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J.R. Smith wins NBA ‘Sixth Man’ award, Jordan Crawford gets a first-place vote, finishes seventh 04.22.13 at 2:31 pm ET
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J.R. Smith (8) was a step ahead of Jordan Crawford (27) and the Celtics on March 26. (AP)

J.R. Smith (8) was a step ahead of Jordan Crawford (27) and the Celtics on March 26. (AP)

NEW YORK — The Celtics got an up-close and personal look at just how dangerous J.R. Smith can be off the New York bench on March 26.

He scored 32 points and powered the Knicks to a 100-85 win, a victory that was part of New York’s 13-game winning streak at the end of the season that propelled them toward the Atlantic Division title.

On Monday, Smith was honored as the 2012-13 Kia NBA Sixth Man Award as the league’s best player in a reserve role. Smith, who came off the bench in all 80 games in which he appeared, led all reserves in scoring, averaging 18.1 points. Additionally, Smith added 5.3 rebounds per game, 2.7 assits and 1.3 steals in 33.5 minutes per game to a Knicks squad that went 54-28 and earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Smith received 484 of a possible 1,084 points, including 72 first-place votes, from a panel of 121 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers finished second with 352 points (31 first-place votes). Jarrett Jack of the Golden State Warriors finished third with 170 points (14 first-place votes).

Boston’s Jordan Crawford received a first-place vote and finished seventh.

In order to be eligible for this award, players had to have come off the bench in more games than they started. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.

Smith, who led reserves in 30-point (seven) and 20-point games (29), became the first player with four 30-point games off bench in same month (March) since Ricky Pierce had four in November of 1990. He earned Player of the Week honors for games played March 25-31, leading the Knicks to a 4-0 record with averages of 29.8 points (second in the league), 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals. In Smith’s 80 games, the Knicks enjoyed a +5.3 score differential with him on the court compared with +1.9 when he was on the bench. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jeff Green: ‘We just got tired, I guess’ 04.20.13 at 8:29 pm ET
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NEW YORK — The numbers were so obviously bad no one could avoid them afterward.

  • 21 turnovers leading to 20 New York points, nearly 25 percent of the Knicks total on the day.
  • Six turnovers each by starters Paul Pierce and Jeff Green.
  • 3 more turnovers (10) in the second half than field goals (7).
  • New York’s bench out-scored Boston’s reserves 33-4.
  • 25 points in the second half, eight in the fourth quarter.
  • Boston led 70-63 with 1:20 left in the third. They were outscored 22-8 in the final 13 minutes, 40 seconds.

    Add them all up and you get Knicks 85, Celtics 78 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Madison Square Garden.

    What did the Celtics have to say for themselves afterward?

    “We turned the ball over a ton and I thought our spacing was horrendous in the second half,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ” I thought each guy held the ball and tried to make their own play and I talked about that before the game. That’s not who we are. We can’t be that way, and we tried to play that way in the second half. I really couldn’t get them out of it, either, so that was disappointing.

    “We had bad turnovers. If we had those turnovers in any game, you probably should lose the game, and we did.”

    Pierce: “Some [turnovers] were forced, some were just bonehead plays. We have got to have better execution. Everyone has to know where they’ve got to be on the floor. Everyone has to get to their spots, understand when we get to the fourth quarter, everyone has to be on the same page. Games are too big at this point for us to be at that point, especially in the playoffs down the stretch.”

    Green: “We just got tired, I guess. We just have to figure out a way to close out quarters and close out the game. We were in a great position to take over the game, to win the game. Turnovers killed us.”

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    Doc Rivers: Kevin Garnett has ‘no limitations’ while the bench is a great unknown at 4:46 pm ET
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    NEW YORK — Doc Rivers is fully confident that Kevin Garnett is at full strength as the playoffs begin in New York.

    “Kevin is great,” Rivers reassured everyone when asked about the physical well being of his 36-year-old big man. “No limitations. Kevin is fine.”

    What the playoffs also mean is the no more five-minute in-out rotations for Garnett and no more worries about playing him 25-30 minutes a game.

