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Sixers in search of closer, remain positive despite fourth-quarter collapse 05.14.12 at 10:05 am ET
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This was the script Doug Collins dreamed of — his team clinging to a six-point lead, early in the fourth quarter on the road, despite multiple runs by the Celtics. His collar loosened, ever so slightly, as Lou Williams got a hand on a Ray Allen jump shot, and then pulled up in transition to bury a long-range shot of his own. Seconds later, Lavoy Allen sank a textbook baby hook shot, and the 76ers opened up a 10-point lead.

The momentum abruptly came to a halt, however, as the Celtics went on a 12-2 run over the next five minutes. The Sixers offense proved to be non-existent at the worst possible time, and suddenly, with just under five minutes left to play, Philly was trading baskets in a one-possession game with the Celtics. The lead, the security, and hopes of catching Boston off guard and stealing home court vanished.

‘€œI’€™m proud of our guys,” Collins said. “We are off to a really good start. What we needed here, coming in today on the road, we fought on some. When it is all said and done, we had a great chance to get this game today and just had four really bad offensive possessions that really hurt us.’€

What may trouble Collins most is not how his team blew the lead, but who blew the lead. Going into the fourth quarter, everything appeared to be working for the 76ers. Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner had 16 points each, the Sixers forced Rajon Rondo into committing six turnovers, they outscored Boston’€™s bench 20-14, and they were even shooting 4-of-10 on 3-pointers.

A big question mark going into this series, though, was if Philly’€™s playmakers — Iguodala, Turner and Williams — could come through down the stretch.  Saturday night, the answer was no. The three combined to go 2-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter. And, as their shooting touch failed them, none were able to get to the foul line. Williams had a shot blocked, Iguodala had two of his sent the other way, and both had turnovers in critical moments. Most telling is that not one 76er scored more than four points in the fourth quarter.

‘€œThat’€™s sort of the sign of a team that’€™s trying to grow and figure out what it is to play this kind of championship basketball in the NBA playoffs,’€ Collins said.

As much as the Sixers did struggle, Rondo was great when he needed to be, atoning for an uneven night. In the final frame alone, he had six points, four assists and five boards. The assists came from Rondo pushing the ball upcourt. The Celtics scored seven of their 14 fast-break points in the fourth quarter. Perhaps the scariest aspect of Rondo’s fourth-quarter performance was each of his three field goals coming from 18 feet and out.

‘€œWhen he starts making shots, you have to honor that,’€ Turner said. ‘€œThat allows the other guys to get space. It allows [Kevin Garnett] to get on the block one-on-one with a guy, or Paul [Pierce] to iso, or for Ray [Allen].’€

Said Doc Rivers: ‘€œI thought Rondo’€™s shooting, obviously, down the stretch was fantastic. He wanted those shots. We ran that play, we were going to switch Ray and put him in that spot where the guy curls back up, and Rondo wanted that play. He wanted the shot and he took it. That has to be great for his confidence.’€

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Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, Evan Turner, Kevin Garnett, Lou Williams
Kevin Garnett may have ‘no life at all’ but he sure has plenty of game 05.13.12 at 1:06 am ET
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Kevin Garnett isn’t doing much partying these days.

When you’re 35 (36 on May 19) and supposedly on your final legs and teammates like Paul Pierce say their going to ride you till “the wheels fall off,” there’s nothing much to do but get your body rested and ready to wreak havoc on the opposition in the playoffs.

‘€œI have no life at this point,” Garnett said after Saturday’s 92-91 win over Philadelphia in Game 1 Saturday night. “I go home, get treatment, come back in here, study tape, film. No life at all. This is what it is.’€

That treatment is the typical stuff plus keeping that achy hip flexor loose so it doesn’t tighten up in close games like Game 1 against Philadelphia.

KG did it again in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, going for 29 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes, including all 12 in the fourth quarter as the Celtics came back from the dead three times in the win Saturday night at TD Garden.

‘€œYou guys gotta understand that were playing a very good team, very young,” Garnett said of the Sixers, whom he beat up just like he did the Hawks in Round 1. “I thought for the most part those guys hit us in the mouth in the first quarter, I’€™m not gunna lie. But as the game went on it went good, second half was more of a defensive mind. At the same time, still punching back if you will. We put some stops together and closed the game.”

Did Garnett feel fortunate that the Celtics were down just five in the first half, when he scored 14 of Boston’s 42 points?

‘€œTo be honest I didn’€™t even know what we were down I don’€™t even look at the score,” Garnett said. “No disrespect for the game or anything like that, I go off the crowd, I go off the adrenaline, the emotion. For the most part I like the feel of the game. I really feel like we have better basketball in us. I’€™m sure as the series goes on we will have no other choice but to get better. Whatever is asked of me is what I am going to do. I don’€™t really pay attention to the minutes.’€œ

Garnett was the monster and feeding him was Rajon Rondo, especially late when Garnett hit a key three-point play to help the Celtics to an 86-84 lead with 2:52 left, a lead they would not relinquish.

