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Doc Rivers pregame Friday: ‘I can’t even tell you what our exact record is’

03.08.13 at 9:56 pm ET
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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers spoke at length before Friday’s game at with the Atlanta Hawks about how teams are preparing for defensive star Avery Bradley, how much the Celtics have been playing their “Manwich” zone defense and whether or not he’s paying attention to the Eastern conference standings.

Rivers said he also doesn’t spend much time looking at the Eastern conference standings. The Celtics came in Friday at 33-27 and in seventh place in the Eastern conference. But it’s quite the log-jam in the middle of the East. The Celtics were just a game behind the fifth-place Hawks and just 4 1/2 games behind the second-seeded Knicks. The Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Hawks and Celtics are separated by just five games.

“I can’t even tell you what our exact record is,” said Rivers. “But I know it’s close with everybody else’s record. That’s how much I look at it… I think later in the year, I may at [look at] times. Right now, we just have to keep getting better, so that’s my focus.”

Of course, the Hawks and Celtics have met in the past in the playoffs, with the Celtics coming out on top in 2008 and last year.

“I think both teams understand where we are both at — that all our games now are important,” Rivers said. “I don’t think there’s another game this year that’s not important. It’s just that close with everybody. That’s great. That’s what I said I liked about the way we did the All-Star break — we’ve been doing that lately anyways — but I just like it when you come out of the break, it’s a sprint. And everybody kinda is in it, and it’s good.”

As for teams gearing up for Bradley’s defense, Rivers said he can sense it more and more now coming into games.

“You know it’s coming,” Rivers said. “I’m sure they’re warned by it. Some guys do pretty well and some guys don’t. It’d be no fun.”

Why aren’t there more players like Bradley in the NBA?

“Because they don’t have the ability,” Rivers said. “You have to have great instincts, great speed. It takes a lot of things. You can’t just [say] I’m going to be a great defender because if it were just that, it would be more [players playing great defense].

“It is a lot [of desire] but you just have to have great everything, great feel, great feet, great instincts, great strength. It takes a lot.”

Speaking of defense, Rivers gave great insight to his use of the zone defense, schemed in part by assistant Mike Longabardi.

“It’s been good. We just keep running it. We don’t do it for long periods. We have in the last couple [games]. A lot of that has been situational – Kevin was in foul trouble or JET was struggling defending so were trying to hide him in some ways but a lot of times a team scores five times in a row, throw a zone on them twice and then get back man just to get them out of rhythm.”

Meanwhile, Rivers said it was a “bummer” that his son Austin Rivers suffered a broken right hand and is likely done for the year with the New Orleans Hornets.

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

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Manwich

Danny Ainge: Wednesday victory over Pacers ‘was a good win’

03.07.13 at 8:10 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

Danny Ainge (AP)

Making his weekly appearance on “The Big Show” Thursday afternoon, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge discussed a number of topics, including that fact that Wednesday night’s dramatic win over the Pacers in Indiana was one of the best of the season for the Celtics. (To hear the entire interview, check out The Big Show audio on demand page.)

“Last night was a good win for us — obviously, to hang in there and score the last 11 points of the game …. I don’t think we played particularly well throughout the course of the game, but they really [ground] it out. It look like when we came all the way back and tied it up, and then they went out and hit those three straight 3′s to go up nine, that was not looking promising, but you’ve got to credit Doc. He called a quick time out, got the guys reorganized, went on a couple of runs ourselves in that last fourth quarter stretch and executed perfectly on that last play.”

On the last play–did you know what was coming? “No, I actually thought it was going to be with Avery holding the ball, I thought it was going to be a KG and Paul pindown for Paul to catch and curl and make a play in the free-throw line area. Or, for Paul to catch and then set a quick pick-and-roll — a step-up pick-and-roll with KG … most likely leading to a KG jumpshot at the elbow. That’s what it looked like the formation was set up to be when Avery was holding the ball.”

