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Fast Break: Knicks survive furious Celtics comeback 05.03.13 at 10:03 pm ET
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A montage of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the first half with the tagline “heart of a champion” left the Garden crowd in awe. Then, a Knicks barrage left those same fans in shock. Finally, the Celtics showed that heart, rattling off a 20-point run midway through the fourth quarter and making a game of it, but it proved too little, too late.

Garnett came to play, and Pierce finally showed up in the fourth quarter, but an 88-80 loss in Game 6 ended their season, opening up a Pandora’s Box of questions nobody in the Celtics organization wants to answer. That’s another story for a different day. Here’s what went wrong in their final game of the season.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: The Celtics were lucky to get out of the first quarter only trailing by 14 points. They shot 25 percent from the field. Garnett made his first three shots, and his teammates finished 1-of-13 in the opening quarter. Pierce went 1-for-8. While the Celtics settled for jump shots, the Knicks scored from everywhere. Seven minutes into the game, New York had as many points off turnovers as the C’s had total points. No other word to describe it but ugly.

3 falling: The Celtics missed their first nine 3-pointers, including five bricks from Pierce, and the Knicks’ defense held the Celtics to 14 points through the game’s first 18 minutes. Meanwhile, Pablo Prigioni made three of his first four attempts from beyond the arc, scoring as many points in the first quarter as he had in any game in the series.

Everything: The Celtics looked gassed. Through three quarters, they had 15 field goals and 17 turnovers. C’s not named KG made 8-of-37 shots entering the fourth quarter. It seemed as though they left everything they had on the Madison Square Garden floor in Game 5, when Garnett, Pierce, Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass combined for 201 minutes. Then, the fourth quarter happened, and the Celtics scored more points than they did in all of the first half. It was ridiculous and unsustainable all at the same time.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Green light: Nobody on the Celtics could get within 10 feet of the basket, so Jeff Green gave it a shot. And another. And another. He started just 1-of-6 but led the C’s with nine points at the break — thanks to 6-of-8 shooting from the free throw line. If anybody else could’ve beat his man off the dribble, the Celtics wouldn’t have been in such dire straits at halftime. But Pierce settled for contested jumpers when he should’ve been deferring to Green, who finished with 21 points on 12 shots. Pierce scored 14 on 18 attempts.

The runs: Any sign of life was a positive. That’s how bad the C’s offense was. Back-to-back Green and Terry 3’s with four minutes left until halftime capped an 8-0 run that left the Garden wondering, “Wait, they’re only down 10?” With four minutes remaining in the third quarter, a Terry triple punctuated a 9-2 run that did the same. And, of course, the miraculous 20-0 run in 4:05 that slashed a 75-49 game to a six-point deficit, breathing life back into the building in the fourth quarter.

Melo J.R.: The only thing that kept the Celtics from completely getting their doors blown off was another poor shooting performance by both Carmelo Anthony (7-23 FG) and J.R. Smith (5-13 FG). If only Raymond Felton (11 points, 7 assists) — who killed the Celtics all series — forgot to show up, too, the Celtics might have had a shot.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, New York Knicks
Last call: Celtics make furious comeback but season ends in Game 6 at 9:57 pm ET
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History will have to wait.

Despite one of the most furious comebacks in NBA playoff history, the Celtics‘ season came to an end Friday night with an 88-80 loss to the Knicks in Game 6 at a wild TD Garden. Boston used a 20-0 run over a four-minute span midway through the fourth quarter to cut a 26-point hole down to six, and eventually cut it to four before the Knicks held on for dear life.

Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni hit seven of their first nine attempts from 3-point range and combined for 27 points as the Knicks ended Boston’s hopes of becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.

The Knicks hit eight of their first 15 3-point attempts and turned 20 Boston turnovers into 17 points as New York clinched their first playoff series win since 2000.

The ice-cold Celtics lost in the first round for the first time since 2005, when they fell in seven games to the Pacers. In repeat of their offensive woes for most of the series, Boston scored just 27 points in the first half.

