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Fast Break: Celtics snap losing streak, beat Raptors 01.18.12 at 9:56 pm ET
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The Celtics have been desperate for a strong start and they finally got one on Wednesday against Toronto, opening up a 21-7 lead and making nine of their first 16 shots. They rode that early lead through some rough patches in the second quarter and earned a much-needed 96-73 win over Toronto, snapping a five-game losing streak.

It wasn’t all good for the Celtics as Rajon Rondo was put on the ground by Linas Kleiza with a hard foul late in the third quarter. Rondo landed awkwardly on his right wrist and didn’t return to the game. Kleiza was originally assessed a Flagrant-2 foul on the play, but it was downgraded to a Flagrant-1 after a review.

The Celtics opened up a 29-14 lead in the first quarter and while they eventually cooled down, the Raptors didn’t have nearly enough offense to make up the ground with leading scorer Andrea Bargnani out of the lineup with a strained left calf. However the win came, the Celtics will take it. They’re back in action on Friday against the Suns.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rajon Rondo didn’t get his first assist until the 6:01 mark of the third quarter, but it was hard to argue with his floor game. Rondo went to the basket repeatedly and made seven of his first eight shots. He also went to the free throw line seven times in the first half and made five.

Kevin Garnett came out aggressive with six points in the first four minutes and 10 points by halftime. Garnett finished with 15 points and seven rebounds and while he’s still having trouble finishing inside, this continued a run of stronger games for Garnett.

Paul Pierce only scored eight points but he had seven assists and four rebounds. With Rondo looking to score, Pierce played the role of facilitator and did it well.

— The Celtics hit the defensive glass and didn’t turn the ball over. A very good combination.

Mickael Pietrus and Brandon Bass formed an effective two-man bench, combing for all 19 points for the reserves prior to fourth quarter garbage time. Pietrus finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers and Bass had 13 and nine rebounds.

WHAT WENT WRONG Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Linas Kleiza
NBA Offseason Review: Atlantic Division 12.24.11 at 10:00 am ET
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Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the fifth of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.

NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southwest Division
NBA Offseason Review: Southeast Division
NBA Offseason Review: Central Division

NEW YORK KNICKS

2010-11 record: 42-40
2010-11 standing: 2nd in Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference first round to Celtics, 4-0
NBA draft picks: 17. Iman Shumpert; 45. Josh Harrellson
Key additions: Tyson Chandler (free agent); Baron Davis (amnesty); Mike Bibby (FA)
Key substractions: Chauncey Billups (amnesty); Shawne Williams (free agent); Ronny Turiaf (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Toney Douglas; SG Landry Fields; SF Melo Anthony; PF Amare Stoudemire; C Chandler
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 39.5
2011-12 prediction: 40-26

NEW JERSEY NETS

2010-11 record: 24-58
2010-11 standing: 4th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 25. Marshon Brooks; 31. Bojan Bogdanovic; 36. Jordan Williams
Key additions: Shawne Williams (free agent); Shelden Williams (FA)
Key substractions: Sasha Vujacic (free agent); Travis Outlaw (amnesty)
2011-12 starters: PG Deron Williams; SG Tony Morrow; SF Damion James; PF Kris Humphries; C Brook Lopez
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 21.5
2011-12 prediction: 25-41

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

2010-11 record: 41-41
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 16. Nikola Vucevic; 50. Lavoy Allen
Key additions: None
Key substractions: None
2011-12 starters: PG Jrue Holiday; SG Jodie Meeks; SF Andre Iguadola; PF Elton Brand; C Spencer Hawes
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 30.5
2011-12 prediction: 34-32

BOSTON CELTICS

2010-11 record: 56-26
2010-11 standing: Won Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference semis to Heat, 4-1
NBA draft picks: 27. JaJuan Johnson; 55. E’Twuan Moore
Key additions: Brandon Bass (trade); Keyon Dooling (trade); Chris Wilcox (free agent)
Key substractions: Jeff Green (injury); Glen Davis (trade); Shaquille O’Neal (retired); Nenad Krstic (Russia)
2011-12 starters: PG Rajon Rondo; SG Ray Allen; SF Paul Pierce; PF Kevin Garnett; C Jermaine O’Neal
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 41-25

TORONTO RAPTORS

2010-11 record: 22-60
2010-11 standing: 5th in Atlantic Division
NBA draft picks: 5. Jonas Valanciunas
Key additions: Aaron Gray (free agent); Jamaal Magloire (FA); Rasual Butler (FA)
Key substractions: Sonny Weems (free agent); Reggie Evans (FA)
2011-12 starters: PG Jose Calderon; SG DeMar DeRozan; SF James Johnson; PF Andrea Bargnani; C Amir Johnson
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 16.5
2011-12 prediction: 13-53

Read More: Atlantic Division, Boston Celtics, NBA, New Jersey Nets
Fast Break: Celtics steamroll Raptors in preseason 12.21.11 at 10:03 pm ET
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Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (17 points, 6 assists) got the preseason Garden party started, Greg Stiemsma (7 points, 5 rebounds) kept it going and E’Twaun Moore (11 points) closed it out in a 81-73 victory against the lowly Raptors finale on Wednesday night.

