|Shootaround notes from the Celtics’ last stand||05.11.11 at 11:46 am ET|
MIAMI — There was much to discuss with coach Doc Rivers prior to Game 5 of the Celtics’ playoff series with the Heat, but the key question is: How will they perform facing elimination?
“They’ve got great pride,” Rivers said. “I think you’ll see that tonight. I think I’ll enjoy the way we play.”
Rivers won’t have Shaquille O’Neal, but he does expect Rajon Rondo to play. The coach said he will have a wait-and-see attitude with Rondo to see how he responds to his dislocated left elbow.
The first order of business for the Celtics is to stop turning the ball over. They had 18 turnovers in Game 4, which led to 28 points for Miami, an enormous swing considering the way both teams payed defense.
“As poorly as we played we still had a shot to win the game in regulation,” Rivers said. “But when you gift a gifted team turnovers like we did, in the playoffs you’re usually not going to win that game.”
Rivers expects Kevin Garnett to recover from his disastrous Game 4, when he shot 1-for-10 and was involved in a pair of breakdowns on both ends of the floor late in the contest.
“I expect the same from Kevin every night,” Rivers said. “I expect him to be great. I also understand as a coach that we’re coaching humans. He owns up to everything. I said all the time you can coach one guy or work with one guy in your career, you should coach Kevin Garnett at some point. He’s a pro’s pro. He understands when he plays well, and when he plays well he comes back the next day to play better. That’s just who he is.”
As for Glen Davis, who has struggled throughout the playoffs, Rivers sounded less optimistic.
“We need him, but he’s been struggling for a while,” Rivers said. “It started before the playoffs and he’s still in it. He had an occasional light. We’ve just got to keep going to him and see if we can get anything out of him.”
Asked whether Davis’ impending free agent status may be affecting him mentally, Rivers said, “I have no idea what’s in his mind. I don’t even want to get in there. It’s safer where I’m at.”
|Shaquille O’Neal doubtful for Game 5||at 11:29 am ET|
MIAMI — Shaquille O’Neal is doubtful for Game 5, and even that may be too generous of a classification. Shaq didn’t play in the second half or overtime of Game 4 against the Heat, and it wasn’t a coaching decision by Doc Rivers. It was strictly health-related.
“It was physical,” Rivers said at the team’s shootaround prior to Game 5. “Don’t know yet today. I will say I doubt it. That little stretch of the game it got worse.”
Rivers said that Shaq’s condition worsened in the four minutes he played in Game 4 and it doesn’t sound like he will be able to play no matter what happens in Game 5 or beyond.
“It’s nothing he can do. It’s not like he’s not trying,” Rivers said. “He’s done everything you possibly can do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn’t been able to do it. When he originally got injured no one thought it was that serious. It just never healed and it still hasn’t, and now every time he plays it gets worse.”
Rivers was asked whether this could be the end for O’Neal, who has a player to option to return next season.
“I think it’s too early to talk about it,” Rivers said. “I’ve learned personally you never try to make any decision during the heat of the battle. Emotionally you’re always going to make the wrong choice, so I think he’ll walk away from it this summer and then decide what he’s going to do. I just know this has been emotionally draining to him, more than you guys would know. He feels awful about this because this is why he came here, to get to the playoffs. Not being able to do that has really hurt him.
Rivers does expect Rajon Rondo to play with his dislocated left elbow, but he’s going into the game with the same wait-and-see approach that he had in Game 4. “I don’t know how much better he’s going to be, he is what he is,” Rivers said. “He’s a little better, I would guess.”
|Rajon Rondo goes through shootaround prior to Game 4||05.09.11 at 12:00 pm ET|
Injured point guard Rajon Rondo went through shootaround at the Celtics’ training facility in Waltham Monday morning, which is generally an indication that he will try to play in Game 4 Monday night at the Garden against Miami. Rondo was on the floor in practice clothes shooting free throws when the media was allowed down on the court. He didn’t talk to the press.
