|Inside the matchup: Celtics vs. Heat||12.27.11 at 12:10 am ET|
For most of the 2010-11 season, the Celtics were confident in their ability to beat Miami. They beat them on opening night in Boston and did it again in Miami less than three weeks later. The Celtics won again in February with just six healthy rotation players.
Everything changed in April when the Celtics were blasted on South Beach, losing 100-77, and the dynamic was completely reversed during the playoffs when the Heat won in five games.
With their first meeting this season on Tuesday, it’s the Celtics that are trying to prove that they can handle the Heat, who have won five of the last six meetings.
It won’t be easy because they’re not likely to have Paul Pierce, who is resting a bone bruise in his right heel and new addition Mickael Pietrus isn’t expected in the lineup until they return home on Friday. That leaves the underwhelming combination of Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels to handle LeBron James, fresh off a 37-point Christmas Day showing against the Mavericks that equaled the 37 Carmelo Anthony dropped on the Celtics.
The Celtics have always had great respect for accomplishment and hierarchy — that’s the reason they gave the Magic more respect than LeBron’s Cavs — and coach Doc Rivers has been reinforcing the notion that these Celtics haven’t won anything in a long time.
They did get a reprieve of sorts with word that Kevin Garnett escaped both a fine and a suspension after his one-arm shove of Bill Walker after time expired on Sunday. The Celtics didn’t lose three straight games at any point last season but with a back-to-back looming the next night in New Orleans that could suddenly become a stark possibility.
Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
The veteran forward played in just 13 regular season games before tearing ligaments in his left foot. Haslem saw less than three minutes of action in the Celtics’ series, but returned to form later in the playoffs and grabbed 14 rebounds in 32 minutes in their opener against Dallas.
Haslem is part of a three-man frontcourt rotation with Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony that’s on the smaller side. Not coincidentally, the Celtics have adjusted their frontcourt with Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox, who should be able to provide a much more balanced matchup with Miami.
The other important addition is rookie point guard Norris Cole, who split duties with Mario Chalmers in the opener. That’s a major upgrade in terms of youth and athleticism from Mike Bibby, who had major problems with Rajon Rondo last season.
Can Avery Bradley offer defensive support? The Celtics clearly missed defensive stopper Tony Allen in last year’s playoffs and Dwyane Wade took full advantage, scoring 151 points in their five games. Bradley remains a liability on offense, but if he can give the Celtics 5-10 minutes of defense on Wade, that would help take some pressure off Ray Allen. The Celtics need something from Bradley because the alternatives are Rondo and/or Keyon Dooling.
Key matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh
Garnett had a brilliant performance in Game 3, the only game the Celtics won, but was otherwise either outplayed or neutralized by Bosh throughout the series. Jermaine O’Neal is not a great matchup on Bosh and Wilcox is in the early stages of gaining Rivers’ trust. It’s up to Garnett who played 37 minutes in the opener, which is not part of the master minutes plan.
The Rondo factor: In 41 minutes against the Knicks, Rondo made 11-of-19 shots and scored 31 points. Much notice was paid to his outside shot where he sank three of five from 16-23 feet and his free throws where he made nine of 12 attempts. More importantly, he converted on 8-of-10 attempts at the rim and seven of his 13 assists were for inside shots.
Against the Knicks, the Celtics made a staggering 84 percent of their shots inside — 21-of-25 — and that was against Tyson Chandler, one of the league’s top interior defenders. Miami doesn’t have a shot-blocker like Chandler protecting the basket and it will be on Rondo to stay aggressive. He’s their best weapon against Miami.
CELTICS LIKELY STARTERS: Rondo, Allen, Daniels, Garnett, O’Neal
Rotation: Dooling, Bradley, Pavlovic, Bass, Wilcox
HEAT LIKELY STARTERS: Chalmers, Wade, James, Bosh, Anthony
|Fast Break: LeBron James, Heat bury the Celtics||05.11.11 at 9:49 pm ET|
A pair of 3-pointers, a fast break dunk off a steal and a driving layup by LeBron James in the final 2:10 capped a 16-0 run that gave the Heat a 97-87 victory Wednesday night and ended the Celtics season after five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Nenad Krstic scored the C’s final points of the season, with 4:28 remaining, giving the Celtics an 87-81 lead. But James broke an 87-87 tie with 2:10 remaining, and then buried a go-ahead trey with 40 seconds left after Jeff Green mishandled a poor Paul Pierce pass. After a timeout, Delonte West turned the ball over and James put the game — and the C’s season — away with a dunk and a layup seconds later.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Paul Pierce’s early foul trouble: With the Celtics leading by three and James cruising for a breakaway dunk, Pierce committed a truly ill-advised foul just 5:40 into the game. Not only that, but it was Pierce’s second personal, forcing coach Doc Rivers to give him an early hook before bringing him back for the second quarter. Pierce then picked up his third foul late in the second quarter and missed the final 1:44 of the half. He never got into a rhythm and couldn’t provide any physicality on the defensive end.
