|Fast Break: C’s can’t handle Heat, fall in Game 1||05.28.12 at 11:08 pm ET|
Coming off a grueling seven-game series against the Sixers, the Celtics traveled to Miami and fell to the Heat, 93-79 , in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Kevin Garnett kept the C’s alive early with 23 points, but league MVP LeBron James scored 32 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Miami.
WHAT WENT WRONG
At odds: The C’s dug themselves into a hole after only scoring 11 points in the opening quarter. But, after a strong 35-point second quarter, they found themselves tied at halftime. Boston went into another funk at the start of the second half, shooting just 2-0f-12 to open the third quarter, and put up a paltry 15 points in the third quarter.
The consistent offensive ruts — and these are nothing new, they’ve been happening all season — are deleterious to the C’s cause. They simply can’t afford to fall behind by eight points in a matter of minutes of the game starting and expect to win, not at this stage, especially when they Heat are shooting near 50 percent from the field.
The King and I: James had 17 points in the first half, starting 7-of-10 from the field. Monday night seemed like one of those games when LBJ was in MVP-type form. Dwyane Wade finished with a quiet 22 points. Sure, there were times were he was able to slice through the Boston defense and cause problems, but Wade was at his best facilitating and getting his teammates easy looks. In the fourth quarter, Wade “flashed” (pun intended) some of the playmaking ability Boston can expect to see the rest of the series. He had an impressive left-handed finish on a layup and then, on the ensuing C’s possession, a highlight block on Rajon Rondo. Later, he made a series of difficult shots. It’s a tough task, but the Celtics have to find a way to slow the Super Friends down … just a bit.
Miller time: It wasn’t James Jones‘ 25-point performance in Game 1 of the Heat-Celtics series last year, but Mike Miller gave Garnett fits from the outside by stretching the floor. KG had trouble getting out to the perimeter to guard Miller, and his eight points in the first half killed the C’s. It’s one thing for Wade and James to beat the Celtics, but they cannot afford the ancillary players to become factors.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
“Celtics’ cool”: After a late-season loss to the Bulls, Doc Rivers sarcastically said the C’s were playing “Celtics’ cool” basketball, scrutinizing Boston’s effort. The comment garnered a great deal of attention and Rivers’ point hit home. Considering the Celtics were called for THREE technical fouls in the first half — keep in mind, all three were suspect — they did well to come back from an 11-point deficit.
The C’s made 13 of their 22 field goal attempts to spur a second-quarter comeback and got contributions from a variety of players. Greg Stiemsma provided good size inside, Garnett continued his torrid shooting, Keyon Dooling gave good energy and hit a huge 3-pointer, Rajon Rondo facilitated, and Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both found their shooting touch. When the Celtics play like that — and, granted, they typically only show brief spurts of that type of efficiency — they can compete with Miami.
Will call: Garnett’s first half was vital especially since the rest of the B0ston lineup struggled. At one point KG was 4-of-5 from the field while the rest of the C’s were a combined 2-of-16. The Big Ticket’s performance is something the Celtics will need going forward in this series. His advantage inside was exposed and should be exploited further in Game 2.
|Sixers TV analyst Marc Jackson on D&C: Celtics made ‘terrible mistake’ by not winning Game 6||05.25.12 at 9:48 am ET|
Sixers TV analyst Marc Jackson joined the Dennis & Callahan show on Friday morning to talk about the Game 7 matchup between the 76ers and Celtics coming up on Saturday. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Jackson said Kevin Garnett needs to make a change in his game for the Celtics to emerge victorious.
“For Boston to win this game, KG has to get back on that block,” Jackson said. “Not necessarily settling for pick and pops or jump shots. But if you noticed the games that Philadelphia struggled with Boston were when KG imposed his will on the lower block. KG may be older in age, but he still has incredible skill on that block and he’s one of the best at seeing out of double teams. Even though Lavoy Allen has played tremendous defense on KG, KG has to go back to the old KG and put him in the grinder and get it done.”
