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Irish Coffee: Early Celtics blow could stun Heat 04.27.11 at 12:33 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The more I hear from the Heat locker room and see from them on the court, the more confidence I have that they’ll cave the first opportunity they get. If the Celtics throw the first punch, it could be a knockout.

I fully expect the Heat to advance to Round 2, whether or not they blow another close-out opportunity on Wednesday night. Beyond that? I just can’t see them winning four times in a seven-game series against the Celtics.

Why? Listen to the types of statements the Heat’s stars have made in the last few days alone …

There’s this from Dwyane Wade: “The starting unit is not that [high energy] kind of lineup, and we understand that. But we do have to start off better, so we’ve got to do different things, myself and LeBron. We’ve got to be the ones to put the effort in those guys.”

I didn’t realize you could just put effort in people. I wish they did that at City Hall, so I didn’t have to wait in lines all day there. News flash Dwyane: It’s not that your other teammates aren’t trying — they’re just not that good.

This from LeBron James: “Throughout me and D-Wade’s career, we have always been kind of feel out the game first and then go from there. The both of us are going to play with more effort, more aggression and not feel the game out as much to start the game and see how that works, because our first quarters haven’t been the best.”

James hasn’t been putting forth his best effort? Forgive me for being naive, but don’t most guys play full-tilt at all times in the playoffs? Do you think Kevin Garnett has to say, “Maybe I should start playing with more effort”?

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Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, reinvigorated 04.25.11 at 1:07 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

I think everyone can agree we saw a different Rajon Rondo against the Knicks then we did in the last month-and-a-half of the regular season. Sure, he played the majority of his minutes against the likes of Toney Douglas and Anthony Carter, but still — it’s not like he’s going to be facing Chris Paul in the next round.

Rondo is the switch. The numbers illustrate as much, and I see no reason he can’t replicate his performance against Mario Chalmers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Rondo averaged 10.0 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 free-throw attempts in 21 regular-season games during March and April. Then, in the playoff sweep of the Knicks, he averaged 19.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 12.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 6.5 free-throw attempts. Essentially, without warning, he reverted to the player we saw when the Celtics started 23-4 before Christmas.

It’s not like the Big Three played that much better offensively against the Knicks than they had during the regular season in March and April. In fact, their field-goal percentage actually dropped from 50.2 percent in March and April to 49.4 percent against New York.

What really changed for the Big Three? As a result of Rondo’s ability to get into the paint whenever he wanted, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got far more open looks on the perimeter. They made a ridiculous 27-of-46 3-pointers (58.7%) — averaging 6.8 makes on 11.5 tries — in the Knicks series, as opposed to their 66-of-176 3-point shooting (37.5%) — 3.0 makes on 8.0 attempts per game — in the final 22 games of the regular season.

Can those two continue to shoot close to 60 percent from 3-point range? Probably not, but two of the game’s great shooters will keep getting more open looks as Rondo forces the Heat defense to sag on him in the paint. And if you think Dwyane Wade or LeBron James might take a shot at guarding Rondo,  do you have any confidence that Chalmers or Mike Bibby or James Jones or whoever can keep up with Pierce and Allen?

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Irish Coffee: Celtics’ individual titles slipping away 04.11.11 at 12:38 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

While the Celtics’ blowout loss to the Heat probably dashed their hopes for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, with it likely went a couple of individual milestones for Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.

After Sunday’s poor showing in Miami, Rondo trails Suns point guard Steve Nash for the NBA’s assist crown and Hornets point guard Chris Paul for the steals title. Meanwhile, Allen is still chasing Spurs forward Matt Bonner for the league lead in 3-point shooting percentage.

For much of the season, Rondo led the league in assists, but his numbers have dipped in recent weeks and Nash slid into the top spot. With two games left, Nash is averaging 11.4 assists (829 in 73 games), while Rondo is producing 11.2 (760 in 68). In all likelihood, that crown is out of reach for Rondo, considering he would need 35 assists in the final two games if Nash maintains his current 11.356 assists per game average.

The NBA’s returning steals leader, Rondo has trailed Paul by a slim margin for the majority of this year. Paul is averaging 2.36 steals (184 in 78 games), while Rondo is producing 2.25 (153 in 68 games). The C’s point guard would need 13 steals in his last two games to surpass Paul’s current 2.359 steals per game average.

