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Preview: Celtics-Grizzlies 03.10.10 at 10:32 am ET
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One game removed from scoring 25 points and knocking down a dramatic game-winner, Ray Allen was a total afterthought in the Celtics offensive attack against the Bucks Tuesday night. Allen had only three shots, and he missed them all.

More than almost every other player on the roster, Allen relies on his teammates to set him up. According to the numbers on Hoop Data, more than 72 percent of Allen’s made shots come off assists. (Kevin Garnett actually has a higher percentage). This is the second time in the past week that Allen has had so few looks. Against the Bobcats he had only two shots, but because that was a blowout it went relatively unnoticed.

The key to the Celtics offense is balance and they can’t afford to go away from Allen like that in the future.

GRIZZLIES (33-31, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.0

Points Allowed: 102.8

Differential: -.8 (17th)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.5 (12th)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.3 (23rd)

Pace: 93.0 (13th)

Likely Starters: Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Injuries: Darrell Arthur (Torn pec muscle), Randolph (Back, questionable)

CELTICS (40-22, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.2

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +4.5 (6th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.8 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)

Pace: 91.5 (23rd)

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

Injuries: None. Read the rest of this entry »

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Preview: Celtics-Bucks 03.09.10 at 11:05 am ET
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Quick: Who is the hottest team in the Eastern Conference? The Celtics, who have won four straight and seven of their last 10? Nope. The Cavs? The Magic? No and no. The hottest team in the Eastern Conference is the Milwaukee Bucks and has been since the trade deadline when the acquired John Salmons from the Bulls.

The addition of Salmons has given the Bucks a much-needed perimeter threat to take the pressure off rookie point guard Brandon Jennings and also aided the development of Andrew Bogut, who is putting it all together in his fifth season. The Bucks have played great defense all season. They rank third in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) and their low-risk (fourth best at not turning it over), deliberate offensive sets don’t hurt their defensive rep either.

While Salmons gives them a shooter and a scorer that they lacked, the other reason for their success has been the play of backup point guard Luke Ridnour, who has been one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA. Ridnour is in the midst of a career-season and since Bucks coach Scott Skiles knows what he’s doing, Ridnour’s also plays crunch-time minutes when the situation arises.

A few weeks ago, the Bobcats looked like the emerging team in the bottom five of the East. Now that team appears to be the Bucks, a young team playing well with a solid coach and nothing to lose. That’s a tough combination in a first-round playoff matchup.

CELTICS (40-21, 7-3 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.4

Points Allowed: 93.8

Differential: +4.6 (6th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)

Pace: 91.6 (22nd)

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

Injuries: None.

BUCKS (33-29, 9-1 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.1

Points Allowed: 96.5

Differential: +1.6 (13th)

Offensive Efficiency: 104.5 (23rd)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.8 (3rd)

Pace: 907. (26th)

Likely Starters: Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut

Injuries: Michael Redd (Knee surgery, out) Read the rest of this entry »

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Preview: Celtics-Sixers 03.05.10 at 10:57 am ET
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A question that has been hanging in the air during this Celtics season: Should they be more aggressive? Should the Celtics be a little more (choose your adjective here) physical, punishing, nasty?

Paul Pierce certainly thought so. “That’s who are, truthfully,” he said after Wednesday’s game that featured a minor run-in with Stephen Jackson. “We’re a team that usually intimidates.” Pierce was quick to add that he didn’t advocate crossing whatever arbitrary line is drawn in the NBA sand these days regarding physical play.

Certainly the Celtics aren’t about to emulate the 90′s “no layups” Knicks, mostly because the rules have changed to the point where no one can play that kind of rough and tumble basketball without getting half the roster suspended. The Celtics are up among the league leaders in technical fouls with 77 (Orlando of all teams is the leader in the clubhouse with 79), but that’s more agitation than intimidation.

They’ve been called bullies and trash talkers before, but that’s a different thing, as well. The Celtics have played 59 games and they still seem like a team that is searching for an identity. Perhaps their old one fit just fine.

SIXERS (22-38, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 97.6

Points Allowed: 101.0

Differential: -3.4 (21st)

Offensive Efficiency: 105.6 (21st)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.2 (22nd)

Pace: 91.8 (21st)

Likely Staters: Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Sam Dalembert

Injuries: Elton Brand (Achilles, questionable), Mareese Speights (Knee, questionable), Allen Iverson (Personal)

CELTICS (38-21, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 94.1

Differential: +4.6 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.1 (2nd)

Pace: 91.7 (22nd)

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

Injuries: None.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Preview: Celtics-Bobcats 03.03.10 at 10:14 am ET
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It has been said that athletic frontcourts are the Celtics Achilles heel. The Hawks, as everyone knows, swept the Celtics this season, and last week the Cavaliers unleashed the hounds once Shaquille O’Neal left the game. Those teams have proven to be too quick on the dribble and on the boards for the Celtics aging frontcourt to handle.

Of the teams alive in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, only one really fits that description: the Bobcats. Unlike the Hawks and the Cavs, however, Charlotte’s athletic frontcourt is better suited for defense than for offense. The Bobcats are one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA. They don’t shoot well, they’re not particularly strong on the offensive glass and they turn it over as much as the Celtics.

They are also thin in the backcourt and injured up front with three centers on the shelf for tonight’s game. But they are dangerous, more so now with the addition of Tyrus Thomas the one-time Chicago Bull headache. The Cats are dangerous because they slow the game down to a crawl and play terrific half-court defense, a staple of Larry Brown-coached teams.

