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Avery Bradley is ready for the closeout challenge Thursday 05.10.12 at 2:40 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Avery Bradley knows as well as anyone on the banged up Celtics what it’s like to play through pain.

He’s dealing with a “sore” rotator cuff in his left shoulder, the team announced after its shootaround Thursday morning.

He is expected to start and play in Game 6 tonight.

“It’s a little sore,” Bradley said after Thursday’s shootaround. “I’ve been fighting through the pain all year. I’ll be ready for tonight.”

How does he cope?

“Just by not thinking about it,” Bradley added. “I’m going to get hit. There’s a chance it could pop out but I try not to think about it. I just go out there and just play.”

The Celtics lead the series, 3-2, and can close out the Hawks in Game 6, which is set for an 8 p.m. tipoff.

“We’re very focused,” Bradley said. “We know what we need to improve on this game. I feel like we’ll be prepared tonight.”

What does Bradley think will change from Game 5, when the Celtics had a 28-18 lead early in the second quarter, only to have it slip away?

“Just our intensity level,” he said. “We didn’t come out and play as hard as we played the previous game. We know we have to come out and have a strong start, play good defense and there’s a chance we could win the game.”

The Celtics also announced Thursday morning, just hours before their Game 6 showdown with the Hawks, that captain Paul Pierce has a sprained MCL in his left knee but he will be available to play and start in the potential closeout game for Boston.

Pierce injured the knee on Sunday morning during a Celtics shootaround prior to Game 4 at the Garden. He then reinjured hours later in the game when he tried to get around a screen set by Josh Smith.

Celtics officials at the team’s shootaround Thursday were adamant in denying reports of any tears or bone spurs in Pierce’s knee.

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley
Irish Coffee: 5 questions Celtics must solve in Game 6 05.09.12 at 2:04 pm ET
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In many ways, the Game 5 loss was simply a string of statistical Celtics anomalies that favored the Hawks.

  • After making 21-of-82 treys in Games 1-4 (25.6%), The Hawks shot 7-of-16 from 3-point range (43.8%).
  • The Hawks committed four more turnovers (18-14), but the Celtics scored four fewer points off them (21-25).
  • After the Celtics kept pace on the glass in Games 1-4 (174-178), the Hawks won the Game 5 battle, 41-33.
  • Paul Pierce air-balled a would-be go-ahead 20-footer with 18 seconds remaining.
  • Rajon Rondo lost his sure handle and failed to deliver a pass while time expired.

Of course, there are reasons for those anomalies, so how must the Celtics adjust to avoid a Game 7 on the road?

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley
Doc Rivers: ‘Rondo willed us back into the game’ at 12:25 am ET
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Doc Rivers takes a lot of pride in his veteran team being more prepared than any other when it comes to crucial end-of-game situations. This is especially true in the playoffs.

That’s why Tuesday night was such a kick in the groin to Rivers and the Celtics.

A dejected Rivers analyzed what happened in the furious final moments of Boston’s 87-86 loss to Atlanta in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Rivers watched as Rajon Rondo nearly single-handedly won the game with a steal of an inbounds pass and a lenght-of-the-court dribble only to be denied even getting a shot off as the Hawks held on.

Rondo scored six of the final eight points of the third quarter as the Celtics rallied furiously back from a 12-point deficit and a nine-point hole late in the fourth only to have time run out.

“I thought Rondo willed us back into the game in the third,” Rivers said. “That stretch was huge for him. We played in spurts, and that’s why we lost.”

Rondo finished with 13 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in 44 minutes of rugged playoff action. He also had five steals, including the one off the inbounds play with 10 seconds remaining that nearly won the series.

The Celtics now must deal with the confident tandem of Al Horford and Josh Smith in Game 6 in Boston Thursday night. Both of them registered double-doubles, with Horford hitting the final two baskets for Atlanta and denying Rondo any chance of getting off the final shot.

“Al Horford was terrific tonight,” Rivers said. “I thought him and Williams made the difference in the game. I thought they all played well and hard, which we anticipated in an elmination game. I didn’t like our execution down the stretch of the game, did a couple of things we shouldn’t have done. But overall, I just thought they played harder, they played better.”

Before the Rondo steal, the Celtics tried for a steal with 15 seconds remaining, only to burn valuable seconds off the clock as the Celtics had a foul to give.

“We signaled to foul but our guys decided to go for the steal, first. What they didn’t understand was we had a foul to give. I told them after the game and we talk about it every day in practice,” Rivers said. “End of the game execution is going to win and lose playoff games for you.

“I thought when you look at the last couple of games, we had great motion and movement, offensively. I didn’t think we had any of that tonight. I thought we were an stagnant basketball team. I thought in the first quarter, it was terrific. The movement was great. We missed a lot of open shots. We had the lead but I told our coaches, they had a lot of open shots they missed, and then they started making them and got their confidence up. Listen, this is the team they thought they were going to start the season with, now they have it and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Ray Allen’s return another step forward for Celtics 05.08.12 at 8:24 am ET
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Paul Pierce was in the Zone — with a capital ‘Z’ as Kevin Garnett put it — and the Celtics were pulling away in the second quarter of their 101-79 victory Sunday night in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Hawks. The atmosphere plummeted from jovial to somber, though, when Pierce went down clutching his sprained knee. The Garden was hushed.

