|Setting the scene from Celtics-Heat Game 7, where Ray Allen has it over everyone||06.09.12 at 6:47 pm ET|
MIAMI — Welcome to Game 7.
It’s the seventh such Game 7 in the “Big Three plus Rondo” era. They are 4-2 in the previous six but of those six, only one came on the road. The 2010 Game 7 in the NBA finals in which, like this series, the Celtics were leading 3-2 but couldn’t close out in Game 6 when Kendrick Perkins went down.
In losing Game 6 to LeBron James and the Heat, the Celtics have put themselves in the position of fighting history.
There have been 110 Game 7s, and the home team is 88-22. The Celtics are 3-3, last winning on the road in 1974.
What’s even more improbable is a team winning both Game 5 and Game 7 on the road. The Celtics took a 3-2 series lead by winning in Miami last Tuesday. In the 110 seven-game series, only five times has the road team won both Games 5 and 7 – the 1968 and 1974 Celtics, the 1981 and 1995 Rockets and the 2005 Pacers all did the highly improbable.
On the Heat side, LeBron James is playing in his third Game 7 and everyone recalls the last one. He scored 45 points in a 98-91 loss to the Celtics at the Garden on May 18, 2008 in the Eastern semifinals. Before that, on May 21, 2006, James’ Cavaliers also lost to the Pistons in the Eastern semis.
Ray Allen will have more Game 7 experience than anyone on the floor Saturday night, playing in his ninth such contest. In addition to the six with the Celtics, he played in two with the Bucks in 2001, beating New Orleans in the Eastern semis before bowing out to Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the Eastern finals in Philadelphia.
The Celtics squandered a shot at closing out their series against Miami in Game 6, and now most feel the outcome of Game 7 is unpredictable. There are many factors rendering the game questionable, like LeBron James and Boston’s energy.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News pointed to just that, emphasizing Boston’s need for a bigger impact from leader Paul Pierce and to neutralize James — something Isola doesn’t think Boston can do.
“There is no questioning the heart and determination of these Celtics,” Isola wrote. “They will need a bigger game from Paul Pierce, who was invisible on Thursday. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo will have to produce big numbers for the offensively challenged Celtics. But they’ll also have to stop James, and right now that doesn’t seem very likely.”
It’s not just a win on the line for Pierce, but also his legacy, wrote NBC Sports’ Matt Moore. He said Pierce needs to play well — not 45-point-performance well, but well — for Boston to advance to their third NBA Finals in five years.
“But here they are,” Moore wrote. “If [Kevin] Garnett is the angry ferocity of the Celtics, and Rondo the driven determination, Pierce is the source of their swagger. It’s Pierce who has the most confidence in his game regardless of percentages or circumstances. Much like this Celtics team, no matter how many things suggest he’s in the midst of failure, he finds a way to come out on top. The Celtics need that attitude, that swagger, that player tonight in Game 7.”
In Yahoo! Sports’ Game 7 preview, basketball fans took to comments to dispute who would win the series-deciding game. Most said the Heat need another great performance from James to win, but some mentioned Chris Bosh‘s importance to Miami.
“I hear all the points that are being made heading onto the game tonight but one thing nobody is talking about other than LeBron’s great performance is that with Bosh back it is a different scenario now,” One fan wrote. “Before you had a guy like [Udonis] Haslem who is like 6-foot-9 guarding a 7 footer, now they can put Bosh on Garnett and he won’t be able to just shoot over him. Another thing the Heat did was put [Dywane] Wade on [Rajon] Rondo a little bit more and not [Mario] Chalmers and everybody agrees that Chalmers is just a terrible defender. …Well to be fair, Chalmers just can’t guard Rondo.”
ESPN’s Skip Bayless stayed behind his Heat prediction, saying James will still play a good “3 1/2 quarters” and Chris Bosh will play well for Miami.
I’m sticking with “Heat in 7” prediction. Won’t be easy. Celts the mentally tougher TEAM. DWade will be the mentally toughest PLAYER, Bayless tweeted.
NBA’s Shaun Powell took a slightly different twist, saying basketball fans should cheer for Miami because a Heat-Thunder NBA Finals is more appealing than a Celtics-Thunder series.
“The Celtics are a neat little story of persistence, if nothing else,” Powell wrote. “Kevin Garnett at 36 can still bring it, along with Paul Pierce. Until James went ballistic in Game 6, Rajon Rondo was the best player in this series. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers is confirming what we all knew about him, a terrific in-game coach who knows how to make adjustments and draw up plays. Ray Allen, give the man the hoops version of the purple heart for running around and jumping off one ankle.
