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Celtics shootaround notes: Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo ready for Game 6 06.07.12 at 12:46 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo and his protected left elbow appear ready to help the Celtics rise to another NBA finals. (AP)

WALTHAM — The Celtics spent Thursday morning in typical gameday mode, preparing for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden against LeBron James and the Heat. All 14 active players were present and accounted for as the team went through half-court sets and shooting drills in anticipation of the game that – if they win – would propel them to the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2.

Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were among the Celtics in attendance. Both had minor injury issues in the Game 5 win in Miami. Allen had to leave the game for the locker room midway through the third quarter to get treatment for his sore ankles while Rondo suffered a cut on his left arm but both returned to the game and are expected to be fully ready for the potential series-clincher at the Garden. Rondo shot just 3-of-15 in Game 5 while suffering the injury to the same arm on which he dislocated his left elbow in 2011.

“I don’t know what happened there, I think he got slashed or cut,” said Rivers of the Rondo injury on Wednesday. “I pay zero attention to injuries and never ask about them. I don’t want to know about them.”

If the Celtics prevail in Game 6, they will have a day off and then prepare for the Thunder in Game 1 of the NBA finals next Tuesday in Oklahoma City. If the Celtics lose Thursday night’s game, they will have to head back on a plane Friday and travel to Miami for Game 7 on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Miami Heat
Doc Rivers on his Celtics: ‘Honestly, they believe they can win’ 06.06.12 at 2:08 am ET
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Doc Rivers (right) suddenly has a lot to smile about against LeBron James and the Heat. (AP)

After winning three straight games to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole to the heavily-favored Miami Heat, the Celtics are on the verge of one of the most improbable trips to the NBA finals, even by their most-lofty franchise standards. Doc Rivers said after Tuesday’s 94-90 win in Game 5 in Miami that the reason the Celtics never give up on a game in hostile territory is because of the makeup of his veteran locker room.

“It’s just a good team, a close-knit team,” Rivers answered when questioned about his players’ supreme confidence. “They talk that way. We have a lot of positive talk in our locker room, a lot. And it fuels from them. And honestly, they believe they can win. And we just have to keep hanging in there.”

One reason the Celtics believe they can win is history. In the Big Three era — beginning in 2008 — the Celtics are now 9-0 in Game 5 contests in which the series was tied, 2-2. On Tuesday, they didn’t crumble when they fell behind by 13 in the first half and were shooting just 33 percent at halftime.

After watching his team hold on, Rivers said he reminded his team after the emotional win not to lose focus on the task at hand, namely closing out the supremely talented LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat in Boston Thursday and not give them the chance to return the Eastern Conference finals to Miami on Saturday.

“I told them, ‘We’ve done nothing.’ We’re playing a heck of a basketball team. And so, just because we’re going to Boston, I told them, ‘We have to play. They’re not going to give it to us. We have to go get it,’ ” Rivers said.

Rivers is also known as one of the most inspirational coaches in the NBA. He had to go deep into that well Tuesday night as his team fell behind 31-18 in Game 5 to the Heat. Miami was hitting most of its open shots while the Celtics started off 4-of-17.

“We’re just hanging in there,” Rivers said after the 94-90 win that put the Celtics one win from the NBA finals. “They jumped up on us at the beginning of the game. We just told our guys, ‘Hang in there, just hang in there. Don’t overreact. Hang in there. The longer we’re in the game, the better we’ll play.’ It was really nice.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Miami Heat
Mickael Pietrus: ‘I had to take a shot and make it’ 06.06.12 at 1:48 am ET
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Mickael Pietrus was all aces Tuesday in the clutch as the Celtics beat the Heat in Game 5. (AP)

Mickael Pietrus hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter Tuesday night as the Celtics held off the Heat, 94-90, in Game 5 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Pietrus hit 5-of-8 shots from the floor and finished with 13 points off the bench as the Celtics moved to the brink of the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons by taking a 3-2 series lead over the heavily favored Heat.

Pietrus said he received a special source of inspiration on Monday via text message from former Celtic and current TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal.

“I got a text from Shaq, he was telling me keep believing and keep playing, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.

Pietrus hit a huge 3-pointer to cap a wild flurry midway through the fourth as the Celtics and Heat were battling for control of the game. With the Heat on a 9-0 run to go up 78-72, Brandon Bass had his dunk blocked by Dwyane Wade, but the loose ball went out to Rajon Rondo, who touched it immediately to a wide-open Pietrus on the right baseline. Pietrus drilled it to cut the Heat lead to three and help spark Boston’s comeback.

“When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take a shot and make it, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.

