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Fast Break: Celtics Rondo the Knicks 10.29.10 at 10:06 pm ET
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The best thing to happen to Doc Rivers Friday night was Rajon Rondo. Watching his All-Star point guard dissect the Knicks for a career-high 24 assists helped him forget about an ugly occurrence just hours earlier.

Before his team and Rondo beat the Knicks, 105-101, at TD Garden, he had to answer questions about an altercation between Delonte West and Von Wafer earlier in the day after a shootaround – an altercation that Rivers acknowledged by saying “There was a fight. I ‘m not real happy about it. We’ll deal with it.”

Wafer did play, albeit only three minutes off the bench, committing one foul and missing one shot from the floor.

The Celtics trailed by nine early as the Knicks came out shooting well but the Green recovered quickly and led 27-20 after the first. They didn’t trail again and led by as many as 12.

The Celtics are off until Tuesday when they play in Detroit.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon is Rondo-ing everyone right now: The point guard had a career 24 assists and is clearly the team leader. No one in an opposing uniform can seem to keep up with him in the half-court. About the only thing Rondo is doing wrong now is making passes that are so good, his teammates don’t always anticipate them, like Marquis Daniels midway through the fourth. Rondo’s 24 assists were the second-most in Celtics history, trailing only Bob Cousy’s 28. To put a cherry on the sundae, Rondo finished with a triple double, adding 10 points and 10 rebounds to his astronomical helper total.

Celtics dominated the paint: Thanks to the work of Rondo, the C’s went to the paint early and often and kept going there consistently throughout the game. They finished the game outscoring the Knicks, 54-38, in the paint.  Glen Davis had 16 points off the bench, a huge contributor to the 54-point total.

Celtics found their shooting range: Paul Pierce shot 9-of-20 – including 4-of-6 from long distance – and finished with a team-high 25 points while Kevin Garnett made 12-of-17 from the floor and finished with 24. Shaquille O’Neal connected on 5-of-7, all from in close as the Celtics finished around the basket.

THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

Still too many turnovers: Despite talking about the issue before the game, Doc Rivers had to sit on the bench and watch as his team committed another 18 turnovers. The Celtics have now committed 55 turnovers in their first three games. The turnovers were the biggest reason a team like the Knicks, who shot only 44 percent, were able to close to within two with 17.5 seconds remaining on an Amar’e Stoudemire three.

Celtics look their age coming out of the block: That has be a huge concern considering they are starting the season fresh. They are getting beat in two aspects of the game the Celtics of the last three seasons have dominated. They are getting beat on rotations, allowing the ball to find its way to the open shooter and too often they are getting beaten in transition. When Rajon Rondo is trailing on defense, you have a serious issue to address.

Big men are knicked up: With 5:11 left in the fourth, Shaquille O’Neal left for the locker room limping. Already without Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins, the C’s can hardly afford to lose another big man or they run the risk of burning out Big Baby who looks as fresh as he has in his career. Shaq did not return to the game. He bruised his right knee when he banged into Stoudemire. He said after the game that he would be fine and not miss any time. Jermaine O’Neal meanwhile is day-to-day with swelling in his left knee, an ailment that cropped up after the loss in Cleveland.


Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce on D&H: Shaq has helped Kevin Garnett 10.28.10 at 1:43 pm ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce joined the Dale & Holley show and touched on a number of topics including what would have happened if Doc Rivers had decided to leave, how the Heat will have to adjust to playing with each other and what Shaquille O’Neal has done for Kevin Garnett.

“I love Shaquille in the locker room,” Pierce said. “The one guy he’€™s making better on and off the court is Kevin. You can just tell with Kevin’€™s attitude, he’€™s a lot more loose than he’€™s ever been. Kevin really listens to a lot of things Shaq has to say because they’€™ve been through their wars together and I know Kevin has a lot of respect for Shaq and what he’€™s done in this league, as do all of us. His presence has really helped us out as a ballclub, in the locker room and on the court.”

(To hear the whole interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page).

Here are more highlights from the interview:

What happened in Cleveland?

That’€™s the Cleveland Cavaliers minus LeBron James. They had a lot going. It was the home opener, a lot to prove with LeBron being gone, they played a great game. I can’€™t take anything away from what they did last night. They came out and gave us one, right over the head.

