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An ugly game could be a thing of beauty for Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels 04.25.12 at 9:19 am ET
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To Doc Rivers, no minutes or players are ever insignificant. Even in a game that had most starters on both sides taking the night off to rest for the playoffs.

To Rivers, a game like Tuesday is the perfect time to get players like Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic tuned up, just in case he might be needed in the playoffs. And given how this year has progressed, it’s certainly a good idea not to rule any possibility out.

Pavlovic had 12 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, as he made five of his six attempts from the floor, while Daniels sparked the surge that put the game away with a high-flying dunk as the Celtics beat the Heat, 78-66, at the Garden.

Like most of the starters on both teams, Pavlovic did not have a good start to the game. He was on the floor with the starters who opened the game 0-for-7 for Boston as the Celtics fell behind 11-0. He missed both of his shots in the opening 12 minutes and was scoreless in the first half.

But then he turned it on in the second half, finishing with a flourish in the fourth quarter when he nailed a couple of open threes during a 10-0 Boston run.

‘€œIf I’€™m wide open I shouldn’€™t be hesitant and that’€™s what I’€™m trying to do,” Pavlovic said. “The most important thing with me, just don’€™t think and shoot the ball when I’€™m wide open. I started kind of slow in the first half, Doc was on me about that. He told me just to play to it, I took a couple bad shots in the first half. I just came out in the second half and played as hard as I could defensively and whenever I had an open shot I just took it.’€

“That was huge for Sasha. I thought it was ‘€“ especially in the fact that Sasha really struggled in the first half and then he came in the second half and played terrific,” Rivers said.

Daniels and Pavlovic have both spent time this season, languishing at the end of the Celtics’ bench with little or no hope of playing time. “DNP-Coach’s Decision” has appeared on their line in many boxscores this season.

But not Tuesday. On a night the Celtics kept alive their hopes of home court advantage, both of them had big roles as Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus and Greg Stiemsma got the night off. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Marquis Daniels, Miami Heat, NBA
Sean Williams gives a glimpse of the ‘competitor’ he can be at 8:24 am ET
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Sean Williams was regarded as one of the best shot-blocking talents coming out of college when he declared for the 2007 NBA draft out of Boston College.

Tuesday, with no Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiemsma, the Celtics had to look somewhere for bench help to support Ryan Hollins, and it was the newly-acquired Williams who got the look-see.

In nearly 20 minutes, he scored five points, hauled down two rebounds, had two assists and yes, blocked two shots in Boston’s 78-66 ugly duckling win over the Heat at the Garden.

‘€œIt was OK,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Williams Tuesday. “He’€™s a shot blocker, doesn’€™t know a lot of our stuff. You know he was pressing early; him and Ryan they were pressing way too much early on. And I thought as they settled in, one thing I did like about Sean down the stretch: he’€™s competitive. And you can see that. He wasn’€™t going to back down to anything, got some great blocked shots, so that was good to see.’€

So, back in Boston, Williams had the juices flowing in the first half, almost too much. Rivers could tell he was a bit nervous, and Williams didn’t deny that.

‘€œYes I was a little,” Williams said with a smile. ‘€œYou go out there your first time you get tired real fast, your legs get down on you real quick, everything kind of shuts down on you so I caught my second wind I guess in the second half.’€

Technically, Williams is eligible for Boston’s playoff roster since he waived by Dallas before the March 23 NBA deadline for rosters. Could he help off the bench as a shot-blocking force if Stiemsma’s sore feet act up?

‘€œI’€™m just trying to come in here and help these guys reach their goals, getting that 18th ring, that’€™s all I’€™m focused on,” Williams said. ‘€œI’€™ll let Doc decide that. Its not up to me. I just come here every day and try to get better at what I do.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Boston College, Dallas Mavericks, Greg Stiemsma
Doc Rivers: ‘Someone had to win the game’ at 12:45 am ET
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How do you explain a game in which you fall behind 11-0 to the No. 2 team in the East, don’t score for the first six minutes, 15 seconds, score 10 points in the first quarter on your home court (28 for the half) only to win going away by 12 points?

