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Irish Coffee: Celtics vs. Heat tale of the tape 04.29.11 at 1:03 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

Not much needs to be said about what this second-round series means to the Celtics or the Heat. Regardless of what they say, I’m pretty sure the Celtics don’t like the Heat, and vice versa. The only guy I’m not sure about is Eddie House. I don’t know if he likes anybody. But, as he told the Miami Herald, “We match up great.” So, let’s go to the tape …

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Celtics 3, Heat 1

90.5 … points … 92.3
12.0 … fast break points … 10.0
34.5 … points in the paint … 33.5
47.3 … FG% … 44.7
45.3 … 3P% … 28.6
71.5 … FT% … 74.0
35.8 … rebounds … 39.8
7.3 … o-rebounds … 11.5
28.5 … d-rebounds … 28.3
21.0 … assists … 18.5
6.5 … steals … 6.5
1.8 … blocks … 4.3
13.8 … turnovers … 15.8
22.3 … personal fouls … 20.3

Obviously, that point differential is swayed significantly by the Heat’s 100-77 victory in their fourth and final meeting of the regular season. Still, despite the Heat outscoring the Celtics 44-26 in the paint and 12-3 on the fast break in that game, the C’s still owned the advantage in those categories — in addition to their significant edge in 3-point shooting.

While offensive rebounding is always a concern for the Celtics, I wouldn’t worry too much about rebounding overall, considering the two teams played fairly even on the defensive glass and the Heat’s lower field-goal percentage meant more opportunities for offensive boards. The Celtics shot better and took care of the ball better — two huge categories in their favor.

Where Miami can win this series is at the free-throw line. They averaged five more trips to the charity stripe per game, and we all know how often LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get to the line –deservedly or not.

Now, let’s examine how the Celtics and Heat produced this season (league ranks in parentheses):

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Read More: Boston Celtics, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Rajon Rondo
Celtics and Heat offer interesting matchups 04.28.11 at 1:40 pm ET
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All along the Celtics and Heat figured that they would meet in the playoffs.”It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t go through them,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters in Miami after his team eliminated Philadelphia on Wednesday.

The Celtics had a similar reaction. “We assumed when they put this team together, at some point if we want to put another banner up then we’€™ll probably have to go through them,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the team went through practice on Thursday.

Now that it’s upon us expect no small amount of hype to emerge. But when you break through the thicket of noise, the thing that makes this series so compelling from a basketball standpoint are the individual matchups. There are seven members of the 2011 Eastern Conference All-Star team competing in this series and six of them will be matched directly against each other:

Dwyane Wade vs. Ray Allen

LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce

Chris Bosh vs. Kevin Garnett

Expect the Celtics to approach their defensive assignments in a straightforward manner.

“The numbers bare out when we guard our own guys we’€™re pretty good and when we guard other guys we’€™re pretty bad, against this team in particular,” Rivers said. “They may look good on paper and they look good visually for two minutes, statistically they’€™ve been horrendous for us.”

Rivers was referring directly to the fullcourt defense Rajon Rondo employed against James in the Celtics 85-82 win back in February. While Rondo’s gambit stirred the Garden crowd and provided some inspirational moments, once the postgame fog of exuberance gave way to sober analysis, the matchup did more harm than good for the Celtics.

But Rondo is the wild card in this series because asking Mike Bibby or Mario Chalmers to stay with him for 48 minutes may be asking too much. That could mean Wade or James switching their assignments to try to contain Rondo. “We’€™ll see one of those guys guarding Rondo, which means one of them aren’€™t guarding Ray or Paul, so we’€™re good with all those,” Rivers said.

One thing the Celtics want to avoid are having to rely on double-teams or switches, but that’s easier said than done against this team.

“Every time we’€™ve overhelped in any series, including the New York series, we tend to hurt ourselves more than just playing our solid one-on-one defense with support,” Rivers said. “They run some stuff that’€™s honestly difficult to not switch, but we really try to avoid the switch as much as possible.”

Beyond the starters, Delonte West and Jeff Green will be asked to provide support.

“Jeff is going to have to be a great defender,” Rivers said. “He ran into that in the New York series where by the end of the series he was terrific on Carmelo [Anthony. That’€™s gives us another big, athletic body.” Asked if Green could help with Wade, Rivers said,  “We may do it in stretches, but you’€™re asking for trouble in the long run.”

SHAQ UPDATE

The plan is for Shaquille O’Neal to participate in the walkthrough segment of Thursday’s practice and then try to get on the floor for for the full session on Friday. The Celtics will fly to Miami on Saturday so Friday will be the last chance for O’Neal to get on the floor before Sunday’s Game 1.