Dwyane Wade’s monster first half: While the rest of his teammates made just 6-of-24 first-half shots (25 percent), Wade buried 9-of-12 from the field and 5-of-9 from the free-throw line for 23 points before the break. While the Celtics shot 52.9 percent for the opening 24 minutes, the Heat trailed by only two points (49-47) at the half — thanks to Wade and the Heat’s 23-14 advantage in free-throw attempts. Wade had 15 foul shots in all, and overall, the Heat totaled free throws 38 to the Celtics’ 20.
Rondo’s health: At one point in the fourth quarter, both Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal were receiving back treatment on the sidelines. And how could you forget Rondo was already dealing with a dislocated left elbow that left him at 50-50 prior to the game? He did not play in the fourth quarter, finishing with six points and three assists, despite a valiant effort. O’Neal also missed the final quarter, totaling just three points and two boards.
Careless turnovers: Garnett and Pierce combined for seven turnovers, and the Celtics committed 17 in all — the majority of them seemingly unforced. Down 3-1 and on the road, the C’s couldn’t afford to give the Heat that many extra opportunities.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Getting KG involved early: The Heat crowd may have arrived late, as usual, but Garnett showed up right from the opening tip. He attacked the paint and scored nine of the Celtics’ first 13 points, finishing the first quarter with 12 points, five rebounds and two steals to help the C’s grab a 24-16 before the Heat and their fans even knew what hit them. Considering Garnett’s Game 3 success (28 points, 18 rebounds) and Game 4 failure (7 points on 1-of-10 shooting), the Celtics needed Garnett to set the tone. Unfortunately, he scored three points the rest of the way.
Ray Allen gets open looks: After struggling to find space and making only 11-of-30 shots in Games 2-4, Allen got free from Wade and made 6-of-12 from the field in Game 5, including 5-of-10 shooting on some pretty wide open looks from beyond the arc (not to mention a huge four-point play). His 11 first-half points helped pick up some of the slack left by Pierce’s relative absence.
Nenad Krstic and the bench (yup, you read that right): At the end of the third quarter, Krstic buried a long baseline jumper that put the Celtics up 73-71 heading into the final 12 minutes of play. Krstic finished with eight points as the Celtics’ bench outscored the Heat’s 33-12. Krstic, Jeff Green (9 points), Delonte West (10 points) and even Glen Davis (6 points) each scored at least six points on the night.
|Dwyane Wade and LeBron James talk it out and finally beat the C’s in Boston||05.10.11 at 12:40 am ET|
This was exactly the kind of moment their detractors were waiting for. LeBron James drives into the paint against Paul Pierce, loses control of himself and the ball and allows the Celtics to get a chance to get a final shot and win the game.
So, when a foul was called with 19.5 seconds remaining and the Celtics called timeout, Dwyane Wade came over to LeBron and had a talk.
‘I had a timeout to kick myself, tell myself you can’t turn the ball over in that situation,” James said. “D-Wade came to me, told me what he thought I should have done, but there was still time on the clock and I had to let it go because they had the ball with the shot clock was off.
“For the most part, I’ve watched a lot of Celtics games, I’ve been in a lot of pressure situations against them so I kind of knew what was coming at me, I knew it was going to be either a Paul Pierce pick and roll or it was going to be an isolation. The only way for me to redeem myself was to get a stop and send it to overtime.’
Which is exactly what he did. He forced Paul Pierce to the left – after the Celtics botched the play – and made the Celtics captain shoot a fallaway jumper that rimmed out at the buzzer.
Read the rest of this entry »
|An apology from LeBron James about the ‘R’ word||at 12:29 am ET|
Before talking about his clutch 3-pointer that tied the game late in the fourth quarter and his defense on Paul Pierce at the end of regulation, LeBron James offered up an apology for using the word “retarded” to describe a question asked of Dwyane Wade following a Game 3 loss to the Celtics Saturday night. James was heard muttering “that’s retarded” while Wade was being asked if he had any reaction to those who might think his play on Rajon Rondo was dirty.
