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Are the Celtics finally showing their true grit?

12.09.12 at 10:12 pm ET
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Before Saturday night’s game, Doug Collins told his team that Kevin Garnett had over 51,000 minutes played in his career while Paul Pierce had over 40,000. Collins’ counterpart, Doc Rivers, the ultimate motivator, spoke to the team and made sure Garnett got the message.

“I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I don’t think anybody should be that tired this early, but Doug’s right about the one thing these games: you play each other, you split them. That’s basically what happened. But I hope we are. When you guys asked before the game – they’ve played a long time and so you’re hoping they have great mental toughness. I mean, if they don’t have anything else that’s what they should have, and they do.”

Garnett may not have had legs on back-to-back to games as he was held without a rebound for the first time since Jan. 21, 1997 but his shooting eye certainly was not impacted.

Garnett was 9-of-11 and finished with 19 points in 24 minutes as the Celtics beat the Sixers, 92-79, a night after spending lots of emotional energy in a 95-94 overtime loss.

Is Rivers worried about the dependence on Garnett?

“No, I mean, Miami depends on LeBron (James), the Lakers depend on Kobe (Bryant), Oklahoma depends on (Kevin) Durant, we depend on our guys. You’re always going to depend on them. I thought overall everyone else played great, though, and we had that one bad stretch. So, you know, it happens.”

To Rivers, toughness begins with defense and that’s the characteristic he’s starting to see game in and game out with the Celtics. The Celtics have allowed fewer than 100 points in six straight games, dating back to their overtime win in Orlando. In those games, the Celtics have gone
3-3 but they’ve started to show the kind of pressure that Rivers wants to see on the ball.

“It’s been great; it really has been,” Rivers said. “You know, we can’t string a streak of wins together yet, but you can feel us playing better. So you feel like it’s coming, just nothing’s happened. We’re treading water but I like our trend; I like where we’re going.

“The pick and roll defense has improved dramatically, but our rotation still is not there, but they’re much better. Our pressuring the ball, you know without Avery (Bradley), we just kind of backed off of that. So I know that’s an area we’re going to get way better. Because when he does it everyone does it and it helps your team. Right now it’s just hard to do.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers,

Jeff Green thinks ‘things are turning the corner’

12.09.12 at 6:23 pm ET
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This is the Jeff Green every Celtics fan – and Green himself – has been waiting for.

In the last five games, Green has become the go-to guy off the bench, reaching double figures four times while averaging 16 points and 4.2 rebounds.

To top it all off, his long-range shot has been starting to fall much more consistently. He is shooting 54 percent from the field.

That’s a far cry from the 7.7 points and 2.5 rebounds he was averaging in the previous 15 games. In that stretch, he was shooting just 40 percent from the floor.

“I just went through a slump,” Green said. “Every player goes through one. Now shots are going in for me; things are turning the corner.”

“It’s just about being more aggressive, getting the rim so I can get into a rhythm, offensively. Get easy looks and the other shots will start to fall.

What makes Doc Rivers so happy is that he isn’t being forced to draw up new plays to get Green good looks. They’re all coming from Green himself.

“I think Jeff is just freeing himself up,” Rivers said after Saturday’s 92-79 win over the Sixers, in which he scored 16 points in 23 minutes off the bench, converting 7-of-12 shots from the floor. “He’s starting to do it and it’s really been good.”

Finally, it looks like Green isn’t worried about meeting the expectations of a four-year, $36 million contract signed this summer.

The more he plays like Saturday, the more confident he gets. And when Green plays with confidence, he begins to fly all over the court. Green converted a pair of dunks, including a slam on a alley-oop from Rajon Rondo that put the Celtics up, 81-63 with 7:44 left in the game.