Jackson said Philadelphia will be up to the challenge of a Game 7 in Boston.
“Yes, Philadelphia towards the end of the year was winning more games on the road then in their own arena,” Jackson said. “They are young so they don’t really know what’s at stake here almost to a fault. But even if they are playing in Boston or playing in Philadelphia, it’s all the same to them. I think Boston has made a terrible mistake by not trying to finish the Sixers off early, because the longer you let the young guys stay around the more confident they get. And I know the 76ers are extremely confident that they can go into this game and win against the Boston Celtics in their own court.”
Asked who he thought was going to be the one guy to step up for the Sixers, Jackson responded with Andre Iguodala.
“I’m going to say Andre Iguodala because of his defense, his swarming defense and the way he’s played defense on Paul Pierce, and before Paul it was Luol Deng,” Jackson said. “I know Paul made the comment earlier in the series that it’s not because Andre’s shutting him down but because the Sixers are playing great team defense. Paul, I love you to death, but I don’t want to hear that. Andre Iguodala has played great defense on you.”
Turning his attention to the bench, Jackson said coach Doug Collins deserves a majority of the credit for the eighth-seeded Sixers’ success.
“He imposed his philosophy on defense first, sharing the ball, commitment to doing the right thing at all times … and that team has taken that philosophy and ran with it,” Jackson said. “If you hear everyone speak about Philadelphia, the first thing they say is that they like each other. Now, for people from the outside world who have never played professional sports, that’s a major key, because a lot of teams, believe or not, do not like each other. … The 76ers have no [bitterness].”
|Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7’s||05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)
Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.
How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.
Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.
Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.
|Kevin Garnett on Game 7: ‘We’ve been here before’||at 1:06 am ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Kevin Garnett spoke about Philadelphia’s fans after a Game 5 win in Boston. On Wednesday, following an 82-75 loss to the Sixers in Game 6, Garnett made another proclamation of sorts for Game 7 Saturday in Boston.
“Win or go home,” Garnett said when asked about the team’s mindset heading into a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “Confidence is very high. We’ve been here before, very experienced. All out, nothing less.”
Indeed, the Celtics have played in five Game 7s in the Big Three era of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. They are 3-2 in those previous five, beating Atlanta and Cleveland on their way to the title in 2008. They beat the Bulls in seven in the first round in 2009 before losing the next round to the Magic in Game 7 at the Garden. With a chance at an 18th banner in 2010, they lost Game 7 of the NBA finals in Los Angeles to the Lakers.
“Game 7s are what they are,” coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s nice we have it at home, but you have to go get it still. At the end of the day, you have to go play. You can’t just rely on that we’re at home. I do like that we have an extra day. I think that helps us a little bit.”
“It’s only a couple of us that have been in Game 7s, so we’re not going to go on the history,” Rajon Rondo added. “This is a new series, a new group of guys that are going head to head and it’s been back and forth the entire series so it’s going to be a tough one at home.”
Neither team has managed consecutive victories in the series as the Celtics and Sixers have alternated wins in the first six games. If the trend continues, the Celtics will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years.
The Celtics will play the Sixers on Saturday at TD Garden. If the Pacers force a seventh game against the Heat with a Game 6 win Thursday, the Celtics and Sixers tip off at 5 p.m. on Saturday. If Miami advances on Thursday, then the Celtics tip off at 8 p.m. Saturday.
|Celtics could use some close out power against Sixers in Game 6||05.23.12 at 1:12 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — If there were ever a team that needed to close out a series, the Celtics are it.
The Celtics lead the Sixers, 3-2, in the best-of-seven series and need just one more win to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the third time in five years. The previous two times (2008, ’10) have ended with Celtics reaching the NBA finals.
But it won’t be easy if history is any indication. In the “Big 3″ era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Allen, they are just 2-10 in potential closeout games on the road. They won the Eastern Conference finals in Detroit in Game 6 in 2008. They swept away the Knicks in the first round last year. So, well before Garnett’s comments about the Philly fans, tonight was going to be a monstrous task.
