|Heat pregame notes: Mike Miller active, Udonis Haslem out||05.01.11 at 3:10 pm ET|
MIAMI — Not a single Heat player spoke to the media before the game. More accurately, not a single Heat player was in the locker room during the media availability portion of the proceedings.
Erik Spoelstra, however, did meet with the media, and cleaned up some questions regarding player availability for Game 1. Udonis Haslem — out since November (foot surgery) — is inactive.
“We’ve been pushing his workouts a little bit more, but he’s not there yet,” said Spoelstra.
Mike Miller — who missed the last three games of the first-round series win over the 76ers with a left thumb injury — is active today.
“I had every eyeball in the gym watching him all week long, and I told him that,” said Spoelstra of Miller, who played just 41 games in the regular season. “He’s able to play. How much will depend on the game, but he’s been a true professional about it.”
Dwyane Wade was dramatically outplayed by Ray Allen this season in the four Miami-Boston contests, as Wade averaged just 12.8 points on 28.1 percent shooting vs. Allen’s 20.3 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting.
“We need Dwyane to be effective, we need him to score,” said Spoelstra. “More so than any other player I’ve ever been around, he can figure defenses out. … So now he’s had more time to see how Boston has played him. The first two games, not an excuse, you have to give Boston credit for defense, but he was just coming back. He’ll be able to figure it out and strike the balance of being aggressive at some points for us, but also showing the poise that he showed last game.”
|Celtics will pay close attention to Chris Bosh||04.29.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
The Celtics know all about LeBron James and they have dealt with Dwyane Wade in the playoffs before, but they will also be paying close attention to Chris Bosh in their conference semifinal series and for good reason.
“When Bosh plays really well they blow teams out,” Kevin Garnett said. “It’s not even close.”
Bosh averaged almost 20 points and nine rebounds in Miami’s first round series against Philadelphia. He had monster performances in the first two games of the series and then came up big in the close-out game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. In the one game Miami lost he was held to just 12 points and five rebounds.
“LeBron and Wade are going to be LeBron and Wade,” Doc Rivers said. “They were great before the series, they’ll be great during it and they’ll be great after it and this summer when you’re talking about it you’ll say LeBron and Wade are great players. That’s not going to chance. But when Bosh plays great, then their team plays great. He’s a key guy for them.”
What makes Bosh so tough is he can score inside as well as on the perimeter. In his first season with Miami his attempts inside of 10 feet decreased by more than three per game, but he shot over 45 percent from 16-23 feet. Getting him more involved has been a persistent theme for Miami this season.
“He stretches the floor,” Rivers said. “They’ve done a better job in the second half of the year involving him more. He’s part of their offense more. When you look at the Philly series when he plays well in those games they won and when he struggled they didn’t win. He’s just a tough guy to guard. He does have the ability to go out to the 3-point line.”
“I consider him like a European player almost because he’s so big and he can shoot, dribble and things like that,” Glen Davis said. “You just have to be physical with him and make sure he doesn’t have it easy. Make sure everything is tough for him. Make him earn every shot. Make him earn every layup and things like that.”
Garnett and Davis will draw the primary defensive assignment, which Garnett likened somewhat to playing Amar’e Stoudemire.
“For Baby and myself and all the guys who played Stoudemire, New York was actually a good series, sort of warmed us up,” Garnett said. “Two totally different guys. Bosh is a little more perimeter than Stoudemire. But again he can score in different ways and they get the ball to him, so we got our work cut out for us.”
Rivers said he was more confident on Friday that Shaquille O’Neal would be able to play in the series. “I don’t know when,” he said. “Maybe [Game 1]. Maybe two. But I do think he’ll play. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte is] more confident that he’ll play, so that makes me more confident.
If he does play, Rivers said that he would come off the bench. “When he walks on the floor he’s 7-feet tall and he weighs what he weigh,” Rivers said. “Of all our players he probably has the easiest task of being who they are, because that’s all he can be.”
Rajon Rondo had little to say when he talked to the press before practice, but he did say that whatever defensive gameplan the Heat come up for with him, he’s probably seen it before. “I don’t know, everybody plays differently,” he said. “We’ll see Game 1.”
As for the difference between Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby, Rondo said, Chalmers is going to put pressure on you, make you turn your back, play the passing lanes. Bibby’s more solid.”
Whoever winds up drawing the assignment, the Celtics just want Rondo to continue playing fast. “Just need Shorty to be aggressive,” Garnett said. “Rondo’s a pain when he’s aggressive. When he’s stacking the stat line he’s a problem to deal with and we’re a problem to deal with.”
THE PAST IS THE PAST
The Celtics won three games against Miami, but were blown out in the final meeting. Each game made for great copy, but they say it means little now. “Not with us,” Garnett said. “The playoffs is a new season, new situation, new scenarios so everything we’ve done up to this point is just history.
|Celtics and Heat offer interesting matchups||04.28.11 at 1:40 pm ET|
All along the Celtics and Heat figured that they would meet in the playoffs.”It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go through them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters in Miami after his team eliminated Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Celtics had a similar reaction. “We assumed when they put this team together, at some point if we want to put another banner up then we’ll probably have to go through them,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the team went through practice on Thursday.
