|Speaking with the Enemy: Celtics vs. Heat||05.06.11 at 2:36 pm ET|
In advance of Saturday night’s Game 3 between the Celtics and Heat at the TD Garden (8 p.m.), we caught up with David Dwork at the ‘Peninsula is Mightier‘ blog. He answered our six most pressing questions as the C’s attempt to climb their way out of a 2-0 hole …
How confident are Miami fans with this 2-0 lead against the Celtics?
I think that Heat fans are feeling pretty good after taking the first two games of the series. Considering our history against the Celtics over the past several years I think it’s safe to say that while there is some obvious confidence that comes with a 2-0 series lead, Miami fans are certainly wary of how quickly things can change. Heat fans do know, however, after watching this team grow and improve throughout the course of the season, that if they continue to play well and don’t fall into a funk, Miami should win this series.
Who gets credit for the Heat playing their best basketball at the right time?
No one person gets the credit for the Heat playing as well as they are. The team as a whole has been working extremely hard since training camp to get acclimated to playing with one another, learning the offensive playbook and defensive system that Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff put together — and doing it on the fly during the season, regardless of whether it was during practice, home games or on the road in very hostile environments. This has been a total team effort, and they all equally deserve credit.
Joel Anthony has been playing this role all season, and as he has done over the past few years he is only going to continue to get better. Whether it be in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, Anthony has been a defensive monster for Miami. Blocking shots and shutting down the painted area is what he has become known for, but his help defense is what has really gotten my attention in the postseason. Also, while he has a very limited offensive game, his hard work during practice and in the video room combined with his non-stop hustle has him suddenly setting picks like a seasoned veteran. He has quietly become an all-around defensive specialist and has earned the fans respect, getting chants of M-V-P.
Other role players such as James Jones, Mario Chalmers and even Mike Miller are finding ways to produce for the Heat and give them solid minutes on both ends of the floor. All three have shown they can hit big outside shots, but on this team you earn your stripes playing defense and that is where they have really stepped up their game.
What’s the difference between the Dwyane Wade we’re seeing now and the one that struggled against the Celtics in the regular season?
|Irish Coffee: Celtics must cash in at end of quarters||05.05.11 at 10:29 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The Celtics were once the best closers in basketball — playing suffocating defense and precision offense to keep leads (or deficits) safe at the end of each 12 minutes. Now? Not so much.
As the whistle signaled the close of each of the first three quarters in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, it’s been Miami — not the Celtics — that has turned up the heat on both ends of the floor to stretch a lead the C’s had tried so hard to erase.
“One of our biggest strong points in our team and how we play the game is closing out quarters,” added Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen. “What we haven’t done in these past two games is close out the quarters well. Whether we’re down, whether we’re up, whether the game is tied, to finish quarters we have given them too many points. We have to be a lot more solid.”
The Celtics have been outscored at the end of each of the first three quarters in both losses — 99-90 in Game 1 and 102-91 in Game 2. In the last two minutes of those six quarters, the Heat have outscored the C’s by a total of 12 points. That advantage balloons to 22 when you look at the final three minutes or 32 points when you zoom out to four minutes.
Miami has beaten the Celtics 13-6 in the last three minutes of the first half in both matchups. In Game 1, the Heat stretched a 38-30 advantage into a 51-36 halftime lead. Then, in Game 2, the Celtics turned a 36-34 edge into a 47-42 halftime deficit. Each time, they never recovered.
“One of the things we clearly have to do a better job of is close out quarters,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters after Tuesday’s loss. “They closed out the first quarter on a run. They closed out the second quarter on a run. They closed out the third quarter, and then they closed out the game all on runs. We have to figure out a way of finishing quarters better than we did.”
|Doc Rivers: ‘I’ve got to do a better job of getting Kevin involved’||05.02.11 at 9:31 pm ET|
Doc Rivers wasn’t exactly jubilant after watching the film of Sunday’s Game 1 loss to the Heat.
He talked before Monday’s practice about the importance of staying patient on offense — “very eager offensively and that hurt us ‘¦ we were pretty much a one-option team and very rarely worked the sets” — and the importance of keeping composure, something Paul Pierce failed to do in the fourth quarter.
Rivers stressed the need to do a better job on James Jones — “The fact that he took seven 3-pointers without taking a dribble, when you think about it, that’s poor defense” — and Dwyane Wade.
In short, it wasn’t quite a sneak peak of “The Hangover: Part II” in the old film room.
