|Doc Rivers on his Celtics: ‘Honestly, they believe they can win’||06.06.12 at 2:08 am ET|
After winning three straight games to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole to the heavily-favored Miami Heat, the Celtics are on the verge of one of the most improbable trips to the NBA finals, even by their most-lofty franchise standards. Doc Rivers said after Tuesday’s 94-90 win in Game 5 in Miami that the reason the Celtics never give up on a game in hostile territory is because of the makeup of his veteran locker room.
“It’s just a good team, a close-knit team,” Rivers answered when questioned about his players’ supreme confidence. “They talk that way. We have a lot of positive talk in our locker room, a lot. And it fuels from them. And honestly, they believe they can win. And we just have to keep hanging in there.”
One reason the Celtics believe they can win is history. In the Big Three era — beginning in 2008 — the Celtics are now 9-0 in Game 5 contests in which the series was tied, 2-2. On Tuesday, they didn’t crumble when they fell behind by 13 in the first half and were shooting just 33 percent at halftime.
After watching his team hold on, Rivers said he reminded his team after the emotional win not to lose focus on the task at hand, namely closing out the supremely talented LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat in Boston Thursday and not give them the chance to return the Eastern Conference finals to Miami on Saturday.
“I told them, ‘We’ve done nothing.’ We’re playing a heck of a basketball team. And so, just because we’re going to Boston, I told them, ‘We have to play. They’re not going to give it to us. We have to go get it,’ ” Rivers said.
Rivers is also known as one of the most inspirational coaches in the NBA. He had to go deep into that well Tuesday night as his team fell behind 31-18 in Game 5 to the Heat. Miami was hitting most of its open shots while the Celtics started off 4-of-17.
“We’re just hanging in there,” Rivers said after the 94-90 win that put the Celtics one win from the NBA finals. “They jumped up on us at the beginning of the game. We just told our guys, ‘Hang in there, just hang in there. Don’t overreact. Hang in there. The longer we’re in the game, the better we’ll play.’ It was really nice.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Mickael Pietrus: ‘I had to take a shot and make it’||at 1:48 am ET|
Mickael Pietrus hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter Tuesday night as the Celtics held off the Heat, 94-90, in Game 5 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Pietrus hit 5-of-8 shots from the floor and finished with 13 points off the bench as the Celtics moved to the brink of the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons by taking a 3-2 series lead over the heavily favored Heat.
Pietrus said he received a special source of inspiration on Monday via text message from former Celtic and current TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal.
“I got a text from Shaq, he was telling me keep believing and keep playing, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.
Pietrus hit a huge 3-pointer to cap a wild flurry midway through the fourth as the Celtics and Heat were battling for control of the game. With the Heat on a 9-0 run to go up 78-72, Brandon Bass had his dunk blocked by Dwyane Wade, but the loose ball went out to Rajon Rondo, who touched it immediately to a wide-open Pietrus on the right baseline. Pietrus drilled it to cut the Heat lead to three and help spark Boston’s comeback.
“When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take a shot and make it, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.
“The one thing you know about Pietrus is he’s going to shoot it. He’s been down this road before,” Doc Rivers said, giving credit to Rondo for touch-passing to Pietrus on the wing.
With 2:11 left and Miami back in the lead at 83-82 on a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer, Pietrus stepped up and did it again, nailing another trey on a pass from Pierce. The triple put Boston up 85-83 and again quieted the crowd, which was anticipating a Heat run to close out the game as in Game 2.
“I’m very happy with the way we’ve been playing defensively and I think it’s up to us to go home and close it out,” Pietrus said.
|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.
|The Chris Bosh effect||06.04.12 at 7:23 pm ET|
MIAMI — Kevin Garnett is a problem. During the 152 minutes he’s been on the court in the Eastern Conference finals he’s scored 82 points and grabbed 43 points. To put it in simpler terms: He’s getting 20 and 10 every night and there hasn’t been a whole lot the Heat can do about it.
They’ve tried Ronny Turiaf, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem and even LeBron James with varying degrees of success, which is to say, not that much. (Anthony has the best defensive numbers, but his start in Game 4 didn’t stop the Celtics from hanging 61 points on Miami in the first half.) No matter who the Heat throw at Garnett, they can’t counter the stark reality that he is taller, more athletic and more skilled than anyone they have to guard him.
There’s another issue here and that is that none of those three have much to offer in the way of offensive ability. Haslem can step out and make mid-range jump shots, but most of those tend to come off defensive breakdowns. It’s not like the Celtics wants him taking uncontested 15-footers, but it’s also not as if Miami is running a lot of action to get him those jumpers.
Without a scoring threat to defend, Garnett is thus free to roam the paint and cause havoc. When Garnett is in there to protect the paint, the Heat are shooting 62 percent at the rim. When he’s not they’ve made a shocking 22-of-23 shots at the rim. (That’s 96 percent, by the way. Ninety-six percent!) A KG with no one to check on the defensive end is a dangerous KG and the key to the Celtics’ halfcourt schemes.
The Celtics’ two wins in Boston have made this a three-game battle of attrition and all the lineup shuffling in the world can’t hide the fact that the C’s have two huge matchups advantages with Garnett and Rajon Rondo serving as the other. The Heat can’t do anything about Rondo besides throwing out numerous defenses and combinations that he seems to solve like he’s working over a Rubik’s Cube.
This is where Chris Bosh enters the picture. He’s been out since Game 1 of the Pacer series with an abdominal strain – the same kind of injury that kept Garnett out of the lineup for nine games in 2008 – and in that time the Heat did quite well, winning five straight games to close out the Pacers and the first two of this series. It seems clear that if Miami had its way, it would keep Bosh under wraps until the finals.
