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Fast Break: Celtics collapse in another loss to Heat 05.03.11 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Heat broke open a tie game in the fourth quarter with a 14-point run and LeBron James‘ 35 points helped Miami defeat the Celtics, 102-91, to take a two-game lead in the second-round series. Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

Game 3 is back in Boston on Saturday.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Fourth-quarter collapse: After surging back to tie the game at 80 apiece, the Heat scored the next 14 points, including six free throws, to take a 94-80 lead with three and a half minutes remaining. James dominated that stretch, totaling 12 fourth-quarter points. The Celtics unraveled, failing to get back on defense as a result of complaints about the officiating. Even Doc Rivers picked up a late technical foul arguing a call (the Heat did own a 36-22 advantage in free throws).

Heat’s Big Three vs. Celtics’ Big Four: The Heat entered the game with a 33-3 record when their Big Three combined for 70 points, and James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to top that milestone by 10. Wade, James and Bosh combined for 80 points and 26 rebounds, while Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett totaled 56 points and 22 rebounds. Allen (7 points) and Pierce (11 points) especially struggled.

Paul Pierce isn’t Paul Pierce: Pierce left the game in the first half after twisting an ankle. After getting treatment in the locker room, he returned relatively quickly. Still, he didn’t appear as explosive and struggled for a second straight game. Meanwhile, Allen — who was already struggling — bruised his chest during a third-quarter collision with James.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Jeff Green inserts himself: In 10 first-half minutes, Jeff Green made 4-of-5 shots — including a pair of 3-pointers for 10 points before the break (he finished with 11 points). His performance highlighted what was perhaps the bench’s best stretch of the playoffs, as the Celtics stayed with the Heat to start a low-scoring second quarter. Green even demonstrated some rare emotion, letting out a roar after being fouled by James in the third quarter. Delonte West (10 points) also had five points on 2-of-2 shooting off the bench during that same span.

Guarding James Jones: After Jones scored 25 points on seven shots in Game 1, the Celtics made a concerted effort to keep Jones from killing them on open 3-point shots — and it paid off. Forcing Jones to play off the dribble rather than set up along the 3-point line, the C’s held him to one missed field goal in the first half. Meanwhile, Jones picked up three fouls on the defensive end before the break — rendering him useless.

JO-ffensive rebounding: The Celtics have struggled on the offensive glass all season, but Jermaine O’Neal single-handedly gave the C’s five extra possessions in the first half alone — as they battled the Heat evenly (7-7) in offensive rebounding for the first 24 minutes. O’Neal finished with a respectable eight points and nine rebounds, but the Celtics ended up losing the rebounding battle on both ends of the floor.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA playoffs
Irish Coffee: Heat not guilty of foul play? 05.03.11 at 1:43 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Plenty of deserved concerns arose about the officiating following the Heat’s Game 1 victory over the Celtics in which LeBron James & Co. made the same amount of field goals (32) and three fewer 3-pointers (12-9) but 12 more free throws on 14 more attempts.

Considering the NBA downgraded Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal‘s flagrant-one to a personal foul while upgrading Heat guard James Jones‘ personal to a flagrant-one foul the day after Game 1, any gripes about the referees — Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Derrick Collins — were validated as more than just sour grapes.

NBA officials have long been criticized for their treatment of the league’s superstars. It’s a conspiracy theory born in the Michael Jordan era and nursed along by the indictment of referee Tim Donaghy on game-fixing allegations (Donaghy appeared on Dennis & Callahan Tuesday morning). While I wouldn’t go so far to include the NBA’s current referees — Sunday’s officiating crew included — in the same conversation as Donaghy, there is statistical evidence that James and Dwyane Wade have received at least inadvertent star treatment throughout the 2010-11 season and into the playoffs.

The Heat averaged 27.9 free-throw attempts per game during the regular season, while their opponents averaged 24.2. Conversely, the Celtics averaged 23.1 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 24.1. More specifically, Wade and James combined for 17.0 free-throw attempts per game this season. By contrast, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined for 13.3 free throws a game.

