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Irish Coffee: Bulls consider Celtics ‘dangerous team’ 02.13.12 at 11:17 am ET
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BOSTON — The Celtics haven’t had two days off between home games for more than a month — and won’t again until April — so the process of building a cohesive team capable of contending in the Eastern Conference continues for head coach Doc Rivers in Waltham on Monday and Tuesday.

“If you want quality product, you have to give time for quality product to be quality. And you have to have time for that,” said Kevin Garnett, who totaled 13 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in Sunday’s win over the Bulls. “It’s not just something just because you have four guys who have been together — you’ve got a whole group of guys that’s in here, and chemistry is everything. And I’m not going to back off that. So, we have some days where we do have some practice time, and you’ll see a better, more quality product, so I’m happy for that.”

Of course, the same was said on Jan. 7 when the Celtics had a stretch of four days off between home games, and then promptly lost four straight to cap the longest losing streak of this Big Three era (5 games). Since then, though, the Celtics have won 11 of their last 15 games — including a string of nine out of 10 — capped by the 95-91 victory against the Bulls, albeit without reigning MVP Derrick Rose in the lineup.

“That team is very experienced, and I think that they’re playing at a very high level,” said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who served as an assistant under Rivers during the 2007-10 glory years. “As I said before the game, even in the Lakers game I thought they played very well and could’ve won that, of course they won the nine out of 10 and I throw out the Toronto game because to me that was a scheduling game. They had back-to-back — a late start here and then the travel to Toronto — so that was a tough game for them.

“Throw that one out, they’re playing at a very high level,” added Thibs. “When you have [Paul] Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin and [Rajon] Rondo running the team, their bench has been playing very well, they’ve been getting a number of contributions from different people, so they’re going to be a dangerous team.”

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Chris Wilcox and JaJuan Johnson may not be Kareem Abdul-Jabar but they were pretty good Sunday 02.12.12 at 9:29 pm ET
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The Celtics were without Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass Sunday. They were going up against a front-court of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer that destroyed them on Jan. 13 in Boston in Chicago’s win over the Celtics.

You figured the Celtics were in for a long afternoon-into-night. You figured wrong.

Chris Wilcox got the start and scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 26 minutes while rookie JaJuan Johnson had 12 points in 33 remarkable minutes off the bench as the Celtics stunned the Bulls, 95-91. The Bulls only outscored the Celtics, 40-38, in the paint. Wilcox ran the floor, finishing four Rajon Rondo fast breaks with dunks, while Johnson had the biggest game of his rookie year out of Purdue. Those were two big reasons why.

“I think anybody can run. I mean, [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] was running at 37, 38, and 40,” Doc Rivers joked. “So it’s not that – whatever your speed is, you’ve just got to do it every time. And I think it’s the consistency of doing it every single time. Chris was phenomenal, though, with his speed, and so was JaJuan. I mean, both of them. The one things we did know when those two were in – you know, our post defense was what it was, and I thought JuJuan overall, except for the very beginning when he first got in, they he kind of – then he kind of caught on, and got into it. After that, I thought his speed and Chris’ athleticism, both of them, had a major impact.”

As for Johnson, Rivers wants to see more.

“Yeah, but he’s got to keep doing it. You know, one game doesn’t make a star. One season doesn’t make a star. So you’ve just got to keep doing it, and he’s got to do it consistently. He will, like I keep saying, he’s a great kid and he wants to do it. He’s young and he’s still learning focus and all that. But he’s a good player.

“And be able to catch. I mean, they both have pretty good hands, okay hands, but, yeah it helps. It really helps. And you know what people miss is I thought Paul and Ray ran – and because they run, and we showed them on the film, we showed old games today on the film – that when the two guards run, Ray and Paul, and it puts them in the dilemma: do they stay out, wide, in the break and take away their threes? If they do that, if one of our bigs run, then we’re going to get it. I don’t believe two bigs on the other team is going to run every single time, is the point I keep making. Someone eventually is going to say, ‘I’m not running back.’ One of those bigs. And we’re going to get a lay-up.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Garnett on Rajon Rondo: ‘He had a bit of rough day’ (before his triple-double) at 8:43 pm ET
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The crowd inside the Celtics locker room waited and waited and then waited some more. But Rajon Rondo never came out and talked about his second triple-double of the season Sunday.

