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Fast Break: Grizzlies attack Celtics 03.23.11 at 10:06 pm ET
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Leon Powe and Tony Allen combined for 21 points and seven rebounds against their old team, and the Celtics fell a full game behind the Bulls in the race for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed after a 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies (40-32) Wednesday night at the Garden.

Rajon Rondo missed 10 of his 12 shots from the field — including what would have been the go-ahead runner with 19 seconds left – but managed 11 assists and 11 rebounds for the Celtics (50-20). The C’s had two more chances to tie the game trailing 90-87 with 13 seconds remaining, but the first attempt ended up in a Glen Davis missed a 3-pointer. Memphis’ Marc Gasol missed both free throws on the other end, and Paul Pierce (game-high 22 points) had a chance for a triple — but that fell short, too.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Slow shooting start: The Celtics shot just 5-of-15 (0-for-2 from 3-point range) from the field in the first quarter, and the Big Four were to blame, making only 2-of-11 attempts. In fact, Tony Allen had more points in the opening 12 minutes as Pierce and Ray Allen combined. Of course, anybody with two points could’ve made that claim. As a result, the Celtics trailed 20-15 and found themselves once again playing from behind in the early going.

Leon Powe: Prior to the game, Doc Rivers said the Celtics had interest in Powe as a buyout option, but hesitated based on the condition of his knee. Well, the knee appeared just fine against the C’s, as Powe (at one point) led all scorers on Wednesday. He finished with 13 points.

The Grizzlies other bigs — Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — also combined for 24 points and 19 rebounds. O’Neal brothers, where art thou?

Taking care of the ball: The Celtics committed 20 turnovers — leading to 16 Grizzlies’ points – and the biggest culprit was their center, Nenad Krstic. After a 2-for-2 start from the field, it wasn’t a good night for Krstic overall. The C’s big man committed four of those turnovers, missed his final four shots and committed more fouls (5) than he grabbed rebounds (2).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon Rondo attacking the basket: With the Celtics falling behind by 10 early in the second quarter, Rondo sliced to the basket, took on a defender and wrapped a layup underneath him. The C’s closed out the half on a 21-10 run that included a nice give-and-go between Rondo and Delonte West, a nifty Rondo pick that resulted in an and-one for Glen Davis, and a heads-up play in which Rondo fired a ball off a Grizzly to prevent a turnover.

At the break, Rondo had already accumulated six points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, prompting some early triple-double whispers throughout the Garden.

Free-throw shooting: Entering the game, the Celtics ranked in the middle of the pack (16th) in terms of team free-throw percentage (76.4), but they’ve picked it up of late, shooting a combined 63-of-78 (80.8 percent) in their last three victories. Wednesday night was no different, as the Celtics made 22-of-23 free-throw attempts (95.7 percent) in defeat.

3-point shooting … until the final seconds: After starting 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, the Celtics made seven of their next 11 longballs. Two back-to-back treys from Allen in the second quarter helped the Celtics draw within two points. And a Pierce triple late in the fourth quarter brought the C’s within one at 86-85 with three minutes remaining in the game. But the Celtics missed those two game-tying attempts in the final 13 seconds.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Irish Coffee: Larry Bird says Rajon Rondo can’t shoot at 11:17 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I’m not sure how I missed this — probably because it took place on St. Patrick’s day – but Celtics legend Larry Bird joined The Dan Patrick Show and had this exchange with the host about C’s point guard Rajon Rondo:

  • Dan Patrick: “Who’s the guy you didn’t draft, look back on and go, ‘You know what, I’m surprised by how good he is’?”
  • Larry Bird: “Rondo.”
  • DP: “What was it about Rondo that made you nervous about drafting him?”
  • LB: “His shooting.”
  • DP: “He still can’t shoot.”
  • LB: “No, but he can play.”
  • DP: “Could you teach him to shoot?”
  • LB: “It’d take awhile.”

Rondo ranks 27th in true shooting percentage among NBA point guards who play at least 25 minutes per game. His field-goal percentage (48.0) ranks sixth for players at his position, but as you get further from the rim — where he’s shooting 54.0 percent — he gets awful shaky. Rondo is shooting 33.0 percent from 3-9 feet, 41.0 percent from 10-15 feet, 27.0 percent from 16-23 feet and 27.8 percent from 3-point range, according to HoopData.com.

