|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.
WALTHAM — The Celtics spent Thursday morning in typical gameday mode, preparing for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden against LeBron James and the Heat. All 14 active players were present and accounted for as the team went through half-court sets and shooting drills in anticipation of the game that – if they win – would propel them to the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were among the Celtics in attendance. Both had minor injury issues in the Game 5 win in Miami. Allen had to leave the game for the locker room midway through the third quarter to get treatment for his sore ankles while Rondo suffered a cut on his left arm but both returned to the game and are expected to be fully ready for the potential series-clincher at the Garden. Rondo shot just 3-of-15 in Game 5 while suffering the injury to the same arm on which he dislocated his left elbow in 2011.
“I don’t know what happened there, I think he got slashed or cut,” said Rivers of the Rondo injury on Wednesday. “I pay zero attention to injuries and never ask about them. I don’t want to know about them.”
If the Celtics prevail in Game 6, they will have a day off and then prepare for the Thunder in Game 1 of the NBA finals next Tuesday in Oklahoma City. If the Celtics lose Thursday night’s game, they will have to head back on a plane Friday and travel to Miami for Game 7 on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
|Mumbles Menino thinks KJ and Hondo play for Celtics||at 9:40 am ET|
You know, New England is doing a real good impression of Miami these days. First, we had the Maine TV reporter who thought the Celtics and Heat tied Game 4. Now, we’ve got the honorable Mayor Thomas M. Menino announcing, “KJ is great, but Hondo’s really the inspiration,” or something like that.
This isn’t the first time Mumbles has fumbled Boston’s “ionic” sports figures, so rest easy Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Remember “Varitek splitting the uprights“? At least he got the sport right this time. Kevin “KJ” Johnson and John “Hondo” Havlicek did play basketball once. Heck, one even played for the Celtics, and the other is a mayor, just re-elected in Sacramento, so you can see how he might be easily confused about a pair of NBA superstars who have played basketball in his city for the last five-plus years.
Or maybe Mumbles is just one step ahead of us all. He is the mayor after all. He can’t be that stupid. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s just doing the best impersonation of a Miami sports fan ever. That’s real “Saturday Night Live”-worthy stuff right there.
After all, before the miraculous Red Sox comeback of 2004, he did deliver the greatest political speech in history: “Much like a cookie, I predict the Yankee dynasty will crumble, and the results will be delicious for Red Sox fans.” Bravo, Mumbles, bravo, indeed. That’s up there with, “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and, “a date which will live in infamy.” Long live the mayor! I can’t wait for the unveiling of the Bill Russell statue.
|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.
|Michael Wilbon on M&M: ‘Miami just doesn’t have what it takes to be a championship team’||at 3:05 pm ET|
Appearing on Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon, ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon said if the Heat lose the series, which he expects them to do, they will have to rebuild the team.
“It became apparent literally sometime in Game 3 — more likely in Game 4 — that Miami just doesn’t have what it takes to be a championship team. They don’t have it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean individually they don’t have the talent. … But collectively it doesn’t work. And that’s what’s become apparent. And that’s why the Celtics are going to put the Heat out of their misery tomorrow night.”
Added Wilbon: “If Miami goes out tomorrow night, and I expect Boston to close them out … you have to just sort of deep-six this thing, and you have to start over. You keep LeBron [James] and you figure out what else you’re going to do. And that means changes. It means changes in the coaching office, it means changes in that locker room. You don’t commit to $350 million or whatever it is to get a conference finalist.”
Asked whether he felt the coaching jobs by Doc Rivers and Erik Spoelstra represented the biggest mismatch in the series, Wilbon was unequivocal.
“No question. No question. It’s almost embarrassing. And that happened last year in the finals as well with [Mavericks coach] Rick Carlisle,” he said.
Wilbon pointed to Spoelstra’s inability to get his players to execute as ultimately dooming Miami’s chances.
“Spoelstra can’t get done what they need to have done,” he said. “The other night, in [Game] 4, when you got all these situations where Miami can win that game in Boston, people point out, they say, ‘Well, they aren’t running plays.’ Well are they not running plays because Spoelstra didn’t diagram them during the timeout? Of course not. Of course Spoelstra diagrammed a play during the timeout. Are they executing the play? No. So, whose fault is that? Either Spoelstra can’t get them to, or the players — I don’t think they’re defiant, but whatever the case, this goes back to disconnect. … There’s a disconnect between what they’re supposed to do and what they actually do — what they’re capable of doing, and what they actually do. Do I seem them suddenly putting it all together tomorrow in Boston? No, I don’t. I don’t see any scenario where that happens.”
