|Front-running: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett lead the way as C’s hold on against Hawks||03.08.13 at 10:47 pm ET|
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.
|Trade rumor: Celtics ‘salivating’ over landing Hawks’ Josh Smith for Jeff Green, Brandon Bass||02.16.13 at 9:39 am ET|
The Celtics “would be receptive” to trading both Jeff Green and Brandon Bass for Hawks forward Josh Smith, according to longtime Bucks beat reporter Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.
The Nets and Bucks are also reportedly interested, but “for a few weeks now” the Celtics have been “salivating” over the possibility of landing Rajon Rondo‘s Oak Hill Academy teammate, according to the report.
|Ray Allen: ‘Let the good times roll’ for Celtics||05.11.12 at 5:15 pm ET|
- Over the course of his career, he’s played for a SuperSonics team that won 31 games and finished last in its division, and he’s won an NBA championship ring on a Celtics team that won a league-best 66 games.
- Over the course of this season, he’s shot 48.5 percent from 3-point range over a 28-game stretch before the All-Star break, and he’s missed 15 games down the stretch with a lingering ankle injury.
- And over the course of these playoffs, he’s missed two more games with those bone spurs, and he’s averaged 13.3 points on 51.6 percent shooting over a three-game stretch.
Now what, especially after shooting just 1-of-7 from the field and (gasp!) 4-of-6 from the free throw line in Game 6, all while his ankle flared up to the same discomfort levels that kept him out of Games 1 and 2?
|Paul Pierce: ‘We’re playing like this is it’||at 10:54 am ET|
No one needed the rest more than Paul Pierce.
And no one appreciated the titanic effort of Kevin Garnett than Pierce, either.
Pierce played a gutsy 40 minutes on a sprained left knee, recording 18 points, five rebounds and seven assists. He knew more than anyone else the need to finish off the Hawks Thursday and get ready for the 76ers on Saturday night at the Garden in Game 1 of the Eastern semis.
Everyone on the Celtics knew the M*A*S*H report coming in: Pierce’s knee, Avery Bradley (left shoulder), Kevin Garnett (hip flexor) and Ray Allen (left ankle). Everyone knew that going back to Atlanta wasn’t a viable option.
‘That’s the beauty of this team,” Pierce said. “When you got four guys, Kevin, myself, Rondo and Ray, it’s never on one person’s back. Kevin tonight obviously carried the low post, offensively and defensively, like he has for years. And we all take pressure off each other. And it was just beautiful to watch and beautiful to be apart of. You know and I’m glad I have the opportunity to play with a guy like that.”
So how did Pierce feel after his 40 minutes, guarding Josh Smith on a knee that would’ve likely sidelined him in the regular season?
‘A little tired and sore,” Pierce said. “You know, I played a lot of minutes, had to guard one of the toughest 1-on-1 players in the league all night. You know that’s the nature of this beast. You’ve got to be ready to bounce back Saturday, one day of play, one day of rest. You know this is it, this is it. We might never have this opportunity again.’
The reward for Thursday’s 83-80 closeout win in Game 6? A date with Philly Saturday night with just one day to lick their wounds.
‘It feels good,” Pierce said. “You know we have to enjoy it here tonight and get right back at it, thinking about Philadelphia.’
Toughness is a word you’re going to hear a lot in the next week. Philadelphia became the fifth No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history to eliminate a No. 1, though they had the advantage of not dealing with Derrick Rose for five games and Yoakim Noah for the last three. They led by 12 in the third quarter and trailed by three with 30 seconds to go.
They found a way to win when Andre Iguodala hit a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds remains for a 79-78 win over the Bulls in South Philly. Just moments later, 250 miles northeast, the Celtics had nearly the identical thing happen. They led by nine with eight minutes left. Trailed by three with two minutes left and found a way to win.
‘We’ve been through that, we’re not a team who’s going to panic in a close game,” Pierce said. “We were down [three]. We just picked it up. We got a couple stops, executed our offense, set a couple screens and hoped things would go our way. We’re not a team that’s going to panic, just being in that situation a number of times. You know, I didn’t look up and say we’re going to Atlanta again. We play through the clock. Until you see the double zeros up there its never over.
‘We’re playing like this is it. This could be our last chance together, so we’re going to give it one last run and then see what happens.’
|Irish Coffee: Josh Smith ‘jealous’ of Celtics, Boston fans||at 10:06 am ET|
Don’t be surprised if Josh Smith is a member of the 2013-14 Boston Celtics.
Following the Hawks’ 83-80 loss in Game 6 — suffering their second first-round exit in Boston since 2008 — their should-be All-Star forward said everything short of swearing his allegiance to high school teammate Rajon Rondo.
“That’s a great basketball team over there in the Celtics,” said Smith, who finished Game 6 with 18 points (7-18 FG), nine rebounds and four assists. “They’ve done some special things since they acquired the Big Three. Since then, they’ve been doing some special things in the postseason. We can definitely learn a lot from that ball club.
“It definitely hurts not being able to get out of the first round,” he added. “Being able to get out of the first round in three consecutive years, falling short this year, I felt like we had the best opportunity to make it to the Eastern Conference finals this year moreso than other years. That’s obviously disappointing.”
If you can’t beat ‘em, as they say, join ‘em. That notion was palpable in Smith’s postgame (and post-series) press conference. The Rondo connection is an obvious one, although Smith’s admiration for the Celtics and their fans goes far beyond his senior year at Oak Hill Academy with the C’s three-time All-Star point guard.
|Kevin Garnett on Hawks owner: ‘Just because you have a bunch of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth’||at 1:16 am ET|
‘We are playing this old physical team,” said Gearon Jr. “They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball, old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league.’
How did Garnett respond? Only by producing 28 points (10-of-19 FG, 8-10 FT), 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals in Game 6, including a turnaround teardrop in the lane that gave the Celtics the lead for good with 30 seconds left and effectively put the first-round series to bed.
“First off, I want to say thank you to the owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett said in a postgame press conference for the ages. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about — X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”
Zing. Oh, but Garnett wasn’t done.