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Don't Look Now

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 1/5/2011 11:36:26 AM

Don’t look now, but the Boston Celtics could be headed for a bumpy ride as 2011 unfolds.

Starting the year they were tied for the second best record in the league with Dallas at 24 and 7 and only trailed the mercurial 28 and 4 San Antonio Spurs but with a recent rash of injuries, those that like to bet on the Beantowners have to be careful.

For the record, the Celts were 13 and 2 at home and 11 and 5 away straight up. Against the spread they have been pretty much a wash at 16-14-1 but interestingly, they covered more games away from New England.

For a look into the medicine cabinet, forget about fact that the back up center, Semih Erden, is the most recent NBA player hit with the flu bug. The kid has been coming around and showing great toughness in the paint where the Celts have been under manned all season.

He is a big Turkish body at 7 foot and he’ll be back very soon anyway.

The real concern for fans and bettors is the engine of Boston, Rajon Rondo. He has not played since hurting his ankle against the Knicks in mid-December and the foot was still swelling when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Rondo is the guy that stirs the drink. He is a classic pass first point guard and he learned some valuable lessons from 2-time MVP Steve Nash that you don’t have to stop or give up the rock once you get inside but can circle and weave down low until a teammate dives to the hoop.

An important piece of the backcourt for the Celtics was supposed to be Delonte West, but he broke his wrist in late November and is not expected back until the middle of this month.

If Kendrick Perkins did not tear his ACL in the 6th game of the Finals last year, the Celtics may have easily dethroned the Lakers. Instead, the hard-nosed Perkins is looking at a February return and limited minutes when he gets back.

The O’Neals, Jermaine and Shaquille, have both missed time this year and are nowhere near to 100%.

And that leaves us with the heart of the team, Kevin Garnett.

With 2 games left in the year, he suffered a strained muscle in his right calf and is expected to be out at least 2 weeks.

These kinds of injuries are tricky in that they need rest to heal and when a player comes back, he can have a hard time trusting the leg.

KG was leading the team in rebounds, field goal percentage, blocks and steals but his most important trait is his desire to win and fuel the flame.

In the Celts first 31 games, 13 were decided by 6 points or less and when you lose a monster like Garnett, there are no suitable replacements.

Over 40% of their wins have come down to crunch time and with the clock running out so it is also possible that their potent record could be a bit misleading.

Now know that January and it’s no piece of cake as far as scheduling.

They open on the road and 6 days removed must travel to Chicago. In between, they host the Terrors from Texas, the Spurs.

The Celts do settle in for a nice home stand but have the re-vamped Magic and the Jazz to deal with then. As the month ends, Boston packs the bags for a Western swing when the go from the rain in Portland to the desert in Phoenix into the frying pan against the Lakers before limping into Sacramento and then heading home to greet the Mavericks and Magic.

With those games in the book, the All Star break nears and the real season, the playoffs, is in sight.

Bettors have to watch Garnett when he first comes back and intently watch how he reacts to the calf. Is he favoring it or does he seem tentative?

The 2011 future of the Celtics may ride in the balance.

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