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Powerade gives Celtics fans figurative middle finger 07.13.12 at 1:04 pm ET
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Only a few miles north of Boston, Powerade unveiled an electronic I-93 South billboard that reads, “Congrats, LeBron. Championship has a nice ring to it,” as reported by the Boston Metro.

Just weeks after the Heat’s LeBron James averaged 33.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game to defeat the Celtics in a seven-game Eastern Conference finals, what better time for the sports drink company to remind Boston basketball fans of their most recent heartbreak? At least Butterfinger wasn’t behind dropping 900 pounds of the candy bars on Copley Square in thanks to Wes Welker for his drop in Super Bowl XLVI.

I’m guessing Gatorade sales just soared in New England. No word on James’ awareness of the Boston campaign. Maybe Zico should unveil a Kevin Garnett ad in Miami reading, “Congrats, LeBron. Suck on my coconut water.”

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Michael Wilbon on D&C: ‘Superstar treatment was surely in effect’ for LeBron James 06.18.12 at 12:24 pm ET
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Michael Wilbon

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday to talk about Game 3 of the NBA finals, the officiating, whether the Thunder would be better off with Rajon Rondo or Russell Westbrook, and more. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Asked whether LeBron James was getting superstar treatment after playing such aggressive defense and being called for zero fouls Sunday night, Wilbon said, “I’d have to go back and look at the game and just pay attention to what LeBron did. It could’ve been a bad night for the way LeBron was called, and also, we know that LeBron is physically superior. He can control his body in ways that even the other great players cannot in terms of avoiding contact and that sort of thing. And also, superstar treatment was surely in effect.”

As for whether Kevin Durant ought to be afforded the same treatment, Wilbon said Durant would, in time.

“People have to earn it,” Wilbon said. “And earning it in the NBA means, in the culture of this league for 60 years, so longer than any of these officials have been around, is seniority. And you get it when you’ve been a great player over time. And Durant had a couple of fouls called on him last night that in my opinion should not have been called.”

While he felt it was too early to say definitely, Wilbon said the Thunder look like a team that will win championships, just not this year.

“Every great player, except Magic Johnson, in the last, I don’t know, 35 years, has been crushed, usually in the finals, but certainly conference finals, multiple times even,” Wilbon said, pointing to Hall of Fame players such as Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwan and David Robinson. “They were crushed before they broke through. I don’t feel like Oklahoma City has gone through that right of passage yet. We know Miami has been through that. LeBron James personally has been through that, twice, already. And I feel like Miami has this sense that, ‘Oh no, no, no, we’re not going to have that happen again.’ It’s awful to go through that for an entire offseason and I don’t know that Oklahoma City is playing with that ‘hate to lose’ sort of mentality.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajon Rondo: ‘We let this one slip away’ 06.10.12 at 4:03 am ET
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Not even Doc Rivers (left) could console Rajon Rondo after his triple-double wasn't enough in Boston's Game 7 loss Saturday. (AP)

MIAMI — Not even the great Rajon Rondo could save the Celtics on Saturday night, not even with his fourth triple-double of this playoff season, and a mind-blowing 23rd of his career.

How rare is Rondo? He became the first player in NBA history with two Game 7 triple doubles, scoring 22 points, dishing 14 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds in Boston’s 101-88 Game 7 loss to the Heat at American Airlines Arena Saturday night. This comes just two weeks to the night he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Boston’s 95-85 win over the Sixers in Game 7 of the Eastern semis.

But that was hardly on Rondo’s mind after just missing out on his third NBA finals appearance in five seasons.

“Great season,” Rondo began before clarifying, “we let this one slip away. We had a lot of opportunities, and they made the 50‑50 plays, and they got to the loose balls, got the offensive rebounds and made plays.”

Rondo led the Celtics with six points in the fourth quarter but the problem was Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Ray Allen combined for nine, as the C’s were outscored 28-15 in the decisive 12 minutes of the game – and the series.

“We had some great looks, Paul, Ray, myself, Kevin, we just didn’t knock them down,” Rondo said. ” What I told them earlier, they got to the loose balls, offensive rebounds and made plays and executed offensively and made great plays.”

Did the Celtics and Rondo just run out of gas?

“Nope,” he said succinctly. “We missed shots.

“We could have done a couple of things better defensively. Our rotations weren’t crisp in the pick‑and‑roll. We made bad decisions, overpenetration, gave up a lot of threes, two to Bosh, a couple to Battier. Give them credit. They spread the points out as a team tonight. And about five or six players scored in double digits. Give them credit. They played great tonight as a team. We just came up short.”

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Keyon Dooling: ‘We have hearts of champions’ at 3:23 am ET
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MIAMI — No one felt the pain and heartache of Game 7 more than Keyon Dooling Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.

Why? Because it was the first time he cried since his father passed away in 2009. He admitted as much after the 101-88 loss to the Heat that ended the Celtics season one win away from the NBA finals.

