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Doc Rivers: “Philly is Atlanta on steroids-if it’s a track meet that’s bad for us’ 05.12.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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Doc Rivers: “Philly is Atlanta on steroids. If it’s a track meet, that’s bad for us.”

There, in a nutshell, is the series plan for the Celtics. Doc Rivers said it on Friday at the team’s practice. He reiterated it Saturday, an hour before Game 1 with the quote above.

Make sure you don’t let one of the most athletic teams in the NBA get their groove on in transition.

There are two things they do extremely well. They defend and they don’t turn the ball over.

“I think what people keep forgetting is they’re not a good defensive team, they’re a great defensive team,” Rivers said. “They’re going to try to make us struggle scoring and we’re going to try and make them struggle scoring. If the game is 50-50, and close and competitive, I don’t know why that’s ugly. I’ve always argued against that. I guess 121-120 is more exciting. I think being competitive is more exciting.”

Many have speculated this will be one ugly series, with both teams clamping down on defense.

“It depends,” Rivers said. “I don’t know what ugly is. If we win, I don’t think that’s ugly at all. So, whatever you want to call ugly, if winning is part of it, I’m all for it.”

When the Sixers beat the Bulls in Game 6 Thursday night, about hour before the Celtics advanced, the cannons went off inside Wells Fargo Center, firing confetti all over the place.

“I was telling our guys, they were excited,” Rivers said. “They should be. They had to get over that hump. Being a No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed is big, it is a big deal. We look at the tape, we look at everything. They were excited. We were relieved. It’s amazing the two different [reactions].

“When the clock went off for us, guys were like, ‘Oh my gosh. Let’s go to bed.’ That’s kind of how we felt. You could almost say they have the emotional advantage in that because they were so high for their win. We have to match that.”

So, for the first time since 2002, when the Celtics eliminated the defending Eastern Conference champs, the Celtics and Sixers meet in the playoffs. Remember the last time? Game 5 of the best-of-5 at the Garden, the Celtics ran Allen Iverson and the Sixers off the court by 30 points. Rivers says he can appreciate the history between the two legendary NBA franchises.

“I can,” Rivers acknowledged. “I remember the ones with Dr. J. [Julius Erving]and [Larry Bird] and all that. Anytime you’re around Tommy [Tommy Heinsohn] and you mention Philadelphia, the hatred comes out. I think with Tommy, of all the teams, this is the team he wants to beat the most all the team. Regular season games, when you talk to Tommy on the plane, this is his target team. I’m sure he’ll be nice and calm covering the series.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘Rondo willed us back into the game’ 05.09.12 at 12:25 am ET
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Rajon Rondo almost pulled off a miraculous win by himself Tuesday. (AP)

Doc Rivers takes a lot of pride in his veteran team being more prepared than any other when it comes to crucial end-of-game situations. This is especially true in the playoffs.

That’s why Tuesday night was such a kick in the groin to Rivers and the Celtics.

A dejected Rivers analyzed what happened in the furious final moments of Boston’s 87-86 loss to Atlanta in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Tuesday night at Philips Arena. Rivers watched as Rajon Rondo nearly single-handedly won the game with a steal of an inbounds pass and a lenght-of-the-court dribble only to be denied even getting a shot off as the Hawks held on.

Rondo scored six of the final eight points of the third quarter as the Celtics rallied furiously back from a 12-point deficit and a nine-point hole late in the fourth only to have time run out.

“I thought Rondo willed us back into the game in the third,” Rivers said. “That stretch was huge for him. We played in spurts, and that’s why we lost.”

Rondo finished with 13 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in 44 minutes of rugged playoff action. He also had five steals, including the one off the inbounds play with 10 seconds remaining that nearly won the series.

The Celtics now must deal with the confident tandem of Al Horford and Josh Smith in Game 6 in Boston Thursday night. Both of them registered double-doubles, with Horford hitting the final two baskets for Atlanta and denying Rondo any chance of getting off the final shot.

“Al Horford was terrific tonight,” Rivers said. “I thought him and Williams made the difference in the game. I thought they all played well and hard, which we anticipated in an elmination game. I didn’t like our execution down the stretch of the game, did a couple of things we shouldn’t have done. But overall, I just thought they played harder, they played better.”

Before the Rondo steal, the Celtics tried for a steal with 15 seconds remaining, only to burn valuable seconds off the clock as the Celtics had a foul to give.