“The one thing you know about Pietrus is he’s going to shoot it. He’s been down this road before,” Doc Rivers said, giving credit to Rondo for touch-passing to Pietrus on the wing.

With 2:11 left and Miami back in the lead at 83-82 on a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer, Pietrus stepped up and did it again, nailing another trey on a pass from Pierce. The triple put Boston up 85-83 and again quieted the crowd, which was anticipating a Heat run to close out the game as in Game 2.

“I’m very happy with the way we’ve been playing defensively and I think it’s up to us to go home and close it out,” Pietrus said.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Miami Heat
Kevin Garnett: Celtics and Heat ‘two teams just throwing punches’ 06.04.12 at 4:42 pm ET
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There was yet another defining moment of the series in the second half when LeBron James drove to the basket and was hit hard by Kevin Garnett. The two locked each other up momentarily as James pushed off of Garnett.

No foul was called in rare moment in the series where two players were allowed to go at each other in the heat of battle.

“[We were] two teams just throwing punches, really, to be honest,” Garnett said after Boston’s 93-91 Game 4 win in overtime. “I thought when we were up, we were aggressive. Obviously they were going to make a run. They got a lot of free-throws in that run, a lot of lay-ups in that run and they were able to get some transition.”

The Heat made their big run in the third quarter to make it a game as the Celtics fell into big foul trouble. With 3:35 left in the third, Rajon Rondo picked up his fourth foul. Just 13 seconds later, Paul Pierce joined him on the bench with four personals. It was up to Garnett to lead the group on the floor and right the ship as the Heat closed the quarter with a 7-1 run that cut the Boston lead down to 73-68 entering the fourth.

“Once we got that under control, I felt like we got back aggressive,” Garnett said. “The play-calling was all over the place as far as the refs and I thought both teams played through it. Then, when we had to, we got stops.”

The biggest challenge for stars like Garnett, Rondo, Pierce and James is to know what kind of contact is going to be whistled and what isn’t during a game, something that could decide the season for both teams.

“It is but you have to put the refs in a position to make some calls,” Garnett added. “[Doc Rivers] stressed us to stay aggressive. At times it is difficult but it can’t decipher on your aggression and how aggressive you are especially during a run. Defensively, you want to be in sync but you can’t let them decipher how you are. I thought we kept our composure pretty well and finished the game off.”

Garnett essentially admitted that the Celtics were lucky to survive Sunday night when Pierce fouled out just 38 seconds into OT. The Celtics scored just four points. They held Miami to two in the five-minute period.

“It changes when Paul goes out,” Garnett said. “The scorers, Rajon, myself, [Ray Allen] and everybody has to pick up the load a little bit as far as being more offensive-minded. Like I’ve always said, we are a defensive team that can score the basketball. When Paul goes out, Rajon knows to be a lot more aggressive. Ray knows to be a lot more aggressive. We encourage [Mickael Pietrus to score]. I think Quis [Marquis Daniels] was in there in the latter part of the game. (We) just stay aggressive. As long as we are making stops, we can turn it over into some easy offense and we’re a hard team to beat at times.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, KG
Paul Pierce has the last laugh on LeBron James 06.04.12 at 4:47 am ET
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Cameras caught Paul Pierce breaking into a wide smile with 1:51 left in overtime as LeBron James was called for his sixth and final foul, getting disqualified for just the fourth time in his career, and the first time since April 2008.

It was also the first time in James’ career that he fouled out in the playoffs. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, fouled out for the third time in his last five playoff games dating back to Game 7 against Philadelphia. Pierce was called for his sixth just 38 seconds into overtime when he was called for running over Shane Battier on a cut across the lane.

“Oh, it was very frustrating,” Pierce said. “But it’s gratifying when you see the other star player fouling out, also.”

Pierce later added, “It was a cut, scratch, grab, hold, elbow-type of game. I mean nobody was going to give an edge. I’d say it’s a classic. You rarely see that, you rarely see that. You rarely see that when you’ve got two star players fouling out.

“This is probably going to be an instant classic-type of game,” said Pierce, who is now headed to Miami with the Eastern Conference finals tied, 2-2. “We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy, a good old classic bar fight.

“Words can’t even describe the type of game it is,” Pierce said. “I mean it’s a funny game, the way the ball bounces, the way things go. I mean, started out way up the big lead, to come back, and I was sitting there on the sideline in overtime, I was like, this is probably going to be an instant classic type of game. It was just like one team gets momentum and the other team just grabs it. I’m just glad we were on the winning side today.”

Pierce laughed when asked where he thinks the series stands. He laughed because he’s very aware of the opportunity that lies ahead, starting with Game 5 in Miami.

