|Paul Pierce knows clutch when he sees it||10.27.10 at 3:38 pm ET|
You know you’re clutch when Paul Pierce says you’re one of the best clutch players he’s ever played with. Kevin Garnett echoed those feelings about Ray Allen after the sharpshooter showed off his deadly shooting prowess again late in Tuesday’s season-opening 88-80 win over the Miami Heat.
Allen hit a clutch three-pointer from the left baseline with 49.8 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to seal Boston’s win over LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the highly-anticipated NBA lid-lifter at TD Garden.
“I’ve been a witness of it the last three years, and he’s one of the best players that I’ve ever played with,” Pierce said of Allen. “It’s an honor just to be able to step on the court with him night in and night out. You’ve got a guy that can take that kind of pressure off you, it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t know if you guys realize it, but Ray, he’s hit so many game winners for us and so many clutch shots for us, we have confidence to get him the ball in these situations. He delivers nine times out of ten.”
“And this guy hits big shots himself,” smiled Garnett, who added just the right amount of perspective.
But Pierce also admitted, “I like watching, too.”
Pierce did exactly that when he fed Allen off a designed play and the Celtics desperately needing a bucket to regain control after Miami drew to within three on a James lay-up with under a minute remaining.
“We drew a play out of the time out, and the only thing we said is, if it’s not there, it won’t be there because they have to rotate, and if they rotate, if we make the next pass, the ball will find the open guy,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, before giving props to Pierce for making the extra pass.
James was defending Pierce very closely and not giving him a good look so the Celtics captain found an open and willing Allen on the left baseline.
“And that was terrific,” Rivers added. “He had a shot, but it would have been contested, and he made the extra pass. We always talk about no hero ball, and to me that was a hero pass in a great way. He didn’t have to make that pass, but he made the right decision, and it was great.”
Who was supposed to be on Allen? Former Celtic Eddie House, a shooting guard who can appreciate hitting the clutch shot.
“I should have stayed with him on the baseline,” House said. “He kicked it out and got that one right in front of our bench. That’s a play I’ve already replayed in my head about 1,000 times already. But Ray just does that to you.”
ESPN’s Tim Legler joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to dissect the Celtics’ season-opening victory over the Heat on Tuesday night at TD Garden. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Legler said the debut of the Heat’s Big Three was a clear failure.
“The Miami Heat, I just think they’re a team that’s probably 20 percent maybe of what they can be,” he said. “Because offensively last night, that wasn’t just bad for an opening night game, that was inept, period, for an NBA team offensively, the way they played, especially the in the first half. I think that Erik Spoelstra‘s got a very challenging task to try to figure out a way to get ball movement on a team with a lot of guys that want to catch the ball and break you down individually.”
“I saw a bunch of guys that didn’t look like they fit well together,” Legler said. “I saw LeBron James go back into the mode in the second half where he basically said, ‘I have to become a scorer now to win this game.’ And that’s exactly what he was in Cleveland night in and night out. And it’s a big reason why he went to Miami, to avoid that situation, to let other guys make plays, to let him be more of a facilitator in that situation.”
As for James’ comments after the game that the team was too unselfish, Legler said he charted the game, and the stats don’t back up that claim.
“I thought that last night saying that we were too unselfish was a complete cop-out,” Legler said. “I didn’t see that at all. ‘¦ Seventy percent of what they got offensively was someone basically saying, ‘I’m going to go one-on-one right now.’ That’s not an unselfish approach, that’s a selfish approach. The lack of ball movement makes them look selfish, but the problem is No. 1, they don’t have enough guys on the floor that can spread the floor and be consistent 3-point shooters.”
|Ray Allen, C’s knew what was coming||at 2:21 am ET|
The Heat played right into the hands of the Celtics all night long ‘ and right into the teeth of their defense.
And Ray Allen, who defended Wade much of the night and held him to 4-of-16 shooting, explained exactly how the Celtics were able to defend Miami in an 88-80 win in the season-opener at TD Garden.
