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Greg Stiemsma: Just ‘another opportunity’ but this time the Steamer shines 05.22.12 at 12:08 am ET
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Brandon Bass wasn’t the only one coming into Game 5 who might have wondered where all his playing time went.

Greg Stiemsma was lost on the Celtics bench, while Ryan Hollins was spelling Kevin Garnett off the bench. Stiemsma was a DNP-Coach’s Decision on Friday night. He has eight, 11 and four minutes respectively in the first three games before a goose egg in Game 4.

But on Monday, maybe it was just as simple as Doc Rivers wanting to change the atmosphere as Stiemsma – not Hollins – came in for Garnett in the first quarter and the Sixers leading, 12-11.

So often in the series, and in the playoffs, when Garnett has come off the floor, the Celtics have struggled. But this time, while not pouring in 27 points like Bass did, Stiemsma was crucial in stabilizing the struggling Celtics bench, which lost Ray Allen to the starting lineup. Stiemsma came in with 5:46 left in the first and immediately paid dividends.

He didn’t register a block until 1:23 left in the quarter. It was actually his motion off the ball and rolls to the basket that made a difference. Imagine that – Stiemsma making offensive moves and Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo looking for him on cuts to the basket. In his first two minutes, Stiemsma hit a lay-up off a screen-and-roll from Pierce. He dunked on a baseline cut to the basket on a pass from Rondo and he connected on a jumper from 14 feet on a feed from Rondo.

“Tonight was another opportunity, its been like that the whole season,” Stiemsma said. “For the most part I think I’ve taken advantage of it and tonight was just another one of those nights where got some looks early, got myself going and I was just happy we won at the end.”

“I just kind of went with the flow of the game, how it was going, if I missed my defense couple times early when we got those buckets, a layup and a dunk, it really slows the game down, really makes you feel a lot more comfortable.”

Stiemsma didn’t do much in the second half. He didn’t need to as Bass took a spear to the heart of the 76ers and the Celtics carved out a 101-85 win in Game 5. But it was Stiemsma who gave the Celtics some life early on when the Sixers were looking and hoping to pull away for their second straight win in Boston.

How good was Stiemsma? He made all five shots he attempted and finished with 10 points, three blocks and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

“Its playoff time so as long as we’re winning I’m happy,” Stiemsma said. “It’s tough to see us struggle, but at the same time I don’t feel like I was playing the same way I was at the end of the year, either. So it felt good to get out there and feel comfortable again.”

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Fast Break: Brandon Bass lands Celtics a Game 5 win 05.21.12 at 9:26 pm ET
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In the aftermath of the Game 4 collapse, Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted he made a mistake not playing Brandon Bass more down the stretch against a smaller 76ers lineup. Yet, Rivers still didn’t play Bass in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 5, either.

That’s because Bass had already erupted for 18 of his playoff career-high 27 points in the third quarter, igniting a 101-85 blowout win that gave the Celtics a 3-2 lead heading back to Philadelphia for Game 6 on Wednesday.

Kevin Garnett (20 points, 6 rebounds), Paul Pierce (16 points), Rajon Rondo (13 points, 14 assists) and Greg Stiemsma (10 points) all reached double figures as well in the C’s victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Breakout Bass: After exceeding 15 points in 18 games during the regular season, Bass had yet to eclipse that mark in the playoffs. And Rivers didn’t like it, imploring No Pass Bass to earn his nickname and take the open shot when it’s there. Bass responded in Game 5, scoring 18 of the C’s 28 points in the third quarter and helping turn a 50-47 halftime deficit into a 75-66 lead after 36 minutes of action. He had his new career playoff scoring high before the fourth quarter.

Stinkin’ Badger: After the Celtics introduced a steamboat whistle to announce Greg Stiemsma‘s entrance into Game 1, the Wisconsin native came into Monday’s game with two points on 1-of-3 shooting for the series. Without the whistle intro in Game 5, Stiemsma erupted for eight points on 4-of-4 shooting — in his first 5:46 of action. He made three straight baskets midway through the first quarter on his way to eight of the C’s 23 points in the opening 12 minutes.

Match game: Along with Garnett, who enjoyed another stellar playoff game in this Back to the Future postseason of his, and a dash of Ryan Hollins, Bass and Stiemsma helped neutralize Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young, who combined for 19 boards off the bench in Game 4. That number dropped to six between them in Monday night’s blowout victory.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Avery Bradley is a ‘game-time decision’ for Celtics, could Ray Allen be starting? at 11:54 am ET
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WALTHAM — The Celtics reported that all players were on hand and accounted for during Monday morning’s shootaround at the team’s practice facility.