“It’s even,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to win a game in Miami, of course. We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a good old classic bar fight. Going in to it, you [had] to expect every game to be like this. Coming down to the wire, both teams trying to find an edge. This was a great game today.

“We’ve won two in a row,” Pierce added. “We feel like we let Game 2 slip away. So, we fee like were playing a good momentum. But we’ve got to start playing for 48 minutes. We haven’t put together a 48 minute game yet. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have gotten to 100 points tonight after scoring 61 in the first half so were hoping we can put together a full game when we get down to Miami.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat
Mickael Pietrus: The secret weapon against LeBron James 06.04.12 at 4:16 am ET
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Before Red Auerbach kept Dwyane Wade from knocking down the potential game-winner 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime, Mickael Pietrus made sure Miami’s other superstar wouldn’t end it in regulation.

“I try to play tough, because you have to respect the jersey you’re playing for,” was all Pietrus would say about his pressure on LeBron James as the Miami power forward was jammed by Pietrus at the top of the circle as the clock wound down. Then Pietrus fed James off to the right, where there were two more Celtics waiting to help out.

Triple-teamed, James was forced to dump off to Udonis Haslem who missed a jumper at the buzzer, sending the game game to overtime, 89-89.

What was also remarkable about the play at the end of regulation was that the situation was identical to the end of Game 2. That’s when the Celtics got away with Rajon Rondo guarding a player eight inches taller when James missed a fallaway at the end of regulation. Doc Rivers wasn’t going to allow that to happen again. He put Pietrus on him and made sure he had help by funneling James into a triple-team.

Pietrus kept it up in the overtime. With Boston desperately trying to protect a one-point lead, the Celtics missed consecutive shots. But there was Pietrus flying in from the weak side and picking up the rebound to extend the Celtics possession. Those two rebounds took a total of 45 seconds off the clock at a most-critical time.

“The last two were huge. Sometimes that’s what it takes to win basketball games,” Pietrus said. “You can always count on me if you want to win games. I’m going to play hard. That’s what I did for my team tonight. My main focus is to go to Miami now and try and get another win.

“If I don’t have my shot I won’t get frustrated because I know we have legends on the floor. You have to respect them. As far as right now I’m trying to focus on what the team needs the most. From me that’s defense and rebounding.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, LeBron James
Doc Rivers and Celtics: ‘Last year was last year… We don’t want a repeat of that’ 06.03.12 at 7:14 pm ET
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Try as they might, the national and local media was unsuccessful in the 45 hours since the end of Friday’s Boston’s win over the Heat in Game 3 to draw the Celtics in to comparing last year to this year against LeBron James and company.

“I don’t even remember last year, to be honest with you,” said Paul Pierce when asked about the details of the 4-1 loss to the Heat in the Eastern semifinals last year.

“I don’t, really,” Doc Rivers said when asked if he recalled Boston winning Game 3 in 2011 before losing a heart-breaker in Game 4 in overtime. “I know we lost. I think that’s the game Rondo got injured but I’m not even sure of that. Oh, it was Game 3. I don’t even remember. That tells you what I remember.”

Indeed, the inspired Celtics overcame the dislocation of Rajon Rondo‘s left elbow in a collision with Dwyane Wade in Game 3. They had a great chance to tie the series when Ray Allen drilled a three to put the Celtics up, 84-81, with 2:28 left. But James hit a three of his own 28 seconds later and James hit a jumper to put Miami up, 86-84. Pierce hit a jumper to tie it, 86-86, with 41 seconds left. After a James turnover, the Celtics had the last 19.5 seconds left to win it. They had to settle for a missed fadeaway from Pierce with 0.9 seconds remaining. ‘

In that game, Kevin Garnett had seven points and made just 1-of-10 from the field in 41 minutes. That cannot happen again for the Celtics to win Game 4, something they failed to do in 2011.

“We just want to be consistent in how we play,” Pierce said. “Last year was last year. It’s over with. We don’t want a repeat of that so we just have to be consistent in everything we’re trying to do. We’re going to continue to try and get him the ball, get as many as touches out of him as possible. We know that’s been working for us. So, when Kevin gets it going from the inside, it really opens up things for a lot of us on the perimeter.”

The Celtics would be outscored 12-4 in overtime in the game that would essentially seal Boston’s playoff fate in five games.

“We had opportunities,” Rivers reflected. “Clearly, we had a couple of great shots. I think we had a terrible possession now that I think about it before overtime. Our last possession [of regulation]. Thanks for bringing that up.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dwyane Wade
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