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MGN: Crucial Home Stretch Begins As Mavs Take On Celtics

by Ryan Wilson on March 17, 2014 in Mavs 09 comments

MGN Paige

The Dallas Mavericks (40-27) were handed a gift heading into last night’s matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder (48-18), and took full advantage of it. Missing Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, and Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder were no match for the well balanced Mavericks attack. Today, they will begin their long 8-game home stand as they take on the Boston Celtics(22-45).

The Game At Hand:

The Mavs landed a huge victory last night in what many likely had circled as a loss. They now head in to a make or break stretch for their season, and need to not overlook the Celtics to get it started. There have been let downs all season long, so it is a valid concern, but the Celtics will most likely be resting Rajon Rondo on the second night of a back to back.

Expect Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis to get back into the swing of things tonight, as they struggled last night a bit. Nights like last night aren’t all that bad when you show off a squad that is as well rounded offensively as the Mavericks are. On a night where the Mavs two studs didn’t bring their best stuff, other guys like Shawn Marion, Jose Calderon, and Vince Carter stepped right up.

Last time the Mavericks faced off against the Celtics, they prevailed 102-91. They lead by as much as 24 points, and had six guys in double figures.

The Celtics are 0-14 against the West this season on the road this season.

Keys To The Game:

1. Put Them Away Early

The Mavericks need to come out of the gates fast and early tonight against a Rondo-less Celtics squad. It’s never a good idea to let teams that have nothing to play for hang around. A good quality win will go a long ways in providing some great momentum heading into the rest of the home stand.

2. Run ‘N’ Gun 

While the Celtics might not be a powerhouse on offense, defensively is a whole different story. They allow 95.5 ppg, which is good for 4th best in the NBA, but they do turn the ball over quite a bit, at 15.4 per game. The Mavericks will need to take advantage of that and turn that into easy baskets.

Matchup of the Night:

Mavericks vs Mavericks 

On any given night, you don’t know which Mavericks team will show up. Riding a huge wave of momentum from last nights victory, the Mavericks can’t do what many people think can happen, which is have a let down against a Boston Celtics squad that doesn’t belong in the same gym with the Mavs. The Mavericks are a dangerous team when focused on both ends of the floor, and some teams have started to notice that. It’s the games where the focus and energy is lacking when they can easily be exposed. Which team will show up is anyone’s guess, but for the Mavericks to right the playoff ship and climb the standings, they will need to make sure they bring that energy each and every night.

Quotes:

 

“I’ve never seen an eight-game homestand in this league in 30 years. It’s very unusual. There’s opportunity here, but it’s going to be very challenging, too. We’re going to have to work to keep our edge every day and every night, and we’ll find out a lot about our character. The ability to keep that edge is one of the signs of real competitive character, and we’re going to have to have it.” - Rick Carlisle on 8-game home stand

 

“We can’t jump ahead of ourselves. Every team that we’re playing is capable of beating us and we know that. We’ve got to understand that, go out there and take it one game at a time and see what we can do.” - Shawn Marion 

 

When and Where:

Tip-off at American Airlines Center tonight is at 7:30 p.m. CST. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest.

Playoff Watch:

6. Golden State (42-26) | Next 3 – ORL, MIL, &  San Antonio

7. Dallas Mavericks (40-27) | Next 3 – BOS, MIN, & DEN

8. Memphis Grizzlies (39-27) | Next 3 – UTAH, @MIA, & IND

9. Phoenix Suns (38-28) | Next 3 – @BKN, ORL, & DET

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Mavs Draft Watch: Dennis Schroeder

by Ryan Wilson on May 24, 2013 in Mavs 09 comments

DSMF2

In the second segment of Mavs Draft Watch, we are focusing on a raw and promising point guard in Dennis Schroeder. While he has showed glimpses of his ability overseas, it was the Nike Hoops Summit where he made his presence known.

Schroeder helped lead the International team to a victory over Team U.S.A. and had 18 points and 6 assists in the process.

He’s received praise from German born Dirk Nowitzki, and been compared to Rajon Rondo as well. He is a risky gamble at #13, but one that could pay off huge dividends in the end.

