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Net loss: Up and down Celtics left in the dust in loss to Nets 04.10.13 at 10:35 pm ET
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Brandon Bass provided one of the few highlights for the Celtics, a dunk on Brook Lopez in the first quarter. (AP)

Brandon Bass provided one of the few highlights for the Celtics, a dunk on Brook Lopez in the first quarter. (AP)

Deron Williams scored 29 points Brook Lopez added 21 as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Celtics, 101-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden. Paul Pierce had 23 to lead the Celtics, who fell to 40-38 on the season. In his second game back from an inflamed left ankle, Kevin Garnett rebounded from a 1-for-6 first half to finish with 11 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

With the loss, the Celtics appear locked in for the seventh-seed and a first-round match up with the Knicks as the sixth-seed Hawks beat the Sixers in Philadelphia to move two games ahead of the Celtics in the loss column. With the Bucks’ loss in Orlando, Boston is still three games up in the loss column on eighth place Milwaukee. The Celtics and Bucks each have four games left.

The Nets improved to 46-32 and are all but locked in at the No. 4 seed heading into the playoffs.

In a game the Celtics showed little defensive intensity, the first quarter started out with great promise. The Celtics shot out to a 17-9 lead, highlighted by a dunk from Brandon Bass over Brook Lopez with six minutes left in the opening quarter. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with eight points in the first quarter but the Nets outscored the Celtics, 13-4, in the last six minutes of the quarter to take a 22-21 lead after 12 minutes. Boston finished the first quarter shooting just 9-of-23 from the field.

Boston’s defense in the second quarter was leaky, as the Nets made two-thirds of their shots from the floor, finishing the period 12-of-18. Williams had 11 of his 27 points in the quarter as the Nets took command of the game with a 53-43 halftime lead.

Another telling sign of how the Celtics were dominated on the inside was the lack of free throws. With Boston’s offensive generated almost exclusively from the perimeter, the Celtics didn’t get to the free throw line until 8:22 left in the third quarter, when Pierce hit a free throw to complete a 3-point play.

There were signs of life in the third quarter as Jeff Green drilled a three with 4:29 left to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 11, 68-57. Then, Shav Randolph drew a charge on Brook Lopez. After two Pierce free throws cut the lead under 10, Lopez hit a five-foot bank shot to stem the Boston tide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Doc Rivers: ‘We need to have as much versatility as possible going into the playoffs’ 04.10.13 at 8:59 pm ET
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To Doc Rivers, the key to playoff success will be outmaneuvering his opponent. Given the fact that he’s going to be facing either the Knicks or Pacers in the first round, he’s going to need as many options as possible.

Thus, with Paul Pierce and Jeff Green finding their rhythm heading into the playoffs, this gives Rivers and his staff another bullet in the holster.

“I like the ability to have that lineup and other lineups instead of just having this ‘small lineup’ with Jeff at the 4,” Rivers said. “We want to have three lineups – Jeff at the 2, Jeff at the 3, Jeff at the 4. Or if you want to call Paul the 2, I don’t care who you call the 2. I just think it gives us more versatility.

Wednesday against the Nets, Rivers featured the lineup (Pierce, Green, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley) that’s likely going to start the playoffs, of course barring another in an seemingly unending avalanche of injuries.

“This lineup is good,” Rivers said. “It’s important because it gives us a third lineup, because there’s one lineup we can’t go to, and that’s the very big lineup, like two 7-footers. We’re not going to be able to do that. We need to have as much versatility as possible going into the playoffs to play multiple styles.”

Before Wednesday at the Garden, the Celtics and Nets hadn’t met since Boston’s cakewalk on Christmas Day when the Celtics beat the Nets, 93-76. A game later, Avery Johnson was fired and PJ Carlesimo was promoted to head coach. The Nets are 31-18 since. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why the buddy system is ‘huge’ for Doc Rivers 04.10.13 at 12:37 pm ET
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Randy Wittman has always been a helpful resource to Doc Rivers. (AP)

Randy Wittman has always been a helpful resource to Doc Rivers. (AP)

WALTHAM — Doc Rivers isn’t just one of the most personable coaches among fans and media, he’s one of the most likable among his fellow NBA head coaches.

And that – as it turns out – has its rewards.

As the playoffs near, Rivers has been tapping into that network of coaches for some inside intel. But Rivers isn’t looking for advance scouting tips on his opponents; he’s looking for what other coaches see in the Celtics.

Rivers was asked Tuesday at practice what he thought of teams like Cleveland and Washington defending Paul Pierce and Jeff Green with smaller, quicker guards.

“That won’t last,” Rivers predicted. “I think teams will go back and forth on it. And they did even in the game the other night [vs. Washington]. They started out small, went big and then went back to small. I think teams are trying to figure out which way they would guard them.”

