|Nation sees Game 7 outcome unpredictable, dependent on LeBron James||06.09.12 at 2:44 pm ET|
The Celtics squandered a shot at closing out their series against Miami in Game 6, and now most feel the outcome of Game 7 is unpredictable. There are many factors rendering the game questionable, like LeBron James and Boston’s energy.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News pointed to just that, emphasizing Boston’s need for a bigger impact from leader Paul Pierce and to neutralize James — something Isola doesn’t think Boston can do.
“There is no questioning the heart and determination of these Celtics,” Isola wrote. “They will need a bigger game from Paul Pierce, who was invisible on Thursday. Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo will have to produce big numbers for the offensively challenged Celtics. But they’ll also have to stop James, and right now that doesn’t seem very likely.”
It’s not just a win on the line for Pierce, but also his legacy, wrote NBC Sports’ Matt Moore. He said Pierce needs to play well — not 45-point-performance well, but well — for Boston to advance to their third NBA Finals in five years.
“But here they are,” Moore wrote. “If [Kevin] Garnett is the angry ferocity of the Celtics, and Rondo the driven determination, Pierce is the source of their swagger. It’s Pierce who has the most confidence in his game regardless of percentages or circumstances. Much like this Celtics team, no matter how many things suggest he’s in the midst of failure, he finds a way to come out on top. The Celtics need that attitude, that swagger, that player tonight in Game 7.”
In Yahoo! Sports’ Game 7 preview, basketball fans took to comments to dispute who would win the series-deciding game. Most said the Heat need another great performance from James to win, but some mentioned Chris Bosh‘s importance to Miami.
“I hear all the points that are being made heading onto the game tonight but one thing nobody is talking about other than LeBron’s great performance is that with Bosh back it is a different scenario now,” One fan wrote. “Before you had a guy like [Udonis] Haslem who is like 6-foot-9 guarding a 7 footer, now they can put Bosh on Garnett and he won’t be able to just shoot over him. Another thing the Heat did was put [Dywane] Wade on [Rajon] Rondo a little bit more and not [Mario] Chalmers and everybody agrees that Chalmers is just a terrible defender. …Well to be fair, Chalmers just can’t guard Rondo.”
ESPN’s Skip Bayless stayed behind his Heat prediction, saying James will still play a good “3 1/2 quarters” and Chris Bosh will play well for Miami.
I’m sticking with “Heat in 7″ prediction. Won’t be easy. Celts the mentally tougher TEAM. DWade will be the mentally toughest PLAYER, Bayless tweeted.
NBA’s Shaun Powell took a slightly different twist, saying basketball fans should cheer for Miami because a Heat-Thunder NBA Finals is more appealing than a Celtics-Thunder series.
“The Celtics are a neat little story of persistence, if nothing else,” Powell wrote. “Kevin Garnett at 36 can still bring it, along with Paul Pierce. Until James went ballistic in Game 6, Rajon Rondo was the best player in this series. Meanwhile, Doc Rivers is confirming what we all knew about him, a terrific in-game coach who knows how to make adjustments and draw up plays. Ray Allen, give the man the hoops version of the purple heart for running around and jumping off one ankle.
“They’re exactly the team you’d want in a Game 7 of the East finals, and also the team you want to lose, or should, anyway. And we say this with all due respect to Boston.”
|Irish Coffee: ‘Let’s go Celtics,’ one final curtain call||06.08.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
Ask Heat coach Erik Spoelstra about Game 7, and like Good Will Hunting he’d probably throw Shakespeare at you, right? “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.” But he’s never been near one.
Neither have most Miamians, at least not since 2005, although they surely have many more to come in their playoff future. Meanwhile, these Celtics and their fans have experienced six Game 7′s in this five-year run of the Kevin Garnett era, including their previous series, but the “Let’s go Celtics” chants echoing to the banners above in the final minutes of Game 6 seemed to suggest: This could be it for awhile, so give us one more. Please.
“I want to say to all the fans, ‘Thank you guys,’” said Garnett in the wake of the 97-78 loss. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like this, in any sport. I’m just truly blessed to be a Celtic and be a part of the city of Boston. That’s what’s up to all the New Englanders around here. It’s crazy. It’s [fudge]ing crazy.”
After three straight Celtics victories in the Eastern Conference finals, Thursday night was supposed to be a Garden celebration — the undressing of the fraudulent Heat in The Emperor’s New Clothes — but instead King James ascended to his NBA MVP throne. When it was over, LeBron James had 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and one elusive victory in an elimination game that saw his Heat lead by as many as 25 points.
|Fast Break: Heat, James LeBlow out Celtics in Game 6||06.07.12 at 11:10 pm ET|
LeBron James submitted perhaps his greatest game as a professional — his most clutch, anyway — amassing 45 points (19-26 FG) to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists, breaking even a raucous Garden crowd’s spirit and sending the Eastern Conference finals back to Miami for a Game 7.
