|Maturing Avery Bradley relishes playoff experience||05.11.12 at 10:38 am ET|
Every playoff game, as the Celtics starters are being introduced at TD Garden, fans are reminded of Avery Bradley‘s growth as a player. Over the five-year run of the new Big Three era, fans are accustomed to hearing Ray Allen‘s name, but lately it’s Bradley’s who is called.
It takes a little getting used to. After all, moving ahead of arguably the greatest 3-point shooter of all-time in the lineup is no easy feat. As Bradley gains playoff experience, his understanding of the nuances and intricacies of the game at the NBA level increases minute by minute. During the Celtics’ series-clinching 83-80 win in Game 6 Thursday night, Bradley took another step toward maturity when he requested to guard Jeff Teague.
Bradley was stuck guarding Marvin Williams — who, at 6-foot-9, has seven inches on the C’s youngster — and surrendered eight points in the first quarter. It was a tough matchup for Bradley. In the second quarter the Hawks opened up a 28-20 lead and Boston was left searching for answers on both ends of the court.
But as Williams started to cool off, the C’s guard decided to take on a player who has hurt Boston throughout the series, Teague. So, the usually reticent Bradley pitched his desire to shut down the other No. 0 to Doc Rivers.
“He had a great series,” Bradley said of Teague. “I just wanted to come in this game, and I was covering Marvin, and I told the coaches ‘let me pressure Teague a bit.’ Even [Rajon] Rondo came to me and told me to pressure him. I just wanted to make everything hard on him tonight. My main focus was just to slow him down and make things hard on him to get them out of their offense.”
|Fast Break: Kevin Garnett just plain dirty in Celtics win||05.10.12 at 10:45 pm ET|
Kevin Garnett must not like business trips to Atlanta all that much. The Celtics center submitted a virtuoso performance that seemed fresh out of a 2008 time machine — including the go-ahead turnaround with 30 seconds left — carrying the Celtics to a 83-80 victory against the visiting Hawks and putting a bow on their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series in six games.
Garnett finished with 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, becoming the first player in a Celtics uniform to register that kind of line in the playoffs since Kevin McHale totaled 27 points, 15 boards and six blocks in 1986. Rajon Rondo (14 points, 8 assists) and Paul Pierce (18 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) were the only other C’s in double figures.
Trailing 79-78 with less than a minute remaining, Garnett dropped a turnaround in the lane that gave the Celtics the lead for good after they squandered a nine-point advantage in the fourth quarter. Following a stop on the other end, Ray Allen made just 1-of-2 free throws with nine seconds on the clock, but Al Horford countered with 1-of-2 of his own with three seconds remaining. A pair of Pierce freebies put the finishing touches on the victory.
Thanks to a pair of missed Omer Asik free throws and two successful Andre Iguadola attempts at the charity stripe in the final seconds, the 76ers eked out a 79-78 victory against the Derrick Rose-less Bulls to win the series in six games. The win means the C’s host the Eastern Conference semifinals, including Game 1 Saturday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Ticket post: Garnett attempted just 12 field goals in Game 5, and half of them came from at least 18 feet. The Celtics made a concerted effort to get Garnett the ball in the post early, and he owned the paint from the start (on both ends). In Game 6, he took 10 shots — by halftime. All five of Garnett’s first-half field goals came within 12 feet of the basket, and he entered the break with 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals, as the C’s established a 47-41 lead through two quarters.
Backcourt boost: With little life in the building — and little for Celtics fans to cheer — four minutes into the second quarter, Rondo reentered the game for Keyon Dooling. The Hawks led 31-25. Over the next four minutes and change, the Celtics fired off a 16-0 run to establish a 41-31 advantage. Rondo had four points and three assists in that stretch and guarded 6-foot-9 Marvin Williams on the other end (or the vicinity thereof, wreaking havoc as a roaming defender). Meanwhile, Avery Bradley locked down a scoreless Jeff Teague in the first half.
No sprain, no gain: When Pierce’s first 3-point attempt fell flat off the front of the rim, it had to be from the lack of lift as a result of his sprained MCL, right? Not so much. The captain made four of his next five field goals, totaling 12 points in 16 first-half minutes and erasing any concern over how his knee would respond.
|Ray Allen’s return another step forward for Celtics||05.08.12 at 8:24 am ET|
Paul Pierce was in the Zone — with a capital ‘Z’ as Kevin Garnett put it — and the Celtics were pulling away in the second quarter of their 101-79 victory Sunday night in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Hawks. The atmosphere plummeted from jovial to somber, though, when Pierce went down clutching his sprained knee. The Garden was hushed.
The stress of Pierce’s uncertain health was temporarily alleviated and the Garden was instantaneously in a frenzy once again when moments later, as he has done so many times, Ray Allen came off a screen and buried a 3-pointer. It didn’t matter that this was only Allen’s second game back from an ankle injury that kept him out of the lineup nearly all of April. Both the Celtics and their fans understand what Allen provides: Relief and security due to his unmatched preparation.
