|Paul Pierce shows vintage form, sprained left knee and all||05.07.12 at 12:16 am ET|
To think Doc Rivers thought he might not even have his captain available after a fluke injury in the shootaround hours before Game 4.
Paul Pierce shook off a freakish knee injury in shootaround and a re-aggravation of it during the second quarter to finish with 24 points in just over 16 minutes and give the Celtics the kind of breathing room they needed in a 101-79 rout of the Hawks in Game 4, in contest not even that close.
Pierce established himself early and often. It was what Celtics fans have come to expect and appreciate about the team in the “Big 3″ plus Rondo era. He was 5-of-7 in the the first quarter with 10 points. Rajon Rondo had seven assists, including helpers on Pierce’s first two buckets as the Celtics raced out ahead, 32-19, after one quarter.
“It was great,” Rivers said. “And you know I thought, Paul thought, in the last game he took it too deep, and so tonight he went to the in-between game over and over again early on. First play we got him a layup and then he got a lot of in-between jump shots, which I think he may be one of the best in-between players in the league. And he did that. He knew that they were trapping; he knew that they were coming at him. And we talked, ‘If you go quick, one, two, dribble, pull-up jump shot, you know, take it.’ And he did that. And then he got the three going. He was just on fire.”
That fire nearly blew up in the Celtics’ face when leading 51-27 on a Pierce three, Pierce ran into Josh Smith on a screen. He twisted his knee, aggravating the injury from hours earlier in the team’s shootaround. Pierce said he’s hoping to be ready for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta.
“I kind of sprained it [Sunday] morning and then I aggravated it in the game,” said Pierce, who led the Celtics with 24 points in just over 16 minutes of game time. “I’m glad we were able to get a win like this to give me some rest, give me a couple of days off and get some treatment, and hope it feels good on Tuesday.”
Realizing fans would be concerned about his status for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta, Pierce tweeted after the game, I think the knee is going to be fine glad I didn’t have to play a lot of minutes tonight to rest it good win tonight fellas.
Pierce was red-hot before and after running into Josh Smith on a screen late in the second quarter. He made 10 of his 13 shots in the win.
“I kind of tripped over someone’s foot,” Pierce said. “I had to sit around the last half of shootaround, and tonight I just kind of reaggravated it when I came up off the screen with Josh Smith right there. It’s a little bit sore right now so Doc [Rivers] just wanted to take precautions tonight especially when we had such a big lead.”
Rivers couldn’t believe it when it happened in the morning.
“When I left shoot-around, I probably thought he was not going to play,” Rivers said, before being reassured by trainer Ed Lacerte. “And Eddie said, ‘Let’s see, let’s give it a try, and see how he feels.’ I talked to him right before the game; I asked him ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Well let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’ It’s amazing. I mean, honestly, guys around the league – He was just dribbling the ball and went to the floor in shoot-around. And I was thinking, ‘What more can you –?’ We were walking. You know, that’s how you felt, like, my gosh. And honestly, when he went down, it didn’t look good. So the fact that he could come in and play, and then play the way he played was great.”
Pierce missed the final 5:45 of the first half but came out to warmup for the second half and assured Rivers he was good to start the second half. He hit his first two shots, both threes, and had 24 points in 16 minutes on 10-of-13 shooting. He came out for Mickael Pietrus with 8:24 left in the third quarter and did not return. He didn’t need to. He was free to get more treatment and try and make sure – at all costs – that he’s ready to go for Tuesday night in Atlanta.
“I got some rest for the next game,” Pierce said. “You don’t want to really sit down or let it get stiff. That’s why I went over and got on the bike there when I got out of the game. If it had stiffened up on me I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to come back. It’s sore, tender. I’m just going to ice it.”
|Fast Break: Celtics rout Hawks, take 3-1 series lead||05.06.12 at 9:30 pm ET|
The only question for the Celtics after a 101-79 blowout of the Hawks that gave them a 3-1 Eastern Conference quarterfinals lead was whose virtuoso performance was more impressive: The captain’s or the general’s?
