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Kevin Garnett: ‘I’m going to play until it’s over’ 04.27.13 at 2:05 am ET
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Not even Kevin Garnett‘s indomitable spirit could save these Celtics on Friday night.

It’s not that they didn’t want to win Game 3 against the Knicks. They desperately wanted it. Not just to avoid a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole in the first round of these NBA Playoffs, but to mend their city’s broken heart. To give Bostonians something to believe in. The Celtics just couldn’t will anything better than a 90-76 defeat.

“Obviously, the result is not what we wanted,” said Garnett, “but looking in the stands, seeing people drunk, having fun and high-fiving for the most part was good. It was a good two-and-a-half hour diversion if you will.”

If the C’s want anything beyond another short-lived diversion on Sunday, they need more than Garnett’s ever-beating heart, which manufactured 12 points and 17 rebounds on a tough shooting night (5-13 FG).

“I’m going to play until it’s over,” said Garnett, who contributed 35 minutes in the loss. “I’m not usually broken. It’s always been my mentality. It always probably will. That’s what it is. I’ve been to the bottom before. I know what it is. I’m a fighter at the end of the day, but it takes more than one person.”

Actually, it’ll take every person to avoid a sweep. Three Knicks again did the damage — Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith combining for 56 points — and the C’s lacked the firepower to respond. Jeff Green and Paul Pierce committed 10 turnovers, and everyone else was worse. Garnett’s guts only get them so far.

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Paul Pierce: ‘I thought we wanted it so bad, we were so anxious’ 04.27.13 at 1:18 am ET
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Sometimes you can want something so bad, you hurt your chances of accomplishing your goals.

Such was the case for Paul Pierce and the Celtics before a TD Garden crowd desperate to rally behind them in light of the Boston Marathon tragedy of the last two weeks. The Celtics came out flat and never recovered in a 90-76 loss to the Knicks that leaves them in a 3-0 hole from which no NBA team has ever overcome.

From the opening 15 seconds when Pierce and Kevin Garnett missed layups at the basket and Avery Bradley missed an open 3-point shot, the Celtics looked like they were pressing all night.

“I thought there was a lot of energy in the building,” Pierce said. “I thought we wanted it so bad, we were so anxious. You want it so bad and you rush, and get real anxious. And I thought that’s what we did tonight. I thought we played hard, had some good looks. The ball just didn’t bounce our way.”

The Celtics have not scored 80 points in any of their three games of the series, becoming the first Celtics team in playoff history to achieve that bit of unwanted history.

“The Knicks are really doing a good job on defense, trying to take us out of our offense,” Pierce said. “I think our 3-point game hasn’t really been there the whole series. We haven’t really got to the line a ton. But we have got to figure it out. We have got to do a better job of knocking down open shots, we’ve got to get to the free throw line, got to move the ball. Can’t turn the ball over. We turned the ball over a lot tonight and I think that’s something that’s biting us.”

Indeed, the Celtics committed 18 turnovers resulting in 26 New York points while the Knicks committed just 11 resulting in only eight points.

“You know, I was surprised. I thought we were a team that matched up really well with the Knicks. I thought we played them pretty good throughout the season. We lost a couple close ones but I didn’t expect this coming in. I knew this would probably be a long series being the way we matched up, so I am surprised we are down 0-3 right now.”

Does Pierce believe the Celtics can accomplish history?

“Yeah. I think that’s all it’s going to take right now, one game at a time,” Pierce said. “That’s got to be the focus. We’re going to look ahead, the focus is Sunday, and then we’ll go from there.

“I think it was tough because you try to make a run and then they make a big three. You miss wide open shots, you miss a layup, then they make a tough basket. You get yourself in those types of situations and it gets tougher. You look at each other, you look down, some guys lose their confidence. But you have got to stick with it and understand it’s hard, it’s not easy. It’s going to be difficult. The playoffs are hard to win and we’ve got to figure out a way to grind through.”

