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Chris Bosh: ‘It’s not over until the last game is won’ 05.10.11 at 12:36 am ET
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Prior to a crucial Game 4 between the Celtics and Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the TD Garden Jumbotron flashed Chris Bosh‘s notorious quote following his atrocious Game 3 performance: “My emotions got the best of me early on.”

Whatever Bosh did to harness them on Monday night, it worked.

“Before, the intensity of the crowd and my intensity that I was bringing, I was trying to control it too much instead of just letting it flow,” Bosh said after the Heat’s 98-90 overtime victory. “In this game, I tried to have the least amount of hesitation as possible. If I had an open shot, I was going to let it go. If the drive was open, I was going to take it. That gave me an aggressive mind-frame going in. It didn’t really happen very fast for me, but if I have a good aggressive frame of mind in the beginning usually things go OK.”

After totaling just five points on 2-of-8 shooting and two rebounds in 19 first-half minutes, Bosh made 6-of-9 shots after the break and grabbed 10 more boards for a total of 20 points and 12 rebounds — his second double-double of the series.

“Chris is a professional,” said Heat teammate Joel Anthony. “We didn’t have any doubt that he was going to come back after the last game. He responded well and answered anyone’s questions about how well he was going to play. He did it on the court. He played huge for us, and that’s what we knew he was going to come out and do.”

Meanwhile, after Garnett’s monster performance on Saturday cast a Shaquille O’Neal-sized shadow on Bosh’s six points and five rebounds in Game 3, the forgotten member of the Heat’s Big Three held KG to seven points on 1-of-10 shooting in Game 4.

Asked about Bosh’s turnaround, Garnett simply responded: “Next question.”

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Fast Break: Celtics fall as Heat turn it on in overtime 05.09.11 at 10:06 pm ET
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Behind 35 points and 14 rebounds from LeBron James, the Heat took the Celtics to overtime, where Miami outscored the C’s 12-4 and captured a 98-90 victory Monday night that pushed Boston to the brink of elimination entering Game 5 on Wednesday night.

Paul Pierce matched his Game 3 effort of 27 points, but Kevin Garnett scored just seven on 1-of-10 shooting after netting 28 points in the C’s only victory of the series.

WHAT WENT WRONG

LeBron James goes off: As impressive as Pierce was, James matched him every step of the way. He scored 20 first-half points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed five rebounds before the break. He and Dwyane Wade combined for 34 of the Heat’s 50 first-half points. Outside of that duo, who kept their team with three points in the opening 24 minutes, the Heat role players struggled severely, shooting just 7-of-18 in the first half.

Second-half offense: Probably fatigued, the Celtics ran a stagnant offense in the second half — moving the ball slowly. After shooting 58.1 percent from the field as a team in the first half, the C’s made just 12-of-39 (30.8 percent) in the second half and overtime.

Chris Bosh’s third quarter: The Heat desperately needed somebody other than James or Wade to step up in the second half, and Bosh answered that call. In the third quarter alone, he made 3-of-4 shots for six points in addition to grabbing seven rebounds — actually pushing the Heat lead to four points at one point. Meanwhile, Garnett missed all four of his shots in the third quarter. The third member of Miami’s Big Three kept the Heat within striking distance entering the fourth quarter (73-69). Bosh outscored Garnett by 13 points.

Big Baby’s funk is severe: Struggling for most of the playoffs, Davis took two jump shots that didn’t even approach touching the rim. He scored just four points on 1-of-4 shooting and did not grab a rebound or dish out an assist. This is a guy who received votes for Sixth Man of the Year, and he’s been giving the Celtics nothing in this series.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Paul Pierce heats up early, again: Despite a less than capacity crowd at the start the game as a result of a traffic jam, Pierce showed up early — recording 16 points on six shots to go along with four rebounds in the first quarter. The Celtics led by as many as eight points and led 31-28 after the opening 12 minutes, giving the late-arriving fans plenty to cheer.

Jermaine O’Neal contributes: O’Neal produced eight points, three rebounds and two assists before halftime, providing much-needed energy at the center position. However, he did not score and grabbed only one rebound after halftime. Defensively, O’Neal neutralized Joel Anthony (4 points, 4 rebounds), who got his first start of the playoffs.

