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Doc Rivers: Paul Pierce is ‘going to play for a long time if he wants to’ 03.17.13 at 10:07 am ET
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There was no Kevin Garnett on the floor Saturday night due to a left adductor (groin) strain. Rajon Rondo is gone for the season, and has been gone for seven weeks now.

So with captain Paul Pierce again left to be the man to keep things together, that’s exactly what he did in a fashion so routine, it was a thing of beauty to his coach.

Pierce was as efficient as ever, scoring 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting in just 23 minutes, adding eight assists and six rebounds in a 115-88 win over the Charlotte Bobcats at TD Garden.

“He’s always been underrated,” Doc Rivers said. “I think he’s been underrated his whole career. I underrated him. When I coached in Orlando every time he scored I mean, I was so upset because I thought this slow, non-athletic guy, you look at him, you think. ‘How the hell was he scoring on you?’ And then when you coach him you realize he’s not slow, he plays at a slow pace. He’s athletic as heck, he’s stronger than most small forwards in the league, and he just surprises you with his fundamentals. You know he’s so fundamentally sound he actually looks un-athletic. And it’s a heck of a compliment to a player.

“He just plays to what he feels. He’s a professional scorer, he really is. He just knows how to play basketball. I think every young kid should watch him play because he can do it above the rim but he chooses not to. He’s just so fundamentally sound with his footwork, it’s just really nice to watch.

“I think he’s going to be able to play for a long time if he wants to. He can get his shot off. He plays at a great pace.”

Pierce led all five starters in double figures, as the Celtics proved picking up the slack for Garnett was truly a team effort. He pointed to a play Pierce ran several times in the first half that had different teammates involved.

“Yeah, we ran a play that just kind of matured into that,” Rivers said. “First time he came off I think he got Brandon (Bass), the second time he got the picker, then he just – the same play just kept building and building. I love – we call it ‘feed the pig’.”

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

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Kevin Garnett out with left adductor strain 03.16.13 at 7:05 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett will miss Saturday's game against Charlotte with a left groin strain.  (AP)

Kevin Garnett will miss Saturday’s game against Charlotte with a left groin strain. (AP)

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers ruled out Kevin Garnett for Saturday night’s game against the Bobcats with a lower left adductor strain.

“He wasn’t moving well in practice [Friday],” Rivers said in announcing his absence from the lineup Saturday night. Rivers did not immediately announce the nature of the injury, deferring to head trainer Ed Lacerte.

Lacerte and the Celtics later officially announced the diagnosis of adductor (groin) strain in his left leg.

Rivers said he did not know Garnett’s availability for Monday’s marquee matchup with LeBron James and the Miami Heat at TD Garden.

Jeff Green, as he did for Paul Pierce on Tuesday in Charlotte, takes Garnett’s place in the lineup. The Celtics will go very small in the lineup, with Brandon Bass representing their biggest player among the starting five.

Pierce, Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee also start for the Celtics, who were blown out by the Bobcats, 100-74, on Tuesday in Charlotte.

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

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Doc Rivers on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett: ‘They’re old as hell’ 03.15.13 at 5:38 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Doc Rivers knows the Bobcats have had the number of the last two times they’ve met, including a 26-point blowout on Tuesday night in Charlotte.

So don’t expect the Celtics to look beyond the lowly Bobcats on Saturday night in advance of their showdown with the Heat Monday night at TD Garden.

“No matter what our excuses are, they beat us two games,” Rivers said. “One game they beat us soundly and one game we kinda sputtered down the stretch. And no matter what you say to them, they’ve beat us twice. They are going to have great confidence against us. When you beat a team, they don’t care about the excuses, they know they beat you and that makes them a better team the next time they play you. When they beat you again, that makes them even a better team the next time you play them. So [Saturday] they are going to play great, and we have to expect that and we have to try to beat them playing great.”

The two players expected to lead the Celtics Saturday night in their revenge match are Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who have been the talk of the town this week after both reached scoring milestones on Wednesday and Garnett explained afterward how close the two were growing up.

Why is this story so special?

“That’s only because they’re old as hell,” Rivers answered with hearty laugh. “The only way you can reach those milestones together is you have to hang around a lonnnnng time. It is cool. I was joking but it does seem like every night one of those two does pass some kind of record. I think now we create some sort of new record to pass but it is awesome. They have that picture together, it’s a neat picture when they were 15.”

Meanwhile, Rivers was asked about how Rajon Rondo might fit into Celtics plans down the road and if he’s thought of changing his offense when Rondo is ready to return at the start of next season. Rivers said he’ll let Celtics GM Danny Ainge worry about most of that.