When is last time time this team set up a play for a last-second shot for someone like Jeff Green? That shows me that they’re trusting and starting to grow with Jeff. “Yeah, I think — by the way that wasn’t a great pass by KG. But it was a great catch. So there was … we had run a play in Utah that we had we sort of botched that turned into a Paul Pierce stepback jumper that we normally see. But that wasn’t what the play was called, and it was poorly executed. There are going to be times where … like the play that was called there was for Jeff. That was sort of the first option on the play. But had it not worked — good defense will sniff that out. What happened was David West, who was guarding Jeff, reached for the ball, tried to pike it away from KG as he ran by, and was completely blindsided by the screen that Paul set. And of course, Paul’s man is not going to come off the body and that allowed the play to happen too. So it was great execution, it was poor defense. We’ll take it.”

On the importance of getting home court and a home seed down the stretch: “I think that it’s secondary to health and rest and freshness. Nothing is more important than fresh bodies. We see what happened with KG when he has a few days off and how he’s responded. It’s not a perfect science; you can’t predict it. The temptation is to continue to grind and push and fight for every win. I personally — I’ll let Doc make these decisions — but between Doc, KG and I, we’ll try to figure it out. We have to trust KG to talk to us, and I think that he is more willing to do that than he ever has in his career. I think he’s wiser and sort of gets it. So I think we need to figure out what’s best for him. And not just for him but for Paul. Paul has been playing with a sore neck — when we went in a really bad stretch after winning six in a row and I saw every day during that stretch just really in pain. And as we started, I don’t think it was a coincidence that Paul started feeling a lot better. So I think those are two guys — and Jason Terry. I think with the addition of Jordan Crawford, Doc doesn’t have to ride him as much, and we can really save him for when he’s big, like he was last night. Last night, he was big at both ends of the court down the stretch. He’s a guy who is experienced and completely unafraid of any moment.”

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The true brilliance of Doc Rivers: ‘It’s great when you win on execution’

03.06.13 at 11:09 pm ET
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The Celtics are coming together as a true team under Doc Rivers. (AP)

The Celtics are coming together as a true team under Doc Rivers. (AP)

Everyone is going to point to the back-pick play drawn up by Doc Rivers, with a huge assist to offensive coach Armond Hill, as the latest example of what makes Rivers one of the truly best coaches in the NBA.

And they should.

But his real brilliance comes in how he’s prepared Jeff Green for the game-winning moment all season. Kevin Garnett fired a bullet pass to Green under the basket after Paul Pierce set Green free on a perfect back-pick. Green makes the adjustment under the basket, puts the game-winner off glass for an 83-81 road win over the second-seeded Pacers.

“It was executed great,” Rivers said. “We got it down to the last second. Either Kevin was going to try and hit Jeff or [hit Paul Pierce]. The whole play was [made] by Paul Pierce’s back pick. He was terrific. He set a nice back pick. They [Pacers] got a little mixed and then Jeff had to make a tough shot. They doubled Kevin so the pass was a little bit off-mark and Jeff had to adjust but it’s great when you win on execution.

“I told our players I had drawn up another play. Armond Hill walked over, and he rarely does it, and he says, ‘Listen, the play you drew up in the first half worked so let’s run it again.’ So I switched to the play that he wanted me to run and it was great. It worked out perfect.”

Funny thing, earlier in the season, Rivers probably would’ve gone with his first instincts for a pick-and-roll but decided to go with Hill’s recommendation.

“It was going to be a pick-and-roll, actually a pick-and-roll with Jeff and Kevin because we like that combination because Jeff is at the ‘4’ with his speed can always get a shot off,” Rivers said.

Green has been brought along at a pace all season that varied between breakneck and breakdown. Rivers struggled all season to find that comfort range for Green to excel so that he could put Green in the position he was Wednesday night on the road – a tired team that needed young legs to make up a 14-point deficit in the second half against a red-hot, No. 2 seed in the East.