The bench presses the Heat: In perhaps their most impressive stretch of the postseason, a Celtics lineup of Jeff GreenDelonte WestGlen DavisRay Allen and Jermaine O’Neal played the first 5:06 of the second quarter, actually stretching the C’s lead to as many as 11 points (42-31). A Green corner 3-pointer and a pair of West pull-up jumpers highlighted a run that forced the Heat to call for a timeout.

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Fast Break: Rajon Rondo’s return sparks Celtics 05.07.11 at 10:57 pm ET
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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.

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Irish Coffee: Celtics must cash in at end of quarters 05.05.11 at 10:29 am ET
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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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Fast Break: Celtics collapse in another loss to Heat 05.03.11 at 9:45 pm ET
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The Heat broke open a tie game in the fourth quarter with a 14-point run and LeBron James‘ 35 points helped Miami defeat the Celtics, 102-91, to take a two-game lead in the second-round series. Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 20 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.

Game 3 is back in Boston on Saturday.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Fourth-quarter collapse: After surging back to tie the game at 80 apiece, the Heat scored the next 14 points, including six free throws, to take a 94-80 lead with three and a half minutes remaining. James dominated that stretch, totaling 12 fourth-quarter points. The Celtics unraveled, failing to get back on defense as a result of complaints about the officiating. Even Doc Rivers picked up a late technical foul arguing a call (the Heat did own a 36-22 advantage in free throws).

Heat’s Big Three vs. Celtics’ Big Four: The Heat entered the game with a 33-3 record when their Big Three combined for 70 points, and James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined to top that milestone by 10. Wade, James and Bosh combined for 80 points and 26 rebounds, while Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett totaled 56 points and 22 rebounds. Allen (7 points) and Pierce (11 points) especially struggled.

Paul Pierce isn’t Paul Pierce: Pierce left the game in the first half after twisting an ankle. After getting treatment in the locker room, he returned relatively quickly. Still, he didn’t appear as explosive and struggled for a second straight game. Meanwhile, Allen — who was already struggling — bruised his chest during a third-quarter collision with James.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Jeff Green inserts himself: In 10 first-half minutes, Jeff Green made 4-of-5 shots — including a pair of 3-pointers for 10 points before the break (he finished with 11 points). His performance highlighted what was perhaps the bench’s best stretch of the playoffs, as the Celtics stayed with the Heat to start a low-scoring second quarter. Green even demonstrated some rare emotion, letting out a roar after being fouled by James in the third quarter. Delonte West (10 points) also had five points on 2-of-2 shooting off the bench during that same span.

Guarding James Jones: After Jones scored 25 points on seven shots in Game 1, the Celtics made a concerted effort to keep Jones from killing them on open 3-point shots — and it paid off. Forcing Jones to play off the dribble rather than set up along the 3-point line, the C’s held him to one missed field goal in the first half. Meanwhile, Jones picked up three fouls on the defensive end before the break — rendering him useless.

JO-ffensive rebounding: The Celtics have struggled on the offensive glass all season, but Jermaine O’Neal single-handedly gave the C’s five extra possessions in the first half alone — as they battled the Heat evenly (7-7) in offensive rebounding for the first 24 minutes. O’Neal finished with a respectable eight points and nine rebounds, but the Celtics ended up losing the rebounding battle on both ends of the floor.

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NBA playoff picture, in a snapshot 04.26.11 at 6:46 pm ET
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When if ever will LeBron James and the Heat begin to trust each other? (AP)

Believe it or not, as of Tuesday afternoon, the Celtics are the only team that has finished its first-round series. While they await their first day of practice on Wednesday, NBA fans in Boston get a chance to watch what should be one of the most exciting playoffs in league history. Here’s a brief snapshot of the current playoff picture …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Miami Heat 3, Philadelphia 76ers 1

  • Heat  97, 76ers 89
  • Heat 94, 76ers 73
  • Heat 100, 76ers 94
  • 76ers 86, Heat 82

LeBron James & Co. are just trying to finish this series, so they can get their shot at the Celtics. The problem? The Heat are still struggling with chemistry and — as a result — have a 0-1 record in close-out games so far. Meanwhile, 76ers coach Doug Collins is just glad to get another game of playoff experience under his young team’s belt.

