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Irish Coffee: 5 questions Celtics must solve in Game 6 05.09.12 at 2:04 pm ET
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In many ways, the Game 5 loss was simply a string of statistical Celtics anomalies that favored the Hawks.

  • After making 21-of-82 treys in Games 1-4 (25.6%), The Hawks shot 7-of-16 from 3-point range (43.8%).
  • The Hawks committed four more turnovers (18-14), but the Celtics scored four fewer points off them (21-25).
  • After the Celtics kept pace on the glass in Games 1-4 (174-178), the Hawks won the Game 5 battle, 41-33.
  • Paul Pierce air-balled a would-be go-ahead 20-footer with 18 seconds remaining.
  • Rajon Rondo lost his sure handle and failed to deliver a pass while time expired.

Of course, there are reasons for those anomalies, so how must the Celtics adjust to avoid a Game 7 on the road?

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Avery Bradley
Josh Smith: Celtics ‘running plays way more harder’ 05.07.12 at 12:58 am ET
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After the Celtics and Hawks were separated by just four points through the first three games of their series, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce & Co. put a 22-point whooping on Atlanta, and it wasn’t even that close.

The Celtics led by as many as 37 points, taking a 3-1 series lead with a chance to end the series on Tuesday.

“They shot the mess out of it tonight,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who returned from the left knee injury that kept him out of Game 3. “I’m watching it and being real observant when I’m on the bench. They’re just running the plays way more harder than we are. Whatever play is called, you know, Ray Allen is running off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open, the bigs are setting screens, getting the guards open.

“We have to try to duplicate what they do,” added Smith. “We have to try to get open. They’re trying so hard for Joe [Johnson] not to catch the ball. They’re being real physical with him, so we have to be able to match their physicality and be able to try to return the favor a little bit, see if they like it and stop being so passive.”

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Read More: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Joe Johnson
Three reasons the Celtics should be wary 05.03.12 at 12:06 am ET
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The Celtics need Kevin Garnett to get going in Game 3. (AP)

Here’s how fast things can change in the playoffs. With seven minutes left in the third quarter of Tuesday’s Game 2, the Celtics were down 11 points on the road and in danger of going down 2-0 in their first round series with the Hawks. Rajon Rondo was at the team hotel serving his suspension. Ray Allen was at the end of the bench in a suit, trying to console his replacement Mickael Pietrus, who had been benched.

They had not made a single 3-pointer in the series and Paul Pierce was in the midst of a 2-for-11 stretch after a hot start. Then Keyon Dooling finally broke through from behind the arc, Pierce went supernova and the defense grounded the Hawks into fine powder.

Now, the Celtics are coming back to Boston with a split and facing a Hawks team that may be without forward Josh Smith, who strained his left patella ligament and is listed as “doubtful” for Friday’s Game 3. They have two days to rest between games, a nice scheduling gift from the league, and if they take care of business at the Garden where they posted the third-best home record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics could be in full command of this series by the end of the weekend.

Oh, and the top-seeded Bulls were blown out by Philadelphia in their first game without Derrick Rose.

But that’s getting way ahead of things.

The Celtics and Hawks have played five games this season, including the playoffs, and all five have been tight, tense affairs with the Hawks scoring 421 points to Boston’s 419. If Smith is out for an extended period of time, that changes the equation dramatically, but it’s not as if the C’s don’t have injury concerns of their own. From the beginning, this promised to be a close series and the two games have lived up to that promise.

Here’s three reasons why it’s far from over: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
How did the Celtics lose Game 1? We’ll count the ways 04.30.12 at 1:35 am ET
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Kevin Garnett had a tough first half against the Hawks. (AP)

ATLANTA — Well before Rajon Rondo lost his cool, the damage had been done to the Celtics in their playoff opener against the Hawks. It started in the first quarter when Atlanta raced to a 20-6 lead before six minutes had gone off the clock. It continued in the next 42 minutes, when they couldn’t make shots and every offensive possession carried with it an eerie reminder of the first half of the season.

“I don’t know if we kind of eased into the game,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s hard to tell. We establish ourselves early defensively. We definitely didn’t do that. They got every loose ball. They got every 3-point shot. They got everything they wanted in the first, and then it was like in a boxing match. You sit there and you’ve got your guard up, then you take your guard down, you take a punch and you’re like, Ok, we’re in a fight. We’ve got to realize we’re in a fight from the jump.”

