|Fast Break: Shavlik Randolph, Celtics shoot down Hawks||03.29.13 at 9:59 pm ET|
In his first game back on the Celtics bench since his knee surgery, Rajon Rondo witnessed everything his new-look team had to offer. Shavlik Randolph (9 points, 13 rebounds) turned in the finest performance of his NBA career and Jeff Green (27 points) submitted another critic-silencing effort in a 118-107 victory against the Hawks that gave the C’s a 2.5-game lead on the seventh seed over the idle Bucks.
Kevin Garnett may have missed his fourth straight game with a foot injury, but fellow over-35 club members Paul Pierce (20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and Jason Terry (24 points) shined. Here’s what else went right.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Shav: In eight first-half minutes, Shavlik Randolph made both his shots and grabbed five boards. The C’s trailed by four when he entered early in the second quarter and led by 11 when he left. Given his team’s depth and Chris Wilcox‘s struggles, Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been turning to Randolph earlier, and the 6-foot-10 big man has delivered in limited action. His biggest contribution has been rebounding (10.4 per 36 minutes), but he also appears to grasp the defensive rotations, which doesn’t hurt in Doc’s book.
Terry and Terrence: Sounds like a bad Disney Channel program, right? Actually, the duo put on a good show. A second quarter, Terry (7-10 FG) made back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game, and Terrence Williams sandwiched a pair of emphatic dunks around a Pierce layup to give the C’s a lead. That kickstarted a 22-6 run that pushed the edge to double digits. Terry scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc in the frame.
Green and Pierce: The two Celtics wings have each raised their game for a Celtics squad in desperate need of leaders without Garnett on the floor. Green, obviously, has been the bigger surprise, eclipsing 20 points for the fourth time this month and fourth time in eight starts. Meanwhile, despite hobbling his way through a portion of the game, Pierce continued to do Truth things, submitting his third triple-double of the season. In all, they combined for 47 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds.
|Three for all: Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Shav Randolph lead C’s to key win over Hawks||at 9:49 pm ET|
Shav Randolph picked a fine time for the game of his NBA career. The 29-year-old Duke product had 13 rebounds and nine points, just missing his first career double-double, as the Celtics continued their fight for playoff position with a 118-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night at TD Garden. The win drew Boston to within 1.5 games of sixth-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference race, just two games back in the loss column.
With the injured Rajon Rondo watching from the Celtics bench, the Celtics put on an offensive exhibition, led by 27 points from Jeff Green and 24 from Jason Terry. The Celtics shot 11-of-23 from 3-point range, including 5-of-7 from Terry, who paced a big effort from the bench. Paul Pierce picked up a triple-double with a strong fourth-quarter effort. Pierce finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics, who improved to 38-34.
For Pierce, it was his third triple-double of the season and 10th of his career. Another milestone was reached as Terry passed the 1,900 plateau in career 3-pointers, becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to pass the milestone. Terry stands behind only Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Kidd. Pierce is fifth with 1,810
Thanks to scorching shooting from beyond the arc, the Celtics posted their highest point total of the first half all season when they put up 66 points and raced out to a 66-56 halftime lead.
Leading the charge was Terry, who was 4-for-5 from 3-point range and scored 14 of his team-leading 16 points in the second quarter. Jordan Crawford nailed a three at the first-quarter buzzer and Green answered with 5.8 seconds left in the second as the Celtics seized momentum.
The unsung hero of the first half was Randolph. With Chris Wilcox fighting foul trouble and the Hawks attempting to take advantage of their superior size, Randolph grabbed five rebounds and scored four points. Randolph came into the game with the Celtics trailing, 38-34, with just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
When he checked back out eight minutes later, the Celtics had completed a 27-10 run and built a 11-point lead, 61-50.
Randolph thrilled the crowd again in the third quarter when Wilcox picked up his fourth foul with 9:15 left in the quarter. He blocked a Josh Smith shot and hauled in three rebounds, including an offensive put-back during a key run that ended in a Jeff Green three that put Boston up, 83-68, Boston’s biggest lead to that point.
The Celtics led comfortably, 98-87, on a Crawford jumper when the Hawks put on a push to get back into the game. The Hawks scored the five points to make it a six-point game before Terry answered with a mid-range jumper. Terry stepped into a three with 5:49 left after a wild loose-ball scramble. That three was Boston’s 10th of the night and put them up, 105-94. Green hit a jumper with 5:08 left to stretch the lead back to 13, 107-94.
Green’s three with 2:27 left put Boston up, 112-101, sealed Atlanta’s fate.The Celtics are off Saturday before playing Sunday night at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks. For complete coverage from the Garden from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Paul Pierce says foul on Kobe Bryant ‘blown out of proportion’||03.15.13 at 4:29 pm ET|
WALTHAM — From the moment Dahntay Jones fouled Kobe Bryant on Wednesday night, causing Bryant to badly roll his right ankle, it seemed everyone had an opinion, including Kobe himself.
No foul was called but the NBA admitted Friday that one should’ve been called in the game won by the Hawks over Bryant’s Lakers. It was classified as a high ankle sprain and Bryant was questionable for Friday’s game in Indiana.
