|Irish Coffee: Early Celtics blow could stun Heat||04.27.11 at 12:33 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
The more I hear from the Heat locker room and see from them on the court, the more confidence I have that they’ll cave the first opportunity they get. If the Celtics throw the first punch, it could be a knockout.
I fully expect the Heat to advance to Round 2, whether or not they blow another close-out opportunity on Wednesday night. Beyond that? I just can’t see them winning four times in a seven-game series against the Celtics.
Why? Listen to the types of statements the Heat’s stars have made in the last few days alone …
There’s this from Dwyane Wade: “The starting unit is not that [high energy] kind of lineup, and we understand that. But we do have to start off better, so we’ve got to do different things, myself and LeBron. We’ve got to be the ones to put the effort in those guys.”
I didn’t realize you could just put effort in people. I wish they did that at City Hall, so I didn’t have to wait in lines all day there. News flash Dwyane: It’s not that your other teammates aren’t trying — they’re just not that good.
This from LeBron James: “Throughout me and D-Wade’s career, we have always been kind of feel out the game first and then go from there. The both of us are going to play with more effort, more aggression and not feel the game out as much to start the game and see how that works, because our first quarters haven’t been the best.”
James hasn’t been putting forth his best effort? Forgive me for being naive, but don’t most guys play full-tilt at all times in the playoffs? Do you think Kevin Garnett has to say, “Maybe I should start playing with more effort”?
|Adrian Wojnarowski on M&M: Leaving C’s would be difficult for Doc Rivers||04.25.11 at 2:43 pm ET|
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports joined the Mut & Merloni show Monday afternoon to discuss the NBA playoffs and other Celtics items of interest. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Rajon Rondo put up huge numbers in the C’s first-round series sweep of the Knicks, and Wojnarowski said the point guard will again be tough for Boston’s opponent to handle in Round 2. “He’s Miami’s most difficult matchup,” Wojnarowski said. “They don’t have a guy to deal with him.”
The Heat, who need one more win to close out the 76ers, also appear to be at a disadvantage vs. the Celtics when it comes to bench play. “The question marks around Miami’s bench continue to be immense,” Wojnarowski said. “Mike Miller, who they had signed to be a key part of that team, he’s got issues with both thumbs. He can’t shoot the ball. And so, his minutes have diminished. They’re getting less and less from that bench. That’s why they thought about signing Eddy Curry. That’s the level of desperation they had with that group there. That’s where Boston’s supposed to have the advantage here.”
If Shaquille O’Neal can return and give the C’s some quality minutes to complement Jermaine O’Neal, that would give Boston another advantage. “We’ll see what happens with Shaq, if he comes back,” Wojnarowski said. “Because Jermaine O’Neal really established himself as a big part of this Celtics postseason run with the way he played. He probably won Game 2 for Boston. I think Doc said he did, and I agree with him. His ability to defend the rim and block shots. Now, if Shaq comes back — maybe Shaq comes off the bench, maybe Shaq starts — but Boston’s bench has shown some signs in that New York series of playing better.”
Added Wojnarowski: “Doc said it all along: They had to have one of the O’Neals play. And Jermaine has played better. He exceeded my expectations. … You saw him defending, rebounding and just his movement around the floor and getting out, really being a lot of places, his rotation on defense, getting back, showing on the pick and roll and then getting back and protecting the rim. He brings a very high basketball IQ. He’s a smart guy, a veteran guy. And I thought he played great in that series and was the difference for Boston.
“But listen, Shaq still commands a double team in the post offensively. He still can rebound the ball. He can’t move like Jermaine can and defend all over the floor defensively the way Jermaine has showed himself to do. But there’s still things that Shaq brings to them that are going to help them, not just against Miami.
“You know, it’s funny: They don’t need him against Miami in terms of, Miami doesn’t have great size. But what it is is, he gives you an advantage. He gives you an edge where they have trouble matching up, and guys still have to foul him or double him. And so, while you don’t need him to match up with one of their guys, you say, ‘Hey, we have an advantage with him playing.’ So, that’s why you want him to play.”
|The trouble with close-out games||04.23.11 at 5:10 pm ET|
NEW YORK — In the Kevin Garnett era, the Celtics have won eight playoff series and lost only two, but they have had a strange inability to close out series, especially on the road. The Celtics are 8-11 in elimination games and 1-9 on the road in those situations.
The one win came against Detroit in Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals and was hailed at the time as a breakthrough for a team that was still learning how to play with each other in the playoffs. That 1-9 record has cost them twice. In 2009 they lost Game 6 in Orlando and then were knocked out on the TD Garden floor in Game 7. Last season the Celtics had two chances to beat the Lakers in Los Angeles and lost them both.
They have a chance to take care of the Knicks on Sunday and the odds are in their favor, considering point guard Chauncey Billups is not likely to play and Amar’e Stoudemire is having problems with his back.
