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Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce star in ‘True Grit’ – Celtics style 12.17.10 at 10:24 am ET
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John Wayne and Jeff Bridges have nothing on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Garnett inspired the weary and wounded Celtics with 17 points and 14 rebounds while Pierce restored order to the offense as Nate Robinson was finding his way. KG and Pierce were the two biggest reasons the Celtics ran their winning streak to 12 games in a 102-90 win over the Atlanta Hawks at TD Garden on Thursday night.

The 12-game run matches their longest since they set the franchise record of 19 back in the 2008-09 season. Glen Davis had 18 points off a shorthanded Celtics bench. How shorthanded?

The team found out just before the game they would be without Rajon Rondo for couple of weeks as GM Danny Ainge told WEEI that his sprained left ankle needed time to heal. Robinson started and – after a rocky first half – provided an emotional boost with 14 points and five assists in 41 minutes.

Shaquille O’Neal missed his fourth straight game with a strained right calf. Von Wafer came up with a sore back in the first half and was unavailable in the second half, giving the Celtics four healthy bench players. Semih Erden scored 10 points in 24 minutes, starting in place of O’Neal for the fourth straight game.

For the final 2:44 of the first quarter, Doc Rivers had Pierce on the court with Davis, Marquis Daniels, Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody.

‘€œWe were playing with Semih, two rooks, and then Von went down at halftime,” Garnett said. “So it’€™s not enough to say [gritty]. I mean, ‘€˜P’€™ said it before the game: This is going to me more mental than anything. I think everybody’€™s playing, is giving everything they have. And in order for us to win these games, we’€™re just going to have to grind it out.

“You know, until we get the guys back. We just got the news about Rondo; Shaq wasn’€™t available today. So what’€™re you going to do? You either quit, you put your clothes on and go home, but that ain’€™t the way we do things around here. We work. So that, pretty much ‘€“ gutsy is an understatement.’€

Playing on fumes for most of the first half after an emotional win in New York 24 hours earlier, the Celtics came alive late in the second quarter, going on a 10-2 run to take a 44-43 lead at halftime. They opened the second half with a 20-12 run to assume control of the game.

‘€œI don’€™t know if I’€™m surprised or not,” Rivers said of his team’s true grit. “I trust our guys. They just play well. They’€™re executing well. I thought ‘€“ second half was terrific for us. I thought the first half, it was a grind. I mean, you could just feel it, emotionally, too, probably, coming off of last night’€™s game. And then in the second half, you know, it was terrific ‘€“ we couldn’€™t get Ray [Allen] going in the first half, and so we just changed the passer and made it Paul.

While Garnett was providing his typical fire and inspiration, Pierce turned back the clock to 2006 and ran the offense as a point-forward in the second half, while Robinson found his bearings.

“I knew I was going to have to be more of a play-maker,” Pierce said. “Truthfully, I really didn’€™t think like that. I just tried to feel the game out, and you know, try to give it what it needs. I didn’€™t need to try to have a great scoring night because of the guys we had going. I mean, Ray got it going in the second half, Baby was consistent all game, and Kevin set the tone. So, I just let the chips fall where they may, and the guys, they stepped up. And so, it sort of, kind of, ended up that way. And it played out perfectly. And if that’€™s what it’€™s going to take, that’€™s what it’€™s going to take. You know, a lot of guys out. Guys are going to be asked to play multiple roles. And that’€™s what we’€™ve got to do.’€

“Paul basically became the point forward in the second half,” Rivers added. “And it really worked out for us. I don’€™t know if we stumbled on it if we kind of were forced to do it. But it was terrific. And Paul enjoyed it, which is even better. And then our defense kicked in too.’€

And the defense will always be the true grit of this Celtics show.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Jeff Bridges, John Wayne
Doc Rivers to Nate Robinson: Don’t worry, you don’t suck at 12:34 am ET
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Doc Rivers could tell early on that Nate Robinson was having trouble getting into the flow of the game as he struggled with his passes and running the Celtics offense in the first half Thursday night against Atlanta.

There was a bullet pass from Robinson to Semih Erden in the low post that didn’t quite make it there as Josh Smith stepped into the lane for the easy steal. There was a pass intended for Ray Allen that sailed out of bounds later in the first half.

How bad was it? Even when Nate was hustling his rear off to grab a loose ball headed toward the Hawks basket, he flipped to the lane – expecting Kevin Garnett to catch and slam. But instead, the pass was picked off by Mike Bibby, who fed Jordan Collins for an open three, which Collins hit to add salt to the wound.

