WALTHAM, Mass. — The Celtics player who needs a break the most this postseason isn’t 34-year-old Paul Pierce, who’s nursing a knee injury. Or 36-year old Ray Allen, who’s got bone spurs in his ankle. Or even Kevin Garnett, who turned 36 on Saturday but is playing like he did a decade ago.
It’s Avery Bradley, 21, who is determined to stay on the court despite a left shoulder that has popped out of its socket four times so far during the season.
“He is a guy who wants to be out there; a guy that wants to win and do anything he can to help,” Pierce said. “A lot of young players would probably sit down and worry about their futures or careers or contract situations. … Hopefully he doesn’t have any long-term injuries due to the fact that he’s playing.”
A first-round draft pick who did not appear in the playoffs as a rookie last year, Bradley moved into the starting lineup when Allen was injured and remained there even after the former All-Star returned. Bradley dislocated his shoulder in Game 3 of Boston’s first-round series against Atlanta, but has not missed a game because of it.
“He’s dealing with stuff and it’s tough,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday before practice, which Bradley sat out. “A lot of people would not be playing, and the only reason he is is because he wants to. I am concerned at some point that he may not be able to anymore. We don’t know what game that is. … Tomorrow could be his last game.”
The Celtics resume the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers with Game 5 on Monday night. The series is tied 2-2 thanks to the Sixers’ comeback from an 18-point, third-quarter deficit to win Game 4 92-83.
“It’s a swing game, but it’s a swing game for both teams,” Rivers said. “Game 5s and Game 7s are pretty much the same.”
Game 6 is Wednesday in Philadelphia, with a seventh game back in Boston on Saturday, if necessary.
With two days off between the fourth and fifth games, Rivers gave his aging team the day off on Saturday before returning to practice on Sunday. Bradley did not participate in the workout, but Allen was on the court shooting jumpers 30 minutes early and Garnett joined him soon after.
“It probably benefits them,” Collins said, noting the number of minutes — more than 50,000 — Garnett has played in the regular season and playoffs in his career. “Pierce, Allen, ton of minutes . I’m sure they’re probably a little disappointed in themselves that they gave us some life.”
Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said having the extra day probably helps the Celtics “because they have a lot more miles on their bodies.”
“One game, day off, one game, that was to our advantage,” guard Elton Brand agreed. “They have a lot of veterans on their team that can use the rest. Helps us but going to help them too.”
Rivers said Bradley’s shoulder has popped out at least four times during this season. On Friday night, it popped out but popped right back in.
THUNDER 103, LAKERS 100: Russell Westbrook scored 10 of his 37 points during a stirring fourth-quarter comeback, Kevin Durant added 31 points and hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 13.7 seconds left, and the Oklahoma City Thunder seized control of the second-round series with a 103-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Serge Ibaka scored 14 points for the second-seeded Thunder, who took a 3-1 series lead and moved to the brink of their second straight trip to the Western Conference finals.
Oklahoma City improved to 7-1 in the postseason with a tenacious rally on the second night of back-to-back games against the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, who scored 38 points in Los Angeles’ fifth loss in seven games overall.
The Thunder finished Game 4 on a 22-8 run, punctuated by Durant’s 3-pointer and two late free throws from James Harden, who had 12 points.
HEAT 101, PACERS 93: LeBron James scored 40 points with 18 rebounds and nine assists, and Dwyane Wade added 30 points — 22 in the second half — as Miami rallied to even their semifinal series against Indiana with a 101-93 win on Sunday in Indianapolis over the Pacers, who had the defending Eastern Conference champions down couldn’t keep them there.
With All-Star forward Chris Bosh injured and back in Florida, the James-Wade tag team saved the Heat, who will host Game 5 on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Heat now head home back in control of the best-of-seven series, which is down to a best-of-three with two of the games on Miami’s home floor.
Udonis Haslem, playing with a large bandage covering a nasty cut over his right eye that required nine stitches, added 14 points for Miami.
