The Celtics' offseason puzzle just got a little easier to manage as Kevin Garnett has agreed to return to the club on a three-year contract, an NBA source has confirmed. Garnett was considering retirement but will come back to TD Garden on a contract at about half of the $21 million he earned last season.
Garnett was eligible for an extension and the Celtics had been negotiating with the future Hall of Famer for the past two weeks. Garnett seriously considered retirement but finished last season with such a strong push that he agreed to return, giving the Celtics another legitimate chance to compete for the NBA title.Garnett averaged 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds last season but that improved to 19.2 and 10.3 in the postseason. Celtics coach Doc Rivers moved Garnett to center after the All-Star Break and he flourished in that role.
With Garnett back, team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge can now concentrate on bringing back Brandon Bass and perhaps Ray Allen as well as a free-agent center. Free agency officially begins Saturday at midnight.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge looked weary after a day spent preparing and executing his team's NBA Draft plan Thursday night. Ainge met reporters down the hall from the Celtics' war room at TD Garden. He discussed his feelings for the draft but emphasized the importance of NBA free agency, which starts this weekend.
"For a team that is trying to win, it's tough to count on three rookies coming in," said Ainge. "Maybe one will be ready to go, maybe two will contribute. But we plan to fill in with veterans from here on out."
The veteran on everyone's mind is Kevin Garnett. The Celtics have exclusive negotiating rights with Garnett until July 1, when he can become a free agent. Ainge said Garnett was the team's first priority.
"I've been talking with Kevin and his people and don't really have any conclusions yet," said Ainge. "That's our No. 1 option. One reason is because he's such a valuable player, and one reason is because he's the only guy we can talk to."
The Celtics took big men with back-to-back picks in the first round of Thursday's NBA Draft, selecting Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and Syracuse's Fab Melo with the 21st and 22d picks. Ainge said he was happy with the choices.
"Big guys are hard to find," said Ainge. "We're very excited about it."
Sullinger slipped in the draft because of issues with his back. Ainge revealed that an MRI after the college season showed that Sullinger had a herniated disk.
"There are some issues there," said Ainge. "Our medical staff thinks that short-term and long-term there may be some maintenance issues with the back. Doc Rivers played with a herniated disk for 13 years. It may need surgery at some point, it may not."
Ainge later clarified that he didn't mean Sullinger would need surgery before the start of the NBA season.
"I shouldn't have said that," said Ainge. "I don't even know. I'm not a doctor, I don't know. There's a possibility of that some day."
Another concern about Sullinger is that he may not be tall enough for his post game to translate to the NBA. Ainge addressed that as well.
"Length is an issue," said Ainge. "He has good width. There were a lot of these same kinds of issues with Glen Davis when he came into the league. Guys that are smart and have a good touch make the adjustment."
On being able to keep up with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, Ainge said, "Sullinger's not a sprinter by any stretch, but he's a rebounder, and you've got to have the ball to run."
Ainge and Celtics coach Doc Rivers agreed that Melo was more of a work in progress.
"I know that he can block shots," said Ainge. "He was terrific this year in college blocking shots. He was terrific offensive rebounding. One thing that's unique about Fab is that he does both block shots and take charges, and that's unique for big guys."
Ainge said Melo would have to transition from playing a zone defense in college.
"It's just different fundamentals," said Ainge. "I don't think it's that challenging. But there's an adjustment for sure."
-- On second-round pick Kris Joseph:
"I think he's an all around player," said Ainge. 'I like his potential. He wasn't as consistent as I would like to see him, in his years at Syracuse, but he showed flashes of being a very good player."
-- Ainge declined to comment on the situation that led to the Celtics being awarded a second-round draft pick following the Jeff Green trade. The NBA awarded the Celtics the pick after Green missed the entire 2011-12 season following heart surgery. The league found the Thunder weren't being up-front about Green's health before trading him.
The Celtics selected Syracuse forward Kris Joseph with the 51st pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night. It was Boston's second straight selection from Syracuse and third overall in the draft.
Joseph averaged 13.4 points and 4.7 rebounds this season for the Orange. He made 34 percent of his 3-pointers and 42 percent of his shots from the field. Originally from Montreal, Joseph played four seasons for Syracuse.
Here's the quick info on Fab Melo:
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
7-feet, 255 pounds
2011-12 statistics: 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.9 blocks
The highlights below are from SwishScout.com:
Here's the quick info on Jared Sullinger:
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
6-feet-9-inches, 268 pounds
2011-12 statistics: 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
The highlights below are from the must-visit website DraftExpress.com:
This archive story by the Globe's Amalie Benjamin is also a good look at Sullinger.
The Celtics selected two-time Ohio State All American Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. They followed that by picking Syracuse center Fab Melo with the 22d pick.
Both Sullinger and Melo come with question marks, but for different reasons. Sullinger averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks last season for one of the best teams in the country. He was the focal point of Ohio State's offense, and he delivered with 51.9-percent shooting. Sullinger was projected to be a lottery pick, but questions about a potential back injury caused him to slide in the draft.
"The fact that Jared Sullinger fell to us is just fortunate," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He gives us a rebounder, a high IQ player, great shooter from the outside."
Sullinger's numbers were actually better his freshman season, when he averaged one more rebound and shot 54 percent from the field. At that time, Sullinger was considered a probable top-five NBA pick. A somewhat lackluster sophomore season -- as lackluster as another All-American campaign can be -- muted the hype on Sullinger.
Rivers said he wasn't concerned about the 6-foot-9-inch, 265-pound forward slipping in the draft.
"We had a bunch of guys on the board that we liked," said Rivers. "He was one of them. He fell to us and that's great. I'm hoping that the projections on him before the season were right.
"We feel pretty good about it, otherwise we wouldn't have taken him. I played 13 years with a bad back. All the doctors we talked to gave him clearance."
The book in Melo is completely different. Unlike Sullinger, Melo is a raw talent. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks in his sophomore season at Syracuse. He anchored the team's traditional 2-3 zone, a defense that did not prepare him for defending NBA big men. Still, Melo is a true 7-footer and has the chance to develop into an NBA center.
"Obviously we needed to address size," said Rivers."It gives us a chance to work with him. We took a flier on him because we think he can be a good player."
Maturity is a question for Melo. He was held out of the NCAA tournament for No.1-seeded Syracuse this season after questions about his eligibility.
"We're going to teach him how to work," said Rivers. "That's what we're going to do for him. If he has great character then he has a chance."
Rivers said the Celtics tried to trade up in the draft but did not have "nearly enough" to move into the top half of the first round. There were rumors earlier in the day that the Celtics were looking to move up to take Rivers' son, Austin. Rivers would not confirm or deny those rumors, only saying the Celtics did not have enough to make a move.
The Celtics still hold the 51st pick in the second round of tonight's draft.
The son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Duke guard Austin Rivers, was drafted 10th overall by New Orleans in Thursday's NBA Draft.
Rivers will join top pick Anthony Davis with the Hornets, who are coached by Monty Williams, one of Doc's closest friends in the business.
"It's amazing," Austin told ESPN Radio after he got picked. "I've been dreaming of this day since I was 6 years old, watching my dad do it. To finally be here, that's the best feeling of my life. It was the longest 45-to-50 minutes of my life waiting, but it's all worth it. I feel so happy now."
Rivers, who became just the third one-and-done player in Duke history, led the Blue Devils in scoring last season, the first freshman to do so since Johnny Dawkins in 1983. But his tenure in Durham, N.C. ended in bitter fashion to the tune of a historic 75-70 loss to 15th-seed Lehigh in the NCAA tournament.
His time under coach Mike Krzyzewski was perhaps best defined by a high-arching buzzer-beater over 7-footer Tyler Zeller on Feb. 8 at then-No. 5 North Carolina. Rivers got the best of Zeller again Thursday; the Tar Heels center was still on the board when Rivers took his teal Hornets baseball cap.
Questioned for the on-court mentality some have perceived as unnecessary hubris, Rivers called that mere confidence.
"I think all good players have that," he said. "I just go out there and try to compete. What people say they're going to say."
Now he moves on to bigger territory, giving the Big Easy an inside-out duo of dynamic 19-year-olds.
Pre-draft rumors swirled of the Celtics' potential interest in drafting Rivers, which would have likely required Boston to deal its 21st and 22nd overall picks. But those proved empty, even though Rivers joked about his father passing on the opportunity to trade up.
"I know, I'm so mad right now," Austin said with a smile.
So what will happen when Boston and New Orleans meet next season?
"He's been paying for my dinners my whole life," Austin said. "Now I have to return the favor."
Photo by Elsa / Getty Images
We're at TD Garden, site of the Celtics' war room, ready for everything and anything that can happen tonight during the 2012 NBA Draft. We'll launch the chat at 7:30 and keep it up throughout the night. Stop by, ask a question, leave a comment, and enjoy.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge owns picks No. 21 and 22 in tonight's NBA Draft, but he's "aggressively' looking to move into the top 14 picks, if not higher, sources tell Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. The Celtics also hold pick No. 51 in tonight's draft.
Saw a tweet from a well-known NFL reporter yesterday weighing in on the relative lack of hype for the NBA Draft compared to the NFL Draft. To that I say: where you been?
During the NFL Draft, analysts weigh in on hundreds of players who may or may not be a fits for NFL teams. Some of them will pan out, most of them will not. Some of the players drafted don't even play football ("he plays Rugby! what a steal!"). Even the top ten picks in the draft could be irrelevant within two or three seasons.
For Patriots fans, the draft is usually a chance to complain about Bill Belichick taking six players you've never heard of. Heck, the best player in Patriots franchise history was taken at pick No. 199. Saying the NFL Draft, which now spans an entire weekend, is anticlimactic is like saying Belichick likes football a little bit.
In the NBA Draft, the results are tangible. You can see them. You pick a LeBron James or Kevin Durant and you immediately improve your franchise. Our Stats Driven blogger, Andrew Mooney, did a great job calculating just how much an NBA Draft pick is worth in terms of win shares. The results are clear. You draft the right player, you make your team better. And that player doesn't need to be picked in the top 10. Rajon Rondo was the 21st pick in the 2006 draft. Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol was the 48th pick in 2007. Indiana's Danny Granger was picked 17th. The stakes are high for every one of the draft's 60 picks.
All that's at stake for the Celtics tonight and this weekend -- when free agency begins -- is the entire future of their franchise. They're not drafting fourth-string running backs and depth on the offensive line. They're looking for players who will be stars in the near future. And if they don't think those players will be available when they pick at Nos. 21, 22, and 51 tonight, they're looking to move those picks to get players who can make a big impact right away.
The Celtics currently have four players under contract for next season: Rondo, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley, and JaJuan Johnson. The first three are a great start, but there's not a championship team there yet. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has to rebuild 3/4 of his roster. What the Celtics do in the draft and free agency will determine if they win 40 games or 60 games next season.
Boston's big question marks in free agency are Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass. All four players matter, and the Celtics need to consider the status of each of them when drafting tonight. If Garnett doesn't return they'll absolutely need a big man, and probably more than one. They could even take three. If they don't bring Green back, a replacement for Pierce becomes an immediate need.
The Celtics also have secondary question marks from last year's team: Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Ryan Hollins, Sasha Pavlovic Mickael Pietrus, and Greg Stiemsma are all free agents, though none of them is really a game-changer. It's doubtful Ainge will be thinking of these players during the draft when he can fill out his final roster spots later this summer.
The timing of the draft juxtaposed with the timing of free agency creates for a wild weekend. Ainge said he expects to hear from Garnett concerning his plans for next year sometimes before Saturday. That would help, because free agency opens Sunday. But it's not going to help Ainge tonight, where he'll need to operate on his gut feeling on Garnett.
On top of all of this, players fall. Ainge has scouted the players he's interested in and has ranked them. If a player he ranks high slips, Ainge will pick him, position be damned. It's about getting the best players, not filling out some imaginary 15-man roster in June. The Rondo pick should be all the evidence you need that Ainge isn't afraid to be unorthodox.
There are plenty of good fits for the Celtics tonight. You can see who I think are some good ones here. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show tonight. There's a lot at stake, but that's what makes it fun.
Here are the details for tonight's NBA Draft:
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
When: 7 p.m.
Broadcast information: ESPN, ESPN3 (online)
How it works: Two rounds, 30 picks per round. Five minutes between picks in the first round, three minutes between picks in the second round.
Boston's picks: The Celtics hold picks Nos. 21, 22, and 51. The Celtics are holding a draft party at TD Garden beginning at 6:30 p.m. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will be speaking to the media from that location at some point during the draft.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers will be with his son, Austin, at the NBA Draft in Newark, N.J., Thursday night and not with other Celtics personnel at the team's draft headquarters at TD Garden in Boston. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Rivers being at the draft is "where he should be" and said he'd be communicating with Rivers by phone.
"It will be just like he's in the back room here," Ainge told reporters Wednesday.
Austin Rivers is projected as a top-10 pick Thursday night and could go as high as No. 6 to Portland. He was invited to the green room at the Prudential Center in Newark, where he's expected to be joined by his father.
The Celtics hold the 21st and 22d picks in the first round. With five minutes between picks, Rivers the coach should still have plenty of time to give his input to Ainge before the Celtics make their first selection.
WALTHAM -- Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Wednesday morning that the club has not made a draft promise to Iowa State forward Royce White and the team is willing to move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft. The Celtics own the 21st and 22nd picks.
Ainge also added that he has not heard a decision from Kevin Garnett on his potential retirement or return to the Celtics and that Ray Allen has expressed desire to return.
"We're having conversations with Kevin but have no answers on when he's coming back," Ainge said. "The sooner we can get Kevin done, the better it would be for us. I don't think it will happen quickly, no. We don't want to rush him. We don't want to pressure him."
As for the promise to White, Ainge said reports that the Celtics informed the power forward that he would be drafted if available at 21 were untrue.
"As a general rule, I don't make promises," Ainge said. "I have before, but it's been a while. And we did not make a promise, no. And the reason is on draft day, I'll have 10 contingency plans and we're exploring all the trade possibilities and if you make a commitment, you're just taking yourself out of that game. You better be sure you have a chance to get that player."
Ainge would not commit to keeping both picks.
"Yeah we might make a trade," he said. "Generally we're preparing to keep them but we're also preparing to move up and move back and move for future picks. There are all kinds of things that will be on the table on draft night."
The Celtics will get an additional second-round draft pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder after a dispute over Jeff Green's medical condition, an NBA source tells the Globe's Gary Washburn. The NBA has granted Boston the additional pick in the aftermath of a heart condition that sidelined Green for the entire 2011-2012 season. The pick will be Oklahoma City's 2013 second-round selection, which the Thunder acquired from Charlotte.
The Celtics acquired Green for popular center Kendrick Perkins in a controversial trade on February 25, 2011. In addition to Green, the Celtics received center Nenad Krstic, who is no longer with the team, and a first-round pick in this Thursday's NBA Draft. That pick, which was previously owned by the Clippers, is the 22d pick in this year's draft. The Celtics also sent Nate Robinson to the Thunder as part of that 2011 deal.
Green played 24 games for the Celtics in 2011, averaging 14.9 points and 5.1 rebounds. In nine playoff games, Green averaged 7.3 points in 19 minutes per game. Green was thought to be a big part of Boston's plans in 2011-2012, and the Celtics paid him accordingly, signing him to a one-year, $9 million contract. Green showed up to training camp, but red flags in his physical led to further testing, where it was discovered that Green would need surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm. Green missed the entire season.
Known for his hard-nosed play, Perkins averaged 5.1 points to finish out his first partial season with the Thunder, with a knee injury limiting his playing time. He averaged 5.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in his first full season in Oklahoma City after receiving a four-year, $34.8 million contract. Perkins averaged 4.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in the playoffs as the Thunder made it to the NBA Finals, losing to the Heat in five games.
Former Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger will not be invited to the NBA Draft at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. because the league does not expect him to be among the draft's top 15 picks.
NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson told ESPN.com that the league made the decision based on reports that Sullinger would not be a lottery pick. Red flags about a potential back injury have led to speculation that Sullinger will slip in the draft. By not inviting him to the draft, the NBA avoids the potentially awkward situation of Sullinger sitting in the green room after everyone else who was invited to the draft has been picked.
"He's more likely to go in the teens or in the 20s," Jackson said. "We continue to have contact with teams, but at this late date we don't anticipate inviting him."
What may be bad news for Sullinger is good news for the Celtics, who hold the 21st and 22d picks in the first round Thursday. Sullinger, a two-time All-American, averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks for one of the best teams in the country last season. Once projected to be a top-five pick, Sullinger could be a steal for a team picking in the 20s.
On the other side of the argument, the point can be made that the Celtics should avoid taking Sullinger if he's damaged goods. Another limitation of the former Ohio State forward is that at 6-feet-9-inches, he's on the small side for NBA power forwards. There are also questions about Sullinger's conditioning, which would limit his ability to run the floor with a point guard like the Celtics' Rajon Rondo.
To me, Sullinger is worth the risk. Seeing him play in person during the NCAA Tournament's East regional in March answered some doubts about his lack of height. Sullinger may give up a couple of inches in the NBA, but he's certainly not going to give up size. He's every bit of the 268 pounds he's listed at, and that's a good thing; Sullinger's power is in his backside, which he uses to carve out space where there should be done. In that way, he's a lot like Glen Davis, though comparing Sullinger to Davis would be doing Sullinger a disservice. Sullinger has all the moves on the offensive end, can finish with both hands, and will have no trouble getting his own shot at the next level. Where he may struggle is on defense; it make take a year or two in the league for Sullinger to adjust to guarding NBA speed, though the same is true for every player.
If Sullinger is available to the Celtics at No. 21, he's worth the risk. With back-to-back picks, he's at least someone for the Celtics to think long and hard about.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he still views soon-to-be free agents Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett as members of the team, despite a report of mutual interest between Allen and the Miami Heat and Garnett's possible departure.
Rivers spoke at the EMC Club at Fenway Park where the Positive Coaching Alliance held a panel discussion with leading coaches in New England, including Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Harvard men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker, and Boston College men's ice hockey coach Jerry York.
NBA free agency opens up July 1 and Allen and Garnett are sure to draw interest. Rivers was asked about his feelings on the two and the reports surrounding their possible landing spots, particularly Allen whose interest in the Heat sprung up Monday.
"I can't talk about it yet," Rivers said. "He's a free agent. So, we'll see. That's what free agent means, it means you're free.
"Ray is still a Celtic as far as I'm concerned," Rivers continued. "So we'll see."
Rivers did say that he wanted both to return.
"We would love it," Rivers said. "We would absolutely love it. But all that would be dictated all the way up until July 1st."
Former Celtics guard Ray Allen -- soon to be a free agent -- is interested in signing with the Miami Heat, and the feeling is mutual, league sources tell ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. Allen will be free to re-sign with the Celtics or sign with any other team when NBA free agency opens July 1.
Miami is an attractive option for free agents, and the Heat became even more attractive after winning the NBA championship last week. But the most the Heat can afford to pay Allen is $3 million per season, according to Windhorst. Allen made $10 million this season in the final year of his contract.
Allen hasn't commented on where he'd like to play next season, but it seems likely he will return to the NBA rather than retire.
"There's still a lot of basketball left in my legs, I know that for sure," Allen said after the Celtics' loss to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. "It's hard to say what can happen, what may happen. The four of us [Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo] know how to play basketball, know how to win games."
Allen had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle last week. He was in attendance at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., late last week but did not participate in the pro-am because of the surgery. He did not answer questions from reporters on his status for next season. Allen played at the University of Connecticut and has put down roots in New England ever since he left in 1996.
The NBA officially announced this morning that the Celtics will play in two preseason games in October against European clubs as part of its NBA Europe 2012 Live.
The Celtics will play Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul on Oct. 5 at Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul and then play EA7 Emporio Armani at the Mediolanum Forum in Milan on Oct. 7. The Dallas Mavericks are also part of the tour and will play Alba Berlin on Oct. 6 in Germany.
The Celtics could have a different look with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as free agents, but they remain an international draw.
MIAMI – Amazingly, the tombstone on the Miami Heat was being chiseled 18 days ago when they dropped a 94-90 home decision to the Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and were one loss from elimination. And the reputation of LeBron James as a talented wunderkind unable to propel his team to greatness no longer an unfair assessment. It was reality.
On Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Heat broke the hearts of those NBA traditionalists who never wanted such a team compiled through free-agent dollars and the lure of a sexy city to win a championship. And James broke the hearts of those who wished him nothing but playoff failures after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat in such a controversial and publicized fashion.
The Heat are NBA champions, primarily because of the heroics of James, who scored 45 points in Game 6 against the Celtics, and then catapulted his team into an impressive title run that culminated with a 121-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Miami won the series four games to one, pummeling Oklahoma City in the second half, helped by the 3-point shooting unheralded Mike Miller. James finished his masterful run with a triple double – 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists -- while Miller canned seven 3-pointers to finish off the overwhelmed Thunder.
After a series of postseason failures, his much-criticized free-agent decision and playing into a villain role last season, James appeared to reassess his approach and emerged as the Heat’s leader, avoiding the late-game failures that plagued him during last year’s Finals. James was considered one of the game’s greatest players never to win a title, and it took five years to erase that tag.
James left the game with 3:01 left, looking to embrace anyone within arms’ distance. He then hugged ripped off his customary headband, hugged assistant coach Bob McAdoo, who like James, was a prolific player who did not win an NBA title until his 10th season.
“I’m happy I was able to do it the right way,” he said, with the Lawrence O’Brien Trophy on his right and the MVP Trophy on his left. “I was playing to prove people wrong last year. People would say I was selfish and that got to me, that got to me a lot because I know that this is a team game. All last year, I tried to prove people wrong and it wasn’t me. Basically I was fighting against myself.
“I knew I was going to have to change as a basketball player and change as a person to get what I wanted and it happened just one year later. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Since I picked up a basketball at 9 years old, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the five games.
Meanwhile, three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, who singlehandedly tried competing with the Heat with 32 points, hugged his parents in the tunnel, crying.
“It hurts. It hurts, man,” said Durant, 23. “We’re all like brothers on this team and it just hurts to go out like this. We made it to the Finals, which was cool for us, but we just didn’t want to make it there. Unfortunately we lost, so it’s tough. That’s the only way I can explain it.”
The third quarter was simply a microcosm of the series, with the Heat showing more poise and making bigger plays than their opponent, and the arena turned into one beach party more than 12 minutes before the final buzzer.
The key sequence occurred with 7:21 left and the Thunder having cut the deficit to 69-62 on a Durant jumper. As Mario Chalmers dribbled to the sideline to call a timeout, he and Durant got tangled and the two pushed each other.
No technicals were called but Juwan Howard raced over from the bench to grab Chalmers and the intensity rose, at least for Miami. The Heat steamrolled Oklahoma City with a game-defining 21-3 run, using Chris Bosh’s mismatch against Kendrick Perkins and some acrobatic plays from Dwyane Wade and yet another 3-pointer from Miller for a 90-65 lead.
The Thunder were exhausted and bewildered, unable to make any impact despite the obvious athleticism advantage. Durant tried to carry the club on his bony shoulders, but as usual he got little help. Russell Westbrook missed 16 of his first 20 shots while the Thunder besides Durant were just 23 of 63 from the field.
“Their defense is really good,” Durant said. “Those guys are really good over there. I didn’t want to admit it during the series, but now that it’s over, those guys are really good.”
The game was essentially done with the Heat leading 95-71, only leaving the countdown to James’s first NBA title and verifying Pat Riley’s decision to bring together three all-stars and surround them with solid but not spectacular players, hoping it would work.
“Man this process is unbelievably hard,” Wade said. “And I don’t care who you put on a team. To be a champion would be the hardest thing you do in sports. Two years ago, putting this team together, obviously we all expected it to be a little easier than it was. But we had to go through what we had to through last year. We needed to. And as much as it hurt, we had to go through pain and suffering.”
James has been in a rather reflective mood the closer he approached a title. He said he altered his personality, went back to basics and worked feverishly to improve his game after a self-imposed two-week exile after losing the NBA Finals last June.
“It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom basically to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and as a person. I’m just happy that I was able to be put back in this position. I trusted my instincts. I trusted my habits that I built over the years and I just got back to being myself, and I didn’t care too much about what anyone said about me.
“That’s for you guys to write, to say if I’m the best player in the league or the No. 1 player in the league. All I know is I’m a champion and that’s all that matters.”
Final: Heat 121-106: The Miami Heat outclassed the Thunder Thursday night and LeBron James left his final imprint on this playoff run with a triple double -- 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Kevin Durant scored 32 for OKC but Russell Westbrook finished 4-for-20 shooting and the Thunder had nothing left in the second half. Heat win the series in five games.
End of third quarter, Heat 95-71: Well folks, this one is over. The Celtics' arch rival is on its way to an NBA title and the burden is finally off LeBron James, who was helped greatly by his teammates. Mike Miller hit five 3-pointers and Chris Bosh took advantage of his matchup with Kendrick Perkins to key a 21-3 run. The Thunder are officially done.
Halftime, Heat 59-49: OKC is lucky to be so close after the Heat led by as many as 17 after a 19-4 run midway during the quarter when the Thunder looked done. Mike Miller has 12 points on four 3-pointers for Miami while LeBron James has been solid with 15 points, 5 assist and 5 rebounds. For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are a combined 8-for-23 shooting as the Thunder are shooting 37 percent from the field.
End of first quarter, Heat 31-26: Miami hit four 3-pointers in the quarter Miami hit four 3-pointers in the quarter and shot 58 percent but the Thunder were able to hold on and keep it close. LeBron James had 7 for the Heat while Kevin Durant scored 9 points and Russell Westbrook 8 for OKC.
First quarter, 5:56, Heat 16-10: The Heat have been steady so far and LeBron James, in his quest for his first title, already has 7 points while Russell Westbrook has 6 for the Thunder.
In the video clip above, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo challenges Knicks center Tyson Chandler in a Skype scavenger hunt on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Final: Heat 79-75: Maybe the Celtics are the second-best team in the league after all because they certainly gave the Heat a more difficult time in their series. OKC again melts down the stretch and LeBron James leaves the game with leg cramps but Mario Chalmers makes big plays down the stretch for the victorious Heat. Russell Westbrook finished with a series-best 43 points, including 17 in the fourth, but it wasn't good enough.
End of third quarter, Heat 79-75: LeBron James put his scoring hat on and Mario Chalmers added 7 points in the period as the Heat were on the verge of taking control. Russell Westbrook has 26 points for the Thunder and Kevin Durant has 22. James and Dwyane Wade each have 20.
Halftime, Thunder 49-46: The Heat went on a 13-0 run to begin the second period and were back to their normal selves after OKC dominated the first quarter. Miami shot 55 percent and received a combined 13 points from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. OKC shot 30 percent and were saved by Russell Westbrook, who scored 8 of its 16 points.
End of first quarter, Thunder 33-19: The Thunder respond from the Game 3 defeat with their best quarter of the series, shooting 63 percent and getting a combined 18 points from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant and a surprising 6 points from Nick Collison.
First quarter, 2:59, Thunder 25-12: Oklahoma City has come out hot, especially Russell Westbrook, who already has 10 points as the Thunder are playing with extreme confidence. OKC has hit 11 of its first 18 shots and Kevin Durant has added 6 points. Miami is 5 of 17 and looks overwhelmed by OKC's athleticism.
It's been 10 days since Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers embraced toward the end of Game 7 in Miami, and in that time there's been a steady stream of speculation about Garnett's plans for next season. The 36-year-old is free to sign with any team this summer, free to retire, free to do what he likes. The Celtics would love to have Garnett back, even though they aren't explicitly saying it.
"If you haven't noticed, I'm not revealing too much here," Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said on WEEI's Mut and Merloni show on Friday. "Kevin and Ray [Allen] have been great players for this organization. I can't really say more than that."
Grousbeck's silence on Garnett may be in deference to Garnett's desire for privacy. Garnett has not said anything publicly about his plans. He left American Airlines Arena 10 days ago without speaking to reporters, but that's nothing new. He's done that after big losses time and time again in his five-year Celtics career.
The closest we've come to any kind of inside scoop on Garnett may have come from his former teammate Kendrick Perkins, the current center for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perkins told the Globe's Gary Washburn he thought Garnett would return to the Celtics if he plays at all this season.
"I feel like if he does return to basketball, I think that that would be the team,'' Perkins said. "I heard Kevin say a few times that he wouldn't want to play for anybody but Doc, so it will be interesting to see. I still think he got a lot more years in him. He got a lot of love for the game and it would be hard to see Kevin walk away from the game right now.''
A couple of days later, Flip Saunders, Garnett's former coach in Minnesota, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he was "positive" Garnett would come back for one more year with the Celtics. Toward the end of the season, Saunders hung around the Celtics as an adviser to Rivers. Saunders was in on Celtics practices and meetings, and he was seen walking around Philadelphia with Rivers during the team's downtime. If anyone is in position to know Garnett's plans -- and no one but Garnett seems to know for sure -- Saunders seems to have an inside track.
A big question as to whether or not Garnett comes back will be about how much money he makes going forward. It won't be the $21 million he earned this season. But it also needs to be commensurate with his performance, which in the playoffs was almost 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. The premium for a player of Garnett's credentials who puts up those kind of numbers is still very high. Celtics broadcaster Mike Gorman told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich show Tuesday he thought Garnett could return for $12-13 million this season, or on a two-year deal for around $20 million. The Celtics would likely be OK with that, but they probably need to sort out those parameters before free agency begins July 1.
Garnett is probably worth the wait, but the Celtics do eventually need to get going on building out this team's future. They probably can't afford a free-agent center like Indiana's Roy Hibbert if Garnett sticks around. If they know Garnett is coming back, they can put more emphasis on filling out the wings with players like Jeff Green, building up their frontcourt through the draft. If Garnett is gone, Boston's frontcourt needs become much more immediate.
Final: Heat 91-85: The Thunder wasted a 10-point lead in the third quarter and couldn't quite catch the Heat in the fourth as LeBron James scored 29 points with 14 rebounds and the Thunder didn't score in the final 1:30. Kevin Durant scored 25 points but just 4 in the fourth quarter while Russell Westbrook added 19 but missed a potential tying 3-pointer badly in the final minute.
End of third quarter, Heat 69-67: The Thunder led by 10 at the 4:33 mark after a Derek Fisher 4-point play but that would be their last field goal of the quarter as OKC froze on offense and played silly on defense, fouling two Miami 3-point shooters for 6 free throws. James Harden needed to take over with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the bench and couldn't. He is 1-for-9 shooting.
Halftime, Heat 48-47: The two teams spent the quarter exchanging blows with LeBron James finishing the half with 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting and Kevin Durant scored 13 for OKC. Russell Westbrook canned a 3-pointer at the 2.3 mark to bring the Thunder closer. Shane Battier hit two late second-quarter 3-pointers and has 6.
End of first quarter, Heat 26-20: Miami has made a special emphasis to take the ball into the paint and so far it's been effective. LeBron James and Chris Bosh have combined for 16 points as the Heat are scoring at will inside. The Thunder avoided the slow start that have plagued the first two games but appear a step slow or frazzled by the environment.
First quarter, 3:05, Heat 16-14: The Heat are pounding the paint and have 6 points apiece from LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Russell Westbrook has already taken five of the Oklahoma City 15 shots and hit two. He and Kendrick Perkins lead OKC with 4 points apiece.
Final, Heat 100-96: Kevin Durant missed a chance to tie the game in the final 10 seconds and LeBron James sank two free throws with 7.1 left to seal the Heat win. The Heat led 98-91 with 53.8 left before Kevin Durant responded with consecutive 3-pointers and a James miss gave the Thunder one last chance to tie. But Durant missed the runner and did not get a foul call.
