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Fast Break: Kevin Garnett takes care of Joakim Noah 12.03.10 at 10:41 pm ET
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Doc Rivers says it time and time again – watch out if Kevin Garnett comes to the building fired up.

It was clear from the opening tip – when KG fist-pounded every starter on both teams – with one notable exception. He greeted eight starters, then made his way to Keith Bogans, greeted him and wished him well before walking right past Joakim Noah. Garnett – for the most part – productively channeled his dislike for his arch-nemesis.

Garnett had a double-double by halftime and led a defensive charge in the third quarter as the Celtics beat the Bulls, 104-92, Friday night at TD Garden.

Aside from the Celtics winning their sixth straight to improve to an Eastern Conference-best 15-4, the other highlight for the fans was the surreal chants of “SCAL-A-BRINE” several times in the fourth quarter, with the Celtics comfortably ahead.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS:

Garnett was a monster: KG made it clear early he would not be denied, either offensively or on the glass. He finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds in arguably his most energetic game of the year. Garnett only had one true run-in with Noah, getting in Noah’s face after a 10-foot turnaround with 2:24 left in the second quarter. Both players were T’d up but nothing much happened the rest of the way.

Rondo got up: Everyone and their brother and sister went silent with 4:54 left in the third quarter when Rajon Rondo cut through the lane, jumped up in the air on a pass and landed awkwardly. Rondo’s right leg slipped on the landing and his left leg stuck in the floor. He immediately held his left knee and remained on the court about 30 seconds. He got up and stay in the game and immediately hit a 22-foot jumper, showing everyone he was ok.

Turning up the D: Led by Garnett down low and Pierce on the wing, the Celtics showed a dominant defensive effort. After allowing 29 points in the second quarter, the Celtics held the Bulls to 19 in the third, building their lead up to 82-67 after three. The Bulls made just 6-0f-19 from the field in the third quarter as the Celtics got back to basics.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:

A defenseless bench: When you look at the stat sheet, you see that the Celtics reserves can score with anyone – and they can. It’s the defense that’s troubling, like in the second quarter, when the Bulls shot 53 percent and outscored the C’s 29-22. It’s certainly understandable that without the injured Delonte West and Jermaine O’Neal, the depth isn’t there for the Celtics. But they’re going to need more than just “Sixth Man of the Year” favorite Glen Davis to produce. Semih Erden is still finding his way and managed some very important minutes late in the third and early fourth quarter as Shaquille O’Neal sat on the bench with five fouls. They were lucky that the Bulls bench was just as ineffective. Nate Robinson (sore left foot) was clearly not the same player and Marquis Daniels had eight points in 26 minutes.

Foul trouble: With 9:28 left in the fourth quarter and the Celtics up, 84-70, Glen Davis went to the bench with his fifth foul, joining O’Neal with the same number. That’s not good. Boston’s two best bruisers – and only bruisers – were not available against a Bulls team that relies on finesse and quickness from players like Noah, Luol Deng and of course, Derrick Rose. That played right into the Bulls’ hands.

Leaking leads: Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but for the second straight game, the Celtics built what appeared to be a very comfortable lead at home, leading by 17 in the third quarter and by 15, 82-67, heading into the fourth. The Bulls made a charge early in the fourth. It’s a nasty habit that bears at least some attention, especially on your home court, where the Celtics improved to 9-1 this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: The homecomings of Celtics greats at 12:55 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

Other than a Cavaliers assistant coach telling him to “shut the [bleep] up” and a fan tossing a battery in his general direction, things couldn’t have gone much better for LeBron James in his return to Cleveland on Thursday night.

The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player produced 38 points, eight assists and five rebounds, as his new team (the Heat) beat his former team (the Cavaliers), 118-90. Not too shabby.

But you know who had a better game in his first game against his former team? Danny Ainge.

I decided to do some quick research into every former player who either had his number retired by the Celtics or appeared in an All-Star game as a member of the team in order to see who had to face the C’s after appearing in another uniform.

Basketball Reference didn’t have box scores for the seasons that Jo Jo White (Warriors), Dave Cowens (Bucks), Ed Macauley (Saint Louis Hawks), Tiny Archibald (Bucks), Bailey Howell (76ers) and Paul Silas (Nuggets) could’ve faced the Celtics as opposing players for the first time after donnning green and white.

