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NBA Power Rankings, 12/9 12.09.10 at 6:37 pm ET
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1. Boston (17-4): The Celtics have the best top six in the NBA and the best defense in the league. They’re the best shooting team in the league, and they’ve won eight consecutive games despite not having Rajon Rondo at full strength. With five All-Star candidates, they’ve  been the most complete team.

2. San Antonio (18-3): The Spurs won another three games this week, and Manu Ginobili (20.1 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds) has played his way into the MVP conversation. Oh, and New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner is making two 3’s a game while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.

3. LA Lakers (16-6): After losing four straight, the Lakers are back on track with three consecutive victories. This whole Andrew Bynum situation is strange. Phil Jackson seems to call him out on a daily basis, but why rush him back? The guy is like Mr. Glass. Don’t you want him healthy for the playoffs?

4. Dallas (17-4): The Mavericks have the longest winning streak in the league at 10 games. Even Ian Mahinmi is contributing double-doubles. Why did this team all of a sudden decide to start playing defense? This team could’ve won multiple titles if they were playing defense like this in the mid-2000s.

5. Orlando (15-6): You can’t really blame the Magic for losing two straight games to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus and Jameer Nelson have all been hit by the flu. With them, they’ve been able to keep pace with the C’s. Without them? Not so much.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Irish Coffee: The Celtics’ homecourt advantage at 11:24 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Asked, simply, if the Celtics enjoy a true homecourt advantage in Boston, Ray Allen responded, even more simply, “Always.”

Which is why last season’s 24-17 home record is all the more puzzling. After Wednesday’s victory against the Nuggets, the Celtics are 10-1 in the Garden. Their best 11-game stretch last year was 8-3 (also to start the season). Whatever the reason, the Celtics have regained the homecourt advantage they enjoyed when they finished 35-6 in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

“I think we do [have an advantage], just because our fans are the best in the world,” Nate Robinson said. “Other teams know when they’re coming here, they’re going to get the best of our fans every time they come.”

In theory, or at least in my theory, the Celtics benefit from fan support in the first quarter (when fans are fired up for the tip) and second half (when the game is more interesting — and important). A second-quarter letdown is understandble, considering the Celtics, their fans and opponents are getting comfortable at that point.

The stats certainly support that theory. Take a look at the team’s plus/minus in each quarter this season:

HOME: +54 (Q1), -2 (Q2), +30 (Q3), +18 (Q4)
ROAD: +51 (Q1), +44 (Q2), +12 (Q3), -8 (Q4)

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Nate Robinson, NBA, Rajon Rondo
Doc Rivers: No superstar let-down this time for Celtics at 2:06 am ET
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BOSTON — Celtics coach Doc Rivers held off on telling his team that Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t be playing against them on Wednesday night due to right knee inflammation. It worked.

‘€œYeah, they knew I was lying because I told them that Lawrence [Frank] didn’€™t know,” Rivers said after watching his team dispatch of the Nuggets without Melo, 105-89. “We went through the whole defensive added. Hey listen, the last time we used ‘€“ it didn’€™t work. So we tried something different. And, listen, the last time he didn’€™t play I think they scored 135 points. That was the other thing we told them. So I just thought we came out very professional and ready.”

The Celtics shot a scorching 68 percent in the first quarter, making 13-of-19 from the field, on their way to building a 19-point lead.

‘€œI think coach really made a point of that,” Paul Pierce said of Rivers’ Melo message before the game. “He really didn’€™t want to tell us that Carmelo wasn’€™t playing, I think he waited to the very last second cause he went over the game plan, so we took that to heart and went out there and just tried to establish ourselves in the first quarter. I think like Kevin said we’€™re on a roll defensively and that’€™s what were trying to do to start the game’€

It was 30-11 with 2:47 left in the first quarter before the Nuggets closed to within 14, 35-21, heading into the second quarter.

Why the lesson? The Celtics’ only home court loss came to Oklahoma City on Nov. 19, as the Thunder played without superstar Kevin Durant.

