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Ageless wit and wisdom from Shaquille O’Neal after turning back the clock 01.15.11 at 12:15 am ET
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The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.

That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.

On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.

The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”

“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.”

The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.

“It helps a lot when he’s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’s played well. It’s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.”

O’Neal added that he’s on the Celtics to do whatever the team needs, especially while Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal are out of the lineup.

On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.

“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’s not a big deal for one night; I don’t worry about it. And we don’t play again until Monday, so that’s nice. It came at the right moment.”

It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.

“You know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”

So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?

“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”

As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.

“I’m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. “I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.”

The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.

Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett passed in latest All-Star voting 01.13.11 at 1:35 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett have been passed by Derrick Rose and Amar’e Stoudemire, respectively, in the latest round of All-Star voting numbers released by the league. Rondo and Garnett have had slim leads over their counterparts since the returns started coming in, but Rose and Stoudemire have been making steady gains each week.

The Eastern Conference starters right now are: Dwyane Wade and Rose at guards, LeBron James and Stoudemire as forwards and Dwight Howard at center.

The West lines up with: Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant at guard, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony at forward and Yao Ming, who is injured, at center. Final results will be announced in two weeks.

Here’s the latest voting:

Eastern Conference

Forwards: LeBron James (Mia) 1,518,807; Amar’e Stoudemire (NYK) 1,143,391; Kevin Garnett (Bos) 1,049,544; Paul Pierce (Bos) 578,473; Chris Bosh (Mia) 427,551; Carlos Boozer (Chi) 320,661; Josh Smith (Atl) 280,158; Danilo Gallinari (NYK) 259,619; Danny Granger (Ind) 201,653; Luol Deng (Chi) 191,312.

Guards: Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,499,768; Derrick Rose (Chi) 1,225,575; Rajon Rondo (Bos) 1,171,311; Ray Allen (Bos) 630,588; John Wall (Was) 260,893; Brandon Jennings (Mil) 254,614; Raymond Felton (NYK) 246,208; Gilbert Arenas (Orl) 240,586; Jamal Crawford (Atl) 163,971, Darren Collison (Ind) 156,230.

Centers: Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,537,619; Shaquille O’Neal (Bos) 639,661; Joakim Noah (Chi) 291,107; Andrew Bogut (Mil) 245,253; Al Horford (Atl) 193,449; Roy Hibbert (Ind) 183,092; Andrea Bargnani (Tor) 162,364; Brook Lopez (NJ) 125,022; JaVale McGee (Was) 106,710; Ben Wallace (Det) 79,017.

Western Conference

Forwards: Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,270,729; Carmelo Anthony (Den) 945,720; Pau Gasol (LAL) 851,456; Blake Griffin (LAC) 702,784; Tim Duncan (SA) 663,487; Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 615,243; Lamar Odom (LAL) 364,950; Luis Scola (Hou) 347,986; Kevin Love (Min) 301,529; Caron Butler (Dal) 205,146.

Guards: Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,757,216; Chris Paul (NOH) 949,049; Manu Ginobili (SA) 593,718; Steve Nash (Pho) 522,215; Deron Williams (Utah) 487,887; Russell Westbrook (OKC) 463,250; Tony Parker (SA) 355,993; Jason Kidd (Dal) 303,164; Vince Carter (Pho) 277,430; Kevin Martin (Hou) 266,037.

Centers: Yao Ming (Hou) 928,928; Andrew Bynum (LAL) 660,576; Nene (Den) 389,263; Marc Gasol 352,136; Emeka Okafor (NOH) 317,677; Brendan Haywood (Dal) 276,777; Marcus Camby (Por) 201,133; Chris Kaman (LAC) 165,684; Andris Biedrins (GS) 126,567; DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 110,230.

Read More: All Star Game 2011, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo,
Ray Allen dealing with a ‘sore’ left shoulder 01.10.11 at 11:58 pm ET
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Everyone who saw Ray Allen sprawled on the court with 10:56 left in the fourth quarter Monday night had the same thought – Oh no, not again. The Celtics have already had two starters miss significant time with significant injuries as Kevin Garnett hopes to come back Wednesday night from a strained right calf and Rajon Rondo continues to play through sore feet.

