|Fast Break: LeBron James, Heat bury the Celtics||05.11.11 at 9:49 pm ET|
A pair of 3-pointers, a fast break dunk off a steal and a driving layup by LeBron James in the final 2:10 capped a 16-0 run that gave the Heat a 97-87 victory Wednesday night and ended the Celtics season after five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Nenad Krstic scored the C’s final points of the season, with 4:28 remaining, giving the Celtics an 87-81 lead. But James broke an 87-87 tie with 2:10 remaining, and then buried a go-ahead trey with 40 seconds left after Jeff Green mishandled a poor Paul Pierce pass. After a timeout, Delonte West turned the ball over and James put the game — and the C’s season — away with a dunk and a layup seconds later.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Paul Pierce’s early foul trouble: With the Celtics leading by three and James cruising for a breakaway dunk, Pierce committed a truly ill-advised foul just 5:40 into the game. Not only that, but it was Pierce’s second personal, forcing coach Doc Rivers to give him an early hook before bringing him back for the second quarter. Pierce then picked up his third foul late in the second quarter and missed the final 1:44 of the half. He never got into a rhythm and couldn’t provide any physicality on the defensive end.
Dwyane Wade’s monster first half: While the rest of his teammates made just 6-of-24 first-half shots (25 percent), Wade buried 9-of-12 from the field and 5-of-9 from the free-throw line for 23 points before the break. While the Celtics shot 52.9 percent for the opening 24 minutes, the Heat trailed by only two points (49-47) at the half — thanks to Wade and the Heat’s 23-14 advantage in free-throw attempts. Wade had 15 foul shots in all, and overall, the Heat totaled free throws 38 to the Celtics’ 20.
Rondo’s health: At one point in the fourth quarter, both Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal were receiving back treatment on the sidelines. And how could you forget Rondo was already dealing with a dislocated left elbow that left him at 50-50 prior to the game? He did not play in the fourth quarter, finishing with six points and three assists, despite a valiant effort. O’Neal also missed the final quarter, totaling just three points and two boards.
Careless turnovers: Garnett and Pierce combined for seven turnovers, and the Celtics committed 17 in all — the majority of them seemingly unforced. Down 3-1 and on the road, the C’s couldn’t afford to give the Heat that many extra opportunities.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Getting KG involved early: The Heat crowd may have arrived late, as usual, but Garnett showed up right from the opening tip. He attacked the paint and scored nine of the Celtics’ first 13 points, finishing the first quarter with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals to help the C’s grab a 24-16 before the Heat and their fans even knew what hit them. Considering Garnett’s Game 3 success (28 points, 18 rebounds) and Game 4 failure (7 points on 1-of-10 shooting), the Celtics needed Garnett to set the tone. Unfortunately, he scored three points the rest of the way.
Ray Allen gets open looks: After struggling to find space and making only 11-of-30 shots in Games 2-4, Allen got free from Wade and made 6-of-12 from the field in Game 5, including 5-of-10 shooting on some pretty wide open looks from beyond the arc (not to mention a huge four-point play). His 11 first-half points helped pick up some of the slack left by Pierce’s relative absence.
Nenad Krstic and the bench (yup, you read that right): At the end of the third quarter, Krstic buried a long baseline jumper that put the Celtics up 73-71 heading into the final 12 minutes of play. Krstic finished with eight points as the Celtics’ bench outscored the Heat’s 33-12. Krstic, Jeff Green (9 points), Delonte West (10 points) and even Glen Davis (6 points) each scored at least six points on the night.
|Irish Coffee: What exactly is ‘championship DNA’?||05.11.11 at 12:48 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Probably as a Pavlovian response forced upon them by coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat keep saying the Celtics have some mythical championship DNA lingering from their 2008 title that will make them seemingly impossible to oust from the NBA playoffs in Game 5.
- Dwyane Wade: “That’s a championship team, and they play with the championship DNA that they have.”
- Mario Chalmers: “We know they’ve won a championship before, and they have a championship DNA. We’re just trying to get there, and we want to beat them.”
- Udonis Haslem: “We have the opportunity to close it out. It’s not going to be easy. I understand that they’ve got the championship DNA, and they’re not going to just give it to us. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.”
What, exactly, is “championship DNA”? Did the two-time defending champion Lakers have it when they were swept out of this season’s Western Conference semifinals by the title-starved Mavericks? Did the four-time champ Spurs have it this year when they lost in the first round to an eighth-seeded Grizzlies team that had never won a playoff game before?
Only five players remain from the Celtics team that won a title three years ago — albeit their best five for much of the season, until Glen Davis went missing. Like people, NBA teams get old, and they eventually pass the torch to someone with younger, stronger and/or better DNA. Someone like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.
The sad part is that you can still extract DNA from somebody after they’re dead. But a heart is different. As long as it’s beating, you’re still alive. And the Celtics, for now, are still alive.
