|Dwyane Wade on LeBron James: ‘This isn’t last year’||06.08.12 at 12:24 pm ET|
Dwyane Wade didn’t see it coming. “I’m not a fortune teller,” he said. Erik Spoelstra sensed it coming. “Everybody notices the game,” the Heat coach said. “We saw the last 24 hours.” Either way, LeBron James arrived.
“I hope now you guys will stop talking about LeBron and that he doesn’t play in big games,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “He was pretty good tonight. Now that’s to bed. We can go ahead and play Game 7.”
Therein lies the rub. Sure, his Game 6 evisceration of the C’s was a transcendent performance by a transcendent player, but all 45 points and 15 rebounds are for naught if he and the Heat can’t replicate it on Saturday night.
James willed his team to a must-win playoff victory, finally. That’s what the NBA MVP is supposed to do. But James won’t be remembered for Game 6 if he can’t will them to a must-win series and, really, a must-win NBA title. Surely, it’s a lot to heap on a man with shoulders broad enough to carry the load but a heart that, until Thursday night, seemed unwilling to do so, but it’s not as though he didn’t ask for it in Miami.
“This is not last year,” said Wade. “He’s really been locked in. He’s been playing unbelievable in the playoffs. He’s taken it upon himself. Like I said, he’s been MVP of the league right now. He’s showcasing it on a nightly basis.”
In the wake of a shocking 98-79 loss to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, Paul Pierce sounded a philosophical tone about the prospects for Game 7 Saturday night in Miami.
“This team has been about adversity all year long,” Pierce said. “So, this is not going to be [anything] new. It’s been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldn’t it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the finals is hard. And this is as hard as it gets, and I think we are prepared for it.”
As clutch as Pierce was at the end of Game 5 in Miami, Pierce was ice cold all night in Game 6. He finished 4-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range. The Celtics captain scored just nine points in 31 minutes while James put up 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in 45 minutes to lead the Heat to a Game 7.
“He hit a lot of shots that he hasn’t been hitting all series,” Pierce said. “Sometimes superstars get hot. I’ve had that feeling before and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Unfortunately, Pierce came no where near having that feeling in Game 6 as the Celtics missed the chance to clinch on their home court.
“It was tough,” Pierce said of the loss. “You got an opportunity to close out the series on your home floor. For us to come out and play like the way we did, it’s very tough. I mean, you gotta take your hats off to them. They really had a great game. Lebron got hot, playing like a true MVP. We just didn’t recover.
“I always think we got a chance. We’re not the type of team that looks at the score or say it’s over until it’s over. So, tip my hat off to them. They did what they had to do and now were going to a Game 7.”
Pierce realizes that, like the beginning of the series, few if any observers are giving them a chance in Game 7. But like the beginning of the series, he knows that doesn’t matter.
“Well its been that kind of year for us anyway,” Pierce said. “[I] think we are in the perfect opportunity. We’ve been the underdog all year long, going into Game 7 the underdog. We are right where we want to be.”
As for the “Let’s Go Celtics” send-off from the fans?
“We have the best fans in the world,” he said. “Down 20, at home, in the playoffs, and they cheer us off the court. And that’s just awesome. That’s why we have the best fans in the world.”
A disappointed Kevin Garnett admitted that the Celtics might have been too excited for their chance to close out the Heat in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night at TD Garden. The result was an unforeseen flat performance that produced a 98-79 Miami win that extended the series to Game 7 Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
“Some shots didn’t fall that we know we can make,” Garnett said. “Everybody in here was pumped up. Everybody was probably too jacked. It didn’t transcend into a win, though.”
To Garnett’s point, Paul Pierce was just 4-for-18 in 31 minutes while Garnett was 6-for-14. The two stars combined for just 21 points on 10-for-32 shooting from the floor. Now, the Celtics must repeat their clutch road performance from Game 5 in order to advance to the NBA finals and a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“Nothing’s been easy up until this point, and you can’t expect it now,” Garnett said. “It is what it is. We’re gonna take these cards and play them. There’s a lot of confident guys in here, lot of guys who’ve been through Game 7’s, a lot of experienced guys. We’re going to lean on that. And we’re going to fight. We’re a bunch of fighters in this locker room. Let it all hang out [for Game 7]. [We're] on the road, a hostile environment. We got a lot of fans down there but it is what it is.”