You can’t really blame Bird for claiming Rondo can’t shoot, but you can blame him for selecting Shawne Williams four slots ahead of Rondo at No. 21 in the 2006 NBA draft. Here are a few other highlights from what proved to be a great interview with Bird:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Larry Bird, Lawrence Frank, Rajon Rondo
Chris Broussard on M&M: ‘It comes down to the Celtics and the Heat’ 03.21.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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ESPN’s Chris Broussard joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to talk about the Celtics and topics of interest around the NBA. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

The C’s play the Knicks Monday night in New York. Broussard said despite the initial excitement over the addition of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks aren’t a threat to knock off one of the East’s elite. And that was before the reported locker room discord that is swirling around the team during its recent struggles (five losses in the last seven games).

“They clearly have talent and should be dangerous,” Broussard said. “They don’t look that way right now. Even when they were looking good, I would never have picked them to win their first-round series over those top teams. But I did think they had maybe a puncher’s chance and could make it interesting. I still will say they could make it interesting if they get it together, but right now they don’t look like they’re any major threat to beat any of these top teams.”

The Celtics have their own problems, having lost four of their last seven games. Broussard speculated that much of the reason for the malaise falls on the trade of Kendrick Perkins, noting that Perkins and the struggling Rajon Rondo “were very tight.” He also said the Celtics still have a hole to fill with Perkins off the roster, and Shaquille O’Neal‘s absence exposes it that much more.

“I didn’t like [the trade] in the first place,” Broussard said. “With this kind of mystery involving Shaq, I like it even less.”

Added Broussard: “My biggest concern if I was a Celtics fan would be the lack of bulk and toughness that they now have without Kendrick Perkins. They only needed Perk for a few teams: Miami ‘€” that gave them a big advantage over the Heat ‘€” Orlando and the Lakers. You may be better matching up with Chicago without Perk. But if Shaquille O’Neal can’t come back and give you really quality minutes, and significant minutes, then I think a huge advantage that the Celtics had over everyone in the league is gone.”

Asked which team is the best in the East, Broussard said: “Boston, you’d have to give them their due respect. They’ve been great all year. I’m not going to hold this couple of weeks where they’ve struggled against them.”

Added Broussard: “I think if Miami plays the right way, they can win the East. And I feel a lot more comfortable about picking them in the preseason. But for most of this year, I have felt like it was Boston that’s the best team in the East. I like Chicago, but I still think at the end of the day it comes down to the Celtics and the Heat.”

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Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Broussard, Grant Hill, Jalen Rose
Kevin Garnett: Rajon Rondo’s playing hurt 03.17.11 at 12:41 am ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo‘s recent struggles have been well documented. While he appeared more explosive on the parquet, he still went scoreless and rebound-less while recording eight assists  against the Pacers on Wednesday night.

That (lack of) production led to this question posed to teammate Kevin Garnett: What’s wrong with Rajon Rondo?

“Rondo’€™s playing hurt,” said Garnett. “He’€™s hurting. He’€™s giving us everything he has. He’€™s grinding. He’€™s playing countless minutes for us, and he’€™s not playing like a washed-up guy.”

Asked if he thought it was Rondo’s tweaked ankle that was giving the C’s floor general problems lately, Garnett responded curtly, “I don’t know. You’d have to talk to him.”

On a less serious note, Garnett made a fantastic comparison between the Celtics and the “Ocean’s Eleven” cast, especially upon the inevitable returns of Shaquille O’Neal and (hopefully) Jermaine O’Neal.

“You know what’€™s crazy?” said Garnett. “This is like a good movie. As a matter of fact, I’€™m going to use ‘Ocean’€™s Eleven.’ You haven’€™t seen Matt Damon. You haven’€™t seen Brad Pitt. You haven’€™t seen Bernie Mac. You’€™ve just seen [George] Clooney and a couple other guys.’€

So, which character is Garnett? “I’€™m Saul,” he said. Saul Bloom, of course, is the old pro who comes out of retirement to play a valuable role in the casino heist.

