|Danny Ainge on Big Show: ‘I believe Shaq’s playing’ in Game 3||05.06.11 at 4:29 pm ET|
It’s becoming clearer that Shaquille O’Neal is finally ready to return to the court. Celtics president Danny Ainge was a guest on The Big Show Friday afternoon and he said that yes, he believes O’Neal will be ready to play Saturday when the Celtics resume their series with Miami. “I think Shaq is going to give it a go tomorrow,” Ainge said. “We’ll see. I believe Shaq’s playing tomorrow.”
Asked about expectations for him, Ainge said it was impossible to predict. “I don’t know the answer to that yet,” Ainge said. “It will be determined by how well he plays and how effective he is and how he feels.”
Reminded that there was skepticism that Shaq would play after so many false starts, Ainge said, “I think all those times there was some hope because he was making progress but I see more in him right now than any of those times. I understand. I can’t sit here and say 100 percent either. I’m not skeptical of what I’m saying but there’s no certainty until you see him out there.”
Here are more highlights from a wide-ranging interview:
On what concerns him the most: “My biggest concern is that I have a great deal of respect for our opponents. I think they’re playing very well. The second biggest thing is were not playing at a high enough level. We’re having too many breakdowns. We’re not playing our best basketball. We need to. There’s not a lot of room for error when you’re playing this team.”
On Paul Pierce’s ejection in Game 1: “I still don’t agree with the ejection. I’ve argued my case to the league. They disagreed with me obviously but I don’t agree with the ejection.”
On the play that led to Pierce and Dwyane Wade getting double technicals and an automatic ejection for Pierce: There’s a screen. There was a guy that hit the screen hard and there’s some taunting, both sides sort of chirping at each other I think you can justify the play from an official’s standpoint. When you look at how Dwyane Wade goes through screens throughout the course of the game and you look at that particular play, you see that he did not try to fight through the screen, he was intentionally running through the screen. I think that was much more of flagrant foul than Jermaine O’Neal’s who bumped a cutter going through the lane, which you’re sort of taught to do in practice. The league rescinded that but those were two huge calls.
On what Pierce said to Dwyane Wade: “He said, ‘That’s not going to bother me.’ With a little bit more colorful language. The bottom line is Paul was not taunting. Paul was not starting a confrontation. He knew what Wade was doing. Wade ran right through them and he was basically like you’re going to get me to that way. There’s trash talking that goes on throughout the game. You can make a case that you can call a technical overtime down the court if you’re going to base it on what [Pierce] did.”
On what Ainge told Pierce: “What I told was this, ‘Paul I think it was ridiculous that you were ejected from the game. I did not think that warranted a technical foul. But the first technical in your little nose-rubbing with James Jones, you can’t do that because it takes away any room for error.’ You just never know what’s going to happen. I thought that one was uncalled for and he should have avoided that one. He was flagrantly fouled by James Jones, but so what? Get up and make the free throws, take the ball out of bounds and stay away from that confrontation. I think Paul’s emotions were in control. I think Paul was playing the game the way he always plays the game.”
Ainge added that the officials weren’t the reason the Celtics lost in Miami. “I will just say this: As frustrating as it at times for me, we do have the best officials in any league,” Ainge said. “We have the best of the best. It’s frustrating that they’re not perfect. It’s frustrating that they don’t see it the way I see it all the time. The officials are not the reason that we’re down 0-2.”
On Jeff Green: “I think he has provided us a lot. I’m not down on Jeff Green in any way. I think Jeff is a good player who’s trying to find his way. The other night you saw he was capable.”
On Nenad Krstic: “What happened with Krstic, he got off to a great start and then he went into a little bit of a funk. I thought he was going through a phase where he was just thinking too much. Then he bruised his knee. Then he bruised his knee a second time. I would say right now he’s just back healthy. Right now. He’s been able to play. He’s not been 100 percent.”
|Doc Rivers says Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce are good to go Saturday||05.05.11 at 3:04 pm ET|
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: Paul Pierce must captain Celtics ship||05.04.11 at 12:31 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
This was Paul Pierce‘s signature season. Reaching the 20,000-point plateau, he had left the 2005 version of himself behind — turning in the most efficient season of his 13-year career during the hunt for a second NBA championship banner that would further cement his legacy as one of the greatest Celtics of all-time.
“I’m trying to get another one,” Pierce told Celtics legend Bill Russell in a recent conversation on NBA.com. “I’m going to go out and get it, just like you did.”
And then the first two games of the 2011 Eastern Conference semifinals happened.
Now, Pierce finds himself in a place he’s only been twice in his great Boston tenure — down 2-0 in a playoff series — and both times he’s been swept. But that was before he partnered with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, before he matured into an unselfish player who put team first and before he earned an NBA Finals MVP.
That partnership, maturity and unselfishness was nowhere to be found in Game 1, when he lost his head not once but twice in the heat of playoff battle — an all too familiar reminder of the guy who got tossed from Game 6 of a 2005 playoff series against the Pacers, waved his jersey over his head to incite the Indiana crowd and wore a mock bandage around his jaw during the post-game press conference.
