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Irish Coffee: Are referees screwing the Celtics? 11.22.10 at 12:32 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

In remembrance of the 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy‘s assassination — and in the wake of the two worst officiated games of the Celtics season — we’ll examine an NBA conspiracy theory: Are the C’s getting screwed by the referees?

“You answer that,” Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told MSNBC.com. “I need my money, I have four kids. I’ll let you answer that. I didn’t see anything.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: The Celtics deserved to lose to the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. They coasted through both games like Rasheed Wallace sleepwalked through the entire 2009-10 regular season and should’ve won each game by double digits.

Still, after two absolutely terrible calls in the final seconds against the Raptors — the Ray Allen “forced” turnover and the Paul Pierce “blocking” foul — it’s worth taking a look at how the Celtics are being treated by the referees (Tommy Heinsohn, of course, might say “like a rented mule”).

Statistically speaking, the Celtics have been called for more personal fouls (292) than their opponents (278) in addition to attempting fewer free throws (295) than their opposition (335).

Given that the Celtics have led 11 of their 13 games in the final two minutes, when teams are purposely fouling in an attempt to make a comeback — you’d think that both those numbers would be flipped around in the C’s favor. At the very least, they should be much closer to an even split.

However, the C’s have only attempted more free throws than their opponent four times in 13 games. On two of those occasions — against the Milwaukee Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies — the opposition intentionally put the Celtics at the free throw line 10 times apiece at the end of regulation and overtime.

While other teams have shot five or more free throw attempts than the Celtics on five occasions, the C’s have only outshot an opponent at the free throw line once — an OT victory against the Bulls at home. For future reference, Tom Washington headed the officiating crew for that game.

Want to hear something really spooky? The Celtics’ lowest free throw total and one of their biggest free throw discrepancies of the season — a 20-7 margin in favor of Dallas during a two-point Mavericks win — one of the referees was … wait for it, wait for it … a Kennedy.

It was Bill Kennedy to be exact. Yup, the same Bill Kennedy who has had a long, tumultuous history with Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

Is it just Kennedy who has a score to settle with Rivers, or are there other officials on the grassy knoll contributing as well?

WORST LOSS EVER

The back-to-back losses to the Durant and Jeff Green-less Thunder and Raptors could possibly be the worst two-game stretch since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett arrived.

In 2007-08, the Celtics only lost consecutive games three times, including just one three-game losing streak. None of those stretches came in the first three months of the season.

The following year, during an injury-plagued 2008-09 season, the C’s only lost consecutive games four times (none before Christmas), which included a four-game losing streak in January.

Last season, in total, the Celtics lost back-to-back games 10 times (including four three-game losing streaks) — the first of which came in mid-November.

Their worst performance last season came in back-to-back losses to the Clippers (29-53) and Warriors (26-56). While that was pretty awful, it came on back-to-back nights during a four-game road trip that started on Christmas and took them through Florida, California and Arizona.

The bench was supposed to infuse this year’s team with enough energy to help them avoid losing streaks like they suffered last season. In their past two losses, however, the Celtics bench has been outscored by undermanned opponents, as a result of the Thunder’s Durant/Green injuries and the Raptors’ Jarrett Jack trade.

Could it be a 2009-10 regular season all over again? I thought this Celtics team would be hungrier after its loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals.

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo lands upside-down after chasing the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Boston, Friday, Nov. 19, 2010. The Thunder beat the Celtics 89-84.

Are the Celtics chances turned upside down when Rajon Rondo sits on the bench? (AP)

SANS RONDO

So far this season, the Celtics are 0-2 in games they finish without a healthy Rajon Rondo. However, for fans looking for a glimmer of hope should Rondo not play against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, the C’s actually possess a winning record (5-4) since 2007-08 without Rondo in the starting lineup.

Here’s a look at the games he’s missed since taking over the starting point guard position (and how the backup did in his place) …

2007-08
Dec. 30: Celtics 110, Lakers 91 (Tony Allen: 16 points, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 12: Wizards 85, Celtics 78 (Allen: 8 points, 0 assists, 4 turnovers, 6 rebounds, 4 steals)
Jan. 16: Celtics 100, Blazers 90 (Eddie House: 10 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
Jan. 18: Celtics 116, 76ers 89 (House: 15 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal)
April 16: Celtics 105, Nets 94 (Sam Cassell: 9 points, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 0 steals)

2008-09
March 8: Magic 86, Celtics 79 (Stephon Marbury: 4 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 0 steals)
March 11: Heat 107, Celtics 99 (Marbury: 0 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 rebounds, 2 steals)

2009-10
Jan. 2: Celtics 103, Raptors 96 (Allen: 14 points, 7 assists, 3 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 1 steal)

2010-11
Nov. 21: Raptors 102, Celtics 101 (Nate Robinson: 22 points, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 rebounds, 0 steals)

Robinson is the best scoring option off the bench in Rondo’s stead, but what the Celtics really need is a guy to continue running the offense as a distributor (Delonte West?). In three of the C’s four losses without Rondo in the lineup, his replacement failed to dish out more than two assists.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, John F. Kennedy, NBA Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Delonte West knew the ‘basketball gods’ would be unkind 11.19.10 at 11:46 pm ET
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In just his second game back, Delonte West took a leadership role after a surprising 89-84 home-court loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were playing without injured superstar Kevin Durant.

