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Fast Break: Brandon Bass lands Celtics a Game 5 win 05.21.12 at 9:26 pm ET
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In the aftermath of the Game 4 collapse, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he made a mistake not playing Brandon Bass more down the stretch against a smaller 76ers lineup. Yet, Rivers still didn’t play Bass in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 5, either.

That’s because Bass had already erupted for 18 of his playoff career-high 27 points in the third quarter, igniting a 101-85 blowout win that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead heading back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday.

Kevin Garnett (20 points, 6 rebounds), Paul Pierce (16 points), Rajon Rondo (13 points, 14 assists) and Greg Stiemsma (10 points) all reached double figures as well in the C’s victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Breakout Bass: After exceeding 15 points in 18 games during the regular season, Bass had yet to eclipse that mark in the playoffs. And Rivers didn’t like it, imploring No Pass Bass to earn his nickname and take the open shot when it’s there. Bass responded in Game 5, scoring 18 of the C’s 28 points in the third quarter and helping turn a 50-47 halftime deficit into a 75-66 lead after 36 minutes of action. He had his new career playoff scoring high before the fourth quarter.

Stinkin’ Badger: After the Celtics introduced a steamboat whistle to announce Greg Stiemsma‘s entrance into Game 1, the Wisconsin native came into Monday’s game with two points on 1-of-3 shooting for the series. Without the whistle intro in Game 5, Stiemsma erupted for eight points on 4-of-4 shooting — in his first 5:46 of action. He made three straight baskets midway through the first quarter on his way to eight of the C’s 23 points in the opening 12 minutes.

Match game: Along with Garnett, who enjoyed another stellar playoff game in this Back to the Future postseason of his, and a dash of Ryan Hollins, Bass and Stiemsma helped neutralize Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young, who combined for 19 boards off the bench in Game 4. That number dropped to six between them in Monday night’s blowout victory.

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Doc Rivers: ‘We don’t think old’ 05.18.12 at 7:01 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Age is an attitude. And with these Celtics it’s a mindset that has served them incredibly well since they started 15-17.

Doc Rivers knew that, bad record or not, he would have to manage off days and game days much differently and more aggressively in terms of rest than he had in the past.

It paid off in a 24-10 finish to the season and a six-game win over the younger Hawks in the first round. They headed into Game 4 Friday with a 2-1 lead over the younger and more athletic Sixers. What’s the key?

“We don’t think old,” Rivers said in the hours leading up to Game 4. “We are what we are. We do know that. The rest is important for us but I think the rest is important for everybody. I don’t think it matters what age you are. Athletes require recovery. We understand that. We like to call it experience.”

Rivers said he’s been more aggressive in giving the team days off, like Thursday, the only off-day between Games 3 and 4.

“It forces you to,” Rivers said. “If we were younger, maybe we would do more. I don’t know if it helps you but it forces you to do things at times you wouldn’t do. We definitely take more days off this year probably than we ever have. I think the schedule and who we are has forced that action. Fortunately, most of the time, we have the common sense to do it.

“When we don’t practice guys still work on their games. We didn’t do anything [Thursday] but Kevin was over here shooting. Especially veterans, more than young guys, understand what they need to do to keep them in rhythm. I think young guys, days off are bad because I don’t think they don’t get that. I don’t think they understand. They think a day off is a day off. They don’t understand what what gets them to the next day or the next game.”

But Rivers doesn’t have that same concern with guys like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

“A lot of veteran guys, if they need a day off, they take it off,” Rivers said. “Ray rarely takes a day off. He’s running somewhere, down the street, riding a bike. Paul was on the treadmill yesterday at the hotel. But they have the experience and that’s an advantage for them.”

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Kevin Garnett and Celtics look to impose their will at 8:49 am ET
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We didn’t go to him. It’s plain and simple. My thought: we never established the post. I thought the second unit again established the post in the one stretch in the fourth quarter. - Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett after Game 2 loss to Sixers.

PHILADELPHIA — When Doc Rivers was asked about Kevin Garnett not getting enough shots in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Rivers sent out of his classic subliminal messages to his team.

Impose your will.

Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all got the message loud and clear and routed the Sixers, 107-91, in Game 3. But to Garnett, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds, the key to success was about more than just wanting it more.

“It’s partially that, exerting your will over a team is big,” Garnett said. “But cutting down on mistakes, sticking to game plan, not making too many changes. Cutting down on mental mistakes is really what makes a series. The team that keeps turnovers down, most aggressive, imposes their will all those things factor. Every time I’ve been in a tough series, those things have been major factors. We just have to continue what we did in [Game 3], not only impose our will, stay defensively sound and like Paul said, take that first punch and be able to return it.”

Pierce and Garnett stood outside their team hotel on Thursday and were again asked if there’s the feeling that this is the final chance for the team to make a championship run.

“I think we realized that from Day 1 when we came in for preseason, training camp,” Pierce said. “I think the last couple of years we’ve been feeling like that. The [motivation] is trying to win another championship, regardless is this is going to be our last time together. KG in the last year of his contract, Ray in the last year of his contract, trade speculation that’s been going on to [Danny Ainge] talking about rebuilding. There’s definitely a renewed sense of urgency.”