End of third quarter, Heat 78-67: The Thunder could not cut into the Heat's lead as LeBron James carried Miami with 12 points in the quarter. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook continued chucking shots, missing 12 of his 18 attempts. Kevin Durant has 16 points but has attempted just 13 shots as he has been plagued by foul trouble. Dwyane Wade has 17 points.
Halftime, Heat 55-43: The Thunder once again have created a difficult situation with their slow start. Take away James Harden, and the Thunder are 9-for-32 shooting with a combined 15 points on 5-for-19 shooting. LeBron James led Miami with 14 points while Dwyane Wade enjoyed his most productive first half in weeks with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
End of first quarter, Heat 27-15: The Thunder are lucky to be trailing by just 12 after shooting just 25 percent in the first quarter while Kevin Durant played just six minutes after picking up two fouls. The Heat cooled off after a blazing start but received 7 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists from Dwyane Wade. LeBron James has 8 points while Shane Battier has 6.
First quarter, 6:36, Heat 13-2: The Thunder are off to another painfully slow start, missing 10 of 11 shots. The Heat, meanwhile, are playing with motivation, especially Dwyane Wade, who has 4 rebounds, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.
"Oh absolutely [the Celtics are Bass's first choice]," his agent Tony Dutt told CSNNE's A. Sherrod Blakely. "Without question, he would love to go back. ... We'll see this summer. All indications I've been given is that the interest in getting something done goes both ways, so we'll see. But Boston is definitely where Brandon wants to be."
Bass, who was set to earn $4.25 million in the final year of his contract with the player option, is reportedly seeking a long-term contract with the Celtics.
"I would love to be back here," Bass said after the Heat eliminated Boston in the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. "The fans here are unbelievable. For any player, this organization is the organization that you want to play for. ... This group here was like family. For the first time in a long time it felt like family. We had fights, we had ups, we had downs but at the end of the day we fought for each other. I'm just grateful to be a part of this group."
The 6-foot-8 forward also praised Celtics coach Doc Rivers after Game 7 in Miami.
"We have a coach like Doc who we feel gives it all to us," Bass said. "As players, we have a tremendous amount of respect for him. And because of that, we leave it out on the court for him."
Bass averaged 12.5 points per game and 6.2 rebounds for the Celtics last season, both career highs.
Celtics guard Ray Allen underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle this morning, while guard/forward Michael Pietrus had successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, according to a release from the team. Both surgeries were performed at New England Baptist Hospital by team physician Brian McKeon.
Both Allen and Pietrus will be unrestricted free agents when the season ends. In 34 minutes per game, Allen shot 45.3 percent from 3-point range, which ranked fourth in the NBA. He lost his starting role to Avery Bradley late in the regular season because of his ankle injury, and then earned it back in the playoffs when Bradley was lost for the year with a shoulder injury.
Pietrus averaged 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game this season. Known as a defensive stopper and 3-point shooter, he struggled with his shot in the playoffs.
It is unclear whether either player will return to the Celtics next season.
Celtics center Kevin Garnett was fined $25,000 for leaving American Airlines Arena in Miami without talking to reporters following Boston's 101-88 loss to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Garnett's snub of the media has fueled speculation that his silence has a larger meaning, that he's either planning to retire or to sign with another team. Garnett has made no such announcement regarding his future. His $21 million contract with the Celtics expires after the Finals, and he is free to sign with any team, including the Celtics, this summer.
After Game 7, Celtics captain Paul Pierce said he appreciated his time with Garnett.
"It was a great opportunity," Pierce said. "Not everyone has the chance to play with some of the greatest players of all-time, Ray [Allen], Kevin, also up-and-coming [Rajon] Rondo, who has a bright future here. You can't ask for anything more. A lot of players don't get in that position. I'm very thankful for these last five years."
Something fun for Celtics fans to ponder while you watch the NBA Finals over the next couple of weeks: Does Thunder guard James Harden remind you of Paul Pierce?
The question stems from a rather interesting Doc Rivers media session in January, when the Thunder were in Boston to face the Celtics. Rivers absolutely gushed over Harden, and his comparison to the Celtics captain, who will undoubtedly have his jersey retired in the rafters of TD Garden, was high praise.
"He's Paul Pierce, version two, except that he's a better passer," Rivers said of Harden. "He plays at a great NBA speed -- he came into the league playing at that speed. I don't think a coach has ever said he's going too fast. He has a great tempo about him, an unbelievable feel."
The "he's Pierce but a better passer" part caught this reporter by surprise, but the pace comparison is absolutely true. Pierce plays the game at his pace, no matter the speed opponent. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, whoever: Pierce is going to have him back on his heels and off-balance after a series of herky-jerky, hesitation moves that appear too slow to the naked eye. You wonder how Pierce gets by anyone, never mind the league's best, but then you watch him for years and you get it, how good he is at playing at his pace.
Harden has a similar style to Pierce. The game isn't always pretty, but boy is it effective. (Harden's five points in Game 1 were an aberration to his playoff averages of 16.8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists). Harden's strength is his efficiency. His true shooting percentage (an advanced metric that takes into account twos, threes, and free throws) of .660 was second in the NBA this season. His offensive efficiency rating was third. Pierce's efficiency dipped somewhat this season, but he was fourth and eighth in the league in true shooting percentage respectively in the two previous seasons.
Where Harden is most known is as an elite defensive player. Pierce has flown under the radar on that side of the ball his entire career. You'll recall that Pierce's best stretch of defense came during Boston's 2008 championship run, when he was effective on both James and Kobe Bryant. Watch Harden on defense this week, watch how he guards Wade and sometimes James, and compare him to Pierce. Watch Harden on offense and see if his game is comparable to Pierce's. Is he a better passer? Does it really matter? Debates like this are what make basketball fun.
End of the third quarter, Thunder 74-73: A conventional Russell Westbrook three-point play with 16.4 seconds left gave the Thunder their first lead of the game after spending the past three quarters chasing the Heat. Russell Westbrook has been the reason, scoring 12 of his 21 points in the quarter as the Miami defense smothers Kevin Durant, who has 19 but 8 since the first quarter. LeBron James has 23 on 9-for-18 shooting while Dwyane Wade has struggled again, scoring 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
Halftime, Heat 54-47: The Thunder tried valiantly to make runs at the Heat, but Miami stayed steady and kept their lead with LeBron James scoring 10 points in the quarter while Chris Bosh added 7 in the half. The Thunder have played like it's their first NBA Finals, missing easy shots and making silly turnovers, but they shot 55.6 percent in the first half because they attacked the rim, unlike the Celtics in the previous series. Kevin Durant has 13 points for OKC and Serge Ibaka added 10.
End of first quarter, Heat 29-22: Miami has canned five 3-pointers so far and has a combined 17 points from Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have just 8. The Thunder pressed badly in the early going, especially Russell Westrbook, who is 1-for-5 shooting for 3 points. Kevin Durant finished with 11 in the first period.
The Boston Celtics put together a montage video thanking fans for their support this past season.
The video above, posted on YouTube today, features the widely publicized "Let's go Celtics" chant at the end of Game 6 against the Miami Heat at the Garden when the game was essentially over for Boston, but the fans sent the C's off to Miami for Game 7 with the rhythmic chant.
The video also has an excerpt from Kevin Garnett's postgame comments about the fans after Game 6. "I want to say to all the fans, thank you, guys," Garnett said. "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 coming from your boy."
The team posted the following message along with the video:
From all of us at the Boston Celtics, thank you to the best fans in all of professional sports for an amazing 2011-12 season.
LeBron James, who was critical in helping the Heat come back to win the final two games of the series, was asked whether his Games 6 and 7 performances -- he scored a combined 75 points -- was draining.
"Game 6, I felt great. I felt great. Mentally it was draining," he said before preparing for Tuesday's Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. "Physically it was draining, as well, but I felt great throughout that whole game. It's draining when you finally get into the locker room and you just you guys always see me got my feet in the ice tub and my knees are wrapped.
"Then after Game 7, it was even more draining, just the emotions around that series, knowing the team we beat, I mean, it's probably one of the best coached teams that you can ever compete against. Doc Rivers keeps those guys prepared, and they have four future Hall of Famers in Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo, KG (Kevin Garnett) and Ray (Allen). It's challenging going against those guys. So it was very draining not only Game 6 and Game 7, but series in general."
Guard Dwyane Wade said the Heat are a different team than last year, when they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in six games, and their Game 2 victory over the Celtics proved that.
"We had a lot of leads in that series in the fourth quarters, and we didn't close them out." he said. "But, you know, we're just a different team now. I remember, I think Game 2 versus Boston, and we was down, I think, 15 in that game or something and we came back and won it in overtime. I remember me and LeBron telling Shane (Battier) last year, I don't know if we would have won that game."
It's a little early for rumor season, and this barely qualifies as one, but a San Antonio columnist proposed yesterday that the Spurs might be interested in the services of free agent big man Kevin Garnett.
Buck Harvey from the San Antonio Express-News writes that someone in the Spurs organization brought up Garnett's name as a possibility for the team next season. Garnett's $21 million contract with the Celtics will be off the books after this season, and he will become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign wherever he pleases. He may also choose to retire. Garnett left American Airlines Arena in Miami after losing Game 7 to the Heat without talking to reporters.
The Celtics can bring Garnett back next season, but they're not likely to pay him anywhere near what he was making on his previous contract. Garnett is 36-years-old.
They've become a rite of spring. The weather turns, they turn it on. Their intensity rises along with the circumstances. Big moments are their thing, and they've provided us with many.
The obvious starting point is the July 31, 2007 press conference, when Celtics fans caught a glimpse of their three superstars -- Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce -- together for the first time. Garnett couldn't stop bouncing as he held up his jersey. Pierce couldn't stop smiling. It was evident at that moment that things were going to be different.
On the court, the Celtics as we know them truly arrived on June 13, 2008 in Los Angeles. It was Game 4 of the NBA Finals, and the Lakers were leading by 20 points in the third quarter. But Pierce scored nine points in the third quarter, and Eddie House gave the Celtics their first lead with 4:07 to play. The Celtics were all the way back, and all that was left to do was to ceremoniously finish off the Lakers, which Allen did by crossing over Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic and taking it all the way the basket to put the Celtics up for good.
The Big Three and their supporting cast have provided us with some incredible moments in the last five years. It's possible Garnett and Allen will be back, but we may have also witnessed their last games in a Celtics uniform. If this is the end of the run, it's been quite a ride. What follows are 20-something of the most memorable moments in the last five seasons. (Note that you can also see all of these moments in pictures).
-- "The Comeback": The details are above, but the circumstances of that 24-point comeback in Los Angeles -- 20 in the second half -- can't be underestimated. The Celtics had a 2-1 lead in the series, but it sure looked like the Lakers were coming back to tie it. In the 2-3-2 format, Los Angeles was threatening to win all three games on its home court, which would have put the pressure on the Celtics to take both Games 6 and 7 at home. The comeback thwarted all of that, and signaled for the first time that the Celtics really could do it. The photo above -- by the Globe's Barry Chin -- captures all of those emotions. You can look at Pierce's face and see him thinking, "Did that just happen?"
-- Pierce-LeBron duel in Game 7: In another moment of arrival, the duel between LeBron James and Paul Pierce in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals led to immediate comparisons to a similar duel between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins in 1988. James scored 45 points in Game 7, but Pierce matched him virtually shot for shot, finishing with 41 points himself, on six fewer shots. The Celtics knocked the Cavaliers out of the 2008 playoffs with a 97-92 win.
-- "The ghost of Red" free throw by Pierce: With the Celtics leading 95-92 in that same Game 7, Pierce stepped to the line with a chance to put the game away. His first free throw was long; the ball landed with a thud on the back of the rim, took a high bounce, and fell through the net. Pierce would make the second free throw, and after the game he credited Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach for giving him some divine intervention.
"The ghost of Red just looking over us," said Pierce. "I think he kind of tapped it in the right direction."
-- The Leon "Pow" game: It wasn't just the Big Three. Role players played a big part in a couple of championship runs. The most famous of those involved the hard-working, undersized Leon Powe, whose personal story of perseverance through homelessness and poverty is remarkable in itself. In Game 2 of the 2008 Finals, Powe scored 21 points off the bench. No one saw it coming, especially not Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who wasn't all that sure who Powe was, calling him Leon "Pow" (as in "ow") in the postgame press conference.
-- The role players: Other memorable role players in the Big Three era include Eddie House (whom Doc Rivers recently said entered the game firing because if he didn't make shots, "he knew he was coming out"), James Posey, P.J. Brown, Powe, Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Glen Davis, and Nate Robinson. Brown famously dunked on the Lakers to end the third quarter of that comeback game. Bass had 27 points in Game 5 of this year's Philadelphia series. Posey averaged 6.7 points per game during the 2008 postseason. He was 4 of 4 from the field in Game 6 of the Finals, 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
-- Allen in Game 6: Game 6 of the 2008 Finals was a coronation for the Celtics, a 131-92 drubbing of the Lakers at TD Garden. Dealing with a health crisis with his young son, Ray Allen made 7 of 9 3-pointers. Allen is a creature of habit, but he came through in season's biggest game despite his routine being shattered.
-- Pierce passing Bird: Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for No. 2 on the Celtics' all-time scoring list in 2012, eclipsing Bird's 21,791 points in a game against Charlotte on Feb. 7. It was a big moment for Pierce, who took a step toward more complete recognition as one of the all-time Celtics greats. Pierce now trails only John Havlicek, who holds the high mark among all Celtics scorers with 26,395 points.
-- Pierce's transformation: The transformation from the perception of selfish scorer to the leader of a winning team has been one of the more gratifying story lines of the Big Three Era. On the court, Pierce's attempts dipped by almost five shots per game after the arrivals of Allen and Garnett. Off it, he went from being the team's only spokesman to sharing the podium with Garnett after every game. He still had his individual moments, both good and bad, but Celtics fans watched the Pierce they knew so well grow to be the Pierce they knew and loved.
-- Allen, Game 2 in 2010 Finals: Ray Allen made an NBA Finals record eight 3-pointers in a 103-94 win over the Lakers in Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Finals as the Celtics tied the series at one. Allen made 8 of 11 3-pointers and led all scorers with 32 points. It was his last, great performance in a game of that magnitude, and boy was it special.
Click the Full Entry button for more memorable moments.FULL ENTRY
MIAMI -- With 5:44 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 7 Saturday night, LeBron James stepped back and drilled a 3-pointer from the Eastern Conference Finals logo between the 3-point line and halfcourt. James had a foot on the logo and Brandon Bass in his face, but that didn't stop him from hitting what the scorers ruled as a 30-footer with the shot clock winding down. The shot gave the Heat a 91-84 lead, their largest of the game to that point. Miami would use the momentum -- and the points -- from that shot to run away from the Celtics late.
James' shot was a singular, athletic achievement that the Celtics couldn't match. They don't have a player like James, or even one like Dwyane Wade, who combined with James for 20 points in the fourth quarter. All they had was Bass, playing out of position and with a serious deficit in foot speed compared to James, doing all he could to defend the Miami superstar.
While James' shot was a turning point in the game, Boston's response on Miami's next possession could be seen as a kind of counterpoint, representative of the adversity the Celtics have faced all season. After a James miss, a loose ball was poked toward midcourt, near the spot where James had just hit his 30-footer. In a race for the ball, James found himself in a foot-race with Rajon Rondo, and James -- arguably the fastest player in the series on either side -- lost. Rondo beat James to the ball and raced the other way for a layup, a last, defiant act for a team that is unlikely to return in its current form next season.
"You can never relax at any time on the court against them," said James. "You can never feel comfortable. You're always on edge."
