|Elton Brand feels (and sees) Paul Pierce’s pain||05.15.12 at 2:39 pm ET|
Despite Paul Pierce‘s assurance that “the knee was fine” after struggling in the Eastern Conference semifinals Game 2 loss, 76ers forward Elton Brand said the sprained MCL is noticeably taking its toll on the Celtics captain.
“When you’re hurting, it takes away some of your aggressiveness,” said Brand, whose 2007 knee injury was the first in a long line of Achilles, shoulder, hand and neck problems throughout his career. “You don’t think about it, but subconsciously it takes away your movement and your thrust.
“[It was noticeable] at times. We know what type of player he is and what kind of playoff performer he’s been.”
Pierce scored just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in Monday’s 82-81 loss to the Sixers. He amassed five rebounds, four steals and three assists but also registered five turnovers and four fouls over 37 minutes.
“We’ve got to figure out a better way to get the ball to him in different spots, away from traps,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show. “I think Paul has to do a better job of handling those. I thought in the first game he was terrific down the stretch. He didn’t get any of the credit, but our three baskets down the stretch in Game 1 was off a Paul Pierce play. They were trapping him everywhere, and he moved the ball.”
|Irish Coffee: The day a nobody stopped Kevin Garnett||at 1:35 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett was coming off a two-game stretch in which he totaled 57 points on 39 shots, 25 rebounds and eight blocks while putting the finishing touches on the Hawks and painting a new masterpiece agains the 76ers, so why did the Celtics wait until it was too late to get their center involved again?
“Maybe we weren’t a smart team or a well-coached team, because that was obviously the game plan to go there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show. “We were in transition a lot and never really got into our sets. That happens in games. You see it all the time, but it just took too long to get into it. It took too long to establish it. We used timeouts to get into it — we just never did.”
Garnett made his first two shots, an 11-footer 17 seconds in and a 16-footer 2:48 into the first quarter, capping the C’s 5-for-5 shooting stretch that gave them an 11-3 start. And they turned to him once over the next 26:54.
“KG’s an unselfish player,” said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who recorded 13 assists, but only two to Garnett — including one on the meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer that resulted in the 82-81 final score. “He could’ve taken a lot more shots than he did, but he passed up his shots to get the assist or made the hockey pass. In the fourth quarter, over the stretch, when KG had it going, we just kept feeding him.”
As if flipping a switch, the Celtics leaned on Garnett in the fourth quarter. He made 5-of-7 shots and scored 11 of his 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists, while playing the final 12 minutes. In the span of a minute midway through the quarter, he made an 18-foot jumper to cut the deficit to two on one end; then defended Jrue Holiday, altered a Louis Williams shot and grabbed the rebound on the other; and tied the game 65-65 on a turnaround in the lane back on the offensive end. In other words, he was everywhere.
“I don’t call the plays,” said Garnett. “Doc and Rondo are trying to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’s what it is. Whatever he asked me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”
|Why did the Celtics intentionally foul?||at 12:02 pm ET|
Whenever there’s a discrepancy between the shot clock and game clock, NBA teams that trail by three points or less normally will play defense and try to get a stop. That was the situation the Celtics were in on Monday night, down 76-75 with 28 seconds left in Game 2 after a Ray Allen pull-up jumper misfired.
But the Sixers had a foul to give, so coach Doc Rivers instructed Rajon Rondo to intentionally foul Evan Turner with 14.4 seconds left in the game and 10 seconds left on the shot clock (the Celtics also had a foul to give). After Paul Pierce then fouled Turner again, the Sixers guard made both free throws with 12 seconds left.
“Obviously, if they didn’t have a foul to give we would’ve played the clock out,” Rivers said. “My thinking was, it would be a four-second differential. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get the rebound. By the time you rebound it’s probably three seconds, and then they have the foul to give, so they foul and now it’s down to two seconds.”
The error the Celtics made was in not fouling earlier. They let 10 seconds burn off the clock before Rivers called for the foul.
“That’s the mistake we made,” Rivers said on the Dennis & Callahan show.