The Celtics knew coming in that with James and Wade, the Heat were going to run isolation plays all night to try and get their two scoring stars going.
“We had a great swarm,” Allen said. “Everybody was in position. We talked on defense. We knew every play they were running so when they ran it, [Rajon] Rondo was right there, there was no gap. There was nowhere for LeBron to go and then we were coming back out for the shooters. There was one stretch where we were letting those corner 3s [be taken] and we have to do a better job of letting them have those shots.”
“We had seen every thing they run. and they run a lot of iso,” Davis said of isolation plays for James and Wade. “And the one thing about iso is you can guard that by throwing two or three guys at them.”
Miami, which made just 11-of-41 shots in the first half, finished the game shooting a measly 36.5 percent, connecting on 27-of-74 attempts. The two players primarily responsible for guarding James were Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels. Allen was on Wade and Garnett drew Bosh.
“I thought we’re a defensive team that can score the basketball,” Kevin Garnett said. “Paul has his hands full, I have my hands full, Ray Allen had his hands full. Those three are going to be a force to be reckoned with. With know that. Very talented guys, but it’s not one, two, three individuals that make a team. It definitely sets the foundation.
“But for the most part every time we touch the floor it’s about getting better. I thought tonight we did just that. We’ve got a lot of room to improve, but it’s the first night, a lot of expectations on tonight. But for the most part I thought we were solid enough to win, and we want to be better at home. What a way to start the year, with a win at home.”
The Celtics will try to continue their “swarm” when they play their first road game of the year on Wednesday night in Cleveland, serving as the opposition in the Cavaliers‘ first game without LeBron James.
|Fast Break: Celtics cool Heat hype||10.26.10 at 10:21 pm ET|
The Celtics held the Heat to nine first-quarter points, and Ray Allen nailed a clutch 3-point shot to snap a late 10-0 Miami run and push the Celtics’ lead back to six in the final minute. Allen’s shot from the corner ended any Heat visions of a comeback from a 19-point deficit, and allowed Boston to claim an 88-80 opening-night win.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT
1. Rondo to Shaq: Just four minutes into Tuesday night’s game, Rajon Rondo drove, drew three defenders and lobbed the ball to Shaquille O’Neal, who threw it down with ease. It was more than just two points.
Obviously, Shaq takes up a ton of space around the basket, which means Rondo has a larger area to which he can toss the ball without fearing interference. That’s could translate into a heckuva lot more assists for Rondo and a heckuva lot of easy buckets for Shaq this season.
In almost 12 first-half minutes, the Big Shamrock finished with six points but would have had 10 if not for a pair of missed bunnies.
The Rondo-to-Shaq combo also exposed the Heat’s biggest weaknesses: the point guard and center spots. The two Celtics simply owned Heat starters Carlos Arroyo and Joel Anthony. Many critics had serious concerns about “The Others” in Miami, and, for now, those apprehensions appear legit.
2. Interior Defense: The Celtics held the Heat to 12 first-half points in the paint on just 6-of-16 shooting. What’s more, the C’s grabbed 21 first-half defensive rebounds, allowing only two second-chance points en route to a 45-30 lead at the half.
Shaq and Rondo’s dominance of Arroyo and Anthony extended beyond the offensive end. Not worried about their defensive assignments (Arroyo/Anthony combined for two first-half shots), the Celtics duo could sag off and help out on Miami’s trio of stars.
3. Ray Allen: With all the talk about how Garnett looks as healthy as he’s been since arriving in Boston and how Pierce showed up in terrific shape, it was easy to forget to mention Allen.
Maybe it’s because Allen always looks as though he’s in top shape, but the C’s shooting guard looked like he was in midseason form on Tuesday, scoring 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting (including 5-of-8 from downtown). His final 3-pointer of the night came with 50 seconds remaining. It snapped a 10-point Heat run that had cut the lead to 83-80 in the waning minutes.
