|Fast Break: Heat withstand Rajon Rondo’s brilliance||05.30.12 at 11:52 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo played all 53 minutes, scoring a career-high 44 points — the final umpteen on fumes — but the Celtics lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 115-111, and trail the Heat 2-0 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Rondo finished 16-of-24 from the field while adding 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals in perhaps the greatest game of a career filled with mind-boggling triple-doubles. Paul Pierce (21 points), Kevin Garnett (18 points, 8 rebounds) and Ray Allen (13 points) all exceeded 40 minutes, but the C’s ran out of gas.
In the final minute of regulation, Pierce fouled out with 47 seconds remaining, Dwyane Wade made just 1-of-2 free throws to give the Heat a 99-96 lead, Allen connected on a game-tying 3-pointer with 34 seconds left and LeBron James missed a pair of potential game-winning buckets.
But James led Miami with 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Wade (23 points) and Mario Chalmers (22 points) were the only other Heat players in double figures. Of course, their 47-29 advantage in free throws (24 for James) and 15 fewer personal fouls helped, too. In the final five minutes and overtime, the Celtics were whistled for 11 fouls to the Heat’s two. And Miami took 18 free throws (James 12, Wade 6) to the C’s two.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turd quarter: The Celtics withstood a Heat run to close the second half, even maintaining a less-than-comfortable 71-66 lead 7:36 into the third quarter, but Miami went on a 12-0 run after a Wade block of Allen on the break to snare a six-point lead — just another reminder of how quickly the Heat can ignite offensively. That stretch featured Wade’s awakening and, of course, a couple more James free throws.
Mario cart: While most of the Heat couldn’t connect throughout the first half –shooting just 15-of-41 (36.6 FG%) from the field as a team — bit player Chalmers carried Miami when its superstars struggled. His 14 points and four assists in the opening two quarters help offset Rondo’s sensational first-half stretch.
Hitting the deck: Maybe Greg Stiemsma took Rondo’s “hit the deck” comments a little too literally. He picked up four personal fouls in his first three minutes of action, and while Doc Rivers nearly earned himself another technical foul, most were completely deserved. That meant Stiemsma, who had played quite well in limited Game 1 action, gave way to Ryan Hollins, who proceeded to dribble into a sea of Heat defenders and turn the ball over.
|Game 2: Rondo, Rondo, Rondo||05.29.12 at 7:45 pm ET|
MIAMI — Just about everyone would take the following stat line from their point guard: 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. But Rajon Rondo is not just anyone, and for the Celtics to hobble their way out of Miami with a series split, he has to play much better in Game 2.
Rondo had a horrid start to the opener, with all four of his turnovers coming in the first quarter. Then, he turned it on in the next 12 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out four assists while the Celtics tricked the game up with a number of smaller lineups featuring four wing players on the court at the same time. “Fools gold,” Doc Rivers called it.
That’s not sustainable, and the Heat got them out of that early in the second half, when coach Erik Spoelstra put Dwyane Wade on Rondo and kept him 10 feet off the ball. Rondo’s seen that defense before and while giving him room can allow him to pick defenses apart with his passing, it doesn’t work if, A) the defender is as big and talented as Wade, and B) no one on the Celtics can make a shot.
Wade was allowed to roam, which disrupted passing lanes, timing and whatever rhythm is left in the Celtics’ offense. Rivers said after the game that he thought Rondo let his analytical side take over instead of just relying on his speed and instincts.
“You can’t read [defenses] and play a speed at the same time,” Rivers said. “We got through it a lot: ‘Rondo, just trust your instincts. Your speed has to be part of it, your instincts will take over, you’ll make the right decisions.’ We have to give him more room and guys have to hit shots.”
Asked how many defensive looks they threw at him, Rondo deadpanned, “Fourteen.” But given a day and half to prepare, he should have a better plan of attack.
“You could say that, but teams make adjustments,” he said. “They may guard me the same Game 2, they may not. They may throw some different things at me. At the end of the day, you got to make changes throughout the game. You can’t just come into a gameplan and stick to it, because good teams in the conference finals will make adjustments.”
True enough, but Rondo has to be on it from the opening tip if the Celtics are going to have a chance, and Boston has to help him by getting defensive rebounds and getting the ball to him quickly in transition. The Heat have made stopping him their top priority and 16-9-7 isn’t going to cut it. Read the rest of this entry »
Entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night, the buzz surrounded names like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo. By the end of the game, though, the spotlight turned toward referees Dan Crawford and Ed Malloy.
Crawford and Malloy raised eyebrows with their questionable technical foul calls that went against the Celtics, particularly in the second quarter. By the end of the game, the Celtics were whistled for five technical foul calls while the Heat were not called for any.
‘Don’t tell me that [Crawford] would just arbitrarily decide, ‘I’m going to give Ray Allen a tech for saying no and turning away,’ ‘ Smith said. ‘That’s got to be something that’s coming from the league. It makes no sense to me.
‘For an official to give you a technical over something like that, to say it’s egregious is a gross understatement. They really, really need to fall back. It is ridiculous.’
Another one of the technical foul calls Monday night was a team technical foul for delay of game after Garnett tapped the ball behind the baseline following a second-quarter field goal.
Even the Florida media questioned that call, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel wrote: ‘A delay-of-game technical foul on the Celtics in the first half of a playoff game, really?’
|Rajon Rondo: ‘They have to hit the deck, too’||at 9:21 am ET|
MIAMI — Late in the fourth quarter of the Celtics‘ Game 1 loss to Miami, Kevin Garnett delivered a foul on LeBron James and then shared some of his famous internal monologue with James, who laughed back at him.