It was one of several mistakes in execution the veteran Celtics made down the stretch. Most egregious was a possession with about a minute to go and the Celtics holding a one-point lead. They were trying to get Ray Allen coming off a screen, but Avery Bradley didn’t clear the corner and the play broke down, forcing Rondo to fire up a contested jump shot from the top of the key.
“It was a play we call elbow-X. We didn’t get into it,” Rivers said. “Rondo was frustrated because we didn’t get into it the correct way. Ray really was not open because the guy in the corner didn’t clear out of the way like he’s supposed to do. It was a wasted possession at a time when you can’t have one.”
|Sixers come of age, steal home court from Celtics||at 10:16 am ET|
The 76ers came into Game 2 of their second-round series against the Celtics knowing they had let Game 1 slip through their fingers after blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. Following the disappointing loss, Doug Collins said he liked his team’s effort, remaining optimistic that the Sixers still had the chance to steal Game 2, so long as they made the appropriate adjustments in their execution down the stretch.
Game 2 on Monday night was an ugly affair, but it unfolded the same way as the series opener as the 76ers clawed their way to an eight-point advantage, 59-51, with just over 10 minutes left in regulation. Then Mickael Pietrus — who was just 2-of-15 from long distance in the playoffs going into Monday night’s game — drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Celtics within a basket.
Philly could have turtled under the pressure, but instead it flipped the script. It was the Celtics who committed consecutive turnovers, and shortly after, Andre Iguodala reversed the momentum with a mid-range jumper.
“Our young guys just keep growing and they’re really becoming men,” Collins said. “I’m so proud of them. We just found a way. … Our guys are believing they can do it, and it is pretty special to watch.”
The Sixers allowed 32 fourth-quarter points, including six 3-pointers, but their poise was noticeably different in Game 2. Philly converted all eight of its free throws in the fourth quarter, while Kevin Garnett missed the Celtics’ only attempt. Although the C’s shot 65 percent from the field in the quarter, they committed four costly turnovers, the 76ers on the other hand, only committed one.
What was most encouraging for the Sixers in their 82-81 victory was that all eight of the players who saw action in the fourth quarter scored. So much of the discussion of this series has been predicated on the lack of a pure offensive threat on the Philadelphia side, as opposed to the Celtics, who boast four perennial All-Stars on their roster. For the Sixers, there was strength in numbers.
Though, it should be noted, a few breaks seemed to go the Sixers way, including Lavoy Allen‘s 22-foot bank shot as the 24-second shot clock was expiring to break a tie with just over four minutes left. Evan Turner also hit an impressive driving layup that would prove to be the game-winning basket. Finally, Garnett was called for a moving screen with 10 seconds left that took the ball out of the C’s hands with a chance to tie, essentially sealing the game for the 76ers.
“They made some tough shots when we needed to get some stops,” Paul Pierce said. “The made a shot with [less than a second] left on the shot clock. Turner made a couple difficult layups. That’s the part of the game where we’ve really got to make stops.”
Said Doc Rivers: “We put ourselves in that position. And when you do that, if you win the game, great, you won the game. If you lose the game, you deserve to lose the game, too, because you put yourself in that position.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘Let the players decide the game’||at 1:07 am ET|
Kevin Garnett set a moving screen. He knows it. You know it. And referee Michael Smith knows it.
The only possible question is whether Smith should have called Garnett for it, what with 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics trailing by three and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on the line.
“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game,” said Garnett, whose illegal pick overshadowed an inspired fourth quarter in the 82-81 loss, “but if he felt like that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”
It’s the kind of play that can and should be argued at bars all over Boston. Those wearing green-colored glasses swear it should have never been called — not then, when a whistle sways a conference semifinals series.
“I wasn’t fond of it. At all,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team travels to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday. “You know, I think Kevin got called for three off-the-ball offensive fouls. So clearly it looked like they were looking for it all night and they got three of them. If you’re going to tell me Kevin was the only one moving in picks tonight, then I’ll live with that. He clearly was not the only one, but he was the one who got the calls tonight.”
Given the fact that the Celtics trailed the Sixers in the Atlantic Division for most of the season before catching them at the end and pulling away to a fifth straight division crown, everyone in Boston knew coming into this series that Philly was not going to be cream cheese or cheesesteak.