Six minutes before the 98-79 defeat in Game 6 was over, Celtics fans already headed for the exits. Doc Rivers rested Paul Pierce (9 points, 4-18 FG), Kevin Garnett (12 points, 6-14 FG) and Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, 7 turnovers) for the last half of the fourth quarter, letting them stew on what just happened.
The C’s fans who stayed, though, deserve respect, closing out the final two minutes with a prolonged “Let’s go Celtics” chant that lasted until the final answer, sending a message to the “good job, good effort” Heat fans and Boston’s Big Four for Game 7.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Worst first: Through the first 11:42 of Game 6, James played the Celtics dead even by himself. He scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting; the Celtics netted 14 on 7-of-16 from the field. While the C’s offense seemed stagnant for long stretches, James attacked from the opening tip. His effort effectively quieted a deafening Garden crowd and forced the Celtics to play from behind. If not for James, the Heat don’t take a 26-16 lead into the second quarter, as Dwyane Wade started 0-for-4 and finished the first frame scoreless.
Long play the king: Since James started a ridiculous 12-of-14 from the floor, it’s worth discussing further. His emotionless face said it all. If the Heat were going down this time, it wouldn’t be on his shoulders. Playing all 24 minutes of the first half, he scored 30 points, and it would have been more, if not for his 5-of-9 free throw shooting. As the Heat took a 55-42 into the break (on a ridiculous four-point swing of a no-call when Shane Battier mugged Rondo), James owned an 85.7 field goal percentage. The rest of the Heat? Thirty six percent.
Foul mood: With 5:39 remaining in the second quarter, Pierce picked up his third foul, continuing his foul prone ways over the past seven games. Rivers had no choice but to sit his captain until halftime. Pierce had as many turnovers (2) as he had first-half points, and considering James’ performance, it wasn’t his finest effort on either end. Sitting for a long stretch certainly didn’t help his flow. Pierce missed his first three shots out of the break, too. Not to mention a wide-open 3 that would have cut the lead to eight and could have changed the game’s complexion late in the third quarter.
WALTHAM — The Celtics spent Thursday morning in typical gameday mode, preparing for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden against LeBron James and the Heat. All 14 active players were present and accounted for as the team went through half-court sets and shooting drills in anticipation of the game that – if they win – would propel them to the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were among the Celtics in attendance. Both had minor injury issues in the Game 5 win in Miami. Allen had to leave the game for the locker room midway through the third quarter to get treatment for his sore ankles while Rondo suffered a cut on his left arm but both returned to the game and are expected to be fully ready for the potential series-clincher at the Garden. Rondo shot just 3-of-15 in Game 5 while suffering the injury to the same arm on which he dislocated his left elbow in 2011.
“I don’t know what happened there, I think he got slashed or cut,” said Rivers of the Rondo injury on Wednesday. “I pay zero attention to injuries and never ask about them. I don’t want to know about them.”
If the Celtics prevail in Game 6, they will have a day off and then prepare for the Thunder in Game 1 of the NBA finals next Tuesday in Oklahoma City. If the Celtics lose Thursday night’s game, they will have to head back on a plane Friday and travel to Miami for Game 7 on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena.
|Mumbles Menino thinks KJ and Hondo play for Celtics||at 9:40 am ET|
You know, New England is doing a real good impression of Miami these days. First, we had the Maine TV reporter who thought the Celtics and Heat tied Game 4. Now, we’ve got the honorable Mayor Thomas M. Menino announcing, “KJ is great, but Hondo’s really the inspiration,” or something like that.
This isn’t the first time Mumbles has fumbled Boston’s “ionic” sports figures, so rest easy Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. Remember “Varitek splitting the uprights“? At least he got the sport right this time. Kevin “KJ” Johnson and John “Hondo” Havlicek did play basketball once. Heck, one even played for the Celtics, and the other is a mayor, just re-elected in Sacramento, so you can see how he might be easily confused about a pair of NBA superstars who have played basketball in his city for the last five-plus years.
Or maybe Mumbles is just one step ahead of us all. He is the mayor after all. He can’t be that stupid. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s just doing the best impersonation of a Miami sports fan ever. That’s real “Saturday Night Live”-worthy stuff right there.
After all, before the miraculous Red Sox comeback of 2004, he did deliver the greatest political speech in history: “Much like a cookie, I predict the Yankee dynasty will crumble, and the results will be delicious for Red Sox fans.” Bravo, Mumbles, bravo, indeed. That’s up there with, “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and, “a date which will live in infamy.” Long live the mayor! I can’t wait for the unveiling of the Bill Russell statue.
|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.