Strengths: At 6’2, Schroeder has lightning fast quickness, capable of putting any defender on their back with an array of moves. He has a nice shooting touch, and can get to the rim whenever he wants. In the open floor, Schroeder is a nightmare to corral.

If being compared to Rajon Rondo is what Schroeder has to deal with, he’s got Rondo beat when it comes to shooting. They both can create separation with their ball handling and quickness, but Schroeder’s jumper is far more consistent.

To go along with Schroeder’s physical 6’2 frame, he also possesses a 6’7 wingspan, which he can use to his benefit on the defensive end. Combine that with his quickness, he can be the same type of nuisance Rondo is defense.

___________________________

Weaknesses: While Schroeder showed he can shoot consistently, it’s still unknown whether that will translate over here on the main land. He has a bit of a set shot, so mechanically, scouts worry about him showing that 3-point range in the NBA.

He will also need to bulk up. 168 lbs on a 6’2 frame isn’t going to get it done. While he does possess some physical power, adding a few pounds wouldn’t hurt.

Finally, we all must remember that he is only 19 years old, and hasn’t really played against the top talents in the world. He played against much older players who have been around the game for some time, but that doesn’t even come close to the players he will be roughing it up with in the NBA.

___________________________

How Schroeder fits in Dallas: As Damian mentioned yesterday, it’s no surprise to anyone that the Mavericks are looking at landing Chris Paul, filling a point guard slot that was a huge problem in Big D last year.

Even if the Mavericks land a big time point guard in Free Agency, Schroeder could have immediate impact off the bench. His type of play is very fitting for a Carlisle team. Schroeder’s ability to break down a defense could pay huge dividends when finding a guy like Dirk Nowitzki on the wing.

The Mavericks would love a player who can play both ends of the court and be aggressive in the process. While these are things that Schroeder could provide, it’s also important to note how raw he is. The Mavericks most recent international experiment went south when it came to Roddy Beaubois.

However, they did strike gold with one player. From Germany I believe as well.

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Mock Drafts w/ Dennis Schroeder to the Mavs at 13:

Jonathan Tjarks (SB Nation)

These types of players are the ones that baffle everyone, including the scouts. Schroeder has a lot of the characteristics that a true point guard needs to possess, but it remains to be seen how it will translate.

At last weeks combine, Schroeder was a limited participant in the workouts. It was rumored that he had already been promised a pick by a certain team in the draft, but he shot that rumor down and mentioned a toothache as the reason for his absence.

His name doesn’t garner the attention of a Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams, but if his promising game overseas translates successfully here in the U.S., the Mavericks could have a major steal in this draft.

Schroeder is just one of the international players getting the watchful eye from Mavericks management. Dario Saric is the second player on that short list, and Damian Jackson will be covering him on our next segment.

As always, Go Mavs!

Video courtesy of DraftExpress

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Mavs Game Night: Mavs(11-10) @ Celtics(11-9)

by Ryan Wilson on December 12, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Another triple roadie waits on the horizon and begins with the a trip back to the Northeast. The Dallas Mavericks face the Boston Celtics and a very familiar player tonight – Jason Terry. Terry bled Maverick blue for eight wild years. The ‘JET’ was born in Dallas. He and the rest of the 2010-2011 NBA Champion Mavs squad achieved the ultimate goal. JET spent one last abbreviated season defending the title before signing with Boston this summer.

The Celtics have used Terry more as a starter than the 6th man role he owned all to well in Dallas. It could be due in part to the lack of offense provided by Courtney Lee, another offseason addition to replace the void left when Ray Allen chose to sign with the Miami Heat. The statistical numbers have dipped for Terry who averages 11.5 points in about 30 minutes each night.

Aside from Terry the Mavericks will have Rajon Rondo as the primary defensive focus. Rondo isn’t going to hurt you with his scoring, but he’s dangerous in just about every other aspect of the game. Just two games ago Rondo posted 16 points/14 assists/13 rebounds for his 18th career triple double (He also had 3 steals and 3 blocks). On the season he’s averaging 13 points, 12.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds.