It was going to be a war, just like in the 60s and 80s, when the two archrivals battled tooth-and-nail for every loose ball and every point.
Well, two games in, two one-point decisions, one for each team.
“That’s the playoffs,” Rajon Rondo said after the 82-81 decision claimed by the Sixers Monday night in Game 2. “It’s up and down. You’re not going to win 16 straight games so. Give them Philly a lot of credit. They are not a pushover team. They’re in the second round for a reason. Like I’ve said this is a tough series.”
Tough is one thing. Ugly is another, and more likely how Celtics fans would describe a game that had Boston score 25 points in the first quarter and just 56 the rest of the way. The Celtics started the game shooting 50 percent (11-for-22) in the first quarter. They made just 22 of their final 57, finishing at 42 percent for the game. They had 19 turnovers. Philly had 18.
“We made some plays but they won,” Rondo said. “We give them credit. Basketball is a game of rhythms… a game of runs. We made our runs, and then they made their runs.”
And Rondo never got on one himself. Which is essentially the reason the Sixers won and the Celtics lost. Rondo finished with eight points and 13 assists on 4-of-12 shooting in over 38 minutes of action. The Sixers were more physical Monday, both with Kevin Garnett (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Rondo.
Except for Game 2 against the Hawks, the 2012 playoffs for the Celtics have been about two players and two players only – Garnett and Rondo. The Sixers seemed to find somewhat of a management plan, if not a control button on Monday. And that plan involved two words: Get physical.
From the onset, the Sixers were determined to get a body on Garnett at every turn and get in Rondo’s face. Though Rondo did have six assists in the first quarter, he had just seven the rest of the way.
Rondo was asked if what could have been done to get Garnett more involved.
“Nothing really, KG is an unselfish player. He could have taken a lot more shots than he did,” Rondo said of Garnett’s 7-of-12 night from the field.
|Fast Break: Philly stakes its claim in Boston||05.14.12 at 9:32 pm ET|
After struggling offensively for the first three quarters, Kevin Garnett willed himself and the Celtics back into a game they trailed by as much as eight in the fourth — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 76ers in an 82-81 loss.
Garnett scored 11 of his 15 points and grabbed four of his 12 boards in the fourth quarter, and Avery Bradley and Ray Allen made back-to-back 3-pointers to snare leads of 72-71 and 75-74 in the final 2:20, but Philadelphia executed too well, and Garnett committed a costly moving screen with 10 seconds left and the C’s trailing by three.
Allen’s 17 points led the Celtics in scoring, and Rajon Rondo finished with 13 assists. Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 18 points, and Evan Turner scored six huge points in the fourth quarter, as the Sixers evened the Eastern Conference semifinals on their way home for Wednesday’s Game 3.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Settling down: As quickly as the Celtics built a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, the Sixers erased it. A whopping 14 of their first 17 shots came outside of 10 feet, cutting the lead to 15-13 midway through the first quarter and tying it 25-25 46 seconds into the second. A whopping 13 of the C’s first 17 shot attempts came from 10 feet and beyond, thanks in part to Rondo passing up open layups for the possibility of an assist on a jump shot from his teammates.
Shouldering the load: Bradley reinjured his oft dislocated shoulder when Sixers forward Elton Brand blocked his shot attempt. While Allen replaced Bradley in the lineup, the Celtics missed the 21-year-old’s quickness defending Philadelphia’s young backcourt. At halftime, Bradley owned the C’s best plus/minus (plus-13), while Allen had their worst (minus-12). Meanwhile, Sixers guard Holiday scored 13 first-half points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Center of attention: Just as the C’s backcourt defense suffered without Bradley, their entire defensive effort struggled without Garnett in the lineup. The Celtics built a 15-7 in Garnett’s first five minutes on the floor, and the Sixers outscore them 13-8 over the next five minutes. And so went every five-minute interval. The worst stretch came in the third quarter, when the 76ers turned a 43-40 deficit into a 51-47 lead with Garnett on the bench, taking momentum into the fourth quarter.