“You see what he puts into his craft,” Garnett said. “You see why he is who he is, and the reputation he has earned. I use the word earned, not given. You expect great things out of him, and that’s what he gives you.”
The reputation Allen earned had to be altered. The 36 year-old is renowned for his arduous training regimen, but coming off an injury he has stressed body maintenance over basketball form. Allen said he has cut his routine down to 40 percent of its usual length, which indicates his understanding of how imperative it is to get rest. His willingness to adjust his militant habits is paying dividends.
“I’m really managing my off days really well,” Allen said. “You have a tendency when you get back off of an injury to kind of let it slide a bit, and I haven’t been. And it’s important to me to rest up, just staying off it.”
|Josh Smith: Celtics ‘running plays way more harder’||05.07.12 at 12:58 am ET|
After the Celtics and Hawks were separated by just four points through the first three games of their series, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce & Co. put a 22-point whooping on Atlanta, and it wasn’t even that close.
The Celtics led by as many as 37 points, taking a 3-1 series lead with a chance to end the series on Tuesday.
“They shot the mess out of it tonight,” said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who returned from the left knee injury that kept him out of Game 3. “I’m watching it and being real observant when I’m on the bench. They’re just running the plays way more harder than we are. Whatever play is called, you know, Ray Allen is running off screens 100 miles per hour, Paul Pierce is finding a way to get open, the bigs are setting screens, getting the guards open.
“We have to try to duplicate what they do,” added Smith. “We have to try to get open. They’re trying so hard for Joe [Johnson] not to catch the ball. They’re being real physical with him, so we have to be able to match their physicality and be able to try to return the favor a little bit, see if they like it and stop being so passive.”
|Game 4: Celtics need to make better use of Kevin Garnett||05.05.12 at 8:21 pm ET|
On the one hand, Kevin Garnett has attempted 50 shots in the first three games of the Celtics’ first round playoff series with the Hawks. That’s right around the number of attempts they want out of him. On the other, he’s made only 44 percent of those shots and coach Doc Rivers is concerned that he’s not getting enough open space.
Game 3 was a “little better,” in Rivers’ opinion. Garnett shot 50 percent (9-for-18) and took more than half of those shots from within 15 feet. His follow-up slam at the end of overtime put an exclamation point on the Celtics’ 90-84 victory, as well as his 20-point, 13-rebound performance.
Still, Rivers wants more.
“We have to do a better job as far as Kevin goes,” he said. “I thought early in the game it was lot of jump shots, and we don’t mind that because he’s a great shooter. But we’ve also got to get him down low. It felt like the only way we can get him in the right spot is through an ATO [after timeout], and we have to be able to do that through the flow.”
Garnett’s usually reliable jumper has been shaky. He’s made only 11-of-33 from his beloved 18-20 foot range. That’s a steep decline from the 48 percent he shot in the regular season. Garnett has had only six attempts at the rim and half of those came in Game 3, so Rivers is right. It was a little better.
The biggest problem the Celtics have had in this series is scoring points. Yes, Joe Johnson forced the overtime by sinking a low percentage contested 3, but that’s what Johnson does and it’s part of what makes playing the Hawks a scary proposition. They’re going to make some of them eventually, no matter how good your defense plays.
The real reason the Celtics went to overtime was because they were stuck on 80 for the final four minutes of the game. In those final four minutes, Rondo missed two shots. Pierce missed two shots and committed an offensive foul. It wasn’t until the 40-second mark when Garnett got a look and it was tough 18-footer.
Part of the issue may have been fatigue. Rivers acknowledged after the game that he stuck with Garnett thinking the Celtics could deliver the knockout blow. Instead, they became trapped in yet another grind-it-out slugfest with the Hawks.
“I got stuck with Kevin, honestly,” Rivers said. “Sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble. You think we can get this, put it away and get guys out. And it backfired.”
Garnett has played 122 minutes in this series, a far cry from the carefully cultivated 5-5-5 plan that routinely resulted in 30-minute nights.
“The way my body feels right now I feel like I went 40-40-40,” said Garnett, which is accurate because he has.
Defensively, he is giving them everything they need. Without Josh Smith, the Hawks used smaller lineups and the only real way the Celtics can matchup is by taking Brandon Bass off the floor and leaving Garnett to patrol the paint. (It was also not helpful that Avery Bradley injured his shoulder late in the third quarter and wasn’t able to return).
Garnett has been excellent on the defensive glass, grabbing 27 percent of the available defensive boards. They have only allowed 17 offensive rebounds and their .784 defensive rebounding percentage ranks third in the league during the postseason. All the Celtics have been making an effort on the defensive boards, but it’s Garnett who sets the tone, especially when he’s the only big on the floor.
“He was terrific,” Rivers said. “Kevin had to do all the talking. He was basically the linebacker on the floor. All by himself and that’s hard. That’s a hard job to do.”
