|Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s return sparks Celtics||05.07.11 at 10:57 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo played with one arm, Shaquille O’Neal actually played basketball and Kevin Garnett submitted a vintage performance — and it all added up to a gritty 97-81 Celtics victory in what was essentially a must-win Game 3 against the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In a scary third-quarter moment, Rondo got tangled up with Dwyane Wade and dislocated his elbow. After receiving treatment, he shockingly returned for the fourth quarter — finishing with 11 assists and six points with essentially one arm. Meanwhile, Shaq scored just two points in eight minutes.
If not for those two Celtics comebacks, Garnett would’ve been the headliner — totaling 28 points and 18 rebounds in the victory. Wade led the Heat with 23 points, and Mario Chalmers added 17 off the bench.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Big Three: Even before Rondo went to the locker room with an elbow injury — and especially while Rondo got treatment — the Celtics’ Big Three asserted themselves and carried the team on both ends of the floor. The trio looked as sharp as they had all series, totaling 70 points on 26-of-51 shooting. Paul Pierce nearly matched Garnett’s output with 27 points of his own.
Meanwhile, the C’s Big Three held Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh to 43 combined points on 15-of-41 shooting. Bosh was nearly invisible, totaling only six points and five rebounds.
Encouraging start: For the first 5:07 of Game 3, the Celtics appeared ready to seize early control and set a tone for what the Heat could expect in Boston. The Garden crowd was loud, and the starting five’s play spoke louder. Behind a stifling defense and out of the flow of a well executed offense, Pierce scored 10 early points as the Celtics took a 16-7 lead — forcing Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to spend a timeout with 6:53 still remaining in the first quarter.
Shaq comes back: With 2:41 remaining in the first quarter, Shaq returned to the court for the first time this postseason and just the second time since Feb. 1. A minute and a half later, he scored his first bucket to put the Celtics up 27-20. He played 4:46 in the first half — lumbering for much of it, but also altering at least a few Miami shots on the defensive end. His final line of two points and one rebound were less climactic — but his 8:29 playing time was certainly encouraging.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Down goes Rajon Rondo: With 7:01 left in the third quarter, Wade and Rondo got tied up in the paint on the Celtics end, and Rondo landed awkwardly on his arm — appearing to hyperextend his left elbow. After clutching his arm on the floor for what seemed like an eternity, trainer Ed Lacerte ushered Rondo — and what appeared to be the C’s season — into the locker room.
At the end of the third quarter, Rondo returned to the Celtics bench with a dislocated elbow. And he returned to the floor to start the fourth quarter, bringing the crowd to a deafening level. He played the entire fourth quarter.
Joel Anthony’s energy: As has been the case all series long, the Celtics had no answer for Anthony (12 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench. He recorded 10 points (on 5-of-5 shooting) and seven rebounds in the first half alone. Four of those seven boards came on the offensive end, where he often found himself wide open underneath the basket (hence the perfect first-half field-goal percentage).
Ray Allen’s foul trouble: Questionable or not, Allen picked up his third foul with 6:48 still to play in the second quarter as he brushed Wade’s elbow on a 3-point attempt. The whistle came on the heels of a string of questionable calls by the refereeing crew of Bob Delaney, Bill Kennedy and Steve Javie. Also, Moments after Rondo’s injury, Wade took down Allen underneath the basket, and Allen had to be restrained from going after Wade — a rare but understandable burst of anger for the 3-point king, for certain.
|Rajon Rondo returns after dislocating left elbow||at 10:04 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo dislocated his left elbow in a collision with Dwayne Wade midway through the third quarter. He returned to start the fourth quarter of Game 3 Saturday night against the Heat after Celtics medical staff popped it back in place.
He was holding his left arm and had to be helped to the locker room by team medical staff with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter. Rondo appeared to fall awkwardly on his left elbow on a foul by Wade with 7:02 left in the quarter. Wade appeared to push Rondo to the floor after Rondo collected a loose ball rebound.