But it’s never easy. Take last season’s first round matchup against Miami. The Celtics won a dramatic Game 3 on Paul Pierce‘s last-second game-winner and the talk in South Florida was about how the Heat didn’t want to get back on a plane and take their beating in Game 5 back in Boston. Instead, they rallied from a 77-71 deficit in the fourth quarter and rode Dwyane Wade‘s incredible shooting back to Boston.
“Close-out games are difficult because it’s the one game where you tend to let your guard down,” Kevin Garnett said. “[They] make you tend to relax versus remembering the things that got you there and how you put yourself in a position to close out.”
One would think that a veteran team like the Celtics would have an advantage in these situations because of their experience, but their record shows otherwise. Either way the Celtics are confident in their approach.
“It’s not difficult for me by any means,” Ray Allen said. “I don’t look it as a close-out game. I just look at it as another game we have to play and another game we have to win. Last night we didn’t win anything. We just have to go out and do our jobs and that’s how I look at it.”
One area they want to carryover from Game 3 is their execution offensively. Obviously Pierce and Allen aren’t going to make 25 of 37 shots again, but the shots were just the end result of an offensive that functioned better than it has in months.
“I attribute that to the bigs being in good position and setting great screens and [Rajon] Rondo playing with great speed,” Allen said. “If my guy has to shift just a little bit the one way and I go the other way then he’s beat already. All those little small things help.”
Still, they pointed to their 20 turnovers and the fact that they were so perimeter oriented.
“We made shots and we’re all really smart when we make shots,” Doc Rivers said. “Paul and Ray were 14-for-18 from the 3, if they had been 3-for-18 from the 3, you would have been saying, ‘Doc why didn’t you post the ball up more.’”
SHAQ UPDATE: The Celtics didn’t have a full practice on Saturday and there was no opportunity to see if Shaquille O’Neal was ready to play, so he was ruled out of Game 4. Rivers insisted that they are not holding him out for any strategic purposes because of their 3-0 lead.
“He didn’t feel great, so I’m not taking a chance,” Rivers said. “I’d still like to use him. If he could play I’d play him because I think it would be good for him. The minute he can play he’ll be on the floor.”
THE RAY AND PAUL SHOW: After Game 3, Pierce noted that he was enjoying watching Allen light it up from the outside. Allen had the same reaction.
“I just kept seeing Paul make shots, I was like man, Paul is hot right now, keep giving him the ball,” Allen said. “I felt like I was in the meantime, keep giving Paul the ball.”
Allen was asked if this game was the antidote to all their offensive problems over the last month and a half. “I didn’t question it,” he said. “I know what we need to do and we’ve always known that. It’s just going out and doing it.”
|Shaq shows up at shootaround||04.22.11 at 3:24 pm ET|
When the curtain was parted at Madison Square Garden a large familiar face was on the court. Shaquille O’Neal was dressed in workout clothes with the rest of the Celtics. He won’t play in Game 3 Friday night and he’s doubtful for Game 4, but his presence was an indication that he is getting closer to returning to the lineup.
“He’s not ready to play yet,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “But the fact that he’s feeling better and he’s getting closer, you just bring him on the road.”
Shaq talked briefly as he made his way off the court saying he’s “just trying to get back.”
Rivers maintains that the team isn’t holding him back for any other reason than he’s just not ready to play yet. “I’m worried about getting him right and healthy,” Rivers said. “There’s no strategic gameplan for not playing him. There’s a medical gameplan for not playing him. Once he can play he can play.”
Asked if the Shaq situation was becoming a distraction, Rivers said, “Our guys don’t care.”
As for the other O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal injured his left wrist in Game 2 when he fell awkwardly after taking a charge. He wore a brace for the last two days to prevent any further damage, but said that the swelling had gone down and that he would probably play without the brace Friday night.
|Irish Coffee: Shaq bound for New York||04.21.11 at 11:24 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
After Wednesday’s hullabaloo over a report that the Celtics aren’t expecting Shaquille O’Neal back for the NBA Playoffs — which coach Doc Rivers refuted faster than Rajon Rondo ran a layup drill against Toney Douglas – I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing updates about Shaq.
But there’s a slightly new wrinkle to the Shaq drama.
Following Celtics practice on Wednesday, Rivers told reporters, “If you see him on the trip, that means he’s really close.” Well, in an appearance on Boston radio station KISS 108′s morning radio show Thursday morning, Shaq’s live-in girlfriend — Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander — admitted she and Shaq would indeed be traveling to New York on Thursday.
“Yes, he will be back,” Alexander said during the appearance. “I promise. He’s getting better. A few more days, but he’ll be back. Hopefully, the team can keep going with New York and keep finishing. … We’re going up [to New York] today, so we’ll see.”
