Archive for May, 2012

Fast Break: C’s can’t handle Heat, fall in Game 1

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Sixers, the Celtics traveled to Miami and fell to the Heat, 93-79 , in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Kevin Garnett kept the C’s alive early with 23 points, but league MVP LeBron James scored 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.

WHAT WENT WRONG

At odds: The C’s dug themselves into a hole after only scoring 11 points in the opening quarter. But, after a strong 35-point second quarter, they found themselves tied at halftime. Boston went into another funk at the start of the second half, shooting just 2-0f-12 to open the third quarter, and put up a paltry 15 points in the third quarter.

The consistent offensive ruts — and these are nothing new, they’ve been happening all season — are deleterious to the C’s cause. They simply can’t afford to fall behind by eight points in a matter of minutes of the game starting and expect to win, not at this stage, especially when they Heat are shooting near 50 percent from the field.

The King and I: James had 17 points in the first half, starting 7-of-10 from the field. Monday night seemed like one of those games when LBJ was in MVP-type form. Dwyane Wade finished with a quiet 22 points. Sure, there were times were he was able to slice through the Boston defense and cause problems, but Wade was at his best facilitating and getting his teammates easy looks. In the fourth quarter, Wade “flashed” (pun intended) some of the playmaking ability Boston can expect to see the rest of the series. He had an impressive left-handed finish on a layup and then, on the ensuing C’s possession, a highlight block on Rajon Rondo. Later, he made a series of difficult shots. It’s a tough task, but the Celtics have to find a way to slow the Super Friends down … just a bit.

Miller time: It wasn’t James Jones‘ 25-point performance in Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics series last year, but Mike Miller gave Garnett fits from the outside by stretching the floor. KG had trouble getting out to the perimeter to guard Miller, and his eight points in the first half killed the C’s. It’s one thing for Wade and James to beat the Celtics, but they cannot afford the ancillary players to become factors.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

“Celtics’ cool”: After a late-season loss to the Bulls, Doc Rivers sarcastically said the C’s were playing “Celtics’ cool” basketball, scrutinizing Boston’s effort. The comment garnered a great deal of attention and Rivers’ point hit home. Considering the Celtics were called for THREE technical fouls in the first half — keep in mind, all three were suspect — they did well to come back from an 11-point deficit.

The C’s made 13 of their 22 field goal attempts to spur a second-quarter comeback and got contributions from a variety of players. Greg Stiemsma provided good size inside, Garnett continued his torrid shooting, Keyon Dooling gave good energy and hit a huge 3-pointer, Rajon Rondo facilitated, and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both found their shooting touch. When the Celtics play like that — and, granted, they typically only show brief spurts of that type of efficiency — they can compete with Miami.

Will call: Garnett’s first half was vital especially since the rest of the B0ston lineup struggled. At one point KG was 4-of-5 from the field while the rest of the C’s were a combined 2-of-16. The Big Ticket’s performance is something the Celtics will need going forward in this series. His advantage inside was exposed and should be exploited further in Game 2.

Celtics-Heat Game 1 Live Blog

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Celtics-Heat Game 1 Live Blog

Game 1 pregame: Ray Allen remains in the starting lineup

Monday, May 28th, 2012

MIAMI — The Celtics honestly don’t know what to expect from Ray Allen on a game-by-game basis, but they’re not ready to make a change. Asked if he considered starting Mickael Pietrus ahead of Allen, coach Doc Rivers said, “No. We’€™re going to stay the way we are.”

Still, there is concern over Allen who was challenged defensively against the 76ers and will be facing a far-greater problem in guarding Dwyane Wade who scored 99 points in Miami’s final three games against the Pacers.

“It’€™s tough. Really, you don’€™t know,” Rivers said. “We don’€™t know game to game with him. We don’€™t know how he’€™s feeling, then we don’€™t know how he’€™s going to deal with it during the game. The way we coached him so far, is with the eye that’€™s how we have to coach him. We have to watch him. If we feel like he’€™s moving enough to help us, we keep him on the floor. If he’€™s not moving enough, then we take him off the floor.

