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Fast Break: Grizzlies maul Celtics in 4th straight loss 01.02.13 at 9:59 pm ET
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Avery Bradley may have returned to the starting lineup, but the same old Celtics took the Garden floor in a loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday night that looked worse than the 93-83 final.

Despite a spirited fourth-quarter comeback that slashed a Grizzlies lead that had grown as large as 18 points to just five with a handful of minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to make up for three quarters of dreadful play that left the C’s three games under .500 (14-17) for the first time this season.

Bradley made his first bucket after missing the opening 30 games of the season, finishing with four points in 18 minutes. Rajon Rondo (11 points, 9 assists), who battled a bruised hip, Paul Pierce (17 points, 7 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) were the only Celtics in double figures. Hence, the team’s fourth straight loss and eighth in the last 10 games.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Memphis shooting: In the first half, the Grizzlies shot a ridiculous 61.1 percent and scored 50 points on 36 shots. Mike Conley (23 points, 9 assists) and old friend Tony Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds) shot a combined 9-of-11 before the break. Heck, even Darrell Arthur (10 points), who entered without a 3-pointer in 204 career games, drained two triples in the span of 1:43 in the second quarter.

Garnett’s first half: Whether it was a New Year’s hangover or not, Garnett started an atrocious 1-of-7 from the floor and committed three turnovers as the Grizzlies took a 50-41 lead into the break. It’s no surprise the defense also struggled on a night when KG didn’t have his best performance.

The Collins experiment: Celtics starting center Jason Collins may have limited Marc Gasol‘s scoring, but he did little to quell the C’s overall defense and rebounding woes. (The Celtics were out-rebouned 39-27 and gave up eight offensive boards). Plus, he’s essentially nonexistent on the offensive end. In what’s been a trend for Collins, he had as many personal fouls (2) as points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Pierce’s first quarter: The Celtics captain started a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s 26 points in the first quarter. He may not have been as successful in the paint, but his effort from long distance helped keep the C’s afloat as the Grizzlies made two-thirds of their shots in the early going.

Avery’s arrival: Bradley started opposite Mike Conley and held the Memphis guard to two shots (a successful 3-pointer and a runner from 6 feet) and two assists in 13:22 of shared floor time in the first half. In Conley’s remaining first-half minutes (8:22), he made 4-of-6 shots and generated three assists. In other words, even if Bradley’s offense was rusty (1-4 FG), he’s still effective on the defensive end.

The bench: Bradley’s presence also pushes Jason Terry (8 points) to the bench, creating some semblance of consistency at Doc Rivers‘ disposal. Believe it or not, the second unit actually turned a 14-12 deficit when Garnett sat in the first quarter into a 31-27 advantage when KG returned — thanks in large part to Brandon Bass (9 points).

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, NBA
Doc Rivers on Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Wednesday pregame notes at 8:03 pm ET
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Doc Rivers announced before Wednesday’s game that Rajon Rondo had been cleared to play and would start with Avery Bradley in the Celtics backcourt as the team looks for a defensive spark to turn around its three-game losing streak.

Rondo suffered a bruised right hip against the Clippers on Thursday and missed Saturday’s game against the Warriors before returning on Sunday in the loss to the Kings. Rondo sat out Tuesday’s practice before working out two hours before Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies and getting cleared to play.

Meanwhile, Bradley is making his season debut after surgery on both shoulders in the offseason. Rivers said before the game there would be no minutes limitations on Bradley in his first appearance of the season.

“I just think the quicker we get to our lineup, the better,” Rivers said. “We’re going to get to it anyway, so why wait?”

“If he’s hurting us, we take him out; if he’s playing well, we let him play,” said Rivers. “I think it’ll be vision, but listen, we gotta play with some kind of pace, offensively and defensively, obviously. So it’ll be pretty easy to see.”

Rivers said he hasn’t paid attention to reports that Bradley will be the key to a turnaround.

“I haven’t paid too much attention to all this stuff. Is he [Bill] Russell yet? Or [Bob] Cousy? I don’t know,” Rivers said. “If that’s what [media has] made him, and if he lives up to that, then I’m good with that. I hope everyone’s right.”

Can Bradley make the rest of the Celtics better defenders?

“If you take one great defensive player and you put him on a team, the team is going to be a better defensive team,” Rivers added. “And as important as bigs are, I’ve always thought, especially if it’s a guard that applies pressure, that kinda fuels energy. You see it and it’s hard for you not to do it. You got this guy doing it and then, what, are you not going to do anything? It clearly helps. Again, because this is his first game this year, the other players have a 30-game advantage on him as far as timing and stuff, as far as running their stuff. I’m not looking for the world today or tomorrow, even in a week. But it’s going to come.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Boston Celtics
Judging by this, Avery Bradley looks real close to returning 12.21.12 at 6:23 pm ET
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Celtics starting point guard Rajon Rondo, guard Avery Bradley, Kris Joseph and Courtney Lee play a game of 2-on-2 before Friday’s game between the Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. Rondo and Bradley took turns guarding one another.

