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Doc Rivers: We weren’t up the challenge of the Lakers 02.11.11 at 10:57 am ET
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One characteristic Doc Rivers has always admired about his team was that it fights through almost every kind of adversity.

On Thursday night, he didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was the overwhelming number of injuries, the foul trouble of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kobe being Kobe or just all of the above, Rivers just didn’t have the feeling that his team had the energy or will to overcome all of it. And that, more than the 92-86 loss to the Lakers at TD Garden seem to bug him the most.

“I thought they came out and jumped on us early in the third quarter, first ‘€“scored the first 10 points,” Rivers began. “And I never thought we fought through it, really. I mean obviously the fatigue and all that ‘€“ you know, one of our concerns going into the game were Paul or Ray couldn’€™t get in foul trouble obviously, because of what we had left. And that happened.

“But I just thought mentally we were not a very good team tonight and usually we are. I didn’€™t think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we’€™re great at that usually.”

But not on this night. While the Celtics are not a great rebounding team to begin with, they usually find a knack of dominating their opponent in the paint. Not on this night when they were outscored, 50-32.

They usually get to loose balls and find a way to score on second-chance points. Not on this night. They were outscored, 16-9, in that category. And while Rajon Rondo posted his 21st double-double of the season, he was just 5-of-14 and – after feeding Ray Allen for his record-breaking three in transition – couldn’t let his team back. It didn’t help that Nate Robinson went down with a bruised right knee in the second quarter and didn’t return.

“It was one of those nights; I just thought we didn’€™t do a very good job of [battling],” Rivers said. “And we obviously did have a lot of adversity with the injury of Nate and foul trouble and the lack of bodies, but you know that that could happen before the game and I don’€™t think we handled that very well.’€

And watching Kobe Bryant – with just three shots in the first half – take over in the third quarter didn’t help either.

‘€œWell once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,” Rivers said. “I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’€™t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought defensively he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. I mean, he just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring.’€

The Celtics face another NBA superstar when LeBron James and the Heat come calling on Sunday. The same Heat team that has been dominated twice this year by the Green. And whether or not Delonte West returns from a broken right wrist, the C’s better find their fight on Sunday or history will repeat itself.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James
Kobe Bryant: ‘I’ll bust your ass’ at 1:10 am ET
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Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help his Lakers drop the Celtics 92-86 and even their season series at one apiece. And then he issued a warning to the four Celtics who will be attending the All-Star Game in Los Angeles next weekend.

“It doesn’€™t matter who I play,” said Bryant. “I could play you, and I’€™ll bust your ass.”

During a five-minute interview with the media following the Lakers’ victory, Bryant hit on everything from Ray Allen‘s record-breaking 3-pointer to the latest book assignment he’s received from coach Phil Jackson. Here’s a rundown of the conversation:

  • On Ray’s record: “I just told him congratulations. It’€™s a mutual respect kind of thing, because we came into the league together. There’€™s not too many guys from that draft still playing and competing at a high level. I’€™m just very, very happy for him. We always compete when we go at it. That’€™s part of it. At this stage of our careers, there’€™s a respect because of that. I don’€™t get along with chumps very well, and he’€™s not a chump.”
  • On the Garden: ‘€œIt’€™s great. This is one of the best atmospheres ‘€” if not the best atmosphere ‘€” you can play in in the league today. This arena, what they do, this is a challenging place to play, but it’€™s a lot of fun.’€
  • On his play: ‘€œI wanted to be more aggressive in the first half, but I didn’€™t want to force it too much. I wanted to keep my guys in the game a little bit. In the second half, I just forced it. The game wasn’€™t coming to me, so I took it.’€
  • On the win: “It depends on where we go from here. We don’€™t go to New York and lay a dud. Then this game doesn’€™t much.”
  • On the Lakers: “We always remain a pretty confident bunch. It’€™s good to see the hard work that we’€™ve been putting in paying off. We’€™re seeing results. From the last time we played them until now, we’€™ve gotten a little bit better in our defensive rotations, and we didn’€™t make as many mistakes down the stretch.”
  • On the East: ‘€œ[The Celtics] are right up there. It’€™s them and Miami. We’€™ve played against Boston twice and Miami once, and they look good.’€
Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Ray Allen
Fast Break: Lakers put damper on Ray Allen’s night 02.10.11 at 10:54 pm ET
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With two first-quarter 3-pointers, Ray Allen set the all-time record as Reggie Miller could only watch from his broadcasting chair. Oh, and it came against the Lakers ‘€” off a transition pass from Rajon Rondo,  over Kobe Bryant ‘€” but the Celtics lost, 92-86, Thursday night at the TD Garden.

