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Fast Break: Celtics win ugly entering All-Star break

02.13.13 at 10:00 pm ET
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Thanks to another all-out effort by the few healthy players left on the roster, the Celtics outlasted the visiting Bulls 71-69 to win ugly, earning their eighth victory in nine tries since the first of the injury dominoes fell two weeks ago.

The Celtics (28-24) equaled their highest point above .500 as four C’s reached double digits, led remarkably by Brandon Bass (14 points, 9 rebounds). Kevin Garnett (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (8-6-6) scored the C’s final nine points as they held off a Chicago charge to close the final quarter.

The Celtics’ 19 combined points in the second and third quarters marked the team’s lowest point total in consecutive quarters of a game during the shot clock era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Likewise, their 71 total points was the third-lowest point total in a C’s victory since the inception of the shot clock.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Defense: The Celtics held the Bulls to 15 points in the first quarter and 13 in the third. Chicago’s five starters — Luol Deng (4-10 FG), Carlos Boozer (5-14 FG), Joakim Noah (3-8 FG), Richard Hamilton (1-6 FG) and Nate Robinson (2-7) — shot a combined 33.3 percent. It’s a good thing, because the C’s actually shot worse until …

Heart beats: As they’ve done since the injuries to Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa, the Celtics never quit. Playing their third game in four nights, shooting miserably and trailing by as many as seven in the first few minutes of the final quarter, the C’s found life. Capped by back-to-back buckets from Jason Terry (12 points) and Jeff Green (8 points) off the bench — both assisted by Garnett — the Celtics put together a 12-0 run, holding the Bulls scoreless for a stretch of 5:44 midway through the fourth quarter and capturing a 59-54 lead.

Bass finishing: In desperate need of offensive help, the Celtics found an unlikely hero. Beginning to emerge from a season-long funk, Bass scored his highest total (14) since Nov. 28. He also grabbed more rebounds (9) than he has since Nov. 25. Bass and Garnett combined for 26 points and 20 rebounds, forming a formidable frontcourt that limited a sizable advantage by the bigger Bulls, who got 27 rebounds from Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.

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Doc Rivers: ‘We are really right at the threshold’

02.13.13 at 9:31 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers touched on just about every issue facing his team — and there are many — prior to his team’s final game before the NBA All-Star break: 1) the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Leandro Barbosa (who he “absolutely” wants back next season); 2) the search for a point guard (or any warm body, for that matter); 3) losing Barbosa, Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo in the locker room (a bigger deal than people think); 4) his depleted roster (“We are really right at the threshold”); 5) whether we’ll see more Fab Melo (we won’t); 6) similarities between Rondo and reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson (few beyond the ACL tear); 7) Michael Jordan‘s 50th birthday (“I wish they were all like that”), he hit them all. Here goes:

On Leandro Barbosa’s absence: “You don’t know a player or a coach or anybody until you actually coach with them or play with them, and he’s one of those guys you just like in your locker room — forget the basketball part. His spirit has been really good for us, and losing that, that’s big. And then he was our wild card. It’s good to have a wild card. When you throw him in, it could go either way, but you knew he was going to be aggressive.”

On point guard prospects: “In the last 48 hours, [Celtics president] Danny [Ainge] and I have probably covered every human being that’s breathing and can dribble and shoot. We’re just going to take our time. At the end of the day today, that’s basically what we came to. You don’t want to rush anything. We don’t have a lot of flexibility cap-wise. We’re just going to wait. If somebody shakes loose or you can get somebody, we will, but until then we’re stretched at the guard spot.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Leandro Barbosa, Michael Jordan

Jared Sullinger: ‘I think I’ll come back better’

02.13.13 at 8:20 pm ET
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Most of Jared Sullinger‘s days since undergoing season-ending back surgery on Feb. 1 have been spent sitting at an angle that resembles a reclining chair, so the 20-year-old Celtics rookie has plenty of time on his hands.

“I haven’t been doing anything but Twitter, playing video games and catching up on movies,” Sullinger said during a press conference prior to the C’s hosting the Bulls before their NBA All-Star break begins. “That’s about it.”

The back problems that have plagued Sullinger since Nov. 29, 2011, when the Ohio State product scored 21 points in a blowout win over Duke, flared up for the first time this season four minutes into a game against the Kings exactly two weeks ago. The next day, he couldn’t walk. And the next, he underwent surgery to repair a disc that was bulging into his central nervous system.

“I didn’t think it was going to come this fast; maybe two or three years later down the line,” said Sullinger. “That’s what an NBA season does to you. It’s a long season. You’re going to have a couple knick-knack injuries. My knick-knack injury turned into surgery. I’d rather have it now than later.”

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Barbosa officially done for season with torn ACL

02.12.13 at 4:02 pm ET
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Multiple reports indicate that Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa is officially done for the season after suffering a torn left ACL in Monday’s loss to the Bobcats in Charlotte. Barbosa went down with the injury in the third quarter of Monday’s game and had to be carried off the court. (After the game, teammate Kevin Garnett told the media that Barbosa was going to be sidelined for the rest of the year.) The 30-year-old reserve was averaging 5.2 points and 1.4 assists in 41 games with the Celtics this season.

