|Irish Coffee: The Celtics, Heat and the duality of team||06.06.12 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.
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Appearing on Mut & Merloni Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Chris Broussard discussed the Eastern Conference finals series following Boston’s Game 5 win Tuesday night. Broussard said the Celtics will win Game 6 and the series, citing Boston’s championship mentality as a reason for eventual triumph over the Heat. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Celtics. … Even when they lose, you walk away saying those guys are winners,” Broussard said. “They’re champions, they play with so much heart and mental toughness. They play through injuries, through adversity, they’re well-coached, they execute, they can play in the clutch. They’re great.
“And I feel that lack of respect for the Heat, because they don’t play up to their potential. They don’t execute, I don’t think they’re well-coached. … This team needs somebody with the credibility to kick them in the butt and make them perform and make them play with intensity — a Pat Riley, a Phil Jackson, a Gregg Popovich, somebody of that ilk. Maybe it’s not to blame [Erik] Spoelstra; he’s just in over his head. He never should have been put in charge of this situation.”
Broussard said Spoelstra has been unable to come up with effective strategies late in the game, noting that the Heat usually fall back on an isolation play that hasn’t produced good results.
“How about running a play like the Celtics do?” Broussard said. “Doc Rivers goes out of every time out and they run a great play and usually score. At the end of the game, whether it’s something for [Paul] Pierce, something for Ray Allen — and even if it’s for one of those guys, there are other options. If Ray doesn’t have it, you have [Kevin Garnett] as an option somewhere. If Pierce doesn’t have it, Ray or KG is an option somewhere.”
Broussard said Boston’s late-game options are bolstered by the Celtics’ mindset to win.
“I don’t see the mental toughness to make me believe [the Heat are] going to win this game, and I see plenty of mental toughness for the Celtics,” Broussard said.
|Fast Break: Truth is, Celtics one win from NBA finals||06.05.12 at 11:29 pm ET|
Shooting just 5-of-18 from the field through the first 47:07.1 of Game 5 and his Celtics leading by just one, Paul Pierce pulled up for a trey in Heat superstar LeBron James‘ face with 52.9 seconds remaining, and The Truth’s shot was true, giving the Celtics a four-point lead that resulted in a 94-90 victory.
In a frenzied fourth quarter that featured four lead changes, two ties and countless great plays on both sides, Pierce’s triple was the greatest, effectively giving the Celtics a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals with Game 6 in Boston on Thursday night.
Somehow, someway, the C’s Big Four of Kevin Garnett (26 points, 11 rebounds), Pierce (19 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists), Rajon Rondo (13 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points, 7 rebounds) — despite shooting 40.7 percent from the field — outshined the Heat’s Big Three of James (30 points, 13 rebounds), Dwyane Wade (27 points) and the ghost of Chris Bosh (9 points, 14 minutes).
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Third dimension: Over the final six minutes of the third quarter, the Celtics turned a 59-50 deficit into a 65-60 lead entering the fourth. The 15-1 run included buckets from Allen, Pierce, Greg Stiemsma, Garnett, Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling — not to mention great defense by all, holding the Heat without a field goal.
Garnett gets going: After trailing by as much as 13 in the second quarter, the Celtics made a concerted effort to go back to what’s worked throughout these playoffs — getting Garnett involved in the post. His 1-of-7 start from the field was mostly the result of shots off the block, but he took advantage of a legless Bosh, and Rondo fed him for a couple late layups that helped the Celtics cut the Heat lead to 42-40 by the half.
Free Bassing: While Pierce and Rondo started a combined 3-of-18 from the field, the Celtics desperately needed offense elsewhere. Enter Brandon Bass. It wasn’t quite his 27-point masterpiece against the 76ers, but Bass started 4-of-5 from the field for 10 points to go along with three rebounds, two steals and a block by halftime. He didn’t make a big impact in the second half, but he kept the C’s in it early.
|ESPN’s Brad Daugherty takes shot at officials in Celtics-Heat series||06.04.12 at 1:05 pm ET|
ESPN NASCAR analyst and former Cavaliers center Brad Daugherty got in a dig at the officials working the Celtics-Heat series on Saturday when he took some liberties with his promotional script for the worldwide leader’s coverage of Game 4 on Sunday night.
Daugherty described the matchup as “Paul Pierce and the Celtics at 8:30 Eastern taking on LeBron James and the officials.”
When teased about his comment, Daugherty said: “Horrible. Horrible.”
|Jeff Van Gundy on D&C: LeBron James’ sixth foul a bad call||at 10:40 am ET|
ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to share his thoughts on the officiating and what Sunday’s win says about the Celtics.
“I thought Boston, to re-gather themselves in overtime, with [Paul] Pierce fouling out, to take that body blow, withstand it and come up with the win was terrific mental toughness on their part,” Van Gundy said.
With both Pierce and LeBron James fouling out quickly into overtime, both on plays away from the ball, Van Gundy went on to discuss the officiating late in the game. Van Gundy took issue with the call that forced James to the sideline for the only the fourth time in his career.
“I thought that was a foul on [Mickael] Pietrus, pulling [James] down, or at worst, a no-call,” Van Gundy said. “Let them both get up and play. Listen, I’m for more fouls, you know, seven fouls. I’m for sneezing so I don’t see Paul Pierce running into [Shane] Battier on an inconsequential [play], they didn’t even have the ball. I’m just not a fan of watching the last plays in that game, in such a dramatic, hard, hotly contested game with those two guys on the bench. Now, some of the fouls that people want to ignore have to be called, but I could see where a fan of both teams would not have liked the Pierce foul or the James foul because it didn’t involve the ball yet. It was just guys jostling for position.”