That edge, provided by Rondo, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett, has defined this group since 2007, when Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge brought the four players together. Together, they've given the Celtics a toughness that has defined their five-year run. You can call it grit, guts, or whatever you'd like, but for a star-driven team, they're scrappy. Despite their talent, they rarely do things the easy way, preferring instead to grind out games with their brand of clutching, grabbing defense. They've got three of the top 25 scorers in NBA history, but they rarely sit back and let one guy take over. That was evident in Game 7, where all five Celtics starters scored 14 points or more.
"I hear people at times talk about the NBA as an individual league," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. " I think that theory is gone. This is a team. We had a terrific team effort by everybody."
As a team, the Celtics have become a model for how to meld together the personalities of superstars. This Heat team is a direct result of the theory that bringing three All-Star players together in an instant can produce results. That theory failed for Miami in year one, but they've got another chance in the Finals, which begin Tuesday.
The theory didn't fail in year one for the Celtics, who won an NBA championship in 2008. Garnett was injured in 2009, but they returned to the NBA Finals in 2010, taking the Lakers to a Game 7 before bowing out. Last year's team lost to Miami in five games, and this year's team took the favored Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Teamwork has replaced youth and talent as the glue that has bonded the last couple variations of these Celtics.
"This is their chemistry that they built over the years," said James. "It's like no other team that I've ever faced in the postseason. They're great."
After a great five years, the future of these Celtics is uncertain. Garnett and Allen are unrestricted free agents and can go wherever they please. Of the players that played roles in Game 7, only Pierce and Rondo are under contract next season. It's possible Garnett and or Allen returns, but they would be 36 and 37 years old, respectively. After the game, neither player would commit to next season, while Rivers preferred to look back.
"Kevin, Ray, and Paul, I'm never going to look at them individually," said Rivers. "I'm going to look at them as a group collective. They all gave up plus‑seven shots each. They gave up minutes. I asked them to play defense and move the ball, and they all did it, and they're willing to do it for the better of the team. So I think that's what we should focus on, how much they gave up to try to win. That's what I'll remember most about them."
Said Pierce, "Everything's going too fast right now. I don't want to think about it."
For the first time in five years, Celtics fans may be forced to think about a team largely composed of different parts. If this is the last act for the Celtics as we know them, let Rondo's act of defiance stand out as a final coup, a final gesture of hustle over talent. If this is the last act, they went down fighting. If this is the last act, they went down, as Rivers said, as a team in an individual league. With that approach, there's no reason they can't rise, as a team, again.
MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers took his team to seven games with the favored Miami Heat, but the he couldn't get his players over the hump and into the NBA Finals. The Celtics and Heat were tied at 73 entering the fourth quarter of Game 7 Saturday night.
"I was really proud of our guys, especially early on," said Rivers. "You could just see they had the fight in them. They were going to play the right way. ... Honestly, I just thought we had nothing left. That's how it felt as a coach. I was trying to push every button we possibly had. Guys, everything was the front rim. We started throwing the ball away. They started beating us off the dribble."
Miami outscored the Celtics by the final margin of 13 points in the fourth quarter, led by 20 points combined from LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were thought to be the best two players in this series coming into it, and who proved it in the end. The Celtics were the fourth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and they were thought to stand little chance when the playoffs began six weeks ago. But they won series with Atlanta and Philadelphia, and they took Miami to the brink of elimination.
"I don't know if I've ever had a group like this," said Rivers. "I had a group in Orlando that I am fond of, that I talk about, the heart and hustle group. They're very similar to that group. They did everything I asked them to do. They came up short.
"I really wanted to win this game. Really, you know, nothing to do with me. I wanted this group somehow ‑‑ when you think about this group, no Jeff Green to start the season and no Chris Wilcox, no Avery Bradley, [Jermaine O'Neal]. If we could have got this group to The Finals, it would have been fantastic for us. That's all I thought about today. Somehow let's see if we can get this group in The Finals. They deserve it with their will. I hear people at times talk about the NBA as an individual league. I think that theory is gone. This is a team. We had a terrific team effort by everybody."
MIAMI -- Paul Pierce said he doesn't know if the Big Three of himself, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen played their last game together Saturday night. But if a 101-88 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is it, Pierce said he has no regrets.
"It was a great opportunity," said Pierce. "Not everyone has the chance to play with some of the greatest players of all-time, Ray, Kevin, also up-and-coming Rondo, who has a bright future here. You can't ask for anything more. A lot of players don't get in that position. I'm very thankful for these last five years."
Pierce said he hadn't had much time to digest what had happened.
"It's tough," said Pierce. "Everything's going too fast right now. I don't want to think about it. I'm more disappointed in the loss. You feel like you let your teammates down, especially when you want to accomplish a goal, win a championship. It's a lot of emotions right now."
On whether or not he expects Garnett and Allen back, Pierce said, "I haven't really put much thought in it. We'll have to see. That's something you'll have to ask management, Danny, Wyc, the owners."
After the Heat's 101-88 victory in Game 7, coach Erik Spoelstra had plenty of respect for just how much of a fight the Celtics put up.
"Boston now for two years has been the single team that has pushed us and bended us to where we've had to improve," Spoelstra said. "They've forced us to redefine ourselves."
Spoelstra had particular praise for Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"He's pushed me to be a better coach. We do not take this for granted," he said. "I'm happy we got through this, it builds some character."
LeBron James, who scored 31 points and had 12 rebounds, echoed Spoelstra.
"We want to give a lot of credit to the Celtics, they've got a hell of a coach in Doc Rivers and great players. They pushed us, as hard as any team has pushed us this far," James said.
Other Heat reaction:
Center Chris Bosh, who was an essential contributor to the Game 7 victory with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, spoke about getting back in action in Game 5 of this series after missing nine games of the playoffs.
"I just wanted to get out there as soon as possible and contribute to this team," Bosh said.
Bosh also looked ahead to the NBA Finals vs. the Thunder.
"We've been here before, and this time, we want to capitalize," he said.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade discussed the Heat's return to the Finals following a loss there last season to the Dallas Mavericks.
"It's been a long 12 months. When you lose in the finals, it hurts," Wade said. "Then you have to come into the season and you have forget it, but you can't forget it, in a sense. You play, and you try to get back to this moment again so you can in a sense redeem yourself."
MIAMI -- Playing out the fifth season of a three-year window, the Celtics fell one game short of the NBA Finals in an unlikely championship run, losing to the Miami Heat, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron James took over in the fourth quarter for the Heat, scoring 11 of his 31 points as Miami took a 73-73 tie after three quarters and turned it into a 13-point win. For one of the few times this series, James had the help of a superstar on his level as Dwyane Wade scored nine points in the final frame to help put the game away.
Seeking its first title since the arrival of James two seasons ago, Miami now advances to the Finals for the second straight year. The Celtics are left to sort out the impending free agencies of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, and to contemplate a run that started with a championship in 2008 and continued with a Game-7 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers in 2010 and this run to the final game of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"I don't know if I've ever had a group like this," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "They did everything I asked them to do. They came up short."
The Celtics got off to a much stronger start in Game 7 than they did in Game 6, taking a 23-14 lead before Garnett went to the bench with 3:46 remaining in the first quarter. As they've done all postseason without Garnett, the Celtics struggled, and they found themselves with a four-point lead after one. James was 1 of 3 from the floor in the first quarter but made all six free throws he attempted.
When Garnett picked up his third foul on an illegal screen with 7:08 left in the second quarter, the Celtics found themselves without their emotional leader again. This time, however, they pieced together a 14-3 run, increasing the lead with a super-small lineup led by Brandon Bass. Bass scored 10 points in the quarter and also took turns guarding James. It was a welcome surprise and unexpected boost for Boston, who took a 53-46 lead into halftime. Rondo, who had 5 turnovers and 5 assists in the first half of Game 6, had 10 assists and no turnovers in the first half of Game 7.
The third quarter was a bumpy ride for the Celtics. They committed five turnovers. Pierce picked up his fourth foul. And they struggled to put the ball in the basket, hitting 41 percent of their shots in the period. But just as they've done over and over again this season, the Celtics found a way to hang around through the rough patch, entering the fourth quarter tied at 73.
"You can never relax at any time on the court against them," said James. "You can never feel comfortable. You're always on edge against them."
Maybe it was a representation of the end of this whole darn thing, but the Celtics ran out of steam in the final quarter of Game 7. After being held in check for much of the game, James was an unstoppable superstar. Boston, a team built on defense, couldn't get any stops. When James hit a 3-pointer from the NBA logo about five feet past the 3-point line with 5:42 left in the game, it was a sign of superior individual talent. The Celtics' hopes in the game, and their hopes to continue their season, were gone.
"It's tough," said Paul Pierce. "Everything's going too fast right now. I don't want to think about it. I'm more disappointed in the loss. You feel like you let your teammates down, especially when you want to accomplish a goal, win a championship. It's a lot of emotions right now."
Final: Heat 101, Celtics 88
1:58 4th quarter, Heat 98-86: Boston's hopes are fading fast.
3:23 4th quarter, Heat 95-86: Big trouble now. Wade and James are taking over.
4:14 4th quarter, Heat 91-86: Bass is guarding James exclusively. LeBron pulled up and hit one from the Eastern Conference Finals logo, and he's continuing to take jump shots over Bass. The Celtics need stops here and to score themselves. This is it.
7:06 4th quarter, Heat 86-82: Bosh has three 3-pointers in the game. They're giving him that shot, and he's making it. Totally new wrinkle in the series.
7:34 4th quarter, Heat 83-82: James with a thunderous dunk down the lane. He's got 25 points.
8:20 4th quarter, Celtics 82-81: Ray Allen hits a big 3-pointer. LeBron comes down on the other end and misses one. It's big shot time from here on out.
10:31 4th quarter, Celtics 77-76: Bosh hits a 3-pointer. Garnett gets great position on James down low and hooks one in for two.
End 3d quarter, Tied at 73: Maybe that Pierce foul works out. Wade missed 1 of 2, and we're now tied at 73. Pierce is also 5 of 16 from the floor, so this little break gives the Celtics a chance to try some different offense,
2:17 3d quarter, Heat 68-66: Don't know why Pierce continues to give fouls. He's got four now. Just led Wade have the layup.
3:50 3d quarter, Celtics 66-65: Celtics are bogged down in bad offense. They're settling for jump shots, and when they're not doing that they're making bad passes. They've turned it over four times since halftime.
7:12 3d quarter, tied at 59: Well you knew this was coming. Miami is all the way back. Now let's see if the Celtics can respond.
8:05 3d quarter, Celtics 59-57: Pierce picks up his third foul. Battier hits another 3-pointer. The Celtics are looking rattled.
9:59 3d quarter, Celtics 55-51: Shane Battier gets open for a 3-pointer. Celtics showing some early lapses on defense.
Halftime, Celtics 53-46: Good half, but a turnover by Pietrus shows just how quickly the Heat can strike. James took the ball the other way for a furious dunk. He hung on the rim, too, which Rajon Rondo didn't like too much.
We're getting the great Rondo tonight: 10 assists and 0 turnovers.
1:06 2d quarter, Celtics 51-44: LeBron's been to the line 10 times already. Double-technicals called on Wade and Rondo.
3:06 2d quarter, Celtics 49-38: Bass with a steal and a dunk over Wade. This is a 14-4 run with Garnett off the floor. Celtics go super small with Bass at the five, and it's working. Bass has one fewer point than James and Wade combined.
4:25 2d quarter, Celtics 45-38: No one talks about Brandon Bass, but he's got 12 points.
5:25 2d quarter, Celtics 41-35: Rondo passes up a wide open layup to Ray Allen, who was being covered by two guys. Allen still manages to float it in. Both teams shooting right around 50 percent right now. That's the magic number for the Celtics. Turnovers (eight) are killing the Heat.
7:08 2d quarter, Celtics 35-34: Kevin Garnett gets called for an offensive foul, his third, on a screen. Pretty shocking call in that situation. Looked like Garnett was pivoting to make a pass when he got whistled.
8:57 2d quarter, Celtics 35-30: Pierce has found his stroke, and it's from long range. He's hit two 3-pointers this quarter.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 27-23: Look at that footwork by Pierce on that last possession. He had Chris Bosh going five different ways and bricked the jumper. Pierce is 2 for 6. The Celtics got the last shot of the quarter because James tracked down Rondo on the break and sent his layup attempt into the stands. James is 1 of 3 from the floor but has made all six free throws.
The Celtics led 23-14 when Garnett went out of the game.
1:38 1st quarter, Celtics 25-23: The Celtics are trying to hang on without Garnett, and, as has been the case all season, it hasn't worked out so well. Greg Stiemsma is coming to the bench in favor of Ryan Hollins.
2:44 1st quarter, Celtics 23-17: Shots aren't falling for Pierce, but he's making much better decisions tonight. Passed up a 3-pointer and got Shane Battier in the air, but he couldn't finish the jumper. Rondo missed a layup on the break, which is sometimes a problem. The Heat have five turnovers already, and a lot of that's due to better defensive energy from the Celtics.
4:21 1st quarter, Celtics 21-14: So much energy from the Celtics right now. Chris Bosh is in the game for Miami. They need some kind of spark.
5:52 1st quarter, Celtics 15-12: Ray Allen looks great. The Celtics freed him up for a shot in the corner, but it wasn't just the screen. Allen caught the ball and hopped back into the corner with some spring in his step. Another good sign? Kevin Garnett has gotten two easy looks down low.
8:09 1st quarter, Heat 10-8: Hasn't been pretty so far, but the Celtics are hanging right with Miami.
11:06 1st quarter, Heat 2-0: Paul Pierce is already 0 for 2. Just not a good shooting series for the captain.
Pregame: Chris Bosh will come off the bench again for Miami as Udonis Haslem starts at center for the Heat. Celtics coach Doc Rivers would like to challenge LeBron James a little more tonight than he did Thursday.
"Just get in his airspace a little bit more," said Rivers. "That would be nice."
One game, winner-take-all. Let's get it.
MIAMI -- Enough hype. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said his team is ready to play Game 7 tonight.
"If we went through one more Miami play I thought they were gonna shoot me today," Rivers said. "I just think they wanna go play."
The Celtics locker room was quiet before Game 7. Rivers said he expects his team to give a good performance tonight.
"I think we're ready," Rivers said. "I don't know what that translates into. You can be ready and not play well. But I would be very surprised if we didn't. I really would be. This team, you've seen them all year. I'd be very surprised if we didn't play extremely well today.
"They've been told all year what they can't do, and I think that's made them want to more in some ways. I don't know if it's any different in 2008 when we won it, or 2010 when we got to the Finals. I don't know that. But this is a strong-willed group. And it takes a lot to get them off course."
Get all the news from American Airlines Arena and talk with Boston.com's Gary Dzen in the 90 minutes leading up to Game 7 between the Celtics and Heat.
MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers did not have much to say Saturday morning as the Celtics prepared for yet another Game 7, this time for the opportunity to play the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.
The Celtics (including, Kevin Garnett, pictured right) are coming off a 98-79 pasting by the Miami Heat, a game dominated by LeBron James, who scored 45 points with 15 rebounds and 5 assists. The Celtics had won the previous three games in the series, including Game 5 in Miami. Rivers said the Celtics realize their opportunity.
"We'll find that out later," Rivers said when asked how his team will play. "I've been in a lot of shootarounds where I looked up at the coaches and said 'we're in trouble or we look great' and the game comes and it's different. I really don't think you get a sense of your team. You know they will be ready. How they perform and all that stuff, we'll have a lot to do with that and other team will have a lot to do with that as well."
Rivers said all 14 players will be available to play, including Ray Allen, who showed up early to shootaround to get in extra shooting and Paul Pierce, who was receiving treatment during the media session.
"If you would have told me before the playoffs started that you could have a Game 7 to decide to go to the Finals, we would have taken it and we didn't care where you played it," he said. "So in a lot of ways, we love being here."
MIAMI -- There have been six games played in this series, three won by each team. You can argue that the Celtics have played better in four of them -- Games 2, 3, 4, and 5 -- while Miami was dominant in Games 1 and 6. The Celtics lost Game 2 in overtime, a game in which Rajon Rondo went off for 44 points.