As for Allen, he said he will need a night of sleep and then see how he feels after taking a vicious hit on a pick early in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to Houston.

“I just took a hard hit, and kind of collapsed on the side,” Allen said of the screen set with 10:56 left in the fourth. “I’m sore, I’ll feel it [Tuesday]. My shoulder but kind of my side, you got so much adrenaline running that you don’t really feel it, once I got in the back I felt it.”

Allen added that he didn’t think it was a legal screen since – as he said, “The rule states that, if there’s a screen set, you have to give the person a chance to see the screen and then move out the way. I didn’t even know the screen was there and when I went to step I just hit the screen, and it caught me like on the side of my hip.”

Allen, who matched Marquis Daniels with a team-high 19 points, did return with 5:40 left in the game and hit a big three-pointer with 2:04 left to pull the Celtics to within seven, 106-99.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, Kevin Garnett, Marquis Daniels
Irish Coffee: Celtics’ shooting aim historically high at 1:42 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

In the past 20 seasons, only a handful of teams have shot at least .500 from the field for an entire season. Despite shooting just .378 against the Bulls on Saturday night, the Celtics are still shooting .502 as a team this year, keeping pace with some pretty remarkable company historically.

Here are the teams that have shot better than .500 for an entire season since 1991-92:

  • 1994-95 Utah Jazz (.512)
  • 1991-92 Chicago Bulls (.508)
  • 1991-92 Golden State Warriors (.507)
  • 2008-09 Phoenix Suns (.504)
  • 1996-97 Utah Jazz (.504)
  • 1994-95 Orlando Magic (.502)
  • 2007-08 Phoenix Suns (.500)

There are plenty of conclusions to draw based on that list. Here are a few:

  • Of those seven teams, two — the 1991-92 NBA champion Bulls and 1994-95 Magic — reached the NBA Finals.
  • The guys who those offenses ran through: Michael Jordan, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Hardaway — which means Rajon Rondo would join some pretty remarkable players.
  • The fact that the 1984-85 Lakers shot .545 from the field for the season is simply ridiculous.
  • The last time the Celtics eclipsed .500 was in 1990-91, when Larry Bird & Co. shot .512 for the season.

The overwhelming positive for the Celtics is that they’re only allowing their opponents to shoot .437 from the field — better than any of the seven teams on that list. Six of those teams let their opponents shoot better than .450, and only the 1996-97 Jazz came close to this year’s C’s, allowing their opponents to shoot .438 from the field.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Rajon Rondo
What to watch for on the Celtics homestand 01.09.11 at 12:19 am ET
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Kevin Garnett is on the way back for the Celtics. (AP Image).

Last season, while in the midst of a depressing spring swoon, the schedule gods handed the Celtics a gift: six straight games at TD Garden to help them right their sinking ship. There were two problems. First, the Celtics simply weren’t very good at the Garden last season (for whatever reason) and second, they played five playoff teams including the Thunder, Spurs and Cavaliers.

The Celtics actually did all right for themselves, splitting those six games and winning an emotional game over the Cavs on Easter Sunday that served as a rallying point when they ultimately faced them in the playoffs. But there were also some ugly setbacks, such as a 21-point loss to San Antonio and the memorable Kevin Durant gets calls like Michael Bleeping Jordan game (in the words of Kevin Garnett).

Ultimately their six-game homestand was neither defining nor damning. It simply was another signpost in the Celtics up and down 2010.

This season, however, the expectations are much different. The Celtics are rolling (or were rolling until the Bulls wiped them out Saturday night in an ugly, defensive game) and they are playing much better at the Garden where their 16-2 record is tops in the Eastern Conference and tied for first in the loss column with the Spurs, who are 19-2 at home.

The Celtics will also get the benefit of playing four teams who are under .500. They get the Rockets, Kings and Bobcats this week and the Pistons in between visits from Orlando and Utah next week and it’s a golden opportunity for the Celtics to continue to pad their record. Even with Saturday night’s loss to the Bulls, at 28-8 the Celtics still hold a one-game lead on Miami for the best conference record and are four games ahead of Chicago and Orlando in the loss column for second.