“This team didn’t even have to play with desperation to beat us tonight,” West said of the Thunder. “That’s one of our biggest concerns this year, being complacent, doing what we did tonight.”

The Celtics fell behind by as many as 10 in the third quarter before making a late charge and drawing to within one, 85-84, on West’s two free throws with 1:16 left in the fourth.

“It’s not like we put up a fight,” West said. “We just left it out on the table. Seemed like the whole game we were seaching for a challenge. It’s not like we put up a fight. We just left it out on the table. Seemed like the whole game we were seaching for a challenge. It was almost like in the third quarter we were like, ‘Ok, down 10. Let’s go.’ Basketball gods don’t reward you like that.”

The Celtics made just 2-of-12 shots in the final period and failed to score a field goal in the final 10:35 of the game, getting a jumper from Nate Robinson for their final field goal of the night.

West might get to show even more leadership on Sunday in Toronto when the Celtics take on the Raptors, possibly without Rajon Rondo, who strained his left hamstring with six minutes left in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game and is day-to-day.

Rondo will get treatment on Saturday and see how he feels.

“If he’s unable to go, I’ll be ready to do what I do best,” said West, who missed a potential game-tying three-pointer from the right baseline with 10 seconds left. “I prepare myself well and if my number is called I’ll be ready to go. Just like tonight, I prepare myself to shoot those type of shots. The ball didn’t bounce the way I wanted it to but I’m very confident in what I do.”

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Rajon Rondo has strained left hammy at 11:07 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo sustained a strained left hamstring with just over six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Friday’s 89-84 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at TD Garden.

Just moments after picking up his fifth foul, Rondo fell to the floor and didn’t get up immediately while holding his left leg. Trainer Ed Lacerte came onto the court and gave him treatment. Rondo stayed in the game following a 20-second timeout but eventually left a minute later for Delonte West while team trainers stretched out his left leg on the sideline.

Rondo, who was held to seven assists on the night, returned with 4:57 left but coach Doc Rivers took him out for good just 13 seconds later and replaced him with West. “He just wasn’t running right,” Rivers explained afterward.

Rondo’s status for Sunday’s game in Toronto is unknown.

“Just get treatment [Saturday] and we’ll see,” Rondo said.

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Fast break: Thunder snap Celtics home run at 9:55 pm ET
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The Celtics came out flat Friday night and it cost them against the Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City Thunder. Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and dished out six assists as the Thunder became the first visiting team in six tries to beat the Celtics on the parquet this season, 89-84.

It was an ugly finish as neither team converted a field goal in the last nine minutes, 20 seconds.

Durant sprained his ankle on Wednesday night and did not play.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG:

Lack of energy. Whether it was a understandable letdown from not having to gear up for Durant or losing Kevin Garnett for most of the first quarter after taking an elbow in the back of the head, the Celtics looked lethargic out of the gate. Though he played the first three minutes and hit his only field goal attempt,  It showed practically from the onset of the game as the Celtics were getting beaten to loose balls and not rotating on defense, allowing the Thunder to find the open man.

No rebounding presence. The Celtics were beaten on the glass, 20-11, in the first half. Shaquille O’Neal collected four rebounds in the first half, but that led the team. Garnett – perhaps due to his early inactivity – couldn’t get going on the boards. With the lack of rebounding came foul trouble. Rondo picked up his fifth personal foul with just over six minutes left in the fourth while Shaq picked up two quick fouls to begin the second half. In all, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls in the third and the Thunder just five. Oklahoma City capitalized at the stripe, hitting 13-of-16 in the quarter to extend their lead to 77-69 heading into the final quarter.

Ray Allen had an off night: The Celtics couldn’t seem to get their sharp-shooter into a rhythm for any extended stretch. With the Thunder up, 71-63, Paul Pierce woke up the crowd with a bucket and Allen followed with a mid-range jumper from the free throw line-extended and the crowd sense a rally. But he remained in single-figures in the scoring column as the Thunder threw all types of defensive switches at the Celtics all night. Allen finished with eight points.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT:

Tis just as good to give than receive: The Celtics had 17 assists at halftime on 21 baskets and finished with 20 on 33 buckets in the game. Like with the Patriots and Tom Brady, as long as Rajon Rondo is the quarterback of the offense, the Celtics should be in good shape. Rondo was held to seven assists.

