|LeBron James enters Game 5 with everything (and nothing) to prove||06.05.12 at 9:45 am ET|
For a brief moment Sunday night, the hardships in LeBron James‘ world went away: the overwhelming pressure to win a championship, the incessant questioning of his fortitude, and the expectations. Everything vanished when he buried a 3-pointer to tie Game 4 at 89 with 38 seconds to play in regulation.
Suddenly, James went from goat to G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time, for the uninitiated). More importantly for James, in that instant, there was just tranquility. But moments later in a flash it all came back, as James passed the ball to Udonis Haslem, who was forced into a low-percentage jumper that missed, and the game went into overtime.
“We ran a set where I was coming up for a pick and roll with [Dwyane Wade] and I slipped out and [Wade] hit me,” James said of the final play of regulation. “I was on the left wing, and for the most part everyone else was on the right side, and I had a one-on-one before [Kevin Garnett] came and decided to double the ball.
“I dribbled the ball middle and I saw [Haslem] circle underneath,” he continued. “[Garnett] got a hand on my wrist when I tried to make a pass to [Haslem], and we didn’t get off a good look.”
Just like before he hit the 3-pointer, it didn’t matter that James ranks second all-time in PER (player efficiency rating), trailing only Michael Jordan, or that his career average of 27.6 points per game puts him third behind Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, or that he is one of only six players in league history to average 27 points, seven boards and six assists in a regular season (The others? MJ and Jerry West each did it once, John Havlicek did it twice, Larry Bird did it three times, and Oscar Robertson and LBJ have done it in a whopping six different seasons), or that he already has as many MVP trophies (three) as Bird and Magic Johnson did in their entire careers (and by the way, James is still only 27 years old). Nope. None of that matters. For James, the beat goes on and on (and on).
|Kevin Garnett: Celtics and Heat ‘two teams just throwing punches’||06.04.12 at 4:42 pm ET|
There was yet another defining moment of the series in the second half when LeBron James drove to the basket and was hit hard by Kevin Garnett. The two locked each other up momentarily as James pushed off of Garnett.
No foul was called in rare moment in the series where two players were allowed to go at each other in the heat of battle.
“[We were] two teams just throwing punches, really, to be honest,” Garnett said after Boston’s 93-91 Game 4 win in overtime. “I thought when we were up, we were aggressive. Obviously they were going to make a run. They got a lot of free-throws in that run, a lot of lay-ups in that run and they were able to get some transition.”
The Heat made their big run in the third quarter to make it a game as the Celtics fell into big foul trouble. With 3:35 left in the third, Rajon Rondo picked up his fourth foul. Just 13 seconds later, Paul Pierce joined him on the bench with four personals. It was up to Garnett to lead the group on the floor and right the ship as the Heat closed the quarter with a 7-1 run that cut the Boston lead down to 73-68 entering the fourth.
“Once we got that under control, I felt like we got back aggressive,” Garnett said. “The play-calling was all over the place as far as the refs and I thought both teams played through it. Then, when we had to, we got stops.’
The biggest challenge for stars like Garnett, Rondo, Pierce and James is to know what kind of contact is going to be whistled and what isn’t during a game, something that could decide the season for both teams.
‘It is but you have to put the refs in a position to make some calls,” Garnett added. “[Doc Rivers] stressed us to stay aggressive. At times it is difficult but it can’t decipher on your aggression and how aggressive you are especially during a run. Defensively, you want to be in sync but you can’t let them decipher how you are. I thought we kept our composure pretty well and finished the game off.’
Garnett essentially admitted that the Celtics were lucky to survive Sunday night when Pierce fouled out just 38 seconds into OT. The Celtics scored just four points. They held Miami to two in the five-minute period.
‘It changes when Paul goes out,” Garnett said. “The scorers, Rajon, myself, [Ray Allen] and everybody has to pick up the load a little bit as far as being more offensive-minded. Like I’ve always said, we are a defensive team that can score the basketball. When Paul goes out, Rajon knows to be a lot more aggressive. Ray knows to be a lot more aggressive. We encourage [Mickael Pietrus to score]. I think Quis [Marquis Daniels] was in there in the latter part of the game. (We) just stay aggressive. As long as we are making stops, we can turn it over into some easy offense and we’re a hard team to beat at times.’
