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Three reasons the Celtics should be wary 05.03.12 at 12:06 am ET
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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 »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
Fast Break: Truth be told, Celtics even Hawks series 05.01.12 at 10:17 pm ET
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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.

Kevin Garnett (15 points, 12 rebounds) also finished with a double-double, and Avery Bradley (14 points) was the only other Celtic to reach double figures as they shot 42.6 percent as a team.

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).

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce
Irish Coffee: Celtics, with or without Rondo at 12:37 pm ET
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Gone for Game 2 are Rajon Rondo‘s averages of 11.9 points, 11.7 assists and 4.8 boards in 36.9 minutes a night, so who can the Celtics count on to replace his scoring, distribution and rebounding?

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.

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, E'Twaun Moore
How the Celtics played without Rajon Rondo 04.30.12 at 5:16 pm ET
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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.

But over the next seven games, the Celtics found a winning formula. While Avery Bradley shifted into Rondo’s spot at the point, they actually ran their offense through Paul Pierce as a point forward.

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 »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo
Donny Marshall on M&M: ‘Would not surprise me’ if Rajon Rondo suspended two games at 2:24 pm ET
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After what could be aptly called an interesting Game 1 loss for the Celtics Sunday night, CSNNE analyst Donny Marshall joined Mut & Merloni to discuss all things surrounding the Celtics’ 83-74 loss to the Hawks.

Understandably, no topic was given more weight than the ejection of Rajon Rondo for making contact with official Marc Davis and, specifically, the potential fallout for Rondo’s actions. Marshall said that Rondo will definitely be suspended, and while it should only be for one game, it may end up being for two.

‘€œAny contact you make with an official, it means you’€™re going to be suspended a game,” Marshall said. “And I’€™ll take it one step further — I wouldn’€™t be surprised if the NBA says, ‘€˜You know what? We’€™re going to suspend you two games.’€™

David Stern is not one of those guys who gives you the benefit of the doubt. It would not surprise me if it were two games. I hope it’€™s just one, it should only be one, but in the past David Stern has come down.’€

While Rondo’s actions certainly could be detrimental to the Celtics’ success going forward, Marshall said that Rondo’s teammates would be best served to be supportive of him.

“You know as a teammate, especially at that level, you don’€™t overreact to what your teammates do,” Marshall said. “You step back and say, ‘€˜Look, what would I have done? Would I have reacted that way?’€™ Guys have emotions and you can’€™t judge your teammates based off one emotional mistake.

“Rondo has given so much to that team and done such a great job of leading that team sometimes when they’€™ve been down guys. You can’€™t overreact because the last thing you want is for that incident to blow into something bigger and now it become a personal thing in that locker room.”

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Read More: Avery Bradley, David Stern, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: All you need to know about Marc Davis at 1:47 pm ET
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Don’t believe everything Tim Donaghy says, but at least the disgraced NBA referee is right about one thing.

“It’s not the first time Marc Davis has had problems with some of the Boston players,” said Donaghy, a one-time official who pled guilty in 2007 for his role in a gambling scandal, in his appearance on Dennis & Callahan. “I’m sure, again, that there’s a history there. This isn’t the first time something like this has come up with him.”

Davis, of course, is the official who, in a span of about 90 seconds from 2:14 to 0:41, handed the ball to the Hawks on a ball that clearly went off Atlanta‘s Josh Smith, whistled Brandon Bass for a foul on an apparent jump ball and subsequently called Rajon Rondo for a pair of technical fouls — the first for arguing on Bass’ behalf and the second for the infamous chest bump stumble.

“Davis is one of those guys that has rabbit ears for certain people,” said Donaghy. “He’s a referee that thinks people pay for their tickets to come and see him. He’s one of those guys that has a little bit of an ego. So, I’m sure it’s not the first time that he’s had a problem with Rondo, or something else happened in that game for Rondo to go after him and bump him over that call right there during that point of the game. Something else triggered that.”

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Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Josh Smith
How did the Celtics lose Game 1? We’ll count the ways at 1:35 am ET
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ATLANTA — Well before Rajon Rondo lost his cool, the damage had been done to the Celtics in their playoff opener against the Hawks. It started in the first quarter when Atlanta raced to a 20-6 lead before six minutes had gone off the clock. It continued in the next 42 minutes, when they couldn’t make shots and every offensive possession carried with it an eerie reminder of the first half of the season.

“I don’€™t know if we kind of eased into the game,” Paul Pierce said. “It’€™s hard to tell. We establish ourselves early defensively. We definitely didn’€™t do that. They got every loose ball. They got every 3-point shot. They got everything they wanted in the first, and then it was like in a boxing match. You sit there and you’ve got your guard up, then you take your guard down, you take a punch and you’€™re like, Ok, we’€™re in a fight. We’ve got to realize we’€™re in a fight from the jump.”

The Celtics realized that too late, and after an 83-74 loss they now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to make up ground without homecourt advantage to sustain them. Over the final three quarters, the Celtics actually outscored Atlanta, 56-52, playing the kind of grimy, sludge-ball everyone expected in this series.

“This is a long series,” Pierce said. “You have to win four games and we just have to learn from our mistakes. Learn from the first quarter, learn from what we did better in the second and third quarters, and we’ve got to learn to keep our composure.”

It will be much harder if Rondo is suspended (click here for more on that story), but the blueprint is there. Assuming they can shoot better than 39 percent, there’s no reason they can’t get back into the series. Still, there’s a lot to work on between now and Tuesday’s Game 2.

Among the areas that need improvement:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 Playoffs, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett
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