In terms of the coaching job Rivers has done this year, Wilbon talked about a conversation he shared with Rivers last offseason that foreshadowed the coach’s regular-season strategy.
“I remember being with Doc, I think it was during the lockout, and he jokingly said a 66-game season was too long, he needed a 45-game season. And so what Doc then did, even though he was joking when he said it to me, he was crafting what amounted to a 45-game season,” Wilbon said. “He could have made that move with Kevin Garnett games earlier; he didn’t want to. Putting [Garnett] at center and other moves he made, introducing, spoon-feeding Avery Bradley, and how to get him into the lineup, and other changes. He could have done that stuff earlier, but he knew he really needed 45 games because he wasn’t going to risk getting Ray Allen hurt and risk getting Paul Pierce hurt and going into the playoffs without those guys being healthy. And so it was a balancing act. And it’s a great truly great coaching job.”
|Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team||at 1:26 pm ET|
There’s a duality of team happening in this series. Not good vs. evil, but heart vs. spinelessness. As Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the Celtics, “They have championship DNA. They have what we’re trying to get.”
The lasting images of Game 5: 1) A blank-faced LeBron James retreating into the tunnel of AmericanAirlines Arena after another devastating postseason defeat as one young Miami fan repeated behind him, “Good job! Good effort!” And 2) A grinning Paul Pierce returning to a timeout huddle, his puffed chest being pounded by teammates after he delivered another playoff victory that forced most Heat fans to funnel for the exits.
Throughout Tuesday night, constant dueling reminders arose of why these Heat are these Heat and these Celtics are these Celtics. Let’s revisit four of them from the C’s pivotal Eastern Conference finals victory.
- LeBron James in a halftime interview with ESPN’s Doris Burke, moments after his Heat coughed up a 13-point lead: “I’m pleased with my individual performance.”
- Paul Pierce overheard in a timeout, shortly after burying the dagger 3 in LeBron’s face with 52 seconds remaining: “I’m cold-blooded.”
Through the first 40 minutes, James made 10-of-21 shots, netted 28 points and grabbed 12 boards. Over the final eight minutes, he finished 1-of-4 from the field, scored just two points and snatched only one rebound.
Conversely, in the first 42 minutes, Pierce tallied 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting while amassing two rebounds and two assists. In the last six minutes of the game, he recorded five points — making his lone shot attempt (the dagger) — to go along with two assists and two boards. One rose to the occasion; the other ran from it.
Read the rest of this entry »
After winning three straight games to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole to the heavily-favored Miami Heat, the Celtics are on the verge of one of the most improbable trips to the NBA finals, even by their most-lofty franchise standards. Doc Rivers said after Tuesday’s 94-90 win in Game 5 in Miami that the reason the Celtics never give up on a game in hostile territory is because of the makeup of his veteran locker room.
“It’s just a good team, a close-knit team,” Rivers answered when questioned about his players’ supreme confidence. “They talk that way. We have a lot of positive talk in our locker room, a lot. And it fuels from them. And honestly, they believe they can win. And we just have to keep hanging in there.”
One reason the Celtics believe they can win is history. In the Big Three era — beginning in 2008 — the Celtics are now 9-0 in Game 5 contests in which the series was tied, 2-2. On Tuesday, they didn’t crumble when they fell behind by 13 in the first half and were shooting just 33 percent at halftime.
After watching his team hold on, Rivers said he reminded his team after the emotional win not to lose focus on the task at hand, namely closing out the supremely talented LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Miami Heat in Boston Thursday and not give them the chance to return the Eastern Conference finals to Miami on Saturday.
“I told them, ‘We’ve done nothing.’ We’re playing a heck of a basketball team. And so, just because we’re going to Boston, I told them, ‘We have to play. They’re not going to give it to us. We have to go get it,’ ” Rivers said.
Rivers is also known as one of the most inspirational coaches in the NBA. He had to go deep into that well Tuesday night as his team fell behind 31-18 in Game 5 to the Heat. Miami was hitting most of its open shots while the Celtics started off 4-of-17.
“We’re just hanging in there,” Rivers said after the 94-90 win that put the Celtics one win from the NBA finals. “They jumped up on us at the beginning of the game. We just told our guys, ‘Hang in there, just hang in there. Don’t overreact. Hang in there. The longer we’re in the game, the better we’ll play.’ It was really nice.” Read the rest of this entry »