“We signaled to foul but our guys decided to go for the steal, first. What they didn’t understand was we had a foul to give. I told them after the game and we talk about it every day in practice,” Rivers said. “End of the game execution is going to win and lose playoff games for you.

“I thought when you look at the last couple of games, we had great motion and movement, offensively. I didn’t think we had any of that tonight. I thought we were an stagnant basketball team. I thought in the first quarter, it was terrific. The movement was great. We missed a lot of open shots. We had the lead but I told our coaches, they had a lot of open shots they missed, and then they started making them and got their confidence up. Listen, this is the team they thought they were going to start the season with, now they have it and we’re going to have to deal with it.”

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Starting with Rajon Rondo, Doc Rivers can sense ‘momentum rolling’ for Celtics 05.07.12 at 11:59 am ET
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When arguably your best player is playing his best, your going to have great results.

Such was the case again Sunday night when Rajon Rondo didn’t need a triple-double but just 20 points and 16 assists to help the Celtics throttle the overmatched Hawks, 101-79, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals at the Garden.

What made Rondo’s night so special is what he did in getting others involved early and often.

He found Paul Pierce twice in the first quarter to get the captain rolling on his way to 24 points in 16 injury-shortened minutes. He found Avery Bradley for a corner three. He fed Kevin Garnett with a perfect pass on an alley-oop dunk. He fed Ray Allen for a wide open 16-footer.

“That’s Rondo being Rondo,” Pierce said. “He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA. He has the confidence and controls the game, tonight you saw him doing it offensively with his shooting. We already know he’s the best passer in the game and offensively he just picked up the slack.”

And he even found it in his heart to fedd Greg Stiemsma for a layup. Seven assists in the first quarter as Rondo had the Celtics off and running.

As great as Rondo is, his coach doesn’t always have a feel when a great game like Sunday is coming from his point guard.

“I did not,” Doc Rivers said. “There are days though, that you sense it, and then most of the time you’re wrong. I didn’t sense that; I did sense that we were ready to play. You know, that’s obviously the best we’ve played so far in the playoffs. I sensed that, but other than that, it was just – it started rolling. You could feel it. You can feel the momentum rolling on our side. And we made a lot of shots. When you make shots like that, and you defend like that, it’s tough to be beat.”

And what did Rondo think of his fast start that took the heart out of the Hawks? Read the rest of this entry »

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Paul Pierce shows vintage form, sprained left knee and all at 12:16 am ET
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To think Doc Rivers thought he might not even have his captain available after a fluke injury in the shootaround hours before Game 4.

Paul Pierce shook off a freakish knee injury in shootaround and a re-aggravation of it during the second quarter to finish with 24 points in just over 16 minutes and give the Celtics the kind of breathing room they needed in a 101-79 rout of the Hawks in Game 4, in contest not even that close.

Pierce established himself early and often. It was what Celtics fans have come to expect and appreciate about the team in the “Big 3″ plus Rondo era. He was 5-of-7 in the the first quarter with 10 points. Rajon Rondo had seven assists, including helpers on Pierce’s first two buckets as the Celtics raced out ahead, 32-19, after one quarter.

“It was great,” Rivers said. “And you know I thought, Paul thought, in the last game he took it too deep, and so tonight he went to the in-between game over and over again early on. First play we got him a layup and then he got a lot of in-between jump shots, which I think he may be one of the best in-between players in the league. And he did that. He knew that they were trapping; he knew that they were coming at him. And we talked, ‘If you go quick, one, two, dribble, pull-up jump shot, you know, take it.’ And he did that. And then he got the three going. He was just on fire.”

That fire nearly blew up in the Celtics’ face when leading 51-27 on a Pierce three, Pierce ran into Josh Smith on a screen. He twisted his knee, aggravating the injury from hours earlier in the team’s shootaround. Pierce said he’s hoping to be ready for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta.

“I kind of sprained it [Sunday] morning and then I aggravated it in the game,” said Pierce, who led the Celtics with 24 points in just over 16 minutes of game time. “I’m glad we were able to get a win like this to give me some rest, give me a couple of days off and get some treatment, and hope it feels good on Tuesday.”

Realizing fans would be concerned about his status for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta, Pierce tweeted after the game, I think the knee is going to be fine glad I didn’t have to play a lot of minutes tonight to rest it good win tonight fellas.

