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Celtics encouraged despite losing five straight 01.17.12 at 10:13 am ET
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Monday night’s loss to the upstart Thunder marked the first time in the Big Three era that the team has lost five straight games, and it’s also the second time in the young season that Boston has lost three games in the span of four days. Even though the natural inclination is to panic, collectively the Celtics feel the team is improving.

“I really like the effort we had tonight,” said Paul Pierce. “I was the telling the guys if we compete like that night in and night out — we’ll get closer to where we want to be.”

Certainly it’s easy to point to Boston’s 4-8 record and feel underwhelmed at any notion of optimism, but the Celtics are starting to click individually. Now, the team needs to find some semblance of consistency.

“We’re still chasing putting four quarters of good basketball together,” said Kevin Garnett, who finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder. “I know y’all are probably tired of hearing this, and I’m sure if y’all rewind your tapes, I’m in a different outfit saying the same thing, but we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get this thing better. I really believe that, and you’ve got to believe that.”

Ray Allen and Brandon Bass helped carry Boston earlier this season. Bass, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Through the first seven games of the season he averaged 14 points off the bench. However, during this five-game losing streak, Bass has seen his production cut in half, only averaging 7.4 points per game.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Doc Rivers sees Kevin Garnett in the ‘half’ Kendrick Perkins at 9:36 am ET
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When he was in Boston, Kendrick Perkins was known as the lumbering shot blocking man in the middle with a scowl.

When his former coach Doc Rivers looked out on the court Monday night, he saw a much different Perk.

“He’s half Perk but he’s quicker,” Rivers said of Perkins, who lost 30 pounds in the offseason. “He had a move today — even though he traveled — where he caught it, took two dribbles, went quick and gathered himself.”

This is the man that Celtics GM and team president Danny Ainge traded to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green at the trade deadline last February.

Perkins has matured — and that was clear for Rivers to see on Monday. Yes, he still got in foul trouble, limiting him to seven points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. But what was very clear — and audible — to Rivers from the Celtics sideline is what he’s done in terms of making the Thunder a tough team, a team battle-tested and ready to make a run at a title.

“You can see, he’s put work in his game,” Rivers said. “He has every year I’ve known him. His influence on that team is dramatic to me. You can see it, you can feel it. You can see it with the bigs, with [Serge Ibaka], they’re all defensive players now. Perk has completely changed the culture of that team, you can just see it on the floor. That’s terrific for him.”

Where did he get this from? Read the rest of this entry »

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Kendrick Perkins: ‘I’m just really glad it’s over’ at 1:50 am ET
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After playing his first game against his former teammates since being traded for Jeff Green last February, Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins didn’t hesitate when asked if part of him still felt like a Celtic.

“Yeah,” said Perkins, the C’s starting center during the 2008 NBA title and 2010 NBA Finals runs. “I mean, I have much love and I’m greatly appreciative about being in Oklahoma and stuff like that — I love Oklahoma — but being here for eight years and winning a championship, it’s hard to replace it. Just from what I learned, it’s still got a special place in my heart here. That’s all it is.”

A night that included a Jumbotron montage in his honor and a rousing standing ovation from the Garden crowd clearly affected Perkins, who finished with seven points and five rebounds in a 97-88 Oklahoma City victory. Here’s what he had to say in his postgame press conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Back to back blues continue 01.14.12 at 9:33 pm ET
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It wasn’t like anyone expected the Celtics to fly out of Indiana on the second night of a back-to-back with a victory, if you needed any more evidence that they have a long way to go, it was provided in a 97-83 loss. It’s also worth noting that the Pacers were also on the second end of a back-to-back.

The starters got off to a much better offensive start, but it was the second unit that couldn’t keep the momentum going and they had nothing left in the second half. Defensively, they let the Pacers control the paint (they allowed 20 offensive rebounds) and they couldn’t keep them off the free throw line.

The one bright spot was Kevin Garnett who had a bounceback game with 21 points and six rebounds and was much more aggressive offensively. Paul Pierce also scored 21 points by getting to the free throw line and knocking down a couple of 3-pointers.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The bench didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus combined to shoot 3-for-10 in the first half and that was the only offense they received from the second unit. Avery Bradley was replaced by rookie E’Twaun Moore after badly bricking a jumpshot.

Paul George is an impossible cover for Ray Allen. At 6-foot-8, there’s little that Allen can do with him and the Pacers smartly took advantage of that as George went to the free throw line six times in the first half. Pietrus came in and did a solid job defensively.

Danny Granger is the latest small forward to have a big game on Pierce. He went for 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half and finished with 21.

Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen combined to shoot 6-for-17 and finished with just 13 points. Rondo did have nine assists and Allen contributed six rebounds, but Darren Collison and George put up 34 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT Read the rest of this entry »

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For starters, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett need to get it going at 9:19 am ET
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The “Big 3″ of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have been the backbone of the Celtics title runs in the last four seasons, winning it all in 2008, coming within a Game 7 of another in 2010 and getting to the second round of the playoffs in ’09 and last spring.

All three admitted Friday night after losing to the younger, more energetic Bulls, if they don’t help get the team off to better starts in games, they’re going nowhere.

“It’s up to the starters, and myself, to play better basketball at the start of games,” Pierce said. “I think we started to play better defense, and move the ball a lot better, but the bottom line is we can’t dig ourselves these holes in the first quarter. It seems like it’s getting repetitive every game, the starters need to do a better job with getting better starts. The last couple of games we’ve gotten off to poor starts and half to scratch and claw our way back and exert so much energy that by the time we catch up with them our guys are tired and can’t get over the hump.