But Wade and James get to the rim a ton, you say? That’s true. Each game, the Heat duo combined for 13.1 field-goal attempts within three feet of the basket. Hence, the big free throw numbers. But shouldn’t the Celtics’ Big Four — who combine for 14.0 field goals at the rim every game — be somewhere in that 17 free-throws per game range, rather than 13.3?

Not convinced? Consider this fact: Jordan averaged 7.7 free throws per game during his six championship seasons; Wade (8.6) and James (8.4) each averaged more this season.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Game 2, LeBron James, Miami Heat
Irish Coffee: Celtics vs. Heat tale of the tape 04.29.11 at 1:03 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Not much needs to be said about what this second-round series means to the Celtics or the Heat. Regardless of what they say, I’m pretty sure the Celtics don’t like the Heat, and vice versa. The only guy I’m not sure about is Eddie House. I don’t know if he likes anybody. But, as he told the Miami Herald, “We match up great.” So, let’s go to the tape …

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Celtics 3, Heat 1

90.5 … points … 92.3
12.0 … fast break points … 10.0
34.5 … points in the paint … 33.5
47.3 … FG% … 44.7
45.3 … 3P% … 28.6
71.5 … FT% … 74.0
35.8 … rebounds … 39.8
7.3 … o-rebounds … 11.5
28.5 … d-rebounds … 28.3
21.0 … assists … 18.5
6.5 … steals … 6.5
1.8 … blocks … 4.3
13.8 … turnovers … 15.8
22.3 … personal fouls … 20.3

Obviously, that point differential is swayed significantly by the Heat’s 100-77 victory in their fourth and final meeting of the regular season. Still, despite the Heat outscoring the Celtics 44-26 in the paint and 12-3 on the fast break in that game, the C’s still owned the advantage in those categories — in addition to their significant edge in 3-point shooting.

While offensive rebounding is always a concern for the Celtics, I wouldn’t worry too much about rebounding overall, considering the two teams played fairly even on the defensive glass and the Heat’s lower field-goal percentage meant more opportunities for offensive boards. The Celtics shot better and took care of the ball better — two huge categories in their favor.

Where Miami can win this series is at the free-throw line. They averaged five more trips to the charity stripe per game, and we all know how often LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get to the line –deservedly or not.

Now, let’s examine how the Celtics and Heat produced this season (league ranks in parentheses):

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Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Rajon Rondo
Irish Coffee: Early Celtics blow could stun Heat 04.27.11 at 12:33 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

The more I hear from the Heat locker room and see from them on the court, the more confidence I have that they’ll cave the first opportunity they get. If the Celtics throw the first punch, it could be a knockout.

I fully expect the Heat to advance to Round 2, whether or not they blow another close-out opportunity on Wednesday night. Beyond that? I just can’t see them winning four times in a seven-game series against the Celtics.

Why? Listen to the types of statements the Heat’s stars have made in the last few days alone …

There’s this from Dwyane Wade: “The starting unit is not that [high energy] kind of lineup, and we understand that. But we do have to start off better, so we’ve got to do different things, myself and LeBron. We’ve got to be the ones to put the effort in those guys.”

I didn’t realize you could just put effort in people. I wish they did that at City Hall, so I didn’t have to wait in lines all day there. News flash Dwyane: It’s not that your other teammates aren’t trying — they’re just not that good.

This from LeBron James: “Throughout me and D-Wade’s career, we have always been kind of feel out the game first and then go from there. The both of us are going to play with more effort, more aggression and not feel the game out as much to start the game and see how that works, because our first quarters haven’t been the best.”

James hasn’t been putting forth his best effort? Forgive me for being naive, but don’t most guys play full-tilt at all times in the playoffs? Do you think Kevin Garnett has to say, “Maybe I should start playing with more effort”?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat
NBA playoff picture, in a snapshot 04.26.11 at 6:46 pm ET
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Believe it or not, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Celtics are the only team that has finished its first-round series. While they await their first day of practice on Wednesday, NBA fans in Boston get a chance to watch what should be one of the most exciting playoffs in league history. Here’s a brief snapshot of the current playoff picture …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Miami Heat 3, Philadelphia 76ers 1

  • Heat  97, 76ers 89
  • Heat 94, 76ers 73
  • Heat 100, 76ers 94
  • 76ers 86, Heat 82

LeBron James & Co. are just trying to finish this series, so they can get their shot at the Celtics. The problem? The Heat are still struggling with chemistry and — as a result — have a 0-1 record in close-out games so far. Meanwhile, 76ers coach Doug Collins is just glad to get another game of playoff experience under his young team’s belt.

