Celtics-Hawks Game 6 Review: C's help hobbled Pierce

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Celtics-Hawks Game 6 Review: C's help hobbled Pierce

BOSTON Paul Pierce was not even close to being the Paul Pierce that the Boston Celtics know and love.

But the Captain - all the C's for that matter - did what they had to do to get the win, 83-80.

And with it, the Celtics move on to the second round of the playoffs where they will face seventh-seed Philadelphia. Games 1 and 2 will be in Boston on Saturday and Monday, respectively.

Pierce still finished with a respectable 18 points, seven assists and five rebounds, but it was clear that the sprained MCL injury in his left knee was bothering him enough to at the very least, throw off his timing.

"That's the beauty of this team," Pierce said. "When you got four guys, Kevin (Garnett), myself, (Rajon) Rondo and Ray (Allen), it's never on one person's back. We all take pressure off each other. And it was just a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of."

Said Rivers: "Paul just gave us everything he had, but didn't have a lot."

Among the things Pierce was able to provide was someone attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line - something he did very little of in Boston's two previous games in which he shot just one free throw compared to shooting 30 in the C's first three playoff games against the Hawks.

On Thursday, Pierce went to the line eight times which was pretty close to the number of free throw attempts (9.3) he averaged in Celtics victories prior to closing out the series on Thursday.

Pierce getting to the line was indeed a contributing factor in Bostons' series-clinching win. Here are some other keys highlighted prior to the game, and how those keys actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston will look to shore up its defense against the Hawks' 3-point shooting. A big part of this will have to do with the C's doing a better job of rotating out to the Hawks' shooters. In the second quarter of Boston's Game 5 loss, Atlanta connected on four consecutive 3-pointers that in hindsight, gave the Hawks the kind of confidence that they rode for the rest of the game.

WHAT WE SAW: Atlanta's 3-point shooting once again gave them a chance at victory as they connected on 7-of-15 attempts. Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson did the most damage from 3-point range against Boston as they combined for six of the team's seven 3s.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Josh Smith: This has been a really tough matchup for Bass, but he's starting to figure out how to deliver offensively in a similar fashion displayed during the regular season. Bass has scored in double figures the last two games, which includes 14 points - the most he has scored in this series - in Boston's Game 5 loss. As for Smith, the sprained left knee injury that has bothered him for the bulk of this series still hasn't prevented him from being a double-double machine that the C's have yet to find an answer for containing.

WHAT WE SAW: Smith got the best of Bass in this battle, although Bass did a much better job than previous games in keeping Smith from going bonkers on the boards. Smith had 18 points but grabbed just nine rebounds - the first game in this series in which he did not snatch double digit rebounds. Bass did a decent job defensively (he had two blocked shots) and rebounding the ball, with six - only Garnett who grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds had more boards among the C's players, than Bass.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Al Horford was the best player on the floor in Game 5 when it mattered most - the fourth quarter. It wasn't so much that he scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as much as it was the timing of those points, that hurt the Celtics so much. His play has improved from one game to the next, but you have to wonder is he ratcheting up his play too quickly and thus making himself more vulnerable to some type of physical setback.

WHAT WE SAW: Horford had stretches of impressive play, but he was never able to manufacture the excitement and energy he brought to the floor in the Hawks' Game 5 win. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, with nine rebounds.

STAT TO TRACK: Even though Ray Allen is coming off the bench now, he's still playing starter-like minutes. So you know it's only a matter of time before he delivers a vintage Ray Allen, starter-like game. He has had some good games as a reserve, but has failed to surpass the 20-point barrier in 11 straight games - the longest such streak he has had with the Celtics. Considering the magnitude of tonight's game and the fact that he has yet to surpass the 20-point mark, it wouldn't be all that shocking if his shot-making propelled the C's to a win tonight and with it, moving them on to the next round of the playoffs.

WHAT WE SAW: Ray Allen's shooting never really came into play much, as he finished with 7 points while missing six of his second shot attempts.

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”