|Ray Allen: ‘Let the good times roll’ for Celtics||05.11.12 at 5:15 pm ET|
- Over the course of his career, he’s played for a SuperSonics team that won 31 games and finished last in its division, and he’s won an NBA championship ring on a Celtics team that won a league-best 66 games.
- Over the course of this season, he’s shot 48.5 percent from 3-point range over a 28-game stretch before the All-Star break, and he’s missed 15 games down the stretch with a lingering ankle injury.
- And over the course of these playoffs, he’s missed two more games with those bone spurs, and he’s averaged 13.3 points on 51.6 percent shooting over a three-game stretch.
Now what, especially after shooting just 1-of-7 from the field and (gasp!) 4-of-6 from the free throw line in Game 6, all while his ankle flared up to the same discomfort levels that kept him out of Games 1 and 2?
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not sound optimistic that he would have Paul Pierce and Ray Allen anywhere near full strength when Boston opens its best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday night at TD Garden against the 76ers. The Celtics, who moved on to Round 2 with an 83-80 win over the Hawks Thursday night at home, did not have full practice Friday, instead opting for a light shootaround followed by more intensive film session on Philadelphia.
“It’s a challenge because of bodies,” Rivers said before Saturday’s film session and light shootaround. “The Sixers are pretty healthy, we’re not so that’s the challenge. Ray is struggling today, Paul is struggling today. That’s a challenge. The only advantage we have is we don’t have to get on a plane. Our guy can sleep in their beds tonight and tomorrow night and get some rest.”
Both Pierce and Allen sat out Friday’s walkthrough, following a shootaround. Pressed as to whether Pierce or Allen were closer to being ready for Game 1, Rivers sounded an ominous tone.
“I don’t [know],” he said. “I’m concerned with both, to be honest. I don’t even want to give a percentage.”
Pierce is dealing with a sprained MCL in his left knee, suffered last Sunday before Game 4 against Atlanta. Allen reported feeling no improvement from stiffness and soreness from bone spurs in his left ankle.
“Yeah, I expect to play,” Pierce said. “I feel like I can play [Saturday]. I’m just getting the treatments. I’m dealing with a sprained knee, getting as much ice as possible. It’s probably not going to heal until the season is over so I’m just doing the necessary steps that I can to make sure I don’t overdo it or put myself in a position where I could really hurt my career, moving forward, being at the age at I’m at. But I’m confident with the way it feels that I’m capable of going out there.
“It really doesn’t bother me when I walk around or jump straight up. It’s more if I turn the turn the knee in a certain position, I reaggravate it. I don’t have any problem getting up and down the court. It’s just that certain parts of the game where you get in the lane or physicality of the game, to where you’re turning the knee. That’s why I’m wearing two knee braces just to kind of prevent that.”
Allen did not sound nearly as optimistic and stayed away from promising he’ll be a go for Game 1.
“It’s no better,” Allen said, comparing Friday’s feeling to Thursday. “I got treatment on it so I’ll stay off it for the rest of the day and get rest.”
Asked if he was a gametime decision for Saturday’s Game 1 against Philadelphia, Allen said, “Yep, just see how I feel. I won’t say worse but it’s basically the same from where I felt [Thursday].”
Allen described his ankle as “sore and achy” and acknowledged that he was frustrated with the injury. He shot 1-for-7 in Game 6 against the Hawks.
“It just was unstable. I didn’t have that maneuverability out there on the floor,” Allen said. “Once I’m out there I do what I can to help the team.”
Asked if he would be better served by sitting out a game and getting rest, Allen said he wasn’t sure.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” he said. “This whole week and a half I’ve been so day to day and I’ve had some great days and now I’m back to where I was two weeks ago.”
|Paul Pierce: ‘We’re playing like this is it’||at 10:54 am ET|
No one needed the rest more than Paul Pierce.
And no one appreciated the titanic effort of Kevin Garnett than Pierce, either.
Pierce played a gutsy 40 minutes on a sprained left knee, recording 18 points, five rebounds and seven assists. He knew more than anyone else the need to finish off the Hawks Thursday and get ready for the 76ers on Saturday night at the Garden in Game 1 of the Eastern semis.
Everyone on the Celtics knew the M*A*S*H report coming in: Pierce’s knee, Avery Bradley (left shoulder), Kevin Garnett (hip flexor) and Ray Allen (left ankle). Everyone knew that going back to Atlanta wasn’t a viable option.
‘That’s the beauty of this team,” Pierce said. “When you got four guys, Kevin, myself, Rondo and Ray, it’s never on one person’s back. Kevin tonight obviously carried the low post, offensively and defensively, like he has for years. And we all take pressure off each other. And it was just beautiful to watch and beautiful to be apart of. You know and I’m glad I have the opportunity to play with a guy like that.”
