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Fast Break: Celtics (barely) avenge loss to Cavaliers 01.31.12 at 9:47 pm ET
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If you thought Sunday’s loss to the Cavaliers was bad, Tuesday’s win might have been worse.

After blowing a 12-point lead in the final five minutes at home in the first meeting of their home-and-home series, the C’s let a 22-point lead dwindle to two with 1:18 remaining in Cleveland. Luckily, Kevin Garnett dropped a turnaround jumper and Paul Pierce made a pair of free throws in the waning seconds to on for a 93-90 win.

Pierce finished with a team-high 20 points as well six assists and four rebounds, lifting the Celtics (10-10) to .500 once again. Brandon Bass chipped in 13 points to lead a 28-point effort by the C’s bench.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

In his defense: Cavs rookie Kyrie Irving beat the Celtics with his offense on Sunday night, but his porous defense helped the C’s return the favor two days later. Avery Bradley (8 points) beat him through the back door, making himself an easy target underneath the basket for open layups, and E’Twaun Moore (5 points) took advantage of Irving’s tendency to cheat by knocking down open shots on the perimeter.

Riding the pine: Led once again by Bass (13 points) and Mickael Pietrus (6 points, 2 treys), the Celtics bench dominated the Cavaliers reserves in the early going, outscoring their counterparts 23-5 in the first half alone. Moore and Sasha Pavlovic also lended a helping hand as the C’s established a double-digit lead by halftime.

Protecting the rock (for the most part): Without Rajon Rondo for the seventh straight game, the Celtics assisted on 19 of their first 26 field goals while committing only six turnovers as they built the lead to 22 in the third quarter. The C’s finished with 25 assists on 37 FGs, but their turnovers climbed to 14 — allowing the Cavaliers to climb back into the game.

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Read More: Anderson Varejao, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA
Irish Coffee: It’s not the Celtics bench’s fault 01.30.12 at 7:40 pm ET
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After the Celtics blew an 11-point lead to the Cavaliers with a little more than five minutes left, Paul Pierce told reporters, “Maybe I should play a little bit more” in the fourth quarter. In so many words, the bench blew the game.

Not so. A lineup of E’Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett entered the final 12 minutes with an eight-point lead, and various combinations of four reserves and one starter played Cleveland even until Pierce re-entered the game with 3:42 remaining and the Celtics holding an 87-79 lead.

In fact, rarely has any of the 10 losses through the first third of the season fallen on the Celtics bench’s shoulders. Just the opposite. With Garnett the lone starter to play all 19 games, an argument could rather easily be made that the C’s reserves are the main reason the team hasn’t started worse than 9-10.

“The first full month has been a tough month for us, but we are a team of workers,” KG said last week. “Since I’ve been here, that’s all we’ve done. We haven’t really leaned on a lot of the talent, moreso the hard work.”

While Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal have all nursed injuries through the first four weeks of the lockout-shortened season, the hodgepodge that includes a second-year guard, a pair of trade acquisitions, two free agent signings and three rookies has formed some semblance of a cohesive group.

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox
‘I’d love to be Paul Pierce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus’ 01.28.12 at 1:29 am ET
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Mickael Pietrus isn’t Ray Allen, even though he played him on TV Friday night — starting in place of the injured NBA 3-point champion for the second straight night. And he knows he isn’t Celtics teammate Paul Pierce either.

“That man been a 10-time All-Star,” Pietrus said of Pierce. “I’d love to be Paul PIerce, but I’m Mickael Pietrus. … I’m happy to get Paul back. It was hard for me to guard him on the opposing team. I’m glad I’m his teammate. It’s Paul Pierce. He’s a 10-time All-Star. He knows how to play basketball.”

Pietrus knows how to play basketball, too, and he’s filled in admirably for Allen. In back-to-back starts against the Magic and Pacers, he has totaled 25 points — including five 3-pointers — and 12 rebounds.

“He’s been huge,” said Pierce. “You talk about a guy who can really knock down shots and make plays. He’s a really scrappy defender and a great athlete. He’s been huge in Ray’s absence, just filling in that role and being that constant threat from the outside and filling in gaps on defense.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Mickael Pietrus, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Paul Pierce: ‘I’m probably at about 83.7 percent’ at 12:47 am ET
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After totaling 52 points, 18 assists and 16 rebounds in consecutive wins against the Magic and Pacers, Celtics captain Paul Pierce discussed the improving health of the sore right heel that kept him out of training camp.

Pierce’s recent hot stretch raises his career total to 21,676 points, just 115 behind Pacers president Larry Bird for second on the C’s all-time scoring list. There’s at least a chance Pierce could achieve the mark in seven games (if not sooner) against the Lakers in Boston on Feb. 9. Of course, you’ll remember Allen set the NBA’s all-time 3-point record against Kobe Bryant & Co. in the Garden last season.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Paul Pierce
Fast Break: Celtics win fourth straight, reach .500 01.27.12 at 10:06 pm ET
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For 24 minutes against the Pacers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked like a couple guys in their mid 30s playing consecutive nights of basketball, combining for 4-of-16 shooting in the first half, but The Truth and The Ticket made a combined 10-of-14 second-half shots to lead the Celtics to impressive victories in back-to-back games — this time 94-87 against Larry Bird‘s club.