Heat forward Chris Bosh: ‘€œWe’€™re going to have to trust each other. We’€™ve been talking about trust all this time, so we’€™re going to have to actually do it when it counts the most. It’€™s easy to stress when you’€™re up 2-0, 3-0. … When it’€™s time to close and it’€™s time to get to those other elite teams, and we’€™re going to have a chance to compete against them, we have to do the same thing well, not the same thing we did [Sunday].’€

Sixers coach Doug Collins: “I’m sure Doc Rivers hopes we take the Heat to triple overtime in Game 7. No question about that. One thing about the playoffs, especially when you are a team that has a lot of games under the belt, you want series to go as little time as possible.”

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Read More: Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, NBA playoffs
Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett just doing his job 04.26.11 at 11:44 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

During the Celtics’ two days of rest before Wednesday’s practice, Kevin Garnett got a chance to contribute to his Anta blog, focusing on Games 3 and 4 of the Knicks sweep. Here are the highlights …

Yo yo yo! We’re moving on! Great energy [Sunday] afternoon!  Happy Easter to anyone who celebrates it! We needed to get this game, so we could have a couple of days to get our rest! With Miami losing, we don’t play until at least Sunday. Doc gave us two days off, so practice on Wednesday! Lots of treatment, recovery and catching up with video games.

The team played awesome! We got up early and started executing better. Baby [Glen Davis] and JO [Jermaine O'Neal] tightened down our defense, and Rondo made our offense go. Setting picks for the guys is my job, and as Doc says, “DO YOUR JOB!” Good picks get good shots for Ray [Allen] and P2 [Paul Pierce]. Friday’s game they went off!!!! Yesterday, the Knicks tried to stop them, which got me looks. I was able to make shots and get rebounds. Didn’t even realize that I had 20-plus points. Team win is the only thing that matters.

That’s by far the most praise Garnett has heaped on his team’s execution, especially on the defensive end — a good sign for Round 2. It’s also nice to see Doc Rivers borrowing the “do your job” line from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Always loved that.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett
Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, reinvigorated 04.25.11 at 1:07 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

I think everyone can agree we saw a different Rajon Rondo against the Knicks then we did in the last month-and-a-half of the regular season. Sure, he played the majority of his minutes against the likes of Toney Douglas and Anthony Carter, but still — it’s not like he’s going to be facing Chris Paul in the next round.

Rondo is the switch. The numbers illustrate as much, and I see no reason he can’t replicate his performance against Mario Chalmers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Rondo averaged 10.0 points on 40.9 percent shooting, 9.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 free-throw attempts in 21 regular-season games during March and April. Then, in the playoff sweep of the Knicks, he averaged 19.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting, 12.0 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 6.5 free-throw attempts. Essentially, without warning, he reverted to the player we saw when the Celtics started 23-4 before Christmas.

It’s not like the Big Three played that much better offensively against the Knicks than they had during the regular season in March and April. In fact, their field-goal percentage actually dropped from 50.2 percent in March and April to 49.4 percent against New York.

What really changed for the Big Three? As a result of Rondo’s ability to get into the paint whenever he wanted, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen got far more open looks on the perimeter. They made a ridiculous 27-of-46 3-pointers (58.7%) — averaging 6.8 makes on 11.5 tries — in the Knicks series, as opposed to their 66-of-176 3-point shooting (37.5%) — 3.0 makes on 8.0 attempts per game — in the final 22 games of the regular season.

Can those two continue to shoot close to 60 percent from 3-point range? Probably not, but two of the game’s great shooters will keep getting more open looks as Rondo forces the Heat defense to sag on him in the paint. And if you think Dwyane Wade or LeBron James might take a shot at guarding Rondo,  do you have any confidence that Chalmers or Mike Bibby or James Jones or whoever can keep up with Pierce and Allen?

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Paul Pierce
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