Paul Pierce threw the haymakers, scoring 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting (4-6 3P) in only 16-plus minutes, and Rajon Rondo jabbed away, amassing 20 points and 16 assists against just one turnover. Kevin Garnett (13 points), Ray Allen (12 points), Brandon Bass (10 points) and Keyon Dooling (10 points) also reached double figures, as the Celtics shot 51 percent from the field.
The C’s led by as many as 37 points and put themselves one game away from a fifth consecutive berth in the conference semifinals. The 76ers also took a 3-1 lead on the depleted Bulls team, setting up the possibility the Celtics could host the next round.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Early to rise: After slow starts (and finishes) in Games 1-3, the Celtics came prepared to Sunday’s Game 4 in the Garden. They made six of their eight shots in the opening 4:04, and Rondo orchestrated the offense beautifully. He assisted on five of the six field goals — including a Garnett dunk that forced Hawks coach Larry Drew to call a timeout four minutes into the game. By then, Garnett, Pierce and Avery Bradley each had two field goals, and the C’s were rolling.
Painting a masterpiece: Celtics coach Doc Rivers wants more paint production out of Garnett, even after his starting center’s 20-point, 13-board effort in Game 3. Rivers felt if Rondo could get Garnett the ball deeper toward the basket, the Celtics could be a more effective offensive unit. Done and done. KG’s first three buckets came within six feet, and he scored nine first-half points. As a team, the C’s shot 28-of-44 (63.6 FG%) and scored 64 points (22 in the paint) in the opening 24 minutes, and establishing Garnett early set the tone.
Headband of brothers: When Rondo and Pierce both play well at the same time, the Celtics can play with anybody, and, as Garnett might say, the Hawks were a bunch of nobodies on Sunday night. Rondo had 13 assists by halftime, or four more than the Hawks as a team. Heck, even jump shots and 3-pointers were falling for the C’s floor general. Meanwhile, Pierce made 8-of-11 first-half attempts for 18 points by the break. Whether it was the headbands or not, it’s no wonder the Celtics enjoyed their most complete performance of the series (and the season, for that matter).
Bench production: The Celtics built a 13-point lead in the first quarter, and the second-quarter starting lineup of Garnett, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels and Greg Stiemsma didn’t squander it. When Pierce, Rondo and Bass returned almost four minutes into the second quarter, the C’s still owned that 13-point advantage, and the rested starters closed out the half on a 25-15 run. In all, the Celtics bench scored 28 points, led by Allen’s 12 in 19 minutes. The reserves also closed out the fourth quarter, allowing Rivers to rest the stars he’s relied so heavily upon in the first three games of the series.
|Paul Pierce lives at the free throw line||at 1:08 pm ET|
After his dreadful 5-of-19 shooting performance in the Celtics Game 1 loss to the Hawks last Sunday, Paul Pierce evaluated his play and decided that even if he was going to shoot poorly, he was still going to score. What bothered Pierce was that he only got to the foul line three times in the series opener. Since then he’s attempted 27 free throws and made 25 of them. In Game 3, he took 14 — one less than Atlanta did as a team.
“Sometimes that’s what it has to be,” Pierce said. “Every night is not going to be your night.”
Making an impact when things aren’t necessarily going your way is a lesson many young scorers struggle with. It’s easy to become complacent while watching your shot rim out. For natural scorers like Pierce, the solution revolves around staying aggressive and taking what the opponent gives you.
“Sometimes it’s tough to get rhythm,” Pierce said. “But you have other guys who can step up. I did my part and that’s what is most important. I don’t care about the shots or the touches, it’s about me doing my part and helping this ball club win.”
|Doing Time: the cost of Game 3′s victory||05.05.12 at 2:02 pm ET|
Doc Rivers knows he has a veteran squad. He knows managing his team’s minutes is a priority night-in and night-out. But he also knows he is best suited to play a short seven-man rotation. Limiting minutes becomes difficult when relying on so few players, especially as playoff games hang in the balance.
