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Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce (ankles) won’t face Heat 04.11.13 at 12:59 pm ET
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Aging Celtics stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will both rest their ailing left ankles against the Heat on Friday.

Both will travel to Miami and neither has been ruled out the Magic in Orlando on Saturday. After Wednesday’s loss to the Nets, Garnett and Pierce each left the decision about rest up to Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

“Whatever Doc wants me to do,” said Garnett.

“I’m going to leave that up to the coach,” said Pierce. “I think practice time is good for us. I think playing together is good for us. But that’s up to the coaching staff, what they say and best preparing us going forward in the playoffs.”

With four games remaining, the Celtics lead the Bucks by three games for the seventh seed. The C’s play three of their final four games on the road, hosting a Pacers squad that has an outside shot at the No. 2 seed between this weekend’s trip to Florida and the regular-season finale in Toronto.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee travels to Atlanta on Friday and Charlotte on Saturday before hosting the Nuggets and visiting Oklahoma City next week. The Bucks own the tiebreaker against the Celtics, so any combination of C’s wins or Milwaukee losses adding up to two clinches the right to avoid Miami until the Eastern Conference finals.

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Kevin Garnett: ‘I can be better, and I will be’ at 1:08 am ET
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In his first test since returning from a foot injury that cost him two weeks (he faced the Wizards on Sunday, but c’mon), Kevin Garnett didn’t live up to his own standards in a 101-93 loss to the Nets. If the Celtics have any hope in the playoffs, they need the Kevin Garnett that averaged 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds in 36.9 minutes last postseason, and he doesn’t seem to be available with a week left in the regular season.

“Absolutely, I can be better, and I will be,” said Garnett. “I can be better in every part of my game. It’s not just one decisive thing. Obviously, my timing is off a little bit, and I’ll get that.”

Garnett has precious little time to get that timing down. The Celtics have four games remaining in the regular season, and coach Doc Rivers might elect to rest his aging superstars with the No. 7 seed all but wrapped up. (“Whatever Doc wants me to do,” said KG.) Still, that doesn’t seem to worry Garnett all that much.

“I think we’re focusing too much on the playoffs that aren’t here yet,” said Garnett, whose 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes didn’t reflect his performance. “I think we need to focus and lock in on these games that we have left, and put the energy and the effort behind that. I think we’re stressing too much on the future, and the future’s not here yet. We need to take this one game at a time and then prepare for whatever’s after this.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Doc Rivers: ‘Obviously, we want to play Miami’ just not early in playoffs at 12:15 am ET
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Five days earlier, after a loss to the Cavaliers at TD Garden, Doc Rivers said, “Of course we would… I’m not that dumb” when asked if the Celtics would like to avoid the defending champs who have raced through the NBA this season, on the way to the league’s best mark.

But after Wednesday’s loss to the Nets, he made a clarifying statement when informed that Milwaukee lost, reducing Boston’s magic number to 1 for clinching seventh-seed and not finishing eighth, which would result in a first-round meeting with Miami.

“That’s good,” Rivers said. “Obviously, we want to play Miami. We do. We just would not like to play them early. I mean, we would love to avoid Miami in the first round and then play them; that would mean we’re doing very well. So, we clearly want to play Miami. We just want to delay it a little bit if we can.”

Now that it appears all but certain the Celtics (40-38) will finish in seventh place in the Eastern conference, they will likely draw the Knicks in the first round. The Celtics playoff spot was all but locked in at seventh Wednesday night when they lost to the Brooklyn Nets at home but the Milwaukee Bucks (37-41) also lost on the road in Orlando. The Bucks and Celtics each have four games remaining.

Atlanta (44-36) moved two games ahead of Boston in the loss column for sixth place with a win in Philadelphia.

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Net loss: Up and down Celtics left in the dust in loss to Nets 04.10.13 at 10:35 pm ET
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Brandon Bass provided one of the few highlights for the Celtics, a dunk on Brook Lopez in the first quarter. (AP)

Brandon Bass provided one of the few highlights for the Celtics, a dunk on Brook Lopez in the first quarter. (AP)

Deron Williams scored 29 points Brook Lopez added 21 as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Celtics, 101-93, Wednesday night at TD Garden. Paul Pierce had 23 to lead the Celtics, who fell to 40-38 on the season. In his second game back from an inflamed left ankle, Kevin Garnett rebounded from a 1-for-6 first half to finish with 11 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.

