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Jeff Green on M&M: ‘I’m finding my role’ with Celtics 04.04.13 at 1:07 pm ET
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Jeff Green

Jeff Green

Celtics forward Jeff Green checked in with Mut & Merloni to discuss his recent stellar play, the difficulty teams will face when playing the Celtics when Kevin Garnett comes back, and the firing of Rutgers coach Mike Rice.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Outside the Lines aired several hours of footage of Rice’s disgraceful behavior during Rutgers basketball practices, including various forms of physical and verbal abuse toward his players. Rice was fired the following day.

“You don’t want to believe it because you don’t want to see anything like that,” Green said. “He’s fired now, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s in the past, you just got to move on from it. Coach Rice had his tactics of how he handled his players and now he’s suffering the consequences from it.

“When you’re dealing with college kids, you don’t want to kill their confidence, and I think he did that to a lot of the players with his language, his verbal abuse, and the physical abuse from pushing and throwing the ball.”

With the season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo, as well as the continued aging of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Green’s role has changed. He now is typically viewed as the focal point of the Celtics offense.

“When I first got traded here, I didn’t know my role,” Green said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what I was going to be able to do on the floor. So, compared to now, the floor’s just wide open. … I’m finding my role and I’m playing it to the best of my ability.”

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Jeff Green and Paul Pierce: ‘We’re two lethal threats’ at 1:19 am ET
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Jeff Green has earned a starting spot on the Celtics.

He’s been downright dominant offensively in 11 spot starts for a resting Paul Pierce and an injured Kevin Garnett, so come playoff time, all three should be in the starting lineup. Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers seemed to concede that it’s “very possible” Green and Pierce start on the wings once Garnett returns.

“We’re playing off each other,” said Green, who scored 34 points to go with Pierce’s 17 in a 98-93 win over a Pistons team that had no matchup answers. “We’re two lethal threats on the perimeter and in the low post, so teams have to make a decision on how they want to play us. Either one of us is going to have a nice matchup.”

Added Pierce: “You’ve seen a lot of flashes of that this year. A lot of teams come into these games really focused on what I’m trying to do in the scouting report. When you’ve got a guy like Jeff who can put up big numbers like that and take over a game, it’s fun. It’s fun to watch and be a part of.”

In the final 9:06 of a game that shouldn’t have been so close, Pierce and Green scored 17 straight points until a pair of Jason Terry free throws sealed the deal in the final seconds. Green scored 11 of the C’s final 13 points. But don’t confuse his aggressiveness in Garnett’s absence a passing of the torch just yet.

“I’m not trying to take over games,” said Green, who added five boards and four blocks. “That’s why we’ve got The Truth. I’m playing off of him. We’re looking for each other. We’re being aggressive. If it’s in my hands, I’m trying to make a play. If it’s in his hands, he’s going to make a play, so we’ve just got to play off each other.”

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Paul Pierce celebrates birth of first son Prince Pierce in a clinching win 04.03.13 at 11:20 pm ET
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Paul Pierce let word slip to WEEI’s Grande & Max after Wednesday’s win over the Pistons that the reason for his absence on Monday was to be on hand for the birth of his first son.

“At 8:21 p.m. [Tuesday], Prince Paul Pierce was born,” Pierce announced proudly to the Celtics broadcasters after a 98-93 win over the Pistons. “In the next 18 years Celtics fans, look out.”

Prince Pierce was welcomed into the world and Pierce was a game-time decision for Wednesday’s game.

Pierce scored 17 points and dished out five assists in Boston’s 98-93 win over the Pistons, a win that clinched the playoffs for a sixth straight season.

Pierce also celebrated the 34-point performance of Jeff Green, who is helping to pick up the load without Kevin Garnett. The Celtics improved to 3-4 in seven games since Garnett went down with inflammation in his left ankle, inflammation reportedly caused by bone spurs.

“I mean it’s very tough,” Pierce said. “You’ve got a guy [Green] who’s taking it upon himself in these types of situations to step up, along with myself, along with Jason Terry. So it’s nice to see, just to have that dimension.

“You have seen a lot of flashes of that this year. A lot of times teams come into this game really focused on what I’m trying to do and the scouting report. And you’ve got a guy like Jeff who can put up big numbers like that, who can take over like that. It’s fun, it’s fun to watch and to be a part of.”

How does it feel for Pierce to have playoffs locked up?

“We knew we were a playoff team before the season started, you know despite the injuries and everything,” he said. “Right now, we just want to focus on continuing to play well going into the playoffs.”

