|Ugly clincher: C’s finally beat Pistons, clinch playoff berth||04.03.13 at 10:09 pm ET|
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.
Pierce missed Monday’s game in Minnesota for what the team termed personal reasons. Pierce has missed just two of Boston’s 75 games this season. Pierce was back in the lineup with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox.
Rivers reiterated Wednesday that Monday’s absence and Wednesday’s uncertainty before the game had nothing to do with his right ankle.
Pierce had a wrap on his right ankle late in the fourth quarter against the Knicks on Sunday night but the team said it was just for maintenance and was not a serious injury.
As for Kevin Garnett, Rivers said the big man is working out on his own and testing his left foot. Inflammation in his left foot near the ankle caused him to miss his seventh straight game Wednesday night. The Celtics were 2-4 in the previous six.
“Honestly, I haven’t asked one question about [Garnett's return],” Rivers said when asked about the end of the two-week timetable. “I don’t even know when two weeks is. Whenever it is, it’s probably coming up, and he’ll play.
“We have a lot of practice days coming up and Kevin’s been working out. He hasn’t lost all his conditioning, but you do lose some when you don’t play.”
The Celtics play Cleveland on Friday in the second game of a four-game homestand that will also see them play Washington and Brooklyn. Rivers said the off days in between the home games will allow for more practices that should help the team work Garnett back into game action, if willing and able.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
Pierce, who missed just his second game of the season on Monday night due to personal reasons, is officially listed by the team as a “game-time decision” for tonight’s game against the Pistons. Pierce was spotted with an ice wrap on his right foot in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game in New York but the team said at the time it was simply maintenance and not a serious injury.
Garnett, who has missed the last six games with inflammation in his left foot, was not at Wednesday morning’s shootaround. Boston is just 2-4 in those six games.
Without the two stars, the Celtics (38-36) fell to the Timberwolves on Monday night in Minnesota. As a group, Celtics starters have struggled badly in their last two games. In a loss to the Knicks Sunday night, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradey and Chris Wilcox each scored two points. On Monday, Bradley led the way with 19 points but as a unit, the starters scored just 46 points in the 110-100 loss to the Wolves.
Tonight, the Celtics host the Detroit Pistons (25-50) at the Garden (7:30 p.m. tipoff). Despite their woeful record, the Pistons have beaten the Celtics in both previous meetings, scoring 103 points each time while shooting 50 percent from the field in each game. Detroit beat the Celtics 103-88 on Jan. 20 and 103-83 on Nov. 18.
Pierce leads Boston this season, scoring 18.8 points per game and has been the top assist man since Rajon Rondo went down on Jan. 25.
|Greg Stiemsma: ‘I’d love to pick Bill Russell’s brain’||02.16.12 at 1:50 pm ET|
BOSTON — Celtics rookie Greg Stiemsma won three Wisconsin high school Division 4 state championships in four seasons. Celtics legend Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons. Needless to say, they’re worlds apart.
However, for one night at least, those worlds collided, as the two sat courtside to start Wednesday night’s Celtics loss to the Pistons — Stiemsma on the C’s bench and Russell next to team owner Stephen Pagliuca.
Of course, the the Development League project and the greatest winner in sports are forever linked after Celtics announcer and former Russell teammate Tommy Heinsohn compared Stiemsma to Russell earlier this season.
‘His timing and how he goes about blocking shots does remind me of Russell,’’ said Heinsohn. ‘He makes guys commit, he’s quick to his leap, and he gets his hand up there right when the ball is leaving the shooter’s hand.’’
While Stiemsma has 22 blocks in 176 minutes this season for an average of 4.5 blocks per 36 minutes, Russell is considered the game’s greatest shot blocker, so even the Celtics rookie laughed off the comparison.
“I mean, I heard it. Like I said before, that’s pretty far out of my realm. I would never imagine that,” he said, adding, “It was an honor to get that reference. And then, for it to come full circle, for him to be in the arena, it’s all part of the experience, all part of this journey that’s brought me here, so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”
|In glorious defeat, Rajon Rondo faces media music||at 1:10 am ET|
BOSTON — Give Rajon Rondo credit. Three days earlier, the Celtics point guard ducked out of the locker room without speaking to reporters after a win over the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls. On Wednesday night, he faced the media music following a 98-88 loss to the Central Division-worst Pistons.
