|06.04.12 at 2:55 pm ET|
Man, you miss one playoff game, and it ends in a tie. And you thought the officiating in Game 2 was suspect. Oh well. Guess it’s better than a loss. Oh, wait, what’s that? NBA games don’t end in ties? Are you sure? I mean, this WMTW reporter from Portland, Maine seems like a regular Jeff Van Gundy to me when it comes to Celtics-Heat. Seriously, though, she’s probably still a better basketball analyst than Magic Johnson at this point.
|06.04.12 at 1:05 pm ET|
ESPN NASCAR analyst and former Cavaliers center Brad Daugherty got in a dig at the officials working the Celtics-Heat series on Saturday when he took some liberties with his promotional script for the worldwide leader’s coverage of Game 4 on Sunday night.
Daugherty described the matchup as “Paul Pierce and the Celtics at 8:30 Eastern taking on LeBron James and the officials.”
When teased about his comment, Daugherty said: “Horrible. Horrible.”
|06.04.12 at 10:40 am ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to share his thoughts on the officiating and what Sunday’s win says about the Celtics.
“I thought Boston, to re-gather themselves in overtime, with [Paul] Pierce fouling out, to take that body blow, withstand it and come up with the win was terrific mental toughness on their part,” Van Gundy said.
With both Pierce and LeBron James fouling out quickly into overtime, both on plays away from the ball, Van Gundy went on to discuss the officiating late in the game. Van Gundy took issue with the call that forced James to the sideline for the only the fourth time in his career.
“I thought that was a foul on [Mickael] Pietrus, pulling [James] down, or at worst, a no-call,” Van Gundy said. “Let them both get up and play. Listen, I’m for more fouls, you know, seven fouls. I’m for sneezing so I don’t see Paul Pierce running into [Shane] Battier on an inconsequential [play], they didn’t even have the ball. I’m just not a fan of watching the last plays in that game, in such a dramatic, hard, hotly contested game with those two guys on the bench. Now, some of the fouls that people want to ignore have to be called, but I could see where a fan of both teams would not have liked the Pierce foul or the James foul because it didn’t involve the ball yet. It was just guys jostling for position.”
Van Gundy argued that by doing a good job setting the tone early in games, officials could afford to use greater discretion when making calls late in games or in overtime.
“I would tell you this, people who want the game called exactly the same way in the first quarter and the fourth quarter, I know I don’t want refereeing late in those games. There has to be a different level of certainty on those calls. In the first quarter you’re trying to establish a tone. Get the game called in the right manner. Let everyone know the amount of contact that’s going to be allowed. In the final three or four minutes of a close game I think referees have to have certainty that the play has an impact directly to giving a team an advantage.”
As for whether he thinks officials should call plays differently for star players like James or Pierce, Van Gundy was emphatic.
“No. No, no, no, no. Who’s in the game doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “It’s the certainty of the call, I think late, that you want to make sure of. There’s no setting the tone, there’s no ‘have the game called exactly the same.’ If you’ve done your job, to me, as an officiating crew, how you called the game throughout the game sets the tone that everybody knows that you don’t have to clean up anything late, because the game has been managed well right from the start.”
|06.04.12 at 4:47 am ET|
Cameras caught Paul Pierce breaking into a wide smile with 1:51 left in overtime as LeBron James was called for his sixth and final foul, getting disqualified for just the fourth time in his career, and the first time since April 2008.
It was also the first time in James’ career that he fouled out in the playoffs. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, fouled out for the third time in his last five playoff games dating back to Game 7 against Philadelphia. Pierce was called for his sixth just 38 seconds into overtime when he was called for running over Shane Battier on a cut across the lane.
“Oh, it was very frustrating,” Pierce said. “But it’s gratifying when you see the other star player fouling out, also.”
Pierce later added, “It was a cut, scratch, grab, hold, elbow-type of game. I mean nobody was going to give an edge. I’d say it’s a classic. You rarely see that, you rarely see that. You rarely see that when you’ve got two star players fouling out.
“This is probably going to be an instant classic-type of game,” said Pierce, who is now headed to Miami with the Eastern Conference finals tied, 2-2. “We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy, a good old classic bar fight.
“Words can’t even describe the type of game it is,” Pierce said. “I mean it’s a funny game, the way the ball bounces, the way things go. I mean, started out way up the big lead, to come back, and I was sitting there on the sideline in overtime, I was like, this is probably going to be an instant classic type of game. It was just like one team gets momentum and the other team just grabs it. I’m just glad we were on the winning side today.”
Pierce laughed when asked where he thinks the series stands. He laughed because he’s very aware of the opportunity that lies ahead, starting with Game 5 in Miami.
“It’s even,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to win a game in Miami, of course. We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a good old classic bar fight. Going in to it, you [had] to expect every game to be like this. Coming down to the wire, both teams trying to find an edge. This was a great game today.
