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Courtney Lee: Doc Rivers ‘can continue to call us soft … if it wakes us up’ 12.01.12 at 1:29 am ET
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Courtney Lee

Jeff Green might have scored 19 points and Jason Terry might have had 17 in 31 minutes but it was Courtney Lee who was the key player in Boston’s 96-78 win over the Trail Blazers Friday night at TD Garden, as the Celtics played the first of two straight games without the suspended Rajon Rondo.

Lee said the team responded well to Doc Rivers calling them soft after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday night at home.

“He can continue to call us soft,” Lee said afterward. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up.”

What really hit home with Lee was when Rivers rolled the film of Wednesday’s game, showing the team how many easy baskets they were giving up.

“We got called soft the other day and we didn’t like that,” Lee said. “When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”

No shock that the turnaround began on the defensive end, where the Celtics held the Blazers to 23 percent shooting in the first half.

“Yeah, definitely after that loss last game, we wanted to come out and just focus on the defensive end make sure we got stops,” Lee said. “Make sure we didn’t give up any easy buckets and so I think we started off and threw the first punch.”

Rivers gave Lee credit for stepping up and showing his play-making ability in the absence of Rondo.

“Courtney was great,” Rivers said. “You could see Courtney is getting better and better at what we’re asking him to do. He’s bought in completely, which you can see that. His shots will fall. I feel like him, with Avery (Avery Bradley) last year, where I kept telling you guys ‘Avery can shoot’ and you guys were looking at me like I was a Martian. And then he started making them. And Courtney is proving he can. He’s getting wide open ones, and eventually they’ll fall.”

“I mean that’s what you gotta do,” Lee said of his ball-handling skills. “Rondo is a great playmaker, the guy’s gonna rack up a lot of assists, so we just have to play within the offense, move the ball around, and you see the assists were spread out throughout the whole team. Without him we had to move the ball a lot more.

“I mean it shows good character for our team. We got beat bad on our own court then we went to practice, had a real tough practice. Doc was on us the whole time so we wanted to come in and protect home court, because we cant keep letting teams come in and beat us on our home court. We wanted to bounce back and we did that today.”

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Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft 11.30.12 at 11:11 pm ET
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After Wednesday’s Rajon Rondo-Kris Humphries fiasco and the ensuing 95-83 loss to the Nets on their homecourt, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called his team soft.

“If I’m Brooklyn and the league, you’ve got to think we’re pretty soft the way we’re playing,” Rivers said in Wednesday’s aftermath. “We’re a soft team right now; we have no toughness.”

Apparently, Kevin Garnett doesn’t like to be called soft. Who knew?

“I don’t know any man who likes to be called soft; maybe some women,” he said after dropping a 10-5-4 in 23 efficient minutes of Friday’s 96-78 blowout of the Blazers. “Where I’m from, not most men like that. I think collectively he’s talking about our style. … I don’t think he’s coming at us as men, but he’s definitely talking about our style as a whole. Collectively, we all have to do that together; the onus falls on each and every last one of us, not just one or two guys. But, yeah, that was disturbing. Who likes to be called soft in anything, if you’re a man?”

Count Courtney Lee among those men KG knows who don’t like being called soft. He amassed 10 points, 7 rebounds, five assists and three steals in 37 minutes, starting in place of the suspended Rondo.

“He can continue to call us soft,” said Lee following what might have been his best game of the season. “If we’re going to respond like this and play, I guess we need to be told that for us to wake up. … We got called soft the other day, and we didn’t like that. When you watch the tape, you see those guys [Nets] coming down, running their offense, setting hard screens, getting layups and dunks and wide open shots. We took that personally.”

Rivers got the results he was looking for on Friday, but he hopes he lingers beyond just the one game.

“Well, I didn’t do anything,” the coach said postgame. “I mean, we went pretty hard [Thursday in practice] for short, and we actually went hard [Friday] for the shootaround, because we’ve got to get our culture right in that way. And we’ve got a long way to go, but we’re getting better. You can see it, for sure.”

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Celtics Jeff Green, Courtney Lee: Egos hurt worse than knee, elbow 11.29.12 at 11:09 am ET
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In the aftermath of the brawl between Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries, Celtics guard Courtney Lee claimed the Nets “threw the first punch” during the C’s fourth home loss in eight tries this season. He was speaking figuratively, of course, but the Celtics suffered — literally.

Lee (elbow) and Jeff Green (knee) both left the game with injuries, and each returned in the fourth quarter.

“I’m fine,” said Lee, who had no ice on his left elbow as he talked to reporters after the loss. “I’m fine. It was my elbow. My whole arm was stinging, so I didn’t know what was hurt, but after awhile, it wore off and I was fine.”