Silent in victory, vocal in defeat. Not that he really said all that much. So goes the enigma that is Rajon Rondo.
Upon scoring a career-high 35 points against Detroit three days after equaling his career best against Chicago, Rondo simply said, “I made some, I missed some.” For the record, he made 15 field goals and four free throws, missing 12 field goals and five free throws.
On Sunday, Rondo became the fourth player in NBA history to record 32 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and two steals in a single game, joining Magic Johnson (thrice), LeBron James and Reggie Theus. Wednesday’s performance brought his totals for the last two games to 67 points, 21 assists, 15 rebounds and six steals.
Rondo’s reaction? “The main thing is our record is 1-1 in these last two games,” he said.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics trailed the Pistons, 73-72. Detroit’s lead grew to six as Rondo sat the first 3:33 of the final frame, and even after his return the Pistons stretched the lead to 13 with just over five minutes remaining. The C’s never recovered, as just four of Rondo’s 35 points came in the final quarter.
|Fast Break: Not enough horsepower for C’s against Pistons||02.15.12 at 10:07 pm ET|
BOSTON — Rajon Rondo scored a career-high 35 points, but only four of those came in the fourth quarter, when the Pistons built a 13-point lead the Celtics couldn’t erase in a 98-88 defeat — their third loss in four games.
Rondo’s 35 points came on 15-of-27 field goals and came with six assists and five rebounds as the C’s drop to 15-13. While Kevin Garnett (hip) missed his first game of the season, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen didn’t show up either, combining for just 20 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Where’s the Truth: Thrown off by Bill Russell‘s presence courtside or just plain having an off night, Pierce looked as though his mind was elsewhere. He finished just 3-of-11 from the field, and while he didn’t record a turnover in 37 minutes, he seemed to juggle the ball each time he touched it and generally be a step behind in the early going.
JO vs. Monroe: Returning from a two-game absence, Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal (knee) appeared overmatched at times by the younger, left-handed Greg Monroe (22 points, 11-14 FG, 9 rebounds). Of course, it didn’t help that O’Neal picked up five fouls in his first 18 minutes on the floor.
What the Stuckey? As Rondo’s point total increased, lost in the shuffle was Rodney Stuckey, who totaled 25 points (including 11-11 FT), four assists and three rebounds. He led four Pistons in double figures and helped keep Detroit in a game they had no business hanging around for three quarters, let alone pulling away in the fourth quarter.
|Paul Pierce: ‘I was expecting to be me’||12.31.11 at 2:00 am ET|
The box score may have read just 12 points in 23 minutes for Paul Pierce in the first game of his 14th NBA season Friday night, helping the Celtics beat the Pistons, 96-85, at TD Garden for their first win of the season.
But more than that, the Celtics captain felt good about his ailing right heel. After bruising the heel just before the opening of camp on Dec. 9, he took part in just one practice with the team before being reduced to watching practice from the sidelines.
He had to watch in a suit on the sidelines as the Celtics dropped their first three games for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“It felt good to finally get back out there with my teammates,” Pierce said. “Didn’t have much practice time, just have to get in shape in these games and just feels good to be out there.”
What were his expectations after just one practice and no games to get him in basketball shape?
“I was expecting to be me,” Pierce said. “I don’t settle for anything less. I work tremendously hard. I did a lot of things and did what I could do, other than practice. I just stayed focused, got my shots every day, I was on the [exercise] bike, and Doc [Doc Rivers] wanted me to be aggressive and just play the way I play, and that’s what I tried to do.
“It felt good. I think the rest of my body is a little bit more sore than anything, since I haven’t had any physical contact or up-and-down basketball in quite a while.”
After six points in 15 minutes in the first half, Kevin Garnett found Pierce open for a pair of threes early in the third quarter, as the Celtics put the game away with a 36-21 spurt.
“We moved the ball, with Kevin making the two passes, wide open for the threes and I just wanted to try to be aggressive,” Pierce said. “Everything is going to come if I just continue to play hard. The timing, the chemistry, it will all come. I’m not going to hold anything back. So, I’m just going to go out there and continue to play the way I play.”
As impressive as his six points in four minutes of the third quarter were, his presence bolstered a smothering Celtics defense, something that had been missing in three losses. Read the rest of this entry »