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Danny Ainge on The Big Show: ‘One of best games Rondo’s ever played’ 01.06.11 at 5:06 pm ET
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Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show to talk about Wednesday’s night victory over the Spurs, the importance of Jermaine O’Neal and who among the big four is the most irreplaceable. Ainge called Rajon Rondo’s performance, “one of the best games Rondo’s ever played,” but Ainge was more impressed by his defense against Tony Parker, than his triple-double stat line.

“Not only did he control the game offensively — he had a lot of assists last night because Ray [Allen] was shooting the ball so well. His numbers can be deceiving. His defense against Tony Parker, he was fighting through the screens. I think the two games he played prior to that he was just out there. I don’t think he was playing 100 percent. I don’t think he could. He was just out there just to get us in our offense. It was helpful but he wasn’t playing the defense like he did.”

Ainge also noted Allen’s night, in which the veteran sharpshooter made 13-of-16 shots with many coming off the same play. “I don’t know who else in the league can do what Ray did last night. Just catching and shooting going away from the basket off down screens, other than guys like Reggie Miller and Dale Ellis, there really aren’t that many guys that are proficient at it.”

Here are more highlights from the interview: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo,
Paul Pierce on Rajon Rondo: ‘He did it all’ at 2:30 am ET
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Paul Pierce blocked Manu Ginobili‘s jumper as time expired to preserve a 105-103 win over the NBA-leading San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night at TD Garden.

‘€œWe didn’€™t want to give up a three, that was kind of the only thing that could beat us, we sort of overplayed on the three point line,” Pierce said. “They made a two-pointer and I had to go out, or it would go into overtime, but that was the main thing just to take away the three point shot.’€

Rajon Rondo made team history with 22 assists as part of a triple-double, as the Celtics held off the Spurs in a match-up of teams with the two best records in the NBA. Rondo – who also finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds – became the first player in Celtics history with at least 19 assists in three games in a season. He fell just two shy of his season high of 24 on Oct. 29 vs. the Knicks.

“He did it all, he rebounded, assisted, Doc’€™s kind of been on him about taking that shot there and he steps up when he needs to and knocks down those shots confidently,’€ Pierce said.

Ray Allen scored a game-high 31 points in a fantastic shooting display, and made 13-of-16 shots on the night, including a three-pointer with 1:35 left in the game to put the Celtics up five. Rondo hit a runner in the lane that appeared to seal the game with 1:06 left.

But the Spurs went on a 7-0 run to draw within two. Allen then missed both free throws with 7.4 seconds left to give the Spurs a chance. But Pierce saved the day as the Celtics won their third straight.

‘€œYou always can learn things from wins, not just from losses,” Pierce said. “I mean you can definitely learn things from wins, how we can be better down the stretch. And I think what’€™s important is that we won that game. We could have done some things better down the stretch, closing out the game but it’€™s a long season.’€

Ginobili had 24 points to lead the Spurs (29-6), who lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. The win was all the more impressive as the Spurs suffered the night before in New York, 128-115.

The Celtics – who improved to 27-7 – were red-hot from the floor for the first three quarters, led by Allen. The sharpshooter was 11-of-14 entering the final quarter as the Celtics led, 77-72. As a team, the Celtics shot a blazing 61 percent from the floor for the game.

‘€œMaybe it was the tail end of a back to back for them, cause they’€™re a better defensive team then how they let us shoot,” Pierce said. “But you know we are one of the better offensive teams in the league, we run our stuff, make the pass, put the ball in Rondo’€™s hand, we can be a great team offensively.

‘€œYou knew it was going to be a nip tuck game pretty much all night. You look up and it was hard to pull away from them. You could tell when we down the stretch put a nice little defensive run on them and then we do that and they come right back. But I mean you got two heavyweights battling and it was fun for me to be part of, I’€™m just glad that we won.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Manu Ginobili, NBA, Paul Pierce
Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s triple-double helps Celtics past Spurs 01.05.11 at 10:15 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo recorded his second triple-double of the season — totaling 22 assists, 12 points and 10 rebounds —  as the Celtics handed the Spurs just their sixth lost all season, 105-103, at the TD Garden on Wednesday night. And they did it without Kevin Garnett.

The Celtics (27-7) and Spurs (29-6) have the two best records in the NBA, and the C’s moved one step closer to San Antonio thanks to 31 points from Ray Allen, a season-high 23 from Glen Davis and 18 from Paul Pierce.

