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Paul Pierce writes another chapter in Celtics lore 05.02.12 at 2:07 am ET
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Paul Pierce had a game for the ages as the Celtics beat the Hawks, 87-80 in Game 2. (AP)

ATLANTA — The amazing thing about Paul Pierce‘s night that included 36 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in 44 minutes, was that everyone in the building knew the only way the Celtics were going to walk out of the arena with a win, was for Pierce to strap his team on his back and carry them over the finish line.

Without Ray Allen, whose bothersome ankle simply won’t cooperate, and Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for bumping an official, Pierce was the team’s offense. He took 26 of their 68 shots and threw in 13 free throws for good measure in their 87-80 victory.

“It ranks right up there when you factor in no Ray, no Rondo,” Doc Rivers said. “Literally, the only way we were going to win the game — I mean, that was the only way we were going to win the game — is if Paul played like that. He knew that. So did they, yet he still did it. It just tells you how special he is.”

Rivers wanted to take him out of the game and give him a rest, but with the Celtics fighting from behind for almost the entire game, he really didn’t have much of a choice. So he improvised. Rivers called on Marquis Daniels to help guard Joe Johnson and give Pierce a break on the defensive end. That the Hawks couldn’t take advantage of the situation says a lot about why even down a game and without two of their key players, folks weren’t ready to write off the Celtics.

Of course, having Pierce helped as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Paul Pierce,
Fast Break: Truth be told, Celtics even Hawks series 05.01.12 at 10:17 pm ET
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Calling what the Celtics played without point guard Rajon Rondo “offense” is being kind, but Paul Pierce and a ridiculous defensive effort in the fourth quarter stole a Game 2 victory against the Hawks, 87-80.

Pierce finished with 36 points on 12-for-26 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and four assists (and eight turnovers), and the defense held the Hawks to 14 points and 4-for-19 shooting in the final 12 minutes to even the series 1-1 entering Friday’s Game 3. All that was left for Pierce was to Tebow in victory.

Kevin Garnett (15 points, 12 rebounds) also finished with a double-double, and Avery Bradley (14 points) was the only other Celtic to reach double figures as they shot 42.6 percent as a team.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Captain, obvious: In the absence of Rondo, the Celtics needed Pierce to be heavily involved. And he was early. Pierce scored on a layup just six seconds ion the game, the first of his nine straight C’s points to open the game. Through the first 4:45, Pierce played the Hawks even, 9-9, establishing himself as the best player on the floor and setting an early tone for a Celtics offense desperately in need of a leader. He finished strong, too, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points.

Depth perception: Believe it or not, the Celtics built a lead with Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic and Keyon Dooling all on the floor. After the C’s battled the Hawks to a 24-24 deadlock through the first quarter, they started the second with that trio, Garnett and Bradley. Even Marquis Daniels made an appearance. When Pierce returned to the floor three minutes into the second quarter, his team led, 28-27. It was just a one-point advantage, but the Celtics captain got some much-needed rest even when Doc Rivers had limited resources.

Hanging tough: Through three quarters, the Celtics played perhaps their worst basketball after the All-Star break, shooting 21-for-54 from the field (38.9 FG%) and 2-for-11 from beyond the arc (18.2 3P%) while committing double-digit turnovers. They had no business being in the game, but somehow, even after defensive mental lapses that led to uncontested dunks and wide-open 3-pointers, the Celtics trailed just 66-61 entering the fourth quarter — thanks to the Hawks’ 39.1 percent shooting (25-64 FG).

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce
How the Celtics played without Rajon Rondo 04.30.12 at 5:16 pm ET
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Rajon Rondo will be missed in Game 2. (AP)

ATLANTA — On Jan. 18, Rajon Rondo fell hard on his wrist in a game against the Raptors and missed the next eight games. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Celtics, who were trying to dig themselves out of a 4-8 hole to start the season. Those fears appeared justified two days later when they struggled to score 71 points in a dreadful home loss to the Suns.

