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Pinched nerve has plagued Paul Pierce for 2 months 02.14.13 at 12:55 am ET
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Paul Pierce confirmed what Celtics president Danny Ainge divulged to the viewing public while sitting down with broadcasters Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn during the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 71-69 victory against the Bulls: The C’s captain has played with a pinched nerve in his neck since December.

“It’s getting better,” Pierce said in response to the injury inquiry. “It’s something that’s been bothering me probably for like the last two months. It’s getting better, though. The last couple weeks have been better than it has been.”

Pierce struggled mightily in January, shooting 39.9 percent from the field (28.9 3P%) for the month, but he’s emerged once again as the C’s leader in the two weeks since Rajon Rondo‘s season-ending ACL injury.

During the C’s 8-1 stretch in their last nine games, Pierce has still struggled with his shot (39.0 FG%) — including a 2-of-12 performance in the win over Chicago — although his 39.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc and a boatload of clutch shots have helped assuage any concerns about his health. At 35 years old, Pierce has averaged a ridiculous 16.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 36.6 minutes a night since Rondo’s injury.

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Did Kevin Garnett just announce his retirement? 02.13.13 at 11:14 pm ET
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Asked how he’ll approach this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game, especially after playing an exhausting 102 minutes in his last four games, Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett took everybody by surprise when he mentioned mid-sentence that his 15th appearance would be his last.

“For it being my last,” said Garnett, “I got my family coming down.”

Wait, what?

“This is definitely my last All-Star Game,” he repeated.

Garnett has two years and $23.5 million remaining on his contract after this season, and considering he was voted a starter at age 36, what’s to stop him from making the roster in either of his next two seasons?

“Y’all don’t know what I know,” he said. “So, let’s put it like this: I’m more than grateful for going, but I’m not going to act like I’ve got more All-Star Games in me, so I’m actually going to enjoy this one with some friends and family.”

Despite signing a three-year extension with the Celtics this past offseason, Garnett repeatedly has dropped hints that any season could be his last, but this is the first time this year he’s alluded to it so clearly.

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Fast Break: Celtics win ugly entering All-Star break at 10:00 pm ET
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Thanks to another all-out effort by the few healthy players left on the roster, the Celtics outlasted the visiting Bulls 71-69 to win ugly, earning their eighth victory in nine tries since the first of the injury dominoes fell two weeks ago.

The Celtics (28-24) equaled their highest point above .500 as four C’s reached double digits, led remarkably by Brandon Bass (14 points, 9 rebounds). Kevin Garnett (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (8-6-6) scored the C’s final nine points as they held off a Chicago charge to close the final quarter.

The Celtics’ 19 combined points in the second and third quarters marked the team’s lowest point total in consecutive quarters of a game during the shot clock era, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Likewise, their 71 total points was the third-lowest point total in a C’s victory since the inception of the shot clock.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Defense: The Celtics held the Bulls to 15 points in the first quarter and 13 in the third. Chicago’s five starters — Luol Deng (4-10 FG), Carlos Boozer (5-14 FG), Joakim Noah (3-8 FG), Richard Hamilton (1-6 FG) and Nate Robinson (2-7) — shot a combined 33.3 percent. It’s a good thing, because the C’s actually shot worse until …

Heart beats: As they’ve done since the injuries to Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa, the Celtics never quit. Playing their third game in four nights, shooting miserably and trailing by as many as seven in the first few minutes of the final quarter, the C’s found life. Capped by back-to-back buckets from Jason Terry (12 points) and Jeff Green (8 points) off the bench — both assisted by Garnett — the Celtics put together a 12-0 run, holding the Bulls scoreless for a stretch of 5:44 midway through the fourth quarter and capturing a 59-54 lead.

Bass finishing: In desperate need of offensive help, the Celtics found an unlikely hero. Beginning to emerge from a season-long funk, Bass scored his highest total (14) since Nov. 28. He also grabbed more rebounds (9) than he has since Nov. 25. Bass and Garnett combined for 26 points and 20 rebounds, forming a formidable frontcourt that limited a sizable advantage by the bigger Bulls, who got 27 rebounds from Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.

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Doc Rivers: ‘We are really right at the threshold’ at 9:31 pm ET
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Celtics coach Doc Rivers touched on just about every issue facing his team — and there are many — prior to his team’s final game before the NBA All-Star break: 1) the season-ending ACL injury suffered by Leandro Barbosa (who he “absolutely” wants back next season); 2) the search for a point guard (or any warm body, for that matter); 3) losing Barbosa, Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo in the locker room (a bigger deal than people think); 4) his depleted roster (“We are really right at the threshold”); 5) whether we’ll see more Fab Melo (we won’t); 6) similarities between Rondo and reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson (few beyond the ACL tear); 7) Michael Jordan‘s 50th birthday (“I wish they were all like that”), he hit them all. Here goes:

On Leandro Barbosa’s absence: “You don’t know a player or a coach or anybody until you actually coach with them or play with them, and he’s one of those guys you just like in your locker room — forget the basketball part. His spirit has been really good for us, and losing that, that’s big. And then he was our wild card. It’s good to have a wild card. When you throw him in, it could go either way, but you knew he was going to be aggressive.”

On point guard prospects: “In the last 48 hours, [Celtics president] Danny [Ainge] and I have probably covered every human being that’s breathing and can dribble and shoot. We’re just going to take our time. At the end of the day today, that’s basically what we came to. You don’t want to rush anything. We don’t have a lot of flexibility cap-wise. We’re just going to wait. If somebody shakes loose or you can get somebody, we will, but until then we’re stretched at the guard spot.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Leandro Barbosa, Michael Jordan
Jared Sullinger: ‘I think I’ll come back better’ at 8:20 pm ET
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Most of Jared Sullinger‘s days since undergoing season-ending back surgery on Feb. 1 have been spent sitting at an angle that resembles a reclining chair, so the 20-year-old Celtics rookie has plenty of time on his hands.

