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What Paul Pierce’s opt out means for the Celtics 06.29.10 at 11:28 pm ET
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As ESPN’s Marc Stein first reported, Paul Pierce will opt out of the final year of his contract, which will make him a free agent on July 1. While Pierce is leaving $21.5 million on the table, he is setting himself up for a longer deal before a new collective bargaining agreement is in place following next season.

The move, while not unexpected, makes Danny Ainge’s life a little more difficult as he attempts to bring back the core of the Celtics team for another run. The Celtics still retain Bird rights on Pierce and Ray Allen, which allows them to go over to the cap to re-sign both of them.

That remains the best course of action for Ainge. Despite their status as free agents, Pierce and Allen are still tied to the Celtics cap in the form of cap holds at around $20 million each until they sign a new deal. The Celtics would have to renounce both players, as well as the remaining six free agents on the roster, in order to get significantly under the cap to pursue free agents.

There is a chance that a team like the Clippers, Nets or Knicks could make a run at Pierce if they fail to sign LeBron James.

The big question on new deals for Pierce, and for Allen, is the length. Ainge would prefer to tie everything back to Kevin Garnett’s contract, which has two years remaining, but he may be forced to go to three, or even four years in Pierce’s case.

Still left to be determined before the start of free agency is whether Doc Rivers will return to coach the team, which may also have an impact on whether Pierce and Allen want to return.

Read More: free agency, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen,
Celtics video: C’s react to loss 06.18.10 at 7:12 am ET
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LOS ANGELES — Celtics players speak to the media following the team’s Game 7 loss to the Lakers in the NBA finals.

Read More: Glen Davis, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
5 Things that Went Wrong in Game 7 at 12:07 am ET
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The Celtics lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Thursday night, 83-79, falling short of their 18th championship. Here are five things that went wrong in the deciding game. (Click here for a recap of the Celtics’ loss.)

1. The Celtics gave it away - The Celtics were in control. They had the momentum and the confidence to get it done ‘€¦ before they let it all slip away. The Celtics led by 10 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter and had taken away the Lakers biggest weapon. But they began to miss shots and the Lakers were there to grab the rebounds. The C’€™s scored just three points in the final four minutes of the quarter and only led by four going into the final 12 minutes. The Lakers immediately got within two points seconds into the fourth, while the Celtics did not score for nearly three minutes. Bryant made three free throws to cut the Celtics advantage to one, and banked another two minutes later to give the Lakers the lead. Bryant scored four consecutive points to pull the Lakers ahead by four with 5:22 left, and they never looked back. The Celtics played catch up for the rest of the game as Bryant, Ron Artest, and Pau Gasol made critical baskets.

2. Kobe Bryant - The Celtics have battled past superstars the entire postseason, each time prevailing with team basketball. But after defeating Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard, they could not overcome the individual performance of Kobe Bryant. The Celtics held Bryant to just eight points (3-14 FG) in 22 minutes in the first half. When Bryant began to find his rhythm, though, the C’€™s failed to find an answer. Bryant scored 15 points in the second half, including four straight to tie the game and give the Lakers the lead with less than six minutes left. He finished the night with 23 points. It wasn’€™t his best offensive performance, but he made the shots when it counted.

3. Rebounding – The Celtics have said the entire series that the team that wins the rebounding war wins the game. On Thursday, they won neither. The Lakers outrebounded the Celtics, 53-40, including 23 offensive boards. This can’€™t be pinned on the injury of Kendrick Perkins, either. He alone doesn’€™t account for a 13-rebound differential. The Celtics had players capable of rebounding, but in the end, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant combined for 33 boards while only Paul Pierce rebounded in double-digits for the C’s. Kevin Garnett, who the Celtics desperately needed defensively, grabbed just three rebounds.

4. Ray Allen - His monumental 3-point performance is all but forgotten after Ray Allen’€™s offensive struggles continued through Game 7. Allen shot just 3-for-14 from the field and scored 13 points. While he deserves credit for playing tough D on Bryant, his lack of production at the basket hurt the Celtics in a situation where they needed everyone scoring at full potential.

5. They Played Lakers Ball - The Celtics dominated the first half by feeding off their fundamentals of tough defense and team basketball. In the second half, however, it became showtime for Bryant and the Lakers. The Celtics failed to put together productive offensive possessions, rushed shots, and attempted forced baskets. In the end, they were forced to put the Lakers at the line, where they were outscored 25-15. They C’s began the season by beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland with Celtics basketball, and ended it by losing to the Lakers in Los Angeles by falling victim to their opponent’s game.

Read More: Celtics, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant
Celtics video: Paul Pierce after Game 6 06.16.10 at 4:00 am ET
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Read More: NBA Finals, Paul Pierce,
C’s veterans call a meeting at 2:50 am ET
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LOS ANGELES — In the late moments of Game 6, the television cameras caught a glimpse of a conversation on the Celtics bench between their veteran players. That conversation carried over to the locker room and while the details are murky, the point was clear.

“We take complete responsibility,” Ray Allen said. “We just put us in a hole early. It affects our bench. We didn’t give them any great rhythm, any great chemistry. I think we talked about our defense and how we allowed so many points, but I think it stemmed from the offense because we didn’t make the extra pass. Each individual tried to make the home run play early.”

