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Jeff Green: ‘Just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball’

01.09.13 at 11:51 pm ET
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Just one year ago Wednesday, Jeff Green went under the knife to repair the aortic valve in his heart. Doc Rivers thought his career was over and Green had to lay in a certain way on his hospital bed to make sure he healed correctly.

One year to the day later, he had three spectacular dunks and led a potent Boston bench with 14 points as the Celtics beat the Suns, 87-79, at TD Garden.

“It felt good. (long pause) I can’t put it into words,” Green said. “I mean it’s a wonderful day, I had a good game, I’m just glad to be here man. You know, I reflect a lot about what I’ve been through and it’s just a blessing and I’m glad to be here.”

The Celtics couldn’t have done it without Green and Jared Sullinger leading the way.

“We’re just playing together. Things are starting to click, were just playing hard. Our main focus is defense. Defense defense defense.” KG’s been playing unbelievable with this energy, Countney, myself and Jet, everyone is playing unbelievable.

“I don’t cry, but, it was. A year ago I had heart surgery. When I think about laying in the bed when I woke up from it, and to where I am now…it’s a big deal to me. Like I said, I’m just glad to be here, glad to be alive, glad to be playing basketball.”

Rivers wasn’t tearing up either but he was clearly happy for Green.

“It’s a good night,” Rivers said. “He got some dunks and looked good. And who would’ve thought it a year ago? So it’s really a – I mean, the doctors, and all that – but it’s really a testament to Jeff in general. The fact that he worked himself into the condition that he did; there had to be some kind of fear somewhere, because to work yourself into condition you have to use that muscle. So it’s just really cool that he’s playing, and he’s playing well of us.

“I was more concerned about Jeff’s health; I wasn’t thinking about basketball at all, I can tell you that. I didn’t, honestly, at that time I didn’t think he’d ever play. So the basketball part wasn’t even a concern. You know, the two things that bugged me the most, obviously, was his condition, was number one, and then the contract that was voided, because it had to be, legally. And I was thinking, ‘Man, this kid’s worked his whole life to make a living,’ and now he’s signing the biggest deal of his life at that point and it’s gone. You know? And so now he’s back playing, doing well in all those areas, and I’m very happy for him. He deserves it.”

What did Green think Wednesday looking back 12 months?

“First time I stood up from surgery, the first time I walked, it was painful, but I had to make progress and take steps to get back on the court,” Green said. “Those are memories that Ill never forget. Anything between now and that first step, you know, it was a wonderful journey for myself and an unbelievable process that I went through.”

Does it push him every day?

“Oh, most definitely, because I never want to be back at that point, the way I felt when I woke up, I never want to feel that way again, taking 10 steps and getting tired…I never want to feel that way again,” he said. “I’m gonna push myself to the limits and never be out of shape.”

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Kevin Garnett talks Jared Sullinger but not Carmelo Anthony

01.09.13 at 11:34 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett thinks Jared Sullinger is playing like a “madman” on the glass. And that’s just what these Celtics need right now. On Wednesday night, the rookie out of Ohio State had 16 rebounds and 12 points and powered the Celtics to an 87-79 win over the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.

What makes a great rebounder?

“First off is effort,” Garnett began. “Anytime you’re playing defense, anytime youre stealing the ball, rebounding…all that’s effort. Obviously his timing, body positioning, he has the perfect body for rebounding. He can take the pounding and bump a little bit and he has great anticipation when it comes to the ball, and he has great hands. Put all that in the pot, you got Jared Sullinger, that’s what makes him great.”

Apparently, Sullinger has been paying close attention to Garnett when learning how to respond, using his words carefully and economically when asked about his secret to good rebounding.

“You gotta have a go get it attitude when it comes to rebounding and that’s what I have,” a confident Sullinger said.

Sullinger is just one part of a Celtics bench that carried the load Wednesday night, as Sullinger, Jason Terry and Jeff Green were all in double figures in scoring. But Garnett pointed out another member of the bench who shouldn’t be overlooked.

