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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo-less Celtics defeat Heat 01.27.13 at 4:08 pm ET
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Ray Allen returned to Boston, and it wasn’t even the biggest story of Sunday’s battle between the Eastern Conference rival Celtics and Heat. While news of Rajon Rondo‘s ACL tear trickled out around halftime, the C’s submitted their most impressive performance of the season in a 100-98 double-overtime victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Starting Sully: Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger‘s production was finally too much for coach Doc Rivers to ignore. The C’s are 9.3 points better when he’s on the floor than when he sits, the best of any player on the team, so his replacement of Brandon Bass in the starting lineup was practically inevitable. His rebounding, ability to score on the inside and willingness to hit the floor for loose balls helped the Celtics remain tied going into halftime.

Brazilian Blur: Likewise, Leandro Barbosa gave the Celtics an energetic lift off the bench, scoring seven points in 10 first-half minutes. Entering the game, Barbosa’s 15.8 points per 36 minutes ranked third on the team behind only Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. While Jason Terry continues to struggle, there’s no reason Rivers shouldn’t give his minutes to Barbosa to kickstart a woeful Celtics offense.

“Pitbulls”: Apparently, that’s the nickname for the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, who started in place of the injured Rondo. They lived up to the moniker, holding their Heat counterparts Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers to subpar nights. Even on a tough shooting night for both, their defense made a definite impact on the game. That’s what the Celtics will have to rely upon going forward.

Heart of a champion: With Rondo out for the season, Celtics veterans Paul Pierce (17 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) and Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) each came up huge in the final minutes of regulation and both overtimes, punctuating a valiant effort from a team without its brightest star. Pierce’s sweet spin move past Allen in the lane and Garnett’s 18-foot jumper gave the Celtics an 85-81 lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Pierce also fed Garnett for a pair of buckets to tie the game 93-93 with 1:14 left in the first overtime. And Pierce buried a jumper over LeBron James to give the C’s a 99-98 lead with 30.4 seconds left in double OT.

Of course, Jeff Green‘s dunk over Chris Bosh didn’t hurt, either.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, Miami Heat, NBA
Celtics pay video tribute to Ray Allen at 1:32 pm ET
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In somewhat of a surprise, the Boston crowd gave Ray Allen a standing ovation during a first-quarter video tribute from the Celtics. Those cheers quickly turned to boos once Allen checked into the game for the Heat.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA, Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo out with hyper-extended left knee, getting MRI at 12:55 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo will not play Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat due to a hyper-extended right knee suffered late in Friday double-overtime loss to the Hawks in Atlanta.

According to the Celtics, Rondo showed up for the normal shootaround at 10:15 Sunday morning and taped a pre-game interview for ABC. He went in for more treatment and the discomfort did not subside.

He left the building and went to New England Baptist Hospital for a precautionary MRI.

The Celtics added that the injury had nothing to do with his departure early in the game Friday due to illness. Rondo is averaging 13.7 points and 11.1 assists in 38 games this season.

Courtney Lee started for Rondo, marking the second major change to the lineup, as Jared Sullinger started in place of Brandon Bass.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Doc Rivers hesitantly starts Jared Sullinger in desperate move to shake up his Celtics at 12:39 pm ET
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Doc Rivers admitted Sunday morning that’s he’s desperate to shake up his struggling Celtics.

And sometimes that means making moves you don’t want to make.

Sunday, Rivers took Jared Sullinger out of his comfort zone off the bench and placed him in the starting lineup to add some energy to a team that has lost six straight.

“More because Jared is playing well,” Rivers said. “Honestly, I don’t love it because I worry about our bench. Our bench has been off the charts and that may affect them. But we’re doing it because he’s been playing so well.”

Sullinger has hit a speed bump in his last two games, being held scoreless in the double-overtime game against the Hawks Friday night and scoring just seven points with three rebounds in 15 minutes Thursday against the Knicks.

Rivers said he didn’t make the move just to give the team a spark against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

“Not much,” Rivers said. “Just the way our starters were playing, I thought our lineup needed a shaking up. I’m really doing it cautiously because I just think at some point our starters will find themselves. The one thing I always worry about is our bench. Our bench has been off the charts. The one thing about the Atlanta game, it was a six-point [lead] when they came in and it was 27 points when they left. You don’t hear that a lot from a bench.”

“We just took the game for granted.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jared Sullinger, Miami Heat
Ray Allen warms up before Sunday’s game at 11:52 am ET
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Heat sharpshooter Ray Allen warms up before Sunday’s game with the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Sunday marks Allen’s return to Boston for the first time since signing as a free-agent with the world champion Heat last summer.

Allen admitted that he doesn’t expect the reception in the Garden to be very warm when he takes the parquet for the first time since signing with Miami.

Allen had 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 31 minutes against the Celtics in the season opener on Oct. 30 in Miami. That was the game most-famously remembered for the cold shoulder Kevin Garnett gave Allen when Allen checked in for the first time in the first quarter.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA, Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo: When a triple-double is ‘irrelevant’ 01.25.13 at 11:18 am ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo says the Celtics simply did not execute down the stretch in their 89-86 loss to the New York Knicks Thursday night at TD Garden.

Rondo had 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, his 27th career triple-double and fourth the season. But that couldn’t prevent Boston from suffering its fifth straight loss, 89-86, to the Knicks Thursday, dropping to 20-22 on the season.

“It wipes it out. It’s kind of irrelevant. You score 40 or 50 points, you lose, you lose. All that matters is Ws and Ls.

“I like our group, I like our guys,” Rondo insisted. “We have a group of guys that listen. Right now, we’re not getting it done. It’s like night and day. We won six in a row and we were clicking on all cylinders. But now, it’s not all five guys at one time throughout the game for 48 minutes. We go through stretches where we’re not scoring the ball and our defense is lacking as well. We just have to pick it up collectively as a team, and individually as well.”

Rondo was asked about Ray Allen coming back to Boston on Sunday and Paul Pierce not making the All-Star team Eastern Conference reserves. The answer was the same.

“We’re not worried about that,” Rondo said. “We’re worried about Atlanta.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, NBA, Paul Pierce
LeBron James thinks Paul Pierce got All-Star snubbed 01.24.13 at 8:14 pm ET
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Count Heat superstar LeBron James of all people as the first NBA player to count Celtics captain Paul Pierce among the Eastern Conference’s All-Star snubs. Pierce was left off the team for the first time since 2007, when he missed 35 games due to injury; the 35-year-old 10-time All-Star also made the East roster from 2002-06.

Did NBA coaches snub Paul Pierce by leaving him off the All-Star reserves?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA
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