“I haven’t been doing anything but Twitter, playing video games and catching up on movies,” Sullinger said during a press conference prior to the C’s hosting the Bulls before their NBA All-Star break begins. “That’s about it.”

The back problems that have plagued Sullinger since Nov. 29, 2011, when the Ohio State product scored 21 points in a blowout win over Duke, flared up for the first time this season four minutes into a game against the Kings exactly two weeks ago. The next day, he couldn’t walk. And the next, he underwent surgery to repair a disc that was bulging into his central nervous system.

“I didn’t think it was going to come this fast; maybe two or three years later down the line,” said Sullinger. “That’s what an NBA season does to you. It’s a long season. You’re going to have a couple knick-knack injuries. My knick-knack injury turned into surgery. I’d rather have it now than later.”

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Paul Pierce: ‘This is the type of win that can give us confidence to move forward’ 02.11.13 at 1:19 am ET
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Celtics captain Paul Pierce did it yet again on Sunday night with a triple-double scoring 27 points with 14 rebounds and 14 assists in 54 minutes of action as the Celtics outlasted the Denver Nuggets 118-114 in a triple overtime thriller at TD Garden.

‘€œIt was a good win, man. It was hard fought, we’€™re playing against one of the hottest in the league, on our home court,” Pierce said. “It’€™s definitely a satisfying win. When you come out and we looked bleak, especially in the overtimes, this was a great game to be a part of. It was a great win against a quality ball club, not to say the other teams weren’€™t quality teams we played, but you know, this is the type of win that can give us confidence to move forward.’€

Pierce hit game-tying three with time running out on their six-game win streak at the end of double-overtime before Jason Terry and Kevin Garnett took over in triple-overtime. The three that rattled home with 5.2 seconds left in double-overtime, sending the Garden crowd into pandemonium.

‘€œWell, the original play was Pierce coming off pick-and-roll, if he can get a three off, get it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “If not, Jet [Jason Terry]. Then it was broken and Paul just made a play. I mean, that’€™s what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it. I was sitting just like the fans playing, ‘€˜Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.’€™ Once he got below 11 ‘€“ originally we were going to go for a quick two ‘€“ once he got under the 11-second mark I was yelling, ‘€˜We have to take a three now.’€™’€

Pierce said once the Celtics got the game into triple-overtime, it was time for Garnett to take over.

‘€œThat was part of the plan,” Pierce said. “We wanted to get him on the block, we wanted to get it to him on the spots where he can take the shot. That was a big part of the plan. We felt like he had the advantage, wasn’€™t going to it enough, but we just tried to keep going to him, keep wearing out the matchup, he made three quick baskets in that last overtime, Jason hits a big shot, and that’€™s what you gotta do. A lot of different guys stepped up for us tonight. Jeff Green in the first overtime was huge. Two huge shots at the end of regulation and one in overtime, so it’s got to be a team effort. Avery’€™s defense’€¦I mean it was a combination of everybody and that’€™s what its gonna take for us to move forward.”

Garnett hit Boston’s first three shots of the third extra period before Terry’s three gave the Celtics the lead for good.

‘€œRoles expand,” Pierce said. “I know what im capable of, but when you have a guy like Rondo, not as much is needed from you because you have another guy who can do so many things also. So I think with him out the roles gonna change. I’€™m gonna be more of a facilitator for this ball club, and you know it’s got to come from not only me, its gotta come from a number of guys. You see other guys being able to step up, we were scoring more. So it’€™s not only me, its everybody whose roles change, and has to do more with the injuries that we have.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, NBA, Paul Pierce
Jason Terry: ‘My gut tells me to keep shooting’ 02.10.13 at 10:43 pm ET
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Jason Terry hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 1:33 remaining in triple overtime to leave the Celtics to a 118-114 win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday night at TD Garden. The Celtics won their seventh straight with a thrilling victory while ending Denver’s nine game winning streak.

After missing six straight threes, Terry wasn’t about to turn down another chance at coming through for his team. He took a pass from Paul Pierce and hit a triple with 1:33 left in triple-overtime to give the Celtics a lead they would not relinquish.

‘€œWell shooters shoot, and the looks they were giving me were great ones,” Terry said. “I’ve got to admit, JaVale McGee is a huge target to shoot over, so a lot of those shots were over him and they were short but my instinct, my gut tells me to keep shooting. Paul Pierce did a hell of a job drawing defenders all night long and I just knew if I got a clean, clean look uncontested, I was going to knock it down.’€

Pierce said after the game that Terry promised he would make his next 3-point attempt.

“No question. I told him and whoever else wanted to listen ‘€“ that’€™s just my motto, that’€™s how I’€™ve been,” Terry said. “In a game like that it’€™s just so mentally draining ‘€“ you have to stay into it. Defensively we continued to get stops but not only was Paul Pierce’€™s shot tremendous but I thought Kevin Garnett I mean, the man’€™s 50-years old. For him to make those shots that he made when we direly needed them was tremendous for us.’€

As for his steal at the end of the third overtime on Andre Miller, a play Pierce called the “biggest” of the game, Terry said right place, right time.

‘€œThat was just individual defense,” Terry said. “Mano-a-mano. I know Andre, we came in at the same time together. Many battles. He wants to get right, he got right. I cut him off, he exposed the ball, I got the strip, and I was able to knock it out.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Jason Terry, JET
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