What makes Rivers a great coach is he always seems to provide the right inspiration and lesson at the right time. Rivers knew the Nuggets lost 24 hours earlier in Charlotte, in a heart-breaker, 100-98. Anthony played 39 minutes and scored 22 points. His knee acted up and the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer (22.8 points/game) was unavailable in Boston.

“When you lose a star like that, it’€™s tough on the other team,” Rivers said. “They played last night, you lose Carmelo, and that’€™s a tough night for you. And the fact that for three of the four quarters, we were really good.’€

Ray Allen scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the first half and Pierce and Kevin Garnett each added 17 as the Celtics won their eighth straight Wednesday at TD Garden.

Message delivered and well received.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets, Kevin Durant
Kevin Garnett to George Karl: ‘Nothing personal’ about cancer comment 12.08.10 at 11:07 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett approached Denver head coach and cancer survivor George Karl following Wednesday’s game at TD Garden and told him that he meant no offense in the wake of his comments about Charlie Villanueva on Nov. 2 in Detroit. After the Celtics beat the Pistons, Villaneuva, who suffers from Alopecia, accused Garnett of calling him someone who ‘looked like a cancer patient’ during the game.

Garnett said he called Villaneuva ‘a cancer to his team and the NBA’ but denied the ‘cancer patient’ charge. Garnett wanted to make sure that Karl was not offended.

“I went up to him as man and told him what I said and I told him that I had nothing personal towards him nor any other cancer patients that are out there struggling, dealing with life situations,” Garnett said. “I wanted to say that man-to-man. I was going to do it before the game when the [game] clocks were messed up but I wanted to get the game out of the way and then approach him.”

Karl was diagnosed with throat cancer in February and missed time coaching the Nuggets while he was getting chemotherapy for the disease which is treatable and curable, according to doctors.

Read More: Boston Celtics, cancer, Cancer patient, Charlie Villaneuva
Fast Break: Celtics drop the Nuggets at 9:41 pm ET
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Thanks to a 28-point night from Ray Allen, the Celtics never trailed against the Carmelo Anthony-less Nuggets, cruising (for the most part) to a 101-85 victory at the Garden.

Kevin Garnett added 17 points and nine rebounds, Paul Pierce also poured in 17 and Glen Davis contributed 16 points off the bench, as the Celtics won their eight straight and improved to 17-4 (10 of 11 at home).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Hot start: The Celtics went 7-for-7 in the first 3:20, jumping out to a 16-4 lead and forcing the Nuggets to call timeout in hopes of cooling them off. It never happened. While Denver cut the lead to one late in the second quarter, the C’s never relinquished that lead and shot 55.9 percent for the game.

For the first quarter, the Celtics shot 68.4 percent as a team to take a 35-21 lead (their second-highest first-quarter output of the season). And the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen led the way, shooting a combined 12-of-16 from the floor in the opening 12 minutes.

Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 17 of their 21 first-half field goals. That pace cooled off a bit as the lead got comfortable, and the C’s finished with 26 assists on 38 field goals.

Rajon Rondo, of course, led the way with 13 dimes in 30 minutes, while Allen and Pierce chipped in with four apiece. The C’s entered the game averaging more assists than any other team in the league. Rondo’s sensational season, along with the team’s knack for making the extra pass, is the reason the Celtics are also best shooting team in the NBA.

Interior offense: Taking advantage of the Nuggets’ lack of a 7-footer underneath, the Celtics pounded the ball into the post. That led to two positives: a ton of points in the paint, and a ton of free-throw attempts. The C’s outscored the Nuggets 38-28 in the paint, while Allen, Pierce, Davis and Shaquille O’Neal each got to the line at least five times.

In all, the Celtics shot 36 free throws, making 25 of them. They entered the game averaging 23.2 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 25.2 foul shots per game.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Stopping Lawson: As good as Rondo looked in the passing game, he appeared equally as poor defensively. Whether it was his hamstring or feet bothering him, Rondo appeared a step slower than usual. As a result, Nuggets backup point guard Ty Lawson took advantage — totaling 24 points and seven assists. On multiple occasions, he took it right at Rondo, and the C’s point guard put up little defense.

