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Report: Knicks have interest in Lawrence Frank 07.18.11 at 5:25 pm ET
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Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank has interviewed with Houston, Golden State, Toronto and now Detroit for their head coaching jobs and he is said to be one of two finalists for the Pistons job along with former Hawks coach Mike Woodson.

It’s no secret that Frank wants to be a head coach again. He had a fairly successful run with the Nets that stretched over seven seasons before coming to a screeching halt when the Nets began the year 0-16 in 2009-10. That said as much about New Jersey’s talent as Frank’s abilities as a coach.

In his one season with the Celtics, Frank was tasked with operating the team’s defense. They ranked first in fewest points allowed, second in field goal percentage defense and were in a virtual tie with the Bulls in terms of points per 100 possessions. He also had a solid rapport with the veteran players — no easy task.

It has been assumed that Frank would return if he couldn’t get a head-coaching job but the Celtics may have competition for his services.

The Knicks have been casting about for a defensive-minded assistant and Newsday’s Alan Hahn reports that Frank would be a good fit as he and head coach Mike D’Antoni have a good relationship and — unlike many coaches — he wouldn’t be bothered by working for a coach in the last year of his contract. Additionally, Hahn notes that Frank’s wife and daughters stayed in New Jersey while he was working in Boston.

Like head coach Doc Rivers, all of Boston’s assistants were working on one-year contracts last season. Team president Danny Ainge noted that while he expected Frank to get offers, the team would have interest in bringing him back.

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Fast Break: Celtics complete sweep of Knicks 04.24.11 at 6:16 pm ET
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(Click here for Rajon Rondo post-game interview)

NEW YORK — Bring on the Heat. It got more hectic than it should have in the fourth quarter as the Celtics almost blew a 23-point lead, but all that matters is that they survived in Game 4 of their first round playoff series and escaped with a 101-89 win over the Knicks on Sunday.

The win completed the sweep, their first since the 1992 season when they brushed off the Pacers in three games. It also allowed them at least a week worth of rest before they start their semifinal series with Miami (assuming the Heat take care of Philadelphia).

The Knicks series is over. Every game except for the third one had its anxious moments, but the Celtics did what that they had to do and made progress along the way. Here’s how they closed it out:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo at his best: Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised eyebrows before the game when he wondered aloud how Rajon Rondo would look if he played for Minnesota, instead of on a team with three future Hall of Famers. No doubt word was relayed to Rondo about the subtle jab, but whether it bothers him or not is a different story. “He doesn’t bring it up a lot,” Doc Rivers said in response. “It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”

Whatever the case, Rondo went right at the Knicks from the outset. He went strong to the basket even when he didn’t have the numbers and made solid decisions with the ball. He also pulled up for jumpers in transition and drained team. How would Rondo do with a bad team? It doesn’t really matter because he’s the right point guard for this team.

The bench comes alive: For three games the Celtics played shorthanded. Their second unit was no unit at all, but in Game 4 that all changed. Glen Davis made four of his first five shots and put up 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. Nenad Krstic scored inside — his first made field goals of the playoffs. Delonte West brought his usual tough defense and Jeff Green was aggressive on the post and putting the ball on the floor. The Celtics had a six-point lead after the first quarter. They led by 17 at the half. Credit the bench, which will be a major part of the next rounds of the playoffs.

The second half? Not so much, but at long last the play of the second unit was a positive development.

De-fense, De-fense: In the building where the chant took on a life of its own, the Celtics clamped down defensively in an impressive, and overwhelming, performance. Carmelo Anthony started hot, making five of his first nine shots, but he was the only threat and the Celtics eventually cooled him off too. Amar’e Stoudemire was clearly not himself, missing his first eight shots. Outside of Anthony, the Knicks shot a woeful 6-for-34 in the first half. Even with him they still made just 28 percent in the first half.

And then the second half happened …

WHAT WENT WRONG

Third quarter letdown: It was bound to happen. After dominating the first half and taking that into the opening minutes of the second half, the Celtics displayed every bad habit that has marked the last two months of the regular season. They held the ball on offense, didn’t get back in transition and didn’t close out on shooters. The Knicks sliced an 18-point lead down to 10 and made the fourth quarter way more interesting than it needed to be.

Careless turnovers: These are the Celtics we’re talking about. Turnovers have been a problem forever with this team and they reared their head in the fourth quarter. Really they were a function of all the bad offensive habits the Celtics developed late in the year — holding the ball, waiting too long to get into their sets. They may be playing with an extra sense of urgency during the playoffs, but teams simply don’t become something they’re not overnight and the Celtics’ turnover problem will not go away any time soon.

