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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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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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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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Kevin Garnett: ‘Let the players decide the game’ at 1:07 am ET
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Kevin Garnett set a moving screen. He knows it. You know it. And referee Michael Smith knows it.

The only possible question is whether Smith should have called Garnett for it, what with 10 seconds remaining, the Celtics trailing by three and Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on the line.

“I just thought in that situation you let the players decide the game,” said Garnett, whose illegal pick overshadowed an inspired fourth quarter in the 82-81 loss, “but if he felt like that was an illegal pick, then that’s what it is.”

It’s the kind of play that can and should be argued at bars all over Boston. Those wearing green-colored glasses swear it should have never been called — not then, when a whistle sways a conference semifinals series.

“I wasn’t fond of it. At all,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team travels to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Wednesday. “You know, I think Kevin got called for three off-the-ball offensive fouls. So clearly it looked like they were looking for it all night and they got three of them. If you’re going to tell me Kevin was the only one moving in picks tonight, then I’ll live with that. He clearly was not the only one, but he was the one who got the calls tonight.”

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Rajon Rondo: Celtics didn’t need to lose to know Philly is no ‘pushover team’ at 12:18 am ET
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Given the fact that the Celtics trailed the Sixers in the Atlantic Division for most of the season before catching them at the end and pulling away to a fifth straight division crown, everyone in Boston knew coming into this series that Philly was not going to be cream cheese or cheesesteak.

It was going to be a war, just like in the 60s and 80s, when the two archrivals battled tooth-and-nail for every loose ball and every point.

Well, two games in, two one-point decisions, one for each team.

“That’s the playoffs,” Rajon Rondo said after the 82-81 decision claimed by the Sixers Monday night in Game 2. “It’s up and down. You’re not going to win 16 straight games so. Give them Philly a lot of credit. They are not a pushover team. They’re in the second round for a reason. Like I’ve said this is a tough series.”

Tough is one thing. Ugly is another, and more likely how Celtics fans would describe a game that had Boston score 25 points in the first quarter and just 56 the rest of the way. The Celtics started the game shooting 50 percent (11-for-22) in the first quarter. They made just 22 of their final 57, finishing at 42 percent for the game. They had 19 turnovers. Philly had 18.

“We made some plays but they won,” Rondo said. “We give them credit. Basketball is a game of rhythms… a game of runs. We made our runs, and then they made their runs.”

And Rondo never got on one himself. Which is essentially the reason the Sixers won and the Celtics lost. Rondo finished with eight points and 13 assists on 4-of-12 shooting in over 38 minutes of action. The Sixers were more physical Monday, both with Kevin Garnett (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Rondo.

Except for Game 2 against the Hawks, the 2012 playoffs for the Celtics have been about two players and two players only – Garnett and Rondo. The Sixers seemed to find somewhat of a management plan, if not a control button on Monday. And that plan involved two words: Get physical.

From the onset, the Sixers were determined to get a body on Garnett at every turn and get in Rondo’s face. Though Rondo did have six assists in the first quarter, he had just seven the rest of the way.

Rondo was asked if what could have been done to get Garnett more involved.

“Nothing really, KG is an unselfish player. He could have taken a lot more shots than he did,” Rondo said of Garnett’s 7-of-12 night from the field.

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Fast Break: Philly stakes its claim in Boston 05.14.12 at 9:32 pm ET
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After struggling offensively for the first three quarters, Kevin Garnett willed himself and the Celtics back into a game they trailed by as much as eight in the fourth — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 76ers in an 82-81 loss.

Garnett scored 11 of his 15 points and grabbed four of his 12 boards in the fourth quarter, and Avery Bradley and Ray Allen made back-to-back 3-pointers to snare leads of 72-71 and 75-74 in the final 2:20, but Philadelphia executed too well, and Garnett committed a costly moving screen with 10 seconds left and the C’s trailing by three.

Allen’s 17 points led the Celtics in scoring, and Rajon Rondo finished with 13 assists. Jrue Holiday led the 76ers with 18 points, and Evan Turner scored six huge points in the fourth quarter, as the Sixers evened the Eastern Conference semifinals on their way home for Wednesday’s Game 3.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Settling down: As quickly as the Celtics built a 9-0 lead in the first quarter, the Sixers erased it. A whopping 14 of their first 17 shots came outside of 10 feet, cutting the lead to 15-13 midway through the first quarter and tying it 25-25 46 seconds into the second. A whopping 13 of the C’s first 17 shot attempts came from 10 feet and beyond, thanks in part to Rondo passing up open layups for the possibility of an assist on a jump shot from his teammates.

Shouldering the load: Bradley reinjured his oft dislocated shoulder when Sixers forward Elton Brand blocked his shot attempt. While Allen replaced Bradley in the lineup, the Celtics missed the 21-year-old’s quickness defending Philadelphia’s young backcourt. At halftime, Bradley owned the C’s best plus/minus (plus-13), while Allen had their worst (minus-12). Meanwhile, Sixers guard Holiday scored 13 first-half points on 5-of-9 shooting.

Center of attention: Just as the C’s backcourt defense suffered without Bradley, their entire defensive effort struggled without Garnett in the lineup. The Celtics built a 15-7 in Garnett’s first five minutes on the floor, and the Sixers outscore them 13-8 over the next five minutes. And so went every five-minute interval. The worst stretch came in the third quarter, when the 76ers turned a 43-40 deficit into a 51-47 lead with Garnett on the bench, taking momentum into the fourth quarter.

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Doc Rivers picks up another award at 6:36 pm ET
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The following should come as no surprise: Doc Rivers is very media friendly.

On Monday, the Professional Basketball Writers Association recognized this formally by announcing the Celtics head coach was voted the winner of the annual “Rudy Tomjanovich Award” – given to the head coach considered the most accessible to the media.

Rivers received 33 votes, topping a group that included Denver’s George Karl (13), Orlando’s Stan Van Gundy (9) and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle (2).

The PBWA also handed out two other awards. Phoenix Suns star point guard Steve Nash was announced as the winner of “The Magic Johnson Award” – the equivalent of Rivers’ award on the players’ side. The Milwaukee Bucks media relations staff was given the “Brian McIntyre Award” as the league’s most enterprising and helpful public relations staff.

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