|Thanks to T.A., C’s where they want to be||05.14.10 at 1:06 pm ET|
One man’s misfortune often is another’s opportunity. Such was the case for Tony Allen in the recent series against the NBA’s MVP and the team with the best record in the NBA this regular season.
With Paul Pierce once again saddled with two fouls early in Game 6, it was up to Allen to step up and help on LeBron James.
And help he did, as he held James to single figures in the first quarter and applied pressure throughout the second half in key spurts. The superstar wound up with a triple-double but he hardly was able to dictate the pace and tempo of the game with his trademark rocket cross-court passes as the Celtics prevailed, 94-85, to advance to Sunday’s opener of the Eastern Conference finals in Orlando.
“That’s my role on this team,” Allen said. “I’ve got to be aggressive, just as aggressive as he is. For the most part I took that challenge. He still had a great night offensively all around. My whole thing is just to contain him, and listen to my bigs in transition.”
Whether it’s Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins or Rasheed Wallace shouting out, Allen proved he can be all ears and arms on the court.
As the Cavaliers were in the midst of a big run, cutting the lead to four on back-to-back 3′s by James, Allen recalled a key turning point.
“I remember while being in the game, I just missed getting to [LeBron] and then got encouraged from my bigs – I didn’t hear them and they cut into the lead. For the most part we stuck together, we grinded it out. We were able to get back to the lead up.”
From that point on, the Celtics re-established their double-digit lead.
Paul Pierce had a couple of huge baskets including a 3-pointer and felt like he had more energy toward the end of the game, thanks in part to T.A.
“It wasn’t really that grueling for me because I was in foul trouble, Pierce said. “I think it was more grueling for Ray and Tony because he’s a special talent, obviously he’s the best player in the NBA, tough to guard one-on-one, but you have to give a lot of credit to the other guys. He did his job, got me in foul trouble, but I’m a lot fresher in this series because of the foul trouble than I was when I played against him two years ago when he just completely wore me down.
“But those other guys, they played their hearts out on defense, it wasn’t just me, it was Ray [Allen], Tony, Kevin, Rasheed, Baby [Glen Davis], it was a number of guys. There is no person that can guard the guy so lets just leave it at that, it was nothing that one person did, it was a collective group, it was a team defense that was surrounded around stopping him.”
Ultimately, the Cavs learned that a team of reserves like Tony Allen can help shut down a team led by the two-time reigning MVP.
“Most definitely, at the end of the day everybody has their role,” Allen said. “Like Doc said before the game, ‘Do your role, do your role 100 percent.’ Everybody took that challenge, and we were fortunate enough to get that win.
“It was big, but I think guys came in focused. They meant what they said, they didn’t want to go back to Cleveland. At the end of the day we prepared for this, and we were where we wanted to be.”
|No Magic lessons in last year||05.13.10 at 8:43 pm ET|
Last year, the Celtics were in the same round with the same advantage.
They were up, 3-2, having two chances to get one win and advance to the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics blew a double-digit lead in Game 6 before getting blown out in the second half of Game 7 at home against Orlando.
Fast forward 12 months, and these Celtics entered Game 6 Thursday with a 3-2 series lead and a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a win over LeBron and the Cavaliers. Any lesson to be learned?
“No, different team,” Rivers answered before Thursday’s contest. “We’re playing a different team. Orlando outplayed us so all we learned there is you have to play better. You have to try to seize the moment when you have the home court but at the end of the day, you have to perform.
“If Cleveland comes out and makes more shots and does their game plan better than ours, we won’t win. If we do ours, we’ll win. Last year won’t help you.”
And Rivers was totally in agreement with Kevin Garnett’s sentiments following the Game 5 blowout win in Cleveland. The Celtics want no part of Game 7 in Cleveland and look at Game 6 as a must win.
“We are, we are,” Rivers said. “We’ve won in Cleveland twice. We don’t want to press our luck. We have to view it the same way they are. It’s a big game for both teams.”
Rivers – an Orlando resident – knows the Magic await the winner and responded with humor when asked what he thought Orlando was thinking watching this series.
“Orlando is a terrific city and so, yes, it’s warm, it’s 80 degrees most likely,” Rivers said tongue-in-cheek. “They’re having a ball. They love it.”
