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Greg Stiemsma: Just ‘another opportunity’ but this time the Steamer shines 05.22.12 at 12:08 am ET
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Brandon Bass wasn’t the only one coming into Game 5 who might have wondered where all his playing time went.

Greg Stiemsma was lost on the Celtics bench, while Ryan Hollins was spelling Kevin Garnett off the bench. Stiemsma was a DNP-Coach’s Decision on Friday night. He has eight, 11 and four minutes respectively in the first three games before a goose egg in Game 4.

But on Monday, maybe it was just as simple as Doc Rivers wanting to change the atmosphere as Stiemsma – not Hollins – came in for Garnett in the first quarter and the Sixers leading, 12-11.

So often in the series, and in the playoffs, when Garnett has come off the floor, the Celtics have struggled. But this time, while not pouring in 27 points like Bass did, Stiemsma was crucial in stabilizing the struggling Celtics bench, which lost Ray Allen to the starting lineup. Stiemsma came in with 5:46 left in the first and immediately paid dividends.

He didn’t register a block until 1:23 left in the quarter. It was actually his motion off the ball and rolls to the basket that made a difference. Imagine that – Stiemsma making offensive moves and Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo looking for him on cuts to the basket. In his first two minutes, Stiemsma hit a lay-up off a screen-and-roll from Pierce. He dunked on a baseline cut to the basket on a pass from Rondo and he connected on a jumper from 14 feet on a feed from Rondo.

“Tonight was another opportunity, its been like that the whole season,” Stiemsma said. “For the most part I think I’ve taken advantage of it and tonight was just another one of those nights where got some looks early, got myself going and I was just happy we won at the end.”

“I just kind of went with the flow of the game, how it was going, if I missed my defense couple times early when we got those buckets, a layup and a dunk, it really slows the game down, really makes you feel a lot more comfortable.”

Stiemsma didn’t do much in the second half. He didn’t need to as Bass took a spear to the heart of the 76ers and the Celtics carved out a 101-85 win in Game 5. But it was Stiemsma who gave the Celtics some life early on when the Sixers were looking and hoping to pull away for their second straight win in Boston.

How good was Stiemsma? He made all five shots he attempted and finished with 10 points, three blocks and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

“Its playoff time so as long as we’re winning I’m happy,” Stiemsma said. “It’s tough to see us struggle, but at the same time I don’t feel like I was playing the same way I was at the end of the year, either. So it felt good to get out there and feel comfortable again.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Doc Rivers
Sean Williams gives a glimpse of the ‘competitor’ he can be 04.25.12 at 8:24 am ET
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Sean Williams was regarded as one of the best shot-blocking talents coming out of college when he declared for the 2007 NBA draft out of Boston College.

Tuesday, with no Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiemsma, the Celtics had to look somewhere for bench help to support Ryan Hollins, and it was the newly-acquired Williams who got the look-see.

In nearly 20 minutes, he scored five points, hauled down two rebounds, had two assists and yes, blocked two shots in Boston’s 78-66 ugly duckling win over the Heat at the Garden.

“It was OK,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Williams Tuesday. “He’s a shot blocker, doesn’t know a lot of our stuff. You know he was pressing early; him and Ryan they were pressing way too much early on. And I thought as they settled in, one thing I did like about Sean down the stretch: he’s competitive. And you can see that. He wasn’t going to back down to anything, got some great blocked shots, so that was good to see.”

So, back in Boston, Williams had the juices flowing in the first half, almost too much. Rivers could tell he was a bit nervous, and Williams didn’t deny that.

“Yes I was a little,” Williams said with a smile. “You go out there your first time you get tired real fast, your legs get down on you real quick, everything kind of shuts down on you so I caught my second wind I guess in the second half.”

Technically, Williams is eligible for Boston’s playoff roster since he waived by Dallas before the March 23 NBA deadline for rosters. Could he help off the bench as a shot-blocking force if Stiemsma’s sore feet act up?

“I’m just trying to come in here and help these guys reach their goals, getting that 18th ring, that’s all I’m focused on,” Williams said. “I’ll let Doc decide that. Its not up to me. I just come here every day and try to get better at what I do.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Boston College, Dallas Mavericks, Greg Stiemsma
Greg Stiemsma has ‘big plans’ for Celtics playoffs 04.19.12 at 2:56 am ET
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Who would have thought Greg Stiemsma would play a key playoff role on this Celtics team? (AP)

When the Celtics reflect on their 2011-12 season — which saw them capture a fifth Atlantic Division crown Wednesday night despite a variety of injuries throughout the campaign — they might ask themselves, “How did we pull that off?”

