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Fast Break: Fourth quarter dooms Celtics in loss to Pacers 03.28.11 at 9:41 pm ET
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Just as the Celtics began to solve one problem, they ran into another in the fourth quarter against the Pacers. The Celtics played one of their best offensive games in weeks, but ran out of steam at the end of a back-to-back in a 107-100 loss. They made sloppy passes and missed free throws — two sure signs of fatigue — and were outscored 26-15 in the fourth quarter. In other words, they were playing the second game of a back-to-back on the road.

Here’s how it happened:

WHAT WENT WRONG

Foul trouble for the bigs: Kevin Garnett picked up his second foul with five minutes to go in the first quarter and the Celtics leading 22-12. By the time he returned the Pacers had a 37-35 lead. Garnett didn’t stick around long, getting his third foul two minutes later on an over-the back call. Nenad Krstic also spent the first half in foul trouble, which allowed the next thing to happen …

Roy Hibbert went off: Glen Davis does a lot of things for the Celtics and one of the most important is his willingness to guard taller players. Davis typically use his bulk to keep bigger post players out of the paint and his nimble feet to get to a spot on the floor and draw charges. Both skills were useless against Hibbert who simply shot over him and made 9-of-10 in the first half. Davis played well for the most part, but having to guard Hibbert wouldn’t have been in his job description if Garnett and Krstic hadn’t spent the night in foul trouble.

Jeff Green needed to assert himself: Over the last few weeks, Jeff Green has become the kind of offensive energizer the Celtics were looking for when they acquired him from Oklahoma City. Aside from getting to the line at the start of the fourth quarter, Green offered little in the way of an offensive spark in his 28 minutes of action.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo was Rondo: Rajon Rondo wasn’t supposed to play Monday night. An hour before the game tipped off, Doc Rivers told reporters in Indiana that his point guard would sit out a second straight game to rest his injured pinky finger. That changed about 45 minutes later when Rondo took the floor for warmups. In the first quarter he made all five of his shots (all on layups) and made two free throws. This is the Rondo they have been waiting for.

Third quarter rally: This would have been very easy for the Celtics to pack it in at halftime. They were down eight, it was the second game of a back-to-back and they weren’t getting the calls from the officials. Instead, they put together an impressive third quarter run that put 36 points on the board and gave them back the lead.

Paul Pierce picks up his game: Lost in all the angst over Rondo is that Paul Pierce has been the other missing ingredient in the Celtics’ offense. He’s shooting just 26 percent from 3-point range since February and while his percentages have dropped, his turnovers have risen. But Pierce shot the ball better — making 8-of-13 and going 3-for-4 from behind the arc.

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Fast Break: Celtics pace themselves against Indiana 12.28.10 at 9:31 pm ET
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For the first 18 minutes of Tuesday night’s game with the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics played like a team that has been away from home for a week during the holidays. They were slow to rotate, hesitant to pass to the open man and generally looked like they’d rather be anywhere but Conesco Fieldhouse.

Then Paul Pierce started hitting jumpers and the Celtics got back in the game. They started the second half in much the same way, but rallied behind Marquis Daniels who took control after Nate Robinson banged heads with Mike Dunleavy and had to go back to the locker room.

The Celtics emerged with a 95-83 win in a game where they played well for maybe two quarters. Here’s how they did it:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Marquis Daniels had a very Marquis Daniels-like game: The notion that a player’s contributions don’t show up in the box score is more often than not, ridiculous. Almost every thing an NBA player does in a game is recorded, tracked and committed to the stat sheet, so if a player has no stats it’s not usually because what he does is so sublime, it’s because he didn’t actually do anything.

Daniels is one of those rare players who can have a positive impact without accumulating stats. He handled the ball when it was necessary, but not so much that he would racked up a bunch of assists. He scored, but never forced. He found mismatches and exploited them. In short, Daniels did all the things the Celtics need him to do, and his stats were solid: 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and only two turnovers.

Paul Pierce arrived just in time: Pierce picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, which sent him to the bench and took the rest of the Celtics offense with him. Without Pierce in the game, the Celtics 40 percent in the first quarter and trailed 26-19. By the time he heated up in the second quarter, the Celtics were down by 10 points, but he shot them back in the game.

Ray Allen did the rest: As Pierce tailed off in the second half, Ray Allen picked up the slack, scoring 12 of his 17 points in the final two quarters. The Celtics once again had great balance with four players in double figures and five players posting 10 or more shots.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rajon Rondo didn’t play: The new timeline for Rondo’s return to the court is now Friday when the Celtics return home to play the Hornets on New Years Eve. (Coincidentally or not, that’s also just in time for a matchup with Chris Paul). The Celtics aren’t going to rush Rondo back, but his return can’t come soon enough.

Their offense, which once featured so much flow and ball movement, has devolved into a one-pass and shoot stagnant system. The Celtics are talented enough to get by like this for a while, but they are becoming very predictable and predictably easy to stop.