“I don’t think about it much,” Rivers said. “Again, you know how I am, when guys go down, there’s nothing we can do about it. I have given next year zero thought, I’m hoping Danny will do a better job of that than me — that’s his job. But I don’t think about that much at all.”

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Doc Rivers on D&C: ‘I don’t know if I’ve ever seen’ defense like Avery Bradley’s 03.14.13 at 12:04 pm ET
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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday to discuss Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s scoring milestones, the Heat’s winning streak and other NBA topics.

In Wednesday night’s 112-88 Celtics win over the Raptors, Garnett passed Jerry West for 15th on the NBA all-time scoring list, while Pierce passed Charles Barkley to moved into 20th place.

“It’s really cool when you hear names like Jerry West,” Rivers said. “Kevin Garnett just passed the NBA logo, and Paul passes Charles Barkley. So when you hear names like that, you know how lucky you are as a coach that you’re coaching guys like that.”

After Garnett’s milestone, he received a thunderous ovation from the TD Garden crowd, and he acknowledged the reception for a few moments. While that might not be a typical thing for Garnett to do, Rivers said that the future Hall-of-Famer is realizing just how close his career is to being over.

“I do think over this year especially, I think he understands that he has how many years left, and we don’t know that,” Rivers said. “But I do think he’s starting to acknowledge a lot of that and appreciate it, and soak it in, and I’m happy he’s doing that.”

The C’s victory Wednesday came after perhaps their worst loss of the season Tuesday. They fell on the road to the lowly Bobcats, 100-74, albeit without Pierce. Similar to how Rivers gave Garnett a game off recently, he decided to do the same with the captain Tuessday.

“Paul was banged up a little bit in the Oklahoma game,” Rivers said. “I thought just the Oklahoma travel, that was a very difficult trip. When you travel basically four hours, get off a plane and play the next day at 12 noon. … That was a difficult game for us.

“You’re thinking about two things. You want to win every game now. But you also want to be fresh and right when the playoffs start. To do that, with Kevin especially, and then maybe Paul, and even JET [Jason Terry], we have to consider doing it.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘Just like we wanted Ray to stay, I know they wanted Wes to stay’ 03.13.13 at 7:34 pm ET
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Doc Rivers (left) and Bill Belichick (right) have a lot in common, like losing popular free agents. (AP)

Doc Rivers (left) and Bill Belichick (right) have a lot in common, like losing popular free agents. (AP)

The shockwaves from the Wes Welker signing in Denver extended not only beyond New England but beyond the NFL.

Just ask Doc Rivers. The Celtics head coach is a close friend of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and was the guest of the Patriots coach on Dec. 10 when the Patriots beat the Texans on Monday night football at Gillette Stadium.

So, Rivers, who grew up a Bears fan, actually felt badly for Patriots fans and acknowledged as much before the Celtics hosted Toronto Wednesday night at TD Garden, just hours after Welker’s seismic signing with the Broncos.

“Say it ain’t so, Wes,” Rivers said in opening his pre-game press availability Wednesday night.

But the most interesting part of Rivers’ reaction came later when asked if he ever talked about team building and keeping it together. Rivers compared Welker’s exit to that of Ray Allen to the Miami Heat.

“We lost Ray, it feels like, the same way that they lost Wes,” Rivers said. “We wanted him, we did everything we could, and somehow they go somewhere else.”

The similarity is striking. Allen left via free agency for Boston’s chief rival and defending champion Miami Heat. Welker is now going to the Broncos and playing with Peyton Manning, New England’s biggest rival behind the Ravens in the AFC.

“Just like we wanted Ray to stay, I know they wanted Wes to stay,” said Rivers. “It just sometimes doesn’t work out.“

For more, visit the Celtics and Patriots team pages at weei.com/celtics and weei.com/patriots.

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Doc Rivers: ‘I wish I had given [Kevin Garnett] the night off, too’ 03.12.13 at 10:22 pm ET
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Doc Rivers had no answers on Tuesday night in Charlotte for his team's performance. (AP)

Doc Rivers had no answers on Tuesday night in Charlotte for his team’s performance. (AP)

All of the talk before Tuesday’s game in Charlotte was the decision by Doc Rivers to give captain Paul Pierce his first night off of the season.

Midway through the disaster that was a 100-74 no-show loss to the Bobcats in North Carolina, Rivers was thinking he didn’t go far enough. Kevin Garnett played 20 minutes, but struggled badly again, going 2-for-10 from the field.

“Yeah, definitely, otherwise he’d been part of that,” Rivers said when asked if he thought he did the right thing in giving Pierce the night off. “What I was thinking was I wish I had given Kevin the night off, too, in the middle of the game. That would’ve been terrific because then we could’ve had two guys that got some rest.”

