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Stephen A. Smith on The Big Show: Magic interested in Kevin Garnett? 06.06.12 at 5:56 pm ET
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Stephen A. Smith

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined The Big Show Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Celtics’ big road win Tuesday night in Miami and what the future may hold for both teams. But first, Smith felt he had some owning up to do.

“You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. I get so disgusted with people that can’t fess up and own up,” Smith said. “We were wrong, most of us were wrong and I’m at the top of that list. I didn’t think Boston had a shot to win two games this series.”

To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

Smith said his pre-series prediction of a Miami victory was based on a rash of Celtics injuries and their season-long rebounding woes.

However, “Sure enough, because of exceptional coaching by Doc Rivers, and guys that simply have the heart of a champion, [the Celtics] just know how to win. And they have so much heart, so much focus and dedication. They just know how to get it done,” Smith said.

“It’s not just that they’re winning, it’s that they’re making it plain that they had no business being an underdog. … And the way I look at it, the Miami Heat are incredibly lucky that they still have a game to play and they still have life because they don’t deserve it. They don’t even deserve to be on a respirator right now.”

Asked about possible destinations for Kevin Garnett next season, the well-connected Smith said a couple of candidates for the Magic’s general manager job have told Orlando, “What you need to do is break the bank a little bit and sign KG to a two-year deal, even it is for about $20 million.”

Smith also suggested the Lakers were a logical destination for Garnett, if Boston didn’t make a strong enough offer to re-sign him. “Me personally, if I’m Kobe Bryant, and I know I’m staying in L.A., I’m making a call to KG,” Smith said.

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Michael Wilbon on M&M: ‘Miami just doesn’t have what it takes to be a championship team’ at 3:05 pm ET
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Michael Wilbon

Appearing on Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon, ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon said if the Heat lose the series, which he expects them to do, they will have to rebuild the team.

“It became apparent literally sometime in Game 3 — more likely in Game 4 — that Miami just doesn’t have what it takes to be a championship team. They don’t have it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean individually they don’t have the talent. … But collectively it doesn’t work. And that’s what’s become apparent. And that’s why the Celtics are going to put the Heat out of their misery tomorrow night.”

Added Wilbon: “If Miami goes out tomorrow night, and I expect Boston to close them out … you have to just sort of deep-six this thing, and you have to start over. You keep LeBron [James] and you figure out what else you’re going to do. And that means changes. It means changes in the coaching office, it means changes in that locker room. You don’t commit to $350 million or whatever it is to get a conference finalist.”

Asked whether he felt the coaching jobs by Doc Rivers and Erik Spoelstra represented the biggest mismatch in the series, Wilbon was unequivocal.

“No question. No question. It’s almost embarrassing. And that happened last year in the finals as well with [Mavericks coach] Rick Carlisle,” he said.

Wilbon pointed to Spoelstra’s inability to get his players to execute as ultimately dooming Miami’s chances.

“Spoelstra can’t get done what they need to have done,” he said. “The other night, in [Game] 4, when you got all these situations where Miami can win that game in Boston, people point out, they say, ‘Well, they aren’t running plays.’ Well are they not running plays because Spoelstra didn’t diagram them during the timeout? Of course not. Of course Spoelstra diagrammed a play during the timeout. Are they executing the play? No. So, whose fault is that? Either Spoelstra can’t get them to, or the players — I don’t think they’re defiant, but whatever the case, this goes back to disconnect. … There’s a disconnect between what they’re supposed to do and what they actually do — what they’re capable of doing, and what they actually do. Do I seem them suddenly putting it all together tomorrow in Boston? No, I don’t. I don’t see any scenario where that happens.”

In terms of the coaching job Rivers has done this year, Wilbon talked about a conversation he shared with Rivers last offseason that foreshadowed the coach’s regular-season strategy.

“I remember being with Doc, I think it was during the lockout, and he jokingly said a 66-game season was too long, he needed a 45-game season. And so what Doc then did, even though he was joking when he said it to me, he was crafting what amounted to a 45-game season,” Wilbon said. “He could have made that move with Kevin Garnett games earlier; he didn’t want to. Putting [Garnett] at center and other moves he made, introducing, spoon-feeding Avery Bradley, and how to get him into the lineup, and other changes. He could have done that stuff earlier, but he knew he really needed 45 games because he wasn’t going to risk getting Ray Allen hurt and risk getting Paul Pierce hurt and going into the playoffs without those guys being healthy. And so it was a balancing act. And it’s a great truly great coaching job.”