Oddly enough, the veterans finally put together solid shooting nights in the same game. Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined to go 19-for-42 and score 44 points. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider the rest of the team shot 9-for-42 and scored just 23, they accounted for a sizable portion of the Celtics limited production.

All the veterans know that this may be their final chance at winning another ring, and given the uncertainty surrounding the summer, it may be their final chance together in the same uniform.

Pierce said he was keeping the conversation in-house, while Garnett said it was nothing. But one thing is certain: They don’t want to go out like they did in Game 6.

“As a unit, starting unit, we take responsibility,” Allen said. “We have to do a better job for next game.”

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen,
Not tough enough at 2:12 am ET
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LOS ANGELES — Say this much, you can’t pin this loss on officiating.

The problem was – with the Celtics on Tuesday night – they said all the right things after the game but did precious few of them during an 89-67 loss to the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2010 NBA finals at Staples Center.

“We got our ass kicked, point-blank, simple. They came out there and hit us hard. They beat us mentally, physically,” Glen Davis said.

Getting outrebounded, 30-13, in the first half of a game you could have won the NBA title with is never a good sign. Yes, they lost Kendrick Perkins to a sprained right knee midway through the first quarter to a terrible bad bit of luck. But even before that, there were signs that the Lakers were beat the Celtics at their own game – energy.

“They did a great job,” Davis said. “They were the better team today. We didn’t come out and establish the tempo and we didn’t come out there hit them back. We didn’t do that at all. We didn’t play Celtics basketball.”

So can Davis and company change it for Thursday?

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I have no idea. But we better find something, make it happen.”

Pierce – as you would expect from a captain – was far more confident.

“I’ll tell you one thing, when I’m standing here on Thursday night, we won’t be talking about [lack of] energy,” Pierce said.

Still, it’s fairly mind-boggling that the Celtics had such trouble mustering up enough energy to compete with the Lakers, who were facing elimination for the first time in this playoff season.

“We have no choice,” Garnett said. “We come out [in Game 7] with the energy we had tonight, we’ll get blown out, embarrassed.”

Read More: Celtics, Lakers, Paul Pierce,
Five reasons the Celtics lost Game 6 06.15.10 at 11:43 pm ET
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The Celtics are headed to a deciding Game 7 against the Lakers after falling, 89-67, in Game 6 of the NBA finals on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Here are five reasons why the Celtics couldn’€™t get it done in six.

1. Kendrick Perkins went down: Perkins sprained his right knee and left the game halfway through the first quarter. He fell to the ground after fighting for a rebound (an effort the Celtics hardly made in the quarter as they were outrebounded 12-5) and did not return after being helped off the court. The injury had a ripple effect on the Celtics’€™ inside game. Not only did the C’€™s suffer by losing Perkins’€™ presence on the court, his injury forced Rasheed Wallace into the game. Wallace, who is just one technical away from a one-game suspension, picked up three personal fouls in just eight first half minutes. With Perkins’€™ injured and Wallace benched with foul trouble, the Lakers got to the basket at will, including 17 points and 13 rebounds from Pau Gasol.

2. One and done: The Celtics were four quarters away from winning their 18th championship, but they let the game slip away in the first. The C’€™s hung with the Lakers for the first five minutes of the game and were tied 12-12 at the seven-minute mark. The Lakers then went on a run and outscored the Celtics 16-6 to end the quarter. The C’€™s went scoreless for over two minutes during the beginning of the Lakers tear and did not hit a shot in the final 2:11 of the quarter. The Lakers led 28-18 after one. Kobe Bryant hit five field goals in the quarter, the entire Celtics team hit just eight.

3. Ron Artest appeared: Artest’€™s offensive numbers through the first five games of the finals were dismal – 7.8 points, 30.2% FG, 31.6% 3PG, 46.7% FT. Paul Pierce had contained him in the battle of the perimeter players, and he had offered little help to the Lakers on the scoreboard. But Artest showed up in Game 6. He scored 10 points in the first half alone and finished the game with 15. Artest doesn’t have to be the game’s leading scorer to make a difference. He spreads the defense and draws the Celtics away from his other teammates, like Bryant, when he is making his shots.

4. The bench never stood up: Just two games ago, they won the battle for the Celtics. But in Game 6, the C’€™s bench was ineffective, to say the least. Five reserves combined for just 13 points, and the only reason why those numbers are that high is because the starters were benched toward the end of the blowout. The Lakers bench, on the other hand, played with the energy and hustle exhibited by the Celtics in Game 4. Sasha Vujacic swished 3-pointers, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown got up for highlight reel dunks. With the Perkins injured, the Celtics bench needed to step up and help the starters. That didn’€™t happen.

5. Lakers attacked the glass: Doc Rivers told the Celtics at the start of the series that rebounding is key. It was key in their three wins, and it was key in their third loss. The Celtics were annihilated on the glass, 52-39, as three Lakers recorded double-digit rebounds — Gasol (13), Bryant (11), Lamar Odom (10). No one on the Celtics grabbed more than nine boards (Glen Davis led the team), which was magnified by Perkins’ absence on the glass.

Read More: Celtics, Lakers, Paul Pierce,
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