“This is a veteran team with a championship heart,” said the Heat’s Chris Bosh, after he helped push the Celtics to the brink of elimination in Game 4. They’re going to come out swinging in the beginning until the end no matter what the outcome is. We just have to be prepared for that. We have to use the homecourt to our advantage and just play basketball.”
So, the real question before Game 5: Is that championship heart still beating?
|Irish Coffee: Delonte West knows ‘it’s win or go home’||05.10.11 at 11:30 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
This was supposed to be Delonte West‘s season of redemption. Instead, it’s been a season of frustration.
If anybody on this Celtics team could turn to excuses, it’s West, whose series of injuries this year has kept him from assuming the role everybody knew he was capable of fulfilling when healthy. He grew up balling on the playgrounds in the Greater Washington D.C. area, developing a toughness that has prepared him to take (and make) big shots in big moments, frustrate superstars like Dwyane Wade defensively and, of course, battle injury.
And now that West has finally found his groove — scoring at least 10 points in all four games against the Heat — it might be too late. Still, trailing 3-1 and heading back to Miami for Game 5, West isn’t playing the blame game.
“It’s win or go home,” West said after the 98-90 Game 4 defeat. “You gotta bring it. Everybody’s gotta bring it, or we might as well just get some seats down at the beach and stay down there. But that’s not our plan.”
West could’ve made excuses when he was suspended for the first 10 games of the season on weapons charges, but instead he took it as a learning experience. He could’ve made excuses when he broke his right wrist five games after returning from suspension. Or when he chipped a bone in his right ankle three games after returning from wrist surgery. Or when he injured his shooting shoulder in Game 3 of these Eastern Conference semifinals. But he didn’t.
“It’s doing a lot better,” he said. “I had it taped up. They put some type of compression sleeve on it. It feels a lot better than [Sunday] and definitely better than when I hurt it the prior game. I ain’t got no excuses over here.”
|Chris Bosh: ‘It’s not over until the last game is won’||05.10.11 at 12:36 am ET|
Prior to a crucial Game 4 between the Celtics and Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the TD Garden Jumbotron flashed Chris Bosh‘s notorious quote following his atrocious Game 3 performance: “My emotions got the best of me early on.”
Whatever Bosh did to harness them on Monday night, it worked.
“Before, the intensity of the crowd and my intensity that I was bringing, I was trying to control it too much instead of just letting it flow,” Bosh said after the Heat’s 98-90 overtime victory. “In this game, I tried to have the least amount of hesitation as possible. If I had an open shot, I was going to let it go. If the drive was open, I was going to take it. That gave me an aggressive mind-frame going in. It didn’t really happen very fast for me, but if I have a good aggressive frame of mind in the beginning usually things go OK.”
After totaling just five points on 2-of-8 shooting and two rebounds in 19 first-half minutes, Bosh made 6-of-9 shots after the break and grabbed 10 more boards for a total of 20 points and 12 rebounds — his second double-double of the series.
“Chris is a professional,” said Heat teammate Joel Anthony. “We didn’t have any doubt that he was going to come back after the last game. He responded well and answered anyone’s questions about how well he was going to play. He did it on the court. He played huge for us, and that’s what we knew he was going to come out and do.”
Meanwhile, after Garnett’s monster performance on Saturday cast a Shaquille O’Neal-sized shadow on Bosh’s six points and five rebounds in Game 3, the forgotten member of the Heat’s Big Three held KG to seven points on 1-of-10 shooting in Game 4.
Asked about Bosh’s turnaround, Garnett simply responded: “Next question.”
|Fast Break: Celtics fall as Heat turn it on in overtime||05.09.11 at 10:06 pm ET|
Behind 35 points and 14 rebounds from LeBron James, the Heat took the Celtics to overtime, where Miami outscored the C’s 12-4 and captured a 98-90 victory Monday night that pushed Boston to the brink of elimination entering Game 5 on Wednesday night.
WHAT WENT WRONG
LeBron James goes off: As impressive as Pierce was, James matched him every step of the way. He scored 20 first-half points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed five rebounds before the break. He and Dwyane Wade combined for 34 of the Heat’s 50 first-half points. Outside of that duo, who kept their team with three points in the opening 24 minutes, the Heat role players struggled severely, shooting just 7-of-18 in the first half.
Second-half offense: Probably fatigued, the Celtics ran a stagnant offense in the second half — moving the ball slowly. After shooting 58.1 percent from the field as a team in the first half, the C’s made just 12-of-39 (30.8 percent) in the second half and overtime.
