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Ugly clincher: C’s finally beat Pistons, clinch playoff berth

04.03.13 at 10:09 pm ET
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Jeff Green scored a game-high 34 points and Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass each had 17 as the Celtics held off the Pistons, 98-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden. As it turned out, the Celtics clinched a spot in the playoffs by virtue of Philadelphia’s 88-83 loss in Charlotte as the fourth quarter was getting underway in Boston.

The Celtics snapped a two-game skid and improved to 39-36, maintaining their tenuous lead on Milwaukee for seventh in the Eastern Conference and out of a first-round encounter with the Miami Heat. With the Bucks losing at home to Minnesota, the Celtics now lead Milwaukee by 2.5 games for seventh in the East.

The Celtics won the game despite getting out-rebounded, 52-34, outscored in the paint, 58-28, and beaten in second-chance points, 26-7. Boston shot 50 percent on the night while holding the Pistons to 37 percent shooting, including 4-of-24 from 3-point range.

The Pistons had beaten Boston twice in their previous two meetings, scoring 103 points each time and winning by an average of 17 points a contest. Detroit shot 50 percent in each game in handing the Celtics two unexpected losses in Auburn Hills.

The Celtics appeared to be in for another long night against the bigger Pistons in the first quarter. Detroit jumped out to a six-point lead twice before settling for a 30-25 lead over Boston after 12 minutes.

Thanks to eight of his team-leading 23 points in the second, the Celtics outscored the Pistons, 29-14, and took a 54-44 lead to the locker room at halftime.

The Celtics built their lead to 18, 70-52, on two Bass free throws with 5:37 left in the third. They led by 18, 74-56, on a Chris Wilcox layup with 3:50 left in the quarter. But the Celtics fell asleep the rest of the period, allowing the Pistons to score the final 11 points of the period and cut the lead to 74-67 heading into the fourth.

Two Brandon Knight free throws with 9:21 left cut Boston’s lead to three, 79-76.

Charlie Villanueava blew a layup with eight minutes left that would have cut the lead to one. The Pistons threw away another fast break chance with 7:22 left and Pierce came down and hit a jumper to put Boston back up five, 83-78, with seven minutes left. Villanueva, the University of Connecticut product, gave the Celtics a chance to avoid another embarrassing loss. Villanueva was 2-for-17 from the field and missed all eight 3-point attempts.

Green’s jumper with 4:55 left put Boston up, 89-80. His put-back slam dunk of a Jason Terry missed jumper with 3:36 brought the crowd to their feet and put Boston ahead, 91-83. A technical on the Celtics bench and a two Greg Munroe free throws cut the lead down to four, 91-87, with three minutes left but Green answered with an 18-foot jumper with 2:56 left.

Jonas Jerebko gave Detroit new life with a three with 2:29 left, as the Pistons pulled within 93-90. Knight, infamous for getting dunked on by DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, blew a wide open layup with just under two minutes left that would’ve drawn the Pistons within one.

Green’s third trey of the night from the left baseline put Boston up 96-91 with just 45.3 seconds left. Rodney Stuckey passed on a wide-open, game-tying three with 20 seconds left, instead deferring to Villanueva, who missed his seventh triple attempt of the night.

The Celtics continue their four-game homestand on Friday night at the Garden with a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. For more from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Brandon Knight, Charlie Villanueva

Rajon Rondo returns to the parquet

04.03.13 at 7:30 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo surprised some by returning to Celtics shootaround just a month and a half after ACL surgery on his right knee in February. Rondo did some light shooting and tested the right knee and a light shootaround before the Celtics game with the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. Rondo is still expected to miss the rest of the season.

“It was great just having him around [at Wednesday's shootaround],” coach Doc Rivers said. “He put his brace on and he just watched shootaround, but then he walked out — or limped out — on the floor and did whatever he did. But it’€™s just good just having him around. It’€™s good for him, too, probably.”

Rivers was asked – jokingly – if Rondo can dunk yet.

“Not yet. It’€™s coming. That’€™s next,” Rivers said.

Rondo tore his ACL on Jan. 25 in Atlanta and then had surgery in February and spent the the first part of his rehab with Dr. James Andrews in the Jacksonville area. Rondo returned to his Boston area home last week and has been spending time with the team ever since, attending a Celtics-Hawks game last Friday for the first time since the surgery. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he and the team are hopeful to have Rondo ready for the start of training camp in September.