But over the next seven games, the Celtics found a winning formula. While Avery Bradley shifted into Rondo’s spot at the point, they actually ran their offense through Paul Pierce as a point forward.

Bradley would often bring the ball up the floor, hand off to Pierce and disappear to the corner, allowing Pierce and Brandon Bass to run pick and pops to their hearts content. Even with Rondo, the Celtics get most of their offense from the perimeter, and without their slashing guard they moved further out and attempted more shots from outside the paint.

The C’s won six of their next seven — the lone loss came in a fourth quarter collapse against the Cavs (the Kyrie Irving game) — and their offense actually functioned better than their average in four of those games in terms of points per possession. Pierce scored almost 23 points per game in those seven contests and handed out 54 assists. Bradley had a handful of standout games in that stretch, but mainly he kept his turnovers low and tried to minimize mistakes.

It was on defense where Bradley made his mark, decimating Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in one memorable outing and establishing himself as the best on-the-ball defensive guard in the league. Most importantly, he proved that he could handle the increased responsibility and playing time.

“We had a few games that Rondo wasn’t able to play that prepared me for situations like this,” Bradley said at the team’s practice at Georgia Tech on Monday.

Rondo was suspended for Tuesday’s Game 2 by the NBA after he bumped referee Marc Davis late in Game 1. That January stretch stands out as one of the few highlights of the first half of the Celtics’ season and offers a glimpse at what life without Rondo will entail for Game 2 of their playoff series with the Hawks. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Donny Marshall on M&M: ‘Would not surprise me’ if Rajon Rondo suspended two games at 2:24 pm ET
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After what could be aptly called an interesting Game 1 loss for the Celtics Sunday night, CSNNE analyst Donny Marshall joined Mut & Merloni to discuss all things surrounding the Celtics’ 83-74 loss to the Hawks.

Understandably, no topic was given more weight than the ejection of Rajon Rondo for making contact with official Marc Davis and, specifically, the potential fallout for Rondo’s actions. Marshall said that Rondo will definitely be suspended, and while it should only be for one game, it may end up being for two.

“Any contact you make with an official, it means you’re going to be suspended a game,” Marshall said. “And I’ll take it one step further — I wouldn’t be surprised if the NBA says, ‘You know what? We’re going to suspend you two games.’

David Stern is not one of those guys who gives you the benefit of the doubt. It would not surprise me if it were two games. I hope it’s just one, it should only be one, but in the past David Stern has come down.”

While Rondo’s actions certainly could be detrimental to the Celtics’ success going forward, Marshall said that Rondo’s teammates would be best served to be supportive of him.

“You know as a teammate, especially at that level, you don’t overreact to what your teammates do,” Marshall said. “You step back and say, ‘Look, what would I have done? Would I have reacted that way?’ Guys have emotions and you can’t judge your teammates based off one emotional mistake.

“Rondo has given so much to that team and done such a great job of leading that team sometimes when they’ve been down guys. You can’t overreact because the last thing you want is for that incident to blow into something bigger and now it become a personal thing in that locker room.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, David Stern, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
How did the Celtics lose Game 1? We’ll count the ways at 1:35 am ET
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Kevin Garnett had a tough first half against the Hawks. (AP)

ATLANTA — Well before Rajon Rondo lost his cool, the damage had been done to the Celtics in their playoff opener against the Hawks. It started in the first quarter when Atlanta raced to a 20-6 lead before six minutes had gone off the clock. It continued in the next 42 minutes, when they couldn’t make shots and every offensive possession carried with it an eerie reminder of the first half of the season.

“I don’t know if we kind of eased into the game,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s hard to tell. We establish ourselves early defensively. We definitely didn’t do that. They got every loose ball. They got every 3-point shot. They got everything they wanted in the first, and then it was like in a boxing match. You sit there and you’ve got your guard up, then you take your guard down, you take a punch and you’re like, Ok, we’re in a fight. We’ve got to realize we’re in a fight from the jump.”