Asked later if he thought James and the Heat were “showboating,” Garnett responded, “A little bit. Little bit. It’s all good. They’re home, they’re comfortable. And when you’re comfortable, you do things like that. We’ve got to make sure we take them out of their comfort zone and fight a little harder.”
The comfort zone was something the Celtics talked about after the game in regards to James and Dwyane Wade, who combined to shoot 60 percent and score 54 points. Coach Doc Rivers said his team allowed them to play “in extreme comfort,” tough words for a team that lives on its defensive pressure.
Rajon Rondo said the C’s needed to “shrink the floor,” which is one of their main defensive principles. Someone asked if that meant being more physical and Rondo replied, “I mean, nothing dirty, but you know, they have to hit the deck, too.”
Two problems here. One, they can’t hit what they can’t catch, and two, who’s going to do it? This is one of the most mentally tough Celtics teams of recent years, but they don’t have an enforcer. It’s not their game. The issue for the Celtics isn’t hitting Miami, it’s stopping the Heat before they get there.
Regardless, expect this to be a huge thing for the next day and a half until Game 2 tips on Wednesday.
|Doc Rivers calls his technical ‘worst I’ve ever had’||at 12:03 am ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers made his displeasure with his technical foul very clear following a Game 1 loss to the Heat at American Airlines Arena in South Florida. Rivers was whistled for a technical foul by referee Ed Malloy with 3:13 left in the second quarter when he uttered the words, “Come on, Ed.”
“I know mine wasn’t [deserved],” Rivers said. “I don’t know how long I’ve been in the league, but that has to rank as the worst I’ve ever had. I would have liked to have earned it.”
Malloy called a technical foul on Rivers and then called one on Rajon Rondo midway through the third after Rondo and Shane Battier became entangled after a Brandon Bass basket. Rondo appeared to push Battier away, trying to get loose. Earlier in the game, referee Danny Crawford called a tech on Ray Allen after Allen was demonstrative after a call on him. Crawford then whistled Kevin Garnett for a delay of game technical for tapping the ball out of bounds after a Celtics basket.
“We should never get them, I told our guys,” Rivers said, before adding, “Everybody has to keep their composure, not just just the players and coaches.”
|Game 1 pregame: Ray Allen remains in the starting lineup||05.28.12 at 12:44 pm ET|
MIAMI — The Celtics honestly don’t know what to expect from Ray Allen on a game-by-game basis, but they’re not ready to make a change. Asked if he considered starting Mickael Pietrus ahead of Allen, coach Doc Rivers said, “No. We’re going to stay the way we are.”
Still, there is concern over Allen who was challenged defensively against the 76ers and will be facing a far-greater problem in guarding Dwyane Wade who scored 99 points in Miami’s final three games against the Pacers.
“It’s tough. Really, you don’t know,” Rivers said. “We don’t know game to game with him. We don’t know how he’s feeling, then we don’t know how he’s going to deal with it during the game. The way we coached him so far, is with the eye that’s how we have to coach him. We have to watch him. If we feel like he’s moving enough to help us, we keep him on the floor. If he’s not moving enough, then we take him off the floor.
“Then the second decision is, do we put him back on the floor. It’s every game — in Game 7, the argument our staff was having. ‘Take him off, take him out, bring him in.’ Honestly, it’s just luck sometimes. We left him in and he made two 3’s. But the hook was close, I can tell you that.”
Despite their injuries, the Heat are not overlooking the Celtics by any means.
“We understand the challenges we have ahead of us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They have championship experience. You can not discount that. They’ve proven that in the last two series, everyone was counting them out. They’re exactly where they want to be. Everybody counting them out and claiming that they’re this or they’re that. They’re not. That’s how they’ve been able to win. They grind games. They do it with their defense and they do it with timely offense.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: How this Celtics team fares in Game 7’s||05.24.12 at 1:03 pm ET|
The last and only time Mickael Pietrus played in a Game 7, he played for the Magic and scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-3 3P) in a 101-82 blowout of the Celtics in the Garden to win the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. (Our own Paul Flannery reminds us of the similarities between that series and this one.)
Keyon Dooling hasn’t played in a Game 7 since 2005, when he scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting coming off the bench for the Heat in an 88-82 loss to the Pistons during the Eastern Conference finals. Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and even Brandon Bass have never played a Game 7, not that it matters much.
How the Celtics fare in Game 7 of this Eastern Conference semifinals against the 76ers depends on how well the Big Four perform. Pietrus should start for Ray Allen, but Doc Rivers probably puts this game in the hands of Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ganett and Paul Pierce. And who could blame him? After five seasons, 85 playoff games and 50 postseason victories together, they’ve gotten him this far.
Between them, Allen, Rondo, Garnett and Pierce have played 12 playoff games with the series up for grabs, including five as a unit since the 2008 NBA title run (Garnett’s 2009 knee injury cost him two of those). They’re 3-4 as individuals, and 3-2 together — the 2010 NBA finals Game 7 loss to the Lakers freshest in all their minds.
Perhaps how those four have fared in those previous 12 win-or-go-home playoff contests (Garnett, Allen and Pierce each played a Game 5 before the NBA abolished five-game, first-round series in 2003) will offer a glimpse of what to expect in their 13th and perhaps final Game 7 together, on Saturday night against the Sixers in Boston.
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