‘€œWell, someone had to win the game,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of the 78-66 slopfest that Boston managed not to lose against Miami Tuesday at the Garden. “And we did, which was really nice. You know these games are still important, probably for both teams. I’€™m sure (Erik Spoelstra) is still looking at guys. We pretty much know our rotation, but someone else is always going to help you in playoffs, and games like this can give you confidence.”

With Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Mickael Pietrus, Ray Allen and Greg Stiemsma all getting the night off, Paul Pierce played just 18 minutes and scored eight points. Instead, it was Sasha Pavlovic leading the way with 16 points and Marquis Daniels adding 13 to help the Celtics to their 38th win of the season.

“That was huge for Sasha,” Rivers said. “I thought it was ‘€“ especially in the fact that Sasha really struggled in the first half and then he came in the second half and played terrific. I thought for (E’€™Twaun Moore), just playing that amount of minutes at the point-guard position was good for him. And, so, there were a lot of good things in our way for that. You know it every year: someone who plays a little bit comes in in the playoffs and has a big game for you. Marquis, again. So all those guys I thought the game was very important for.’€

It certainly wasn’t easy for Pierce.

‘€œYeah, Paul was just ‘€“ you could see he was struggling,” Rivers said. “Also struggling with spacing, too. I mean, he’€™s used to Ray and Paul and Kevin and those guys spacing the floor; he spun one time, he should’€™ve been by himself, and three of our guys were in his way. It’€™s all that.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Marquis Daniels, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics topple Heat on starless night 04.24.12 at 10:42 pm ET
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Of the seven current or former NBA All-Stars on the Celtics and Heat rosters, only Paul Pierce graced the Garden parquet on Tuesday night, and even he only played 18 minutes. That left major minutes for guys like Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, the only C’s to reach double figures in an ugly 78-66 victory against the Heat.

Pavlovic (16 points) and Daniels (13 points) helped the Celtics (38-27) outscore Miami 28-16 in the fourth quarter and finish the season 3-1 against the Heat. With only a home game against the Bucks on Thursday remaining, the Celtics trail the Hawks (39-26) — 109-102 winners over the Clippers — by a game. As division winners, the Celtics own the tiebreaker for home court advantage in their first-round playoff series, but they would have to beat Milwaukee and hope Atlanta loses to the Mavericks.

Dexter Pittman (12 points) led the Heat (46-19), who officially conceded the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed to the Bulls.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Quis to the game: From the season opener on Christmas Day to April 19, Daniels never reached double digits in scoring or grabbed more than six rebounds in a single night. He almost exceeded both those benchmarks in the last two games. After totaling 12 points and eight boards against the Hawks on Friday night, he amassed 13 points and five rebounds against the Heat. He’s not likely to see much, if any, playing time in the playoffs, but at least something other than his shoes did the shining.

Block party: With the Celtics clinging to a 54-52 lead in the fourth quarter (yes, the fourth quarter), rookie JaJuan Johnson blocked a Juwan Howard layup attempt. Just 42 seconds later, newly signed Boston College product Sean Williams blocked Howard’s 10-foot baseline jumper, sending it into the stands for a 24-second violation. Williams sandwiched a four points around his rejection to help the C’s establish a six-point lead.

Heroic Herren: Each home game, the Celtics honor a member of the community who goes to extraordinary lengths to help those in need with a “Heroes Among Us” ceremony. Tuesday, the C’s recognized a member of their own community: Chris Herren. The Fall River native and Durfee High graduate battled substance abuse issues throughout a career that led the former McDonald’s All-American to Boston College, Fresno State, the Nuggets (No. 33 overall pick in 1999 NBA Draft) and the Celtics before several destinations abroad. Since recovering from addiction, a journey detailed in the ESPN Films production “Unguarded,” Herren founded Project Purple to fight drug abuse. As a result, he found himself back on the Garden parquet, the recipient of a rousing standing ovation — this time in a suit, clean and sober.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Marquis Daniels, Miami Heat
Irish Coffee: How Celtics re-match up against Hawks 04.23.12 at 4:27 pm ET
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UPDATE: Since Al Horford‘s original claim that playing against the Celtics in their first-round series was unrealistic, the Hawks center has changed his tune. A consultation with his surgeon resulted in a prognosis that he could return to the court on Thursday in a limited role, according to the most recent Yahoo! Sports report.

