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Irish Coffee: Odds are, Celtics not No. 1? 03.14.11 at 11:47 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

We’re entering the home stretch of the NBA season, and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is a definite possiblity for the Celtics. But according to John Hollinger’s NBA Playoff Odds, the Bulls have a better shot — and the Heat have almost no shot — at that top spot.

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau argues for a call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Bobcats, Wednesday, March 9, 2011, in Charlotte, N.C. Chicago won 101-84.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has his team threatening for the top spot. (AP)

While an Eastern Conference finals Game 7 at home is an added bonus, the ultimate prize for whichever of those three teams captures the No. 1 seed is the simple fact that the other two would have to battle each other in the conference semifinals, while the No. 1 seed would face either the Magic or Hawks in Round 2 — regardless of what Celtics head coach Doc Rivers or Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau would have you believe …

Rivers: “I would like it. It’s not going to be a deal-breaker for us, honestly. I want it, though. I think it’s important. But right now I can say I’m not focused on that at all. I’m not thinking about the one-seed at all. Early in the year we were clearly thinking about it, but right now I think about getting guys back healthy. Let’s act like a one-seed even if we’re not.”

Thibodeau: “That doesn’t guarantee anything. Where I think it does make a difference is Game 7 of a playoff series, to have it at home. You want to do your best to put as many things in your favor as possible.” 

So, the No. 1 seed has been the C’s ultimate goal all season, but it’s no longer the priority now that the Bulls have threatened to take it from them? I’m not buying it. The Celtics want that top seed, and they just might need it. How close will the race for the No. 1 seed be? Down to the wire, for sure. See for yourself …

CELTICS (47-17; 18 games remaining)

  • at New Jersey (21-43)
  • vs. Indiana (28-38)
  • at Houston (33-34)
  • at New Orleans (39-29)
  • at New York (34-31)
  • vs. Memphis (36-31)
  • vs. Charlotte (28-38)
  • at Minnesota (17-51)
  • at Indiana (28-38)
  • at San Antonio (54-12)
  • at Atlanta (38-28)
  • vs. Detroit (23-44)
  • vs. Philadelphia (34-32)
  • at Chicago (47-18)
  • vs. Washington (16-48)
  • at Miami (45-21)
  • at Washington (16-48)
  • vs. New York (34-31)

Home games remaining: 7
Opponents’ winning percentage: .482 (571-615)
ESPN.com odds to capture No. 1 seed: 39.4 percent
Record vs. remaining teams on schedule: 29-8 (.784)
Games remaining against .500-plus teams: 9
Games remaining against potential playoff teams: 12

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Doc Rivers, Miami Heat
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
Fast Break: Kevin Garnett takes care of Joakim Noah 12.03.10 at 10:41 pm ET
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Doc Rivers says it time and time again – watch out if Kevin Garnett comes to the building fired up.

It was clear from the opening tip – when KG fist-pounded every starter on both teams – with one notable exception. He greeted eight starters, then made his way to Keith Bogans, greeted him and wished him well before walking right past Joakim Noah. Garnett – for the most part – productively channeled his dislike for his arch-nemesis.

Garnett had a double-double by halftime and led a defensive charge in the third quarter as the Celtics beat the Bulls, 104-92, Friday night at TD Garden.

Aside from the Celtics winning their sixth straight to improve to an Eastern Conference-best 15-4, the other highlight for the fans was the surreal chants of “SCAL-A-BRINE” several times in the fourth quarter, with the Celtics comfortably ahead.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE CELTICS:

Garnett was a monster: KG made it clear early he would not be denied, either offensively or on the glass. He finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds in arguably his most energetic game of the year. Garnett only had one true run-in with Noah, getting in Noah’s face after a 10-foot turnaround with 2:24 left in the second quarter. Both players were T’d up but nothing much happened the rest of the way.

Rondo got up: Everyone and their brother and sister went silent with 4:54 left in the third quarter when Rajon Rondo cut through the lane, jumped up in the air on a pass and landed awkwardly. Rondo’s right leg slipped on the landing and his left leg stuck in the floor. He immediately held his left knee and remained on the court about 30 seconds. He got up and stay in the game and immediately hit a 22-foot jumper, showing everyone he was ok.

