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Ray Allen, C’s knew what was coming 10.27.10 at 2:21 am ET
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The Heat played right into the hands of the Celtics all night long — and right into the teeth of their defense.

LeBron James finished with a game-high 31 points, but he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to make only 17-of-48 shots.

And Ray Allen, who defended Wade much of the night and held him to 4-of-16 shooting, explained exactly how the Celtics were able to defend Miami in an 88-80 win in the season-opener at TD Garden.

The Celtics knew coming in that with James and Wade, the Heat were going to run isolation plays all night to try and get their two scoring stars going.

“We had a great swarm,” Allen said. “Everybody was in position. We talked on defense. We knew every play they were running so when they ran it, [Rajon] Rondo was right there, there was no gap. There was nowhere for LeBron to go and then we were coming back out for the shooters. There was one stretch where we were letting those corner 3s [be taken] and we have to do a better job of letting them have those shots.”

Then there was this from Glen Davis, who along with Shaquille O’Neal was making life miserable in the paint for the Heat all night.

“We had seen every thing they run. and they run a lot of iso,” Davis said of isolation plays for James and Wade. “And the one thing about iso is you can guard that by throwing two or three guys at them.”

Miami, which made just 11-of-41 shots in the first half, finished the game shooting a measly 36.5 percent, connecting on 27-of-74 attempts. The two players primarily responsible for guarding James were Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels. Allen was on Wade and Garnett drew Bosh.

“I thought we’re a defensive team that can score the basketball,” Kevin Garnett said. “Paul has his hands full, I have my hands full, Ray Allen had his hands full. Those three are going to be a force to be reckoned with. With know that. Very talented guys, but it’s not one, two, three individuals that make a team. It definitely sets the foundation.

“But for the most part every time we touch the floor it’s about getting better. I thought tonight we did just that. We’ve got a lot of room to improve, but it’s the first night, a lot of expectations on tonight. But for the most part I thought we were solid enough to win, and we want to be better at home. What a way to start the year, with a win at home.”

The Celtics will try to continue their “swarm” when they play their first road game of the year on Wednesday night in Cleveland, serving as the opposition in the Cavaliers’ first game without LeBron James.

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Fast Break: Celtics cool Heat hype 10.26.10 at 10:21 pm ET
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The Celtics held the Heat to nine first-quarter points, and Ray Allen nailed a clutch 3-point shot to snap a late 10-0 Miami run and push the Celtics’ lead back to six in the final minute. Allen’s shot from the corner ended any Heat visions of a comeback from a 19-point deficit, and allowed Boston to claim an 88-80 opening-night win.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. Rondo to Shaq: Just four minutes into Tuesday night’s game, Rajon Rondo drove, drew three defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, who threw it down with ease. It was more than just two points.

Obviously, Shaq takes up a ton of space around the basket, which means Rondo has a larger area to which he can toss the ball without fearing interference. That’s could translate into a heckuva lot more assists for Rondo and a heckuva lot of easy buckets for Shaq this season.

In almost 12 first-half minutes, the Big Shamrock finished with six points but would have had 10 if not for a pair of missed bunnies.

The Rondo-to-Shaq combo also exposed the Heat’s biggest weaknesses: the point guard and center spots. The two Celtics simply owned Heat starters Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. Many critics had serious concerns about “The Others” in Miami, and, for now, those apprehensions appear legit.

2. Interior Defense: The Celtics held the Heat to 12 first-half points in the paint on just 6-of-16 shooting. What’s more, the C’s grabbed 21 first-half defensive rebounds, allowing only two second-chance points en route to a 45-30 lead at the half.

The Celtics’ Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett held the Heat’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to just 7-of-27 shooting in the first half.

Shaq and Rondo’s dominance of Arroyo and Anthony extended beyond the offensive end. Not worried about their defensive assignments (Arroyo/Anthony combined for two first-half shots), the Celtics duo could sag off and help out on Miami’s trio of stars.

3. Ray Allen: With all the talk about how Garnett looks as healthy as he’s been since arriving in Boston and how Pierce showed up in terrific shape, it was easy to forget to mention Allen.

Maybe it’s because Allen always looks as though he’s in top shape, but the C’s shooting guard looked like he was in midseason form on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including 5-of-8 from downtown). His final 3-pointer of the night came with 50 seconds remaining. It snapped a 10-point Heat run that had cut the lead to 83-80 in the waning minutes.