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Mike D’Antoni on Rajon Rondo: ‘I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does’ at 3:09 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo

NEW YORK — For as long as Rajon Rondo plays with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, people will question his place in the great point guard hierarchy. Is he a product of the environment of playing with three future Hall of Famers or a great player in his own right? Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised the issue prior to Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series with New York.

“He’s a very good player,” D’Antoni said. “I’d like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does. Everybody’s tied together and they have three Hall of Famers playing out there. But Rondo’s a very, very good basketball player. Really good. There’s no doubt about that.”

Rondo had 20 assists against the Knicks in Game 3 and at least nine of those were on jump shots, according to Synergy Sports, which tracks every play. But Rondo also had a triple double in the game, his sixth in his postseason career.

“You play with those guys, that’s probably what you’re going to get,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t think he would trade it. I think he enjoys playing with them. If there is a negative side — I guess — that would be it. No matter how well you play, the question will be [that]. And someday that will be answered, too. I’ve got a feeling he’ll answer them all in the way he’s answering them now.”

Asked if this kind of talk fueled Rondo, Rivers said, “I don’t talk about it a whole bunch. He doesn’t bring it up a lot. It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”

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Celtics Live Blog: Looking to close out the Knicks in Game 4 at 1:13 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Follow WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery, Ben Rohrbach and Mike Petraglia as they join a cast of experts in breaking down Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round Eastern Conference matchup with the Knicks …

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The trouble with close-out games 04.23.11 at 5:10 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett

NEW YORK — In the Kevin Garnett era, the Celtics have won eight playoff series and lost only two, but they have had a strange inability to close out series, especially on the road. The Celtics are 8-11 in elimination games and 1-9 on the road in those situations.

The one win came against Detroit in Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals and was hailed at the time as a breakthrough for a team that was still learning how to play with each other in the playoffs. That 1-9 record has cost them twice. In 2009 they lost Game 6 in Orlando and then were knocked out on the TD Garden floor in Game 7. Last season the Celtics had two chances to beat the Lakers in Los Angeles and lost them both.

They have a chance to take care of the Knicks on Sunday and the odds are in their favor, considering point guard Chauncey Billups is not likely to play and Amar’e Stoudemire is having problems with his back.

But it’s never easy. Take last season’s first round matchup against Miami. The Celtics won a dramatic Game 3 on Paul Pierce‘s last-second game-winner and the talk in South Florida was about how the Heat didn’t want to get back on a plane and take their beating in Game 5 back in Boston. Instead, they rallied from a 77-71 deficit in the fourth quarter and rode Dwyane Wade‘s incredible shooting back to Boston.

“Close-out games are difficult because it’s the one game where you tend to let your guard down,” Kevin Garnett said. “[They] make you tend to relax versus remembering the things that got you there and how you put yourself in a position to close out.”

One would think that a veteran team like the Celtics would have an advantage in these situations because of their experience, but their record shows otherwise. Either way the Celtics are confident in their approach.

“It’s not difficult for me by any means,” Ray Allen said. “I don’t look it as a close-out game. I just look at it as another game we have to play and another game we have to win. Last night we didn’t win anything. We just have to go out and do our jobs and that’s how I look at it.”

One area they want to carryover from Game 3 is their execution offensively. Obviously Pierce and Allen aren’t going to make 25 of 37 shots again, but the shots were just the end result of an offensive that functioned better than it has in months.

“I attribute that to the bigs being in good position and setting great screens and [Rajon] Rondo playing with great speed,” Allen said. “If my guy has to shift just a little bit the one way and I go the other way then he’s beat already. All those little small things help.”

Still, they pointed to their 20 turnovers and the fact that they were so perimeter oriented.

“We made shots and we’re all really smart when we make shots,” Doc Rivers said. “Paul and Ray were 14-for-18 from the 3, if they had been 3-for-18 from the 3, you would have been saying, ‘Doc why didn’t you post the ball up more.’”

SHAQ UPDATE: The Celtics didn’t have a full practice on Saturday and there was no opportunity to see if Shaquille O’Neal was ready to play, so he was ruled out of Game 4. Rivers insisted that they are not holding him out for any strategic purposes because of their 3-0 lead.

“He didn’t feel great, so I’m not taking a chance,” Rivers said. “I’d still like to use him. If he could play I’d play him because I think it would be good for him. The minute he can play he’ll be on the floor.”

THE RAY AND PAUL SHOW: After Game 3, Pierce noted that he was enjoying watching Allen light it up from the outside. Allen had the same reaction.