Allen missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds, but Pierce blocked a last-second Manu Ginobili attempt to secure the victory.

What Went Right

Rajon Rondo dished it out: Rondo had 10 assists … with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Needless to say, he guided the offense as he had before missing seven games with a sprained ankle, finding the open man with Tom Brady-like regularity. The Celtics’ 46-of-75 (61.3 percent) shooting was evidence of that.

By the time the final buzzer sounded, Rondo delivered 22 assists. Pierce and Allen were the biggest benefactors, knocking down a combined 20-of-26 field goals on the night.

Ray Allen came to play: Allen hit seven of his first 10 shots to enter the locker room with a team-high 14 points at the break. While both the Celtics and Spurs struggled to generate offense during long stretches in the first half, Allen remained consistent. He finished with 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting.

Big Baby won the battle of the Big Bodies: In a battle of undersized (in terms of height, not waistline) power forwards who weren’t projected to be NBA talents despite their college success, Davis (6-foot-9, 290 pounds) owned DeJuan Blair (6-foot-7, 270 pounds). Starting at power forward in place of the injured Garnett, Davis produced 23 points. Blair, also starting, had just two points.

What Went Wrong

The bench: The starters were all forced to play big minutes because Marquis Daniels, Luke Harangody, Von Wafer & Co. couldn’t hold down a lead. In fact, those three guys combined for six points. Nate Robinson and Jermaine O’Neal had 11 between them, but that paled in comparison to the Spurs’ 27 bench points — highlighted, of course, by New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner (10 points).

Offensive rebounding: It’s worth mentioning again, because it’s been an ongoing problem for the Celtics all season. Entering their game against the Spurs, the C’s had given up 80 more offensive rebounds than their opponents. And Wednesday night’s game didn’t help, as San Antonio out-rebounded Boston on the offensive glass, 15-5.

Jermaine O’Neal fouled out: O’Neal recorded more fouls (6) than rebounds (5). That’s not good. That meant Shaquille O’Neal played down the stretch of a close game, and considering he was 0-for-3 from the free-throw line, that could have hurt them. It didn’t, but it could’ve. A stretch? Probably, considering the effort the C’s put forth against the team with the NBA’s best record — without Garnett.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen
Paul Pierce ‘forgot’ Rajon Rondo was back playing 01.04.11 at 9:45 am ET
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Rajon Rondo can be the quiet type in the locker room but when he’s on the court everyone knows he’s out there by his leadership and presence — at least almost everyone.

Doc Rivers pulled Paul Pierce aside at halftime during Monday night’s survival test against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves and reminded him that he didn’t need to run the offense and distribute when Rondo was on the court.

All good intentions aside, getting others involved wasn’t working out that well for Pierce and the Celtics. He had just five points and had handed out just one assist as the C’s trailed, 47-43.

‘€œDoc at the half wanted me to be a little more aggressive,” Pierce said. “I was out there trying to make plays and I forgot that we had Rondo out there doing that so I can go back to my customary role of scoring the ball. That’€™s what I tried to do in the second half.’€

As any coach would, Rivers wanted Pierce to do what he does best.

‘€œI thought Paul in the first half tried way too hard to get everybody else involved,” Rivers said of his captain, who leads the team at 19.0 points per game. “And I told him that at halftime. I said, ‘€˜Paul, you no longer have to be the play maker. We need you to be the aggressive scorer.’€™ And even he, right after the game he walked up to me and it was the first thing he said was, ‘€˜Ah, gosh, I was, I was way too passive.’€™

“I said, ‘€˜Yeah, I just thought you were trying to set everybody else up,'” Rivers continued. “Consciously, you know, twice he had shots and he passed it to Nate [Robinson]. Nate’€™s struggling with his shot right now, but I still want Paul to shoot the ball if he’€™s open. And I just thought he did a little too much of that tonight.’€

Pierce heard Rivers loud and clear after the intermission, remembered that Rondo was indeed in his second game back, and lit up the T’Wolves for 18 second-half points as the Celtics rallied for a 96-93 win.

Once Pierce did allow Rondo to run the show, Pierce and the rest of the team reaped the rewards.