The Mavericks enter this game winners of three straight for only the second time this year. Dallas defeated the Sacramento Kings 119-96 Monday night in one home game sandwiched between two three-game road trips. Six Mavs scored in double figures led by O.J Mayo’s 19 and Chris Kaman’s 18.

Mayo continues his all-star caliber play for the Mavericks in the absence of superstar power forward Dirk Nowitzki. Many have compared Mayo’s role to that of Terry in his time here. After a somewhat slow start and a brief slump, Juice has left very few Mavericks fans disappointed, if any.

Dallas has had recent success in Boston, winning all three trips in as many seasons.

1) 2009-2010 – Dirk scores 37 on MLK Day

2) 2010-2011 – Jason Kidd’s Clutch Game Winning 3

3) 2011-2012 – Dirk wins the game on this go-ahead And-1

Now obviously the Mavericks will not have the services of either Dirk nor Kidd, but that doesn’t matter to this group. Mayo has shown he’s more than capable of coming through in the clutch.

NOTES:

Since the addition of Derek Fisher the Mavs have won 4 of 5 games. The Mavs and Celtics each sit in 7th place in their respective conferences. Shawn Marion is a game-time decision with a groin strain. Rookie Jared Cunningham has been assigned to the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate Texas Legends. Rajon Rondo has recorded at least 10 assists in every game he’s played and finished this season.

Tonight’s game tips at 7:00 p.m. CT and airs nationally on ESPN. Also can be seen on CSNE (Boston).

Let’s go Mavs!

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Heat Defend Home Court

by Ryan Wilson on May 31, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

The biggest postseason comeback in Miami Heat franchise history wasn’t enough.

The Heat needed more — and got it, digging deep to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

LeBron James scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 23 and the Heat rallied from 15 down to beat the Boston Celtics 115-111 in overtime on Wednesday night.

Mario Chalmers scored 22 for the Heat, who won despite an unbelievable night by Rajon Rondo. The Celtics guard played all 53 minutes and scored 44 points, dished out 10 assists and grabbed eight rebounds. The Heat expected Boston’s best — and the Celtics didn’t disappoint.

“This group had resolve,” Wade said of the Celtics. “They came out and played a great game. It was physical early. They brought the game to us. That can’t happen. We used our crowd and the energy to get back into the game and we had to play better.”

Paul Pierce scored 21 points, Kevin Garnett added 18 and Ray Allen 13 for Boston.

Rondo finished 16 of 24 from the floor, 10 of 12 from the foul line and made both his 3-point tries.

“He was absolutely phenomenal,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Put us, put the whole team at times on his shoulders. … We had a lot of opportunities to win the game.”

Allen’s 3-pointer with 34.3 seconds left tied the game at 99-all. James missed two shots, first a layup — he got the rebound of his own miss — and then a jumper on the final possession of regulation, and to overtime they went.

“We had to do it the tough way,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Game 3 is Friday in Boston.

The Heat had come back to win from 14 points down in playoff games twice before, first in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA finals — their title clincher — and again last season against Philadelphia.

And this one was slipping away, more than once. James missed two free throws 21 seconds into overtime, and Miami looked in trouble. But the Heat held on, in a game where they took 47 free throws — 24 by James — to Boston’s 29.

The scoring dossier in overtime began like this: Rondo scored, Heat tied it, Rondo scored, Heat tied it, Rondo scored, Heat tied it.

When Rondo missed a layup — he thought he was fouled, and the Celtics agreed — with 1:33 left, Miami took advantage, with Udonis Haslem getting a dunk to put the Heat up 105-103. And after a turnover on the next Boston possession, Wade drove the lane, hit the deck and watched as his layup bounced on the rim and dropped through.

Garnett stood over Wade and glared, to no avail. Wade hit the free throw, and Miami was up 110-105 with 59.7 seconds left.

On a night where the Heat missed 16 free throws — including at least four by James in crucial situations — they would survive.

“Now we’re going home,” Boston’s Mickael Pietrus said. “Our jersey is going to be white. They got two. Fine, good for them. But we’re going home now and you know what that means.”

