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Ugly clincher: C’s finally beat Pistons, clinch playoff berth 04.03.13 at 10:09 pm ET
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Paul Pierce helped keep the Pistons at arms length for most of the night in his return to action Wednesday. (AP)

Paul Pierce helped keep the Pistons at arms length for most of the night in his return to action Wednesday. (AP)

Jeff Green scored a game-high 34 points and Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass each had 17 as the Celtics held off the Pistons, 98-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden. As it turned out, the Celtics clinched a spot in the playoffs by virtue of Philadelphia’s 88-83 loss in Charlotte as the fourth quarter was getting underway in Boston.

The Celtics snapped a two-game skid and improved to 39-36, maintaining their tenuous lead on Milwaukee for seventh in the Eastern Conference and out of a first-round encounter with the Miami Heat. With the Bucks losing at home to Minnesota, the Celtics now lead Milwaukee by 2.5 games for seventh in the East.

The Celtics won the game despite getting out-rebounded, 52-34, outscored in the paint, 58-28, and beaten in second-chance points, 26-7. Boston shot 50 percent on the night while holding the Pistons to 37 percent shooting, including 4-of-24 from 3-point range.

The Pistons had beaten Boston twice in their previous two meetings, scoring 103 points each time and winning by an average of 17 points a contest. Detroit shot 50 percent in each game in handing the Celtics two unexpected losses in Auburn Hills.

The Celtics appeared to be in for another long night against the bigger Pistons in the first quarter. Detroit jumped out to a six-point lead twice before settling for a 30-25 lead over Boston after 12 minutes.

Thanks to eight of his team-leading 23 points in the second, the Celtics outscored the Pistons, 29-14, and took a 54-44 lead to the locker room at halftime.

The Celtics built their lead to 18, 70-52, on two Bass free throws with 5:37 left in the third. They led by 18, 74-56, on a Chris Wilcox layup with 3:50 left in the quarter. But the Celtics fell asleep the rest of the period, allowing the Pistons to score the final 11 points of the period and cut the lead to 74-67 heading into the fourth.

Two Brandon Knight free throws with 9:21 left cut Boston’s lead to three, 79-76.

Charlie Villanueava blew a layup with eight minutes left that would have cut the lead to one. The Pistons threw away another fast break chance with 7:22 left and Pierce came down and hit a jumper to put Boston back up five, 83-78, with seven minutes left. Villanueva, the University of Connecticut product, gave the Celtics a chance to avoid another embarrassing loss. Villanueva was 2-for-17 from the field and missed all eight 3-point attempts.

Green’s jumper with 4:55 left put Boston up, 89-80. His put-back slam dunk of a Jason Terry missed jumper with 3:36 brought the crowd to their feet and put Boston ahead, 91-83. A technical on the Celtics bench and a two Greg Munroe free throws cut the lead down to four, 91-87, with three minutes left but Green answered with an 18-foot jumper with 2:56 left.

Jonas Jerebko gave Detroit new life with a three with 2:29 left, as the Pistons pulled within 93-90. Knight, infamous for getting dunked on by DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, blew a wide open layup with just under two minutes left that would’ve drawn the Pistons within one.

Green’s third trey of the night from the left baseline put Boston up 96-91 with just 45.3 seconds left. Rodney Stuckey passed on a wide-open, game-tying three with 20 seconds left, instead deferring to Villanueva, who missed his seventh triple attempt of the night.

The Celtics continue their four-game homestand on Friday night at the Garden with a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. For more from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach from the Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Brandon Knight, Charlie Villanueva
Donny Marshall on M&M: ‘I did not have a problem’ with Paul Pierce’s last shot 03.19.13 at 1:37 pm ET
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Jeff Green drives on Shane Battier during Monday night's game. (AP)

Jeff Green drives on Shane Battier during Monday night’s Celtics loss to the Heat. (AP)

Donny Marshall of CSNNE joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to discuss Jeff Green‘s monster game vs. the Heat, Paul Pierce‘s final shot, and how to try to guard LeBron James.

In the Celtics’ 105-103 loss to the Heat on Monday night, Green scored a career-high 43 points. In two of the games that Kevin Garnett has missed due to injury, Green has started and stepped up big time, combining for 74 points.

