|Paul Pierce, Celtics have reason to be very desperate and bring ‘hard hats’ in Game 6||05.22.12 at 12:47 pm ET|
In his days in Boston, Paul Pierce has always stormed off the court, pumping his fist, waving a towel or firing headbands into the crowd following an emotional and significant win like the one the Celtics pulled out of their hats Monday night against the Sixers.
But in the final moments of Boston’s 101-85 win over Philadelphia that put them one game away from the Eastern Conference finals, there was a different look on Pierce’s face – one of business not yet finished.
There was obviously something else that was likely running through his mind: “If only we didn’t blow Game 4.”
If the Celtics had held on to their 18-point lead in the third quarter last Friday in Philly, they would have at least the next two days completely off to rest their weary bodies. But instead, they have to finish business on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center at the corner of Broad and Pattison in South Philadelphia.
“We know how tough the playoffs are, there’s nothing easy about the playoffs,” Pierce said afterward. “We know there’s a long journey to get to where we need to go. We understand how difficult it is, nothing’s easy.”
And it certainly won’t be easy on Wednesday. Yes, the Celtics are the smarter, more disciplined team. They’ve even shown to be the tougher team under pressure, like Monday night. But the Sixers – with all due respect to Kevin Garnett – represent something inherent in all Philadelphians – they’re street fighters. That’s exactly what Pierce is expecting when he steps onto the court Wednesday.
“You’ve got a very resilient Philadelphia group who just won’t go away,” Pierce said. “I take my hat off to them, they are one of the better teams we even played in the last few years because of their fight, and they got great coaches and their players are mentally tough. We know they’re not going to go away so we’ve got to have our hard hats on for the next game, Game 6, to try to put ‘em away.”
|Evan Turner: Sixers have to ‘make it a rougher game’||05.22.12 at 12:30 pm ET|
Coming into the series, the Sixers were perceived to have a clear advantage in the athletic department over the older, more experienced Celtics.
One problem with that – it’s the Celtics have have played tougher in the big moments, like for the for the final 20 minutes of Monday’s 101-85 Boston win in Game 5 that puts the Celtics one win from the Eastern Conference finals.
With the exception of the Game 4 meltdown in Philadelphia, the Celtics have won the battle inside against the Sixers. They’ve been able to establish Kevin Garnett in the low post and he and Brandon Bass have had quality looks at the basket.
Defensively, which the Celtics to a man will tell you is where it all starts, they’ve also done a much better job than Philadelphia in stopping dribble penetration into the lane, closing up quickly on Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.
The good looks the Sixers were getting on baseline cuts in the first half Monday suddenly disappeared in the second half – as did the Sixers’ lead and any hope of winning the series on their home court on Wednesday night.
The Celtics demoralized the young, immature Sixers, who didn’t have the patience or discipline to reverse the ball because the Celtics were the tougher team. The Sixers shot nearly 60 percent for the first 23 minutes Monday night. They shot 27 percent the rest of the way.
“Make shots,” is how Turner answered the question of turning around the second-half disaster in Boston Monday night. ” You get a lot of shots. The big thing is you just have to keep competing and make it a rougher game. You can’t let them walk into their shots, get to certain spots, you got to make it tougher for them like we did in Game 4.”
Elton Brand, who is playing with an ailing shoulder, was huge early on for Philadelphia. He hit 6-of-8 as the Sixers had the clear momentum in the first half. Read the rest of this entry »
|Greg Stiemsma: Just ‘another opportunity’ but this time the Steamer shines||05.22.12 at 12:08 am ET|
Brandon Bass wasn’t the only one coming into Game 5 who might have wondered where all his playing time went.
Greg Stiemsma was lost on the Celtics bench, while Ryan Hollins was spelling Kevin Garnett off the bench. Stiemsma was a DNP-Coach’s Decision on Friday night. He has eight, 11 and four minutes respectively in the first three games before a goose egg in Game 4.
But on Monday, maybe it was just as simple as Doc Rivers wanting to change the atmosphere as Stiemsma – not Hollins – came in for Garnett in the first quarter and the Sixers leading, 12-11.
So often in the series, and in the playoffs, when Garnett has come off the floor, the Celtics have struggled. But this time, while not pouring in 27 points like Bass did, Stiemsma was crucial in stabilizing the struggling Celtics bench, which lost Ray Allen to the starting lineup. Stiemsma came in with 5:46 left in the first and immediately paid dividends.