Weighing the value of rest versus victories is a complicated issue during the regular season, but when an opening to secure a playoff win appeared in Game 3 Friday night, Rivers rolled the dice.
“Sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble, ” Rivers said. “You think maybe we can get this, put this away, and get guys out.”
The coach’s gamble backfired and minutes have gone from a concern to a dilemma. Through the first two games of the series in Atlanta, Paul Pierce was averaging 42 minutes and Kevin Garnett logged 4o minutes in each contest as well. Ray Allen entered Game 3 having not seen action in a competitive game in 24 days due to an ankle injury, which will require surgery this offseason.
On Friday, Pierce played 47, Garnett logged 42 and Allen checked in with a whopping 36 minutes. Rivers is giving is team Saturday off, “Because they’re exhausted,” he said. “And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something. He would shoot or something. So, that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”
Leading by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and up 80-72 with less than three minutes remaining, the Celtics let the Hawks back in the game.
“I thought we got into the habit of milking the clock,” Rivers said. “And you just can’t do that. You can do that when the other team has two bigs, but when the other team has five guards on the floor, you absolutely can’t do that. And we did that.
The Celtics may have made Friday night’s game harder than it needed to be, but Hawks coach Larry Drew had to deal with the same problem as Rivers. Atlanta was without Josh Smith on Friday night, and have also been missing Zaza Pachulia and Al Horford throughout the whole series.
“We played a lot of minutes – our starters – but they did as well,” Rajon Rondo said. “So, it’s a mental effort. You can’t get tired. Down the stretch, you have to execute offensively and defensively. I think we did a pretty good job of that tonight, even though we struggled to score the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.”
Those struggles led to overtime and an extra five minutes of basketball.
“Playoffs are hard,” Pierce said. “Sometimes coaches are going to ask a lot from you. I went the whole distance again today in the second half, but it proved worth it. We were able to get the win and that’s all that matters.”
Pierce is right, results are all that matter, but the Celtics would be better-served to hit on Rivers’ gambles rather then bust.
|Ray Allen: ‘I wasn’t holding anything back’||at 1:40 am ET|
It’s really all anyone wanted to know from Ray Allen after Game 3 – how’s the ankle and do you think you’ll be ready for Game 4 Sunday night at the Garden?
“Now it’s achy,” Allen said after the game. “It feels like it’s just mad at me a little bit. So, I’ve been here before. It seems like I have all these safeguards in place. When I get home, I know exactly what I need to do. I have my contraptions to make sure I’m able to go to sleep well and get up in the morning and get my treatment. So, I’m in a good place.
“I think over the past couple of weeks, people have asked me, ‘Can you get in a game and play five minutes, just stand in a corner and make people think you’re going to shoot it.’ I knew once I got out there, I was going to be out there to run up and down and move whichever way I need to move. I wasn’t holding anything back, once I got into the offense.”
After playing 37 minutes in his first game back since April 10, Allen said he could tell he was in a tense NBA playoff game. But all things considered, after scoring 13 points in Boston’s 90-84 overtime win over Atlanta in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Allen said he and his left ankle came out of it feeling as good as could be expected.
“Starting the game it was great,” Allen said. “I think going into half was when it started to tighten up on me and I started noticing a little more than I’ve noticed but similar to what I’ve been dealing with. Just sitting on the sideline, I just did what I could to make sure I kept it loose by stretching it. But once I went back in the game, there’s not really a moment to think about it. Your adrenaline is rushing, being in the building, my adrenaline is rushing.”
Doc Rivers had to pay particularly close attention. He was without Avery Bradley for most of the second half after losing him to a recurring left shoulder injury. And the minutes on Allen started to shoot through the roof, that and the Celtics were forced to go with a three-guard look because the Hawks were going small with their lineup that was missing three big men.