Van Gundy argued that by doing a good job setting the tone early in games, officials could afford to use greater discretion when making calls late in games or in overtime.
“I would tell you this, people who want the game called exactly the same way in the first quarter and the fourth quarter, I know I don’t want refereeing late in those games. There has to be a different level of certainty on those calls. In the first quarter you’re trying to establish a tone. Get the game called in the right manner. Let everyone know the amount of contact that’s going to be allowed. In the final three or four minutes of a close game I think referees have to have certainty that the play has an impact directly to giving a team an advantage.”
As for whether he thinks officials should call plays differently for star players like James or Pierce, Van Gundy was emphatic.
“No. No, no, no, no. Who’s in the game doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “It’s the certainty of the call, I think late, that you want to make sure of. There’s no setting the tone, there’s no ‘have the game called exactly the same.’ If you’ve done your job, to me, as an officiating crew, how you called the game throughout the game sets the tone that everybody knows that you don’t have to clean up anything late, because the game has been managed well right from the start.”
|Paul Pierce has the last laugh on LeBron James||at 4:47 am ET|
Cameras caught Paul Pierce breaking into a wide smile with 1:51 left in overtime as LeBron James was called for his sixth and final foul, getting disqualified for just the fourth time in his career, and the first time since April 2008.
It was also the first time in James’ career that he fouled out in the playoffs. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, fouled out for the third time in his last five playoff games dating back to Game 7 against Philadelphia. Pierce was called for his sixth just 38 seconds into overtime when he was called for running over Shane Battier on a cut across the lane.
“Oh, it was very frustrating,” Pierce said. “But it’s gratifying when you see the other star player fouling out, also.”
Pierce later added, “It was a cut, scratch, grab, hold, elbow-type of game. I mean nobody was going to give an edge. I’d say it’s a classic. You rarely see that, you rarely see that. You rarely see that when you’ve got two star players fouling out.
“This is probably going to be an instant classic-type of game,” said Pierce, who is now headed to Miami with the Eastern Conference finals tied, 2-2. “We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy, a good old classic bar fight.
“Words can’t even describe the type of game it is,” Pierce said. “I mean it’s a funny game, the way the ball bounces, the way things go. I mean, started out way up the big lead, to come back, and I was sitting there on the sideline in overtime, I was like, this is probably going to be an instant classic type of game. It was just like one team gets momentum and the other team just grabs it. I’m just glad we were on the winning side today.”
Pierce laughed when asked where he thinks the series stands. He laughed because he’s very aware of the opportunity that lies ahead, starting with Game 5 in Miami.
“It’s even,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to win a game in Miami, of course. We have a chance of winning this series. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a good old classic bar fight. Going in to it, you [had] to expect every game to be like this. Coming down to the wire, both teams trying to find an edge. This was a great game today.
“We’ve won two in a row,” Pierce added. “We feel like we let Game 2 slip away. So, we fee like were playing a good momentum. But we’ve got to start playing for 48 minutes. We haven’t put together a 48 minute game yet. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have gotten to 100 points tonight after scoring 61 in the first half so were hoping we can put together a full game when we get down to Miami.”
|Doc Rivers and Celtics: ‘Last year was last year… We don’t want a repeat of that’||06.03.12 at 7:14 pm ET|
Try as they might, the national and local media was unsuccessful in the 45 hours since the end of Friday’s Boston’s win over the Heat in Game 3 to draw the Celtics in to comparing last year to this year against LeBron James and company.
“I don’t even remember last year, to be honest with you,” said Paul Pierce when asked about the details of the 4-1 loss to the Heat in the Eastern semifinals last year.
“I don’t, really,” Doc Rivers said when asked if he recalled Boston winning Game 3 in 2011 before losing a heart-breaker in Game 4 in overtime. “I know we lost. I think that’s the game Rondo got injured but I’m not even sure of that. Oh, it was Game 3. I don’t even remember. That tells you what I remember.”
Indeed, the inspired Celtics overcame the dislocation of Rajon Rondo‘s left elbow in a collision with Dwyane Wade in Game 3. They had a great chance to tie the series when Ray Allen drilled a three to put the Celtics up, 84-81, with 2:28 left. But James hit a three of his own 28 seconds later and James hit a jumper to put Miami up, 86-84. Pierce hit a jumper to tie it, 86-86, with 41 seconds left. After a James turnover, the Celtics had the last 19.5 seconds left to win it. They had to settle for a missed fadeaway from Pierce with 0.9 seconds remaining. ‘
In that game, Kevin Garnett had seven points and made just 1-of-10 from the field in 41 minutes. That cannot happen again for the Celtics to win Game 4, something they failed to do in 2011.
“We just want to be consistent in how we play,” Pierce said. “Last year was last year. It’s over with. We don’t want a repeat of that so we just have to be consistent in everything we’re trying to do. We’re going to continue to try and get him the ball, get as many as touches out of him as possible. We know that’s been working for us. So, when Kevin gets it going from the inside, it really opens up things for a lot of us on the perimeter.”
The Celtics would be outscored 12-4 in overtime in the game that would essentially seal Boston’s playoff fate in five games.
“We had opportunities,” Rivers reflected. “Clearly, we had a couple of great shots. I think we had a terrible possession now that I think about it before overtime. Our last possession [of regulation]. Thanks for bringing that up.”
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