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Celtics notebook

They’re already on their game

Defense is sharp; Shaq fits right in

Luke Harangody looked as if he belonged on a pitcher’s mound making this pass. Luke Harangody looked as if he belonged on a pitcher’s mound making this pass. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / October 7, 2010

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — They held the Philadelphia 76ers to 18 of 67 shooting. They forced 22 turnovers and flipped the miscues into 24 points and on a night when they showed off some new faces — namely the 325-pound Shaquille O’Neal — then relied on a familiar calling card to breeze by a bareboned 76ers team, 93-65.

Ray Allen scored a Celtics’ high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, draining 2 of 3 3-point attempts in 21 minutes, but more surprisingly pulling down eight rebounds. Starting by default with Jermaine O’Neal nursing a tweaked hamstring, Shaq played a little more than 15 minutes, scoring 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and fitting in on defense by anchoring himself in the paint, almost like a goalie.

“Our defense was phenomenal,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Just the ball pressure that I thought Nate [Robinson] and [Rajon] Rondo – Rondo in particular — put on the ball allowed everybody to do their jobs. So, I was really happy.’’

Playing without Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Andres Nocioni and Tony Battie, the Sixers shot 26.9 percent. Thaddeus Young scored a team-high 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting.

The Celtics shot 57.1 percent in the first half, taking a 49-22 lead into the break.

“It seemed like we were in a lot of rhythm,’’ said Rondo, who had seven assists in 21 minutes. “That’s a good step for it to be the first preseason game.’’

Glen Davis and Semih Erden tallied 13 points each, going a combined 16 of 18 from the free throw line.

What didn’t sit well with Rivers was the Celtics’ 20 giveaways, 12 of which came in the first half.

“We were a little sloppy,’’ Rivers said. “That was the only thing I didn’t like in the first half.’’

Still, Rivers was pleased by the team defense.

“If we can play with that type of intensity and that type of ball pressure every night, we’re going to be tough to score on.’’

Reliable backup
From his free throw shooting (7 of 8) to his rebounding (five) to his shot-blocking (two), Erden impressed in his 24 minutes. The Turkish center is skilled and physical and Rivers said he expects to rely on Erden as he tries to keep Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal healthy.

Still, guarding the O’Neals has helped Erden.

“It’s really great for him [that] he’s playing against Shaq every day in practice,’’ Rivers said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, because we don’t call those offensive fouls in practice. He has to play through it. So for him to play against somebody else, it was probably a joy.’’

Zero lift
Kevin Garnett went 0 for 4 from the floor and played just 15 minutes. In the first quarter, Rondo threw a lob Garnett’s way, but he was in traffic and it bounced off the backboard.

“It was intentional,’’ Rondo said. “He just didn’t jump. And at the time I should have thrown it, I didn’t throw it. So, we’re going to get our timing together. It’s all about chemistry. We haven’t thrown any in practice either so I’m sure we’ll get it.’’

Garnett joked that he felt like a rookie. Rondo said he looked sharp when they were on the floor together.

“He looks good,’’ Rondo said. “He’s running the floor. He wanted to pick up with me a couple times defensively, but I wouldn’t let him.’’

Paul Pierce sat out the second half because he felt ill but he said after the game he was fine. “It was just a little stomach ache that was bothering me,’’ he said. “But I’ll be all right.’’

Close to home
The Celtics don’t travel any farther west than Toronto this preseason, and if you’re looking for the reason, blame Hidalgo, Texas. The Celtics made a one-here-one-there deal two years ago with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets played an exhibition in Manchester in 2008, and in return the Celtics had to fly to Hidalgo, two hours away from Houston. “That’s when I instructed management, we don’t want to play any West Coast teams, because if they come to our place, eventually we’re going to have to pay it back,’’ Rivers said. “As far as I’m concerned, in the preseason, you shouldn’t go an hour away from your home to play. If it was me, I think we should just play New York, New Jersey every game and just go back and forth.’’ . . . Rivers is a friend of Bill Belichick’s, but in response to the Randy Moss trade, he said, “I like the Bears, and I don’t need Randy going to Minnesota. But after the way the Bears played [Sunday night], I may not have to worry about that.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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