On 30-point games and playoff momentum

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On 30-point games and playoff momentum

Earlier this morning, I was flipping through some of Paul Pierces old playoff games on Basketball-Reference and came across a relatively meaningless, but still interesting statistic.

Ready?

Over the entirety of his 14-year career, Pierce has scored 30 points in consecutive playoff games only once.

Slightly shocking, no?

The consecutive efforts came in the first two games of Boston's 2003 series with New Jersey.

In Game 1 (which was played nine years ago tomorrow), Pierce had 34 points, eight assists, five rebounds, four steals, two blocks and eight turnovers.

In Game 2, Pierce messed around with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

(Pretty great, except that the Celtics lost both games on their way to being swept by Jason Kidd, Brian Scalabrine and the far-more-talented Nets. Also, the only other constant between that Nets series and this Hawks series? Jason Collins was New Jersey's starting center.)

And that's it. That's the only time over the course of 112 career playoff games that the Captain has broken 30 in consecutive outings. And I have no other commentary except that I imagined it would be more. (By unfair comparison, LeBron has done it 20 times in 95 playoffs games, including two four-game streaks and a five-gamer.)

Tonight at the Garden, Pierce will try to do it again.

In theory.

In reality, with Rondo (and maybe even Ray Allen) back in the mix, the Celtics don't need Pierce to carry them like he did on Tuesday. There's no way he'll take as many shots (his 26 field goal attempts in Game 2 were a new personal playoff high), or play as many minutes. Honestly, I'd say it's just as likely that Pierce scores 15-16 points as it as that he drops another 30.

Then again, if Rondo decides to make a run at 20 assists, and if Pierce is feeling fresh and energized by the home crowd

Man, isn't crazy how one game can change everything?

When the Celtics took the court on Tuesday, the situation was bleak. No one had ruled out the possibility of them stealing that game from the Hawks, but the overall vibe just looked and felt so helpless.

All it took was one victory, and now everything is calm and confident.

One victory, and we're right back to writing off the Hawks as pretenders, and looking ahead to Philly or Chicago.

One victory, and I spent the morning casually perusing box score porn and contemplating 30-point games instead of sitting in a dark room, pining over the end of a historic era of Celtics basketball.

It's wild.

But through all the calm and confidence, we never lose sight of of the fact that it only takes one loss to for it to all come crumbling down. That it doesn't matter if Ray Allen plays or Josh Smith doesn't because nothing is for sure in the NBA playoffs.

We know that.

More importantly, the Celtics know that. And with a surely-psychotic Rondo leading the way, and the Garden crowd just waiting to explode, you have to feel good about the C's taking care of business.

As for Pierce dropping another 30-spot?

Eh, not so much.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

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Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, a good friend of Brad Stevens, is out in Indiana.

Pacers president Larry Bird made the official announcement on Thursday.

Vogel’s contract was up in Indiana and Bird elected to not renew it. That, according to Bird, was hard for Vogel to hear.

Both Bird and Vogel spoke shortly before Bird’s press conference with members of the media, and that’s when Bird gave him the news.

There is speculation now as to who will take over as head coach. With Kevin McHale removing himself from consideration for the Sacramento Kings job, there was some thought that he could become the head coach of the Pacers under good friend and former teammate Bird.

That isn’t going to happen either.

Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

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Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA Draft, nobody has the flexibility to address a need the way the Celtics can this year.
 
If you are a draft-eligible player expected to be among the 60 names called next month, you are within the Celtics’ reach of being drafted.
 
That’s what having eight draft picks (three in the first round and five in the second) can do for you.
 
And while the Celtics have lots of needs, here’s a look at five specifically that they can address through the draft, and the best players to fill those voids.
 
5. Undervalued talent: Marquese Chriss
Getting players whose talent exceeds where they are drafted is certainly something the Celtics would love to do in a year when they have so many picks. Marquese Chriss of Washington could be that player. He’s a 6-9 forward who in this small-ball era in the NBA, can play both forward positions and have a matchup advantage at both spots. He’s targeted to be selected in the middle of the first round which makes him a prime target of the Celtics who could tab him with their second, first-round selection which will be the 16th overall pick.
 
 
4. Rim Protection
You have to give the Celtics props for having a defense that ranked 4th in the NBA despite no legit rim protector other than 6-9 Amir Johnson. As good as Johnson was, the Celtics need to add at least another player or two with rim protection as their strength. Enter Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis. He’s limited offensively in terms of what he can do, but his knack for blocking/altering shots, lateral quickness, vertical leap and overall strength makes him a force in the middle. He too is a player Boston has to give some thought to selecting if he’s still on the board (he’s considered a possible late-lottery pick) when it’s time for the Celtics to choose at No. 16.
 
 
3. Defensive versatility
One of the reasons Boston’s defense was so good this season was because of its ability to make defensive switches and it not create huge mismatches. Having players with the talent and skill to defend multiple positions will remain something the Celtics will also value on draft night. That’s why Jaylen Brown of Cal could be in the mix depending on where the pick Boston gets from Brooklyn, eventually falls. If it’s outside of the top-4, Brown becomes a viable possibility. He gets props for his strength and ability to use it as a means of scoring. But NBA teams are just as excited about his potential as a defender, already possessing an NBA-ready body with the tools to potentially defend all three perimeter positions.
 
2. Wing scoring
The Celtics ranked 11th in 3-pointers taken per game (26.1) but only 28th in 3-point percentage (.335) which shows that they were getting plenty of long-range shots but unable to make them with any consistency. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield could change all that. He was hands-down the best shooter in college basketball this past season. And with him being a senior, he’s more likely to come in and make an immediate impact than many of his younger draft brethren who are judged more on potential than proven work. If the Celtics wind up with a top-3 pick, Hield would be a bit of a stretch. But if Boston is on the clock with the No. 4, 5 or 6th pick, he should be on their short list of possible targets.
 
 
1. Superstar potential
The best shot Boston has of landing that superstar they’ve longed for, is to land the top overall pick. And with that pick, there’s a growing consensus that Duke’s Brandon Ingram should be that guy rather than LSU’s Ben Simmons. Ingram has a game that in many ways is reminiscent to a young Kevin Durant. But at this stage, Ingram is a better 3-point shooter (he shot 41 percent on 3s in his lone season at Duke) which is one of the many areas Boston could use a boost through the draft.
 
 

Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

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Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

If you know anything about basketball in the 1980s and early 1990s, you know it was a physical game. And in the playoffs, that physicality multiplied.

The Boston Celtics were no exception to that. There are countless highlights of Celtics players getting into it with their opponents, but perhaps the most famous incident was when Kevin McHale clothelined the Lakers' Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was a member of that team, and discussed that play on Thursday morning with the guys from the Toucher and Rich Show.

“I remember that we were at shootaround the morning of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline incident,” Ainge said. “They had just beat us by 30 . . . it was Hollywood showtime Lakers all the way and we were humiliated. We came to practice the next day and we had some guys chirping about that, like, ‘We have to take some hard fouls. We cannot let these guys fast break over us and dunk on us in transition. We have to take some hard fouls.’ And I said to the whole team, I like screamed at them, I said, ‘Hey listen, I’m booed in every arena in this league because I’m the only guy who takes hard fouls. I need some of you guys to take some hard fouls. And sure enough Kevin clothelined Kurt Rambis and that was sweet.”