There’s no telling how much Bosh will be able to give the Heat, but just by stepping on the court he offers an offensive weapon that has to be guarded and there’s really no one on the Celtics’ roster who can check him besides Garnett. He’s too big for Brandon Bass and too skilled for Greg Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins.
Just having Bosh on the floor changes the equation dramatically for Garnett and the Celtics. Their defensive gameplan in this series has been predicated on doubling Dwyane Wade and James whenever possible – mostly Wade – with Garnett either serving as the first line of defense or the last line against everything else that happens.
“We’ve prepared every game like Bosh is going to play,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Eventually he will, and maybe tomorrow.”
If Bosh is able to play in Game 5 – and if he’s able to be effective — the series takes on a completely new outlook. The small lineup that has proven so effective will have to be augmented. Garnett will have an important defensive responsibility and possibly Bosh will be able to slow down KG’s offensive game. That’s a lot to ask of a player coming from back an injury, but Garnett and the Celtics have forced the issue.
There was yet another defining moment of the series in the second half when LeBron James drove to the basket and was hit hard by Kevin Garnett. The two locked each other up momentarily as James pushed off of Garnett.
No foul was called in rare moment in the series where two players were allowed to go at each other in the heat of battle.
“[We were] two teams just throwing punches, really, to be honest,” Garnett said after Boston’s 93-91 Game 4 win in overtime. “I thought when we were up, we were aggressive. Obviously they were going to make a run. They got a lot of free-throws in that run, a lot of lay-ups in that run and they were able to get some transition.”
The Heat made their big run in the third quarter to make it a game as the Celtics fell into big foul trouble. With 3:35 left in the third, Rajon Rondo picked up his fourth foul. Just 13 seconds later, Paul Pierce joined him on the bench with four personals. It was up to Garnett to lead the group on the floor and right the ship as the Heat closed the quarter with a 7-1 run that cut the Boston lead down to 73-68 entering the fourth.
“Once we got that under control, I felt like we got back aggressive,” Garnett said. “The play-calling was all over the place as far as the refs and I thought both teams played through it. Then, when we had to, we got stops.”
The biggest challenge for stars like Garnett, Rondo, Pierce and James is to know what kind of contact is going to be whistled and what isn’t during a game, something that could decide the season for both teams.
“It is but you have to put the refs in a position to make some calls,” Garnett added. “[Doc Rivers] stressed us to stay aggressive. At times it is difficult but it can’t decipher on your aggression and how aggressive you are especially during a run. Defensively, you want to be in sync but you can’t let them decipher how you are. I thought we kept our composure pretty well and finished the game off.”
Garnett essentially admitted that the Celtics were lucky to survive Sunday night when Pierce fouled out just 38 seconds into OT. The Celtics scored just four points. They held Miami to two in the five-minute period.
“It changes when Paul goes out,” Garnett said. “The scorers, Rajon, myself, [Ray Allen] and everybody has to pick up the load a little bit as far as being more offensive-minded. Like I’ve always said, we are a defensive team that can score the basketball. When Paul goes out, Rajon knows to be a lot more aggressive. Ray knows to be a lot more aggressive. We encourage [Mickael Pietrus to score]. I think Quis [Marquis Daniels] was in there in the latter part of the game. (We) just stay aggressive. As long as we are making stops, we can turn it over into some easy offense and we’re a hard team to beat at times.”
|Maine reporter thinks Celtics, Heat tied Game 4||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.
|Paul Pierce has the last laugh on LeBron James||at 4:47 am ET|
Cameras caught Paul Pierce breaking into a wide smile with 1:51 left in overtime as LeBron James was called for his sixth and final foul, getting disqualified for just the fourth time in his career, and the first time since April 2008.
It was also the first time in James’ career that he fouled out in the playoffs. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, fouled out for the third time in his last five playoff games dating back to Game 7 against Philadelphia. Pierce was called for his sixth just 38 seconds into overtime when he was called for running over Shane Battier on a cut across the lane.
“Oh, it was very frustrating,” Pierce said. “But it’s gratifying when you see the other star player fouling out, also.”
Pierce later added, “It was a cut, scratch, grab, hold, elbow-type of game. I mean nobody was going to give an edge. I’d say it’s a classic. You rarely see that, you rarely see that. You rarely see that when you’ve got two star players fouling out.
“This is probably going to be an instant classic-type of game,” said Pierce, who is now headed to Miami with the Eastern Conference finals tied, 2-2. “We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy, a good old classic bar fight.
“Words can’t even describe the type of game it is,” Pierce said. “I mean it’s a funny game, the way the ball bounces, the way things go. I mean, started out way up the big lead, to come back, and I was sitting there on the sideline in overtime, I was like, this is probably going to be an instant classic type of game. It was just like one team gets momentum and the other team just grabs it. I’m just glad we were on the winning side today.”
Pierce laughed when asked where he thinks the series stands. He laughed because he’s very aware of the opportunity that lies ahead, starting with Game 5 in Miami.
“It’s even,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to win a game in Miami, of course. We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a good old classic bar fight. Going in to it, you [had] to expect every game to be like this. Coming down to the wire, both teams trying to find an edge. This was a great game today.
“We’ve won two in a row,” Pierce added. “We feel like we let Game 2 slip away. So, we fee like were playing a good momentum. But we’ve got to start playing for 48 minutes. We haven’t put together a 48 minute game yet. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have gotten to 100 points tonight after scoring 61 in the first half so were hoping we can put together a full game when we get down to Miami.”