“I’m getting there. My bounce is getting there,” Green said. “It’s been a slow process but it’s coming along.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jeff Green, NBA

Doc Rivers pays his respect – in person- to Rick Majerus

12.08.12 at 7:11 pm ET
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In a whirlwind of a day, Doc Rivers traveled from Philadelphia to Milwaukee for Saturday morning’s funeral of his former assistant coach and close friend Rick Majerus.

“I’ve been with Rick since fifth grade for the most part so I felt like I had to be there. It was important for me,” Rivers said. It was Majerus who gave Rivers his nickname of “Doc” when he showed up at a basketball camp wearing a Julius Erving t-shirt.

Rivers then jumped on plane and made it back to Boston, getting back about 90 minutes before Saturday night’s tip-off with Philadelphia at TD Garden. Rivers said he didn’t give much consideration to not coaching Saturday.

“If I really want to [tick] Rick off, then don’t coach the game,” Rivers joked. “No, I didn’t give that much thought. Life is involved with what we do every day. You deal with life and then you deal with your job. I always try to separate them when you can. Sometimes, you can’t.”

Other notes:

Doc on Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday: “Jrue right now is an all-star, and Evan played like one last night for sure. He made a couple of incredible shots. His game-winning shot, he was trapped for the most part, he puts up a one-handed push shot. The blocked shot by [Paul Pierce] and getting the rebound and he had another one where he split our pick-and-roll [defense]. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s always done. He did it in college. He made three sensational plays. I think he’s getting comfortable in our league right now. I thought it started last year and I think it carried on to this year.”

Rivers had some good-natured fun with Doug Collins after being told that Collins expects to take advantage of the fact that Pierce and Kevin Garnett have combined to play an extraordinary number of minutes combined in their careers: “We played how many minutes, 51,000? We’re smarter. We’re the wiser team. I don’t know how you counteract that. I tell you what you can’t do. You can’t turn the ball over.”

The Celtics committed 19 turnovers leading to 21 Philadelphia points in Friday’s overtime loss. The Sixers committed just nine.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dr. J, Evan Turner

#3Tweet: Celtics vs. 76ers back-to-back preview

12.07.12 at 2:11 pm ET
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Leading into this weekend’s back-to-back between the Celtics and 76ers, which could have serious Atlantic Division ramifications, we’re debuting Green Street’s #3Tweet: Three Twitter questions (and a money round) with the opposing city’s best NBA bloggers. On Friday, we interviewed Liberty Ballers blogger Michael Levin.


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Read More: Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Boston Celtics, Evan Turner

Opinion: Is Danny Ainge the problem?

12.07.12 at 8:51 am ET
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Danny Ainge always will be invincible in his executive role for the Celtics, riding on the goodwill that he earned from serving as the architect of the 2007-08 championship team. Ainge is the man who effectively swapped Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and three first-round draft picks for Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and a second-round pick that turned into Glen “Big Baby” Davis.

Danny Ainge has kept the Celtics in contention since their 2008 championship, but he hasn't been able to assemble the complementary pieces to get another title. (AP)

Ainge earned the NBA’s Executive of the Year award for the 2007-08 season, and looking back, his acquisitions look just as good as they did when he received that distinction more than four years ago.

Ainge hit on just about every transaction that offseason. First, he made the trade for Allen on draft day for Jeff Green, West and Szczerbiak. The throw-in to the trade was Seattle’s second-round pick, Davis, who arguably has had a better career than Green.

Ainge’s entire offseason followed the same trend. He pulled off the Garnett trade on July 31, nearly depleting the C’s roster with the goal of building a team around Garnett, Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Ainge began filling out the roster with complementary pieces such as Eddie House and James Posey that offseason. During the season, he acquired P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, rounding out a championship roster from top to bottom.

Four-plus years after the Celtics’ championship run, Ainge has failed in repeating that feat with nearly the same exact core. Dissecting the president of basketball operations’ track record over the last four seasons, it is fair to say Ainge has missed more than he’s hit since the Celtics hoisted the championship trophy.

Let’s review.