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Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team at 1:26 pm ET
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There’s a duality of team happening in this series. Not good vs. evil, but heart vs. spinelessness. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Celtics, “They have championship DNA. They have what we’re trying to get.”

The lasting images of Game 5: 1) A blank-faced LeBron James retreating into the tunnel of AmericanAirlines Arena after another devastating postseason defeat as one young Miami fan repeated behind him, “Good job! Good effort!” And 2) A grinning Paul Pierce returning to a timeout huddle, his puffed chest being pounded by teammates after he delivered another playoff victory that forced most Heat fans to funnel for the exits.

Throughout Tuesday night, constant dueling reminders arose of why these Heat are these Heat and these Celtics are these Celtics. Let’s revisit four of them from the C’s pivotal Eastern Conference finals victory.

  • LeBron James in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke, moments after his Heat coughed up a 13-point lead: “I’m pleased with my individual performance.”
  • Paul Pierce overheard in a timeout, shortly after burying the dagger 3 in LeBron’s face with 52 seconds remaining: “I’m cold-blooded.”

Through the first 40 minutes, James made 10-of-21 shots, netted 28 points and grabbed 12 boards. Over the final eight minutes, he finished 1-of-4 from the field, scored just two points and snatched only one rebound.

Conversely, in the first 42 minutes, Pierce tallied 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting while amassing two rebounds and two assists. In the last six minutes of the game, he recorded five points — making his lone shot attempt (the dagger) — to go along with two assists and two boards. One rose to the occasion; the other ran from it.
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Doc Rivers on his Celtics: ‘Honestly, they believe they can win’ at 2:08 am ET
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Doc Rivers (right) suddenly has a lot to smile about against LeBron James and the Heat. (AP)

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 »

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Mickael Pietrus: The secret weapon against LeBron James 06.04.12 at 4:16 am ET
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Before Red Auerbach kept Dwyane Wade from knocking down the potential game-winner 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime, Mickael Pietrus made sure Miami’s other superstar wouldn’t end it in regulation.

“I try to play tough, because you have to respect the jersey you’re playing for,” was all Pietrus would say about his pressure on LeBron James as the Miami power forward was jammed by Pietrus at the top of the circle as the clock wound down. Then Pietrus fed James off to the right, where there were two more Celtics waiting to help out.

Triple-teamed, James was forced to dump off to Udonis Haslem who missed a jumper at the buzzer, sending the game game to overtime, 89-89.

What was also remarkable about the play at the end of regulation was that the situation was identical to the end of Game 2. That’s when the Celtics got away with Rajon Rondo guarding a player eight inches taller when James missed a fallaway at the end of regulation. Doc Rivers wasn’t going to allow that to happen again. He put Pietrus on him and made sure he had help by funneling James into a triple-team.

Pietrus kept it up in the overtime. With Boston desperately trying to protect a one-point lead, the Celtics missed consecutive shots. But there was Pietrus flying in from the weak side and picking up the rebound to extend the Celtics possession. Those two rebounds took a total of 45 seconds off the clock at a most-critical time.

“The last two were huge. Sometimes that’s what it takes to win basketball games,” Pietrus said. “You can always count on me if you want to win games. I’m going to play hard. That’s what I did for my team tonight. My main focus is to go to Miami now and try and get another win.

“If I don’t have my shot I won’t get frustrated because I know we have legends on the floor. You have to respect them. As far as right now I’m trying to focus on what the team needs the most. From me that’s defense and rebounding.”

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Doc Rivers and Celtics: ‘Last year was last year… We don’t want a repeat of that’ 06.03.12 at 7:14 pm ET
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Try as they might, the national and local media was unsuccessful in the 45 hours since the end of Friday’s Boston’s win over the Heat in Game 3 to draw the Celtics in to comparing last year to this year against LeBron James and company.