Dooling, who wears a floral lapel pin in honor of his late father, revealed just how much Saturday’s loss hurt the Celtics as a team.

“My father passed away three years ago and I haven’t cried since my father passed away until tonight,” Dooling said. “This bunch of guys, it was a like a senior year of high school. It was a memorable, lifelong friendships, a lot of great moments. This team was very unique. We love each other, we care for each other and though we aren’t champions this year, we have hearts of champions, and that will always keep us connected.”

LeBron James has been one of the most scrutinized and criticized superstars in any sport over the last six years. But on Saturday night, in the moments after he scored 31 points and lifted his Heat team to a 101-88 win over the Celtics in Game 7, he was showered with praise by one of those who tried to slow him down.

“I’ve never bought into this whole persona that LeBron isn’t the guy,” Dooling said. “I think everybody should relax a little bit. He’s great for our game, he is our game. We need to uplift him instead of tear him down. He’s a guy who’s the most unselfish superstar I’ve ever seen. He rebounds the ball, he assists the ball, he’s empowered his friends from his community. He does a lot of charity work in the community. He’s a model citizen. He should not have a stain on his reputation and I hope it stops.”

Dooling was part of a Celtics bench that could only muster two points and was outscored by Miami’s new bench weapon, Chris Bosh, 19-2. Dooling said the Celtics weren’t tired in the fourth quarter as they were outscored, 28-15. It was just a matter of the Heat’s execution.

“It wasn’t about gas,” Dooling said. “They just did a great job of defending. They’re a great team. You have to give them credit. We fought, we hung around, we were there. We had some good shots at the end. We just couldn’t make plays. They did a phenomenal job. They made all the plays, they shared the ball. They executed down the stretch. They got some interior baskets as well. They did a phenomenal job. Tip your hat to them.”

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Setting the scene from Celtics-Heat Game 7, where Ray Allen has it over everyone 06.09.12 at 6:47 pm ET
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MIAMI — Welcome to Game 7.

It’s the seventh such Game 7 in the “Big Three plus Rondo” era. They are 4-2 in the previous six but of those six, only one came on the road. The 2010 Game 7 in the NBA finals in which, like this series, the Celtics were leading 3-2 but couldn’t close out in Game 6 when Kendrick Perkins went down.

In losing Game 6 to LeBron James and the Heat, the Celtics have put themselves in the position of fighting history.

There have been 110 Game 7s, and the home team is 88-22. The Celtics are 3-3, last winning on the road in 1974.

What’s even more improbable is a team winning both Game 5 and Game 7 on the road. The Celtics took a 3-2 series lead by winning in Miami last Tuesday. In the 110 seven-game series, only five times has the road team won both Games 5 and 7 – the 1968 and 1974 Celtics, the 1981 and 1995 Rockets and the 2005 Pacers all did the highly improbable.

On the Heat side, LeBron James is playing in his third Game 7 and everyone recalls the last one. He scored 45 points in a 98-91 loss to the Celtics at the Garden on May 18, 2008 in the Eastern semifinals. Before that, on May 21, 2006, James’ Cavaliers also lost to the Pistons in the Eastern semis.

Ray Allen will have more Game 7 experience than anyone on the floor Saturday night, playing in his ninth such contest. In addition to the six with the Celtics, he played in two with the Bucks in 2001, beating New Orleans in the Eastern semis before bowing out to Allen Iverson and the Sixers in the Eastern finals in Philadelphia.

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Nation sees Game 7 outcome unpredictable, dependent on LeBron James at 2:44 pm ET
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The Celtics squandered a shot at closing out their series against Miami in Game 6, and now most feel the outcome of Game 7 is unpredictable. There are many factors rendering the game questionable, like LeBron James and Boston’s energy.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News pointed to just that, emphasizing Boston’s need for a bigger impact from leader Paul Pierce and to neutralize James — something Isola doesn’t think Boston can do.

“There is no questioning the heart and determination of these Celtics,” Isola wrote. “They will need a bigger game from Paul Pierce, who was invisible on Thursday. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo will have to produce big numbers for the offensively challenged Celtics. But they’ll also have to stop James, and right now that doesn’t seem very likely.”

It’s not just a win on the line for Pierce, but also his legacy, wrote NBC Sports’ Matt Moore. He said Pierce needs to play well — not 45-point-performance well, but well — for Boston to advance to their third NBA Finals in five years.

“But here they are,” Moore wrote. “If [Kevin] Garnett is the angry ferocity of the Celtics, and Rondo the driven determination, Pierce is the source of their swagger. It’s Pierce who has the most confidence in his game regardless of percentages or circumstances. Much like this Celtics team, no matter how many things suggest he’s in the midst of failure, he finds a way to come out on top. The Celtics need that attitude, that swagger, that player tonight in Game 7.”

In Yahoo! Sports’ Game 7 preview, basketball fans took to comments to dispute who would win the series-deciding game. Most said the Heat need another great performance from James to win, but some mentioned Chris Bosh‘s importance to Miami.