“We got Ray [Allen] open, I thought that was the key,” Pierce said. “Rondo really pushed the ball. Got some really good looks. Defense buckled down so we were able to make a run and get back into the game. Rondo with a big shot and some big passes [to] [Shaquille O'Neal] and that’€™s what he’s capable of doing and that’€™s why I’€™m glad to have him back.”

Observers might have wondered if his sprained right ankle from Sunday night in Toronto might have been affecting his play in the first half.

‘€œA little bit. I was a little stiff, slow,” Pierce admitted. “But, it wasn’€™t as bad as I thought. Just going to get treatment throughout the week. I don’€™t see any problems coming up.’€

That’s good news for Wednesday as the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs come calling at the Garden. In that matchup, thanks to the second half of Monday’s contest, no one will need to remind Pierce about Rondo when No. 9 is on the court.

Read More: Doc Rivers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Nate Robinson, NBA
Delonte West gets some really good news about his right wrist 01.03.11 at 11:16 pm ET
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When Delonte West fell after a made lay-up against New Jersey on Nov. 24 at TD Garden, he and the Celtics feared the worst about his right wrist. It was a nasty fracture that appeared to – at the least – end his regular season.

But that perspective changed on Monday.

Calling it a big step, West had the hard cast protecting his healing right wrist removed on Monday, the first step of what he hopes could be a return on or shortly after the All-Star break. It was replaced with a brace to allow him some ability to start moving it for light rehab.

“It’s feels stiff but it’s not painful,” West said. “I got great news from doctors. They said maybe three weeks [then] rehabilitation. I’ve already started out conditioning, ball-handling. I’m left-handed anyway. Fortunately, I’€™m left handed anyway so I able to get shots on my left hand. It’€™s just a matter of time before I gain game strength in this one.

“Today is Day 1. I got a lot accomplished,” he said of Monday’s milestone in recovery.

As for watching the likes of Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels and even rookie Avery Bradley being forced to pick up the slack as Rajon Rondo‘s back-up, West admitted it’s been rough.

“I can’t wait to get back out there,” West said. “It’s killing me sitting back here and rooting from the sidelines but we all have a position to play and right now mine is getting healthy and getting ready to contribute.”

The initial timetable called for West to return in time for the playoffs but West said he’s hopeful for a return after the All-Star break.

“Honestly, I have no idea,” West admitted before sounding a hopeful but realistic tone. “I’m praying and I’m trying my best to get back before then. But the trainers and the coaching staff, they’re really trying not to rush me but I think I’m really rushing myself right now.”

As for his biggest test, that will come after his rehabilitation, which is still three weeks away.

“I guess it would be lifting but first I have to regain movement but picking up weights and catching a basketball,” West said. “I think right now the biggest fear is falling and having to extend [the wrist]. Today is Day 1, the cast is off. It’s a good day and it’s all uphill from here.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels
Fast Break: Celtics outlast Minnesota at 10:05 pm ET
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The Celtics won’t get any style points for their 96-93 win over the Minnesota (recap), but no one will care about that in April. And after not closing out a similar game against New Orleans in their last home game, it was a win they were happy to get.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce came alive: After a dreadful start, Paul Pierce made his first shot with two minutes left in the first half. The second half was a completely different story as he made 5-of-8 shots and scored 15 points in the third quarter. Pierce made only one shot in the fourth quarter, but it was a huge 3-pointer.

He finished with 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and a very smart foul in the final seconds that prevented Michael Beasley from getting a good look at a 3-pointer.

Von Wafer: Wafer had his best stretch of minutes this season in the second quarter when he scored four points and emerged as the Celtics’ best rebounder (this was not a difficult honor to achieve on Monday). Still, Wafer showed some of the ability that has kept him employed by the Celtics this season. His timing couldn’t have been better because the deadline to guarantee contracts for the season is approaching next week.

Rajon Rondo is finding his groove: It seems clear that Rondo isn’t 100 percent back to being Rondo. Before the game Doc Rivers suggested that Rondo’s ankle would probably bother him all year. What remains to be seen is if he can recapture his explosiveness. He only took four shots and rarely drove to the basket.

But even in a reduced role, Rondo is still a great facilitator (he had 16 assists) and adept at finding, and exploiting mismatches. He worked Shaquille O’Neal against Kostas Koufos every time the opportunity presented itself.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rebounding: This was predictable. Kevin Love is the best rebounding forward in the league and the Celtics were without Kevin Garnett, who is the second best. But, the Celtics got killed on both the offensive and defensive glass and Love had more rebounds (15) in the first half than the Celtics had as a team (14).