Thursday night was not one of Green’s best games but it was one of his best moments. Eleven points in 34 minutes. He was just 5-of-14 from the field. Still, Rivers and Hill believed in Green enough to draw up the game-winning play to go to him. It was why Pierce was grinning ear-to-ear coming out of the timeout. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Indiana Pacers, Jeff Green

Perfectly played: C’s steal a huge road win over Pacers

03.06.13 at 9:27 pm ET
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Jeff Green was the hero with 0.5 seconds left in the game, scoring the winning basket. (AP)

Jeff Green was the hero with 0.5 seconds left in the game, scoring the winning basket. (AP)

Jeff Green scored on a reverse lay-up on a bullet pass from Kevin Garnett with 0.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to lift the Celtics to an unlikely 83-81 road win over the Pacers, Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The brilliant play was drawn up by head coach Doc Rivers and executed by a team that appears to be hitting its stride.

Rivers called for Green to get free on the baseline on a back-pick set by Pierce, with Garnett at the top of the key. That’s exactly how the play unfolded as Green got free underneath, caught the ball under the basket and turned his body just in time to hit the layup off the glass.

Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley finished with 13 points apiece for the Celtics, who won their fourth straight and improved to a season-best six games over .500 at 33-27. They also improved to 12-4 without Rajon Rondo.

With the Celtics playing their second road game in 24 hours, the Pacers were predictably the stronger team out of the blocks, shooting out to a 27-19 lead after one.

The Celtics got a layup from Pierce right before the halftime buzzer as Boston cut Indiana’s lead to seven, 49-42, at the break.

Garnett made history with a defensive rebound in the first minute of the third quarter. It was his sixth of the game and No. 13,370 of his career, passing Wes Unseld for 10th all time in NBA history.

The Pacers went to their inside game to build the lead to 14, 63-49, midway through the third but the Celtics finished the quarter on a 9-5 run to close to within 10, 68-58, heading into the fourth.

The Celtics pulled to within one, 73-72, on a Jason Terry three with just over six minutes left, capping a 20-7 run. The Pacers then responded with the next eight points to build a nine-point lead.

As great as the play execution was for the Celtics, Boston was the beneficiary of some highly questionable play-calling on the part of the Pacers. Leading by 14 points and with Roy Hibbert taking it to the Celtics inside, Pacers fell in love with the three-point shot, finishing a miserable 6-of-27 from long range.

The Pacers had all five starters in double figures, led by Paul George with 16 points. David West had 11 points and 16 rebounds while Hibbert finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Celtics are off Thursday before returning to action Friday at home against Atlanta at TD Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett

Irish Coffee: Where Avery Bradley adds a jump shot

03.06.13 at 10:45 am ET
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While everyone’s been rightfully lauding Avery Bradley‘s defense, he’s added a mid-range game.

In Tuesday’s 109-101 victory against the 76ers, the Celtics guard drained 4-of-5 long jumpers (16-23 feet). Heck, he even attempted a couple from 10-15 feet, where he hadn’t made a shot in more than a month. It’s almost as if he previously had devastating shoulder injuries, and he’s only now fully recovering. Oh, wait, he did. And he is.

“He’s starting to make the little pull-up jump shot,” C’s coach Doc Rivers told reporters in the postgame. “He’s been making the 3′s for the most part. He keeps shooting them, and we want him to, but I’m really happy with his pull-up off the dribble. That’s a big shot for us later, and he’s starting to make that. And that’s big.”

The 3-pointers part is debatable, since Bradley’s steadily been shooting around 31 percent from there this season after making 41 percent a year ago. His corner 3-point shooting has also dipped from 56 percent last season to 34 percent this winter. But Bradley’s honing a new weapon for his offensive arsenal: the long jumper.

Oh, great, another jump shooter on the Celtics, you say. Well, consider this: Bradley’s making 51 percent of his long jumpers over the past 12 games on an average of 3.6 attempts. That’s a marked improvement from his first 16 games, when he shot 39 percent on 2.3 attempts during a physical and mental adjustment period upon his return.

Because defenders must now respect Bradley’s newfound jump shot (see video), he’s also getting to the rim twice as often over the past 12 games, converting 60 percent of his 3.8 shots per game within three feet. His scoring numbers are up 50 percent in that same stretch, which has ripple effects throughout the Celtics roster.

