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Doing Time: the cost of Game 3′s victory 05.05.12 at 2:02 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have played major minutes in the Celtics' first round series with Atlanta. (AP)

Doc Rivers knows he has a veteran squad. He knows managing his team’s minutes is a priority night-in and night-out. But he also knows he is best suited to play a short seven-man rotation. Limiting minutes becomes difficult when relying on so few players, especially as playoff games hang in the balance.

Weighing the value of rest versus victories is a complicated issue during the regular season, but when an opening to secure a playoff win appeared in Game 3 Friday night, Rivers rolled the dice.

“Sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble, ” Rivers said. “You think maybe we can get this, put this away, and get guys out.”

The coach’s gamble backfired and minutes have gone from a concern to a dilemma. Through the first two games of the series in Atlanta, Paul Pierce was averaging 42 minutes and Kevin Garnett logged 4o minutes in each contest as well. Ray Allen entered Game 3 having not seen action in a competitive game in 24 days due to an ankle injury, which will require surgery this offseason.

On Friday, Pierce played 47, Garnett logged 42 and Allen checked in with a whopping 36 minutes. Rivers is giving is team Saturday off, “Because they’re exhausted,” he said. “And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something. He would shoot or something. So, that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”

Leading by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and up 80-72 with less than three minutes remaining, the Celtics let the Hawks back in the game.

“I thought we got into the habit of milking the clock,” Rivers said. “And you just can’t do that. You can do that when the other team has two bigs, but when the other team has five guards on the floor, you absolutely can’t do that. And we did that.

The Celtics may have made Friday night’s game harder than it needed to be, but Hawks coach Larry Drew had to deal with the same problem as Rivers. Atlanta was without Josh Smith on Friday night, and have also been missing Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford throughout the whole series.

“We played a lot of minutes – our starters – but they did as well,” Rajon Rondo said. “So, it’s a mental effort. You can’t get tired. Down the stretch, you have to execute offensively and defensively. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight, even though we struggled to score the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.”

Those struggles led to overtime and an extra five minutes of basketball.

“Playoffs are hard,” Pierce said. “Sometimes coaches are going to ask a lot from you. I went the whole distance again today in the second half, but it proved worth it. We were able to get the win and that’s all that matters.”

Pierce is right, results are all that matter, but the Celtics would be better-served to hit on Rivers’ gambles rather then bust.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Why Doc Rivers is looking to make life easier for Kevin Garnett 05.03.12 at 2:54 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics spent most of their 75-minute practice session Thursday working on half-court set offense.

Why?

Well, two reasons.

If indeed Ray Allen is healthy enough to return, then they’re going to need his jump shot and Doc Rivers wants his team to remember how to get him his shots. But secondly, and maybe more importantly, with or without Allen, the Celtics need to do a better job of freeing up space for Kevin Garnett, who has had precious little of it in the first two games against the Hawks.

If Allen can play, that will help Garnett. But if he can’t the Celtics need to find another scorer besides Paul Pierce to help out so both Atlanta guards aren’t doubling down in the paint and guarding Garnett.

“We just need a scorer,” Rivers said before Thursday’s practice. “We have to space the floor. They’re killing us with their help [defense]. They just decided without Ray on the floor, they’re just going to swarm everybody and you’re going to have to find someone.”

Rivers said he’s not worried about Garnett’s jumper. He’s more alarmed that he has made just 13-of-32 field goal attempts in the first two games. There has to be help for KG going forward.

“We have to,” Rivers said. “The jumper is going to come. I’m not worried about that. But we have to establish him more. We have to get bodies off of him. They’re bumping him around, knocking him around. We have to do a better job as a staff, do a better job of trying to get bodies off of him and giving him some room.

“Our spacing is horrendous for him. Clearly without Ray, they’re using both guards to just sit in the paint. And we have to do a better of creating space. It’s tough when you have two guys they’re just not guarding. That makes it difficult on Kevin. It reminds me of Perk and Rondo early on, and that was a big and guard. Now, it’s two guards [they're using] and they’re quick, and they can poke and jab at the ball. We have to figure out something because we have to get something down low.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Irish Coffee: How Hawks play without Josh Smith at 1:56 pm ET
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If the Hawks are forced to play Game 3 without forward Josh Smith, as expected, or even with him in a limited capacity, they’ll enter new territory this season. His 2,329 minutes rank ninth in the NBA this season, and he’s one of the 7.5 percent of players who played all 66 games of this lockout-shortened year.