And when it came to analyzing his own effort after viewing the 99-90 loss again, Rivers pointed to one decision as perhaps his biggest error.
“I’ve got to do a better job of getting Kevin [Garnett] involved,” Rivers said. “Kevin is one of our featured scorers and I didn’t think we did a good job with him at all.”
Indeed Garnett was an absolute non-factor on offense in Game 1, scoring just six points on 3-of-9 shooting. The Celtics made a concerted effort to get Garnett going early, posting him up on Chris Bosh on their first two possessions, but then went away from a matchup that the team looked at as a advantage heading into the series.
“We got Bosh on an early foul, and then we went seven straight plays before we decided to look back to that spot,” said Rivers. “That’s not like us to do that. That was a mistake.”
Garnett had plenty of success in four games vs. the Heat this season, averaging 16.5 points on 54 percent shooting. And coming off of a Game 4 win over the Knicks that saw Garnett score 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, it seemed a fairly obvious bet that the power forward would be heavily involved in the offense.
And as much as Rivers wanted to take the blame for Garnett’s lack of productivity, there is no question that the 14-time All-Star can be too unselfish at times. The Celtics want Garnett on the attack against Bosh, and that wasn’t the nearly the case in Game 1.
“I think we’ve just got to try to tell him to be aggressive when he gets the ball in the post,” said Rajon Rondo. “He is an unselfish guy, but we want him to be aggressive and take advantage of the matchup.”
|Celtics will pay close attention to Chris Bosh||04.29.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
The Celtics know all about LeBron James and they have dealt with Dwyane Wade in the playoffs before, but they will also be paying close attention to Chris Bosh in their conference semifinal series and for good reason.
“When Bosh plays really well they blow teams out,” Kevin Garnett said. “It’s not even close.”
Bosh averaged almost 20 points and nine rebounds in Miami’s first round series against Philadelphia. He had monster performances in the first two games of the series and then came up big in the close-out game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. In the one game Miami lost he was held to just 12 points and five rebounds.
“LeBron and Wade are going to be LeBron and Wade,” Doc Rivers said. “They were great before the series, they’ll be great during it and they’ll be great after it and this summer when you’re talking about it you’ll say LeBron and Wade are great players. That’s not going to chance. But when Bosh plays great, then their team plays great. He’s a key guy for them.”
What makes Bosh so tough is he can score inside as well as on the perimeter. In his first season with Miami his attempts inside of 10 feet decreased by more than three per game, but he shot over 45 percent from 16-23 feet. Getting him more involved has been a persistent theme for Miami this season.
“He stretches the floor,” Rivers said. “They’ve done a better job in the second half of the year involving him more. He’s part of their offense more. When you look at the Philly series when he plays well in those games they won and when he struggled they didn’t win. He’s just a tough guy to guard. He does have the ability to go out to the 3-point line.”
“I consider him like a European player almost because he’s so big and he can shoot, dribble and things like that,” Glen Davis said. “You just have to be physical with him and make sure he doesn’t have it easy. Make sure everything is tough for him. Make him earn every shot. Make him earn every layup and things like that.”
Garnett and Davis will draw the primary defensive assignment, which Garnett likened somewhat to playing Amar’e Stoudemire.
“For Baby and myself and all the guys who played Stoudemire, New York was actually a good series, sort of warmed us up,” Garnett said. “Two totally different guys. Bosh is a little more perimeter than Stoudemire. But again he can score in different ways and they get the ball to him, so we got our work cut out for us.”
Rivers said he was more confident on Friday that Shaquille O’Neal would be able to play in the series. “I don’t know when,” he said. “Maybe [Game 1]. Maybe two. But I do think he’ll play. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte is] more confident that he’ll play, so that makes me more confident.
If he does play, Rivers said that he would come off the bench. “When he walks on the floor he’s 7-feet tall and he weighs what he weigh,” Rivers said. “Of all our players he probably has the easiest task of being who they are, because that’s all he can be.”
Rajon Rondo had little to say when he talked to the press before practice, but he did say that whatever defensive gameplan the Heat come up for with him, he’s probably seen it before. “I don’t know, everybody plays differently,” he said. “We’ll see Game 1.”
Whoever winds up drawing the assignment, the Celtics just want Rondo to continue playing fast. “Just need Shorty to be aggressive,” Garnett said. “Rondo’s a pain when he’s aggressive. When he’s stacking the stat line he’s a problem to deal with and we’re a problem to deal with.”
