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Irish Coffee: Delonte West knows ‘it’s win or go home’ 05.10.11 at 11:30 am ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

This was supposed to be Delonte West‘s season of redemption. Instead, it’s been a season of frustration.

If anybody on this Celtics team could turn to excuses, it’s West, whose series of injuries this year has kept him from assuming the role everybody knew he was capable of fulfilling when healthy. He grew up balling on the playgrounds in the Greater Washington D.C. area, developing a toughness that has prepared him to take (and make) big shots in big moments, frustrate superstars like Dwyane Wade defensively and, of course, battle injury.

And now that West has finally found his groove — scoring at least 10 points in all four games against the Heat — it might be too late. Still, trailing 3-1 and heading back to Miami for Game 5, West isn’t playing the blame game.

“It’s win or go home,” West said after the 98-90 Game 4 defeat. “You gotta bring it. Everybody’s gotta bring it, or we might as well just get some seats down at the beach and stay down there. But that’s not our plan.”

West could’ve made excuses when he was suspended for the first 10 games of the season on weapons charges, but instead he took it as a learning experience. He could’ve made excuses when he broke his right wrist five games after returning from suspension. Or when he chipped a bone in his right ankle three games after returning from wrist surgery.  Or when he injured his shooting shoulder in Game 3 of these Eastern Conference semifinals. But he didn’t.

“It’s doing a lot better,” he said. “I had it taped up. They put some type of compression sleeve on it. It feels a lot better than [Sunday] and definitely better than when I hurt it the prior game. I ain’t got no excuses over here.”

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Dwyane Wade and LeBron James talk it out and finally beat the C’s in Boston at 12:40 am ET
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This was exactly the kind of moment their detractors were waiting for. LeBron James drives into the paint against Paul Pierce, loses control of himself and the ball and allows the Celtics to get a chance to get a final shot and win the game.

So, when a foul was called with 19.5 seconds remaining and the Celtics called timeout, Dwyane Wade came over to LeBron and had a talk.

“I had a timeout to kick myself, tell myself you can’t turn the ball over in that situation,” James said. “D-Wade came to me, told me what he thought I should have done, but there was still time on the clock and I had to let it go because they had the ball with the shot clock was off.

“For the most part, I’ve watched a lot of Celtics games, I’ve been in a lot of pressure situations against them so I kind of knew what was coming at me, I knew it was going to be either a Paul Pierce pick and roll or it was going to be an isolation. The only way for me to redeem myself was to get a stop and send it to overtime.”

Which is exactly what he did. He forced Paul Pierce to the left – after the Celtics botched the play – and made the Celtics captain shoot a fallaway jumper that rimmed out at the buzzer.
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An apology from LeBron James about the ‘R’ word at 12:29 am ET
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Before talking about his clutch 3-pointer that tied the game late in the fourth quarter and his defense on Paul Pierce at the end of regulation, LeBron James offered up an apology for using the word “retarded” to describe a question asked of Dwyane Wade following a Game 3 loss to the Celtics Saturday night. James was heard muttering “that’s retarded” while Wade was being asked if he had any reaction to those who might think his play on Rajon Rondo was dirty.

“First of all, I want to apologize for using the ‘R’ word after Game 3. If I offended anyone, I sincerely apologize,” said James, who scored 35 points and led the Heat to a 98-90 overtime win at TD Garden Monday night, pushing the Celtics to the brink of elimination Wednesday night in Miami.

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Fast Break: Celtics fall as Heat turn it on in overtime 05.09.11 at 10:06 pm ET
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Behind 35 points and 14 rebounds from LeBron James, the Heat took the Celtics to overtime, where Miami outscored the C’s 12-4 and captured a 98-90 victory Monday night that pushed Boston to the brink of elimination entering Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Paul Pierce matched his Game 3 effort of 27 points, but Kevin Garnett scored just seven on 1-of-10 shooting after netting 28 points in the C’s only victory of the series.

WHAT WENT WRONG

LeBron James goes off: As impressive as Pierce was, James matched him every step of the way. He scored 20 first-half points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed five rebounds before the break. He and Dwyane Wade combined for 34 of the Heat’s 50 first-half points. Outside of that duo, who kept their team with three points in the opening 24 minutes, the Heat role players struggled severely, shooting just 7-of-18 in the first half.

Second-half offense: Probably fatigued, the Celtics ran a stagnant offense in the second half — moving the ball slowly. After shooting 58.1 percent from the field as a team in the first half, the C’s made just 12-of-39 (30.8 percent) in the second half and overtime.

Chris Bosh’s third quarter: The Heat desperately needed somebody other than James or Wade to step up in the second half, and Bosh answered that call. In the third quarter alone, he made 3-of-4 shots for six points in addition to grabbing seven rebounds — actually pushing the Heat lead to four points at one point. Meanwhile, Garnett missed all four of his shots in the third quarter. The third member of Miami’s Big Three kept the Heat within striking distance entering the fourth quarter (73-69). Bosh outscored Garnett by 13 points.

