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Celtics notebook

A failure to clean glass

Game plan was to outrebound Hawks

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / January 9, 2010

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ATLANTA - After being outrebounded by Atlanta, 47-29, in a loss last month, the Celtics’ game plan going into last night was to hit the boards.

The Celtics followed that strategy in the first half (20-18), but the Hawks took a 21-16 edge in the second half (39-36 overall), keeping possession in the late going of a 93-85 victory.

“I thought we rebounded all night, until late in the game, when we gave three or four offensive rebounds,’’ Paul Pierce said, “and that really hurts when you are trying to make a comeback.

Pierce who scored 21 points, raising his average to 18.2 per game, said “maybe it was just the discipline and the concentration that we needed in the third quarter - just the little things really hurt us, just the screens, extra passes, defensive assignments. It’s the name of the game, but we’ve got to be ready on the road.

“We didn’t come out with the focus in the third quarter. It just seemed like every time you looked up a guy was open for the 3. Jamal Crawford made a couple crazy shots, but that’s what he does and you’ve got to expect that.’’

Said Celtic center Kendrick Perkins who scored 15 points and hauled down 14 rebounds: “I thought this would be a statement game for us, but we played in spurts and I don’t think everybody was on the same page. Defense played good but could have been better. Offense, it [was terrible], we weren’t playing Celtic ball.

“At times when I thought we should have been pounding it in, we took 3s. When you go to the basket, post the ball, good things happen. I think you’ve got to be more physical with this team. Sometimes we kind of look over them, guys don’t take them seriously. They take us seriously. Every time they play us, they’re physically into us. You can just tell when we play them they’ve got something to prove.

“I watch a lot of basketball throughout the league and I watch how they play us and I watch how they play other teams and there’s a big difference. They don’t have the same intensity against other teams they bring against us.’’

Return on hold
Kevin Garnett could have returned to action on the three-game trip, but the Celtics are continuing to take a cautious approach as Garnett recovers from a hyperextended right knee.

“With Kevin, we’re just going to wait,’’ coach Doc Rivers said before last night’s game against the Hawks. “The only thing you do know, historically, with hyperextended knees, if you want them to be 100 percent, you’ve got to allow it to heal 100 percent before you put them back in. Kevin could play today but then it would just get worse, it would get tighter, and we’re just not going to go down that road.’’

Garnett’s experience with a bone spur last season prepared him for this shutdown, Rivers said.

“He knows what he’s doing,’’ Rivers said. “He’s been very good. If anything, with Kevin, I think going through the thing last year, he’s kind of learned that lesson. For Kevin, he’s been very good, extremely good.’’

Rondo back in town
Rajon Rondo’s last stop in Atlanta was for a preseason shooting consultation with former Cleveland Cavalier guard Mark Price. Rondo’s percentages last season were .505 (field goals) and .642 (free throws); this season he was .530 and .596, respectively, before last night. Price apparently kept the lesson simple, advising Rondo to align his elbow to his body while shooting.

“I think it helped me,’’ Rondo said. “I didn’t spend much time here, just worked on my mechanics. Just keeping my elbow in, that’s the biggest adjustment he wanted me to make. I have to try to keep working on it, it takes repetition. For so long, I’ve been shooting the ball with my elbow out, so it’s hard to break a habit within a couple months.’’

Price, a shooting consultant for the Hawks, was not the first to notice a flaw in Rondo’s shot.

“Mark is a known great shooter in this league,’’ Rondo said. “And somebody just telling you and somebody showing, it’s different.’’

One out, one in
Tony Allen (flu) remained at the hotel last night but is expected back against Toronto tomorrow . . . Eddie House rejoined the Celtics after missing the overtime victory against Miami Wednesday. House said he had a stomach virus, and not the flu as the team had stated.

Memphis signs Hudson
Lester Hudson, waived by the Celtics Wednesday, signed with the Grizzlies. “I do think Lester’s an NBA player,’’ Rivers said. “He’s got an NBA body, NBA ability, now he’s got to turn his mind into an NBA player - he’s got to become a better thinker, understanding how important all the little things are.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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