|Paul Pierce shows vintage form, sprained left knee and all||05.07.12 at 12:16 am ET|
To think Doc Rivers thought he might not even have his captain available after a fluke injury in the shootaround hours before Game 4.
Paul Pierce shook off a freakish knee injury in shootaround and a re-aggravation of it during the second quarter to finish with 24 points in just over 16 minutes and give the Celtics the kind of breathing room they needed in a 101-79 rout of the Hawks in Game 4, in contest not even that close.
Pierce established himself early and often. It was what Celtics fans have come to expect and appreciate about the team in the “Big 3″ plus Rondo era. He was 5-of-7 in the the first quarter with 10 points. Rajon Rondo had seven assists, including helpers on Pierce’s first two buckets as the Celtics raced out ahead, 32-19, after one quarter.
‘It was great,” Rivers said. “And you know I thought, Paul thought, in the last game he took it too deep, and so tonight he went to the in-between game over and over again early on. First play we got him a layup and then he got a lot of in-between jump shots, which I think he may be one of the best in-between players in the league. And he did that. He knew that they were trapping; he knew that they were coming at him. And we talked, ‘If you go quick, one, two, dribble, pull-up jump shot, you know, take it.’ And he did that. And then he got the three going. He was just on fire.’
That fire nearly blew up in the Celtics’ face when leading 51-27 on a Pierce three, Pierce ran into Josh Smith on a screen. He twisted his knee, aggravating the injury from hours earlier in the team’s shootaround. Pierce said he’s hoping to be ready for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta.
“I kind of sprained it [Sunday] morning and then I aggravated it in the game,” said Pierce, who led the Celtics with 24 points in just over 16 minutes of game time. “I’m glad we were able to get a win like this to give me some rest, give me a couple of days off and get some treatment, and hope it feels good on Tuesday.”
Realizing fans would be concerned about his status for Game 5 on Tuesday in Atlanta, Pierce tweeted after the game, I think the knee is going to be fine glad I didn’t have to play a lot of minutes tonight to rest it good win tonight fellas.
Pierce was red-hot before and after running into Josh Smith on a screen late in the second quarter. He made 10 of his 13 shots in the win.
‘I kind of tripped over someone’s foot,” Pierce said. “I had to sit around the last half of shootaround, and tonight I just kind of reaggravated it when I came up off the screen with Josh Smith right there. It’s a little bit sore right now so Doc [Rivers] just wanted to take precautions tonight especially when we had such a big lead.”
Rivers couldn’t believe it when it happened in the morning.
“When I left shoot-around, I probably thought he was not going to play,” Rivers said, before being reassured by trainer Ed Lacerte. “And Eddie said, ‘Let’s see, let’s give it a try, and see how he feels.’ I talked to him right before the game; I asked him ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘Well let me just try to warm it up and see how I feel.’ It’s amazing. I mean, honestly, guys around the league ‘ He was just dribbling the ball and went to the floor in shoot-around. And I was thinking, ‘What more can you –?’ We were walking. You know, that’s how you felt, like, my gosh. And honestly, when he went down, it didn’t look good. So the fact that he could come in and play, and then play the way he played was great.’
Pierce missed the final 5:45 of the first half but came out to warmup for the second half and assured Rivers he was good to start the second half. He hit his first two shots, both threes, and had 24 points in 16 minutes on 10-of-13 shooting. He came out for Mickael Pietrus with 8:24 left in the third quarter and did not return. He didn’t need to. He was free to get more treatment and try and make sure – at all costs – that he’s ready to go for Tuesday night in Atlanta.
“I got some rest for the next game,” Pierce said. “You don’t want to really sit down or let it get stiff. That’s why I went over and got on the bike there when I got out of the game. If it had stiffened up on me I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to come back. It’s sore, tender. I’m just going to ice it.”
|Fast Break: Celtics rout Hawks, take 3-1 series lead||05.06.12 at 9:30 pm ET|
The only question for the Celtics after a 101-79 blowout of the Hawks that gave them a 3-1 Eastern Conference quarterfinals lead was whose virtuoso performance was more impressive: The captain’s or the general’s?
Paul Pierce threw the haymakers, scoring 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting (4-6 3P) in only 16-plus minutes, and Rajon Rondo jabbed away, amassing 20 points and 16 assists against just one turnover. Kevin Garnett (13 points), Ray Allen (12 points), Brandon Bass (10 points) and Keyon Dooling (10 points) also reached double figures, as the Celtics shot 51 percent from the field.