Turning up the D: Led by Garnett down low and Pierce on the wing, the Celtics showed a dominant defensive effort. After allowing 29 points in the second quarter, the Celtics held the Bulls to 19 in the third, building their lead up to 82-67 after three. The Bulls made just 6-0f-19 from the field in the third quarter as the Celtics got back to basics.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE CELTICS:

A defenseless bench: When you look at the stat sheet, you see that the Celtics reserves can score with anyone – and they can. It’s the defense that’s troubling, like in the second quarter, when the Bulls shot 53 percent and outscored the C’s 29-22. It’s certainly understandable that without the injured Delonte West and Jermaine O’Neal, the depth isn’t there for the Celtics. But they’re going to need more than just “Sixth Man of the Year” favorite Glen Davis to produce. Semih Erden is still finding his way and managed some very important minutes late in the third and early fourth quarter as Shaquille O’Neal sat on the bench with five fouls. They were lucky that the Bulls bench was just as ineffective. Nate Robinson (sore left foot) was clearly not the same player and Marquis Daniels had eight points in 26 minutes.

Foul trouble: With 9:28 left in the fourth quarter and the Celtics up, 84-70, Glen Davis went to the bench with his fifth foul, joining O’Neal with the same number. That’s not good. Boston’s two best bruisers – and only bruisers – were not available against a Bulls team that relies on finesse and quickness from players like Noah, Luol Deng and of course, Derrick Rose. That played right into the Bulls’ hands.

Leaking leads: Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but for the second straight game, the Celtics built what appeared to be a very comfortable lead at home, leading by 17 in the third quarter and by 15, 82-67, heading into the fourth. The Bulls made a charge early in the fourth. It’s a nasty habit that bears at least some attention, especially on your home court, where the Celtics improved to 9-1 this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Different Celtics defense, same result 11.08.10 at 10:52 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Last week, prior to the Celtics welcoming their former assistant coach Tom Thidodeau and the Chicago Bulls to town, Ray Allen asked a simple question: “Do they know everything we’re running?”

The same question was asked over and over around the Celtics locker room. The standard poker-faced response? Defensive schemes hadn’t changed much since Thibodeau’s departure.

Perhaps the C’s were playing their cards a little close to the vest.

“From what I’ve seen, they’ve tweaked some things,” Thibodeau told WEEI.com. “There are some things that were there before. I think a big part of their team is the personnel that they have, and it could change again when [Kendrick] Perkins comes back.”

The biggest question marks surrounding the Celtics’ defense entering the 2010-11 season had the same last name — O’Neal. With the additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal, how would the C’s integrate them — along with rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley — into a defense that ranked first, second and fifth in points allowed per 100 possessions over the last three seasons?

“Some of those guys have pretty good defensive foundations,” added Thibodeau. “A guy like Jermaine O’Neal — his shot blocking — and obviously Shaq’s a physical presence. He takes up a lot of space. He’s always been on the boards, rebounding. I think that they’ve got a lot of length up front, and they’ve got a lot of toughness on that team. So, when you add those things to their system, they’re tough to score on.”

So far, whatever wrinkles Doc Rivers and new assistant coach Lawrence Frank have put in place are paying dividends. The C’s currently rank third in defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the NBA. In perhaps their two most difficult games to date, they’ve held Miami to 80 points at the TD Garden on opening night and the Thunder to 83 points in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.

In Tom Thibodeau's absence, Doc Rivers (right) and Jermaine O'Neal (left) have adjusted the team's defensive schemes. (AP)

This fall, Jermaine O’Neal has looked fairly uncomfortable in the offense, but defensively he’s been a stalwart underneath — blocking a shot every 11 minutes in six games this season (despite reportedly undergoing a “minor procedure” on his left knee this season). Jermaine ranks 44th individually all-time in career defensive rating. Shaq also ranks in the top 100 ever, at 78. Perkins doesn’t rank in the top 250.