That left Ainge, Cedric Maxwell, Robert Parish and Antoine Walker. Here’s a synopsis of how each player performed in his first game against the Celtics after playing in Boston:

Danny Ainge (1989-90 Sacramento Kings)

  • Back story: Ainge and Brad Lohaus were dealt by the Celtics to the Kings for Joe Kleine.
  • The game: Celtics 115, Kings 112 (OT)
  • Stat line: 39 points, nine assists and six rebounds
  • His quote: “It was a highly emotional game for me. I never wanted to beat a team so badly as I did them that night.”

Antoine Walker (2003-04 Dallas Mavericks)

  • Back story: The Celtics traded Walker and Tony Delk to the Mavericks for Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills and their 2004 No. 1 pick.
  • The game: Celtics 105, Mavericks 103
  • Stat line: Seven points, eight assists and seven rebounds
  • His quote: “It was nice to see [the fans' reaction] and very surprising. It kind of puts a closing for me in Boston, and I can move on with my career.”

Cedric Maxwell (1985-86 Los Angeles Clippers)

  • Back story: The Celtics dealt Maxwell, their 1986 No. 1 pick and cash to the Clippers for Bill Walton.
  • The game: Celtics 125, Clippers 103
  • Stat line: Six points and 10 rebounds
  • His quote: “Revenge? How can you be seeking revenge against a team that’s stil paying you?”

 Robert Parish (1994-95 Charlotte Hornets)

  • Back story: At the age of 41, Parish signed two-year, $5.5 million free-agent deal with the Hornets.
  • The game: Celtics 98, Hornets 91
  • Stat line: Eight points, four rebounds and one block
  • His quote: “I must say I was surprised by the length of the ovation. I’m not comfortable with being honored, showered with appreciation. But it’s always appreciated.”

Unlike LeBron’s return to Cleveland, the only bad blood that existed in these cases came between the player and management as a result of the trades — rather than between the fans and the player. All four of those guys are beloved by Boston fans. I’m not sure James will ever capture Cleveland’s adoration again.

HALL OF FAMER BILL FITCH?

Speaking of former Celtics, two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch, who guided the C’s to the 1981 NBA championship, is a finalist for the 2011 class for the Hall of Fame.

“I haven’t even thought about that,” Fitch told Houston’s local FOX affiliate. “When you get to be my age (76), the only hall you think of is the big one upstairs.”

“They have a shirt and tie of mine somewhere up there,” Fitch added. “You know how when you win a big game the hall of fame asks you for something. So I feel like I’ve undressed at the hall, but they’ve never asked me to stay.”

Fitch may have the eighth-most wins in NBA coaching history, but he also ranks second for most losses at the helm. Former Celtics star Don Nelson and coach Rick Pitino are also finalists for this year’s Hall of Fame class.

FIVE CELTICS IN NBA’S TOP 50

Sporting News polled 76 current and former NBA players and coaches — including Rick Barry, Dee Brown, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Bill Fitch, Tom Heinsohn, Daryl Morey, Jim O’Brien, Doc Rivers, Paul Silas and Jo Jo White – to determine the league’s top 50 players.

Kobe Bryant ranked No. 1 for the second straight season, capturing 49 of the 76 first-place votes. James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol rounded out the top 10.

Here’s where the Celtics finished (last year’s ranking in parentheses):

14. Paul Pierce (10)
16. Rajon Rondo (38)
20. Kevin Garnett (7)
25. Ray Allen (27)
35. Shaquille O’Neal (16)

Considering 11 of the 76 contributors had Celtics ties, the numbers may have fallen in their favor. Do you think Heinsohn had them ranked 1-5, with Glen Davis at six?

RAJON RONDO: NBA’S THIRD-BEST POINT GUARD?

Baseketball Reference creator and Trail Blazers statistical consultant Justin Kubatko contributed an interesting analysis to The New York Times of the NBA’s top point guards over the last year and change. Along with their shooting percentages and assist percentage (number of teammates’ field goals assisted while on the floor). He also included two new statistics:

“The first, steal percentage, is an estimate of the number of steals the player records per 100 opponent possessions. The second, win shares per 48 minutes, is an estimate of the number of wins the player generates per 48 minutes played (the league average for this statistic is 0.100).”