    “That’s nice,” Rivers said of the change. “The five-minute rotation thing with Kevin, you do it because you have to get through the season but it’s horrendous. Teams were game-planning against it. It got to a silly point at times. Kevin would come out and teams would bring in their big back in and we knew we couldn’t bring him back in. That’s gone now. It’s basketball. We still want to limit his minutes, 40 [laughs] or 35 but not this set rotation of minutes for him. And that makes it so much more difficult to game plan against our second unit.

    “Rotations are easy when you can play the better player more minutes. That’s not hard. It’s when everybody is even and you’re trying to figure out who to play. I’ll have no problem playing Kevin more minutes. I think that’s easy. And honestly, I’ll have no problem playing someone else less if Kevin can play more so that’s not a problem at all.”

    What remains to be seen is how the bench adjusts over the course of a seven-game series. Jordan Crawford and Jason Terry were the first of the bench Saturday and then Courtney Lee was on the floor as the second quarter began, playing with Terry and Crawford, as Rivers went with a very small lineup.

    “I don’t know, honestly,” Rivers said when asked what he’s expecting from his role players in crunch time. “We clearly want to shorten our bench but I think in this case, because we have so many guys who are almost equal, it’s going be short but it’s going to be different guys [coming off bench in rotation].

    “You just prepare them in what you have to do as a team. They’re going to hear advice from the rest of the guys, Kevin, Paul, JET and at the end of the day, they probably throw most of it out and you go out and play in the game. After Game 1, I’m sure some of the guys are going to find something out and as a coach, I’m just hoping what they find out is really good. But even if they find out something really bad, you hope they can learn from it and move on from it. I try not to overdo it. There’s guys who I don’t know how they’ll be in this atmosphere and I’ll find that out, too.”

    Is there a concern some might be overwhelmed?

    “You can never sense that,” Rivers said. “You have to wait until the game is played. Guys have horrendous week of practice and you’re on them all week to learn sets and then they get into games and all of sudden it clicks and I’ve seen just the exact opposite. You just don’t know.”

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    Doc Rivers: ‘Emotionally, it could go either way’ at 2:47 pm ET
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    NEW YORK — Doc Rivers admitted before Game 1 Saturday that his team didn’t have the best of practices on Friday at Columbia University, on the eve of the team’s first postseason game this year.

    He also was very understanding of the players wanting to follow the events going on 200 miles away in Boston.

    “[Friday] was a strange day,” Rivers said. “You’re going to practice and you hear guys on the phone and literally everyone is calling home, yelling or you could hear them saying, ‘Stay in the house!’ And we’re going to practice and I even told our staff, we’re going to make a lot of mistakes in practice today. There’s no way their focus is where it should be. And you felt that going into practice. And, honestly, we were right, practice played out that way.

    “So I don’t know. Thank gosh it’s over, in that regards. It was good to see everybody in the city happy, hugging and rejoicing. And I’m sure our players had a chance to exhale, because their families are still back there. [Rajon Rondo] was supposed to join us yesterday, and he couldn’t even get out. He was locked in and had to stay in himself. What does that do for us today, I have no idea? I think, emotionally, it could go either way.”

    Rivers and his staff are ready to handle the situation, good or bad, during the course of the game.

    “Hopefully we can figure out a way, if it’s not going the right way, to gather them right and get it back,” Rivers said. “Thank gosh it’s a four-quarter game because I’m always worried about any team, even if it wasn’t for this, being too emotionally high at the beginning of a game. Because you still have to finish the game. We’ll see.”

    Speaking of Rondo, after being locked down on Friday, the injured point guard made his way down to the Big Apple on Saturday and is with the team for the start of the playoffs. Rivers definitely likes him around the team.

    “I want him around,” Rivers said. “He’s a good mind. He’s a great, great mind. And he knows the game. He’s a smart kid. People have no idea his IQ, they really don’t. It’s funny right now, even after our shootaround, he’s into it.”

    With Pablo Prigioni [sprained ankle] is out for the Knicks, Chris Copeland moves into the staring lineup. The Knicks will go with a starting backcourt of Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert, to go along with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler.

