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An apology from LeBron James about the ‘R’ word 05.10.11 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.

Read More: 2011 NBA Playoffs, Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James
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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA playoffs
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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Read More: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Mike Gorman
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 ‘€œPeninsula 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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Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James
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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Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Paul Pierce
Tim Legler on M&M: Celtics ‘just not athletic enough to deal with this’ at 12:18 pm ET
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ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday to talk about the Celtics’ struggles in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The C’s trail the Heat 2-0 as the series heads to Boston for Game 3 Saturday. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

“I think the problem ultimately for the Celtics is going to be that they don’t have home court,” Legler said. “I think they’re going to derive a lot of energy coming home. With the change in venue and the couple of days off they’re going to have right now is going to do them a world of good. I think they’re going to energize themselves. I think they’re going to get their competitive edge back up again and realize: ‘Look, we’re not going out like this.’ And when they get home, you’re going to see a much better effort.

“Having said that, they can win two games in Boston, I don’t think there’s any question about it. But then you’re turning it into a best two out of three, but two of those games being in Miami, and you see the type of energy they played with down there.”

Legler said the Celtics’ aging stars simply can’t keep up with the Heat youngsters. “I just don’t know if Boston is athletic enough to deal with this team,” Legler said. “Because LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are doing what they want to do. They’re getting to the place on the court they want to get to. They’re getting there quicker than Boston has a chance to react.

“I think it’s the first time since this [Celtics] group’s been together, since ’08, that their defense doesn’t look as quick or as suffocating as it normally is. And I think a lot of that has to do with how fast and how quickly Miami gets to their spots offensively, and how they beat you off the dribble. And they’re getting to the rim and they’re getting to places before the help defender can get there. We’re not used to seeing that against this Boston team. And I think that speaks directly to the athleticism involved with the Miami Heat and that might be eventually the undoing for the Celtics in this series. They’re just not athletic enough to deal with this.”

Legler was asked about the Kendrick Perkins trade and how the center would impact the series were he still a Celtic. Said Legler: “Kendrick Perkins would definitely have an impact, and a healthy Shaquille O’Neal would have a similar impact. No. 1, just taking up space, being physical, moving bodies around the rim. You seal off those little pockets that you see Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh and some of the offensive rebounds they’ve gotten. I don’t think that they would be getting those if you have Kendrick Perkins in there or you have a healthy Shaq.

“Finishing plays around the basket ‘€” Perkins was never a great offensive player, but he got much better at it as he grew with the Boston Celtics. And Shaq has a 60 percent field goal percentage through his career. He’s going to make some of the shots right now that are being missed through the first two games, because they’re point-blank. He’s going to finish, he’s going to power through people. He’s not a guy that can move very well out on the floor, but just as far as anchoring the paint on both ends, they absolutely miss that physical presence.

“The depleted front line of the Boston Celtics just doesn’t do anything to to intimidate Miami.”

Read More: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joel Anthony, Kendrick Perkins
Fast Break: Celtics collapse in another loss to Heat 05.03.11 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Heat broke open a tie game in the fourth quarter with a 14-point run and LeBron James‘ 35 points helped Miami defeat the Celtics, 102-91, to take a two-game lead in the second-round series. Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

Game 3 is back in Boston on Saturday.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Fourth-quarter collapse: After surging back to tie the game at 80 apiece, the Heat scored the next 14 points, including six free throws, to take a 94-80 lead with three and a half minutes remaining. James dominated that stretch, totaling 12 fourth-quarter points. The Celtics unraveled, failing to get back on defense as a result of complaints about the officiating. Even Doc Rivers picked up a late technical foul arguing a call (the Heat did own a 36-22 advantage in free throws).

Heat’s Big Three vs. Celtics’ Big Four: The Heat entered the game with a 33-3 record when their Big Three combined for 70 points, and James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to top that milestone by 10. Wade, James and Bosh combined for 80 points and 26 rebounds, while Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett totaled 56 points and 22 rebounds. Allen (7 points) and Pierce (11 points) especially struggled.

Paul Pierce isn’t Paul Pierce: Pierce left the game in the first half after twisting an ankle. After getting treatment in the locker room, he returned relatively quickly. Still, he didn’t appear as explosive and struggled for a second straight game. Meanwhile, Allen — who was already struggling — bruised his chest during a third-quarter collision with James.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Jeff Green inserts himself: In 10 first-half minutes, Jeff Green made 4-of-5 shots — including a pair of 3-pointers for 10 points before the break (he finished with 11 points). His performance highlighted what was perhaps the bench’s best stretch of the playoffs, as the Celtics stayed with the Heat to start a low-scoring second quarter. Green even demonstrated some rare emotion, letting out a roar after being fouled by James in the third quarter. Delonte West (10 points) also had five points on 2-of-2 shooting off the bench during that same span.

Guarding James Jones: After Jones scored 25 points on seven shots in Game 1, the Celtics made a concerted effort to keep Jones from killing them on open 3-point shots — and it paid off. Forcing Jones to play off the dribble rather than set up along the 3-point line, the C’s held him to one missed field goal in the first half. Meanwhile, Jones picked up three fouls on the defensive end before the break — rendering him useless.

JO-ffensive rebounding: The Celtics have struggled on the offensive glass all season, but Jermaine O’Neal single-handedly gave the C’s five extra possessions in the first half alone — as they battled the Heat evenly (7-7) in offensive rebounding for the first 24 minutes. O’Neal finished with a respectable eight points and nine rebounds, but the Celtics ended up losing the rebounding battle on both ends of the floor.

Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, NBA playoffs
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