|Paul Pierce on Game 7: ‘I like our chances’||05.25.12 at 5:14 pm ET|
WALTHAM — If you go by Friday, the Celtics appeared to be calm, cool, collected and oh yes, confident, on the eve of their sixth Game 7 in the “Big Three” era.
The group of Paul Pierce, Greg Stiemsma and Ray Allen and assistant coach Tyronn Lue held a fun competition before Friday’s practice, as all right-handed shooters shot free throws with their left hands. Interestingly, Allen was the first to bow out, as he moved on to the more mundane effort of practicing shooting before the practice began.
The captain knows what’s at stake Saturday night at 8 p.m. as they take on the Sixers in Game 7 of the Eastern semifinals.
“Of course, we’re at home but they’ve beaten us on our home court,” Pierce said, referring to the 82-81 loss in Game 2. “You still have to go out and play the game but I feel good. A couple of days rest for a veteran team, much needed. I like our chances.
“I think we’ll come out with a great sense of urgency. It’s Game 7, there’s no tomorrow. In order for us to advance, we have to give it our all. We have to give it everything we’ve got. We need everything from everybody, whoever steps on that court to understand that this is it, this could be the season. That’s the way we have to play. We have to play like a desperate team, whether we’re at home or not. The team that wants it the most is going to get it.”
Overall, Pierce is 3-3 in Game 7s in his career. He lost his first in 2005 to the Pacers. Then, he won three straight, starting with wins over the Hawks and Cavaliers in 2008 on the way to his lone NBA title. Pierce led the charge over the Bulls in the first round in seven games in 2009 before falling to the Magic in a seventh game in the next round.
The most painful of all Game 7 losses, however, came the next year as the Celtics had the lead with six minutes left but couldn’t hold on and lost 83-79 to the Lakers in the final game of the 2010 NBA finals. Pierce has thrived in do-or-die games for the most part, including his 43 points in the fifth and deciding game of the 2002 first round series against Philadelphia.
“I like challenges,” Pierce said Friday. “I like being in pressure situations. It’s Game 7. I’ve been there before. I understand what it takes and I’m ready for it.
“It’s got to be a motivated group. What else is there? Game 7, what more could you ask for? If this is not the most important thing to you right now, then there’s no other way to motivate basketball players out here. Nobody wants to end their season right now. We have a great opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference finals on our home court. That’s all the motivation we need.”
“Avery Bradley is having surgery today so he’s out for the playoffs,” Rivers said. “That’s that. When a player goes down, that’s disappointing, and especially with what Avery has given us this year. His growth this year has been terrific and it’s been great. He’s become a very valuable piece to our basketball team. His ability to guard the best [opposing] guard at [point or shooting guard] has really taken so much pressure off Rondo, in particular. And not having him means that Rondo now has to go back to that role and run the team, and that’s hard, that’s hard to do, unfortunately and especially against the team we’re playing that has two guards that attack.
“Rondo doesn’t have a lot of breaks. But that’s the way it is. We’ve been a team all year when stuff happens, you deal with it and you just move forward. That’s who we’ve been and that’s who we’re going to have to be [Saturday].”
Then Rivers explained exactly why the Celtics need to fall back on their great defensive principles to get through Game 7 without Bradley, their third straight without their best on-ball defender. The Sixers have a group of athletic guards who attack the basket, and did so at will in Game 6. Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams all took advantage of a weakened Ray Allen in drives to the basket.
“We’re great defensive team,” Rivers said. “What Avery did was he allowed us to be a great defensive team and put an individual on one guy and say, ‘Go shut him down.’ We don’t have that anymore so we have to go back to being just a great defensive team.”
Bradley was diagnosed with a sore rotator cuff during the first round series with the Hawks and attempted to play with pain. But early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday in Philadelphia, his shoulder popped out of place. He missed Games 5 and 6 before the decision was made to have surgery on Friday.
Bradley, in his second season out of Texas, started 10 games in the playoffs and 28 in the regular season, taking over the starting job from Ray Allen for the final 13 games of the regular season. He average 7.6 points a game in the regular season and quickly won respect around the league as one of the best on-ball defenders in the NBA.
|Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7’s||05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)
Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.
How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.
Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.
Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.
|Kevin Garnett on Game 7: ‘We’ve been here before’||at 1:06 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Garnett spoke about Philadelphia’s fans after a Game 5 win in Boston. On Wednesday, following an 82-75 loss to the Sixers in Game 6, Garnett made another proclamation of sorts for Game 7 Saturday in Boston.
“Win or go home,” Garnett said when asked about the team’s mindset heading into a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “Confidence is very high. We’ve been here before, very experienced. All out, nothing less.”
