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The true brilliance of Doc Rivers: ‘It’s great when you win on execution’ 03.06.13 at 11:09 pm ET
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The Celtics are coming together as a true team under Doc Rivers. (AP)

The Celtics are coming together as a true team under Doc Rivers. (AP)

Everyone is going to point to the back-pick play drawn up by Doc Rivers, with a huge assist to offensive coach Armond Hill, as the latest example of what makes Rivers one of the truly best coaches in the NBA.

And they should.

But his real brilliance comes in how he’s prepared Jeff Green for the game-winning moment all season. Kevin Garnett fired a bullet pass to Green under the basket after Paul Pierce set Green free on a perfect back-pick. Green makes the adjustment under the basket, puts the game-winner off glass for an 83-81 road win over the second-seeded Pacers.

“It was executed great,” Rivers said. “We got it down to the last second. Either Kevin was going to try and hit Jeff or [hit Paul Pierce]. The whole play was [made] by Paul Pierce’s back pick. He was terrific. He set a nice back pick. They [Pacers] got a little mixed and then Jeff had to make a tough shot. They doubled Kevin so the pass was a little bit off-mark and Jeff had to adjust but it’s great when you win on execution.

“I told our players I had drawn up another play. Armond Hill walked over, and he rarely does it, and he says, ‘Listen, the play you drew up in the first half worked so let’s run it again.’ So I switched to the play that he wanted me to run and it was great. It worked out perfect.”

Funny thing, earlier in the season, Rivers probably would’ve gone with his first instincts for a pick-and-roll but decided to go with Hill’s recommendation.

“It was going to be a pick-and-roll, actually a pick-and-roll with Jeff and Kevin because we like that combination because Jeff is at the ‘4’ with his speed can always get a shot off,” Rivers said.

Green has been brought along at a pace all season that varied between breakneck and breakdown. Rivers struggled all season to find that comfort range for Green to excel so that he could put Green in the position he was Wednesday night on the road – a tired team that needed young legs to make up a 14-point deficit in the second half against a red-hot, No. 2 seed in the East.

Thursday night was not one of Green’s best games but it was one of his best moments. Eleven points in 34 minutes. He was just 5-of-14 from the field. Still, Rivers and Hill believed in Green enough to draw up the game-winning play to go to him. It was why Pierce was grinning ear-to-ear coming out of the timeout. Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: Where Avery Bradley adds a jump shot at 10:45 am ET
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While everyone’s been rightfully lauding Avery Bradley‘s defense, he’s added a mid-range game.

In Tuesday’s 109-101 victory against the 76ers, the Celtics guard drained 4-of-5 long jumpers (16-23 feet). Heck, he even attempted a couple from 10-15 feet, where he hadn’t made a shot in more than a month. It’s almost as if he previously had devastating shoulder injuries, and he’s only now fully recovering. Oh, wait, he did. And he is.

“He’s starting to make the little pull-up jump shot,” C’s coach Doc Rivers told reporters in the postgame. “He’s been making the 3′s for the most part. He keeps shooting them, and we want him to, but I’m really happy with his pull-up off the dribble. That’s a big shot for us later, and he’s starting to make that. And that’s big.”

The 3-pointers part is debatable, since Bradley’s steadily been shooting around 31 percent from there this season after making 41 percent a year ago. His corner 3-point shooting has also dipped from 56 percent last season to 34 percent this winter. But Bradley’s honing a new weapon for his offensive arsenal: the long jumper.

Oh, great, another jump shooter on the Celtics, you say. Well, consider this: Bradley’s making 51 percent of his long jumpers over the past 12 games on an average of 3.6 attempts. That’s a marked improvement from his first 16 games, when he shot 39 percent on 2.3 attempts during a physical and mental adjustment period upon his return.

Because defenders must now respect Bradley’s newfound jump shot (see video), he’s also getting to the rim twice as often over the past 12 games, converting 60 percent of his 3.8 shots per game within three feet. His scoring numbers are up 50 percent in that same stretch, which has ripple effects throughout the Celtics roster.