ESPN NASCAR analyst and former Cavaliers center Brad Daugherty got in a dig at the officials working the Celtics-Heat series on Saturday when he took some liberties with his promotional script for the worldwide leader’s coverage of Game 4 on Sunday night.
When teased about his comment, Daugherty said: “Horrible. Horrible.”
|Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: LeBron James’ sixth foul a bad call||at 10:40 am ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to share his thoughts on the officiating and what Sunday’s win says about the Celtics.
‘I thought Boston, to re-gather themselves in overtime, with [Paul] Pierce fouling out, to take that body blow, withstand it and come up with the win was terrific mental toughness on their part,’ Van Gundy said.
With both Pierce and LeBron James fouling out quickly into overtime, both on plays away from the ball, Van Gundy went on to discuss the officiating late in the game. Van Gundy took issue with the call that forced James to the sideline for the only the fourth time in his career.
‘I thought that was a foul on [Mickael] Pietrus, pulling [James] down, or at worst, a no-call,” Van Gundy said. “Let them both get up and play. Listen, I’m for more fouls, you know, seven fouls. I’m for sneezing so I don’t see Paul Pierce running into [Shane] Battier on an inconsequential [play], they didn’t even have the ball. I’m just not a fan of watching the last plays in that game, in such a dramatic, hard, hotly contested game with those two guys on the bench. Now, some of the fouls that people want to ignore have to be called, but I could see where a fan of both teams would not have liked the Pierce foul or the James foul because it didn’t involve the ball yet. It was just guys jostling for position.’
Van Gundy argued that by doing a good job setting the tone early in games, officials could afford to use greater discretion when making calls late in games or in overtime.
‘I would tell you this, people who want the game called exactly the same way in the first quarter and the fourth quarter, I know I don’t want refereeing late in those games. There has to be a different level of certainty on those calls. In the first quarter you’re trying to establish a tone. Get the game called in the right manner. Let everyone know the amount of contact that’s going to be allowed. In the final three or four minutes of a close game I think referees have to have certainty that the play has an impact directly to giving a team an advantage.’
As for whether he thinks officials should call plays differently for star players like James or Pierce, Van Gundy was emphatic.
‘No. No, no, no, no. Who’s in the game doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “It’s the certainty of the call, I think late, that you want to make sure of. There’s no setting the tone, there’s no ‘have the game called exactly the same.’ If you’ve done your job, to me, as an officiating crew, how you called the game throughout the game sets the tone that everybody knows that you don’t have to clean up anything late, because the game has been managed well right from the start.”
|Paul Pierce has the last laugh on LeBron James||at 4:47 am ET|
Cameras caught Paul Pierce breaking into a wide smile with 1:51 left in overtime as LeBron James was called for his sixth and final foul, getting disqualified for just the fourth time in his career, and the first time since April 2008.
It was also the first time in James’ career that he fouled out in the playoffs. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, fouled out for the third time in his last five playoff games dating back to Game 7 against Philadelphia. Pierce was called for his sixth just 38 seconds into overtime when he was called for running over Shane Battier on a cut across the lane.
“Oh, it was very frustrating,” Pierce said. “But it’s gratifying when you see the other star player fouling out, also.”
Pierce later added, “It was a cut, scratch, grab, hold, elbow-type of game. I mean nobody was going to give an edge. I’d say it’s a classic. You rarely see that, you rarely see that. You rarely see that when you’ve got two star players fouling out.
“This is probably going to be an instant classic-type of game,” said Pierce, who is now headed to Miami with the Eastern Conference finals tied, 2-2. “We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy, a good old classic bar fight.
‘Words can’t even describe the type of game it is,” Pierce said. “I mean it’s a funny game, the way the ball bounces, the way things go. I mean, started out way up the big lead, to come back, and I was sitting there on the sideline in overtime, I was like, this is probably going to be an instant classic type of game. It was just like one team gets momentum and the other team just grabs it. I’m just glad we were on the winning side today.’
Pierce laughed when asked where he thinks the series stands. He laughed because he’s very aware of the opportunity that lies ahead, starting with Game 5 in Miami.
