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Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7′s 05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET
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The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)

Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.

How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.

Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.

Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.

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Kevin Garnett on Game 7: ‘We’ve been here before’ at 1:06 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Garnett spoke about Philadelphia’s fans after a Game 5 win in Boston. On Wednesday, following an 82-75 loss to the Sixers in Game 6, Garnett made another proclamation of sorts for Game 7 Saturday in Boston.

“Win or go home,” Garnett said when asked about the team’s mindset heading into a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “Confidence is very high. We’ve been here before, very experienced. All out, nothing less.”

Indeed, the Celtics have played in five Game 7s in the Big Three era of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They are 3-2 in those previous five, beating Atlanta and Cleveland on their way to the title in 2008. They beat the Bulls in seven in the first round in 2009 before losing the next round to the Magic in Game 7 at the Garden. With a chance at an 18th banner in 2010, they lost Game 7 of the NBA finals in Los Angeles to the Lakers.

“Game 7s are what they are,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s nice we have it at home, but you have to go get it still. At the end of the day, you have to go play. You can’t just rely on that we’re at home. I do like that we have an extra day. I think that helps us a little bit.”

“It’s only a couple of us that have been in Game 7s, so we’re not going to go on the history,” Rajon Rondo added. “This is a new series, a new group of guys that are going head to head and it’s been back and forth the entire series so it’s going to be a tough one at home.”

Neither team has managed consecutive victories in the series as the Celtics and Sixers have alternated wins in the first six games. If the trend continues, the Celtics will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years.

The Celtics will play the Sixers on Saturday at TD Garden. If the Pacers force a seventh game against the Heat with a Game 6 win Thursday, the Celtics and Sixers tip off at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If Miami advances on Thursday, then the Celtics tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday.

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Doc Rivers on Avery Bradley going forward: ‘We really don’t know’ 05.23.12 at 8:36 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — As expected, the Celtics will not have Avery Bradley available as they try to close out the Sixers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Bradley did not take part in the shootaround Wednesday morning and could not get himself to the point of being ready for the game in warmups. Bradley missed Game 5 Monday with a left shoulder injury that was re-aggravated in the third quarter of Game 4 Friday night in Philadelphia.

“We keep saying day-to-day but we really don’t know,” coach Doc Rivers said an hour before Game 6.

Ray Allen, meanwhile, will play but Rivers said he is clearly limited by his right ankle sprain, that he reaggravated on Monday night in the Game 5 win.

Rivers also said Greg Stiemsma is ready to go off the bench despite two sore feet.

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Celtics could use some close out power against Sixers in Game 6 at 1:12 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.

They will almost certainly be without Avery Bradley (left shoulder). Ray Allen is hurting bad but will give it a go. And Greg Stiemsma has two balky feet.

The Celtics lead the Sixers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series and need just one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years. The previous two times (2008, ’10) have ended with Celtics reaching the NBA finals.

But it won’t be easy if history is any indication. In the “Big 3″ era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, they are just 2-10 in potential closeout games on the road. They won the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit in Game 6 in 2008. They swept away the Knicks in the first round last year. So, well before Garnett’s comments about the Philly fans, tonight was going to be a monstrous task.

On the injury front, Bradley said at Wednesday morning’s team shootaround that he has felt little improvement in his ailing left shoulder and he will almost surely miss his second straight game of the series as Boston attempts to close out Philadelphia in Game 6 here at Wells Fargo Center.

“Right now, I’m not playing,” Bradley said, as he received treatment from strength trainer Bryan Doo. “I’m definitely frustrated but all I can do is keep getting stronger and keep improving for my team. I’m just trying to get it better. It’s been the same. I just have to keep trying to get is stronger everyday. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent for my time. I’m just taking it day-by-day right now.”

“He’s a little better, not much,” coach Doc Rivers added. “I don’t think he’ll play. He won’t do anything in shootaround for sure, and then do what we did the other night. We’ll let him warm up and see if he can warm up and then go from there.”

Bradley had the shoulder pop out early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday night and missed Game 5 with the injury. Allen started in his place in Game 5 and will start again for Bradley in Game 6 should Bradley — as expected — miss Game 6. There is some uncertainty regarding Allen and his ailing right ankle.

“It is what it is,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s a go right now. Obviously, if he can’t go, we’ll have to go somewhere else.”

Stiemsma also reaggravated his foot injury in the second half of the Game 5 win Monday. He was at shootaround Wednesday and is expected to be available off the bench.

“He’s good,” Rivers said. “The foot was aggravated again [Monday]. He says he feels much better today. He’ll definitely play. He’s the definite of the three guys.”

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Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett comments: ‘Have at it’ at 12:51 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Predictably, the Celtics were barraged by the Philadelphia media at their morning shootaround about comments from Kevin Garnett following Monday’s Game 5 win that put Boston on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals. Garnett, who lead the Celtics into Game 6 Wednesday night, called Philadelphia fans “fair-weather” and said they don’t match up anywhere close to Boston fans.