So how did Pierce feel after his 40 minutes, guarding Josh Smith on a knee that would’ve likely sidelined him in the regular season?
‘A little tired and sore,” Pierce said. “You know, I played a lot of minutes, had to guard one of the toughest 1-on-1 players in the league all night. You know that’s the nature of this beast. You’ve got to be ready to bounce back Saturday, one day of play, one day of rest. You know this is it, this is it. We might never have this opportunity again.’
The reward for Thursday’s 83-80 closeout win in Game 6? A date with Philly Saturday night with just one day to lick their wounds.
‘It feels good,” Pierce said. “You know we have to enjoy it here tonight and get right back at it, thinking about Philadelphia.’
Toughness is a word you’re going to hear a lot in the next week. Philadelphia became the fifth No. 8 seed in NBA playoff history to eliminate a No. 1, though they had the advantage of not dealing with Derrick Rose for five games and Yoakim Noah for the last three. They led by 12 in the third quarter and trailed by three with 30 seconds to go.
They found a way to win when Andre Iguodala hit a pair of free throws with 2.2 seconds remains for a 79-78 win over the Bulls in South Philly. Just moments later, 250 miles northeast, the Celtics had nearly the identical thing happen. They led by nine with eight minutes left. Trailed by three with two minutes left and found a way to win.
‘We’ve been through that, we’re not a team who’s going to panic in a close game,” Pierce said. “We were down [three]. We just picked it up. We got a couple stops, executed our offense, set a couple screens and hoped things would go our way. We’re not a team that’s going to panic, just being in that situation a number of times. You know, I didn’t look up and say we’re going to Atlanta again. We play through the clock. Until you see the double zeros up there its never over.
‘We’re playing like this is it. This could be our last chance together, so we’re going to give it one last run and then see what happens.’
|Celtics are talking about practice!||04.03.12 at 9:04 pm ET|
Thanks to the compressed schedule and their ridiculously long eight-game road trip of mid-March, Tuesday marked their first practice since the All-Star break. It also marked their last – at least of the regular season.
“We might be able to squeeze one more in but I think this is it,” Rivers said after their 90-minute session Tuesday.
The Celtics are about to embark on a stretch of 11 games in 15 days, including three straight on the road April 13-15. They’re in good shape in the division but how they make it through the next two weeks will go a along way toward determine how they stand up in the playoffs – and more to the point – how long.
“Rondo reminded me – or asked – ‘I think this is our first practice since the All-Star break’, which it was. I didn’t realize that. It’s good.”
What exactly did the Celtics get out of it?
“I don’t know,” Rivers admitted openly, as he always does. “We got some pick-and-roll coverages with the new guys, and when I say new guys, I mean all the new guys, I’m talking [Keyon Dooling], all the guys. I thought that helped a little bit but you need more than one practice, honestly. [Monday] we had a meeting. We could’ve gone over 50 things so we just have to cut everything out and work on some offense, very little, and a lot of defense.”
Overall, Rivers’ last comment on his veteran team’s conditioning might have been the most telling.
“My guess is we’re in average shape, along with every other team because I think you decondition during the season, I don’t think you get in better shape,” Rivers said. “I’ve always thought that. That’s where the practices come in, where you can run and get back into stuff. I will say this – our veterans especially, they do a phenomenal job on off days.
“If we’re in a hotel on the road, they’re running on the treadmill. They do a lot of extra work because I think they know their bodies and they are conditioned. I thought in the Miami game [Sunday], we went on that one spurt in the third quarter, there were four or five guys with their hands up, ready to come out, and we couldn’t take them all out at the same time. But that was because of the pace. That tells me we still have to get in a little better shape to play the way I think we should play.”
|Irish Coffee: Examining Celtics’ post-All-Star success||03.23.12 at 11:40 am ET|
A day after John Hollinger’s NBA playoff odds indicated the Celtics would be the odd team out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the C’s are statistically entrenched in his top eight thanks to a 100-91 win over the Bucks in Milwaukee. Now, if only they could make the 76ers’ odds of winning the Atlantic Division similarly vanish.
The 76ers have an 80.6 percent chance of winning the division, according to Hollinger. The Celtics? 11.9 percent. That could change in Philadelphia on Friday as the C’s (25-21) trail the Sixers by just one game in the win column.
If history is any indication, Friday in Philly won’t be pretty. The Celtics are 0-6 when they have to travel for the second night of a back-to-back (they did beat the Clippers a night after losing to the Lakers in the same Los Angeles arena), including a 32-point loss to the 76ers earlier this month.