So, can the concerns over what Thibodeau’s departure would do to the C’s defense be laid to rest? According to Thibodeau himself, they certainly can.

“The good thing about their team is they’re smart,” said Thibodeau. “So, you can keep adding things to what you’re doing. Each year, we added something to it. It never remained the same. I think it’s their commitment to defense that makes them special. Again, that comes from, first, Doc, and then Kevin [Garnett], Paul [Pierce] and Ray. They’re commitment has made everyone else buy into it.”

Essentially, the foundation is still there, even if the exterior looks a little different.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo
Tom Thibodeau gets hero’s welcome 11.05.10 at 11:56 pm ET
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Chicago Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau yells some instructions during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, in Chicago. Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-98.

Tom Thibodeau appreciated the warm welcome from the Celtics and their fans. (AP)

During the first timeout of Friday night’s 110-105 overtime victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics played a video tribute to current Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and forward Brian Scalabrine, thanking them for their contributions to the C’s 2008 NBA championship.

Touched by the gesture, Scalabrine raised a hand to the crowd. Meanwhile, Thibodeau stood stoically on the sideline, ready to guide his new team against his former team.

After the game, though, the former Celtics assistant and defensive guru was clearly touched by the gesture.

“It’s great coming back here,” Thibodeau said following his team’s loss. “I wouldn’t be in this position without everything that this organization did for me. From ownership to Danny (Ainge) and, of course, Doc (Rivers), they treated me great. It was a lot of fun.”

It’s not every city that would recognize the contributions of an assistant coach to a team’s success with a pair of standing ovations (one to start the game and one throughout the video), but Thibodeau knows Boston is no ordinary fan base.

“This is a great sports town,” said Thibodeau. “Certainly, the history and the tradition of the Celtics is what makes this organization so special. It’s the fans, the people that run the team, the players. They’re leadership is off the charts. Doc and Danny — you’re not going to find two guys better than that. They’re just top-of-the-line guys. They’re smart. They know what they’re doing.

“The team is special,” he added. “You’ve got an unbelievable group of guys — not only talented, but great competitors. Those guys are going to fight and fight and fight. There’s no quit in that team. To beat them, you’ve got to beat them. They never quit.”

Thibodeau admitted after the game that while his new team may have the potential, the Bulls just don’t have the level of understanding of each other yet that his old team enjoys now.

“They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’re experienced, they know how to work the game and their hard to guard,” said Thibodeau. “I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to hsare with each other. … It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’t get set, and that’s something we’re striving for.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Chicago Bulls, NBA
Celtics: Irish Coffee 09.29.10 at 8:58 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

You’d think everything was painted green in Tommy Heinsohn‘s world, but truth be told the Celtics legend does more than just color for his former team. He’s a talented artist, as detailed in this NECN piece.

Tommy recently entered some of his work into an art show that benefited a charity in honor of his late wife, the Helen J. Weiss Scholarship fund for art education amoung children.

“I do something in art every day,” he told NECN. “If it’s only for five minutes.” It’s his relaxation, he joked, from all those terrible referees in the NBA. There’s not enough Tommy Points to give it for that.

Oh, and you’ll never guess Tommy’s prediction for the 2010-11 season. “If they can put on the floor what’s on paper,” he said to NECN, “we’re gonna win a title.”

Training Camp: Day 1

The Celtics practiced for three hours in a hot and humid gym yesterday at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I. An evening walk-through got pushed until this morning. The news? The veterans’ conditioning is the biggest question going forward, Jermaine O’Neal worked mainly with the starters and Kevin Garnett “just looked explosive,” according to Doc Rivers. “He had his hop back.”

Following the practice, Shaquille O’Neal tweeted, “First day is over, the truth and ray allen didn’t miss a shot, daaayum I wish I was a shooter.”

That’s a far cry from Von Wafer‘s tweet at 2 a.m. the morning before practice: “jus woke to use the bathroom back to sleep big day tomorrow.” Thanks for the update, Von. Wafer reportedly tweaked an ankle during the first day of practice.

