|Rivers: Dwyane Wade ‘didn’t intend to hurt Rondo’||05.08.11 at 2:37 pm ET|
Reaction to the play that left Rajon Rondo with a dislocated left elbow in Game 3 of the Celtics playoff series with Miami has been mixed. After the game, Dwyane Wade said he’s “not a dirty player.” (Click here for video of the postgame press conference.)
Brendan Jackson at Celtics Hub has the play broken down frame by frame and came to the conclusion that Wade did in fact take Rondo down with a leg sweep.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers defended Wade’s part in the play for the most part. “It was a hard foul,” Rivers said. “Let’s put it like this: He didn’t intend to hurt Rondo. I don’t honestly believe in 99 percent of cases in our league the player ever intends to hurt anybody. But he did, and it just happens.”
Rivers also added this in response to Rondo’s return to the court:
“Players play,” the coach said. “We can all tell our war stories, but very few players are able to do that in that situation. They would try, though. There’s a bigger group in our league than you think that would have tried. I love our league and that’s the part about it that I think people miss. They see the other stuff, but these guys love playing. They have more love and passion about the game than people give them credit for, and yesterday was just another example of an NBA player not caring about his health and just trying to help the team.”
|Celtics await test results on Rajon Rondo, Delonte West||05.08.11 at 2:22 pm ET|
UPDATE: According to a team spokesman, the MRI on Rajon Rondo came back negative for further damage to his elbow. He is a game-time decision for Game 4 Monday night in Boston.
The initial diagnosis for Rondo was a dislocated left elbow. Delonte West apparently did not have an MRI, although he is dealing with a shoulder injury.
“I’m optimistic about both that they’re going to play,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the team went through a film session and walkthrough on Sunday. “I don’t know why I am, but I am. I just don’t know how well either one of them can play. If they’re on the floor, we’re healthy. That’s been my motto since I’ve been here and our guys believe that.”
Both players were unavailable to the press. Rivers said that Rondo was in pain and there was swelling. As for West, Rivers said, “With Delonte it will come down to what he can tolerate.”
Rivers also said that Shaquille O’Neal had an expected amount of swelling, but that he would probably be able to play in Game 4 on Monday as well. “It’s day to day with Shaq and his body at this point of his life in the NBA, but I do think he can do the same,” Rivers said.
|Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I believe Shaq’s playing’ in Game 3||05.06.11 at 4:29 pm ET|
It’s becoming clearer that Shaquille O’Neal is finally ready to return to the court. Celtics president Danny Ainge was a guest on The Big Show Friday afternoon and he said that yes, he believes O’Neal will be ready to play Saturday when the Celtics resume their series with Miami. “I think Shaq is going to give it a go tomorrow,” Ainge said. “We’ll see. I believe Shaq’s playing tomorrow.”
Asked about expectations for him, Ainge said it was impossible to predict. “I don’t know the answer to that yet,” Ainge said. “It will be determined by how well he plays and how effective he is and how he feels.”
Reminded that there was skepticism that Shaq would play after so many false starts, Ainge said, “I think all those times there was some hope because he was making progress but I see more in him right now than any of those times. I understand. I can’t sit here and say 100 percent either. I’m not skeptical of what I’m saying but there’s no certainty until you see him out there.”
Here are more highlights from a wide-ranging interview:
On what concerns him the most: “My biggest concern is that I have a great deal of respect for our opponents. I think they’re playing very well. The second biggest thing is were not playing at a high enough level. We’re having too many breakdowns. We’re not playing our best basketball. We need to. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re playing this team.”
On Paul Pierce’s ejection in Game 1: “I still don’t agree with the ejection. I’ve argued my case to the league. They disagreed with me obviously but I don’t agree with the ejection.”
On the play that led to Pierce and Dwyane Wade getting double technicals and an automatic ejection for Pierce: There’s a screen. There was a guy that hit the screen hard and there’s some taunting, both sides sort of chirping at each other I think you can justify the play from an official’s standpoint. When you look at how Dwyane Wade goes through screens throughout the course of the game and you look at that particular play, you see that he did not try to fight through the screen, he was intentionally running through the screen. I think that was much more of flagrant foul than Jermaine O’Neal’s who bumped a cutter going through the lane, which you’re sort of taught to do in practice. The league rescinded that but those were two huge calls.