“He’s confident,” added Rivers. “I don’t think he ever lost it. He was questioning it at times.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Garnett: Avery Bradley ‘is everything to our defense’ 03.05.13 at 10:17 am ET
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Avery Bradley has been a force defensively this season for the Celtics. (AP)

Avery Bradley has been a force defensively this season for the Celtics. (AP)

WALTHAM — If there’s one player on the Celtics to trust when it comes to talking leadership and intensity on defense it’s Kevin Garnett. And when he says Avery Bradley is the most important player in the team’s complex defensive scheme, you can’t help but listen up.

“He is everything to our defense,” Garnett said of Bradley on Monday before practice. “I think he’s the anchor. He’s the true inspiration of what it is. He gets up on the ball, 95, 90 percent of the time. Look at any other guard in the league; no one in the league is playing defense like he is. He’s just tenacious. He’s the silent leader and it’s by example.”

How big has Bradley been?

Last Friday, going up against Stephen Curry, the Celtics trusted him to go man-to-man and disrupt one of the most explosive players in the league. When he picked up his fifth foul with eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Celtics had to switch to a zone. With Bradley back since early January, the Celtics have gone from 25th in the league in defense to ninth, allowing just 95.9 points per game. They have allowed 100 points just six times since. Three of those six went overtime, including the triple-overtime game against Denver on Feb. 10 and another game he missed altogether.

Our Ben Rohrbach made the case for Bradley landing on the NBA All-Defensive team, which at this point seems like a no-brainer.

Reminded that Bradley has occasionally calmed coach Doc Rivers down this season, Garnett said that it’s been Rivers who has been the steadying force in Bradley development this season, especially as a court leader with Rajon Rondo out injured.

“I think it’s the other way around, although he isn’t really loud, he’s very vibrant,” Garnett said. “I don’t think he’s 100 percent, which is scary. I think he’s still working through some things with his past injuries but he’s playing hard and he’s giving us everything he has when he’s on the floor.”

Rivers isn’t asking Bradley to be vocal on the floor, since his play is speaking volumes.

“I think his play speaks for it,” Rivers said. “He has to call plays out and stuff like that. I think he’s verbal, defensively, in what we do. But that’s not anything I’m looking for right now from him. I just want him to keep playing, and playing hard. He plays so hard, he probably can’t speak half the time because he’s exhausted. I just like what he’s doing.”

Rivers said Bradley has been impressive this season after having a pair of shoulder surgeries in the offseason.

“I think he’s 100 percent, leg-wise,” Rivers said. “He’s been 100 percent. I guess if there’s any good thing about having a shoulder [injury], you can still use your legs, conditioning-wise. You can do all the running. As far as his shoulders, I can’t answer that. I don’t know. I would say he would not be 100 percent until next year with that.

With any surgery, especially when you have two, [takes time]. One of the officials in the last game walked up to me and asked, ‘Avery have both shoulders done?’ I said, yeah. He said, ‘Man, I had one done, I was out six months and I still feel bad.’ And I said, ‘That’s why you’re an official.’ I did get three bad calls after that.”

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Doc Rivers: A ‘smarter’ Kevin Garnett is well-rested and ready for stretch 03.04.13 at 5:58 pm ET
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A fresh Celtics forward Kevin Garnett continues to rise above the competition. (AP)

A fresh Celtics forward Kevin Garnett (5) continues to rise above the competition. (AP)

WALTHAM — In years past, when Kevin Garnett was given a day off like he was on Feb. 22 against the Suns in Phoenix, he might have hit the roof with Doc Rivers.

Not this year.

The Celtics coach said Monday he is giving more and more time off to Garnett and he believes it’s paying dividends. Indeed, Rivers may have given the 36-year-old Garnett just one game off but he’s giving the big man much more time off from practice, like this weekend when he told Garnett and Paul Pierce to stay away from the gym on Sunday, when the team had a skeleton practice.

“We’ve given him more time off this year than we ever have for him,” Rivers said. “In the past, we couldn’t even broach that subject with him. This year, he wants the days off. So, I think he’s gotten smarter in that regard and that to me is why he’s been able to play in more games.”

Garnett has played in 57 of Boston’s 58 games, averaging 14.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Most significantly, he’s averaging just a tick over 30 minutes a game, which is right where Rivers wants him. It would be even lower if the Celtics hadn’t played a franchise-record 10 overtime games so far, including the epic triple-OT game against Denver on Feb. 10.