“What he said,” Garnett joked when asked to offer additional comment. “The focus is the playoffs. I really haven’t given it much thought, to be honest. But I’m definitely aware of it. You give it some type of thought but at this point right now, it’s the playoffs.”

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Irish Coffee: Philly Fat Albert, the truffle shuffle and five Celtics statistics you didn’t know 05.17.12 at 11:03 am ET
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Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Celtics’ Game 3 dismantling of the Sixers was their ability to make 22-of-28 free throws — including 11-of-14 from a Paul Pierce determined to get his points any way possible — in the face of true adversity: Philly Fat Albert doing the truffle shuffle (h/t @GethinCoolbaugh).

“Paul is just a grinder,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters in Philadelphia after his team’s most complete performance of the playoffs, a 107-91 victory that gave his team a 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinals lead. “He really is. You look at him at times and you wonder, ‘How is this guy getting open?’ He just has great fundamentals. He never does it with speed. He just knows how to play basketball.

“He’s a throwback guy,” added Rivers. “He just knows how to play basketball. We jokingly call him our ‘professional scorer,’ and that’s what he is in a lot of ways. … I think guys like Paul and the Kobe [Bryants], they have something in their minds that just makes them who they are.”

Even if it means staring at 400 pounds of Philly flesh full of cheesesteaks and pretzels. (Well, there is a lot of culture there.) In all seriousness, here’s five stats that make the C’s performance that much more remarkable.

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Celtics look to get Paul Pierce open 05.16.12 at 12:31 pm ET
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The Celtics are going to try to find different ways to get Paul Pierce open in Game 3. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA — The Celtics have had a hard time getting Paul Pierce open for shots in the first two games of their series with the 76ers. Part of that can be attributed to Pierce’s sprained knee. A lot of it can be attributed to Andre Iguodala’s defense. Whatever the reason, the Celtics are going to try to make adjustments for Wednesday night’s Game 3.

“We’re not sure where those spots are yet,” Doc Rivers said. “Usually with Paul, the elbow isos are great, but right now he can’t get away from anybody with his leg. We’re going to go to more pin-downs for him and do different things. You usually didn’t have to get a body off of him. He can usually shake the body on his own. I think now we have to use him a lot like Ray [Allen] and bring him off screens.”

Pierce was 2-for-9 in Game 2 and is just 5-for-20 in the series. Rivers added that he may try to get more post-up looks for Pierce to try to get him going.

Asked about the severity of Pierce’s injury, Rivers said, “I don’t do percentages. I don’t think Iguodala cares what percentage he is and that’s what counts. When he’s on the floor he’s 100 percent and that’s how we play our guys, that’s how we view it. Whether he is or isn’t really doesn’t matter. We have to get 100 percent out of him of what he has, that’s what we have to do.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Irish Coffee: The day a nobody stopped Kevin Garnett 05.15.12 at 1:35 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett was coming off a two-game stretch in which he totaled 57 points on 39 shots, 25 rebounds and eight blocks while putting the finishing touches on the Hawks and painting a new masterpiece agains the 76ers, so why did the Celtics wait until it was too late to get their center involved again?

“Maybe we weren’t a smart team or a well-coached team, because that was obviously the game plan to go there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show. “We were in transition a lot and never really got into our sets. That happens in games. You see it all the time, but it just took too long to get into it. It took too long to establish it. We used timeouts to get into it — we just never did.”

Garnett made his first two shots, an 11-footer 17 seconds in and a 16-footer 2:48 into the first quarter, capping the C’s 5-for-5 shooting stretch that gave them an 11-3 start. And they turned to him once over the next 26:54.

“KG’s an unselfish player,” said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who recorded 13 assists, but only two to Garnett — including one on the meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer that resulted in the 82-81 final score. “He could’ve taken a lot more shots than he did, but he passed up his shots to get the assist or made the hockey pass. In the fourth quarter, over the stretch, when KG had it going, we just kept feeding him.”

As if flipping a switch, the Celtics leaned on Garnett in the fourth quarter. He made 5-of-7 shots and scored 11 of his 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists, while playing the final 12 minutes. In the span of a minute midway through the quarter, he made an 18-foot jumper to cut the deficit to two on one end; then defended Jrue Holiday, altered a Louis Williams shot and grabbed the rebound on the other; and tied the game 65-65 on a turnaround in the lane back on the offensive end. In other words, he was everywhere.

“I don’t call the plays,” said Garnett. “Doc and Rondo are trying to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’s what it is. Whatever he asked me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.”

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Kevin Garnett: ‘Let the players decide the game’ at 1:07 am ET
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Kevin Garnett set a moving screen. He knows it. You know it. And referee Michael Smith knows it.

The only possible question is whether Smith should have called Garnett for it, what with 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics trailing by three and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on the line.

“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game,” said Garnett, whose illegal pick overshadowed an inspired fourth quarter in the 82-81 loss, “but if he felt like that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”

It’s the kind of play that can and should be argued at bars all over Boston. Those wearing green-colored glasses swear it should have never been called — not then, when a whistle sways a conference semifinals series.

“I wasn’t fond of it. At all,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team travels to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday. “You know, I think Kevin got called for three off-the-ball offensive fouls. So clearly it looked like they were looking for it all night and they got three of them. If you’re going to tell me Kevin was the only one moving in picks tonight, then I’ll live with that. He clearly was not the only one, but he was the one who got the calls tonight.”

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