As for LeBron James and his 45 points in 45 minutes, Garnett said there was little the Celtics could do.
“LB was in the groove and he never looked back,” Garnett said.
|Fast Break: Heat, James LeBlow out Celtics in Game 6||06.07.12 at 11:10 pm ET|
LeBron James submitted perhaps his greatest game as a professional — his most clutch, anyway — amassing 45 points (19-26 FG) to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists, breaking even a raucous Garden crowd’s spirit and sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for a Game 7.
Six minutes before the 98-79 defeat in Game 6 was over, Celtics fans already headed for the exits. Doc Rivers rested Paul Pierce (9 points, 4-18 FG), Kevin Garnett (12 points, 6-14 FG) and Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers) for the last half of the fourth quarter, letting them stew on what just happened.
The C’s fans who stayed, though, deserve respect, closing out the final two minutes with a prolonged “Let’s go Celtics” chant that lasted until the final answer, sending a message to the “good job, good effort” Heat fans and Boston’s Big Four for Game 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Through the first 11:42 of Game 6, James played the Celtics dead even by himself. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting; the Celtics netted 14 on 7-of-16 from the field. While the C’s offense seemed stagnant for long stretches, James attacked from the opening tip. His effort effectively quieted a deafening Garden crowd and forced the Celtics to play from behind. If not for James, the Heat don’t take a 26-16 lead into the second quarter, as Dwyane Wade started 0-for-4 and finished the first frame scoreless.
Long play the king: Since James started a ridiculous 12-of-14 from the floor, it’s worth discussing further. His emotionless face said it all. If the Heat were going down this time, it wouldn’t be on his shoulders. Playing all 24 minutes of the first half, he scored 30 points, and it would have been more, if not for his 5-of-9 free throw shooting. As the Heat took a 55-42 into the break (on a ridiculous four-point swing of a no-call when Shane Battier mugged Rondo), James owned an 85.7 field goal percentage. The rest of the Heat? Thirty six percent.
Foul mood: With 5:39 remaining in the second quarter, Pierce picked up his third foul, continuing his foul prone ways over the past seven games. Rivers had no choice but to sit his captain until halftime. Pierce had as many turnovers (2) as he had first-half points, and considering James’ performance, it wasn’t his finest effort on either end. Sitting for a long stretch certainly didn’t help his flow. Pierce missed his first three shots out of the break, too. Not to mention a wide-open 3 that would have cut the lead to eight and could have changed the game’s complexion late in the third quarter.
Miami Herald writer and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard joined the Mut & Merloni show Thursday to discuss the Heat’s issues late in games, Miami’s future and Erik Spoelstra. To hear the interview go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
The Heat have had immense pressure on them since the beginning of last season, but Le Batard said Game 6 is different.
“Game 5 you feel like you’ve still got a cushion. There is no safety net now. Now the safety net is absolutely gone, Le Batard said. “There is no, ‘Hey, maybe America won’t be able to laugh at us. Maybe we can come back in the next game and stop the laughter with one good game.’ This is different kind of pressure from any other kind of pressure.”
Le Batard noted that there are a number of factors contributing to Miami’s issues.
“You have got a lot of things in play that makes this a very difficult game for the Miami Heat and create that doubt,” he said. “One, you don’t know what you’re going to get from one of your All-Stars. Chris Bosh has been hurt. Two, Dwyane Wade has not been himself, he’s a little banged up. He’s the only one with a proven track record. And three, you’ve got LeBron James, who, while he’s been great this postseason and been great this season, the last time he was in this particular spot, lose and you die, lose and your season is over, he’s not been good in those spots. It’s been real hard to have trust [in him].”
Le Batard was uncertain of the Heat’s future, but he offered up an interesting trading piece if the Heat were to break up their Big Three.
“While that’s the noise that surrounds the franchise, Pat Riley prides himself on loyalty, and really that would be an extraordinary cold thing to do,” Le Batard said. “The piece you would trade is the older piece whose has the redundant skill set to LeBron James’. So you’d basically be trading Dwyane Wade, who put this whole thing together. I’m not sure how fair that is to Dwyane Wade when he put the whole thing together and two years after putting it together he’s playing in Golden State. I don’t know whether Pat Riley is capable of that.”