“I think the days off have really helped, the subbing, the second year in a row with it, has helped. The 10 overtime games have not helped. That has not gone the way the planned it but it is what it is.”

Rivers also said that he is not paying particularly close attention to the Eastern conference standings in which is 31-27 Celtics find themselves just two games out of the fourth playoff spot, which would assure them home-court advantage and the opening-round.

That’s not to say Garnett doesn’t see value in being in the gym and working up a sweat.

“They’re very important,” Garnett said Monday, before the team readies for back-to-back road games in Philadelphia and Indiana. “You gain chemistry and you gain timing. New guys coming in, you need these practices. I won’t say the days off aren’t great. Practice is essential.”

Speaking of the new guys, Garnett said he’s ready to work with Terrence Williams, DJ White, Shav Randolph and Jordan Crawford as they assimilate the Celtics’ way.

“I’ve always made myself accessible for anybody who needs me,” Garnett said. “It’s no different for this group of guys here to try and make their transition. If I can make somebody’s transition easier, I will.”

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Jeff Green: A hard fall ‘woke me up’ 03.02.13 at 10:00 am ET
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Jeff Green chose to use humor to deal with pain Friday night – specifically the pain of falling down on his left side hard midway through the third quarter.

Green fell to the floor with 6:13 left in the third quarter. He remained there on the court for several minutes while Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte tended to him.

“I fell. I didn’t hurt myself. I was tired so I wanted to lay there a little bit and catch my breath. It kind of woke me up a little bit, got my shot to start fall so I’m glad I fell.”

“He was fine,” Doc Rivers said. “He came back in and played great. I thought Jeff struggled tonight. And it was almost after he got down he came back in and played really well. I thought he kind of got it going. You know in his defense offensively, I thought our spacing was poor in the first half. Every time, there were no driving lanes for him, and we were small. And when you’re small, you should have a lot of driving lanes.”

After the fall, Green came back in with 2:22 left in the third, sporting a white protective sleeve on his left elbow and arm. He hit his next two shots and finished the game by hitting six of seven attempts, scoring 18 points on the night in Boston’s 94-86 win over the Warriors at TD Garden.

“He was awesome,” Paul Pierce said. “He really carried us that fourth quarter, took it upon himself to be aggressive. You know, he’s coming into his own, after a slow start, which you can expect. Its tough when you take a year off from basketball and try to get back in the game, but I think since January he’s just been phenomenal, very consistent doing what we ask on both ends of the court, and he’s getting better and better as time goes on.”

Asked if it would just be easier for Rivers to just hit him in the head to wake him up the next time, Green laughed, “I would like that to happen. Those things seem to happen for a reason. Tonight was just not a ‘smack in the head’ type of night for me.”

What exactly happened on the fall?

“My whole body hurt,” Green said. “Whatever hurts in the morning, I guess that’s what I fell on the most.”

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Paul Pierce gets attitude adjustment and Celtics pull away 03.01.13 at 11:53 pm ET
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Doc Rivers saw it. Paul Pierce knew it.

The Celtics captain was sulking in the third quarter as the Warriors came out fast and took the lead after Boston controlled most of the first half.

Both knew it had to change and fast.

“Yeah, I think I was the one that kind of brought the body tone down a little bit, because I made some bad turnovers there to start the third quarter, kind of got me down,” Pierce said. “So it was up to me to kind of get it back, get the team back on. That’s what I try to do, I cant have any lapses like that because it really affect the team and I realize that, so I have to do a better job in that department.”

“He started out playing great and then when I subbed him and brought him back in, I don’t know what happened. We were turning the ball over and he was struggling,” Rivers said. “It was funny, in the third quater, the only thing I told him was I don’t care that you’re not playing well in this stretch or we’re not, I just hate our body language right now. And I give Paul a lot of credit, he basically said, ‘That’s on me. That’s my fault.’

“I thought we were hanging our heads a lot in the third quarter. We were turning the ball over and we were missing shots. The end of the world is not going to happen. We just have to keep playing. I didn’t like the way we responded to that and I thought Paul did a good job in the timeout right after that of getting the guys back.”

