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Celtics and Heat offer interesting matchups 04.28.11 at 1:40 pm ET
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All along the Celtics and Heat figured that they would meet in the playoffs.”It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go through them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters in Miami after his team eliminated Philadelphia on Wednesday.

The Celtics had a similar reaction. “We assumed when they put this team together, at some point if we want to put another banner up then we’€™ll probably have to go through them,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the team went through practice on Thursday.

Now that it’s upon us expect no small amount of hype to emerge. But when you break through the thicket of noise, the thing that makes this series so compelling from a basketball standpoint are the individual matchups. There are seven members of the 2011 Eastern Conference All-Star team competing in this series and six of them will be matched directly against each other:

Dwyane Wade vs. Ray Allen

LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce

Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnett

Expect the Celtics to approach their defensive assignments in a straightforward manner.

“The numbers bare out when we guard our own guys we’€™re pretty good and when we guard other guys we’€™re pretty bad, against this team in particular,” Rivers said. “They may look good on paper and they look good visually for two minutes, statistically they’€™ve been horrendous for us.”

Rivers was referring directly to the fullcourt defense Rajon Rondo employed against James in the Celtics 85-82 win back in February. While Rondo’s gambit stirred the Garden crowd and provided some inspirational moments, once the postgame fog of exuberance gave way to sober analysis, the matchup did more harm than good for the Celtics.

But Rondo is the wild card in this series because asking Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers to stay with him for 48 minutes may be asking too much. That could mean Wade or James switching their assignments to try to contain Rondo. “We’€™ll see one of those guys guarding Rondo, which means one of them aren’€™t guarding Ray or Paul, so we’€™re good with all those,” Rivers said.

One thing the Celtics want to avoid are having to rely on double-teams or switches, but that’s easier said than done against this team.

“Every time we’€™ve overhelped in any series, including the New York series, we tend to hurt ourselves more than just playing our solid one-on-one defense with support,” Rivers said. “They run some stuff that’€™s honestly difficult to not switch, but we really try to avoid the switch as much as possible.”

Beyond the starters, Delonte West and Jeff Green will be asked to provide support.

“Jeff is going to have to be a great defender,” Rivers said. “He ran into that in the New York series where by the end of the series he was terrific on Carmelo [Anthony. That’€™s gives us another big, athletic body.” Asked if Green could help with Wade, Rivers said,  “We may do it in stretches, but you’€™re asking for trouble in the long run.”

SHAQ UPDATE

The plan is for Shaquille O’Neal to participate in the walkthrough segment of Thursday’s practice and then try to get on the floor for for the full session on Friday. The Celtics will fly to Miami on Saturday so Friday will be the last chance for O’Neal to get on the floor before Sunday’s Game 1.

KEEPING PERSPECTIVE

The Celtics know the hype will approach histrionic levels throughout the series, but they also know this is ultimately just one step in a larger process.

“It’s the second round,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s the halfway point of where our goal is. I know there’s going to be a lot of hype around it, like it’s a championship series, but you’ve got to understand it’s still just the second round. But a very big second round [series] because you’ve got two potential teams that can win it all. I’m excited. This is a great stage for basketball. It’s going to be great for fans and the guys that we have here love these type of series.”

PIERCE VS. LEBRON, III

Pierce has faced James two other times in the playoffs and the Celtics have won both series. In 2008 they beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game epic that featured brilliant Game 7 performances for both players. James scored 45 points in the 97-92 Celtics win, while Pierce went for 41 of his own. James got the better of Pierce in their individual matchup last season, but the Celtics won in six games.

Asked if it was personal for James to finally get past the Celtics, Pierce said, “Probably so at this point. When you lose to a team consecutive times in the playoffs — I mean, it would be personal for me. I’m sure he’s going to take it personal and you’ve got to expect his best.”

Read More: Celtics, Heat, LeBron James, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett just doing his job 04.26.11 at 11:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

During the Celtics’ two days of rest before Wednesday’s practice, Kevin Garnett got a chance to contribute to his Anta blog, focusing on Games 3 and 4 of the Knicks sweep. Here are the highlights …

Yo yo yo! We’re moving on! Great energy [Sunday] afternoon!  Happy Easter to anyone who celebrates it! We needed to get this game, so we could have a couple of days to get our rest! With Miami losing, we don’t play until at least Sunday. Doc gave us two days off, so practice on Wednesday! Lots of treatment, recovery and catching up with video games.