“They’re exactly the team you’d want in a Game 7 of the East finals, and also the team you want to lose, or should, anyway. And we say this with all due respect to Boston.”
|Doc Rivers: ‘Riley is inside [Spoelstra]’ and other Celtics-Heat Game 7 shootaround notes||at 1:08 pm ET|
But before Miami, and after winning four titles with the Showtime Lakers, Riley coached the New York Knicks to the 1994 NBA finals. He had a point guard on that team by the name of Glenn “Doc” Rivers.
Doc Rivers speaks often about how much influence Riley had on his coaching career. In the hours before Game 7 with the Heat, the subject came up again.
“If you play for Riley or work around Riley, he’s going to be a part of you for the rest of your life,” Rivers said. “That’s just how it is, even if you have no contact with him, or you do. Riley was Riley for a reason. He gets inside of you, and you can see that with Erik. Riley is inside of him.”
Erik is Erik Spoelstra, the current coach of the Heat, a coach who has – at times in this series – come under intense pressure and criticism for possibly losing to a Celtics team much older that was considered heavy underdogs against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Rivers said he can see a lot of Riley in Spoelstra’s approach.
“I don’t know about the game part of it,” Rivers said. “I think Spo does his own thing there. But definitely, the mental part of it, just listening to how he talks and prepares the team, that’s a Riley [characteristic]. Fingerprints are all over that part.”
Rivers is getting his team ready for the seventh Game 7 in the “Big Three” era but just the second on the road as the Celtics take on the Heat at American Airlines Arena, with the winner capturing the Eastern Conference title and advancing to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City next Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
“We’ll find that out later,” Rivers said when asked what he expects of his team in Game 7, after missing a chance to clinch Thursday night at home. “I’ve been to a lot of shootarounds where I’ve left as a coach [and said] we’re in trouble or we look great and the game comes, and it’s different. So, I don’t think you really get a sense for your team. I know they’ll be ready. How they perform and all that stuff, we’ll have a lot to do with that and the other team will have a lot to do with that as well.”
The Celtics are 4-2 in Game 7s since 2008, losing their only previous Game 7 on the road in 2010 when they lost the NBA finals to the Lakers. Most recently, they beat the Sixers two weeks ago, 95-85, in another Saturday night Game 7, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“There’s always something to say,” Rivers said. “But really they’ve been in this situation but they’ve never been in this situation against this team. So, every Game 7 is different, every game is different, honestly. You just have to prepare your best. You have to try and figure how much information to give them and how much is too much, and walk the right line.
“It’s always nicer to have it at home, clearly. But let’s be honest, if you had told me before the playoffs started you could have a Game 7 to decide to go to the finals, we’d have taken it and wouldn’t have cared where you played it. In a lot of ways, we love being here.”
All players were accounted for at the open portion of Saturday morning’s shootaround except for Paul Pierce. But Rivers said that Pierce – playing with a sprained MCL in his left knee – and the entire team is ready and will play in Game 7 against the Heat. Pierce eventually showed up at shootaround and participated, before leaving with the team on the bus back to the hotel just after noontime.
“Everybody’s good, everybody’s healthy,” Rivers said.
After the Celtics dropped Game 6 in front of an energetic crowd at “The Jungle,” fans and writers nationally wondered what happened to Boston’s heart, and noted LeBron James‘ very clutch, 45-point performance.
The loss prompted NBA’s Shaun Powell to question if the Celtics can mount a performance energetic enough to win Game 7.
“Given a chance to win on their home floor, the Celtics folded like a paper airplane, raising suspicion that their best game could be behind them,” Powell wrote.
Some fans responded by calling out the Celtics for not showing up to play, while others praised James’ performance. Most fans said they weren’t surprised by the game’s outcome and a few added it will be hard to predict the winner of Game 7.
“The way I see it, the playoffs is all about adjustments,” one fan wrote. “Boston won game 5, Miami made adjustments and came back to win game 6. Boston is in the better position right now, because they can only adjust to what they did wrong in the last game. The Heat do not have the grace of hindsight on their side right now because they are coming off of a win. Barring an amazing game by LeBron AND [Dwyane] Wade (yes they both will have to step up for this one), the Celtics determination and coaching staff will see them to the Finals. Don’t think that LeBron’s game was all about him, [coach Erik] Spoeltsra put him in better situations to score the ball judging on what wasn’t working in Game 5.”
On fan expressed disappointment with Boston’s effort on FoxSports’ recap.
“I was shocked at the lack of effort from the Celt’s last night,” the fan wrote. “It looked like none of them wanted to be there. Maybe [NBA commissioner David] Stern promised them a blockbuster trade next year if they would lose.”
USA Today’s Adi Joseph responded to Boston’s loss by saying the Celtics need to be fixed because “nothing worked” for the team.
ESPN’s Skip Bayless was one media personalty who admitted Boston’s loss, and James’ stunning performance, didn’t surprise him.
Lower expectations, Heat as “underdogs,” most ppl thinking Boston big – LeBron goes off. Predictable. But NOW the pressure returns, Bayless tweeted.
