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Doc Rivers on Rajon Rondo: ‘Phenomenal … tough for him to play that way and not win the game’ 05.31.12 at 1:55 am ET
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Rajon Rondo had many twists and turns on his way to a record-setting night in Celtics playoff history. (AP)

It was almost as painful as the bulging disk in his back that caused him to wince at the opening of his press conference. Doc RIvers took to the podium after his Celtics lost a heart-breaker in overtime to try and put perspective on his point guard’s record-setting night.

Rajon Rondo became the first player in the long, illustrious history of the Celtics to score at least 40 points and dish out at least 10 assists in a playoff game but his mood and the mood of the team was tempered after a 115-111 loss to the Heat Wednesday night that put the Celtics in a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference finals. Rondo finished with 44 points, 10 assists and was just two rebounds shy of his fourth triple-double of this playoff season.

“He was absolutely phenomenal,” Rivers said. “He put the whole team — at times — on his shoulders. It’s tough for him to play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he did basically everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game.”

“It’s kind of irrelevant,” Rondo said. “We lost. It’s as simple as that.”

Rondo had three steals and just three turnovers, remarkable considering the point guard played all 53 minutes of the epic playoff contest. He became just the eighth player in NBA history to play all 53 minutes of a playoff game. But Rondo maintained that he was not tired in the late stages of the game.

“I felt fine,” Rondo said. “It was a mental grind for me, individually, and for us as a team. Kevin played extra minutes, we all did. There’s no turning back. It’s the conference finals so I wanted to play every minute. I thought I didn’t hurt my team by me playing every minute so I wanted to go out there and continue to do the best for my team.”

“It just happened during the game,” Rivers said of Rondo’s minutes. “You just read it. I don’t start the game saying I’m going to play Rondo the whole game. I just kind of read the situation. He was playing at a pretty good pace so we just rode him.”

Rondo said the Celtics are confident that the home crowd can help them get back in the series. The Celtics enter Friday’s Game 3 with a 6-1 home mark at TD Garden in these playoffs and have lost just twice in their last 21 home games dating back to Feb. 13.

“We have the next two at home,” Rondo said. “We had two tough losses on the road but it’s a seven-game series. We’re playing very well at home as of late. We’re looking forward to it.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘LeBron James had 24 free throws, our team had 29′ at 12:35 am ET
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Paul Pierce fouled out late in the fourth quarter on another night of controversial calls. (AP)

Doc Rivers attempted to hide his frustration with the discrepancy in the fouls Wednesday night as the Celtics fell 115-111 in overtime to the Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Celtics were whistled for 33 fouls while the Heat were called for just 18 in 53 minutes of action.

“It is what it is,” Rivers said. “LeBron James took 24 free throws tonight and our team took 29. Paul Pierce fouled out of a game where he was attacking the basket. It’s just tough. We have to just keep playing. I tell our guys, ‘It doesn’t matter. We can’t get distracted.’ We will not get distracted in this series. I guarantee you, right now, they’re distracted, our team in the locker room but we have to get out of us and move on. Whatever happened, happened. We just have to move on and play the next game.”

Two key plays will stand out to Celtics fans who feel they were robbed of the chance to win Game 2. Pierce was called for his sixth and final foul with 1:05 when Dwyane Wade drove to the basket and turned his back into Pierce. Then, with the game tied, 105-105, and 1:35 left in overtime, replays show Rondo was raked across the face on a drive to the basket by Wade. There was no call as the Heat scored the next seven points to put the game on ice.

“It was obvious, but I really can’t comment about that play in particular. It’s part of the game. That was a big swing for us. I think we had the momentum. There was a lot of controversy out there, and it just didn’t go our way,” Rondo said afterward at the podium next to Ray Allen, who added, “We all thought he got hit, I’ll say it.”

Rivers joked with a reporter who was asking him to comment on the “50-50″ calls that seem to all go against the Celtics in Game 2.

“Can you call it something other than 50-50 calls? Can you come up with another percentage for me?” Rivers said with a smile. “We’re not going to blame [the officials]. We have to play better and we will.”

