Notes: Rivers praises Green for key effort

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Notes: Rivers praises Green for key effort

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM Jeff Green had six points in Boston's 97-81 Game 3 win over the Miami Heat.

But if you didn't know that, you would have thought he went for 20 and 10 based on how coach Doc Rivers gushed about his performance.

Rivers would love for Green to put up those kind of scoring and rebounding numbers. But on this team, Green has a role . . . and that's not it.

He's a backup the Celtics are counting on to provide solid defense, some rebounds and, maybe most importantly, some stability to a second unit that has been inconsistent throughout this series.

The C's got all that and then some from Green in Boston's Game 3 victory.

They'll need a similar effort to even up this best-of-seven series in Game 4 on Monday.

"You know," Rivers said, "maybe for the first time in his career he was as valuable as he's ever been at any point in his career without scoring."

Green was part of a Celtics' defensive effort that limited LeBron James to just 15 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field.

Being able to contribute in other ways besides scoring is something Green says he's more than comfortable with doing.

"That's our job with the second unit," Green said. "Try to force deflections, take charges rebound, get in the open court and just make plays."

Said Rivers: "He scored a couple points. But his defense, his pressure, getting up, his deflections . . . that's the Jeff Green we want to see every night. He has to keep doing that."

Kevin Garnett played 38 minutes in Game 3, which included a stretch in which he played the entire third quarter -- something Rivers has been reluctant to do in past years.

Rivers said the fact that Garnett played so many minutes - he only had one game this season in which he played more - didn't really concern him.

"With him, the minutes in a row can be dangerous," Rivers said. "We stuck with it. It was a gamble that I don't like to take."

Rivers didn't really have much of a choice, especially the way Garnett was playing and how Garnett's backup, Glen Davis, has struggled throughout this series.

The decision to give Garnett extended minutes had nothing to do with Davis, Rivers said.

"It was more to do with how Kevin was rolling," Rivers said. "I'm thinking, 'How am I going to take him out now?' "

Along with Rajon Rondo's injury (dislocated left elbow), Ray Allen had foul trouble and Paul Pierce was being double-teamed.

That left Garnett, one of the NBA's all-time leading scorers, basically carrying the offensive load for the Celtics.

"The decision was made almost by the situation," Rivers said.

Even after it has been played and replayed countless times in the last 24 hours, Doc Rivers still can't bring himself to see the gruesome left elbow injury suffered by Rajon Rondo through its entirety.

In the third quarter, Rondo and Miami's Dwyane Wade got tangled up and Rondo suffered a dislocated left elbow, which has led to some in Celtics Nation believing that Wade had intended to hurt Rondo.

Rivers isn't buying that theory.

"It was a hard foul," Rivers said. "Let's put it like this. He didn't intend to hurt Rondo. I honestly don't believe in 99 percent cases in our league, a player never intends to hurt anybody, but he did. It just happens."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics set to face a number of potential first-round foes

Celtics set to face a number of potential first-round foes

BOSTON – Beating the Indiana Pacers 109-100 on Wednesday was about more than padding the win column while improving their position near the top of the East standings.

It was also a potential preview of who they might face in the first round of the playoffs, a scenario that will play itself out several times in the Celtics’ last 10 games of the regular season.

In fact, five of Boston’s remaining games (Miami, Milwaukee twice, Atlanta and Charlotte) are against teams that are likely to be the pool of potential first-round foes that the Celtics will face next month.

And of those five games, three (Miami and Milwaukee twice) will be at the TD Garden which has given rise to optimism that the Celtics can finish the season strong enough to potentially catch the Cleveland Cavaliers for the overall top seed in the East.

Boston’s win over Indiana coupled with Cleveland’s 126-113 loss at Denver moves the Celtics within 1.0 game of the Cavs.

“It’s going to be good for us,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley, referring to playing potential playoff foes to close out the regular season. “Every team is playing hard right now and it’s our job to continue to keep playing the right way and trying to prepare for the playoffs.”

The Celtics did just that on Wednesday against the Pacers, establishing a defensive presence early on that soon morphed into solid play offensively that enabled Boston (46-26) to emerge victorious for the fifth time in their last six games.

And doing so against a potential playoff opponent made the victory that much sweeter.

“It’s very important,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “Every win is big, every game is big. But especially against those teams we might end up facing (in the playoffs). We have to control what we can control, especially at home. We have to take care of business.”