The results determined Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker were the league’s most productive point guards, in that order. Here are the results:

  • Paul: 51.9 2-PT FG%, 39.4 3-PT FG%, 86.7 FT%, 51.2 AST%, 3.68 STL%, 0.264 WS/48
  • Williams: 51.1 2-PT FG%, 34.4 3-PT FG%, 82.8 FT%, 46.0 AST%, 1.66 STL%, 0.175 WS/48
  • Rondo: 52.8 2-PT FG%, 25.4 3-PT FG%, 61.9 FT%, 42.8 AST%, 3.16 STL%, 0.166 WS/48
  • Parker: 51.0 2-PT FG%, 30.6 3-PT FG%, 77.4 FT%, 36.2 AST%, 1.40 STL%, 0.144 WS/48

Perhaps what’s most surprising is how much better Paul is than everyone else. As Kubatko notes:

This is not much of a contest. Paul shoots the highest percentage on 3-pointers and free throws; he has the best assist percentage; he has the top steal percentage; and he generates wins at a rate almost 51 percent higher than the next-closest point guard.

‘THE ASSOCIATION’ PREVIEW

The first of NBA Entertainment’s five-part, behind-the-scenes documentary of the Celtics airs Friday night at 7.p.m. on ESPN, prior to their game against the Bulls at the Garden.

My favorite part of this preview, other than the fact that former New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg is narrating it, is this quote from Shaq:

“Sometimes, you’ve got to put things in business terms. When I was younger, I was the CEO — everything was branded my way. But now, I’m an older guy, an experienced gentleman and they have a CEO, so I look at myself as a consultant. And, if it’s all about winning, then you have no problem doing that.”

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

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, LeBron James, NBA
NBA Power Rankings, 12/2 12.02.10 at 4:57 pm ET
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1. Boston (14-4): The Celtics rank first in the NBA in field goal percentage and assists per game, while ranking fourth in points allowed. They’re in the midst of their second five-game win streak of the season, and their four losses are by an average of just 4.0 points. On Wednesday night, they showed an ability to beat  a good team (the game Trail Blazers) despite playing poorly. All that adds up to one dangerous team.

2. San Antonio (15-3): The Spurs are the biggest surprise of the season, and they’ve done it by reinventing themselves — again. While the dynasty Spurs of yesteryear were more of a slow-’em-down, defensive-minded team, this year’s edition ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 106.6 points per game. Maintaining a veteran core, they’ve integrated younger talent like James Anderson, DeJuan Blair, George Hill and Tiago Splitter onto the roster. 

3. LA Lakers (13-6): The Lakers have lost four straight for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol three years ago. That’s pretty significant. Speaking of Gasol, as a result of Andrew Bynum‘s absence, he’s been logging 39.4 minutes per game this season. What’s more concerning for the Lakers is the fact that they’ve struggled to integrate their newcomers into their defensive schemes — and rank 18th in points allowed as a result.

4. Dallas (14-4): Believe it or not, the Mavericks are actually playing defense. Tyson Chandler has set a tone that’s translated into a third-place ranking in points allowed. And Dirk Nowitzki continues to be an offensive force. He may look like he’s flopping around the court, throwing up rainbows, but he makes 54 percent of them. As a result, the Mavs already have wins over the Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs, Hornets, Hawks and Heat.

5. Orlando (14-4): Having won nine of their last 10 games, the Magic are the hottest team in the NBA. The main reason? Their defense. They allow the fewest points per game of any team in the league. Dwight Howard is making his case for MVP, leading his team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Even Rashard Lewis has shown signs of life, as he’s back to shooting 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA, power rankings
Irish Coffee: Big Baby buoys bench at 1:29 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

 

BOSTON — In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s 99-95 victory against the Blazers, Celtics forward Glen Davis sat, seemingly exhausted, at his locker.

Following what may have been his most complete and efficiently productive game in a Celtics uniform, Davis had earned the rest. He had just recorded 16 points (7-of-9 FG; 2-2 FT) and seven rebounds in 29 minutes, including a stretch of eight straight points and three consecutive 20-foot jumpers over  a three-minute span in the third quarter that singlehandedly kep the Celtics within striking distance of the Blazers.