The stress of Pierce’s uncertain health was temporarily alleviated and the Garden was instantaneously in a frenzy once again when moments later, as he has done so many times, Ray Allen came off a screen and buried a 3-pointer. It didn’t matter that this was only Allen’s second game back from an ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup nearly all of April. Both the Celtics and their fans understand what Allen provides: Relief and security due to his unmatched preparation.

“You see what he puts into his craft,” Garnett said. “You see why he is who he is, and the reputation he has earned. I use the word earned, not given. You expect great things out of him, and that’s what he gives you.”

The reputation Allen earned had to be altered. The 36 year-old is renowned for his arduous training regimen, but coming off an injury he has stressed body maintenance over basketball form. Allen said he has cut his routine down to 40 percent of its usual length, which indicates his understanding of how imperative it is to get rest. His willingness to adjust his militant habits is paying dividends.

“I’m really managing my off days really well,” Allen said. “You have a tendency when you get back off of an injury to kind of let it slide a bit, and I haven’t been. And it’s important to me to rest up, just staying off it.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett
Avery Bradley: ‘Now I’m ready; I’ll be ready in Round 2 as well’ 05.07.12 at 1:00 pm ET
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Avery Bradley didn’t play a single minute of the 2011 Celtics playoff run that ended in five games against the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and even before Round 1 of his sophomore season is over he’s already declared himself prepared for the next hurdle in his budding young career. My, how things change.

“It’s been great,” said Bradley of his first four playoff games and his team’s resulting 3-1 series lead. “I’ve been able to learn a lot and gain a lot of confidence. The main thing for me is learning how to approach the playoffs. That was big for me, and now I’m ready; I’ll be ready in Round 2 as well.”

This from a kid who made 8-of-45 field goal attempts outside of three feet as a rookie last season. Bradley had one career 3-point field goal through March 22 of this season. Here’s how far he’s come: Of the C’s first six shots against the Hawks, Bradley took four of them — all outside of 21 feet, on a bum left shoulder.

“It hurt me, but I tried not to think about it,” said Bradley, who left in the third quarter of Game 3 with a recurring left shoulder dislocation. “I just went out there and played hard. I knew my team needed that energy, and that’s what I wanted to bring. It’s been the same. It gets worse as I continue to knock it out, but it’s something that I’m going to continue to get treatment on, strengthen and it’ll get better eventually.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett, Cake Boss of the Celtics at 10:27 am ET
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In the preseason, tortillas were Kevin Garnett‘s preferred metaphor for cooking up the main course that was to be the 2011-12 regular-season Celtics. In case you missed it, here was his recipe on Media Day in December.

“Timing is everything, and chemistry isn’t something that you just don’t throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, and throw something on top of that, and then fry it up, put it in a tortilla, put it in the microwave, heat it up and give it to you, and expect it to taste good. For those who can cook, y’all know what I’m talking about. If y’all don’t know what I’m talking about and can’t cook, then this doesn’t concern you.”

Now, it’s time for dessert, and Garnett is baking the cake that is to be the 2012 postseason Celtics.

“I always like to use baking a cake as an example,” said Garnett. “Nothing’s going to come out of the first two minutes. You have to sit there and wait on it, for y’all who know how to bake. Some of y’all don’t know how to bake, but don’t worry about it. Ask your mothers and fathers or something — someone who knows how to bake. But it’s very similar to that. You have to give it time for it to turn into what it’s going to be. Time tells everything when the results come, and I’m just glad we’re in a nice rhythm right now.”

Regardless of the recipe, Garnett’s point is clear: This Celtics team, the one that destroyed the Hawks by 22 points in Game 4, isn’t the NBA’s version of a Hot Pocket, quickly made and easily consumed. What you saw Sunday night has been marinating for months, ripe for the pressure cooker that is professional playoff basketball.

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett
Josh Smith: Celtics ‘running plays way more harder’ at 12:58 am ET
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After the Celtics and Hawks were separated by just four points through the first three games of their series, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce & Co. put a 22-point whooping on Atlanta, and it wasn’t even that close.

The Celtics led by as many as 37 points, taking a 3-1 series lead with a chance to end the series on Tuesday.

“They shot the mess out of it tonight,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who returned from the left knee injury that kept him out of Game 3. “I’m watching it and being real observant when I’m on the bench. They’re just running the plays way more harder than we are. Whatever play is called, you know, Ray Allen is running off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open, the bigs are setting screens, getting the guards open.

“We have to try to duplicate what they do,” added Smith. “We have to try to get open. They’re trying so hard for Joe [Johnson] not to catch the ball. They’re being real physical with him, so we have to be able to match their physicality and be able to try to return the favor a little bit, see if they like it and stop being so passive.”

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Read More: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Joe Johnson
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