|Paul Pierce: ‘We needed a team effort’||06.02.12 at 3:08 am ET|
Yes, the Celtics had Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett all score at least 20 points Friday night in the 101-91 Game 3 win over the Heat. But Friday night’s must-have win over Miami had a much different feel.
Instead of just seven points from the bench (as was the case Wednesday), the Celtics watched as four players combined for 19 points, led by Marquis Daniels, who scored nine in nearly 20 minutes of action. Michael Pietrus also played nearly 20 minutes while Keyon Dooling played 17, Ryan Hollins played six and Greg Stiemsma played three.
‘It was huge,” said Pierce, who scored 23 in 40 minutes. “We needed a team effort. Guys on the bench, they are registered professional. Marquis hasn’t really played a lot for us in this series, but when his name was called upon he was ready. That’s what being a professional is all about. Every day he comes in, gets his work in. [Doc Rivers] called upon him tonight, he did a tremendous job guarding Lebron. He even contributed on the offensive end and that was huge for us. The bench was tremendous tonight. We needed everything.’
Pierce also sent a message similar to the 2004 Red Sox. The Heat have never lost a series leading 2-0. The Celtics are trying to buck the odds by winning a series down, 0-2.
‘We’ve been able to bounce back,” Pierce said. “We know we’re capable. We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We’re not going to lose confidence being down 2-0. We don’t look at the statistics. We don’t look at the records. Records are made to be broken. You know, usually they say being down 2-0, what happens, but we don’t believe in that stuff. We’re just going to take it one game at a time. Hopefully hold down our home court Game 4, and see what happens when we come back from Miami.’
Friday’s win guarantees there will be a Game 5 in Miami on Tuesday. A win Sunday night will guarantee a Game 6 back in Boston next Thursday. So, how important is Game 4?
‘Every game is important,” Pierce said. “Definitely you want to defend your home court. You don’t want to get in a situation where you go down 3-1 and then they have two games left at home. It doesn’t really figure in your chances. You’re not the favorite anymore. Hopefully, the crowd come back with that same energy for us in a couple days and we’ll take Game 4.
‘It feels good. Especially after we felt like we had a chance at Game 2-how we let it slip in our hands- so it’s good to come back home and get a quality win.’
|Game 7 shootaround: Keyon Dooling returns, Avery Bradley home resting after surgery||05.26.12 at 11:59 am ET|
WALTHAM — Already without Avery Bradley, the Celtics practiced on Friday without backup guard Keyon Dooling, who was out sick. Dooling returned to the team Saturday morning for its shootaround before Game 7 with the Sixers. The team worked on half-court set as per usual with no conditioning drills. Before the shootaround, the team also watched film.
With Bradley out and Ray Allen nursing two sore ankles, Dooling figures to see more playing time in Saturday night’s decisive game. In another positive sign, Greg Stiemsma took part on Saturday, a day after Doc Rivers said the backup center’s feet were “feeling better.” During Game 6 in Philadelphia, Rivers said that Stiemsma asked out of the game because he was in pain.
“He couldn’t play in the second half the other night,” Doc Rivers said on Friday. “Funny, I put him and he walks up and says, ‘I can’t go.’ I thought he was walking up to go in. But he feels better and that’s good.”
Allen has two sore ankles and Paul Pierce is nursing a sprained MCL in his left knee. Both Allen and Pierce are expected to start in Game 7.
Meanwhile, Bradley is resting after surgery Friday on both shoulders, a source with direct knowledge of the situation tells WEEI.com. He was the only Celtics player not in attendance at the Saturday morning shootaround.
The source confirms that Bradley had surgery on Friday and is expecting a summer-long rehab program that could last up to four months. If all goes as expected, Bradley should be ready for training camp in October.
Bradley initially injured the rotator cuff in his left shoulder but after playing with the injury, he also injured the right shoulder to the point where it needed to be repaired as well. Bradley had the left shoulder pop out in the third quarter of Game 4 against the Sixers and missed Games 5 and 6 before deciding to have surgery on Friday, performed by team doctor Brian McKeon, so that he could be ready for training camp in October.
|Ray Allen: Game 7 ‘just another opportunity to go out and be who we are’||05.25.12 at 6:08 pm ET|
Saturday night at TD Garden is another one of those possible scenarios so naturally, he was asked whether he’s given any thought to what could be his final game with the Celtics as part of the “Big Three.”
“Not really, not all,” Allen said before Friday’s practice. “I think I’ve in that situation many times before where that question has been posed to me so many times. We’ve been so fortunate to do what we’ve done here. It seems like we’ve been ruled out so many times before, so many years before. This is just another opportunity to go out and be who we are. We’re not worried about what’s beyond today. We’re more worried about what we have present day.”
Speaking of present day, Paul Pierce was asked point blank Friday whether the team’s tattered physical condition would take away from any joy over winning Game 7 since the rested and healthy Miami Heat wait in the wings Monday in the opener of the Eastern finals. Said another way, are the Celtics anything more than just a sacrificial lamb for the Heat if they prevail over Philadelphia?
“The focus is just one game right now,” Pierce said. “One-game series. Win or go home. You can’t look beyond that.”
But the bigger picture?
“I don’t think you should overlook it,” Pierce insisted. “Obviously, the goal is to win the championship. You have tto stake it step by step. It’s just about one game.”
And the way Allen sees it, that one game against the Sixers is a game of opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »
|Paul Pierce on Game 7: ‘I like our chances’||at 5:14 pm ET|
WALTHAM — If you go by Friday, the Celtics appeared to be calm, cool, collected and oh yes, confident, on the eve of their sixth Game 7 in the “Big Three” era.