All of that added up to seven points, only two assists and four turnovers in the first half for the man who will be filling in for Rajon Rondo over the next two weeks as Rondo heals a sprained left ankle. Rivers said he had to have a heart-to-heart with Robinson, telling him to keep his head up and remind him that he didn’t think Robinson “sucked” just because he was having trouble finding his game.

“You know what I told Nate at halftime?” Rivers began. “I said, ‘€˜Nate, just a notice for you. You’€™re the starting point guard now, and I’€™m going to give you a lot of instruction. It’€™s not criticism.’€™ You know, and Nate tends to ‘€“ he gets coaching at times, he hangs his head, and it was at a point in the second quarter I couldn’€™t even give him a play because he thought I was going to tell him, ‘€˜Nate, you suck’€™ or something.”

Robinson seemed to take Rivers’ words to heart.

“Just keep playing, play through adversity,” Robinson said. “Just turn the page. I was being a little timid in first half. Second half, he told me to just be me. I think I did that.”

Rivers knew full well that he might be dealing with a point guard that was getting overwhelmed.

“I don’€™t know what he thought I was going to say,” Rivers said. “And he was great. He even started laughing at halftime. I thought that relaxed him, and allowed him to play a little bit more. But with Rondo, you know, I’€™m so used to telling him what I need everybody ‘€“ ‘€˜Rondo, tell Paul this.’€™ I was doing that with Nate and Nate was like, ‘€˜Enough! No more. I don’€™t want’€”’€™ and he finally got what I was doing. I guess he just has to get used to that.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Fast Break: Celtics win 12th straight 12.16.10 at 10:42 pm ET
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If you were expecting a letdown by the Celtics after a thrilling last-second victory against the Knicks in New York on Wednesday night — followed by the news that Rajon Rondo would miss the next two weeks — guess again.

The Celtics had six players score in double figures — including Semih Erden — as they stretched their NBA-best winning streak to 12 games by disposing of the Hawks, 102-90, at the Garden on Thursday night.

Kevin Garnett anchored the effort with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Ray Allen and Glen Davis tied for the team lead with 18 points apiece.

Paul Pierce (15), Nate Robinson (14) and Erden (10) also reached double figures for the Celtics, who improved their Eastern Conference-leading record to 21-4.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Another KG double-double: Midway through the third quarter, Garnett had already notched his 14th double-double of the season. He entered the game tied with Amar’e Stoudemire for ninth in the NBA for double-doubles.

Garnett finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds on the night. On the other end, Garnett limited Josh Smith — who is a very, very good NBA player — to just one point and four rebounds. All in all, not a bad night for Garnett.

Pierce & Allen assist: With Rondo sitting out the first of what is expected to be at least two weeks of games, somebody had to make up for his 14 assists a night. Pierce and Allen exceeded that number.

They entered the game averaging a combined 5.8 assists between them. Against the Hawks, Pierce doled out nine dimes and Allen contributed another six. Not to mention their combined 33 points.

Semih-automatic: Say what you will about Semih Erden, but he finishes around the rim. It’s his soft hands. Thursday night’s starting center finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting — all within five feet of the basket.

His solid night even included a dunk over Smith, who is one of the top six shot blockers in the league. Still, Erden could work on his rebounding (he had zero as a 7-footer) and free-throw shooting (0-for-2).

WHAT WENT WRONG

Defending the point: The Hawks’ point guards — starter Mike Bibby and backup Jeff Teague — combined for 29 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds against Nate Robinson.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley actually looked pretty sharp defensively in just four minutes on the floor. Offensively? Bradley was absent, and Robinson finished with 14 points (on 6-of-16 shooting) and four assists.

Cleaning the glass: Somehow, with Smith and Al Horford combining for just 11 rebounds (they average 18 between them), the Celtics still got out-rebounded by the Hawks, 37-34.

Atlanta also snatched 10 offensive rebounds (an ongoing issue for the C’s). Of course, it helps to shoot better than 50 percent — which the Celtics did … once again (53%).

All-Star absentees: First, it was Kevin Durant. Then, it was John Wall. Then, it was Carmelo Anthony. And Thursday it was former Celtics guard Joe Johnson. The list of NBA stars who have been relegated to the bench with injuries when they visited the Garden this season grew by two.