Garnett also touched on a few other hot-button topics from the Celtics’ victory …

  • On Delonte West’s return: “He’s a seasoned vet. He’s been in the thick of it. He’s been in countless playoff games. He has the experience. You kind of expect that from him. Whatever the perception is of Delonte isn’€™t the reality of what we deal with every day. He’€™s a very, very vocal guy – very smart. He definitely knows X’€™s and O’€™s, and he’€™s tough as nails. To get a guy like that back in your lineup, it makes your team better overnight.’€
  • On Jeff Green’s 19-point effort: “Jeff Green is so versatile. If you put a three on him, he’€™s too small. If you put a four on him, he’€™s too big. He’€™s too quick. He has so much he can go to, and I think he’€™s going to pick up from some of the vets and the personal parts of the game where he can make himself better. He’s an unfinished product. When he puts that all together, he’s going to be something special.”
  • On the surging Bulls: “I don’t really care about Chicago.”
Read More: Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Kevin Garnett, Ocean's Eleven
Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo & Derrick Rose’s contrasting styles 03.15.11 at 12:00 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has only been held to fewer than 10 points once all season — and never fewer than six. Conversely, his Celtics counterpart, Rajon Rondo, has been held to single-digit scoring 21 times in the 2010-11 season — and less than six points nine times.

Meanwhile, Rose has recorded double-digit assists just 16 times — and never more than 14. On the other hand, Rondo has produced 10 or more assists 36 times — and more than 14, well, 14 times.

To say the least, Rose and Rondo have led the Celtics and Bulls to a tie atop the Eastern Conference by playing different styles as the floor generals of their respective teams. But which is more successful?

In the 29 times since 1980 that someone has recorded at least 11 assists per game, that player has reached the conference finals nearly half the time (14-of-29). Those are favorable odds for the Celtics, as Rondo has produced 11.7 assists per game this season.

Still, only six times in that span has someone averaged 11 assists and led his team to the NBA Finals. Each time his name was Magic Johnson, who led the Lakers three titles in such seasons (1985, ’87 and ’88).

Fear not, Celtics fans, for no point guard who has averaged at least 24 points per game has even won a playoff series in the last 30 years. Michael Adams (1991), Gary Payton (2000), Allen Iverson (2005, ’06, ’08) and Gilbert Arenas (’06, ’07) have all produced 24-plus points a game as the primary point guard on their roster and never made it out of the first round.

Before you say, ‘Hey, Rose has had a better year in 2010-11 than any of those four players in those seven seasons — and he’s surrounded by better talent,’ consider Iverson’s 2007-08 season with the Nuggets:

  • Rose (’10-11): 24.7 points, 8.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 3.5 turnovers, 44.1 FG%, 33.7 3-PT FG%, 84.5 FT%
  • Iverson (’07-’08): 26.4 points, 7.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 3.0 turnovers, 45.8 FG%, 34.5 3-PT FG%, 80.9 FT%

I’d say Iverson’s supporting cast of Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby and a healthy Kenyon Martin are fairly comparable to Rose’s supporting cast of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and a questionably healthy Carlos Boozer. And that Nuggets team got swept in the first round.

There’s no question that Magic’s three 11-assist championship seasons were better than Rondo’s performance this year, but would you also concede that Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and a 39-year-old Shaquille O’Neal are a better supporting cast than Magic’s 1988 supporting cast of James Worthy, Byron Scott, A.C. Green and a 41-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that won the title?

I think I just talked myself into betting on the Celtics to win the Eastern Conference. If not, I can take solace in the fact that Brian Scalabrine would make the NBA Finals as a member of three different franchises (2002-03 Nets, 2007-08 & 2009-10 Celtics, 2010-11 Bulls).

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett
Paul Pierce speaks for starters: ‘No excuse to way we started out’ 03.10.11 at 12:50 am ET
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It would seem after his bench was outscored, 26-12, in a 108-103 loss to the Clippers Wednesday night at TD Garden, Doc Rivers would have laid blame for the defeat at the hands of his reserves.

But Rivers also realizes that the Celtics dressed just five players Wednesday who were with the team before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, and one of those five was Avery Bradley.

It’s a lot to ask any second unit to make up a 15-to-20 deficit in a game, let alone one that was making its debut. So, the way Rivers saw it, this loss really was at the feet of his “Big 4″ – namely Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

“I was concerned because in the first quarter, our four starters put us in a hole and then you needed to sub, and you knew nothing good was going to happen,” Rivers said, as his team fell behind by as much as 15 in the first quarter and 23 early in the third.

“It actually [wasn't bad]. They held their ground,” Rivers said of his reserves, led by Carlos Arroyo and new starting center Nenad Krstic. “The problem was it was a 20-point ground [deficit] they were holding and that’s very difficult.

“We sub anyway. We sit guys down regardless of score. Obviously, we were down 20 and we’re subbing. It’s not something you want to do but you have to.”

Pierce couldn’t argue.

