|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 »
|Doc Rivers on Rajon Rondo: ‘Phenomenal … tough for him to play that way and not win the game’||at 1:55 am ET|
It was almost as painful as the bulging disk in his back that caused him to wince at the opening of his press conference. Doc RIvers took to the podium after his Celtics lost a heart-breaker in overtime to try and put perspective on his point guard’s record-setting night.
Rajon Rondo became the first player in the long, illustrious history of the Celtics to score at least 40 points and dish out at least 10 assists in a playoff game but his mood and the mood of the team was tempered after a 115-111 loss to the Heat Wednesday night that put the Celtics in a 2-0 hole in the Eastern Conference finals. Rondo finished with 44 points, 10 assists and was just two rebounds shy of his fourth triple-double of this playoff season.
“He was absolutely phenomenal,” Rivers said. “He put the whole team — at times — on his shoulders. It’s tough for him to play that way and not win the game, honestly, because he did basically everything right. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game.”
“It’s kind of irrelevant,” Rondo said. “We lost. It’s as simple as that.”
Rondo had three steals and just three turnovers, remarkable considering the point guard played all 53 minutes of the epic playoff contest. He became just the eighth player in NBA history to play all 53 minutes of a playoff game. But Rondo maintained that he was not tired in the late stages of the game.
“I felt fine,” Rondo said. “It was a mental grind for me, individually, and for us as a team. Kevin played extra minutes, we all did. There’s no turning back. It’s the conference finals so I wanted to play every minute. I thought I didn’t hurt my team by me playing every minute so I wanted to go out there and continue to do the best for my team.”
“It just happened during the game,” Rivers said of Rondo’s minutes. “You just read it. I don’t start the game saying I’m going to play Rondo the whole game. I just kind of read the situation. He was playing at a pretty good pace so we just rode him.”
Rondo said the Celtics are confident that the home crowd can help them get back in the series. The Celtics enter Friday’s Game 3 with a 6-1 home mark at TD Garden in these playoffs and have lost just twice in their last 21 home games dating back to Feb. 13.
“We have the next two at home,” Rondo said. “We had two tough losses on the road but it’s a seven-game series. We’re playing very well at home as of late. We’re looking forward to it.”
Doc Rivers attempted to hide his frustration with the discrepancy in the fouls Wednesday night as the Celtics fell 115-111 in overtime to the Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Celtics were whistled for 33 fouls while the Heat were called for just 18 in 53 minutes of action.
“It is what it is,” Rivers said. “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. It’s just tough. We have to just keep playing. I tell our guys, ‘It doesn’t matter. We can’t get distracted.’ We will not get distracted in this series. I guarantee you, right now, they’re distracted, our team in the locker room but we have to get out of us and move on. Whatever happened, happened. We just have to move on and play the next game.”
Two key plays will stand out to Celtics fans who feel they were robbed of the chance to win Game 2. Pierce was called for his sixth and final foul with 1:05 when Dwyane Wade drove to the basket and turned his back into Pierce. Then, with the game tied, 105-105, and 1:35 left in overtime, replays show Rondo was raked across the face on a drive to the basket by Wade. There was no call as the Heat scored the next seven points to put the game on ice.
“It was obvious, but I really can’t comment about that play in particular. It’s part of the game. That was a big swing for us. I think we had the momentum. There was a lot of controversy out there, and it just didn’t go our way,” Rondo said afterward at the podium next to Ray Allen, who added, “We all thought he got hit, I’ll say it.”
Rivers joked with a reporter who was asking him to comment on the “50-50″ calls that seem to all go against the Celtics in Game 2.
“Can you call it something other than 50-50 calls? Can you come up with another percentage for me?” Rivers said with a smile. “We’re not going to blame [the officials]. We have to play better and we will.”
|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.
|Irish Coffee: Marquis Daniels to the Celtics’ rescue?||at 11:24 am ET|
The Celtics ran into this same question last season, and surely will have to answer it next year and the year after that: Who gives Paul Pierce a break defending LeBron James?
James played 44 minutes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Pierce was on the floor for 40 of them. While chasing the NBA MVP around as he took 30 percent of Miami’s 72 field goal attempts and scored 32 of the Heat’s 93 points, the Celtics captain had little left in the tank on the offensive end.
Pierce finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 field goals and failed to get to the free throw line, where he’s made his bones on a bum knee during this playoff run. It was only the third time in his career he didn’t attempt a foul shot in a playoff game, and two of those have come since he sprained the MCL in his left knee.
Jeff Green was supposed to be the guy who could spare Pierce for even a handful of minutes, and he actually did a fairly good job against James in the 2011 playoffs, but that hope ended in heart surgery and a lost season. Then, Mickael Pietrus showed potential as that guy, but he’s had to assume the backup duties to Ray Allen on Dwyane Wade in Avery Bradley‘s absence, and that problem is only becoming more complicated.
That leaves Celtics coach Doc Rivers with Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels as his last two options.
|Game 2: Rondo, Rondo, Rondo||05.29.12 at 7:45 pm ET|
MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.
Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.
That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.
Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.
“You can’t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”
Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.
“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”
True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it. Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Hating the Heat easier than beating Miami||at 1:42 pm ET|
Listen, I’m a Bostonian. I learned the game of basketball watching Larry Bird and listening to my father’s stories of Red Auerbach‘s Celtics of old. Cleaning out some old stuff from my parents house over the weekend, I found a Reggie Lewis collage from 20 years ago. Do I see the NBA through green-colored glasses at times? Probably.
Then again, I’m one of the guys who a couple months ago had the Celtics as a seventh seed losing in the first round, so I like to think I can take a step back and look at games and series and seasons rationally.
Not when it comes to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Co. Plain and simple: I can’t stand the Heat. Rooting for Miami is like pulling for South Bend Central against Hickory at the end of Hoosiers.
It starts with James, and not just because of the ridiculous Decision, declaring himself a champion — not once, not twice — before building one as a team, although that’s part of it. That was one epic failure of a public relations move made by a team of people he pays to make those kinds of judgment calls for him.
It’s that he’s the best basketball player in the world, yet completely unlikable. As a friend of mine said, he’s the A-Rod of basketball. You wouldn’t even want to have a beer with him, much less want your kid aspiring to be him.