Allen also did a nice job keeping up with Wade on the defensive end, limiting the Heat guard to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. Apparently, Standing in the Way of LeBron James: Twice — once in each half — Pierce appeared to draw a charge on LeBron, who was barreling down the lane, shoulder lowered, towards the basket. And twice referees called Pierce for the blocking foul.

On the second foul, Pierce came down hard on his lower back. He limped to the sideline as the Celtics called timeout, and then went to the locker room clutching his side behind trainer Ed Lacerte.

A report came down that Pierce was out of the game with back spasms — return unknown. But he did return, finishing the night with 19 points.

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was none too happy with both blocking calls and let the refs know his frustration.

2. Lacking a Killers’ Mentality: The Celtics led, 63-50, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The C’s had their chances to end the game then and there, but instead saw their lead dwindle as they settled for jump shots. Meanwhile, the Heat closed the quarter on a 7-0 run (thanks to four points from LeBron), cutting the gap to a manageable 63-57 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.

Likewise, in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held an 83-70 advantage with four minutes remaining. A few ill-advised shots taken too early in the shot clock led to a 10-point Heat run over the next three minutes that would’ve been 13 if not for a missed wide-open 3-pointer by LeBron.

3. Perimeter Defense: While the Celtics’ inability to get out on the wings defensively didn’t hurt them in the first half, the Heat got plenty of wide-open looks. Eddie House and James Jones missed a string of 3-point attempts in the first quarter. But Celtics fans likely understood that House wasn’t going to keep missing those.

In the second half, House and Jones — along with LeBron — finished 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.

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Danny Ainge on the Big Show: C’s hope Shaq is ‘not a statue’ on court at 5:50 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

Danny Ainge (AP)

Celtics general manger Danny Ainge joined the Big Show Tuesday afternoon to discuss the Celtics season opener and his thoughts about the roster heading into the season.

Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.

“I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”

Ainge also talked about the  fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.

“The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”

Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.

On his fears about this roster:

I think that I’m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’m excited about our team.

Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?

Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O’Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’s probably my biggest concern with the health.

On Marquis Daniels this year:

Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’s had a good week of practice.

Ever seen anything like this opening night before?

I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.

What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’Neal this year?

I hope he’s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’s fun in the locker room. So far he’s been good.

What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?

Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.

On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:

Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.

What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?

It would be different. I’m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.

On shelf life of this Celtics’ roster:

I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.

How important is this game to you?

I think it’s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.

What does this game really mean?

It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.

On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’s results:

I don’t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’t think it works, I don’t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’ll be a better team because we’re deeper.

On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:

The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.

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Bill Simmons on D&C: Heat ‘not ready’ to win Eastern Conference at 4:17 pm ET
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Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the Celtics’ heavily hyped season-opener against the Heat. Simmons talked about LeBron James and his new crew in Miami and how the Big Three in South Beach will fare this season.

He also talked about the Celtics’ chances for success in the 2010-11 season. Simmons said that Paul Pierce is the player the team could least afford to lose.

“Pierce is the guys who can guard the other small forward, the guy who can take over a little bit at the end of the game. I even think they could survive a Rondo injury. … Pierce is the guy who they’d really feel it.”

Below are some highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Do you buy into the corporate lie that the Celtics are telling, that the regular season really means more to them this year than it did last year, because hell, had they won five or six more games in the regular season, the seventh game [of the NBA finals] would have been in Boston last year?  Isn’t this an aging veteran team that just needs to get to the playoffs healthy?

That’s a good question, John Dennis. I don’t believe them. I do think the one difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is they have a bench. And when you have a bench, you can win games that maybe — last year’s team, the starters, they didn’t show up, the team was not going to win. And I think you’ll see when Delonte [West] comes back — I’ve got to say I was shocked by how good Delonte looked in the preseason. I thought out of everything I watched, that was the one thing I didn’t expect.

He just was bad last year. Obviously, it started out with him riding on a motorcycle with guns, and he got suspended and missed preseason and just was never what he was in 2008, when he was the second-best player on a team that almost bear the Celtics. I think that he is back to where he was, from what I saw. And when you see him and Nate [Robinson] come off the bench, I actually think that’s a backcourt that can swing a game for six, seven minutes. Then you throw in Big Baby [Glen Davis], who’s in fantastic shape. I’m not crazy about Jermaine O’Neal, obviously, but if he’s your 10th man, that’s not a terrible thing.

