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Avery Bradley is ready for the closeout challenge Thursday 05.10.12 at 2:40 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Avery Bradley knows as well as anyone on the banged up Celtics what it’s like to play through pain.

He’s dealing with a “sore” rotator cuff in his left shoulder, the team announced after its shootaround Thursday morning.

He is expected to start and play in Game 6 tonight.

“It’s a little sore,” Bradley said after Thursday’s shootaround. “I’ve been fighting through the pain all year. I’ll be ready for tonight.”

How does he cope?

“Just by not thinking about it,” Bradley added. “I’m going to get hit. There’s a chance it could pop out but I try not to think about it. I just go out there and just play.”

The Celtics lead the series, 3-2, and can close out the Hawks in Game 6, which is set for an 8 p.m. tipoff.

“We’re very focused,” Bradley said. “We know what we need to improve on this game. I feel like we’ll be prepared tonight.”

What does Bradley think will change from Game 5, when the Celtics had a 28-18 lead early in the second quarter, only to have it slip away?

“Just our intensity level,” he said. “We didn’t come out and play as hard as we played the previous game. We know we have to come out and have a strong start, play good defense and there’s a chance we could win the game.”

The Celtics also announced Thursday morning, just hours before their Game 6 showdown with the Hawks, that captain Paul Pierce has a sprained MCL in his left knee but he will be available to play and start in the potential closeout game for Boston.

Pierce injured the knee on Sunday morning during a Celtics shootaround prior to Game 4 at the Garden. He then reinjured hours later in the game when he tried to get around a screen set by Josh Smith.

Celtics officials at the team’s shootaround Thursday were adamant in denying reports of any tears or bone spurs in Pierce’s knee.

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley
Doc Rivers: ‘Rondo willed us back into the game’ 05.09.12 at 12:25 am ET
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Doc Rivers takes a lot of pride in his veteran team being more prepared than any other when it comes to crucial end-of-game situations. This is especially true in the playoffs.

That’s why Tuesday night was such a kick in the groin to Rivers and the Celtics.

A dejected Rivers analyzed what happened in the furious final moments of Boston’s 87-86 loss to Atlanta in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Rivers watched as Rajon Rondo nearly single-handedly won the game with a steal of an inbounds pass and a lenght-of-the-court dribble only to be denied even getting a shot off as the Hawks held on.

Rondo scored six of the final eight points of the third quarter as the Celtics rallied furiously back from a 12-point deficit and a nine-point hole late in the fourth only to have time run out.

“I thought Rondo willed us back into the game in the third,” Rivers said. “That stretch was huge for him. We played in spurts, and that’s why we lost.”

Rondo finished with 13 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in 44 minutes of rugged playoff action. He also had five steals, including the one off the inbounds play with 10 seconds remaining that nearly won the series.

The Celtics now must deal with the confident tandem of Al Horford and Josh Smith in Game 6 in Boston Thursday night. Both of them registered double-doubles, with Horford hitting the final two baskets for Atlanta and denying Rondo any chance of getting off the final shot.

“Al Horford was terrific tonight,” Rivers said. “I thought him and Williams made the difference in the game. I thought they all played well and hard, which we anticipated in an elmination game. I didn’t like our execution down the stretch of the game, did a couple of things we shouldn’t have done. But overall, I just thought they played harder, they played better.”

Before the Rondo steal, the Celtics tried for a steal with 15 seconds remaining, only to burn valuable seconds off the clock as the Celtics had a foul to give.

“We signaled to foul but our guys decided to go for the steal, first. What they didn’t understand was we had a foul to give. I told them after the game and we talk about it every day in practice,” Rivers said. “End of the game execution is going to win and lose playoff games for you.

“I thought when you look at the last couple of games, we had great motion and movement, offensively. I didn’t think we had any of that tonight. I thought we were an stagnant basketball team. I thought in the first quarter, it was terrific. The movement was great. We missed a lot of open shots. We had the lead but I told our coaches, they had a lot of open shots they missed, and then they started making them and got their confidence up. Listen, this is the team they thought they were going to start the season with, now they have it and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Starting with Rajon Rondo, Doc Rivers can sense ‘momentum rolling’ for Celtics 05.07.12 at 11:59 am ET
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When arguably your best player is playing his best, your going to have great results.