On what Pierce said to Dwyane Wade: “He said, ‘That’s not going to bother me.’ With a little bit more colorful language. The bottom line is Paul was not taunting. Paul was not starting a confrontation. He knew what Wade was doing. Wade ran right through them and he was basically like you’re going to get me to that way. There’s trash talking that goes on throughout the game. You can make a case that you can call a technical overtime down the court if you’re going to base it on what [Pierce] did.”
On what Ainge told Pierce: “What I told was this, ‘Paul I think it was ridiculous that you were ejected from the game. I did not think that warranted a technical foul. But the first technical in your little nose-rubbing with James Jones, you can’t do that because it takes away any room for error.’ You just never know what’s going to happen. I thought that one was uncalled for and he should have avoided that one. He was flagrantly fouled by James Jones, but so what? Get up and make the free throws, take the ball out of bounds and stay away from that confrontation. I think Paul’s emotions were in control. I think Paul was playing the game the way he always plays the game.”
Ainge added that the officials weren’t the reason the Celtics lost in Miami. “I will just say this: As frustrating as it at times for me, we do have the best officials in any league,” Ainge said. “We have the best of the best. It’s frustrating that they’re not perfect. It’s frustrating that they don’t see it the way I see it all the time. The officials are not the reason that we’re down 0-2.”
On Jeff Green: “I think he has provided us a lot. I’m not down on Jeff Green in any way. I think Jeff is a good player who’s trying to find his way. The other night you saw he was capable.”
On Nenad Krstic: “What happened with Krstic, he got off to a great start and then he went into a little bit of a funk. I thought he was going through a phase where he was just thinking too much. Then he bruised his knee. Then he bruised his knee a second time. I would say right now he’s just back healthy. Right now. He’s been able to play. He’s not been 100 percent.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘We’re all in’ for Game 3||05.06.11 at 1:12 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics have never been down 2-0 in a playoff series in the Kevin Garnett era, and they are well aware of the situation.
“The urgency is there,” Garnett said on Friday before the team took the practice floor. “This is it. We’ve used all of our lifelines. This is it. I hate to say it like that, but it’s true. There’s not a: Cool, keep your composure. Nah, this is: You’ve got to get the next game.”
He continued, “We’re taking their best shot. I still don’t think we’ve played our best basketball, and we’ve got to do that. We can’t just come out here and talk about it. We’re not on the white sands of the beach [any] more. We’re back in the jungle. Hopefully that’ll do some good for us. We’ll figure it out. I told you man, we’re all in. I’ve got two pocket kings and I’m all in. Let’s do it.”
Over the years the Celtics have responded favorably to adverse situations. In 2008 they won a pair of Game 7s after failing to win any of their road games against Atlanta and Cleveland and then closed out the Pistons on the road to advance to the NBA finals. In 2010 they rallied from two separate one-game deficits against the Cavaliers and Lakers.
“I like our chances, especially with our backs against the wall,” Paul Pierce said. “We’ve been a team that’s responded well the last few years when we’ve come across adversity. I expect us to respond in a very positive manner.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers also said that he expects his team will play better, but he cautioned against his players trying to do it all by themselves.
“You’re down 2-0 and you want to look inside yourself first and see what you can do better,” Rivers said. “You do it as a coaching staff, you do it individually as players and then hopefully you do it together as a team. The risk whenever you’re down in anything you tend to want to go inside yourself and do it yourself and that never works.”
INJURY UPDATES: There was some good news for the Celtics as Pierce returned to practice after sitting out Thursday’s session to rest his strained left Achilles, an injury he suffered in the first quarter of Game 2. Pierce did return to the game and he said he’s feeling better.
“I actually feel good about this,” he said. “Once you turn 30 your body comes back a little bit slower. I was able to come back into the game that night and really had no further ill effects from it after the game or yesterday or today. I’m very confident.”
Shaquille O’Neal also is expected to practice for a second straight day, and Rivers said that he still expects Shaq to play in Game 3. “I am confident,” Rivers said. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I am very confident.”
ADJUSTMENTS?: Are there little things the Celtics can do better? Of course. Garnett mentioned those notorious 50-50 plays, NBA code for getting to loose balls and long rebounds. On the court there will be some tweaks in coverage and possibly in lineups where Miami has had an advantage with some of their more unusual sets.
Don’t expect any wholesale changes, however. The Celtics can’t commit double teams to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on a regular basis because of the presence of both James and Wade. That’s not their style anyway. They simply have to execute their offense and defense better.
“We have to play better,” Rivers said. “The bottom line is we can’t look for some witch doctor, we just have to play better. We’re capable of doing it without a ton of adjustments. We can do that and I think we will.”
