|Irish Coffee: Hating the Heat easier than beating Miami||05.29.12 at 1:42 pm ET|
Listen, I’m a Bostonian. I learned the game of basketball watching Larry Bird and listening to my father’s stories of Red Auerbach‘s Celtics of old. Cleaning out some old stuff from my parents house over the weekend, I found a Reggie Lewis collage from 20 years ago. Do I see the NBA through green-colored glasses at times? Probably.
Then again, I’m one of the guys who a couple months ago had the Celtics as a seventh seed losing in the first round, so I like to think I can take a step back and look at games and series and seasons rationally.
It starts with James, and not just because of the ridiculous Decision, declaring himself a champion — not once, not twice — before building one as a team, although that’s part of it. That was one epic failure of a public relations move made by a team of people he pays to make those kinds of judgment calls for him.
It’s that he’s the best basketball player in the world, yet completely unlikable. As a friend of mine said, he’s the A-Rod of basketball. You wouldn’t even want to have a beer with him, much less want your kid aspiring to be him.
|Rajon Rondo: ‘They have to hit the deck, too’||at 9:21 am ET|
MIAMI — Late in the fourth quarter of the Celtics‘ Game 1 loss to Miami, Kevin Garnett delivered a foul on LeBron James and then shared some of his famous internal monologue with James, who laughed back at him.
Asked later if he thought James and the Heat were “showboating,” Garnett responded, “A little bit. Little bit. It’s all good. They’re home, they’re comfortable. And when you’re comfortable, you do things like that. We’ve got to make sure we take them out of their comfort zone and fight a little harder.”
The comfort zone was something the Celtics talked about after the game in regards to James and Dwyane Wade, who combined to shoot 60 percent and score 54 points. Coach Doc Rivers said his team allowed them to play “in extreme comfort,” tough words for a team that lives on its defensive pressure.
Rajon Rondo said the C’s needed to “shrink the floor,” which is one of their main defensive principles. Someone asked if that meant being more physical and Rondo replied, “I mean, nothing dirty, but you know, they have to hit the deck, too.”
Two problems here. One, they can’t hit what they can’t catch, and two, who’s going to do it? This is one of the most mentally tough Celtics teams of recent years, but they don’t have an enforcer. It’s not their game. The issue for the Celtics isn’t hitting Miami, it’s stopping the Heat before they get there.
Regardless, expect this to be a huge thing for the next day and a half until Game 2 tips on Wednesday.
|Doc Rivers calls his technical ‘worst I’ve ever had’||at 12:03 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his displeasure with his technical foul very clear following a Game 1 loss to the Heat at American Airlines Arena in South Florida. Rivers was whistled for a technical foul by referee Ed Malloy with 3:13 left in the second quarter when he uttered the words, “Come on, Ed.”
“I know mine wasn’t [deserved],” Rivers said. “I don’t know how long I’ve been in the league, but that has to rank as the worst I’ve ever had. I would have liked to have earned it.”
Malloy called a technical foul on Rivers and then called one on Rajon Rondo midway through the third after Rondo and Shane Battier became entangled after a Brandon Bass basket. Rondo appeared to push Battier away, trying to get loose. Earlier in the game, referee Danny Crawford called a tech on Ray Allen after Allen was demonstrative after a call on him. Crawford then whistled Kevin Garnett for a delay of game technical for tapping the ball out of bounds after a Celtics basket.
“We should never get them, I told our guys,” Rivers said, before adding, “Everybody has to keep their composure, not just just the players and coaches.”
|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.
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