Pietrus says Game 7 means 'fighting for your jersey'

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Pietrus says Game 7 means 'fighting for your jersey'

WALTHAM Despite all the chatter about the Boston Celtics and their edge in experience over the Philadelphia 76ers, few outside of the Big Four understand what a playoff Game 7 feels like.

Mickael Pietrus does.

In fact, his lone Game 7 experience came at the expense of the Celtics in 2009, when he played for the Orlando Magic and they came into the Garden and left with a 101-82 win.

That would serve as the lone Game 7 loss at home during the Big Three era.

Pietrus remembers that game vividly, a game in which he scored 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Now that he's a member of the Celtics, he'll bring a similar approach -- win at all costs -- to Saturday's Game 7 matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, with the winner moving on to the Eastern Conference finals to face the Miami Heat.

"I'm fighting for my jersey," he tells CSNNE.com. "I'm coming to protect my jersey. I wear a Celtics jersey. I have too much pride. I'm not going to let them have it easy. I'm going to fight for my jersey; fight for my teammates; fight for the Celtics."

And that, more than anything else, is what Game 7's are about.

It is a brutal slugfest between teams that are well aware that their season has literally come down to this one game.

"Whoever steps out on the that court, understands this is it, this could be the season," said Paul Pierce. "We have to play like a desperate team, regardless of if we're home or not; whoever wants it the most, is going to get it."

Pierce has delivered a slew of big-game performances in his career, but few were better than the 41-point effort he had in the C's 97-92 Game 7 win over Cleveland in 2008.

"I like challenges; I like being in pressure situations," said Pierce, who will be playing in his seventh Game 7 on Saturday -- more than any other Celtic except Ray Allen, who has already played in seven. "Game 7, I been there before. I understand what it takes, and I'm ready for it."

For Pietrus, Game 7's in Boston mean more - a lot more - than others.

"Whatever it takes, fight for your jersey," he reiterated. "That's what the Celtics are about; it's all about fight. It's not about how many points you score. It's not about who scores. You fight; you fight to win. That's what it means to be a Celtic."

As much as this game is about the playoff survival, there's no mistaking that for players like Pietrus, pride is also a factor.

"This is a special franchise; even when you play elsewhere, you kind of have that in mind when you talk about the Boston Celtics," guard Keyon Dooling told CSNNE.com in an earlier interview. "There's a brotherhood here that's really special and unique; we're always pulling for one another and pushing each other to get better. It really is something special."

That's why while disappointed, the Celtics are far from devastated at the news that Avery Bradley had to have season-ending shoulder surgery which robs them of their best on-the-ball defender.

"We've been through this all year," said coach Doc Rivers. "Stuff happens; you deal with it and move on. That's what we've been, and that's what we'll have to be (in Game 7)."

Rivers has raved all year about how this group of C's is one of the best teams he has ever coached.

Not necessarily because of their talent or ability to win.

But more because of their fighting spirit, the ability to persevere when the odds are stacked against them.

"They have a way of being ready," Rivers said.

Pietrus believes he has a good feel for why the Celtics have been able to overcome a season filled with injuries and other assorted setbacks.

"It comes down to how hard are you willing to fight for your team," Pietrus said. "That's what it takes. I'm ready . . . and so are my teammates. Let's go!"

WATCH: Celtics vs. Bucks

WATCH: Celtics vs. Bucks

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Celtics-Bucks preview: C's preferred starting five making an impact

Celtics-Bucks preview: C's preferred starting five making an impact

BOSTON – It took Brad Stevens about eight minutes to realize his starters worked well together.

That’s how long they were on the floor to start Boston’s first preseason game back in October, opening the season with a 23-9 run against Philadelphia.

Now the rest of the NBA basketball world is starting to take notice with the Celtics (48-26) holding down the best record in the Eastern Conference with a chance to add to that tonight against the hard-charging Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks (38-36), coming off a 118-108 win at Charlotte on Tuesday, have won 12 of their last 15 games.

Boston is well aware that Milwaukee is playing some of its best basketball at the moment, led by all-star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the Celtics, that doesn’t matter.

Regardless of where they are in the Eastern Conference pecking order or who they play, the number one priority for them at this point is to continue playing good basketball.

“Every team in the NBA should want to be the best team in the NBA,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “We’re showing that we can be if we’re playing the right kind of basketball. That’s an accomplishment, to be first in the east. We understand that. But at the same time, we understand we could lose it (tonight against Milwaukee). We have to worry about (tonight’s) game and everything will take care of itself.”

Especially if Boston’s preferred starting five – Isaiah Thomas; Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson – are playing together.

Although they have only played 31 games together this season, they have reeled off an impressive 24-7 record which puts them among the best starting fives in the NBA this season.

“They really have complimented each other well,” Stevens said. “But you could see it. I remember the first exhibition game (against Philadelphia), we could all see it. Before that, the second unit had given them fits a little bit, the first couple of weeks of practice. But that subsided and I thought our guys, that starting unit has been pretty good.”

And it’s not just what they do during games, either.

Setting the tone in all phases of the game, on and off the court, is vital to both the success of the starting unit and the team as a whole.

“That’s part of it; part of us being leaders on the team,” Bradley said. “We have to bring it every single day. Shoot-around, being focused, film sessions. It’s our job to try to help the bench players focus just as much as we are. We’re a team. We all have to hold each other accountable. I feel like we’re doing a great job.”

But ultimately, every team and every unit within that team is judged on how their works contribute to winning.

And when it comes to the Celtics’ starting five, there’s little argument that they get the job done better than most of the NBA’s starting units.

So when asked why they have been so successful this season, Thomas delivered a straight-no-chaser response.

“Because we’re good; like we’re really good,” Thomas said. “That’s why it’s been so successful. When we are healthy, we know how to play with each other and guys are unselfish and know their roles. We have a really good starting lineup and when healthy, we play at a really high level. We have to continue to do that and end this season on a good note.”