Sure, they benefited from a renaissance season from Kevin Garnett, enjoyed Rajon Rondo‘s streak of 23 straight games with 10 or more assists and saw a rather unexpected growth from Avery Bradley. Then there’s the ascension of Greg Stiemsma.

Stiemsma didn’t begin seeing extended playing time until the second half of the season. In January, he was buried on Doc Rivers‘ bench and only averaged just over seven minutes. That number sky-rocketed to 18 minutes in March, and then 20 in April, due to season-ending injuries to Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal.

Still, despite the uneven playing time, Stiemsma is averaging 1.56 blocks per game this season, which ranks him 15th in the entire league, and second among all rookies (The seventh overall pick in last year’s draft, Bismack Biyombo, ranks first). Not bad for a training camp invitee.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Greg Stiemsma, Paul Pierce
Foul trouble is finding Greg Stiemsma 04.09.12 at 10:38 am ET
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The Celtics need Greg Stiemsma to avoid foul trouble. (AP)

Late in the third quarter of the Celtics’ 103-79 win over Philadelphia on Sunday night, Greg Stiemsma picked up a foul when he tried to block the shot of Evan Turner. No big deal. Stiemsma fouls a lot. He commits seven fouls per 36 minutes, easily the highest rate on the team.

But the Celtics didn’t think he fouled. Doc Rivers argued the call. Kevin Garnett argued the call from his seat on the bench and Rajon Rondo ran across the court to get his two cents in with referee Tony Brothers. Their protests fell on deaf ears, as it turned out, because Stiemsma picked up two more fouls in the next 58 seconds, giving him three in less than a minute and five for the game.

“I think he’s playing great [defense],” Rivers said. “He’s a rookie, let’s just chalk it up to that. He feels like the picked-on one every night. I try to explain to all those guys, if it can go to three of your guys and you’re a ref, you’re going to say, ‘Should I give it to Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen? I’m going to give it to Stiemer.’ That’s how you feel a lot with him. No fun to be in that position, but that’s where he’s at.”

Rivers was being diplomatic, but now that Stiemsma has emerged as the top big man off the bench and a 20-minute a night player, the Celtics need to get the word out that the big rookie can play defense. More importantly, they need to get out the word that Stiemsma can play defense without fouling.

Also diplomatically, Stiemsma said it was on him.

“You’ve got to clean it up, plain and simple,” Stiemsma said. “You got to limit contact and be in the right position. That’s probably the biggest thing. If I’m out of position in any way it’s going to look like a foul, whether it is or not.”

Over the last seven games, Stiemsma has fouled out twice and been called for five fouls in three different games. In all, he’s been tagged for 30 fouls in those seven games, and that includes a game without a personal against the Spurs. He’s also blocked 15 shots in that time span, which is part of the issue.

“The instinct is if I’m going to be late, if I can get there a half-step quicker or maybe just jump a little more straight up,” he said. “Maybe not try to block everything, maybe just alter some stuff, get in the way sometimes. I’m really trying to work on positioning. With a guy like Kevin to show you the way, to really be in the right spot all the time, you couldn’t ask for a better teacher. Be in the right position, then the blocks will come.”

This has been a fairly incredible season for the 26-year-old veteran of Europe and the D-League. He made the team on a non-guaranteed contract and emerged as an unlikely bench savior at a time of great need. He’s gone from a curiosity to a legitimate player, and if the Celtics wind up playing Orlando, Indiana or Chicago in the playoffs, he’ll be an extremely important player. He just needs to be able to stay on the court.

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Irish Coffee: Doc Rivers molds Celtics bench … again 03.29.12 at 2:23 pm ET
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This version of the Celtics bench is somewhere between Version 3.0 and 893.7. I know because I’ve written each time Doc Rivers molds a different group into form, only to have that unit dismantled by injuries.