Pierce finished with a game-high 26 points in Boston’s 94-86 win over Stephen Curry and the Warriors Friday night at TD Garden.

“It was good,” Pierce said. “You play a quality ball club who’s playoff-bound who’s very dangerous in the West, capable of beating anybody. Sometimes that first game at home feels like a road game, your body is readjusting. You know you haven’t been in this building in a couple of weeks, so sometimes its difficult. We were a little sloppy with the ball, but it’s a good win nevertheless.”

The Celtics actually went into a zone defense when Avery Bradley went out with his fifth foul with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

“I think it really bothered them,” Pierce said. “They’re a great one-on-one team who really thrives on taking you off the dribble, making an extra pass, shooting the three-ball….I think it altered their offense a little bit once we got into the zone. It was really effective, especially in the second half.”

Jeff Green took a hard spill on his left side midway through the third and when he returned, the Celtics went on a 9-0 run to pull away for good late in the third.

“He was awesome tonight,” Pierce said of Green, who finished with 18 points. “He really carried us in that fourth quarter, took it upon himself to be aggressive. You know, he’s coming into his own, after a slow start, which you can expect. Its tough when you take a year off from basketball and try to get back in the game, but I think since January he’s just been phenomenal, very consistent doing what we ask on both ends of the court, and he’s getting better and better as time goes on.”

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Doc Rivers pregame: Terrence Williams ‘can be a great’ playmaker at 7:34 pm ET
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Terrence Williams has made an impact in his brief stay with the Celtics. (AP)

Terrence Williams has made an impact in his brief stay with the Celtics. (AP)

Celtics head coach Doc Rivers spoke about how the new players Shav Randolph, DJ White and Terrence Williams will fill the bench for the Celtics who come into Friday nights game against the Golden State Warriors having won two of their last three. Jordan Crawford is also making his Garden debut in a Celtics uniform.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo, Williams signed a deal that is good for the rest of the season at the league minimum. It also has a clause that extends to next season but is not guaranteed. It is a report that Rivers confirmed before Friday’s game with the Golden State at TD Garden.

Williams was on a 10-day contract with the Celtics and has appeared in three games, averaging 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 14.1 minutes before Friday’s extension.

Williams, White and Randolph were all playing in China. Rivers was asked before Friday’s game, tongue-in-cheek, if he had ever been to China to see any of three actually play in person.

“Not me,” he said. “I can tell you that. You can watch film these days. You don’t have to travel.”

Williams is one player that has made an impact, except for the game in Portland Sunday night.

“I like the way he’s played, minus one game. Now that he’s going to be here, we have a chance to hopefully turn him into a player we think he could be.

“I saw him this summer. He came in and worked out with us for a week, pick up games. Just watching the way he played, you really that even in those situations, he’s more point than ’2′ [guard]. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a great scorer in our league but he can be a great playmaker.

“It’d be nice if we found a superstar but there are very few of those in the entire league. We’re just looking for a solid player.”

Were any of the three on Doc’s radar?

“No, because we were healthy,” Rivers said. “They may have been on Danny’s and [management] but honestly I’m looking at the guys we have in the gym not those in China. I’m focused on that. Because of the injuries, we had to look around and that’s where we went.

“This is different because a lot of them are young and a lot of these guys really haven’t established themselves as players yet. In the past, the P.J. Browns, the Gary Paytons, and whoever else we brought in had pretty much established themselves and we knew who they were.”

Rivers did acknowledge that the spread offense likely makes their transition to Boston easier.

“Probably because it’s not just one play or the execution part of it, it’s spreading the floor, moving it to the open guy. That I would think would make it easier.”

What Rivers made very clear Friday are the roles he wants Randolph, Williams, White and, to a lesser degree Crawford, to all understand while in Celtics green. They are, for the most part, here to fill out a bench and help when needed, which is mainly in practice.

“I would rather put Kevin and Brandon Bass and Jeff Green out there [in games],” Rivers said. “We’re bringing them in to fill our bench and to help us if we need it. I’m not bringing in guys to take any of those other guys’ spots. Obviously, if one of them comes in and helps us, that’s good. But that’s their role to be ready to play, and be ready not to play and understand what we’re doing.”

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

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