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The Celtics chances of winning the Eastern Conference 01.19.11 at 10:39 am ET
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It has long been the assumption of most people that the Miami Heat will ultimately win enough games to get the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat’s stars are younger, obviously, and there was a feeling that such an accomplishment would “mean” more to them than the Celtics. So, when Miami went 21-1 and passed Boston for the best record in the East on Jan. 9, many assumed that was the beginning of the end for the Celtics hopes at gaining homecourt advantage.

That may be changing.

Miami has now lost four games in a row after last night’s overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks and the Celtics have a four-game edge in the loss column. How much is that worth?

According to Justin Kubatko’s playoff forecasting model on Basketball-Reference.com, it’s actually worth quite a bit. Using Kubatko’s method, the Celtics now have a 72.4 percent chance of gaining the top spot based on 1,000 simulations. That’s up from around 60 percent before Tuesday’s game.

With Kevin Garnett back in the lineup and more help on the way in February from Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West, the Celtics have kept themselves in position to make a run in the second half of the season. They would do well to continue putting pressure on Miami, who play 10 of its 13 games at home in the month of March.

For the Celtics, the question will be how much effort do they want to expend to get the top spot, but the opening is there. (Click here for more on the challenges facing the Celtics in the second half of the season).

Read More: Celtics, Miami Heat,
Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I like this team much better’ 12.23.10 at 5:11 pm ET
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Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show for his weekly Thursday appearance and noted that he doesn’t think this season’s Celtics team will have the same kind of letdown as last season’s squad.

“I think this just a better team,” Ainge said. “I like this team much better. I like the depth better. I feel more more confident in this team and what we’re capable of doing. Last year we came very close. I feel like us at all positions. We’re playing now without Delonte [West] and Rajon [Rondo], which makes it very difficult, and we’re still finding ways to win.”

The key for Ainge is that injuries haven’t affected Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett as they did last season.

“I think last year’s regular season, we didn’t play with a lot of resolve, but we also had more injuries to more key players,” Ainge said. “Paul and KG weren’t near the same and both of those guys are having great years.”

To hear the whole interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

Here are more highlights from the interview:  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Big Show, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, Miami Heat
Hilarious ‘Fan up, Miami’ promo 11.18.10 at 3:50 pm ET
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Here’s the “Fan up, Miami” promo that the Big Show guys were talking about on WEEI this afternoon. I like how they found a ton of people who look like they’ve never watched a basketball game in their life to plead for fans to come to the games and root, root, root for the home team. “Are you showing up on time?” “Are you too cool to cheer?” This is the NBA, people. Not the local recreation league …

Read More: fan up, Miami Heat, NBA,
Irish Coffee: Top 5 LeBron James parodies 11.12.10 at 11:59 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

If you haven’t heard by now, Paul Pierce mocked LeBron James‘ “Decision” on Twitter last night, saying, “It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach now on to Memphis.” Inspired by The Truth, this Friday version of Irish Coffee gives you the top five parodies of Lebron’s ridiculous offseason antics …

1. LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade form “New World Order”

2. Steve Carell reveals his “The Office” decision

3. Cleveland fans mock LeBron’s Nike commercial

4. Hitler from “Inglourious Basterds” reacts to  LeBron’s decision

5. “South Park” spoofs LeBron’s Nike commercial

REACTIONS FROM MIAMI

I love it when not-so-great sports cities are thrust into the limelight. Everybody gets a little too big for their britches, as it pertains to their place in the sports universe — kinda like when the “Jersey Shore” folks became overnight sensations.

Take this, for example, from the Miami Herald on Friday morning:

“Miami vs. Boston could someday be up there with Knicks-Heat, Bulls-Knicks, Pistons-Bulls, Spurs-Mavericks, perhaps even — with a lot of seasoning — Lakers-Celtics.”

Um, no it couldn’t. The Lakers-Celtics rivalry has 60 years of tradition behind it. Those two teams have more championships (33) than the number of years Miami has been in the league (22).

Actually, I take that back, if the Heat win the next 16 championships, then yes, Celtics-Heat could become like Celtics-Lakers. Sorry.

Then, I noticed this throwaway line at the end of another Miami Herald article:

About the only player who responded exactly how we would’ve expected was captain Udonis Haslem.

 Wait, what?!?! Udonis Haslem is their captain? Shouldn’t Wade be the captain? Does this mean that not one of the Big Three is a true leader? I’m confused.

MONDO RONDO

Two fomer Celtics beat writers — Jackie MacMullan and Marc Spears — took on the topic of Rajon Rondo. First, from Jackie Mac:

Rondo: “But if they put LeBron on me, who guards Paul? Who guards Ray?”

This is precisely why I don’t subscribe to the belief that Miami doesn’t need a point guard, because LeBron and Wade can assume the offensive load. That raises two questions for me: 1) If that’s the case, why have a point guard like Carlos Arroyo or Mario Chalmers on the floor? and 2) Who assumes the defensive load, because those guys can’t guard the point and the 2 or 3?

From the same article, Doc Rivers explains the difference in Rondo from last season to this one:

“Last year, or even the year before they would just get a rebound and throw it to the nearest guy. We’re telling everyone to get the ball to Rondo and let him do what he does. The trust they have in him is unbelievable.”