The team played awesome! We got up early and started executing better. Baby [Glen Davis] and JO [Jermaine O’Neal] tightened down our defense, and Rondo made our offense go. Setting picks for the guys is my job, and as Doc says, “DO YOUR JOB!” Good picks get good shots for Ray [Allen] and P2 [Paul Pierce]. Friday’s game they went off!!!! Yesterday, the Knicks tried to stop them, which got me looks. I was able to make shots and get rebounds. Didn’t even realize that I had 20-plus points. Team win is the only thing that matters.

That’s by far the most praise Garnett has heaped on his team’s execution, especially on the defensive end — a good sign for Round 2. It’s also nice to see Doc Rivers borrowing the “do your job” line from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Always loved that.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, reinvigorated 04.25.11 at 1:07 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I think everyone can agree we saw a different Rajon Rondo against the Knicks then we did in the last month-and-a-half of the regular season. Sure, he played the majority of his minutes against the likes of Toney Douglas and Anthony Carter, but still — it’s not like he’s going to be facing Chris Paul in the next round.

Rondo is the switch. The numbers illustrate as much, and I see no reason he can’t replicate his performance against Mario Chalmers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Rondo averaged 10.0 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 free-throw attempts in 21 regular-season games during March and April. Then, in the playoff sweep of the Knicks, he averaged 19.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 12.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 6.5 free-throw attempts. Essentially, without warning, he reverted to the player we saw when the Celtics started 23-4 before Christmas.

It’s not like the Big Three played that much better offensively against the Knicks than they had during the regular season in March and April. In fact, their field-goal percentage actually dropped from 50.2 percent in March and April to 49.4 percent against New York.

What really changed for the Big Three? As a result of Rondo’s ability to get into the paint whenever he wanted, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got far more open looks on the perimeter. They made a ridiculous 27-of-46 3-pointers (58.7%) — averaging 6.8 makes on 11.5 tries — in the Knicks series, as opposed to their 66-of-176 3-point shooting (37.5%) — 3.0 makes on 8.0 attempts per game — in the final 22 games of the regular season.

Can those two continue to shoot close to 60 percent from 3-point range? Probably not, but two of the game’s great shooters will keep getting more open looks as Rondo forces the Heat defense to sag on him in the paint. And if you think Dwyane Wade or LeBron James might take a shot at guarding Rondo,  do you have any confidence that Chalmers or Mike Bibby or James Jones or whoever can keep up with Pierce and Allen?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
For one game, Paul Pierce schools Carmelo Anthony, and Melo is unimpressed 04.18.11 at 1:21 pm ET
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One NBA superstar looked the role of having been in the playoff spotlight.

The other blinded by it late in the game when it mattered.

One executed his team’s final play to perfection and the other heaved up a desperation shot, hoping it would go in.

For one night, Paul Pierce got the best of Carmelo Anthony.

Aside from the second quarter, when Anthony scored 12 of his 15 points, Pierce completely frustrated and shut down Anthony. And in the second half, Anthony made just one of his 11 shots, finishing 5-for-18. But Anthony wasn’t falling over himself to praise Pierce afterward.

“As far as Paul Pierce, the matchup, I don’€™t think he did anything out of the ordinary or special tonight as far as defending me,” Anthony said unimpressed. “I think the Celtics, they were themselves, they load the paint up, every time I caught it, they loaded the side up, they shifted court.

“I missed some shots I normally make, I’€™m not too concerned about my individual performance or anything like that. As a team I think we did a hell of a job of just competing out there. We did some things great for the most part of the game, we got back and look at some film, make a couple adjustments, and get ready for Game 2. I’€™m excited about this series though.’€

Pierce was in the right place at the right time as Anthony lost his composure with 21.0 seconds left, flailing his elbow toward Pierce and getting called the offensive foul.

‘€œAs far as that offensive foul goes, what I thought and what they called was two different things,” Anthony said. “So, it is what it is, he called it and it’€™s over with.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NBA Playoff, Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, NBA
The game-winner was nothing new for Ray Allen and the Celtics at 12:24 am ET
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Ray Allen had no hesitation in letting the game-winning 3-pointer fly from the left wing with 11.6 seconds remaining, needing just a 2-pointer for the lead. Allen broke free from a screen and flashed open in time for Paul Pierce to find him and feed him the ball for the shot that gave the Celtics an 87-85 win in Game 1 at an electrified TD Garden Sunday night.

‘€œDue to the experience that we have, having played together, we’€™ve ran that play many times in different situations,” Allen explained. “Sometimes the shot goes in, sometimes it doesn’€™t. Sometimes Paul has the ball in his hands and he shoots it and he scores it. There are so many different options off of that play that when we went to it, we knew exactly what to expect.