KEEPING PERSPECTIVE

The Celtics know the hype will approach histrionic levels throughout the series, but they also know this is ultimately just one step in a larger process.

“It’s the second round,” Paul Pierce said. “It’s the halfway point of where our goal is. I know there’s going to be a lot of hype around it, like it’s a championship series, but you’ve got to understand it’s still just the second round. But a very big second round [series] because you’ve got two potential teams that can win it all. I’m excited. This is a great stage for basketball. It’s going to be great for fans and the guys that we have here love these type of series.”

PIERCE VS. LEBRON, III

Pierce has faced James two other times in the playoffs and the Celtics have won both series. In 2008 they beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game epic that featured brilliant Game 7 performances for both players. James scored 45 points in the 97-92 Celtics win, while Pierce went for 41 of his own. James got the better of Pierce in their individual matchup last season, but the Celtics won in six games.

Asked if it was personal for James to finally get past the Celtics, Pierce said, “Probably so at this point. When you lose to a team consecutive times in the playoffs — I mean, it would be personal for me. I’m sure he’s going to take it personal and you’ve got to expect his best.”

Read More: Celtics, Heat, LeBron James, Paul Pierce
NBA playoff picture, in a snapshot 04.26.11 at 6:46 pm ET
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Believe it or not, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Celtics are the only team that has finished its first-round series. While they await their first day of practice on Wednesday, NBA fans in Boston get a chance to watch what should be one of the most exciting playoffs in league history. Here’s a brief snapshot of the current playoff picture …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Miami Heat 3, Philadelphia 76ers 1

  • Heat  97, 76ers 89
  • Heat 94, 76ers 73
  • Heat 100, 76ers 94
  • 76ers 86, Heat 82

LeBron James & Co. are just trying to finish this series, so they can get their shot at the Celtics. The problem? The Heat are still struggling with chemistry and — as a result — have a 0-1 record in close-out games so far. Meanwhile, 76ers coach Doug Collins is just glad to get another game of playoff experience under his young team’s belt.

Heat forward Chris Bosh: ‘€œWe’€™re going to have to trust each other. We’€™ve been talking about trust all this time, so we’€™re going to have to actually do it when it counts the most. It’€™s easy to stress when you’€™re up 2-0, 3-0. … When it’€™s time to close and it’€™s time to get to those other elite teams, and we’€™re going to have a chance to compete against them, we have to do the same thing well, not the same thing we did [Sunday].’€

Sixers coach Doug Collins: “I’m sure Doc Rivers hopes we take the Heat to triple overtime in Game 7. No question about that. One thing about the playoffs, especially when you are a team that has a lot of games under the belt, you want series to go as little time as possible.”

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Read More: Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, NBA playoffs
The hard Truth: Paul Pierce now knows C’s ‘don’t control’ their destiny in East 04.04.11 at 8:30 am ET
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After going through a very difficult and tumultuous March, Paul Pierce realizes the Celtics now are left with the reality that they likely won’t catch Chicago and very possibly could wind up third in the Eastern Conference heading into the upcoming playoffs.

This is certainly not what the team envisioned when the C’s were leading the East with a 46-15 record after beating Milwaukee on March 6. Since then, they’ve been treading water, going 6-8 in their last 14 before beating the lowly Pistons Sunday night at home.

“I mean, there’s nothing I can do right now,” Pierce painfully admitted. “We don’t control our destiny right now. It’s pretty much hoping they fumble up or stumble up somewhere along the road and we win. It’s going to be what it’s going to be at the end of the day.”

That’s not exactly what the Celtics were hoping for, but they also weren’t counting on six different starting centers this season. Shaquille O’Neal and his “brother” Jermaine have started there. So have Semih Erden, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins and Nenad Krstic.

Through all that, the Celtics managed to stay atop the East. That is, until their 6-8 stretch that ended Sunday. They are now three back of the Bulls with six games to go, including a big one this Thursday at the United Center against Chicago. At this point, Pierce and the Celtics would do well to finish second and have home court against Miami should they meet in the second round.

They are also still looking up at the Heat in the standings, trailing LeBron James and company by a half-game for second. And with Shaq going down last night with what appears to be nothing more than a right calf strain, Pierce conceded the C’s are now focused on simply trying to get their heads — and bodies — straight for another playoff run. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, LeBron James
Report: Heat no longer staring at Shaq 02.27.11 at 10:31 am ET
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According to the Palm Beach Post, the Heat redecorated the walls leading to their locker room over the All-Star break. The face lift included the removal of images from the team’s title run in 2006, which notably included the sweat-drenched face of former Miami (and current Celtics) center Shaquille O’Neal. In place of images from the Heat’s lone title, the team now has posted images of its current stars, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade (a holdover from the championship team) and Chris Bosh.

