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Irish Coffee: Celtics a slam dunk 03.10.11 at 12:38 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Between Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, the Clippers own four of the top 10 throwdowns on NBA.com’s Dunk Ladder. Not to mention the fact that DeAndre Jordan had more than twice as many dunks (7) during the Clips’ 108-103 victory against the Celtics on Wednesday night as Rajon Rondo has had all season (3).

So, I figured now is as good a time as any to check out the dunk statistics for the Celtics, especially in comparison to their performance during the 2007-08 season. Thanks to CBS Sports’ Dunk-O-Meter and Roto Evil’s Slam Dunk Stats, we can do that.

If an aging NBA veteran has almost twice as many dunks through 62 games this season than he did during a year in which he captured the NBA Finals MVP, that seems to say a lot about the kind of lift and athleticism that’s still in his legs, right?

Of course, I’m talking about Paul Pierce, who according to CBS Sports has slammed 28 dunks already this season — including the highlight-reel one last night that can be seen in the video that accompanies this blog (thanks to @MrTripleDouble10). By comparison, Pierce recorded just 16 dunks in the 2007-08 regular season.

Count Ray Allen in the same category, as his 11 dunks so far this year are two more than he produced during the entire season three years ago. Glen Davis has already more than doubled his dunking output (11 in 2010-11, compared to 5 in 2007-08), but that can be credited to his increased role as the Sixth Man on this year’s squad.

If we can draw conclusions about how much more lift or aggressiveness Pierce has this year compared to three seasons ago based on his increased number of dunks, is the same true for those going in reverse? That means you, Kevin Garnett.

The naked eye test suggests Garnett has been more active and aggressive around the basket than he’s ever been in a Celtics uniform, but could it be that we’re simply remembering the guy who’s been hobbled by knee problems the last two years?

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Paul Pierce speaks for starters: ‘No excuse to way we started out’ 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.

“It’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.

“I 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.”

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Even Ray Allen finds it hard to believe how open he was 03.05.11 at 12:12 am ET
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Ray Allen could only imagine what Warriors fans were thinking when he was unconscious in the first half, drilling all four 3-point attempts on his was to 20 points and a 64-53 Celtics lead at the break.

“Well, I think I’m the one guy that you look up and ask yourself, ‘How did he get so wide open in the corner?’ I think that everybody is thinking that – everybody in the Bay Area is thinking that early in the game,” said Allen, who finished with 27 in Boston’s 107-103 win over those defenseless Warriors.

“You don’t really look at Paul [Pierce] and he’s wide open, and Jeff [Green] was wide open several times, Nenad [Krstic] was open a couple times; when Rondo get to the basket, I think that’s as the result of all the guys on the floor and the plays that we run.”

Good thing Allen’s sore right knee healed in time so he could play. But ice and a stat sheet that shows that Golden State is 28th of 30 NBA teams in points allowed can make you healthy in a hurry.

“He shoots the ball pretty well most days,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s just an amazing shooter, he really is. And what’s more amazing is how many times he’s wide open. It’s just remarkable when you think about it, the Reggie Millers, I’ve been on teams where before the game the coach is, ‘Do not give this guy an open shot’ and you turn around and he’s standing there all by himself. It’s just amazing how they find the open spots.”

“You just make sure you run, make a sharp cut, stay spaced, and if a team has to double, you know that someone has to be open,” Allen explained.

But you get open with great defense. And when Monta Ellis wasn’t lighting up the Celtics as part of a 41-point night [matching Kobe Bryant for most by an opponent this year], the Celtics were playing enough defensive to allow them to get out in transition.

“The defensive end is really where it starts because when we get stops like that and we force them to miss, and then I’m gone. I don’t even wait, I just get to the corner. They have to get to the paint, and Rondo, he knows where I’m at so I just have to make sure that I’m ready.”

As for that bothersome knee, he wasn’t out on a driving range on Thursday but rather just resting. “Driving range? Who said that?”

Informed it was his coach, Allen replied, “And where am I going to hit golf balls at?”

He then turned slightly more serious when asked just how sore were his legs to require a day off from practice.

“My knee was bothering me a little bit. I just had a little bit of soreness in there that I worked through over the last day and a half,” Allen said. “Coming in this morning, it felt similar and I was kind of taking it hour-by-hour and seeing how it felt when I got down here and when I got down here, it felt better.