Did you take them lightly?

I hate to use that word lightly. I play the game the same way every night. They came to play. I don’€™t want to take anything away from what they did. We had our run, we had a chance to put them away, they just stuck with it. They made some big shots, the crowd got into it and they finished the game.

What’s the difference in Cleveland’s offense without LeBron?

When you got LeBron James in the lineup the offense is a little more predictable because you know he’€™s gong to get the ball pretty much every time down the court or 90 percent of the time. They’€™re really try to find an identity. They don’€™t really have a true go-to guy so they have to rely on out-working everybody, ball movement and sharing and playing together. They did an excellent job of that last night.

How will the Heat co-exist? What did he do with Garnett and Ray Allen?

I think they’€™re going to have make some sacrifices and that’€™s going to be the key. What’€™s unique about us with me, Kevin and Ray, I think we all bring something different with our games. Ray, he’€™s a great player without the ball. Kevin, you can play through Kevin or he’€™s great at setting screens and making people better, also I can play off the ball. I can be spot-up shooter.

In their case, they have LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade who constantly have the ball in their offense. Neither one of them has been asked to stand on the wing or stand in the corner and be a spot-up shooter. That’€™s an adjustment I think they’€™re going to have to make in figuring out their roles. Who’€™s going to be the lead dog on offense? Who’€™s going to be the facilitator and who’€™s going to play a different role, like, say, [Chris] Bosh being a guy who’€™s just going to rebound, play defense and screen?

It’€™s tough, especially for these guys because they’€™re in the prime of their careers and it’€™s going to be tough for them to swallow that knowing that they can give much more than what they’€™re going to give on a night-in, night-out basis for them to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Shaquille O'Neal,
Paul Pierce knows clutch when he sees it 10.27.10 at 3:38 pm ET
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You know you’re clutch when Paul Pierce says you’re one of the best clutch players he’s ever played with. Kevin Garnett echoed those feelings about Ray Allen after the sharpshooter showed off his deadly shooting prowess again late in Tuesday’s season-opening 88-80 win over the Miami Heat.

Allen hit a clutch three-pointer from the left baseline with 49.8 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to seal Boston’s win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the highly-anticipated NBA lid-lifter at TD Garden.

“I’ve been a witness of it the last three years, and he’s one of the best players that I’ve ever played with,” Pierce said of Allen. “It’s an honor just to be able to step on the court with him night in and night out. You’ve got a guy that can take that kind of pressure off you, it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t know if you guys realize it, but Ray, he’s hit so many game winners for us and so many clutch shots for us, we have confidence to get him the ball in these situations. He delivers nine times out of ten.”

“And this guy hits big shots himself,” smiled Garnett, who added just the right amount of perspective.

But Pierce also admitted, “I like watching, too.”

Pierce did exactly that when he fed Allen off a designed play and the Celtics desperately needing a bucket to regain control after Miami drew to within three on a James lay-up with under a minute remaining.

“We drew a play out of the time out, and the only thing we said is, if it’s not there, it won’t be there because they have to rotate, and if they rotate, if we make the next pass, the ball will find the open guy,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, before giving props to Pierce for making the extra pass.

James was defending Pierce very closely and not giving him a good look so the Celtics captain found an open and willing Allen on the left baseline.

“And that was terrific,” Rivers added. “He had a shot, but it would have been contested, and he made the extra pass. We always talk about no hero ball, and to me that was a hero pass in a great way. He didn’t have to make that pass, but he made the right decision, and it was great.”

Who was supposed to be on Allen? Former Celtic Eddie House, a shooting guard who can appreciate hitting the clutch shot.

“I should have stayed with him on the baseline,” House said. “He kicked it out and got that one right in front of our bench. That’s a play I’ve already replayed in my head about 1,000 times already. But Ray just does that to you.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, eddie house, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James
Ray Allen, C’s knew what was coming 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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James
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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA
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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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.

Read More: Danny Ainge, Delonte West, LeBron James, Marquis Daniels
Bill Simmons on D&C: Heat ‘not ready’ to win Eastern Conference at 4:17 pm ET
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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 »

Read More: Bill Simmons, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Paul Pierce
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