The team’s official website tweeted just before shootaround ended that Avery Bradley (left shoulder) was a “game-time decision” for Monday’s Game 5 against the Sixers at TD Garden.

Bradley did not practice on Sunday after suffering a recurrence of his left shoulder injury during the third quarter of Friday’s loss in Philadelphia.

If Bradley were not available for Game 5, it’s assumed Ray Allen would return to the starting lineup for the first time in the playoffs. Allen hasn’t started since April 4 against the Spurs, coming off the bench in the last four games he played in the regular season and all eight games to date in the playoffs.

Allen has been nearly non-existent in the last two games in Philadelphia, getting off just one shot and scoring three points in the Game 3 rout of the Sixers and making 2-of-6 and scoring five points in 31 minutes on Friday night in the 92-83 loss that evened the series, 2-2, heading into tonight’s Game 5 at TD Garden.

“It’s hard to really think about it from this vantage point,” Allen said of Boston’s second-half meltdown on Friday. “I know that in the third quarter, we just lost our attack. They attacked us. Going into the fourth quarter, we were still in a good place but they continued to attack. We lost momentum and on a ’50-50′ balls, it seemed like they got all of them.”

As WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery pointed out, the Celtics are a plus-18 in the playoffs with Bradley on the floor, second only to the plus-56 of Kevin Garnett during the playoffs.

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Paul Pierce: Second-half meltdown ‘was really on us’ 05.19.12 at 1:35 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — There will be those who say the Celtics were taken out of their rhythm by the foul trouble that hit the Celtics late in the third quarter of Friday’s 92-83 loss to the Sixers in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Not Paul Pierce. He’s been around long enough to know what really caused the Celtics to blow an 18-point third-quarter lead and fall back into a 2-2 tie in the series.

“Once they picked up their intensity, I didn’t think we really played with a sense of urgency in the third or fourth quarter,” Pierce said. “That’s a chance where you have a team on its back, you’re up 15 and you really take their confidence. We didn’t do that. You give a team some life, they went on a run and it just carried over all the way through the third and fourth quarter. That was really on us.”

Pierce wasn’t blaming the offense, which managed just 37 points in the second half.

“I really don’t blame it on offense,” Pierce said. “You look up defensively, you give up 28 and 30 points in the third and fourth quarters. Regardless if we score 15 or 20 points [in a quarter], our defense should be able to win the game. Our defense just didn’t come through. We didn’t rebound the ball, didn’t defend at a high level in the second half and allowed them to get in the game. We gave away too many free throws, easy opportunities, gave up the three, and then turned the ball over.”

“Of course, we have to expect that. Your back’s against the wall, you have to expect that. You’re down on your home court. You have to really expect them to come out and play their best. I said coming into the game, ‘expect their best.’ Obviously, it wasn’t their best first half. They came out in the second half and used the energy of the crowd and we just didn’t respond. Even though it was a tight game down the stretch, we had our opportunities but we gave up two late threes to [Andre Iguodala] to seal it.”

Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley all picked up their fourth fouls late in the third quarter but Pierce didn’t even mention that as a possible reason for falling apart.

“That’s part of the game,” Pierce said. “You have other guys to come in and step it up. You have to really put the knockout punch to a team and we just didn’t do that.”

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Ray Allen: Ready to fall on the sword again for Celtics in Game 4 05.18.12 at 12:33 pm ET
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PHILADELPHIA — Ray Allen had to be reminded Friday morning that the last time he had one shot in a game was Jan. 11, 2006, when he was ejected after playing just eight minutes in a win over Keyon Dooling and the Orlando Magic.

That was the infamous night when both were ejected in an on-court tussle.

“I do remember that,” Allen said Friday morning. “Very rare”

On Wednesday, he wasn’t ejected and played 25 minutes. But he again had only one shot, and again his team came out on top as the Celtics beat the Sixers in Game 3. Allen made the only field goal he attempted and finished with three points in Boston’s 107-91 win.

“I don’t have to change anything tonight that happened from last game,” Allen said. “The way they guarded me, they way they guarded us as a team, the final score was the result we were all hoping for. I can do everything this whole day the same way and go into the game and allow the game to go the same way. The object is to win.”

Doc Rivers said Friday that when Allen is on the court, the Celtics know one thing: “someone’s open.” That’s Allen’s approach as well.

“Most definitely,” Allen said. “I just think about what I’ve been able to do in this league over the course of my career, and be able to be regarded as one of the greatest shooters of all times. Now, it’s at the point where it hurts me, being on the floor, because no one wants me to take a shot. I appreciate that respect from opposing players, opposing coaches, fans when I get open always wonder how I got open.