Moments later, Wade pushed Ray Allen under the Celtics basket and the two came face-to-face before tempers cooled.
|Speaking with the Enemy: Celtics vs. Heat||05.06.11 at 2:36 pm ET|
In advance of Saturday night’s Game 3 between the Celtics and Heat at the TD Garden (8 p.m.), we caught up with David Dwork at the ‘Peninsula is Mightier‘ blog. He answered our six most pressing questions as the C’s attempt to climb their way out of a 2-0 hole …
How confident are Miami fans with this 2-0 lead against the Celtics?
I think that Heat fans are feeling pretty good after taking the first two games of the series. Considering our history against the Celtics over the past several years I think it’s safe to say that while there is some obvious confidence that comes with a 2-0 series lead, Miami fans are certainly wary of how quickly things can change. Heat fans do know, however, after watching this team grow and improve throughout the course of the season, that if they continue to play well and don’t fall into a funk, Miami should win this series.
Who gets credit for the Heat playing their best basketball at the right time?
No one person gets the credit for the Heat playing as well as they are. The team as a whole has been working extremely hard since training camp to get acclimated to playing with one another, learning the offensive playbook and defensive system that Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff put together — and doing it on the fly during the season, regardless of whether it was during practice, home games or on the road in very hostile environments. This has been a total team effort, and they all equally deserve credit.
Joel Anthony has been playing this role all season, and as he has done over the past few years he is only going to continue to get better. Whether it be in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, Anthony has been a defensive monster for Miami. Blocking shots and shutting down the painted area is what he has become known for, but his help defense is what has really gotten my attention in the postseason. Also, while he has a very limited offensive game, his hard work during practice and in the video room combined with his non-stop hustle has him suddenly setting picks like a seasoned veteran. He has quietly become an all-around defensive specialist and has earned the fans respect, getting chants of M-V-P.
Other role players such as James Jones, Mario Chalmers and even Mike Miller are finding ways to produce for the Heat and give them solid minutes on both ends of the floor. All three have shown they can hit big outside shots, but on this team you earn your stripes playing defense and that is where they have really stepped up their game.
What’s the difference between the Dwyane Wade we’re seeing now and the one that struggled against the Celtics in the regular season?
WALTHAM — Shaquille O’Neal hasn’t played since that fateful six-minute stint against the Pistons on April 3 at TD Garden.
When he left the floor, hobbling badly on his strained right calf, no one knew when ‘ or if ‘ the future Hall of Fame center would make his Celtics playoff debut.
Well, it appears O’Neal will indeed join the playoff party for the Celtics on Saturday night for Game 3 against Miami ‘ and not a minute too soon. After he was hardly missed in the Celtics’ four-game dispatch of the Knicks in the first round, his void has been huge in the second round as Miami has muscled its way to two straight wins.
Doc Rivers spoke Thursday about how badly he wants to see his team “go through bodies” and be “forceful” with the Heat to get back in this series.
Hello, Shaq. But Rivers is keeping his expectations in line and not getting his hopes anywhere near up as it pertains to O’Neal. Why? Because Shaq has played exactly five minutes, 29 seconds in one game dating back to Feb. 1. In that 5:29, O’Neal was certainly promising as an inside force, hitting all three shots from the field and grabbing a rebound and, most importantly, establishing an unmistakable inside presence for the Celtics.
But Rivers truly doesn’t know if he can expect that Saturday.
“I have no idea, I really don’t,” he said. “And I don’t say it to be funny, I just don’t, but I know he’s going to be big, I know that.”
Will Shaq’s mere presence in the paint be a deterrent for the Heat and a “force” for the Celtics?
“He’ll be big at the end of the day,” Rivers added. “We’ll find that out. I can’t give that answer.”
|Glen Davis meets John Havlicek and learns a lesson about toughness||05.05.11 at 4:43 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics aren’t in the easiest spot right now. They’re banged up. They’re getting outworked and they’re down two games to a Miami Heat team that many consider the odds-on favorite right now to capture the NBA title.
But alas, not all hope is lost. Just ask Glen Davis, who Thursday at Celtics practice had a chance encounter with a Celtics legend of the past who told Davis to just hang in there. After all – as the Ringo Starr song goes – It Don’t Come Easy. Just like John Havlicek told Davis.
