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Pinched nerve has plagued Paul Pierce for 2 months 02.14.13 at 12:55 am ET
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Paul Pierce confirmed what Celtics president Danny Ainge divulged to the viewing public while sitting down with broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn during the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 71-69 victory against the Bulls: The C’s captain has played with a pinched nerve in his neck since December.

“It’s getting better,” Pierce said in response to the injury inquiry. “It’s something that’s been bothering me probably for like the last two months. It’s getting better, though. The last couple weeks have been better than it has been.”

Pierce struggled mightily in January, shooting 39.9 percent from the field (28.9 3P%) for the month, but he’s emerged once again as the C’s leader in the two weeks since Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury.

During the C’s 8-1 stretch in their last nine games, Pierce has still struggled with his shot (39.0 FG%) — including a 2-of-12 performance in the win over Chicago — although his 39.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc and a boatload of clutch shots have helped assuage any concerns about his health. At 35 years old, Pierce has averaged a ridiculous 16.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 36.6 minutes a night since Rondo’s injury.

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Did Kevin Garnett just announce his retirement? 02.13.13 at 11:14 pm ET
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Asked how he’ll approach this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game, especially after playing an exhausting 102 minutes in his last four games, Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett took everybody by surprise when he mentioned mid-sentence that his 15th appearance would be his last.

“For it being my last,” said Garnett, “I got my family coming down.”

Wait, what?

“This is definitely my last All-Star Game,” he repeated.

Garnett has two years and $23.5 million remaining on his contract after this season, and considering he was voted a starter at age 36, what’s to stop him from making the roster in either of his next two seasons?

“Y’all don’t know what I know,” he said. “So, let’s put it like this: I’m more than grateful for going, but I’m not going to act like I’ve got more All-Star Games in me, so I’m actually going to enjoy this one with some friends and family.”

Despite signing a three-year extension with the Celtics this past offseason, Garnett repeatedly has dropped hints that any season could be his last, but this is the first time this year he’s alluded to it so clearly.

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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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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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Kobe Bryant, the Celtics and the fountain of youth 02.08.13 at 1:54 am ET
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Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the Garden parquet, laughing side-by-side as Gino danced his ridiculous dance on the Jumbotron. The former had submitted his finest performance against the Lakers since walking off the same floor with an NBA Finals MVP trophy. The latter had scored his 25,000th point in owning the league’s most dominant big. Together, they delivered a sixth straight Celtics win sans Rajon Rondo.

They are 35 and 36 years old, respectively. Combined, they’ve played nearly 90,000 minutes, which translates into more than a year of playing time on NBA basketball courts across the country. And they’re not done yet.

“It’s a generational thing,” said 34-year-old Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant after an embarrassing 106-95 loss to the Celtics. “In that generation, we all seem to hold on or have found the same fountain of youth somewhere.”

And not the kind of fountain of youth Alex Rodriquez reportedly found in Miami. “Not that one,” laughed Bryant. “Not that one.” More like a pacemaker that keeps a championship heart beating year after year. Like a 32-year-old Muhammad Ali biding his time against a 25-year-old George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle.

“It’€™s typical Celtics basketball,” said Bryant. “They all just put their hard hats on, and they go out, play hard and figure things out. Whenever their backs against the wall, that’s when you really see the best from them. … It’s just like last year, when they made their playoff run. That’s just what this team does. They kind of rope-a-dope you.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics slay Kobe Bryant, Lakers to win 6th straight sans Rajon Rondo 02.07.13 at 10:29 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett scored his 25,000th career point, Paul Pierce outshined Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard showed up (but not really), Fab Melo scored his first NBA points and the Celtics won their sixth straight game without Rajon Rondo, 116-95 against the Lakers. All in all, not a bad night for the C’s.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Exclusive membership: With a fadeaway jumper 3:52 into the second quarter, Kevin Garnett became the 16th player in NBA history to score 25,000 points. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robertson, Dominique Wilkins, John Havlicek, Alex English, Reggie Miller and Jerry West. Garnett became the first player to amass 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals in his career. During the following timeout, after Doc Rivers drew up a play, the crowd saluted Garnett, who returned the favor.

Winter Green: For the sixth time in seven games, Jeff Green scored double-digit points. He entered the game averaging 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26.3 minutes a night this month. That’s 17.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. That’s good. He’s also played better defensively, assuming some of the load on Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant over the past eight games.

The sequence: The Celtics closed the third quarter on a 12-3 run that seemed more like an 83-1 run. The remarkable stretch featured the best of what these C’s have to offer: the Brandon Bass mid-range game (18-footer), Avery Bradley‘s defense (picked Bryant’s pocket), Jason Terry on the runway (a transition triple), Jeff Green‘s athleticism (a fast-break dunk followed by a block of Antawn Jamison) and both Paul Pierce‘s step-back jumper (from 19 feet) and his sense for the moment (a dagger of a 3). All that gave the Celtics a 95-69 lead after three, sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy and reminded just about everyone of Game 6 of the 2008 NBA finals.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Foul mood: In a span of 39 seconds — just two minutes into the game — the Celtics committed five fouls, including two by Kevin Garnett. Enter Jason Collins, who didn’t fare much better despite his reputation as the so-called Dwight stopper. Collins quickly racked up three personal fouls, giving way to Chris Wilcox. On the bright side, the Lakers missed 10-of-18 first-half free throws (Howard: 1-6 FT) and Garnett survived the first half with the two fouls.

Kobe being Kobe: It’s probably hard for Celtics fans to stop and appreciate Bryant’s offensive bag of tricks, but there’s something special about the fact that two natural born scorers like he and Pierce have played in L.A. and Boston for the entirety of their careers. Bryant’s best shot of the night — a ridiculous up-and-under — got waved off by a foul, but his jump shot along the baseline to close out the first half was classic Kobe. Keeping the Lakers within striking distance for most of the night, Bryant finished with 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

No Leandro: The Celtics scored 100 points, and somehow Leandro Barbosa wasn’t involved. He finished 0-for-4 from the floor in 16 minutes, but still managed to contribute four rebounds and three assists. This is nitpicking, for sure, but the Celtics ran the Lakers out of the Garden and won their sixth straight game without Rondo. There wasn’t much that went wrong.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
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