2008-09 season: Ainge kicked off the Celtics’ bid to repeat as champions by drafting J.R. Giddens with the 30th pick of the 2008 draft. Giddens played 38 games in his NBA career, only six for the Celtics. Of course, picking at the bottom of the first round is never an exact science for an NBA general manager. That being said, Giddens was the 30th pick. The 31st pick was Nikola Pekovic, who is averaging 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds for the Timberwolves this season. Picks 34 through 36 included Mario Chalmers by the Heat, DeAndre Jordan by the Clippers, and Omer Asik by the Trail Blazers. Chalmers was the starting point guard for the NBA champion Heat last season. Jordan is averaging 10.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in his career. Asik is averaging 10.9 points and 12.1 rebounds this season for the Rockets.

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Read More: Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers,

Doc Rivers: ‘I have no idea’ if Rondo went to Mexico

12.06.12 at 11:49 am ET
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Doc Rivers (AP)

In addition to reminding everyone that Avery Bradley‘s “a ways away” from returning in his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show, Celtics coach Doc Rivers discussed Rajon Rondo at length.

On the Kris Humphries scuffle and ensuing suspension: “Rondo understands that we need him. I called it like I saw it … and Rondo almost said the same thing: He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t go in there to have a fight. I went in there to push him off Kevin [Garnett] and the next thing you know he grabs my arm, and then I pushed back and it escalated.’ He said, ‘I never intended to fight, that’s not what I did. I was just trying to push him off Kevin.’”

On whether Rondo really went to Mexico: “I have no idea. I really don’t. I don’t ever check. He’s a grown man, and he wasn’t in our locker room. I did say, ‘Go where you want, do what you want, just keep working out and watching us play.’ And he did those things.

“It may not have been a bad time, but it was an expensive time.”

On the point guard’s public vs. private persona: “Rondo with his teammates never shuts up. He’s loud, they laugh, they argue all the time — sports arguments are what you’d call it, debates where they are laughing — so he has a very good personality, and then he has the personality that you see as well. He has both of those.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA, Rajon Rondo

Kevin Garnett: Being called soft ‘still lives in the back of our minds’

12.06.12 at 1:51 am ET
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Kevin Garnett had heard enough about how the Celtics couldn’t rebound. He had heard it from the fans, media and even his head coach.

Doc Rivers put another carrot in front of his team this week when he said Kevin Love and the Timberwolves would kill the Celtics on the glass if they didn’t bring energy Wednesday night. Safe to say, the message hit home with Garnett and the Celtics, who outrebounded Minnesota, 45-41 in a 104-94 win at TD Garden.

“I think what you see here is that we as a team are trying to be better at rebounding,” Garnett said. “Doc’s been on our [butt] about giving up offensive rebounds, playing tougher, establishing something. Obviously, being called soft is not something that you want to be called. It still lives in the back of our minds. Still a work in progress.”

“This is a very good team we played tonight,” Garnett said beating a Timberwolves team that handled the Sixers a night before in Philadelphia. “They put it to Philly the night before and obviously they played back to back, but a very good team. Kevin Love has been a cast over there and it was by no means an easy game for us.”

Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds as his energy and attack mentality against Kevin Love led the way.

“When I’m out there hoopin’, I’m not really conscious of when it comes to defense,” Garnett said. “I know where my energy needs to be. I know my primary role. But I’m efficient. I know what I’m doing. I try to be aggressive when they need to be.”

Love had 19 points and 13 rebounds but the Celtics we able to control the Minnesota front court.

“We were aggressive, and we were aggressive from the early part of the game,” Garnett said. “We established a post early on. I thought defensively we played with a lot of energy. We made them go to their second and third options which is something they don’t like to do, but we did a decent job on Kevin. He obviously had a double double but for the most part we slowed him down a little bit and controlled the tempo. Having Rondo back was big for us, I thought he brought a lot of big energy. He was excited that he was back and probably fed off that.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
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