As always with Garnett, there’s the constant tension of doing what he does so well and then giving a little bit more. The Celtics have survived three games of this tight series without a vintage scoring performance, even with a 20 and 13 game on 9-for-18 shooting. Read the rest of this entry »
|Ray Allen: ‘I wasn’t holding anything back’||at 1:40 am ET|
It’s really all anyone wanted to know from Ray Allen after Game 3 – how’s the ankle and do you think you’ll be ready for Game 4 Sunday night at the Garden?
“Now it’s achy,” Allen said after the game. “It feels like it’s just mad at me a little bit. So, I’ve been here before. It seems like I have all these safeguards in place. When I get home, I know exactly what I need to do. I have my contraptions to make sure I’m able to go to sleep well and get up in the morning and get my treatment. So, I’m in a good place.
“I think over the past couple of weeks, people have asked me, ‘Can you get in a game and play five minutes, just stand in a corner and make people think you’re going to shoot it.’ I knew once I got out there, I was going to be out there to run up and down and move whichever way I need to move. I wasn’t holding anything back, once I got into the offense.”
After playing 37 minutes in his first game back since April 10, Allen said he could tell he was in a tense NBA playoff game. But all things considered, after scoring 13 points in Boston’s 90-84 overtime win over Atlanta in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, Allen said he and his left ankle came out of it feeling as good as could be expected.
“Starting the game it was great,” Allen said. “I think going into half was when it started to tighten up on me and I started noticing a little more than I’ve noticed but similar to what I’ve been dealing with. Just sitting on the sideline, I just did what I could to make sure I kept it loose by stretching it. But once I went back in the game, there’s not really a moment to think about it. Your adrenaline is rushing, being in the building, my adrenaline is rushing.”
Doc Rivers had to pay particularly close attention. He was without Avery Bradley for most of the second half after losing him to a recurring left shoulder injury. And the minutes on Allen started to shoot through the roof, that and the Celtics were forced to go with a three-guard look because the Hawks were going small with their lineup that was missing three big men.
“I thought the legs were shot at the end,” Rivers said of Allen, who missed one of two free throws in overtime. “We started trying to use him for decoy. He was terrific. And like I told you before the game – someone asked me, ‘Would there be a minute restriction?’ I said, “No, because we don’t know when he’ll play again or not.’ You know? So I’m getting everything I can get out of him each game. I’m saying that jokingly, but somewhat true as well. Tonight honestly, we needed him. It’s amazing the difference when he’s on the floor in our spacing, and how much more difficult it is for guys to help.
“We’re giving them the day off tomorrow because they’re exhausted. And I don’t want Ray in the gym because he would do something; he would shoot, or something. So that’s unusual for us in the playoffs to take a day off, but they need one.”
Paul Pierce was more than impressed with Allen.
“Just having him out there really picked us up because we haven’t seen Ray in a jersey in so long,” Pierce said. “Just having him out there, you heard the reaction from the crowd when he checked into the game. Stuff like that brings so much energy to the ball club, to have a guy that’s so vital come out there and give us a big lift. It’s huge having him out there, especially tonight with Avery going down.”
Allen, who has received intense treatment and cortisone shots to manage the pain, admitted that as the game continued, he could feel the bone spurs give him discomfort. Read the rest of this entry »
|Why Doc Rivers is looking to make life easier for Kevin Garnett||05.03.12 at 2:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics spent most of their 75-minute practice session Thursday working on half-court set offense.
Well, two reasons.
If indeed Ray Allen is healthy enough to return, then they’re going to need his jump shot and Doc Rivers wants his team to remember how to get him his shots. But secondly, and maybe more importantly, with or without Allen, the Celtics need to do a better job of freeing up space for Kevin Garnett, who has had precious little of it in the first two games against the Hawks.
If Allen can play, that will help Garnett. But if he can’t the Celtics need to find another scorer besides Paul Pierce to help out so both Atlanta guards aren’t doubling down in the paint and guarding Garnett.
“We just need a scorer,” Rivers said before Thursday’s practice. “We have to space the floor. They’re killing us with their help [defense]. They just decided without Ray on the floor, they’re just going to swarm everybody and you’re going to have to find someone.”
Rivers said he’s not worried about Garnett’s jumper. He’s more alarmed that he has made just 13-of-32 field goal attempts in the first two games. There has to be help for KG going forward.
“We have to,” Rivers said. “The jumper is going to come. I’m not worried about that. But we have to establish him more. We have to get bodies off of him. They’re bumping him around, knocking him around. We have to do a better job as a staff, do a better job of trying to get bodies off of him and giving him some room.
“Our spacing is horrendous for him. Clearly without Ray, they’re using both guards to just sit in the paint. And we have to do a better of creating space. It’s tough when you have two guys they’re just not guarding. That makes it difficult on Kevin. It reminds me of Perk and Rondo early on, and that was a big and guard. Now, it’s two guards [they're using] and they’re quick, and they can poke and jab at the ball. We have to figure out something because we have to get something down low.”