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Doc Rivers calls his technical ‘worst I’ve ever had’ 05.29.12 at 12:03 am ET
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Doc Rivers is not happy about the technical foul he received from Ed Malloy during Monday night's game in Miami. (AP)

Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his displeasure with his technical foul very clear following a Game 1 loss to the Heat at American Airlines Arena in South Florida. Rivers was whistled for a technical foul by referee Ed Malloy with 3:13 left in the second quarter when he uttered the words, “Come on, Ed.”

“I know mine wasn’t [deserved],” Rivers said. “I don’t know how long I’ve been in the league, but that has to rank as the worst I’ve ever had. I would have liked to have earned it.”

Malloy called a technical foul on Rivers and then called one on Rajon Rondo midway through the third after Rondo and Shane Battier became entangled after a Brandon Bass basket. Rondo appeared to push Battier away, trying to get loose. Earlier in the game, referee Danny Crawford called a tech on Ray Allen after Allen was demonstrative after a call on him. Crawford then whistled Kevin Garnett for a delay of game technical for tapping the ball out of bounds after a Celtics basket.

“We should never get them, I told our guys,” Rivers said, before adding, “Everybody has to keep their composure, not just just the players and coaches.”

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Ray Allen proves to Doc Rivers that he’s the ‘ultimate gunslinger’ 05.27.12 at 2:49 am ET
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After starting Game 7 by missing eight of his first nine shots, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range, Ray Allen picked a great time to get hot.

He hit a three with 9:51 left that sent the Garden into pandemonium and gave the Celtics a 60-54 lead over the Sixers. The Celtics missed their first 14 3-pointers before Allen connected from beyond the arc. As the Sixers drew to within three again, Bass hit two free throws and Allen drained another three with 5:52 left to extend the lead to eight, 69-61. Again pandemonium and again, all Doc Rivers could do was sit back and appreciate Allen’s resiliency.

“Well Ray is the ultimate gun slinger,” Rivers said. “I mean, really. That’s what makes great players great. You know, I was a basketball player one day. And I would’ve never taken that shot late in the game like Ray, after missing my first 15. First of all, I wouldn’t have been in. But you know what I mean; a lot of guys – you’ve got to have a set to do that, you really do. It was just impressive.”

What really made this impressive was how much pain Allen was fighting in his right ankle.

‘You know I took him out that one stretch, and remember he had back-to-back plays where he was wide-open and passed up the shot,” Rivers said. “And when we took him out I went over to him and said, ‘Hey, listen, we’re not going to have that.’ And he just said, ‘My foot’s killing me. I need a break. I’m good.’ And I told him again, I said, ‘Ray, listen, you don’t ever pass up shots.’ The biggest part was Rondo went over there and told him the same thing, which I thought was great for Ray to hear, confidence-wise. And then Kevin went over and told him. I thought that was big for him to hear.

“I was worried about him because I know him now and I saw the last four, five minutes if you watch him he was starting to shake his foot, which has been a sign that time to get him out. But you know, I told him that; I said, ‘Hey are you alright?’ He said, ‘I’m alright after we win this game. He just said it, ‘Leave me in; I’m good. So that was good.”

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Game 7 shootaround: Keyon Dooling returns, Avery Bradley home resting after surgery 05.26.12 at 11:59 am ET
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WALTHAM — Already without Avery Bradley, the Celtics practiced on Friday without backup guard Keyon Dooling, who was out sick. Dooling returned to the team Saturday morning for its shootaround before Game 7 with the Sixers. The team worked on half-court set as per usual with no conditioning drills. Before the shootaround, the team also watched film.

With Bradley out and Ray Allen nursing two sore ankles, Dooling figures to see more playing time in Saturday night’s decisive game. In another positive sign, Greg Stiemsma took part on Saturday, a day after Doc Rivers said the backup center’s feet were “feeling better.” During Game 6 in Philadelphia, Rivers said that Stiemsma asked out of the game because he was in pain.

“He couldn’t play in the second half the other night,” Doc Rivers said on Friday. “Funny, I put him and he walks up and says, ‘I can’t go.’ I thought he was walking up to go in. But he feels better and that’s good.”

Allen has two sore ankles and Paul Pierce is nursing a sprained MCL in his left knee. Both Allen and Pierce are expected to start in Game 7.