Miami was down by 15 in the first half and by as many as 11 in the third quarter, before a pair of 3-pointers by James started a comeback. Wade made consecutive jumpers midway through the third to shake off a slow start to his night and get the Heat within three both times, and the 2006 NBA finals MVP set up Haslem for a three-point play with 2:55 left that gave Miami its first lead since the opening minutes, 73-71.

As Haslem’s shot dropped, Wade spun at midcourt and punched the air. More highlights followed.

Miami’s lead got to as much as seven in the third after James blocked Pierce’s shot near the rim, sending the ball high into the air and starting a sequence that was capped by a three-point play from Wade, pushing the margin to 78-71. It capped a 12-0 run for the Heat, who took an 81-75 lead into the fourth.

It was the fifth straight game where Miami outscored its opponent by double-digits in the third quarter. In each of the previous four of those outings, Miami never trailed in the final period.

That streak ended in this one.

And a call that Boston argued against played a big role in the Celtics getting the lead back.

James stole the ball from Rondo early in the fourth, drove down the court and got wrapped up by Pietrus, who was assessed a clear-path foul, meaning Miami got two free throws and the ball. James missed both foul shots, Mike Miller missed a 3-pointer later in the possession, and the lead stayed at 85-81.

Barely a minute later, it was gone. Pietrus hit a 3-pointer, Rondo followed with a steal and layup and Boston led 86-85. The Celtics led by five with 3:50 left after a jumper by Pierce, and the Celtics looked to be in control.

It was temporary. The Heat scored the next nine points, Haslem’s jumper with 1:08 remaining put Miami up 98-94. So of course, back came Boston — Allen’s 3-pointer tying the game a few moments after Pierce fouled out.

Early on, it was all Boston. Over the first 15-plus minutes, Boston was shooting 65 percent (15 for 23), Miami 27 percent (7 for 26). By halftime, Rondo had 22 points, the most anyone had scored in the first half of a playoff game against Miami since 2004.

“An incredible game,” Spoelstra said of the Celtics’ point guard.

Miami’s point guard did his best to keep the Heat close.

Chalmers had 12 in the second quarter and seven in a 14-6 Miami spurt to end the half. He hit a pair of 3-pointers during the flurry, Wade got his first points of the night on a falling-down layup with 27 seconds left and the Heat closed the margin to 53-46 by halftime.

 

Game notes

Celebrities in attendance included UCLA coach Ben Howland, rapper Flo Rida and former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, a regular in the Heat crowd. … Celtics F Greg Stiemsma had four fouls in the first quarter, the first NBA player to do that since 2009. … Rondo’s other 22-point first half was Feb. 22, 2009 at Phoenix. … Allen, considered one of the game’s absolute best shooters for many years, said he’s been getting plenty of unsolicited advice lately on how to get rolling again. “I’ve only been doing this for 20 years,” Allen said at the morning shootaround. … Haslem (6) had more rebounds than Boston (5) in the third quarter. … Heat C Ronny Turiaf started, played the first 4:51 and did not return. Joel Anthony started the second half in Turiaf’s place.

 

 

 

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Veteran Celtics Must Show Famous Pride

by Ryan Wilson on May 21, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers loves his team’s mental toughness. It’s been on display throughout a hurdle-filled 2011-12 season. Sure, he’d love his team to take the easier route sometimes; he’s just not sure that’s possible.

“I keep saying with our team, we don’t ever do it the easy way. But I don’t know if we could,” Rivers admitted. “Sometimes I just don’t. Not because the mental [aspect], just because we are bent, and there are times that we do break, and more for other reasons than basketball.”

The latest example of upping the season’s degree of difficulty: The Celtics kicked away an 18-point second-half lead during Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. That tied the series at 2 as it shifts back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday night at TD Garden.

Rivers chastised the Celtics after they “completely lost our discipline,” particularly on the defensive end late in Friday’s loss. But Rivers also knows that adversity has a way of bringing out the best in his team and thinks it will respond well in what’s now a best-of-three series.