Heck, C’s fans were even treated to a Michael Sweetney sighting, whose bucket in the waning moments of the fourth quarter brought the house down and signaled closing time on the preseason.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Steamroller: Playing for a roster spot, 6-foot-11, 260-pound Greg Stiemsma turned in what might have been his best performance since leading the Randolph High Rockets to three straight Division 4 Wisconsin state titles. In between, he’s played in renowned basketball hotbeds like South Korea and Sioux Falls, S.D. Wednesday night, Stiemsma totaled all seven of his points in the first half, garnering more applause from the Garden crowd with each bucket. Then again, the Celtics were playing the Raptors … in the preseason.

JO’s D: In limited action, the 33-year-old Jermaine O’Neal let his presence be known. Showing what Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been saying throughout training camp — that his starting center has looked better than ever in green — O’Neal owned the paint on the defensive end, blocking four shots in 11 minutes. Although, O’Neal did leave the game to return to the locker room in the third quarter never to return (with no visible injury).

Rondo’s jumper: Perhaps the most encouraging sign — and the one that could benefit the Celtics the most throughout the season — was not only Rajon Rondo‘s willingness to shoot from the perimeter, drive through the lane looking for his shot and get to the free throw line, but his ability to score in all three aspects of the game. Rondo established himself early and often as the best player on the floor, draining a couple 18-footers, getting to the line six times and totaling 17 points in 22 minutes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, E'Twaun Moore, Greg Stiemsma, Rajon Rondo
Fast Break: Celtics hold on to beat Raptors 12.18.11 at 3:32 pm ET
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With only two preseason games and the start of the season just week away, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he would give his starters and his top rotation players significant time in their exhibition game against the Raptors and the coach was as good as his word.

Even without Paul Pierce (right heel) and Sasha Pavlovic (left wrist), Rivers used just 10 players in the first half and the Celtics coach didn’t go deep into his bench until the fourth quarter. It wasn’t a coincidence that the Celtics blew a 10-point lead in the final quarter, but held on for a 76-75 victory in Toronto.

Here’s the good and the bad:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Marquis Daniels started for Pierce and played well. He’s one of the team’s better post-up options and he remains a good cutter who helps facilitate the team’s offense with his movement off the ball. With Jeff Green out for the season, Daniels has become an important reserve. He’ll get most of the time behind Pierce and also play some off-guard for the Celtics as well. He came into camp in terrific shape and said that he’s stronger than he was before undergoing surgery for a spinal condition.

— Rivers called center Jermaine O’Neal the MVP of the first week of camp and at times he was the best player on the floor for the Celtics. O’Neal said that he feels more comfortable offensively and understands where he needs to be to contribute. Defensively, his shot-blocking presence is invaluable for a team with a shortage of big men.

Brandon Bass continues to impress with a diverse offensive game. He hit jumpers coming off down screens and in isolation and ran the floor with Rajon Rondo for a sweet dunk in transition. Bass is the best offensive weapon the Celtics have had coming off the bench in years.

— The Celtics were the worst offensive rebounding team in the league by a wide margin last season. That should change with Bass and Chris Wilcox on board. Both are energy players with athleticism and timing and they weren’t afraid to crash the boards.

E’Twuan Moore drained a couple of late jumpers, showing again why the team is so high on their second-round pick.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— The hope is that Pierce can return to practice this week, but until he returns the Celtics are dangerously thin at the small forward spot. The Celtics insist that there’s noting to worry about with Pierce, but any time one of their core players misses this much time it’s a concern.

— Without much depth at small forward, Rivers used a number of three-guard lineups with Keyon Dooling, Avery Bradley, Moore, Ray Allen and Rondo. They were successful in speeding up the tempo of the game, something that has been an emphasis throughout camp, but struggled to score without Allen or Rondo in the game.

Shot creation will be something to watch all season from the reserves. The Celtics struggled mightily in that regard last season and while Dooling, Bass and Wilcox are an offensive upgrade, none of them excels at creating his own offense.

— Rookie JaJuan Johnson did not see the court until the fourth quarter, an indication that he has work to do to see some playing time. Rivers has said that Johnson has been up and down throughout camp, which is to be expected for a rookie. The team loves his outside shot and athleticism. He’ll get his chances during the season.