Shaq playing big in the paint. This is exactly what the Celtics got him for when they signed him for a ’730-day contract’ in the summer. He played 16 of the 24 minutes in the first half. He also threw his considerable weight around, like when he nearly body-slammed Russell Westbrook to the court on a drive down what appeared to be an open lane. Shaq was whistled for a flagrant against Westbrook with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter and Westbrook hit a key free throw to extend the lead to five.  Again, that’s exactly what they wanted from Shaq – a mean presence in the middle that the Celtics desperately wanted for this season.

As a result, the Celtics again dominated the paint, 44-16.

Winning the turnover battle: It’s ironic that the one thing that seemed to be the Achilles’ heel of the Celtics in their 9-2 start was the one thing they corrected on Friday night. They committed 15 turnovers while the Thunder committed 20 – leading to 20 Boston points.

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Irish Coffee: Top 5 Celtics fan dances at 10:46 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

It’s Irish Coffee’s version of a free-form Friday. One of my guilty pleasures in the Garden is watching the Jumbotron shenanigans during timeouts. So, just for fun, let’s take a look at the top five dances caught on tape at Celtics games …

1. The world-famous Bon Jovi dance.

2. A 7-year-old teaches Soulja Boy how to move.

3. A storm trooper dominates the disco (at the 1:10 mark).

4. A redhead breaks out the big guns.

5. Mr. Roboto dances to “Beat It” and kills it.

LASME COMES UP LAME

So much for the “call up Stephane Lasme and cut Von Wafer” discussion. The one-time UMass standout and final roster cut of the Celtics reportedly suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and underwent surgery.

Now, if the C’s opt for further depth in the post, they’ll have to turn to Magnum Rolle or Tiny Gallon on the Maine Red Claws.

CAST YOUR ALL-STAR BALLOT

The NBA released the 2011 All-Star Game ballot, and all five Celtics starters made the cut. That’s not nearly as ridiculous as some of the names listed. Here are the worst of the bunch:

  • Mario Chalmers: He’s tearing up the league to the tune of 1.1 points and 1.4 assists per game.
  • Carlos Boozer: He’s only been injured all year, but maybe he got nominated as the best-dressed player in the league?
  • Linas Kleiza: I forgot he was even in the league (if you consider the Raptors part of the league).
  • Corey Brewer: Well, he is the fifth-leading scorer on a 4-9 Timberwolves team.
  • Derek Fisher: In the discussion of great point guards out West, he’s right up there with Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Oh, wait, no he’s not.

ARENAS HEAPS PRAISE ON RONDO

Count Gilbert Arenas among the many NBA players whose attention Rajon Rondo has grabbed this season. He raved about Rondo after Wednesday night’s 31-point loss to the Celtics …

“As a point guard, uh, former point guard watching what he’s done with his talent, it’s amazing,” Arenas told the Washington Post. “With players like Rondo, Steve Nash, point guards that have the ball so much, you have the ball so much that you’re going to have assists. Just run around finding players. He’s great at it. It’s amazing what people were saying when the Big Three first got here, and now he’s just come into his own.”

MORE FRIDAY VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT

After watching five videos of people dancing at Celtics games, if you feel like wasting more time at work on this Friday morning, here are two more videos: 1) Justin Bieber gets booed in Boston for saying he’s a Lakers fan, and 2) Chris Bosh says “[Erik Spoelstra wants to work; we want to chill.” Good times.

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Justin Bieber, NBA Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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 …

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Irish Coffee: Delonte West discusses Kevin Durant at 11:23 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

One day, Delonte West is the talk of the town, returning to a Celtics uniform three years after being traded and 10 additional games after being suspended. The next day? He’s just another member of a championship contender.

And that’s the way he likes it.

“Now you guys can go back to bothering them and leaving me alone,” West told reporters after Wednesday night’s 114-83 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Now, he’s left to do his thing, which Wednesday night was knocking down 5-of-7 shots for 12 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and a block — a little bit of everything.

“Once I left here, in my journey in the league, I’ve matured as a player,” added West. “I’ve come into my own a little bit. I’m just really scratching my potential, as far as playmaking. Right now, I’m embracing my role as a bench player. I don’t want to say Sixth Man. You have a team like this, the whole bench is the Sixth Man.

“I know what I can do. I know I can play at a high level, so it helps the team when I can come off the bench and bring that high level of play out there.”

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant goes up for a dunk against the Portland Trail Blazers in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. Oklahoma City won 110-108.