“I hear all the points that are being made heading onto the game tonight but one thing nobody is talking about other than LeBron’s great performance is that with Bosh back it is a different scenario now,” One fan wrote. “Before you had a guy like [Udonis] Haslem who is like 6-foot-9 guarding a 7 footer, now they can put Bosh on Garnett and he won’t be able to just shoot over him. Another thing the Heat did was put [Dywane] Wade on [Rajon] Rondo a little bit more and not [MarioChalmers and everybody agrees that Chalmers is just a terrible defender. …Well to be fair, Chalmers just can’t guard Rondo.”

ESPN’s Skip Bayless stayed behind his Heat prediction, saying James will still play a good “3 1/2 quarters” and Chris Bosh will play well for Miami.

I’m sticking with “Heat in 7″ prediction. Won’t be easy. Celts the mentally tougher TEAM. DWade will be the mentally toughest PLAYER, Bayless tweeted.

NBA’s Shaun Powell took a slightly different twist, saying basketball fans should cheer for Miami because a Heat-Thunder NBA Finals is more appealing than a Celtics-Thunder series.

“The Celtics are a neat little story of persistence, if nothing else,” Powell wrote. “Kevin Garnett at 36 can still bring it, along with Paul Pierce. Until James went ballistic in Game 6, Rajon Rondo was the best player in this series. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers is confirming what we all knew about him, a terrific in-game coach who knows how to make adjustments and draw up plays. Ray Allen, give the man the hoops version of the purple heart for running around and jumping off one ankle.

“They’re exactly the team you’d want in a Game 7 of the East finals, and also the team you want to lose, or should, anyway. And we say this with all due respect to Boston.”

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Doc Rivers: ‘Riley is inside [Spoelstra]‘ and other Celtics-Heat Game 7 shootaround notes at 1:08 pm ET
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MIAMI — Pat Riley won five NBA championships as a head coach, including one with the Miami Heat before he assumed his current role as team president.

But before Miami, and after winning four titles with the Showtime Lakers, Riley coached the New York Knicks to the 1994 NBA finals. He had a point guard on that team by the name of Glenn “Doc” Rivers.

Doc Rivers speaks often about how much influence Riley had on his coaching career. In the hours before Game 7 with the Heat, the subject came up again.

“If you play for Riley or work around Riley, he’s going to be a part of you for the rest of your life,” Rivers said. “That’s just how it is, even if you have no contact with him, or you do. Riley was Riley for a reason. He gets inside of you, and you can see that with Erik. Riley is inside of him.”

Erik is Erik Spoelstra, the current coach of the Heat, a coach who has – at times in this series – come under intense pressure and criticism for possibly losing to a Celtics team much older that was considered heavy underdogs against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Rivers said he can see a lot of Riley in Spoelstra’s approach.

“I don’t know about the game part of it,” Rivers said. “I think Spo does his own thing there. But definitely, the mental part of it, just listening to how he talks and prepares the team, that’s a Riley [characteristic]. Fingerprints are all over that part.”

Rivers is getting his team ready for the seventh Game 7 in the “Big Three” era but just the second on the road as the Celtics take on the Heat at American Airlines Arena, with the winner capturing the Eastern Conference title and advancing to play the Thunder in Oklahoma City next Tuesday night in Game 1 of the NBA finals.

“We’ll find that out later,” Rivers said when asked what he expects of his team in Game 7, after missing a chance to clinch Thursday night at home. “I’ve been to a lot of shootarounds where I’ve left as a coach [and said] we’re in trouble or we look great and the game comes, and it’s different. So, I don’t think you really get a sense for your team. I know they’ll be ready. How they perform and all that stuff, we’ll have a lot to do with that and the other team will have a lot to do with that as well.”

The Celtics are 4-2 in Game 7s since 2008, losing their only previous Game 7 on the road in 2010 when they lost the NBA finals to the Lakers. Most recently, they beat the Sixers two weeks ago, 95-85, in another Saturday night Game 7, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“There’s always something to say,” Rivers said. “But really they’ve been in this situation but they’ve never been in this situation against this team. So, every Game 7 is different, every game is different, honestly. You just have to prepare your best. You have to try and figure how much information to give them and how much is too much, and walk the right line.

“It’s always nicer to have it at home, clearly. But let’s be honest, if you had told me before the playoffs started you could have a Game 7 to decide to go to the finals, we’d have taken it and wouldn’t have cared where you played it. In a lot of ways, we love being here.”

All players were accounted for at the open portion of Saturday morning’s shootaround except for Paul Pierce. But Rivers said that Pierce – playing with a sprained MCL in his left knee – and the entire team is ready and will play in Game 7 against the Heat. Pierce eventually showed up at shootaround and participated, before leaving with the team on the bus back to the hotel just after noontime.

“Everybody’s good, everybody’s healthy,” Rivers said.

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