Such was the case again Sunday night when Rajon Rondo didn’t need a triple-double but just 20 points and 16 assists to help the Celtics throttle the overmatched Hawks, 101-79, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Garden.

What made Rondo’s night so special is what he did in getting others involved early and often.

He found Paul Pierce twice in the first quarter to get the captain rolling on his way to 24 points in 16 injury-shortened minutes. He found Avery Bradley for a corner three. He fed Kevin Garnett with a perfect pass on an alley-oop dunk. He fed Ray Allen for a wide open 16-footer.

‘€œThat’€™s Rondo being Rondo,” Pierce said. “He’€™s one of the best point guards in the NBA. He has the confidence and controls the game, tonight you saw him doing it offensively with his shooting. We already know he’€™s the best passer in the game and offensively he just picked up the slack.”

And he even found it in his heart to fedd Greg Stiemsma for a layup. Seven assists in the first quarter as Rondo had the Celtics off and running.

As great as Rondo is, his coach doesn’t always have a feel when a great game like Sunday is coming from his point guard.

‘€œI did not,” Doc Rivers said. “There are days though, that you sense it, and then most of the time you’€™re wrong. I didn’€™t sense that; I did sense that we were ready to play. You know, that’€™s obviously the best we’€™ve played so far in the playoffs. I sensed that, but other than that, it was just ‘€“ it started rolling. You could feel it. You can feel the momentum rolling on our side. And we made a lot of shots. When you make shots like that, and you defend like that, it’€™s tough to be beat.’€

And what did Rondo think of his fast start that took the heart out of the Hawks? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
Paul Pierce shows vintage form, sprained left knee and all 05.07.12 at 12:16 am ET
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To think Doc Rivers thought he might not even have his captain available after a fluke injury in the shootaround hours before Game 4.

Paul Pierce shook off a freakish knee injury in shootaround and a re-aggravation of it during the second quarter to finish with 24 points in just over 16 minutes and give the Celtics the kind of breathing room they needed in a 101-79 rout of the Hawks in Game 4, in contest not even that close.

Pierce established himself early and often. It was what Celtics fans have come to expect and appreciate about the team in the “Big 3″ plus Rondo era. He was 5-of-7 in the the first quarter with 10 points. Rajon Rondo had seven assists, including helpers on Pierce’s first two buckets as the Celtics raced out ahead, 32-19, after one quarter.

‘€œIt was great,” Rivers said. “And you know I thought, Paul thought, in the last game he took it too deep, and so tonight he went to the in-between game over and over again early on. First play we got him a layup and then he got a lot of in-between jump shots, which I think he may be one of the best in-between players in the league. And he did that. He knew that they were trapping; he knew that they were coming at him. And we talked, ‘€˜If you go quick, one, two, dribble, pull-up jump shot, you know, take it.’€™ And he did that. And then he got the three going. He was just on fire.’€

That fire nearly blew up in the Celtics’ face when leading 51-27 on a Pierce three, Pierce ran into Josh Smith on a screen. He twisted his knee, aggravating the injury from hours earlier in the team’s shootaround. Pierce said he’s hoping to be ready for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta.

“I kind of sprained it [Sunday] morning and then I aggravated it in the game,” said Pierce, who led the Celtics with 24 points in just over 16 minutes of game time. “I’m glad we were able to get a win like this to give me some rest, give me a couple of days off and get some treatment, and hope it feels good on Tuesday.”

Realizing fans would be concerned about his status for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta, Pierce tweeted after the game, I think the knee is going to be fine glad I didn’t have to play a lot of minutes tonight to rest it good win tonight fellas.

Pierce was red-hot before and after running into Josh Smith on a screen late in the second quarter. He made 10 of his 13 shots in the win.

‘€œI kind of tripped over someone’€™s foot,” Pierce said. “I had to sit around the last half of shootaround, and tonight I just kind of reaggravated it when I came up off the screen with Josh Smith right there. It’€™s a little bit sore right now so Doc [Rivers] just wanted to take precautions tonight especially when we had such a big lead.”

Rivers couldn’t believe it when it happened in the morning.

