Celtics

Pierce (heel) out for Wednesday's exhibition

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Pierce (heel) out for Wednesday's exhibition

WALTHAM The right heel injury that Paul Pierce suffered prior to the start of training camp, was getting better.

Then he practiced on it, and now it has regressed.

It may be that kind of season for the Pierce, whose status for the season opener at New York on Christmas Day is very much in doubt.

Already ruled out for Wednesday's preseason game against Toronto, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers admits that he is worried about Pierce's availability moving forward.

"I'm concerned," Rivers said on Tuesday. "I'm not concerned long-term, but I am concerned short term."

But that's the problem.

The challenges in the short term are just as great because of the condensed NBA schedule courtesy of the 149-day lockout.

When you look at the Celtics' schedule to start the season - six games in the first nine days of the season - there's a very good chance that because of the heel injury, Pierce might be sidelined for some of those games.

Pierce, in an interview with CSNNE.com last week, acknowledged that he is concerned that the heel injury will be difficult to shake if he returns to playing too soon.

"It's the type of injury if you play on it," Pierce said. "It'll linger and get worse."

Pierce was targeting a return to action for Wednesday's game against Toronto. But that all changed following a workout on Monday.

"He went real hard yesterday and it just got real sore," Rivers said.

The best thing Pierce can do right now, is simply stay off the heel and give it as much rest as possible.

"But the problem with that is, it'll be a lot of rest and he may be ready," Rivers said. "But with no play, that's scary. If he's not, he's not."

Pierce's injury only adds to the problems the Celtics are having this year at the small forward position.

Jeff Green, who was going to play behind Pierce this season, failed his physical after results showed that he had an aortic aneurysm. Team officials announced last week that Green would miss the entire 2011-2012 season.

Marquis Daniels, who had 11 points in the C's 76-75 preseason win over Toronto on Sunday, will be counted on to help fill the void left by Pierce's injury.

The Celtics will also look at Sasha Pavlovic, who has been battling a sprained left wrist injury. The injury is on the mend, evident by him being able to participate fully in Tuesday's practice.

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot

When you’re an NBA rookie or early on in your career, there’s so much to learn, especially when it comes to playing defense.
 
Despite having at least two players with a year or less experience in the starting lineup and at least three or four other rookies who see regular action, Boston’s top-ranked defense has been able to do the seemingly impossible – defend without fouling a lot.
 
Boston comes into tonight’s game against Atlanta averaging 19.8 fouls committed per game which is the ninth-lowest total in the league.

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Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has some ideas as to how the team has been able to defend without fouling a ton.

“Our length, being able to communicate on the fly, having a system that’s predicated on shrinking the floor, just being very active,” Irving said. “Obviously, we’re going to foul. But the times we don’t foul, we limit teams to some tough shots, some tough two’s or some tough contested threes; I feel we put ourselves in great position. And then when you have guards down there rebounding as well as bigs down there boxing out and staying active it makes all our jobs easier, all five connected out there. We understand the importance of valuing each possession.”
 
The qualities that Irving talks about make sense when you’re talking about the qualities of an elite team defensively.
 
But for the Celtics to have so much youth tossed into such prominent roles, it is unusual to see everything seemingly come together so quickly.
 
“They utilize their length appropriately,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’re both long for their positions; that helps. So, you’re not playing Jaylen at the 3 (small forward) as much, and Jayson (Tatum) at the four (power forward) as much. You’re playing them at the two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) a lot. So, they can use that length rather than try and have to battle.”

Irving points out there’s added incentive to play at a high level defensively without fouling.

“If you don’t, you’ll be on the bench,” Irving said. “Brad has made that very clear. If the effort isn’t being put out there, and you’re not paying attention and you’re not preparing the way all of us should be preparing, that goes from the head coach all the way down to the 15th guy, if you’re not preparing the way you should and not perfecting your craft outside the game and that’s being very diligent, understanding what we’re trying to do in strategy, understanding our system, why it works, and why we’re doing it, then why the hell would you expect to play? So, he made it very simple. All the guys understand that. We’re a young team, but what we’re trying to accomplish will take a lot of energy and effort and focus. They understand that at a very young point in the season.”

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

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Stevens: Celtics haven't played well enough to make streak 'valid'

You know who else - besides Charles Barkley - isn't impressed by the Celtics' 14-game winning streak?

Their coach. 

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At the shootaround in Atlanta before the Celtics attempt to make it 15 in a row tonight against the Hawks, Brad Stevens told reporters, including ESPN's Chris Forsberg, that his team hasn't played well enough to make the streak "valid." 

“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion,” Stevens said."We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”

The Celtics have come back from double-digit deficits a number of times in the streak. Stevens said they're fortunate those rallies have kept the streak going.  

"We've got to be better, and we know that," Stevens said. "We can't get so caught up in the results of all these games and ride that emotion. We've been fortunate to win a lot of the games in this streak, including Thursday night [92-88 over the defending champion Golden State Warriors]. If we dig ourselves a 17-point hole every other game, it's not going to be as much fun as we've had recently."