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Paul Pierce shows his ‘human’ side as Celtics and Pacers set offense back ’50 years’ 01.07.12 at 10:54 am ET
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Paul Pierce was a mere symptom of the cause Friday night at TD Garden.

Yes, he made just three of the 17 shots he attempted from the field. Yes, he finished with just 10 points in 37 minutes of play. Yes, he attempted six 3-pointers, making just one.

But the Pacers and Celtics combined to make just 58 of their combined 145 shots from the field. That’s 87 misses. That’s a lot. Just asked the coach on the losing end of an 87-74 Indiana survival.

“Both teams set offense back about 50 years today,” Doc Rivers said. “It was awful to watch. I thought defensively, we were pretty good until the third quarter.”

That’s probably because as the Celtics were desperate to get out from under their 25-point first half, they opened things up and sped up the game, losing sight of their defensive principles just to put points on the board and get into a rhythm.

As for Pierce, “He was human, you know?” Rivers explained. “I thought he tried to do too much off the [dribble], especially early. And then I thought he got frustrated a little bit. That’s going to happen. But that’s where somebody else we needed to pick up, and nobody could. Without Ray [Ray Allen] shooting today, we would’ve shot 20 percent.”

Allen finished 7-for-11 in his first game back from the flu. The rest of the team was a collective 19-for-55, which is bad enough for 35 percent.

“We were able to score but we didn’t get stops,” said Pierce. “We played them to dead even, both teams scored thirty points. When they have the lead, you’re just running on a treadmill. We’ve just got to go back to work, watch the tape and see some of the things we did wrong. There’s no need to put our heads down, it’s early in the season, and we just need to clean up a few things.

“Ray’s doing what he does, he knocks down shots so we get him open but unfortunately myself and some other guys didn’t step up enough offensively for us to win.”

Perhaps Pierce and the Celtics can rediscover their offensive mojo in the next five days, as the team has several practices planned.

“It will give us a chance to get some good practice time in,” Pierce said. “I haven’t had any practice this year so it’ll be good for me to get back in and refreshed with some of the things we’re doing. Add to our playbook which we haven’t been able to do because of our lack of practice plus it’ll be a good rest for us. We’re playing every other day, so get our feet back up under us and regroup and get back on next week.”

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Live Blog: Celtics take on David West and the Pacers 01.06.12 at 7:30 pm ET
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Irish Coffee: Celtics weekly report card at 12:12 pm ET
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Given that NBA teams cram 66 games into just over four months, each of this season’s 17 weeks becomes like an NFL week. As NFL writers are wont to do, we’ll start a new series of Celtics report cards each Friday. After an 0-3 start capped by a loss to a woeful Hornets team, the C’s have won four straight — albeit against three D-League NBA clubs with a combined 3-16 record. That being said, let’s get to the grades.

BRANDON BASS: A+

If you thought Glen Davis was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season, get a load of Bass so far this year. In 28 minutes a night, he’s averaging 14.0 points and 6.6 boards, shooting 61.5 percent from 10-15 feet and 66.0 percent from 16-23 feet. His consistency in a new system has been remarkable. In just a few short weeks, Bass has helped create that valuable spacing for which Doc Rivers strives and already assumed the second crunch-time big role alongside Kevin Garnett.

RAY ALLEN: A

You can’t blame the man for missing a game because of the flu. In six games, he’s averaging a team-leading 20.0 points on sizzling 61.1 percent 3-point shooting. His 51.5 percent shooting from inside the arc isn’t too shabby, either, but three missed free throws is very un-Shuttlesworth-like (picking nits). Could this be the season Allen finally achieves his Holy Trinity of Shooting (50 FG%-40 3P%-90 FT%)? Allen gets paid to shoot the rock and run opposing two guards ragged. Mission accomplished.

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Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett’s guide to being a Celtic 01.05.12 at 11:30 am ET
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I don’t know much about Kevin Garnett, but I do know this: If you haven’t earned his respect, your name won’t cross his lips. “You’re a nobody.” As Celtics rookie JaJuan Johnson said during the first week of training camp, he wasn’t sure if KG even knew his name. The future Hall of Famer only referred to him as “New” or “Rook.”