If the Celtics were to meet the Bobcats in the playoffs (and if Charlotte was healthy) it could be the proverbial bad matchup for the C’s. Tonight’s game should give something of an indication if that indeed would be the case.

BOBCATS (28-30, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 94.9

Points Allowed: 94.3

Differential: +.6 (15th)

Offensive Efficiency: 103.9 (24th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.2 (5th)

Pace: 90.6 (27th)

Likely Starters: Ray Felton, Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Theo Ratliff

Injuries: Tyson Chandler (Knee), DeSagana Diop (Knee), Nazr Mohammed (Back, questionable)

CELTICS (37-21, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.6

Points Allowed: 94.3

Differential: +4.3 (7th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.8 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 102.2 (2nd)

Pace: 91.7 (21st)

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

Injuries: Perkins (Flu, questionable) Read the rest of this entry »

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Preview: Celtics-Knicks 02.23.10 at 10:20 am ET
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Eddie House won't be in a Celtics uniform, but he'll be back on the parquet when the Celtics host the Knicks tonight. (AP)

Eddie House won't be in a Celtics uniform, but he'll be back on the parquet when the Celtics host the Knicks tonight. (AP)

When last we saw the Celtics in Boston, they were blowing a huge third-quarter lead against the Orlando Magic and causing nearly everyone to abandon ship. That was on Super Bowl Sunday. Since then, we’ve seen Peyton Manning choke, the United States win 25 medals in the Olympics and Tiger Woods kind of apologize.

Since then we’ve also seen the Celtics manage to win the first three games of a treacherous West Coast road trip (including sweeping the Lakers and Blazers in a back-to-back, which ranks near the top of the NBA in degree of difficulty) before getting blitzed in a first-quarter barrage in a loss against the Nuggets.

In other words, a lot can change in two weeks.

In the games since the All-Star break, Ray Allen has rediscovered his shooting touch, Kevin Garnett has looked more athletic than he has since December and Rasheed Wallace looks like he cares. That last part is a cheap shot, but it accurately encapsulates how a lot of people feel about this Celtics run.

The question is: Are the Celtics capable of turning it on and off whenever they want, and is this what happened over the first half of the season when uneven performances and second-half collapses became the norm? The showed out west just how good they can be even with Paul Pierce dealing with his various injuries. Now they just have to do it consistently before everyone can believe it again.

KNICKS (19-36, 1-9 last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.9

Points Allowed: 104.1

Differential: -3.2 (21st)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.6 (15th)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.7 (24th)

Pace: 94.0 (7th)

Likely Starters: Sergio Rodriguez, Tracy McGrady, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee

Injuries: McGrady (knee, questionable)

CELTICS (35-19, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.5

Points Allowed: 93.6

Differential: +4.9 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.8 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.5 (1st)

Pace: 91.7 (21st)

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

Injuries: Pierce (thumb, questionable) Read the rest of this entry »

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Preview: Celtics vs. Kings 02.16.10 at 10:12 am ET
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Taking a much-needed break from the trade deadline rumors the Celtics return to the court Tuesday night to play the Kings… who happen to employ one of the few names actually linked to a Ray Allen trade; Kevin Martin. Obviously all eyes will be on the two shooting guards this evening, if for no other reason than idle curiosity.

Even if Danny Ainge was somehow able to swing major trade (which doesn’t seem likely) the Celtics have problems that only they can fix. They don’t rebound very well. They turn the ball over too much and they don’t shoot as well from 3-point range as they have in the past.

All those things are symptoms of other things. Their defense has allowed too much dribble penetration, which has led to defensive breakdowns and clear alleys for opponents to hit the glass. The offense has gone stagnant too often, leading to bad passes and forced shots.

These have in turn been referred to as “issues” and “agendas,” which is way more exciting and intriguing then simply noting that they are not playing well. The question, then, for the Celtics in the final 32 games is: Are their breakdowns mental or are they physical? They continue to insist that they are mental and that they can fix their problems. Now they have to prove it.

CELTICS (32-18, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.7

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.0 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)

Pace: 91.5 (23rd)

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

Injuries: None.

KINGS (18-34, 3-7 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.0

Points Allowed: 105.8

Differential: -3.8 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.5 (17th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.5 (26th)

Pace: 94.6 (6th)

Likely Starters: Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin, Donte Greene, Omri Casspi, Spencer Hawes

Injuries: Francisco Garcia (Wrist) Read the rest of this entry »

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Preview: Celtics vs. Hornets 02.10.10 at 10:09 am ET
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This marks the end of the unofficial first half of the regular season and the Celtics remain something of an enigma. Despite all their struggles over the last month and a half, the Celtics remain one of the top teams in the league according to all the best indicators–record, point differential, etc.

Since Christmas, however, the Celtics are just 10-12. That’s a significant chunk of the season in which they have played more like the Bulls then the Cavaliers, the latter of which has won 19 of 22 games during that same stretch.

Coming out of the All-Star break the Celtics go on a long west coast trip and will endure a March in which they play 17 games in 31 days. At the beginning of the season that looked like a good time to give their veteran players some rest before the playoffs. Now it looks like a survival test.

CELTICS (32-17, 5-5 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.0

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +5.3 (4th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.7 (13th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.9 (1st)

Pace: 91.4 (22nd)

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

Injuries: Paul Pierce (Foot)

HORNETS (27-25, 4-6, last 10)

Points Per Game: 100.2

Points Allowed: 101.5

Differential: -1.3 (19th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 108.9 (20th)

Pace: 92.1 (19th)

Likely Starters: Darren Collison, Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Emeka Okafor

Injuries: Chris Paul (Knee), Marcus Thornton (Back, questionable) Read the rest of this entry »

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