Allen led the Celtics (39-13) with 20 points. Rondo (12 points, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (10 points, 11 rebounds) each registered double-doubles, but Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 23 points in the second half as the Lakers (36-17) earned a season split with the C’s.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rebounding (what’s new?): It was their Achilles’ heel in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals, and the rebounding issue reared its ugly head again. The Celtics were outrebounded 35-24 on the defensive end and 47-36 overall against the Lakers.

Points in the paint: With the O’Neal “brothers” and Semih Erden all out of action, the Celtics had little if any depth behind Kendrick Perkins at the center position. They not only paid for it on the glass but in the paint as well. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined for 36 points and 19 rebounds, as the Lakers outscored the C’s 50-32 in the key.

Emotional letdowns: The Celtics rode an emotional wave after Allen’s record-breaking trey to a 45-30 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Lakers responded with a 14-4 run that cut the lead to five and gave LA its confidence back. Another 10-0 run to start the third gave the Lakers a lead and even more momentum.

Finishing the game with just four healthy players on the bench ‘€” two of them rookies ‘€” the C’s had nobody but Von Wafer to give them a lift, especially considering the fact that Glen Davis struggled from the floor (3-for-10) all night long.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Ray Allen’s big 3: In what was probably the best singular moment at the new Garden since the 2008 title run, Allen ripped his record-setting 2,561st career 3-pointer 10:12 into the game. The crowd let out a deafening roar as Allen pumped his fist in celebration.

Following the first quarter, the C’s recognized Allen, who in turn acknowledged the fans, shook Miller’s hand, hugged his mother Flo and kissed his wife Shannon and his children.

The shot also helped Allen record 12 points in the first quarter, as the C’s took a 27-20 lead.

Taking care of the ball: The emotion of the night didn’t hurt the Celtics’ concentration. They committed just three first-half turnovers. Much of the credit went to Rondo, who the Lakers simply had no answer for in the first half. The point guard had eight assists and zero turnovers in the opening 24 minutes of the game, helping the C’s establish a 53-45 halftime advantage.

In the second half, however, Bryant cracked down on defense. Rondo produced just five points and two assists in the final two quarters. The C’s finished with only 10 turnovers. Of course, one of them was an errant Paul Pierce pass on a fast break that would’ve cut the lead to three with two minutes to go.

Von Wafer’s boost: With Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord) and Nate Robinson (bruised right knee in 3:39 of playing time) out, the Celtics had to rely heavily on Wafer. And he produced. His eight second-quarter points actually gave him an 8-3 scoring edge against Bryant at the half. Yup, you read that correctly.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: Shaquille O’Neal talks Hoopz 02.03.11 at 12:31 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦  

  

During the filming of “Flavor of Love” on VH1, Nikki “Hoopz” Alexander dominated Flavor Flav in a game of one-on-one. Then she owned some dude named “Entertainer” with a flurry of profanities on “I Love Money” — another VH1 reality show.  

But she’d probably have a tougher time defeating her current boyfriend, Shaquille O’Neal.  

Sudbury’s most famous couple went two-on-one in an interview with The Globe’s Meredith Goldstein for a Home & Lifestyle section cover story. Here’s what we learned:  