“I thought the legs were shot at the end,” Rivers said of Allen, who missed one of two free throws in overtime. “We started trying to use him for decoy. He was terrific. And like I told you before the game – someone asked me, ‘Would there be a minute restriction?’ I said, “No, because we don’t know when he’ll play again or not.’ You know? So I’m getting everything I can get out of him each game. I’m saying that jokingly, but somewhat true as well. Tonight honestly, we needed him. It’s amazing the difference when he’s on the floor in our spacing, and how much more difficult it is for guys to help.
“We’re giving them the day off tomorrow because they’re exhausted. And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something; he would shoot, or something. So that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”
Paul Pierce was more than impressed with Allen.
“Just having him out there really picked us up because we haven’t seen Ray in a jersey in so long,” Pierce said. “Just having him out there, you heard the reaction from the crowd when he checked into the game. Stuff like that brings so much energy to the ball club, to have a guy that’s so vital come out there and give us a big lift. It’s huge having him out there, especially tonight with Avery going down.”
Allen, who has received intense treatment and cortisone shots to manage the pain, admitted that as the game continued, he could feel the bone spurs give him discomfort. Read the rest of this entry »
|Why Doc Rivers is looking to make life easier for Kevin Garnett||05.03.12 at 2:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics spent most of their 75-minute practice session Thursday working on half-court set offense.
Well, two reasons.
If indeed Ray Allen is healthy enough to return, then they’re going to need his jump shot and Doc Rivers wants his team to remember how to get him his shots. But secondly, and maybe more importantly, with or without Allen, the Celtics need to do a better job of freeing up space for Kevin Garnett, who has had precious little of it in the first two games against the Hawks.
If Allen can play, that will help Garnett. But if he can’t the Celtics need to find another scorer besides Paul Pierce to help out so both Atlanta guards aren’t doubling down in the paint and guarding Garnett.
“We just need a scorer,” Rivers said before Thursday’s practice. “We have to space the floor. They’re killing us with their help [defense]. They just decided without Ray on the floor, they’re just going to swarm everybody and you’re going to have to find someone.”
Rivers said he’s not worried about Garnett’s jumper. He’s more alarmed that he has made just 13-of-32 field goal attempts in the first two games. There has to be help for KG going forward.
“We have to,” Rivers said. “The jumper is going to come. I’m not worried about that. But we have to establish him more. We have to get bodies off of him. They’re bumping him around, knocking him around. We have to do a better job as a staff, do a better job of trying to get bodies off of him and giving him some room.
“Our spacing is horrendous for him. Clearly without Ray, they’re using both guards to just sit in the paint. And we have to do a better of creating space. It’s tough when you have two guys they’re just not guarding. That makes it difficult on Kevin. It reminds me of Perk and Rondo early on, and that was a big and guard. Now, it’s two guards [they're using] and they’re quick, and they can poke and jab at the ball. We have to figure out something because we have to get something down low.”
|Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce’s Top 5 Celtics playoff moments||05.02.12 at 11:36 am ET|
Jesus Shuttlesworth wasn’t available, so Paul Pierce channeled sports spirituality’s next best thing: Tim Tebow.
Pierce became the only Celtics player in the last 25 years to total 36 points and 14 rebounds in a playoff game, bringing the Celtics back from the dead, erasing an 11-point Hawks lead and avoiding an 0-2 postseason hole. In the absence of Rajon Rondo (suspension) and Ray Allen (ankle), everyone in Atlanta knew the C’s playoff hopes rested on Pierce’s shoulders — and he delivered a game for the ages, one of his many in Celtics lore.
Like Tebow’s completion percentage last season, Pierce shot 46 percent from the field, and his eight turnovers were every bit as bad as the new Jets quarterback’s pass attempts, but the inexplicable happened and the fourth quarter became Truth Time, so Pierce earned the right to Tebow at midcourt of Philips Arena.
Where does that performance rank among the Celtics captain’s Top 5 all-time great playoff moments?