However, the Celtics are 10-4 since the All-Star Game, owners of the league’s second-best record since the break — behind only the NBA’s No. 1 overall seed Bulls (12-2) and one win better than the surging Lakers (9-4). Who would have seen that coming with eight straight away games spread out over 6,000 miles looming?
But the Celtics will emerge from the season’s longest road trip no worse than 4-4, including hard-fought losses to the Lakers and Nuggets (the Western Conference’s current third and seventh seeds, respectively).
|Irish Coffee: How will this strange Celtics trip end?||03.20.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
The NBA lockout ended. Rajon Rondo nearly got traded for Chris Paul during a frenzied training camp. Paul Pierce has played his way into shape, Kevin Garnett has enjoyed a vintage Kevin Garnett season and Ray Allen is shooting better than ever because he’s wearing bigger shoes.
And that’s not all. Jermaine O’Neal played all of 25 games. Heart problems ended both Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox‘s seasons. Mickael Pietrus came on board, guaranteeing an NBA title. The Celtics lost five straight games — twice. They’ve also had two separate 10-game stretches where they’ve won nine and eight games.
Now, with one third left of this long, strange trip that has been the Celtics regular season, they sit in the Eastern Conference’s seventh playoff spot. Trailing the Bulls (38-10) and Heat (33-11) by a respective 12.5 and 9.5 games with 21 games left, the Celtics (24-21) can forget about catching either for the No. 1 or 2 seed.
Catching the Magic (29-18), owners of a four-game lead on the C’s for the No. 3 seed, isn’t inconceivable, but more likely the Celtics will vie with the 76ers (26-20), Pacers (25-18) and Hawks (26-20) for the No. 4 seed. All are within 1.5 games of each other. The Knicks (21-24) and Bucks (20-24) are battling for the final playoff spot.
Three division winners and the conference’s next best team are seeded 1-4 based on records, so the Atlantic Division-leading Sixers are slotted fourth, even though the Pacers own a better record. The remaining teams are ranked 5-8 based on record, but division winners are not guaranteed a home series. So, should a lower seed own the better record, they’d still play four road contests in a seven-game series — negating the seeding advantage.
For example, should the Celtics win the division but have a worse record than the Pacers, they’d still be playing the first two games of their playoff series on the road. With all that said, let’s see who has the best shot of getting those three and four seeds based on how the strength of their remaining schedules.
|Kevin Garnett and Celtics respond to Doc Rivers and his bitter ‘beer face’||03.10.12 at 10:49 am ET|
Everyone associated with the Celtics – from players and coaches to support staff – was embarrassed by Wednesday’s 32-point loss to the Sixers Wednesday night.
“That didn’t sit well with anybody,” Kevin Garnett said after Friday’s 104-86 redemption at the hands of the Blazers. “Tough schedule. Philly, they kicked our ass, plain and simple. This was about getting on the right track, taking care of home, and more importantly, creating that momentum going on this long road trip.”
That’s why no one was particularly surprised to see Doc Rivers with a special edge Friday morning during the team’s shootaround.
“Doc comes in, and you can tell how he’s looking, like he’s had no sleep and his hair standing on top of his head and he has the beer face,” Garnett said. “What happened in Philly wasn’t us but it happens and we accept it.
“[Friday] was a defensive mindset all the way through. A team we’re going to see only once, it was important for us to start the game with a force. Paul kept saying in the huddle, before we went out [to start the game] that it was important that we get this game to start the road trip. I’ve always said for the momentum, you’ve got to get games like this. This is kind of like playing on the road because we are going to be away from home for a while so this game was very important.”
As for this eight-game haul, a haul that began early Saturday morning with a cross-country flight, and will include a walk-through when the team lands in LA, Garnett said it’s important not to be overwhelmed.
“One game at a time,” he began. “When you look at it, it’s actually kind of quite scary, just because of the lack of rest, the back-to-backs, the travel. But when you take it a game at a time… it’s still what it is, actually.
“I was going to dress that up like it was something else. Nah, it’s all messed up, it’s all messed up. It is. I want to use another word but I won’t. It’s difficult but we’re going to take it a game at a time. This is the longest I can remember.”
Certainly the longest in his head coach’s career as Rivers said he can never remember a trip like the one the Celtics are about to embark on.
‘In my career, I’ve been in the league for 26 years,” Rivers said, when asked if it’s the longest one in several years. “It’s a long road trip but I do think there’s rest in it. The first two games are tough because of the long flight, you play and then you play the next day. But then after that, there’s days off in between. I think the other one is the last, the Denver game before we go back East, that’s a hard game. Whenever you play Denver on a back-to-back, that’s a hard game because there’s no oxygen.’
The Celtics hope they aren’t grasping for too much air by the time they return home on March 25 to battle the Wizards.
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