The Celtics welcome Kevin Durant and the Thunder to town on Friday night. (AP)

With his Celtics debut behind him, West can answer the day-to-day questions, like what he thinks of Kevin Durant, his former teammate on the Seattle SuperSonics.

“Y’all seen him,” West told WEEI.com. “I watched him grow up in D.C. He by far scores the easiest [in the NBA]. You watched him in college. I watched him on the playgrounds in D.C. On the outside, he could shoot the ball from anywhere. He’s so smooth with it.

“We’re from the same area. We keep track of each other. I got a chance to play with him a little bit in Seattle, give him some pointers and root him on. The sky’s the limit for the guy.”

West and Durant both grew up in Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. On Friday night, they’ll be reunited when the Celtics host Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder. And West knows from experience — defending Durant is no easy task.

“You’ve got to give him a little bit of everything [defensively],” said West. “Put a hand in his face and hope he misses. Guys like that, there’s really no defense for him. He’s either going to make it or he’s going to miss. That’s the kind of player he is. Once he steps across half-court, he’s dangerous.”

As West proved on Wednesday night, he can be dangerous on the court, too.

THE OBLIGATORY SHAQ UPDATE

A 2010-11 Celtics victory just wouldn’t be the same without a postgame interview with Shaquille O’Neal. Heres’ a few highlights:

  • On Delonte West: “He’s a great player. He played well. I had the opportunity to play with him last year. Great player and a great guy. He can be a sparkplug sometimes. You guys think he’s crazy, but he’s not. Not at all. I can handle him. We always have conversations about the game. He’s very smart. He’s just misunderstood sometimes.” (Mike Petraglia has more.)
  • On the C’s interior dominance: “I’m going to have the advantage on every center that we play. … It’s paying off very nicely. Once we get Jermaine [O'Neal]and Kendrick [Perkins] back, it’s going to be really, really nice – really, really difficult for teams to match up.”
  • On his chemistry with Rondo: “Rondo’s a great passer. He gets me the ball. I do what I’ve been doing for 18 years. … It’s not really something you need to work on with him. He’s just a great player. He reads the court very well. … Two great players just working together. He passes it to me, and I put it in the basket.”
  • On Rondo’s alley-oop to Kevin Garnett: “[Garnett] understands how the defense is playing, and he actually orchestrated that play. He said, ‘This dude’s overplaying me; this dude’s disrespecting me.’ He’s great like that.”
  • On what he told Semih Erden: “I told him to be mean out there, be aggressive. Semih’s a nice guy. … I told him to go out and play and dominate.”

REACTIONS FROM D.C.

As you can imagine, Wednesday night’s 31-point blowout by the Celtics against the John Wall-less Wizards didn’t sit well with anybody on Washington’s side …

  • Head coach Flip Saunders (courtesy of the Washington Post): “It was like men playing against boys. I told our guys, they just reached right into our chest and tore our heart out, and just took away our will.”
  • Gilbert Arenas: “This is one of them games, where you’re on the playground and you beat somebody up – and the real bully comes and beats you up. They are built for a championship. We’re rebuilding. Until we feel we’re on that level, we have a long way to go. The two championship-caliber teams that we’ve played, we got blown out.”
  • Nick Young: “They’re an all-star team. … Obviously, they know how to win.”

WHITE HOUSE HONORS BILL RUSSELL

The White House announced that Bill Russell is one of 15 people who will receive the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, “the nation’s highest civilian honor.”

Bill Russell“Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball. Russell led the Celtics to a virtually unparalleled string of 11 championships in 13 years and was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player five times. The first African American to coach in the NBA — indeed he was the first to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States — Russell is also an impassioned advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and has been a consistent advocate of equality.”

Russell will be the first former NBA player to receive the honor, and based on his contributions to civil rights alone — regardless of the fact that he’s the greatest winner in the history of sports — there’s no question he deserves it. The only question is, right now, could Russell still beat President Obama 1-on-1? I say definitely.

MORE RONDO FOR MVP DISCUSSION

The Sporting News is the latest publication to consider Rondo a contender for the 2010-11 NBA MVP honor. The most interesting tidbit to come from their take is the fact that Garnett believes Rondo can keep up his current rate of 14.9 assists per game — which would eclipse John Stockton‘s NBA record of 14.5 set in 1989-90.

“Why not?” Garnett said. “Who says that he can’t? Let’s see. It’s all about the flow. It’s all about guys hitting shots. He’s in a real good groove. He knows when to attack. He’s picking and choosing when to do certain things. He’s mixing it up really well. He’s keeping defenses off balance. Who says he can’t?”

Well, if the Celtics keep shooting 65 percent from the floor as they did Wednesday night against the Wizards, there’s no reason he can’t.

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

Read More: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Kevin Durant Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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