Conversely, if Garnett mentions you by name, you’re doing something right. In recent days, young Celtics Greg Stiemsma and Avery Bradley in particular have earned postgame praise from the 16-year veteran.

“I think what you’re seeing is opportunity for the young guys, starting with Greg, and now Avery’s getting a chance to play and taking advantage of it,” Garnett said after totaling 14 points and 12 boards in the C’s 89-70 trimming of the Nets. “I don’t root for young guys a lot, especially when they’re hard-headed and don’t like to listen. We’ve got a good group of guys here, and that includes our young guys. They’re a young group, full of enthusiasm, full of hope and promise and a lot of potential, but they’re good guys, and they work really, really hard.”

It’s no secret hard work goes a long way in Garnett’s book, and we all know KG is going to talk. All they have to do is listen to that team pitch he, his fellow Celtics veterans and coach Doc Rivers are selling, buy in and apply it.

“There are no I’s. There are no You’s. It’s a We. It’s an Our. It’s a They. It’s an Us,” said Garnett. “The first thing you have to have in here is that you have to understand what you’re coming into, understand that being a Celtic is bigger than anybody in this locker room. You’re carrying on tradition. You have to have a work ethic. You have to care about the next guy beside you. If you can’t and if you don’t, then you’re not here. It’s the culture here.”

It’s that simple? Read the rest of this entry »

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Brandon Bass: ‘I’m playing with three hall of famers’ and Rajon Rondo, too at 8:56 am ET
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Brandon Bass continues to show the world why the Celtics traded Glen Davis for him.

Sixth man for sixth man but this sixth man can score with the best of them. He did so again Wednesday night when the Celtics desperately needed someone other than Paul Pierce to score with Ray Allen at home with the flu.

Bass came off the bench and scored 15 points and hauled down 13 rebounds, leading a second-half surge that saw the Celtics pull away from the Nets, 89-70.

“Energy, play good defense, rebound, score when I get good opportunities,” Bass said. “That’s what I think my role is and that’s what I’m going to try to bring every night.”

The only question: Can he keep it up? He is averaging 14 points and 6.6 rebounds in 27.7 minutes over the first seven games. He has averaged 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game over his previous six NBA seasons.

“Rondo, Paul and KG all put me in a position to shoot, swing and go into pick and roll so I don’t think it’s my job to be a play maker, but I will make a play if I get the opportunity to,” Bass said.

Bass’ reference to not being a playmaker is why he has affectionately earned the reputation as Brandon “No-Pass” Bass, as Paul Flannery wrote on Tuesday. Bass realizes this. So, when he was told he got an assist on Wednesday, he replied, “Oh, did I?”

But Bass’ job is to get open underneath the basket and be ready when Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett all look to him and fire him the ball.

“There are opportunities to do lots of different things,” Bass said. “I’m on the floor with three hall of famers and there’s an All-Star in Rondo so you got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things.”

“It’s nice,” added coach Doc Rivers. “I haven’t been able to do this. I did it last year at the end with Jeff [Jeff Green] when we went small and they stayed big. But it’s rare you can come out of a time-out and run a pick and roll for a pop for the big. It’s actually an iso for him to take someone off the dribble. That’s just nice to have. I’ve not – I don’t think I’ve ever had that.”

The other big benefit Bass provides are minutes, minutes that can be used to rest Garnett. Wednesday, the official box score showed Bass with 25 minutes, 45 seconds, just 11 seconds fewer than Garnett, the perfect situation for Rivers.

“Brandon’s so important for us because we take Kevin out of the first quarter at seven; you don’t lose offensively when Kevin comes out, you lose some defense for sure,” Rivers said. “Brandon rebounds well, too.”

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Fast Break: Bradley, Bass help Celtics cut down Nets 01.04.12 at 9:49 pm ET
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Thanks to 24 points from Paul Pierce and double-doubles from both Kevin Garnett (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (15 points, 13 rebounds), the Celtics outscored the Nets 29-12 in the third quarter and dominated the shorthanded visitors 89-70 on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t all pretty for the C’s, as Providence College product Marshon Brooks‘s 15 first-half points gave the Nets a 35-34 lead after 24 sloppy minutes on both sides.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Truth will set you free: Celtics captain Paul Pierce submitted another remarkably efficient effort, totaling 24 points on 14 shots, six rebounds and five assists in under 30 minutes. His production helped the Celtics turn a one-point halftime deficit into a 16-point C’s advantage after three quarters.

