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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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Philly writer points to Boston fans’ bigotry in response to Kevin Garnett at 10:16 am ET
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After Kevin Garnett called 76ers fans “fair-weather” following a Celtics victory on Monday night, a Philadelphia Inquirer sports writer responded by questioning Boston fans’ behavior toward black players.

The piece, by writer John Mitchell, who is black, mentioned incidents of Boston fans attacking Joel Ward and Celtics great Bill Russell as evidence for the observations, saying it’s better to be a fair-weather fan than a bigoted one.

Wrote Mitchell: You think we’re the fair weather type, do you? Ok, to that I say that it’s better to be fair weather than to be anything remotely akin the cretins that unleashed their racist vitriol via Twitter upon Washington Capitals defenseman Joel Ward, a Black hockey player, last month after he eliminated Boston’s Bruins from the NHL playoffs with an overtime goal.

Added Mitchell: So my advice to you, KG, is that you’re better off winning this series, the next one and then the next. Because if you let those stalwart fans down, who knows what they’ll unleash on you. We do know what they are capable of.

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Veteran Celtics win with old reliable: Defense 05.22.12 at 1:50 pm ET
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As 76ers center Spencer Hawes discovered Monday night, the Celtics can be intimidating when playing their usual solid team defense. (AP)

In the new Big Three era, when the moon is large, the food is prepared properly, and whatever other wacky Kevin Garnett-ism you want to use to describe the Celtics playing to their potential, there has been one constant. If unsure of the answer, let Mickael Pietrus spell it out for you:

“D-E-F-E-N-S-E,” Pietrus said. “That’s the key. When offensively things aren’t going well, you can always count on everybody to play great defense. That’s our coach’s mentality. That’s the Celtics’ mentality.”

The Celtics have finished in the top five in points allowed every year since the 2007-08 season. This year has been no different. During the regular season opponents scored 89.3 points per game against the C’s, good for second-fewest in the NBA. Through 11 games of the playoffs, Boston has allowed just 84.9 points per game. But in the first half of the pivotal Game 5 Monday night, the Celtics struggled to execute defensively and the 76ers took advantage, shooting 54.8 percent while taking a three-point lead at halftime.

“Understanding what got us here,” Garnett said about the keys to the Celtics’ success. “Riding out our defense. I think when we get erratic and we get away from being disciplined defensively, it makes it hard on us. When we stick to our principles and our schemes, it’s hard to score on us.”

What transpired over the course of the second half proved Garnett is absolutely right. The Celtics regained some semblance of control in a wildly unpredictable series with their 101-85 victory. Some analysts will point to the Celtics getting to the free throw line 17 more times than the Sixers; others will speak about Brandon Bass outscoring the entire Philly team, 18-16, in the third quarter. And those are valid reasons why Boston prevailed, but they also are anomalies.

However, the C’s defense binding together and holding the 76ers to just 35 second-half points on 37.1 percent shooting is hardly surprising. As Garnett said, it is what Boston is built on. The C’s active hands served as a catalyst to completely reverse the feel of the game. In the third quarter alone, the Sixers had six turnovers and the Celtics had four steals, turning what had been a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter. From that point on, the Celtics never looked back.

“It’s due to their adjustments,” Elton Brand said. “The first two games they were playing our pick and roll and our drag screens a certain way, now they are playing it a different way, and it doesn’t always bode well for us to execute. We’ve been turning the ball over. They’re long and athletic, so we’ve been going into those traps.”

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Paul Pierce, Celtics have reason to be very desperate and bring ‘hard hats’ in Game 6 at 12:47 pm ET
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In his days in Boston, Paul Pierce has always stormed off the court, pumping his fist, waving a towel or firing headbands into the crowd following an emotional and significant win like the one the Celtics pulled out of their hats Monday night against the Sixers.

But in the final moments of Boston’s 101-85 win over Philadelphia that put them one game away from the Eastern Conference finals, there was a different look on Pierce’s face – one of business not yet finished.