“I think they’re upset, they clearly understand what happened,” Rivers said. “But you also understand that just happens. It’s happened every night [in the playoffs]. If you watched both games [Saturday] night, you’re like, ‘Wow.’ It just happens, and you move on.”

The Celtics spent a lot of time Sunday answering questions about Game 4, but captain Paul Pierce may have said it best in terms of putting the game behind them.

“It’s over. Milk is spilled, got to clean up, move on to the next game,” he said. “You can’t let it frustrate you, can’t dwell on the past. It is what it is. The series is 2-2, obviously we have to go back to Philly. But we’ve got to take care of business at home.”

Kevin Garnett also acknowledged the importance of Game 5. “It’s critical,” he said. “Nothing more, nothing less than that. We’re at home, we’ve got to win.”

Pierce said the extra day off between Games 4 and 5 probably worked against Boston this time. It’s only the second time this postseason that the Celtics have received an extra day of rest in a tightly packed schedule, but the players are eager to get back on the court and atone for the lackluster second-half effort in Game 4.

Pierce pointed to the “little things” to clean up, like doing a better job on the glass (Philadelphia out rebounded Boston 52-38), limiting second-chance opportunities (the 76ers had 17 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points) and winning the 50/50 game (Philadelphia out hustled and outmuscled the Celtics throughout the second half).

One chess match to watch is how the Celtics counter when the 76ers go small, often using Thaddeus Young at the 4 and rookie Lavoy Allen at the 5. Boston typically has gone small to counter the move, taking Brandon Bass off the floor and running four guards with Garnett. But that backfired Friday.

Rivers said the Celtics have to be careful about making knee-jerk reactions to one bad half.

“Honestly, if we made one mistake, we should have gone back to Bass,” Rivers said. “In the first three games, our small lineup was a better lineup than our big lineup. Statistically, in Game 4, the big lineup was better; the big lineup was what got us the lead. The big lineup at the beginning of the third got off to a good start. And both times when we went small, it hurt us.

“So that’s something as a staff we have to recognize, and it’s a tough call. We’re going to have to make a call each game, it looks like, and there’s no right or wrong to it. It’s going to have to be a gut feeling and I hope when we make it, we make the right one.”

The Celtics haven’t had to make too many tough personnel calls this postseason because they’ve been able to keep their players upright. But Rivers held second-year shooting guard Avery Bradley out of practice Sunday after his left shoulder was dislocated for the third time this postseason on Friday. Bradley toughed out the rest of the game — and is expected to start Game 5 — but his shoulder is a perfect example of the tenuous nature of the Celtics’ season.

“That’s the scariest part about our team,” Rivers said. “I’ve said it for about three months, we are very thin. That’s why games like the other night hurt you more. We don’t have a big margin for error. We don’t even have it when guys are healthy.

“Our [starters] have to play well to give our bench guys a chance to stay on the floor longer, which allows us to get more rest. There’s a minute number every game that I’m concerned by for our starters, and when they get over that we struggle.

“There’s a lot of things going on in a game every night for us that quite honestly a lot of teams don’t have to deal with. But we know that and we understand that.”

Yes, the Celtics know they’ve been forced to navigate the hard path this season. Through it all, they’ve emerged at the other end. And as Game 5 approaches, they’re confident in their chances to do the same yet again.

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

  • Covered Celtics since 2007
  • Emmy award-winning videographer
  • Joined ESPNBoston.com in 2009

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Kevin Garnett, Celtics Move On

by Ryan Wilson on May 11, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

Call him old.

Call him dirty.

It just fires up Kevin Garnett even more — and that didn’t work out very well for the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics.

Upset by comments from a Hawks owner calling him “the dirtiest guy in the league,” Garnett responded with 28 points and 14 rebounds to give the Celtics an 83-80 victory in Game 6 on Thursday night that eliminated Atlanta.

“Thank you to their owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett said. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth to know what he’s talking about with X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”

The Celtics will open the Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday in Boston against the Philadelphia 76ers, who eliminated the East’s No. 1 seed, Chicago, in six games with a 79-78 victory earlier Thursday.