In Game 2, Pierce took just 11 shots and two free throws for 13 points; he recorded only one assist. Where is the guy that shot nearly 50 percent for the regular season and dished out more than three assists per game? Sure, you could blame that in part on his strained left Achilles tendon, but he still played 33 minutes and said, “It didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.”
Meanwhile, his defensive assignment, LeBron James, turned in a signature performance with 35 points on 14-of-25 shooting. There was a time, not too long ago, when Pierce was capable of giving James a run for his money. Remember Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals, when The Truth lived up to his nickname and negated LeBron’s 45-point outing with 41 points of his own?
|Paul Pierce strains left Achilles||05.03.11 at 11:51 pm ET|
MIAMI ‘ Paul Pierce strained his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter of Game 2 and had to go back to the locker room for a stretch. He returned soon after and scored 13 points in the Celtics‘ 102-91 loss. ‘It’s day to day right now,’ Pierce said. ‘We’ll see how it feels the next couple of days.’
Pierce said he wasn’t sure how the injury happened, but it was a problem for him. ‘When you strain your Achilles, every step is like a slight little pain,” he said. “It actually loosened up as I got back in there and it didn’t really affect me the rest of the game.’
Pierce wasn’t the only Celtic playing in pain. Rajon Rondo‘s back tightened up and Ray Allen was dealing with a bruised chest. ‘[Trainer] Eddie [Lacerte] and Dr. [Brian] McKeon did a hell of a job today,’ Doc Rivers said. ‘We had a circus going on at one point. Ray needed to be taken to the locker room. Paul was coming out of the locker room. Rondo was asking to come out almost simultaneously. It was sketchy.’
|Fast Break: Celtics collapse in another loss to Heat||at 9:45 pm ET|
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.
|Irish Coffee: Heat not guilty of foul play?||at 1:43 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Plenty of deserved concerns arose about the officiating following the Heat’s Game 1 victory over the Celtics in which LeBron James & Co. made the same amount of field goals (32) and three fewer 3-pointers (12-9) but 12 more free throws on 14 more attempts.
Considering the NBA downgraded Celtics center Jermaine O’Neal‘s flagrant-one to a personal foul while upgrading Heat guard James Jones‘ personal to a flagrant-one foul the day after Game 1, any gripes about the referees — Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Derrick Collins — were validated as more than just sour grapes.
NBA officials have long been criticized for their treatment of the league’s superstars. It’s a conspiracy theory born in the Michael Jordan era and nursed along by the indictment of referee Tim Donaghy on game-fixing allegations (Donaghy appeared on Dennis & Callahan Tuesday morning). While I wouldn’t go so far to include the NBA’s current referees — Sunday’s officiating crew included — in the same conversation as Donaghy, there is statistical evidence that James and Dwyane Wade have received at least inadvertent star treatment throughout the 2010-11 season and into the playoffs.
The Heat averaged 27.9 free-throw attempts per game during the regular season, while their opponents averaged 24.2. Conversely, the Celtics averaged 23.1 free-throw attempts, while their opponents averaged 24.1. More specifically, Wade and James combined for 17.0 free-throw attempts per game this season. By contrast, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen combined for 13.3 free throws a game.
But Wade and James get to the rim a ton, you say? That’s true. Each game, the Heat duo combined for 13.1 field-goal attempts within three feet of the basket. Hence, the big free throw numbers. But shouldn’t the Celtics’ Big Four — who combine for 14.0 field goals at the rim every game — be somewhere in that 17 free-throws per game range, rather than 13.3?
Not convinced? Consider this fact: Jordan averaged 7.7 free throws per game during his six championship seasons; Wade (8.6) and James (8.4) each averaged more this season.
|Paul Pierce: ‘Definitely worried’ about possible suspension||05.02.11 at 2:07 pm ET|
UPDATE: Pierce will not be suspended or face further disciplinary action, according to league official.
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Paul Pierce — who declined to speak to reporters following Sunday’s Game 1 loss to the Heat — met with the media before the Celtics‘ practice Tuesday on the campus of the University of Miami. Pierce was ejected on Sunday after picking up his second technical foul, which was assessed after he exchanged words with Dwyane Wade following an attempt by Wade to run through a screen set by Pierce.
But it was the first technical called on Pierce that has raised the idea that action from the NBA might be administered. Pierce appeared to attempt a head-butt on James Jones after the Miami swingman aggressively fouled Pierce. Pierce told the media that he expected to hear from the NBA sometime on Monday, but didn’t feel his actions warranted further action. He did, however, admit that there is always worry whenever the league is investigating the possibility of discipline.
“It’s always a concern when things happen,” Pierce said. “Right now it’s out of my control, they are going to view it the how they view it and come to a decision. I’m definitely worried because if it’s a situation where it hurts my team, then it was very selfish. It was selfish of me last night but it’ll hurt even more if the league cam with the decision to suspend me, if that’s what they thought they saw.”
Pierce — who said he was “surprised at getting kicked out” — agreed with Doc Rivers, who in his postgame press conference Sunday suggested that both Jones and Wade should have received flagrant fouls.
“I probably overreacted,” Pierce said. “Thought I was fouled excessively on both play. I thought it should have been a flagrant on both plays. But it’s up to me to keep my composure. The referees called what they saw. I need to do a better job keeping my composure. That’s it.”
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