Rondo dislocated his left elbow in the third quarter of Game 3 after he became entangled with Miami’s Dwyane Wade. Rondo underwent and MRI and a CT-scan on Sunday and both came negative for a fracture. The Celtics have said that he is a game-time decision.
Fellow point guard Carlos Arroyo said that he thinks Rondo is ready. “He’s a warrior,” Arroyo said. “He demonstrated that last game. We were all surprised in the fact that he came back after that injury. I know he’s ready. He wants to play. He wants to win.”
Delonte West also participated in shootaround as did Shaquille O’Neal.
|Shootaround notes: Last minute checklist||05.03.11 at 12:42 pm ET|
MIAMI — As they head into Game 2, both the Celtics and Heat feel that they didn’t play their best in the opener and while there will be strategic adjustments on both sides, the sense is that both teams simply want to play their game better.
“As poorly as we played and they didn’t necessary play terrific either, you can clearly say some of it was due to their defense,” Doc Rivers said before the team’s shootaround. “It wasn’t just us being bad. There’s somebody out there making you be bad and they had a lot to do with it.”
On the Celtics to-do list are guard the 3-point line better, particularly James Jones who made 5-of-7 from behind the arc and keep Miami off the free throw line. Offensively, Rivers felt his team rushed and put themselves in a bad position.
“They’ll respond,” Rivers said of his team. “We’re usually a pretty good team in execution and we just were not. I was just surprised how impatient we were offensively. When you become impatient that makes you easy to guard. I think we were very easy to guard.”
As for Miami, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was happy with his team’s defense, but is looking for more from his offense. He knows that it won’t be easy.
“We’ve tried to exercise our mental disciple to maintain our mental edge,” he said. “It’s two physical teams, two very good defensive teams. There will be times when both teams struggle to score. Whoever can say that consistently played their game will likely win the basketball game.”
As for the prospect of going down 2-0 in this series, something that has never happened in the Big 3 era, Kevin Garnett said that the Celtics were not thinking that way.
“You take one game at a time,” Garnett said. “Each game you learn something from it and you try to apply what you’ve learned to the next game. Obviously [1-1] is always good but you go 0-2 against a great team it’s very hard.”
Expect both teams to be sharper in Game 2 and that’s when we’ll really find out if one team had the advantage.
“That will happen,” Rivers said. “It may happen tonight. I think one or two games you’ll get the best shot from each team and somebody will win that game.”
SHAQ UPDATE: Rivers said that Shaquille O’Neal looked good in practice on Monday in stretches but struggled at the end. the coach termed him doubtful for Game 2, but it will be a game-time decision.
“I doubt it,” Rivers said. “He looked great yesterday. He went through the whole practice. He was phenomenal actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal. Then by the end of the practice he was struggling walking. We’ll see but I would say Game 3 is becoming likely. Game 2, were not sure but I doubt it.”
Rivers said that it was O’Neal’s first scrimmage since his seven-minute comeback against Detroit on April 3. That was encouraging, but, “Watching him walk on the bus and even this morning said the recovery time is tough for him,” Rivers said.
|Heat practice notes: Who you calling physical?||05.02.11 at 4:55 pm ET|
MIAMI — The question was posed to various Heat players from about six different angles, but it really all boiled down to this: Are you surprised by the Celtics reaction after Game 1 that your play was (pick one) chippy, physical or cheap?
“I didn’t see us start anything,” LeBron James said. “I don’t understand what all the other conversation is about. We just want to play basketball. Go out there we’re going to be physical, the best team will win the game that night. That’s all it’s about.”
Added Dwyane Wade, “At the end of the day it’s basketball. No one’s going to be out there doing anything crazy. Ain’t no fighting going on. It’s basketball and the guys are going to be physical and they’re going to take hard fouls. You just got to move on from it.”
James Jones: “It’s all in the game. We’re trying to keep it strictly about basketball. Whenever you have emotionally charged guys on the floor, two very high caliber teams battling and competing, you always have something. No one wants to give an inch.”
Your turn, Erik Spoelstra: “We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not. We’re not stepping out of our box.”