Allen also did a nice job keeping up with Wade on the defensive end, limiting the Heat guard to 13 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
THREE THINGS THAT WENT WRONG
1. Apparently, Standing in the Way of LeBron James: Twice — once in each half — Pierce appeared to draw a charge on LeBron, who was barreling down the lane, shoulder lowered, towards the basket. And twice referees called Pierce for the blocking foul.
On the second foul, Pierce came down hard on his lower back. He limped to the sideline as the Celtics called timeout, and then went to the locker room clutching his side behind trainer Ed Lacerte.
A report came down that Pierce was out of the game with back spasms — return unknown. But he did return, finishing the night with 19 points.
Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was none too happy with both blocking calls and let the refs know his frustration.
2. Lacking a Killers’ Mentality: The Celtics led, 63-50, with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. The C’s had their chances to end the game then and there, but instead saw their lead dwindle as they settled for jump shots. Meanwhile, the Heat closed the quarter on a 7-0 run (thanks to four points from LeBron), cutting the gap to a manageable 63-57 deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
Likewise, in the fourth quarter, the Celtics held an 83-70 advantage with four minutes remaining. A few ill-advised shots taken too early in the shot clock led to a 10-point Heat run over the next three minutes that would’ve been 13 if not for a missed wide-open 3-pointer by LeBron.
3. Perimeter Defense: While the Celtics’ inability to get out on the wings defensively didn’t hurt them in the first half, the Heat got plenty of wide-open looks. Eddie House and James Jones missed a string of 3-point attempts in the first quarter. But Celtics fans likely understood that House wasn’t going to keep missing those.
In the second half, House and Jones — along with LeBron — finished 5-of-11 from beyond the arc.
|Halftime observations: Celtics-Heat||at 8:42 pm ET|
After all the buildup and all the offcourt drama, there was finally a basketball game to be played between the Celtics and Heat. The start was ragged, which was either a by-product of all the hype, or simply two very good defenses playing all out and contesting every shot, rebound and pass.
Either way, the Celtics took a 45-30 lead into halftime thanks to spectacular defense that held Miami to 27 percent shooting (11-for-41) and forced nine turnovers.
The Celtics took a 16-9 lead after one quarter and the numbers were as ugly as the score suggested. The C’s shot 35 percent (7-for-20) with five turnovers. The Heat were much worse, making just 4-of-17 shots and registering six turnovers.
The Celtics settled down in the second quarter and led by as many as 18 points, but the Heat’s struggles on offense remained.
RAJON RONDO IS ALREADY MAKING USE OF SHAQ
After a rough start where he missed a couple of chippies at the basket, Shaquille O’Neal came over to the Celtics bench where Kendrick Perkins whacked him twice in the head. It must have helped because O’Neal soon converted two dunks off gorgeous feeds from Rajon Rondo.
Rondo racked up six assists in the first quarter and will get a ton of easy assists simply lobbing the ball up to O’Neal. Rondo was the best player on the court in the first half.
CELTICS BIG THREE MAKES ITS POINT
They’re not the original Big Three, but the Celtics version reminded people that they’re still pretty good. Ray Allen led all scorers with 11 points, while Paul Pierce filled the stat sheet with eight points, five rebounds and two assists. Kevin Garnett was active and had good spring in his step, but he also missed a dunk and had another shot blocked. Still, Garnett showed far better range on defense than he showed much of last season.
THE HEAT ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS
Any lingering notion that the Heat would storm the floor and become a juggernaut right off the bat were put to rest early in this game. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James shot a combined 2-for-11 in the first quarter and things didn’t improve much from there.
Carlos Arroyo started at point guard, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went with Wade or James at the point for most of the first half. Miami hasn’t had much time together during the preseason and it showed in the first half. The Heat offense looked disorganized and was obviously inefficient.
NINE MAN ROTATION WITHOUT DELONTE
When Delonte West returns, the Celtics will be two-deep at every position. Until he returns from his 10-game suspension, however, Doc Rivers looks like he will go with a nine-man rotation with Marquis Daniels getting time at both wing positions behind Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.
