Archive for April, 2012

Fast Break: Rajon Rondo, Celtics stop Bucks season here

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Mickael Pietrus all returned to the lineup, and the Celtics cruised to an 87-74 victory against the Bucks in their regular-season finale.

The trio combined for just 13 points, but Rondo dished out 15 assists despite taking just one shot. Avery Bradley (14 points) and Paul Pierce (12 points) were the only Celtics to reach double digits, but the Celtics (39-27) cruised nonetheless.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Recovery act: At times, Rondo ran the floor like, well, a guy with a bad back, but it appeared more like an act than anything worth concern. He toyed with defenders at will, improving his streak of games with at least 10 assists to 24 by halftime. Meanwhile, Pietrus returned from his four-game absence to register nine points off the bench. Garnett only played 11 first-half minutes, but he showed no signs of the sore hip flexor that kept him out against the Heat. All in all, the trio of walking Celtics wounded appeared ready to go for the playoffs.

S’Moore: After totaling seven points and seven rebounds against the Heat on Tuesday night, rookie E’Twaun Moore put together another nice performance. At one point against the Bucks, he was a plus-18 in his time on the floor. Moore finished with eight points, five assists and four rebounds.

Hollins of Fame: It took all of 51 seconds for Ryan Hollins to put together his most productive stretch of the season. He scored seven points in just under a minute, including a pair of dunks — one of which even came on a putback after a rebound — that helped the Celtics establish a double-digit advantage early in the second quarter. After a month of discouragement, Thursday night was an encouraging sign for Hollins.

WHAT WENT WRONG

My left big toe: Just minutes into the game, Pierce limped back to the Celtics locker room accompanied by team Dr. Brian McKeon — a scary sight for a Celtics team hobbled by injuries entering the playoffs. Scarier still was the Celtics diagnosis that Pierce had sprained his left big toe and was “probably not likely to return.” Naturally, the C’s captain returned before halftime, scoring seven of the team’s final 11 points before the break. The feet have been an issue for Pierce ever since his heel injury during training camp, but on a night he accept an Eastern Conference Player of the Month trophy, his injuries don’t appear too serious.

Ray of hope: While Rondo, Pietrus and Garnett all returned, Ray Allen missed his ninth consecutive game — and 15th in his last 20 — with bone spurs in his right ankle. Celtics coach Doc Rivers pronounced Allen “probable” to play Game 1 of the Hawks series, but even if he does play, there has to be some doubt about his effectiveness after such a long absence. As for Greg Stiemsma, his foot problems shouldn’t keep him from his first career playoff game, even if he missed a second straight game on Thursday.

On the road again: With the Hawks holding a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter against the Mavericks, they appeared well on their way to claiming home court advantage in their first-round series against the Celtics. The C’s will own the fourth seed as the Atlantic Division winners, but will have to travel to Atlanta for Game 1 (on Sunday). The Celtics finished 2-1 against the Hawks (1-1 in the ATL) this season, but 2-0 when they weren’t missing five of their top eight rotation players.

Irish Coffee: 10 things we learned from Celtics-Heat

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. The end of the NBA’s lockout-shortened season is upon us, forcing TNT to broadcast marquee matchups like Ryan Hollins vs. Dexter Pittman and Sasha Pavlovic vs. Mike Miller rather than Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing to learn from Tuesday night’s game between the Celtics and Heat at the Garden. Here are 10 things.

10. Thanks to Pavlovic’s heroics, the Celtics still have a shot at home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Two things must happen Thursday: 1) Celtics defeat the Bucks, and 2) Hawks lose to the Mavericks.

“Our seeding is important as well,” said Celtics reserve guard Keyon Dooling, who scored seven points in the win over the Heat. “So, if we have to get that win, we’re coming in here trying to tear their head off.”

The hunch within the C’s organization is that if Atlanta hosts Game 1, it’ll be played on Saturday night; however, if it’s in Boston, the series will likely start Sunday. Of course, all that assumes the Bruins beat the Capitals in Game 7 and host Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.

9. After their loss, while casually dressed Heat stars Dwayne Wade and James poked fun at second-year center Dexter Pittman‘s feet and socks, teammate Chris Bosh sat in the corner of the locker room, donning a suit and reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” A different bird, I guess.

8. Heat swingman Shane Battier‘s take on a game that featured 39 turnovers: “In my 11 years, that’s the worst game I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve already taken a shower. You guys should all take a shower to get the stink of this game off you. It’s not fun for anybody … but, hey, it’s the NBA, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to lockout basketball. It’s FAN-tastic!

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An ugly game could be a thing of beauty for Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


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To Doc Rivers, no minutes or players are ever insignificant. Even in a game that had most starters on both sides taking the night off to rest for the playoffs.

To Rivers, a game like Tuesday is the perfect time to get players like Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic tuned up, just in case he might be needed in the playoffs. And given how this year has progressed, it’s certainly a good idea not to rule any possibility out.