Then he took a more serious approach, pointing out the Magic have earned their rest this round after sweeping through eight playoff games so far.
“They want it to go eight, if it can,” Rivers said of Orlando’s preference in watching the Celtics and Cavs. “There’s no doubt about it. If we were in the position they are in, they would want the same thing. They’ve earned it. They did it quick. They’ve only played eight games when you think about it. That’s pretty remarkable.”
|Ainge on The Big Show: Both teams ‘desperate’||at 7:48 pm ET|
Celtics president Danny Ainge joined The Big Show Thursday evening to talk about Boston’s success against Cleveland and the importance of closing out the series in Game 6 at TD Garden.
“Both teams are very desperate to win this game tonight, for obvious reasons,” Ainge said. “I think that’s why it will be a good game.”
Ainge also touched on the amount of criticism LeBron James received after the Cavaliers’ lopsided loss in Game 5.
Below is a transcript. Visit The Big Show audio on demand page to hear the interview.
It’s been a bizarre series, do you have any idea what to expect tonight?
I have no idea. I would be shocked if it was going to be any sort of blowout like we’ve had in a couple of games in the series. I expect both teams to be ready, they know what they’re doing, they kind of know the strengths and weaknesses, and I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a close game.
Kevin Garnett spoke about the sense of urgency after the last game about treating this is as a Game 7 and not as a Game 6. Do you like that approach?
Yeah, I think so. Both teams are very desperate to win this game tonight, for obvious reasons. I think that’s why it will be a good game.
You guys have really played great defense from the initial point of attack.
I think the identity of this team is defense. I think we’ve gotten back to that in the playoffs. We’ve had a few bad spells, we let our guard down in Game 3 of course, but overall our defense has really stepped up, improved, and I think the effort each possession is better than the regular season. Read the rest of this entry »
|Celts ready for the unexpected||at 7:31 pm ET|
The talk this morning was of the Cleveland Cavaliers possibly making some kind of a lineup switch for Game 6. Cavs coach Mike Brown has been searching for the right combination of players since the series started and it’s fair to say after five games that he still has not settled on a set rotation.
Brown has already strayed from the early-series script by playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of J.J. Hickson in Game 5 and Daniel Gibson, who hasn’t played at all.
“When Gibson came in, when Ilgauskus came in, everyone’s antenna did go up a little bit because we knew what those guys do,” Ray Allen said before Game 6. “Those guys are good offensive players so everyone was on alert. For us, we know each other. [It's] not as much of a surprise as it is when you see a guy go in, you adjust.”
The Celtics rolled with the adjustments just fine in Game 5 and part of that is that they are so set in their ways. The other part of that is preparation.
“We have to prepare for everything; big lineup, small lineup,” Doc Rivers said. “Fortunately or unfortunately for them, they have the ability to do a lot of different things because of their personnel. We can’t. We are who we are and we’re not going to change, and in some ways that makes it easier.”
Still, Rivers doesn’t think that the Cavs will change all that drastically in Game 6.
“They’re a solid basketball team,” he said. “They’re not going to change a lot. We wouldn’t be shocked to see Varejao maybe in the starting lineup or them going with size early. But they didn’t get this record by doing a lot of changing.”
|Lineup changes coming for Cavs?||at 2:04 pm ET|
Reports out of the Cavaliers shootaround this morning indicate that Mike Brown is considering lineup changes for Game 6 tonight at the Garden. Plain Dealer beat writer Brian Windhorst noted that Brown is unlikely to change his starting five, but he brings up the one radical move that Brown has left: playing LeBron James at point guard.
The Cavs lineup would look like this: James at the point, Anthony Parker at off-guard and Antawn Jamison at small forward. The big men would be some cobination of J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao and Shaquille O’Neal, but probably the former to try to speed up play.
That would do a number of things: First, It would take Jamison away from Kevin Garnett where he is getting worked in the post and it would also remove Mo Williams out of the equation where he is getting worked against everyone. It would also set up James to match up directly with Rajon Rondo.
Brown tried a number of personnel adjustments in Game 5 including playing Zydrunas Ilgauskus ahead of Hickson, and calling on Daniel Gibson who hasn’t been in his rotation since March. Ilgauskus actually played well, but the moves had a feel of desperation about them.
This might be a desperate move, but it’s not necessarily a panic move. Taking Williams out of the lineup is addition by subtraction at this point and James has been successful guarding Rondo in small doses.