At the start of training camp, most expected Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox to fill out the 2011-12 Celtics nine-man rotation. Along the way, injuries to Dooling (knee, hip), Green (heart), Wilcox (heart) and Jermaine O’Neal (knee, wrist) forced Bass into the starting lineup and left a rookie (Greg Stiemsma), a sophomore (Avery Bradley) and a guy who cleared waivers (Mickael Pietrus) to fill out the reserve unit.

Sprinkle in a way-past-his-prime Sasha Pavlovic, a guy coming off spinal surgery (Marquis Daniels), two more rookies (JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore) and a little bit of Ryan Hollins, and you’d expect a big old bowl of poop soup that might lead Padma Lakshmi to ask Danny Ainge to kindly, “Please pack your knives and go.”

Somehow, someway, Rivers & Co. are making it work … again. Of course, it helps the veteran core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and — save for a pair of ankle sprains — Ray Allen has remained intact. Those guys can make a lot of players look better, but they also set an example that leads them to play better.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Greg Stiemsma, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Greg Stiemsma’s March to NBA legitimacy 03.26.12 at 1:55 pm ET
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As Austin Powers reminded us, the idiom of a steamroller as an overwhelming, irresistible force isn’t exactly an apt one. Rather, the plodding machine goes about its business, transforming a bumpy road into a smooth, consistent surface. And so goes the NBA life of Greg “The Stiemroller” Stiemsma.

Since amassing 13 points and seven rebounds during his first career start just six games into his rookie season, Stiemsma became somewhat of a cult hero in Boston — Brian Scalabrine 2.0, if you will — particularly after Tommy Heinsohn compared his shot-blocking prowess to the legendary Bill Russell.

Except, the “Scal-a-bri-ne” chants that so often enveloped the Garden came in the final moments of blowout victories by a championship-contending team, a Gino-esque symbol that signaled another opponent throwing in the proverbial white flag. The opposite is true for this group of Celtics, whose lack of depth in the frontcourt requires a nightly contribution from the 7-foot Stiemsma if they hope to accomplish anything in the playoffs.

“I don’t think there’s been one real moment that it kind of all clicked in, but this whole season has been about opportunities,” said Stiemsma. “Early on, even in the preseason and the training camp, I had certain opportunities, and I got to play well in those opportunities. So, I think early on it helped me establish just in my own head that, ‘All right, I can play at this level and proved that.’

“So, even if I have a bad game or have a bad possession, whatever it is, I can just get over it and not worry about the big picture of ‘Maybe I’m not cut out for this level,’” he added. “I think I’ve proved that I am.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Greg Stiemsma, Kevin Garnett, NBA
Fast Break: Celtics call curtains on Wizards of loss 03.25.12 at 8:19 pm ET
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Who needs Ray Allen when the Celtics have Avery Bradley?

Starting in place of the injured Allen (ankle), Bradley emerged as the unlikely offensive hero in a lopsided 88-76 victory against the lowly Wizards (11-37), tallying a career-high 23 points to help the C’s (26-22) climb back to within a game of the 76ers (27-21) for first place in the Atlantic Division (depending on how Philadelphia fared against the Spurs later Sunday night).

Held scoreless for the first quarter, Paul Pierce added 21 points and eight rebounds.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Avery Shuttlesworth: Bradley outscored the Wizards 15-12 all by himself in the first quarter. The same Avery Bradley who had only reached double digits six times all year and entered the game shooting 47 percent from the field. He set a season-high in scoring, and did it by totaling 13 points just 5:15 into the game. By first quarter’s end, Bradley had totaled 15 points on perfect 7-for-7 shooting.

Stieming up: Like Bradley, Greg Stiemsma also started perfect from the floor (4-for-4), totaling 10 points and seven boards by halftime — seemingly on his way to his first career double-double (although he recorded neither a point nor a board after the break). Raise your hand if you had Bradley and Stiemsma as the leading scorers for the Celtics at halftime of a game they led 53-34 through the first 24 minutes.

Stoppable: Whether it was good defense or bad offense — or more likely a combination of the two — the Wizards started an atrocious 3-for-25 from the field, as the Celtics built a 33-12 advantage only 3:20 into the second quarter. The team’s leading scorer, John Wall, missed his first five shots and didn’t score until the final minute of the first half. In fact, Washington didn’t match Bradley’s 15 first-quarter points for the game’s first 16 minutes.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Greg Stiemsma, NBA
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