Bradley was cleared to return to contact practice Monday in Chicago and judging by this, he looks real close to returning. In this video, he shows why he is considered the best on-ball defender on the Celtics and one of the best in the NBA.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Courtney Lee, Kris Joseph
Irish Coffee: A brief Kevin Garnett lesson on chemistry and evolution 12.20.12 at 10:44 am ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.

While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.

“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”

Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per 82games.com.

  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
  • Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
  • Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small

One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: What Avery Bradley does for the Celtics 12.19.12 at 1:22 pm ET
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Upon Avery Bradley‘s return to practice on Monday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers declared, “He ain’t the savior.

Well, he was last season. The Celtics finished 20-9 in Bradley’s 29 starts last year, including a 14-5 record once he took Ray Allen‘s starting job on March 25, and they were essentially a .500 team (19-18) when he wasn’t in the starting lineup. Funny how the C’s have started 12-12 without him this season.

But Bradley does more than impact their record. When he took the floor with Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics outscored their opponents 113-94 per 100 possessions. That’s seven points better on offense and defense than the Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Bass-Garnett lineup (106-101 per 100 possessions).

That’s also far better than Rondo, Pierce, Bass and Garnett with Jason Terry (108-99) or Courtney Lee (106-115) this season. The Celtics shot better (50.6 eFG%), forced opponents to shoot worse (39.5 eFG%), got to the line more often (+28 FTA) and rebounded better (47.0 REB%) with Bradley than with Allen, Terry or Lee.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry
Doc Rivers: Expecting word on Avery Bradley 12.12.12 at 8:13 pm ET
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Before Wednesday’s game with the Mavericks, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers talks about his team playing better defense, Avery Bradley and Boston’s improved defense handing the high powered Mavericks. Rivers acknowledged that he expects to hear something on Bradley’s availability at practice soon.

Bradley told reporters before Wednesday’s game that his right shoulder is feeling better to the point where he can see practicing soon if he gets the go-ahead from trainer Ed Lacerte and the Celtics medical staff.

“I hope to start practicing next week,” Bradley said. “Shoulders feel strong.”

Bradley had his right shoulder repaired in July, two months after surgery on his left shoulder that ended his playoff season in the Eastern semifinals against Philadelphia.

“He’s shooting and running,” Rivers said. “He’s doing skeleton work with us on the floor. So my assumption is eventually someone will tell me something or [media] will. I’m open to either one. I really don’t know. I haven’t heard a projection and I haven’t asked so I really don’t know.”

Rivers also explained a bit of NBA procedural logistics that explained why Fab Melo (strained quadriceps) was recalled by the Celtics for a non-game day before being sent back out today to the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.

“He was injured so the new [CBA] rules are that if you bring him back [from D-League for medical treatment], you have to activate him,” Rivers said. “We had to activate him because he was with us.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers: ‘Just glad’ Austin Rivers is playing while Avery Bradley provides ‘great news’ 12.05.12 at 8:04 pm ET
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Sometimes Celtics head coach Doc Rivers sounds a lot like Bill Belichick.

Such was the case Wednesday pre-game when he was told that Avery Bradley told reporters he’s “maybe a week or two” from returning to practice after a pair of shoulder surgeries.

“Is that right? That’s great to hear,” Rivers said with a hearty laugh and smile. “I’m very happy to hear the news! Honestly, I didn’t know that because I don’t check. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte] will tell us when it’s time. I don’t focus on that stuff, guys being out. I have to focus on the guys wearing the uniform. With Avery, I talk to him every day and see how he’s doing, and I kid him about it but I don’t really ask.”

Rivers also spoke about his son Austin playing for the New Orleans Hornets, who may be on the verge of changing their name. Names like the Pelicans and Brass have been thrown out there to give the team a more regional flare. “I’m just glad he’s playing,” Rivers said.

On the return of Greg Stiemsma: “I’d love to have him here but I’m happy for him. He took advantage of a great situation, and I’m glad he did. He was terrific here.”

On Kevin Garnett and his impact on the Celtics and Timberwolves: “There’s a Hall of Fame and then there’s a table at the Hall of Fame Kevin has a table at the Hall of Fame”

Rivers said that Leandro Barbosa showed up Wednesday and will dress but is hoping to stay away from playing him as he is still under the weather.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Greg Steimsma, Kevin Garnett
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