That's how we got here, but no one really knows what to expect in a winner-take-all Game 7. Boston talk radio and national television shows are an indicator of just how varied opinions are in the series. When the Celtics win, they're a better team than Miami. When they lose, they're too old and too tired, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are just too talented. So which is it?
Celtics coach Doc Rivers took issue after Game 6 with the perception that his team didn't show up Thursday night.
"That's basketball, man," said Rivers. "Sometimes you show up and ‑‑ I don't think our guys were thinking of the magnitude of the game, honestly. Guys wanted to. I don't think one guy showed up tonight and said, 'You know what, I'm not going to play well.'"
It's basketball. There are 48 more minutes of it left in this series. Both teams are sure as heck going to show up. Let's play.
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m.
Series: Series tied, 3-3
Broadcast info: ESPN, WEEI/850 AM/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Ray Allen SF: Paul Pierce PF: Brandon Bass C: Kevin Garnett
Heat: PG: Mario Chalmers SG: Dwyane Wade SF: LeBron James PF: Shane Battier C: Udonis Haslem
Officials: Joe Crawford, Mike Callahan, Scott Foster
Challenge everything: If LeBron James is going to score 45 points again in Game 7, the Celtics better at least make it more difficult for him. Sure, the shot-making was incredible, but the Celtics didn't challenge his catches enough. They didn't bring enough help. The Celtics have traditionally been OK with letting one guy get his so long as they shut down the others, and that's fine. But they need to find some way to get James' attempts up and his makes down, whether that's with physical play, help from different areas, or something else.
Assists/turnovers: The Celtics had one assist in the first quarter of Game 6 compared to five turnovers. It's obviously hard to get assists when you don't make shots, but the Celtics shot 41 percent in the first quarter, making seven field goals. One assist on seven field goals is a poor percentage no matter how poorly you shoot.
Involve Pierce, Garnett: Paul Pierce missed six 3-pointers and took just two free throws in Game 6. That's a problem. Kevin Garnett got 14 shots, and many of them were makeable, but he can still be an even bigger focus of the offense. That's on Rajon Rondo, who needs to run the show like we've seen him do so many times.
Garnett says the Celtics are going to "let it all hang out, on the road, hostile environment" Saturday night in Miami for the series-deciding Game 7.
"It's what it is," Garnett said about the must-win situation Boston finds itself in. "Game 7, spilled milk. Can't cry over it. Just hate that that opportunity slipped through our hands at home where we play so well. ...
"Nothing's been easy up until this point, so can't expect it now. It's what it is, so we're gonna take these cards, and we're gonna play 'em. Lot of confident guys in here, lot of guys who've been through Game 7s, a lot of experienced guys so we're gonna lean on that and we're gonna fight. A bunch of fighters in this locker room. See what we do."
The 17-year NBA veteran also reflected on his time in Boston, which could be coming to an end if he decides to retire after the postseason.
"I want to say to all the fans, thank you, guys," Garnett said. "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 coming from your boy. It's [expletive] crazy."
Looking back on the Game 6 loss, Garnett, like teammate Paul Pierce, focused on the Celtics' inability to stop LeBron James.
"We never got into a defensive flow, like I know we can," Garnett said. "I feel like LB (LeBron James) was in a groove and he never looked back."
No other team in the NBA has played in (28) and won (21) more Game 7s, and Celtics captain Paul Pierce has been involved in many memorable must-win postseason games during his 14 years in Boston.
So it's not surprising that after a tough Game 6 loss to the Heat, Pierce was sounding confident in his team's ability to overcome adversity once again Saturday night in Miami for a winner-take-all Game 7 in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.
“Game 7 is ... what more can you ask for? One game, have an opportunity to go to the Finals, on the road," Pierce said. "This team has been about adversity all year long. So this is not going to be nothing new. It's been tough for us all year long to get to the point where we would be at, and why wouldn’t it be tough now? Winning is hard. Trying to get to the finals is hard. And this is as hard as it gets. And I think we are prepared for it...
"I think we're in a perfect opportunity. We've been the underdog all year long. Going into Game 7 the underdog. We're right where we want to be."
Pierce reflected on the tough loss and gave credit to the Heat and LeBron James, who dominated the game from start to finish with 45 points, for their blowout win in Game 6.
"It was tough,” Pierce said. “You got an opportunity to close out the series on your home floor. For us to come out and play like the way we did, it’s very tough. You gotta take your hats off to them. They really had a great game plan. LeBron really got hot, playing like a true MVP tonight and we just didn't recover."
With their team down more than 20 points and with the game clock winding down toward a loss in Game 6, Celtics fans stood and chanted "Let's Go Celtics" for what must have been three or four minutes. It was a sign of solidarity, a sign of support for a group of players who collectively may have played their last game at TD Garden.
"It was unbelievable," said Rajon Rondo. "That just shows we have the best fans in sports, in the whole game of basketball."
The gesture might have been surprising anywhere but here, but Boston fans are fiercely loyal. They support their own, and they've embraced this team as just that. Despite the mercenary aspect of the whole thing when this collection of players was brought together five seasons ago, the Celtics' four star players are now a permanent part of the fabric here. It's now easier to remember Kevin Garnett for his big moments in five seasons as a Celtic than for anything he did in 12 seasons in Minnesota. We expect Garnett, Ray Allen, Rondo, and Paul Pierce to produce in big moments because we've seen them do it in the playoffs over and over again.
Which is why Game 6 was so disappointing. With a chance to eliminate the Miami Heat and earn a berth in the NBA Finals, the Celtics didn't show up on their home floor. And because they laid an egg in their most crucial game of the season, they may have cost themselves a chance at another title.
It's tempting to give a pass to this eminently root-able bunch and praise them for making it this far. They weren't supposed to be here, weren't supposed to make this Miami series competitive, and they aren't expected to win the title should they advance to meet the Thunder.
"I would say most of the people in this room would have said, 'Wow, they're going to get to a Game 7? We'll take it,'" said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "That's the way we have to view it. We won a game at theirs, they won here. Now we get to play for all the marbles. This team has not done it the easy way this year."
Chalking Thursday's loss up to "We'll get 'em next time" would be letting the Celtics off the hook. Game 6 was there for the taking, and the Celtics gave it away. The team may have the best fans in the world, but those fans also shouldn't be happy if the Celtics follow this loss with another on Saturday. If they play like they did in Game 6, they almost certainly will.
Consider some areas the Celtics were less than stellar in Thursday. Allowing LeBron James to score 45 points is a good place to start.
"I didn't think we played him with a lot of force, though, honestly," said Rivers. "Listen, he made great shots. But we can play better defense."
A team built on championship-level defense didn't show it Thursday, allowing Miami to shoot 49 percent from the field. James made 19 of 26 shots from the field, and not even the best player in the world does that without a little help. The trapping, suffocating schemes Boston used in their last three wins over the Heat were nowhere to be found.
Another area to take issue with is that the Celtics had a terrible start on their home court, getting themselves down by 10 points in large part due to poor ball movement. The Celtics had one assist to five turnovers in the first quarter. A team led by Rondo shouldn't get themselves in that position.
"We have to get to the second and third option, and sometimes the fourth option," said Ray Allen.
More often than not Thursday night, the ball stuck to the right hand of the first option and didn't even find the second.
After coming up so clutch in Game 5, Pierce provided the final layer of disappointment in Game 6, making just 4 of 18 shots from the floor. He also took himself out of the game in the second quarter by picking up his third foul. He's guarding James, but Pierce's penchant to foul has become a problem.
"Paul is a big-game player," said Rivers. "Game 7s are the biggest game you can possibly have. What I saw tonight, I thought he was ready for the game. He just didn't have a great game tonight."
Less than excellent games from Pierce, Rondo, and Garnett in particular are disappointing at this stage. The Celtics don't need the 44 points they got from Rondo in Game 2. But a game like his 15 points, 15 assists, and 3 turnovers in Game 4 would have at least made it competitive. Pierce doesn't have to shoot well -- he made 38 percent of his shots in Boston wins in Game 3 and 4 -- but he's got to find some other way to be effective. In those two games, it was getting to the line a combined 13 times. In Game 6, Pierce had two free throw attempts while missing six 3-pointers.
Game 7 is wide open, but Celtics fans, the same ones who stood and cheered on their team until the better end, deserved a better effort in Game 6. The Celtics added extra games in both the Atlanta and Philadelphia series because of performances that could be described as lackadaisical. They did the same Thursday night. If they do make it to the Finals, they'll have made their own path a lot more difficult. Their penchant for dragging things out is beginning to lose its charm.
The Celtics have come too far for moral victories. This is no time to praise them for making it this far. It's easy to like this team, but it's also not unreasonable to expect them to keep winning. They'll need a much better showing Saturday night in order to make that happen.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers was unhappy with his team's performance in Game 6 Thursday night, particularly on offense.
"We never really established what we wanted to do offensively," said Rivers. "I thought they played with more force for most of the game. We missed a lot of open shots. But I really did think that was fools' gold. I really didn't think that was the shots we wanted."
The Celtics made 43 percent of their shots from the field and just 1 of 14 3-pointers.
"We didn't play like us. Each guy wanted to win the game for us, which is a good trait, but the bad trait is there was no ball movement. The ball just stuck for most of the game."
Paul Pierce was particularly egregious in that area, hitting 4 of 18 shots from the field. Rivers said he expects Pierce to bounce back in Game 7.
"Paul is a big-game player," said Rivers. "Game 7s are the biggest game you can possibly have. What I saw tonight, I thought he was ready for the game. He just didn't have a great game tonight.
"He was down. Kevin [Garnett] was down. But also you could see their resolve in the locker room. They're not just going to pack for Sunday. They're going to bring suits for Tuesday, and they're going to bring suits for Thursday. And that's the way we're going to plan to do it."
-- Rivers took a moment in his press conference to praise LeBron James, who had 45 points.
"I hope now you guys can stop talking about LeBron and that he doesn't play in big games. He played pretty well tonight. I hope that's to bed. Now we can go ahead and play Game 7."
Miami Heat star LeBron James had a drink poured on him as he left the court following Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden.
Videos such as the one above were quickly posted online after the game, which the Heat won, 98-79, on the strength of James's 45 points. Many of the videos claimed beer was poured on James.
It was a far cry from the way James left the court after Game 5, when a young Heat fan was heard on television broadcasts shouting "good job, good effort," to James and other Heat players as they left the court.
LeBron James scored 45 points as the Heat prevented a Garden party and won Game 6, 98-79, to force the Eastern Conference Finals back to Miami.
"Now we have a series," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "That's what everybody wants, right?"
James picked apart the Celtics with deadly accuracy and a killer instinct, hitting 19 of 26 shots from the floor. With the high point total, his 15 rebounds and 5 assists always seemed like an afterthought.
"He set the tone for their whole team," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I thought he gave them comfort in every way he played tonight."
James stepped up big for the Heat when their season was on the line and they needed him most. He played 44 minutes, sitting down only when the game was already in hand.
"I think what fuels him is this moment," said Spoelstra. "He was absolutely fearless tonight. And it was contagious. The way he approached the last 48 hours. Not only LeBron, it wasn't the end of the world. Nobody likes getting dirt thrown on your face before you're dead."
James was the biggest problem for the Celtics, but their issues didn't end with the Heat superstar. The Celtics were turnover-happy (nine) in the first half. Paul Pierce was 4 of 18 from the floor in the game. The Boston bench contributed just 2 points -- a tip-in by Mickael Pietrus -- until garbage time, when the Celtics were down by so much that their bench had been emptied.
Rajon Rondo was also a disappointment, and that might seem contradictory given his 21 points and 10 assists. But this wasn't the kind of dominant performance we've come to expect from Rondo in the playoffs. He countered those 10 assists with seven turnovers, an issue front and center in the Celtics' offensive troubles to start the game.
"We have to get to the second and third option, and sometimes the fourth option," said Ray Allen.
Rivers had been waiting all series for his team to turn in a complete performance from start to finish; he knew after the first quarter that Thursday night wasn't going to be it. The Celtics came out flat in Game 6, making 41 percent of their field goals in the first quarter. A more disturbing statistic was Boston's five team turnovers to just one assist. James scored 14 points in the first quarter as Miami went on a 10-0 run after Kevin Garnett went to the bench.
James continue to put up points in the second quarter, and he was joined in a duel of sorts by Rondo. James had 30 points by halftime to Rondo's 19, but Rondo wasn't perfect despite his scoring, countering five assists with five turnovers.
Getting 20 points and 10 rebounds from Garnett has seemed like a given in these playoffs, but Garnett finished with 12 points and five rebounds in the loss. Dwyane Wade had 17 points for Miami in support of James.
The Celtics and Heat will now play one game, Saturday night in Miami (8:30 p.m.) for a chance to advance to the NBA Finals to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. That series begins Tuesday.
"I would say that most of the people in this room, if you said, 'Wow, they're going to get to a Game 7?' we'd take it," said Rivers. "That's the way we have to view it. Now we get to play for all the marbles.
"They're not just going to pack for Sunday. They're going to bring suits for Tuesday, and they're going to bring suits for Thursday. And that's the way we're going to plan to do it."
Final: Heat 98, Celtics 79
3:11 4th quarter, Heat 92-70: The crowd starting to file out here. Absolutely no drama to this game. After such a great series to this point, it's disappointing.
7:43 4th quarter, Heat 87-64: Both the Celtics and the home crowd seem resigned to a Game 7.
10:18 4th quarter, Heat 81-63: Miami starts the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run. Going to be tough now.
End 3d quarter, Heat 74-61: LeBron James has 41 points through three quarters. His career high is 56.
2:09 3d quarter, Heat 72-61: Just when you think the Celtics are cooked, they find inspiration somewhere. Rondo is up to 10 assists, while Brandon Bass has 12 points and 6 rebounds. Pierce (3 for 14, 0 for 5 on 3-pointers) is having a miserable game.
A technical foul by James is the only thing he's done wrong tonight. He's got 39 points and 9 rebounds.
5:17 3d quarter, Heat 67-52: Celtics are desperate. They go super small, with Brandon Bass at the five, even though Bosh and Haslem are both in the game.
8:36 3d quarter, Heat 60-48: Big momentum dunk for Brandon Bass on the follow cuts the lead to 12. Those are the kind of plays that will get the Celtics back into this game.
10:09 3d quarter, Heat 59-42: Pierce is trying to get his points, but he hasn't found the net. James continues to score.
Halftime, Heat 55-42: Just as we expected, a scoring duel has materialized between LeBron James and ... Rajon Rondo? James has only missed one shot (11 of 12) and has 30 points. Rondo has 19 points, but his five turnovers are symptomatic of what's ailing the Celtics. Their ball movement is terrible.
1:48 2d quarter, Heat 49-38: Chalmers fouls Rondo, who falls hard to the floor near midcourt. Rondo stays down for a moment, then does so pushups on his knuckles before getting up, just like KG did the other night.
2:58 2d quarter, Heat 45-35: Crucial stretch coming before halftime. Celtics need to keep this lead manageable.
5:40 2d quarter, Celtics 40-29: Pierce just picked up his third personal foul. That's really not good.
5:56 2d half, Heat 40-29: Brandon Bass gets a shot to go and-one after six bounces on the rim. Meanwhile, James is torching the Celtics with 22 points.
8:30 2d quarter, Heat 36-23: As Doc Rivers expected, Haslem and Bosh both on the floor for Miami. In a bit of a role reversal, it was Bosh who kept a play going with an offensive rebound and found Haslem for a jumper.
9:35 2d quarter, Celtics 30-23: Keyon Dooling has been a spark plug. Dooling cut down the lane and took a feed from the wing, then swung the ball to a wide open Ray Allen in the corner for a 3-pointer. Great look.
End 1st quarter, Heat 26-16: Doc Rivers has been waiting for his team to play that complete game, and he's going to have to wait a little longer. Celtics come out flat in the first quarter, shooting 41 percent with five turnovers and one assist. LeBron James leads all scorers with 14 points.
