|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.
Not when it comes to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Co. Plain and simple: I can’t stand the Heat. Rooting for Miami is like pulling for South Bend Central against Hickory at the end of Hoosiers.
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.
|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.
|Game 1 pregame: Ray Allen remains in the starting lineup||at 12:44 pm ET|
MIAMI — The Celtics honestly don’t know what to expect from Ray Allen on a game-by-game basis, but they’re not ready to make a change. Asked if he considered starting Mickael Pietrus ahead of Allen, coach Doc Rivers said, “No. We’re going to stay the way we are.”
Still, there is concern over Allen who was challenged defensively against the 76ers and will be facing a far-greater problem in guarding Dwyane Wade who scored 99 points in Miami’s final three games against the Pacers.
“It’s tough. Really, you don’t know,” Rivers said. “We don’t know game to game with him. We don’t know how he’s feeling, then we don’t know how he’s going to deal with it during the game. The way we coached him so far, is with the eye that’s how we have to coach him. We have to watch him. If we feel like he’s moving enough to help us, we keep him on the floor. If he’s not moving enough, then we take him off the floor.
“Then the second decision is, do we put him back on the floor. It’s every game — in Game 7, the argument our staff was having. ‘Take him off, take him out, bring him in.’ Honestly, it’s just luck sometimes. We left him in and he made two 3’s. But the hook was close, I can tell you that.”
Despite their injuries, the Heat are not overlooking the Celtics by any means.
“We understand the challenges we have ahead of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They have championship experience. You can not discount that. They’ve proven that in the last two series, everyone was counting them out. They’re exactly where they want to be. Everybody counting them out and claiming that they’re this or they’re that. They’re not. That’s how they’ve been able to win. They grind games. They do it with their defense and they do it with timely offense.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Sean Grande’s NBA awards ballot||04.27.12 at 1:56 pm ET|
I’m not sure when exactly it happened.
Media, communication, society, it all changes pretty fast these days. But at some point, probably somewhere between MySpace and Facebook, the concept of anonymity started to become a problem. It was manageable then, the occasional encoded e-mail address and what not. But with Twitter, it’s now an epidemic.
And of course the problem isn’t anonymity, it’s a wonderful thing if you’re fortunate enough to have it. The problem, is that it comes with a certain amount of entitlement. That lack of awareness, fake-tough bravery that usually comes after too much to drink, or for those of us new parents, not nearly enough sleep.
People say the nastiest, vicious, twisted things when armed with a keyboard and the invisibility cloak of the Internet. They are, more often than not, the same people that would smile, shake your hand or ask for an autograph if they saw you in person. It’s a disturbing, ugly trend. I mean, sure it is. But it’s an absurdly small price to pay for the freedom of speech we’re blessed to have and the extraordinary age of technology in which we exist.
There are 100 million people on Twitter. If a few dozen backwards teenagers, bred in ignorance, tweet something offensive after Joel Ward scores the overtime goal for the Capitals, it’s not a story unless we make it one.
Morons have existed from the beginning of time. So has classlessness, ignorance and hate. And they always will. Progress isn’t eliminating them; that’s a noble idea but it can’t be done. Progress is recognizing it, isolating it and going on with life in the real world while the increasing minority of people fueled by race and hate grows extinct.
It’s how we got rid of disco, Members Only jackets and lava lamps. Just give it time.
Anyway, the point is that as big a fan of anonymity as I am … I don’t think postseason award ballots should be anonymous. Never have. I’ve been voting for NBA MVP and the other awards for 14 years now. It’s a privilege, not a right. And I think with that privilege comes a certain amount of accountability. I’ve always made my ballot public and I think everyone should. If you’re “expert” enough to get a vote, you should be able to defend your choices, that’s all.
That said, I’ll be submitting my ballots to the league shortly, and here’s what they’ll look like.
I always begin here. By picking the top 15 guys in the league, it starts my process in picking the five for my MVP ballot.