GARNETT’S MAGIC NUMBER: On the one hand, Rivers was more than pleased that Garnett took 20 shots in Game 2. On the other, he missed 12 of those attempts.
According to HoopData, Garnett went 2-for-6 on shots within 10 feet of the basket and was 2-for-9 from 16-23 feet. During the regular season, Garnett was one of the most efficient long-range shooters among big men in the league. His sweet spot in Game 2 was the mid-range, where he knocked down four of his five attempts between 10-15 feet.
“He got the shots, I just thought he was a little too quick at it,” Rivers said. “He was rushing them, but I liked the 20 attempts. I think we can do a better job of getting him the 20 attempts, but I do think we have to keep that number. I like most of them, I just thought he rushed a couple of them. We missed a ton of them right in the paint, and Kevin doesn’t miss those shots.”
|Paul Pierce strains left Achilles||05.03.11 at 11:51 pm ET|
MIAMI — Paul Pierce strained his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter of Game 2 and had to go back to the locker room for a stretch. He returned soon after and scored 13 points in the Celtics’ 102-91 loss. “It’s day to day right now,” Pierce said. “We’ll see how it feels the next couple of days.”
Pierce said he wasn’t sure how the injury happened, but it was a problem for him. “When you strain your Achilles, every step is like a slight little pain,” he said. “It actually loosened up as I got back in there and it didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.”
Pierce wasn’t the only Celtic playing in pain. Rajon Rondo’s back tightened up and Ray Allen was dealing with a bruised chest. “[Trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and Dr. [Brian] McKeon did a hell of a job today,” Doc Rivers said. “We had a circus going on at one point. Ray needed to be taken to the locker room. Paul was coming out of the locker room. Rondo was asking to come out almost simultaneously. It was sketchy.”
|Shootaround notes: Last minute checklist||05.03.11 at 12:42 pm ET|
MIAMI — As they head into Game 2, both the Celtics and Heat feel that they didn’t play their best in the opener and while there will be strategic adjustments on both sides, the sense is that both teams simply want to play their game better.
“As poorly as we played and they didn’t necessary play terrific either, you can clearly say some of it was due to their defense,” Doc Rivers said before the team’s shootaround. “It wasn’t just us being bad. There’s somebody out there making you be bad and they had a lot to do with it.”
On the Celtics to-do list are guard the 3-point line better, particularly James Jones who made 5-of-7 from behind the arc and keep Miami off the free throw line. Offensively, Rivers felt his team rushed and put themselves in a bad position.
“They’ll respond,” Rivers said of his team. “We’re usually a pretty good team in execution and we just were not. I was just surprised how impatient we were offensively. When you become impatient that makes you easy to guard. I think we were very easy to guard.”
As for Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was happy with his team’s defense, but is looking for more from his offense. He knows that it won’t be easy.
“We’ve tried to exercise our mental disciple to maintain our mental edge,” he said. “It’s two physical teams, two very good defensive teams. There will be times when both teams struggle to score. Whoever can say that consistently played their game will likely win the basketball game.”
As for the prospect of going down 2-0 in this series, something that has never happened in the Big 3 era, Kevin Garnett said that the Celtics were not thinking that way.
“You take one game at a time,” Garnett said. “Each game you learn something from it and you try to apply what you’ve learned to the next game. Obviously [1-1] is always good but you go 0-2 against a great team it’s very hard.”
Expect both teams to be sharper in Game 2 and that’s when we’ll really find out if one team had the advantage.
“That will happen,” Rivers said. “It may happen tonight. I think one or two games you’ll get the best shot from each team and somebody will win that game.”
SHAQ UPDATE: Rivers said that Shaquille O’Neal looked good in practice on Monday in stretches but struggled at the end. the coach termed him doubtful for Game 2, but it will be a game-time decision.
“I doubt it,” Rivers said. “He looked great yesterday. He went through the whole practice. He was phenomenal actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal. Then by the end of the practice he was struggling walking. We’ll see but I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, were not sure but I doubt it.”
Rivers said that it was O’Neal’s first scrimmage since his seven-minute comeback against Detroit on April 3. That was encouraging, but, “Watching him walk on the bus and even this morning said the recovery time is tough for him,” Rivers said.
|Heat practice notes: Who you calling physical?||05.02.11 at 4:55 pm ET|
MIAMI — The question was posed to various Heat players from about six different angles, but it really all boiled down to this: Are you surprised by the Celtics reaction after Game 1 that your play was (pick one) chippy, physical or cheap?