Now that it’s upon us expect no small amount of hype to emerge. But when you break through the thicket of noise, the thing that makes this series so compelling from a basketball standpoint are the individual matchups. There are seven members of the 2011 Eastern Conference All-Star team competing in this series and six of them will be matched directly against each other:
Dwyane Wade vs. Ray Allen
LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce
Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnett
Expect the Celtics to approach their defensive assignments in a straightforward manner.
“The numbers bare out when we guard our own guys we’re pretty good and when we guard other guys we’re pretty bad, against this team in particular,” Rivers said. “They may look good on paper and they look good visually for two minutes, statistically they’ve been horrendous for us.”
Rivers was referring directly to the fullcourt defense Rajon Rondo employed against James in the Celtics 85-82 win back in February. While Rondo’s gambit stirred the Garden crowd and provided some inspirational moments, once the postgame fog of exuberance gave way to sober analysis, the matchup did more harm than good for the Celtics.
But Rondo is the wild card in this series because asking Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers to stay with him for 48 minutes may be asking too much. That could mean Wade or James switching their assignments to try to contain Rondo. “We’ll see one of those guys guarding Rondo, which means one of them aren’t guarding Ray or Paul, so we’re good with all those,” Rivers said.
One thing the Celtics want to avoid are having to rely on double-teams or switches, but that’s easier said than done against this team.
“Every time we’ve overhelped in any series, including the New York series, we tend to hurt ourselves more than just playing our solid one-on-one defense with support,” Rivers said. “They run some stuff that’s honestly difficult to not switch, but we really try to avoid the switch as much as possible.”
Beyond the starters, Delonte West and Jeff Green will be asked to provide support.
“Jeff is going to have to be a great defender,” Rivers said. “He ran into that in the New York series where by the end of the series he was terrific on Carmelo [Anthony. That’s gives us another big, athletic body." Asked if Green could help with Wade, Rivers said, "We may do it in stretches, but you’re asking for trouble in the long run."
The plan is for Shaquille O'Neal to participate in the walkthrough segment of Thursday's practice and then try to get on the floor for for the full session on Friday. The Celtics will fly to Miami on Saturday so Friday will be the last chance for O'Neal to get on the floor before Sunday's Game 1.
The Celtics know the hype will approach histrionic levels throughout the series, but they also know this is ultimately just one step in a larger process.
"It's the second round," Paul Pierce said. "It's the halfway point of where our goal is. I know there's going to be a lot of hype around it, like it's a championship series, but you've got to understand it's still just the second round. But a very big second round [series] because you’ve got two potential teams that can win it all. I’m excited. This is a great stage for basketball. It’s going to be great for fans and the guys that we have here love these type of series.”
PIERCE VS. LEBRON, III
Pierce has faced James two other times in the playoffs and the Celtics have won both series. In 2008 they beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game epic that featured brilliant Game 7 performances for both players. James scored 45 points in the 97-92 Celtics win, while Pierce went for 41 of his own. James got the better of Pierce in their individual matchup last season, but the Celtics won in six games.
Asked if it was personal for James to finally get past the Celtics, Pierce said, “Probably so at this point. When you lose to a team consecutive times in the playoffs — I mean, it would be personal for me. I’m sure he’s going to take it personal and you’ve got to expect his best.”
|Celtics-Heat schedule||04.27.11 at 9:54 pm ET|
The schedule is set for the Celtics Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Heat.
Game 1 – Sun May 1 Boston at Miami 3:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Tue May 3 Boston at Miami TBD
Game 3 – Sat May 7 Miami at Boston 8 p.m.
Game 4 – Mon May 9 Miami at Boston TBD
Game 5 * Wed May 11 Boston at Miami TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 13 Miami at Boston TBD
Game 7 * Mon May 16 Boston at Miami 8 p.m
* If necessary
|Fast Break: Celtics complete sweep of Knicks||04.24.11 at 6:16 pm ET|
NEW YORK — Bring on the Heat. It got more hectic than it should have in the fourth quarter as the Celtics almost blew a 23-point lead, but all that matters is that they survived in Game 4 of their first round playoff series and escaped with a 101-89 win over the Knicks on Sunday.
The win completed the sweep, their first since the 1992 season when they brushed off the Pacers in three games. It also allowed them at least a week worth of rest before they start their semifinal series with Miami (assuming the Heat take care of Philadelphia).
The Knicks series is over. Every game except for the third one had its anxious moments, but the Celtics did what that they had to do and made progress along the way. Here’s how they closed it out:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Rondo at his best: Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni raised eyebrows before the game when he wondered aloud how Rajon Rondo would look if he played for Minnesota, instead of on a team with three future Hall of Famers. No doubt word was relayed to Rondo about the subtle jab, but whether it bothers him or not is a different story. “He doesn’t bring it up a lot,” Doc Rivers said in response. “It probably does in some way, it would bother anyone in some way and it’s probably good for him. Keep doing it. If it’s going to make him play like this, I’m all for it.”