“The frustration, things not working out, you can get all messed up. But I was talking to Havlicek today, you know, ‘Havlicek Stole the Ball’ and I said which one of these [championship] banners were you 0-2, and he said the one that stood out to him was 1969. When they were down 0-2, they came back to win it in Game 7 against the Lakers.”
That was the series, of course, that featured the Don Nelson shot that bounced straight up after hitting the back of the rim and came down through the net at the old Los Angeles Arena to put the Celtics on top and lead them to their 11th title with Bill Russell in the organization. It also marked the only time the Celtics ever won a series after losing the first two games.
“He was just saying, ‘It’s going to take everything in you to fight and claw back and get back to get to 2-2 even but then it’s going to take something special to finish them off.'”
Can they do it against the Miami Heat? Davis said Thursday after practice that getting back to the mental and physical toughness that makes the Celtics a great team would be a good place to start.
“We didn’t play Celtics basketball,” Davis said. “Nobody played the way they were supposed to play. Ray had a good game the first game but we still didn’t pull it off. We all were supposed to play well but we didn’t. It’s easy to point the finger and blame and play the blame game as Kanye West would say but you’ve got to go get it. That’s all it is right now. X’s and O’s and you can coach as much as you want but that still ain’t going to make it happen.”
WALTHAM — After a lengthy film session and practice Thursday at their facility in Waltham, Celtics coach Doc Rivers pronounced everyone ready to play in Saturday’s Game 3 against the Heat at TD Garden.
Most notably, Shaquille O’Neal – according to Rivers – will be able to make his playoff debut for the Celtics after missing the first round and first two games of the Heat series with a sore right calf. Rivers said Paul Pierce also will be able to play, despite a sore Achilles that cropped up during the Game 2 loss Tuesday night in Miami. Pierce, however, was held out of Thursday’s practice as a precaution.
“Everybody’s good,” Rivers said. “Everybody is feeling pretty good. Shaq went through practice. We didn’t do anything today, we just watched film and walked over [some] stuff. Then, the second unit worked on their stuff but right now, we expect every single guy, including Shaq, to play in Game 3.
“Honestly, today, [Pierce] could’ve played in a real game but we were not going to let him practice today because his foot, Achilles, is bothering him but he would be fine.”
Rajon Rondo (back) and Ray Allen (bruised chest) took part in Thursday’s workout and are also expected to be ready. The Celtics will practice again on Friday before taking on the Heat Saturday night, trailing the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series, 2-0.
|Irish Coffee: Celtics must cash in at end of quarters||at 10:29 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The Celtics were once the best closers in basketball — playing suffocating defense and precision offense to keep leads (or deficits) safe at the end of each 12 minutes. Now? Not so much.
As the whistle signaled the close of each of the first three quarters in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, it’s been Miami — not the Celtics — that has turned up the heat on both ends of the floor to stretch a lead the C’s had tried so hard to erase.
“One of our biggest strong points in our team and how we play the game is closing out quarters,” added Celtics shooting guard Ray Allen. “What we haven’t done in these past two games is close out the quarters well. Whether we’re down, whether we’re up, whether the game is tied, to finish quarters we have given them too many points. We have to be a lot more solid.”
The Celtics have been outscored at the end of each of the first three quarters in both losses — 99-90 in Game 1 and 102-91 in Game 2. In the last two minutes of those six quarters, the Heat have outscored the C’s by a total of 12 points. That advantage balloons to 22 when you look at the final three minutes or 32 points when you zoom out to four minutes.
Miami has beaten the Celtics 13-6 in the last three minutes of the first half in both matchups. In Game 1, the Heat stretched a 38-30 advantage into a 51-36 halftime lead. Then, in Game 2, the Celtics turned a 36-34 edge into a 47-42 halftime deficit. Each time, they never recovered.
“One of the things we clearly have to do a better job of is close out quarters,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters after Tuesday’s loss. “They closed out the first quarter on a run. They closed out the second quarter on a run. They closed out the third quarter, and then they closed out the game all on runs. We have to figure out a way of finishing quarters better than we did.”
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