Why is that? All Rivers had to do was ask longtime friend and former Atlanta teammate Randy Wittman, now the coach of the Wizards.

“It’s nice when you play, honestly, a team that’s not in the playoffs and talk to the coach after the game. I asked what their reasoning [is] for choosing one or the other. It’s been interesting the comments I’ve gotten back.”

What kind of information?

“Good information,” Rivers smiled. “They’ve always helped, and they’re open for the most part,” Rivers said of his postgame chats with the coaches. “They’re not going to tell you their secrets but they’re going to tell you some of their thoughts so they’re helpful.”

It’s not just Wittman, either. On the current four-game homestand that ends against Brooklyn, the Celtics have played Detroit [Lawrence Frank], Cleveland [Byron Scott] and Washington [Wittman]. All three teams will be home in two weeks when the playoffs begin. And all three have head coaches with direct ties to Rivers.

“That’s huge because otherwise, I wouldn’t ask, to be honest,” Rivers said. “So, if you have a relationship with a coach, it helps. And there’s also a lot of coaches not coaching right now that you talk to a lot. You even ask them, ‘Who would you guard or how would you attack?’ It’s good getting somebody outside of us because they see us entirely different than we see ourselves.”

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Doc Rivers compares gay NBA player coming out to Jackie Robinson, and other practice notes 04.09.13 at 1:53 pm ET
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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

WALTHAM — Sometimes movies imitate real life. And sometimes, it’s the other way around.

With news last week that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would welcome an openly gay player on his team and the coming out announcement by Magic Johnson‘s son, the subject has been a topic of discussion.

Doc Rivers was asked before Tuesday’s practice about the potential impact on the NBA if a player came out as openly gay. Rivers drew a comparison to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball and major professional sports in 1947.

“There’ll be a lot of talk about it and then I think it will go away,” Rivers said. “It’s [interesting]. As a team, I took the team to see ’42′ [on Monday]. There was a lot of talk and then all of a sudden, everybody starts playing. And I think the same thing will happen. So, that’s the way I look at it.”

Rivers also said there was much about the movie that reminded him of the ‘Ubuntu’ concept he brought in during the 2008 championship season.

“It was really good. It was fantastic,” Rivers said. “It was a great team message. It’s funny, you think race, but, really, it was more of a team message, when players on the Brooklyn Dodgers accepted Jackie. And a lot of it was because he was their teammate. Actually, one of the guys said that, he said, ‘What do you expect? I’m your teammate.’ And I just thought that was really a cool honor.”

Rivers was asked if his players knew the historical impact and the story behind Robinson’s MLB debut and breaking the color barrier.

“Yeah, I think a lot of players know the history,” Rivers said. “Some may not have, I don’t know that. But I always go by — I thought guys were at their full attention throughout the movie, and engaged, which I thought was really cool.”

Other practice notes:

  • Rivers said he has a plan in place for resting Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both of whom participated in practice on Tuesday, prior to Wednesday’s game with Brooklyn.

    “Obviously, we have to take care of our position,” Rivers said. “But, for Kevin, rest is always important, and Paul as well. But, other than that, we’ve thought about (resting them), we’ve talked about it.”

  • University of Louisville product Terrence Williams celebrated his alma mater’s third national championship on Monday night by wearing a Cardinals jersey at practice.
  • Jared Sullinger, two months removed season-ending back surgery, was back on the practice court on Tuesday. But Sullinger was taking it easy. He was shooting free throws and working with assistant coaches before observing practice. Sullinger is expected to be ready for the starting of training camp in September.
  • Speaking of college, University of Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga was at Celtics practice visiting with his son Jay, who is an assistant on Doc Rivers’ staff. Larranaga spent time talking to the coaching staff and Rivers as well before practice began.
  • There are too many lines for the next item. Rivers was asked if he heard the hilarious story of Cleveland Indians manager and good friend Terry Francona getting lost on his two-minute walk to Cleveland’s Progressive Field Monday for the Indians’ home opener.

    “Yeah, that’s a sad, sad thing,” Rivers laughed. “I’m so disappointed in Terry. I mean, getting lost going out to have a drink with me — I can see that. But getting lost going to the ballpark, my gosh. And he lives two blocks away, and he was walking! I didn’t know you could get lost walking. But, I guess you can.”

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    Kevin Garnett: ‘I know what I have in there – I know who’s willing to fight’ 04.08.13 at 12:02 am ET
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    Kevin Garnett got his opportunity to shake off the rust Sunday night in his return to the Celtics lineup. (AP)

    Kevin Garnett got his opportunity to shake off the rust Sunday night in his return to the Celtics lineup. (AP)

    Kevin Garnett knew coach Doc Rivers and trainer Ed Lacerte would be watching his every move Sunday night.

