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Fast Break: Celtics silence Magic 02.06.11 at 5:16 pm ET
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After an opening 15 minutes that was both scary and sloppy, the Celtics rallied to put away the Magic, 91-80, led by a season-high 26 points by Rajon Rondo. The C’s won the season series against their Eastern Conference rivals, 2-1.

Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels both hit the ground hard on separate first-half instances. Davis (head bruise) returned. Daniels (neck injury) did not. Meanwhile, the Celtics made only five field goals in the first 15 minutes and trailed by as much as nine points.

Rondo added seven assists, as the Celtics improved their East-leading record to 38-12. Ray Allen (11 points) made 2-of-4 3-pointers on the afternoon to bring himself within four of breaking Reggie Miller‘s all-time record. Howard recorded game-highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds in a losing effort for the Magic (32-20).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rallying around Marquis Daniels: Just as they did in a comeback win over the Nets when Delonte West broke his wrist, the Celtics rallied around an injured member of the team. Daniels left with the scary neck injury 59 seconds into the second quarter, when the C’s trailed 24-17. Over the next 19:37 — stretching late into the third quarter — the C’s outscored the Magic by 22 points.

Rondo playing aggressive: Led by a concerted effort by Rondo to get to the rim, the Celtics earned (a rare) 34 trips to the free-throw line. They even made 28 of them (82.4 percent). Entering the game shooting just 51.6 percent from the charity stripe, Rondo made seven of his nine free-throw attempts (Paul Pierce made 10-of-12). The Celtics point guard also converted seven layups around the hoop. Rondo’s effort throughout the game helped the C’s stay in a game when their outside shooting wasn’t as sharp as normal.

Defense: As they did against Kobe Bryant in their win over the Lakers, the Celtics appeared content allowing Howard to pile up buckets as long as Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson & Co. didn’t also heat up. The plan worked, thanks to the efforts of Pierce and Allen on the latter two Magicians.

The Celtics held the Magic to 43 first-half points. Howard scored 22 points on 9-of-14 (64.3 percent) shooting from the field entering the break, while the rest of the team was just 9-of-36 (25 percent). In all, Orlando shot 32-of-93 from the field (34.4 percent) and 3-of-24 from 3-point range (12.5 percent), despite Howard’s 10-of-20 shooting on the afternoon.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Marquis Daniels goes down: Colliding with Gilbert Arenas around the rim, Daniels fell to the floor and lay motionless on the parquet for what seemed like forever. As paramedics brought out a stretcher and strapped Daniels in, the Garden crowd stood deathly quiet. Daniels was conscious and talking as he was taken to New England Baptist Hospital. He reportedly later moved all extremities and will be Ok.

Glen Davis also hit the floor hard in the first quarter, taking a charge against Magic point guard Jameer Nelson of all people. Davis walked with team Dr. Brian McKeon. Shortly afterwards, the Celtics announced Davis suffered a “head bruise” and would return. He did, to start the second quarter.

Shooting: The Celtics made only four first-quarter field goals and did not hit a 3-point shot until Allen knocked down his third attempt with 4:09 left in the second quarter. In all, the C’s made just 14-of-33 shots (42.4 percent) in the first half.

Subtract Rondo and Garnett (a combined 8-of-14) from the equation in that opening 24 minutes, and the rest of the C’s were shooting just 31.6 percent entering the break. They rallied to shoot 16-of-30 in the second half for a 47.6 percent clip for the game.

Taking care of the ball: Whether it was the Sunday afternoon start or anticipation for the Super Bowl, the Celtics looked extremely sloppy to start the game, committing six first-quarter turnovers. That number declined to an average of three over the next three quarters.

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Marquis Daniels sent to hospital with neck injury at 3:29 pm ET
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Celtics guard Marquis Daniels was sent to New England Baptist Hospital with a neck injury after he fell to the ground on a drive to the basket in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Magic at TD Garden.

