|Fast Break: Heat withstand Rajon Rondo’s brilliance||05.30.12 at 11:52 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo played all 53 minutes, scoring a career-high 44 points — the final umpteen on fumes — but the Celtics lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 115-111, and trail the Heat 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rondo finished 16-of-24 from the field while adding 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals in perhaps the greatest game of a career filled with mind-boggling triple-doubles. Paul Pierce (21 points), Kevin Garnett (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points) all exceeded 40 minutes, but the C’s ran out of gas.
In the final minute of regulation, Pierce fouled out with 47 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade made just 1-of-2 free throws to give the Heat a 99-96 lead, Allen connected on a game-tying 3-pointer with 34 seconds left and LeBron James missed a pair of potential game-winning buckets.
But James led Miami with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Wade (23 points) and Mario Chalmers (22 points) were the only other Heat players in double figures. Of course, their 47-29 advantage in free throws (24 for James) and 15 fewer personal fouls helped, too. In the final five minutes and overtime, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls to the Heat’s two. And Miami took 18 free throws (James 12, Wade 6) to the C’s two.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turd quarter: The Celtics withstood a Heat run to close the second half, even maintaining a less-than-comfortable 71-66 lead 7:36 into the third quarter, but Miami went on a 12-0 run after a Wade block of Allen on the break to snare a six-point lead — just another reminder of how quickly the Heat can ignite offensively. That stretch featured Wade’s awakening and, of course, a couple more James free throws.
Mario cart: While most of the Heat couldn’t connect throughout the first half –shooting just 15-of-41 (36.6 FG%) from the field as a team — bit player Chalmers carried Miami when its superstars struggled. His 14 points and four assists in the opening two quarters help offset Rondo’s sensational first-half stretch.
Hitting the deck: Maybe Greg Stiemsma took Rondo’s “hit the deck” comments a little too literally. He picked up four personal fouls in his first three minutes of action, and while Doc Rivers nearly earned himself another technical foul, most were completely deserved. That meant Stiemsma, who had played quite well in limited Game 1 action, gave way to Ryan Hollins, who proceeded to dribble into a sea of Heat defenders and turn the ball over.
|Irish Coffee: Marquis Daniels to the Celtics’ rescue?||at 11:24 am ET|
James played 44 minutes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Pierce was on the floor for 40 of them. While chasing the NBA MVP around as he took 30 percent of Miami’s 72 field goal attempts and scored 32 of the Heat’s 93 points, the Celtics captain had little left in the tank on the offensive end.
Pierce finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 field goals and failed to get to the free throw line, where he’s made his bones on a bum knee during this playoff run. It was only the third time in his career he didn’t attempt a foul shot in a playoff game, and two of those have come since he sprained the MCL in his left knee.
Jeff Green was supposed to be the guy who could spare Pierce for even a handful of minutes, and he actually did a fairly good job against James in the 2011 playoffs, but that hope ended in heart surgery and a lost season. Then, Mickael Pietrus showed potential as that guy, but he’s had to assume the backup duties to Ray Allen on Dwyane Wade in Avery Bradley‘s absence, and that problem is only becoming more complicated.
|National view: Media backs Celtics’ criticism of Game 1 referees||05.29.12 at 4:34 pm ET|
Entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night, the buzz surrounded names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. By the end of the game, though, the spotlight turned toward referees Dan Crawford and Ed Malloy.
Crawford and Malloy raised eyebrows with their questionable technical foul calls that went against the Celtics, particularly in the second quarter. By the end of the game, the Celtics were whistled for five technical foul calls while the Heat were not called for any.
‘Don’t tell me that [Crawford] would just arbitrarily decide, ‘I’m going to give Ray Allen a tech for saying no and turning away,’ ‘ Smith said. ‘That’s got to be something that’s coming from the league. It makes no sense to me.
‘For an official to give you a technical over something like that, to say it’s egregious is a gross understatement. They really, really need to fall back. It is ridiculous.’
Another one of the technical foul calls Monday night was a team technical foul for delay of game after Garnett tapped the ball behind the baseline following a second-quarter field goal.
Even the Florida media questioned that call, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wrote: ‘A delay-of-game technical foul on the Celtics in the first half of a playoff game, really?’
|Irish Coffee: Hating the Heat easier than beating Miami||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.
|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 »
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