“This morning I just came in and got treatment and just try to play it by ear. That’s why I have a suit on in case I was on the bench. I honestly thought when I came down here, there might be a chance but I came down here as usual to be ready to play. It’s hard from one day to the next and then the day before say, ‘I’m not playing tomorrow’ because you feel a little soreness. You have to get in there and really put your body to the test and get it better. I got treatment and ice and by the time I got down here, I shot and felt a lot better and here I am.”

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Fast Break: Celtics escape, but continue to progress 03.04.11 at 10:00 pm ET
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With each passing day, the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson begins to look a little better from the Celtics’ perspective. Word came down today that Robinson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will be out 4-6 weeks. Considering the fact that the Celtics traded four players who are injured (including Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden) and replaced them with healthy players, that’s already a net positive.

But what about the on-court results? New center Nenad Krstic has already shown his value as an offensive threat and against the Warriors on Friday night, Jeff Green had his coming out party. Green, who had scored just 18 points in his first three games, erupted for 13 in the first half and finished with 21 points in 28 minutes.

Despite some anxious moments at the end, the Celtics have now won four games in a row after their 107-103 win (recap) and while they would certainly like to close games out better, they’ll gladly take the wins while sorting things out.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Ray Allen should take more days off: The veteran sharpshooter took Thursday off from practice as a precaution. Doc Rivers said that Allen told him his legs were feeling a little sore so Rivers told him to hit some golf balls. Allen showed up for Friday’s game wearing a compression sleeve on his right leg, but any concerns soon evaporated as he made his first seven shots and finished 9-for-13 with 27 points.

A glimpse of what Green can do: The problem for the Celtics and their new forward is simply one of opportunity. Beyond playing the minutes behind Paul Pierce, what else can they do with him? That’s a question Rivers raised Thursday at practice and really, there isn’t a good answer.

But with Glen Davis out for a few days with a strained knee, Rivers used Green with the starters and it resulted in unreal production. Of all the things Green provides, the ability to get out on the break with Rajon Rondo is the most appealing and the two connected for a series of highlight-worthy plays. Unlocking Green’s potential is one of the priorities of the last six weeks and Friday night was a positive step.

Paul Pierce’s quiet excellence: Just another 27-point, seven-rebound night for Pierce, who is the glue that holds everything together.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Troy Murphy will need some time: Murphy has now played 26 minutes and missed all seven shots that he’s attempted. Rivers said he wanted to run him until he dropped and he’ll have to keep giving him minutes while he figures things out on the fly.

Von Wafer strains his right calf: It never ends for the Celtics. After dropping seven points in just six minutes, Von Wafer limped off the court with what the team called a strained right calf. There was no immediate update on how long Wafer will be out, but he did not return to the game. That’s a tough blow for Wafer, who has played well in limited opportunities this season.

Second half fades: It happened late in the third quarter against the Suns, but this time the culprits were the starters as they allowed the Warriors to almost erase a huge lead late in the game. Monta Ellis scored 41 points, tying the mark set by Kobe Bryant for most against the Celtics this season. The Celtics escaped, but this late-game trend needs to stop.

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Jackie MacMullan on D&H: Celtics’ problems at center critical 02.11.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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Basketball Hall of Fame writer Jackie MacMullan joined the Dale & Holley show Friday to talk about the Celtics and news from around the NBA. While Kobe Bryant scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half to spark a Lakers comeback Thursday night, MacMullan attributed most of the blame for the Celtics’ loss on their sudden lack of depth at center. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

“That was the game in a nutshell,” she said. “Their bigs just played really, really well, crushed them on the boards, made things happen in the paint. We know Kobe can turn it on, as he did in the second half. And we all knew when he had three points at halftime that it wouldn’t end that way. But to me, it really was about what went on in the paint last night.”

Ray Allen broke the NBA record for career 3-pointers Thursday night. MacMullan noted that despite the lofty praise, Allen has not always been the most coachable player. Said MacMullan: ”It was just so funny to me how, as he was approaching the record, everyone was saying, ‘Oh, Ray Allen, a coach’s dream, the greatest veteran, what a model, an ambassador for the NBA.’ And I was thinking, ‘Whoa.’ I can remember a lot of coaches that really struggled with Ray, including the one here.

“And that doesn’t mean they don’t love him — and certainly Doc [Rivers] and Ray have found their way together — but that’s not who Ray is. Ray’s going to challenge you and Ray’s going to question you. Because he wants things to work within his own parameters. And to me, that was the most interesting part about this quest for the 3-point title, was he did it through multiple coaches, each of whom at one point or another I’m sure were saying, ‘This guy drives me nuts!’ ”

Addressing the rumors of a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers, MacMullan noted that Lakers owner Jerry Buss has been looking to trim payroll, not add to it. Plus, the Lakers already have a title-contending team without adding a player with defensive liabilities who would take some time to learn the triangle offense. “It just didn’t make sense to me,” she said. “Not if you’re the Lakers and you’re right there.”

