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Irish Coffee: Heat not guilty of foul play? 05.03.11 at 1:43 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

Plenty of deserved concerns arose about the officiating following the Heat’s Game 1 victory over the Celtics in which LeBron James & Co. made the same amount of field goals (32) and three fewer 3-pointers (12-9) but 12 more free throws on 14 more attempts.

Considering the NBA downgraded Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal‘s flagrant-one to a personal foul while upgrading Heat guard James Jones‘ personal to a flagrant-one foul the day after Game 1, any gripes about the referees — Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Derrick Collins — were validated as more than just sour grapes.

NBA officials have long been criticized for their treatment of the league’s superstars. It’s a conspiracy theory born in the Michael Jordan era and nursed along by the indictment of referee Tim Donaghy on game-fixing allegations (Donaghy appeared on Dennis & Callahan Tuesday morning). While I wouldn’t go so far to include the NBA’s current referees — Sunday’s officiating crew included — in the same conversation as Donaghy, there is statistical evidence that James and Dwyane Wade have received at least inadvertent star treatment throughout the 2010-11 season and into the playoffs.

The Heat averaged 27.9 free-throw attempts per game during the regular season, while their opponents averaged 24.2. Conversely, the Celtics averaged 23.1 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 24.1. More specifically, Wade and James combined for 17.0 free-throw attempts per game this season. By contrast, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined for 13.3 free throws a game.

But Wade and James get to the rim a ton, you say? That’s true. Each game, the Heat duo combined for 13.1 field-goal attempts within three feet of the basket. Hence, the big free throw numbers. But shouldn’t the Celtics’ Big Four — who combine for 14.0 field goals at the rim every game — be somewhere in that 17 free-throws per game range, rather than 13.3?

Not convinced? Consider this fact: Jordan averaged 7.7 free throws per game during his six championship seasons; Wade (8.6) and James (8.4) each averaged more this season.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Shootaround notes: Last minute checklist at 12:42 pm ET
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MIAMI — As they head into Game 2, both the Celtics and Heat feel that they didn’t play their best in the opener and while there will be strategic adjustments on both sides, the sense is that both teams simply want to play their game better.

“As poorly as we played and they didn’t necessary play terrific either, you can clearly say some of it was due to their defense,” Doc Rivers said before the team’s shootaround. “It wasn’t just us being bad. There’s somebody out there making you be bad and they had a lot to do with it.”

On the Celtics to-do list are guard the 3-point line better, particularly James Jones who made 5-of-7 from behind the arc and keep Miami off the free throw line. Offensively, Rivers felt his team rushed and put themselves in a bad position.

“They’ll respond,” Rivers said of his team. “We’re usually a pretty good team in execution and we just were not. I was just surprised how impatient we were offensively. When you become impatient that makes you easy to guard. I think we were very easy to guard.”

As for Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was happy with his team’s defense, but is looking for more from his offense. He knows that it won’t be easy.

“We’ve tried to exercise our mental disciple to maintain our mental edge,” he said. “It’s two physical teams, two very good defensive teams. There will be times when both teams struggle to score. Whoever can say that consistently played their game will likely win the basketball game.”

As for the prospect of going down 2-0 in this series, something that has never happened in the Big 3 era, Kevin Garnett said that the Celtics were not thinking that way.

“You take one game at a time,” Garnett said. “Each game you learn something from it and you try to apply what you’ve learned to the next game. Obviously [1-1] is always good but you go 0-2 against a great team it’s very hard.”

Expect both teams to be sharper in Game 2 and that’s when we’ll really find out if one team had the advantage.

“That will happen,” Rivers said. “It may happen tonight. I think one or two games you’ll get the best shot from each team and somebody will win that game.”

SHAQ UPDATE: Rivers said that Shaquille O’Neal looked good in practice on Monday in stretches but struggled at the end. the coach termed him doubtful for Game 2, but it will be a game-time decision.

“I doubt it,” Rivers said. “He looked great yesterday. He went through the whole practice. He was phenomenal actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal. Then by the end of the practice he was struggling walking. We’ll see but I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, were not sure but I doubt it.”

Rivers said that it was O’Neal’s first scrimmage since his seven-minute comeback against Detroit on April 3. That was encouraging, but, “Watching him walk on the bus and even this morning said the recovery time is tough for him,” Rivers said.

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Heat practice notes: Who you calling physical? 05.02.11 at 4:55 pm ET
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Things got physical in Game 1, but the Heat aren't making any apologies. (AP)

MIAMI — The question was posed to various Heat players from about six different angles, but it really all boiled down to this: Are you surprised by the Celtics reaction after Game 1 that your play was (pick one) chippy, physical or cheap?

“I didn’t see us start anything,” LeBron James said. “I don’t understand what all the other conversation is about. We just want to play basketball. Go out there we’re going to be physical, the best team will win the game that night. That’s all it’s about.”

