|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.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday dismissed Rajon Rondo‘s comments as nothing more than “normal playoff chatter” in regards to the Celtics point guard’s controversial remarks about the Heat during halftime of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.
Following the Celtics’ 61-point first-half outburst, ESPN’s Doris Burke asked Rondo what kinds of holes his team was exploiting against the Heat defense. Replied Rondo: “Them complaining and crying to referees in transition.”
On Monday, when asked if there was any truth to Rondo’s comments, Spoelstra wrote it off.
“I could really care less — couldn’t care less about what another player has to say about our team,” Spoelstra said. “The deeper you get into a competitive series, the more people [say], the more noise there tends to be.”
Spoelstra instead chose to talk about how his players have improved with how they handle themselves when they don’t get calls.
“I think we’ve managed that part of the game better than we have in the past,” Spoelstra said. “I think, particularly in this playoff run, we’ve been able to focus on things that we can control. And that’s not one of them. But if you have been around our team, I think you’ve seen a lot of progress, particularly from last year.”
|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.”
|Celtics shootaround notes for Game 3: Extra time for KG and Ray||06.01.12 at 1:08 pm ET|
Not that they are expected to carry the team but Daniels knows more will be expected in Game 3 at the Garden. And it’s not necessarily the scoring but the energy level off the bench that has to be there. Daniels, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus are among those who could be vital in assuring Rajon Rondo doesn’t have to play the entire game like he did in Game 2.
“We just have to do what’s needed,” Daniels said at Friday morning’s shootaround. “Rondo obviously had a great game last game. If those guys [starters] continue to play well, we basically have to come in and do what we usually do, get some stops here and there, play good defense and knock down open shots.
“A little more here and there, and we’ll be OK.”
Pietrus led the bench in minutes with 28 on Wednesday, while Dooling added 15. Greg Stiemsma played just five minutes after picking up four quick fouls and Ryan Hollins, Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and E’Twaun Moore all played under two minutes.
Daniels said the team’s focus is right where it needs to be, down 0-2 in the series to the heavily-favored Heat.
“We’re focused,” he said. “We’re going to go out and do what we need to do. We looked at film and got prepared so I think we’ll be ready.”
The focus was evident among most of the Celtics, who left after the shootaround to get their rest. However, Ray Allen stayed behind to work with assistants Ty Lue and Michael Longabardi while Kevin Garnett worked with assistant Jamie Young on mid-range and 3-point shooting, along with free throws.
Normally, both Allen and Garnett leave immediately after the shootaround, which focuses on half-court sets. Friday morning was different.
All Celtics were accounted for and present at Friday’s shootaround.
The Celtics will also look to take advantage of home court, where they’re 6-1 in the playoffs so far.
“It’s going to help a lot,” Daniels said. “Our crowd is going to be into it. It’s going to be a lot more intense. We’re going to come out focused and ready to play.
“Just stay consistent, come out and keep giving the energy where it’s needed, keep giving those guys their breaks and make sure we don’t fall off anywhere,” Daniels said. “We’re a veteran ball club so we don’t let too much get to us. You hate losing, obviously, but we’re going to come in focused and hopefully, we can get this one.”
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