Pavlovic had 12 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, as he made five of his six attempts from the floor, while Daniels sparked the surge that put the game away with a high-flying dunk as the Celtics beat the Heat, 78-66, at the Garden.

Like most of the starters on both teams, Pavlovic did not have a good start to the game. He was on the floor with the starters who opened the game 0-for-7 for Boston as the Celtics fell behind 11-0. He missed both of his shots in the opening 12 minutes and was scoreless in the first half.

But then he turned it on in the second half, finishing with a flourish in the fourth quarter when he nailed a couple of open threes during a 10-0 Boston run.

‘€œIf I’€™m wide open I shouldn’€™t be hesitant and that’€™s what I’€™m trying to do,” Pavlovic said. “The most important thing with me, just don’€™t think and shoot the ball when I’€™m wide open. I started kind of slow in the first half, Doc was on me about that. He told me just to play to it, I took a couple bad shots in the first half. I just came out in the second half and played as hard as I could defensively and whenever I had an open shot I just took it.’€

“That was huge for Sasha. I thought it was ‘€“ especially in the fact that Sasha really struggled in the first half and then he came in the second half and played terrific,” Rivers said.

Daniels and Pavlovic have both spent time this season, languishing at the end of the Celtics’ bench with little or no hope of playing time. “DNP-Coach’s Decision” has appeared on their line in many boxscores this season.

But not Tuesday. On a night the Celtics kept alive their hopes of home court advantage, both of them had big roles as Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma got the night off. (more…)

Sean Williams gives a glimpse of the ‘competitor’ he can be

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


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Sean Williams was regarded as one of the best shot-blocking talents coming out of college when he declared for the 2007 NBA draft out of Boston College.

Tuesday, with no Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiemsma, the Celtics had to look somewhere for bench help to support Ryan Hollins, and it was the newly-acquired Williams who got the look-see.

In nearly 20 minutes, he scored five points, hauled down two rebounds, had two assists and yes, blocked two shots in Boston’s 78-66 ugly duckling win over the Heat at the Garden.

‘€œIt was OK,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Williams Tuesday. “He’€™s a shot blocker, doesn’€™t know a lot of our stuff. You know he was pressing early; him and Ryan they were pressing way too much early on. And I thought as they settled in, one thing I did like about Sean down the stretch: he’€™s competitive. And you can see that. He wasn’€™t going to back down to anything, got some great blocked shots, so that was good to see.’€

So, back in Boston, Williams had the juices flowing in the first half, almost too much. Rivers could tell he was a bit nervous, and Williams didn’t deny that.

‘€œYes I was a little,” Williams said with a smile. ‘€œYou go out there your first time you get tired real fast, your legs get down on you real quick, everything kind of shuts down on you so I caught my second wind I guess in the second half.’€

Technically, Williams is eligible for Boston’s playoff roster since he waived by Dallas before the March 23 NBA deadline for rosters. Could he help off the bench as a shot-blocking force if Stiemsma’s sore feet act up?

‘€œI’€™m just trying to come in here and help these guys reach their goals, getting that 18th ring, that’€™s all I’€™m focused on,” Williams said. ‘€œI’€™ll let Doc decide that. Its not up to me. I just come here every day and try to get better at what I do.’€

Home court is still in play, thanks to Sasha Pavlovic

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

If the Celtics do wind up hosting Game 1 of their playoff series with the Hawks, they’ll have enigmatic swingman Sasha Pavlovic to thank. With Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiemsma all sitting out of Tuesday’s game against the Heat, Pavlovic got the start in the backcourt and promptly went scoreless in six minutes of play. In the second half, he made 7-of-8 shots and scored a game-high 16 points in a 78-66 Celtics win that is best left to the dustbin of history.

“Well, someone had to win the game and we did, which was really nice,” was how Doc Rivers summed it up.

It was a game that had some meaning with home court still on the line and was also totally meaningless in that Paul Pierce was the only player of consequence on the floor and he played only 18 minutes. In that it was an appropriate conclusion to a season that has been rushed, hurried and physically taxing.

“It’€™s not good on your body as an athlete,” guard Keyon Dooling said. “It’€™s your vehicle to make your money. As a basketball player, recovery is very important. We haven’€™t had that luxury this year. It’€™s not just us, it’€™s everybody. It’€™s not a normal season.”

As Pierce put it on Monday, “All you can say is you got through it.”

Like many teams, the Celtics decided a week ago that gaining an extra home game simply wasn’t worth it. They may still get it, even after giving forgotten souls like E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Ryan Hollins extended looks. If they beat the Bucks on Thursday and the Mavericks beat the Hawks, then Game 1 will be in Boston. If not, they’ll be getting on a plane just like they’ve done basically every other day since December.

“We’€™re going to play our guys Thursday anyway, especially since they didn’€™t play today,” Rivers said. “I said that the other day and I thought they were going to play today, so, we’€™ll see.”

