|Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7’s||05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)
Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.
How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.
Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.
Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.
|Kevin Garnett: Philadelphia’s ‘got fair-weather fans’||05.22.12 at 1:04 am ET|
For 24 minutes of Game 5, the Celtics looked lazy, old, disinterested and whatever other adjective you want to use to describe a team that appeared resigned to the fact that Father Time wasn’t willing to cooperate and the Eastern Conference semifinals were slipping away to the younger, fresher legs of the 76ers.
Whatever they felt, the hushed Garden crowd sensed it, too. And then the third quarter happened.
Whether it was the ridiculous offensive foul call on Kevin Garnett against Spencer Hawes four minutes after halftime that elicited chants of “bull[stuff], bull[stuff]” or the barrage of Brandon Bass buckets, the Celtics awoke a Boston crowd that sleepwalked through the first half. Or was it the other way around?
“This goddamned crowd here sparks you,” said Garnett (20 points, 8-of-17 FG). “It doesn’t take much here, man. … When speaking about this crowd, man, it’s like plugging in. They’re enthused from 48 minutes on, from the tip on, so I can’t see the difference between minute from minute. I feel like every minute I look up, I see my family, I see people yelling, I see the drunk, fat guy. I can decipher one from the other. This crowd is ridiculous, man. I love it.”
|Fast Break: Brandon Bass lands Celtics a Game 5 win||05.21.12 at 9:26 pm ET|
In the aftermath of the Game 4 collapse, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he made a mistake not playing Brandon Bass more down the stretch against a smaller 76ers lineup. Yet, Rivers still didn’t play Bass in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 5, either.
That’s because Bass had already erupted for 18 of his playoff career-high 27 points in the third quarter, igniting a 101-85 blowout win that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead heading back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Breakout Bass: After exceeding 15 points in 18 games during the regular season, Bass had yet to eclipse that mark in the playoffs. And Rivers didn’t like it, imploring No Pass Bass to earn his nickname and take the open shot when it’s there. Bass responded in Game 5, scoring 18 of the C’s 28 points in the third quarter and helping turn a 50-47 halftime deficit into a 75-66 lead after 36 minutes of action. He had his new career playoff scoring high before the fourth quarter.
Stinkin’ Badger: After the Celtics introduced a steamboat whistle to announce Greg Stiemsma‘s entrance into Game 1, the Wisconsin native came into Monday’s game with two points on 1-of-3 shooting for the series. Without the whistle intro in Game 5, Stiemsma erupted for eight points on 4-of-4 shooting — in his first 5:46 of action. He made three straight baskets midway through the first quarter on his way to eight of the C’s 23 points in the opening 12 minutes.
Match game: Along with Garnett, who enjoyed another stellar playoff game in this Back to the Future postseason of his, and a dash of Ryan Hollins, Bass and Stiemsma helped neutralize Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young, who combined for 19 boards off the bench in Game 4. That number dropped to six between them in Monday night’s blowout victory.
|Irish Coffee: Philly Fat Albert, the truffle shuffle and five Celtics statistics you didn’t know||05.17.12 at 11:03 am ET|
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Celtics‘ Game 3 dismantling of the Sixers was their ability to make 22-of-28 free throws — including 11-of-14 from a Paul Pierce determined to get his points any way possible — in the face of true adversity: Philly Fat Albert doing the truffle shuffle (h/t @GethinCoolbaugh).
“Paul is just a grinder,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters in Philadelphia after his team’s most complete performance of the playoffs, a 107-91 victory that gave his team a 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinals lead. “He really is. You look at him at times and you wonder, ‘How is this guy getting open?’ He just has great fundamentals. He never does it with speed. He just knows how to play basketball.
“He’s a throwback guy,” added Rivers. “He just knows how to play basketball. We jokingly call him our ‘professional scorer,’ and that’s what he is in a lot of ways. … I think guys like Paul and the Kobe [Bryants], they have something in their minds that just makes them who they are.”