“We’ve won two in a row,” Pierce added. “We feel like we let Game 2 slip away. So, we fee like were playing a good momentum. But we’ve got to start playing for 48 minutes. We haven’t put together a 48 minute game yet. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have gotten to 100 points tonight after scoring 61 in the first half so were hoping we can put together a full game when we get down to Miami.”
|06.04.12 at 4:16 am ET|
Before Red Auerbach kept Dwyane Wade from knocking down the potential game-winner 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime, Mickael Pietrus made sure Miami’s other superstar wouldn’t end it in regulation.
“I try to play tough, because you have to respect the jersey you’re playing for,” was all Pietrus would say about his pressure on LeBron James as the Miami power forward was jammed by Pietrus at the top of the circle as the clock wound down. Then Pietrus fed James off to the right, where there were two more Celtics waiting to help out.
Triple-teamed, James was forced to dump off to Udonis Haslem who missed a jumper at the buzzer, sending the game game to overtime, 89-89.
What was also remarkable about the play at the end of regulation was that the situation was identical to the end of Game 2. That’s when the Celtics got away with Rajon Rondo guarding a player eight inches taller when James missed a fallaway at the end of regulation. Doc Rivers wasn’t going to allow that to happen again. He put Pietrus on him and made sure he had help by funneling James into a triple-team.
Pietrus kept it up in the overtime. With Boston desperately trying to protect a one-point lead, the Celtics missed consecutive shots. But there was Pietrus flying in from the weak side and picking up the rebound to extend the Celtics possession. Those two rebounds took a total of 45 seconds off the clock at a most-critical time.
“The last two were huge. Sometimes that’s what it takes to win basketball games,” Pietrus said. “You can always count on me if you want to win games. I’m going to play hard. That’s what I did for my team tonight. My main focus is to go to Miami now and try and get another win.
“If I don’t have my shot I won’t get frustrated because I know we have legends on the floor. You have to respect them. As far as right now I’m trying to focus on what the team needs the most. From me that’s defense and rebounding.”
|06.03.12 at 11:52 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo had an interesting response to Doris Burke’s question about the Heat defense when interviewed at halftime of what turned out to be the Celtics’ Game 4 win in the Eastern Conference finals:
|06.03.12 at 11:44 pm ET|
The Celtics grabbed an 18-point first half lead, but the Heat came storming back in the second half to force an overtime thriller in Game 4. The Celtics were able to prevail, 93-91, evening up the series at two games apiece, despite being without Paul Pierce, who fouled out within the first minute of the extra frame. LeBron James also fouled out in overtime, but not before scoring a team-high 29 points (12-of-25 shooting). For the Celtics Pierce scored 23 points and Rajon Rondo added 15 points and 15 assists. Dwyane Wade had a chance to win the game for the Heat but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo’d: The frenetic Garden crowd was pining for a fast start, and the Celtics point guard obliged. In the first quarter alone, Rondo had eight points and four assists. Oh, yeah, and he had six more dimes in the second quarter. Rondo got into the lane at will — even making a jab at the Heat complaining to the refs in transition to ESPN at halftime — and either took what Miami gave him by converting lay ups, or dished it out to open wing players for 3-pointers. He was the catalyst Boston needed to open up an early double-digit lead.
The Rest: Rondo can put his cape on, summon his Bob Cousy/Magic Johnson/Pete Maravich vision, and set players up all he wants, but unless the Celts are knocking down jumpers, it’s all for naught. Sunday night, Boston’s entire team was on point, shooting nearly 50% from the field in the first half. And despite the scare, the C’s early 21-6 lead proved to be insurmountable … but how?
Well, the C’s started 6-of-9 from 3-point territory. In the first half, every time the Heat sniffed at a single-digit deficit, Pierce answered the bell with a series of old-fashioned three-point plays. Ray Allen continued to rediscover his touch (starting 5-of-11 from the field). Keyon Dooling hit a few 3-pointers in transition. And although Kevin Garnett wasn’t as aggressive in the early-going, he recorded his 12th double-double of the postseason. It wasn’t until the third quarter that Miami was able to make its move, cutting the deficit to five (but expending a ton of energy in the process).
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Lull and the consequences: As good as the C’s 61-point first half was, their second half was anemic. They hit five of 16 field goal attempts (31 percent) in the third quarter. In fact, Boston had only 13 points in the first 15 minutes of action in the second half as the Heat went on a 27-13 run to tie the game at 74 with just under nine minutes left in the game. In short, the Celtics had their foot on Miami’s throat and failed to press down, letting the Heat all the way back in what would be a dog fight the rest of the way.
Cautiously optimistic: The Heat floated around 50% shooting for the better part of the night. The C’s rotations were crisp enough, but Miami was able to torch Boston. Going into the fourth quarter, the Heat — who vowed to attack the basket more in Game 4 — outscored Boston 38-26 in points in the paint.
If it weren’t for the goodwill built up from a tremendous performance of the first half and a few timely possessions offensively from the C’s, the Heat could (and probably would) have won Game 4 in regulation. And, going forward, the Celtics have to be tougher defensively while traveling back down to South Beach (Read: More of the same “D” played on James forcing a bad shot from Udonis Haslem during the last possession of regulation.)
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