Rondo also had some fun with two members of the Harlem Globetrotters in town for an exhibition. Thanks to the folks at CLNS Radio, here’s a sample of that.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Dr. James Andrews, NBA

Paul Pierce returns for Celtics, Kevin Garnett misses his seventh straight game

04.03.13 at 7:13 pm ET
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Doc Rivers announced an hour before tip-off that captain Paul Pierce would return from a one-game absence and would be available for the Celtics in their matchup against the Pistons.

Pierce missed Monday’s game in Minnesota for what the team termed personal reasons. Pierce has missed just two of Boston’s 75 games this season. Pierce was back in the lineup with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox.

Rivers reiterated Wednesday that Monday’s absence and Wednesday’s uncertainty before the game had nothing to do with his right ankle.

Pierce had a wrap on his right ankle late in the fourth quarter against the Knicks on Sunday night but the team said it was just for maintenance and was not a serious injury.

As for Kevin Garnett, Rivers said the big man is working out on his own and testing his left foot. Inflammation in his left foot near the ankle caused him to miss his seventh straight game Wednesday night. The Celtics were 2-4 in the previous six.

“Honestly, I haven’€™t asked one question about [Garnett's return],” Rivers said when asked about the end of the two-week timetable. “I don’€™t even know when two weeks is. Whenever it is, it’€™s probably coming up, and he’€™ll play.

“We have a lot of practice days coming up and Kevin’s been working out. He hasn’€™t lost all his conditioning, but you do lose some when you don’€™t play.”

The Celtics play Cleveland on Friday in the second game of a four-game homestand that will also see them play Washington and Brooklyn. Rivers said the off days in between the home games will allow for more practices that should help the team work Garnett back into game action, if willing and able.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett

Paul Pierce ‘game-time decision’ while Kevin Garnett misses shootaround

04.03.13 at 2:11 pm ET
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It could be another night without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Pierce, who missed just his second game of the season on Monday night due to personal reasons, is officially listed by the team as a “game-time decision” for tonight’s game against the Pistons. Pierce was spotted with an ice wrap on his right foot in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game in New York but the team said at the time it was simply maintenance and not a serious injury.

Garnett, who has missed the last six games with inflammation in his left foot, was not at Wednesday morning’s shootaround. Boston is just 2-4 in those six games.

Without the two stars, the Celtics (38-36) fell to the Timberwolves on Monday night in Minnesota. As a group, Celtics starters have struggled badly in their last two games. In a loss to the Knicks Sunday night, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradey and Chris Wilcox each scored two points. On Monday, Bradley led the way with 19 points but as a unit, the starters scored just 46 points in the 110-100 loss to the Wolves.

Tonight, the Celtics host the Detroit Pistons (25-50) at the Garden (7:30 p.m. tipoff). Despite their woeful record, the Pistons have beaten the Celtics in both previous meetings, scoring 103 points each time while shooting 50 percent from the field in each game. Detroit beat the Celtics 103-88 on Jan. 20 and 103-83 on Nov. 18.

Pierce leads Boston this season, scoring 18.8 points per game and has been the top assist man since Rajon Rondo went down on Jan. 25.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Kevin Garnett, NBA

Doc Rivers: ‘I just want us to play the right way. Overall, I think we did that’

04.01.13 at 11:10 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers put a silver lining on a 110-100 road loss to the Timberwolves Monday night at the Target Center. It was a game in which Rivers did not have four of his projected five starters, as Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jared Sullinger were out.

The latest addition was Pierce, who was not with the team Monday due to personal reasons. Rivers said before the game he expects Pierce to be ready to go on Wednesday at home against Detroit.

Still, Rivers thought his undermanned team played hard and handled adversity the right way, starting with a lineup of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.

‘€œI go into every game thinking we’€™re going to win the game,” Rivers said afterward. “We had our chances tonight. But I get it, too. I just want us to play the right way and do things our way. I think overall we did that.’€

The Celtics trailed for most of the game and never got closer than eight points in the fourth quarter against a Minnesota team that had 26 wins coming in and had lost to Boston 11 straight times dating back to Feb. 11, 2007, before Garnett arrived in Boston.

The Timberwolves took full advantage as 6-foot-11 Nikola Pekovic scored 29 points, including 15 in the first quarter and 21 in the first half.

‘€œI thought we played pretty hard,” Rivers said. “We had no one to deal with that big monster they had down there. I was kidding with Longo [defensive coach Mike Longabardi], we held him to about eight points in the second half after he had 21 in the first [half].