“I have no reaction to that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ll let you guys stir that pot. Have at it, have fun with it. I don’t think either fan base likes each other anyway so I don’t think it added anything. I said [Tuesday], ‘What are they going to do? Hate us more?’ So, what’s the difference?”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Ray Allen added. “You have to ask [Garnett] that question. I don’t have any reaction because I don’t know anything about it.”

Wednesday morning, John Mitchell – a Philadelphia columnist – replied to Garnett’s comments by labeling Boston fans as “bigoted” in light of the incident after the Capitals eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 at the Garden on a goal by Joel Ward, a black player for Washington. Mitchell invoked the days of Bill Russell, the Celtics legend who had serious issues with Boston, even when he was playing and winning championships in the city.

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The Reverend Keyon Dooling and the value of flexin’ at 12:41 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Larry Brown had a question for Doc Rivers regarding his bench. “Do you have anybody like Posey?” Brown asked. “You need someone on your bench to tell the starters the truth.”

Ah, James Posey. For years the Celtics have been trying to recapture the spirit and toughness of the no-nonsense Posey who demanded respect on his first day on the job and proved to be an invaluable cog in the 2008 championship team.

The player who personifies the 2012 reserves is veteran guard Keyon Dooling. He had an up-and-down regular season, but in the playoffs he’s given them 10 minutes a night of pressure defense and 52 percent shooting. Along with Marquis Daniels, he also began the goofy dance sequence on the bench they call “Flexin’” that has become something of an impromptu craze.

Often described as the consummate teammate and a coach in-waiting, Dooling’s value goes beyond the good times on the bench. At halftime of Game 5, he laid it on the starters. Dubbed a “sermon from Rev. Dooling” by Brandon Bass, he told them to play for each other.

Dooling declined to go into specifics on his halftime talk, saying, “That ain’t for me to talk about. That’s for others to talk about. I don’t need to self-promote my halftime speeches.”

The specifics don’t matter as much as the intent and there’s no doubt his words had an impact.

“It’s one thing for the coach to say it, it’s a whole different ballgame when somebody in the locker room says it,” Rivers said. “It’s tough for the starters to say it to each other because it was them. You need a guy to do it with credibility and Keyon has that.”

How does a player who’s been out and out of the rotation and plays less than 10 minutes a night earn credibility on a team stacked with All-Stars and future Hall of Famers?

“With his work ethic,” Rivers said. “Credibility to me is consistency. If you’re consistent with your actions every day, whether things are going well for you or not, you think about Keyon there’s been times when he’s been out of the rotation, he’s been injured. But he’s a pro. When you have that it’s pretty easy to follow.”

Added Dooling, “You’ve got to respect years. Everybody knows how hard it is to have an NBA career that last for 12 seasons. You’ve got to have a sense of respect for it.”

Dooling’s been been instrumental in helping a team with eight new players forge some kind of an identity beyond their core four and there’s no doubt he has everyone’s respect.

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Veteran Celtics win with old reliable: Defense 05.22.12 at 1:50 pm ET
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As 76ers center Spencer Hawes discovered Monday night, the Celtics can be intimidating when playing their usual solid team defense. (AP)

In the new Big Three era, when the moon is large, the food is prepared properly, and whatever other wacky Kevin Garnett-ism you want to use to describe the Celtics playing to their potential, there has been one constant. If unsure of the answer, let Mickael Pietrus spell it out for you:

“D-E-F-E-N-S-E,” Pietrus said. “That’s the key. When offensively things aren’t going well, you can always count on everybody to play great defense. That’s our coach’s mentality. That’s the Celtics’ mentality.”

The Celtics have finished in the top five in points allowed every year since the 2007-08 season. This year has been no different. During the regular season opponents scored 89.3 points per game against the C’s, good for second-fewest in the NBA. Through 11 games of the playoffs, Boston has allowed just 84.9 points per game. But in the first half of the pivotal Game 5 Monday night, the Celtics struggled to execute defensively and the 76ers took advantage, shooting 54.8 percent while taking a three-point lead at halftime.

“Understanding what got us here,” Garnett said about the keys to the Celtics’ success. “Riding out our defense. I think when we get erratic and we get away from being disciplined defensively, it makes it hard on us. When we stick to our principles and our schemes, it’s hard to score on us.”

What transpired over the course of the second half proved Garnett is absolutely right. The Celtics regained some semblance of control in a wildly unpredictable series with their 101-85 victory. Some analysts will point to the Celtics getting to the free throw line 17 more times than the Sixers; others will speak about Brandon Bass outscoring the entire Philly team, 18-16, in the third quarter. And those are valid reasons why Boston prevailed, but they also are anomalies.

However, the C’s defense binding together and holding the 76ers to just 35 second-half points on 37.1 percent shooting is hardly surprising. As Garnett said, it is what Boston is built on. The C’s active hands served as a catalyst to completely reverse the feel of the game. In the third quarter alone, the Sixers had six turnovers and the Celtics had four steals, turning what had been a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Celtics never looked back.

“It’s due to their adjustments,” Elton Brand said. “The first two games they were playing our pick and roll and our drag screens a certain way, now they are playing it a different way, and it doesn’t always bode well for us to execute. We’ve been turning the ball over. They’re long and athletic, so we’ve been going into those traps.”

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