“I didn’t see us start anything,” LeBron James said. “I don’t understand what all the other conversation is about. We just want to play basketball. Go out there we’re going to be physical, the best team will win the game that night. That’s all it’s about.”
Added Dwyane Wade, “At the end of the day it’s basketball. No one’s going to be out there doing anything crazy. Ain’t no fighting going on. It’s basketball and the guys are going to be physical and they’re going to take hard fouls. You just got to move on from it.”
James Jones: “It’s all in the game. We’re trying to keep it strictly about basketball. Whenever you have emotionally charged guys on the floor, two very high caliber teams battling and competing, you always have something. No one wants to give an inch.”
Your turn, Erik Spoelstra: “We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not. We’re not stepping out of our box.”
It was left to Wade to add a little levity to the questions. “I haven’t been in the second round in a long time but I’m assuming this is how it is,’ he said. “Maybe I’ve been out of the loop for a while. If they win a ballgame it will be a total different spin on things.”
So there you have it. The Heat are going to be physical. We know the Celtics will try to be more aggressive in Game 2. There will be hard fouls. There will probably be a few technicals. It is, after all, the playoffs and while the Celtics made their names by playing rough and tumble defense, the Heat are making their own reputation on that end of the floor. Paul Pierce will not be suspended for Game 2 after his ejection, which featured a face-shove with Jones, and everyone will all move on.
Beyond that storyline, there are adjustments and tweaks to be made. The Heat were generally pleased with how they performed in their 99-90 Game 1 victory, but also felt like they had a lot to clean up. Spoelstra is still very concerned about Rajon Rondo who was held to just seven points and seven assists, but acknowledged that a good deal of that was the foul trouble that sent Rondo to the bench in the second quarter.
“I’m not overstating it,” Spoelstra said..”When he was in more of a rhythm in the second half he made a big impact. He’ll break you down, he’ll find a way. When it gets broken down all rules are thrown out the window and you have to do something with an effort – a deflection, a rotation, to transcend all of that.”
After the game Rondo noted that he had his shot blocked several times from the weakside as he drove to the basket.
“LeBron and [Joel] Anthony came and blocked my shots. I got a lot of my shots blocked tonight,” Rondo said. “Give them credit. On the fast break they did a good job pursuing the ball.”
Rondo was disappointed with his play and not just because of the foul trouble, citing turnovers and missed opportunities. He remains the biggest key to the series, but here are a few other items of concern for Miami.
FLOOR SPACING: How did James Jones get so open for his 3-pointers? First, the Heat took advantage of matchups and got him on the move. Second, he found the right areas that were clear to set up and third, his teammates got him the ball.
“They do a tremendous job of protecting the paint so when our attackers put the ball on the floor there’s usually at least two help defenders putting their bodies in front of drivers,” Spoelstra said. “So J.J. was able to get in open areas. Spacing is going to be critical for our offense. Executing our second and third options will be paramount because both teams defend the first trigger very well.”
The Celtics overload the ball with defenders and put pressure on the ballhandler to make snap decisions. Some teams try to beat the defense by passing to the weakside, which is the vulnerable area on the court. The Heat made a concerted effort to drive and attack the defense at its strongest point. Not many teams can do that, but Miami has the talent.
Once Miami goes into its rotations, pay close attention to how the Celtics counter. They were left with some strange combinations like Kevin Garnett chasing Jones. Spoelstra cited the play of Mike Miller, who was on the floor when Miami made a big run in the second quarter and added size on the wing. “They were short minutes but they were productive minutes,” Spoelstra said.
DEFENDING RAY ALLEN: Wade was the biggest offensive star on the court with 38 points, but Ray Allen had a big night as well with 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 5-for-8 on his 3-pointers.
“My job is to chase Ray Allen around, hoping he gets tired one day and misses a shot,” Wade said.
In response to a particularly difficult 3 that Allen made, Wade said, “Only Ray Allen can make that shot. Nobody else. I looked at the film and realized I made three mistakes and every one resulted in a 3. That’s why he is who he is and why he’s great.”
CHRIS BOSH LOOKS TO GET GOING: On the one hand, Bosh scored just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. On the other, Kevin Garnett scored six points on 3-for-9 shooting. You can call it a wash, but that’s a matchup the Celtics need to win if they’re going to take Game 2. Bosh said the key was keeping his emotions in check.
“I’ve been in so many situations where I let my emotions get the best of me and I let that anxiety get the best of me,” he said. “I’m at a point where I just relax no matter what the situation is and just play the game.”