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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.

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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
Fast Break: Luke Harangody leads Celtics over Raptors at 9:57 pm ET
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Celtics rookie Luke Harangody produced the first double-double of his career, totaling 17 points and 11 rebounds, as the Celtics scored a season-high in a 122-102 victory against the Raptors in Boston. The win marked the team’s 3,000th career win.

Six Celtics (28-7) scored in double figures: Harangody, Paul Pierce (20), Ray Allen (17), Nate Robinson (15), Glen Davis (14) and Shaquille O’Neal (12). Only Avery Bradley didn’t get on the board against the Raptors.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Luke Harangody dominates; yup, you read that right: Harangody played so well on Friday night that his name was actually a trending topic on Twitter in Boston. In just under four first-quarter minutes, the Celtics rookie scored eight points to help the C’s race to a 34-22 lead in the opening 12 minutes.

The only person who could cool down Harangody was Doc Rivers. The Notre Dame product knocked down his fifth straight shot (a trey) and grabbed three of his 11 rebounds in the opening 4:15 of the second quarter. Harangody finished his best game of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds in 26-plus minutes.

The Raptors forget to play defense: In the first half, the Celtics shot almost as well from the floor (65.9 percent) as they did from the foul line (70 percent) — scoring a season-high 67 first-half points against the Raptors. Entering the break, only Rondo (2-for-5) and Von Wafer (0-for-1) failed to shoot 50 percent.

At halftime, four Celtics — Harangody, Allen, Pierce and Robinson — had already reached double figures. Combined, those four shot 16-of-20 in the opening 24 minutes. After the break, the C’s cooled to a 57.5 shooting clip for the game.

Shaq & Co. share the wealth: Shaq doesn’t get enough credit for his passing ability. Twice against the Raptors, he made great looks — once on an offensive board that he kicked to an open Pierce for 3 and another on a touch-pass to a waiting Davis underneath the basket.

In all, the Celtics recorded 31 assists on 46 field goals. Led by Rondo’s seven dimes, eight Celtics produced multiple-assist nights.

The C’s also shared the rebounding load. Harangody’s 11 boards led the way, but Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Shaq all had at least four rebounds on the night. As a team, the Celtics out-rebounded the Raptors, 43-31.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Defensive activity: As bad as the Celtics beat the Raptors on Friday night, it could’ve been worse. Sure, the C’s shot 60-plus percent from the floor, but they failed to lock it down defensively on the other end.

Toronto got a ton of open looks, leading to a 50.6 percent shooting percentage against the Celtics. Against the Raptors, that’s OK. Against everybody else, that’s trouble.

DeMar DeRozan is a heckuva scorer: DeRozan’s youthful athleticism gave the Celtics’ defense problems at times. He got into the lane at will and maneuvered around Shaq like a squirrel around a tree. The Raptors’ shooting guard finished with 20 points.

DeRozan is signed with Toronto in the Atlantic Division through 2014, so the Celtics should be seeing plenty of him over the years — unless the Raptors trade him away like every other good player that goes through Canadian customs.

Fourth-quarter brain fart: What was once a 23-point lead disintegrated into a 98-86 advantage after an Andrea Bargnani dunk over Davis with nine minutes remaining in the game. Then, Allen buried a 3-pointer, Davis and Rondo made four straight free throws, and Harangody buried an 18-footer to push the lead back to 21. The Raptors never sniffed a comeback again.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Luke Harangody, NBA, Toronto Raptors
Irish Coffee: Who means most to Celtics’ success? 01.03.11 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 …

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