The C’s led by as many as 37 points and put themselves one game away from a fifth consecutive berth in the conference semifinals. The 76ers also took a 3-1 lead on the depleted Bulls team, setting up the possibility the Celtics could host the next round.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Early to rise: After slow starts (and finishes) in Games 1-3, the Celtics came prepared to Sunday’s Game 4 in the Garden. They made six of their eight shots in the opening 4:04, and Rondo orchestrated the offense beautifully. He assisted on five of the six field goals — including a Garnett dunk that forced Hawks coach Larry Drew to call a timeout four minutes into the game. By then, Garnett, Pierce and Avery Bradley each had two field goals, and the C’s were rolling.
Painting a masterpiece: Celtics coach Doc Rivers wants more paint production out of Garnett, even after his starting center’s 20-point, 13-board effort in Game 3. Rivers felt if Rondo could get Garnett the ball deeper toward the basket, the Celtics could be a more effective offensive unit. Done and done. KG’s first three buckets came within six feet, and he scored nine first-half points. As a team, the C’s shot 28-of-44 (63.6 FG%) and scored 64 points (22 in the paint) in the opening 24 minutes, and establishing Garnett early set the tone.
Headband of brothers: When Rondo and Pierce both play well at the same time, the Celtics can play with anybody, and, as Garnett might say, the Hawks were a bunch of nobodies on Sunday night. Rondo had 13 assists by halftime, or four more than the Hawks as a team. Heck, even jump shots and 3-pointers were falling for the C’s floor general. Meanwhile, Pierce made 8-of-11 first-half attempts for 18 points by the break. Whether it was the headbands or not, it’s no wonder the Celtics enjoyed their most complete performance of the series (and the season, for that matter).
Bench production: The Celtics built a 13-point lead in the first quarter, and the second-quarter starting lineup of Garnett, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels and Greg Stiemsma didn’t squander it. When Pierce, Rondo and Bass returned almost four minutes into the second quarter, the C’s still owned that 13-point advantage, and the rested starters closed out the half on a 25-15 run. In all, the Celtics bench scored 28 points, led by Allen’s 12 in 19 minutes. The reserves also closed out the fourth quarter, allowing Rivers to rest the stars he’s relied so heavily upon in the first three games of the series.
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’m more of an R&B guy’||05.04.12 at 8:15 am ET|
Just when you think Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo couldn’t ever become more of an enigma, he announces he’s coming out with an R&B track with an unknown singer he dubs “the female Drake” (h/t SLAM). Perhaps a cover of “Return of the Mack” played on the Jumbotron prior to his Game 3 reinstatement after the suspension? Or “48 Minute Man”? “Celtics Nation Under A Groove”? Oh, the possibilities. Just no “Bump & Grind” please.
Also, Rondo on women: “You know a good one when you see one.” Well played, Rondo. Well played.
|Three reasons the Celtics should be wary||05.03.12 at 12:06 am ET|
Here’s how fast things can change in the playoffs. With seven minutes left in the third quarter of Tuesday’s Game 2, the Celtics were down 11 points on the road and in danger of going down 2-0 in their first round series with the Hawks. Rajon Rondo was at the team hotel serving his suspension. Ray Allen was at the end of the bench in a suit, trying to console his replacement Mickael Pietrus, who had been benched.
They had not made a single 3-pointer in the series and Paul Pierce was in the midst of a 2-for-11 stretch after a hot start. Then Keyon Dooling finally broke through from behind the arc, Pierce went supernova and the defense grounded the Hawks into fine powder.
Now, the Celtics are coming back to Boston with a split and facing a Hawks team that may be without forward Josh Smith, who strained his left patella ligament and is listed as “doubtful” for Friday’s Game 3. They have two days to rest between games, a nice scheduling gift from the league, and if they take care of business at the Garden where they posted the third-best home record in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics could be in full command of this series by the end of the weekend.
Oh, and the top-seeded Bulls were blown out by Philadelphia in their first game without Derrick Rose.
But that’s getting way ahead of things.