I just think the difference with last year vs. this year is Paul Pierce can go 5-for-19 in Detroit or Philly or wherever and they can still win the game because they have other guys.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Chris Broussard on D&H: ‘Long time’ before Cleveland forgives LeBron James at 2:33 pm ET
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ESPN’s Chris Broussard joined the Dale & Holley show Tuesday afternoon to talk about Tuesday’s Celtics-Heat season-opener at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Broussard talked about the fallout from the LeBron James decision and how the people of Cleveland remain angry at their former hero.

“The people, they’re not forgiving LeBron, and I don’t know when they will,” Broussard said. “I think, especially if the Cavaliers struggle, it’s going to be a long time before they’re ready to forgive LeBron. … Most people are heartbroken, and that heartbrokenness has turned into anger and depression. They really are still very angry.”

Broussard said this is not a racial issue. “It’s across racial lines,” he said, adding: “In Cleveland, it’s universal that they are down on him. In the ‘hood, in the suburbs, everywhere, black, white, Hispanic, whatever. They’re down on LeBron all throughout Cleveland.”

Asked if James could have not been prepared for the reaction, Broussard said the player doesn’t understand the degree of anger. “I think he’s more surprised at nationally, the beating that he’s taking,” Broussard said. “And he is surprised. But I think it’s nationally. Maybe a little bit of the the vitriol, the intensity it from Cleveland may be surprising. I think he was a little bit taken aback when he saw his jersey burned. I don’t know if the thought of that had ever crossed his mind.

“You got the sense on TV, and even some people in Cleveland that said, “Oh, it was just one or two guys doing it in front of the cameras.’ But we found out in neighborhoods people were burning LeBron James jerseys, cutting up LeBron James jerseys. In our piece, one guy talked about how a guy had been beaten up in the basketball courts because he had on a LeBron James jersey. So, the anger was just very intense. I think that LeBron was more surprised nationally by how negative the reaction has been to what he did.”

Broussard said the questions about the Heat’s Big Three should remind Celtics fans of their Big Three debut three years ago. “A lot of the criticism or the doubts are really similar to what I heard with the Celtics in [2007-08],” Broussard said. “There were serious doubts about that supporting cast. And also about whether or not those three players would mesh.

“I had coaches tell me, ‘Oh, Paul Pierce, he doesn’t care about winning. He’s just wants to get his. He’s going to clash with these guys. He’s not going to get as many shots.’ Things like that. And you saw, they came together. They were older, yes. But these guys in Miami are veterans as well. I mean, seven years they’ve played. They’ve all won — at least LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade have won individual awards. And [Chris] Bosh has been an All-NBA player and a five-time All-Star.”

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Doc Rivers: C’s just ‘other team that’s playing’ 10.25.10 at 8:43 pm ET
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WALTHAM — So finally, thankfully, mercifully no more hype – just the game.

Ever since the game was announced as part of the full NBA schedule on Aug. 10, news and sports outlets across the country and the globe circled Oct. 26 on their calendars as a “must-cover” event at Boston’s TD Garden.

Doc Rivers maintains those news and sports outlets won’t be in Boston Tuesday to see a great game but what they think will be one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

“All eyes will be on the game in Boston, but I think all eyes will really be on Miami. We’re the other team that’s playing and we’re just going to show up. But I’m sure everybody is there to see Miami.

“It’s opening night, it’s great. It’s opening night at home. We’ve had a lot of time to prepare for the game, which is nice, and we’re ready to play.”

Rivers said Monday that he feels confident his team is ready for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat on Tuesday at TD Garden.

And it’s fitting that James plays his first official game on the same court he played his last for the Cavaliers. But unlike Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last May 13, James will be playing alongside players named Wade and Bosh, even if those three played very little together in the preseason because of Wade’s nagging hamstring injury.

“I would say it probably hurts them more than it hurts us,” Rivers said. “It probably hurts both teams, not being able to scout them and see what exactly what they’re going to do when they’re all on the floor. You can make the case that not being able to practice at all [together] it may hurt them as much. I don’t think it matters. I guarantee you that Wade will have the ball a lot, so will LeBron and so will Bosh.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: NBA Fun & Games at 10:53 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Over the weekend, NBA.com released a series of videos — entitled “NBA Unscripted” — leading up to tomorrow’s opening-night tipoff between the Celtics and Heat.

The footage includes some pretty cool interactions between the C’s Big Three. Here are some nuggets:

Kevin Garnett: “This training camp has some of the same energy that ’07 did. We stepped in the gym, and everybody was there early. I just feel like we’re reliving that. It feels like deja vu a little bit. In ’07, when we were alone, we came in the gym, and there was an energy. You could feel it. There were certain things you didn’t have to say.”