(UPDATE, 4:51 p.m. The Celtics have issued a statement that reads in part: “The Boston Celtics announced today that guard Leandro Barbosa underwent an MRI this morning at New England Baptist Hospital after his left knee injury last night against the Charlotte Bobcats. The MRI revealed that Barbosa suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. No surgery date has been scheduled and he will be out for the remainder of the season.”)

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Kevin Garnett says Leandro Barbosa’s season over after knee injury

02.11.13 at 11:11 pm ET
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The Celtics endured a dual setback on Monday night, losing 94-91 to Charlotte and also seeing guard Leandro Barbosa exit the game due to a non-contact injury to his left knee. Barbosa had to be carried off the floor in order to keep weight off the knee.

While coach Doc Rivers told reporters that Barbosa’s injury “doesn’t look great,” he also said the team would know his diagnosis more precisely after an examination on Tuesday. Teammate Kevin Garnett, however, suggested that the initial prognosis for Barbosa was ominous.

“It’s tough, man. It’s tough all the way around,” Garnett told reporters. “You work with these guys and all of a sudden you see a season-ending injury. We’re grinding right now, on top of a back-to-back emotional game. Tonight was a very tough game.”

Barbosa did not talk to reporters after the game. He reportedly left the locker room under his own power but limping.

The 30-year-old Barbosa, who signed with the Celtics in October, entered Monday averaging 5.3 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while averaging 12 minutes a night. However, he’d emerged as an increasingly important contributor in the aftermath of the injury to Rajon Rondo, scoring 8.7 points with 2.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in an average of 22 minutes per game in the seven contests without Rondo.

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Celtics run out of steam in loss to Bobcats

02.11.13 at 9:39 pm ET
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An exhausted Celtics team, coming off a triple-overtime triumph over the Nuggets on Sunday night, ran out of steam down the stretch in Charlotte on Monday night, falling 94-91. The loss halted Boston’s season-long winning streak at seven games.

The Celtics entered the fourth-quarter down by three, but managed to surge ahead by four late in the fourth quarter. However, the Bobcats bounced back with a late 7-0 run that included a 20-foot jumper by Ramon Sessions from the top of the key with 25 seconds remaining to give the Bobcats the a 92-91 lead. After a missed 3-point attempt by Kevin Garnett, Kemba Walker hit a pair of free throws to put Charlotte up by three. Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley then missed potential game-tying 3-point attempts in the waning seconds of the game to seal the Celtics’ first defeat since losing Rajon Rondo.

Byron Mullens led Charlotte with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Jeff Green led the Celtics with 18 points, while Kevin Garnett delivered a double-double, scoring 16 and collecting 13 rebounds. Paul Pierce, meanwhile, scored 13 with eight boards and eight assists.

In the loss, Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee in the third quarter that required him to be carried into the Celtics locker room. He did not return.

Paul Pierce: ‘This is the type of win that can give us confidence to move forward’

02.11.13 at 1:19 am ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce did it yet again on Sunday night with a triple-double scoring 27 points with 14 rebounds and 14 assists in 54 minutes of action as the Celtics outlasted the Denver Nuggets 118-114 in a triple overtime thriller at TD Garden.

‘€œIt was a good win, man. It was hard fought, we’€™re playing against one of the hottest in the league, on our home court,” Pierce said. “It’€™s definitely a satisfying win. When you come out and we looked bleak, especially in the overtimes, this was a great game to be a part of. It was a great win against a quality ball club, not to say the other teams weren’€™t quality teams we played, but you know, this is the type of win that can give us confidence to move forward.’€

Pierce hit game-tying three with time running out on their six-game win streak at the end of double-overtime before Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett took over in triple-overtime. The three that rattled home with 5.2 seconds left in double-overtime, sending the Garden crowd into pandemonium.

‘€œWell, the original play was Pierce coming off pick-and-roll, if he can get a three off, get it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “If not, Jet [Jason Terry]. Then it was broken and Paul just made a play. I mean, that’€™s what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it. I was sitting just like the fans playing, ‘€˜Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.’€™ Once he got below 11 ‘€“ originally we were going to go for a quick two ‘€“ once he got under the 11-second mark I was yelling, ‘€˜We have to take a three now.’€™’€

Pierce said once the Celtics got the game into triple-overtime, it was time for Garnett to take over.

‘€œThat was part of the plan,” Pierce said. “We wanted to get him on the block, we wanted to get it to him on the spots where he can take the shot. That was a big part of the plan. We felt like he had the advantage, wasn’€™t going to it enough, but we just tried to keep going to him, keep wearing out the matchup, he made three quick baskets in that last overtime, Jason hits a big shot, and that’€™s what you gotta do. A lot of different guys stepped up for us tonight. Jeff Green in the first overtime was huge. Two huge shots at the end of regulation and one in overtime, so it’s got to be a team effort. Avery’€™s defense’€¦I mean it was a combination of everybody and that’€™s what its gonna take for us to move forward.”

Garnett hit Boston’s first three shots of the third extra period before Terry’s three gave the Celtics the lead for good.

‘€œRoles expand,” Pierce said. “I know what im capable of, but when you have a guy like Rondo, not as much is needed from you because you have another guy who can do so many things also. So I think with him out the roles gonna change. I’€™m gonna be more of a facilitator for this ball club, and you know it’s got to come from not only me, its gotta come from a number of guys. You see other guys being able to step up, we were scoring more. So it’€™s not only me, its everybody whose roles change, and has to do more with the injuries that we have.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, NBA, Paul Pierce
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