|Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7′s||05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)
Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.
How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.
Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.
Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.
|Kevin Garnett on Game 7: ‘We’ve been here before’||at 1:06 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Garnett spoke about Philadelphia’s fans after a Game 5 win in Boston. On Wednesday, following an 82-75 loss to the Sixers in Game 6, Garnett made another proclamation of sorts for Game 7 Saturday in Boston.
“Win or go home,” Garnett said when asked about the team’s mindset heading into a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “Confidence is very high. We’ve been here before, very experienced. All out, nothing less.”
Indeed, the Celtics have played in five Game 7s in the Big Three era of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They are 3-2 in those previous five, beating Atlanta and Cleveland on their way to the title in 2008. They beat the Bulls in seven in the first round in 2009 before losing the next round to the Magic in Game 7 at the Garden. With a chance at an 18th banner in 2010, they lost Game 7 of the NBA finals in Los Angeles to the Lakers.
“Game 7s are what they are,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s nice we have it at home, but you have to go get it still. At the end of the day, you have to go play. You can’t just rely on that we’re at home. I do like that we have an extra day. I think that helps us a little bit.”
“It’s only a couple of us that have been in Game 7s, so we’re not going to go on the history,” Rajon Rondo added. “This is a new series, a new group of guys that are going head to head and it’s been back and forth the entire series so it’s going to be a tough one at home.”
Neither team has managed consecutive victories in the series as the Celtics and Sixers have alternated wins in the first six games. If the trend continues, the Celtics will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years.
The Celtics will play the Sixers on Saturday at TD Garden. If the Pacers force a seventh game against the Heat with a Game 6 win Thursday, the Celtics and Sixers tip off at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If Miami advances on Thursday, then the Celtics tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday.
|Celtics could use some close out power against Sixers in Game 6||05.23.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.
The Celtics lead the Sixers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series and need just one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years. The previous two times (2008, ’10) have ended with Celtics reaching the NBA finals.
But it won’t be easy if history is any indication. In the “Big 3″ era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, they are just 2-10 in potential closeout games on the road. They won the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit in Game 6 in 2008. They swept away the Knicks in the first round last year. So, well before Garnett’s comments about the Philly fans, tonight was going to be a monstrous task.
On the injury front, Bradley said at Wednesday morning’s team shootaround that he has felt little improvement in his ailing left shoulder and he will almost surely miss his second straight game of the series as Boston attempts to close out Philadelphia in Game 6 here at Wells Fargo Center.
“Right now, I’m not playing,” Bradley said, as he received treatment from strength trainer Bryan Doo. “I’m definitely frustrated but all I can do is keep getting stronger and keep improving for my team. I’m just trying to get it better. It’s been the same. I just have to keep trying to get is stronger everyday. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent for my time. I’m just taking it day-by-day right now.”
“He’s a little better, not much,” coach Doc Rivers added. “I don’t think he’ll play. He won’t do anything in shootaround for sure, and then do what we did the other night. We’ll let him warm up and see if he can warm up and then go from there.”
Bradley had the shoulder pop out early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday night and missed Game 5 with the injury. Allen started in his place in Game 5 and will start again for Bradley in Game 6 should Bradley — as expected — miss Game 6. There is some uncertainty regarding Allen and his ailing right ankle.
“It is what it is,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s a go right now. Obviously, if he can’t go, we’ll have to go somewhere else.”
Stiemsma also reaggravated his foot injury in the second half of the Game 5 win Monday. He was at shootaround Wednesday and is expected to be available off the bench.
“He’s good,” Rivers said. “The foot was aggravated again [Monday]. He says he feels much better today. He’ll definitely play. He’s the definite of the three guys.”
|Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett comments: ‘Have at it’||at 12:51 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Predictably, the Celtics were barraged by the Philadelphia media at their morning shootaround about comments from Kevin Garnett following Monday’s Game 5 win that put Boston on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals. Garnett, who lead the Celtics into Game 6 Wednesday night, called Philadelphia fans “fair-weather” and said they don’t match up anywhere close to Boston fans.
“I have no reaction to that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ll let you guys stir that pot. Have at it, have fun with it. I don’t think either fan base likes each other anyway so I don’t think it added anything. I said [Tuesday], ‘What are they going to do? Hate us more?’ So, what’s the difference?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Ray Allen added. “You have to ask [Garnett] that question. I don’t have any reaction because I don’t know anything about it.”
Wednesday morning, John Mitchell – a Philadelphia columnist – replied to Garnett’s comments by labeling Boston fans as “bigoted” in light of the incident after the Capitals eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 at the Garden on a goal by Joel Ward, a black player for Washington. Mitchell invoked the days of Bill Russell, the Celtics legend who had serious issues with Boston, even when he was playing and winning championships in the city.
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.”
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.
|Veteran Celtics win with old reliable: Defense||05.22.12 at 1:50 pm ET|
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.”