“When I left shoot-around, I probably thought he was not going to play,” Rivers said, before being reassured by trainer Ed Lacerte. “And Eddie said, ‘€˜Let’€™s see, let’€™s give it a try, and see how he feels.’€™ I talked to him right before the game; I asked him ‘€˜What do you think?’€™ And he said, ‘€˜Well let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’€™ It’€™s amazing. I mean, honestly, guys around the league ‘€“ He was just dribbling the ball and went to the floor in shoot-around. And I was thinking, ‘€˜What more can you –?’€™ We were walking. You know, that’€™s how you felt, like, my gosh. And honestly, when he went down, it didn’€™t look good. So the fact that he could come in and play, and then play the way he played was great.’€

Pierce missed the final 5:45 of the first half but came out to warmup for the second half and assured Rivers he was good to start the second half. He hit his first two shots, both threes, and had 24 points in 16 minutes on 10-of-13 shooting. He came out for Mickael Pietrus with 8:24 left in the third quarter and did not return. He didn’t need to. He was free to get more treatment and try and make sure – at all costs – that he’s ready to go for Tuesday night in Atlanta.

“I got some rest for the next game,” Pierce said. “You don’€™t want to really sit down or let it get stiff. That’€™s why I went over and got on the bike there when I got out of the game. If it had stiffened up on me I probably wouldn’€™t have had a chance to come back. It’s sore, tender. I’m just going to ice it.”

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Ray Allen: ‘I wasn’t holding anything back’ 05.05.12 at 1:40 am ET
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It’s really all anyone wanted to know from Ray Allen after Game 3 – how’s the ankle and do you think you’ll be ready for Game 4 Sunday night at the Garden?

“Now it’s achy,” Allen said after the game. “It feels like it’s just mad at me a little bit. So, I’ve been here before. It seems like I have all these safeguards in place. When I get home, I know exactly what I need to do. I have my contraptions to make sure I’m able to go to sleep well and get up in the morning and get my treatment. So, I’m in a good place.

“I think over the past couple of weeks, people have asked me, ‘Can you get in a game and play five minutes, just stand in a corner and make people think you’re going to shoot it.’ I knew once I got out there, I was going to be out there to run up and down and move whichever way I need to move. I wasn’t holding anything back, once I got into the offense.”

After playing 37 minutes in his first game back since April 10, Allen said he could tell he was in a tense NBA playoff game. But all things considered, after scoring 13 points in Boston’s 90-84 overtime win over Atlanta in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Allen said he and his left ankle came out of it feeling as good as could be expected.

“Starting the game it was great,” Allen said. “I think going into half was when it started to tighten up on me and I started noticing a little more than I’ve noticed but similar to what I’ve been dealing with. Just sitting on the sideline, I just did what I could to make sure I kept it loose by stretching it. But once I went back in the game, there’s not really a moment to think about it. Your adrenaline is rushing, being in the building, my adrenaline is rushing.”

Doc Rivers had to pay particularly close attention. He was without Avery Bradley for most of the second half after losing him to a recurring left shoulder injury. And the minutes on Allen started to shoot through the roof, that and the Celtics were forced to go with a three-guard look because the Hawks were going small with their lineup that was missing three big men.

‘€œI thought the legs were shot at the end,” Rivers said of Allen, who missed one of two free throws in overtime. “We started trying to use him for decoy. He was terrific. And like I told you before the game ‘€“ someone asked me, ‘€˜Would there be a minute restriction?’€™ I said, ‘€œNo, because we don’€™t know when he’€™ll play again or not.’€™ You know? So I’€™m getting everything I can get out of him each game. I’€™m saying that jokingly, but somewhat true as well. Tonight honestly, we needed him. It’€™s amazing the difference when he’€™s on the floor in our spacing, and how much more difficult it is for guys to help.

“We’€™re giving them the day off tomorrow because they’€™re exhausted. And I don’€™t want Ray in the gym because he would do something; he would shoot, or something. So that’€™s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.’€

Paul Pierce was more than impressed with Allen.

‘€œJust having him out there really picked us up because we haven’€™t seen Ray in a jersey in so long,” Pierce said. “Just having him out there, you heard the reaction from the crowd when he checked into the game. Stuff like that brings so much energy to the ball club, to have a guy that’€™s so vital come out there and give us a big lift. It’€™s huge having him out there, especially tonight with Avery going down.”