The group of Paul Pierce, Greg Stiemsma and Ray Allen and assistant coach Tyronn Lue held a fun competition before Friday’s practice, as all right-handed shooters shot free throws with their left hands. Interestingly, Allen was the first to bow out, as he moved on to the more mundane effort of practicing shooting before the practice began.
The captain knows what’s at stake Saturday night at 8 p.m. as they take on the Sixers in Game 7 of the Eastern semifinals.
“Of course, we’re at home but they’ve beaten us on our home court,” Pierce said, referring to the 82-81 loss in Game 2. “You still have to go out and play the game but I feel good. A couple of days rest for a veteran team, much needed. I like our chances.
“I think we’ll come out with a great sense of urgency. It’s Game 7, there’s no tomorrow. In order for us to advance, we have to give it our all. We have to give it everything we’ve got. We need everything from everybody, whoever steps on that court to understand that this is it, this could be the season. That’s the way we have to play. We have to play like a desperate team, whether we’re at home or not. The team that wants it the most is going to get it.”
Overall, Pierce is 3-3 in Game 7s in his career. He lost his first in 2005 to the Pacers. Then, he won three straight, starting with wins over the Hawks and Cavaliers in 2008 on the way to his lone NBA title. Pierce led the charge over the Bulls in the first round in seven games in 2009 before falling to the Magic in a seventh game in the next round.
The most painful of all Game 7 losses, however, came the next year as the Celtics had the lead with six minutes left but couldn’t hold on and lost 83-79 to the Lakers in the final game of the 2010 NBA finals. Pierce has thrived in do-or-die games for the most part, including his 43 points in the fifth and deciding game of the 2002 first round series against Philadelphia.
“I like challenges,” Pierce said Friday. “I like being in pressure situations. It’s Game 7. I’ve been there before. I understand what it takes and I’m ready for it.
“It’s got to be a motivated group. What else is there? Game 7, what more could you ask for? If this is not the most important thing to you right now, then there’s no other way to motivate basketball players out here. Nobody wants to end their season right now. We have a great opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference finals on our home court. That’s all the motivation we need.”
|Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7’s||05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)
Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.
How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.
Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.
Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.
|Kevin Garnett on Game 7: ‘We’ve been here before’||at 1:06 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Garnett spoke about Philadelphia’s fans after a Game 5 win in Boston. On Wednesday, following an 82-75 loss to the Sixers in Game 6, Garnett made another proclamation of sorts for Game 7 Saturday in Boston.
“Win or go home,” Garnett said when asked about the team’s mindset heading into a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “Confidence is very high. We’ve been here before, very experienced. All out, nothing less.”
Indeed, the Celtics have played in five Game 7s in the Big Three era of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They are 3-2 in those previous five, beating Atlanta and Cleveland on their way to the title in 2008. They beat the Bulls in seven in the first round in 2009 before losing the next round to the Magic in Game 7 at the Garden. With a chance at an 18th banner in 2010, they lost Game 7 of the NBA finals in Los Angeles to the Lakers.
“Game 7s are what they are,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s nice we have it at home, but you have to go get it still. At the end of the day, you have to go play. You can’t just rely on that we’re at home. I do like that we have an extra day. I think that helps us a little bit.”
“It’s only a couple of us that have been in Game 7s, so we’re not going to go on the history,” Rajon Rondo added. “This is a new series, a new group of guys that are going head to head and it’s been back and forth the entire series so it’s going to be a tough one at home.”
Neither team has managed consecutive victories in the series as the Celtics and Sixers have alternated wins in the first six games. If the trend continues, the Celtics will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years.
The Celtics will play the Sixers on Saturday at TD Garden. If the Pacers force a seventh game against the Heat with a Game 6 win Thursday, the Celtics and Sixers tip off at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If Miami advances on Thursday, then the Celtics tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday.
|Celtics could use some close out power against Sixers in Game 6||05.23.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.
The Celtics lead the Sixers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series and need just one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years. The previous two times (2008, ’10) have ended with Celtics reaching the NBA finals.
But it won’t be easy if history is any indication. In the “Big 3″ era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, they are just 2-10 in potential closeout games on the road. They won the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit in Game 6 in 2008. They swept away the Knicks in the first round last year. So, well before Garnett’s comments about the Philly fans, tonight was going to be a monstrous task.
On the injury front, Bradley said at Wednesday morning’s team shootaround that he has felt little improvement in his ailing left shoulder and he will almost surely miss his second straight game of the series as Boston attempts to close out Philadelphia in Game 6 here at Wells Fargo Center.
“Right now, I’m not playing,” Bradley said, as he received treatment from strength trainer Bryan Doo. “I’m definitely frustrated but all I can do is keep getting stronger and keep improving for my team. I’m just trying to get it better. It’s been the same. I just have to keep trying to get is stronger everyday. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent for my time. I’m just taking it day-by-day right now.”
“He’s a little better, not much,” coach Doc Rivers added. “I don’t think he’ll play. He won’t do anything in shootaround for sure, and then do what we did the other night. We’ll let him warm up and see if he can warm up and then go from there.”
Bradley had the shoulder pop out early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday night and missed Game 5 with the injury. Allen started in his place in Game 5 and will start again for Bradley in Game 6 should Bradley — as expected — miss Game 6. There is some uncertainty regarding Allen and his ailing right ankle.
“It is what it is,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s a go right now. Obviously, if he can’t go, we’ll have to go somewhere else.”
Stiemsma also reaggravated his foot injury in the second half of the Game 5 win Monday. He was at shootaround Wednesday and is expected to be available off the bench.
“He’s good,” Rivers said. “The foot was aggravated again [Monday]. He says he feels much better today. He’ll definitely play. He’s the definite of the three guys.”
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