Despite being the NBA’s all-time career 3-point leader, Allen has never won a single-season 3-point shooting title. Making 168-of-378 3-point attempts – producing the highest percentage (.444) of his career –Allen made a push for the crown this year. But Bonner has connected on 102-of-224 treys (.455), so Allen would need to make his next eight 3-point attempts to surpass Bonner’s current 3-point shooting percentage.

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The hard Truth: Paul Pierce now knows C’s ‘don’t control’ their destiny in East 04.04.11 at 8:30 am ET
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After going through a very difficult and tumultuous March, Paul Pierce realizes the Celtics now are left with the reality that they likely won’t catch Chicago and very possibly could wind up third in the Eastern Conference heading into the upcoming playoffs.

This is certainly not what the team envisioned when the C’s were leading the East with a 46-15 record after beating Milwaukee on March 6. Since then, they’ve been treading water, going 6-8 in their last 14 before beating the lowly Pistons Sunday night at home.

“I mean, there’s nothing I can do right now,” Pierce painfully admitted. “We don’t control our destiny right now. It’s pretty much hoping they fumble up or stumble up somewhere along the road and we win. It’s going to be what it’s going to be at the end of the day.”

That’s not exactly what the Celtics were hoping for, but they also weren’t counting on six different starting centers this season. Shaquille O’Neal and his “brother” Jermaine have started there. So have Semih Erden, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins and Nenad Krstic.

Through all that, the Celtics managed to stay atop the East. That is, until their 6-8 stretch that ended Sunday. They are now three back of the Bulls with six games to go, including a big one this Thursday at the United Center against Chicago. At this point, Pierce and the Celtics would do well to finish second and have home court against Miami should they meet in the second round.

They are also still looking up at the Heat in the standings, trailing LeBron James and company by a half-game for second. And with Shaq going down last night with what appears to be nothing more than a right calf strain, Pierce conceded the C’s are now focused on simply trying to get their heads — and bodies — straight for another playoff run. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Odds are, Celtics not No. 1? 03.14.11 at 11:47 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

We’re entering the home stretch of the NBA season, and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is a definite possiblity for the Celtics. But according to John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds, the Bulls have a better shot — and the Heat have almost no shot — at that top spot.

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau argues for a call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, in Charlotte, N.C. Chicago won 101-84.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has his team threatening for the top spot. (AP)

While an Eastern Conference finals Game 7 at home is an added bonus, the ultimate prize for whichever of those three teams captures the No. 1 seed is the simple fact that the other two would have to battle each other in the conference semifinals, while the No. 1 seed would face either the Magic or Hawks in Round 2 — regardless of what Celtics head coach Doc Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would have you believe …

Rivers: “I would like it. It’s not going to be a deal-breaker for us, honestly. I want it, though. I think it’s important. But right now I can say I’m not focused on that at all. I’m not thinking about the one-seed at all. Early in the year we were clearly thinking about it, but right now I think about getting guys back healthy. Let’s act like a one-seed even if we’re not.”

Thibodeau: “That doesn’t guarantee anything. Where I think it does make a difference is Game 7 of a playoff series, to have it at home. You want to do your best to put as many things in your favor as possible.” 

So, the No. 1 seed has been the C’s ultimate goal all season, but it’s no longer the priority now that the Bulls have threatened to take it from them? I’m not buying it. The Celtics want that top seed, and they just might need it. How close will the race for the No. 1 seed be? Down to the wire, for sure. See for yourself …

CELTICS (47-17; 18 games remaining)

  • at New Jersey (21-43)
  • vs. Indiana (28-38)
  • at Houston (33-34)
  • at New Orleans (39-29)
  • at New York (34-31)
  • vs. Memphis (36-31)
  • vs. Charlotte (28-38)
  • at Minnesota (17-51)
  • at Indiana (28-38)
  • at San Antonio (54-12)
  • at Atlanta (38-28)
  • vs. Detroit (23-44)
  • vs. Philadelphia (34-32)
  • at Chicago (47-18)
  • vs. Washington (16-48)
  • at Miami (45-21)
  • at Washington (16-48)
  • vs. New York (34-31)

Home games remaining: 7
Opponents’ winning percentage: .482 (571-615)
ESPN.com odds to capture No. 1 seed: 39.4 percent
Record vs. remaining teams on schedule: 29-8 (.784)
Games remaining against .500-plus teams: 9
Games remaining against potential playoff teams: 12

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What it means to have Nutty Professor Glen Davis back at 9:12 am ET
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Glen Davis looked the part of a teacher at an institute of higher learning following his return to the Celtics Sunday night after a four-game absence.