  • Hoopz, 28, on Shaq, 38: ‘€œI knew he was a goofball. We’€™re the same. We’€™re both goofballs.’€™’€™
  • Shaq is 7-foot-1; Hoopz is 5-foot-2. A full Nelson de la Rosa separates them.
  • Hoopz is filming another reality show, based on their suburban life and her desire to become a women’s heath and self-defense guru. Like I won’t watch that.
  • Shaq has a pit bull named Shamrock. Do you think the dog has a Kobe Bryant chew toy?
  • Ther’s a room in Shaq’s house that features Taylor Swift and “Alice in Wonderland” posters on the wall and candy canisters everwhere. Oh, and there’s a pink bathroom, too. Thankfully, that room is Hoopz’s. Shaq calls it the “dungeon.”
  • Hoopz won “Flavor of Love” Season 1, capturing Flavor Flav’s “on-camera affection” and the ultimate prize: a set of gold teeth. I think I just found my Valentine’s Day gift.
  • Hoopz then took home $250,000 for winning ‘€œI Love Money,’€™’€™ a crazy reality show spinoff about the craziest VH1 reality show castoffs that could only happen in America.
  • Hoopz once followed another basketball player,  James “Boo” Jackson, to Tennessee. A gym gypsy of sorts, Jackson left town for another team. Hoopz stayed behind.
  • Hoopz and Shaq’s first date was in Las Vegas. Luckily, it didn’t end up at The Best Little Chapel — a la Stu and Jade in “The Hangover.”
  • The next few dates between Hoopz took Shaq included fishing, visiting a Waffle House and listening to music by Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift. You know, typical Shaq things.
  • Shaq on Hoopz: ‘€œShe’€™s my first female best friend, besides my mother.’€™’€™
  • Shaq has a live-in chef. Unfortunately, it’s not Chef from “South Park.”
  • Hoopz and Shaq watch “Spartacus” on Starz together. Loin cloths optional.
  • Hoopz attends every Celtics home game. Shaq attends most, too.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Nikki "Hoopz" Alexander
Irish Coffee: Interpreting Celtics vs. Lakers 01.31.11 at 1:07 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Considering all the stars on and off the court — for both teams — at Sunday’s game between the Celtics and Lakers, you would’ve thought there’d have been some great Twitter messages in the aftermath of the C’s 109-96 victory at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. There wasn’t, so I made them up anyway. Here’s my interpretation of what the players and celebrity fans should’ve Tweeted throughout the finals rematch:

  • Matt Damon: “The Celtics are showing ‘True Grit’. The Lakers are playing like True …”
  • Jimmy Kimmel: “I’m feeling Matt Damon.”
  • Ron Artest: “Is this my second season with the Lakers? Time to check out.”
  • Phil Jackson: “I’m going to kill Ron Art– (deep breath) Serenity now!!!”
  • Kobe Bryant: “The ring I bought my wife and Artest’s contract cost the same. And I’m sorry for both.”
  • Robert Rodriguez: “Black Mamba seems like a strange nickname for a guy who was once arrested for sexual assault, but let’s go with it Kobe!”
  • Derek Fisher: “A cheerleader blew me a kiss, and I thought I got shot. I flopped like 10 feet backwards!”
  • Zac Efron: “Who’s worse at acting: Me or Fisher?”
  • Paul Pierce: “The only way I could’ve made this win better is to get the wheelchair involved.”
  • Adam Sandler: “KG told a ballboy he had a better chance of catching Bin Laden than getting an autograph? Was it Bobby Boucher? ‘Stop making fun of me!'”
  • Kevin Garnett: “It wasn’t a good week for me and things that hold balls. Just ask Channing Frye.”
  • George Lopez: “Wait, why aren’t I rooting for the Nuggets? They have Eduardo Najera!”
  • Glen Davis: “Coach told me to treat Odom and Andrew Bynum like a bowl of gumbo. Eat ’em up. Ayo!”
  • Lamar Odom: “I’m not sure whose badonkadonk is bigger: Big Baby’s or Khloe Kardashian‘s.”
  • John Lackey: “Who’s better looking: Me or Semih Erden?”
  • Brooklyn Decker: “I love basketball. How many touchdowns does Kobe have? Oh, and who’s better looking: Me or John Lackey’s wife?”
  • Joey Crawford: “Wait, Kendrick Perkins is back? (whistle) Technical foul, No. 43.”
  • Kendrick Perkins: “Two technicals in two nights. I’m in midseason form!”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Paul Pierce
On the Celtics and clutch plays 01.28.11 at 3:02 pm ET
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Over on True Hoop, Henry Abbott wrote a post about one of his favorite topics: The perception of Kobe Bryant as a clutch player versus the reality of his numbers in ‘clutch’ situations. Abbott’s main point is that Bryant makes about one-third of his shots in the clutch, which is about average for every other player in the league.

This is one those third-rail arguments that generate lots of heat and discussions since Bryant fans will never concede on the clutch argument. They have watched him make too many big shots. On the other side, this is manna for Bryant opponents since they have likewise watched him miss contested shots with the game on the line.

The thing that truly stands about Bryant is this regard is that if the game’s on the line he’s going to take the shot. Abbott points to a five-year study done by Roland Beech at 82games.com that shows that Bryant took 56 shots in clutch situations and had just one assist. The other thing that stood about the study? Paul Pierce had the most assists in those situations with nine.

There are a number of different conclusions one can jump based just on those numbers, but let’s start with the idea that Bryant, and therefore the Lakers, are relatively easy to defend in late-game situations because everyone knows that Bryant is going to take the shot. Maybe easy isn’t the right word, since defending Bryant is no one’s idea of a good time. Let’s say instead that they are predictable.

