Ron Artest and the Lakers got the better of the Celtics Sunday at TD Garden. (AP)For all intents and purposes, it was a preseason game with little significance.

The Celtics were fresh off their 17th NBA championship and were taking on the Rockets in New Hampshire. It was one of those nights when J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker were likely to play more minutes than Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Yet, Paul Pierce was pumped up.



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The Celtics could not stop Joe Johnson, who scored 16 points in the fourth quarter of Atlanta's win. (AP)Paul Pierce scored a season-high 35 points, yet the most memorable play of the game was the shot he could not stop.



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Ray Allen and the Celtics started strong but couldn't finish in their loss to the Magic. (AP)Even with Kevin Garnett back in the lineup, the Celtics have been flirting with disaster. With Garnett back, they narrowly escaped against a short-handed Portland team and the mediocre Clippers.



Rajon Rondo is a no-brainer pick as an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve. (AP)The fans have spoken, and they got the All-Star Game starters mostly correct. The big quibble is with the selection of Allen Iverson, but voting for All-Star teams is one of the few acts of fan democracy left, and if a million or so people want to watch A.I. run around and jack up 3’s, that’s their right.



Paul Pierce, taking it to the Clippers' Chris Kaman Monday night, is one of the Celtics who have been slowed by injuries this season. (AP)Even before the Celtics went into a prolonged funk, Doc Rivers had his doubts about the way his team was playing.

“We like our record, but we’re not building,” the coach said then. “We’re winning games, but we’re not improving.”



Rajon Rondo and the Celtics were determined to avoid a sweep at the hands of Craig Smith and the Clippers Monday night. (AP)Baron Davis wouldn’t have his way this time.



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Kevin Garnett was introduced to a rousing ovation from the TD Garden crowd. He threw down a dunk in the first quarter and scored nine points in the first nine minutes.



“We didn't finish the game like we were supposed to.”Glen Davis, January 8, following Celtics 93-85 loss to Hawks
 
“We played mostly in spurts tonight.”Paul Pierce, January 14, after 96-83 defeat to Bulls
 



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Paul Pierce and the Celtics dropped their third straight home game Monday night. (AP)It’s not time to panic, but it is time for the Celtics to take stock of their situation.



On Monday night, the Celtics celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the TD Garden. Bill Walker addressed the crowd with a pregame tribute, the Celtics aired commemorative videos from former NBA players during timeouts and Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Shelden Williams and J.R. Giddens wore gray Nike sneakers in honor of the holiday.



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