|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.
|Mickael Pietrus: ‘I had to take a shot and make it’||at 1:48 am ET|
Mickael Pietrus hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter Tuesday night as the Celtics held off the Heat, 94-90, in Game 5 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Pietrus hit 5-of-8 shots from the floor and finished with 13 points off the bench as the Celtics moved to the brink of the NBA finals for the third time in five seasons by taking a 3-2 series lead over the heavily favored Heat.
Pietrus said he received a special source of inspiration on Monday via text message from former Celtic and current TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal.
“I got a text from Shaq, he was telling me keep believing and keep playing, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.
Pietrus hit a huge 3-pointer to cap a wild flurry midway through the fourth as the Celtics and Heat were battling for control of the game. With the Heat on a 9-0 run to go up 78-72, Brandon Bass had his dunk blocked by Dwyane Wade, but the loose ball went out to Rajon Rondo, who touched it immediately to a wide-open Pietrus on the right baseline. Pietrus drilled it to cut the Heat lead to three and help spark Boston’s comeback.
“When Rondo took that rebound and kicked it out to me, I knew I had to take a shot and make it, so that’s what I did,” Pietrus said.
“The one thing you know about Pietrus is he’s going to shoot it. He’s been down this road before,” Doc Rivers said, giving credit to Rondo for touch-passing to Pietrus on the wing.
With 2:11 left and Miami back in the lead at 83-82 on a Mario Chalmers 3-pointer, Pietrus stepped up and did it again, nailing another trey on a pass from Pierce. The triple put Boston up 85-83 and again quieted the crowd, which was anticipating a Heat run to close out the game as in Game 2.
“I’m very happy with the way we’ve been playing defensively and I think it’s up to us to go home and close it out,” Pietrus said.
|Doris Burke on D&C: Expect Chris Bosh to play||06.05.12 at 10:36 am ET|
Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday morning, ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke addressed the controversy stemming from her halftime interview with Rajon Rondo in which the Celtics point guard said Heat players were “complaining and crying to referees in transition” during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.
“To me, it was first of all, shocking that he would say that. It’s the kind of response you rarely get,” Burke said.
Following the game, Burke asked Rondo if he expected any reprecussions from what he said at halftime, to which he said he didn’t take back what he said. But after that interview was over, cameras revealed Burke and Rondo talking to each other, a conversation that appeared to be a misunderstanding between the two. Burke revealed the conversation on the air and what she thought was going on.
“If you recall how I ended the interview, I said – and this really wasn’t my place, I wasn’t in the analyst’s role, but it just popped into my head – I said, ‘Your play backed you up.’ It was sort of a gratuitious comment, frankly, in the position I was in, but it just popped into my head,” Burke recalled. “And I don’t think he heard me. I think he heard me say, ‘Back you up,’ and whether he thought I was referencing his teammates maybe in the next game because of the kind of response that comment might illicit, I don’t know.
“I think he turned around to ask me sort of, ‘What did you say?’ and there was a point at which I sort of just grabbed his arm and I said, ‘This is what I said,’ he said, ‘What?’ and I repeated it.”
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