Added Dwyane Wade, “At the end of the day it’s basketball. No one’s going to be out there doing anything crazy. Ain’t no fighting going on. It’s basketball and the guys are going to be physical and they’re going to take hard fouls. You just got to move on from it.”

James Jones: “It’s all in the game. We’re trying to keep it strictly about basketball. Whenever you have emotionally charged guys on the floor, two very high caliber teams battling and competing, you always have something. No one wants to give an inch.”

Your turn, Erik Spoelstra: “We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not. We’re not stepping out of our box.”

It was left to Wade to add a little levity to the questions. “I haven’t been in the second round in a long time but I’m assuming this is how it is,’ he said. “Maybe I’ve been out of the loop for a while. If they win a ballgame it will be a total different spin on things.”

So there you have it. The Heat are going to be physical. We know the Celtics will try to be more aggressive in Game 2. There will be hard fouls. There will probably be a few technicals. It is, after all, the playoffs and while the Celtics made their names by playing rough and tumble defense, the Heat are making their own reputation on that end of the floor. Paul Pierce will not be suspended for Game 2 after his ejection, which featured a face-shove with Jones, and everyone will all move on.

Beyond that storyline, there are adjustments and tweaks to be made. The Heat were generally pleased with how they performed in their 99-90 Game 1 victory, but also felt like they had a lot to clean up. Spoelstra is still very concerned about Rajon Rondo who was held to just seven points and seven assists, but acknowledged that a good deal of that was the foul trouble that sent Rondo to the bench in the second quarter.

“I’m not overstating it,” Spoelstra said..”When he was in more of a rhythm in the second half he made a big impact. He’ll break you down, he’ll find a way. When it gets broken down all rules are thrown out the window and you have to do something with an effort – a deflection, a rotation, to transcend all of that.”

After the game Rondo noted that he had his shot blocked several times from the weakside as he drove to the basket.

“LeBron and [Joel] Anthony came and blocked my shots. I got a lot of my shots blocked tonight,” Rondo said. “Give them credit. On the fast break they did a good job pursuing the ball.”

Rondo was disappointed with his play and not just because of the foul trouble, citing turnovers and missed opportunities. He remains the biggest key to the series, but here are a few other items of concern for Miami.

FLOOR SPACING: How did James Jones get so open for his 3-pointers? First, the Heat took advantage of matchups and got him on the move. Second, he found the right areas that were clear to set up and third, his teammates got him the ball.

“They do a tremendous job of protecting the paint so when our attackers put the ball on the floor there’s usually at least two help defenders putting their bodies in front of drivers,” Spoelstra said. “So J.J. was able to get in open areas. Spacing is going to be critical for our offense. Executing our second and third options will be paramount because both teams defend the first trigger very well.”

The Celtics overload the ball with defenders and put pressure on the ballhandler to make snap decisions. Some teams try to beat the defense by passing to the weakside, which is the vulnerable area on the court. The Heat made a concerted effort to drive and attack the defense at its strongest point. Not many teams can do that, but Miami has the talent.

Once Miami goes into its rotations, pay close attention to how the Celtics counter. They were left with some strange combinations like Kevin Garnett chasing Jones. Spoelstra cited the play of Mike Miller, who was on the floor when Miami made a big run in the second quarter and added size on the wing. “They were short minutes but they were productive minutes,” Spoelstra said.

DEFENDING RAY ALLEN: Wade was the biggest offensive star on the court with 38 points, but Ray Allen had a big night as well with 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 5-for-8 on his 3-pointers.

“My job is to chase Ray Allen around, hoping he gets tired one day and misses a shot,” Wade said.

In response to a particularly difficult 3 that Allen made, Wade said, “Only Ray Allen can make that shot. Nobody else. I looked at the film and realized I made three mistakes and every one resulted in a 3. That’s why he is who he is and why he’s great.”

CHRIS BOSH LOOKS TO GET GOING: On the one hand, Bosh scored just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. On the other, Kevin Garnett scored six points on 3-for-9 shooting. You can call it a wash, but that’s a matchup the Celtics need to win if they’re going to take Game 2. Bosh said the key was keeping his emotions in check.

“I’ve been in so many situations where I let my emotions get the best of me and I let that anxiety get the best of me,” he said. “I’m at a point where I just relax no matter what the situation is and just play the game.”

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Game 2: Third quarter update 05.06.09 at 10:03 pm ET
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And now for some defense. Having blitzed Orlando with a red hot first half in which they built a 16-point lead, the Celtics lead is up to 86-64 after holding the Magic to just 5-for-15 shooting in the third.

The fireworks came late in the quarter after Eddie House dropped a 3-pointer on Rafer Alston and Alston whacked House in the back of the head. The two squared off and were assessed double technical fouls. It was clear the officials didn’t see the play as it developed, but they reviewed it after the quarter and let the call stand.

The Celtics are doing all this despite Paul Pierce playing just 10 minute due to foul trouble. No matter. House picked up the slack for the captain, scoring 11 points and making all five of his shots. He’s 9-of-10 for the game.