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Fast Break: Knicks blowout leaves Celtics staggering 04.26.13 at 10:39 pm ET
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The Celtics submitted another miserable offensive effort, shooting worse than 40 percent from the field, and fell into a 3-0 hole against the Knicks with a 90-76 loss in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series. Kevin Garnett totaled 12 points and 17 rebounds, Jeff Green gave them 21 points and eight boards, and Jason Terry and Paul Pierce combined to score 24 of their 31 points in the second half, but none of it mattered in a game the Knicks led by as many as 21 points. Here’s all that went awry.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Everything: When 31 points in the first half is an improvement from their last half of basketball, the Celtics are in trouble. After scoring 23 points in the second half of Game 2, the C’s managed just 31 points in the first two quarters on Friday night. They shot 35 percent from the field (14-40) and committed three more turnovers (9) than they had assists (6) at the break. Outside of Garnett and Green, who combined to score 17 of those 31 points, the Celtics shot 6-of-22 (27 FG%) thanks to an offense that featured a string of failed turnaround jump shots.

Lineups: To the surprise of pretty much everyone, Doc Rivers inserted Terry into the starting lineup in place of Brandon Bass. The move failed miserably, as the Celtics found themselves in a 16-9 hole when Rivers replaced Terry with Courtney Lee with 4:20 left in the opening quarter. This after the Celtics coach benched Lee in favor of Jordan Crawford in Game 2. At one point in the second quarter — as Garnett, Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph sat on the bench — Green guarded 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. Odd moves all.

Pierce: After carrying the load in Games 1 and 2, Pierce looked cooked. He shot 2-of-10 in the miserable first half, committing three turnovers in that span and bumbling another handful of balls. And then started the third quarter by throwing the ball to Raymond Felton. The Celtics looked old, tired and slow, and Pierce epitomized all of it. He battled, as he always does, but his tank was running on empty.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Garnett: As usual, Garnett came out like a wild man, nearly notching his double-double by halftime. Why the Celtics didn’t feed him more was a mystery. KG played his manic defense, too, neutralizing Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony (26 points), J.R. Smith (15 points before being ejected in the fourth quarter) and Felton (15 points) continued to force their will upon the rest of the C’s. It wasn’t for lack of effort. Garnett gave them that. The Celtics just didn’t have the personnel to match the Knicks.

Green: While everything crumbled around him, Green gave the Celtics everything they had hoped for all season. He attacked the basket and cleaned the glass, making an impact in the flow of the game while playing the majority of his minutes alongside both Pierce and Garnett. Green was supposed to be the X-factor in this series, but instead he’s been one of the only factors. Exhibit 326: Smith has outscored the entire Celtics bench 49-33 in the series.

Rebounding: At least the Celtics did something well. Pierce and Bass aided Garnett and Green on the glass, each grabbing at least four boards by halftime. The C’s out-rebounded the Knicks 41-37 for the game and here’s the real shocker: They even grabbed more offensive boards than New York (11-6). Of course, their inability to make baskets gave them plenty of opportunities for offensive rebounds.

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Deep hole: Sloppy C’s in 3-0 hole after Knicks shoot their way to another win 04.26.13 at 10:33 pm ET
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Jeff Green (8) couldn't match up Carmelo Anthony (7) and the Knicks in Game 3. (AP)

Jeff Green (8) couldn’t match up Carmelo Anthony (7) and the Knicks in Game 3. (AP)

Another 3-0 playoff hole to a New York team. But the Celtics don’t exactly feel like the 2004 Red Sox.

The Celtics committed 18 turnovers and the Knicks turned that into 24 points while Carmelo Anthony scored 26 to lead the Knicks to a 90-76 win in Game 3 Friday night at TD Garden. The Knicks were blazing hot from 3-point range, hitting 11-of-26 attempts from beyond the arc in taking a commanding 3-0 hole in the series.

The Knicks outscored the Celtics, 24-8, in points off turnovers while Jeff Green led all Boston scorers with 21 points. Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 17 rebounds while Paul Pierce had 17 points for the Celtics, who have yet to break 80 points in three games in the series. It is the worst offensive output in Celtics’ playoff history.

J.R. Smith, who scored 15 off the bench, was called for a “Flagrant 2″ foul with just over seven minutes left in the game. He was ejected for throwing an elbow in the face of Jason Terry.

The Celtics shooting woes from the second half of Game 2 continued early on in Game 3. The shot just 34.8 percent in the first quarter while the Knicks came out on fire from long distance.

The tone of the game was set in the first 15 seconds of the game. The Celtics won the tip and Pierce broke free under the basket for a layup. He missed the shot. Garnett missed the easy put-back and Avery Bradley missed a wide-open three from the right baseline.

Pablo Prigioni got the Knicks long-distance game going in the first quarter, hitting a pair of threes as the Knicks held a 23-18 lead after one.