“I think the combination of Courtney Lee and no disrespect to Rondo or any other guards we got, but Courtney Lee and Avery are impacting the game from a defensive stand point from the guard position where it all trickles down to all the forwards,” Garnett said. “When we see them up like that, we get up and then we up to what we call major pressure. Any time you can pressure the guards and take time off the shot clock, you put the other team into a panic and now they gotta go into a pic and roll versus some play the were gonna call on us.

“I don’t know, you know. But they’ll definitely start to make some noise. I think Doc’s starting to understand the rotation he’s going with, and I think the rotation we are going with, he’s confident in it, and everybody kind of knows their niche right now.”

But as for his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony and his one-game suspension for waiting outside the Celtics locker room and team bus to confront him after Monday’s game, Garnett had only this to say: “Okay, you all have a good night, okay?”

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Lee: C’s shooting for 20-game win streak

01.09.13 at 10:51 pm ET
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Riding their longest winning streak of the season, the once-reeling Celtics are beginning to get their swagger back. Just ask Courtney Lee.

After the C’s began a five-game homestand with their fourth straight win, an 87-79 victory over the Suns, Lee proclaimed: “We’ve got to get them all, and then go on the road and carry this momentum on. We’re trying to start a 20-plus-game winning streak. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

The Celtics improved to 18-17, climbing above .500 for the first time since Dec. 25. They own a 4-1 record since Avery Bradley’s return from shoulder surgery. Of course, the C’s have seen both sides of that coin, losing a season-high four straight games between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“We definitely appreciate each one,” added Lee. “We started off slow, and we were a better team than that. It took a couple of practices of [coach] Doc [Rivers] getting on us and us talking to each on the plane and whatnot to realize that we need to get out here and turn it up. And now that we’re on a four-game winning streak, we don’t want to look back. We want to keep that going forward.”

For more on the Celtics, visit weei.com/celtics.

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Fast Break: Celtics extend win streak to four games

01.09.13 at 9:54 pm ET
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Riding the best game of Jared Sullinger‘s young NBA career, the Celtics won a season-best fourth straight game, 87-79 against the Suns, and improved to 4-1 since Avery Bradley’s return on Jan. 2.

Sullinger (12 points) grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to record the second double-double of his rookie season, as the C’s (18-17) climbed above .500 for the first time since Christmas Day.

In a balanced effort, Sullinger, Jeff Green (14 points), Jason Terry (13 points), Kevin Garnett (10 points), Bradley (9 points), Rajon Rondo (8 points, 8 assists), Paul Pierce (7 points, 7 rebounds), Brandon Bass (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Courtney Lee (6 points) all scored between 6-14 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Green machine: On back-to-back second-quarter possessions, Green threw down ferocious dunks on separate Suns to hand the Celtics a 38-33 lead and force a Phoenix timeout. The first came on a dribble drive over old friend Jermaine O’Neal, and he slammed the second on a fast break oop from Bradley over Michael Beasley.

Rotating schedule: Actually, the entire Celtics bench once again performed admirably. Green, Terry and Sullinger were the C’s three highest scorers as the reserves outscored their Suns counterparts 47-16. Bradley’s return has helped coach Doc Rivers find some consistency in his rotations, and the Celtics appear to be responding to their more clearly defined roles.

On the defense: The Celtics are slowly climbing the NBA’s defensive ranks. After allowing 98.1 points per game through December, the C’s have gave up an average of just 86.3 points in Bradley’s first four games back. In his fifth, the Suns didn’t reach 70 points until 4:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Even lineups that contain Green and Terry, who aren’t exactly known for their defensive prowess, appear to be grasping the C’s defensive schemes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Dudley do right: Quietly, Boston College product Jared Dudley has carved out a nice NBA career for himself. He’s averaging double-digit points for the third straight season, shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range in his five-year career and dishing out a career-high 2.7 assists per game. Against the Celtics, he amassed 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, doing all the little things to keep the Suns in the game.

Bigs problem: It wasn’t a matter of whether the length of the Suns frontcourt would hurt the Celtics; it was a question of how much. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Marcin Gortat and 6-foot-9, 245-pound Luis Scola entered the game averaging 24.5 points and 15.1 rebounds between them, and they combined to surpass both those numbers against the Celtics (28 points, 22 rebounds). In all, the Suns totaled 50 points in the paint.