2:28 1st quarter, Heat 22-14: Things haven't looked good for the Celtics, but Rondo hits a tough layup to give the crowd some life. James already has 12 points. The Celtics as a team have four turnovers to one assist. The Heat went on a 10-0 run with Garnett of the floor.
3:29 1st quarter, Heat 16-12: Chris Bosh is in the game, matched up with Greg Stiemsma. Bosh got free underneath for his first two points of the game.
5:29 1st quarter, Heat 12-8: Personal and technical foul charged to Mario Chalmers, who was in a battle with Ray Allen on the block. Allen was trying to post up, and both players were exchanging extracurriculars. Chalmers got in Ray's face, and boom. T.
6:18 1st quarter, Heat 10-8: Stiemsma in for KG. Dwyane Wade really hasn't made Ray Allen work as hard as he could on defense. Content to shoot jumpers.
8:48 1st quarter, Heat 8-4: James drives down the lane for a dunk. Rondo has yet to record an assist and has a turnover.
On Miami's first possession Kevin Gartnett wasn't even guarding Udonis Haslem, went to help on Wade instead.
Pregame: Udonis Haslem will start at center for the Heat, which means Chris Bosh will come off the bench, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he has prepared for a lineup in which Miami uses Bosh and Haslem at the same time. Game 6 is starting soon. Nothing left to say. Let's get it.
Chris Bosh will come off the bench tonight for Miami as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra starts Udonis Haslem at the center position. Spoelstra said he expects to play Bosh more minutes tonight.
"I'm way more comfortable [doing that]," said Spoelstra. "I don't think we'll be able to play him his normal load, particularly at the pace and how competitive and physical this series is."
Spoelstra said his team is ready to try and stave off elimination in Game 6 Thursday night at TD Garden.
"We have a very confident group," said Spoelstra. "We have a very stubborn group in there. Despite all the noise out there, we feel we should have won the last two games. We didn't, and that's the results, but we did enough good things to win. We know we can win in this building."
Want the latest news from TD Garden before the game? Talk Celtics-Heat Game 6 with Boston.com's Gary Dzen leading up to game time. Ask a question, leave your prediction, and get yourself ready for what could be a series-clinching game.
Limited to just 14 minutes in Game 5 and absent entirely throughout a critical fourth quarter, Heat forward Chris Bosh said Thursday afternoon that he feels ready to go as Miami faces elimination on the road in Game 6.
Sidelined for three weeks after suffering an abdominal strain vs. the Pacers, Bosh on Tuesday night had nine points and seven rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.
"Yeah, he's fine," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who caught substantial public flak for leaving Miami's third-leading scorer on the bench as the Celtics moved one game away from the NBA Finals with a 94-90 win at the AmericanAirlines Arena. "He should be able to handle a bigger load. I doubt he can handle his load that he was playing before, 36 minutes. But he should be able to play more tonight."
Boston enters having won 15 of its past 16 at home against Miami, but has only gotten a brief first-hand look at Bosh this series. He finished 3 for 8 from the field and 3 for 3 from the free-throw line, but wound up with a negative-12 plus/minus rating, worst in the game.
With Kevin Garnett patrolling the paint, Bosh knows he'll have to capitalize on mid-range opportunities.
"They’re going to stick with their game plan," Bosh said of the Celtics. "That’s going to force me to knock down some shots. I’m going to be aggressive, I’m going to have some open looks, and I’m going to knock them down tonight. We’ll see how they react off of that."
Spoelstra declined to disclose his starting lineup, but Bosh said taking the floor for the opening tip was, at least personally, not a concern.
"Starting doesn’t matter. I just want to play," Bosh said. "There are starters that play 6 minutes a game. I just want to be out on the court. Starting, not starting, it’s irrelevant at this point. It’s all about getting the win. I just want to have more minutes out there to try to do something special."
Spoelstra said he would remain in constant communication with Bosh and trainer Jay Sabol throughout the game.
Bosh, for his part, said there would be no restrictions anymore on his playing time.
"It's put-up or shut-up time," Bosh said.
And when team officials approached Bosh to ask how he felt, he crafted a simple response.
"Whatever it takes."
And that's really the main factor, the approach the Heat come with. It's safe to assume that the Celtics will come with everything they have at home, in a building they've gone 8-1 in this postseason. They'll shoot better than they did in Miami in Game 5, and they'll probably get off to a good start in the first quarter.
The Heat have lost five straight games in Boston and 15 of 16 here overall. It'll take everything the Celtics have to make it 16 of 17.
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m.
Series: Celtics lead, 3-2
Broadcast info: ESPN, WEEI/850 AM/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Ray Allen SF: Paul Pierce PF: Brandon Bass C: Kevin Garnett
Heat: PG: Mario Chalmers SG: Dwyane Wade SF: LeBron James PF: Shane Battier C: Chris Bosh
Officials: Dan Crawford, Tony Brothers, Tom Washington. (James Capers alternate)
The clutch gene: : Saw an interesting stat today that on game-tying or go-ahead shots with less than 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter or overtime, the Heat are 0-10 in the last two postseasons. That's very un-clutch. The Celtics, meanwhile, seem to be able to finish any game in which they're able to hang around long enough. If it's a close game late, they've got guys who aren't afraid of the moment. It's hard to quantify every aspect of that, and it's not just about shooting. But being "clutch" is probably the biggest advantage Celtics fans think their team has heading into Game 6.
More Bosh: Chris Bosh played only 14 minutes in Game 5, and he didn't see the floor in the fourth quarter. After the game he said he could play more, and he probably should have considering his effectiveness in the first half. Expect Bosh to start tonight and probably double his minutes.
It's Rondo: You know Kevin Garnett is going to show up with 20 and 10 and his trademark intensity at home. What will make or break the Celtics will be the play of Rajon Rondo. He's prone to big first quarters at home as well, and he needs to drive his team from the jump. If we get one of those Rondo games, the Celtics will be moving on.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel found the young basketball fan who became an online trend soon after Game 5 of the Celtics-Heat series for his encouraging words to Heat players as they left the court following their loss.
Jack Meyer is an elementary school student in Coral Gables, Fla., and an enthusiastic Heat fan. He can be heard shouting "good job, good effort," as Heat players, including star LeBron James, left the court.
"I wanted to cheer them up," said Meyer, 9.
He responded to critics who opined he was being sarcastic.
"You're wrong. I was being enthusiastic. I was saying the truth. I would never hurt the Heat's feelings like that, and I totally meant it when I said great job, good effort," he said.
Watch a video interview with Meyer on the Sun-Sentinel's web site.
Szczerbiak did a bit of backtracking on his old friend-and-foe on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show on Wednesday.
"Like he said in his interview last night, it's incredible what he's doing right now at his age," Szczerbiak said in the radio interview. "It is a credit to his craft, how professional he is. …He's playing the best basketball quite possibly I've ever seen him play, at the biggest moments. It's just incredible.
"The reason why I put the tweet out there about the clutch gene is to be objective. In our profession, our job is to be objective. We put LeBron on blast for not having the clutch gene. Watching KG throughout his career, now with Boston, I just threw it out there that, hey, let's keep an eye on KG at crunch time and see what he does at crunch time. Because in years past, when we were with Minnesota, we had guys like Sam Cassell that took the big shot. Now with Boston he has Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. And to KG's credit, why wouldn't you defer to those guys at the end of games? They're big-shot-makers. Paul Pierce showed it again last night."
Then Szczerbiak threw out the major mea-culpa.
"Having said that, KG proved me completely wrong last night," Szczerbiak said. "[He] made two huge free throws down the stretch and made a big 15-footer. If I'm one of the naysayers that's helping motivate KG play at this level, then maybe the Boston fans owe me a little thank you. Because he's just playing off the charts."
Not sure "thank you" is what Celtics fans will be shouting at Szczerbiak if he shows up for Game 6 at the Garden Thursday night.
It may be something else.
MIAMI -- Here's some links for your morning reading pleasure.
-- Link: Garnett as good as ever.
-- Link: Pierce's three was the dagger.
-- Link: Bob Ryan: The win was stunning.
-- Link: Ryan's video analysis.
Dirt Dogs: Pierce says, "Take that, LeBron."
From the other side:
-- Link: Loss gives fuel to Heat skeptics.
-- Link: Bosh contributes for Heat.
Celtics captain Paul Pierce made a request of his team's fans via Twitter:
I want the Garden I mean The Jungle to b as loud as ever come Thursday— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) June 6, 2012
He is referring, of course, to Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, which will be Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden. The Celtics can eliminate the Miami Heat and advance to the NBA Finals with a victory.
MIAMI -- At what point in these playoffs did 20 points and 10 rebounds from Kevin Garnett stop becoming news? At what point during this Boston playoff run, which now spans 18 games (auspicious, right?), did Garnett's dominance become an afterthought? With his team one win away from the NBA Finals, how did a 36-year-old center's born-again brilliance become the norm?
Garnett was far from his best for half of Game 5 Tuesday night. He was 4 for 10 from the field in the first half and scored eight points in 18 minutes, a culprit in Boston's 33-percent shooting. He wasn't getting the ball where he wanted it. In 11 minutes, Heat center Chris Bosh -- who hadn't played in nine games -- outproduced him with 9 points and 6 rebounds.
"We had a rough first half," said Garnett. "Doc [Rivers] just kept saying to stay with it and continue to fight. I thought for the most part we did that."
That Garnett has any fight left is something he is immensely proud of. Garnett likes to remind reporters, fans, whoever will listen, that they counted him out. He revels in his resurgence, at one point this season chastising reporters for questioning his ability to make 3-pointers, and at another questioning the wisdom of those who thought he'd be better off packing it in. The motivation may be partly manufactured, but there's no question it fuels his game.
"For people who don't think I can do what I do at 35, 36, I take a lot of pride in my craft," Garnett told ESPN's cameras. "I work on my craft every day. I'm a true professional."
Looking past the bluster, a big chunk of Garnett's rebirth has been organic. The questions were there because his game wasn't. Garnett's decline began after his best season in Boston, which also happened to be his first. After averaging 18.8 points and 9.2 rebounds during the season the Celtics won their 17th world championship, Garnett's numbers dipped to 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds the following year.
It was during that 2008-2009 season that Garnett suffered a right knee injury that caused him to miss the playoffs. The mysterious ailment -- which the Celtics first announced as a right quad injury -- and it's recovery would linger into the next two seasons. Garnett averaged 14.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in 2009-2010, which started the whispers of whether or not he was finished for good. Lakers center Pau Gasol's 19 points and 18 rebounds in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals while being guarded by Garnett (Gasol outrebounded KG, 18-3) was taken as a sign that Garnett's best years were behind him.
The Celtics power forward didn't do enough to dispute that notion during the majority of the next two regular seasons, but a move to center late this season coincided with a major uptick in Garnett's performance. After this year's All-Star break, Garnett's numbers went up across the board: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and free throw percentage were up. Turnovers were down. Garnett looked like a different player.
"You're finally seeing a healthy Kevin," said Paul Pierce. "He hasn't been healthy the last couple of years. When you have a surgery of that magnitude, it's tough on a big man, It looks like he has healthy legs. He's playing long minutes. He's giving everything he can."
Garnett's resurgence in the second half of Game 5 against Miami mirrored his resurgence in the second half of the season. He made 7 of 10 shots and had 7 rebounds. He led the Celtics in scoring on a night when Pierce and Rajon Rondo combined to shoot 9 of 34 from the floor.
"No one played well except for KG and [Mickael] Pietrus," said Rondo.
Garnett has played well in almost every game of the playoffs. Consider Garnett's point totals this postseason: 20, 15, 20, 13, 16, 28, 29, 15, 27, 9, 20, 20, 18, 23, 18, 24, 17, and 26. The one dud in 18 games was in a loss to the Sixers in Game 2. Even with that, he's averaged 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in the playoffs. The only time his numbers have been better were during the 2008 playoffs, when he averaged 20.4 points and 10.5 rebounds.
"It's up there probably since the first year when he came, and he was averaging 20 and 10 every night in the playoffs" said Pierce. "He's dominating. We're taking advantage of him."
Consider what a dominant Garnett now means for Boston. The Celtics were thought to be as cooked as their 36-year-old center, but they've bumped and jostled their way to the cusp of the NBA Finals. It's all happened so fast. With three wins in a row, it's possible even Garnett doesn't realize the magnitude of what he's doing.
"We have been taking this thing one game at a time," said Garnett. "The next game will be no different from that. We'll prepare. We'll make all of the adjustments. We'll watch film. We aren't looking ahead to anything."
No one could have looked into a crystal ball and predicted this. Garnett acts like we should have all seen this coming, but even those who have watched every Celtics game since that charged press conference when the New Big Three were introduced couldn't have expected this. The conventional wisdom is to enjoy this for as long as we can, to take solace in how far this team has come, no matter if they fall short.
Garnett would scoff at that. He wants to win games, and he sees no reason why he can't be the best player on the court while doing it. Maybe it's time for us to start listening.
MIAMI -- Heat coach Erik Spoelstra urged his team to move on following his team's third straight loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. After being up in the series, 2-0, Miami now faces an elimination game on the road.
"It's a loss, and that's all it is," said Spoelstra. "And that's what our focus is right now, is to fight any kind of noise from the outside or any human condition, and to collectively come together strong to prepare for the next game."
Spoelstra continued with his usual coach-speak, but in one comment revealed that he didn't really expect his team to be in this position.
"This is the journey that we have to be on right now for whatever reason," said Spoelstra. "It was a tough one to lose here at home, but it's over with. It has to be behind us right now. Our energies have to be ready for Thursday night."
The Heat have lost three straight, but Spoelstra didn't seem like his confidence was shaken. Neither did Miami guard Mario Chalmers.
"We're still confident," said Chalmers. "Our confidence is never shaken. We're down, 3-2, but we're still ready for the next game.
"We have to figure it out. That's something we have to figure out and come out with a game plan."
Chris Bosh had 9 points and 7 rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench in his return.
"I feel good," said Bosh. "I definitely have more to give, and I'll be there. I just tried to be a good teammate for the guys that were out there. It was really good to be back out there."
The "more to give" line may have been a reference to the fourth quarter, where Bosh found himself on the bench. Spoelstra said he didn't feel comfortable inserting Bosh into a close game late.
"I didn't feel it was fair to him to throw him in with three minutes to go," said Spoelstra. "But I thought he gave us good minutes."
Bosh said he never asked to come in late.
"I wouldn't expect him to have a conversation with me," said Bosh. "He has enough to deal with."
Paul Pierce hit arguably the biggest shot of the game Tuesday night, a 3-pointer over LeBron James that gave the Celtics a 90-86 lead with 53 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 5. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he wasn't totally thrilled with the shot selection.
"I kind of wanted him to drive, honestly," said Rivers. "I've been around Paul long enough. Right when he gets into the footwork, you knew he was going to shoot it. At least I did, because I've seen him enough.
"I didn't know if I wanted that shot. Honestly, I thought he was going to drive it, but he made it. That's what players like Paul do. It really is. He's a big shot-maker. He always has been."
Pierce said James was giving him the shot.
"I saw him back up, he gave me a step," said Pierce. "It was in my range, the shot clock was running down. I just took the shot ... I wanted to get the best shot for us. That was the best shot."
It's hard to argue with the results.
MIAMI -- Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer over LeBron James with 53 seconds left in the fourth quarter, a gutsy shot that put the cap on a second-half comeback by the Celtics in their 94-90 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night.
With the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, coach Doc Rivers isolated Pierce with James on the left side of the court. Pierce dribbled, surveyed the court, then stepped back and launched a shot over James that grazed the back of the rim and plunged straight through. Several hundred Celtics fans at American Airlines Arena stood and cheered as some Heat fans gasped at the result and significance of the play. The Celtics held on by making all four of their free throws in the final 53 seconds.