‘€œIt’€™s tough when you get out to bad starts and a lot of that has to do with the starters. How we come out at the beginning of the games, we’€™ve got to come out with a better focus,” Pierce said. “Once you get a team confidence like the Clippers then they feed off that for the rest of the game and were able to get the win.’€

Pierce did point to the defensive struggles of the second unit but only as far as they had to pick up the pieces from the starters not playing defense, either.

‘€œI think some of it is the second unit, but a lot of that was at the start of the game with the first five so no excuses on that point,” Pierce said. “They came out and shot 70 percent and a lot of that was against the guys that know what we are doing night in and night out.

“You give some leeway to the newer guys, but there is no excuse to the way we started out giving them the big lead and then having to fight all the way to get back into the game.’€

The reserves did a very respectable job on Blake Griffin, who had just 12 points in 37 minutes. Down 23, the Celtics slowly started to chip away, outscoring the Clippers, 24-16 in the third to cut the lead to 10.

Then the starters finally did their thing. Allen drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing on a bullet pass from Rondo with 7:36 left to draw the Celtics within six, 86-80. Garnett’s jumper with just under six minutes left capped a 15-2 run to draw the Celtics within three.

But Mo Williams drained three free throws with 5:23 left to restore the lead to six. Jeff Green drilled a trey with 47.4 seconds left to get within four, 104-100. Allen’s three with 10.5 seconds left turned out to be too little, too late.

The Celtics will try to regroup and start a new winning streak on Friday against the upstart 76ers in Philadelphia. The Sixers are making a late-season push to finish in the middle of the playoff pack in the Eastern Conference and are one of the hottest teams in the NBA since the All-Star break.

Friday would be a great time for a new start for the “Big 4.”

Read More: blake griffin, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Los Angeles Clippers
What Carlos Arroyo brings to the Celtics 03.08.11 at 4:10 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Before their open practice on Tuesday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers introduced their newest player, Carlos Arroyo, to his teammates. His new team proceeded to pummel him like baseball players do at home plate after someone hits a game-winning home run. With that bit of bonding out of the way, Arroyo began his crash-course in running the Celtics’ offense.

“He’€™s a point guard,” Rivers said emphasizing the last two words. “He’€™s been a point guard all of his life. Some of the stuff he’€™ll pick up pretty quickly.”

The Celtics have essentially played without a true backup point guard since Rajon Rondo took over the starter’s job in 2007. Eddie House and Nate Robinson — two shoot-first small guards — mainly filled that role, while the Celtics also tried Sam Cassell and Stephon Marbury as late-season experiments, with decidedly mixed results.

“It’€™s nice,” Rivers said of having a true backup point. “It’€™s just going to take him some time, but he knows how to run a team. That’€™s going to be great for us.”

Delonte West is supposed to be that player, but he has been unable to stay on the court; missing time with a broken wrist and a sprained ankle. Rivers said that West was definitely out Wednesday against the Clippers and called him “doubtful” for Friday’s Sixers game. The new hope is Sunday against the Bucks.

Rivers has been concerned about playing Rondo too many minutes. He has posted the following totals in his last six games: 43, 34, 42, 39, 42, 38. That 34 came in a relatively comfortable win over the Clippers. Rondo had to take himself out for a quick rest in the fourth quarter of their game against Golden State and looked a step slow on Sunday against the Bucks. While rookie Avery Bradley has stepped in admirably, the Celtics desperately needed a veteran hand at the position.

Into that spot steps Arroyo, who started 42 games for the Heat this season before being waived to make room for Mike Bibby. The 31-year-old Arroyo is the definition of a veteran journeyman, having played for six teams (the Celtics are his seventh) in his nine-year career.

His best season came back in 2003-04 when he started 71 games for the Jazz and averaged 12.6 points and five assists per game. Since then he’s bounced around between Orlando and Miami where he saw duty as a spot starter and backup. He was making 44 percent of his 3-pointers with the Heat, but he is a 34 percent shooter for his career.

“At this point in my career, everybody knows what I’€™m capable of,” Arroyo said. “Hopefully I can do a little bit more here and help the team. That’€™s what I came here for.”

Asked about what happened in Miami, Arroyo took the high road.

“I went from starting to not playing and I’€™ve got to respect that,” he said. “That’€™s coach [Erik Spoelstra's] decision. My job is to stay ready. I’€™m a true professional when it comes to that and I understand how the NBA works. I was just waiting for my time and hopefully my time is now.”

Read More: Carlos Arroyo, Delonte West, Rajon Rondo,
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