“I took the shots that were given to me,” said Davis. “That’s what it’s about.”

Taking that notion further, what it’s really all about is making those shots, and Davis has done that at a remarkable rate this season, shooting 50 percent from the floor — the highest clip of his four-year career. The benefit of that is two-fold: 1) obviously, points on the board, and 2) opening up opportunities for his teammates.

“If I can spread the floor, I can help out Kevin [Garnett],” said Davis. “Teams won’t double-team him. They’ve got to guard me.”

In this space, before the season started, I presented an argument for Davis as a potential NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner: “Given any injury to Shaquille or Jermaine O’Neal, Davis would be the first to gobble up those minutes. Is there any reason he couldn’t average 14 points and six rebounds in 25 minutes a game?”

Through 18 games this season, he’s averaging career highs of 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game — but it’s his efficiency and versatility that have vaulted him into the NBA’s Sixth Man discussion.

Assume the role of a go-to scorer as a power forward for the one of the best benches in the league? Sure. Perform the “little things” — like taking charges — as the center alongside Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett down the stretch of close games? Done. Drag smaller defenders into the post? Easy (especially with his frame). Pull bigger defenders away from the basket? Not a problem.

So, what does being in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year conversation mean to Davis?

“Nothing, until you win it,” he said. “You can talk all you out. You can say, ‘He’s top two, he’s top whatever.’ It doesn’t really count until you’re No. 1 at the end of the season, when you’re having a press conference, congratulating your team and thanking all the people who helped you get that award. I’d be excited to get it. Just to be considered is not enough for me.”

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers told Dennis & Callahan on WEEI on Thursday morning that he was in Danny Ainge‘s ear, urging him to select Davis with the 35th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Rivers knew Big Baby’s potential, because he’d seen Davis succeed against his sons and the nation’s top talent on the AAU circuit.

“But we didn’t know he was going to be this good,” Rivers admitted.

After struggling with some maturity issues over his first few seasons in the league, Davis has earned the trust of not only Rivers but all of his teammates as well.

“Most definitely,” said Davis. “I’ve been here for four years now, and that’s Doc’s system. You’ve got to trust his players. He’s looking at me as a player that he trusts.”

DOC RIVERS: COACH OF THE MONTH

The NBA named Rivers the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month prior to the Celtics’ victory against the Blazers. It didn’t mean much to Doc, but Garnett elaborated:

‘€œI love him,’€™’€™ Garnett told The Boston Globe. ‘€œI told Danny that the day y’€™all get rid of Doc is the day I sort of tip my hat and thank the Boston area and the Boston fans. I love Doc, he’€™s a credit to our success and the building of the players, because he’€™s always motivating and he’€™s always pushing you, finding ways to get you rekindled.’€™’€™

IN SUPPORT OF BILL RUSSELL

In case you missed it, our own Paul Flannery detailed why the Celtics should build a statue outside of the Garden in Bill Russell‘s honor. In a fantastic Boston Magazine piece, he builds an argument that’s pretty hard to disagree with. Here’s a nugget:

In Boston, we now have statues of three sports figures – Bobby Orr, Red Auerbach, and Ted Williams – sprinkled throughout the city. (Williams, oddly, also has a tunnel named after him.) That’€™s quite a list, actually. But there’€™s one glaring omission: the one sports star – no disrespect here to Teddy Ballgame or Tom Brady – who left a bigger mark on this city than any other. I’€™m talking about a guy who won 11 championships in 13 seasons. Whose name has become synonymous with victory, hard work, and shared sacrifice. I’€™m talking about Bill Russell.

This is a disappointing oversight – absurd, really, given Russell’€™s accomplishments – but a correctable one. What we need is a Bill Russell statue outside the Garden, where the greatest Celtic of them all will stand watch over the franchise he helped build.

KOBE BRYANT: ‘WE’RE SLOW’

Wednesday night’s loss to the Rockets marked the first four-game losing streak for the Lakers since they acquired Pau Gasol. So, what’s the reason for the skid? ESPN.com presented that question to Kobe Bryant:

The general assessment of the team by its players remained that the team had a lot of work to do on both offense and defense, leading to a chicken-or-the-egg type of situation about which is more damning when it’s lousy.

