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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.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, NBA playoffs, Paul Pierce
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.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, NBA, NBA playoffs
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.”

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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 »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doug Collins, NBA
Irish Coffee: Philly Fat Albert, the truffle shuffle and five Celtics statistics you didn’t know 05.17.12 at 11:03 am ET
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Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Celtics‘ Game 3 dismantling of the Sixers was their ability to make 22-of-28 free throws — including 11-of-14 from a Paul Pierce determined to get his points any way possible — in the face of true adversity: Philly Fat Albert doing the truffle shuffle (h/t @GethinCoolbaugh).

“Paul is just a grinder,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters in Philadelphia after his team’s most complete performance of the playoffs, a 107-91 victory that gave his team a 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinals lead. “He really is. You look at him at times and you wonder, ‘How is this guy getting open?’ He just has great fundamentals. He never does it with speed. He just knows how to play basketball.

“He’s a throwback guy,” added Rivers. “He just knows how to play basketball. We jokingly call him our ‘professional scorer,’ and that’s what he is in a lot of ways. … I think guys like Paul and the Kobe [Bryants], they have something in their minds that just makes them who they are.”

Even if it means staring at 400 pounds of Philly flesh full of cheesesteaks and pretzels. (Well, there is a lot of culture there.) In all seriousness, here’s five stats that make the C’s performance that much more remarkable.

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Brian Scalabrine, Kevin Garnett
Elton Brand feels (and sees) Paul Pierce’s pain 05.15.12 at 2:39 pm ET
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Despite Paul Pierce‘s assurance that “the knee was fine” after struggling in the Eastern Conference semifinals Game 2 loss, 76ers forward Elton Brand said the sprained MCL is noticeably taking its toll on the Celtics captain.

“When you’€™re hurting, it takes away some of your aggressiveness,” said Brand, whose 2007 knee injury was the first in a long line of Achilles, shoulder, hand and neck problems throughout his career. “You don’€™t think about it, but subconsciously it takes away your movement and your thrust.

“[It was noticeable] at times. We know what type of player he is and what kind of playoff performer he’€™s been.”

Pierce scored just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting in Monday’s 82-81 loss to the Sixers. He amassed five rebounds, four steals and three assists but also registered five turnovers and four fouls over 37 minutes.

“We’ve got to figure out a better way to get the ball to him in different spots, away from traps,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan morning show. “I think Paul has to do a better job of handling those. I thought in the first game he was terrific down the stretch. He didn’t get any of the credit, but our three baskets down the stretch in Game 1 was off a Paul Pierce play. They were trapping him everywhere, and he moved the ball.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Andre Iguodola, Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: The day a nobody stopped Kevin Garnett at 1:35 pm ET
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Kevin Garnett was coming off a two-game stretch in which he totaled 57 points on 39 shots, 25 rebounds and eight blocks while putting the finishing touches on the Hawks and painting a new masterpiece agains the 76ers, so why did the Celtics wait until it was too late to get their center involved again?

“Maybe we weren’t a smart team or a well-coached team, because that was obviously the game plan to go there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Morning Show. “We were in transition a lot and never really got into our sets. That happens in games. You see it all the time, but it just took too long to get into it. It took too long to establish it. We used timeouts to get into it — we just never did.”

Garnett made his first two shots, an 11-footer 17 seconds in and a 16-footer 2:48 into the first quarter, capping the C’s 5-for-5 shooting stretch that gave them an 11-3 start. And they turned to him once over the next 26:54.

“KG’€™s an unselfish player,” said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who recorded 13 assists, but only two to Garnett — including one on the meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer that resulted in the 82-81 final score. “He could’€™ve taken a lot more shots than he did, but he passed up his shots to get the assist or made the hockey pass. In the fourth quarter, over the stretch, when KG had it going, we just kept feeding him.”

As if flipping a switch, the Celtics leaned on Garnett in the fourth quarter. He made 5-of-7 shots and scored 11 of his 15 points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists, while playing the final 12 minutes. In the span of a minute midway through the quarter, he made an 18-foot jumper to cut the deficit to two on one end; then defended Jrue Holiday, altered a Louis Williams shot and grabbed the rebound on the other; and tied the game 65-65 on a turnaround in the lane back on the offensive end. In other words, he was everywhere.

“I don’€™t call the plays,” said Garnett. “Doc and Rondo are trying to get guys into a rhythm, trying to keep the offense flowing. That’€™s what it is. Whatever he asked me to do, that’€™s what I’€™m going to do.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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