Chris Bosh’s third quarter: The Heat desperately needed somebody other than James or Wade to step up in the second half, and Bosh answered that call. In the third quarter alone, he made 3-of-4 shots for six points in addition to grabbing seven rebounds — actually pushing the Heat lead to four points at one point. Meanwhile, Garnett missed all four of his shots in the third quarter. The third member of Miami’s Big Three kept the Heat within striking distance entering the fourth quarter (73-69). Bosh outscored Garnett by 13 points.
Big Baby’s funk is severe: Struggling for most of the playoffs, Davis took two jump shots that didn’t even approach touching the rim. He scored just four points on 1-of-4 shooting and did not grab a rebound or dish out an assist. This is a guy who received votes for Sixth Man of the Year, and he’s been giving the Celtics nothing in this series.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce heats up early, again: Despite a less than capacity crowd at the start the game as a result of a traffic jam, Pierce showed up early — recording 16 points on six shots to go along with four rebounds in the first quarter. The Celtics led by as many as eight points and led 31-28 after the opening 12 minutes, giving the late-arriving fans plenty to cheer.
Jermaine O’Neal contributes: O’Neal produced eight points, three rebounds and two assists before halftime, providing much-needed energy at the center position. However, he did not score and grabbed only one rebound after halftime. Defensively, O’Neal neutralized Joel Anthony (4 points, 4 rebounds), who got his first start of the playoffs.
The bench presses the Heat: In perhaps their most impressive stretch of the postseason, a Celtics lineup of Jeff Green, Delonte West, Glen Davis, Ray Allen and Jermaine O’Neal played the first 5:06 of the second quarter, actually stretching the C’s lead to as many as 11 points (42-31). A Green corner 3-pointer and a pair of West pull-up jumpers highlighted a run that forced the Heat to call for a timeout.
|Kevin Garnett’s blog: ‘You got a flash of what we got’||05.08.11 at 2:37 pm ET|
Fight night tonight! Big game tonight and props to my boy No. 9 [Rajon Rondo] fighting back from injury. Team was in sync and ball moved well. We got big stops when we needed it. P2 [Paul Pierce] fought through cramps tonight, so props to him as well. Thanks to ZICO [coconut water] for getting me through the fourth quarter! No cramps and felt good.
Having the Big Shamrock [Shaquille O’Neal] with us was big, and everyone played a role! If you watched the game, you got a flash of what we got left. Felt good and had on the new Antas!!!!
Keep believing in us and Reach higher.
Garnett’s 28 points in the 97-81 Game 3 victory against the Heat tied for his second-highest total in green — and best since the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals. His 18 rebounds set a new high for his Celtics career. As he did in his blog, Garnett deflected praise to his teammates in his postgame press conference.
“I’ve been in a zone, and that wasn’t it,” he said. “Man, I’ve been in a zone, and that wasn’t it. I had a nice rhythm going. Guys looked for me. I had Rondo and Paul encouraging me. Like I said, I’ve got to continue to be aggressive. It gives us a force and another source of scoring. At the same time, I can’t lose my focus on trying to slow [Chris] Bosh down and making sure that that is even ground.”
Equally as impressive as his offensive output was Garnett’s defense. He held Bosh to six points on 1-of-6 shooting and five rebounds in 30 minutes of Game 3 action. The Heat forward had averaged a double-double and outplayed Garnett in the first two games.
|Dwyane Wade: ‘I’m not a dirty player’||05.08.11 at 2:00 am ET|
When Ray Allen gets in your face, you know you’ve done something wrong.
The NBA’s 3-point king rarely loses his cool, but once Dwyane Wade leveled him underneath the Celtics basket just 1:07 after sending Rajon Rondo to the locker room with a dislocated left elbow, Allen jumped to his feet and got into Wade’s face before being restrained by his Heat teammates.
If you’ll recall, it was Wade’s bullrushing of Paul Pierce in Game 1 that ultimately led to the Celtics captain’s ejection. Of his 10 personal fouls in the three-game series, at least three came the hard way.
“The game of basketball is a physical game,” said Wade, who has also taken 29 free throw this series, including two in Game 3 after a hard Pierce foul on a layup attempt. “I’m not not a dirty player. It’s physical. Everyone falls down, and everyone gets up.”
Thankfully, for the Celtics’ sake, Rondo did get up — triumphantly returning from what originally appeared to be a horrific arm injury in the third quarter after he got tangled up with Wade and bent his elbow back about 30 degrees in the wrong direction. The C’s point guard recorded four of his six points and one of his 11 assists while playing the entire fourth quarter of Saturday night’s 97-81 victory with essentially one arm.
“We play this game as competitors, and you never want to see anyone get hurt, whether it’s a friend or not a friend,” added Wade. “It’s someone we have respect for in this game. We have respect for each other. So, you never want to see anyone get hurt, no matter what kind of injury it is. Kudos to him for coming back. That’s a tough injury to come back from that fast. He showed a lot as a leader of the team, coming back and having the performance that he had with that injury.”
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