He didn’t register a block until 1:23 left in the quarter. It was actually his motion off the ball and rolls to the basket that made a difference. Imagine that – Stiemsma making offensive moves and Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo looking for him on cuts to the basket. In his first two minutes, Stiemsma hit a lay-up off a screen-and-roll from Pierce. He dunked on a baseline cut to the basket on a pass from Rondo and he connected on a jumper from 14 feet on a feed from Rondo.
“Tonight was another opportunity, its been like that the whole season,” Stiemsma said. “For the most part I think I’ve taken advantage of it and tonight was just another one of those nights where got some looks early, got myself going and I was just happy we won at the end.”
“I just kind of went with the flow of the game, how it was going, if I missed my defense couple times early when we got those buckets, a layup and a dunk, it really slows the game down, really makes you feel a lot more comfortable.”
Stiemsma didn’t do much in the second half. He didn’t need to as Bass took a spear to the heart of the 76ers and the Celtics carved out a 101-85 win in Game 5. But it was Stiemsma who gave the Celtics some life early on when the Sixers were looking and hoping to pull away for their second straight win in Boston.
How good was Stiemsma? He made all five shots he attempted and finished with 10 points, three blocks and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
“Its playoff time so as long as we’re winning I’m happy,” Stiemsma said. “It’s tough to see us struggle, but at the same time I don’t feel like I was playing the same way I was at the end of the year, either. So it felt good to get out there and feel comfortable again.”
|Avery Bradley is a ‘game-time decision’ for Celtics, could Ray Allen be starting?||05.21.12 at 11:54 am ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics reported that all players were on hand and accounted for during Monday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility.
The team’s official website tweeted just before shootaround ended that Avery Bradley (left shoulder) was a “game-time decision” for Monday’s Game 5 against the Sixers at TD Garden.
Bradley did not practice on Sunday after suffering a recurrence of his left shoulder injury during the third quarter of Friday’s loss in Philadelphia.
If Bradley were not available for Game 5, it’s assumed Ray Allen would return to the starting lineup for the first time in the playoffs. Allen hasn’t started since April 4 against the Spurs, coming off the bench in the last four games he played in the regular season and all eight games to date in the playoffs.
Allen has been nearly non-existent in the last two games in Philadelphia, getting off just one shot and scoring three points in the Game 3 rout of the Sixers and making 2-of-6 and scoring five points in 31 minutes on Friday night in the 92-83 loss that evened the series, 2-2, heading into tonight’s Game 5 at TD Garden.
“It’s hard to really think about it from this vantage point,” Allen said of Boston’s second-half meltdown on Friday. “I know that in the third quarter, we just lost our attack. They attacked us. Going into the fourth quarter, we were still in a good place but they continued to attack. We lost momentum and on a ’50-50′ balls, it seemed like they got all of them.”
As WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery pointed out, the Celtics are a plus-18 in the playoffs with Bradley on the floor, second only to the plus-56 of Kevin Garnett during the playoffs.
|Paul Pierce: Second-half meltdown ‘was really on us’||05.19.12 at 1:35 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — There will be those who say the Celtics were taken out of their rhythm by the foul trouble that hit the Celtics late in the third quarter of Friday’s 92-83 loss to the Sixers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Not Paul Pierce. He’s been around long enough to know what really caused the Celtics to blow an 18-point third-quarter lead and fall back into a 2-2 tie in the series.
“Once they picked up their intensity, I didn’t think we really played with a sense of urgency in the third or fourth quarter,” Pierce said. “That’s a chance where you have a team on its back, you’re up 15 and you really take their confidence. We didn’t do that. You give a team some life, they went on a run and it just carried over all the way through the third and fourth quarter. That was really on us.”
Pierce wasn’t blaming the offense, which managed just 37 points in the second half.
“I really don’t blame it on offense,” Pierce said. “You look up defensively, you give up 28 and 30 points in the third and fourth quarters. Regardless if we score 15 or 20 points [in a quarter], our defense should be able to win the game. Our defense just didn’t come through. We didn’t rebound the ball, didn’t defend at a high level in the second half and allowed them to get in the game. We gave away too many free throws, easy opportunities, gave up the three, and then turned the ball over.”