“From what I understand, [in] last night’s game, KG was in [Green's] ear as well before, telling him to be that guy that he was,” Marshall said. “Your shots are going to be different obviously when KG comes back. He’s not Carmelo [Anthony] by any means. He’s not going to take 20, 25 shots, and it may make it easier for Jeff when KG comes back. If I’m a wing player, I throw the ball into KG, I know heads are going to turn. If they don’t go double-team when KG is playing well, they’re still going to have to respect him. That means now it’s my opportunity, my job to cut to the basket, to move without the basketball, and KG is such a great passer that Jeff Green I think will still get that quality shot. … At times, you have to be selfish for your team, meaning you may have to take those shots. You may have to take different risks when you’re out there, and that’s how you, I think, gain the respect of your teammates and also let them know that, ‘OK, I’m here to help you,’ and not just put everything on Paul [Pierce] and KG.”

With Green’s excellent play of late, Doc Rivers may have some thinking to do when Garnett returns. For most of the season, Green has come off of the bench, with players like Brandon Bass getting the starting nod.

“They tried to bring Brandon off the bench and I just don’t think his personality is fit for coming off the bench,” Marshall said. “I don’t think he’s one of those ‘go get it’ guys. You don’t run anything for him in the post. If you think about where most of his shots come from, they come off drive, draw and kick to that little 16-, 14-foot area. So, Brandon Bass is not going to be one of those guys that you’re going to showcase off the bench. So, I don’t know how you go about bringing him off the bench. I think you almost have to keep them in there and keep some semblance of interior with Bass on the floor.”

With the Heat’s two-point victory, they now have the second-longest winning streak in NBA history at 23 games. With seven seconds left, Pierce attempted a fadeaway 3-pointer that clanked off the rim, all but ensuring the Heat win.

“If that shot goes in and it’s Terrence Williams or somebody you’re like, ‘Still probably not a great shot and he got lucky,’ Marshall said. “If Pierce makes that shot, we’re like, ‘There’s Pierce. That’s his legacy, that’s what he does.’ LeBron James to me is not as good a defender as everyone wants him to be. … You have a situation in LeBron James that people think, ‘Oh, great defender. [Pierce] had to get that shot off quick.’ I really don’t believe laterally that LeBron is that great a defender. There are better defenders in the NBA, but he’s so big and so explosive that if Pierce catches that, pump fakes, I don’t think LeBron goes for it. If he does, Pierce is probably going to take one dribble and step back. That’s what he does. … The shot was a little early, but I did not have a problem with that shot because of who took it, and really what the situation was.”

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Read More: Brandon Bass, Donny Marshall, Dwyane Wade, Jeff Green
Trade rumor: Celtics ‘salivating’ over landing Hawks’ Josh Smith for Jeff Green, Brandon Bass 02.16.13 at 9:39 am ET
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The Celtics “would be receptive” to trading both Jeff Green and Brandon Bass for Hawks forward Josh Smith, according to longtime Bucks beat reporter Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.

The Nets and Bucks are also reportedly interested, but “for a few weeks now” the Celtics have been “salivating” over the possibility of landing Rajon Rondo‘s Oak Hill Academy teammate, according to the report.

Read More: 2013 NBA Trade Deadline, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass
Fast Break: Celtics win ugly entering All-Star break 02.13.13 at 10:00 pm ET
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Brandon Bass

Brandon Bass

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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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Chicago Bulls, Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green lead C’s in revenge win over DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings 01.30.13 at 9:50 pm ET
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Avery Bradley (0) and the Celtics used a big second quarter to blow by Isaiah Thomas and the Kings Wednesday. (AP)

Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Jason Terry each scored 12 points off the bench as the Celtics beat the Kings, 99-81, Wednesday night at TD Garden. The Celtics, who won their second straight after six straight losses, gained revenge for a humbling 118-96 loss in Sacramento on Dec. 30, a game in which 22-year-old DeMarcus Cousins registered a triple-double. Boston was able to contain Cousins Wednesday, holding him to 13 points and six rebounds.

Paul Pierce came on in the second half to lead the Celtics with 16 points and 10 rebounds while Kevin Garnett added 13 points and nine rebounds. Boston’s bench outscored Sacramento’s reserves, 50-26.

The Celtics raced out to an 8-0 lead to start the game as Garnett was red-hot early. The Celtics lost their starting power forward Jared Sullinger to back spasms just four minutes into the game. He received ice treatment in the locker room but could not return and was ruled out late in the second quarter.

The Kings recovered quickly and outscored the Celtics 24-14 to end the period as the visitors led, 24-22, after 12 minutes.

The Celtics couldn’t miss in the second quarter. They made a season-best 16-of-20 shots from the field, scorching the Kings with 80 percent shooting and outscoring the Kings, 37-14, in the period to take a commanding 59-38 halftime lead. The Celtics hit their first 14 shots of the quarter.