Here are five things to look for on this homestand: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Celtics, Charlie Viillanueva, DeMarcus Cousins, Deron Williams
Fast Break: Bulls bury Celtics 01.08.11 at 10:42 pm ET
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The NBA schedule is sometimes a cruel beast. Take the Celtics and Bulls, put them in a vacuum and the result is usually a fantastic game. But put them on a Saturday night with both teams on the second end of back-to-backs and you get a slow, ugly contest, like the one these two teams played.

The Celtics were able to hang in until the bitter end, mostly thanks to 21 Chicago turnovers, but the combination of Derrick Rose (36 points) and Carlos Boozer (22) was too much to overcome in a 90-79 loss that snapped Boston’s four-game winning streak. (Recap.)

Credit Tom Thibodeau‘s defense, which held the Celtics to 38 percent shooting and kept them out of the paint all night. Not many teams can make the Celtics look as bad as they did Saturday night, but Thibodeau knows them as well as anyone and he has Chicago ranked second (behind the Celtics) in defensive efficiency.

The Celtics return home for a six-game homestand against only two teams with winning records: Utah and Orlando. They are also expected to get Kevin Garnett back, possibly as early as Monday.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rebounding: In case there was still any confusion about how the Celtics feel about offensive rebounds, Doc Rivers said it as plainly as he could Friday night.

“I don’t care about offensive rebounds,” the coach said. “I care about defensive rebounds.”

In that case, the first half was very discouraging as the Bulls grabbed eight offensive rebounds. It didn’t get any better in the second half as the Celtics got pounded on the boards. They gave up 11 offensive boards and lost the overall battle, 48-27.

Derrick Rose at the free throw line: Derrick Rose established a new career-high in free throw attempts and makes midway through the third quarter. He went on to make 15-of-19 as he wore the Celtics out with the pick-and-roll. The Bulls wound up only being +7 at the line, despite taking 13 more shots (35-22).

Bench production: Or the lack, thereof. Outside of Jermaine O’Neal who had six points and three rebounds, the Celtics reserves combined to shoot 1-for-7 with three rebounds and four assists. Once again, the Celtics offense without Rajon Rondo on the floor was disjointed and out of sync.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce and Ray Allen: The two veterans basically are the Celtics offense right now with Garnett out, so it’s a good thing that they are both playing at a high level. They combined for 40 points, or more than half the Celtics’ total. Along with Rondo, they shot 20-for-43. The rest of the team? A horrific 8-for-31.

Turnovers: Yes, this is the right column. The Bulls turned it over 21 times compared to the Celtics’ eight times. The Celtics recorded 12 steals, which helped, but this was the only thing that kept the Celtics in the game.

Rajon Rondo was decent: Rondo had a solid line with 13 points, five rebounds, five steals and eight assists, but he was also responsible (along with the big men) for Rose’s big night.

Read More: Bulls, Celtics, Derrick Rose, Fast Break
Irish Coffee: What’s your Celtics Banner Moment? 01.07.11 at 10:40 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

The Celtics launched the Banner Moments program, encouraging fans to share their favorite C’s moments through video, photos and text. Until March, two Banner Moments are chosen each month. Prizes include Celtics tickets, meet and greets with legends, and practice facility shoot-arounds.

In March, the C’s will put the top-10 moments up for a vote on Celtics.com. The winner will be recognized during an April 13 Knicks game in addition to potentially watching a playoff game from their own private suite.

I’d have to say my “Banner Moment would be the Celtics’ 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals. That was the unquestionable highlight of a Celtics season that shouldn’t have sniffed the NBA Finals, yet came within two games of playing the Lakers for a title. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the new Garden louder. The building was literally shaking.

It’s between that and the time my buddy started running down the Garden stairs – only to slip, throwing his arms upward and splashing an entire beer in some poor Blazers fan’s face by accident. I mean, he couldn’t have tried to spill more on this guy than he did. Let’s just say the dude was none too happy.

Part 1 of that comeback against the Nets accompanies this post. You can revisit Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 on YouTube. As part of the program, members of the Celtics, their mascot, dance team and celebrity fans shared a few of their Banner Moments:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
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