    Playing for the first time since inflammation and bone spurs in the left foot caused him to sit out eight games, Garnett paced himself and scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in 24 minutes as the Celtics beat the Washington Wizards, 107-96, at TD Garden.

    “I felt okay,” Garnett said of playing for the first time since March 22 in Dallas. “I felt strong enough to play. I felt decent in my minutes and I picked and choosed when I was aggressive. I did the things I typically do. That was it. I told Ed that if I felt like I couldn’t go that I wouldn’t push myself but Doc has a lot of trust in what I’m doing. We were on the same page so so far so good.”

    Rivers said the situation, as it turned out, was ideal for Garnett’s return – that is, 24 minutes in a low pressure environment.

    “I thought he was really good, really good,” Rivers said. “And I thought his rhythm was good early. I was surprised how well he was running; I noticed that [Saturday] in practice. We did all fast-break stuff and I was just doing it for him, just so he could blow his lungs out, and I was surprised how well he was running. So that was good. And I don’t know what we played him – 24 minutes – that’s, I mean, you couldn’t script that. That was perfect. Actually I wanted 20, but 25 was what I didn’t want to go.”

    Garnett was 6-of-9 from the field and was able to defend well, posting a plus-8 while on the court. While Paul Pierce was busy pointing out how important Garnett’s presence is to Boston’s postseason hopes, Garnett was focused instead on the way the rest of his team is playing.

    “It doesn’t matter what line-up goes or who’s on the floor as long as we’re playing the right way,” Garnett said. “That’s all my concern is. Just making sure that we’re sharing the ball, playing as a team, giving up for each other, playing defensively, being one voice, one sound – those are the things that are most important.” Read the rest of this entry »

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    Paul Pierce on Kevin Garnett: ‘We’re not going anywhere without Kevin’s presence’ 04.07.13 at 10:16 pm ET
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    Paul Pierce knows the value of Kevin Garnett – or more to the point – a healthy Kevin Garnett.

    Pierce said the Celtics are going nowhere without Garnett at full strength going into the playoffs. Garnett scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in 24 minutes in his first game back since injuring the ankle on March 22.

    “I feel good because I know when we’re all out there and we’re on, we’re as tough as anybody in the East to beat, especially with Kevin’s presence,” Pierce said after Garnett scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in 24 minutes.

    “We’re not going anywhere without Kevin’s presence, just being honest with you. He’s a big part of what we try to do out there on offense and defense. We play through him a lot. He anchors the defense. It’s going to be important for him in these last few of games to get his legs back and get going.”

    Pierce said it’s important for the Celtics to be playing their best ball going into the playoffs, pointing specifically to Brandon Bass, who led Boston with 20 points Sunday night.

    “Its good to be playing the best basketball at the right time, and right now is the right time going into the playoffs for some guys to get their confidence going and start having some big games,” Pierce said. “That’s going to be huge for us if he continues to play well going into the playoffs, and the great thing about it is he’s doing it all off of the hustle plays and off of ball movement. When you can do things like that without a play being called for you…that’s beautiful.

    “It was good. Kevin healthy finally, im coming along…so were gonna need these next few games to really prepare for the upcoming playoffs no matter who we play, and right now is the time for us to start hitting our stride.”

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    Return men: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett return as Celtics beat Wizards 04.07.13 at 8:23 pm ET
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    Kevin Garnett returned for the first time in nine games and helped lead the Celtics to a win over the Wizards. (AP)

    Kevin Garnett returned for the first time in nine games and helped lead the Celtics to a win over the Wizards. (AP)

    Paul Pierce scored 15 and Kevin Garnett added 10 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes as the Celtics beat the Wizards, 107-96, Sunday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were 3-5 in the eight games Garnett missed with inflammation and bone spurs in the left ankle.

    Pierce missed only Friday’s game with a sore right ankle, as the Celtics recovered from Friday’s embarrassing 97-91 loss to the Cavaliers, a game that snapped Cleveland’s 10-game losing streak.

    Not only did the Celtics (40-37) get their two star regulars back from foot injuries, Boston took a step closer toward clinching the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference as they lead the Bucks by two games in the loss column with five games left to play.

    Chris Wilcox had a big first half off the Boston bench, scoring eight points and helping the Celtics to a 56-52 halftime lead. Wilcox finished 5-of-6 from the field and led all Boston bench scorers with 13 points.

    Leading the way was forward Brandon Bass with 20 points as the Celtics outscored the Wizards, 31-19, in the third quarter and built an 18-point lead.

    Bass shot 9-of-12 from the field and played a team-high 36 minutes to lead the Celtics, who watched as the Wizards closed the lead down to 10 with three minutes remaining but could get no closer.

    Boston is off Monday and Tuesday before finishing their four-game homestand on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets at 8 p.m. at TD Garden.

    For more from Mike Petraglia from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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