It was left to Wade to add a little levity to the questions. “I haven’t been in the second round in a long time but I’m assuming this is how it is,’ he said. “Maybe I’ve been out of the loop for a while. If they win a ballgame it will be a total different spin on things.”
So there you have it. The Heat are going to be physical. We know the Celtics will try to be more aggressive in Game 2. There will be hard fouls. There will probably be a few technicals. It is, after all, the playoffs and while the Celtics made their names by playing rough and tumble defense, the Heat are making their own reputation on that end of the floor. Paul Pierce will not be suspended for Game 2 after his ejection, which featured a face-shove with Jones, and everyone will all move on.
Beyond that storyline, there are adjustments and tweaks to be made. The Heat were generally pleased with how they performed in their 99-90 Game 1 victory, but also felt like they had a lot to clean up. Spoelstra is still very concerned about Rajon Rondo who was held to just seven points and seven assists, but acknowledged that a good deal of that was the foul trouble that sent Rondo to the bench in the second quarter.
“I’m not overstating it,” Spoelstra said..”When he was in more of a rhythm in the second half he made a big impact. He’ll break you down, he’ll find a way. When it gets broken down all rules are thrown out the window and you have to do something with an effort – a deflection, a rotation, to transcend all of that.”
After the game Rondo noted that he had his shot blocked several times from the weakside as he drove to the basket.
“LeBron and [Joel] Anthony came and blocked my shots. I got a lot of my shots blocked tonight,” Rondo said. “Give them credit. On the fast break they did a good job pursuing the ball.”
Rondo was disappointed with his play and not just because of the foul trouble, citing turnovers and missed opportunities. He remains the biggest key to the series, but here are a few other items of concern for Miami.
FLOOR SPACING: How did James Jones get so open for his 3-pointers? First, the Heat took advantage of matchups and got him on the move. Second, he found the right areas that were clear to set up and third, his teammates got him the ball.
“They do a tremendous job of protecting the paint so when our attackers put the ball on the floor there’s usually at least two help defenders putting their bodies in front of drivers,” Spoelstra said. “So J.J. was able to get in open areas. Spacing is going to be critical for our offense. Executing our second and third options will be paramount because both teams defend the first trigger very well.”
The Celtics overload the ball with defenders and put pressure on the ballhandler to make snap decisions. Some teams try to beat the defense by passing to the weakside, which is the vulnerable area on the court. The Heat made a concerted effort to drive and attack the defense at its strongest point. Not many teams can do that, but Miami has the talent.
Once Miami goes into its rotations, pay close attention to how the Celtics counter. They were left with some strange combinations like Kevin Garnett chasing Jones. Spoelstra cited the play of Mike Miller, who was on the floor when Miami made a big run in the second quarter and added size on the wing. “They were short minutes but they were productive minutes,” Spoelstra said.
DEFENDING RAY ALLEN: Wade was the biggest offensive star on the court with 38 points, but Ray Allen had a big night as well with 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 5-for-8 on his 3-pointers.
“My job is to chase Ray Allen around, hoping he gets tired one day and misses a shot,” Wade said.
In response to a particularly difficult 3 that Allen made, Wade said, “Only Ray Allen can make that shot. Nobody else. I looked at the film and realized I made three mistakes and every one resulted in a 3. That’s why he is who he is and why he’s great.”
CHRIS BOSH LOOKS TO GET GOING: On the one hand, Bosh scored just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. On the other, Kevin Garnett scored six points on 3-for-9 shooting. You can call it a wash, but that’s a matchup the Celtics need to win if they’re going to take Game 2. Bosh said the key was keeping his emotions in check.
“I’ve been in so many situations where I let my emotions get the best of me and I let that anxiety get the best of me,” he said. “I’m at a point where I just relax no matter what the situation is and just play the game.”
|Carlos Arroyo active for Game 1, Shaq gets closer||05.01.11 at 3:09 pm ET|
MIAMI — There was a change in the Celtics 12 man active roster but it didn’t involve Shaquille O’Neal.