“Then the second decision is, do we put him back on the floor. It’€™s every game — in Game 7, the argument our staff was having. ‘Take him off, take him out, bring him in.’ Honestly, it’€™s just luck sometimes. We left him in and he made two 3’€™s. But the hook was close, I can tell you that.”

Despite their injuries, the Heat are not overlooking the Celtics by any means.

“We understand the challenges we have ahead of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They have championship experience. You can not discount that. They’€™ve proven that in the last two series, everyone was counting them out. They’€™re exactly where they want to be. Everybody counting them out and claiming that they’€™re this or they’€™re that. They’€™re not. That’€™s how they’€™ve been able to win. They grind games. They do it with their defense and they do it with timely offense.”  (more…)

Malcolm Huckaby remembers the making of Erik Spoelstra

Monday, May 28th, 2012

The little office light on in the practice facility still on at 3 a.m. The calculating of plus-minus plays in practice. The guy breaking down film for Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley.

This is my memory up close with a Pat Riley clone and future coach of an NBA dream team named Erik Spoelstra.

I had fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams, playing in the NBA for the Heat, when I inked a one-year deal in 1996 as a free agent with Riley, who coached the team then.

Riley mused on a then-undrafted free agent point guard out of Boston College who had overcome a horrific ankle injury, calling me a player who was a PHD (poor, hungry and desperate). Spoelstra, at the time, was crafting his skill in the dungeon of the video room of the team, working long hours desperately trying to give Riley any advantage possible.

Most people on the outside at the time of the 1996-97 season failed to give the kind of credit they do now for the work of assistant coaches, who work zombie hours with all the credit going to the head coach. But the knowledge that was around when I played was priceless. You had a Hall of Fame coach in Riley, along with Stan Van Gundy (who, after I asked him and Spoelstra how much sleep they got the night before, replied, ‘€œHuck, sleep is overrated’€), and assistant coach Bob (Can Do) McAdoo, who once led the NBA in scoring when guys with nicknames like ‘€œIce Man’€ were playing.

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Ray Allen proves to Doc Rivers that he’s the ‘ultimate gunslinger’

Sunday, May 27th, 2012


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After starting Game 7 by missing eight of his first nine shots, including 0-for-5 from 3-point range, Ray Allen picked a great time to get hot.

He hit a three with 9:51 left that sent the Garden into pandemonium and gave the Celtics a 60-54 lead over the Sixers. The Celtics missed their first 14 3-pointers before Allen connected from beyond the arc. As the Sixers drew to within three again, Bass hit two free throws and Allen drained another three with 5:52 left to extend the lead to eight, 69-61. Again pandemonium and again, all Doc Rivers could do was sit back and appreciate Allen’s resiliency.

‘€œWell Ray is the ultimate gun slinger,” Rivers said. “I mean, really. That’€™s what makes great players great. You know, I was a basketball player one day. And I would’€™ve never taken that shot late in the game like Ray, after missing my first 15. First of all, I wouldn’€™t have been in. But you know what I mean; a lot of guys ‘€“ you’€™ve got to have a set to do that, you really do. It was just impressive.”

What really made this impressive was how much pain Allen was fighting in his right ankle.

‘You know I took him out that one stretch, and remember he had back-to-back plays where he was wide-open and passed up the shot,” Rivers said. “And when we took him out I went over to him and said, ‘€˜Hey, listen, we’€™re not going to have that.’€™ And he just said, ‘€˜My foot’€™s killing me. I need a break. I’€™m good.’€™ And I told him again, I said, ‘€˜Ray, listen, you don’€™t ever pass up shots.’€™ The biggest part was Rondo went over there and told him the same thing, which I thought was great for Ray to hear, confidence-wise. And then Kevin went over and told him. I thought that was big for him to hear.