Aunt Chippy: Whether the Celtics instigate it or not, there’s been some serious chippiness in their recent stretch of games. Two games after Rondo’s suspension for bumping a ref and two nights after Carmelo Anthony grew infuriated with Garnett, Rondo and Suns forward P.J. Tucker logged technicals and both Green and Courtney Lee took hard falls to the parquet floor. While some of their success can be attributed to the intensity, there’s a line between aggressiveness and overaggressiveness, and the Celtics have been riding it.

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Benchmark: Green, Sullinger power C’s

01.09.13 at 9:48 pm ET
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Jeff Green scored 14 points and had three monstrous dunks while Jason Terry had 13 points and Jared Sullinger added a career-high 16 rebounds and 12 points as the bench powered the Celtics to their fourth straight win, 87-79, over the Suns Wednesday night at TD Garden. Green’s effort came on the one-year anniversary of the open heart surgery to fix his aortic valve. Suns center Marcin Gortat, rumored to be on the trading block, led the Suns with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Rajon Rondo returned from a one-game suspension, scoring eight points while adding eight assists for the Celtics, who opened a five-game homestand and improved to 18-17 on the season.

The Celtics started out slugglishly in the first quarter, falling behind by six early, 15-9, before scoring the next six points. Boston shot just 42 percent in the first 12 minutes but held Phoenix to 42 percent, and trailed 24-23.

In the second quarter, Jeff Green had a pair of electrifying slam dunks that highlighted a 14-2 spurt and put Boston up, 47-35. Green led the Celtics in the first half with 10 points while Avery Bradley had nine. The Celtics took a 53-41 lead to locker room at the half.

The third quarter started off well with a Kevin Garnett fadeaway jumper to increase the lead to 14, 55-41. But the Suns scored the next 17 points to take a three-point lead, 58-55. The Celtics recovered in time to take a 67-64 lead into the fourth quarter.

Another monstrous Green dunk with under eight minutes left in the fourth pushed the lead back to 12, 78-66. The Suns pulled to within nine, 82-73, and had the ball on a fast-break but former Boston College star Jared Dudley airmailed a 3-pointer with 2:51 left. But with 2:32 left Luis Scola hit a pair of free throws to make it 82-75. Then, after a turnover, Scola drew another foul and made a free throw to make it a six-point game before Sullinger responded with a floater in the lane to push the lead back to eight with 1:23 left. Jason Terry converted an uncontested layup with 1:03 left to make it 86-76 and send the fans to the exits.

Dudley finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds as the Suns had two players with double-doubles on the night. The Celtics continue their five-game homestand on Friday against the Rockets at TD Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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Avery Bradley happy NBA moving back to his hometown

01.09.13 at 9:04 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo on Carmelo Anthony: ‘People just get away with anything in this league’

01.09.13 at 7:56 pm ET
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Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony has been suspended for one game without pay by the NBA for confronting Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett in the arena tunnel, near the players’ locker rooms, and in the parking garage following the Celtics at Knicks game on Jan. 7. The announcement was made Wednesday by Stu Jackson, the NBA Executive Vice President Basketball Operations.

“There are no circumstances in which it is acceptable for a player to confront an opponent after a game,” Jackson said in a statement. “Carmelo Anthony attempted to engage with Kevin Garnett multiple times after Monday’s game and therefore a suspension was warranted.”

The Celtics had different reactions to the suspension.

“I get suspended for a phone hang-up and people just get away with anything in his league,” said a tongue-in-cheek Rajon Rondo, who was suspended one-game for allegedly bumping official Rodney Mott on Saturday in Atlanta and being “unresponsive” to a league inquiry on Monday. “Oh, my goodness, so that’s the same thing huh? The rep I’ve earned, I’ll have to deal with it.”

Coach Doc Rivers had a different take on the Melo suspension.

“I don’t believe guys should ever be suspended,” Rivers said. “It’s not a surprise. [Teams] get in trouble for sitting players and then you suspend players; it’s the same thing. If you’re a fan, you’re not happy with that.”

Anthony will serve his suspension on Thursday when the Knicks play the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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