For a while, the Heat’s season was slipping away.
The underrated Pacers had built a 10-point lead in the third quarter and were threatening to run away as they did in Game 3, when James and Wade took over. They scored 38 consecutive points in one stretch bridging the second and third quarters and combined to score 28 of Miami’s 30 in the third when the Heat seemed to be playing with two to Indiana’s five.
“LeBron had that look,” Heat forward Shane Battier said. “And when he has that look and Dwyane has that look, you want to run through a wall.”
Wade finished with nine rebounds and six assists, erasing the ugly memory of Game 3 when he also had a confrontation with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, a public dispute that turned into a bigger deal than it probably was because of a two-day break between games. The next day, Wade, who has refused to blame injuries for his recent struggles, visited his former Marquette coach Tom Crean, who is now at Indiana.
Wade said Crean had film for him to watch.
“I was able to be a student of the game,” Wade said. “Just figuring out what I needed to do differently to help our team get this win. I just wanted to come out today and affect the game somehow. Obviously, I knew I was struggling a little bit on my offensive game. I wasn’t going to let that affect my overall game.”
James dismissed the idea the Heat were desperate team.
“That’s a strong word,” he said. “It’s a team with a lot of veterans and a lot of fighters.”
Danny Granger scored 20 and Paul George 13 to lead the Pacers. Center Roy Hibbert, so dominant at both ends in Game 3, had just 10 points and was in foul trouble in the second half.
Indiana coach Frank Vogel second-guessed his decision to keep Hibbert and David West on the bench for a long stretch after halftime. But it was the Pacers’ inability to stop Wade and James that was the difference.
“You get the ball out of one of those guy’s hands and it gets to the other guy’s,” he said. “It’s not like one superhero and a bunch of role guys.”
Granger’s 3-pointer had given Indiana a 61-51 and the Pacers, outhustling the Heat to loose balls, appeared poised to take a commanding lead in the series.
But that’s when James and Wade put on a jaw-dropping spectacle, combining for all but two points in a 25-5 run that put Miami up 76-66.
During one sequence, Wade lost his balance and fell and was lucky to push the ball toward James near the top of the key. As Wade scrambled to his feet, James alertly passed him the ball and he calmly knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Heat a 64-63 lead. The pair made easy shots, tough ones and did everything in their power to steer Miami away from a 3-1 hole.
Only eight teams in league history have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. That’s what the Heat were staring at with a loss in Game 4.
The Heat took a 76-70 lead into the fourth, and every time Indiana got close, either Wade or James responded.
Miami also got a huge lift down the stretch from Haslem, who hasn’t been a factor in the series but made four big jumpers in the final six minutes despite having his head split by an elbow by Indiana’s Tyler Hansbrough.
“Those guys carry a large load,” Haslem said of Wade and James. “But sometimes we need other guys to step up and tonight was my turn. Next time it might be somebody else.”
Granger’s 3-pointer got the Pacers within 96-91 with 1:33 left, but Haslem hit another short shot and James closed the Pacers out with three free throws in the last 16 seconds.
Following the game, James sat in front of his locker icing both knees and reading a hard copy of “Hunger Games.”
After finishing a page or two, he set the book down. There’d be time for that later.
The Heat were heading home, feeling good about the next chapter.
NOTES: James, Wade and Haslem combined for 53 of Miami’s 55 second-half points. … Before the game, Miami F Juwan Howard and Pacers G Stephenson exchanged words. In Game 3, Stephenson mocked James by flashing a choke sign after James missed a foul shot and Howard confronted the Indiana reserve. Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw stepped between the players. … Granger was slapped with his second technical in two games after getting in Wade’s face late in the second quarter. … James was one rebound shy of his postseason high. … The national anthem was performed on harmonica by 85-year-old Carl Erskine, who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1948-59. Erskine is an Indiana native. … Heat owner Micky Arison was asked for his autograph by several fans sitting near the Miami bench. “You must be desperate,” he cracked.