On the injury front, Bradley said at Wednesday morning’s team shootaround that he has felt little improvement in his ailing left shoulder and he will almost surely miss his second straight game of the series as Boston attempts to close out Philadelphia in Game 6 here at Wells Fargo Center.
“Right now, I’m not playing,” Bradley said, as he received treatment from strength trainer Bryan Doo. “I’m definitely frustrated but all I can do is keep getting stronger and keep improving for my team. I’m just trying to get it better. It’s been the same. I just have to keep trying to get is stronger everyday. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent for my time. I’m just taking it day-by-day right now.”
“He’s a little better, not much,” coach Doc Rivers added. “I don’t think he’ll play. He won’t do anything in shootaround for sure, and then do what we did the other night. We’ll let him warm up and see if he can warm up and then go from there.”
Bradley had the shoulder pop out early in the third quarter of Game 4 last Friday night and missed Game 5 with the injury. Allen started in his place in Game 5 and will start again for Bradley in Game 6 should Bradley — as expected — miss Game 6. There is some uncertainty regarding Allen and his ailing right ankle.
“It is what it is,” Rivers said of Allen. “He’s a go right now. Obviously, if he can’t go, we’ll have to go somewhere else.”
Stiemsma also reaggravated his foot injury in the second half of the Game 5 win Monday. He was at shootaround Wednesday and is expected to be available off the bench.
“He’s good,” Rivers said. “The foot was aggravated again [Monday]. He says he feels much better today. He’ll definitely play. He’s the definite of the three guys.”
|Doc Rivers on Kevin Garnett comments: ‘Have at it’||at 12:51 pm ET|
PHILADELPHIA — Predictably, the Celtics were barraged by the Philadelphia media at their morning shootaround about comments from Kevin Garnett following Monday’s Game 5 win that put Boston on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals. Garnett, who lead the Celtics into Game 6 Wednesday night, called Philadelphia fans “fair-weather” and said they don’t match up anywhere close to Boston fans.
“I have no reaction to that,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ll let you guys stir that pot. Have at it, have fun with it. I don’t think either fan base likes each other anyway so I don’t think it added anything. I said [Tuesday], ‘What are they going to do? Hate us more?’ So, what’s the difference?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Ray Allen added. “You have to ask [Garnett] that question. I don’t have any reaction because I don’t know anything about it.”
Wednesday morning, John Mitchell – a Philadelphia columnist – replied to Garnett’s comments by labeling Boston fans as “bigoted” in light of the incident after the Capitals eliminated the Bruins in Game 7 at the Garden on a goal by Joel Ward, a black player for Washington. Mitchell invoked the days of Bill Russell, the Celtics legend who had serious issues with Boston, even when he was playing and winning championships in the city.
Appearing on Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday morning, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the Celtics are in good position to record another finals appearance thanks to an intensity that is helping defensive pressure. He also said health, confidence, intensity, Doc Rivers and Rajon Rondo have been contributing to Boston’s success.
“Right at the start of the game you could see the intensity in the Celtics and I thought they were so aggressive and I think that’s part of their understanding of how important that game was,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant. “And you know the one thing, the one thing that they’ve done well, they’ve gotten into the Sixers pretty well. The Sixers, during the course of the season, rarely turned the ball over and [the Celtics have] been able to force turnovers against them and they’ve also kept their own turnovers now, which I think is a huge plus for them.
“I think the intensity of the defense dictates a lot. And if you can get some easy baskets off your defense than that can allow you to go on a quick run.”
Thibodeau also said confidence has been a large factor in Boston’s success this postseason.
“You have two teams that are extremely well-balanced, basically slugging it out, and I think the Celtics right now are playing with a lot of confidence,” he said.
Confidence and intensity may be two of the biggest assets the Celtics have at the moment, but Thibodeau added staying healthy is the biggest key.
“Well, the Celtics have everything that you need,” Thibodeau said. “The biggest thing is going to be health, and you guys already hit on that. How healthy can they be? That goes for everybody, and things can change quickly.”
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