Just 59 seconds into the second quarter, Daniels drove to his right on Gilbert Arenas, lost his balance and fell awkwardly to the floor. Daniels remained on the court for several minutes as Celtics medical staff tended to him and the Garden crowd fell silent. Teammates Rajon Rondo, Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett dropped to one knee at Daniels’ side.

Eventually, a stretcher was brought onto the court and Daniels gave a brief “thumbs up” before being wheeled off the parquet. The official play-by-play listed the delay at four minutes, 30 seconds.

The injury to Daniels was the second serious injury of the day as Davis was also on the court for several minutes after taking a charge earlier in the first half. Davis was taken to the locker room and treated for a bruise to his head before returning to the bench for the start of the second quarter.

Ironically, both Daniels and Davis were injured and suffered concussions in Game 5 of last year’s 2010 Eastern Conference finals against the Magic.

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Delonte West shows TD Garden crowd he’s getting closer 02.04.11 at 7:32 pm ET
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Delonte West keeps progressing in his attempt to return from a broken right wrist. One day after he went through a full shootaround and skeleton practice with the Celtics on Thursday at their practice facility, he warmed up on the TD Garden floor, showing everyone he can catch with his right hand and shoot with his left.

“He didn’t practice,” coach Doc Rivers said on Thursday. “He just did the shootaround and the shooting and that’s about it.”

But Rivers acknowledged it was significant that West could take part in catch-and-shooting drills without any protection whatsoever on his wrist, broken on Nov. 24 in home game vs. New Jersey.

“That’s nice. He did run through all of our skeleton stuff so obviously, the next step will be him going through a practice,” said Rivers before adding that there is still no specific timetable for West to return to game action. “I have no idea. No time soon I don’t think but I’m not sure.”

Meanwhile, with Shaquille O’Neal out Friday and likely Sunday vs. the Magic, Kendrick Perkins was thrust into the starting lineup on Friday against the Mavericks, a little sooner than the All-Star break timetable Rivers orginally expected.

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Doc Rivers: ‘I’ll let everyone else talk about us’ 01.19.11 at 7:21 pm ET
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Two different comments about the Celtics have made the rounds today. One complimentary, and the other not so much. Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith questioned the Celtics tough reputation by telling the Orlando Sentinel, “They act tough. They’re not really tough. They act tough.”

Asked about it before the Celtics game with the Pistons, Ray Allen responded, “It doesn’t matter. We know who we are.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers wouldn’t even go that far. “I’ll let everybody else talk about us,” he said. “They seem to do it better than us.”

Told that Lakers coach Phil Jackson had suggested that Heat couldn’t beat the Celtics, Rivers joked, “In that case I think Phil is a genius! And I hope he’s right. There’s a lot of playing to be played. We’ll see how that all works out.”

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Kevin Garnett: ‘These two weeks have been dark days for me’ 01.18.11 at 1:09 am ET
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How happy and relieved was Kevin Garnett to be back Monday night?

“I was just called up from the D-League,” he joked.

Playing his first game back from a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf, Garnett scored 19 points in 30 minutes while Paul Pierce converted the go-ahead three-point play with 38.7 seconds remaining to lift the Celtics to a 109-106 win over the Magic Monday night at TD Garden.

Ray Allen had a team-high 26 points and Rajon Rondo had 10 points and 13 assists in a contest that provided a thrilling rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals. No one seemed more excited about the turn of events than the man who was playing his first game of 2011.

“You get out of it what it what you put into it,” Garnett said.”These two weeks have been dark days for me, trying to keep my morale up, be around the guys, travel. But being hurt is not one of my things I like to be a part of. I hate it. I don’t deal with it well.

“But as I get older, along with these knuckleheads here keeping it real light for me, keeping my spirits up, I just worked through it. Tonight, I just felt stronger and I’m going to continue to build on this and not have any mishaps.”

He certainly showed no ill-effects of the strained right calf sustained on Dec. 29 in Detroit. Garnett ran and moved without a limp while starting out very strong. He had six rebounds, two assists and four points in nine minutes of the first quarter. Garnett also stole the ball from Jameer Nelson late to help seal Boston’s 31st win, keeping them on top in the Eastern Conference.