In between the first and second quarter, the Garden crowd gave a standing ovation to first responders, police and other heroes who assisted victims and helped the community through the Boston Marathon tragedies of a week earlier. It was Boston’s first home game in 16 days and the first Celtics game since the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15.

When the game resumed in the second half, New York continued their torrid shooting. The Knicks shot 10-of-18 while Boston converted just 6-of-17 shots and were outscored 24-13 in the quarter as the Knicks took a 47-31 halftime lead. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celtics honor Boston Marathon victims, heroes 04.26.13 at 8:41 pm ET
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Prior to Game 3 of the first-round NBA Playoff series between the Celtics and Knicks, the C’s honored the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings with a moment of silence and a video tribute during the National Anthem. Game 3 marked the first home game for the Celtics since the April 15 terrorist attacks.

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Game 3 pregame: Kevin Garnett feels ‘good’, Avery Bradley battles through illness, Jason Terry starts for Brandon Bass 04.26.13 at 7:39 pm ET
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Asked if he would make any changes to the starting lineup, Doc Rivers said “we’ll see.”

As it turned out, there was a change as Jason Terry took the place of Brandon Bass to start the game.

Rivers also announced 45 minutes before Friday’s Game 3 with the Knicks that Kevin Garnett felt “good” in Thursday’s practice and kept pestering him to practice more. Rivers was playing it cautious with his star after Garnett injured his right hip in the Game 2 loss on Tuesday night.

As for Avery Bradley, Rivers explained his tardiness to Thursday’s practice was due to an illness, which kept him on the sidelines for most of practice. “We gave him a TUMS and told him not to do too much.”

Rivers said he wasn’t sure whether Bradley would start but that he is feeling “good” and would likely be available at close to 100 percent.

As for his $25,000 fine on Thursday from the NBA for criticizing officials after Game 2, Rivers said, “Like I said to [NBA security], I didn’t get fined for being wrong, I got fined for saying it.”

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Danny Ainge ‘not particularly thrilled’ with Knicks matchup 04.25.13 at 5:52 pm ET
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Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

During his weekly Thursday appearance with Salk & Holley, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge stopped short of saying he thought his C’s are the better team in their first-round NBA playoff series against the Knicks.

“We don’t think that we’ve played like we are capable of playing,” said Ainge. “It’s one thing to lose to a team who deserves to beat you and is a better team, but I feel like we’ve come out ready to play and I have no idea why the beginning of the third quarter in the last two games has not been good.”

Asked to clarify his comments, Ainge showered praise on the Knicks, who lead the series 2-0 and have held the Celtics to 48 combined second-half points.

“They’re very good. I have a great deal of respect for the Knicks, and Carmelo [Anthony] is a great player — maybe the toughest matchup in the entire league,” he said. “He’s right there in the same category as difficult a matchup as the Lebron [James]es and the Kevin Durants and the Kobe Bryants. He’s one of those types of players that can score against certain defense. So, no, I’m not particularly thrilled with the matchup.”

Still, Ainge placed the blame on his players. The Celtics simply haven’t lived up to their ability.

“We just need to play with more mental and physical toughness,” he said. “This isn’t the team I’ve seen play all year. The first halves have been, but not the second half. I wish I had an explanation, but we just need to be tougher, instigating the physical play. I think that they are getting into us, and we’re not responding. I’d like to see us instigate and initiate contact and be aggressive and not let their pressure affect us as much as it has.”

And the blame doesn’t rest with just one or two Celtics. They’ve pretty much all been been underwhelming.

“It’s everybody,” said Ainge. “It’s gotta be everybody. Avery [Bradley] embodies toughness. Paul Pierce is toughness to us, and Jeff Green — when he’s playing the way that we need him to play — he’s asserting himself and tough. And we know how tough Jason Terry is. And right on down the line. It takes everybody. Brandon Bass. It takes every one of the guys. We don’t have a team where we can rely on one or two guys. We have to get good performances out of the whole team.”

Everybody? Everybody.

“We’ve got to have contributions from the whole team,” he added. “You can’t do it with one or two guys like New York has done. We don’t have that kind of scoring power. We don’t have the league’s leading scorer on our team right now, so we have to get contributions out of a lot of people.”

Got it? Good. Now here are the remaining highlights of Ainge’s interview, which can be heard in full on the Salk & Holley audio on demand page:

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