Indeed, the Celtics have played in five Game 7s in the Big Three era of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They are 3-2 in those previous five, beating Atlanta and Cleveland on their way to the title in 2008. They beat the Bulls in seven in the first round in 2009 before losing the next round to the Magic in Game 7 at the Garden. With a chance at an 18th banner in 2010, they lost Game 7 of the NBA finals in Los Angeles to the Lakers.
“Game 7s are what they are,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s nice we have it at home, but you have to go get it still. At the end of the day, you have to go play. You can’t just rely on that we’re at home. I do like that we have an extra day. I think that helps us a little bit.”
“It’s only a couple of us that have been in Game 7s, so we’re not going to go on the history,” Rajon Rondo added. “This is a new series, a new group of guys that are going head to head and it’s been back and forth the entire series so it’s going to be a tough one at home.”
Neither team has managed consecutive victories in the series as the Celtics and Sixers have alternated wins in the first six games. If the trend continues, the Celtics will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years.
The Celtics will play the Sixers on Saturday at TD Garden. If the Pacers force a seventh game against the Heat with a Game 6 win Thursday, the Celtics and Sixers tip off at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If Miami advances on Thursday, then the Celtics tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday.
|Doc Rivers on Avery Bradley going forward: ‘We really don’t know’||05.23.12 at 8:36 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — As expected, the Celtics will not have Avery Bradley available as they try to close out the Sixers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Bradley did not take part in the shootaround Wednesday morning and could not get himself to the point of being ready for the game in warmups. Bradley missed Game 5 Monday with a left shoulder injury that was re-aggravated in the third quarter of Game 4 Friday night in Philadelphia.
“We keep saying day-to-day but we really don’t know,” coach Doc Rivers said an hour before Game 6.
Ray Allen, meanwhile, will play but Rivers said he is clearly limited by his right ankle sprain, that he reaggravated on Monday night in the Game 5 win.
Rivers also said Greg Stiemsma is ready to go off the bench despite two sore feet.
PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.
The Celtics lead the Sixers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series and need just one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years. The previous two times (2008, ’10) have ended with Celtics reaching the NBA finals.
But it won’t be easy if history is any indication. In the “Big 3″ era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, they are just 2-10 in potential closeout games on the road. They won the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit in Game 6 in 2008. They swept away the Knicks in the first round last year. So, well before Garnett’s comments about the Philly fans, tonight was going to be a monstrous task.
On the injury front, Bradley said at Wednesday morning’s team shootaround that he has felt little improvement in his ailing left shoulder and he will almost surely miss his second straight game of the series as Boston attempts to close out Philadelphia in Game 6 here at Wells Fargo Center.
“Right now, I’m not playing,” Bradley said, as he received treatment from strength trainer Bryan Doo. “I’m definitely frustrated but all I can do is keep getting stronger and keep improving for my team. I’m just trying to get it better. It’s been the same. I just have to keep trying to get is stronger everyday. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent for my time. I’m just taking it day-by-day right now.”
“He’s a little better, not much,” coach Doc Rivers added. “I don’t think he’ll play. He won’t do anything in shootaround for sure, and then do what we did the other night. We’ll let him warm up and see if he can warm up and then go from there.”
Bradley had the shoulder pop out early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday night and missed Game 5 with the injury. Allen started in his place in Game 5 and will start again for Bradley in Game 6 should Bradley — as expected — miss Game 6. There is some uncertainty regarding Allen and his ailing right ankle.
“It is what it is,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s a go right now. Obviously, if he can’t go, we’ll have to go somewhere else.”
Stiemsma also reaggravated his foot injury in the second half of the Game 5 win Monday. He was at shootaround Wednesday and is expected to be available off the bench.
“He’s good,” Rivers said. “The foot was aggravated again [Monday]. He says he feels much better today. He’ll definitely play. He’s the definite of the three guys.”
|Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett comments: ‘Have at it’||at 12:51 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Predictably, the Celtics were barraged by the Philadelphia media at their morning shootaround about comments from Kevin Garnett following Monday’s Game 5 win that put Boston on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals. Garnett, who lead the Celtics into Game 6 Wednesday night, called Philadelphia fans “fair-weather” and said they don’t match up anywhere close to Boston fans.
“I have no reaction to that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ll let you guys stir that pot. Have at it, have fun with it. I don’t think either fan base likes each other anyway so I don’t think it added anything. I said [Tuesday], ‘What are they going to do? Hate us more?’ So, what’s the difference?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Ray Allen added. “You have to ask [Garnett] that question. I don’t have any reaction because I don’t know anything about it.”
Wednesday morning, John Mitchell – a Philadelphia columnist – replied to Garnett’s comments by labeling Boston fans as “bigoted” in light of the incident after the Capitals eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 at the Garden on a goal by Joel Ward, a black player for Washington. Mitchell invoked the days of Bill Russell, the Celtics legend who had serious issues with Boston, even when he was playing and winning championships in the city.
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