Cavs and Rookie LeBron Nip C's


Some call LeBron James, King James. Last night, it took all the king's men for the Cavaliers to defeat the Celtics, 98-96. James worked his magic with assists, not points, at the FleetCenter, finding teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas for the winning 16-footer with 19.6 seconds left.   Paul Pierce (25 points, 4 turnovers) came up short on an 11-footer in the waning seconds. And a desperation toss from the left baseline by Gary Payton was off the mark and after the buzzer. But in truth, Boston lost this game long before any attempts at late-game heroics because of turnovers down the stretch.


Blount Goes for 16, 16, and 3 in W


There may have been times this season when you wondered if Mark Blount really was worth all the fuss, not to mention the $38 million. Sunday night (6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 fouls, 18 minutes) might have been one of those times. Last night was not.

Last night Blount delivered his first real macho game of the season, admittedly against an undersized foe. In the end, the Celtics' 7-footer played like one, and left the FleetCenter floor with 16 points, a season-high 16 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, and a big hand in the Celtics' 101-100 victory over the Bucks.


Doc Downplays Heated Exchange with Pierce


Celtics coach Doc Rivers said "there really was no issue," downplaying a heated exchange with Paul Pierce late in the fourth quarter. Pierce said nothing, atypically avoiding reporters after Boston defeated Milwaukee, 101-100, last night at the FleetCenter.

The Celtics captain spoke volumes with his absence. The spin delivered by Rivers, and later by Gary Payton, met with deserved skepticism. The incident and its aftermath unfortunately overshadowed an impressive win by the Celtics, who were admittedly off their game.


Pierce, Rivers have Words in Celtics' Win


Celtics fans have become accustomed to Paul Pierce playing most, if not all, of the fourth quarter in close games. So, it was a strange sight when coach Doc Rivers replaced Pierce with Jiri Welsch with 4 minutes 39 seconds remaining last night.

Pierce was more than surprised by the move. As he walked angrily back to the bench, Pierce exchanged a few words with Rivers. The coach could be heard shouting, "You're sitting," at Pierce. Clearly, Pierce wanted to play with the game hanging in the balance.

Rivers Routs Former Team


ORLANDO, Fla. - Doc Rivers could have stayed seated throughout the fourth quarter and enjoyed the view as the Celtics completed one of their easiest victories of the season.

Boston led almost from start to finish last night as it routed Orlando, 117-101, in Rivers's return to the city where he started his NBA coaching career. But by force of habit from all the close games the Celtics have had this season, Rivers continued to pace the sidelines and shout instructions until the end.


Doc's New Team Claims Victory over His Old One


ORLANDO, Fla. - When Doc Rivers has dinner with Orlando coach Johnny Davis and Magic players Pat Garrity and Grant Hill sometime next summer, there should be some interesting conversation. Although the Celtics and Magic meet two more times this season, Rivers already has plenty of fodder for some good-natured ribbing.


Delonte Breaks Hand, Out Indefinitely


ORLANDO, Fla. - Just two games into his return from a fractured right thumb, Delonte West suffered a broken right hand that will keep the rookie point guard out indefinitely. West broke his hand on an innocuous-looking fall early in the second quarter against Miami Sunday night. He iced the hand at halftime and came back to play in the second half. Postgame X-rays revealed the fracture.

"My hand was numb for most of the rest of the game, so I knew something was wrong," said West. "I want to be out there. I want to contribute.


Celtics Not Concerned with Security


Given nearly a week to examine the security issues raised by the now-infamous brawl between players and fans in Auburn Hills, Mich., Nov. 19, the Celtics returned to the FleetCenter last night with two losses and few concerns about their on-court safety.

Grampa Celtic Talks Basketbrawl


Brawled-out yet?

I guess we all are. We've all seen Ron Artest bolt off that table even more than we've seen Flutie roll to his right. But the fallout from L'Affaire Auburn Hills is enormous, and I don't just mean the South Carolina-Clemson dust-up that has resulted in each institution punishing itself by eschewing bowl bids.

   Among the loose ends:


What Up with the 4th Quarter Collapses?


Judging from the current Atlantic Division standings, where a .500 record appears a lofty goal, there will always be time to make a playoff push. It will never be too late for teams rebuilding under new coaches to hope for a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference. But right now, the question is this: When does it stop being too early to draw conclusions about a team? In the Celtics' case, when does a shaky start filled with fourth-quarter collapses and mental fragility become a disturbing trend?