“I just kept seeing Paul make shots, I was like man, Paul is hot right now, keep giving him the ball,” Allen said. “I felt like I was in the meantime, keep giving Paul the ball.”

Allen was asked if this game was the antidote to all their offensive problems over the last month and a half. “I didn’t question it,” he said. “I know what we need to do and we’ve always known that. It’s just going out and doing it.”

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Fast Break: Celtics ‘play well,’ roll the Knicks in Game 3 04.22.11 at 9:36 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett and the Celtics got the better of Amar'e Stoudemire and the Knicks Friday night. (AP)

For the last three days all the Celtics have been saying is that they have to play better. Their lead on the Knicks in their first round playoff series was great, but they knew they got away with uneven performances in both games. New York had something to do with that too, especially some of their role players who played above their heads, to say nothing of the tremendous individual performances by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.

But the Celtics believed that the close games had more to do with their inconsistencies. “I just want us to play well,” Doc Rivers said prior to tip-off. “[If] we play well, we will see what happens.”

They played well in Game 3. They played perhaps their best playoff game since Game 5 in Cleveland last year when they silenced LeBron James and the Cavaliers and kickstarted their run to the NBA finals. The feeling inside Madison Square Garden was eerily reminiscent. A hopped up crowd was stunned to silence early and when the Knicks tried to make a run early in the second half, the Celtics went into kill mode.

The result was a 113-96 blowout that gave them a commanding 3-0 lead. This is what the Celtics look like when they play well.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

What’s better than a great start? What the Celtics did: The pregame chatter was all about the Knicks riding the energy of the first home playoff game in seven years to a quick start. Instead it was the Celtics who established the early pace. They led 22-5, their biggest lead of the series and got center Ronny Turiaf in early foul trouble. Coming into another team’s arena and taking the crowd out of the game has always been a point of pride for the Celtics. “If you want to bother us, tell no one to come,” Doc Rivers said an hour before tipoff. “That will freak us out.”

Paul Pierce was locked in: In another quiet Celtics locker room before the game, Paul Pierce saw a couple of players engaged in small talk with a couple of reporters. “None of that,” Pierce said quietly but forcefully. He wasn’t kidding. Pierce was in his own world, all business, and he played like it, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. He took over at various times and seemed to make every big shot whenever the Knicks threatened to make a run. Ray Allen was phenomenal. Rajon Rondo had a triple double and 20 assists , but this was Pierce’s game.

The Celtics owned the 3-point line: Late in the season, the Celtics game from behind the arc went missing. It looks like they found it. Allen knocked down 8 of 11 and now has made an incredible 15-for-20 in the series. Pierce added six more and the Celtics made 14 3′s, which was a season high. They obviously won’t shoot this well again, but their success from behind the arc is a good sign for a team that has been fighting to recapture its offensive identity.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The bench was better, but still ineffective as a group: First, the bad news. The Celtics big first quarter lead evaporated as soon as Rivers went to his bench. Like clockwork it seems these days. But there was a glimmer when the second unit was able to keep the lead at five points. Not great, but it was something. There was some honest to goodness good stuff too. Jeff Green finally provided some offensive punch scoring seven first half points. But the backups have to start playing better soon.

Too many turnovers: This is nitpicking considering how well the Celtics played, but they once again turned the ball over too much. Considering the score and the way they cleaned up their work on the defensive glass, it’s perhaps asking too much for them to play a perfect game, but the turnover problem has been an issue.

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Fast Break: Celtics end season with win 04.13.11 at 10:17 pm ET
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This wasn’t so much a game as it was an exhibition contest. With Game 1 of their first round playoff series scheduled to tip Sunday night at TD Garden, the Celtics and Knicks elected to sit most of their key players with Amar’e Stoudemire being the lone exception. Doc Rivers elected to not play Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West, leaving him just eight players.

Those eight contributed to an oddly entertaining 112-102 win over New York, giving the Celtics a season sweep of the series.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Avery Bradley, stand up: The rookie guard’s previous career high was just five points and it’s been his struggles offensively that have limited his ability to help the Celtics much on the court. But Bradley was the aggressor on Wednesday. Seconds after he checked into the game, he stripped Anthony Carter in the backcourt and soared in for a dunk. He finished with 20 points in what was easily his best performance of the season.

Sasha Pavlovic showed some offensive punch: There may be a spot for Pavlovic as an 11th or 12 man in the playoffs and he scored 19 points in a surprisingly efficient offensive game.

Troy Murphy showed signs of life: Murphy has done little to make a case for any kind of a meaningful postseason role, but he scored nine points in the fourth quarter and finally made his first 3-pointer as a member of the Celtics.

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