“He’s confident,” added Rivers. “I don’t think he ever lost it. He was questioning it at times.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Celtics find themselves with second straight road victory, beating Philadelphia

03.05.13 at 9:48 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

The Celtics took a step toward turning over a new leaf with a convincing road victory Tuesday night, beating the Sixers, 109-101, in Philadelphia. It improved the Celts to 11-18 away from TD Garden this season, and marked just the second time Boston has claimed back-to-back road victories.

The Celts, who had lost six of their last seven games in Philly, slowly built their lead, having held a 53-46 halftime lead. While the Sixers had been slumping, losing eight of their last nine games, had claimed 17 of their 23 victories this season at home.

Leading the way for the Celtics’ offense was Avery Bradley, who scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor.

Paul Pierce also contributed with 18 points (4-for-4 on three-pointers) and 10 rebounds, while Kevin Garnett also netted 18.

Contributing off the bench for the C’s, who finished shooting 50 percent from the floor, were Jeff Green (16 points), and newly-acquired Jordan Crawford, who added 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor. The C’s also moved to 18-4 when scoring over 100 points.

The Celtics did commit a season-high 22 turnovers, this after turning the ball over just twice in the first quarter.

For a complete recap, click here.

Kevin Garnett: Avery Bradley ‘is everything to our defense’

03.05.13 at 10:17 am ET
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Avery Bradley has been a force defensively this season for the Celtics. (AP)

Avery Bradley has been a force defensively this season for the Celtics. (AP)

WALTHAM — If there’s one player on the Celtics to trust when it comes to talking leadership and intensity on defense it’s Kevin Garnett. And when he says Avery Bradley is the most important player in the team’s complex defensive scheme, you can’t help but listen up.

“He is everything to our defense,” Garnett said of Bradley on Monday before practice. “I think he’s the anchor. He’s the true inspiration of what it is. He gets up on the ball, 95, 90 percent of the time. Look at any other guard in the league; no one in the league is playing defense like he is. He’s just tenacious. He’s the silent leader and it’s by example.”

How big has Bradley been?

Last Friday, going up against Stephen Curry, the Celtics trusted him to go man-to-man and disrupt one of the most explosive players in the league. When he picked up his fifth foul with eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Celtics had to switch to a zone. With Bradley back since early January, the Celtics have gone from 25th in the league in defense to ninth, allowing just 95.9 points per game. They have allowed 100 points just six times since. Three of those six went overtime, including the triple-overtime game against Denver on Feb. 10 and another game he missed altogether.

Our Ben Rohrbach made the case for Bradley landing on the NBA All-Defensive team, which at this point seems like a no-brainer.

Reminded that Bradley has occasionally calmed coach Doc Rivers down this season, Garnett said that it’s been Rivers who has been the steadying force in Bradley development this season, especially as a court leader with Rajon Rondo out injured.

“I think it’s the other way around, although he isn’t really loud, he’s very vibrant,” Garnett said. “I don’t think he’s 100 percent, which is scary. I think he’s still working through some things with his past injuries but he’s playing hard and he’s giving us everything he has when he’s on the floor.”

Rivers isn’t asking Bradley to be vocal on the floor, since his play is speaking volumes.

“I think his play speaks for it,” Rivers said. “He has to call plays out and stuff like that. I think he’s verbal, defensively, in what we do. But that’s not anything I’m looking for right now from him. I just want him to keep playing, and playing hard. He plays so hard, he probably can’t speak half the time because he’s exhausted. I just like what he’s doing.”

Rivers said Bradley has been impressive this season after having a pair of shoulder surgeries in the offseason.

“I think he’s 100 percent, leg-wise,” Rivers said. “He’s been 100 percent. I guess if there’s any good thing about having a shoulder [injury], you can still use your legs, conditioning-wise. You can do all the running. As far as his shoulders, I can’t answer that. I don’t know. I would say he would not be 100 percent until next year with that.

With any surgery, especially when you have two, [takes time]. One of the officials in the last game walked up to me and asked, ‘Avery have both shoulders done?’ I said, yeah. He said, ‘Man, I had one done, I was out six months and I still feel bad.’ And I said, ‘That’s why you’re an official.’ I did get three bad calls after that.”

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