“We’re slow. We’re slow. We’re slow. We’re slow on rotations,” Bryant said, picking on the defense and maybe subconsciously mentioning the word once for every consecutive loss.

THE LEBRON JAMES SAGA

You may not have heard, but a guy named LeBron James who plays for a team called the Miami Heat is returning to his hometown to take on a team by the name of the Cavaliers. The Cleveland Plain Dealer consulted everyone from players to fans to therapists to clergy in order to determine what the reaction should be. Here’s Cavs point guard Mo Williams‘ take:

“This game is not just for us. It’s for 20,000 fans and for the millions watching and pulling for us. We’ve got people that ain’t even Cavs fans pulling for us. We’ve got a lot behind us.”

Lost in all the discussion of LeBron’s return to Cleveland is this: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has launced a probe into alleged tampering by the Heat in their pursuit of James, according to Yahoo! Sports:

Prior to the start of free agency on July 1, no Miami Heat representative ‘€“ including star Dwyane Wade  was allowed to discuss with James the specific circumstances around Wade, Toronto’€™s Chris Bosh and James joining together with the Heat.

One focus of the law firm’€™s probe includes an alleged Pat Riley-James meeting in Miami in November 2009, and a meeting of James’€™ inner circle with Wade in Chicago in June 2010, sources said.

Riley, James, Wade and Bosh have denied there was a predetermined collusion in the historic free-agent binge, although the players have admitted to discussing the possibility of playing together as far back as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

If Gilbert’s accusations turn out to be truths, the Heat could lose draft picks. As if there weren’t enough drama surrounding Thursday night’s Cavs-Heat game.

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

Read More: Big Baby, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Glen Davis
C’s injury bug so bad even Kevin Garnett can’t get home cooking 12.01.10 at 11:44 pm ET
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For now, the injury list is not having an impact on the Celtics record. Doc Rivers knows his luck can only last so long while he moves banged up players in and out of a make-shift rotation. The C’s have the best record in the East at 14-4 following their win over the Trail Blazers Wednesday night at TD Garden.

But that great record is coming with a price – nagging injuries.

And making matters worse Wednesday, the Celtics lost Kevin Garnett for over five minutes in the third quarter when team doctors had trouble closing up a wound under his chin that required five stitches, leading Rivers to wonder openly what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on. For a moment, he thought he was on the road, not on the parquet.

Garnett took an elbow early in the third quarter from Andre Miller and had to leave at the 7:47 mark. He didn’t return until 2:24 remained in the quarter. The Celtics, who trailed 68-62 just moments earlier, were kick-started by KG and finished the quarter on a 13-4 run that gave them the lead for good.

“It usually does,” Rivers said of Garnett’s high-energy impact. “He was pissed because someone hit him in the mouth so you knew he was come either with energy or attacking everybody else on the floor.

“The third quarter was huge because we didn’t want to sub [Shaq] him out. We wanted to wait until Kevin [returned]. Whoever did our stitches, we’re going to have a talk. That was the longest [wait]. I thought we were on the road. That’s what the opposing doctors do. They can’t find the sutures, they take their time.”

And try as he might, Rivers couldn’t get an explanation from chief trainer Ed Lacerte about why it was taking so long to get the cut under Garnett’s chin fixed.

“It did take a long time,” Rivers said. “I kept checking with Eddie, like ‘What’s going on back there?’ That was big for Shaq. He kept saying he could stay in and that was huge for us.”

Not only did O’Neal played the five-minute stretch, he played the first 9 minutes, 36 seconds of the third quarter, until getting a blow when Garnett finally returned to the game.

Rivers said after the game Wednesday that Rajon Rondo‘s strained left hamstring, which Rivers thought was no longer an issue early in the week, started to get sore in the fourth quarter. Then Rivers said that back-up point Nate Robinson has an aching left foot which was bothering him.

“I left Rondo in because Nate’s foot was hurting,” Rivers said. “Rondo’s hamstring was starting to get sore and he was worried that if he came out he couldn’t return. So, the injury thing is really starting to creep up on us a little bit, and it is what it is.”