The focus may have stayed on the Celtics if James lashed at critics by recording 45 points on the night. His clutch performance directed most reaction from the game his way, and most praised James’, even those surprised by his performance. Read the rest of this entry »
|Adrian Wojnarowski on D&C: LeBron James’ playoff disappearance ‘not going to happen again’||06.08.12 at 1:06 pm ET|
Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski joined Dennis & Callahan Friday morning to discuss the Celtics‘ Game 6 loss to the Heat, and the incredible performance by LeBron James. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
While LeBron has been criticized for not making enough of an impact in crucial playoff games, he silenced the critics Thursday night, something Wojnarowski said he expects to happen more often now.
‘He can summon that and you’ve seen it before,” he said. “You will probably see it again Saturday night. I don’t know if you will see 45 points on Saturday night but I he has had moments in the past in big games where he has played great in Game 7s. You saw him and [Paul] Pierce have that duel back in Cleveland and Boston was the better team then. He has got the better team now.
‘There have been moments where he just isn’t engaged. You saw it in Game 5 against Boston in his last season at Cleveland and then obviously last year in the finals. People wait to see that happen again and it’s not going to happen again.’
Wojnarowski attributed the performance to the increased maturity of James, something that has changed since his days in Cleveland.
‘He didn’t come out last night and say, ‘Hey, I got fueled the last two days by what everyone said.’ He didn’t do that. He said, ‘Listen, I just went back to how I play and how I built my game.’ I thought his answer was ‘ I really think he matured mentally ‘¦ He always looked more frenetic when he was younger and not at peace. [Now he is] more mature,” Wojnarowski said. “When you would see him bouncing around in Cleveland, around the locker room, you don’t see that anymore.’
|Dwyane Wade on LeBron James: ‘This isn’t last year’||at 12:24 pm ET|
Dwyane Wade didn’t see it coming. “I’m not a fortune teller,” he said. Erik Spoelstra sensed it coming. “Everybody notices the game,” the Heat coach said. “We saw the last 24 hours.” Either way, LeBron James arrived.
“I hope now you guys will stop talking about LeBron and that he doesn’t play in big games,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He was pretty good tonight. Now that’s to bed. We can go ahead and play Game 7.”
Therein lies the rub. Sure, his Game 6 evisceration of the C’s was a transcendent performance by a transcendent player, but all 45 points and 15 rebounds are for naught if he and the Heat can’t replicate it on Saturday night.
James willed his team to a must-win playoff victory, finally. That’s what the NBA MVP is supposed to do. But James won’t be remembered for Game 6 if he can’t will them to a must-win series and, really, a must-win NBA title. Surely, it’s a lot to heap on a man with shoulders broad enough to carry the load but a heart that, until Thursday night, seemed unwilling to do so, but it’s not as though he didn’t ask for it in Miami.
“This is not last year,” said Wade. “He’s really been locked in. He’s been playing unbelievable in the playoffs. He’s taken it upon himself. Like I said, he’s been MVP of the league right now. He’s showcasing it on a nightly basis.”
‘This team has been about adversity all year long,” Pierce said. “So, this is not going to be [anything] new. It’s been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldn’t it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the finals is hard. And this is as hard as it gets, and I think we are prepared for it.’
As clutch as Pierce was at the end of Game 5 in Miami, Pierce was ice cold all night in Game 6. He finished 4-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range. The Celtics captain scored just nine points in 31 minutes while James put up 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in 45 minutes to lead the Heat to a Game 7.
“He hit a lot of shots that he hasn’t been hitting all series,” Pierce said. “Sometimes superstars get hot. I’ve had that feeling before and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Unfortunately, Pierce came no where near having that feeling in Game 6 as the Celtics missed the chance to clinch on their home court.
‘It was tough,” Pierce said of the loss. “You got an opportunity to close out the series on your home floor. For us to come out and play like the way we did, it’s very tough. I mean, you gotta take your hats off to them. They really had a great game. Lebron got hot, playing like a true MVP. We just didn’t recover.
“I always think we got a chance. We’re not the type of team that looks at the score or say it’s over until it’s over. So, tip my hat off to them. They did what they had to do and now were going to a Game 7.’
Pierce realizes that, like the beginning of the series, few if any observers are giving them a chance in Game 7. But like the beginning of the series, he knows that doesn’t matter.
‘Well its been that kind of year for us anyway,” Pierce said. “[I] think we are in the perfect opportunity. We’ve been the underdog all year long, going into Game 7 the underdog. We are right where we want to be.’
As for the “Let’s Go Celtics” send-off from the fans?
‘We have the best fans in the world,” he said. “Down 20, at home, in the playoffs, and they cheer us off the court. And that’s just awesome. That’s why we have the best fans in the world.’
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