Meanwhile, Bradley is resting after surgery Friday on both shoulders, a source with direct knowledge of the situation tells WEEI.com. He was the only Celtics player not in attendance at the Saturday morning shootaround.

The source confirms that Bradley had surgery on Friday and is expecting a summer-long rehab program that could last up to four months. If all goes as expected, Bradley should be ready for training camp in October.

Bradley initially injured the rotator cuff in his left shoulder but after playing with the injury, he also injured the right shoulder to the point where it needed to be repaired as well. Bradley had the left shoulder pop out in the third quarter of Game 4 against the Sixers and missed Games 5 and 6 before deciding to have surgery on Friday, performed by team doctor Brian McKeon, so that he could be ready for training camp in October.

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Doc Rivers explains why losing Avery Bradley really hurts against the Sixers 05.25.12 at 1:28 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers announced at Friday morning’s practice that Avery Bradley had surgery Friday on his ailing left shoulder and is out for the playoffs.

“Avery Bradley is having surgery today so he’s out for the playoffs,” Rivers said. “That’s that. When a player goes down, that’s disappointing, and especially with what Avery has given us this year. His growth this year has been terrific and it’s been great. He’s become a very valuable piece to our basketball team. His ability to guard the best [opposing] guard at [point or shooting guard] has really taken so much pressure off Rondo, in particular. And not having him means that Rondo now has to go back to that role and run the team, and that’s hard, that’s hard to do, unfortunately and especially against the team we’re playing that has two guards that attack.

“Rondo doesn’t have a lot of breaks. But that’s the way it is. We’ve been a team all year when stuff happens, you deal with it and you just move forward. That’s who we’ve been and that’s who we’re going to have to be [Saturday].”

Then Rivers explained exactly why the Celtics need to fall back on their great defensive principles to get through Game 7 without Bradley, their third straight without their best on-ball defender. The Sixers have a group of athletic guards who attack the basket, and did so at will in Game 6. Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams all took advantage of a weakened Ray Allen in drives to the basket.

“We’re great defensive team,” Rivers said. “What Avery did was he allowed us to be a great defensive team and put an individual on one guy and say, ‘Go shut him down.’ We don’t have that anymore so we have to go back to being just a great defensive team.”

Bradley was diagnosed with a sore rotator cuff during the first round series with the Hawks and attempted to play with pain. But early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday in Philadelphia, his shoulder popped out of place. He missed Games 5 and 6 before the decision was made to have surgery on Friday.

Bradley, in his second season out of Texas, started 10 games in the playoffs and 28 in the regular season, taking over the starting job from Ray Allen for the final 13 games of the regular season. He average 7.6 points a game in the regular season and quickly won respect around the league as one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.

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Tom Thibodeau on D&C: Celtics are winning because of confidence, intensity 05.23.12 at 10:29 am ET
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Tom Thibodeau is gone from Boston but his intense defense remains. (AP)

Appearing on Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the Celtics are in good position to record another finals appearance thanks to an intensity that is helping defensive pressure. He also said health, confidence, intensity, Doc Rivers and Rajon Rondo have been contributing to Boston’s success.

“Right at the start of the game you could see the intensity in the Celtics and I thought they were so aggressive and I think that’s part of their understanding of how important that game was,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant. “And you know the one thing, the one thing that they’ve done well, they’ve gotten into the Sixers pretty well. The Sixers, during the course of the season, rarely turned the ball over and [the Celtics have] been able to force turnovers against them and they’ve also kept their own turnovers now, which I think is a huge plus for them.

“I think the intensity of the defense dictates a lot. And if you can get some easy baskets off your defense than that can allow you to go on a quick run.”

Thibodeau also said confidence has been a large factor in Boston’s success this postseason.

“You have two teams that are extremely well-balanced, basically slugging it out, and I think the Celtics right now are playing with a lot of confidence,” he said.

Confidence and intensity may be two of the biggest assets the Celtics have at the moment, but Thibodeau added staying healthy is the biggest key.

“Well, the Celtics have everything that you need,” Thibodeau said. “The biggest thing is going to be health, and you guys already hit on that. How healthy can they be? That goes for everybody, and things can change quickly.”

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