‘€œSwag was aggressive, man,” Garnett said. “I thought second half he did a lot better job looking for his shot. He has a lot of confidence. Hes been really really working on his game. He did a good job of balancing out trying to get Paul one, trying to get myself one.”

Sixers coach Doug Collins said his team did what they could against Garnett.

“I don’€™t know what else we could have done,” Collins said. “He made a lot of tough shots. He hits those long jump shots. We are not going to run out at him or get a hand in his face but ya know all of a sudden you start running around and doing al that you free up Paul Pierce and all these other guys. I mean you have to pick your poison.

“Kevin is playing great. I mean he is playing great. He’€™s hitting all these shots. He’€™s fading shots off the glass. I mean he’€™s playing as well as I’€™ve ever seen him play. My hat’€™s off to him. But I don’€™t think there was anything we did poorly with him. I just think that some times you get trumped.”

Just 35 seconds after his three-point play, his jumper put the Celtics up, 88-84. Garnett showed he still has plenty of game even if he has no life.

‘€œWhen we win I’€™m having a lot of fun,” Garnett said. “When we lose it’€™s a tough day.’€

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doug Collins, Kevin Garnett
Doc Rivers: “Philly is Atlanta on steroids-if it’s a track meet that’s bad for us’ 05.12.12 at 7:26 pm ET
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Doc Rivers: “Philly is Atlanta on steroids. If it’s a track meet, that’s bad for us.”

There, in a nutshell, is the series plan for the Celtics. Doc Rivers said it on Friday at the team’s practice. He reiterated it Saturday, an hour before Game 1 with the quote above.

Make sure you don’t let one of the most athletic teams in the NBA get their groove on in transition.

There are two things they do extremely well. They defend and they don’t turn the ball over.

“I think what people keep forgetting is they’re not a good defensive team, they’re a great defensive team,” Rivers said. “They’re going to try to make us struggle scoring and we’re going to try and make them struggle scoring. If the game is 50-50, and close and competitive, I don’t know why that’s ugly. I’ve always argued against that. I guess 121-120 is more exciting. I think being competitive is more exciting.”

Many have speculated this will be one ugly series, with both teams clamping down on defense.

“It depends,” Rivers said. “I don’t know what ugly is. If we win, I don’t think that’s ugly at all. So, whatever you want to call ugly, if winning is part of it, I’m all for it.”

When the Sixers beat the Bulls in Game 6 Thursday night, about hour before the Celtics advanced, the cannons went off inside Wells Fargo Center, firing confetti all over the place.

“I was telling our guys, they were excited,” Rivers said. “They should be. They had to get over that hump. Being a No. 8 seed beating a No. 1 seed is big, it is a big deal. We look at the tape, we look at everything. They were excited. We were relieved. It’s amazing the two different [reactions].

“When the clock went off for us, guys were like, ‘Oh my gosh. Let’s go to bed.’ That’s kind of how we felt. You could almost say they have the emotional advantage in that because they were so high for their win. We have to match that.”

So, for the first time since 2002, when the Celtics eliminated the defending Eastern Conference champs, the Celtics and Sixers meet in the playoffs. Remember the last time? Game 5 of the best-of-5 at the Garden, the Celtics ran Allen Iverson and the Sixers off the court by 30 points. Rivers says he can appreciate the history between the two legendary NBA franchises.

“I can,” Rivers acknowledged. “I remember the ones with Dr. J. [Julius Erving]and [Larry Bird] and all that. Anytime you’re around Tommy [Tommy Heinsohn] and you mention Philadelphia, the hatred comes out. I think with Tommy, of all the teams, this is the team he wants to beat the most all the team. Regular season games, when you talk to Tommy on the plane, this is his target team. I’m sure he’ll be nice and calm covering the series.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Dr. J
Doc Rivers: Next series will be ‘a challenge because of bodies’ 05.11.12 at 4:38 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not sound optimistic that he would have Paul Pierce and Ray Allen anywhere near full strength when Boston opens its best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday night at TD Garden against the 76ers. The Celtics, who moved on to Round 2 with an 83-80 win over the Hawks Thursday night at home, did not have full practice Friday, instead opting for a light shootaround followed by more intensive film session on Philadelphia.

“It’s a challenge because of bodies,” Rivers said before Saturday’s film session and light shootaround. “The Sixers are pretty healthy, we’re not so that’s the challenge. Ray is struggling today, Paul is struggling today. That’s a challenge. The only advantage we have is we don’t have to get on a plane. Our guy can sleep in their beds tonight and tomorrow night and get some rest.”

Both Pierce and Allen sat out Friday’s walkthrough, following a shootaround. Pressed as to whether Pierce or Allen were closer to being ready for Game 1, Rivers sounded an ominous tone.

“I don’t [know],” he said. “I’m concerned with both, to be honest. I don’t even want to give a percentage.”

Pierce is dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, suffered last Sunday before Game 4 against Atlanta. Allen reported feeling no improvement from stiffness and soreness from bone spurs in his left ankle.

“Yeah, I expect to play,” Pierce said. “I feel like I can play [Saturday]. I’m just getting the treatments. I’m dealing with a sprained knee, getting as much ice as possible. It’s probably not going to heal until the season is over so I’m just doing the necessary steps that I can to make sure I don’t overdo it or put myself in a position where I could really hurt my career, moving forward, being at the age at I’m at. But I’m confident with the way it feels that I’m capable of going out there.

