Boston Celtics

Celtics hope playoff jitters are in the past

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Celtics hope playoff jitters are in the past

ATLANTA Josh Smith and the rest of the Atlanta Hawks recognize and respect the Boston Celtics as a veteran team with loads of experience.

But the C's do have a couple youngsters, Avery Bradley and Greg Stiemsma, in the rotation who are seeing their first postseason action now.

While there were moments in which those first-playoff game jitters were apparent in Sunday's Game 1 loss, both seemed to get more comfortable as the game proceeded.

It was the kind of in-game growth that the Celtics hope will pay off with more consistent performance by both - and a Celtics win - tonight's Game 2 matchup.

"As a coach, you go into the game expecting a couple of your guys - not just the rookies, but the guys who haven't played with you - to struggle," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Unfortunately, I thought all of them did."

Rivers said he was pleased with Stiemsma, adding that he was the one bright spot among the rookies and newcomers in Sunday's loss.

Stiemsma, who had nine rebounds off the bench, acknowledged that he was a little nervous heading into the game.

"I was tossing and turning a little bit the night before, not really knowing what to expect, knowing this was going to be another level," Stiemsma said. "But at the same time, you just have to bring it down. It's a simple game. It's the same game I've been playing for a long time. Obviously the stakes have never been higher; but just try to do the things that I do well, keep it simple and play my game."

As for Bradley who has been instrumental in the Celtics' turnaround after the all-star break, Rivers thought he was "pressing" too much.

"He was activating his thoughts instead of activating his instincts," Rivers said. "We want him to stay instinctive; we don't want him to be a thought player. We want him to be an instinctive player."

That'll be tough tonight with Rajon Rondo (suspension) out, which means Bradley will move over to the point guard position and be joined by Mickael Pietrus in the backcourt.

"Now he (Bradley) has to actually be in thought again," Rivers said. "It is what it is. But we have to get him back to playing on instincts."

Their struggles aren't all that different than what most NBA players experience during their first playoff run.

Atlanta's Josh Smith recalls how his emotions were all over the map during his first foray with the playoffs.

"I know how inexperienced I was first time around," Smith said. "I was playing like a wild man, not knowing what I was expecting; just going out there and playing, gaining experience as it went along. They're slowly but surely gaining experience. When you have a couple of postseasons under your belt, you really understand and know the importance of it."

Knowing the Celtics have a few new faces playing regular minutes, you can bet the Hawks will once again try to use that to their advantage tonight.

"We want to use our experience, to our advantage," said Atlanta's Joe Johnson. "Hopefully it works to our advantage."

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

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NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.