“To be able to use that in the game, in a playoff situation, is a huge weapon. I’m always ready to take the shot and make the shot, but I know being out there on the floor does change the complexity of how a team plays defense. It helps with cutting, helps with pick-and-roll coverages. It helps with a lot of things. It’s like falling on a sword, you have to do what you have to do to help this team win. It can be frustrating because you want to get in and get involved, but the ultimate objective here is for us to win games and move on. That’s for me, what I have to do to help this team win.”

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Kevin Garnett and Celtics look to impose their will at 8:49 am ET
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We didn’t go to him. It’s plain and simple. My thought: we never established the post. I thought the second unit again established the post in the one stretch in the fourth quarter. - Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett after Game 2 loss to Sixers.

PHILADELPHIA — When Doc Rivers was asked about Kevin Garnett not getting enough shots in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Rivers sent out of his classic subliminal messages to his team.

Impose your will.

Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo all got the message loud and clear and routed the Sixers, 107-91, in Game 3. But to Garnett, who had 27 points and 13 rebounds, the key to success was about more than just wanting it more.

“It’s partially that, exerting your will over a team is big,” Garnett said. “But cutting down on mistakes, sticking to game plan, not making too many changes. Cutting down on mental mistakes is really what makes a series. The team that keeps turnovers down, most aggressive, imposes their will all those things factor. Every time I’ve been in a tough series, those things have been major factors. We just have to continue what we did in [Game 3], not only impose our will, stay defensively sound and like Paul said, take that first punch and be able to return it.”

Pierce and Garnett stood outside their team hotel on Thursday and were again asked if there’s the feeling that this is the final chance for the team to make a championship run.

“I think we realized that from Day 1 when we came in for preseason, training camp,” Pierce said. “I think the last couple of years we’ve been feeling like that. The [motivation] is trying to win another championship, regardless is this is going to be our last time together. KG in the last year of his contract, Ray in the last year of his contract, trade speculation that’s been going on to [Danny Ainge] talking about rebuilding. There’s definitely a renewed sense of urgency.”

“What he said,” Garnett joked when asked to offer additional comment. “The focus is the playoffs. I really haven’t given it much thought, to be honest. But I’m definitely aware of it. You give it some type of thought but at this point right now, it’s the playoffs.”

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Doug Collins: ‘We have to meet the challenge of’ Rajon Rondo at 8:01 am ET
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PHILADELPHIA — A lot of coaches say they want to make life difficult on Rajon Rondo.

But Doug Collins said Thursday that if his Sixers don’t do a better job of putting up a fight against the superstar point guard in Game 4, his team essentially has no shot.

“We never got Rondo stopped all night long,” Collins said of Rondo. “He took the ball wherever he wanted to take it on the floor. We have to take that challenge. We have to take on the challenge that he’s the guy that going to push on the [fast] break, he’s going to get the ball up the floor, he’s going to make the passes, he’s going to be the guy who’s initiating most of their stuff. We have to take the challenge of doing a better job on him.”

Rondo got to the basket time after time, made 9-of-16 shots and finished with 23 points and 14 assists and help the Celtics rediscover their swagger in Game 3. Even when the Sixers led by five after one quarter, Collins was worried.

“We just weren’t sharp from the start,” he said. “A lot of our defensive coverages, and all the things we do. Even in that first quarter, we were up, 33-28, we missed about six layups, six shots in the paint. We never had a grip on the game, defensively. When we went cold a little bit in the second quarter, I told the guys we had 33 points at the quarter and we had six points in the first five or six minutes of the second quarter. Normally, when your defense has to carry you through those moments, [Wednesday] it didn’t.

“I just think the competitiveness. So much is made of Xs and Os. They made a little bit of change on their screen-roll coverage so we talked about that. They did some things differently on screen-rolls. But it’s not a lot of Xs and Os. It’s toughness, competitiveness. The first two games came down to one possession. We have to do a better job when Kevin Garnett is off the floor. He’s plus-47 when on the floor. We have to do a better job. We can’t let them go to their bench and build a lead and then let him come back at the end of the half fresh and then let them finish the half strong. That’s what’s been happening.”

Indeed, when Garnett re-enters the game, he’s been huge before halftime. The Celtics have been outscoring the Sixers in the final minutes of the second quarter and the opening moments of the third quarter, 44-15, in the first three games.

“He rests after about six minutes, they bring him back, and then they play him and he looks fresh at the end of the half. We’re minus-29 points ending the second quarter and starting the third in all three games.”

But what alarmed Collins from the start Wednesday was the lack of team defense from the jump.

“I never take away from a team playing well offensively,” Collins said in giving the Celtics credit. “I just didn’t think we put up a lot of resistance.” Read the rest of this entry »

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