THE PAST IS THE PAST
The Celtics won three games against Miami, but were blown out in the final meeting. Each game made for great copy, but they say it means little now. “Not with us,” Garnett said. “The playoffs is a new season, new situation, new scenarios so everything we’ve done up to this point is just history.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett just doing his job||04.26.11 at 11:44 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Yo yo yo! We’re moving on! Great energy [Sunday] afternoon! Happy Easter to anyone who celebrates it! We needed to get this game, so we could have a couple of days to get our rest! With Miami losing, we don’t play until at least Sunday. Doc gave us two days off, so practice on Wednesday! Lots of treatment, recovery and catching up with video games.
The team played awesome! We got up early and started executing better. Baby [Glen Davis] and JO [Jermaine O’Neal] tightened down our defense, and Rondo made our offense go. Setting picks for the guys is my job, and as Doc says, “DO YOUR JOB!” Good picks get good shots for Ray [Allen] and P2 [Paul Pierce]. Friday’s game they went off!!!! Yesterday, the Knicks tried to stop them, which got me looks. I was able to make shots and get rebounds. Didn’t even realize that I had 20-plus points. Team win is the only thing that matters.
That’s by far the most praise Garnett has heaped on his team’s execution, especially on the defensive end — a good sign for Round 2. It’s also nice to see Doc Rivers borrowing the “do your job” line from Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Always loved that.
|Irish Coffee: 10 reasons Celtics should win||04.22.11 at 4:30 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Considering all that’s gone wrong for the Knicks in this first-round NBA Playoffs series, the Celtics should put them in a 3-0 hole on Friday night in New York — a deficit no NBA team has ever returned from. Here are 10 reasons why that should happen …
10. They’re underdogs? The Celtics are 3.5-point underdogs to the Knicks in Game 3, according to Bodog.com. A lot of teams use the “nobody believes in us” mentality as inspiration, but most times it’s a load of B.S. Except nobody actually does believe in these Celtics. When’s the last time you heard so much negativity about a returning conference champion that leads their first-round opponent 2-0 while holding said opponent — which nearly led the league in scoring — to an average of 89 points per game?
By the way, some fun props for Friday night’s game: Ronny Turiaf has the longest odds of any expected starter to score the game’s first points (8/1); “Will Ray Allen make his first field goal?” is even money; the over/under for points for Paul Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett are 19.5, 16.5 and 14.5, respectively; and the over/under for Rajon Rondo‘s total points and assists is 24.
9. Doc Rivers > Mike D’Antoni: If you believe what TNT analyst Charles Barkley said, the Knicks are being coached by a guy who will be fired at season’s end. Meanwhile, the Celtics desperately want their leader to return to the bench next year — if there is a next year in the NBA. That should tell you all you need to know about how lopsided the coaching matchup has been in this series. And if you haven’t read Paul Flannery’s breakdown of Rivers’ exceptional execution, you should.
8. The MSG atmosphere: Who’s more prepared to play in front of what is going to be an insanely raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden tonight — the team that has played 30 road playoff games in the past four years or the team that’s played none at home?
The Knicks were the team playing with nothing to lose in Games 1 and 2. Now, they have plenty to lose, like the respect of the New York fans. And the Celtics are the ones playing loose. Do you expect anyone outside of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire or Chauncey Bilups to rise to the occasion for the Knicks in the face of that kind of pressure?
7. The bench is due: During his interview on WEEI’s Big Show, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said Celtics coach Rivers is expecting a breakout game from Jeff Green on Friday night. Green has been the focal point of the criticism of the Celtics’ bench during this series, but Glen Davis, Delonte West and Nenad Krstic carry some of the blame, too.
The C’s bench has been outscored 46-22, and those four guys have shot 9-of-30 in Games 1 and 2. If Toney Douglas is in the starting lineup again, you could make the claim that Green, Davis, West and Krstic are better than anybody the Knicks can bring off the bench. I mean, did you even know Roger Mason Jr. was still in the NBA?
6. Anthony’s play should Melo out: What are the chances Carmelo Anthony channels Bernard King and totals 40-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and five-plus assists again? Considering Anthony only exceeded 40 points twice, 15 rebounds once and five assists six times in 77 games this season, I’d say it’s extremely unlikely.