There was obviously something else that was likely running through his mind: “If only we didn’t blow Game 4.”

If the Celtics had held on to their 18-point lead in the third quarter last Friday in Philly, they would have at least the next two days completely off to rest their weary bodies. But instead, they have to finish business on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center at the corner of Broad and Pattison in South Philadelphia.

“We know how tough the playoffs are, there’s nothing easy about the playoffs,” Pierce said afterward. “We know there’s a long journey to get to where we need to go. We understand how difficult it is, nothing’s easy.”

And it certainly won’t be easy on Wednesday. Yes, the Celtics are the smarter, more disciplined team. They’ve even shown to be the tougher team under pressure, like Monday night. But the Sixers – with all due respect to Kevin Garnett – represent something inherent in all Philadelphians – they’re street fighters. That’s exactly what Pierce is expecting when he steps onto the court Wednesday.

“You’ve got a very resilient Philadelphia group who just won’t go away,” Pierce said. “I take my hat off to them, they are one of the better teams we even played in the last few years because of their fight, and they got great coaches and their players are mentally tough. We know they’re not going to go away so we’ve got to have our hard hats on for the next game, Game 6, to try to put ‘em away.”

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Mike Gorman on D&C: ‘I’ve never been around a more unpredictable team’ at 10:20 am ET
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Mike Gorman

Longtime Celtics broadcaster Mike Gorman joined the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning to discuss the latest on the Celtics in the wake of their Game 5 victory over the 76ers Monday night.

The personality of the Celtics has been a hot topic of discussion this postseason — mainly their inconsistency. Gorman has been left perplexed and couldn’t offer a concrete answer to the team’s unpredictability.

“I’ve never been around a more unpredictable team. I have no idea what they’re going to do from one quarter to another let alone what they’re going to do from one game to another,” Gorman said, adding: “In the 30-plus years that I’ve been [broadcasting], I’m as perplexed by this team as I’ve been by any in terms of how I think they’re going to play.

“They could go into Philly tomorrow night and win by 18 or lose by 18, and neither one would surprise me.”

One game after a Game 4 collapse in which they blew an 18-point lead, the Celtics seemed to start out flat in the first half before kicking into gear in the second half and ultimately blowing out the 76ers behind a standout performance from Brandon Bass.

“The Celtics were flat last night, I don’t there’s any question about that,” Gorman said. “I sent a text to Doc [Rivers] when I was driving home last night saying, ‘I don’t know what the hell you said at halftime, but you have to save that.’ And he sent me back, ‘I’m not sure what I said either, but it worked.’

“That’s been a problem with this team all year long and will continue to be a problem. They’re capable of beating anybody or losing to anybody on a given night.”

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Kevin Garnett: Philadelphia’s ‘got fair-weather fans’ at 1:04 am ET
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For 24 minutes of Game 5, the Celtics looked lazy, old, disinterested and whatever other adjective you want to use to describe a team that appeared resigned to the fact that Father Time wasn’t willing to cooperate and the Eastern Conference semifinals were slipping away to the younger, fresher legs of the 76ers.

Whatever they felt, the hushed Garden crowd sensed it, too. And then the third quarter happened.

Whether it was the ridiculous offensive foul call on Kevin Garnett against Spencer Hawes four minutes after halftime that elicited chants of “bull[stuff], bull[stuff]” or the barrage of Brandon Bass buckets, the Celtics awoke a Boston crowd that sleepwalked through the first half. Or was it the other way around?

“This goddamned crowd here sparks you,” said Garnett (20 points, 8-of-17 FG). “It doesn’t take much here, man. … When speaking about this crowd, man, it’s like plugging in. They’re enthused from 48 minutes on, from the tip on, so I can’t see the difference between minute from minute. I feel like every minute I look up, I see my family, I see people yelling, I see the drunk, fat guy. I can decipher one from the other. This crowd is ridiculous, man. I love it.”

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Greg Stiemsma: Just ‘another opportunity’ but this time the Steamer shines 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.”

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