|NBA Power Rankings, 10/7||10.07.10 at 12:48 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers: As the long as the Lakers avoid terrorist threats in Europe and manage to stay healthy, they’ll hang on to this spot throughout the preseason. I’m not too worried about a loss to the T-Wolves or Kobe’s knee being 60 percent. And they’re pretty used to surviving without Bynum at this point.
2. Boston: When your biggest question mark is whether Von Wafer or Mario West will fill the final spot on the roster, I’d say your team is in pretty good shape … as long as Nate Robinson doesn’t hurt Shaq with one of his pranks. Oh, and Semih Erden looks like he’ll actually contribute.
3. Miami: Don’t let D-Wade’s hamstring injury alarm you. Those things happen in the preseason, and he’s played through far worse. The Heat looked good. No surprise there. And if Udonis Haslem keeps contributing like he has, they just might slide up to No. 2 on opening night.
4. Oklahoma City: The Thunder recently invited the greatest name in the NBA to their training camp: Longar Longar. If he makes the team, watch out league. What better complement to Durant, Westbrook and Green?
5. Dallas: The Mavericks are a bunch of 30-somethings who have a limited window left to challenge for an NBA title. Sound familiar? Yup, they’re like the Celtics, only they don’t rebound much and play porous defense. Still, they’ll be tough out West.
|LeBron James at the point?||09.20.10 at 10:46 am ET|
One of the persistent criticisms of the Miami Heat is that while they are overloaded with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, they are weak at point guard and center. That’s if they run a conventional lineup.
Here’s the key quote: “He will be a playmaker. But he has also been a scoring champ. He will be at the end of plays to finish them. He will be a facilitator. He’ll be so many different things. We want to take advantage of all his skills.”
Spoelstra also said that he would experiment with a starting lineup that included Mike Miller instead of Mario Chalmers or Carlos Arroyo, their two traditional point guards.
This is smart. There is no reason for Spoelstra to use a regular lineup when he has such unconventional talent. James is one the best playmaking forwards in the league and Wade has also run Miami’s offense. Both James and Wade have played on teams that demanded they take a huge percentage of shots, but both are also excellent passers. The Heat don’t need conventional players. They need shooters on the perimeter and a compliment to Bosh inside.
A lineup with Wade, Miller and James along with Bosh and Udonis Haslem is probably Miami’s strongest and one that leaves the traditional positions all mixed up.
Coming up with counters for the Heat will be a constant challenge and the Celtics have options. Doc Rivers experimented with a backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson at times last season, but it didn’t really take. Perhaps with a full training camp at their disposal it could have time to jell.
That would be a serious speed advantage, but obviously a gamble in terms of height. But in spots, or with Avery Bradley in the mix, it could be an interesting way to change the tempo, especially defensively.
The Celtics also have numerous options up front with Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal and Glen Davis. Rivers said he prefers a set frontcourt rotation during the regular season, but he does have the pieces to play with in terms of matchups.
We don’t have much longer to find out. The Celtics and Heat open the season on Oct. 26.
|Return trip not in plan for C’s||04.27.10 at 2:01 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The next time Paul Pierce visits South Florida, he wants to be on a beach having fun in the sun.
To make sure he and his Celtics teammates avoid a working trip back on Thursday, they need to close out Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in Game 5 at the Garden.
“There’s a lot of urgency,” Pierce said. “We don’t want to go to Miami. Hopefully the next time I go to Miami, I’ll be on vacation.”
While there was a lot of focus on the 46 points Wade put up in Game 4 on Sunday, on 16-of-24 shooting from the field, Pierce said it’s Wade’s supporting cast of Quentin Richardson and Michael Beasley that must be contained. And that starts with him.
“Other guys like [Carlos] Arroyo and Beasley can’t have big games for them,” Pierce said. “Wade is going to have the ball most of the time. You have to expect him [Wade] to have big numbers because of that. It’s the other guys definitely we have to shut down.”
While Arroyo was held to just six points in 21 minutes, Richardson and Beasley combined for 35 points while making a disturbing 13-of-27 shots from the field. That’s the stat that concerned coach Doc Rivers afterward and it’s what the Celtics must be aware of in Game 5 if they are to avoid the pain of getting on a plane Wednesday for South Florida.
Kevin Garnett had a slightly different take on what will be needed against the Heat. Garnett wants everyone to remember they can’t win the game by themselves.
“I thought, for the most part, everybody wanted to get this settled in Miami and we were trying to do it with one shot instead of one pass,” Garnett said. “We were one step late on a lot of rotations. They threw a zone at us and we were all out of whack with that.”
|Maybe Wyc can help the C’s slow D-Wade||04.26.10 at 5:08 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted on Monday that his team is not trying to stop Dwyane Wade from scoring, but he wants to see more urgency on defense. Wade scored 46 points and made 16-of-24 shots from the field as the Heat beat the Celtics, 101-92, in Game 4 in Miami on Sunday.