On nearly blowing an 18-point lead: “Well, yeah. We had a [18]-point lead there late in the third. With like a minute to go they trimmed it to seven. You know, I think we just made things a little more difficult than they were suppose to be. Guys have got to be ready when they come in the game, to step up. I thought we let them back into the game a little too easy. They out-rebounded us, they pushed us around. The one constant I say we can have regardless if our shots fall is our defensive rebounding and we didn’t just do a good job in that department tonight.”

On playing without KG until playoffs: “Well there’s some value in winning and there’s also a lot of value in getting some of these other guys some playing time and some confidence going into the playoffs. The playoffs is a totally different game, it’s nothing like the regular season. But at least these guys will go out there and get there feet wet. See some shots go in, rebound the ball and get some experience while they’re out there.”

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Paul Pierce returns for Celtics, Kevin Garnett misses his seventh straight game at 7:13 pm ET
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Doc Rivers had Paul Pierce back in the lineup Wednesday against Detroit. (AP)

Doc Rivers had Paul Pierce back in the lineup Wednesday against Detroit. (AP)

Doc Rivers announced an hour before tip-off that captain Paul Pierce would return from a one-game absence and would be available for the Celtics in their matchup against the Pistons.

Pierce missed Monday’s game in Minnesota for what the team termed personal reasons. Pierce has missed just two of Boston’s 75 games this season. Pierce was back in the lineup with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox.

Rivers reiterated Wednesday that Monday’s absence and Wednesday’s uncertainty before the game had nothing to do with his right ankle.

Pierce had a wrap on his right ankle late in the fourth quarter against the Knicks on Sunday night but the team said it was just for maintenance and was not a serious injury.

As for Kevin Garnett, Rivers said the big man is working out on his own and testing his left foot. Inflammation in his left foot near the ankle caused him to miss his seventh straight game Wednesday night. The Celtics were 2-4 in the previous six.

“Honestly, I haven’t asked one question about [Garnett's return],” Rivers said when asked about the end of the two-week timetable. “I don’t even know when two weeks is. Whenever it is, it’s probably coming up, and he’ll play.

“We have a lot of practice days coming up and Kevin’s been working out. He hasn’t lost all his conditioning, but you do lose some when you don’t play.”

The Celtics play Cleveland on Friday in the second game of a four-game homestand that will also see them play Washington and Brooklyn. Rivers said the off days in between the home games will allow for more practices that should help the team work Garnett back into game action, if willing and able.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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Paul Pierce ‘game-time decision’ while Kevin Garnett misses shootaround at 2:11 pm ET
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Paul Pierce is a game-time decision for the Celtics against Detroit. (AP)

Paul Pierce is a game-time decision for the Celtics against Detroit. (AP)

It could be another night without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Pierce, who missed just his second game of the season on Monday night due to personal reasons, is officially listed by the team as a “game-time decision” for tonight’s game against the Pistons. Pierce was spotted with an ice wrap on his right foot in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game in New York but the team said at the time it was simply maintenance and not a serious injury.

Garnett, who has missed the last six games with inflammation in his left foot, was not at Wednesday morning’s shootaround. Boston is just 2-4 in those six games.

Without the two stars, the Celtics (38-36) fell to the Timberwolves on Monday night in Minnesota. As a group, Celtics starters have struggled badly in their last two games. In a loss to the Knicks Sunday night, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradey and Chris Wilcox each scored two points. On Monday, Bradley led the way with 19 points but as a unit, the starters scored just 46 points in the 110-100 loss to the Wolves.

Tonight, the Celtics host the Detroit Pistons (25-50) at the Garden (7:30 p.m. tipoff). Despite their woeful record, the Pistons have beaten the Celtics in both previous meetings, scoring 103 points each time while shooting 50 percent from the field in each game. Detroit beat the Celtics 103-88 on Jan. 20 and 103-83 on Nov. 18.

Pierce leads Boston this season, scoring 18.8 points per game and has been the top assist man since Rajon Rondo went down on Jan. 25.

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Doc Rivers: ‘I just want us to play the right way. Overall, I think we did that’ 04.01.13 at 11:10 pm ET
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Doc Rivers was not downtrodden after Monday's loss in Minnesota. (AP)

Doc Rivers was not downtrodden after Monday’s loss in Minnesota. (AP)

Celtics coach Doc Rivers put a silver lining on a 110-100 road loss to the Timberwolves Monday night at the Target Center. It was a game in which Rivers did not have four of his projected five starters, as Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jared Sullinger were out.

The latest addition was Pierce, who was not with the team Monday due to personal reasons. Rivers said before the game he expects Pierce to be ready to go on Wednesday at home against Detroit.

Still, Rivers thought his undermanned team played hard and handled adversity the right way, starting with a lineup of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.

“I go into every game thinking we’re going to win the game,” Rivers said afterward. “We had our chances tonight. But I get it, too. I just want us to play the right way and do things our way. I think overall we did that.”