Green and Garnett were a combined 10-for-10 from the field in the first half, combining for 21 of Boston’s 59 points. The Celtics were able to do most of their damage without Paul Pierce, who was held scoreless until his layup and subsequent three-point play with 2:55 left in the first half.

Looking to avoid a meltdown like the one that cost them a 27-point lead last Friday in Atlanta, the Celtics actually expanded their lead to 28, 74-46, midway through the third.

But the Kings did make a run at the Celtics early in the fourth, cutting Boston’s lead down to 15, 82-67, on a flagrant-1 foul by Leandro Barbosa on Tyreke Evans. But the Celtics managed to stop the bleeding there and Pierce came down and responded with a basket to restore the lead to 17.

The Kings cut the lead back down to 14, 90-76, and had a rebound with a chance to narrow it more but committed a turnover in transition. But the Celtics looked awful in the next possession as Pierce held onto the ball near mid-court for a 24-second violation. The Kings would not get closer than 14 down the stretch.

The Celtics are off Thursday before returning to action on Friday against the Magic at TD Garden. The Celtics conclude their four-game homestand with a game against the Clippers on Sunday at 1 p.m. For complete coverage from the Garden from the team of Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Jason Terry
Jared Sullinger done for the night with back spasms at 8:32 pm ET
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Jared Sullinger was starting his second game in four days for the Celtics. (AP)

On the night he was snubbed by the NBA for a spot on the “Rising Stars” Challenge, Jared Sullinger suffered a more painful blow during the game with the Kings as he was sidelined with back spasms.

Sullinger started and played just four minutes before being subbed out as his back tightened up on him. The Celtics initially reported that the big man went to the locker room and received ice treatment and was “likely” to return.

But midway through the second quarter, Sullinger was ruled out for the rest of the game. The injury immediately set off alarms as it was a bad back at Ohio State that allowed Sullinger to drop to 21st in the NBA draft last June, a fact not lost on head coach Doc Rivers after the game.

“I think it was bothering him in the draft,” Rivers said, referring to the issues he had at Ohio State that caused him to miss significant time in his senior season. “So, I just think, honestly, I know (trainer) Eddie (Ed Lacerte) said something a week or two ago that it’s been bothering him, and I think this will be what will happen. He’ll have these episodes and we’ve got to get him through it. Hopefully, he doesn’t miss games with them, but if he does, he does. And then get it right and come back. But I’m not sure if it was before the game or not.”

Asked before the game where he thinks Sullinger would be drafted right now, knowing what he’s accomplished in the NBA, Rivers didn’t hesitate, “top five.”

Sullinger made his second straight start since being promoted from the bench. He grabbed just one rebound before being sidelined. Brandon Bass took his place.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: back spasms, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger
Doc Rivers wants to give Brandon Bass a little confidence while staying ‘as big as possible’ 01.04.13 at 9:14 pm ET
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Celtics head coach Doc Rivers announced before Friday’s game with the Pacers that he was inserting forward Brandon Bass back in the starting lineup, taking the place of Jason Collins.

“We want to stay as big as possible, what we didn’t like with Jason in the [starting] lineup was — now we’re going to play him every night — and when he and Kevin were off the floor, we got small quickly,” Rivers explained. “This way we can keep a big on the floor at all times.

“We could have done it the other night, but that was Avery’s first night. That is the group that helped us. But having Jason [play every night] will help Kevin, because he still won’t have to play ’5′ the entire time. I just think the season’s too long now for Kevin to do that.”

The Celtics are also hoping the move will motivate Bass, who is averaging just 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

“That’s what we’re hoping,” Rivers added. “You don’t do it just for the group, you do it for the individual at times,” said Rivers. “Brandon’s played better when he’s playing with Kevin, though everyone has for that matter. I think clearly Brandon has. And that’s one of the reasons we are doing it.”

The lineup of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Bass, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce marks the ninth different lineup Rivers has used in the first 32 games of the season. That lineup debuted on March 25, 2012 after Mickael Pietrus suffered a concussion in Philadelphia and two games after Ray Allen was sent to the bench. With that lineup, the Celtics went 11-3 down the stretch to help the Celtics win the Atlantic Division title for a fifth straight season.

Collins had started the previous seven games for the Celtics since being inserted in the lineup for Bass on Dec. 21 against the Cavaliers to take the load off Kevin Garnett in the low post.

Bass has strugged in his role off the bench, both offensively and defensively, and Rivers made the decision Friday to boost Bass’ game by putting him on the floor more with Garnett.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jason Collins, Kevin Garnett
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