Robinson confirmed after the game that he’s been dealing with a sore right heel since Nov. 22, when the Celtics beat the Hawks in Atlanta.

Read More: Andre Miller, Boston Celtics, Celtics injuries, Doc Rivers
Nate Robinson battling pain in foot at 11:12 pm ET
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Celtics backup point guard Nate Robinson played a season-low 3:33 against the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night, which begged the question: What’s wrong with Nate?

According to Robinson, he’s been feeling pain in the bottom left side of his left foot since the Celtics blowout victory against the Hawks on Nov. 22, and it acted up on Wednesday night.

“It’s been bothering me since the Atlanta game, but I’ve been trying to pull through,” said Robinson. “I’m in a little bit of pain, but I’ll be all right. I’m a tough cookie.”

While the symptoms are similar to plantar fasciitis — the same ailment Rajon Rondo battled earlier in the season — Robinson said “it’s not that.”

Rondo played a season-high 35 minutes against the Raptors and followed that with another 31 minutes a night later in Atlanta. His minutes declined in the next two games before bumping back up to 22:35 against the Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

On the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday night, however, he played just three-and-a-half minutes in the first half and didn’t see the floor after the break. Still, Robinson doesn’t expect to miss any games, as he plans to battle through the pain.

Said Robinson: “I’m going to keep icing it, getting treatment and working.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Nate Robinson, NBA,
Fast Break: Celtics hold off Blazers at 10:15 pm ET
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Struggling from the floor all night long, Ray Allen buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 10.7 seconds to help the Celtics hold off the Trail Blazers 99-95 at the Garden.

The Celtics led 96-80 with 5:09 left in the game, but the Blazers went on a 15-point run that closed the gap to one point in the final minute — until Paul Pierce found Allen in the corner.

Pierce netted a game-high 28 points to go along with seven rebounds, as the Celtics improved 14-4 on the season. Kevin Garnett (17), Glen Davis (16), Shaquille O’Neal (14) and Rajon Rondo (10) also reached double digits in scoring.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Pierce asserted himself: With the Celtics trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half, Pierce took action — creating offense for himself. A nifty driving layup as he faked two defenders got him going, jumpstarting a 10-point second quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers that got the C’s back into the game.

Pierce didn’t miss his first shot until five minutes remained in the third quarter. In all, he finished with 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 from 3-point range).

Big Baby buries jumpers: In a span of 2:49, Davis scored eight straight third-quarter points — including three 20-foot jump shots — to help the Celtics stay within striking distance of the Blazers. He scored 16 points on the night on 7-of-9 shooting.

Combined, Pierce and Davis scored 20 of the Celtics’ 31 third-quarter points, leading an otherwise stagnant offensive effort and giving the C’s a seven-point cushion entering the fourth quarter.

Shaq showing hustle: O’Neal turned in another solid performance. Running the floor throughout his 26 minutes, he totaled 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, and he even made four of his six foul shots. His rebounding could’ve used some work, though, as he finished with just four boards on the night.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Too many turnovers: How could the Celtics shoot 61 percent from the field while holding the Blazers to 45 percent shooting and still trail by one at the half? One word: Turnovers.

In the first quarter alone, the Celtics committed seven turnovers, including careless traveling violations on consecutive possessions by Garnett and Pierce. Meanwhile, the Blazers turned the ball over just twice in the first 12 minutes, taking a 26-20 lead into the second quarter.

In all, the Celtics committed 17 turnovers, resulting in 19 Trail Blazers points.

Wesley Matthews happened: Shooting from pretty much everywhere on the court, Matthews shot a blistering 5-of-7 from beyond the arc (8-of-13 altogether), dropping 23 points on Allen and the Celtics.

On the other end, the stronger Matthews chased Allen around screen after screen, holding the Celtics shooting guard to just 2-of-11 shooting and six points — until Allen’s last-second 3-pointer that clinched the game.

Defensive rebounding: As if the Celtics’ 17 turnovers didn’t give the Trail Blazers enough extra possessions, Portland also collected seven offensive boards — including a putback dunk by LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points) that gave the Blazers an eight-point cushion in the third quarter. As a result, the Blazers outscored the Celtics 42-38 in the paint.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce, Portland Trail Blazers
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