Pierce was red-hot before and after running into Josh Smith on a screen late in the second quarter. He made 10 of his 13 shots in the win.

“I kind of tripped over someone’s foot,” Pierce said. “I had to sit around the last half of shootaround, and tonight I just kind of reaggravated it when I came up off the screen with Josh Smith right there. It’s a little bit sore right now so Doc [Rivers] just wanted to take precautions tonight especially when we had such a big lead.”

Rivers couldn’t believe it when it happened in the morning.

“When I left shoot-around, I probably thought he was not going to play,” Rivers said, before being reassured by trainer Ed Lacerte. “And Eddie said, ‘Let’s see, let’s give it a try, and see how he feels.’ I talked to him right before the game; I asked him ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Well let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’ It’s amazing. I mean, honestly, guys around the league – He was just dribbling the ball and went to the floor in shoot-around. And I was thinking, ‘What more can you –?’ We were walking. You know, that’s how you felt, like, my gosh. And honestly, when he went down, it didn’t look good. So the fact that he could come in and play, and then play the way he played was great.”

Pierce missed the final 5:45 of the first half but came out to warmup for the second half and assured Rivers he was good to start the second half. He hit his first two shots, both threes, and had 24 points in 16 minutes on 10-of-13 shooting. He came out for Mickael Pietrus with 8:24 left in the third quarter and did not return. He didn’t need to. He was free to get more treatment and try and make sure – at all costs – that he’s ready to go for Tuesday night in Atlanta.

“I got some rest for the next game,” Pierce said. “You don’t want to really sit down or let it get stiff. That’s why I went over and got on the bike there when I got out of the game. If it had stiffened up on me I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to come back. It’s sore, tender. I’m just going to ice it.”

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Doing Time: the cost of Game 3′s victory 05.05.12 at 2:02 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have played major minutes in the Celtics' first round series with Atlanta. (AP)

Doc Rivers knows he has a veteran squad. He knows managing his team’s minutes is a priority night-in and night-out. But he also knows he is best suited to play a short seven-man rotation. Limiting minutes becomes difficult when relying on so few players, especially as playoff games hang in the balance.

Weighing the value of rest versus victories is a complicated issue during the regular season, but when an opening to secure a playoff win appeared in Game 3 Friday night, Rivers rolled the dice.

“Sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble, ” Rivers said. “You think maybe we can get this, put this away, and get guys out.”

The coach’s gamble backfired and minutes have gone from a concern to a dilemma. Through the first two games of the series in Atlanta, Paul Pierce was averaging 42 minutes and Kevin Garnett logged 4o minutes in each contest as well. Ray Allen entered Game 3 having not seen action in a competitive game in 24 days due to an ankle injury, which will require surgery this offseason.

On Friday, Pierce played 47, Garnett logged 42 and Allen checked in with a whopping 36 minutes. Rivers is giving is team Saturday off, “Because they’re exhausted,” he said. “And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something. He would shoot or something. So, that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”

Leading by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and up 80-72 with less than three minutes remaining, the Celtics let the Hawks back in the game.

“I thought we got into the habit of milking the clock,” Rivers said. “And you just can’t do that. You can do that when the other team has two bigs, but when the other team has five guards on the floor, you absolutely can’t do that. And we did that.

The Celtics may have made Friday night’s game harder than it needed to be, but Hawks coach Larry Drew had to deal with the same problem as Rivers. Atlanta was without Josh Smith on Friday night, and have also been missing Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford throughout the whole series.

“We played a lot of minutes – our starters – but they did as well,” Rajon Rondo said. “So, it’s a mental effort. You can’t get tired. Down the stretch, you have to execute offensively and defensively. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight, even though we struggled to score the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.”

Those struggles led to overtime and an extra five minutes of basketball.

“Playoffs are hard,” Pierce said. “Sometimes coaches are going to ask a lot from you. I went the whole distance again today in the second half, but it proved worth it. We were able to get the win and that’s all that matters.”

Pierce is right, results are all that matter, but the Celtics would be better-served to hit on Rivers’ gambles rather then bust.

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Ray Allen: ‘I wasn’t holding anything back’ at 1:40 am ET
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It’s really all anyone wanted to know from Ray Allen after Game 3 – how’s the ankle and do you think you’ll be ready for Game 4 Sunday night at the Garden?

