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Injuries catching up to Celtics? We've seen this movie before

NBA COAST TO COAST

Boston has been all but unbeatable the last four seasons — up until Christmas. But then the injuries start to mount, along with the losses, and it appears to be happening again.

January 01, 2011|By Mark Heisler

Christmas, the cruelest season. . . .

It wasn't the Lakers, Heat or Magic who dominated the early going, but those oft-written-off hoary veterans, the Celtics.

As usual.

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.

Three down, two to go

Already missing Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics just lost two more starters, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.

KG, who has a calf injury, is expected back in two weeks.

Rondo, their lone indispensable player, has an ankle injury and has been out three times but keeps returning before he's 100%, Coach Doc Rivers' new standard for his MASH unit.

Not that sitting stars is easy. Kobe Bryant played last season with a fractured finger and a sore knee he wound up dragging through the playoffs.

Lamented Rondo: "It might take me three or four months to be 100%."

They can wait.

Putting the X in Xmas

No, the NBA isn't replacing its Christmas snowflake logo with one showing Santa Claus with a line through him.

Nevertheless, with monster ratings for this season's five games, look for even more Yuletide hoop!

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson got away with questioning it, perhaps by making it a religious issue.

Of course, Orlando's Stan Van Gundy, fined $50,000 for questioning it last season, now loves it!

"I think the NBA is so important to Christmas that what we really need to do is increase from five games to 10," Van Gundy said before the Magic beat Boston.

"And we need to start them at midnight on Christmas Eve and play 'em all through the day so there's not a minute of Christmas Day where there's not a game on TV.

"The NBA is Christmas."

Said Rivers: "I'm on board. I want the midnight game."

Coast2Coast

Punctuating the Suns' fall, Steve Nash melted down in a home loss to the 76ers, yelling about wanting to punch the !@#$%#! referees in the face. . . . "I came from a team where everybody's competing, trying — do the stuff that Coach [Alvin Gentry] is saying," said newly-arrived Marcin Gortat. "The positive thing is it can't get worse." . . . Wait till Nash goes for a prospect and/or draft pick. This will seem like the good old days.

In a lapse for Washington's post- Gilbert Arenas maturity project, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee fought outside a club. . . . Coach Flip Saunders: "Our players have known from the first day of camp that we have a zero tolerance, as far as incidents off the floor." . . . In other words, Zero Tolerance Meets Zero Clues.

If referees have lightened up, Orlando's Dwight Howard already has 12 technical fouls. A one-game suspension awaits at 16 and another for every second one thereafter. . . . So if he can't zip it up, he could miss a playoff game or two.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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