And the strangest thing about the all-NBA team this year? In fact, the strangest thing maybe about this truly strange NBA season? The center spot. For years now, it’s actually been a struggle to find three centers worthy of All-Star consideration. You’d convince yourself that Tim Duncan was playing center even if he wasn’t, or that Nene was really underrated. It was a struggle. This year, if you call Duncan a center, there were legitimately seven guys competing for the third spot.
|Irish Coffee: 10 things we learned from Celtics-Heat||04.25.12 at 2:44 pm ET|
It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. The end of the NBA’s lockout-shortened season is upon us, forcing TNT to broadcast marquee matchups like Ryan Hollins vs. Dexter Pittman and Sasha Pavlovic vs. Mike Miller rather than Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh and Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing to learn from Tuesday night’s game between the Celtics and Heat at the Garden. Here are 10 things.
10. Thanks to Pavlovic’s heroics, the Celtics still have a shot at home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Two things must happen Thursday: 1) Celtics defeat the Bucks, and 2) Hawks lose to the Mavericks.
“Our seeding is important as well,” said Celtics reserve guard Keyon Dooling, who scored seven points in the win over the Heat. “So, if we have to get that win, we’re coming in here trying to tear their head off.”
The hunch within the C’s organization is that if Atlanta hosts Game 1, it’ll be played on Saturday night; however, if it’s in Boston, the series will likely start Sunday. Of course, all that assumes the Bruins beat the Capitals in Game 7 and host Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference semifinals on Saturday.
9. After their loss, while casually dressed Heat stars Dwayne Wade and James poked fun at second-year center Dexter Pittman‘s feet and socks, teammate Chris Bosh sat in the corner of the locker room, donning a suit and reading Malcolm Gladwell‘s “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” A different bird, I guess.
8. Heat swingman Shane Battier‘s take on a game that featured 39 turnovers: “In my 11 years, that’s the worst game I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve already taken a shower. You guys should all take a shower to get the stink of this game off you. It’s not fun for anybody … but, hey, it’s the NBA, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to lockout basketball. It’s FAN-tastic!
|Fast Break: Celtics topple Heat on starless night||04.24.12 at 10:42 pm ET|
Of the seven current or former NBA All-Stars on the Celtics and Heat rosters, only Paul Pierce graced the Garden parquet on Tuesday night, and even he only played 18 minutes. That left major minutes for guys like Marquis Daniels and Sasha Pavlovic, the only C’s to reach double figures in an ugly 78-66 victory against the Heat.
Pavlovic (16 points) and Daniels (13 points) helped the Celtics (38-27) outscore Miami 28-16 in the fourth quarter and finish the season 3-1 against the Heat. With only a home game against the Bucks on Thursday remaining, the Celtics trail the Hawks (39-26) — 109-102 winners over the Clippers — by a game. As division winners, the Celtics own the tiebreaker for home court advantage in their first-round playoff series, but they would have to beat Milwaukee and hope Atlanta loses to the Mavericks.
Dexter Pittman (12 points) led the Heat (46-19), who officially conceded the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed to the Bulls.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Quis to the game: From the season opener on Christmas Day to April 19, Daniels never reached double digits in scoring or grabbed more than six rebounds in a single night. He almost exceeded both those benchmarks in the last two games. After totaling 12 points and eight boards against the Hawks on Friday night, he amassed 13 points and five rebounds against the Heat. He’s not likely to see much, if any, playing time in the playoffs, but at least something other than his shoes did the shining.
Block party: With the Celtics clinging to a 54-52 lead in the fourth quarter (yes, the fourth quarter), rookie JaJuan Johnson blocked a Juwan Howard layup attempt. Just 42 seconds later, newly signed Boston College product Sean Williams blocked Howard’s 10-foot baseline jumper, sending it into the stands for a 24-second violation. Williams sandwiched a four points around his rejection to help the C’s establish a six-point lead.
Heroic Herren: Each home game, the Celtics honor a member of the community who goes to extraordinary lengths to help those in need with a “Heroes Among Us” ceremony. Tuesday, the C’s recognized a member of their own community: Chris Herren. The Fall River native and Durfee High graduate battled substance abuse issues throughout a career that led the former McDonald’s All-American to Boston College, Fresno State, the Nuggets (No. 33 overall pick in 1999 NBA Draft) and the Celtics before several destinations abroad. Since recovering from addiction, a journey detailed in the ESPN Films production “Unguarded,” Herren founded Project Purple to fight drug abuse. As a result, he found himself back on the Garden parquet, the recipient of a rousing standing ovation — this time in a suit, clean and sober.
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