The Celtics trailed for most of the game and never got closer than eight points in the fourth quarter against a Minnesota team that had 26 wins coming in and had lost to Boston 11 straight times dating back to Feb. 11, 2007, before Garnett arrived in Boston.

The Timberwolves took full advantage as 6-foot-11 Nikola Pekovic scored 29 points, including 15 in the first quarter and 21 in the first half.

“I thought we played pretty hard,” Rivers said. “We had no one to deal with that big monster they had down there. I was kidding with Longo [defensive coach Mike Longabardi], we held him to about eight points in the second half after he had 21 in the first [half].

“I thought our guys did everything I wanted them to do. One of the things I told them was that seven out of the last nine games, we’ve given up 100 points. We’ve proven we can score. We scored 100 tonight even without 50 points of our offense [in Garnett, Pierce and Rondo]. We’ll be able to score but, especially with all the new guys, learning the little things on our defense, there’s a we need a lot of work with them, and it showed tonight.”

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Inside job: Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham dominate as T’Wolves finally beat Celtics at 10:21 pm ET
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Nikola Pekovic overpowered Brandon Bass and the undermanned Celtics Monday night in Minnesota. (AP)

Nikola Pekovic overpowered Brandon Bass and the undermanned Celtics Monday night in Minnesota. (AP)

Another road game. Another undermanned Celtics team. And another road loss.

The Celtics, playing without Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, were overpowered by Nikola Pekovic, Dante Cunningham and the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 110-100 loss at the Target Center Monday night. Pekovic took advantage of an undersized front court with a game-high 29 points while Cunningham added 19 points and five rebounds off the bench for Minnesota, which beat Boston for the first time in 12 meeting dating back to the pre-Garnett era in Boston.

The defenseless Celtics (38-36) fell for the second straight night and dropped their seventh in nine games. With Milwaukee beating Charlotte, the seventh-place Celtics are just 1.5 games ahead of the Bucks (one game in loss column) for eight-place. If Boston, which has eight games left, finishes eighth, they will face Miami in the first round.

What Monday’s game lacked in star power it made up for in offense from unexpected places.

The Celtics were without Garnett (left foot) and Pierce (personal reasons) while the Timberwolves were still without U.S. Olympic champion Kevin Love (broken hand).

The Timberwolves (27-46) turned to Pekovic and he responded with a huge opening quarter. The 27-year-old native of Montenegro scored 15 points as Minnesota dominated the paint and took a 27-25 lead after 12 minutes.

Since acquiring Garnett – the most accomplished player in Timberwolves history – after the 2006-07 season, the Celtics were 10-0 against Minnesota. Overall, the Celtics had won 11 straight against Minnesota dating back to Boston’s last loss, 109-107, on Feb. 11, 2007 in Minnesota.

Adding to Boston’s misery on the inside, big men Shav Randolph and Chris Wilcox each picked up three personal fouls. Courtney Lee’s three with 3:15 left in the second quarter tied the game, 45-45. But the Timberwolves came back with the next four points before Avery Bradley connected on a jumper as the game kept a quick tempo leading up to halftime. Bradley’s hit 6-of-8 in the first half and single-handedly kept Boston within range with 15 first half points. Bradley led the Celtics with 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Boston was manhandled in the paint in the first half. Pekovic scored 21 points in the first half, part of an effort that had Minnesota outscoring getting outscored 34-18 and allowing Minnesota to grab a 57-52 halftime lead.

The Timberwolves went on a 10-4 run midway thought the third to open their biggest lead, 80-66, before Jason Terry responded with a long two-point jumper. Terrence Williams followed that up with a baseline three to cut Minnesota’s lead down to nine, 80-71, with just over three minutes left in the third.

Randolph picked up his fifth foul seconds later but stayed in the game to give the Celtics some size in the paint. As the Celtics were making a run late in the third quarter, Jeff Green came up limping, holding his left hip. Green, who played the entire first half and the first six minutes of the third quarter before finally coming out for a breather, took a knee from Pekovic to the left thigh/hip area. Green stayed in the game and was part of a 12-4 run that cut Minnesota’s lead to six, 84-78, heading into the fourth. Green finished with just 10 points in 38 minutes.

With the Celtics defense forcing a near turnover, Derrick Williams hit a three to open the fourth quarter and push Minnesota’s lead back to nine.

Lee came in for Green with just over 10 minutes left as Celtics trainer Ed Lacerte tended to Green’s left hip. The T-Wolves went on a 7-0 run midway through the fourth that was capped by an Alexey Shved three with 7:45 left to put Minnesota up, 96-82. The Celtics could get no closer than eight the rest of the way.

The Celtics are off Tuesday before hosting the Pistons on Wednesday night at TD Garden. For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

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