Wednesday’s victory was the latest success story at home for Boston which has won 12 of its last 13 at the TD Garden.

But as well as they have played, the Celtics have left themselves plenty of room for improvement.

They came into Wednesday’s game averaging 13.2 turnovers per game which would be a franchise-low if they can maintain that through these last 10 games.

But on Wednesday, they had 14 turnovers by halftime.

“There were moments in the first half where we were careless,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And then there were moments that it was just like one of those nights where for whatever reason we missed a few catches, we missed a few, probably, easy passes. For whatever reason those nights happen.”

But the Celtics were a completely different team in terms of turnovers in the second half, courtesy of a stern tongue-lashing by Stevens.

The second-half turnaround by Boston turning the ball over – they only had three in the second half – shows both the potential problems and the promise of figuring it out on the fly that makes this Celtics team one to watch come playoff time.

“We’re almost there,” Bradley said. “We’re close.”

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens' strategy key to win vs. Pacers

Stars, studs and duds: Stevens' strategy key to win vs. Pacers

BOSTON – For as long as the Boston Celtics have been winning under Brad Stevens, the team’s depth has been critical to that success.

It affords him the luxury to throw wave after wave after wave at opponents, a tried and true strategy of wearing teams down over time.

But there are times when head coach Brad Stevens will look to match his depth with certain matchups, and that at times results in more players watching from the bench … all night.

That was indeed the case on Wednesday night against Indiana, but you can’t knock the game plan considering how crucial that strategy would be to Boston pulling away for a 109-100 win over the Pacers.

Rotation regulars Terry Rozier and Jonas Jerebko did not play (coaches decision), as did Gerald Green whose status has fluctuated in and out of the rotation most of this season.

Stevens said the decision to shorten the player rotation was purely about matching up best with a physical Pacers team which is why 7-foot center Tyler Zeller saw more action than usual.

“This team was bigger,” Stevens said following the win. “The rebounding was a scary thing. Obviously, they hurt us on the glass big-time in the second half and I wanted a little bit more size.”

Having the ability to go deep into the bench and cater the rotation to a specific opponent is a luxury few NBA teams have at their disposal.

“We’re deep. We’ve been deep since I’ve been here,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “That’s one of the strengths but it’s also … it’s tough for Brad. You obviously want to play everybody and he can’t.”

Stevens knows all too well that the players that did not see action on Wednesday, aren’t happy about not playing.

But to their credit, each of them has been down this road before and while disappointed, they continue to prepare as though they will play the next time out.

“And I respect that,” Stevens said. “And that’s hard. But we’re going to need all those guys and we’re going to need them to be playing great.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Wednesday’s game between Boston and Indiana.

 

STARS

Paul George

It was another dominant scoring night for George who reminded us all that he was indeed the best player on the floor. He led all scorers with 37 points on 11-for-26 shooting with five rebounds and three steals.

Isaiah Thomas

The contributions of others is allowing Thomas to play more manageable minutes and just as important, rest for long stretches in the fourth quarter. He still managed to lead the Celtics with 25 points on 9-for-21 shooting with five assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

 

STUDS

Jeff Teague

Isaiah Thomas had problems early on keeping up with Teague, and that seemed to be just what Teague needed to get going and frankly, not slow down. He had 25 points on 10-for-15 shooting with six assists and a steal.

Avery Bradley

One of the triumvirate of defenders used by Boston on Paul George, Bradley had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting with eight rebounds and two assists.

Kelly Olynyk

The big nights for Olynyk are starting to become the rule and not so much the exception. He had a near double-double with 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with eight rebounds and four assists.

Tyler Zeller

Six points and three rebounds may not seem like that big a deal. But Zeller’s play once again, even in limited spurts, was one of the keys to Boston coming away with the win. Despite playing fewer minutes than any Celtic off the bench, he had a plus/minus of +8 which was second among reserves only to Kelly Olynyk (+12).

 

DUDS

Celtics turnovers

Boston did a much better job at limiting turnovers in the second half, but the damage had already been done with 14 – that’s more than their season average of 13.2 – in the first half.

Celtics defensive boards

Boston was very fortunate that second-chance points didn’t become a bigger factor considering the Pacers had 18 offensive rebounds but only got 15 second-chance points compared to the Celtics who grabbed 10 offensive rebounds which led to 12 second-chance points.