Even if it means staring at 400 pounds of Philly flesh full of cheesesteaks and pretzels. (Well, there is a lot of culture there.) In all seriousness, here’s five stats that make the C’s performance that much more remarkable.
|Elton Brand feels (and sees) Paul Pierce’s pain||05.15.12 at 2:39 pm ET|
Despite Paul Pierce‘s assurance that “the knee was fine” after struggling in the Eastern Conference semifinals Game 2 loss, 76ers forward Elton Brand said the sprained MCL is noticeably taking its toll on the Celtics captain.
“When you’re hurting, it takes away some of your aggressiveness,” said Brand, whose 2007 knee injury was the first in a long line of Achilles, shoulder, hand and neck problems throughout his career. “You don’t think about it, but subconsciously it takes away your movement and your thrust.
“[It was noticeable] at times. We know what type of player he is and what kind of playoff performer he’s been.”
Pierce scored just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in Monday’s 82-81 loss to the Sixers. He amassed five rebounds, four steals and three assists but also registered five turnovers and four fouls over 37 minutes.
“We’ve got to figure out a better way to get the ball to him in different spots, away from traps,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show. “I think Paul has to do a better job of handling those. I thought in the first game he was terrific down the stretch. He didn’t get any of the credit, but our three baskets down the stretch in Game 1 was off a Paul Pierce play. They were trapping him everywhere, and he moved the ball.”
|Irish Coffee: The day a nobody stopped Kevin Garnett||05.15.12 at 1:35 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was coming off a two-game stretch in which he totaled 57 points on 39 shots, 25 rebounds and eight blocks while putting the finishing touches on the Hawks and painting a new masterpiece agains the 76ers, so why did the Celtics wait until it was too late to get their center involved again?
“Maybe we weren’t a smart team or a well-coached team, because that was obviously the game plan to go there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show. “We were in transition a lot and never really got into our sets. That happens in games. You see it all the time, but it just took too long to get into it. It took too long to establish it. We used timeouts to get into it — we just never did.”
Garnett made his first two shots, an 11-footer 17 seconds in and a 16-footer 2:48 into the first quarter, capping the C’s 5-for-5 shooting stretch that gave them an 11-3 start. And they turned to him once over the next 26:54.
“KG’s an unselfish player,” said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who recorded 13 assists, but only two to Garnett — including one on the meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer that resulted in the 82-81 final score. “He could’ve taken a lot more shots than he did, but he passed up his shots to get the assist or made the hockey pass. In the fourth quarter, over the stretch, when KG had it going, we just kept feeding him.”
As if flipping a switch, the Celtics leaned on Garnett in the fourth quarter. He made 5-of-7 shots and scored 11 of his 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists, while playing the final 12 minutes. In the span of a minute midway through the quarter, he made an 18-foot jumper to cut the deficit to two on one end; then defended Jrue Holiday, altered a Louis Williams shot and grabbed the rebound on the other; and tied the game 65-65 on a turnaround in the lane back on the offensive end. In other words, he was everywhere.
“I don’t call the plays,” said Garnett. “Doc and Rondo are trying to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’s what it is. Whatever he asked me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Let the players decide the game’||05.15.12 at 1:07 am ET|
The only possible question is whether Smith should have called Garnett for it, what with 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics trailing by three and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on the line.
“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game,” said Garnett, whose illegal pick overshadowed an inspired fourth quarter in the 82-81 loss, “but if he felt like that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”
It’s the kind of play that can and should be argued at bars all over Boston. Those wearing green-colored glasses swear it should have never been called — not then, when a whistle sways a conference semifinals series.
“I wasn’t fond of it. At all,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team travels to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday. “You know, I think Kevin got called for three off-the-ball offensive fouls. So clearly it looked like they were looking for it all night and they got three of them. If you’re going to tell me Kevin was the only one moving in picks tonight, then I’ll live with that. He clearly was not the only one, but he was the one who got the calls tonight.”
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