“I have to play better for us to win ball games and I realize that. Right now we’re going through a little lull, and we’ve just got to get through it.”

Pierce, Allen and Garnett combined to shoot 6-for-18 in the first half Friday, as the Celtics fell behind by 19 points at halftime.

“It’s very concerning,” Allen said. “Look at the stats for tonight, in the second, third and fourth, we picked up our scoring. It’s the five starters, we have to have better starts.”

“Slow start, they came out firing on all cylinders and created a hole for ourselves early,” Garnett said. “For any team, you can’t really do that. Second half was obviously a better effort. Somehow, someway we’ve got to figure out starting games with a lot more energy. You’re probably getting tired of hearing that and it’s repetitive but it’s something we have to act on and do. This ain’t perfect and we’re going to continue to work.

Garnett started the game by missing his first six shots, including 0-of-5 in the first half.

“Frustration starts with the man in the mirror,” Garnett said. “I definitely have to do better, I’m going to do better, watch tons of film and just continue to better myself and that’s all I can do. I’ll continue to encourage teammates and continue to be the glue, or one of the pieces of the glue and just stay supportive. You don’t win anything in the first month, I do know that.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Brandon Bass and Jermaine O’Neal will split starting role at 1:22 am ET
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The Celtics made a late-minute switch before their game against the Bulls on Friday with Brandon Bass inserted into the starting lineup ahead of Jermaine O’Neal. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he’s been thinking about the switch since training camp and he’ll probably use that starting lineup 70 percent of the time.

“It was a lineup that I wanted to get to because I thought it gave us more versatility and I thought our rotations were easier when you bring in Jermaine in for Kevin [Garnett], you stay big,” Rivers said. “What I’m trying to do is always have Jermaine or Kevin, just size on the floor.”

It’s not a change in minutes. Bass will still play 25-30 and O’Neal will work about 20-25 minutes. The starting assignment will be based on matchups and against the Bulls who start two big forwards in Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah it made sense to counter with the Celtics’ top big forwards. O’Neal may start on Saturday against the Pacers who have a traditional center in Roy Hibbert.

Rivers also said that he was working though his rotations for Garnett. His five minutes on, five minutes off plan sounds good in theory, but Garnett is a rhythm player and the coach admitted it was tough to take him off the floor when he starts to find it.

“I still like it,” Rivers said. “I don’t love it but I think it’s something that we have to do.”

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Doc Rivers: Pacers stole C’s ‘airspace’ and ‘all we did was whine and retaliate’ 01.07.12 at 11:40 am ET
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The Celtics – coaches and players – were visibly upset many times during Friday’s hideous loss to the Pacers at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo picked up a technical after he was called for a cheap foul on one end and then didn’t get the call when he was hammered under the basket on a reverse layup.

Jermaine O’Neal picked up a couple of fouls on plays that appeared to be clean blocks on replay.

So, when Doc Rivers stepped to the microphone in postgame, many assumed he’d go off. He did. But not on the refs.

“I think he was trying to draw fouls, honestly, and I thought he did or didn’t,” Rivers said of Rondo’s drives to the basket. “I actually liked, in that way, they were letting you play. That usually benefits us. Tonight it didn’t.”

But that was just the beginning. What really bothered Rivers the most was the fact the Pacers went on the road to Boston and beat the Celtics at their own game.

“I just thought offensively, we were horrible,” Rivers began. “The ball stuck the entire night. I used a timeout early, I used a timeout in the third quarter. But I give Indiana a lot of the credit. I thought they were up into our airspace, they fought us all night, they knocked us off the block. I thought they were the instigators the entire night and all we did was whine and retaliated, for the most part.

“I think it was their effort. I thought their intensity – I just thought they were into us. They were in our airspace, you know? We always talk about owning the airspace of ours, and then owning the opponents’ airspace. That’s who we are. And they were us, for the entire game. Even in the stretch we were playing well I thought it was late shot clock baskets by us. So I just thought they did it better than us. And that falls on me first. I told our guys that. But then it falls on them as well.”

By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics were utterly lost, symbolized by their botched play that ended in a desperate Kevin Garnett 3-point attempt from the right wing at the buzzer, a shot partially blocked by Tyler Hansbrough.

“Early pick-and-roll,” Rivers said of planned play call gone awry. “That was just frustration at the summit. I thought they were responsible for a lot of it. I thought they were the tougher team, physically, and the tougher team, mentally.”

KG and Hansbrough went face-to-face in the fourth quarter but the man they called “Psycho-T” at North Carolina wouldn’t back down. And neither would the Pacers, leading Rivers to point out the following:

“I mean, listen, we’re a 4-4 basketball team,” Rivers began. “That’s what we are. You are what your record is. Make no mistake about that. One of the guys said, ‘Hey, that’s alright; we’re better than that.’ And I said, ‘No we’re not. You’re what your record says you are. And you always have the ability to do something about that. But right now, Indiana’s a 5-2 team – I think that’s their record – and we’re a 4-4 team. And make no mistake: that’s who we are. That’s not who we want to be, and that’s not who we’re going to be hopefully, but right now that’s who we are.”

The Celtics are 4-0 against the Pistons, Wizards (twice) and Nets, teams that are a combined 4-18. They are 0-4 against the Knicks, Heat, Hornets and Pacers, teams that are a combined 17-12.

“Well, we’re 0-fer against quality opponents,” Rivers said. “But again, it’s eight games into the year, so I’m not going to overdo that.”

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