Heat forward Chris Bosh: “We’re going to have to trust each other. We’ve been talking about trust all this time, so we’re going to have to actually do it when it counts the most. It’s easy to stress when you’re up 2-0, 3-0. … When it’s time to close and it’s time to get to those other elite teams, and we’re going to have a chance to compete against them, we have to do the same thing well, not the same thing we did [Sunday].”

Sixers coach Doug Collins: “I’m sure Doc Rivers hopes we take the Heat to triple overtime in Game 7. No question about that. One thing about the playoffs, especially when you are a team that has a lot of games under the belt, you want series to go as little time as possible.”

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Fast Break: Kevin Garnett’s will spoils Carmelo Anthony’s effort 04.19.11 at 9:51 pm ET
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With the Celtics trailing 93-92 with 19 seconds remaining, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called for Kevin Garnett to post up Jared Jefferies on the block. He did, backed down Jefferies and made a hook shot over him with 13 seconds to play. Moments later, on a loose ball that Jefferies lost underneath the Knicks basket, Garnett dove to the floor, grabbed the ball and called timeout with four seconds left. Delonte West made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds on the clock, and the C’s held on for a 96-93 victory to take a 2-0 lead against the Knicks.

The C’s spoiled a remarkable 42-point, 17-rebound effort from Carmelo Anthony, who singlehandedly kept the Knicks in the game after losing Amar’e Stoudemire to back spasms. The Celtics’ Big Four all reached double figures, led by Rajon Rondo‘s 30 points and Paul Pierce‘s 20.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Rondo attacks early: With Chauncey Billups (strained left knee) sidelined and Toney Douglas starting for the Knicks, Rondo went to work. He released on New York field-goal attempts, and his Celtics teammates hit him in stride on the break for layup after layup. As Rondo outscored the Knicks 12-11 in the first 7:08, Douglas committed two fouls — leaving the visitors extremely thin at the point guard position. Generally, when Rondo attacks in transition, the Celtics succeed, and Game 2 was no different.

Rondo attacks late: While Anthony was busy scoring at a ridiculous pace or drawing enough defenders to open up opportunities for his teammates, Rondo kept the Celtics in the game during the fourth quarter. Once again taking advantage of the Douglas matchup, he scored three straight layups midway through the fourth that either tied the game or gave the Celtics a late lead. And he even added a 17-foot jump shot that put the Celtics up 88-86 advantage with four and a half minutes remaining.

Denying Stoudemire the ball: Whether it was Stoudemire’s comments before the game or the back spasms that forced him to leave the game in the second quarter, Garnett completely neutralized his defensive assignment. In 16 first-half minutes, Stoudemire shot just 2-of-9 from the field and scored four points — a far cry from his 12-of-18, 28-point performance in Game 1.

Between the first two games of the series, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the game plan was to deny Stoudemire the ball, thus stopping him before he ever gets going. The Celtics attempted to do that in the first game but couldn’t until Garnett succeeded in the final minutes. Game 2 was an entirely different story — whether it was all Garnett’s defense or part that/part injury.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Melo being Melo … and then some: After being called out by just about every New York media outlet after his 1-of-11 shooting performance in the second half of the Knicks’ Game 1 loss, Anthony returned to his All-Star form. Considering he was the only member of the Knicks’ Big Three left standing, the Knicks desperately needed him to rise to the occasion. And he did, scoring 13 straight points during one second-half stretch and finishing with 42 points (the highest individual total against the C’s this season), 17 rebounds and six assists on the night.

Another lost opportunity: After taking an early 10-point lead in the first quarter, the Celtics had a golden opportunity to make Game 2 a lot more comfortable than Game 1, especially considering the Billups/Stoudemire injuries and the fact that Landry Fields appeared completely lost. But the bench couldn’t hold the advantage that the starters staked them to, and the gap closed to 23-21 after one quarter. It got worse, too, as the Billups-less, Stoudemire-less Knicks took  a 45-44 lead into the break, thanks to Anthony’s 16 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.

Knicks wipe the glass clean: How did the Knicks shoot just 35.6 percent from the field for the game and actually lead a playoff game in the final minute? Well, they grabbed 20 of their 53 rebounds on the offensive end. By contrast, the Celtics had 37 rebounds (9 offensively). It’s been a problem all season long for the Celtics, and continued to be in Game 2 — despite facing a Knicks team that’s been poor in that respect.


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