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Kevin Garnett: LeBron James ‘was in the groove and he never looked back’ 06.08.12 at 5:06 am ET
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A disappointed Kevin Garnett admitted that the Celtics might have been too excited for their chance to close out the Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night at TD Garden. The result was an unforeseen flat performance that produced a 98-79 Miami win that extended the series to Game 7 Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.

“Some shots didn’t fall that we know we can make,” Garnett said. “Everybody in here was pumped up. Everybody was probably too jacked. It didn’t transcend into a win, though.”

To Garnett’s point, Paul Pierce was just 4-for-18 in 31 minutes while Garnett was 6-for-14. The two stars combined for just 21 points on 10-for-32 shooting from the floor. Now, the Celtics must repeat their clutch road performance from Game 5 in order to advance to the NBA finals and a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“Nothing’s been easy up until this point, and you can’t expect it now,” Garnett said. “It is what it is. We’re gonna take these cards and play them. There’s a lot of confident guys in here, lot of guys who’ve been through Game 7’s, a lot of experienced guys. We’re going to lean on that. And we’re going to fight. We’re a bunch of fighters in this locker room. Let it all hang out [for Game 7]. [We're] on the road, a hostile environment. We got a lot of fans down there but it is what it is.”

As for LeBron James and his 45 points in 45 minutes, Garnett said there was little the Celtics could do.

“LB was in the groove and he never looked back,” Garnett said.

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Mumbles Menino thinks KJ and Hondo play for Celtics 06.07.12 at 9:40 am ET
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You know, New England is doing a real good impression of Miami these days. First, we had the Maine TV reporter who thought the Celtics and Heat tied Game 4. Now, we’ve got the honorable Mayor Thomas M. Menino announcing, “KJ is great, but Hondo’s really the inspiration,” or something like that.

This isn’t the first time Mumbles has fumbled Boston’s “ionic” sports figures, so rest easy Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Remember “Varitek splitting the uprights“? At least he got the sport right this time. Kevin “KJ” Johnson and John “Hondo” Havlicek did play basketball once. Heck, one even played for the Celtics, and the other is a mayor, just re-elected in Sacramento, so you can see how he might be easily confused about a pair of NBA superstars who have played basketball in his city for the last five-plus years.

Or maybe Mumbles is just one step ahead of us all. He is the mayor after all. He can’t be that stupid. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s just doing the best impersonation of a Miami sports fan ever. That’s real “Saturday Night Live”-worthy stuff right there.

After all, before the miraculous Red Sox comeback of 2004, he did deliver the greatest political speech in history: “Much like a cookie, I predict the Yankee dynasty will crumble, and the results will be delicious for Red Sox fans.” Bravo, Mumbles, bravo, indeed. That’s up there with, “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and, “a date which will live in infamy.” Long live the mayor! I can’t wait for the unveiling of the Bill Russell statue.

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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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Fast Break: Truth is, Celtics one win from NBA finals 06.05.12 at 11:29 pm ET
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Shooting just 5-of-18 from the field through the first 47:07.1 of Game 5 and his Celtics leading by just one, Paul Pierce pulled up for a trey in Heat superstar LeBron James‘ face with 52.9 seconds remaining, and The Truth’s shot was true, giving the Celtics a four-point lead that resulted in a 94-90 victory.

In a frenzied fourth quarter that featured four lead changes, two ties and countless great plays on both sides, Pierce’s triple was the greatest, effectively giving the Celtics a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 6 in Boston on Thursday night.

Somehow, someway, the C’s Big Four of Kevin Garnett (26 points, 11 rebounds), Pierce (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists), Rajon Rondo (13 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points, 7 rebounds) — despite shooting 40.7 percent from the field — outshined the Heat’s Big Three of James (30 points, 13 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (27 points) and the ghost of Chris Bosh (9 points, 14 minutes).

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Third dimension: Over the final six minutes of the third quarter, the Celtics turned a 59-50 deficit into a 65-60 lead entering the fourth. The 15-1 run included buckets from Allen, Pierce, Greg Stiemsma, Garnett, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling — not to mention great defense by all, holding the Heat without a field goal.

Garnett gets going: After trailing by as much as 13 in the second quarter, the Celtics made a concerted effort to go back to what’s worked throughout these playoffs — getting Garnett involved in the post. His 1-of-7 start from the field was mostly the result of shots off the block, but he took advantage of a legless Bosh, and Rondo fed him for a couple late layups that helped the Celtics cut the Heat lead to 42-40 by the half.

Free Bassing: While Pierce and Rondo started a combined 3-of-18 from the field, the Celtics desperately needed offense elsewhere. Enter Brandon Bass. It wasn’t quite his 27-point masterpiece against the 76ers, but Bass started 4-of-5 from the field for 10 points to go along with three rebounds, two steals and a block by halftime. He didn’t make a big impact in the second half, but he kept the C’s in it early.

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The Chris Bosh effect 06.04.12 at 7:23 pm ET
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With Kevin Garnett free to roam, the Celtics have made Dwyane Wade play in a crowd. (AP)

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.

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