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Pierce’s D Helps Celtics Earn the W 12.03.08 at 9:24 pm ET
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The stat line will tell the story of Rajon Rondo‘s triple-double, Ray Allen‘s 31 points, and Kevin Garnett‘s 14 rebounds. But what it won’t show is the stifling defense Paul Pierce imposed on Danny Granger. Pierce held Granger to just six second half point (20 total) and shut down the Pacers leading scorer.

“Paul’s always been a good defensive player,” Granger said after the Pacers 114-96 loss. “KG’s a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and I think that’s one of the things that makes this team good. They can score the ball but they also play good defense.”

Granger scored 14 points in the first half with the majority coming while Ray Allen was guarding him. The defensive switch worked for the Celtics and Granger finished the night shooting 7-for-15, including just one basket in the paint. Pierce’s tough defense combined with the Pacers’ exhaustion from Tuesday’s overtime win against the Lakers was too much for Granger to overcome.

“I just got a little tired,” he said. “It’s hard playing back to back games sometimes, especially when you fight so hard to win one game. You have lapses and your legs give out but that’s still no excuse. Everyone plays back to back games. You’ve just got find a way to find through. Tonight we couldn’t.”

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Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers at 9:25 am ET
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On Wednesday night the Boston Celtics (17-2) will take on the Indiana Pacers (7-10) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The Pacers already upset the Celtics once this season and are riding the momentum of stunning the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. It will be up to the Celtics to halt this series of shockers.

The Pacers want to keep celebrating ...

The Pacers want to keep celebrating ... (Jessica Hoffman/Pacers)

What Went Wrong
On November 1 the Pacers defeated the Celtics 95-79 in Indiana. It was the Celtics first loss of the season, quickly proving their championship didn’t make them immortal. The Pacers jumped out to a 10-point first quarter lead and went up by as many as 25 in the fourth. The Celtics looked sloppy on the road (24 turnovers) and were off the mark all night (34.6% FG, 4-for-20 3PG, 60% FT). Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s combined 33 points and 24 rebounds were not enough. Kendrick Perkins went scoreless while Rajon Rondo hit just one basket. Danny Granger scored 20 points, Marquis Daniels posted 13 points and 11 boards, and T.J. Ford contributed 19 points. When asked to explain the 18-point loss, Garnett told the media, “I don’t even know what to call it.”

In the Last Five Games …
The Celtics have the offensive edge over the Pacers, stretching their margin of victory up to 14.2 points per game over the last five contests while the Pacers have been losing by an average of 4.4 points. Their offense is back on pace with their defense (51.4% FG, 40.3% 3PG) as the Pacers have ranked in the bottom half of the league (43.8% FG, 34.8% 3PG). But in spite of the Celtics stifling D, the Pacers are the best rebounding team in the NBA and average nearly 10 more boards (49.0 to 40.0 rpg). The Pacers have also been the better ball handling team (23.0 to 21.8 apg) as of late despite Rajon Rondo‘s impressive play.

... but the Celtics are out for revenge

... but the Celtics are out for revenge

More than Meets the Eye
The Pacers 7-10 record is deceiving. This team has individual talent and has proved they can be threatening when playing together. Danny Granger is one of the hottest players in the league today and he and Paul Pierce will challenge each other on the perimeter all night. Force him behind the arc, though, and the Celtics could stifle his game. He is shooting just 24% from long range on no days rest. The Pacers traded Jermaine O’Neal for T.J. Ford this summer for backcourt leadership. Ford is just as dangerous as Ray Allen from the line and is capable of dropping 20 points on any given night. Troy Murphy (11.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg) will challenge the Celtics on the glass as one of the league’s underrated big men. Marquis Daniels is also having a breakout season (16.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) after recovering from a foot injury.

Hitting the Bench
While Jeff Foster and Jarrett Jack have been reliable for the Pacers off the bench, the Celtics reserves have the advantage. The Cs bench is filled with championship winners whereas the Pacers bench includes inexperienced rookies and unproven journeymen. Tony Allen has been explosive at the basket and scored 14 points in the first game against the Pacers. After suffering their first loss in Indy, the Celtics starters will look to come out swinging and that intensity will trickle down the bench.

Check back tonight for WEEI’s Live Celtics Game Day Blog from the TD BankNorth Garden.

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Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic 11.30.08 at 10:01 pm ET
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On Monday night the Boston Celtics (16-2) will take on the Orlando Magic (13-4) at the TD BankNorth Garden. The presence of Dwight Howard makes the Magic an Eastern Conference contender but, despite successful regular season records, Superman hasn’t been able to carry his team to the Eastern Conference Finals. After last season, the road to the championship goes through Boston and the Magic surely know it. Monday’s game could be a preview of a future postseason battle.

Stopping Dwight Howard poses a tall task for the Celtics

Stopping Dwight Howard poses a tall task for the Celtics

In the Last Five Games …
The Celtics enter this game on an eight-game winning streak while the Magic have won their last four. Both teams have been running up the scoreboard in the last five games. The Celtics have averaged 104.6 points while winning by an average 13.8 points; the Magic have averaging 102.8 ppg while winning by a less impressive 6.6 ppg. They have been nearly identical on the glass. Even though Howard leads the league in blocks, the Celtics have the slight advantage as of late. The Cs have also held their opponents to less than 18 assists per game, a troubling stat for the Magic who have been playing without point guard Jameer Nelson.

Superman’s Kryptonite
Dwight Howard looks to bring his show-stopping antics to Boston and dominate his way through the paint. Howard (21.8 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 3.9 bpg) will be a challenging match up for the foul-prone Kendrick Perkins. The only silver lining for the Celtics is Howard’s inconsistency at the free throw line (57.3% FT). He shot 21-42 in three games against the Cs last season.