“First of all, I want to apologize for using the ‘R’ word after Game 3. If I offended anyone, I sincerely apologize,” said James, who scored 35 points and led the Heat to a 98-90 overtime win at TD Garden Monday night, pushing the Celtics to the brink of elimination Wednesday night in Miami.
|Mike Gorman on M&M: ‘I think Miami is emotionally spent’||05.09.11 at 1:28 pm ET|
Longtime Celtics television broadcaster Mike Gorman joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to discuss the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Heat. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“I thought it was physical playoff basketball with a bad result,” Gorman said. “What happened to Rondo didn’t have anything to do necessarily with the way Wade hit him. It was just trying to brace his fall that he got his arm out there. It wasn’t like his arm was twisted willfully by an opposing player.”
Gorman said he was surprised by the Heat’s failure to be aggressive with Rondo after the injury.
“Maybe they were just so stunned he was on the floor,” Gorman said. “They seem hypnotized by the fact that he was playing them with one hand tied behind his back. ‘¦ Not only they didn’t pressure the ball, they didn’t even force him to go left. It was like they were deferential to him. I don’t think that’s going to be the case tonight.”
Gorman said the Heat’s struggles Saturday and forward Chris Bosh acknowledging the Boston crowd affected his play might be a sign that the long season is wearing on them.
“I think Miami is emotionally spent,” Gorman said. “I think they’ve had the headlights, the spotlights, whatever you want to call it, right in their eyes right since training camp opened 6-7 months ago. And every single city they were in, they were getting booed, they were getting questioned. I think Bosh saying he was intimidated was more a sign of a guy saying that he was emotionally exhausted.
“I couldn’t believe on Saturday night, having the Celtics down 2-0 that [LeBron] James and Wade didn’t come out and just be assassins. Wade was an assassin, but James was tentative. I don’t know how else to describe it. For a guy with all the talent that he has, in a game like that to be tentative really is kind of amazing. So, I wonder about the psyche of this team.
“I also wonder ‘ I think it’s 10 or 11 in a row now they’ve lost in Boston. They may be starting to think they can’t win here.”
|Rajon Rondo goes through shootaround prior to Game 4||at 12:00 pm ET|
Injured point guard Rajon Rondo went through shootaround at the Celtics‘ training facility in Waltham Monday morning, which is generally an indication that he will try to play in Game 4 Monday night at the Garden against Miami. Rondo was on the floor in practice clothes shooting free throws when the media was allowed down on the court. He didn’t talk to the press.
Rondo dislocated his left elbow in the third quarter of Game 3 after he became entangled with Miami’s Dwyane Wade. Rondo underwent and MRI and a CT-scan on Sunday and both came negative for a fracture. The Celtics have said that he is a game-time decision.
Fellow point guard Carlos Arroyo said that he thinks Rondo is ready. “He’s a warrior,” Arroyo said. “He demonstrated that last game. We were all surprised in the fact that he came back after that injury. I know he’s ready. He wants to play. He wants to win.”
|Rivers: Dwyane Wade ‘didn’t intend to hurt Rondo’||05.08.11 at 2:37 pm ET|
Reaction to the play that left Rajon Rondo with a dislocated left elbow in Game 3 of the Celtics playoff series with Miami has been mixed. After the game, Dwyane Wade said he’s “not a dirty player.” (Click here for video of the postgame press conference.)
Brendan Jackson at Celtics Hub has the play broken down frame by frame and came to the conclusion that Wade did in fact take Rondo down with a leg sweep.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers defended Wade’s part in the play for the most part. “It was a hard foul,” Rivers said. “Let’s put it like this: He didn’t intend to hurt Rondo. I don’t honestly believe in 99 percent of cases in our league the player ever intends to hurt anybody. But he did, and it just happens.”
Rivers also added this in response to Rondo’s return to the court:
“Players play,” the coach said. “We can all tell our war stories, but very few players are able to do that in that situation. They would try, though. There’s a bigger group in our league than you think that would have tried. I love our league and that’s the part about it that I think people miss. They see the other stuff, but these guys love playing. They have more love and passion about the game than people give them credit for, and yesterday was just another example of an NBA player not caring about his health and just trying to help the team.”
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