Sloppy second quarter: In a span of 6:52 in the second quarter, Nate Robinson, Marquis Daniels, Pierce, O’Neal and Rondo all committed turnovers. During that same span, the Nuggets cut what was an 18-point Celtics lead to a 52-51 C’s advantage with three minutes to play in the first half.

Star watch: In the first 11 home games of the season, Celtics fans have already missed out on three of the league’s biggest draws, as Kevin Durant, John Wall and — on Wednesday night — Anthony didn’t play due to injury when their teams visited the Garden.

The Thunder and Nuggets visit Boston just once all season, so the C’s faithful will have to wait until the 2011-12 season to catch two of the NBA’s biggest established stars in person. Fortunately, the Wizards play in Boston again on April 8, so Rookie of the Year candidate Wall has another shot at a Boston debut.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, NBA, Ray Allen
Is Shaquille O’Neal Turkey-bound? at 12:54 pm ET
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So, SLAM Magazine translated a Turkish newspaper story that claims the same team that recently signed Allen Iverson, Besiktas Cola Turka, is targeting Shaquille O’Neal

“Besiktas Cola Turka management has rolled up their sleeves to bring another NBA superstar to Istanbul. Besiktas fans and management, who are very pleased with the arrival of Allen Iverson, have now set their sights on luring Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’€™Neal overseas.”

According to the story, Iverson’s manager Gary Moore, who is also in “constant contact” with Shaq, “could be an intermediary in securing an agreement” for next season.

I, for one, am not buying it. Sure, this Turkish team might want Shaq on its team. Why wouldn’t they? It would mean millions of dollars in business for them. They probably want LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant to play for them, too.

But Shaq will be under contract for the Celtics next season, and his entire mantra since he arrived in Boston has revolved around getting a fifth — or even sixth — championship ring to cement his legacy. He can’t do that as a member of Besiktas Cola Turka.

UPDATE: Besiktas general manager Seref Yalcin is claiming that Shaq told him, “I want to be champion this season with Boston. But I’m coming to Turkey next year,” according to a website called Hoopsnotes.

Still not buying it. Shaq says al lot of things with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, and I’m guessing something got lost in translation here.

Read More: Allen Iverson, Boston Celtics, NBA, Shaquille O'Neal
Irish Coffee: Celtics Quarterly Report Card at 12:02 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Entering Wednesday night’s game against the Nuggets, the Celtics have played 20 games and are a quarter of the way through the NBA regular season. It’s time for a report card …

KEVIN GARNETT

  • Grade: A
  • Comments: He’s been on a season-long rampage to prove each and every doubter wrong. A season removed from being considered done, cooked, finito, Garnett’s field goal and free throw percentages, points, rebounds and steals are all up. Even more importantly, he’s back to his 2007-08 Defensive Player of the Year form.

PAUL PIERCE

  • Grade: A
  • Comments: Since entering camp in impressive shape, he’s been remarkably efficient so far. Pierce’s true shooting percentage (62.1 percent) ranks third in the league at his position, and his rebounding numbers are up. Not to mention the fact that — according to Doc Rivers — he’s assumed a larger vocal leadership role.

GLEN DAVIS

  • Grade: A
  • Comments: Emerging as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate, his numbers have increased in every single category. His knockdown jump shot has forced opponents to spread the floor, opening things up for his teammates. And his propensity for drawing charges has been both invaluable and highly entertaining.

RAJON RONDO

  • Grade: A-minus
  • Comments: Two reasons he’s not an A: 1) He’s already missed more games this season (four) than he did in the previous two seasons combined; and 2) he’s shooting 44.4 percent from the free-throw line. Otherwise, he’s been phenomenal — threatening John Stockton’s single-season NBA assist record.

RAY ALLEN

  • Grade: A-minus
  • Comments: His scoring average may have dipped from last season, but he’s back to doing what he does best: Burying 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip. He’s also dishing out assists at his highest rate since arriving in Boston. My one gripe? I’ve seen him play better defensively (Exhibit A: Wesley Matthews‘ 23 points).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Rajon Rondo
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