Pierce was an unlikely hero considering his auspicious start. The Celtics captain started the game making 2 of his first 10 shots from the floor. If you had told Doc Rivers before the game that Kevin Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen would combine to shoot 7 of 28 at halftime and he'd only be down two points, he'd have called you a liar. Then he would have taken it. That was the situation the Celtics were in at halftime, despite shooting 33 percent as a team and despite making just 1 of 6 3-pointers. James had 18 points at the break, but where the Celtics did well was holding the remaining Heat players to 8-of-29 shooting.
The Celtics looked down and out when Garnett went to the bench with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter and the Celtics trailing, 57-50. The lead grew to nine on the next possession, but Boston cut that lead to three with Garnett on the bench, the beginning of a 15-1 run. Garnett would come back into the game as the Celtics scored the final 11 points of the third quarter to lead by five heading into the fourth quarter. Their 62-60 lead with 49 seconds remaining came on a Mickael Pietrus jump shot and was their first lead of the game.
The fourth quarter saw the return of brilliant basketball, with both teams stepping up and delivering. Rajon Rondo struggled his way through the game, but his hustle on a loose ball led to an offensive rebound and a crucial jump shot by Pietrus in the final minutes. Rondo was just 3 of 15 from the floor but was plus-11 for the game.
Pierce finished with 19 points, while Garnett led the Celtics with 26 points and 11 rebounds. James led all scorers with 30.
Game 6 is Thursday night in Boston, where the Celtics can close out the series and earn their third trip to the NBA Finals in five seasons.
Final: Celtics 94, Heat 90
8.8 seconds, Celtics 94-90: James, Garnett exchange free throws.
13.8 seconds, Celtics 92-88: Ray Allen gets fouled and hits two.
15.2 seconds, Celtics 90-88: Heat get a stop, Wade drives and draws a foul on Pierce.
41.1 seconds, Celtics 90-86: Ball out of bounds, looked to be off Haslem. Original call was off the Celtics. Officials review and overturn it.
52.9 seconds, Celtics 90-86: Pierce with a gutsy 3-pointer right over LeBron. Wow.
1:12 4th quarter, Celtics 87-86: Call goes the other way as Pierce gets called for one on the rebounding action.
1:34 4th quarter, Tied at 85: Wade gets no call on one end but finishes, Pierce drives on the other end and gets the foul call. Just interesting.
2:54 4th quarter, Celtics 81-80: What a play by Rondo crashing into the lane to keep an offensive rebound alive and give the Celtics a chance to score. The ball skipped out to Pietrus, and it eventually found Garnett for a jumper to give the Celtics the lead back. Mario Chalmers just picked up a technical foul as well.
5:16 4th quarter, Heat 78-75: Has Mickael Pietrus ever not bitten on a Wade or James pump fake? Pietrus is getting exploited on defense, but he just hit a big 3-pointer after Brandon Bass's missed dunk careened out to him in the corner. It's about time to bring Garnett back in.
7:11 4th quarter, Heat 74-72: LeBron hits a 3-pointer to give him 28 points. KG is back on the bench. Better not be for too long.
9:06 4th quarter, Celtics 70-69: Both Rondo and Pierce fail to protect the ball on consecutive possessions as Miami makes a mini-run here to cut it to one. The Heat can score so, so quickly. Celtics can't afford any lapses.
9:48 4th quarter, Celtics 70-65: Heavy doses of LeBron here in the fourth quarter. Want to know something incredible? Rajon Rondo has just three points.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 65-60: The Celtics close the third quarter on an 11-0 run, capped by long jumpers from Pietrus and Dooling. Who would have thought that?
1:32 3d quarter, Tied at 60: Garnett is back in the game, and Miami forgets to cover him, so he floats down the lane for a monster jam. That dunk was loud, even from the other side of the arena.
2:01 3d quarter, Heat 60-56: When KG sat down the Heat lead was seven, then nine. It's now four. That's huge.
3:48 3d quarter, Heat 59-54: Garnett's out of the game, and the Celtics have actually cut into the lead a bit in the last two minutes. The goal here is to pretty much break even with KG on the bench. Anything else is a bonus.
6:25 3d quarter, Heat 57-50: Celtics play zone for a couple of possessions. LeBron camps out on the baseline and gets the ball down low to beat it. A turnover leads to a Wade dunk, then Battier nails a 3-pointer. The idea of a zone is good, but the Celtics don't play a very good one. Even Garnett looks lost on which man to step up on. The C's are at their best playing aggressive, man-to-man, helping defense.
9:53 3d quarter, Heat 46-44: Garnett gets two baskets to start the second half. The Celtics are going to him after a poor start, and he's delivering. He's got 12 points.
Halftime, Heat 42-40: It's anybody's ball game. The Celtics are shooting 33 percent, have made 1 of 6 3-pointers, and are being out-rebounded by nine, but they're only down by two. Brandon Bass has 10 points and three rebounds. LeBron James leads all scorers with 18 points.
A concern for the second half: Rondo really seems to be favoring his right arm.
2:02 2d quarter, Heat 38-36: Great offensive rebound and putback for Garnett, plus one. He needed that one to get going. The Celtics are in this game despite poor shooting. One concern? Rondo looks to be playing with one arm. He isn't passing the ball with his left arm, and he's going so far as to not even look to the left side of the floor on the break.
5:15 2d quarter, Heat 36-28: Players not named LeBron James are shooting a combined 15-51 from the floor.
6:21 2d quarter, Heat 32-26: The Celtics are plus-6 at the free throw line. So much for home court advantage.
7:50 2d quarter, Heat 31-23: Rondo is playing with a black sling on his left elbow. He just corralled an offensive rebound with the same arm, and in one motion put the ball back up and in without using his right arm. Pretty good stuff.
10:24 2d quarter, Heat 28-16: Pierce does the right thing and takes it to the basket, but he's called for the charge running into Mike Miller. Celtics are anemic.
End 1st quarter, Heat 23-16: Rondo is on the Celtics bench with an ice pack on his elbow. The Celtics are 6 for 20. Paul Pierce leads Boston with six points. Outside of him, there's not much good to say about Boston's offense.
1:17 1st quarter, Heat 24-13: Chris Bosh is back in a big way. He just completed a 3-point play and was understandably fired up. The crowd here likes having him back. So far, he's a game-changer.
3:18 1st quarter, Heat 16-9: Rondo (0 for 5) is off to a bad start. He needs to be great, not just good, for the Celtics to win this series. He can't be this.
5:06 1st quarter, Heat 13-9: LeBron tweaks his left ankle. Rondo earns his second foul. Chris Bosh ready to check in. Celtics are 4 of 12.
5:42 1st quarter, Heat 11-9: Greg Stiemsma is in the game for Garnett. We'll see how the Celtics do in this stretch.
6:00 1st quarter, Heat 11-9: Rondo dives for a loose ball and comes up holding his wrist. Seems to be OK.
8:53 1st quarter, Heat 9-2: It's coming too easily for the Heat at the moment. Wade leaked out for a dunk, then buried a wide-open three in Rondo's face.
11:40 1st quarter, 0-0: Udonis Haslem starting, as expected. Kevin Garnett left him wide open, and Haslem traveled with the ball driving the lane. This is why Miami needs Chris Bosh.
Pregame: We're getting closer to Game 5. Chris Bosh will be a game-time decision, but it looks like he'll play. Doc Rivers joked in his pre-game press conference that Bosh would probably enter the game when Garnett took his first breather. It could happen.
MIAMI -- Heat center Chris Bosh is active tonight for Game 5 and is likely to see his first action of the series. Udonis Haslem will get the start at center for Miami, and Bosh is expected to come off the bench.
"If he does play, it'll be a small role," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game.
"We'll just have to continue to evaluate," Spoelstra said. "It's been encouraging this past week. The last two days he's been able to do real basketball work. He's been able to do a lot more. He can't test it like he normally would in a regular season game or a full-scale practice."
The biggest question now is how the Heat will reintegrate Bosh back into the lineup when he is available, whether that's tonight or later in the series. The team has been playing without the power forward since he suffered a strained abdominal muscle on May 13 against the Pacers.
"He's been out for a while, so whenever he gets back on the floor it's going to take a while to get his rhythm back," Dwyane Wade said. "But just another key component to our team."
Spoelstra said the bigger adjustment was the one the team needed to make to play without Bosh, rather than bringing him back into the fold.
"What we've done without him is significantly different, no question," Spoelstra said. "We've had to reinvent ourselves.
"If it happens, that's a much easier challenge, and something we would gladly look forward to, rather than the alternative. It's an easier challenge to assimilate him because of his skill level and where he plays on the court. He helps us space the court, we play through him on the high post. All of those things we've been doing naturally now for two years. Doing that without him was the challenge."
Spoelstra said he would be using the afternoon to consult with Bosh as well as the training staff to determine his availability, as well as how much he might be able to play if he can go.
Boston.com producer Gary Dzen is in Miami to cover Game 5 of the Celtics-Heat series, and he'll host a pregame chat starting at 7 p.m.
Set a reminder in the window below.
MIAMI -- When we were here last, Game 5 seemed like it could be a formality, a chance for the Heat to wrap up the series in quick fashion and head to the Finals. Two games and two Celtics wins later, we've got ourselves a knock-down, drag-out fight to get out of the East.
When we were here last, for Game 2, the Celtics lost in overtime despite 44 points from Rajon Rondo. One school of thought was that Miami had taken Boston's best shot, and still came out on top. Paul Pierce fouled out of that game; he fouled out of Sunday night's game, too, but the Celtics were still able to prevail in overtime. Since last coming to Miami, the Celtics have found new ways to win. They've done it with Rondo, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett, and they've also discovered a bench. They've done it with defense. Tonight we'll find out if they can keep it going.
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m.
Series: Tied, 2-2
Broadcast info: ESPN, WEEI/850 AM/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Ray Allen SF: Paul Pierce PF: Brandon Bass C: Kevin Garnett
Heat: PG: Mario Chalmers SG: Dwyane Wade SF: LeBron James PF: Shane Battier C: Joel Anthony
Officials: Monty McCutchen, Ron Garretson, Derrick Stafford. (Alternate: John Goble)
Adjustments: : That aforementioned Celtics bench is one thing Doc Rivers has changed on the fly, with great success. Instead of going big with Ryan Hollins and Greg Stiemsma, Rivers has gone small, bringing in Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus, and Marquis Daniels. Daniels is the big change, having not been a factor in the Celtics' previous two series. Other adjustments? The Celtics are finding new ways to get the ball to Garnett, and they're switching up their looks on James and Wade. It's up to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to make his move.
Bosh could be back: Chris Bosh may play in Game 5, which could give the Heat a lift, or could throw them off. One good thing about Bosh's return for Miami would be his ability to draw defensive attention. Garnett hasn't had to worry about his own man this series, but that could change.
Fouls: This blog is not a fan of over-analyzing every foul call and the official who made it, but Pierce has fouled out twice this series. James fouled out in Game 4. The Celtics can't keep losing Pierce and expecting to win games.
Here are a few links and story lines to follow after the Celtics' thrilling win over the Heat in Game 4 Sunday night ...
-- Link: Ray Allen's getting his health back.
-- Link: Heat turn up defense in second half.
-- Link: Why this feels a lot like 2008.
-- Link: Chris Bosh could return for Game 5.
-- Link: Bob Ryan: Now this is basketball.
Behind enemy lines:
-- Link: Boston's Big Three have plenty of steam.
-- Link: Is Rondo right? Are the Heat crying?
It feels a lot like 2008.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer Sunday night that would have won Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals for Miami in overtime. The shot hit the back rim, then the front, before bouncing off. The miss provided the final margin of victory for the Celtics, 93-91.
"Red [Auerbach] wasn't going to let that go in," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "You know that. Not in the Boston Garden."
It was in this building on May 18, 2008, that Paul Pierce got similar help from the legendary Celtics patriarch. It was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and the Celtics were up, 95-92, on the Cleveland Cavaliers with seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Pierce stepped to the line, huffed, and threw up a free throw that hit the back of the rim, bounced impossibly high, and then fell through the net. Pierce credited divine intervention.
"The ghost of Red just looking over us," Pierce said afterward. "I think he kind of tapped it in the right direction. It sort of put a smile on my face."
Celtics fans have plenty to smile about Monday morning. Their team is even with the favored Heat, and they've outplayed Miami in three straight games. After being down, 2-0, it now seems like Rivers and his ever-changing adjustments have gotten to Miami. The Celtics have been counted out all season, and once again, they're proving to their doubters that they're not done yet.
There are similarities and differences -- both eery -- to that 2008 game. The Auerbach quotes are fitting because that Game 7 hinged on Pierce and LeBron James as well. Pierce scored 41 points in that game to 45 for James, bringing back memories of another famous shootout in the Eastern Conference semifinals: Larry Bird vs. Dominique Wilkins.
Pierce (23 points) and James (29 points) were less spectacular Sunday night, but they were once again the game's biggest story. Both players fouled out in overtime, leaving each of their teams without its best offensive player for the final, crucial minutes. In that sense, the final minutes of Game 4 didn't hold much resemblance to that Game 7 five years ago.
"We were really unorganized," said Rivers. "In the overtime all we kept saying was, we're in overtime. One bucket at a time."
And keep the other team from making buckets. The Heat made just one of eight shots in overtime, including Wade's miss on the potential game-winner. That's where Auerbach may, or may not have, come into play. James also fouled out for the first time in his playoff career. If you're looking for evidence of divine intervention, you should probably start there.
But the Celtics didn't rely solely on magic. At the 9:46 mark of the third quarter, Pierce ended up in the first row of the crowd after attempting to block a layup by Mario Chalmers. With the play now going down to the other end, Kevin Garnett turned around and got Pierce, pulling him out of the stands with one hand. It was a gesture of "Ubuntu" similar to what the Celtics showed during their entire 2008 playoff run.
“Words can’t even describe the type of game it is," said Pierce. "I mean it’s a funny game, you know, the way the ball bounces, the way things go."
Once again, Marquis Daniels (14 minutes) and Keyon Dooling (10 points in 16 minutes) gave the Celtics big minutes in a playoff game. After getting nothing out of Daniels and very little out of Dooling for the playoffs until this point, Rivers seems to have found the magic touch.
"It's kind of similar to '08," said Rajon Rondo, who had 15 points and 15 assists. "It's not the superstars that get all the praise. Well, they do get all the praise, but the guys like the P.J. Brown's, the [James] Posey's. It's similar to what we're doing this year."
And who would have thought that?
The Miami Heat are hoping to activate forward Chris Bosh for Game 5 Tuesday so long as Bosh doesn't suffer a setback, league sources tell ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. Bosh has missed Miami's last nine games with an abdominal injury.
The Celtics tied the Eastern Conference Finals, 2-2 on Sunday, possibly expediting the Heat's need to get one of their best players back into game action.
Celtics and Heat players had plenty to say after Boston's 93-91 overtime victory in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Here's the best of it:
-- On Dwyane Wade's shot at the buzzer in overtime that rimmed out and preserved the Celtics' victory:
Doc Rivers: "Red [Auerbach] wasn't going to let that go in, you know that. Not in the Boston Garden."
LeBron James: “It looked good. It was straight on. We ran through all the options and then he had it in his hands and I could tell that he was going for the win. He got Marquis (Daniels) up in the air, stepped through and it was a matter of inches when it comes to a make or a miss. He had a really good look.”
-- Ray Allen on his health:
"Just my legs, they've gotten considerably better. Actually, my leg, my ankle. Just going into the game, starting the game, having my legs underneath me is for me it's a huge deal now."
-- Paul Pierce on fouling out:
“Oh it was very frustrating. I mean but it’s gratifying when you see the other star player fouling out also.”
-- James on fouling out:
“I don’t think I fouled him. I don’t think it was a foul.”
Paul Pierce and LeBron James both fouled out, and Dwyane Wade missed a shot at the buzzer as the Celtics held off the Heat in overtime, 93-91, to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece.