MacMullan, who had lunch Thursday with Lakers coach Phil Jackson, said she believes Jackson will stick to his word and retire at the end of the season. “The impression I get is that Phil is at the end of the road,” she said. “He didn’t say that, he won’t say anything about it. But that’s the impression I get. I think he’s come to the point where it’s time to step away again.”

MacMullan was talking to Jackson for a book she’s writing about Shaquille O’Neal. “He gave me some great insight on Shaquille, who he has a great affection for to this day, really loved being with him,” she said. “And you know, when it was Phil, Kobe and Shaq, nine times out of 10, Phil was siding with Shaq, not Kobe.”

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Irish Coffee: Perfect remedy for loss to Lakers at 11:30 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Few game films exist of Bill Russell‘s playing days, but a United States Information Agency documentarian by the name of Gary Goldsmith had some rare footage in his vault: Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Celtics and Cincinnati Royals.

The video has since been shown on NBA TV, and SLAM Magazine recently caught with the filmmaker. Goldsmith takes us through the documentary’s process, and the unquestionable highlight of the interview is this aside on a retired Bob Cousy wandering the Garden hallways:

“He was holding his head in his hands and saying to somebody, ‘We can’t lose. If we lose, they’ll never let us up. It will be like the Yankees; they’ll grind us in to the earth. We’ve got to win.’ He wasn’t saying this to anybody for publication; this was a private comment that he made. It’s that sense of how important it was to sustain their championship level. I got a feel for it from moments like that.”

Part 1 of Goldsmith’s “The Final Game” is embedded in this blog. Be sure to check out Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 on YouTube. There’s nothing better than watching a game from the last run of the Celtics’ nine consecutive championship seasons to get over a loss to the Lakers.

The time spent is worth it just to hear Red Auerbach‘s incessant chatter from the sidelines:

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Doc Rivers: We weren’t up the challenge of the Lakers at 10:57 am ET
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One characteristic Doc Rivers has always admired about his team was that it fights through almost every kind of adversity.

On Thursday night, he didn’t have that feeling. Whether it was the overwhelming number of injuries, the foul trouble of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, Kobe being Kobe or just all of the above, Rivers just didn’t have the feeling that his team had the energy or will to overcome all of it. And that, more than the 92-86 loss to the Lakers at TD Garden seem to bug him the most.

“I thought they came out and jumped on us early in the third quarter, first –scored the first 10 points,” Rivers began. “And I never thought we fought through it, really. I mean obviously the fatigue and all that – you know, one of our concerns going into the game were Paul or Ray couldn’t get in foul trouble obviously, because of what we had left. And that happened.

“But I just thought mentally we were not a very good team tonight and usually we are. I didn’t think we fought hard enough through adversity, and we’re great at that usually.”

But not on this night. While the Celtics are not a great rebounding team to begin with, they usually find a knack of dominating their opponent in the paint. Not on this night when they were outscored, 50-32.

They usually get to loose balls and find a way to score on second-chance points. Not on this night. They were outscored, 16-9, in that category. And while Rajon Rondo posted his 21st double-double of the season, he was just 5-of-14 and – after feeding Ray Allen for his record-breaking three in transition – couldn’t let his team back. It didn’t help that Nate Robinson went down with a bruised right knee in the second quarter and didn’t return.

“It was one of those nights; I just thought we didn’t do a very good job of [battling],” Rivers said. “And we obviously did have a lot of adversity with the injury of Nate and foul trouble and the lack of bodies, but you know that that could happen before the game and I don’t think we handled that very well.”

And watching Kobe Bryant – with just three shots in the first half – take over in the third quarter didn’t help either.

“Well once he saw there was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,” Rivers said. “I think we knew that a week ago. And, he also knew that we had foul problems on the floor and he was aggressive. Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense. Kobe won the game today with his defense. I thought defensively he was absolutely phenomenal. He was everywhere. He was trapping, he was helping, you know off Rondo all night, and trapped the post, blocked shots. I mean, he just had a great floor game to me more than just scoring.”

The Celtics face another NBA superstar when LeBron James and the Heat come calling on Sunday. The same Heat team that has been dominated twice this year by the Green. And whether or not Delonte West returns from a broken right wrist, the C’s better find their fight on Sunday or history will repeat itself.

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