Ray Allen: “After Game 7, we were on the bus, and we started talking about the summer and the future, and we all hurt inside. We all had pain, and to this moment it bothered me to think where we were, what we did and what we could’ve gotten accomplished. We can say that we don’t have regrets, but there are things that we wish we could’ve done better.”

There’s plenty more on the Celtics in the Unscripted series. Check these out: The Countdown, Embracing a Role and Floor Leader, which includes this from Rajon Rondo:

“The more years I play and each year I get more experience, the more of a leadership role I have to take on as the point guard of this team. It’s as simple as that. Whether I play as great as I did the last couple years or not, I’m still the leader. I’m here for a reason.”

Of course, no NBA preview would be complete without plenty of Heat discussion. Unscripted is no different. Here’s a couple tidbits from Miami:

Chris Bosh: “To get to where we want to go, it has to be intense. We know that other teams like the Celtics are out there working very, very hard, so we probably have to go even harder.”

Dwyane Wade: “People say we’re there, but we’re not there yet. We look at the Boston Celtics of the world and say, ‘That’s what we need to get to.’ And we’ve gotta work very hard to get there.”

MEET SHAQUITA

Shaquille O’Neal generates more gems than Tiffany & Co. After posing as a statue (sorry, “Shaqtue”) for an hour in Harvard Square last week, The Big Shamrock is already planning his next stunt, according to USA Today.

Always wondered what Shaq might look like as a woman? Well, on the subway this Halloween, you just might meet Shaquita, a 7-foot-1, 345-pound woman. Ever want to hurl a snowball at Shaq? This winter, he may don a snowsuit and stand in a field somewhere as a human target.

“This is the funnest team I’ve been on in my life,” Shaq told the paper. “Seriously. These guys are great. Usually, I’m the ringleader of bringing fun to a team, but I haven’t even done anything yet. These guys crack me up. Big Baby (Glen Davis) and Nate Robinson, they need their own TV show.”

Still, in the same article, Doc Rivers stressed that Shaq’s maintaining a balance between off-the-court fun and on-the-court production.

“This city wants a winner,” added Shaq. “I want a winner. Everybody on this team wants to win. For me, that’s what it’s all about.”

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce smiles as he walks off the court with his teammates at the end of their practice at NBA basketball training camp at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. , Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010.

Paul Pierce isn't making excuses, but he was hurting during last year's NBA Finals. (AP)

PAUL PIERCE FEELING FIT

KG isn’t the only Celtics veteran feeling fully healthy after a summer filled with thoughts of vengeance. According to Jackie MacMullan on ESPN.com, Pierce is, too.

“I feel great for the first time in a long time,” Pierce told MacMullan.

After suffering knee, foot and thumb injuries during the 2009-10 regular season, Pierce reportedly had to wear a brace and some serious padding in his shoe just to make it through the NBA Finals.

The most disturbing revelation from MacMullan’s fantastic piece (per usual): After Pierce’s minor surgery midway through last season, his knee would actually pop open and gush liquid (I hope you’re not eating your breakfast with this Irish Coffee).

“I was probably a little stubborn about not letting it heal right,” Pierce admitted to ESPN.com. “I told them I was fine, but I had this fluid leaking out all over the place. It wasn’t so much the pain. I just lost all my strength. I played a lot of last season on basically one leg.”

STEPHANE LASME PHOENIX-BOUND?

It’s nice to see Stephane Lasme getting a shot at making another NBA roster. The former UMass standout received an invite to work out for the Phoenix Suns, according to NBA reporter Alex Kennedy.

Lasme was a stand-up guy in Celtics training camp, and even carried himself with dignity following the news that the C’s cut him from the roster — wishing each of his teammates good luck this season.

The C’s have a deep roster this year, so failing to make the cut shouldn’t deflate a guy like Lasme, who could still contribute to an NBA team.

IT’S PREVIEW TIME

Green Street has you covered for any and all information you could possibly want leading up to tomorrow night’s opener. Paul Flannery has already churned out a ton of impressive stuff, including a great piece on Jermaine O’Neal, a breakdown of the secret to the Big Three’s success, this season’s top five NBA storylines and his Talking Hoops podcast.

Meanwhile, I contacted 30 blogs from around the league to give you a prediction for the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics. I’ll say this: You’ll be surprised by the range of projections. Part 1 is already up on the blog. Stay tuned for the remainder of the Western Conference today and the Eastern Conference tomorrow.

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

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