|Fast Break: Heat, James LeBlow out Celtics in Game 6||06.07.12 at 11:10 pm ET|
LeBron James submitted perhaps his greatest game as a professional — his most clutch, anyway — amassing 45 points (19-26 FG) to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists, breaking even a raucous Garden crowd’s spirit and sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for a Game 7.
Six minutes before the 98-79 defeat in Game 6 was over, Celtics fans already headed for the exits. Doc Rivers rested Paul Pierce (9 points, 4-18 FG), Kevin Garnett (12 points, 6-14 FG) and Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers) for the last half of the fourth quarter, letting them stew on what just happened.
The C’s fans who stayed, though, deserve respect, closing out the final two minutes with a prolonged “Let’s go Celtics” chant that lasted until the final answer, sending a message to the “good job, good effort” Heat fans and Boston’s Big Four for Game 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Through the first 11:42 of Game 6, James played the Celtics dead even by himself. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting; the Celtics netted 14 on 7-of-16 from the field. While the C’s offense seemed stagnant for long stretches, James attacked from the opening tip. His effort effectively quieted a deafening Garden crowd and forced the Celtics to play from behind. If not for James, the Heat don’t take a 26-16 lead into the second quarter, as Dwyane Wade started 0-for-4 and finished the first frame scoreless.
Long play the king: Since James started a ridiculous 12-of-14 from the floor, it’s worth discussing further. His emotionless face said it all. If the Heat were going down this time, it wouldn’t be on his shoulders. Playing all 24 minutes of the first half, he scored 30 points, and it would have been more, if not for his 5-of-9 free throw shooting. As the Heat took a 55-42 into the break (on a ridiculous four-point swing of a no-call when Shane Battier mugged Rondo), James owned an 85.7 field goal percentage. The rest of the Heat? Thirty six percent.
Foul mood: With 5:39 remaining in the second quarter, Pierce picked up his third foul, continuing his foul prone ways over the past seven games. Rivers had no choice but to sit his captain until halftime. Pierce had as many turnovers (2) as he had first-half points, and considering James’ performance, it wasn’t his finest effort on either end. Sitting for a long stretch certainly didn’t help his flow. Pierce missed his first three shots out of the break, too. Not to mention a wide-open 3 that would have cut the lead to eight and could have changed the game’s complexion late in the third quarter.
|Mumbles Menino thinks KJ and Hondo play for Celtics||06.07.12 at 9:40 am ET|
You know, New England is doing a real good impression of Miami these days. First, we had the Maine TV reporter who thought the Celtics and Heat tied Game 4. Now, we’ve got the honorable Mayor Thomas M. Menino announcing, “KJ is great, but Hondo’s really the inspiration,” or something like that.
This isn’t the first time Mumbles has fumbled Boston’s “ionic” sports figures, so rest easy Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Remember “Varitek splitting the uprights“? At least he got the sport right this time. Kevin “KJ” Johnson and John “Hondo” Havlicek did play basketball once. Heck, one even played for the Celtics, and the other is a mayor, just re-elected in Sacramento, so you can see how he might be easily confused about a pair of NBA superstars who have played basketball in his city for the last five-plus years.
Or maybe Mumbles is just one step ahead of us all. He is the mayor after all. He can’t be that stupid. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s just doing the best impersonation of a Miami sports fan ever. That’s real “Saturday Night Live”-worthy stuff right there.
After all, before the miraculous Red Sox comeback of 2004, he did deliver the greatest political speech in history: “Much like a cookie, I predict the Yankee dynasty will crumble, and the results will be delicious for Red Sox fans.” Bravo, Mumbles, bravo, indeed. That’s up there with, “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and, “a date which will live in infamy.” Long live the mayor! I can’t wait for the unveiling of the Bill Russell statue.
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team||06.06.12 at 1:26 pm ET|
There’s a duality of team happening in this series. Not good vs. evil, but heart vs. spinelessness. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Celtics, “They have championship DNA. They have what we’re trying to get.”
The lasting images of Game 5: 1) A blank-faced LeBron James retreating into the tunnel of AmericanAirlines Arena after another devastating postseason defeat as one young Miami fan repeated behind him, “Good job! Good effort!” And 2) A grinning Paul Pierce returning to a timeout huddle, his puffed chest being pounded by teammates after he delivered another playoff victory that forced most Heat fans to funnel for the exits.
Throughout Tuesday night, constant dueling reminders arose of why these Heat are these Heat and these Celtics are these Celtics. Let’s revisit four of them from the C’s pivotal Eastern Conference finals victory.
- LeBron James in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke, moments after his Heat coughed up a 13-point lead: “I’m pleased with my individual performance.”
- Paul Pierce overheard in a timeout, shortly after burying the dagger 3 in LeBron’s face with 52 seconds remaining: “I’m cold-blooded.”
Through the first 40 minutes, James made 10-of-21 shots, netted 28 points and grabbed 12 boards. Over the final eight minutes, he finished 1-of-4 from the field, scored just two points and snatched only one rebound.