‘It’s even,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to win a game in Miami, of course. We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a good old classic bar fight. Going in to it, you [had] to expect every game to be like this. Coming down to the wire, both teams trying to find an edge. This was a great game today.
‘We’ve won two in a row,” Pierce added. “We feel like we let Game 2 slip away. So, we fee like were playing a good momentum. But we’ve got to start playing for 48 minutes. We haven’t put together a 48 minute game yet. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have gotten to 100 points tonight after scoring 61 in the first half so were hoping we can put together a full game when we get down to Miami.’
|Mickael Pietrus: The secret weapon against LeBron James||at 4:16 am ET|
‘I try to play tough, because you have to respect the jersey you’re playing for,” was all Pietrus would say about his pressure on LeBron James as the Miami power forward was jammed by Pietrus at the top of the circle as the clock wound down. Then Pietrus fed James off to the right, where there were two more Celtics waiting to help out.
Triple-teamed, James was forced to dump off to Udonis Haslem who missed a jumper at the buzzer, sending the game game to overtime, 89-89.
What was also remarkable about the play at the end of regulation was that the situation was identical to the end of Game 2. That’s when the Celtics got away with Rajon Rondo guarding a player eight inches taller when James missed a fallaway at the end of regulation. Doc Rivers wasn’t going to allow that to happen again. He put Pietrus on him and made sure he had help by funneling James into a triple-team.
Pietrus kept it up in the overtime. With Boston desperately trying to protect a one-point lead, the Celtics missed consecutive shots. But there was Pietrus flying in from the weak side and picking up the rebound to extend the Celtics possession. Those two rebounds took a total of 45 seconds off the clock at a most-critical time.
‘The last two were huge. Sometimes that’s what it takes to win basketball games,” Pietrus said. “You can always count on me if you want to win games. I’m going to play hard. That’s what I did for my team tonight. My main focus is to go to Miami now and try and get another win.
‘If I don’t have my shot I won’t get frustrated because I know we have legends on the floor. You have to respect them. As far as right now I’m trying to focus on what the team needs the most. From me that’s defense and rebounding.’
|Doc Rivers and Celtics: ‘Last year was last year… We don’t want a repeat of that’||06.03.12 at 7:14 pm ET|
Try as they might, the national and local media was unsuccessful in the 45 hours since the end of Friday’s Boston’s win over the Heat in Game 3 to draw the Celtics in to comparing last year to this year against LeBron James and company.
“I don’t even remember last year, to be honest with you,” said Paul Pierce when asked about the details of the 4-1 loss to the Heat in the Eastern semifinals last year.
“I don’t, really,” Doc Rivers said when asked if he recalled Boston winning Game 3 in 2011 before losing a heart-breaker in Game 4 in overtime. “I know we lost. I think that’s the game Rondo got injured but I’m not even sure of that. Oh, it was Game 3. I don’t even remember. That tells you what I remember.”
Indeed, the inspired Celtics overcame the dislocation of Rajon Rondo‘s left elbow in a collision with Dwyane Wade in Game 3. They had a great chance to tie the series when Ray Allen drilled a three to put the Celtics up, 84-81, with 2:28 left. But James hit a three of his own 28 seconds later and James hit a jumper to put Miami up, 86-84. Pierce hit a jumper to tie it, 86-86, with 41 seconds left. After a James turnover, the Celtics had the last 19.5 seconds left to win it. They had to settle for a missed fadeaway from Pierce with 0.9 seconds remaining. ‘
In that game, Kevin Garnett had seven points and made just 1-of-10 from the field in 41 minutes. That cannot happen again for the Celtics to win Game 4, something they failed to do in 2011.
“We just want to be consistent in how we play,” Pierce said. “Last year was last year. It’s over with. We don’t want a repeat of that so we just have to be consistent in everything we’re trying to do. We’re going to continue to try and get him the ball, get as many as touches out of him as possible. We know that’s been working for us. So, when Kevin gets it going from the inside, it really opens up things for a lot of us on the perimeter.”
The Celtics would be outscored 12-4 in overtime in the game that would essentially seal Boston’s playoff fate in five games.
“We had opportunities,” Rivers reflected. “Clearly, we had a couple of great shots. I think we had a terrible possession now that I think about it before overtime. Our last possession [of regulation]. Thanks for bringing that up.”
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