But the Celtics also got killed on the defensive glass for the second night in a row, which is not something they can afford to have happen. Even without Garnett.

Glen Davis tried to do too much, again: Love destroyed Davis on the boards, and Davis didn’t do himself any favors by getting into foul trouble and launching too many jump shots. It has been a rough transition into the starting lineup for Davis, who had a not-as-good-as-it-looked line of 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting. One rebound in 30 minutes told a much different story.

Bench woes: In 29 minutes of court time, Nate Robinson and Luke Harangody took eight shots between them. They missed all of them. Neither player registered an assist, either. Thankfully for the Celtics, Wafer supplied some offense and a whole lot of energy off the bench. Robinson did make two clutch free throws in the final seconds to put the Celtics up by three for the game’s final margin.

Read More: Celtics, Fast Break, Glen Davis, Kevin Love
Irish Coffee: Who means most to Celtics’ success? at 11:42 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Add Paul Pierce‘s sprained ankle to the ever-growing list of injuries that have plagued the Celtics through their first 32 games this season.

Following Sunday’s 93-79 victory in Toronto against the Raptors, Doc Rivers told reporters, “We have a game [Monday] night, so he’ll be OK.” But it was another “not again” moment that reminded Celtics fans of the team’s fragility.

It also reminded me of this article from the Los Angeles Times, which made the following statement:

Rajon Rondo, their lone indispensable player, has an ankle injury and has been out three times but keeps returning before he’s 100 percent.

Is Rondo really their only indispensable player? Could they legitimately reach their goal of an 18th NBA title without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or — for that matter — any of the starters who are undefeated as a unit in the playoffs?

That’s when I decided to look at the Celtics’ record with and without each player in the lineup during The New Big Three era. Here’s how it shakes out with and without each guy (winning percentages in parentheses):

  • Paul Pierce … With: 195-69 (.739); Without: 8-6 (.571)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .168
  • Rajon Rondo … With: 191-68 (.738); Without: 12-7 (.632)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .106
  • Kevin Garnett … With: 169-58 (.745); Without: 34-17 (.667)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .078
  • Ray Allen … With: 192-72 (.727); Without: 11-3 (.786)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.059
  • Kendrick Perkins … With: 167-65 (.720); Without: 36-10 (.783)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.063

Based on these numbers, Pierce has been the most valuable player on the team over the last three-plus regular seasons. Not Rondo. It’s also interesting to note the Celtics’ success without Allen or Perkins in the lineup.

One thing is certainly clear: Pierce, Rondo and Garnett are all indispensable. Well, at least that L.A. Times piece gave us one interesting note:

From the last four openers to Christmas Eve, Boston has gone an astounding 94-14 … a 71-win pace. Not even the Bill Russell teams that won 11 titles in 13 seasons ever did as well in that time frame.

The Celtics’ best four-year opener-to-Christmas Eve run in the Russell era was 94-26 from 1959-1962. Even posting win totals of 72-69-62 in Michael Jordan‘s last three seasons, the Bulls were 64-14 before Christmas.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, after the last three Christmases, they went 84-54 when injuries hit … as they have once more.

Just for fun, let’s look at the same numbers for each of the top-10 rotation players for this year’s team. How have the 2010-11 Celtics performed in their absences, taking into account the relatively small sample size?

  • Kevin Garnett … With: 24-6 (.800); Without: 1-1 (.500)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .300
  • Rajon Rondo … With: 18-3 (.857); Without: 7-4 (.636)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: .221
  • Shaquille O’Neal … With: 17-6 (.739); Without: 8-1 (.889)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.150
  • Delonte West … With: 3-2 (.600); Without: 22-5 (.815)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.215
  • Jermaine O’Neal With: 7-5 (.583); Without: 18-2 (.900)
    Winning percentage discrepancy: –.317

The order of these players’ importance to the Celtics is certainly not surprising, but one thing is: How little an impact Jermaine O’Neal has had on this team. The Celtics have been a significantly better team when he doesn’t see the floor.

PAUL PIERCE THE COMEDIAN

On his Twitter page, Pierce made no mention of how his ankle was feeling on Monday morning, but he did offer this: “Excuse me I need to get thru please” — accompanied by the following video …

Read the rest of this entry »

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