Celtics

Pierce cold, impacts Game 3 in other ways

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Pierce cold, impacts Game 3 in other ways

PHILADELPHIA It just didn't add up.

At the half of Boston's Game 3 matchup with Philadelphia, Paul Pierce had been awful shooting the ball.

But Pierce's brick-laying aside, the Celtics were still up by 11 points.

As much as Kevin Garnett's dominant performance (27 points, 13 rebounds) and Rajon Rondo's playmaking (14 assists with just one turnover) helped Boston win Game 3 easily, it was Pierce's ability to contribute in other areas that was arguably just as important.

Pierce finished with 24 points, but did so on 6-for-17 shooting from the field. Even more impressive to his teammates was the 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and -- ready for this? -- zero turnovers.

"He did so many things to impact the game," Garnett said. "Rebound, set guys up, assists, steals, just being active defensively, talking, just so active."

Boston knows that this series has been a difficult one for Pierce as he continues to log major minutes with what team officials described earlier as a sprained medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee. In the three games, Pierce is averaging 15 points while shooting 29.7 percent from the field.

And it looked as though it was going to be another rough night for Pierce in the game's first few minutes, as he struggled to rotate quick enough defensively in addition to having his problems getting free for shots against one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA, Andre Iguodala.

But everything changed after Pierce threw down a pair of emphatic dunks near the end of the first quarter, which as it turned out would be his only made baskets in the first half.

The C's would have loved for him to make more shots, but on this night, the Captain was finding other ways to make a difference.

After the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers made a point of singling out the play of Pierce, pointing back to what many might have seen as a rough first half for Pierce.

"I want to point him out because Paul was 2-for-10 (shooting) at halftime, but he had five offensive rebounds," Rivers said. "We talked about it before, if what you do well is not there, what else are you going to do to help your team as a group to each guy? Paul was a great example for that."

As shot after shot taken by Pierce missed the mark, the Captain remained steadfast in his efforts to attack the paint and was rewarded with 14 free throw attempts - more than the entire starting five of the Sixers combined.

"They're really collapsing on me on the down screens for my jumper," Pierce said. "I'm just trying to get to the hole as best I can. I was able to get to the line, get to the rim a number of times. It's something I have to continue to do."

Even though Garnett and Rondo have been the headliners for the C's in this series, some of their success has to do with the Sixers focusing much of their defensive efforts on Pierce.

"We paid a lot of attention to detail on Paul Pierce and trying to get the ball out of his hands," said Philadelphia's Thaddeus Young. "But Rajon Rondo was in the paint and Kevin Garnett was in the paint, and they were getting a lot of paint scores."

Said Rondo: "He played great for us (in Game 3). Paul has been struggling scoring, but he has been doing the intangibles."

And those intangibles have a way of opening things up both for Pierce and the Celtics as they look ahead to what they expect will be a much closer Game 4 matchup against a Sixers team that will play more desperate and in all likelihood, with more energy.

"When you beat a team like this at home, you have to expect them coming out with a lot of energy," Garnett said. "But we'll be ready and we'll be having a lot of energy ourselves."

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks

The Boston Celtics trail by double digits. The Celtics rally to make it relatively close by halftime. Boston continues to gain ground in the third, pull it out in the fourth.

Rinse. Recycle. Repeat.

That has been the Celtics’ mantra this season, with the latest chapter in their comeback narrative being a 110-99 win at Atlanta.

“We need to put an emphasis on playing with space and getting the ball to the other side of the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It just stuck too much early on. We were staring at some post-ups that if we got it to the other side, maybe you could take advantage of.”

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Boston (15-2) fell behind by as many as 16 points against the Hawks (3-13), the second straight game the Celtics have rallied from a double-digit deficit.

In Boston’s 92-88 win over Golden State on Thursday, the Celtics fell behind by as many as 17 before rallying for their most impressive win of the season.

That said, it still shouldn’t take away from what happened on Saturday against an Atlanta team that despite their record, has shown signs of playing better in their recent games.

Players are aware of the penchant they’ve shown thus far for falling behind only to mount a furious comeback for the win.

“We don’t try to (go down early),” said Kyrie Irving following Saturday’s win which extended their winning streak to 15 straight which is the fifth-longest streak in franchise history. “Some teams, they go on runs and whether that be us giving up some easy ones or giving up some turnovers or doing things we can correct. When we do correct them, it turns into a different game.”

And that is what makes this stretch of play so impressive.

The Celtics have not played a full game; instead they have had stretches of good play that have often masked their mistakes early in the game.

That’s why head coach Brad Stevens, obviously pleased with the team’s success, knows as well as anyone that his team has to become more consistent in their play if they are to get the most out of these wins and continue to build off of them and achieve their ultimate goal – getting back to the NBA Finals.

“We’re going to keep playing,” Stevens said. “But the biggest thing is, we can’t keep digging these holes.”

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Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown

When it comes to the top backcourts in the NBA, you seldom hear about Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown.

That may soon be changing if they have more games like the one they delivered on Saturday as Boston put together a solid second half to pull away from the Atlanta Hawks, 110-99.

Irving had a game-high 30 points which was his second game with at least 30 points scored – both against Atlanta.

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And Brown, who had a strong 22-point performance in Boston’s win over Golden State on Thursday, was even better against the Hawks in tallying a career-high 27 points.

We all know about Irving who has established himself as one of the NBA’s top guards.

But is Brown on the way?

One thing Brown won’t have to develop going forward is, confidence.

He has long maintained that he believes he’ll be among the best in the league. It’s just a matter of him performing at a high level at both ends of the floor, consistently.

“I’ve always had that confidence, I can play with the best in the world,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston’s Abby Chin following the win over Atlanta which extended Boston’s winning streak to 15 in a row. “It’s just a matter of coming out, doing it. My teammates found me tonight. We had a good team win tonight.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 110-99 win at Atlanta which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 15 in a row which is the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history.

 

STARS

Jaylen Brown

Back in his home state of Georgia, Jaylen Brown delivered another monster game for the Celtics by scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting with four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving

Irving had his most efficient game this season for the Celtics, tallying 30 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists.

Dennis Schroder

Atlanta’s best scorer delivering a strong 23-point, 9-assist performance for the Hawks.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum

He only had 14 points, but they all came in the third quarter and they included a few crowd-quieting dunks.

John Collins

He came into the league with the reputation of being a high motor player, and he has not disappointed. His hustle and energy led to him tallying 18 points and seven rebounds.

Marcus Morris

When the offense struggled mightily in the first half, it was Morris’ scoring that kept them within striking distance. He finished with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second quarter.

Kent Bazemore

He was Atlanta’s number two scoring option most of the night, and finished with 19 points.

 

DUDS

Boston’s first quarter defense

The Celtics can’t keep digging themselves these early holes, expecting they will turn it on and find a way to climb out of them. The Hawks led 35-20, fueled in large part by shooting 64.7 percent (11-for-17) in addition to out-rebounding Boston 8-6.

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