“It really doesn’t bother me when I walk around or jump straight up. It’s more if I turn the turn the knee in a certain position, I reaggravate it. I don’t have any problem getting up and down the court. It’s just that certain parts of the game where you get in the lane or physicality of the game, to where you’re turning the knee. That’s why I’m wearing two knee braces just to kind of prevent that.”

Allen did not sound nearly as optimistic and stayed away from promising he’ll be a go for Game 1.

“It’€™s no better,” Allen said, comparing Friday’s feeling to Thursday. “I got treatment on it so I’€™ll stay off it for the rest of the day and get rest.”

Asked if he was a gametime decision for Saturday’s Game 1 against Philadelphia, Allen said, “Yep, just see how I feel. I won’€™t say worse but it’€™s basically the same from where I felt [Thursday].”

Allen described his ankle as “sore and achy” and acknowledged that he was frustrated with the injury. He shot 1-for-7 in Game 6 against the Hawks.

“It just was unstable. I didn’€™t have that maneuverability out there on the floor,” Allen said. “Once I’€™m out there I do what I can to help the team.”

Asked if he would be better served by sitting out a game and getting rest, Allen said he wasn’t sure.

“That’€™s a hard question to answer,” he said. “This whole week and a half I’€™ve been so day to day and I’€™ve had some great days and now I’€™m back to where I was two weeks ago.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs, Paul Pierce
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.


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
Ray Allen is optimistic but Doc Rivers is cautious about Game 3 at 1:43 pm ET
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WALTHAM, Mass. — Doc Rivers has been around way too long to get over overly excited – let alone ahead of himself – when players tell him they’re optimistic they can play.

But still Rivers was pleased Thursday when Ray Allen showed up, announcing that his left ankle felt good enough to allow him to practice as the team prepares for Game 3 against the Hawks on Friday at the Garden.

“[Friday] matters a lot more. I thought you said he said he was definitely playing,” Rivers said. “That would be great news. He’s going to practice but it’s going to be under my watch. He told me [Wednesday] he was going to practice and I told him, ‘we’ll see.’ Really, I don’t even know what to do. Honest to God. Eddie and our doctors have all talked. We don’t know the answer. We don’t know if practicing is a good idea or not. If he practices today but doesn’t play [Friday], I’m going to be upset at myself.”

Allen took part in the full 75-minute Celtics practice Thursday, which was mostly comprised of half-court sets. Allen tried working out before Game 2 and had a bad setback that kept him from playing in Game 2 Tuesday.

“He biked [Wednesday], I guess that is good. I think he has a better shot but we’ll find that out,” Rivers said. “He wants to do more today so we’ll see. We did that the other day and it didn’t work so we have to maybe limit Ray from Ray. He’s such a creature of habit, and I actually thought that may hurt him for any chance of him to play. Obviously, it reacted that poorly after just the workout he did, it’s probably good he didn’t play, at the end of the day.

“He’s a tough one because he’s such a creature of habit. He does his workouts the night before every game and does his two hours of shooting and then before the game does his hour of shooting. That’s a lot of work. We have to figure out a way of allowing him to try to do some of it but not doing so much where when he finishes he can’t play because I’d rather take 10 minutes of him on the floor than nothing, if that’s what it comes to.”

Allen sounded as optimistic as he has since missing the final 11 games of the regular season with the left ankle injury and the first two playoff games.

“Last couple of days, I’ve been in a really good place so I’m optimistic,” Allen said before Thursday’s practice. “If I’m sitting here [Friday] feeling good, that’s a different story. I am optimistic about practicing today so that’s definitely a great step for me moving forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
Doc Rivers has the back of Rajon Rondo 04.29.12 at 11:12 pm ET
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Just before Rajon Rondo left the court in disgrace Sunday night after being ejected for chest bumping (not in a good way) official Marc Davis, he stopped and pleaded his case to his coach.

Doc Rivers stood there and listened briefly before Rondo was ushered to the locker room by team security. Apparently, it struck a chord with Rivers, who was once in Rondo’s shoes, playing a pair of heated playoff series against the Celtics back in 1986 and ’88.

Despite replays showing Rondo clearly bumped Davis with 40 seconds remaining before getting ejected, the Celtics coach came to the defense of his star point guard after Sunday night’s 83-74 loss to the Hawks in Game 1.

‘€œHe’€™s in the game, right?” Rivers answered when asked about Rondo’s reaction to the foul call on Brandon Bass, who raked Josh Smith in the face on a loose ball scramble. “So, when you’€™re in the game, I didn’€™t know there’€™s a rule the guy only involved in the play is the only one who can argue the call. As a coach, I’€™m not in the play, either. I argue calls vehemently.

“They’€™re all 10 competitors. You’€™re standing right there, you see what you see, you have a right to argue just as much as anybody else. I think it’€™s great. I think it’€™s getting your guys’€™ back on your team.’€

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Read More: 2012 NBA playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
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