And the Celtics needed every bit of his 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds to hold on for dear life in a 95-91 win over the Bulls, providing Boston with arguably its biggest win of the season.

After approximately an hour wait in the dressing room, Kevin Garnett finally came out and gave a clue as to why Rondo was radio silent.

“He had a bit of a rough day but he played through it,” Garnett said. “He was professional. I thought he… played with that edge.”

Asked to clarify what the rough day meant afterward, Garnett would only smile and joke, spinning the following answer: “I’d love to have that kind of rough day.”

Garnett also spoke at length about a tough film session coach Doc Rivers gave to the team before the game, less than 48 hours after Rondo put up a very mediocre performance in an 86-74 loss in Toronto Friday night.

Rondo was 2-of-10 from the field, finishing with five points, seven assists and five rebounds and five turnovers in 41 minutes.

Sunday, he posted his ninth career triple-double. Quite the turnaround.

Was Rondo extra motivated?

“Oh, I don’t know. I’m going to let you guys be that deep,” Rivers said. “I wish I could get in someone’s head that deep. I just think he wanted to win. And I thought we played at a better pace today. You could see it: we were trying to run today. And that’s how we have to play. [If] we didn’t turn the ball over we would’ve had far more points. But I just liked our pace and that’s all we talked about after the game in Toronto and today in our morning walk-through – was enough of the walking. And it was not Rondo, it’s the team. The bigs have to run the floor. [Paul Pierce] and [Ray Allen] have to run the floor.”

Then came another clue as to what might have transpired to contribute to Rondo’s “rough day.”

“It does a lot of things,” Rivers said of Rondo running the fast break. “We get early posts from our bigs, we get jump shots from the break, and we get Rondo in the open court. And when you walk, it’s easy to guard.”

Hmmm. The Celtics finished the game with a 33-7 advantage in fast break points, converting all 13 chances.

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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics outrun the Bulls at 6:10 pm ET
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BOSTON — Receiving little help from Paul Pierce and Ray Allen through the first three quarters, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo put the team on his back, taking advantage of reigning MVP Derrick Rose‘s absence and recording a triple-double in leading the C’s to victory against the visiting Bulls, 95-91.

Rondo finished with a season highs of 32 points (11-22 FG, 10-13 FT) and 15 assists to go along with his 10 rebounds. His 4-for-4 free throw shooting down the stretch helped the Celtics snap a two-game losing streak and improved to 15-12.

While Pierce and Allen combined for just 10 points (3-11 FG) and one rebound through the third quarter, they totaled 10 points in the fourth quarter as the C’s built a double-digit lead that nearly disappeared. Fourth amigo Kevin Garnett (13 points, 12 rebounds) contributed a double-double to provide a Robin to Rondo’s Batman.

Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah combined for 38 points and 16 rebounds for the Bulls (23-7) with Rose sidelined by back spasms.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo goes: With Rose nursing his back spasms, Rondo had free reign against Bulls backup point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas. In the first 10 minutes, Rondo amassed 11 points, two assists and two rebounds as the Celtics PA announcer seemingly called his name every time down the floor. His first-quarter effort staked the C’s to a 28-23 lead. The Celtics entered the game with a 10-2 record when leading after the opening 12 minutes.

Automatic transition: Likewise, without Rose running the floor, Rondo & Co. roamed free on the fast break. The Celtics entered the game averaging just 10.3 fast break points per game (ranked 25th in the NBA). They outscored the Bulls by a 33-7 margin — with Rondo’s layups and alley-oop assists leading the way.

Willing Wilcox: With Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass both sidelined by knee injuries, Chris Wilcox got his first start in a Celtics uniform. He rose to the occasion, totaling 11 points (5-6 FG) and nine rebounds.

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Doc Rivers is prepared for all the ‘Jurassic Park’ jokes 02.10.12 at 8:29 am ET
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Usually, even after a gut-punching loss like Thursday night to the Lakers, Doc Rivers can put a positive spin on things.

Such was definitely not the case after his team looked old and slow to loose balls and rebounds in an 88-87 overtime loss at the Garden.

Part of the problem was in the stat sheet where both teams shot 39 percent in a game that had just 11 combined points in the five-minute overtime.

“Listen, both teams shot 39 percent,” Rivers said. “Someone had to win. That’s how it looked. Game looked in slow motion at times. So, I’m sure all the jokes [are out there about] two old teams and Jurassic Park.”

