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Doc Rivers goes extreme: Starts Jason Collins at center

12.19.12 at 7:37 pm ET
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After losing their third straight game Tuesday night in Chicago, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he would continue to search for answers to shake his team out of its early season funk. On Wednesday, he followed through, replacing Courtney Lee in the starting lineup with Jason Terry, who got only two shots in Tuesday’s 100-89 loss in Chicago.

“Nothing more, until Avery [Avery Bradley] comes back,” Rivers said of the decision. “Jet just doesn’t get involved unless [Rajon Rondo] is on the floor. It has nothing to do with anybody else, it’s more to do with getting Jet more involved.”

In a more drastic measure, Rivers said Jason Collins would take over the starting center role from Kevin Garnett in order to move Garnett back to his more natural spot of big forward. The move would mean Brandon Bass would come off the bench. Bass has started 21 of Boston’s 24 games this season, including the last 16 straight.

“Just because of his size,” Rivers said in explaining the move for the 7-foot, 255-pound big man. “[Coaching staff] has been talking about it a lot but just haven’t done it. We’ve just been trying to find ways of getting Kevin off the ’5′ spot all game. Right now, even when we put the other guys in, the same [opposing players] are guarding him and the only way you can force the action is with Jason.”

If Rivers sticks with the new starting lineup, Celtics fans can expect to see Rondo and Terry in the backcourt until Avery Bradley returns in early January, with Garnett and Paul Pierce at the forward spots and Collins at center.

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Irish Coffee: What Avery Bradley does for the Celtics

12.19.12 at 1:22 pm ET
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Upon Avery Bradley‘s return to practice on Monday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers declared, “He ain’t the savior.

Well, he was last season. The Celtics finished 20-9 in Bradley’s 29 starts last year, including a 14-5 record once he took Ray Allen‘s starting job on March 25, and they were essentially a .500 team (19-18) when he wasn’t in the starting lineup. Funny how the C’s have started 12-12 without him this season.

But Bradley does more than impact their record. When he took the floor with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics outscored their opponents 113-94 per 100 possessions. That’s seven points better on offense and defense than the Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Bass-Garnett lineup (106-101 per 100 possessions).

That’s also far better than Rondo, Pierce, Bass and Garnett with Jason Terry (108-99) or Courtney Lee (106-115) this season. The Celtics shot better (50.6 eFG%), forced opponents to shoot worse (39.5 eFG%), got to the line more often (+28 FTA) and rebounded better (47.0 REB%) with Bradley than with Allen, Terry or Lee.

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Doc Rivers rolls the dice with Rajon Rondo and gets away with one

12.13.12 at 1:55 am ET
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The final box score Wednesday night reads that Rajon Rondo played 52 minutes, 30 seconds of the 58 minutes of Boston’s 117-115 double-overtime win over Dallas.

Doc Rivers said he could see Rondo’s minutes getting up there, especially toward the end of regulation and gambled by leaving him in the game, hoping the Celtics could hold onto their lead with four minutes left.

“Well I thought we started walking the ball up the floor,” Rivers said. “I thought our tempo changed in the fourth quarter. You know, it’s funny: they went small, we went small, you would think your tempo would increase. We actually went the other way. I thought the biggest mistake I made, actually, is keeping Rondo in that long.

“I thought I took the gamble, and sometimes it’s a good one sometimes it’s a bad one and I didn’t think this was a good one. I just thought he got tired. You know, I didn’t give them that normal rest two minutes before the fourth and let him get some rest. I mean obviously I didn’t anticipate a double overtime game. But I thought that had an impact on him and on his speed in the game. I told our guys with like four minutes left – my coaches, because then it was too late – I said, ‘This was not a good decision.’ And that decision could’ve hurt us.”

But it didn’t cost the Celtics – in part – because Rondo and the Celtics forced 28 turnovers against the Mavericks, leading to 34 points.

“Well, we’ve been trapping,” Rivers said. “I’ve been talking about it a lot and over the past seven games it’s been paying dividends for us. It’s been terrific. I told our guys, we also broke our own record with deflections. So we had – I don’t know what the number was now – but we had 100 deflections it felt like, we had 27 turnovers, because we couldn’t make a shot.

“You know, I didn’t like our shots that we got down the stretch. But overall we had a lot of good shots and they just wasn’t going in. So we won a game where a team shot 51 percent, and the other team, us, shot 43 percent. That was happening to us earlier in the year if you remember; we lost a couple games where it was the exact opposite. So, when you get more possessions like that, you give yourself a chance to win the game. I told the guys I was proud of them; I thought we made some mistakes that later in the year we can’t make down the stretch of games: the foul to give, didn’t call a time out, pass the ball so we couldn’t advance it before the first overtime. Those are plays that can’t happen. But through all those mistakes we still won the game, so as a coach we’ll take that.”

Kevin Garnett had 40 minutes himself in the marathon.

“He held up, and fortunately we are taking [Thursday] off,” Rivers said. “Whenever you have an 8 o’clock game you’re taking the day off anyway. So, you know, I don’t want that but it had to happen tonight.”

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Paul Pierce: Celtics 2OT win ‘just comes down to mental toughness’

12.13.12 at 1:39 am ET
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There were many times over the course of the two overtimes Wednesday night where Paul Pierce felt drained.

Five times in the final two minutes of regulation, the Celtics took the lead only to have the Mavericks respond with either O.J. Mayo or Darren Collison.

Pierce played 44 minutes and scored 34 points and led the charge in the second overtime as the Celtics finally put away the Mavericks, 117-115.

How did Pierce, at the age of 35, manage to dig deep as the game went past the three-hour mark?