Paul Pierce shot just 4-of-18 from the field and finished with just 14 points. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Jeff Green was the leading scorer with 21.

The Celtics pulled out all of the cards in their final home game of the season, including playing a video montage of the Red Sox comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees before the tip.

In a repeat of Game 5 in New York on Wednesday night, the Celtics got off to a very cold start. New York raced out to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter as Pablo Prigioni hit three 3-pointers. Unlike Game 5, the Celtics couldn’t immediately work their way back into the game as they started out missing 11 of their first 14 shots and finished the first quarter trailing 24-10, while shooting just 4-for-16 from the field.

No one on the Celtics struggled more than their captain. Pierce finished the first half making just one of 10 shots while missing all five from 3-point range after going 4-for-8 from long distance in Game 5. The Knicks built their lead to 18 twice in the second quarter before the Celtics answered with a 10-0 run that included consecutive threes from Jeff Green and Jason Terry, getting the Garden crowd into the game for the first time.

Carmelo Anthony carried the Knicks offensively in the first half, scoring 14 points, including a key three-point play with just 4.5 seconds left before halftime that gave New York a 39-27 halftime lead. Anthony finished with 21 points.

Garnett hit a jumper to start the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10 but Prigioni fed Tyson Chandler for a slam dunk. That was followed by a Prigioni reverse layup and a Raymond Felton jumper and New York had a 45-29 lead. After Bass hit one of two free throws, Prigioni answered with his fifth 3-pointer with 8:56 and the Knicks matched their biggest lead, 50-32. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd, NBA
Paul Pierce on Celtics’ funeral: ‘Guess I didn’t get the memo’ 05.02.13 at 12:16 am ET
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NEW YORK — Paul Pierce could not help but laugh.

After the captain scored 16 points and helped the Celtics stay alive with a 92-86 win over the Knicks in Game 5 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Pierce talked with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on the WEEI Celtics radio network and was asked if he missed the news that Wednesday was supposed to be the Celtics’ funeral for the season — a suggestion made by Kenyon Martin, who advised his teammates to wear black to the game.

“I guess I didn’t get the memo. I guess this wasn’t the day,” Pierce said laughing.

Before the shootaround Wednesday morning, Pierce said, “No reaction. This is basketball. I’m not going to be dead after the game.”

What was the difference?

Jeff Green two huge 3-pointers late,” Pierce said. “I just thought it was our execution, the way we moved the ball. Brandon Bass with some huge plays down the stretch. Jason Terry, Kevin Garnett, it has to come collectively, and that’s what you saw tonight. Huge team effort. We settled in on our defense all night long. We were able to contain [Carmelo Anthony], was able to contain most of the guys from having a huge night and it was a huge team win.”

Pierce did acknowledge that he was sporting a sore hip after the Knicks banged him around in Game 5.

“This is a physical series,” Pierce said. “They’re allowing them to bump me and bang me. They’re trying to do everything they can to get to me. But that’s what you have to expect. You have to expect the bumps and bruises in a playoff game.”

Pierce knows the TD Garden crowd will be ready on Friday night for Game 6.

“Our crowd is going to be very emotional,” he said. “This is what they wanted — they wanted another home game. I expect them to be the loudest arena in the world [Friday]. There’s going to be so many emotions. We have to have plans to come back here [to New York] on Sunday.”

He said he isn’t even thinking about it being his last game in Boston.

“It really doesn’t cross my mind,” he said. “It’s like I’m still enjoying the ride. It’s like I’m on a roller coaster with my hands up. I’m not really thinking about the ending. I’m going through the loops and going through the drops and I’m just enjoying it, truthfully. Like a roller coaster, when it ends, they lift up the seat belt.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
Wednesday shootaround: Kevin Garnett not paying attention to Knicks’ ‘shenanigans’ 05.01.13 at 12:53 pm ET
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NEW YORK — No one knows trash talking like Kevin Garnett.

He also knows how to tune it out like no one else, or at least not feed into publicly.