The Celtics have their own version of Kobe in the clutch: Pierce at the elbow. Time and again the Celtics return to sets that puts the ball in Pierce’s hands near the top of the key where he attempts to work into his sweet spot at the elbow for a 15-foot jump shot. There are good reasons for this, most prominently is that Pierce is the Celtics’ best one-on-one player and the one who is best able to create his own shot.

When it works, Pierce is a cold-blooded assassin. And when it doesn’t, fans scream that it’s a predictable, low-percentage play.

Despite this tendency, the Celtics and coach Doc Rivers also have a well-deserved reputation for coming up with interesting plays out of timeouts. Just this year alone there was the gorgeous Rajon Rondo lob to Kevin Garnett that beat the 76ers and this motion set that gave Ray Allen a 3 that put the Celtics ahead of Detroit.

The point is that in late-game situations opponents can never be too sure where the Celtics are going. Sometimes they aren’t either. Most of Rivers’ plays have multiple options that rely on his players reacting to the different looks the defenses give them.

Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra noted in a radio interview that he had “great respect” for the plays Rivers draws up out of timeouts. Spoelstra said, “They always seem to come out with something. You don’t know which guy they’re going to, and they execute well.”

Take for example that Pierce game-winner against the Heat in Game 3 of last year’s playoffs. On the surface it seemed like an ordinary ISO play for Pierce, but there were other factors.

“We had two plays called just in case they fouled,” Rivers said after the game. “What we tried to get is Paul facing the basket because it’€™s very difficult to commit a foul when you’€™re facing. If you reach and grab he’€™ll throw the ball up. The whole play was for Paul, but we wanted activity.”

This, ultimately, is what you want out of late-game situations. A play with movement and options that leads to the best shot available by the player who is most willing to take it. Give Bryant this: He doesn’t shy away from the moment. That may not make him a clutch shooter, but he is completely unafraid of the situation. Perhaps, as Abbott suggests, to his detriment.

Read More: Clutch, Doc Rivers, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Celtics passing the test 12.13.10 at 12:43 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Yes, the Celtics allow the fewest points in the NBA. That’s obviously one reason for their success this season. But they’re also the best passing team — and, as a result — the best shooting team in the league.

And that’s why this Celtics team is riding a 10-game winning streak and ranked No. 1 in most power rankings. During the win streak, the C’s have knocked down 51.7 percent of their field goals, shooting at least 50 percent eight times.

For the season, the Celtics are shooting better than any other team in the last 10 years, making 50.9 percent of their shots. The next-best team (Phoenix) is shooting 47.8 percent.

So, why are the Celtics shooting so well? They’re passing the ball better than everybody. In essence, they give up good shots to get better shots.

The C’s average 25.9 assists per game; only one other team (Utah) averages 24. What’s even more remarkable is that they’re doing that while shooting fewer shots than any other team in the league. The Celtics have averaged just 76.7 field goal attempts per game; no other team shoots fewer than 77.

The Celtics are shooting fewer shots but taking better shots than everybody else in the league. How do you get better shots? By making the extra pass.

The Celtics have recorded an assist on 66.6 percent of their field goals this year. That mark is better than any Celtics team of the last 20 years. In fact, the NBA’s best all-time passing team — the 1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers — averaged 31.4 assists a game but assisted on just 65.2 percent of their field goals.

Obviously, Rajon Rondo is the main reason. He’s averaging 13.7 assists per game — a 40 percent improvement from last year — and threatening to break John Stockton‘s 1989-90 NBA single-season record (14.5 per game).

But just how big a role has Rondo played in the C’s passing success? The team is averaging 10 percent more assists per game this season than last — all while Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels are averaging fewer assists than they did last season. In fact, only Ray Allen and Glen Davis are averaging more assists than they did in 2009-10.

During their current 10-game winning streak, the Celtics have committed more turnovers than their opponents four times and have been out-rebounded three times, but they owned the assist advantage in all 10 games.

In fact, the Celtics have not been out-assisted once this season. Through 23 games, they’ve recorded 168  (39.2 percent) more assists despite shooting 11 (1 percent) fewer shots than their opponents.

So, what do all these numbers mean? Essentially, game in and game out, the Celtics’ superb passing ability can make up for deficiencies in other areas.

KOBE BRYANT VS. JOHN HAVLICEK

As Kobe Bryant approaced John Havlicek‘s career scoring mark (he surpassed it Friday), NBA.com caught up with Hondo to talk Lakers and Celtics.