Foul trouble for Shaq again: Shaquille O’Neal didn’t get into foul trouble early this time, but he made up for lost time with a flurry of violations that had him setting on the bench with five fouls less than six minutes into the second half. Shaq was fined $35,000 for his comments after the Magic game, and like it or not, he’s becoming a target of the refs for his hard fouls.He lasted 16 minutes before fouling out for the second straight game.

Free throw shooting: The Celtics shot 15-for-22 and for a change, they can’t blame Shaq (or Rondo) for that sub-par number. Shaq made five of his six shots, which left the rest of the team 10-for-16 and that’s not good enough.

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Fast Break: Lucky 13 for Celtics 12.19.10 at 3:28 pm ET
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After beating the Pacers 99-88 Sunday afternoon at TD Garden, the Celtics have now won 13 straight games. They didn’t play particularly well or efficient and it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, but in order to keep that streak going, they’re going to have to do the kinds of things they did Sunday.

Yes, they gave up way too many offensive rebounds and the bench is woefully thin behind Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels, but the Celtics have figured out a formula for winning regular season games. Get a lead with the starters and then turn it on defensively in the fourth quarter.

Three different players scored 18 points, including Davis off the bench and Ray Allen added 17. They were balanced and they made the plays when they had to make them.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce gave the game what it needed: That’s the phrase the Celtics captain likes to use to describe his contributions and in recording a triple-double he pretty much gave the Celtics everything they needed. Pierce didn’t do much scoring (18 points on just eight shots), but he was a distributor (12 assists) and helped Kevin Garnett work the glass with 10 rebounds.

Pierce is playing some of the most responsible basketball of his career. That shouldn’t be viewed as faint praise. Garnett and Rondo have secured the headlines, and rightfully so, but Pierce remains the Celtics on-court leader.

Shaquille O’Neal returned: Foul trouble limited Shaq’s time on the court, but after finishing Thursday’s game with just nine players, the Celtics welcomed the return of any player, let alone the big fella. Shaq wasted little time making his presence felt with 11 points in five minutes including an obscene posterization of Jeff Foster on an alley-oop.

Shaq played 22 minutes, which is right in line with the amount he had been playing and the Celtics needed it as Semih Erden was limited with a groin injury.

Nate Robinson had a Nate Robinson game: With Rajon Rondo out for the foreseeable future, it falls on Robinson to handle major minutes at the point. Robinson is not going to be Rondo. Not now, not ever. They are completely different players with different skill sets, but the one thing Robinson can do is provide instant offense and he was able to score 18 points.

Robinson also provided athletic, hustling plays all over the court and for that the Celtics will indulge him the occasional pull-up 3-pointer on the break.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Defensive rebounding: The Pacers shredded the Celtics on the boards in the first quarter, racking up six offensive rebounds. The Celtics were able to tighten up in the second, but the Pacers got up 50 shots in the first half, which allowed them to stay in the game despite shooting just 40 percent.

The problems returned in the third quarter. As is usually the case, the Celtics problems on the glass started before the shot attempt …

Dribble penetration: This is where the Celtics really miss Rondo, or at least the healthy version of Rondo. Darren Collison and T.J. Ford were both able to breakdown the Celtics defense, which not only allowed the to combine for 31 points and 24 shot attempts, but also caused the Celtics help defense to leave rebounding gaps on the boards.

The bench is thin: Davis and Daniels have been fantastic. Erden has given the Celtics a boost. But right now, with all the injuries, the Celtics need to get something out of either Avery Bradley or Von Wafer. It hasn’t happened yet.

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KG, Pierce get to heart of the matter 03.12.10 at 11:41 pm ET
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The two players Doc Rivers pointed to as the keys to the playoff fortunes of the Celtics were all business on Friday.

And it started hours before they dismantled the Indiana Pacers, 122-103, at TD Garden.

It began with a team meeting in which Doc Rivers spoke and then asked for any and all feedback from everyone in the room.

“We really had a heart-to-heart this morning. To tell you the truth it really left a bad taste in our mouth the way we played last game,” Paul Pierce said of Wednesday’s 111-91 stinker to Memphis. “Nobody wants to be booed at home by their home crowd seeing everybody leave early. That really sat with me that night to be honest. I think it sat with everybody. Today we just came in, talked to each other, we just played like a team that was on a mission tonight and hopefully it can carry over for the rest of the season.”

Kevin Garnett said Friday’s team chat was productive on many different levels.

“Just open dialogue this morning. Doc did the majority of the talking but he opened up the floor to everybody to give their two cents and we just spoke freely. It was the first time in a while that we’ve done that, we usually talk among ourselves and try to figure things out amongst the team without coaches or any other staff members. But today it included coaches and players, and just had open dialogue, it wasn’t anything negative, just general conversation about defensive schemes and things we can get better at.”