With the loss, the Celtics appear locked in for the seventh-seed and a first-round match up with the Knicks as the sixth-seed Hawks beat the Sixers in Philadelphia to move two games ahead of the Celtics in the loss column. With the Bucks’ loss in Orlando, Boston is still three games up in the loss column on eighth place Milwaukee. The Celtics and Bucks each have four games left.

The Nets improved to 46-32 and are all but locked in at the No. 4 seed heading into the playoffs.

In a game the Celtics showed little defensive intensity, the first quarter started out with great promise. The Celtics shot out to a 17-9 lead, highlighted by a dunk from Brandon Bass over Brook Lopez with six minutes left in the opening quarter. Brandon Bass led the Celtics with eight points in the first quarter but the Nets outscored the Celtics, 13-4, in the last six minutes of the quarter to take a 22-21 lead after 12 minutes. Boston finished the first quarter shooting just 9-of-23 from the field.

Boston’s defense in the second quarter was leaky, as the Nets made two-thirds of their shots from the floor, finishing the period 12-of-18. Williams had 11 of his 27 points in the quarter as the Nets took command of the game with a 53-43 halftime lead.

Another telling sign of how the Celtics were dominated on the inside was the lack of free throws. With Boston’s offensive generated almost exclusively from the perimeter, the Celtics didn’t get to the free throw line until 8:22 left in the third quarter, when Pierce hit a free throw to complete a 3-point play.

There were signs of life in the third quarter as Jeff Green drilled a three with 4:29 left to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 11, 68-57. Then, Shav Randolph drew a charge on Brook Lopez. After two Pierce free throws cut the lead under 10, Lopez hit a five-foot bank shot to stem the Boston tide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Nets cut down sluggish Celtics at 9:43 pm ET
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The Nets ran the Celtics out of their own building, 101-94, but the Bucks bailed them out by losing in overtime to the lowly Magic. The C’s own a three-game advantage on Milwaukee with four games to play. Here’s what went wrong against the Nets, a tough matchup for the Celtics should they meet in the second round.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: In the opening quarter, the Nets committed three times as many turnovers (6) as they had assists (2). The Celtics held Brooklyn to 7-of-19 shooting, including an 0-for-3 frame from Williams. And somehow the C’s trailed 22-21 after one. The fact that everyone not named Brandon Bass or Paul Pierce combined to shoot 3-of-16 didn’t help. The Celtics had a chance to bury Brooklyn early. Instead, the opposite.

Garnett and Green: For different reasons, Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green struggled. Garnett seemed to be playing his way back into shape in his second game since missing two weeks with a foot injury, although he made 4-of-5 shots after finishing 1-for-6 from the floor in the first half. Meanwhile, Green got open looks but had an awful shooting night (4-17 FG). Easy rule of thumb: If scoring options 2 and 3 aren’t working, the Celtics are in trouble.

Foul mood: Avery Bradley picked up three fouls in the first half and his fourth 49 seconds into the second, and Williams took full advantage. Actually, he was the reason Bradley got into foul trouble in the first place. The Nets point guard continued his improved play since failing to make the All-Star roster for the first time since 2009, recording a double-double (29 points, 12 assists). Speaking of fouls, the Celtics didn’t attempt a free throw for almost 28 minutes (thanks to a heaping helping of jump shots). Somebody check on Tommy Heinsohn.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Super Bass: After averaging fewer than 10 points for the first five months of the season, Bass has scored in double digits in all five games this month. Heck, he practically reached that mark in the first quarter. Illustrating a more versatile offensive arsenal, he threw down a vicious two-handed dunk over Brook Lopez, knocked down an 18-foot jumper and showed off a creative post move on Reggie Evans on consecutive Celtics buckets in the opening frame. In an odd move, Celtics coach Doc Rivers opted not to play Bass for a lengthy second-half stretch while Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries of all people grabbed rebound after rebound.

Living Wilcox: Likewise, the C’s nearly had to file a missing persons report on Chris Wilcox, who hasn’t been the same since injuries to his thumb and alley-oop partner Rajon Rondo‘s knee. For the second straight game, Shavlik Randolph was the first big off the bench, and for the second straight game, Wilcox played like his playoff minutes depended on it. After all, he’s never participated in the NBA’s postseason. Eighty percent of his shots have come within 2 feet of the basket, and Wednesday was no different, but at least he earned those buckets.