“It remains to be seen what I can bring,” Horford told reporter Marc J. Spears. “But I hope to bring some scoring. They can’t expect a lot from me defensively because it’s been a while since I’ve even played. That’s one of the things that will hold me back, but scoring I can help. And also with presence with the team in general.”

It’s official. When the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs begin at month’s end, the Celtics will face the Hawks — the same team that in 2008 took them to seven games in the first round. That was then, when the championship nucleus of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was just finding its groove. This is now, five years later.

The first four of this core’s 43 playoff wins came against Atlanta, but will its last also come against the Hawks?

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Avery Bradley ‘beautiful’ in Kevin Garnett’s eyes 04.19.12 at 2:10 pm ET
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Twice after their division-clinching victory against the Magic, Kevin Garnett made his case to the Celtics organization for rewarding Avery Bradley financially after his successful sophomore campaign.

“I love seeing young guys who work hard and it pays off,” said Garnett. “I love young guys who listen and actually put in the work. Just from seeing where he’s come from to where he’s at now is just beautiful, man. I hope they’re able to reward him with some longevity and some loyalty — something long-term. I’ve always said to him, ‘Continue to work, because that’s what’s got you here,’ so I’m happy for him.”

The problem is Bradley isn’t slated to become an unrestricted free agent until the 2015-16 NBA season. He’ll make $1.6 million next season, $2.5 million in 2013-14 and at least the qualifying offer of $3.6 million in 2014-15, facts that may have escaped Garnett, who has made at least $14 million in each of his last 14 seasons.

It’s a great problem for the Celtics, because Bradley has established himself as one of the best bargains in basketball. With Rajon Rondo also locked up through 2014-15 at an average of $12 million over the three years, the C’s have one of the youngest, most affordable starting backcourts and two of the best trade chips in the NBA.

“Avery’s emerging,” said Keyon Dooling, “so we might have to give him like a Big Five or something.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Why this was no ordinary division championship for the Celtics at 10:19 am ET
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The Celtics have won the Atlantic Division in all five years of the new “Big 3”.

And it’s a well known fact that they don’t commemorate division titles with banners up above.

But when the Celtics clinched the division Wednesday with a 102-98 win over the Magic, there was reason to step back and take a bow.

It was how they got there that was impressive, especially to their coach Doc Rivers. He acknowledged the significance of the turnaround by the team, which played without the injured Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus.

‘€œYeah, it does, I mean [something],” Rivers said. “It’€™s funny we were kidding in the locker room because I really ‘€“ I usually, honestly, don’€™t say much about it ‘€“ I don’€™t know if I’€™ve ever congratulated the team for winning one,” But I did tell them, I said, ‘€˜Guys, I know it’€™s not a big deal to us ‘€“ and it isn’€™t because we’€™re not in this to win divisions ‘€“ but, we were two games under .500 at All-Star break and the fact that you did it and did it this early I think is very impressive.’€™ And it was.’€

Captain Paul Pierce led the Celtics Wednesday with 29 points and a career-high 14 assists. Pierce reminded everyone afterward of what the final goal is for the team, a team that was two games under .500 at the All-Star break.

“I’m not about to go pop champagne bottles or anything like that,” Pierce said. “I know they do in baseball. I mean, it is a good accomplishment. The guys should recognize where we came from to what we are today. It’s a good accomplishment I guess. But all we care about around here is a championship banner. I guess it’s just a step towards the journey we are trying to go towards.”

But Kevin Garnett took the chance to take a swipe at the naysayers who wrote the team off, giving them no chance of winning another division, let alone championship.

‘€œYou guys called us old, over,” Garnett said. “I heard some of your pathetic articles and some of your lousy announcers [predictions]. It’€™s a pity. Obviously you don’€™t know what drives us. We thank y’all for those articles, appreciate it because it lit a fire under. One of the hardest things I’€™ve always said in this league is to create chemistry.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Keyon Dooling
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