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    Irish Coffee: Breaking down Celtics vs. Knicks 04.19.13 at 3:25 pm ET
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    It’s only fitting that Boston and New York will meet again in a playoff series.

    An underlying respect between the two cities rose to the surface this week, when the Yankees honored Red Sox Nation with a “United We Stand” sign outside their Stadium and sang Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” inside. Bound further now by more than a rivalry, we can only hope sports provide the same small distraction and healing power in Boston that they did in New York City after Sept. 11, 2001.

    As we did during Wednesday’s emotional National Anthem at the Bruins game, let’s attempt to welcome that distraction and healing power in the aftermath of the cowardly Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing manhunt by previewing the first-round NBA playoff series between the Celtics and Knicks.

    Kevin Garnett

    Kevin Garnett

    CENTER

    Kevin Garnett (29.7 MIN, 14.8 PTS, 7.8 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.9 BLK)
    Vs. Tyson Chandler (32.8 MIN, 10.4 PTS, 10.7 REB, 1.1 BLK, 0.9 AST, 0.6 STL)

    The two erstwhile Defensive Players of the Year have each served as anchors of NBA title teams and enter this series dealing with recent injuries. While Chandler (neck) has relative youth and superior rebounding on his side, Garnett (ankle) is a more versatile offensive threat, illustrating a far wider shooting range and facilitating at a higher rate. There’s a reason one’s a future Hall of Famer and the other made his first All-Star roster this winter.

    Slight advantage: Celtics

    POWER FORWARD

    Brandon Bass (27.6 MIN, 8.7 PTS, 5.2 REB, 1.0 AST, 0.8 BLK, 0.5 STL)
    Vs. Carmelo Anthony (37.0 MIN, 28.7 PTS, 6.9 REB, 2.6 AST, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK)

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Knicks vs. Celtics: NBA playoffs 1st round schedule 04.18.13 at 10:07 am ET
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    The NBA released the full schedule for the first-round playoff series between the Celtics and Knicks.

    Game 1: Celtics at Knicks on Saturday (3 p.m., ABC)
    Game 2: Celtics at Knicks on Tuesday (8 p.m., TNT)
    Game 3: Knicks at Celtics on April 26 (8 p.m., ESPN)
    Game 4: Knicks at Celtics on April 28 (1 p.m., ABC)
    Game 5: Celtics at Knicks on May 1 (TBD, if necessary)
    Game 6: Knicks at Celtics on May 3 (TBD, if necessary)
    Game 7: Celtics at Knicks on May 5 (TBD, if necessary)

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    Doc Rivers: ‘You’re angry when you think about it because you love your city’ 04.16.13 at 12:08 pm ET
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    Doc Rivers

    Doc Rivers

    WALTHAM — Instead of playing a game Tuesday night, the Celtics held practice and reacted to Monday’s Boston Marathon tragedy.

    Among those most affected was Jeff Green. The Celtics player, like his coach, live in Boston and very close to the epicenter of Monday’s two explosions on Boylston Street near the finish line.

    Green said before Tuesday’s practice that he understood completely the NBA’s decision to cancel Tuesday’s home game against the Pacers at the Garden.

    “Everybody has got to be safe,” Green said. “I think it was right to cancel the game out of respect for the families affected.”

    Celtics coach Doc Rivers also lives in the Back Bay. He was headed into Boston after Monday’s practice in Waltham to watch the Marathon. He said

    “I always go down after practice and watch [the Boston Marathon]. I was on my way,” Rivers said. “I had gotten out of the [Prudential] tunnel when the bomb exploded.

    “I thought the spirit of Boston was incredible last night. If you’re part of the city, this country, it’s going to be on your mind. This city has an amazing amount spirit. You’re angry, too, when you think about it because you love your city. That bothers you.”

    The game against the Pacers was canceled and will not be rescheduled. The Celtics will finish their 81-game schedule on Wednesday night in Toronto and then open the first round of the playoffs this weekend in New York’s Madison Square Garden against the Knicks.

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