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Three for all: Hot Heat beat short-handed Celtics, Jeff Green bruises left elbow 04.12.13 at 9:54 pm ET
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Jeff Green got off to a hot start before injuring himself early in the fourth quarter on a dunk. (AP)

Jeff Green got off to a hot start before injuring himself early in the fourth quarter on a dunk. (AP)

Miami shot 12-for-23 from 3-point range, led by three each from Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Mario Chalmers and Rashard Lewis, as the Heat beat the short-handed Celtics, 109-101, Friday night at American Airlines Arena.

The Celtics, who rested Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, suffered a scare in the fourth quarter when Jeff Green injured his left elbow bracing his fall after a dunk. He was diagnosed with a bruised left elbow and did not return.

“I don’t think it’s that bad, I honestly don’t,” Doc Rivers said after the game. “We’ll know more [Saturday]. He has an ice pack on it.”

Before the injury, Green led the Celtics with 25 points and eight rebounds. Jordan Crawford chipped in with 20 points for the Celtics, who fell to 40-39.

With Milwaukee losing in Atlanta, Boston needs one more win to clinch seventh, and will be assured of not finishing eighth and will avoid the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. But now, the Celtics will have practically no chance of catching the Hawks for sixth, as the Celtics trail Atlanta by three games in the loss column with three games remaining. Boston won the season series with the Hawks, 3-1.

Without Pierce and Garnett, Rivers went with a small starting lineup featuring Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass.

The Heat, on the other hand, played with their full compliment of starters, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, resting only Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem.

And behind the aggressive play of Green, the Celtics shot out to a red-hot start. Green was 4-for-5 from the field, with three drives to the basket for layups. He finished the first quarter with eight points and six rebounds as the Celtics led 25-13. Boston shot 50 percent and led 27-17 after 12 minutes.

But the second quarter was a defensive disaster for Boston as Miami’s bench took over. The Heat shot an amazing 16-of-19 from the field, led by a bench powered by the 3-point shooting of Ray Allen. With Boston leading 34-23, Allen converted a layup with 9:23 left in the second. The layup was the first of eight straight points for Allen, who hit back-to-back threes to spark an 11-0 run that tied the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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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Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett trade rumors return at 12:26 pm ET
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With the trade deadline long gone and the Celtics positioning themselves for another playoff run, just when you thought it was safe to table the discussion of trading veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears reminds everyone that their departure is a very real possibility in the near future.

These two names were certainly hot before the trade deadline. A lot of people were wondering if Garnett might go to the Clippers or Paul might get moved. If something’s going to happen with either one of them or both of them, the summer is a better time for that, because you’re not in a rush. There’s no real big deadline. You can think about it. Even draft night is a possibility.

Keep in mind, Pierce has one more year left on his deal. Pierce is still a valuable player, still a dynamic player. Keep an eye on a team like the Clippers. Not so much even for Garnett, but for Pierce, because if the Clippers stumble in the first or second round, I think that small forward position is something that they could use. They need maybe that No. 3 scorer or even that No. 2 scorer to kind of get them over the hump and be in the elite. He’s from L.A., so I don’t think Danny Ainge is going to send him to Minnesota. He’s going to send him somewhere that he would be happy with, and I’m sure Paul probably thinks he he could get an extension with a team like the Clippers.

But the problem with trading Garnett is — no matter where it is, even if it was Miami — he could potentially retire. He’s not a guy who wants a change, and he’s a guy who’s big on commitment. It would have to be a place where you’d have to have some stars that could convince him, but, to me, I think Pierce is probably the more likely guy if either of the two are to get moved in the offseason.

While speculation resumes about their future, Pierce and Garnett focus on preparing for the playoffs. The two spoke at length about developing consistency in a year full of inconsistencies. Here are the highlights.

Read the rest of this entry »

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