While the Hawks listed Smith as day-to-day with a strained left knee, the inflammation as a result of patellar tendinitis leaves him doubtful for Friday night’s game in Boston, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“It’s getting better and better each and every day,” said Smith via the AJC’s Michael Cunningham on Twitter. “I will see how it feels at shootaround [Friday]. “I have a high threshold for pain. If I feel like I can go a little bit I’m going to step out on the floor. At shootaround I will probably try to go a little bit harder than normal and see how it feels.”

Unlike the Celtics, who have become accustomed to playing without Ray Allen and a host of others all season long, the Hawks simply aren’t used to playing without Smith, Al Horford (torn pectoral) and Zaza Pachulia (strained left foot). And there are less obvious ramifications beyond that fact.

Smith’s usage rate (defined as the percentage of offensive possessions used by a player during his floor time) of 28.1 percent is the highest on the Hawks and ranks behind only Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki and DeMarcus Cousins among the league’s regular bigs. In other words, Atlanta’s offense runs through Smith.

He can score spotting up, posting up, in transition and (lord knows) in isolation. You name it, he does it. As Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe noted, “the Hawks have averaged about 104 points per 100 possessions when Smith plays, a borderline top-five mark, and a putrid 97 points per 100 possessions when he sits.” In their two playoff games, Atlanta has scored 90.6 points per 100 possessions with Smith, a stat that only stands to get worse.

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Ivan Johnson Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Three reasons the Celtics should be wary 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 Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Donny Marshall on M&M: ‘Would not surprise me’ if Rajon Rondo suspended two games 04.30.12 at 2:24 pm ET
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After what could be aptly called an interesting Game 1 loss for the Celtics Sunday night, CSNNE analyst Donny Marshall joined Mut & Merloni to discuss all things surrounding the Celtics’ 83-74 loss to the Hawks.

Understandably, no topic was given more weight than the ejection of Rajon Rondo for making contact with official Marc Davis and, specifically, the potential fallout for Rondo’s actions. Marshall said that Rondo will definitely be suspended, and while it should only be for one game, it may end up being for two.

“Any contact you make with an official, it means you’re going to be suspended a game,” Marshall said. “And I’ll take it one step further — I wouldn’t be surprised if the NBA says, ‘You know what? We’re going to suspend you two games.’

David Stern is not one of those guys who gives you the benefit of the doubt. It would not surprise me if it were two games. I hope it’s just one, it should only be one, but in the past David Stern has come down.”

While Rondo’s actions certainly could be detrimental to the Celtics’ success going forward, Marshall said that Rondo’s teammates would be best served to be supportive of him.

“You know as a teammate, especially at that level, you don’t overreact to what your teammates do,” Marshall said. “You step back and say, ‘Look, what would I have done? Would I have reacted that way?’ Guys have emotions and you can’t judge your teammates based off one emotional mistake.

“Rondo has given so much to that team and done such a great job of leading that team sometimes when they’ve been down guys. You can’t overreact because the last thing you want is for that incident to blow into something bigger and now it become a personal thing in that locker room.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, David Stern, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
How did the Celtics lose Game 1? We’ll count the ways 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 Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
Video chronicles Rajon Rondo’s tip-off trickery 04.27.12 at 4:23 pm ET
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Even for something as routine and commonplace as the opening tip of a basketball game, Rajon Rondo finds his way to add his own sense of flair and style to it.

It’s likely something that anyone who closely follows the Celtics has noticed, but someone took it upon themselves to make a video compilation complete with every instance in which Rondo managed to do something interesting with the ball after receiving the tip-off.

Included in the video are highlights such as Rondo getting the ball on a hike from Kevin Garnett multiple times, as well as a few instances in which Rondo makes a soccer play and heads the ball forward after getting it.

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