Whatever the case, Rondo went right at the Knicks from the outset. He went strong to the basket even when he didn’t have the numbers and made solid decisions with the ball. He also pulled up for jumpers in transition and drained team. How would Rondo do with a bad team? It doesn’t really matter because he’s the right point guard for this team.
The bench comes alive: For three games the Celtics played shorthanded. Their second unit was no unit at all, but in Game 4 that all changed. Glen Davis made four of his first five shots and put up 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. Nenad Krstic scored inside — his first made field goals of the playoffs. Delonte West brought his usual tough defense and Jeff Green was aggressive on the post and putting the ball on the floor. The Celtics had a six-point lead after the first quarter. They led by 17 at the half. Credit the bench, which will be a major part of the next rounds of the playoffs.
The second half? Not so much, but at long last the play of the second unit was a positive development.
De-fense, De-fense: In the building where the chant took on a life of its own, the Celtics clamped down defensively in an impressive, and overwhelming, performance. Carmelo Anthony started hot, making five of his first nine shots, but he was the only threat and the Celtics eventually cooled him off too. Amar’e Stoudemire was clearly not himself, missing his first eight shots. Outside of Anthony, the Knicks shot a woeful 6-for-34 in the first half. Even with him they still made just 28 percent in the first half.
And then the second half happened …
WHAT WENT WRONG
Third quarter letdown: It was bound to happen. After dominating the first half and taking that into the opening minutes of the second half, the Celtics displayed every bad habit that has marked the last two months of the regular season. They held the ball on offense, didn’t get back in transition and didn’t close out on shooters. The Knicks sliced an 18-point lead down to 10 and made the fourth quarter way more interesting than it needed to be.
Careless turnovers: These are the Celtics we’re talking about. Turnovers have been a problem forever with this team and they reared their head in the fourth quarter. Really they were a function of all the bad offensive habits the Celtics developed late in the year — holding the ball, waiting too long to get into their sets. They may be playing with an extra sense of urgency during the playoffs, but teams simply don’t become something they’re not overnight and the Celtics’ turnover problem will not go away any time soon.
NEW YORK — Follow WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery, Ben Rohrbach and Mike Petraglia as they join a cast of experts in breaking down Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round Eastern Conference matchup with the Knicks …
|Fast Break: Celtics ‘play well,’ roll the Knicks in Game 3||04.22.11 at 9:36 pm ET|
For the last three days all the Celtics have been saying is that they have to play better. Their lead on the Knicks in their first round playoff series was great, but they knew they got away with uneven performances in both games. New York had something to do with that too, especially some of their role players who played above their heads, to say nothing of the tremendous individual performances by Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
But the Celtics believed that the close games had more to do with their inconsistencies. “I just want us to play well,” Doc Rivers said prior to tip-off. “[If] we play well, we will see what happens.”
They played well in Game 3. They played perhaps their best playoff game since Game 5 in Cleveland last year when they silenced LeBron James and the Cavaliers and kickstarted their run to the NBA finals. The feeling inside Madison Square Garden was eerily reminiscent. A hopped up crowd was stunned to silence early and when the Knicks tried to make a run early in the second half, the Celtics went into kill mode.
The result was a 113-96 blowout that gave them a commanding 3-0 lead. This is what the Celtics look like when they play well.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
What’s better than a great start? What the Celtics did: The pregame chatter was all about the Knicks riding the energy of the first home playoff game in seven years to a quick start. Instead it was the Celtics who established the early pace. They led 22-5, their biggest lead of the series and got center Ronny Turiaf in early foul trouble. Coming into another team’s arena and taking the crowd out of the game has always been a point of pride for the Celtics. “If you want to bother us, tell no one to come,” Doc Rivers said an hour before tipoff. “That will freak us out.”
Paul Pierce was locked in: In another quiet Celtics locker room before the game, Paul Pierce saw a couple of players engaged in small talk with a couple of reporters. “None of that,” Pierce said quietly but forcefully. He wasn’t kidding. Pierce was in his own world, all business, and he played like it, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. He took over at various times and seemed to make every big shot whenever the Knicks threatened to make a run. Ray Allen was phenomenal. Rajon Rondo had a triple double and 20 assists , but this was Pierce’s game.
The Celtics owned the 3-point line: Late in the season, the Celtics game from behind the arc went missing. It looks like they found it. Allen knocked down 8 of 11 and now has made an incredible 15-for-20 in the series. Pierce added six more and the Celtics made 14 3′s, which was a season high. They obviously won’t shoot this well again, but their success from behind the arc is a good sign for a team that has been fighting to recapture its offensive identity.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The bench was better, but still ineffective as a group: First, the bad news. The Celtics big first quarter lead evaporated as soon as Rivers went to his bench. Like clockwork it seems these days. But there was a glimmer when the second unit was able to keep the lead at five points. Not great, but it was something. There was some honest to goodness good stuff too. Jeff Green finally provided some offensive punch scoring seven first half points. But the backups have to start playing better soon.
Too many turnovers: This is nitpicking considering how well the Celtics played, but they once again turned the ball over too much. Considering the score and the way they cleaned up their work on the defensive glass, it’s perhaps asking too much for them to play a perfect game, but the turnover problem has been an issue.