midway through the third quarter, Love already had his double-double.

Key unlocked: Not only did Love have his way around the basket, but the Timberwolves combined for 50 points in the paint. Fellow bigs Nikola Pekovic and Dante Cunningham also combined for 21 points and 16 rebounds. Somehow, though, the Celtics out-rebounded Minnesota by a 45-41 margin.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
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