On the other hand, it could also open up Paul Pierce. The Celtics are going to keep pounding the ball to Garnett on the post regardless of who’s guarding him and there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t keep attacking Jamison in whatever matchup he finds himself.
The Celtics have been able to come up with effective counters for whatever the Cavs have thrown at them and it would be surprising if they haven’t planned for this scenario as well.
|Is this the end of the LeBron era in Cleveland?||05.12.10 at 11:58 am ET|
Last Friday, in the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ dominant 124-95 win over the Celtics at TD Garden in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, everyone was ready to call the series over. LeBron James was back, putting behind any notions of a elbow troubles by coming through with an unstoppable performance, tallying 38 points, eight boards and seven assists in the blowout.
But that was then, and this is now. Now being the day after James submitted an astonishing 3-14 effort and finished with just 15 points in a 120-88 Game 5 loss to the Celtics. Just when it looked like James and the Cavs were going to take control of the series, the Celtics bounced back to win two straight, and now have the chance to take the series in Game 6 at the Garden Thursday.
By no means are the Cavaliers done, particularly the way the Celtics have played at home this season. But there was an air of finality on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, as only a handful of people were left in the seats to watch what might have been LeBron James’ last game on that court as part of the home team.
The question has loomed large in Cleveland (and New York) all season, and with the Cavs one game away from having their season come to an abrupt finish fans are getting antsy. Depending on whether or not you want to believe James’ “official biographer,” he is all but gone from Cleveland, whether the Cavs can rebound and end up winning the title or not. And with offers like this, how could you blame him?
While LeBron’s destination for the 2010-11 season isn’t a certainty, there was no denying that he struggled mightily on Tuesday night. And the King is catching a lot of flack for his performance, with much of the blame being placed squarely on his shoulders despite the struggles the rest of his team had both offensively and particularly defensively in Game 5. Much of the discussion has centered on the fact that the Cavs have looked like a team without much of an identity, particularly when compared to the Celtics. For all the hoopla over Boston’s regular season troubles, it is the Celtics who have found the rhythm in this series (minus that Game 3, where it seemed they barely showed up) and the Cavs who have looked lost.
There is at least some sentiment that that could be caused by chemistry issues. For all the talk of Cleveland’s abundance of talent, Mike Brown has had trouble juggling it in this series. That was on display Tuesday night when he gave Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had barely played at all in this series, an extended run and even put a cold Daniel Gibson in during the third quarter when he felt the game slipping away. There is some suggestion that maybe a new coach could keep LeBron in his home state. Despite what Brown has done to help mold this Cleveland into a contender, you can bet that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert will do whatever it takes to keep James from leaving. But it is not like the blame that has been placed on LeBron himself has not been warranted. Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s beat writer for the Cavs, wrote that he has seen chemistry problems develop as James has acted increasingly “disengaged” in this playoff series.
So you have every right to be afraid, Cleveland fans. If the Celtics win on Thursday, the Cavs could lose a lot more than just this series.
|Why Spike Lee is rooting for the Celtics||05.11.10 at 12:09 pm ET|
Diehard New York fan Spike Lee is throwing his support to the Celtics — but not without his own motivations.
As Lee explained to ESPNNewYork.com, he has the Knicks’ best interest in mind when he roots for the C’s. He hopes that an Eastern Conference semifinals loss for the Cavaliers could sway James to leave Cleveland during free agency this summer.
“We need LeBron,” Lee said. “I feel we have a better chance to get LeBron James if Cleveland loses this series to the Celtics. The quicker Cleveland loses, the better our chances are of getting LeBron.”
In spite of his allegiance to the Knicks, Lee actually has a few ties to the Celtics. He directed Ray Allen in “He Got Game” and recently spoke with Rajon Rondo at an event for “Just Wright,” a movie in which Rondo has a cameo.
While Lee told ESPN he does not think the Cavs have an answer for Rondo, he strongly re-emphasized the true reason behind his unexpected support for the C’s.
“I’m not putting on any green and I’m not going to kiss the Blarney Stone or do the shamrock thing,” he said. “I hate the Red Sox as much as I hate the Celtics and the ghost of Johnny Most and all those guys. This is the first and last time I root for Boston on anything, but for this one possible result it’s worth it.”