Conversely, in the first 42 minutes, Pierce tallied 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting while amassing two rebounds and two assists. In the last six minutes of the game, he recorded five points — making his lone shot attempt (the dagger) — to go along with two assists and two boards. One rose to the occasion; the other ran from it.
Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Truth is, Celtics one win from NBA finals||06.05.12 at 11:29 pm ET|
Shooting just 5-of-18 from the field through the first 47:07.1 of Game 5 and his Celtics leading by just one, Paul Pierce pulled up for a trey in Heat superstar LeBron James‘ face with 52.9 seconds remaining, and The Truth’s shot was true, giving the Celtics a four-point lead that resulted in a 94-90 victory.
In a frenzied fourth quarter that featured four lead changes, two ties and countless great plays on both sides, Pierce’s triple was the greatest, effectively giving the Celtics a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 6 in Boston on Thursday night.
Somehow, someway, the C’s Big Four of Kevin Garnett (26 points, 11 rebounds), Pierce (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists), Rajon Rondo (13 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points, 7 rebounds) — despite shooting 40.7 percent from the field — outshined the Heat’s Big Three of James (30 points, 13 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (27 points) and the ghost of Chris Bosh (9 points, 14 minutes).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Third dimension: Over the final six minutes of the third quarter, the Celtics turned a 59-50 deficit into a 65-60 lead entering the fourth. The 15-1 run included buckets from Allen, Pierce, Greg Stiemsma, Garnett, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling — not to mention great defense by all, holding the Heat without a field goal.
Garnett gets going: After trailing by as much as 13 in the second quarter, the Celtics made a concerted effort to go back to what’s worked throughout these playoffs — getting Garnett involved in the post. His 1-of-7 start from the field was mostly the result of shots off the block, but he took advantage of a legless Bosh, and Rondo fed him for a couple late layups that helped the Celtics cut the Heat lead to 42-40 by the half.
Free Bassing: While Pierce and Rondo started a combined 3-of-18 from the field, the Celtics desperately needed offense elsewhere. Enter Brandon Bass. It wasn’t quite his 27-point masterpiece against the 76ers, but Bass started 4-of-5 from the field for 10 points to go along with three rebounds, two steals and a block by halftime. He didn’t make a big impact in the second half, but he kept the C’s in it early.
|Maine reporter thinks Celtics, Heat tied Game 4||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.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics, Heat, fouls, free throws & facts||05.31.12 at 9:43 am ET|
Let’s take a page out of Doc Rivers‘ book and tread lightly on this matter. Two nights after declaring his technical foul — one of five called on the Celtics as a team — “the worst I’ve ever had,” the coach took umbrage with the officiating in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Heat once again.
“It is what it is,” he said in the aftermath of a stomach-punch, 115-111 overtime loss. “LeBron James took 24 free throws tonight and our team took 29. Paul Pierce fouled out of a game where he was attacking the basket.”
You can’t get fined if you stick with the facts. You can’t come across as blaming the referees if you shoot straight. At least that’s the hope. Here are 15 more facts about the Game 2 officiating. Read the rest of this entry »
|Fast Break: Heat withstand Rajon Rondo’s brilliance||05.30.12 at 11:52 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo played all 53 minutes, scoring a career-high 44 points — the final umpteen on fumes — but the Celtics lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 115-111, and trail the Heat 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rondo finished 16-of-24 from the field while adding 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals in perhaps the greatest game of a career filled with mind-boggling triple-doubles. Paul Pierce (21 points), Kevin Garnett (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points) all exceeded 40 minutes, but the C’s ran out of gas.
In the final minute of regulation, Pierce fouled out with 47 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade made just 1-of-2 free throws to give the Heat a 99-96 lead, Allen connected on a game-tying 3-pointer with 34 seconds left and LeBron James missed a pair of potential game-winning buckets.
But James led Miami with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Wade (23 points) and Mario Chalmers (22 points) were the only other Heat players in double figures. Of course, their 47-29 advantage in free throws (24 for James) and 15 fewer personal fouls helped, too. In the final five minutes and overtime, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls to the Heat’s two. And Miami took 18 free throws (James 12, Wade 6) to the C’s two.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turd quarter: The Celtics withstood a Heat run to close the second half, even maintaining a less-than-comfortable 71-66 lead 7:36 into the third quarter, but Miami went on a 12-0 run after a Wade block of Allen on the break to snare a six-point lead — just another reminder of how quickly the Heat can ignite offensively. That stretch featured Wade’s awakening and, of course, a couple more James free throws.
Mario cart: While most of the Heat couldn’t connect throughout the first half –shooting just 15-of-41 (36.6 FG%) from the field as a team — bit player Chalmers carried Miami when its superstars struggled. His 14 points and four assists in the opening two quarters help offset Rondo’s sensational first-half stretch.
Hitting the deck: Maybe Greg Stiemsma took Rondo’s “hit the deck” comments a little too literally. He picked up four personal fouls in his first three minutes of action, and while Doc Rivers nearly earned himself another technical foul, most were completely deserved. That meant Stiemsma, who had played quite well in limited Game 1 action, gave way to Ryan Hollins, who proceeded to dribble into a sea of Heat defenders and turn the ball over.