5. Landry Fields looks like a lost puppy: The Knicks’ starting shooting guard is 2-for-7 in 34-plus minutes in the series, and he’s looked even worse that that. Meanwhile, his defensive assignment (Ray Allen) has averaged 21 points on 65.2 percent shooting. The playoff atmosphere has clearly messed with Fields’ psyche. But, hey, at least he can blog:
I don’t think there are too many adjustments we need to make for Game 3. Here and there, we might sniff out a few plays before they happen. But other than that, I think with our energy level and the pace that we run at, it should be hard for them.
There is some uncertainty with Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups, but we can only focus on things that we can control. We hope those guys have a speedy recovery and hopefully they’ll be back tonight. We might know going into the game whether they’re available, but still, I don’t think that sways us in what we need to do. Because we didn’t have Amar’e for the second half of Game 2 and we still played it pretty tough. Either way, we should be all right.
If the Knicks don’t make many adjustments for Game 3, they’ll lose again, because the Celtics haven’t even played their best game of the series yet.
4. Keeping up with the Joneses: And by Joneses, I mean the Bulls and Heat. It hasn’t exactly been easy for those teams in the playoffs, either, but they each have 3-0 leads against the Pacers and 76ers, respectively. The last thing these old Celtics need is to stretch this Knicks series longer than it needs to be. They’re better than a .500 team that doesn’t have a healthy starting point guard or power forward, and they don’t want to find themselves in a situation where they’re facing a younger Heat team that’s also more rested.
3. Chauncey Billups isn’t healthy: The Knicks’ floor general has a strained left knee, and all indications are that he won’t play in Game 3, although he is listed as questionable before a game-time decision. New York Newsday reporter Alan Hahn set the chances of Billups playing at 10 percent. That means the worst defender on a bad Knicks defense (Douglas) will be matching up against the most important offensive player for the Celtics (Rondo).
2. Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t healthy: Based on the New York Post’s latest report, Stoudemire was “definitely hurting” on Thursday night. He was still “walking gingerly” on Friday morning and hasn’t even attempted to run yet, much less practice. Even if his game-time decision is a positive one, Stoudemire won’t be 100 percent.
1. An extra motivated KG: As if Garnett needed anything else to fire him up for a playoff game at Madison Square Garden, an anonymous NBA star wrote an ESPN.com column, calling the Celtics star “a punk and a coward” …
Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to his face, too. And I’m not the only one who thinks that: If you’re not on his team, chances are you hate the guy. You can learn a lot about him by watching his eyes. If he’s talking to you — and he’s always talking — he avoids eye contact. My advice to other guys in the league: Stare him down, and he’ll retreat. From what I’ve seen, he’ll never mix it up with a player who’s bigger than he is. Personally, I think he’s scared to fight — like a playground bully who barks but doesn’t bite.
But I have to admit, the Celtics are the most talkative guys in the league. And that makes sense, because it’s the mark of a championship team. Mouths help you win big games. Ray Allen got mean in Boston, and Paul Pierce will look at you, say, “Stop this,” then drop a J on your head.
Dear Player X, Garnett might not look you in the face, but at least you know who’s talking. KG has two double-doubles in two games in this series. Facing an ailing Stoudemire or an ailing Ronny Turiaf or a fully healthy Shelden Williams should mean a third. As Garnett wrote in his Anta blog, “we gotta come out firing next game.”
|Kevin Garnett shifts gears into clutch||04.20.11 at 12:50 am ET|
In the final seconds of close Celtics games over the last four years, you remember Ray Allen coming off screens and lord knows you remember the Paul Pierce isolations. But the Kevin Garnett hook shots? Not so much.
Less than a week ago, Jackie MacMullan wrote a piece that detailed Garnett’s lack of aggressiveness down the stretch of tight contests. Somewhere in the middle of it was this note: “In his time with the Celtics, KG has not attempted a single shot in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime in a playoff game.”
Well, scratch that off Garnett’s to-do list.
In Game 2 of their first-round series, the Celtics trailed the Knicks by one with 19 seconds remaining when Rajon Rondo inbounded to Garnett out of the timeout. The Celtics forward proceeded to back Jared Jeffries down on the dribble, turn to his left and toss in a hook shot in the paint. The basket gave the Celtics a 94-93 advantage with 13 seconds left.
“It was interesting,” said Ray Allen, who hit the game-winning bucket in Game 1. “The play wasn’t even for Kevin the way we ran it. Rondo threw it to him, and I’m glad he did, because that proves big for us going into the next game. Most of our plays have several different options on it, but it involved me, Paul [Pierce] and Kevin at some point. And he saw the matchup.”
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