Celtics

Celtics prove they still have it in them

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Celtics prove they still have it in them

In Game 3, we learned that the Celtics wont need their best basketball to beat the Hawks. In Game 4, we learned that either way the Celtics still have that best basketball in them.

Now, theyre heading back to Atlanta, with a very real chance to send the Hawks fishin'.

Here are a few thoughts on last night and what lies ahead:

It was just a nice way of playing. Doc Rivers, on the Game 4 victory

Hard to disagree with the Dr. on that one.

The Celtics we saw last night, were the Celtics from early April. They were the team that peaked against the Heat before shutting it down for the rest of the season (and the first three games of the playoffs). They were the team that can compete with anyone in the Eastern Conference.

Now obviously the Hawks weren't the most worthy opponent, but at the very least, they were better than the team that took Boston into OT on Friday. And really, it doesn't matter, because if the C's are clicking like they were last night, they can play with and beat anyone.

But maintaining the magic won't be easy.

The biggest issue is Paul Pierce's knee.

Of course, with Pierce, you're never entirely sure what's going on, and the details surrounding this particular injury only make the whole thing more confusing. He tripped over someone in shoot around? Either there's something else to the story, or this is karma's way of burning everyone who laughed at the Mariano Rivera video.

That being said, it's very fair to assume that Pierce will be in the lineup on Tuesday, but until he's out there and not limping around like was during the last few minutes on Sunday the questions will linger, and add just a little more pressure on the Celtics to keep their foot on the pedal and send the Hawks home early. Everyone needs the rest.

(Random stat: Pierce thankfully only played 17 minutes in last night's game, but that wasn't his career playoff low. Back in 2009, the Captain found a ton of foul trouble in Game 2 of Boston's second round series against the Magic, and played only 15:42. The Celtics won that one, too. Thanks to a Rajon Rondo triple-double and 31 POINTS from Eddie House. Mikki Moore chipped in with two points and a rebound).

The fact that Ray Allen played in both games this weekend is incredibly uplifting, but the news that he's reconsidering surgery is almost unbelievable.

At shoot around, Allen said that his ankle hurt so badly on Saturday that he had to walk sideways, and then all of a sudden, it's better than ever and ready for the long haul?

I don't know. Regardless of how great Allen felt last night, I still expect this to be a day-to-day issue, and wouldn't be surprised to see him miss a few more games down the stretch. Still, the fact that Allen has given the Celtics anything in this series is more than anyone could have expected, and it's thankfully quieted any speculation that his absence was an issue of spite as much as it was injury.

Allen's availability may remain up in the air, but there's no question on Avery Bradley. Here's what he had to last night, when asked about his status:

"I'm ready, and I'll be ready for Round 2."

First of all, it's somewhat fitting for Bradley to make a premature comment about Round 2 with Tracy McGrady sitting in the other locker room, but we'll cut him some slack, and focus on this: Avery Bradley is turning into a monster.

The level of confidence he's developed over the course of this series after a very shaky first game is off the charts, and like his game, seems to grow every time he takes the court.

Last night was the kind of game we expected to see from Rondo on Friday. The kind of performance that takes the Celtics from the middle of the pack basically, what you saw in the first three games to being a legitimate Eastern Conference contender.

Speaking with the media last week, Rondo made a subtle reference to being "the best point guard in the NBA," and while that's very debatable, there's no doubt that when he plays like he did last night, there's no point guard in the world who's a better fit for this team. There's no one who Doc Rivers, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce would rather have running the show.

If Rondo can maintain that energy and focus tomorrow night in Game 5, it will be the last game of the series.

(Random stat: Going back to the regular season, Rondo's now picked up 10 assists in 27 straight games. If he can do it again on Tuesday, he'll tie his personal playoff best of 10 assists in four straight games, which he accomplished in Games 4-7 against the Bulls in 2009.)

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

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ALCS: Verlander, Astros beat Yankees 7-1 to force Game 7

HOUSTON -  Justin Verlander remained perfect with Houston, pitching seven shutout innings when the team needed him most, and Jose Altuve homered and drove in three runs as the Astros extended the AL Championship Series to a decisive Game 7 with a 7-1 win over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Acquired in an Aug. 31 trade, Verlander has won all nine outings with the Astros. And with his new club facing elimination in Game 6 against the Yankees, he delivered again.

After striking out 13 in a complete-game victory in Game 2, Verlander threw another gem. The right-hander scattered five hits and struck out eight to improve to 9-0 with 67 strikeouts since being traded from Detroit. George Springer helped him out of a jam in the seventh, leaping to make a catch at the center-field wall and rob Todd Frazier of extra bases with two on and Houston up 3-0.

Game 7 is Saturday night in Houston, with the winner advancing to the World Series against the NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE