|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.
|Game 1 pregame: Ray Allen remains in the starting lineup||05.28.12 at 12:44 pm ET|
MIAMI — The Celtics honestly don’t know what to expect from Ray Allen on a game-by-game basis, but they’re not ready to make a change. Asked if he considered starting Mickael Pietrus ahead of Allen, coach Doc Rivers said, “No. We’re going to stay the way we are.”
Still, there is concern over Allen who was challenged defensively against the 76ers and will be facing a far-greater problem in guarding Dwyane Wade who scored 99 points in Miami’s final three games against the Pacers.
“It’s tough. Really, you don’t know,” Rivers said. “We don’t know game to game with him. We don’t know how he’s feeling, then we don’t know how he’s going to deal with it during the game. The way we coached him so far, is with the eye that’s how we have to coach him. We have to watch him. If we feel like he’s moving enough to help us, we keep him on the floor. If he’s not moving enough, then we take him off the floor.
“Then the second decision is, do we put him back on the floor. It’s every game — in Game 7, the argument our staff was having. ‘Take him off, take him out, bring him in.’ Honestly, it’s just luck sometimes. We left him in and he made two 3′s. But the hook was close, I can tell you that.”
Despite their injuries, the Heat are not overlooking the Celtics by any means.
“We understand the challenges we have ahead of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They have championship experience. You can not discount that. They’ve proven that in the last two series, everyone was counting them out. They’re exactly where they want to be. Everybody counting them out and claiming that they’re this or they’re that. They’re not. That’s how they’ve been able to win. They grind games. They do it with their defense and they do it with timely offense.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: 10 things we learned from Celtics-Heat||04.25.12 at 2:44 pm ET|
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. The end of the NBA’s lockout-shortened season is upon us, forcing TNT to broadcast marquee matchups like Ryan Hollins vs. Dexter Pittman and Sasha Pavlovic vs. Mike Miller rather than Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing to learn from Tuesday night’s game between the Celtics and Heat at the Garden. Here are 10 things.
10. Thanks to Pavlovic’s heroics, the Celtics still have a shot at home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Two things must happen Thursday: 1) Celtics defeat the Bucks, and 2) Hawks lose to the Mavericks.
“Our seeding is important as well,” said Celtics reserve guard Keyon Dooling, who scored seven points in the win over the Heat. “So, if we have to get that win, we’re coming in here trying to tear their head off.”
The hunch within the C’s organization is that if Atlanta hosts Game 1, it’ll be played on Saturday night; however, if it’s in Boston, the series will likely start Sunday. Of course, all that assumes the Bruins beat the Capitals in Game 7 and host Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.
9. After their loss, while casually dressed Heat stars Dwayne Wade and James poked fun at second-year center Dexter Pittman‘s feet and socks, teammate Chris Bosh sat in the corner of the locker room, donning a suit and reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” A different bird, I guess.
8. Heat swingman Shane Battier‘s take on a game that featured 39 turnovers: “In my 11 years, that’s the worst game I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve already taken a shower. You guys should all take a shower to get the stink of this game off you. It’s not fun for anybody … but, hey, it’s the NBA, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to lockout basketball. It’s FAN-tastic!
|Should the Heat be worried about the Celtics?||04.10.12 at 2:14 pm ET|
As things sit currently in the jumbled Eastern Conference, the Celtics are holding the fourth seed, which would put them in the Bulls’ bracket. They have a three-game lead on Philadelphia and New York with 10 games to play and while nothing is assured for the Celtics, it’s looking like a safe bet that they will walk away with the Atlantic Division title for the fifth straight season, thus landing the fourth seed, as opposed to the seventh.
(Note: Winning the division does not guarantee homecourt advantage in the first round. The Celtics would still have to finish with a better record than the fifth seed and they enter play on Tuesday a game and a half behind Atlanta and Orlando.)
There’s a chance that Miami, which is just one game back in the loss column, could overtake Chicago for the top spot in the conference and set up a rematch of last season’s semifinal series that the Heat won rather convincingly, 4-1. The Celtics felt then — and feel now — that if not for a couple of bad breaks like Paul Pierce‘s dubious ejection in Game 1 and Rajon Rondo‘s elbow injury in Game 3, they could have made it a much tougher series. Still, four games to one speaks for itself.
And yet, there’s a feeling that the Heat should be afraid of the Celtics in the playoffs for the simple reason of matchups. Miami has no real answer for Rondo, who was brilliant in Boston’s 91-72 victory a week and a half ago when he went for 16 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists and was a plus-28.