J.R. Smith said there wouldn’€™t be a Game 5 Wednesday night in New York if he had not been suspended for Game 4, while Kenyon Martin is suggesting black formal wear at Madison Square Garden for the Celtics‘€™ funeral.

“I have not paid attention to none of the shenanigans,” Garnett said before Wednesday morning’s shootaround at Madison Square Garden.

Garnett says he knows what it will take to be successful in Game 5 — taking one possession at a time and not getting overwhelmed by New York’s tenacious defense.

“It’s not that hard, to be honest,” Garnett said of the approach. “Taking one possession at a time is something you have to be conscious of, not individually but as a group. Understanding each possession and what it means, the importance of that possession. Small things are what’s going to make this a do-or-die type of game.

“I think it’s more, not for us to [instill] doubt, but it’s important to show some type of barrier, if not willingness, in this whole game. We know we’re playing on the road and we know they play really well here. I think the important thing is not to get down, to come out with some fire and play throughout with that fire.”

Garnett appreciates some of the fire on the Celtics bench in the form of Rajon Rondo. Garnett said he’s been huge in helping Avery Bradley and Terrence Williams while being an extra pair of eyes for him and Paul Pierce in the post.

“More importantly, he’s talking to Avery, T-Will, the guys who play the point guard position, Paul and I about opportunity and being aggressive, giving the coaching staff a perspective. Doe is a very smart guy, very high IQ when it comes to a lot of different things. He’s giving his take on what he sees out there as far as where he’s at. But more importantly being a safety net for Avery right now. Avery goes through periods where it’s difficult. It’s going to happen. We’ve all been young before. Just being like a security blanket for Avery and anyone else who needs it.”

Garnett has 34 rebounds in the last two games. What has been the secret to his success?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really [put] thought into it, to be honest. A lot of rebounding is timing. Tyson [Chandler] and I, Kenyon and I are down there battling for the ball. It’s not one or two things that go into it, nor would I like to share, but the things that I have been doing are working for me and I’m going to stick with it.

“You don’t have a choice whether you like it or not. It’s whether you adapt or not. If you don’t adapt, you know what end you end up on, and I don’t want to end up on that end.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin
Paul Pierce reminds Celtics that his future is in ‘their hands’ at 11:47 am ET
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NEW YORK — The reality could hit soon and very hard for Paul Pierce and the Celtics if Boston doesn’t win Game 5 here at Madison Square Garden.

Reminded at the Wednesday morning shootaround that he is entering the final year of his current contract next season and could be playing his last game in a Celtics uniform, Pierce was philosophical.

“I’ve always been a guy who says things happen for a reason,” Pierce said. “I was a No. 10 [overall] pick [in 1998]. I did not anticipate that. I just always feel like through my whole career things everything is going to fall into the right place for me. So, I really don’t give much thought until after the season. But I know, at the end of the day, whatever I do, whatever they do, it’s going to fall into the right place for me.”

Pierce is signed through next season for just over $15.3 million but it is not guaranteed. Pierce is aware that the team could trade him in the offseason if the Celtics want to clear space, and if another team acquires him and then dumps the contract.

“I’ve always said that I want to end my career as a Celtic but they are the ones [who decide],” Pierce said. “I have a year contract for next year but it’s not guaranteed so the decision is in their hands. But, whatever they decision they make… Maybe if they trade me somewhere or I end up somewhere else, maybe it could be a situation where I come back for a one-day deal and retire as a Celtic.

“Right now, it’s just year-by-year. I expect to play another year next year and then evaluate after that.”

Meanwhile, Pierce isn’t worried about what the Knicks are saying either. Reminded that Kenyon Martin suggested black formal wear to Game 5 for the Celtics’ funeral, Pierce responded, “No reaction. It’s basketball. I’m not going to be dead after the game.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kenyon Martin, NBA, NBA playoffs
Celtics veterans support Jason Collins 04.30.13 at 4:23 pm ET
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Celtics veterans unanimously supported former teammate Jason Collins‘ decision to come out as the first openly gay player in major American sports in an autobiographical Sports Illustrated piece.