Lost in all that was Rajon Rondo recording another triple double. He capped it off with a thunderous dunk right through the heart of the Magic defense. The Celtics have 12 minutes to finish off the split.

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Game 2 update: First quarter at 8:34 pm ET
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In a complete role-reversal the Celtics have come out and taken it to Orlando in the opening quarter with a 26-21 lead. Rajon Rondo racked up eight points, there rebounds and four assists, while Ray Allen scored eight points to go with five rebounds and Kendrick Perkins–who has more than held his own against Dwight Howard–has five points and five boards. The only downside for the Celtics is Paul Pierce who picked up two quick fouls and also banged knees with Hedo Turkoglu. He was limping noticeably while he was on the court.

The Magic are being bailed out by J.J. Redick. Yes, that J.J. Redick who drained three 3-pointers and scored 11 points. Rashard Lewis, meanwhile, is just 1-for-4 from the floor and Orlando is shooting 32 percent.

There were two interesting subs by Doc Rivers. First, he brought in Brian Scalabrine for Big Baby Davis just two minutes into the quarter. Davis appeared unhappy with the move and he and Rivers had a 15-second chat on the sideline when he cane out. The other sub was when Doc called on Stephon Marbury to replace Pierce. That forced the Magic to guard three guards (hello, Chicago) and forced Turkoglu to chase Marbury around.

Also: McLovin is in the house. Repeat: McLovin is in the house.

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Game 2 pregame: Rajon Rondo at 7:39 pm ET
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What was Rajon Rondo’s reaction to the news that he had been named to the NBA’s All Defensive Team Second Team? A shrug, basically. “I take pride in my defense,” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized.” It was his only individual goal, Rondo said, but still it didn’t really faze him, as almost nothing does. He did, however, advocate for Kendrick Perkins who did not get a spot on either the first or second team, despite receiving a first place vote. “I thought Perk should have been on one of those teams,” Rondo said.

A couple of other highlights from Rondo:

On gaining weight: He said that he weighs 179.2 pounds, up from 163 when he entered the league, which he attributes to growing up, working out with trainer Bryan Doo and eating healthy. Rondo said he spent more time in the weight room last summer than he has in the past. Rondo said that the trainers have told him he’s quicker than he was last year, but he doesn’t really believe it.

On the quickest players in the league: “Besides myself?” he asked. “Derrick Rose, T.J. Ford and Tony Parker. Oh, Devin Harris. He might be the quickest with the ball.”

On the place he got booed the most in college: “Kentucky.” Wait, you mean where you played in college? “Yup. Tough crowd. I guess I just played bad.”

On his game: “I haven’t shot the ball well. I’m still getting rebounds, still getting assists. I’m just missing shots. They’re the same shots I took in the first five games.”

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Getting ready for Game 2 at 10:40 am ET
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Doc Rivers told the press yesterday that the Celtics Game 1 comeback was fool’s gold, and somewhere Stan Van Gundy is probably saying roughly the same thing to his Magic team about their 28-point lead. Moral victories are for Little League. All we know from Monday is that Orlando got its win and the Celtics have to get one back tonight.

But there are a few left-over pieces from Monday that have been the talk of the town, so let’s dive in.

1. Should Brian Scalabrine start?

Short answer, no. You’ve heard this a thousand times before, but it’s not who starts it’s who finishes in the NBA. Also the fact that Scalabrine can spell Paul Pierce, Big Baby Davis or even Kendrick Perkins in a pinch makes him much more valuable coming off the bench.

The Celtics have a tough matchup with Rashard Lewis. They know it. Lewis knows it. Even the dude behind the basket with the chicken on his head knows it. Scalabrine did a good job in the second half by “doing his dirty work early,” as he said. And by that he meant keeping Lewis from his preferred spot on the floor before he gets the ball. Scal will play. He’ll probably play a lot, but his versatility makes him a better option coming in off the bench.

2. What’s up with Ray Allen?

Not much. Sometimes you just have to give credit to the defensive scheme, and the Magic paid a lot of attention to the Celtics perimeter shooters. ESPN’s David Thorpe nicely captures a moment when J.J. Redick raced to find Eddie House after the Celtics grabbed an offensive board before the ball could be swung back to House.

Allen said after the game that he didn’t get a lot of rhythm shots, which had a lot to do with Orlando’s defense. Look for the Celtics to run him off the usual double screens and work extra hard to get him some space.

3. Will Rajon Rondo attack?

He has to. All the Celtics have to. One of two things will happen when they drive hard to the basket and encounter Dwight Howard. He will either send their shot into the third row or he’ll get in foul trouble.

The Celtics took 26 free throws in Game 1 and all of them came in the second half. It wasn’t the officiating either, as Rivers noted after the game. They were much more aggressive in the final 24 minutes, and if there is a carryover from the comeback it should be the knowledge that they won’t beat the Magic taking jump shots.

4. Will McLovin make an appearance?

I honestly don’t know, but if you haven’t seen this photo yet on Ball Don’t Lie, you’re missing out.

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