|Celtics could use some close out power against Sixers in Game 6||05.23.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.
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.”
|Avery Bradley is a ‘game-time decision’ for Celtics, could Ray Allen be starting?||05.21.12 at 11:54 am ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics reported that all players were on hand and accounted for during Monday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility.
The team’s official website tweeted just before shootaround ended that Avery Bradley (left shoulder) was a “game-time decision” for Monday’s Game 5 against the Sixers at TD Garden.
Bradley did not practice on Sunday after suffering a recurrence of his left shoulder injury during the third quarter of Friday’s loss in Philadelphia.
If Bradley were not available for Game 5, it’s assumed Ray Allen would return to the starting lineup for the first time in the playoffs. Allen hasn’t started since April 4 against the Spurs, coming off the bench in the last four games he played in the regular season and all eight games to date in the playoffs.
Allen has been nearly non-existent in the last two games in Philadelphia, getting off just one shot and scoring three points in the Game 3 rout of the Sixers and making 2-of-6 and scoring five points in 31 minutes on Friday night in the 92-83 loss that evened the series, 2-2, heading into tonight’s Game 5 at TD Garden.
“It’s hard to really think about it from this vantage point,” Allen said of Boston’s second-half meltdown on Friday. “I know that in the third quarter, we just lost our attack. They attacked us. Going into the fourth quarter, we were still in a good place but they continued to attack. We lost momentum and on a ’50-50′ balls, it seemed like they got all of them.”
|Issues for C’s: Avery Bradley’s shoulder, team’s margin for error||05.20.12 at 9:42 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Avery Bradley‘s shoulder popped out of place early in the second half of Game 4, but at some point between the time he walked off the court in agony and the time he reached the end of the bench, trainer Eddie Lacerte was able to pop it back into place.
“It’s just tough. It really is. I swear a lot of people would not be playing, and the only reason he is is because he wants to,” Doc Rivers said on Sunday before the team conducted practice. “I am concerned at some point that he may not be able to anymore. We don’t know what game that is, we don’t know what day he can finish it. We can keep going all the way and he can play [or] tomorrow could be his last game.”
The 21-year-old Bradley has impressed his teammates with his toughness, but they also know that there’s a line and he’s right on the verge of crossing it.
“A lot of young players would probably sit down, worry about their future, their career,” Paul Pierce said. “At the end of the day, Avery has to do what’s best for him and his family and possibly for the long run. Hopefully he doesn’t have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he’s playing. I think it’s a fine line there, too.”
There’s the issue for the Celtics. They are 18 points better with Bradley on the court than when he’s off — the second-best mark behind Kevin Garnett‘s absurd plus-56. When Bradley picked up his fourth foul early in the second half of Game 4, they were ahead by 18 points. When he returned, they were down by one.
“We don’t ever do it the easy way, but I don’t know if we could,” Rivers said. “Not because of the mental, just because we are thin. There are times we do break and it’s more for other reasons than basketball.”
It’s not just Bradley, of course. Ray Allen is playing through bone spurs that would likely put him on the sidelines if it was the regular season. Mickael Pietrus and Pierce have knee issues. Every team in the league has injury issues, but few teams left in the postseason are as thin, or as old, as the Celtics.
“That’s the scariest part of our team,” Rivers said. “I’ve said it for three months. We are very thin. We don’t have a big margin for error. We don’t have it even when guys are healthy. Our good players have to play well to give our bench guys a chance to stay on the floor longer, which allows us to get more rest. There’s a minute number in every game that I’m concerned with our starters. When they get over that, we struggle. There’s a lot of things going on in a game every night for us. Quite honestly a lot of teams don’t have to deal with, but we do and we know that.”
|Celtics look to get Paul Pierce open||05.16.12 at 12:31 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics have had a hard time getting Paul Pierce open for shots in the first two games of their series with the 76ers. Part of that can be attributed to Pierce’s sprained knee. A lot of it can be attributed to Andre Iguodala‘s defense. Whatever the reason, the Celtics are going to try to make adjustments for Wednesday night’s Game 3.
“We’re not sure where those spots are yet,” Doc Rivers said. “Usually with Paul, the elbow isos are great, but right now he can’t get away from anybody with his leg. We’re going to go to more pin-downs for him and do different things. You usually didn’t have to get a body off of him. He can usually shake the body on his own. I think now we have to use him a lot like Ray [Allen] and bring him off screens.”
Pierce was 2-for-9 in Game 2 and is just 5-for-20 in the series. Rivers added that he may try to get more post-up looks for Pierce to try to get him going.
Asked about the severity of Pierce’s injury, Rivers said, “I don’t do percentages. I don’t think Iguodala cares what percentage he is and that’s what counts. When he’s on the floor he’s 100 percent and that’s how we play our guys, that’s how we view it. Whether he is or isn’t really doesn’t matter. We have to get 100 percent out of him of what he has, that’s what we have to do.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Celtics report ‘full participation’ in shootaround, ready for Game 2||05.14.12 at 11:52 am ET|
WALTHAM — In a sign that all hands will again be on deck for Monday night’s Game 2 against the Sixers, the Celtics reported full participation in the brief shootaround Monday morning.
Team owner Wyc Grousbeck attended and watched from the sidelines as the team went through mostly a series a halfcourt sets in preparation for Monday night’s game, which tips off at 7 p.m. at TD Garden.
How will the Celtics come out for Game 2? Take a look above at Doc Rivers in his postgame presser from Game 1 and you can probably see what he and the coaching staff talked about Monday morning as they look to get a stranglehold on the series.
The Celtics are looking to go up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series after Saturday’s 92-91 win, a game they trailed by 10 with under 11 minutes remaining. The series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 Wednesday night and Game 4 Friday night.
|Maturing Avery Bradley relishes playoff experience||05.11.12 at 10:38 am ET|
Every playoff game, as the Celtics starters are being introduced at TD Garden, fans are reminded of Avery Bradley‘s growth as a player. Over the five-year run of the new Big Three era, fans are accustomed to hearing Ray Allen‘s name, but lately it’s Bradley’s who is called.
It takes a little getting used to. After all, moving ahead of arguably the greatest 3-point shooter of all-time in the lineup is no easy feat. As Bradley gains playoff experience, his understanding of the nuances and intricacies of the game at the NBA level increases minute by minute. During the Celtics’ series-clinching 83-80 win in Game 6 Thursday night, Bradley took another step toward maturity when he requested to guard Jeff Teague.
Bradley was stuck guarding Marvin Williams — who, at 6-foot-9, has seven inches on the C’s youngster — and surrendered eight points in the first quarter. It was a tough matchup for Bradley. In the second quarter the Hawks opened up a 28-20 lead and Boston was left searching for answers on both ends of the court.
But as Williams started to cool off, the C’s guard decided to take on a player who has hurt Boston throughout the series, Teague. So, the usually reticent Bradley pitched his desire to shut down the other No. 0 to Doc Rivers.
“He had a great series,” Bradley said of Teague. “I just wanted to come in this game, and I was covering Marvin, and I told the coaches ‘let me pressure Teague a bit.’ Even [Rajon] Rondo came to me and told me to pressure him. I just wanted to make everything hard on him tonight. My main focus was just to slow him down and make things hard on him to get them out of their offense.”
|Avery Bradley is ready for the closeout challenge Thursday||05.10.12 at 2:40 pm ET|
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.
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