When asked about Spoelstra’s job status if the Heat lose, Le Batard minimized NBA coaches’ effect on games.
Said Le Batard: “I don’t believe that while Boston does have a coaching advantage in this series, I don’t believe a coaching advantage usually matters very much in this sport. … The way I’d ask you guys the question is this: Did Erik Spoelstra outcoach Doc [Rivers] last year in the playoffs? I don’t think he did. I think Boston just lost in five games because [Rajon] Rondo was hurt. And Erik Spoelstra is not afforded the same thing when I say Miami will lose in six or seven because Bosh was hurt.”
|Ian Thomsen on D&C: Dwyane Wade ‘giving up’ on Heat’s system||at 10:41 am ET|
Sports Illustrated NBA writer Ian Thomsen joined Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to talk about the Celtics’ confidence, maligned Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, and his predictions for Game 6. To hear the interview go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
“I think the Celtics go into this game with a lot more faith, with a lot more confidence than Miami,” Thomsen said.” I think Boston says to themselves, ‘If we play our way, if we do what we want to do, we’re going to win.’ I don’t think Miami goes into this game feeling that way at all. Maybe they feel like they have to do something that isn’t like themselves in order to win. Because everything else they’ve been trying lately has not been working — the last two years it it’s not been working in big games against this team, when [Rajon] Rondo‘s been healthy.”
When Thomsen was asked to predict Game 6, he was confident in the Celtics finishing the series.
“I think it’s going to be a tight, tough game all the way through,” Thomsen said. “In the end, Boston is going to win like they have before. In the end, Rondo is going to make some plays and Miami won’t have anybody that can make those plays.”
Thomsen said the Heat have been unwilling to display their emotions, even after the Game 5 loss.
“They’re just trying to show nothing,” he said. “They look like golfers after they walk off the green and they’ve three-putted or something. That’s how they looked.”
James has been under scrutiny for his and Miami’s fourth-quarter failures dating back to last season, and Thomsen has a theory as to the dismal late-game efforts.
“When he came into the league he was eventually cast as Michael Jordan and he always wanted to be Magic Johnson,” Thomsen said. “By signing with Miami he wanted to be Magic Johnson and he was making that clear. People saw that as a weakness. So now he was accused of being irresponsible or not up to the task. … I think that’s just messing with his head.”
Wade also has had a tough time this series. Thomsen is surprised with Wade’s play.
“He’s feeling pressure to score because Boston’s defense isn’t giving him any position,” Thomsen said. “But he’s also feeling frustration maybe with the plays that are being called, with the coaches. He’s going one-on-one because he doesn’t trust the plays. When I watched the game the other night, that’s what I was thinking, was: He’s giving up, not on the team and not on trying to win, but on the system. That’s where the Celtics have to feel like, ‘Now we’ve got him.’ ”
|Stephen A. Smith on The Big Show: Magic interested in Kevin Garnett?||06.06.12 at 5:56 pm ET|
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined The Big Show Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Celtics’ big road win Tuesday night in Miami and what the future may hold for both teams. But first, Smith felt he had some owning up to do.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. I get so disgusted with people that can’t fess up and own up,” Smith said. “We were wrong, most of us were wrong and I’m at the top of that list. I didn’t think Boston had a shot to win two games this series.”
To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.
Smith said his pre-series prediction of a Miami victory was based on a rash of Celtics injuries and their season-long rebounding woes.
However, “Sure enough, because of exceptional coaching by Doc Rivers, and guys that simply have the heart of a champion, [the Celtics] just know how to win. And they have so much heart, so much focus and dedication. They just know how to get it done,” Smith said.
“It’s not just that they’re winning, it’s that they’re making it plain that they had no business being an underdog. … And the way I look at it, the Miami Heat are incredibly lucky that they still have a game to play and they still have life because they don’t deserve it. They don’t even deserve to be on a respirator right now.”
Asked about possible destinations for Kevin Garnett next season, the well-connected Smith said a couple of candidates for the Magic’s general manager job have told Orlando, “What you need to do is break the bank a little bit and sign KG to a two-year deal, even it is for about $20 million.”
Smith also suggested the Lakers were a logical destination for Garnett, if Boston didn’t make a strong enough offer to re-sign him. “Me personally, if I’m Kobe Bryant, and I know I’m staying in L.A., I’m making a call to KG,” Smith said.