The Celtics bench was strong in the first half with 14 points and seven rebounds. Daniels led the way with six.
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck appeared on WAAF’s Hill-Man Morning Show on Tuesday morning. His discussion of the upcoming season touched included some pointed remarks about the new Heat nucleus and about a new fashion twist with point guard Rajon Rondo. A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
On the excitement surrounding the opener against the Heat:
‘It’s caused our team to focus extra hard the whole month of training camp, I’m sure. It’s really great that we get to have the opener. I guess we deserve it,’ said Grousbeck. ‘We’re the Eastern Conference champs. It’s great that [Dwyane] Wade lost last spring on our court. It’s great that LeBron [James] has lost every playoff series he’s ever played against us. I hope they’re listening. It adds to the pot boiling a little bit more.’
A computer simulation gave the Heat a 70 percent chance of winning the title:
‘I wouldn’t guess 70 percent tonight. I’d give us 70 percent tonight. I love it. I love Jeff Van Gundy. He’s a very nice guy, but he can’t stand the Celtics because we keep knocking his brother out of the playoffs and he used to be a Knick. But he said they won’t lose two games in a row all year, and they will win 73 games. He’s made all these predictions about the Heat. I think that adds a lot of pressure. ‘¦ Let’s start them off 0-1 tonight and see how they like it.’
On the absence of Rondo’s headband:
‘He’s not going to have it on. He used to wear it upside-down, as a real connoisseur would know and I’m sure you noticed, he had an upside-down logo, turning the NBA upside-down. And they won’t let him do it anymore. They said they were going to fine him for that. So he said, ‘To heck with you, I’m not going to fine it at all.’ That’s the Rondo headband situation for you connoisseurs of men’s accessories.’
Ainge said that his biggest concern about the roster is the risk of injury at the center position and that he expects the team to rely more on their bench depth. He also emphasized how important keeping Doc Rivers on the bench was.
“I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back,” Ainge said. “I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.”
Ainge also talked about the fact that the model the Miami Heat used to build their team this offseason would continue to be a possibility.
“The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining,” Ainge said. “I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a Big Three.”
Below are the highlights from the interview. To listen to the full audio visit the Big Show on demand audio page.
On his fears about this roster:
I think that I’m a little concerned with the health of our guys. But I feel I probably will be all year. But I’m excited about our team.
Is the idea to use deeper bench to get through the regular season?
Yeah, I think that is our objective to play more people. I’m not as concerned about Ray [Allen], Paul [Pierce] and KG [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo, the guys who are coming back. But our center position just because of [Kendrick] Perk [Perkins], Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and his age, and Jermaine [O’Neal] has got a lot of mileage there. That’s probably my biggest concern with the health.
On Marquis Daniels this year:
Marquis played, as you guys remember last year, played really well for us early on in the year. Then he got hurt and never really got in a rhythm. Although, in February he shot like 70% from the field. He had two or three road games out west that were spectacular. When we had Michael Finley come back and Nate Robinson come back and Tony [Allen] was coming back off an injury, there was just a logjam there. And Tony actually won that job back with his great defense. But Marquis has had a good training camp. When he’s gotten an opportunity to play and get in a rhythm off the bench and starting one of the preseason games, I think that he played really well and he’s had a good week of practice.
Ever seen anything like this opening night before?
I never have. Opening day is always a special day. Most places will sell out opening night. I think with some of the excitement that we have with our own team but obviously with Miami and maybe the most significant offseason in the history of any team. I get a kick out of those people who want to criticize Miami for doing something wrong. I think they had a pretty spectacular offseason. You can land some of the guys that they did in the free agent market, not just LeBron [James] and [Chris] Bosh who are very special players but some of the other players, they got some good guys too.
What are you expecting out of Shaquille O’Neal this year?