Read More: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Miami Heat
Ian Thomsen: After C’s moves, ‘not sure who they are now’ 02.25.11 at 1:56 pm ET
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Sports Illustrated senior writer Ian Thomsen joined the midday show Friday with guest hosts John Rooke and Kirk Minihane to talk about the Celtics‘ moves this week, mainly the trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Thomsen said the Celtics forged an identity this season as a big physical team, following their NBA finals loss to the Lakers last June. Now, the identity has changed.

“First of all, I was just wondering who the Celtics are now?” Thomsen said of his initial reaction to the trade. “Before they signed [Shaquille O’Neal] last summer, I was wondering who they were. Because they were outrebounded in the finals, the Lakers front line looked too big for them, even when Perkins was playing. But then when they got Shaq, and you thought about Shaq and Perkins as the front line, now you thought that they were going to have an edge to them, they were going to be able to play down low, they’d always have a big man in there, for 48 minutes, potentially.

“And now again, I’m just not sure who they are now, what the edge is. There are things that they can no longer take for granted: that they can guard Dwight Howard one on one, that they’re going to throw a lot of size at the Lakers ‘€” like a big offensive line that creates room for [Rajon] Rondo and all the other guys.

“So, it’s just now going to be interesting to see what’s going to be the new identity of the team. Because no matter what they do, if they get Troy Murphy or anybody else, it won’t be able to replicate what they had in Perkins. And Shaq just won’t be able to give them enough minutes, even if he’s healthy ‘€” 25, 28, 30 minutes, maybe.”

Looking at matchups against the C’s main competition, such as LeBron James‘ Heat, Thomsen said you can evaluate it a couple of ways.

“It’s like a chicken-or-egg thing,” he said. “Do you respond to matchups of other teams or do you create matchups of your own that they can’t deal with? So now, against Miami, was one reason Boston had an edge over Miami this year because of guys like Kendrick Perkins and the physical edge that they clearly have over Miami? So, you can say, OK, you don’t need to worry about Miami’s big men, so you can afford to get rid of Kendrick Perkins. But in letting go of him, are you letting go of your inherent advantage over them. And now are you sort of playing their game as opposed to making them play your game. They’re less of an imposing team without Perkins. They’re playing more to Miami’s style.

“On the other hand, Jeff Green is huge against LeBron. Because the Celtics knew they couldn’t win without a real backup 3 to help [Paul] Pierce against LeBron, to help against Kobe [Bryant], some of these other big guys on the wings. And now they have that. Jeff Green is going to come off the bench, and LeBron is going to know that for the 43 or 44 minutes he’s playing every playoff game this spring, he’s going to have somebody decent guarding him.”

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Read More: Glen Davis, Ian Thomsen, Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins
Irish Coffee: LeBron James, wrong again 02.24.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘€¦

After the Celtics defeated the Heat for the third time this season, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who’s also an avid NBA fan, and we came up with a theory that LeBron James has Michael Jackson Syndrome.

Essentially, he’s been so famous from a such a young age that he has no idea what normal people do in their everyday lives — much less any concept of what those people think about him. That’s why he says stuff like this:

“Everybody’s bringing their talents to the East,” James said. “It’s going to be fun. We came here to team up, and we knew we were starting a trend. Teams are going to have to load up because the competition level is rising.”

Did he really bring up the “bringing their talents” garbage again? For the past eight months, everyone and their mother has mocked LeBron’s infamous “I’m taking my talents to South Beach” quote from his idiotic Decision ordeal. Even Paul Pierce gave him a jab, tweeting, “It’s been a pleasure to bring my talents ot South Beach” after another Celtics win over the Heat.

It’s as though James still doesn’t recognize that he’s been the butt of that joke for almost a year. That’s why James does stuff like blame the negative reaction to The Decision on racism, tweet “Karma is a bitch” when the Cavaliers get blown out by the Lakers and wear an “LBJ MVP” t-shirt after his team gets bounced from the playoffs. He has Michael Jackson Syndrome.

As for his second point — that his Heat started this trend of stars joining forces — not everybody agrees with him on that one, either (shocking, I know) — Amare Stoudemire included:

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Read More: Amare Stoudemire, Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, LeBron James
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