Rivers said before Friday’s game that the team did some old-fashioned film watching, reviewing whole parts of Wednesday’s horror show to let it sink in and let players understand the big picture of intensity and energy. Both were in high supply in Friday’s bounce-back laugher.

“We watched a little game film which is always good, that way as a whole we can sit there and critique each other,” Garnett said. “I think the best thing about this team since I’ve been here is that we’ve all been able to talk to one another and critique each other and be positive and get results out of it. It wasn’t just about the talking, I think what we talked about we actually did tonight. I think we played with 200 percent more energy tonight than obviously the other night.

“And to concur with what Paul said, you never want to be in a situation where you’re getting booed at home, home is supposed to be where you lay your head at and where you’re most comfortable at. We had to re-establish that here. I thought tonight, the results of us playing hard came out, obviously we hit some shots tonight. We watched the film from the Memphis game and what it came down to, pretty much our defensive energy was there, we just didn’t make any shots, and for that it’s almost like we weren’t doing anything on offense. It was determined by our energy on defense, and that can’t happen.”

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Third quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Pacers at 9:27 pm ET
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There was no let up in the Celtics in the third quarter on this night. The Celtics led 67-47 at the break and expanded their lead to as many as 25 in the third quarter, taking a 98-78 lead into the final 12 minutes.

Paul Pierce had another seven points in the quarter and leads the Celtics with 20 while Rajon Rondo has 16 points and 11 assists. Former Georgetown star Roy Hibbert is marking his alma mater’s 23-point thrashing of Marquette in the Big East Tournament with a big night. He has 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field to lead Indiana.

The entire second unit, which began the Celtics’ roll on this night late in the first quarter, finished out the third with Michael Finley, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson looking like a smooth functioning unit.

This is the type of rest Doc Rivers would like to give his starters. Up 20 points and cruising late in the second half.

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Second quarter wrap: Celtics vs. Pacers at 8:47 pm ET
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So, this is why the Celtics traded for Nate Robinson.

He was Vinny Johnson, Vinny DelNegro and Vinny from New York all in one action-packed second quarter. Robinson, playing his most dominant minutes since being acquired from the Knicks at the trading deadline, filled it up in the second quarter with nine of his 12 points as the Celtics outscored Indiana by 14 to take a 67-47 halftime lead. Their 38 points were the most in the second quarter this season.

Robinson drilled all three of his 3-point attempts and has four for the game. Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 13 on 5-of-7 shooting and Rajon Rondo has 10. No wonder, the fans gave the C’s a standing ovation as they headed to the locker room. No boos tonight.

The other notable result of the quarter featured one of the better performances by the second unit in recent memory. The Celtics led 24-23 when the second unit came on late in the first quarter. They left the starters with a 45-32 advantage.

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Celtics-Pacers Preview 12.22.09 at 11:27 am ET
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Way back on Nov. 14, Danhtay Jones had a career night. This came as a bit of a surprise to various members of the Celtics, who were still shaking their collective heads several days after Jones burned them for 25 points in their only road loss of the season. Jones is not known as a scorer in any meaningful way, but at that moment in time he was in the midst of the best offensive month of his career, averaging 17.5 points and shooting over 46 percent from the floor.

Jones has returned to his regular ways in December (8.5 points per, 40 percent shooting), and his Pacers team has crash-landed along with him. It would be wrong to pin all that on him, of course. Jones is a small piece of his team, but it speaks to the danger of over-reacting to one game or one month.

Over the first 16 games of the season Rasheed Wallace took 146 shots and 96 of them were 3-pointers. In other words, two thirds of the shots that Sheed took were from beyond the arc. That would be Jason Kapono territory, but not even Kapono would take that many. Over the last 10 games Wallace has greatly cut back on his 3-point attempts, launching “just” 41 percent of his from 3-point range. The result is a much more efficient second unit that has a certified low-post option at its disposal.

All of which is to say that while it’s folly to place hope in veteran players like Jones becoming something they are not, it is possible to get different results from veteran players like Wallace by simply changing their approach.

CELTICS (21-5, 9-1 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.5

Points Allowed: 91.9

Differential: 9.5 (First)

Offensive Efficiency: 110.4 (Sixth)

Defensive Efficiency: 100.0 (Second)

Pace: 91.3 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: Glen Davis (thumb), Marquis Daniels (wrist)

PACERS (9-17, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 97. 4

Points Allowed: 101.2

Differential: -3.8 (T-24th)

Offensive Efficiency: 1007.7 (26th)

Defensive Efficiency: 104.6 (10th)

Pace: 96.7 (Second)

Likely Starters: Earl Watson, Dahntay Jones, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Roy Hibbert

Injuries: Danny Granger (foot), Travis Diener (toe), Jeff Foster (back)

Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Troy Murphy Read the rest of this entry »

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