After scoring just six points on Christmas Day, Dwight Howard had one of his strongest games yet against the Celtics, scoring 33 points while grabbing 13 rebounds. But still, the Celtics, thanks to the interior passing of Garnett and Pierce dominated scoring in the paint, 52-26.

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Doc Rivers: Kevin Garnett yelling on the court again is music to my ears at 12:52 am ET
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Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce were happy to have the noise back. That noise that comes from someone yelling non-stop throughout the game and playing with defensive intensity rarely seen in the history of the NBA.

It had been so quiet for the Celtics since Kevin Garnett went down on Dec. 29 in Detroit, with what looked far more serious than a strained right calf at the time.

The Celtics defensive coordinator was back on Monday night against the Magic, and within the first three minutes you could tell a difference in defensive energy as he was calling out plays on the court.

And Rivers didn’t feel the two teams played very good defense in the first 45 minutes, the last three were what mattered in a 109-106 Celtics win Monday night over the team they eliminated in the Eastern Finals last year. So, Garnett yelling out defensive calls and making plays like a steal on Jameer Nelson with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win was music to Rivers’ ears.

“Listen, they all talk, but no one talks like Kevin,” Rivers said. “He’s the best talker in the league. When you’re talking defense. And I think Perk [Kendrick Perkins] may be the second best. So, it is clear tonight – and I didn’t think we had a great defensive night; I thought we were actually average – but it was clear the communication, especially those last four possessions, you could hear it. He was calling their sets out. He’s a defensive coach on the floor.”

Rivers had no doubt the energy would be there. His stamina and effectiveness were another thing altogether.

“I knew he’d play with energy,” Rivers said after Garnett scored 19 points and hauled in eight rebounds in 30 intensity-filled minutes. “You could see that. You could see it [Sunday], and I was telling guys that our practice was just crazy with energy. And so, you knew that. I was concerned about his wind; I wasn’t concerned about his health at all.”

One area where it was noticeable that Garnett might have been a little rusty was in the foul column where he came within one of disqualification.

“I knew one of the things we said: he wasn’t playing until he was 100 percent,” Rivers said. “But [Sunday], we went an hour and after about ten minutes he was – he looked like he needed an oxygen tank. And that’s why I took him out early in the first quarter; I thought he was struggling then. And then he came back and he felt great. So, yeah, he surprises you all the time.”

But don’t take Rivers’ word for it. Ask the man whom Garnett was helping to direct on the court, Paul Pierce.

“I mean I said to somebody else that we look like a totally different team,” Pierce said. “Just with Kevin on the court, and also people you can’t replace what Kevin gives to a ball club. He doesn’t always show up with his numbers but his presence and his feel for the game and everything he does for this team goes far beyond the numbers and you see it tonight. We look like a team who is ready, who is energized, who is locked in, and you know that’s the culture he’s brought here since day 1 he’s been here and its infectious. He raises everyone’s play when he’s on the court.”

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Dwight Howard: ‘We will win the war’ vs. Shaq, Celtics at 12:47 am ET
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After all the hullabaloo over who’s the real Superman, there’s no wonder Dwight Howard rolls his eyes when he’s asked about Shaquille O’Neal. Thinking for a moment, the Magic center made a bold prediction.

“The matchup is awesome,” said Howard, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “He won the victory tonight, but we will win the war.”

Howard actually dominated the individual battle during Monday night’s Celtics victory against the Magic. He totaled 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Shaq finished with just 12 and 2. But the C’s walked away with a 109-106 win to even the season series between the two Eastern Conference rivals, 1-1.

Asked about the defense Glen Davis and Shaq played on Howard, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t too impressed.

“It was OK, I guess,” he said. ”They combined did a good job. They held him to 33, and you know — whatever.”

The Celtics lost to the Magic on Christmas Day in Orlando, 86-78. Shaq and Howard combined for eight points and 11 personal fouls in that matchup. Round 3 of the battle for Superman supremacy is Feb. 6, in Boston again.

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