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Why did the Celtics intentionally foul? 05.15.12 at 12:02 pm ET
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Whenever there’s a discrepancy between the shot clock and game clock, NBA teams that trail by three points or less normally will play defense and try to get a stop. That was the situation the Celtics were in on Monday night, down 76-75 with 28 seconds left in Game 2 after a Ray Allen pull-up jumper misfired.

But the Sixers had a foul to give, so coach Doc Rivers instructed Rajon Rondo to intentionally foul Evan Turner with 14.4 seconds left in the game and 10 seconds left on the shot clock (the Celtics also had a foul to give). After Paul Pierce then fouled Turner again, the Sixers guard made both free throws with 12 seconds left.

“Obviously, if they didn’t have a foul to give we would’ve played the clock out,” Rivers said. “My thinking was, it would be a four-second differential. There’s no guarantee you’re going to get the rebound. By the time you rebound it’s probably three seconds, and then they have the foul to give, so they foul and now it’s down to two seconds.”

The error the Celtics made was in not fouling earlier. They let 10 seconds burn off the clock before Rivers called for the foul.

“That’s the mistake we made,” Rivers said on the Dennis & Callahan show.

It was one of several mistakes in execution the veteran Celtics made down the stretch. Most egregious was a possession with about a minute to go and the Celtics holding a one-point lead. They were trying to get Ray Allen coming off a screen, but Avery Bradley didn’t clear the corner and the play broke down, forcing Rondo to fire up a contested jump shot from the top of the key.

“It was a play we call elbow-X. We didn’t get into it,” Rivers said. “Rondo was frustrated because we didn’t get into it the correct way. Ray really was not open because the guy in the corner didn’t clear out of the way like he’s supposed to do. It was a wasted possession at a time when you can’t have one.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Doc Rivers, Evan Turner, Rajon Rondo
Doc Rivers picks up another award 05.14.12 at 6:36 pm ET
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The following should come as no surprise: Doc Rivers is very media friendly.

On Monday, the Professional Basketball Writers Association recognized this formally by announcing the Celtics head coach was voted the winner of the annual “Rudy Tomjanovich Award” – given to the head coach considered the most accessible to the media.

Rivers received 33 votes, topping a group that included Denver’€™s George Karl (13), Orlando’€™s Stan Van Gundy (9) and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle (2).

The PBWA also handed out two other awards. Phoenix Suns star point guard Steve Nash was announced as the winner of “The Magic Johnson Award” – the equivalent of Rivers’ award on the players’ side. The Milwaukee Bucks media relations staff was given the “Brian McIntyre Award” as the league’€™s most enterprising and helpful public relations staff.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brian McIntyre, Doc Rivers
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.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dr. J
Doc Rivers: ‘Rondo willed us back into the game’ 05.09.12 at 12:25 am ET
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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.”

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics
Starting with Rajon Rondo, Doc Rivers can sense ‘momentum rolling’ for Celtics 05.07.12 at 11:59 am ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

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.

‘€œThat’€™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.

‘€œI 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 »

Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
Paul Pierce shows vintage form, sprained left knee and all at 12:16 am ET
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brightcove.createExperiences();

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.

‘€œIt 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.

‘€œI 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
Doing Time: the cost of Game 3’s victory 05.05.12 at 2:02 pm ET
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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.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
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