Meanwhile, Green limped through the locker room — his sprained right knee wrapped in a protective bandage. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show he “didn’t think” Green was hurt, and team personnel confirmed Green’s return to action indicated nothing serious, but he’ll be re-evaluated Thursday.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics no longer closing by committee? 11.13.12 at 12:17 pm ET
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As much as Celtics coach Doc Rivers says, “It doesn’t matter who starts; it matters who finishes,” he may never convince his players and their egos, but his actions speak just as clearly as his words. While the starting shooting guard and power forward turnstile continues twirling, Rivers plays matchups and hot hands down the stretch.

The C’s have played five straight games decided by six points or less, and the closing five has been as inconsistent as the team’s overall performance. Just as Courtney Lee vs. Jason Terry and Brandon Bass vs. Jared Sullinger battle for starting roles, Rivers has used just about every combination imaginable of those four plus Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green at the 2 and 4 spots in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter of those games plus the five-minute overtime period against the Wizards. Here’s the minutes breakdown.

FINAL 5 MINUTES OF 4TH QUARTER (AND OVERTIME)
Celtics 89, Wizards 86: Terry 3:09; Lee 2:03 | Sullinger 3:25; Green 0:54; Bass 0:48
Celtics 100, Wizards 94 (OT): Terry 5:00 | Bass 4:51; Green 0:09 (OT: Terry 5:00; Bass 5:00)
76ers 106, Celtics 100: Terry 5:00 | Barbosa 2:58, Green 2:02
Celtics 96, Bucks 92: Lee 4:40; Terry 0:22 | Bass 3:12; Green 1:23; Sullinger 0:01
Celtics 101, Bulls 95: Terry 5:00 | Bass 5:00
TOTAL (OUT OF 30 MINUTES): Terry 18:31; Lee 6:43; Barbosa 2:58 | Bass 14:03; Green 4:28; Sullinger 3:26

If you need more proof Rivers is willing to try anything, look at the lineups that finished the Sixers game alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. He played Terry for the entirety of the final five minutes and split the fifth spot between Barbosa and Green. But it’s becoming clearer who he trusts more.

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Box and 2: Inside Celtics, Bucks and Wizards, oh my 11.05.12 at 2:39 pm ET
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Friday: Bucks 99, Celtics 88; Saturday: Celtics 89, Wizards 86: Observations about the box scores from Games 2 & 3 of the C’s (1-2) 2012-13 NBA season.

– Called upon by Doc Rivers Friday night to protect the paint against the Bucks, when smaller lineups weren’t working, Darko Milicic played 4:30 of the first quarter. He missed his only shot — an air-balled baby left hook — and committed more turnovers (2) than he totaled rebounds (1) or blocks (0). Then, he didn’t play Saturday.

Kevin Garnett: “We’re still playing with the chemistry. We have different lineups in which Doc is playing with simultaneously, and we’re still working. No one said this was going to be an easy process.”

Translation: “The Darko Experiment is called that for a reason. Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face.”

– Over the weekend, Brandon Bass finished a minus-11 in 40:52 without Jared Sullinger on the floor. The Celtics outscored the opponent in just two of his 10 stints sans Sullinger — by one in the final 3:53 of the first quarter against the Wizards and by two Terry free throws in the final 1:35 of that game. Without Bass on the floor, Sullinger finished a plus-14 in 33:29, and the C’s outscored opponents in five of those eight stints. (In case you were wondering, the two played 14:40 together, finished a minus-9 and only outscored opponents once in six stints.)

Rivers (via the Herald): “[Sullinger] brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with our starting group.”

Translation: “Sorry Brandon, but you’re going to see a lot more Sullinger in the starting lineup.”

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Courtney Lee throws down after Celtics practice 10.25.12 at 9:53 pm ET
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Was Courtney Lee rehearsing for the 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contest after Celtics practice? You make the call.

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Introducing the Celtics’ backup point guards, all of them 10.22.12 at 2:16 pm ET
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Jason Terry

Over the past five seasons the following players have attempted to fill the role of Rajon Rondo‘s backup: Eddie House, Sam Cassell, Stephon Marbury, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Delonte West, Keyon Dooling and Avery Bradley.

Also appearing in minor roles: E’Twaun Moore, Carlos Arroyo, Gabe Pruitt and the immortal Lester Hudson. (Oliver Lafayette never played in an actual game, but go ahead and throw his name in there as well along with Jamar Smith.)

“We’ve never really had, like, a true backup point,” said Doc Rivers. Of the dozen or so players listed above only two players — Marbury and Cassell — were anything like true point guards, but they sure have tried almost everybody else on the combo guard platter.

This year figures to be different. No, they still don’t have a true backup point guard, but what Rivers does have are four guards who can all handle the ball.

“I like it,” the coach said. “I like that there are multiple guys. Instead of trying to force and find a guy who’s a point guard, just find two guys who can dribble.”

An example happened in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Knicks. With Rondo off the floor, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee were on the court together. In Rivers words, the two were “interchangeable.” If one of them was pressured in the backcourt, the other one brought the ball up the floor and initiated the offense. Read the rest of this entry »

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