Allen, who has received intense treatment and cortisone shots to manage the pain, admitted that as the game continued, he could feel the bone spurs give him discomfort. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley
Why Doc Rivers is looking to make life easier for Kevin Garnett 05.03.12 at 2:54 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics spent most of their 75-minute practice session Thursday working on half-court set offense.

Why?

Well, two reasons.

If indeed Ray Allen is healthy enough to return, then they’re going to need his jump shot and Doc Rivers wants his team to remember how to get him his shots. But secondly, and maybe more importantly, with or without Allen, the Celtics need to do a better job of freeing up space for Kevin Garnett, who has had precious little of it in the first two games against the Hawks.

If Allen can play, that will help Garnett. But if he can’t the Celtics need to find another scorer besides Paul Pierce to help out so both Atlanta guards aren’t doubling down in the paint and guarding Garnett.

“We just need a scorer,” Rivers said before Thursday’s practice. “We have to space the floor. They’re killing us with their help [defense]. They just decided without Ray on the floor, they’re just going to swarm everybody and you’re going to have to find someone.”

Rivers said he’s not worried about Garnett’s jumper. He’s more alarmed that he has made just 13-of-32 field goal attempts in the first two games. There has to be help for KG going forward.

“We have to,” Rivers said. “The jumper is going to come. I’m not worried about that. But we have to establish him more. We have to get bodies off of him. They’re bumping him around, knocking him around. We have to do a better job as a staff, do a better job of trying to get bodies off of him and giving him some room.

“Our spacing is horrendous for him. Clearly without Ray, they’re using both guards to just sit in the paint. And we have to do a better of creating space. It’s tough when you have two guys they’re just not guarding. That makes it difficult on Kevin. It reminds me of Perk and Rondo early on, and that was a big and guard. Now, it’s two guards [they’re using] and they’re quick, and they can poke and jab at the ball. We have to figure out something because we have to get something down low.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
Ray Allen is optimistic but Doc Rivers is cautious about Game 3 05.03.12 at 1:43 pm ET
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WALTHAM, Mass. — Doc Rivers has been around way too long to get over overly excited – let alone ahead of himself – when players tell him they’re optimistic they can play.

But still Rivers was pleased Thursday when Ray Allen showed up, announcing that his left ankle felt good enough to allow him to practice as the team prepares for Game 3 against the Hawks on Friday at the Garden.

“[Friday] matters a lot more. I thought you said he said he was definitely playing,” Rivers said. “That would be great news. He’s going to practice but it’s going to be under my watch. He told me [Wednesday] he was going to practice and I told him, ‘we’ll see.’ Really, I don’t even know what to do. Honest to God. Eddie and our doctors have all talked. We don’t know the answer. We don’t know if practicing is a good idea or not. If he practices today but doesn’t play [Friday], I’m going to be upset at myself.”

Allen took part in the full 75-minute Celtics practice Thursday, which was mostly comprised of half-court sets. Allen tried working out before Game 2 and had a bad setback that kept him from playing in Game 2 Tuesday.

“He biked [Wednesday], I guess that is good. I think he has a better shot but we’ll find that out,” Rivers said. “He wants to do more today so we’ll see. We did that the other day and it didn’t work so we have to maybe limit Ray from Ray. He’s such a creature of habit, and I actually thought that may hurt him for any chance of him to play. Obviously, it reacted that poorly after just the workout he did, it’s probably good he didn’t play, at the end of the day.

“He’s a tough one because he’s such a creature of habit. He does his workouts the night before every game and does his two hours of shooting and then before the game does his hour of shooting. That’s a lot of work. We have to figure out a way of allowing him to try to do some of it but not doing so much where when he finishes he can’t play because I’d rather take 10 minutes of him on the floor than nothing, if that’s what it comes to.”

Allen sounded as optimistic as he has since missing the final 11 games of the regular season with the left ankle injury and the first two playoff games.

“Last couple of days, I’ve been in a really good place so I’m optimistic,” Allen said before Thursday’s practice. “If I’m sitting here [Friday] feeling good, that’s a different story. I am optimistic about practicing today so that’s definitely a great step for me moving forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
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