The playoffs promise to be just as unpredictable with health playing a dominant factor. The Hawks are waiting on Al Horford. The Celtics presumably will have Rondo, Pietrus and maybe Allen back in time for the opener.

“I think Ray will be ready,” Rivers said. “I don’€™t know that. I do think he will be ready, but if he’€™s not someone else has to be.”

If Allen can play then their rotation is basically set. It’s the five starters plus Allen, Pietrus and Stiemsma. If Pietrus or Allen is limited, Pavlovic has put himself in position to be the ninth man depending on matchups. Dooling, the consummate pro, will be ready when called upon. In other words, Tuesday’s game didn’t change anything in the Celtics world, even with home court still in the balance.

Doc Rivers: ‘Someone had to win the game’

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


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How do you explain a game in which you fall behind 11-0 to the No. 2 team in the East, don’t score for the first six minutes, 15 seconds, score 10 points in the first quarter on your home court (28 for the half) only to win going away by 12 points?

‘€œWell, someone had to win the game,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of the 78-66 slopfest that Boston managed not to lose against Miami Tuesday at the Garden. “And we did, which was really nice. You know these games are still important, probably for both teams. I’€™m sure (Erik Spoelstra) is still looking at guys. We pretty much know our rotation, but someone else is always going to help you in playoffs, and games like this can give you confidence.”

With Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Mickael Pietrus, Ray Allen and Greg Stiemsma all getting the night off, Paul Pierce played just 18 minutes and scored eight points. Instead, it was Sasha Pavlovic leading the way with 16 points and Marquis Daniels adding 13 to help the Celtics to their 38th win of the season.

“That was huge for Sasha,” Rivers said. “I thought it was ‘€“ especially in the fact that Sasha really struggled in the first half and then he came in the second half and played terrific. I thought for (E’€™Twaun Moore), just playing that amount of minutes at the point-guard position was good for him. And, so, there were a lot of good things in our way for that. You know it every year: someone who plays a little bit comes in in the playoffs and has a big game for you. Marquis, again. So all those guys I thought the game was very important for.’€

It certainly wasn’t easy for Pierce.

‘€œYeah, Paul was just ‘€“ you could see he was struggling,” Rivers said. “Also struggling with spacing, too. I mean, he’€™s used to Ray and Paul and Kevin and those guys spacing the floor; he spun one time, he should’€™ve been by himself, and three of our guys were in his way. It’€™s all that.’€

Fast Break: Celtics topple Heat on starless night

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Of the seven current or former NBA All-Stars on the Celtics and Heat rosters, only Paul Pierce graced the Garden parquet on Tuesday night, and even he only played 18 minutes. That left major minutes for guys like Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, the only C’s to reach double figures in an ugly 78-66 victory against the Heat.

Pavlovic (16 points) and Daniels (13 points) helped the Celtics (38-27) outscore Miami 28-16 in the fourth quarter and finish the season 3-1 against the Heat. With only a home game against the Bucks on Thursday remaining, the Celtics trail the Hawks (39-26) — 109-102 winners over the Clippers — by a game. As division winners, the Celtics own the tiebreaker for home court advantage in their first-round playoff series, but they would have to beat Milwaukee and hope Atlanta loses to the Mavericks.

Dexter Pittman (12 points) led the Heat (46-19), who officially conceded the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed to the Bulls.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Quis to the game: From the season opener on Christmas Day to April 19, Daniels never reached double digits in scoring or grabbed more than six rebounds in a single night. He almost exceeded both those benchmarks in the last two games. After totaling 12 points and eight boards against the Hawks on Friday night, he amassed 13 points and five rebounds against the Heat. He’s not likely to see much, if any, playing time in the playoffs, but at least something other than his shoes did the shining.

Block party: With the Celtics clinging to a 54-52 lead in the fourth quarter (yes, the fourth quarter), rookie JaJuan Johnson blocked a Juwan Howard layup attempt. Just 42 seconds later, newly signed Boston College product Sean Williams blocked Howard’s 10-foot baseline jumper, sending it into the stands for a 24-second violation. Williams sandwiched a four points around his rejection to help the C’s establish a six-point lead.

Heroic Herren: Each home game, the Celtics honor a member of the community who goes to extraordinary lengths to help those in need with a “Heroes Among Us” ceremony. Tuesday, the C’s recognized a member of their own community: Chris Herren. The Fall River native and Durfee High graduate battled substance abuse issues throughout a career that led the former McDonald’s All-American to Boston College, Fresno State, the Nuggets (No. 33 overall pick in 1999 NBA Draft) and the Celtics before several destinations abroad. Since recovering from addiction, a journey detailed in the ESPN Films production “Unguarded,” Herren founded Project Purple to fight drug abuse. As a result, he found himself back on the Garden parquet, the recipient of a rousing standing ovation — this time in a suit, clean and sober.

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