The Celtics realized that too late, and after an 83-74 loss they now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to make up ground without homecourt advantage to sustain them. Over the final three quarters, the Celtics actually outscored Atlanta, 56-52, playing the kind of grimy, sludge-ball everyone expected in this series.

“This is a long series,” Pierce said. “You have to win four games and we just have to learn from our mistakes. Learn from the first quarter, learn from what we did better in the second and third quarters, and we’ve got to learn to keep our composure.”

It will be much harder if Rondo is suspended (click here for more on that story), but the blueprint is there. Assuming they can shoot better than 39 percent, there’s no reason they can’t get back into the series. Still, there’s a lot to work on between now and Tuesday’s Game 2.

Among the areas that need improvement:

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
Avery Bradley is ready for the playoffs 04.27.12 at 1:18 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

WALTHAM — When Chris Wilcox saw Avery Bradley on Thursday he gave him a big smile. “I told you your time would come,” Wilcox said.

Bradley’s time is now. His play in the second half of the season sparked a resurgence that helped the Celtics compile a 24-10 record after the All-Star break. With Bradley in the starting lineup, the Celtics were more than 18 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions, and they went from a good defensive team to downright scary.

It’s been quite a rise for the 21-year-old , who played only 162 minutes as a rookie and didn’t see the court at all in the postseason. “Yeah, it was frustrating but like I said I just took it as a learning experience,” Bradley said. “This year I’m going to be ready.”

Bradley quickly earned his teammates’ confidence. His ability to cut backdoor opened up new possibilities for their offense and his rapidly-improving jump shot enabled him to average more than 15 points per game in April. Bradley knocked down 48 percent of his attempts from 16-23 feet and he shot over 50 percent behind the arc in April.

“Avery’s proved more than enough,” Kevin Garnett said. “And I think he’s definitely more than ready.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Joe Johnson,
Fast Break: How the Hawks swept the Celtics 01.29.10 at 10:24 pm ET
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The inability to play 48 minutes of basketball has been detrimental to the Celtics this season. But on Friday, they had difficulty playing just 12. The C’s jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the first but  failed to maintain the advantage. The Hawks quickly erased their deficit, kicked up their energy, and controlled the rest of the game.

In the end, the Celtics were outscored 29-8 on fastbreak points. The combination of the Hawks’ athleticism and long-range shooting dealt the Celtics a 100-91 loss on Friday in Atlanta. (Recap.) The Hawks completed a 4-0 sweep of the regular season series.

Turning Point: The C’s were up by nine with 3:40 to go in the first quarter until the Hawks picked up their energy and began slicing away at the lead. When Jamal Crawford drained a halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the quarter, the Celtics found themselves trailing by one. The shift in momentum set the tone for the rest of the game.

Player of the Game: Paul Pierce scored a game-high 35 points (11-15 FG, 12-13 FT) for the Celtics in the losing effort. On Friday, though, it was a different player who took over in the fourth. Joe Johnson scored 16 points in the fourth alone (27 for the game), and his three-pointer in the face of Pierce with a minute to go iced the win.

- The Celtics’ second unit hurt their team tonight. Not only were they unable to prevent the Hawks from adding to their lead early in the second quarter, but they also made it difficult for Doc Rivers to give his starters a rest. The Celtics bench was outscored 44-18.

- Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, and Zaza Pachulia were all whistled for technical fouls. Josh Smith was called for a flagrant against Perkins.

- The Celtics have lost two in a row, and dropped to 4-5 in back-to-back games. They will return to Boston to face the Lakers on Sunday.

Read More: Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce,
Playoffs? Is it the playoffs? 11.12.08 at 5:53 pm ET
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Did you hear that?

It’s the boos resonating from the crowd on Mike Bibby’s first possession.

There was a postseason atmosphere before tip-off which was only heightened by Kevin Garnett’s encouragement of the crowd. Only this time, the Hawks have come out swinging first. Joe Johnson is still out to beat the Celtics on the offensive end and is leading his team to an early lead.

Doc Rivers called a timeout down 17-11 with six minutes to go in the first quarter. Yes, another first quarter deficit. This is becoming the norm for the Cs, echoing Rivers comments of inconsistency from the starting five.

So far Monday’s hero Paul Pierce is scoreless. Let’s see if the Celtics can get it going …

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Joe Johnson
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