“I was worried about him because I know him now and I saw the last four, five minutes if you watch him he was starting to shake his foot, which has been a sign that time to get him out. But you know, I told him that; I said, ‘€˜Hey are you alright?’€™ He said, ‘€˜I’€™m alright after we win this game. He just said it, ‘€˜Leave me in; I’€™m good. So that was good.’€

Fast Break: C’s send scrappy 76ers home, advance to Eastern Conference Finals

Saturday, May 26th, 2012


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It wasn’t easy — nothing in this series was — but the Celtics advanced to face the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night, after dispatching of the scrappy 76ers, 85-75.  Rajon Rondo scored eight straight points after Paul Pierce fouled out with just under four minutes left extending a 3-point lead back to 10. Rondo finished the night with a triple-double with 18 points, 10 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Andre Iguodala led the 76ers with 18 points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Last Stand: Pierce struggled in the first half — shooting just 2-of-6 — but he remained engaged, and found his rhythm in the third quarter. The Celtics were able to maintain a healthy lead largely because of Pierce’s six third quarter points.

Kevin Garnett came on late, hitting a jumper at the buzzer to end the third quarter, and scoring four of Boston’s first seven points to open the fourth quarter, extending a three-point lead to seven, and obtain some much needed breathing room. Through three quarters Ray Allen was ineffective (again) because of his ankle, shooting a woeful 1-of-9 from the field, but came up big with two gigantic 3-pointers in the final frame.

Pierce fouled out with just under four minutes to play, and the Sixers crawled back within three to scare the Garden faithful one last time. It was Rondos turn, though, as he knocked down back-to-back jumpers and then a 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 10, ending the threat.

Role playing: Prior to tip-off, Doc Rivers said ancillary players typically step up in critical moments of Game 7’s — think P.J. Brown against the Cavs in the 2007-08 playoffs. After the C’s absorbed Philly’s run at the tail end of the first quarter, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling provided a jolt of energy and enlivened the stunned Garden crowd.

Pietrus had an impressive dunk in the lane and put back on a missed 3-pointer to give the Celtics a spark. Dooling provided great defense and had a nifty old-fashioned 3-point play on a fast break to seize momentum for Boston.

Winning Ugly: In 20 years, no one will be telling their grand-kids about Game 7. The 76ers and Celtics combined to shoot 26-of-79 in the first half (33 percent), including 1-of-15 from 3-point territory, but all things considered, the C’s were just good enough.

Seven of the Sixers 20 first quarter points came from the free throw line, which made up for Philly shooting a mere 28.6% and led to a tie game. In the second quarter, both teams continued to struggle, but the C’s had four steals leading to easy baskets (the C’s had 13 fast break points in the first half). Meanwhile, 76ers were less aggressive in getting to the foul line.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Holiday Season: Rajon Rondo will welcome the challenge of guarding Mario Chalmers of the Heat. Chalmers is a spot-up shooter, whereas Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teaguewho gave Rondo fits in the first two rounds of the playoffs — are more keen to attacking the basket. Holiday’s impressive night series continued in Game 7, scoring 15 points to go along with nine assists .

15 Rounds: The C’s could have gained control in this series in Game 4 when they relinquished an 18-point lead in their second half collapse. Instead, these two teams have traded body blows with one another these last three games. Game 7, of course, was no different. The Celtics fed off the crowd and grabbed a 10-2 lead early, yet the score was tied at 20 going into the second quarter. The C’s squandered multiple opportunities to finally put the 76ers away early in the second half while their lead teetered between eight and ten points in the third quarter. The dog fight continued well into the fourth quarter, however, and the Celtics expended a great deal of energy closing out the series.

In a way, Game 7 was a microcosm of the entire series — a struggle in every sense of the word. Now, the well-rested Heat wait in the wings for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night.

Live Blog: Celtics looking to keep season alive in Game 7 showdown with Sixers

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Celtics Game 7