“If it were that easy, he wouldn’t be Dwyane Wade,” Rivers said. “If I can find a guy who can keep him in front of him, we’re signing him. Hopefully, Wyc [Grousbeck] has more money to give and we’re going to go get him. It’s going to be a team effort and one guy’s not guarding that guy.”
Rivers put his team through a two-hour session — split between video and on-court practice — on Monday. The Celtics host Miami on Tuesday at TD Garden, with a win sending Boston into the Eastern Conference semifinals.
|Heat coach: Wade is going to go||04.25.10 at 11:31 am ET|
MIAMI — Not that there was much mystery, but Miami coach Erik Spoelstra indicated that Dwyane Wade is good to go for Game 4. Wade suffered painful crams in his left leg at the end of Game 3 and was not on the floor for Paul Pierce’s buzzer beater.
“He’s going to go,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t know if he’s 100 percent, but he feels much better. He’s been cleared. I know one thing. He was not going to miss a minute of this game.”
Spoelstra was asked if he would have to limit Wade’s minutes and he laughed.
“We’ll try to be smart with it, but you try to pace him,” he said. “I’m sure if I try to take him out of the game he’ll be spitting expletives at me.”
Spoelstra also addressed his team’s mindset heading into a possible elimination game. The Heat have played the Celtics six times this season (counting the regular season) and have lost all six. But there is hope in the fact that they have had the lead in five of those games in the fourth quarter.
“At some point there has to be a breakthrough,” Spoelstra said. “This is not about the other games. This is about today.”
|Beasley: We’ve got to make them feel old||04.23.10 at 1:35 pm ET|
MIAMI — There is no mystery as to what the Celtics can expect from the Miami Heat tonight for Game 3. These are desperate times for the Heat and the Celtics know that they will get Miami’s best shot.
If there was any wonder, however, second-year forward Michael Beasley laid it out in stark terms after this morning’s shootaround.
“We have to be more athletic, more energetic, bring the fire,” Beasley said. “Make them feel old. They’ve got a lot of veterans on their team and we’ve got a lot of young guys. We just need to run the floor and just try to tire them out.”
The Celtics are old. That’s no secret, but through the first two games they have been the aggressors in the series and that’s got nothing to do with age. They have also benefited from the first round format which has given them two days off between games.
“Yes, since we’re so damn old, it allows them to sit in their rocking chair,” Rivers said with a bit of sarcasm in his voice. “It does [help]. I think it sets up well for everyone, honestly. I think everyone in the first round would take this format. In the second round you do want the rhythm to go a little quicker. Game 4 [Sunday afternoon] is tough. That’s a regular season, quick turnaround game. That’s a tough one.”
That’s the sticking point for the Celtics tonight. Yes, they are in command of the series but if they can’t beat Miami in Game 3, things will get much tighter.
“I told our guys, I was honest with them, We haven’t done well in these situations,” Rivers said. “We really haven’t. Every time we played well in the regular season we’ve let our guard down, so we’ll find out our mental resolve and our toughness tonight.”
|Heat or Bucks?||04.12.10 at 2:44 pm ET|
The Celtics find themselves in an interesting position with two games left in the regular season. They will play either Miami or Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs and they have some control over the outcome, but not total control.
To review: The Celtics sit one game behind Atlanta for third in the Eastern Conference, but the C’s own the tiebreaker. The Heat and Bucks are tied for fifth, but the Bucks own the tiebreaker with Miami.
If things stay as they are the Celtics will open the first round with Milwaukee, but things are not likely to stay the same. That’s because Milwaukee hosts Atlanta tonight [Monday] and then travels to Boston for the regular-season finale Wednesday.
If Atlanta wins, the Hawks can just about wrap up third and almost guarantee a first-round matchup with the Bucks. If not, the whole thing becomes a jumble. The Heat play at Philly Monday and then host New Jersey Wednesday, so if the Bucks stumble Miami had a good chance to climb into fifth.
Which brings us back to the Celtics and whether they should have a preference in a first-round opponent. On the face of things, not really.
Milwaukee and Miami have identical records and have been two of the hottest teams down the stretch. Milwaukee has gone 21-7 since acquiring John Salmons at the trade deadline, while the Heat have won 16 of their last 20. Both are also strong defensive teams who rarely turn the ball over.
But that’s where the similarities stop. The Heat are incredibly reliant on the individual brilliance of Dwyane Wade who leads the team in points, assists and steals. He has also taken almost 500 more shots and free throws than any of his teammates.
The Bucks do not have nearly that kind of star power and they’re best player, Andrew Bogut, is injured and unavailable. Playing Milwaukee seems like the obvious choice, and indeed it may be (Zach Lowe at Celtics Hub makes a strong case here), but let’s examine both sides. Read the rest of this entry »