“I think it just comes down to mental toughness,” Pierce said. “You get an edge out there,. You see the score go up, then you see a tie score, then the tendency is to get down, so you just have to really maintain a mental edge and just stay positive and know that you are gonna pull through. These types of long games, these types of marathon games can be really draining on you, I like the way we pulled through.”

“This is a good win, especially with the huge road trip coming up. Our defense was kind of up and down throughout most of the night, but the positive part is we turned them over. We allowed them to shoot a high percentage, it says a lot about how this team has grown when you can win games like this.”

Despite 44 minutes of action, Pierce said he felt energized because he could sense the kill.

“I felt good, I felt like this is our chance,” he said. “We didn’t want to let this one get away. Especially with a huge road trip coming up this is a big win for us. Dallas is one of those sneaky teams, you don’t really know what to expect from them night in and night out. They have so many good players, a lot of them that can beat you, a lot of them that can play well…For us to go double overtime and show some resiliency it was great.

“I’m caught into the game. When the game is tight, the type of game that was going on tonight I’m really caught up in the game, not really thinking about my minutes. That’s the coach, he’s watching the game, seeing the floor game, seeing how I’m playing, seeing how I’m defending. If he sees I’m still playing at a high level he’s going to leave me out there.”

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O.J. Mayo: ‘Would’ve been an honor to play’ for Celtics

12.13.12 at 1:14 am ET
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O.J. Mayo defends Rajon Rondo during a 117-115 Celtics win over the Mavericks. (AP)

This past April, Celtics analyst Donny Marshall claimed O.J. Mayo‘s refusal to play for the Celtics led to the collapse of a deal with the Grizzlies that would have brought him to Boston last season in exchange for Ray Allen and a draft pick. “Mayo basically said, ‘I don’t care about banners,’” announced Marshall.

After losing to the Celtics in double overtime on Wednesday, the current Mavericks guard denied that accusation, referencing his lack of veto power without a no-trade clause and affirming he would’ve welcomed the deal to Boston.

“I was in a good situation in Memphis at the time,” said Mayo. “Obviously, Boston is a big-time organization as well. Great players. It would’ve been an honor to play with KG [Kevin Garnett], [Paul] Pierce and [Rajon] Rondo. It would’ve been great to play with those guys and with [Celtics coach] Doc [Rivers].”

Instead, Mayo blamed the deal’s failure on an internal debate between C’s players and the front office over Allen’s future.

“I was pretty much set to come here and something fell through at the very last second,” said Mayo, who collected 24 points (10-19 FG), six rebounds, three assists and two steals in Wednesday night’s loss to the Celtics. “A couple of the guys wanted to keep Ray, and management wanted to make the trade.

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Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics outlast Mavericks in double OT

12.12.12 at 11:28 pm ET
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After Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce each missed potential game-winnters to end regulation and the first overtime, they combined for 10-of-12 points in the second OT as the Celtics outlasted the Mavericks, 117-115. Courtney Lee scored the other two, a pair of free throws that kept an O.J. Mayo 3-pointer at the buzzer from forcing a third overtime.

Pierce finished with a season-high 34 points, Rondo missed his second triple-double in three games by a single rebound (16 points, 15 assists, 9 rebounds) and four other Celtics reached double figures: Kevin Garnett (16 points), Jeff Green (15 points), Jason Terry (10 points) and Chris Wilcox (10 points).

In a wild final two minutes of regulation, Derek Fisher‘s 3-pointer gave the Mavericks their first lead, 95-94 with 1:47 to play in the fourth quarter. A Pierce jumper briefly gave the Celtics the lead back, but O.J. Mayo made 1-of-2 free throws to force a tie. That resulted in a seven-second span in which Rondo poked the ball loose from Mayo with 6.9 seconds left and got his shot blocked by Fisher as time expired on the other end.

Likewise, in the first overtime, Pierce and Garnett each drilled go-ahead jump shots in the final minute, but Shawn Marion (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Mayo (team-high 21 points) answered on both occasions. And the unimaginative Pierce elbow jumper failed as the clock ran out on OT No. 1.

A Pierce triple to begin the second overtime gave the Celtics the lead for good, as they held off every run the Mavericks had left in them, including a Vince Carter trey that brought them within one in the final minute.

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Doc Rivers: Expecting word on Avery Bradley

12.12.12 at 8:13 pm ET
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Before Wednesday’s game with the Mavericks, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers talks about his team playing better defense, Avery Bradley and Boston’s improved defense handing the high powered Mavericks. Rivers acknowledged that he expects to hear something on Bradley’s availability at practice soon.

Bradley told reporters before Wednesday’s game that his right shoulder is feeling better to the point where he can see practicing soon if he gets the go-ahead from trainer Ed Lacerte and the Celtics medical staff.

“I hope to start practicing next week,” Bradley said. “Shoulders feel strong.”

Bradley had his right shoulder repaired in July, two months after surgery on his left shoulder that ended his playoff season in the Eastern semifinals against Philadelphia.

“He’s shooting and running,” Rivers said. “He’s doing skeleton work with us on the floor. So my assumption is eventually someone will tell me something or [media] will. I’m open to either one. I really don’t know. I haven’t heard a projection and I haven’t asked so I really don’t know.”

Rivers also explained a bit of NBA procedural logistics that explained why Fab Melo (strained quadriceps) was recalled by the Celtics for a non-game day before being sent back out today to the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.

“He was injured so the new [CBA] rules are that if you bring him back [from D-League for medical treatment], you have to activate him,” Rivers said. “We had to activate him because he was with us.”

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