Big Baby’s funk is severe: Struggling for most of the playoffs, Davis took two jump shots that didn’t even approach touching the rim. He scored just four points on 1-of-4 shooting and did not grab a rebound or dish out an assist. This is a guy who received votes for Sixth Man of the Year, and he’s been giving the Celtics nothing in this series.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce heats up early, again: Despite a less than capacity crowd at the start the game as a result of a traffic jam, Pierce showed up early — recording 16 points on six shots to go along with four rebounds in the first quarter. The Celtics led by as many as eight points and led 31-28 after the opening 12 minutes, giving the late-arriving fans plenty to cheer.

Jermaine O’Neal contributes: O’Neal produced eight points, three rebounds and two assists before halftime, providing much-needed energy at the center position. However, he did not score and grabbed only one rebound after halftime. Defensively, O’Neal neutralized Joel Anthony (4 points, 4 rebounds), who got his first start of the playoffs.

The bench presses the Heat: In perhaps their most impressive stretch of the postseason, a Celtics lineup of Jeff GreenDelonte WestGlen DavisRay Allen and Jermaine O’Neal played the first 5:06 of the second quarter, actually stretching the C’s lead to as many as 11 points (42-31). A Green corner 3-pointer and a pair of West pull-up jumpers highlighted a run that forced the Heat to call for a timeout.

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Mike Gorman on M&M: ‘I think Miami is emotionally spent’ at 1:28 pm ET
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Longtime Celtics television broadcaster Mike Gorman joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to discuss the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Heat. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Gorman said he doesn’t blame Dwyane Wade for what happened to Rajon Rondo in Saturday’s Game 3 after the two players tangled and the Celtics point guard ended up with a dislocated left elbow.

“I thought it was physical playoff basketball with a bad result,” Gorman said. “What happened to Rondo didn’t have anything to do necessarily with the way Wade hit him. It was just trying to brace his fall that he got his arm out there. It wasn’t like his arm was twisted willfully by an opposing player.”

Gorman said he was surprised by the Heat’s failure to be aggressive with Rondo after the injury.

“Maybe they were just so stunned he was on the floor,” Gorman said. “They seem hypnotized by the fact that he was playing them with one hand tied behind his back. … Not only they didn’t pressure the ball, they didn’t even force him to go left. It was like they were deferential to him. I don’t think that’s going to be the case tonight.”

Gorman said the Heat’s struggles Saturday and forward Chris Bosh acknowledging the Boston crowd affected his play might be a sign that the long season is wearing on them.

“I think Miami is emotionally spent,” Gorman said. “I think they’ve had the headlights, the spotlights, whatever you want to call it, right in their eyes right since training camp opened 6-7 months ago. And every single city they were in, they were getting booed, they were getting questioned. I think Bosh saying he was intimidated was more a sign of a guy saying that he was emotionally exhausted.

“I couldn’t believe on Saturday night, having the Celtics down 2-0 that [LeBron] James and Wade didn’t come out and just be assassins. Wade was an assassin, but James was tentative. I don’t know how else to describe it. For a guy with all the talent that he has, in a game like that to be tentative really is kind of amazing. So, I wonder about the psyche of this team.

“I also wonder — I think it’s 10 or 11 in a row now they’ve lost in Boston. They may be starting to think they can’t win here.”

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Speaking with the Enemy: Celtics vs. Heat 05.06.11 at 2:36 pm ET
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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.

Will Miami’s role players (i.e., James Jones & Joel Anthony) be this productive all series?

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?

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Irish Coffee: Paul Pierce must captain Celtics ship 05.04.11 at 12:31 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …

This was Paul Pierce‘s signature season. Reaching the 20,000-point plateau, he had left the 2005 version of himself behind — turning in the most efficient season of his 13-year career during the hunt for a second NBA championship banner that would further cement his legacy as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time.

“I’m trying to get another one,” Pierce told Celtics legend Bill Russell in a recent conversation on NBA.com. “I’m going to go out and get it, just like you did.”

And then the first two games of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals happened.

Now, Pierce finds himself in a place he’s only been twice in his great Boston tenure — down 2-0 in a playoff series — and both times he’s been swept. But that was before he partnered with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, before he matured into an unselfish player who put team first and before he earned an NBA Finals MVP.

That partnership, maturity and unselfishness was nowhere to be found in Game 1, when he lost his head not once but twice in the heat of playoff battle — an all too familiar reminder of the guy who got tossed from Game 6 of a 2005 playoff series against the Pacers, waved his jersey over his head to incite the Indiana crowd and wore a mock bandage around his jaw during the post-game press conference.

In Game 2, Pierce took just 11 shots and two free throws for 13 points; he recorded only one assist. Where is the guy that shot nearly 50 percent for the regular season and dished out more than three assists per game? Sure, you could blame that in part on his strained left Achilles tendon, but he still played 33 minutes and said, “It didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.”

Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, LeBron James, turned in a signature performance with 35 points on 14-of-25 shooting. There was a time, not too long ago, when Pierce was capable of giving James a run for his money. Remember Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, when The Truth lived up to his nickname and negated LeBron’s 45-point outing with 41 points of his own?

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