Here are a few of the highlights from the interview:

NBA.com: What are your thoughts on Kobe being on the cusp of passing you for the 11th spot on the all-time scoring list?

Havlicek: Actually, I thought he already surpassed me and that is was a foregone conclusion that he would eclipse me because he’s been playing a number of years.

He came right out of high school and with the career that he’s had and the teams that he’s played with — he’s been surrounded by good players and championship-caliber coaches  — it’s not surprising.

Who knows how far he’s going to go? How long he’s going to play? He could end up second or third. I don’t know if he can reach Kareem. He’s been a fantastic player.

Kobe came in with a little bit of an attitude early on and a lot of people thought that it was a little bit too much for a high school player to have that type of attitude. But he certainly made people realize that he wanted to be one of the best and comparing him to Michael is something that people have done, so it puts him in a class above most people.

NBA.com: When he retires, where will Kobe rank among the all-time great Lakers?

Havlicek: Well, Jerry West said Kobe is the all-time Laker as he sees it, but I never played against Kobe, so Jerry West is my all-time Laker.

If Jerry West says Kobe is the all-time great Laker, I’ll go along with him, but Jerry’s my favorite all-time Laker.

NBA.com: Do you wish you played with the 3-point line?

Havlicek: I’m just as happy to get an old fashioned three I guess. It would have added a few more points to my career and it would have probably changed the way I played but I can’t really say how much it would have changed my game because I never played under that ruling.

NBA.com: One record that appears to be safe is your Celtics all-time scoring mark. At 33 years old, Pierce would need to score 6,000 points just to tie you.

Havlicek: Well, I don’t know how long Paul is going to play but I think he’s probably the best 1-on-1 Celtic player of all time because the game that he has is much different than the game other people play. His ability to score and create shots is something that he’s done better than any other Celtic. If he plays long enough, he’ll break the record. I don’t know if that’s something he has on his mind or not.

NBA.com: Talk about Rajon Rondo’s emergence into an elite point guard.

Havlicek: He’s unlike any point that I’ve ever seen. He rebounds. He doesn’t shoot the ball that well. He’s not a great free-throw shooter. But his ability to create situations on the floor is uncanny. He’s not like a Chris Paul who breaks down defenses and that type of thing. He’s totally a different kind of point guard.

 I don’t know how you can compare him to anyone. He can play defense. He’s one of the great steals leaders of the league. His quickness is probably the thing that separates him from most players. He doesn’t appear to be that quick but he sort of leaves people in the dust.

He’s a surprising type of point guard that’s unlike any I’ve ever seen. He gets the job done.

DOC RIVERS VS. PHIL JACKSON

Speaking of Celtics vs. Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal knows the rivalry fairly well at this point. So, the Boston Herald asked him to compare C’s head coach Doc Rivers and Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. Here’s what he said:

“I’m going to call Doc an ebonic Phil Jackson. And what I mean by that is Phil Jackson has his Buddha ways, but Doc got his homeboy ways because he was once one of us and he really relates to us very well. I think the guys respect him for that. You know, he treats us like men. He only expects one thing from us: Do what he says and play hard. If you could substitute a better word than ‘ebonic Phil Jackson,’ I’d like you guys to put your degrees to work. But it’s sort of like that, on that level.”

As a player, Rivers averaged 10.9 points and 5.7 assists, making one All-Star Game and never winning a title in 13 seasons. Jackson averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds, never making an All-Star team and winning the 1973 NBA title.

As a coach, Rivers has won 55.0 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year honor and the 2008 NBA championship in 12 seasons. Jackson has won 70.5 percent of his games, one Coach of the Year award and 11 NBA titles in 20 years.

WHO IS THE BEST RIVERS?

Gatorsports.com caught up with University of Florida volleyball standout Callie Rivers — Doc’s daughter — who broke down the family basketball dynamics:

Q: If there was a Rivers family 1-on-1 basketball tournament, who would win?

A: (Younger brother and the nation’s top high school recruit) Austin. Maybe (Indiana University senior) Jeremiah. Maybe my dad, actually.

Q: You think your brothers can beat your dad?

A: I don’t know. My dad doesn’t take to losing very well. He’s got some weight on all of my brothers, so he’d probably find some way to pull it out. He’s a better shooter now than what he was when he was playing, which is weird. Maybe there’s no pressure now.

(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Boston Celtics, John Havlicek, Kobe Bryant, NBA
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