And Erik Spoelstra calls Rondo the best passer in the league:

“Rondo is as a unique a point guard as has been in this league for a long time. He’s so fast. He gets the overwhelming majority of his plays in random, unscripted situations. It’s his creativity and speed that separates him. You are talking about the best passer, arguably, in the game. If you try to body up and play him at half court, you are playing with fire.”

My interpretation from what these coaches told Jackie Mac? Rondo’s extraordinarily high assist totals might not slow down. If the Celtics are getting the ball into his hands more often in transition (i.e., unscripted situations), that explains the significant rise in assists.

Is it realistic to expect Rondo’s increase in assists to persist? Marc Spears asked the source:

“Last year, seven and eight assists were good for me,” Rondo said. “Now, people are expecting me to get 15 or 16 every night. I don’€™t know if it’€™s realistic, but I’€™m going to continue to try as long as guys make shots.”

DO THE CELTICS GET FAVORABLE CALLS?

Some guy over at the Bleacher Report decided to express his frustration about how he believes the Celtics get far too many calls, leading to their success.

Ah, not to excrement on your point, but I think the discrepancies in free throws in the Celtics’ last two games (13 fewer attempts against the Mavericks and 16 fewer against the Heat) — not to mention the 2010 NBA Finals (the C’s shot 57 fewer free throws in the series) — beg to differ.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA
Irish Coffee: Big Threes, by the numbers 11.05.10 at 11:58 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Sports Illustrated ranked the top 14 trios in the NBA, and the Celtics’ Big Three — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and … Rajon Rondo (not Ray Allen) — came in third, behind the Heat’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as well as the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.

Personally, I think the Celtics’ top three players are better than the Lakers’ (because of Odom), so I decided to take a look so far at the top-10 Big Threes by the numbers — their cumulative win score and their average player efficiency rating.

BIG THREE ………………………………………… PER ………. WIN SCORE

Heat (James, Wade, Bosh) ……………………… 20.89 ………….. 4.61
Lakers (Bryant, Gasol, Odom) ………………….. 25.87 …………. 12.06
Celtics (Rondo, Pierce, Garnett) ……………….. 19.34 …………. 10.09
Hawks (Johnson, Horford, Smith) ……………… 20.31 ………….. 6.44
Thunder (Durant, Westbrook, Green) ………….. 19.88 ………….. 1.76
Spurs (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) ………………. 19.92 ………….. 8.79
*Bulls (Rose, Noah, Deng) ……………………… 20.14 ………….. 5.54
Magic (Howard, Carter, Nelson) ………………… 23. 61 …………. 1.51
Mavericks (Nowitzki, Kidd, Terry) ………………. 22.06 ………….. 9.85
Jazz (Williams, Jefferson, Millsap) ……………… 20.88 …………. 7.84
(*replaced Boozer with Deng because of injury) 

It turns out, through the first two weeks of the season, of the top 10, the Lakers’ Big Three has been the most efficient and the most productive in their victories.

Among the top 10, the C’s Big Three actually has been the least efficient, mainly because of turnovers (9.4 per game). In terms of contributing to wins, though, the Boston trio has been the second-best of the group — because of their unselfishness (21.2 assists per game) and defense (4.6 steals per game).

All this points to one thing: As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. He turns the ball over (4.0 per game) more than any other Celtic,  but he also records more assists (an astounding 16.4 per game) and steals (2.6 per game). What these numbers don’t account for is the fact that Allen is the best fourth banana in the league.

The most surprising result is where the Heat’s Big Three finished in each category. They ranked fourth in efficiency and eighth in win score. Still, they’re 4-1, which means two things: 1) Miami Thrice has yet to learn how to optimize their efficiency together; and 2) they’re supporting cast may not be so bad.

THE ERRORS OF THEIR WAYS

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann took a look at the league’s top three teams — the Lakers, Celtics and Heat — and how they’re addressing they’re greatest flaws.

The Lakers have jumped from No. 11 last season to No. 1 through five games this season in offense — scoring 114 points per 100 possessions in their 5-0 start.

Last season, the Celtics grabbed 73.8 percent of available defensive rebounds, ranking 13th in the league. This season, the C’s have nabbed 76 percent, ranking fifth through five games. That makes them the fifth most improved rebounding team.

Miami owns the most improved defense in the league, allowing just 87.9 points per game. Considering the Heat have already faced Boston and Orlando, that’s even more impressive. As Schuhmann points out …

Three seasons ago, the Celtics had the best defense of the last 20 seasons, allowing 8.6 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average. Miami isn’t going to hold its opponents to 14.6 points fewer than the league average all season, but that five-game mark is impressive. In 2007-08, the Celtics had just three five-game stretches where they held their opponents under 88 points per 100 possessions.

Boston’s best defensive five-game stretch came right after Thanksgiving that season, when the Celtics held five opponents to 86.1 points per 100 possessions. They were actually more dominant to start last season, when they were holding their opponents to 85.2 points per 100 possessions after five games and 85.4 after six.