All Banged Up
While this game could be a playoff preview, it will be without a handful of key players. The Magic’s Jameer Nelson (hip), Mickael Pietrus (thumb), and Keith Bogans (thumb) suffered early-season injuries. This leaves holes at the point guard spot, on the wing, and on the bench. The Celtics should expect to see more of shooting guards J.J. Redick and Courtney Lee. Veteran PG Anthony Johnson has been starting in place of Nelson and will try to contain the streaking Rajon Rondo. These injuries are depleting the Magic reserves and creating a daunting task to stop the Celtics deep bench.

Long-Range Game
In the past five games the Magic have held their opponents to a staggering 28% from three-point range. Their biggest challenge will be stopping Ray Allen, who is shooting 56% from downtown during that same stretch. On the contrary, Paul Pierce is shooting just 15.4%. Ironically Allen’s former teammate, forward Rashard Lewis, has the hot hand for the Magic (47.2% 3PG last five games). There’s also no telling if one time NCAA-phenom J.J. Redick will find his groove.

Check in with the WEEI Celtics Game Day Blog for all the latest from the Celtics-Magic match up.

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Sounds of the game… Celtics 102, 76ers 78 11.28.08 at 11:48 pm ET
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When Paul Pierce scores a season-low six points on 1-of-6 shooting and you still build a 30-point fourth quarter lead, you know you’re a pretty good team. The Boston Celtics, however, may be much, much more than just a pretty good team. They may be in the middle of a season that could better last season’s 66-win world championship run. The Celtics toyed with a Philadelphia 76ers team that showed off six-year, $80 million free agent Elton Brand for the first time. He was of little use to the Sixers since Philly showed it was completely incapable of solving Boston’s swarming defense. The final result, Boston won, 102-78, improving to 15-2 and expanding their lead to an amazing six games in the Atlantic Division.

Paul Pierce said the team did a good job of looking for the red-hot Ray Allen.

Ray Allen gave credit to Rajon Rondo for getting him the ball.

Allen on the offense Boston is running.

Doc Rivers said Philly will be a good team later on this season.

Rivers said Boston’s D led to its offense.

Maurice Cheeks said Philly showed their championship mettle.

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Postgame News and Notes: Celtics vs. 76ers at 8:48 pm ET
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GAME RECAP: BOSTON CELTICS 102 – PHILADELPHIA 76ers 78

Last season the Boston Celtics added two All-Stars and got out to one of the hottest starts in basketball. This season the Philadelphia 76ers added one All-Star and still haven’t figured out how to win with him. On Friday night Elton Brand posed no problem for the Celtics as they dismantled the 76ers 102-78. This loss wasn’t Brand’s fault, though. The 76ers as a whole failed to help and the Celtics took advantage of this struggling team.

  • Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined for 38 points (16-27 FG). Paul Pierce added just six (1-6 FG). “We ran a few plays for Ray, noticed he had the hot hand and that’s what we try to do,” Pierce said. “Ray is really shooting lights out as of late so the guys around him were doing a good job of getting him open and he’s knocking shots down.”
  • The 76ers are looking to learn from the Celtics cohesiveness. “They’re a very good team, well coached team,” said Andre Miller. “They play well together. You have to tip your hats to them. We should take something from this and move onto the next game.”
  • Last season Miller flustered Rajon Rondo and the Celtics. Tonight Rondo got the best of the veteran PG, posting 6 points, 12 assists, and 6 rebounds to Miller’s 12 points, 3 assists, and 2 rebounds. Rondo’s ball handling kept his teammates on point and his 12 dimes proved to be more valuable than Miller’s 12 points.

The Celtics (15-2) are leaving tonight for Charlotte, where they will take on the Bobcats on Saturday night. The 76ers (7-9) play the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night.

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Wright Has No Regrets in NBA 11.27.08 at 1:00 am ET
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A year ago Brandan Wright worked out with the Boston Celtics as a top prospect in the 2007 NBA Draft. The Celtics passed on Wright and pulled off the Ray Allen trade, while the big man from UNC landed with the Golden State Warriors by way of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Wright has yet to make a splash in the pros and many speculated that he should have stayed past his freshman year. But Wright, 21, is happy to be learning the ropes with the Warriors and enjoys growing up in the NBA.

“You have all these grown up responsibilities to take care of but I made a decision (to leave UNC) and I’m not regretting it or anything like that,” Wright said. “I’m enjoying myself. I think it would have been good both ways.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jackson: Celtics Earned My Respect 11.26.08 at 9:04 pm ET
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Last season on the night before Thanksgiving, Stephen Jackson scoffed at the hype surrounding the Boston Celtics. They were 9-1 at the time, including a 23-point blowout over the Golden State Warriors, but Jackson could care less.

“They won nine games. If you all want to hype up nine games so be it. I’m not,” he said at the time. “Like I said, they are just another NBA team just like everybody else. They’ll get praise when they win a championship.”

Exactly one year later, the now-defending champions came from behind the defeat the Warriors 119-111 in Boston. Jackson posted 30 points, six assists, and five rebounds, and looked like he was out for redemption.

So was he playing with a vengeance? His answer may surprise you.

“They definitely have my respect,” he said. “They have three great players and a great leader in (Rajon) Rondo. He definitely is a key to them winning games. Like I said, they have my respect now. If I said that year, I take it back. They’ve definitely earned it.”

The trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen have achieved the goal Jackson is working toward with Corey Maggette and the newly acquired Jamal Crawford. Now he is in the same situation and can appreciate what the Celtics accomplished last season.

“It’s hard to not respect them after the season they had,” Jackson said. “When you’re a team that signs three big guys and you haven’t won a championship, you have to earn the respect. And they’ve earned it.”

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