“I had a chance to kind of see it,” Pierce said. “I think it got kind blown out of proportion. He put his hands up, got into his defender. The fact it was Kobe Bryant, it’s an issue. If it was anybody else (injured), we wouldn’t probably even be talking about this.”
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Josh Smith: Celtics trade ‘was a possibility’||03.09.13 at 1:27 am ET|
Josh Smith was in Boston, so naturally it was time to ask Josh Smith about the latest Josh Smith to the Celtics trade rumors. It’s like an annual rite of passage for the Hawks forward whose contract expires at season’s end.
Leading up to the Feb. 21 trade deadline, this season’s rumors had either Celtics captain Paul Pierce or a package of Jeff Green and Brandon Bass headed to Atlanta in exchange for Smith’s services. Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that the C’s, Hawks and Mavericks nearly pulled the trigger on a three-team deal that would have brought Smith to Boston for Pierce and a first-round pick.
Of course, Smith also almost landed on the Nets and Bucks, among other places.
“It was a possibility of me going a lot of places,” Smith said after his near triple-double (32 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds) in Boston, “but I’m here and I’m focusing on what’s at stake right now. I’m trying to get a little higher playoff position, so I am not worried about anything else but winning games for this organization and this team.”
Generally, the logic goes something like this: Smith and Rajon Rondo were amazingly entertaining high school teammates, and they’re still best friends, so the C’s are a natural fit for a guy the Hawks probably won’t re-sign.
“That’s my friend, so we talk almost every day,” Smith said of the injured Celtics point guard. “We don’t talk about surgery. We just talk about friendship stuff, off-the-court stuff. That’s the least of both of our concerns. It’s a far-fetched injury, so right now we’re just focusing on staying positive.”
(Aside: Somehow I doubt his ACL tear is the least of Rondo’s concerns, and I can assure you it’s not far-fetched.)
Perhaps they discuss the C’s surprising 14-4 record sans Rondo, including Friday’s overtime win over his Hawks?
“They’re a successful basketball team, and they know how to win,” said Smith. “They have a lot of professionals on that team. They have some players that have won championship rings on their team, so I’m not surprised.”
What about those pesky trade rumors? Surely, Smith and Rondo discuss those in their daily phone conversations.
“We don’t talk about that,” finished Smith. “We don’t talk about that.”
OK, then. Nothing to see here. Move along. Until the next time Smith rolls into Boston, I’m sure.
|Fast Break: Paul Pierce, Celtics ground Hawks in overtime||03.08.13 at 10:50 pm ET|
The over-35 crew of Paul Pierce (27 points), Jason Terry (19) and Kevin Garnett (17) combined for 63 points, 19 rebounds and 14 assists, leading the Celtics to their fifth straight win — 107-102 over the Hawks in overtime — and helped the C’s keep pace with the Bulls in the Eastern Conference seeding race.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Piercing hot: In the first quarter, Pierce made his first four buckets, including two 3-pointers, to finish with 12 points in the opening 12 minutes. Of course, he missed his easiest shot of the frame — a layup as time expired — but his shooting set the tone for the C’s 28-point quarter. Garnett and Avery Bradley also started a combined 4-of-6.
And more Pierce: The captain dropped back-to-back 18-foot jumpers late in the fourth quarter to keep pace with a furious Atlanta comeback. In overtime, he drained a 27-footer with a hand in his face to regain the lead with 1:37 remaining. And he assisted on Terry’s 3 that gave the C’s a 105-102 lead a minute later. Basically, he did it all.
Board to death: The Hawks started big against the Celtics with Josh Smith, Al Horford and Johan Petro in the frontcourt. While Horford and Smith combined for 20 points, 9 rebounds and six assists in the first half, the Celtics owned a 19-16 rebounding edge, didn’t allow a single second-chance point and took a 52-47 lead into halftime. That margin got flipped on its heels in the second half, when the Hawks made their comeback, and the Hawks star tandem totaled 54 points, 21 boards and 14 assists to give Atlanta a 41-35 rebounding edge.
KG being KG: Regardless of which lineup Celtics coach Doc Rivers pieced around Garnett, the C’s center made the most of his 35 minutes. He started 7-of-11 from the field — including a 3 in a second straight game that even got him excited — to go along with his eight boards and two dimes. When the Hawks cut the lead to two starting the fourth quarter, Garnett seemingly had a hand in every play, including a beautiful assist to a cutting Courtney Lee and a driving baby hook over Horford that pushed the lead back to 12.
Jason Terry connected on a straightaway 3-pointer with 35 seconds left in overtime to lead the Celtics to a thrilling 107-102 win over the Hawks Friday night at an electrified TD Garden. The game marked a franchise-record 11th overtime game for the Celtics this season, with Boston going 7-4 in those contests.
More importantly, it extended Boston’s home-court winning streak to nine games and improved them to a season-best seven games over .500 at 34-27. They tied Atlanta (34-27) in the East. The Hawks entered the night as the No. 5 seed in the East.
The Hawks, who burned the Celtics with 12 3-pointers in their double-overtime win in Atlanta on Jan. 25, came out blazing again Friday night. Devin Harris, Jeff Teague and Josh Smith connected from long range to account for Atlanta’s first three field goals on the night.