Looking at all these numbers is telling me one thing: Miami is going to be very scary this season. If indeed the Heat’s defense is this good and they’ve yet to maximize their offensive efficiency, they’ll win 65 games — at worst.

THE BEST NUMBER OF ALL

Speaking of numbers, Basketball Reference ranked each uniform number by the number of win shares accumulated by the players who wore that number.

And guess which number finished at the top of the list: No. 33. The Celtics had a player who wore that number. I think his name was Bird.

Here are where the uniform numbers of the current Celtics ranked …

No. 0 Avery Bradley (44th)
No. 4 Nate Robinson (6th)
No. 5 Kevin Garnett (18th)
No. 7 Jermaine O’Neal (22nd)
No. 8 Marquis Daniels (24th)
No. 9 Rajon Rondo (28th)
No. 11 Glen Davis (10th)
No. 12 Von Wafer (11th)
No. 13 Delonte West (23rd)
No. 20 Ray Allen (17th)
No. 34 Paul Pierce (7th)
No. 36 Shaquille O’Neal (46th)
No. 43 Kendrick Perkins (34th)
No. 55 Luke Harangody (42nd)
No. 86 Semih Erden (unranked)

Obviously, based on this, Robinson and Wafer are going to have a huge impact this season, while Shaq and Rondo will have little to no effect whatsoever. Right?

FORBES’ HIGHEST-PAID NBA PLAYERS

The list of highest-paid NBA players, gathered by Forbes Magazine, is fairly hilarious. Sure, Bryant is legitimately slotted as the league’s No. 1 earner. After that, it all falls apart.

Rashard Lewis is the second highest-paid player in the NBA? Ouch. He’s making $20,236.92 for every point he scored last season.

Garnett is the lone Celtic on the list at No. 3 — earning $18.8 million this season.

Michael Redd is only making $18.3 million this season. Practically a bargain. He’s played 51 games combined over the last three seasons — half the length of his six-year, $91 million contract. On the bright side, it’s only about $1 million per game.

How would you like to be paying Andrei Kirilenko $17.8 million this season? Thankfully, Gilbert Arenas only has four years and $80,154,460 left on his deal.

No wonder David Stern wants to slash NBA salaries. Not that it’s going to happen.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 11/4 11.04.10 at 4:45 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers (5-0): No Andrew Bynum? No problem. All the Lakers have done to begin their road to a third consecutive NBA championships is start 5-0 and beat opponents by an average of 13 points. The only bad news on their front is that Rick Fox got tossed from “Dancing with the Stars.”

2. Boston (4-1): The Celtics‘ 4-1 start — including victories against the playoff contending Heat, Knicks and Bucks — has proven that the Cleveland loss was only a fluke. Delonte West’s return from suspension in another five games will provide a much-needed boost.

3. Miami (4-1): The Heat are 4-0 since losing to the Celtics on opening night. It’s no surprise that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all scoring in the double digits for Miami, but James Jones‘ 11.6 points per game has to be a welcome surprise for head coach Erik Spoelstra.

4. Atlanta (5-0): Too high? Sure, they’ve only beaten the Grizzlies, 76ers, Wizards, Cavaliers and Pistons. But other than the Lakers they’re the only 5-0 team in the league. And they’ll probably head into Orlando on Monday night with a 7-0 record. Now that’s a must-watch game.

5. New Orleans (4-0): I obviously don’t expect the Hornets to stay in the top five for too long, but it’s impossible to ignore what they’ve done so far: home victories against the Bucks and Nuggets, and road wins against the Spurs and Rockets. That’s four solid wins. A healthy Chris Paul David West once again give New Orleans a more-than-legit 1-2 punch.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 10/28 10.28.10 at 2:40 pm ET
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1. LA Lakers: After receiving their championship rings, the Lakers started 1-0, thanks to new addition Steve Blake, who nailed a last-second 3-pointer to defeat the Rockets — on an assist from Kobe Bryant. Wait a second, Kobe trusted a teammate? And a new teammate to boot? I must have read that wrong.

2. Boston: The Celtics made their statement on opening night: When they’re up for a game, they can beat anybody in the league, including the LeBron-led Heat. Then they made another statement last night: When they’re not up for a game, they can lose to anybody in the league, including the LeBron-less Cavaliers.

3. Miami: LeBron was right when he said after the loss to the Celtics that Rome wasn’t built in a day. In reality, it was built over the course of 870 years. I don’t think it’ll take that long for the Heat to start jelling. They played pretty poorly in the opener — and still almost beat our No. 2-ranked team on the road.

4. Oklahoma City: Kevin Durant took his first step towards claiming his MVP trophy, totaling 30 points and seven rebounds in a season-opening win over a team that will probably be one of the league’s best defensive squads (the Bulls). So, what’s in store when he plays against the Pistons tomorrow night? Watch out.

5. Orlando: I overheard a conversation at the TD Garden the other night. One guy said to another, “Hey, how come you don’t like Orlando’s chances this year?” The other guy’s reply? “They still have Vince Carter, don’t they?” I couldn’t agree more. That’s why — no matter how impressive their preseason was — they’re not higher.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, NBA
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