I hope he’s not a statue tonight. I hope he actually gets off the bench and moves a little bit and talks on defense. Shaq has been great so far, he’s been good in practice, he makes it out on the court almost every day and he’s fun in the locker room. So far he’s been good.
What was behind the decision to bring Delonte West back?
Well you know first of all I think Delonte was a favorite of a lot of people in Boston. He was a fun guy to watch, a lot of people embraced Delonte when he was here as a player. I think a lot of people, including our players, respect Delonte. Not only the guys that played with Delonte like Paul and Rajon and Perk but [they guys who] have been playing against him the last few years as an opponent, they have a great respect for him on the court. So yah I think everybody is aware that Delonte has had challenges off the court. We are trying to give him the support that he needs. The players that were with him before, our coach that was with him before and myself and ownership I think we were aware of that risk and I think we were comfortable with that risk.
On familiarity with West factoring into decision to bring him back:
Not only familiar but actually like him, find him enjoyable, at the same time troubled. What’s happened to Delonte over the past couple years is not shocking to any of us. We know that he has challenges of the court but we love what he brings to the court.
What would have been the difference in the roster if Doc Rivers had left?
It would be different. I’m not so sure if the face of our team would be different, I mean the roster. Paul really wanted to come back, he has his reasons to want to come back and Ray has his reasons to want to come back. So I’m not so sure if those things would have been different. But obviously our team would be different, the personality of the team would be different, the leadership of the team would be different. Doc is a great coach to lead these guys. I can’t say how excited I am to have Doc back. I’m not sure our roster but our team there would be a lot of differences. I think the continuity is huge.
On shelf life of this Celtics’ roster:
I think that none of us have the answer to that. I think that these guys based on how they played last year, they put together a seven to eight game streak in the Orlando [and] Cleveland series last year that was as good of seven or eight games stretch that any Celtic team has ever played, including the ‘08 team, that was two years younger and went on to win a championship. Last year’s team in the middle of that stretch was better than that 2008 team. I think that this team kind of earned the right to try it again.
How important is this game to you?
I think it’s important in that it gives you a real test of where you are, you will be able to tell that. I think that you both teams will show signs of greatness and teams will show signs of it being the first game, who makes the fewest mistakes. This is a team that you don’t want to make mistakes on because LeBron and Dwyane Wade are arguably two of the greatest open court players I’ve ever seen. Turnovers turn into automatic baskets in the other direction, so we have to take care of the ball.
What does this game really mean?
It is good theater. It is a real test. These are two of the top teams, not a lot of people talk about Orlando, Orlando is legit. Orlando is a really good basketball team. So they [Orlando] belong in the same conversation in my opinion. I guess they are getting away from getting all the hype on opening night. I think Miami and Boston are sure aware of Orlando as well.
On whether there is a different view on this season after last year’s results:
I don’t think so. Going into last season before the season started, our motto was win playoff games. With KG’s health starting the year last year and things that happened to Paul during the course of last season, we weren’t right. I do take a little offense to this turning on and turning off thing, I don’t think it works, I don’t think it worked last year. What people fail to realize is that we had number one or number two in the league in blowing fourth quarter, double-figure leads last year. To get a double-figure lead in L.A. against the Lakers at home, against Orlando, you got to show up to play, your just not finishing games for whatever reason. I don’t think that we had the resolve last year but we saw what the team is capable of in the playoffs. I hope this year we don’t have the health issues, or as many and I think we’ll be a better team because we’re deeper.
On whether other teams and players will emulate what Miami did in franchise:
The door is open just with free agency and I don’t know what’s going to happen as we move forward in collective bargaining. I think the door is open by us bringing in the Big Three and Miami doing a big three. New York for three years we heard about how they were creating space and nobody really talked about Miami till last year and Chicago. Teams can create space and opportunities fairly quickly, by trading away players and getting rid of assets to try to free up cap space. But there was only one Miami this year that came away with what everyone was seeking, it couldn’t be New Jersey, New York and Chicago.
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