The Celtics realized that too late, and after an 83-74 loss they now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to make up ground without homecourt advantage to sustain them. Over the final three quarters, the Celtics actually outscored Atlanta, 56-52, playing the kind of grimy, sludge-ball everyone expected in this series.

“This is a long series,” Pierce said. “You have to win four games and we just have to learn from our mistakes. Learn from the first quarter, learn from what we did better in the second and third quarters, and we’ve got to learn to keep our composure.”

It will be much harder if Rondo is suspended (click here for more on that story), but the blueprint is there. Assuming they can shoot better than 39 percent, there’s no reason they can’t get back into the series. Still, there’s a lot to work on between now and Tuesday’s Game 2.

Among the areas that need improvement:

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Banged-up Celtics ‘hoping everybody is’ 04.27.12 at 1:12 pm ET
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He might not be a real doctor, but he must feel like one after all the injuries he’s seen in the past four months.

“We’ve got to be careful with them, even in the playoffs,” said Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. “It just doesn’t take much, it seems like, right now, for a guy to not be able to play the next night. So we have to be very careful.”

Take Paul Pierce as Exhibit A. The Celtics captain began this lockout-shortened regular season with a bone bruise in his right heel and ended it with a sprained big left toe. The original plan was to rest Pierce’s ailing feet for the final two games, but his desire to stay in rhythm won out, so Rivers played him 18 minutes on Tuesday and just 2:18 on Thursday before March’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month limped back to the locker room.

“He hurt it,” said Rivers, referencing the toe that led the C’s to list Pierce as likely unable to return. “That’s why he’s been sitting. And then he wanted to play. We’re not sure if it was the tape, or whatever, because when he wanted to come back, he just kept saying, ‘I just needed to get it loose.’ So we had a long discussion, because I had no interest in putting him back in, but he really wanted to play a couple minutes just to get up and down the floor.”

The Celtics dodged a bullet, as Pierce returned for the final 4:24 of the first half to score seven quick points and ease fans’ fears. The same can’t be said for Ray Allen, who missed his ninth straight game with bone spurs in his right ankle. On Thursday, Rivers dubbed him probable for Game 1 against the Hawks, but the Celtics announced via Twitter on Friday, “Allen will not practice today and his status for Game 1 on Sunday is still unknown.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers
Irish Coffee: 10 things we learned from Celtics-Heat 04.25.12 at 2:44 pm ET
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It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. The end of the NBA’s lockout-shortened season is upon us, forcing TNT to broadcast marquee matchups like Ryan Hollins vs. Dexter Pittman and Sasha Pavlovic vs. Mike Miller rather than Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing to learn from Tuesday night’s game between the Celtics and Heat at the Garden. Here are 10 things.

10. Thanks to Pavlovic’s heroics, the Celtics still have a shot at home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Two things must happen Thursday: 1) Celtics defeat the Bucks, and 2) Hawks lose to the Mavericks.

“Our seeding is important as well,” said Celtics reserve guard Keyon Dooling, who scored seven points in the win over the Heat. “So, if we have to get that win, we’re coming in here trying to tear their head off.”

The hunch within the C’s organization is that if Atlanta hosts Game 1, it’ll be played on Saturday night; however, if it’s in Boston, the series will likely start Sunday. Of course, all that assumes the Bruins beat the Capitals in Game 7 and host Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.

9. After their loss, while casually dressed Heat stars Dwayne Wade and James poked fun at second-year center Dexter Pittman‘s feet and socks, teammate Chris Bosh sat in the corner of the locker room, donning a suit and reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” A different bird, I guess.

8. Heat swingman Shane Battier‘s take on a game that featured 39 turnovers: “In my 11 years, that’s the worst game I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve already taken a shower. You guys should all take a shower to get the stink of this game off you. It’s not fun for anybody … but, hey, it’s the NBA, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to lockout basketball. It’s FAN-tastic!

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Bosh, Doc Rivers, Dwyane Wade
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