Johnson and 2010 Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford both sat out against the Celtics. On the Boston side, of course, Rondo and Shaquille O’Neal were in street clothes as well.

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Celtics going streaking! 12.15.10 at 1:20 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

It’s the year of the streak. The 2010-11 NBA season has already seen three teams pile up double-digit win streaks, and four others have won at least eight straight.

Four of those streaks have been snapped, and one more will end on Wednesday night, as the Celtics (winners of 10 straight) visit the Knicks (winners of eight straight). The Heat also put their nine-game win streak on the line Wednesday when they host the Cavaliers.

Just for fun, let’s rank those seven streaks in terms of level of difficulty, and then compare them to the 1971-72 Lakers’ all-time record of 33 consecutive victories:

1. MAVERICKS

  • Streak: 12 games (snapped by Bucks, 103-99, on Dec. 13)
  • Opponents’ win %: .505 (151-148)
  • Opponents above .500: 6
  • Average margin of victory: 8.3 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 5
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: This was truly remarkable, considering it included wins over the Thunder, Spurs, Heat and Jazz (twice).

2. SPURS

  • Streak: 12 games (snapped by Mavericks, 103-94, on Nov. 26)
  • Opponents’ win %: .437 (128-165)
  • Opponents above .500: 4
  • Average margin of victory: 9.5 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 5
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: The fact that their streak was snapped by the Mavs makes the Dallas run that much more impressive.

3. HEAT

  • Streak: 9 games (ongoing)
  • Opponents’ win %: .425 (93-126)
  • Opponents above .500: 3
  • Average margin of victory: 17.1 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 9
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 4
  • Observation: Not only have the Heat been winning, they’ve been blowing people out — even without Udonis Haslem.

4. CELTICS

  • Streak: 10 games (ongoing)
  • Opponents’ win %: .425 (104-141)
  • Opponents above .500: 3
  • Average margin of victory: 14.6 points
  • Number of 10-point victories: 6
  • 2009-10 playoff teams beaten: 6
  • Observation: Not so impressive, considering they beat the Nuggets without Carmelo Anthony and Bulls without Carlos Boozer.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, New York Knicks
Irish Coffee: Semih Erden’s Basketball Diaries 12.10.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

With the O’Neal brothers both sitting out with leg injuries, the Celtics turned to Semih Erden for the first start of his NBA career. Here’s how Paul Pierce summed up the Turkish national team center’s starting debut (to The Boston Globe):

“He understands a lot of things, but then some things he doesn’€™t get. So Kevin [Garnett] has got to constantly communicate with him, and he’ll get it. What he’s giving us right now is great because of the bodies we have out there.”

It’s not exactly what Doc Rivers & Co. were looking for, but let’s be honest: They had to think Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal would be injured at the same time at some point this season, right? Anyhow, here’s a recap of Erden’s debut …

FIRST QUARTER

11:41: Erden blocks Spencer Hawes, runs the floor and dunks a Ray Allen dish. The Turk is on pace for 12,642 points and 6,321 blocks. Pretty good start.

9:59: As Jrue Holiday is shooting a pair of foul shots, Doc Rivers calls Erden over to the sideline to talk strategy. No interpreter necessary. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Rivers got his doctorate in Turkish studies.

6:48: Erden picks up his second foul. Tommy Heinsohn complains. Shocking on both accounts. The 7-foot Erden returns to a familiar spot: the Celtics bench.

4:12: Sitting on the bench together, Erden and Shaquille O’Neal discuss fine Turkish cuisine. Naturally, Shaq starts craving sugar beets and tarhana soup.

SECOND QUARTER

10:14: Still on the bench, Erden hums the lyrics to “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants: “Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople — been a long time gone, Constantinople. Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.”

9:30: Picking up his third foul in 21 seconds, Glen Davis joins Erden on the bench. While watching a KG-Rondo-Nate-Marquis-Wafer lineup, Erden teaches Big Baby how to say, “Why can’t we stop fouling people?” Everyone enjoys Baby saying, “Neden biz kerlenme daha duramayiz?”

11:18: After sitting on the bench for almost 19 minutes, Erden re-enters the game, replacing Garnett. The C’s 2010 second-round selection proceeds to run up and down the floor a couple times.

11:47: Wafer enters for Erden, probably just to give the big fella a breather. Those 29 seconds had to be taxing.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Semih Erden
The Three-Pointer: One Celtics play says so much at 12:29 am ET
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It was just one play, lasting 5.2 seconds, yet it said so much about the 2010-11 Celtics.

