|Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team||06.06.12 at 1:26 pm ET|
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|
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.
|The Chris Bosh effect||06.04.12 at 7:23 pm ET|
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.
There was yet another defining moment of the series in the second half when LeBron James drove to the basket and was hit hard by Kevin Garnett. The two locked each other up momentarily as James pushed off of Garnett.
No foul was called in rare moment in the series where two players were allowed to go at each other in the heat of battle.
“[We were] two teams just throwing punches, really, to be honest,” Garnett said after Boston’s 93-91 Game 4 win in overtime. “I thought when we were up, we were aggressive. Obviously they were going to make a run. They got a lot of free-throws in that run, a lot of lay-ups in that run and they were able to get some transition.”
The Heat made their big run in the third quarter to make it a game as the Celtics fell into big foul trouble. With 3:35 left in the third, Rajon Rondo picked up his fourth foul. Just 13 seconds later, Paul Pierce joined him on the bench with four personals. It was up to Garnett to lead the group on the floor and right the ship as the Heat closed the quarter with a 7-1 run that cut the Boston lead down to 73-68 entering the fourth.
“Once we got that under control, I felt like we got back aggressive,” Garnett said. “The play-calling was all over the place as far as the refs and I thought both teams played through it. Then, when we had to, we got stops.’
The biggest challenge for stars like Garnett, Rondo, Pierce and James is to know what kind of contact is going to be whistled and what isn’t during a game, something that could decide the season for both teams.
‘It is but you have to put the refs in a position to make some calls,” Garnett added. “[Doc Rivers] stressed us to stay aggressive. At times it is difficult but it can’t decipher on your aggression and how aggressive you are especially during a run. Defensively, you want to be in sync but you can’t let them decipher how you are. I thought we kept our composure pretty well and finished the game off.’
Garnett essentially admitted that the Celtics were lucky to survive Sunday night when Pierce fouled out just 38 seconds into OT. The Celtics scored just four points. They held Miami to two in the five-minute period.
‘It changes when Paul goes out,” Garnett said. “The scorers, Rajon, myself, [Ray Allen] and everybody has to pick up the load a little bit as far as being more offensive-minded. Like I’ve always said, we are a defensive team that can score the basketball. When Paul goes out, Rajon knows to be a lot more aggressive. Ray knows to be a lot more aggressive. We encourage [Mickael Pietrus to score]. I think Quis [Marquis Daniels] was in there in the latter part of the game. (We) just stay aggressive. As long as we are making stops, we can turn it over into some easy offense and we’re a hard team to beat at times.’
|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|
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.”
|Kevin Garnett: ‘At this point, it’s desperation, desperation basketball’||06.02.12 at 1:39 am ET|
An inspired and fired up Kevin Garnett let everyone know exactly how proud he was of the Celtics fan base that supported the team Friday night in their 101-91 win over the Heat Friday night at TD Garden in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics avoided falling behind 3-0 in the series and could tie the series on Sunday with another home-court win.
‘It’s whatever, it’s desperation,” Garnett said. “You know, at this point it’s desperation, desperation basketball. Next game, Game 4, it’s going to be even more. You have to anticipate them making adjustments, were going to make some adjustments. But the tenacity, the desperation has to be there. We’re playing at home, we have to give it our all out and it will be out. The jungle was rockin’ tonight. I want to thank all the fans who came out. The [expletive] jungle was rockin’ tonight! I loved it. [Expletive] loved it.’
Garnett led the Celtics on the court as well as emotionally, scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and helping the Celtics dominate the Heat in the paint, 58-46.
“KG is a difficult match’up for a lot of guys, period,” said LeBron James. “He started off really well. I think he had 12 points in the first quarter and got them off to a good start. That’s part of the reason why they had 58 points in the paint. He opened up a lot for not only himself but for his teammates as well. And he’s definitely a threat down there, and he made some huge shots.”
But Garnett, who had seven points in the opening quarter for the Celtics, repeated the mantra of desperation, something the Celtics came out with from the opening tip.
‘Desperation game, to be honest,” Garnett reiterated. “And we played like it too. You don’t want to be down 3-0 to a team like this. Very very good team, very talented team, well coached team. I feel like we played desperation basketball.
“I feel like these games at home, have to be nothing less than that. These are desperation games and we have to play them like that.’
|Celtics shootaround notes for Game 3: Extra time for KG and Ray||06.01.12 at 1:08 pm ET|
Not that they are expected to carry the team but Daniels knows more will be expected in Game 3 at the Garden. And it’s not necessarily the scoring but the energy level off the bench that has to be there. Daniels, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus are among those who could be vital in assuring Rajon Rondo doesn’t have to play the entire game like he did in Game 2.
“We just have to do what’s needed,” Daniels said at Friday morning’s shootaround. “Rondo obviously had a great game last game. If those guys [starters] continue to play well, we basically have to come in and do what we usually do, get some stops here and there, play good defense and knock down open shots.
“A little more here and there, and we’ll be OK.”
Pietrus led the bench in minutes with 28 on Wednesday, while Dooling added 15. Greg Stiemsma played just five minutes after picking up four quick fouls and Ryan Hollins, Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and E’Twaun Moore all played under two minutes.
Daniels said the team’s focus is right where it needs to be, down 0-2 in the series to the heavily-favored Heat.
“We’re focused,” he said. “We’re going to go out and do what we need to do. We looked at film and got prepared so I think we’ll be ready.”
The focus was evident among most of the Celtics, who left after the shootaround to get their rest. However, Ray Allen stayed behind to work with assistants Ty Lue and Michael Longabardi while Kevin Garnett worked with assistant Jamie Young on mid-range and 3-point shooting, along with free throws.
Normally, both Allen and Garnett leave immediately after the shootaround, which focuses on half-court sets. Friday morning was different.
All Celtics were accounted for and present at Friday’s shootaround.
The Celtics will also look to take advantage of home court, where they’re 6-1 in the playoffs so far.
“It’s going to help a lot,” Daniels said. “Our crowd is going to be into it. It’s going to be a lot more intense. We’re going to come out focused and ready to play.
“Just stay consistent, come out and keep giving the energy where it’s needed, keep giving those guys their breaks and make sure we don’t fall off anywhere,” Daniels said. “We’re a veteran ball club so we don’t let too much get to us. You hate losing, obviously, but we’re going to come in focused and hopefully, we can get this one.”
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