The Celtics and Hawks have played five games this season, including the playoffs, and all five have been tight, tense affairs with the Hawks scoring 421 points to Boston’s 419. If Smith is out for an extended period of time, that changes the equation dramatically, but it’s not as if the C’s don’t have injury concerns of their own. From the beginning, this promised to be a close series and the two games have lived up to that promise.
Here’s three reasons why it’s far from over: Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Truth be told, Celtics even Hawks series||05.01.12 at 10:17 pm ET|
Calling what the Celtics played without point guard Rajon Rondo “offense” is being kind, but Paul Pierce and a ridiculous defensive effort in the fourth quarter stole a Game 2 victory against the Hawks, 87-80.
Pierce finished with 36 points on 12-for-26 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds and four assists (and eight turnovers), and the defense held the Hawks to 14 points and 4-for-19 shooting in the final 12 minutes to even the series 1-1 entering Friday’s Game 3. All that was left for Pierce was to Tebow in victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Captain, obvious: In the absence of Rondo, the Celtics needed Pierce to be heavily involved. And he was early. Pierce scored on a layup just six seconds ion the game, the first of his nine straight C’s points to open the game. Through the first 4:45, Pierce played the Hawks even, 9-9, establishing himself as the best player on the floor and setting an early tone for a Celtics offense desperately in need of a leader. He finished strong, too, scoring 13 fourth-quarter points.
Depth perception: Believe it or not, the Celtics built a lead with Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic and Keyon Dooling all on the floor. After the C’s battled the Hawks to a 24-24 deadlock through the first quarter, they started the second with that trio, Garnett and Bradley. Even Marquis Daniels made an appearance. When Pierce returned to the floor three minutes into the second quarter, his team led, 28-27. It was just a one-point advantage, but the Celtics captain got some much-needed rest even when Doc Rivers had limited resources.
Hanging tough: Through three quarters, the Celtics played perhaps their worst basketball after the All-Star break, shooting 21-for-54 from the field (38.9 FG%) and 2-for-11 from beyond the arc (18.2 3P%) while committing double-digit turnovers. They had no business being in the game, but somehow, even after defensive mental lapses that led to uncontested dunks and wide-open 3-pointers, the Celtics trailed just 66-61 entering the fourth quarter — thanks to the Hawks’ 39.1 percent shooting (25-64 FG).
|Irish Coffee: Celtics, with or without Rondo||at 12:37 pm ET|
In the wake of Rondo’s suspension for Tuesday night’s game in Atlanta (7:30 p.m., NBA TV), perhaps a look at how other Celtics performed in the point guard’s 13-game absence this season will answer that question.
For starters, we’ll examine how the void left by Rondo affects the other … um … well … the starters.
|How the Celtics played without Rajon Rondo||04.30.12 at 5:16 pm ET|
ATLANTA — On Jan. 18, Rajon Rondo fell hard on his wrist in a game against the Raptors and missed the next eight games. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Celtics, who were trying to dig themselves out of a 4-8 hole to start the season. Those fears appeared justified two days later when they struggled to score 71 points in a dreadful home loss to the Suns.
Bradley would often bring the ball up the floor, hand off to Pierce and disappear to the corner, allowing Pierce and Brandon Bass to run pick and pops to their hearts content. Even with Rondo, the Celtics get most of their offense from the perimeter, and without their slashing guard they moved further out and attempted more shots from outside the paint.
The C’s won six of their next seven — the lone loss came in a fourth quarter collapse against the Cavs (the Kyrie Irving game) — and their offense actually functioned better than their average in four of those games in terms of points per possession. Pierce scored almost 23 points per game in those seven contests and handed out 54 assists. Bradley had a handful of standout games in that stretch, but mainly he kept his turnovers low and tried to minimize mistakes.
It was on defense where Bradley made his mark, decimating Orlando’s Jameer Nelson in one memorable outing and establishing himself as the best on-the-ball defensive guard in the league. Most importantly, he proved that he could handle the increased responsibility and playing time.
“We had a few games that Rondo wasn’t able to play that prepared me for situations like this,” Bradley said at the team’s practice at Georgia Tech on Monday.
Rondo was suspended for Tuesday’s Game 2 by the NBA after he bumped referee Marc Davis late in Game 1. That January stretch stands out as one of the few highlights of the first half of the Celtics’ season and offers a glimpse at what life without Rondo will entail for Game 2 of their playoff series with the Hawks. Read the rest of this entry »