Read More: Brandon Bass, e'twuan moore, JaJuan Johnson, Jermaine O'Neal
Hypothetical 2011-12 Celtics preseason schedule 08.18.11 at 2:29 pm ET
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The NBA announced a preseason schedule that would begin Oct. 9. Let’s just say the likelihood of this schedule actually taking place as scheduled is up in the air. Keep your popcorn unpopped. Anyhow, here’s the hypothetical preseason schedule for the Celtics

  • Oct. 10: 76ers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, R.I.)
  • Oct. 15: Knicks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (Times Union Center, Albany, N.Y.)
  • Oct. 16: Celtics at Raptors, 6 p.m. (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ont.)
  • Oct. 19: Celtics at 76ers, 7 p.m. (Mullins Center, Amherst, Mass.)
  • Oct. 21: Raptors at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, Mass.)
  • Oct. 22: Knicks at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (XL Center, Hartford, Conn.)
  • Oct. 24: Celtics at Nets, 7:30 p.m. (Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.)
  • Oct. 26: Nets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (TD Garden, Boston, Mass.)

Please note that the venue for each game does not necessarily dictate which team is considered the home team.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA preseason schedule, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks
Paul Pierce and the rest of the Celtics make sure the Luke Harangody ‘legend’ grows 01.08.11 at 12:13 am ET
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After each home game of late, Paul Pierce usually takes his place – right in front of the doorway to the training room – to speak to the media about what went right and/or wrong in the just-completed game.

But this night was different. Luke Harangody made sure of that with his first career double-double, 17 points and 11 rebounds in Boston’s 122-102 laugher at the Garden.

“Paul Pierce is officially taking the the night off,” the captain announced on his way to the vanity where the Celtics usually check themselves in the mirror to make sure they’re presentable. “There’s plenty of players to give you great quotes today. All my quotes will be coming from Luke Harangody… and tweets.”

Friday night, Harangody’s play spoke volumes. The rookie out of Notre Dame has been used by Doc Rivers to come off the bench in the last two weeks to provide energy, a strategy that began against New Orleans on New Year’s Eve and continued against Minnesota and San Antonio this week.

But on Friday, he showed that when he focuses and doesn’t rush his rhythm, he can be much more than just an energy upgrade from Semih Erden. After all, he had over 2,400 points and 1,200 rebounds in four years with the Fighting Irish.

‘€œYeah, he can do that, and that’€™s the one thing we knew,” Rivers said of the rookie’s ability to draw a big man away from the basket and shoot the ball. “And when he slows down like he did today, he makes those shots, and that was good. You know, every time he makes a shot, you know the legend of Luke grows, in a lot of ways. We laugh, but it does, because the next game you’€™ll hear the other team yelling ‘€˜Get back out to him’€™ and that creates space for [Rajon] Rondo and everybody else.’€

And that’s what the starters on the bench really love to see.

“I think he was in all of a half-second and he took a shot and the whole bench started laughing, because that’s who he is,” Rivers said. “And we want him to stay that way. He’ll make mistakes because he’s young, he’ll make mistakes because he’s going fast but he’ll never make mistakes because he’s not going hard.

“The guys appreciate that, honestly. They love effort. When you get guys that come off the bench and play with the effort and intensity he plays with, the starters love that. That’s what gets them up and cheering and that’s why they like him so much. They see his effort everyday.”

And what about his habit of jacking up shots as soon as he gets in the game? Blame it on his coach at Notre Dame.

“I think we should blame, or thank [coach] Mike Bray for that,” Rivers joked of the Irish head coach. “I watched him a couple times against Georgetown when my son [Jeremiah] was there. He shot it basically every time he touched it there, too. He’s just got that tradition and he’s going to keep it going.”

Bray won’t be there Saturday night in Chicago as his team has a little date with St. John’s about 70 miles away in South Bend. But he will have friends and family, no doubt all of whom are expecting Harangody to do exactly what the Celtics now expect – shoot from the hip.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jeremiah Rivers, Luke Harangody
Doc Rivers believes Jermaine O’Neal is going to have a sore knee ‘the rest of his life’ 01.07.11 at 11:34 pm ET
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Using a flare for the dramatic, Doc Rivers explained why Jermaine O’Neal didn’t play in the second half of Friday’s 20-point blowout win over Toronto. Rivers pointed to Boston’s 67-45 halftime lead and O’Neal’s stiff left knee as reasons O’Neal played just nine minutes, allowing Luke Harangody to have his rookie breakout game. Rivers said the hope is that he’ll be ready for the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday night.

‘€œHis knee was sore, so I knew in the second half I wasn’€™t going to go with him,” Rivers said of O’Neal’s chronic left knee. “And we had a lead, so we just looked at it and if we could get him through this game and maybe play him [Saturday] it would be great.

“It was a little sore before the game, but it got ‘€“ at halftime he came to me and said, ‘€˜Man, my knee’€™s sore.’€™ So I think his knee’€™s sore for the rest of his life. But there’€™s going to be different degrees of pain.’€

O’Neal, who has backed up Shaquille O’Neal off the bench, played in seven of the first eight games of the season before missing 19 straight with the bad left knee. Friday marked his eighth game back but Rivers said he will likely have to keep a close eye on his minutes going forward.

O’Neal is averaging 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 15 games for the Celtics this season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jermaine O'Neal, Luke Harangody, NBA
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