“I don’t even remember last year, to be honest with you,” said Paul Pierce when asked about the details of the 4-1 loss to the Heat in the Eastern semifinals last year.

“I don’t, really,” Doc Rivers said when asked if he recalled Boston winning Game 3 in 2011 before losing a heart-breaker in Game 4 in overtime. “I know we lost. I think that’s the game Rondo got injured but I’m not even sure of that. Oh, it was Game 3. I don’t even remember. That tells you what I remember.”

Indeed, the inspired Celtics overcame the dislocation of Rajon Rondo‘s left elbow in a collision with Dwyane Wade in Game 3. They had a great chance to tie the series when Ray Allen drilled a three to put the Celtics up, 84-81, with 2:28 left. But James hit a three of his own 28 seconds later and James hit a jumper to put Miami up, 86-84. Pierce hit a jumper to tie it, 86-86, with 41 seconds left. After a James turnover, the Celtics had the last 19.5 seconds left to win it. They had to settle for a missed fadeaway from Pierce with 0.9 seconds remaining. ‘

In that game, Kevin Garnett had seven points and made just 1-of-10 from the field in 41 minutes. That cannot happen again for the Celtics to win Game 4, something they failed to do in 2011.

“We just want to be consistent in how we play,” Pierce said. “Last year was last year. It’s over with. We don’t want a repeat of that so we just have to be consistent in everything we’re trying to do. We’re going to continue to try and get him the ball, get as many as touches out of him as possible. We know that’s been working for us. So, when Kevin gets it going from the inside, it really opens up things for a lot of us on the perimeter.”

The Celtics would be outscored 12-4 in overtime in the game that would essentially seal Boston’s playoff fate in five games.

“We had opportunities,” Rivers reflected. “Clearly, we had a couple of great shots. I think we had a terrible possession now that I think about it before overtime. Our last possession [of regulation]. Thanks for bringing that up.”

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Celtics-Heat Game 4: All about adjustments at 2:10 pm ET
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WALTHAM — There’s little doubt the Heat will try to get Dwyane Wade more involved in Game 4 as they look to take a 3-1 series lead and have the chance to clinch the Eastern Conference finals at home on Tuesday in South Beach.

But to do that, they will have to solve what the Celtics have been throwing at them – namely double-teams and various switches on coverage. Let Paul Pierce explain:

“We tried to collapse on him when he has the ball,” Pierce said. “He does a lot of isolation from the top [of the circle] so we just try to sink in. We know how great he can be driving to the hole in the half-court. When he comes off the pick-and-roll, we want to trap him as much as possible. We don’t really want to get him going. We know they’re going to get the majority of opportunities between him and LeBron but he’s one of the guys we feel like we can kind of corral with Kevin and myself with the size advantage that we have.”

Do things change if Chris Bosh returns?

“We haven’t seen that,” Pierce added. “We’ll make our adjustments definitely if Bosh is out there playing. You can’t trap as much because he’s another perimeter threat, another scoring threat. We’ll have to see.

“Always in-game decisions and adjustments are important, especially when things don’t work out. That’s part of the game. When one thing isn’t going right, you have to make that adjustment. We figure we have to get to their shooters. They made a lot of 3-point shots in Game 2 so that’s something we had to make an adjustment to get to the shooters a little bit better. We did a better job at that. We did a better job of keeping them out of the paint and did a better job of keeping them off the free throw line. So, every game is different. When you realize your mistakes, that’s when the adjustments come in.”

As for attacking Miami’s defense, even with LeBron James and Wade on the court, Pierce says they have to keep attacking the low post.

“I think we have the size advantage with [Kevin Garnett] and [Brandon Bass], especially when they go small a lot,” Pierce said. “The emphasis is to try to get the ball in the paint as much as possible and if they collapse, find our shooters. That’s been the thing the whole season, we want to play inside-to-out as long as they’re good shots.

“I thought we just moved the ball a lot better. The ball didn’t stick. They’re a great defensive team and when the ball is sticking on one side of the floor and they’re loading up. I thought the ball really moved. We set harder screens, we cut a little bit better and that frees up everybody when we play that way.” Read the rest of this entry »

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