Pierce approached a triple-double for the second straight night, compiling 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett added 13 points and eight boards (as did Mickael Pietrus). Meanwhile, recently returned Chris Wilcox enjoyed a breakout night for the Celtics (9-9), amassing season highs of 14 points and six rebounds.

Danny Granger‘s 21 points led the Pacers (12-6), who had beaten the C’s in their two previous meetings.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Bench clearing: Led by Wilcox’s six points and three rebounds, the C’s bench played an inspired first quarter, making all four of their shots and taking an early 23-17 lineup when Garnett and Pierce came out flat on the second night of a back-to-back. A lineup of Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus actually stretched a lead when the Celtics needed a lift most.

Sharing the wealth: The Celtics assisted on 21 of their 38 field goals in the first half — without starting point guard Rajon Rondo in action. For the second consecutive night, Pierce (10 assists in Thursday night’s victory) assumed the role as the offense’s main facilitator, recording more assists by himself (5) than the entire Pacers team (4) in the opening half.

Double the fun: Sure, Doc Rivers has a philosophy that his team is better off getting back on defense, but offensive rebounding was a concern for the Celtics last season, as they rarely outworked opponents on the offensive glass. Against the Pacers, the C’s pulled down seven first-half offensive boards and outscored the Pacers for the game in second-chance opportunities, 14-6.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Chris Wilcox, Indiana Pacers, Kevin Garnett
Fast Break: The Truth sets Celtics free 01.22.12 at 3:37 pm ET
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The Celtics have been waiting for Paul Pierce to arrive, and the captain delivered on Sunday afternoon in a 100-94 road win over the Wizards. Pierce scored 34 points to go with seven rebounds and 10 assists and looked like the Pierce of old, as opposed to an old version of Paul Pierce.

While Pierce helped lead the Celtics’ best offensive performance in weeks, the team’s defense was routinely burned in transition by the younger, faster Wizards and a double-digit third quarter lead quickly evaporated. The Celtics were able to hold on down the stretch thanks to Pierce and solid games from Brandon Bass — 13 points and nine rebounds — and Kevin Garnett, who scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.

They were once again without Rajon Rondo, who missed his second straight game with a sprained right wrist. They also lost Ray Allen to a sprained left ankle early in the second quarter. He went back to the locker room and did not return.

The Celtics had lost six of seven games heading into Sunday and are now 6-8. Half of their wins have come against Washington, but they’ll take them any way they can get them right now. They’re back in action on Monday at the Garden against the Magic as Glen Davis makes his return to Boston.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Pierce had his breakout game for the Celtics, doing a little bit of everything. His effect on his teammates was evident by his 10 assists. When the Wizards doubled him off pick and rolls he found Bass for a jumper. He also got Garnett going in the second half with solid pick-and-pop action.

– The Celtics had assists on 13 of 16 makes in the first half and had much better ball movement and spacing than in recent games. That went away in the second half as they relied on Pierce to generate their offense, but it was a positive step.

Mickael Pietrus had to play big minutes after Allen jammed his left ankle and the veteran swingman played well. He knocked down two 3-pointers, but he also went to the post and drew a foul and put the ball on the floor to create a jump shot. Pietrus also committed two bad fouls in the fourth quarter, but he played well in his first game with major minutes.

– Bass also had a solid game, scoring 13 points to go with nine rebounds. He looked much more comfortable in the Celtics’ sets and had a strong finish going through JaVale McGee.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Allen began the game making three of his first four shots as the Celtics made a concerted effort to get him off screens. But Allen jammed his left ankle early in the second quarter when he ran around a screen set by the Wizards’ Jan Vesely. There was no contact on the play. Allen went back to the locker room and did not return.

E’Twaun Moore has had his moments thus far in his rookie season, but so far that hasn’t translated into production. He’s made only one of his last 15 shots. Marquis Daniels has also struggled and beyond Bass and Pietrus, the Celtics bench has yielded few results.

Avery Bradley remains a work in progress. He took several wild shots and careened into three Wizards on the fast break and got called for a charge. Bradley had six rebounds and seven assists, but he also was 1-for-8 from the floor and 1-for-4 from the free throw line with six turnovers. Wizards guard John Wall had his way with him on the defensive end, scoring 27 points to go with 10 rebounds and seven assists.

Read More: Avery Bradley, E'Twaun Moore, Mickael Pietrus, Paul Pierce
Avery Bradley’s successful first NBA start 01.21.12 at 1:44 am ET
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In the first quarter of Friday night’s loss against the Suns, Avery Bradley picked off a pass at midcourt and converted an easy layup. In the fourth quarter, Bradley lunged after a loose ball underneath Boston’s basket, saving a possession that led to a score.

That’s his job: Provide energy and defense.

Injuries to Rajon Rondo and Keyon Dooling gave Bradley an opportunity to make his first start in the NBA. The experience was valuable.

“It builds my confidence a lot,” said Bradley.  “Every game I play I know what Doc [Rivers] and my teammates expect from me — to bring that energy every time I step on the floor.”

He was tasked with defending two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Bradley felt his best chance to combat the 37-year-old was to antagonize him with aggressive defense.

“I tried to get him tired,” Bradley said. “[I] picked him up full court to let him know I was going to bother him the whole game.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, NBA
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