“We don’€™t pre-determine, me setting the screen getting Paul open, sometimes he gets the layup all the way to the hoop. Sometimes my guy switches and I end up being open, Baby [Glen Davis] or Kevin [Kevin Garnett] clean up a guy and I’€™m open at the 3-point line, or [Pierce] rolls and he is wide open. It’€™s a play that has so many options and tonight, I was just the option. If I could think of every shot that I hit to win a game in a Celtic uniform Paul has probably been the guy that has passed it to me.”

Allen finished with a team-high 24 points after not taking a shot in seven minutes of playing time in the first quarter.

Read More: 2011 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, NBA, New York Knicks
Kevin Garnett: ‘Fatigue’s not an option’ 04.09.11 at 12:16 am ET
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On the second night of a back-to-back, following a letdown loss against the Bulls, in the 79th installment of an 82-game season, the Celtics had plenty of excuses to pack it in against the sub-.300 Wizards — a routine they’ve fallen prey to countless times in the past two seasons.

But Kevin Garnett wasn’t making any excuses. Paul Pierce made it clear the Celtics want the No. 2 seed, and their win over the Wizards brought them one step closer to capturing it against the Heat.

“At the end of the day, it’s competitive, and both sides are going to have competitive players who want to win,” said Garnett, who totaled 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Wizards. “It doesn’t matter who we play. You take the court, you suit up, and that’s what you’re expecting. Whether you’re playing lesser teams or below .500 teams or above .500 teams, you’ve got to anticipate that a team is trying to beat you.”

Thursday night, an above .500 team not only tried to beat the Celtics but succeeded with flying colors. And while Pierce quickly downplayed a question about the blowout loss to the Bulls — issuing a curt “We’re past that” response — the defeat has clearly stuck with Garnett.

“We want to keep that fresh in our mind,” said Garnett. “It’s motivating. We played like trash, and they played great. You want that to motivate you. We’ve got a really good Heat team coming up, and we’ll be tested again.”

The Celtics face the Heat on Sunday in a game that could decide the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, as a C’s win would put them one game up on the Heat with the tiebreaker in hand and two games left.

“We’re just trying to gather some momentum with these games that we have left and be aggressive,” added Garnett. “[Friday], after the performance of [Thursday], it was probably more of an emphasis on being aggressive and for the most part we did that. I think we’re looking for that consistency. We’ll see. If we decide as a team to come into that, then that’s what we’ll be. If not, we’ll have problems.”

The injuries have placed a greater burden on this year’s stars than Celtics coach Doc Rivers had anticipated, and the team’s three aging stars will all have played more minutes this season than they did during the 2009-10 regular season. Still, Garnett isn’t using that as an excuse to explain the team’s lackluster performance since the All-Star break.

“Fatigue’s not an option right now,” he said. “It’s not an option. But we are trying to get better, and we’re doing it with hard work and effort, as usual. … A lot of [fatigue] is mental.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Garnett, NBA, Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce on Celtics’ future hopes: ‘As Rondo goes, we go’ 04.06.11 at 10:38 am ET
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Paul Pierce could see it. Doc Rivers could see it. So could Kevin Garnett. All of the Celtics‘ leaders essentially said the same thing following Tuesday’s 99-82 win over the 76ers at TD Garden. The Celtics are slowly but surely getting in playoff form, and if they are going anywhere, they’re going to need Rajon Rondo to get them there.

Rondo had 16 points and 13 assists and led the charge all night long as the Celtics were pressed early and often by a young Philadelphia team trying to show it could be a legitimate threat come the playoffs if the two meet in the first round.

“You expect Rajon to play that way every night,” Pierce said. “He’s set a standard for himself over the last couple of years with his play. It’s no surprise when I look up and he has those type of numbers. I just think his next step is being more consistent with it to where he’s putting up 13, 14, 15 assists every night, but that comes as you get older. I was in that position, too, as a young player, just learning how to be consistent with it. As Rondo goes, we go. When he has these monster assist games, we usually win.”

“He was just aggressive and attacking and shooting,” Rivers said of Rondo, his prized floor general. “You can see he’s getting himself ready, you can just feel that. I don’t know if he plays with great focus all game right now, or if any of our guys do. But you can see what they’re all doing. They’re in some ways sharpening their tools in spurts. It’s tough for coaches. You’d like for them to do that and keep doing it. But they know where they’re at.”

As for team consistency, the captain said the Celtics showed enough to overcome the Sixers, learning from recent history where they have had a hard time protecting a double-digit lead. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Doc Rivers, NBA
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