Another issue was the Celtics’ inability to deal with the Lakers’ size in the front court, as the visitors outrebounded the Green, 55-45.

One bright spot, however, was the defense of Mickael Pietrus on Kobe Bryant for most of the night. Bryant finished with a game-high 27 points but was 11-of-24 from the field and didn’t get a shot off until 2:54 left in the first quarter.

“They’re tough,” Rivers said. “They’re really long. They’re good. I thought we did a pretty good job on Kobe, overall. We mixed up our coverages. I thought every time we did trap, they got an offensive rebound because we’re scrambling as far as our rotations. I thought Pietrus did a phenomenal job on him.”

But oh, those rebounds, loose balls and intangibles when you play a team like the Lakers, even if they’re getting old, too. The Celtics were beaten in the paint, 46-38, and on second-chance points, 24-13.

“We talked about it before the game: longer teams, you’ve got to go hit them,” Rivers said. “You’ve got to put a body on them. If you think you can just turn and rebound when a guy’s five inches taller than you, it’s not going to happen. I bet they got four or five rebounds where we were actually in the inside position; they just reached over us. But you know, if you drive them back, they can’t get those. Then it’s over your back.”

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Fast Break: Pierce, Celtics take down Bird, Bobcats 02.07.12 at 9:47 pm ET
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BOSTON — All went according to plan for the Celtics in a 94-84 defeat of the Bobcats. Captain Paul Pierce climbed another rung on the team’s all-time scoring list, passing Larry Bird for No. 2 behind John Havlicek, and the C’s picked up their season-best fifth straight victory and ninth win in their last 10 in the process.

PIerce amassed 15 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the Celtics (14-10) reached four games over .500 for the first time this season. The remaining Big Four and Brandon Bass (13 points) all reached double figures as well (Kevin Garnett 22, Ray Allen 17 and Rajon Rondo 10).

UConn’s Kemba Walker totaled 16 points and seven rebounds in defeat for the lowly Bobcats (3-22).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

A Bird in hand: With 10:22 remaining in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s game against the Bobcats, Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the team’s all-time scoring list. After 13-plus seasons in a Celtics uniform, the 34-year-old Pierce entered the game needing just nine points to tie (and 10 to pass) Bird, who finished his 13-year career with 21,791 points. After scoring seven first-half points to close within two of Larry Legend, The Truth made his fourth 3-point attempt to clip Bird’s wings.

KG’s hot start: Garnett made four of his first five field goal attempts and reached double figures by halftime. He even attempted another 3-pointer, which he missed (But he can shoot 3s, Ok!). Rivers has been on KG all season to assert himself into the offense more regularly, and Garnett did just that — leading all Celtics scorers with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go along with seven boards.

Rounding into form: For much of the season, somebody in the Celtics nine-man rotation (the starters plus Bass, Mickael Pietrus, Chris Wilcox and Avery Bradley) has either been sidelined or still recovering from injury. Not so against the Bobcats. All played, and all — with the possible exception of Wilcox — played admirably. Five of the nine reached double figures, Rondo recorded double-digit assists for the third consecutive night, O’Neal grabbed eight rebounds and Bradley made both of his field goals while playing his usual pesky defense and spelling Rondo for the entire fourth quarter. The C’s are hitting their stride.

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Where does Paul Pierce rank among Celtics greats? 02.06.12 at 9:06 am ET
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On the verge of surpassing Larry Bird for second on the Celtics career scoring list, Paul Pierce only further cements his status as one of the storied franchise’s all-time greats — his No. 34 already reserved in the rafters.

How far Pierce climbs that ladder remains to be seen. Even when he surpasses Larry Legend’s 21,791 career total with 10 more points, it’s hard to argue Pierce soars past Bird, but where does he rank if he retired today?

“It’s nothing I ever really think about,” said Pierce. “I never go into the season trying to break records. They’re going to happen if they happen. Just to be mentioned among the great Celtics of the past is just an honor.”

As soon as seven years ago — in the aftermath of Pierce’s infamous jersey-swinging, head-wrapping ejection from Game 6 of a playoff series — this thought seemed utterly insane: The Truth is one of the top five C’s in history.

Still don’t believe it? Just examine the resumes of the best quintet ever to call the Garden home.

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