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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
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
Three reasons the Celtics should be wary at 12:06 am ET
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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
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.

‘€œAny 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
How did the Celtics lose Game 1? We’ll count the ways at 1:35 am ET
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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
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.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo,
Kevin Garnett and Josh Smith: The non-center matchup at 3:20 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Kevin Garnett hates being a center. He’s said it since he moved to the position after the All-Star break and he said it again on Thursday night after the Celtics beat the Bucks.

“I hate the five spot,” Garnett said, as if on autopilot. “You put me anywhere on the floor I’€™m going to play it to the best of my ability. It’€™s not a preference of mine but it’€™s something my team needs so I don’€™t think about it.”

In some ways it’s semantics. Garnett plays the four on occasion when Doc Rivers goes to his bench and he’s guarded both fours and fives since the switch. He’s taking more shots on the offensive end, increasing that number in the second half of the season, but he’s still firing away most from the perimeter with the occasional post-up thrown in for good measure. (Garnett’s passing in the low post remains an underrated strength).

Josh Smith isn’t really a center, either. He played most of his minutes at the four alongside Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, who are both injured. Like Garnett, he took a more active role in his team’s offense this season, upping his shot attempts by three per game and his usage rate up to 28 percent. Smith is a monster scoring inside and in transition and a streaky, at best, jump shooter, prone to ill-advised long jumpers and 3-pointers.

“He’€™s going to take the jumper and when he makes it, it’€™s tough,” Doc Rivers said. “When Josh is shooting the ball [well] throughout the series, it’€™s going to be a hard series. There’€™s no doubt about that. He’€™s going to shoot the ball. We’€™ve got to respect that shot. What makes him unique is he’€™s a four or a five that can take you off the dribble.”

There are two ways the Celtics could play Smith. They could use Brandon Bass, a rugged power forward with strength and athleticism. Or they could use Garnett, who is their best defender and a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

Matchups are going to a be a constant storyline in this series. Ordinarily, a team without a true center is a good thing for the Celtics, but they are wary of the Hawks‘ big-small lineup, which features over-sized guards like Joe Johnson and Tracy McGrady, wing shooters like Marvin Williams at forward and Smith at center.

“You’€™ll see [Garnett] on everybody,” Rivers said. “They move Josh to the five and they go with Marvin at the four and Tracy at the three and Joe at the two. That’€™s a tough lineup. They do it and they do it against us more than any other team for a reason, obviously. It creates matchups and we’€™re going to have to deal with that.”

The Celtics will try to counter with their regular lineup and force the Hawks into matchups that are favorable to their strengths. According to Rivers, it worked half the time in their two earlier meetings. (For all intents and purposes, the most recent game was a wash tactically due to so many missing players).

Offensively, the Celtics need Garnett to provide some punch. His minutes will still be carefully monitored, but they’re expecting 15-20 shots per night.

“Kevin’€™s a big key in every series,” Rivers said. “He has to be aggressive. In the series that we’€™ve won over the years he’€™s been very aggressive and a go-to scorer. He has to be that for us in this series.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that Garnett will live on the block.

“They’€™re a great trapping team,” Rivers said. “You’€™ve got to be careful. If you think you’€™re just going to post him and win, I think you’€™d be kidding yourself. If you look at their stats, against post teams they’€™ve done extremely well. Teams focus on that so much they lose the game. So, we can’€™t do overdo that. That’€™s an area that we want to attack through our regular motion. If you get caught trying to do that every time they’€™ll beat you.”

One of the Celtics’ main concerns is transition defense, and especially 3-pointers on the break. The Hawks had eight players who took more than 100 3-pointers this season and they shot 37 percent, the fifth-best mark in the league. No one defends the 3-point line better than the Celtics and a key will be keeping the floor spaced and getting players back, a tougher task when you’re locked up under the basket.

No matter where he plays and who he guards, Garnett will be key factor and it would be fascinating to watch him return to his roots against a dynamic player like Smith.

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett,
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