According to the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star, the C’s are waiting for a letter from FIBA Europe that will clear Chris Johnson to participate in training camp. The 6-foot-11 LSU product apparently attended practice yesterday but didn’t participate. His agent said the process normally takes seven days, and the Celtics sent the letter last week, while Johnson was reportedly participating in unofficial workouts in Boston.

Magic impressions

Members of the Orlando Magic were quick to point out to Fox Sports Florida that the East does not belong to the Heat. The Celtics, if you remember, are the returning Eastern Conference champions …

Dwight Howard: “I got tired of [hearing about the Heat] as soon as LeBron said he was going to Miami. Our discussions are not about Miami and what they’re doing. Our discussions are about what we are going to do to win a championship. What are we going to sacrifice? How are we going to play night in and night out so we can win a championship? We’re not banking on beating the Miami Heat or saying, ‘Hey we need to beat the Heat.’ That’s not our concern.”

Stan Van Gundy: “I don’t think anybody is doubting Miami’s talent and the fact that they’re going to be a serious challenge, but we don’t doubt Boston’s talent or them being a serious challenge. Or Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia [or] Washington. There’s a lot of people who got better in the East. I think the challenge only rises, and I think we’re very confident in ourselves as a team and we look forward to those challenges ahead.”

J.J. Redick also made interesting comments to the Orlando Pinstriped Post during the Magic’s Media Day …

“I still have a bitter taste in my mouth,” he said. “I don’t know if we could have beaten Boston last year because we didn’t play our best game. We just–we got our butts kicked. … [Toughness is] a big reason why Boston beat us. It’s mental, man. Those guys were tougher mentally than us during that series.”

Before Gino, there was Dino.

Top 10 All-Time Celtics

A Lakers fan ranked the top-10 Celtics of all-time on the Bleacher Report (similarly, a Celtics fan ranked the top-10 Lakers of all-time). As shocking as this may be to the person who commented on the Antoine Walker link in yesterday’s Irish Coffee (to quote: “Felger is an idiot but he isn’t stupid like weei people INCLUDINg this writer who was never around befoerw [sic] KG”), Antoine did not crack the top 10. Neither did Dino Radja. I kid. I kid. Paul Pierce did make the list. Who do you think was left off?

Putting a Price on Rondo’s jumpshot

The Herald’s Dan Duggan tweeted, “Rajon Rondo didn’t work out with Mark Price this summer. Said he didn’t do anything special to work on his shooting, but feels good about it.” Jay King at Celtics Town makes a good point: “Why would we even WANT Rondo to do something special to fix his jumper? I mean, it’s not like he shot 21.2% from behind the arc last season. It’s not like defenders were able to sag off him and clog the lane. It’s not like Rondo gives Shaq a run for his money as the worst free throw shooter on the Celtics.” Here’s to hoping Rondo was kidding.

Chicago Bullish on Thibodeau

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls players are getting more than an earful from former Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau.

“He’ll talk for like two or three hours, so you have to shorten your conversation with him real quick, come up with a good lie or something,” Derrick Rose told the Tribune. “Have one of your friends call you and say you gotta go pick him up or something.”

There’s no hint of green envy in Thibodeau’s eyes any longer. Asked if he’d occasionally wear the 2008 championship ring he won with the Celtics, he said, “I have to find it first. That was then. This is now. We want to build championship habits. It’s a lot of rhetoric to talk about. The real serious teams do it every day from how they practice.”

Read More: Chris Johnson, Rajon Rondo, Tom Thibodeau, Tommy Heinsohn
Report: Brian Scalabrine signs with Bulls 09.22.10 at 9:59 am ET
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After five seasons with the Celtics, Brian Scalabrine has agreed to a contract with the Bulls, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports. In Chicago, Scalabrine would be reunited with Tom Thibodeau, the former C’s assistant who is now the Bulls head coach.

Scalabrine, 32, has averaged 3.3 points per game in nine NBA seasons (his first four in New Jersey). His best season with Boston was 2006-07, when he averaged 4.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 19 minutes per game. He averaged just nine minutes in 52 games last season, scoring 1.5 points.

Read More: Brian Scalabrine, Tom Thibodeau,
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