“Of course, we have to expect that. Your back’s against the wall, you have to expect that. You’re down on your home court. You have to really expect them to come out and play their best. I said coming into the game, ‘expect their best.’ Obviously, it wasn’t their best first half. They came out in the second half and used the energy of the crowd and we just didn’t respond. Even though it was a tight game down the stretch, we had our opportunities but we gave up two late threes to [Andre Iguodala] to seal it.”
Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley all picked up their fourth fouls late in the third quarter but Pierce didn’t even mention that as a possible reason for falling apart.
“That’s part of the game,” Pierce said. “You have other guys to come in and step it up. You have to really put the knockout punch to a team and we just didn’t do that.”
|Doc Rivers: ‘We don’t think old’||05.18.12 at 7:01 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Age is an attitude. And with these Celtics it’s a mindset that has served them incredibly well since they started 15-17.
Doc Rivers knew that, bad record or not, he would have to manage off days and game days much differently and more aggressively in terms of rest than he had in the past.
It paid off in a 24-10 finish to the season and a six-game win over the younger Hawks in the first round. They headed into Game 4 Friday with a 2-1 lead over the younger and more athletic Sixers. What’s the key?
“We don’t think old,” Rivers said in the hours leading up to Game 4. “We are what we are. We do know that. The rest is important for us but I think the rest is important for everybody. I don’t think it matters what age you are. Athletes require recovery. We understand that. We like to call it experience.”
Rivers said he’s been more aggressive in giving the team days off, like Thursday, the only off-day between Games 3 and 4.
“It forces you to,” Rivers said. “If we were younger, maybe we would do more. I don’t know if it helps you but it forces you to do things at times you wouldn’t do. We definitely take more days off this year probably than we ever have. I think the schedule and who we are has forced that action. Fortunately, most of the time, we have the common sense to do it.
“When we don’t practice guys still work on their games. We didn’t do anything [Thursday] but Kevin was over here shooting. Especially veterans, more than young guys, understand what they need to do to keep them in rhythm. I think young guys, days off are bad because I don’t think they don’t get that. I don’t think they understand. They think a day off is a day off. They don’t understand what what gets them to the next day or the next game.”
But Rivers doesn’t have that same concern with guys like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
“A lot of veteran guys, if they need a day off, they take it off,” Rivers said. “Ray rarely takes a day off. He’s running somewhere, down the street, riding a bike. Paul was on the treadmill yesterday at the hotel. But they have the experience and that’s an advantage for them.”
|Ray Allen: Ready to fall on the sword again for Celtics in Game 4||05.18.12 at 12:33 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Ray Allen had to be reminded Friday morning that the last time he had one shot in a game was Jan. 11, 2006, when he was ejected after playing just eight minutes in a win over Keyon Dooling and the Orlando Magic.
That was the infamous night when both were ejected in an on-court tussle.
“I do remember that,” Allen said Friday morning. “Very rare”
On Wednesday, he wasn’t ejected and played 25 minutes. But he again had only one shot, and again his team came out on top as the Celtics beat the Sixers in Game 3. Allen made the only field goal he attempted and finished with three points in Boston’s 107-91 win.
“I don’t have to change anything tonight that happened from last game,” Allen said. “The way they guarded me, they way they guarded us as a team, the final score was the result we were all hoping for. I can do everything this whole day the same way and go into the game and allow the game to go the same way. The object is to win.”
Doc Rivers said Friday that when Allen is on the court, the Celtics know one thing: “someone’s open.” That’s Allen’s approach as well.
“Most definitely,” Allen said. “I just think about what I’ve been able to do in this league over the course of my career, and be able to be regarded as one of the greatest shooters of all times. Now, it’s at the point where it hurts me, being on the floor, because no one wants me to take a shot. I appreciate that respect from opposing players, opposing coaches, fans when I get open always wonder how I got open.
“To be able to use that in the game, in a playoff situation, is a huge weapon. I’m always ready to take the shot and make the shot, but I know being out there on the floor does change the complexity of how a team plays defense. It helps with cutting, helps with pick-and-roll coverages. It helps with a lot of things. It’s like falling on a sword, you have to do what you have to do to help this team win. It can be frustrating because you want to get in and get involved, but the ultimate objective here is for us to win games and move on. That’s for me, what I have to do to help this team win.”
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