Collins told C’s coach Doc Rivers a few days ago and phoned Celtics captain Paul Pierce before the news broke on Monday morning. Rivers, Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green and Jason Terry all expressed genuine happiness for Collins, and their words must reinforce the erstwhile Celtics center’s decision to come forward.

Here are the Celtics speaking about Collins in their own words:

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jason Collins, Jason Terry
Tuesday practice notes: Doc Rivers treats Game 5 like another Game 7, at 2:19 pm ET
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WALTHAM — It’s a theme that began last weekend after the Game 3 loss to the Knicks. Every game the rest of the series is like Game 7. It worked in Game 4 as the Celtics won, 97-90, in overtime but the Knicks still lead the series, 3-1.

“Like I told them, what’€™s the difference between being down 0-3 and being in a Game 7?” Doc Rivers asked rhetorically. “It’€™s no different. It’€™s an elimination game. The difference is your mindset. In a Game 7 you’€™re thinking, ‘Let’€™s win it to win it.’ When you’€™re down 0-3, you never know. You may have a couple guys making vacation plans, thinking you can’€™t do it. It’€™s all about the mindset. And that’€™s what I told our guys before the game the other night and that will be the message still. Each game you win, it is a Game 7. If you advance, you just advance to another game instead of to the next round. That’€™s got to be our mindset.”

Rivers knows veterans like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry fully understand that message. The hope is that it’s filters to players like Avery Bradley and Jeff Green Wednesday night in New York.

“You know, Game 7s are all out,” Garnett said before Tuesday’s practice. “It’s just what they are. They’re your last opportunity to survive and your mentality can’t be anything different. We have no pressure at this point. It should be an all-out mentality and you should play with a free mind and an aggressive mind and take this thing one game at a time and see what happens. Other than that, we put [ourselves] in this position, and we can’t [complain] about too much.”

Did Sunday’s Game 4 OT win instill more confidence in the group as they hit the road?

“Don’t know,” Rivers answered. “I’m hoping that we had confidence to begin with, but I honestly don’t know. I think we are really looking forward to the next game.”

What was clear to Rivers and his coaching staff from watching film is that another 18 turnovers Wednesday in New York like they had on Sunday will end the season. Aside from turning the ball over, the Celtics need to repeat their offensive flow of the first half, when they shot 50 percent and built a 19-point halftime lead.

“Well, we have to repeat it,” Rivers said. “It’s clear when we play a certain way, and that’s in an attack mode, not settling offensively, moving the ball, getting in transition, we’re hard to stop. It’s also clear when we get into the half-court and slow the ball down we’re not that hard to stop and that’s obvious.”

Other nuggets from Tuesday practice from Doc Rivers:

Second chance points. Frustrating for KG? “That’s frustrating for him. And some of them were switches where we switch and Chandler is underneath with a guard. We got called for two face guard block outs, which is legal. And I think we have to explain that honestly to our official, because it doesn’t look legal and I agree with them in that, but it actually is a legal position. We’re telling our guards instead of backing up, turn around and face guard them and block them out that way. Your’e not going to get the ball, but they’re not going to either. So that’s something we’re trying to do. but their guards got a lot of rebounds too. Shumpert hurt us on the glass. Jason Kidd hurt us on the glass too. So we can’t give up the extra shots with the turnovers and the offensive rebounds and expect to win tomorrow on the road. We just can’t do that. So we have to definitely fix the turnovers first and then the rebounds second.

On admiring KG for hard work it takes to get ready? “No, people have no idea what he goes through, and you can’t unfortunately. But it really is watching him just in there now doing all the stuff that they’re doing, the stretching. He just plays because he loves it, and it’s will. A lot of guys would just not play anymore. The fact that he does and to the level that he does it, I mean he’s a rebounding machine for us right now, and we need it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, J.R. Smith, Jason Terry
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