Truth handles: While many of the Celtics regulars struggled — and frankly turned in a preseason performance — Pierce (23 points) plodded his way through another stellar effort. After citing the “chippiness” between the two teams, Pierce probably had this game circled on his calendar. He scored 13 points on four shots in the third quarter alone. While the lead continued to slip away from the C’s as the game wore on, Pierce at least gave them a fighter’s chance, even if he was the only one fighting.

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Doc Rivers: ‘We need to have as much versatility as possible going into the playoffs’ at 8:59 pm ET
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To Doc Rivers, the key to playoff success will be outmaneuvering his opponent. Given the fact that he’s going to be facing either the Knicks or Pacers in the first round, he’s going to need as many options as possible.

Thus, with Paul Pierce and Jeff Green finding their rhythm heading into the playoffs, this gives Rivers and his staff another bullet in the holster.

“I like the ability to have that lineup and other lineups instead of just having this ‘small lineup’ with Jeff at the 4,” Rivers said. “We want to have three lineups – Jeff at the 2, Jeff at the 3, Jeff at the 4. Or if you want to call Paul the 2, I don’t care who you call the 2. I just think it gives us more versatility.

Wednesday against the Nets, Rivers featured the lineup (Pierce, Green, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley) that’s likely going to start the playoffs, of course barring another in an seemingly unending avalanche of injuries.

“This lineup is good,” Rivers said. “It’s important because it gives us a third lineup, because there’s one lineup we can’t go to, and that’s the very big lineup, like two 7-footers. We’re not going to be able to do that. We need to have as much versatility as possible going into the playoffs to play multiple styles.”

Before Wednesday at the Garden, the Celtics and Nets hadn’t met since Boston’s cakewalk on Christmas Day when the Celtics beat the Nets, 93-76. A game later, Avery Johnson was fired and PJ Carlesimo was promoted to head coach. The Nets are 31-18 since. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why the buddy system is ‘huge’ for Doc Rivers at 12:37 pm ET
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Randy Wittman has always been a helpful resource to Doc Rivers. (AP)

Randy Wittman has always been a helpful resource to Doc Rivers. (AP)

WALTHAM — Doc Rivers isn’t just one of the most personable coaches among fans and media, he’s one of the most likable among his fellow NBA head coaches.

And that – as it turns out – has its rewards.

As the playoffs near, Rivers has been tapping into that network of coaches for some inside intel. But Rivers isn’t looking for advance scouting tips on his opponents; he’s looking for what other coaches see in the Celtics.

Rivers was asked Tuesday at practice what he thought of teams like Cleveland and Washington defending Paul Pierce and Jeff Green with smaller, quicker guards.

“That won’t last,” Rivers predicted. “I think teams will go back and forth on it. And they did even in the game the other night [vs. Washington]. They started out small, went big and then went back to small. I think teams are trying to figure out which way they would guard them.”

Why is that? All Rivers had to do was ask longtime friend and former Atlanta teammate Randy Wittman, now the coach of the Wizards.

“It’s nice when you play, honestly, a team that’s not in the playoffs and talk to the coach after the game. I asked what their reasoning [is] for choosing one or the other. It’s been interesting the comments I’ve gotten back.”

What kind of information?

“Good information,” Rivers smiled. “They’ve always helped, and they’re open for the most part,” Rivers said of his postgame chats with the coaches. “They’re not going to tell you their secrets but they’re going to tell you some of their thoughts so they’re helpful.”

It’s not just Wittman, either. On the current four-game homestand that ends against Brooklyn, the Celtics have played Detroit [Lawrence Frank], Cleveland [Byron Scott] and Washington [Wittman]. All three teams will be home in two weeks when the playoffs begin. And all three have head coaches with direct ties to Rivers.

“That’s huge because otherwise, I wouldn’t ask, to be honest,” Rivers said. “So, if you have a relationship with a coach, it helps. And there’s also a lot of coaches not coaching right now that you talk to a lot. You even ask them, ‘Who would you guard or how would you attack?’ It’s good getting somebody outside of us because they see us entirely different than we see ourselves.”

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