Smith finished with a game-high 32 points while Al Horford had 22 points and 13 rebounds. The Hawks finished the night 9-of-27 from long range.
The Celtics built a 10-point lead in the second quarter, 41-31, as the Celtics rode the hot shooting of Pierce and Jason Terry. Pierce was 5-for-7 from the field in the first half, including a pair of threes in the first quarter while Terry scored all 10 of his first-half points in the second quarter. Terry finished with 14 off the bench.
But the Hawks made a 13-2 run to take a very brief 44-43 lead on an Anthony Tolliver 3-pointer. The Celtics responded by finishing the half on an 8-4 run to take a 52-47 lead to the locker room.
After the Hawks closed to within seven, 86-79, Jeff Green, who was slowed by the Hawks for the first three quarters, threw down a spectacular reverse dunk with 5:14 left to put Boston up, 88-79.
But the Hawks weren’t done. Jeff Teague converted a three-point play when he was fouled on a layup and hit the free throw to help Atlanta close to within five, 90-85, with just over three minutes left. Smith then hit a layup with 2:54 left as the Hawks cut the Boston lead down to three, 90-87.
Pierce hit an 18-foot fadeaway jumper with 2:26 left to restore the lead to five before Smith came back to answer, making it 92-89 Celtics. After a Garnett missed jumper, Kyle Korver hit a three with 1:31 left to tie the game, 92-92. Pierce hit another fadeaway from 18 feet to put the Celtics up but Al Horford got free for a game-tying dunk with 55.2 seconds left.
The Hawks had a chance to take the lead with 31 seconds left but Smith committed a turnover with a bad pass and Garnett came up with the steal with 25 seconds left. Pierce ran an iso play at the top of the key before dishing to Garnett with five seconds left in regulation. Garnett missed his jumper, giving the Hawks a chance with 2.2 seconds left. Harris inbounded for the Hawks to Smith, who missed an open look over Brandon Bass.
The Hawks scored the first four points of overtime before the Celtics responded. Green’s baseline three hit the front of the rim, bounced straight up in the air and rattled home with 2:34 left in overtime, putting Boston back up, 99-98. With the shot clock about to expire, Smith drained a three with 2:14 left to put Atlanta back up, 101-99. Pierce connected for a three with 1:37 left to put the Celtics back up, 102-101. Smith connected on 1-of-2 free throws with 1:20 left to tie the game, 102-102.
Terry drilled a straightaway three with 35 seconds left to put the Celtics up, 105-102. The Celtics are off Saturday before taking on Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET
For complete coverage from the Garden from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
Doc Rivers spoke at length before Friday’s game at with the Atlanta Hawks about how teams are preparing for defensive star Avery Bradley, how much the Celtics have been playing their “Manwich” zone defense and whether or not he’s paying attention to the Eastern conference standings.
Rivers said he also doesn’t spend much time looking at the Eastern conference standings. The Celtics came in Friday at 33-27 and in seventh place in the Eastern conference. But it’s quite the log-jam in the middle of the East. The Celtics were just a game behind the fifth-place Hawks and just 4 1/2 games behind the second-seeded Knicks. The Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Hawks and Celtics are separated by just five games.
“I can’t even tell you what our exact record is,” said Rivers. “But I know it’s close with everybody else’s record. That’s how much I look at it… I think later in the year, I may at [look at] times. Right now, we just have to keep getting better, so that’s my focus.”
Of course, the Hawks and Celtics have met in the past in the playoffs, with the Celtics coming out on top in 2008 and last year.
“I think both teams understand where we are both at — that all our games now are important,” Rivers said. “I don’t think there’s another game this year that’s not important. It’s just that close with everybody. That’s great. That’s what I said I liked about the way we did the All-Star break — we’ve been doing that lately anyways — but I just like it when you come out of the break, it’s a sprint. And everybody kinda is in it, and it’s good.”
As for teams gearing up for Bradley’s defense, Rivers said he can sense it more and more now coming into games.
“You know it’s coming,” Rivers said. “I’m sure they’re warned by it. Some guys do pretty well and some guys don’t. It’d be no fun.”
Why aren’t there more players like Bradley in the NBA?
“Because they don’t have the ability,” Rivers said. “You have to have great instincts, great speed. It takes a lot of things. You can’t just [say] I’m going to be a great defender because if it were just that, it would be more [players playing great defense].
“It is a lot [of desire] but you just have to have great everything, great feel, great feet, great instincts, great strength. It takes a lot.”
Speaking of defense, Rivers gave great insight to his use of the zone defense, schemed in part by assistant Mike Longabardi.
“It’s been good. We just keep running it. We don’t do it for long periods. We have in the last couple [games]. A lot of that has been situational – Kevin was in foul trouble or JET was struggling defending so were trying to hide him in some ways but a lot of times a team scores five times in a row, throw a zone on them twice and then get back man just to get them out of rhythm.”
Meanwhile, Rivers said it was a “bummer” that his son Austin Rivers suffered a broken right hand and is likely done for the year with the New Orleans Hornets.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
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