“At least we don’t have to travel,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who had hoped to be playing a day or two later. “I’d rather be going to Game 1 here than Game 7 in Atlanta.”

Garnett topped his regular-season high of 25 points, and had five blocks and three steals for Boston. Paul Pierce had 18 points despite playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and Rajon Rondo had 14 points and eight assists.

But Garnett, who turns 36 this month, was the star, defying age and a reputation that led Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. to say within earshot of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball: Old guys foul. Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league.”

Garnett responded on the court, hitting a jumper with 31 seconds left to give Boston the lead for good.

Then he responded off it.

“I just found that comment to be a little rude and a little out of hand, and I wanted to address it,” he said. “Just because you’ve got a lot of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth.”

Josh Smith had 19 points and nine rebounds for Atlanta, which failed to advance in the playoffs for the first time in four years. Joe Johnson had 17 points,Marvin Williams added 16 and eight rebounds and Al Horford had 15 points and nine rebounds.

But Horford missed the first of two foul shots with 2.3 seconds left after he was tackled by Marquis Daniels to avoid an easy dunk that would have tied the game. After he made the second, the Celtics got the ball to Pierce, who was fouled and made both free throws.

Boston has won at least one playoff series every year since the new Big Three was assembled in the summer of 2007.

“The one thing about the Celtics is those guys know how to win,” Williams said. “After winning (Game 5) down in Atlanta with our backs against the wall, we knew it was going to be tough coming up here. I thought we did a really good job putting ourselves in position to win down the stretch.”

The Boston crowd burst into a cheer — even the Celtics’ players were checking it out — near the end of the third quarter when the final play of the Sixers-Bulls game was shown on the scoreboard. Instead of having to face Chicago on the road — even without injured star Derrick Rose – the Celtics will have home-court advantage against eighth-seeded Philadelphia.

The Hawks went 5 minutes without scoring early in the fourth quarter as the Celtics turned a two-point game into a 74-65 lead. But Atlanta scored 10 of the next 12 points, with Horford scoring the last three baskets, making it a one-point game on an alley-oop pass from Smith with 3:52 left.

Smith faked at the top of the key and went right down the lane for a dunk that gave Atlanta its first lead of the second half, 77-76. Horford drove to the basket to give the Hawks a three-point lead.

Atlanta still led 79-78 when Garnett made a turnaround jumper in the lane over Smith to put Boston ahead by one. Smith missed a long rainbow jumper, and Ray Allen got the rebound with 10 seconds left, but he made only one of two free throws.

Johnson drove to the basket but Pierce blocked his shot and Garnett tipped it out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left. The Hawks got the ball to Horford in the lane, but as he went up for the dunk or layup, Daniels, who played just one minute in the game, wrapped him up and kept him from scoring.

The first foul shot went off the rim, costing Atlanta a chance to tie.

Game notes
Pierce injured the knee during Sunday morning’s shootaround and hurt it again when he tried to get around a screen set by Smith during Game 4 that night. … Rivers became just the third coach in Celtics history to record 50 postseason victories, joining Red Auerbach (90) and K.C. Jones (65) . New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was at the game. … The Hawks lost to the Celtics in the first round of the 2008 playoffs, a series that went seven games. Boston went on to win its NBA-record 17th championship. … Allen, the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader, was 1 for 7 from beyond the arc. … The Hawks are 1-11 in playoff series against Boston. They last beat the Celtics as the St. Louis Hawks to win the 1958 NBA title. … Rondo had three assists and two baskets during a 16-0 run in the second quarter. Pierce, who came back off the bench in the middle of the run, had five points and a steal over the span of 4 minutes.

 

 

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Celtics Put Hawks Against Ropes

by Ryan Wilson on May 7, 2012 in Mavs 09 comments

By the time Avery Bradley, who is recovering from a dislocated shoulder, sank a free throw to give the Boston Celtics a 37-point lead early in the third quarter, Paul Pierce was done for the night, riding a stationary bicycle under the stands and trying to keep his sore left knee from stiffening up.