Rivers ruled Shaq out for Game 3 on Friday but left the possibility for Sunday’s Game 4 on the table. Now, I’m not saying you should put a ton of stock in what “Hoopz” says, but it’s at least worth noting that the Big Shamrock is bound for the Big Apple on the same day the rest of his Celtics teammates will be traveling to New York City.
|Irish Coffee: Is Shaq coming back, or isn’t he?||04.20.11 at 12:21 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee …
Shaquille O’Neal will be back. Shaquille O’Neal won’t be back.
Whether or not Shaq will return for the Celtics at any point during these NBA Playoffs is kinda like how I tell myself every morning that I’m definitely going to the gym — and then don’t. Ruled out for Games 1 and 2 with a right calf strain, Shaq remains listed as day-to-day on the injury report. Meanwhile, Celtics president Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers keep telling the media some version of, “He’ll be back; we just don’t know when.”
The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune’s Bill Burt cited an NBA source who believes Shaq is done for the season. Or does he? Here’s the exact phrasing from Burt’s story:
Shaquille O’Neal may have worn a Boston Celtics uniform for the last time.
In what would be a crippling blow to their chances of winning a title, the Celtics are going forward as if the affable center won’t be returning to team for the playoffs, according to an NBA source.
It means the other O’Neal — Jermaine, who has had knee problems since opening day, will be the go-to big man with Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic as his backups.
The Celtics came to this conclusion after Shaq failed to complete one simple sprint up and down the court during a “conditioning test” on Saturday, before he limped off the court in Waltham.
The Celtics held out a slim hope Shaq would be able to make his return in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Knicks or possibly in the conference semifinals, if they advanced.
“If he were to come back, it would have to be a miraculous recovery,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “And at his age (he turned 39 on March 6) and physical condition, the Celtics have planned accordingly.”
|Celtics hold Shaquille O’Neal out for Game 1||04.16.11 at 3:31 pm ET|
There will be no mystery when the Celtics open their first round playoff series with the Knicks on Sunday. Shaquille O’Neal will not play. Whether he will be available beyond the opener is still a day-to-day proposition, but they made the decision about Game 1 after O’Neal attempted to practice Saturday.
“We tried to get him out there to practice today to simulate the game as much as we could and he’s not ready,” team president Danny Ainge said. “We don’t know when he’ll be ready. We’ll just keep evaluating him day to day.”
In a break from standard protocol, the Celtics made Ainge and team doctor Brian McKeon available to the press while the team was practicing at their facility on Saturday. They said that O’Neal arrived at 10 a.m. and went through two hours of treatment and massage therapy. He took the floor at noon for the start of practice, but after a few minutes of running they made the decision to shut him down.
“This guy has been working his tail off. He’s been working so, so hard,” McKeon said. “Today we did like a mock trial, pregame workout and he failed. It didn’t work. It’s just too sore. We’ll get back to work tomorrow. He’s made progression every day. This is a tough injury. The blood supply in this area is so weak and so poor, it’s just time. I was telling Danny and the coaches that in the last 20 years, this is one area of medicine we’ve made no progress. Because it’s just time. It’s hard to get enough healing potential in that area.”
O’Neal is still dealing with the same Achilles strain that kept him out of the lineup for 27 games. He attempted to come back on April 3 against the Pistons, but lasted just five minutes before straining his calf. The two injuries are related, McKeon said. He added that O’Neal doesn’t need surgery and the best treatment is rest, along with the usual therapy and conditioning work. Essentially, O’Neal simply needs more time.
Asked if there was a point when the Celtics would shut him down for the rest of the playoffs, Ainge said, “When the season’s over, I guess. He may come back in three days and feel like it’s better. The longer we wait the better chance he has of being healthy.”
Shaq went through a walkthrough on Thursday, but didn’t practice Friday so this didn’t come as a surprise to the rest of the team. “We’re ready,” Doc Rivers said. “We kind of anticipated it. We didn’t really know, but we’ll be ready.”
With Shaq out, Jermaine O’Neal will become the nominal starter.
“If he doesn’t come back or Shaq, then we would have some problems,” Rivers said. “Having J.O. gives us a luxury and that’s why Danny went out and signed two guys, so we have one. Right now I’ll take it.” Asked how many minutes Jermaine O’Neal can play, Rivers said, “I think J.O. can give us as many minutes as we need.”
Nenad Krstic will see minutes at the center position, along with Glen Davis. The Celtics can also counter with Kevin Garnett matching up against Amar’e Stoudemire in some of New York’s smaller lineups. In some ways the Knicks are the perfect team for the Celtics to play without Shaq, but there’s also no question that he would help no matter the opponent.
“Bottom line is, we just want everybody healthy,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. The guy’s put in a lot of work. He’s extremely disappointed that he can’t go. I just told him to keep working. He’s going to play for us. We don’t know when, but he’ll be back.”
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