As for Garnett, who is 8-for-29 in losses to the Thunder and Bobcats, Rivers says it’s a matter of getting him better looks.

“We’ve got to get him a better rhythm,” said Rivers, who refuted speculation that Garnett was tired or injured. “He’s been in a [bad] way now for a while now and that’s more on us. We have to get him the right shots and we’re not do a very good job of that.”

Rivers said he could sense early that his team had the wrong approach with Pierce getting the night off.

“I just thought we approached the game with the wrong mentality,” Rivers said. “I thought we were really cool tonight and they were really hard. And then I thought everyone thought they were going to take up for Paul’s points instead of coming into the game with the right mentality. You grind games out, you move the ball, you defend.”

The Celtics clearly had no defensive answer for Gerald Henderson, who torched them for a career-high 35 points, including 21 in the first half.

“You could see it early on. Our guys thought we can trade baskets,” Rivers said. “They score, we can score right back on them but we couldn’t do that. We fouled a lot. We shot 50 percent in the first half and basically fouled every time down, it felt like. And Gerald Henderson looked at whoever was guarding him and said, ‘I’m better than you tonight,’ and proved that.”

Even though his team was outscored 51-28 in the second half, Rivers didn’t want to read too much into the second loss to coach Mike Dunlap and his Bobcats in a month.

“I just thought we laid an egg,” Rivers said. “I thought it was a by-product of the first half, honestly. It just carried over. We never could get it started. They played really hard. I tell you, every time I watch them, you look at their record, you have to give Mike a lot of credit, especially with the young guys. They played so hard and we, honestly, just couldn’t match how hard they played tonight for whatever reason. That’s on me. That’s disappointing that I couldn’t get that out of our guys. But we clearly did not.

“They were so much more competitive than us the entire night. It felt like we had a band-aid on the dam in the first half and then it came off, and they just blew it open.

“It’s one game. I’m not going to overdo it. Listen, we were awful tonight. Our spirit was awful, the way we played was awful but we also have to look at our team as a whole. We haven’t had a lot of nights like that. I’m not happy with the way the game went but overall, I like our team.”

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

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Doc Rivers pregame Friday: ‘I can’t even tell you what our exact record is’ 03.08.13 at 9:56 pm ET
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Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers spoke at length before Friday’s game at with the Atlanta Hawks about how teams are preparing for defensive star Avery Bradley, how much the Celtics have been playing their “Manwich” zone defense and whether or not he’s paying attention to the Eastern conference standings.

Rivers said he also doesn’t spend much time looking at the Eastern conference standings. The Celtics came in Friday at 33-27 and in seventh place in the Eastern conference. But it’s quite the log-jam in the middle of the East. The Celtics were just a game behind the fifth-place Hawks and just 4 1/2 games behind the second-seeded Knicks. The Knicks, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Hawks and Celtics are separated by just five games.

“I can’t even tell you what our exact record is,” said Rivers. “But I know it’s close with everybody else’s record. That’s how much I look at it… I think later in the year, I may at [look at] times. Right now, we just have to keep getting better, so that’s my focus.”

Of course, the Hawks and Celtics have met in the past in the playoffs, with the Celtics coming out on top in 2008 and last year.

“I think both teams understand where we are both at — that all our games now are important,” Rivers said. “I don’t think there’s another game this year that’s not important. It’s just that close with everybody. That’s great. That’s what I said I liked about the way we did the All-Star break — we’ve been doing that lately anyways — but I just like it when you come out of the break, it’s a sprint. And everybody kinda is in it, and it’s good.”

As for teams gearing up for Bradley’s defense, Rivers said he can sense it more and more now coming into games.

“You know it’s coming,” Rivers said. “I’m sure they’re warned by it. Some guys do pretty well and some guys don’t. It’d be no fun.”

Why aren’t there more players like Bradley in the NBA?

“Because they don’t have the ability,” Rivers said. “You have to have great instincts, great speed. It takes a lot of things. You can’t just [say] I’m going to be a great defender because if it were just that, it would be more [players playing great defense].

“It is a lot [of desire] but you just have to have great everything, great feel, great feet, great instincts, great strength. It takes a lot.”

Speaking of defense, Rivers gave great insight to his use of the zone defense, schemed in part by assistant Mike Longabardi.

“It’s been good. We just keep running it. We don’t do it for long periods. We have in the last couple [games]. A lot of that has been situational – Kevin was in foul trouble or JET was struggling defending so were trying to hide him in some ways but a lot of times a team scores five times in a row, throw a zone on them twice and then get back man just to get them out of rhythm.”

Meanwhile, Rivers said it was a “bummer” that his son Austin Rivers suffered a broken right hand and is likely done for the year with the New Orleans Hornets.

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

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