“Now it’s achy,” Allen said after the game. “It feels like it’s just mad at me a little bit. So, I’ve been here before. It seems like I have all these safeguards in place. When I get home, I know exactly what I need to do. I have my contraptions to make sure I’m able to go to sleep well and get up in the morning and get my treatment. So, I’m in a good place.

“I think over the past couple of weeks, people have asked me, ‘Can you get in a game and play five minutes, just stand in a corner and make people think you’re going to shoot it.’ I knew once I got out there, I was going to be out there to run up and down and move whichever way I need to move. I wasn’t holding anything back, once I got into the offense.”

After playing 37 minutes in his first game back since April 10, Allen said he could tell he was in a tense NBA playoff game. But all things considered, after scoring 13 points in Boston’s 90-84 overtime win over Atlanta in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Allen said he and his left ankle came out of it feeling as good as could be expected.

“Starting the game it was great,” Allen said. “I think going into half was when it started to tighten up on me and I started noticing a little more than I’ve noticed but similar to what I’ve been dealing with. Just sitting on the sideline, I just did what I could to make sure I kept it loose by stretching it. But once I went back in the game, there’s not really a moment to think about it. Your adrenaline is rushing, being in the building, my adrenaline is rushing.”

Doc Rivers had to pay particularly close attention. He was without Avery Bradley for most of the second half after losing him to a recurring left shoulder injury. And the minutes on Allen started to shoot through the roof, that and the Celtics were forced to go with a three-guard look because the Hawks were going small with their lineup that was missing three big men.

“I thought the legs were shot at the end,” Rivers said of Allen, who missed one of two free throws in overtime. “We started trying to use him for decoy. He was terrific. And like I told you before the game – someone asked me, ‘Would there be a minute restriction?’ I said, “No, because we don’t know when he’ll play again or not.’ You know? So I’m getting everything I can get out of him each game. I’m saying that jokingly, but somewhat true as well. Tonight honestly, we needed him. It’s amazing the difference when he’s on the floor in our spacing, and how much more difficult it is for guys to help.

“We’re giving them the day off tomorrow because they’re exhausted. And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something; he would shoot, or something. So that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”

Paul Pierce was more than impressed with Allen.

“Just having him out there really picked us up because we haven’t seen Ray in a jersey in so long,” Pierce said. “Just having him out there, you heard the reaction from the crowd when he checked into the game. Stuff like that brings so much energy to the ball club, to have a guy that’s so vital come out there and give us a big lift. It’s huge having him out there, especially tonight with Avery going down.”

Allen, who has received intense treatment and cortisone shots to manage the pain, admitted that as the game continued, he could feel the bone spurs give him discomfort. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Doc Rivers is looking to make life easier for Kevin Garnett 05.03.12 at 2:54 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics spent most of their 75-minute practice session Thursday working on half-court set offense.

Why?

Well, two reasons.

If indeed Ray Allen is healthy enough to return, then they’re going to need his jump shot and Doc Rivers wants his team to remember how to get him his shots. But secondly, and maybe more importantly, with or without Allen, the Celtics need to do a better job of freeing up space for Kevin Garnett, who has had precious little of it in the first two games against the Hawks.

If Allen can play, that will help Garnett. But if he can’t the Celtics need to find another scorer besides Paul Pierce to help out so both Atlanta guards aren’t doubling down in the paint and guarding Garnett.

“We just need a scorer,” Rivers said before Thursday’s practice. “We have to space the floor. They’re killing us with their help [defense]. They just decided without Ray on the floor, they’re just going to swarm everybody and you’re going to have to find someone.”

Rivers said he’s not worried about Garnett’s jumper. He’s more alarmed that he has made just 13-of-32 field goal attempts in the first two games. There has to be help for KG going forward.

“We have to,” Rivers said. “The jumper is going to come. I’m not worried about that. But we have to establish him more. We have to get bodies off of him. They’re bumping him around, knocking him around. We have to do a better job as a staff, do a better job of trying to get bodies off of him and giving him some room.

“Our spacing is horrendous for him. Clearly without Ray, they’re using both guards to just sit in the paint. And we have to do a better of creating space. It’s tough when you have two guys they’re just not guarding. That makes it difficult on Kevin. It reminds me of Perk and Rondo early on, and that was a big and guard. Now, it’s two guards [they're using] and they’re quick, and they can poke and jab at the ball. We have to figure out something because we have to get something down low.”

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