Pietrus keeps mood light, could be X-factor for C's

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Pietrus keeps mood light, could be X-factor for C's

BOSTON It's rare to find Mickael Pietrus without a smile.

Shooting slump. Turnover. Concussion.

It doesn't matter.

He's one of those the glass-is-always-half-full kind of people.

Having someone provide what seems to be a never-ending supply of positivity is a good thing for the Boston Celtics.

But it is his talent more than anything else, that has both Pietrus and the C's excited about the postseason.

While much of the focus heading into their first round series against Atlanta will focus on the Big Four, there's always a player or two that emerges as an X-factor.

Pietrus is that kind of player.

He is a role player, for sure. But at times, that role has morphed from that of a back-up, to one in which he's taking center stage in leading his team to victory.

The C's saw that first-hand in 2009 when he played with Orlando and played a huge role in knocking off the C's in the playoffs.

Pietrus is hoping to make a similar impact as a member of the Celtics now.

"My role is to win championships," said Pietrus, who signed with the Celtics shortly after being waived by Phoenix. "That's why I'm here for, to win championship. That's why they call it the Celtics. They want to win championships. I want them to have one this year with me, so I'm very excited."

From the time he arrived in Boston, back when the Celtics were treading water as a .500 team, he talked of winning a title.

It never bothered him when folks thought he was just plain cuckoo for having such lofty goals for a team that no one was sure would even get to the playoffs at that point, let alone compete for a title.

"I know this team; I know they would be better, a lot better the second half of the season," Pietrus told CSNNE.com.

Indeed, the Celtics have been one of the NBA's top teams after the all-star break with Pietrus' play being instrumental in that success.

However, a concussion at Philadelphia on March 23 sidelined him for 11 games.

While disappointed that he would have to miss games, Pierce told CSNNE.com the next day that he felt fortunate that it was just a concussion and not a career-ending injury. Replays showed that on the play, Pietrus landed squarely on the base of his neck.

"Every time I see it, it just makes me cry," Pietrus told CSNNE.com shortly after the injury. "Because I know it could have been so much worse for me."

And moments later, in that seemingly always-cheerful voice, Pietrus said, "So, how are you doing?"

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has talked all season about as much as Pietrus has meant to the Celtics in terms of wins and losses, he has been just as valuable inside the locker room.

One moment, he's cracking jokes on teammates, the next he's cracking down defensively on an opposing perimeter player.

"He's a great spirit," Rivers said. "The guy likes basketball and he plays hard. I'll take that all day."

So will his teammates, some of whom liken his role with this C's team similar to the role played by James Posey during the Celtics' 2008 title run.

"He's got a lot of intangibles," C's Paul Pierce told CSNNE.com. "He really bothers people defensively, knocks down open 3s. He's like that glue guy, that in-between guy that you need to win a championship. You know what your stars are going to bring, but you need guys like him."

When the playoffs arrive, there's no telling what it will take for the Celtics to win a game, let alone a series.

They will need players to seemingly come out of nowhere with big games every now and then.

Pietrus has the ability to do that, when called upon.

"Mickael, he brings a love for the game and a consistent energy. That's crucial," said Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "He's also confident. He's not afraid of the big moment. That's good to have a guy like that on your bench, who's not afraid to come in and take the shot when it's there and not worry about the consequences, but just keep playing. Sometimes in playoff games, they get ugly, 36 percent shooting and you could still win if you stay involved in the game. That's what I like about him. He could miss four (shots) in a row, but he's taking the next one. In that game, that might be huge."

And while he's dealing with some soreness in his surgically repaired right knee, Pietrus says it won't have an affect on him gearing up for his first playoff run with the Celtics.

"In this locker (room)," Pietrus says, "they say, pain or regrets? I will rather get the pain."

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”