Ray Allen went to the bench soon after to rest his ailing right ankle. He grabbed a seat near Kevin Garnett, who is about to turn 36 and played 42 minutes in the previous game — surpassing 50,000 total minutes in the regular season and playoffs in his 17-year NBA career.

“We had a lot of things going on on our bench today with bodies,” coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday night after the Celtics coasted to a 101-79 victory over the Atlanta Hawks to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series. “The whole game I kept looking down there (to see if) there were enough guys to put in the game.”

Pierce scored 24 points in 18 minutes before heading to the stationary bicycle in the tunnel leading to the locker room, getting some much-needed rest after the Celtics scored 16 of the first 18 points in the second half.

Boston can close out the Hawks with a victory in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Atlanta. Game 6 would be in Boston in Thursday, if necessary.

“Their team set the tone from the jump ball and we weren’t able to recover,” said Al Horford, who played for the first time in almost four months and scored 12 points. “It’s disappointing for us to lose this way, but the good thing is we’re going back home. It’s 3-1 and I’m sure a lot of people are writing us off already. But we feel pretty good about going back home.”

Horford returned from a torn pectoral muscle that has kept him out since Jan. 11, but he wasn’t available in the fourth quarter. Josh Smith returned after missing Friday’s game and had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Atlanta. Tracy McGrady, a key contributor in the first half of Game 3 before turning his ankle, played just nine minutes and scored two points.

“We were beaten in every phase of the game,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We just didn’t respond very well. I haven’t seen that type of performance in our team in quite some time.”

Two nights after Rajon Rondo had a triple-double to help turn back the Hawks in overtime, he may have been even better, scoring 20 points with 16 assists. The point guard shot 8 for 11 from the floor, sinking a pair of 3-pointers to tie a career high.

Perhaps the biggest boost of all for the aging and injured Boston lineup: Rondo and Brandon Basswere the only Celtics to play more than 30 minutes.

“That time on the bench was good time,” said Allen, who missed more than three weeks with bone spurs before returning for 37 minutes in Game 3. “It was good we played the way we did early. We’ve got to manage our bodies.”

Pierce limped off the court favoring his left knee midway through the second quarter, but he returned for the start of the third. He was on the court as Boston went on a 16-2 run to start the second half and open an 80-37 lead with 8:13 left in the third quarter.

That was enough to earn Pierce, who played 47 minutes on Friday and tweaked his knee during Sunday’s shootaround, some much-needed rest. Bradley, who dislocated his shoulder in Game 3, played just 19 minutes Sunday and Allen sat down after scoring 12 points and pulling down five rebounds in 19 minutes in Game 4.

“We overplayed them the last game, gave them the day off and they came out with this effort,” Rivers said. “I think over the long run … if you can get two or three of these games, it has to help.”

The teams went to the locker rooms at the half with Boston holding a 63-41 lead. But during the break, the officials reviewed a jumper by Allen and changed it from a 2-pointer to a 3-pointer. Rondo hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter, giving Boston a 26-point lead, then Bass made a jumper and Pierce hit a 3 to make it 72-41.

By the time the Hawks recovered, Boston led 80-43 and Rivers was emptying his bench. Pierce tried to keep his legs moving in case he was needed again.

He wasn’t.

Now he’s hoping for a long break if the Celtics can eliminate the Hawks in five games.

“The NBA is a weird league, and one game could give a team confidence,” said Pierce, who tripped over a teammate’s foot in the shootaround and aggravated the injury when he came off a screen in the game. “We hope that we can take them and advance in the series in the next game.”

The Hawks weren’t able to get any closer than 22 points before Rondo and Allen hit back-to-back 3-pointers, then Rondo made a behind-the-back fake to clear out the lane for an easy layup as Boston closed out the third quarter with a 90-63 lead.

Atlanta did cut it to 20 points in garbage time before Keyon Dooling made a 3-pointer with just under 2 minutes to play.

Game notes
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney attended the game with his wife, Ann. They left their mid-court seats with about 6 minutes left and Boston leading 98-71. … The Celtics shot 64 percent in the first half. … Rondo was 7 for 22 on Friday, when he had his seventh career playoff triple-double.

 

 

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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