‘€œI thought our guys did everything I wanted them to do. One of the things I told them was that seven out of the last nine games, we’€™ve given up 100 points. We’€™ve proven we can score. We scored 100 tonight even without 50 points of our offense [in Garnett, Pierce and Rondo]. We’€™ll be able to score but, especially with all the new guys, learning the little things on our defense, there’€™s a we need a lot of work with them, and it showed tonight.’€

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett

Inside job: Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham dominate as T’Wolves finally beat Celtics

04.01.13 at 10:21 pm ET
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Another road game. Another undermanned Celtics team. And another road loss.

The Celtics, playing without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, were overpowered by Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham and the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 110-100 loss at the Target Center Monday night. Pekovic took advantage of an undersized front court with a game-high 29 points while Cunningham added 19 points and five rebounds off the bench for Minnesota, which beat Boston for the first time in 12 meeting dating back to the pre-Garnett era in Boston.

The defenseless Celtics (38-36) fell for the second straight night and dropped their seventh in nine games. With Milwaukee beating Charlotte, the seventh-place Celtics are just 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks (one game in loss column) for eight-place. If Boston, which has eight games left, finishes eighth, they will face Miami in the first round.

What Monday’s game lacked in star power it made up for in offense from unexpected places.

The Celtics were without Garnett (left foot) and Pierce (personal reasons) while the Timberwolves were still without U.S. Olympic champion Kevin Love (broken hand).

The Timberwolves (27-46) turned to Pekovic and he responded with a huge opening quarter. The 27-year-old native of Montenegro scored 15 points as Minnesota dominated the paint and took a 27-25 lead after 12 minutes.

Since acquiring Garnett – the most accomplished player in Timberwolves history – after the 2006-07 season, the Celtics were 10-0 against Minnesota. Overall, the Celtics had won 11 straight against Minnesota dating back to Boston’s last loss, 109-107, on Feb. 11, 2007 in Minnesota.

Adding to Boston’s misery on the inside, big men Shav Randolph and Chris Wilcox each picked up three personal fouls. Courtney Lee’s three with 3:15 left in the second quarter tied the game, 45-45. But the Timberwolves came back with the next four points before Avery Bradley connected on a jumper as the game kept a quick tempo leading up to halftime. Bradley’s hit 6-of-8 in the first half and single-handedly kept Boston within range with 15 first half points. Bradley led the Celtics with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Boston was manhandled in the paint in the first half. Pekovic scored 21 points in the first half, part of an effort that had Minnesota outscoring getting outscored 34-18 and allowing Minnesota to grab a 57-52 halftime lead.

The Timberwolves went on a 10-4 run midway thought the third to open their biggest lead, 80-66, before Jason Terry responded with a long two-point jumper. Terrence Williams followed that up with a baseline three to cut Minnesota’s lead down to nine, 80-71, with just over three minutes left in the third.

Randolph picked up his fifth foul seconds later but stayed in the game to give the Celtics some size in the paint. As the Celtics were making a run late in the third quarter, Jeff Green came up limping, holding his left hip. Green, who played the entire first half and the first six minutes of the third quarter before finally coming out for a breather, took a knee from Pekovic to the left thigh/hip area. Green stayed in the game and was part of a 12-4 run that cut Minnesota’s lead to six, 84-78, heading into the fourth. Green finished with just 10 points in 38 minutes.

With the Celtics defense forcing a near turnover, Derrick Williams hit a three to open the fourth quarter and push Minnesota’s lead back to nine.

Lee came in for Green with just over 10 minutes left as Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte tended to Green’s left hip. The T-Wolves went on a 7-0 run midway through the fourth that was capped by an Alexey Shved three with 7:45 left to put Minnesota up, 96-82. The Celtics could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.

The Celtics are off Tuesday before hosting the Pistons on Wednesday night at TD Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Dante Cunningham, Kevin Garnett

Paul Pierce (personal reasons) out against Timberwolves

04.01.13 at 8:06 pm ET
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Paul Pierce will not play Monday night against the Timberwolves in Minnesota due to personal reasons. Pierce was not with the team as they prepared for their second game in as many nights on a trip through New York and Minnesota.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made the announcement prior to Boston’s game at the Target Center.

Pierce was spotted with an ice wrap on his right foot in the closing moments of Sunday night’s loss at Madison Square Garden. But Rivers told reporters before the game that his foot had nothing to do with the absence and that Pierce would return to the lineup on Wednesday against the Pistons at TD Garden.

Monday marks just the second game Pierce has missed this season in 74 contests. He leads the Celtics in scoring at 18.8 points per game in 72 games.

Courtney Lee took Pierce’s place in the lineup, giving the Celtics a starting lineup of Lee, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, Paul Pierce,
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