Bass is a beast: The Cs Sixth Man once again came up big for the shorthanded Celtics, recording his second double-double of the season and his first since totaling 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Knicks on Christmas Day. Likewise, Avery Bradley turned in his best performance of the season, exerting his usual energy on defense (2 steals) and even contribution offensively (11 points).

The Nets came to town: Playing against a team that isn’t expected to compete for a playoff spot, even with its best players, the Celtics faced a New Jersey squad missing its starting point guard (Deron Williams), center (Brook Lopez) and power forward (Kris Humphries). That alone allowed Celtics coach Doc Rivers to test his bench and survive without Ray Allen and the always enjoyable flu-like symptoms.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Letting the Nets hang around: Just as they did time and time again last season, the Celtics let an inferior team hang around far too long. Sure, they put New Jersey away in the second half, but failure to execute combined with not taking opponents seriously for long stretches of games is never a good thing.

Rondo’s carelessness: Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo may have entered the game with the NBA’s second-best assist average (10.5 per game), but he also came in leading the league in turnovers per game with 4.7 a night. Wednesday night saw a few more unforced errors in his passing game, as he turned the ball over three times in the first half.

Hitting the Brooks: Rookie MarShon Brooks — who was traded by the Celtics for JaJuan Johnson on draft day — started for the Nets and finished with 15 first-half points. New Jersey often ran its offense through the Providence College product. Meanwhile, Johnson did not see the floor for the Celtics in the first half.

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The legend – and significance – of Greg Stiemsma just continues to grow 01.03.12 at 10:33 am ET
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Doc Rivers wanted to make sure Greg Stiemsma had the confidence to assume the role of playing and starting for the Celtics. He wanted to hear it from the man himself and then the Celtics coach wanted the rookie – who’s been around the world playing basketball – to let his teammates know he was ready.

“We had the silly – he’ll recall it, but we had the silly day where he wouldn’t shoot and I made him stand in front of the whole team and say, ‘My name is Greg Stiemsma; I’m a shooter.’ And we kept making him repeat it. Everybody started. About two weeks ago, everybody was laughing. He said, ‘I can shoot. I’m a shooter.’ And he is. And it was good,” Rivers said after Monday’s 100-92 win over the Wizards.

It worked. Stiemsma, filling in as starting center for Jermaine O’Neal, scored 13 points and hauled down seven rebounds in 21 minutes. He added two blocks – including one that got Wizards coach Flip Saunders ejected just over a minute into the game – two assists, three fouls on 5-of-7 shooting. Not bad for a guy who had to be convinced by his coach that he was good enough to be taking shots in the NBA.

“Stiemsma was terrific,” Rivers said. “He was absolutely wonderful. And I was so happy when he just took the shot. My favorite play of the whole game was he missed a shot and they threw it right back to him and he shot it again. I mean, that’s terrific. That was – I thought the whole bench was excited over that because it’s what we’ve been saying.”

After playing at the University of Wisconsin, Stiemsma went overseas to play in South Korea and Turkey. He came home to play in the D-League. He got a look from the Timberwolves and Cavaliers but couldn’t stick on an NBA roster. Monday night, he finally got his first NBA start.

And after hearing the crowd cheer for him every time he touched the ball in preseason and on Friday night, he was ready to take the big stage Monday.

“I’m trying to bring some energy every time,” he said. “I take my shot when it’s there and not force anything. I just want to take care of the ball.”

Kevin Garnett has been huge in helping Stiemsma, as our Paul Flannery points out. Stiemsma has been doing everything he can to contribute, since he figures to become more and more important as the Celtics manage the hamstring of Jermaine O’Neal through the course of an accelerated schedule.

“I’ve just try to be his sponge and just learn as much as I can from him,” Steimsma said. “He doesn’t make mistakes too often so he’s in the right spot every time. So if I can just mimic him, it’s going to help my game.

“With every opportunity I’ve had I feel like I’ve tried to step up to the plate and come out and perform well and tonight was another opportunity. I was happy to get the opportunity and to play well on top of that.”

And now, thanks to Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett, he will do so with a lot more confidence.

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