Celtics Getting Warmer, but Still Fall to Heat


MIAMI - Progress takes many forms. Last night at American Airlines Arena, it was a last-second 17-footer by Ricky Davis that skipped across the rim. Without the buzzer-beater, Boston failed to force overtime and came up short in its fourth-quarter comeback attempt against Miami, losing, 106-104.

   But the defeated team was not the same one that has collapsed in the final period several times this season.


Shaq Digging Miami, D-Wade


MIAMI - The signs are everywhere. From the absence of the dreaded balcony curtain inside American Airlines Arena to the giant poster on the outside of the building triumphantly announcing, "Daddy's Home."


Sixers Pound Celts


PHILADELPHIA -- The Celtics are desperately in search of answers, baskets, mental toughness, and any sign of pride. For the second night in a row, Boston suffered an embarrassing loss to a less-talented opponent. The 76ers dominated on the way to a 110-97 win last night, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process. Meanwhile, the Celtics skid is at two games with the schedule more demanding as the Cavaliers visit the FleetCenter tomorrow.


Jiri Acclimating Self to New Role


PHILADELPHIA - Jiri Welsch smiles a lot more these days. Although the versatile forward maintains it doesn't matter whether he starts or comes off the bench, Welsch looks more comfortable as a member of the starting five, playing alongside Paul Pierce, Gary Payton, Mark Blount, and Raef LaFrentz. Celtics coach Doc Rivers inserted Welsch into the starting lineup against Seattle Sunday.


Undermanned Pacers Rough Up Celtics


INDIANAPOLIS - In a state uniquely devoted to basketball, the Indiana Pacers and their still-loyal fans faced a harsh new reality last night at Conseco Fieldhouse as eight players dressed for a game against the Celtics. The contest marked the first time Indiana took the court knowing the full extent of suspensions levied against Ron Artest (remainder of the season), Stephen Jackson (30 games), and Jermaine O'Neal (25 games). Although yesterday the Players' Union filed an appeal of the stiffest suspensions, more than likely the Pacers will be shorthanded for the next couple months.


Googs' Back is a Pain


INDIANAPOLIS - To say forward Tom Gugliotta walked gingerly around the court during shootaround yesterday morning would be an overstatement. Dealing with lower back pain, he could barely shuffle across the paint. So, it was a no-brainer when coach Doc Rivers decided to place Gugliotta on the injured list. The tougher decision was who would take Gugliotta's place.


C's Down Sonics, Despite 21 from Ray Allen


Once again down the stretch, there was the sound of 15,000 people squirming in their seats. The Celtics had led the hottest team in basketball from the first quarter last night. They'd been up by 22 points with 11:08 to play. And now, with the spread down to 10, everybody was thinking the same thing: Can these guys blow it again? "I'm sure the whole crowd did," said coach Doc Rivers. "Tommy [Heinsohn] probably did, too."


Doc Gives Waltah the Call over Big Al


Far be it from me to question Doc Rivers's coaching at this point of the young season, but was anyone else watching the Wizards-Celtics game last Wednesday - I know you're out there, it's OK to admit it - and wondering why Al Jefferson was not sent into the game when Raef LaFrentz fouled out?


Celtics Play Spurs, Celtics Lose to Spurs


Boston again proved it could play with any team last night, including San Antonio, the choice of many to win the NBA championship. For three quarters. But in the end, it was more of the same frustration and disappointment for the Celtics as they lost to the Spurs, 92-84, before 15,586 at the FleetCenter. Another fourth-quarter collapse. Another longer-than-usual postgame team meeting. Another round of semi-introspective quotes about youth, inexperience, and inconsistency.


Old Habits Die Hard


WALTHAM - When it comes to the Celtics, few sights are more familiar than Paul Pierce forcing a shot from a seemingly impossible angle with time expiring. He made his reputation as a go-to guy by hitting his fair share of memorable buzzer-beaters, the most recent winner Nov. 10 against Portland. By force of habit, the Celtics look for Pierce early and often, especially during close contests.


Celtics Give Up 21 Offensive Boards in Loss


WASHINGTON - It's no coincidence that when the Celtics fail to keep pace with opponents on the glass, they lose. Last night's game against the Wizards at the MCI Center was no exception. Washington outrebounded Boston, 50-43, and won, 110-105, in overtime. Most discouraging was the fact the Wizards pulled down 21 offensive rebounds, which explains why they scored 27 second-chance points.


Celtics Run Out of Gas


WASHINGTON - During a four-day layoff, the Celtics suffered from a lack of game experience. Last night, they played five minutes too many at the MCI Center, losing to the Wizards, 110-105, in overtime.

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