|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.”
|Paul Pierce, Celtics have reason to be very desperate and bring ‘hard hats’ in Game 6||at 12:47 pm ET|
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.”
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.”
|Kevin Garnett: Philadelphia’s ‘got fair-weather fans’||at 1:04 am ET|
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.”
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.’
|Fast Break: Brandon Bass lands Celtics a Game 5 win||05.21.12 at 9:26 pm ET|
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.
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.
|Doc Rivers: ‘We don’t think old’||05.18.12 at 7:01 pm ET|
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.”
“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.”