And while it was only a four-games, the Celtics could feel the loss of their nutty professor in their lineup. They beat Golden State and Milwaukee but fell very flat against the Clippers and Sixers. As a matter of fact, one could easily make the argument that he is the single-most important bench player of any of the favored teams to win the NBA title.

The Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Bulls and Heat all have star-studded players among their starting five but none of them have Big Baby. He can come off the bench and provide an instant jolt of energy to the reserves and this is precisely why Doc Rivers wants to keep him coming off the bench come April, May and hopefully, June.

But Sunday, it was all about getting acquainted with some players he’d never played with or had just seen in practice. There was no more ‘Shrek-ing’ with Nate Robinson. He has been replaced with Carlos Arroyo. Davis has played just three games with the troika of Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy.

“First half, I felt a little weird a little bit,” Davis said. “I didn’t remember anybody on the team. Nate? Carlos?”

And what about that No. 77, Sasha Pavlovic? Davis was wondering how to pronounce his name, let alone learn his game.

“I knew his name but I couldn’t pronounce it so I didn’t call him anything,” Davis said. “Just, ‘What’s up?’ and ‘hey.’”

Sunday night was clearly an example of shaking off the rust as he played just 18 minutes, going 3-for-6 from the floor with seven rebounds and nine points, with all nine coming in the fourth quarter.

“I saw a guy that needs to run more,” Rivers said. “He did well. He played with a lot of patience offensively and he let the ball come to him instead of hunting it down and that’s how we should play all the time. He just needs the minutes. He was starting to get his legs. I asked him how he felt and he said he felt great, except he can’t feel his lungs anymore.”

He missed a lay-up 90 seconds into the fourth as he had flashbacks to the Heat game on Feb. 13 when he went up on the wrong foot and missed a dunk. This time he missed the layup but 90 seconds later he was pounded by Jon Brockman and finally felt like he was back. More importantly, his knee felt OK with the contact.

“I was kind of trying to feeling it out,” Davis said. “I felt it a little bit more when I missed my first layup I was like, ‘Oh!’ I was trying to jump. I felt it but I didn’t feel it. But then when Brockman hit me, I felt like, ‘OK, you’re back.’”

No one means more to their bench than Glen Davis to the Celtics and here’s why:

First, after Krstic, the Celtics – as Rivers was all too willing to point out – had really no one to play the center position. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: One wild Celtics weekend 03.07.11 at 3:04 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Ok, so let me get this straight: I’m out of touch for one weekend, and we learn Shaquille O’Neal might’ve saved Notorious BIG, Marcus Banks wanted to be a male model more than a Celtic, Kendrick Perkins is (obviously) no Dennis Johnson, a reality TV star painted herself in green to honor the Celtics, Doc Rivers’ family has already won a title this year and the Heat cry more than Dick Vermeil.

Let’s sort through a weekend of wild stories that revolved around the Celtics …

In an interview for ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Shaq revealed why — even 14 years later — he believes he could’ve saved his friend Christopher Wallace (aka, Notorious BIG or Biggie Smalls).

On his 25th birthday, Shaq met up with the legendary rapper, who invited the then-Lakers center to an after party following the Soul Train Music Awards two days later. On March 8, 1997, Shaq dressed in a white suit and waited for his security officer to pick him up and take him to the party. But he fell asleep.

“I woke up about 4 o’clock from a call from my mother,” Shaq told OTL. “She said, ‘Did you go to the party?’ I’m like, ‘No, what are you talking about?’ She said, ‘You know, your friend was shot and killed.’”

Wallace and his entourage left the after party around 12:30 a.m. in two Suburbans. A black Chevrolet Impala pulled up alongside one of the SUVs, the driver rolled down his window and he fired four bullets into Wallace’s chest. By 1:15 a.m., Wallace had been pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“If Shaq would’ve said, ‘You know what, I’m going to come with y’all,’ I’m sure him and BIG would’ve ridden together,” added Lil’ Cease, a member of the rap group Junior MAFIA. “That’s the type of person BIG was. … And I’m sure Shaq would’ve had security, and I’m sure BIG would’ve had another security come with him that day just to make sure Shaq would’ve been all right. So, I definitely think if Shaq would’ve been there, it definitely would’ve changed. It definitely would’ve changed.”

Um, way to make Shaq feel better, Lil’ Cease. Definitely would’ve changed? A little strong, don’t you think? Just as easily, somebody could’ve opened fire on Biggie’s car, killing both him and Shaq. The moral of the story kids, as always, is that falling asleep on the couch is never a bad thing.

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