Additionally, Pierce is one of the few small forwards in the league who can hope to guard LeBron James for 40 minutes and match his production, if not come out ahead. Pierce went for 23-7-3 in their last meeting, while LeBron posted a 24-4-0. It was James’ first assist-free game since 2009.
The real revelation in the April 1 meeting was the play of Avery Bradley, who held Dwyane Wade to 6-for-17 shooting, including a memorable block at the rim. Bradley also scored an efficient 13 points on 10 shots and presented a problem with his cuts to the basket.
|NBA Free Agency: Shane Battier to sign with Heat||12.08.11 at 11:10 am ET|
Yet another free agent will be taking his talents to Miami, as Shane Battier confirmed on Twitter Thursday morning that he will play for the Heat in the abbreviated 2011-12 season.
Battier wrote, “The Lockout gave me a lots of time to consider what was important to me at this stage of my life and career. Over the last week, I’ve played out every scenario in my head over and over. It always came back to one thing for me: a winning role. … This was a exciting process and after much deliberation, I would like to quote the great poet Jimmy Buffett and take my chances “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season” Let’s Go #Heat!!!!!”
The 33-year-old Battier is strongest defensively, but he can put up points from the perimeter should Heat stars Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James need help from the outside. Battier has split time in his 10-year career between the Grizzlies and the Rockets. The 6-foot-8 forward shoots 38 percent from the three-point range and averages 9.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Battier had tweeted throughout the lockout that he was interested in Houston, Memphis, Miami and Oklahoma City.
|Why Erik Spoelstra and the Heat still fear Kevin Garnett and the C’s||05.10.11 at 12:04 pm ET|
After his team found a way to hold Garnett to 1-of-10 shooting from the field and seven points in a 98-90 overtime win over the Celtics Monday night, Spoelstra wasn’t about to say he found any miraculous answer. And if he did, he wasn’t about to share it anyway.
‘I’m not going to say anything about it,” Spoelstra said. “Now he’s got 48 hours to gain all his fuel again and fuel him up. I’m sure if I actually paid attention, everybody will be saying whatever they will be saying about him.”
“He’s a champion,” Spoelstra said of KG. “I have incredible respect for him. We tried to be active defensively. We tried to not leave people on an island. I anticipate we’ll get their best games on Wednesday and we have to be better than that. If we’re real about what we want to do, we have to beat the Boston Celtics at their best.’
All of that is well and good but Doc Rivers knows he has to have more out of KG Wednesday night in Miami if the Celtics have a prayer of chance to bring the series back to the Garden for Game 6 Friday night.
“I don’t know,” Rivers responded when asked if Garnett was tentative. “They trapped him a couple of times and I thought he was probably looking more for traps. We have to get him down there more; we tried. So, I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think he was looking for ‘ he was looking to be a passer to me more than being an aggressive scorer. And that was that.’
|Chris Bosh: ‘It’s not over until the last game is won’||at 12:36 am ET|
Prior to a crucial Game 4 between the Celtics and Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the TD Garden Jumbotron flashed Chris Bosh‘s notorious quote following his atrocious Game 3 performance: “My emotions got the best of me early on.”
Whatever Bosh did to harness them on Monday night, it worked.
“Before, the intensity of the crowd and my intensity that I was bringing, I was trying to control it too much instead of just letting it flow,” Bosh said after the Heat’s 98-90 overtime victory. “In this game, I tried to have the least amount of hesitation as possible. If I had an open shot, I was going to let it go. If the drive was open, I was going to take it. That gave me an aggressive mind-frame going in. It didn’t really happen very fast for me, but if I have a good aggressive frame of mind in the beginning usually things go OK.”
After totaling just five points on 2-of-8 shooting and two rebounds in 19 first-half minutes, Bosh made 6-of-9 shots after the break and grabbed 10 more boards for a total of 20 points and 12 rebounds — his second double-double of the series.
“Chris is a professional,” said Heat teammate Joel Anthony. “We didn’t have any doubt that he was going to come back after the last game. He responded well and answered anyone’s questions about how well he was going to play. He did it on the court. He played huge for us, and that’s what we knew he was going to come out and do.”
Meanwhile, after Garnett’s monster performance on Saturday cast a Shaquille O’Neal-sized shadow on Bosh’s six points and five rebounds in Game 3, the forgotten member of the Heat’s Big Three held KG to seven points on 1-of-10 shooting in Game 4.
Asked about Bosh’s turnaround, Garnett simply responded: “Next question.”