Not many coaches have the smarts (or the cojones) to draw up a game-winning alley-oop with 6.6 seconds left. But the Celtics have Doc Rivers ‘€” one of the best coaches in the business at designing plays following a timeout ‘€” and he had the script that resulted in a 102-101 Celtics win over the 76ers in his back pocket all along.

“We worked on the whole timing of it last week,” Rivers told reporters. “We tried to run it earlier in the year, and we had bad timing, so it’s just funny how things worked out. It’s a low-clock play, the ball is in the best passer’s hands, and you have shooters on the floor. … It worked.”

Not many point guards can throw a perfect blind lob over a taller defender in the final moments of a game. But the Celtics have Rajon Rondo, who picked up his 14th assist of the night with 1.4 seconds left when he dropped a pretty pass over the heads of Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday that led to the basket that resulted in his team’s ninth consecutive victory.

Not many post players have the length and athleticism to get from the top of the key to the rim in a blink of an eye. But the Celtics have a healthy Kevin Garnett, who rolled to the basket, caught the lob pass and converted it all in one fluid motion to improve the C’s Eastern Conference-best record to 18-4.

“Last year, Kevin would’ve missed the lob,” Rivers added. “Actually, we wouldn’t have thrown it. We can do it now.”

And not many teams have three deadly shooters who opponents absolutely have to respect in the waning seconds of a one-point game. But the Celtics have Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson, who all hovered around the 3-point line ‘€” drawing Andre Iguadola, Jodie Meeks and Louis Williams from the basket and allowing Rivers’ design to play out on the floor.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics, Kevin Garnett sink Sixers 12.09.10 at 11:04 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo found Kevin Garnett for an alley-oop layup with 1.4 seconds remaining, as the Celtics stole their ninth consecutive victory — a 102-101 win over the 76ers in Philadelphia.

Ray Allen (game-high 23 points) and Glen Davis (16 points, 7 rebounds) also hit shots that put the Celtics up one in the final 1:04, but the Sixers regained the lead each time — until Garnett sealed the deal.

Rondo finished with 19 points and 14 assists.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo’s offense: He might have been hobbled by a sore hamstring and sore feet, but even at 85 percent Rondo is better than anybody the 76ers have to defend him. And he took advantage of that, assuming the bulk of the C’s offensive load.

Rondo put up a double-double … through the first three quarters. When all was said and done, he finished with 19 points and 14 assists, including the game-clinching lob pass to Garnett with 1.4 seconds left.

3-Point shooting: As if the Celtics’ 56 percent shooting clip wasn’t impressive enough, their 3-point percentage was even better at 58 percent (7-of-12).

Nate Robinson hit three of the six 3’s he took. Ray Allen drained 2-of-3, including a clutch trey that put the C’s up 98-97 with 1:04 remaining. Even Von Wafer and Rondo knocked down a 3 apiece.

Energy off the bench: In 11 first-half minutes off the bench, Robinson scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. While the rest of the team looked somewhat disinterested and more than a step slow, he provided the necessary boost to keep the veteran Celtics in the ballgame on the second night of a back-to-back.

As usual, Glen Davis picked up where Robinson left off, totaling 16 points and seven rebounds by the end of the night — including a jump shot with 27 seconds remaining that put the Celtics up 100-99.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Crash the boards: The 76ers outrebounded the Celtics, 39-33, and 15 of those 33 Philadelphia boards came on the offensive glass. The C’s showed little interest in boxing out in the opening 24 minutes, as Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes combined for 14 first-half boards. That’s how the C’s entered the locker room with just a one-point lead, despite shooting 58 percent.

Transition defense: The Celtics showed just as much interest early in getting back on defense as they did in boxing out, allowing the 76ers to pile up 16 fast-break points in the first half. The pace slowed in the second half, as Philadelphia finished the game with 22 fast-break points.

The athleticism of Jrue Holiday (12 points, 6 assists) and Andre Iguadola (14 points, 11 assists), in particular, caused the C’s problems.

Under the weather: Paul Pierce wasn’t feeling well before the game, and it showed throughout. He shot just 3-of-8 from the field and appeared a step slow on the defensive end. Somehow, though, Pierce still managed to play 40 minutes and post a near double-double (10 points, 8 rebounds).

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers
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