Carlos Arroyo is in and Sasha Pavlovic is out for Game 1. Teams can change their 12-man active list before every game.
“He knows this team,” Doc Rivers said. “He was in their training camp. He was in their practice. He knows their personnel. I just thought he may be able to help us in some way.”
As for Shaq, Rivers said that he remains a possibility for Game 2, if not Game 3 back in Boston.
“He’s getting close,” Rivers said. “We actually had to make a decision so that’s better than what we had to do in the past. Maybe next game, if not I would say for sure Game 3.”
|Celtics will pay close attention to Chris Bosh||04.29.11 at 1:43 pm ET|
The Celtics know all about LeBron James and they have dealt with Dwyane Wade in the playoffs before, but they will also be paying close attention to Chris Bosh in their conference semifinal series and for good reason.
“When Bosh plays really well they blow teams out,” Kevin Garnett said. “It’s not even close.”
Bosh averaged almost 20 points and nine rebounds in Miami’s first round series against Philadelphia. He had monster performances in the first two games of the series and then came up big in the close-out game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. In the one game Miami lost he was held to just 12 points and five rebounds.
“LeBron and Wade are going to be LeBron and Wade,” Doc Rivers said. “They were great before the series, they’ll be great during it and they’ll be great after it and this summer when you’re talking about it you’ll say LeBron and Wade are great players. That’s not going to chance. But when Bosh plays great, then their team plays great. He’s a key guy for them.”
What makes Bosh so tough is he can score inside as well as on the perimeter. In his first season with Miami his attempts inside of 10 feet decreased by more than three per game, but he shot over 45 percent from 16-23 feet. Getting him more involved has been a persistent theme for Miami this season.
“He stretches the floor,” Rivers said. “They’ve done a better job in the second half of the year involving him more. He’s part of their offense more. When you look at the Philly series when he plays well in those games they won and when he struggled they didn’t win. He’s just a tough guy to guard. He does have the ability to go out to the 3-point line.”
“I consider him like a European player almost because he’s so big and he can shoot, dribble and things like that,” Glen Davis said. “You just have to be physical with him and make sure he doesn’t have it easy. Make sure everything is tough for him. Make him earn every shot. Make him earn every layup and things like that.”
Garnett and Davis will draw the primary defensive assignment, which Garnett likened somewhat to playing Amar’e Stoudemire.
“For Baby and myself and all the guys who played Stoudemire, New York was actually a good series, sort of warmed us up,” Garnett said. “Two totally different guys. Bosh is a little more perimeter than Stoudemire. But again he can score in different ways and they get the ball to him, so we got our work cut out for us.”
Rivers said he was more confident on Friday that Shaquille O’Neal would be able to play in the series. “I don’t know when,” he said. “Maybe [Game 1]. Maybe two. But I do think he’ll play. [Trainer Eddie Lacerte is] more confident that he’ll play, so that makes me more confident.
If he does play, Rivers said that he would come off the bench. “When he walks on the floor he’s 7-feet tall and he weighs what he weigh,” Rivers said. “Of all our players he probably has the easiest task of being who they are, because that’s all he can be.”
Rajon Rondo had little to say when he talked to the press before practice, but he did say that whatever defensive gameplan the Heat come up for with him, he’s probably seen it before. “I don’t know, everybody plays differently,” he said. “We’ll see Game 1.”
As for the difference between Mario Chalmers and Mike Bibby, Rondo said, Chalmers is going to put pressure on you, make you turn your back, play the passing lanes. Bibby’s more solid.”
Whoever winds up drawing the assignment, the Celtics just want Rondo to continue playing fast. “Just need Shorty to be aggressive,” Garnett said. “Rondo’s a pain when he’s aggressive. When he’s stacking the stat line he’s a problem to deal with and we’re a problem to deal with.”
THE PAST IS THE PAST
The Celtics won three games against Miami, but were blown out in the final meeting. Each game made for great copy, but they say it means little now. “Not with us,” Garnett said. “The playoffs is a new season, new situation, new scenarios so everything we’ve done up to this point is just history.