James fouled out with 1:51 left overtime. He fouled out for the fourth time in his career and the first time since April of 2008, when he was with Cleveland. Pierce fouled out with 4:22 remaining in the game, the second time he's fouled out this series. This time, however, the Celtics were able to pull through.
Just as they did Friday night, the Celtics got off to a hot start. The 34 points the Celtics scored in the first quarter of Game 4 were their most points scored in a first quarter this season. Rajon Rondo had 8 points and 4 assists in the first quarter, while Brandon Bass had 7 points and 5 rebounds, three of them offensive, as the Celtics built their lead.
The Celtics made seven 3-pointers in the first half, many of them set up by the acrobatics of Rondo, who had 10 assists at the break. One one play, Rondo literally ran into Mike Miller in the paint but was able to contort his body enough to find Keyon Dooling in the corner for an open shot. During a sideline interview before walking off the court at halftime, Rondo was asked how the Celtics were able to exploit the Miami defense.
"Them complaining and crying to referees in transition," said Rondo. Shot fired.
Pierce led the Celtics with 18 points at the half.
After putting up 61 points in the first half, the Celtics managed just 12 points in the third quarter on 5 of 16 shooting. Pierce and Rondo each picked up their fourth fouls in the period, and Boston finished the quarter without them, clinging to a five-point lead to start the fourth.
The fourth quarter wasn't much prettier. The Celtics were 0 for 5 to begin the period, their field goal drought spanning more than six minutes between the third and fourth quarters. Boston managed just 16 points in the fourth, but they clamped down defensively, holding Miami to 6 of 15 shooting and forcing overtime.
Both James and Pierce fouled out in the extra frame, but Wade's miss at the buzzer capped a dramatic game and tied the series, which heads back to Miami for Game 5 Wednesday night. James led the Heat with 29 points. Rondo had 15 points and 15 assists for the Celtics.
Final: Celtics 93, Heat 91
21.4 seconds OT, Celtics 93-91: Rondo makes one of two free throws. Heat have to look for Wade here.
23.5 seconds OT, Celtics 92-91: Loose ball foul on Haslem, Celtics ball.
1:51 OT, Celtics 92-91: James fouls out. Wow. Never thought we'd see that in a playoff game.
4:20 OT, Tied at 89: Pierce fouls out.
End regulation, Tied at 89: James gives it up to Haslem, who puts up a contested shot that falls short. We're headed to the second overtime of the series.
21.1 seconds 4th quarter, Tied at 89: Lots going on. KG gets good post position and scores. James hits a 3-pointer. Garnett called for an offensive foul on the other end, giving Miami the ball.
1:01 4th quarter, Celtics 87-86: Mario Chalmers drives and cuts the lead to one.
1:17 4th quarter, Celtics 87-84: Heat getting plenty of looks and can't convert. Another offensive rebound keeps it here.
3:38 4th quarter, Tied at 83: Pierce picks up a charge, his fifth personal. Big call.
5:32 4th quarter, Celtics 81-79: James picks up his 5th personal foul guarding KG in the post. He's not to happy about it.
6:23 4th quarter, Celtics 81-78: Talk about a big shot from Ray Allen. Those three points felt like 30. Garnett has renewed energy as well. Bass is the wild card entry in Boston's lineup right now, and he'll likely stay in there until he fouls out.
8:54 4th quarter, Tied at 74: Miami is all the way back. The Celtics can't get out of their own way on offense. They've scored just 13 points since halftime. They're 0 for 5 in the quarter and don't have a field goal in the last 5:51.
9:49 4th quarter, Celtics 73-69: Great block by Pietrus, but then him and everyone else decides not to run up the floor with the Celtics on offense. The C's don't score when they go slow.
END 3d quarter, Celtics 73-68: Here's that run we knew was coming. The Celtics are lost on offense without Rondo on the floor. They weren't particularly effective with him on it for the first part of the third quarter: just 12 points in the third quarter for the Celtics. Wade was 4 of 5 in the period.
3:35 3d quarter, Celtics 69-60: Big big call on Rondo, an offensive foul for his fourth. He's got to come out of the game. Meanwhile, the Celtics have scored just eight points in the quarter.
6:03 3d quarter, Celtics 65-54: Pierce and Rondo both have three fouls now. The game is getting chippy.
9:33 3d quarter, Celtics 61-49: Rondo gets called for an offensive foul, his second. KG had a serious block on LeBron earlier, which is probably something we didn't think we'd see this series.
Halftime, Celtics 61-47: The Celtics didn't close well, but they'll take this lead heading into the break. Rondo has 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 10 assists. Pierce leads the Celtics with 18 points, while James has 19 for Miami. Dwyane Wade has 8 points but is 2 for 11 from the field.
1:09 2d quarter, Celtics 61-44: Rondo gets called for a charge on Battier, then kicks Battier while both players are on the ground. That's a technical.
2:38 2d quarter, Celtics 57-40: Pierce does one of his patented fake, lean, and throws, and gets it to go. It's all working.
4:48 2d quarter, Celtics 49-34: Offensive foul on LeBron. Offensive foul on LeBron.
6:53 2d quarter, Celtics 47-32: Both Rondo and KG off the floor now. Let's see what happens here.
9:11 2d quarter, Celtics 35-28: Another 3-pointer by Dooling. The Celtics are 6 of 8 from back there.
10:23 2d quarter, Celtics 42-26: Rondo with a ridiculous kick to the corner for a Keyon Dooling 3-pointer. Not sure how Rondo saw Dooling with Mike Miller draped all over him. That's 7 assists for Rondo. Ray Allen is now 2 for 2 on 3-pointers.
END 1st quarter, Celtics 34-23: Another great first quarter for the Celtics, who shoot 59 percent to take an 11-point lead. Brandon Bass had a great quarter with 7 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. Three of his rebounds were offensive.
One thing Boston could improve on is their five turnovers.
18.3 seconds 1st quarter, Celtics 34-23: Udonis Haslem tackles Pierce on an offensive rebound, sending the Celtics captain to the line for two.
2:03 1st quarter, Celtics 25-17: Marquis Daniels has two personals already.
4:46 1st quarter, Celtics 21-9: Doc Rivers is up by 12 points and still felt compelled to call a timeout. Greg Stiemsma's coming in.
5:44 1st quarter, Celtics 18-4: Wade and James are a combined 0 for 5. Rondo finds KG for a layup, and this building is going nuts.
7:05 1st quarter. Celtics 14-4: Pierce makes his first 3-point attempt, then Allen makes one himself. Another great start for the Celtics.
10:17 1st quarter, Celtics 6-0: Good attack by Rondo, getting into the lane and putting up a floater, then taking it all the way to the basket for two.
Pregame: There's a sense of anticipation in the building as the Celtics look to even the series. Joel Anthony will start over Ronny Turiaf for Miami. No lineup changes for the Celtics. Doc Rivers said he liked what Marquis Daniels gave the Celtics in Game 3, so expect to see more of him. Let's get it.
Celtics forward Paul Pierce worked some strength and conditioning into his basketball routine on the parquet at TD Garden before Game 4. Pierce had an elastic band between his ankles and did some lateral steps, building up the strength on the sides of his knees. He also jumped rope, all while wearing those sneakers that look like rubber socks that have become so popular with runners. Pierce then put on his basketball shoes and did some shooting.
Pierce injured his left knee during a Celtics shootaround on May 6. Since then, there have been questions as to the extent of his injury and how much it has limited him. In the game on May 6 and the four games after, Pierce averaged 15.8 points on 44 percent shooting. In the eight games since, he's averaged 19.9 points on 40 percent shooting. He's topped 20 points in five of those eight games.
For his part, Pierce has not complained about the injury, saying it hasn't affected him. He's been wearing a brace on knee during shootarounds, but not during games.
Doc Rivers said Saturday the Celtics need to play even better in Game 4 than they did Friday night in Game 3 to have a chance in this series. More on that in a second. Let's start with some stats Rivers must have liked from Game 3:
-- The Celtics outrebounded the Heat, 44-32.
-- Kevin Garnett was 10 of 16 from the floor, a sign that he got tremendous post position, and that the Celtics found creative ways to get him the ball.
-- Led by Marquis Daniels (9 points), the Celtics bench scored 18 points.
-- The Celtics shot 50 percent from the floor. They got to the line 26 times, compared to 20 times for Miami.
-- Dwyane Wade scored 18 points on 9-of-20 shooting.
One more effort like Friday night, and this series is tied. Still, Rivers wasn't ready to heap praise on his team just yet.
“I still think we can play better, and that’s the first thing I told them after the game,’’ Rivers said. “In the first quarter I thought we were poor defensively, and in the fourth quarter we were poor defensively. That’s the point I’m making: We played well, but there’s a better game in us, and we know it. We’ll see it on film, and we have to do it.’’
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m.
Series: Heat lead, 2-1
Broadcast info: ESPN, WEEI/850 AM/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Shane Battier
C: Ronny Turiaf
Wade and James: : James had 34 points in Game 3, but he earned just five trips to the line, compared to 24 in Game 2. Outside of a dynamite first quarter, James didn't burn the Celtics, while Wade never did. Limiting how those two get their points is always the key to beating Miami.
Consistent defense: The Heat shot 49 percent from the field Friday night, so there's still room for improvement there. If Miami hadn't missed 10 free throws, the score would have been a lot closer. The defense on Wade was good, but it can be even better.
Boston's rotation: The Celtics bench doesn't need to come up with 30 or 40 points to be effective. More than scoring, they need to give the starters a blow and allow Rivers to be comfortable giving them those minutes. Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, and Mickael Pietrus combined for almost 60 minutes in Game 3. Rivers would love more of that.
Rajon Rondo's 44 points in Game 2 were great. Rondo's Game 3 was better.
It wasn't better in the sense that he somehow topped his 44-point, 10-assist, 8-rebound effort from Game 2. He didn't. Individually, that ranks as one of Rondo's best performances in a Celtics uniform, and as one of the best playoff performances by a point guard in NBA history.
What was better about Rondo's Game 3 was twofold. He showcased both his individual brilliance and his ability to run a team, sometimes on the same play. He had 21 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 turnovers, and he was every bit efficient as he was in Game 2. He was clutch once again, making 7 of 10 shots in the second half.
"The goal was to win, by any means necessary," said Rondo. "I don't mind sacrificing for my teammates to get the lead, keep the lead, and run the show."
Celtics fans should be more comfortable with the means their team used to get it done in Game 3. In Game 2, Rondo was on an island. While he made 16 of his 24 shots in that game, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen combined to hit just 19 of 48 shots from the field. The Celtics bench combined for just 7 points. It was Rondo, Rondo, and more Rondo, and the Celtics came up short.
Friday night, the attack was more balanced. Rondo, Pierce, and Garnett all scored more than 20 points. The Celtics bench chipped in 18. And Rondo didn't have to play the entire game, logging 42 minutes. Garnett, in fact, played just 33 minutes after playing 45 minutes in Game 2.
Not all of that was Rondo, but some of it was. Rondo does more between the 3-point lines than any other player in basketball. In one of those only-him moments, Rondo jumped up to intercept a pass by LeBron James in the third quarter, snatching it out of the air with two hands like a linebacker at the line of scrimmage. Rondo then took the ball the other way and right at Miami's Mario Chalmers, drawing the foul and earning two free throws. There was Rondo, all in one play, controlling the tempo and aggressiveness of the game on both ends of the court.
"He stabilized us, really," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I told him to keep running the team. Keep running the team. The only thing we told him offensively was we had to get Kevin [Garnett] involved. Other than that, just go play."
Rondo got Garnett involved, getting him position closer to the rim, which helped improve his shooting to 10 of 16 in Game 3. A master of spacing, Rondo was able to hit Garnett in his sweet spots. He was also able to hit trailers Pierce and Ray Allen, who burned Miami several times in transition with 3-pointers.
In the team sense, Celtics fans should feel better about this win because they didn't get 44 points from Rondo and still won comfortably. Unlike in Game 2, they won with defense, holding the Heat to 35 points in the second and third quarters combined. How do you know the defense was better? The Celtics held Miami to 20 free throw attempts, compared to 26 for themselves and a stunning 47 Wednesday night. You can point to officiating, but the refs also call fewer fouls when you're moving your feet and staying in front of your man.
Game 2 was a spectacular performance for Rondo, but Game 3 was better because it showed the Celtics can win without a superhuman effort from one player. It showed they can win as a unit. Ubuntu? For one night at least, the Celtics got it back.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra praised the Celtics for better, more aggressive defense in their win in Game 3. In particular, the Celtics held the Heat to 14 points in the second quarter on their way to building a 13-point lead. Miami made just 5 of 18 shots in the second.
"They got us out of our offense there pretty much in the second quarter," said Spoelstra. "The step-out, the pressure, flattened us out. We had about four or five empty possessions where we didn't even get into what we wanted to."
A big part of that defensive effort came from the Boston bench, which was led by Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling.
"It's a credit for them to staying ready," said Spoelstra. "That's probably when the game turned, like I said, when the reserves came in."
Daniels had played just 1:59 combined in the first two games of the series. Dooling had played, but he hadn't been all that effective. The Celtics bench combined for just 7 points in all of Game 2.
The 8 points the Boston bench scored in the first quarter were indeed a welcome sight, as was Daniels's 9 points for the game. But the most welcome sight for the Celtics may have been the defense of Daniels and Dooling. The Celtics were plus-14 with Daniels on the floor. Dooling finished with 7 points and four rebounds.
"Marquis was phenomenal tonight," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Keyon Dooling was phenomenal. Every guy actually that came off the bench contributed for our basketball team. And we needed it."
The Celtics built a big lead early and held on late to beat the Miami Heat, 101-91 in Game 3, and cut their deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals to 2-1.
Rajon Rondo didn't score 44 points like he did in Game 2, but he was in just as much control. While it may not have been a better performance, it was more of a Rondo performance. The Celtics point guard finished with 21 points, 10 assists, and 6 assists. Just as in Game 2, he was efficient, hitting 9 of 16 shots from the floor. Ye He was 7 of 10 in the second half.
The Celtics also got huge games from Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Paul Pierce (23 points), while Ray Allen chipped in with 10. Two other factors were Boston's bench, which added 19 points, and their rebounding edge, which was 44-32. Marquis Daniels led the reserves with nine points. At the 6:00 mark in the third quarter, Daniels had more points than Miami's Dwyane Wade. The Celtics bench scored 8 points in first quarter after scoring only 7 in all of Game 2.
The Celtics shot 60 percent in the first quarter, committed just one turnover, and did not allow an offensive rebound, but they led by just two after the first. The Heat shot 61 percent from the field themselves, with James leading the way with 16 points.
The second and third quarters were where the Celtics really turned it on, outscoring Miami by a combined 20 points.
James finished with 34 points, while Wade added 18. Game 4 is Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden.
Final: Celtics 101, Heat 91
56.1 seconds 4th quarter, Celtics 101-89: Garnett with the dagger, a 20-footer from the corner. Sasha Pavlovic in for defense.
1:39 4th quarter, Celtics 99-89: Big play by Rondo, who drives to the hoop and scoops for two. The Heat were laying off him and getting out to Boston's shooters, but they gave him way too much space.
3:09 4th quarter, Celtics 95-87: Chalmers gets the 3-point play. Heat are dangerously close.
4:29 4th quarter, Celtics 95-82: Makeup call for the Celtics? Rondo runs into Battier and gets the blocking call.
5:17 4th quarter, Celtics 93-82: Heat are making this interesting. Garnett called for a technical foul swinging his elbow in the direction of Chalmers. Wade dunks on the next possession, but Pierce finds Garnett for a dunk on the other end. The Heat have responded. The Celtics need to answer.
7:37 4th quarter, Celtics 89-77: Mike Miller hits a 3-pointer to make it more interesting.
10:59 4th quarter, Celtics 89-66: When Mickael Pietrus gets an offensive rebound and Ray Allen takes it to the hole and dunks, you know things are going well.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 85-63: Pierce ends the quarter with a 3-pointer. He's got 21 points. Big momentum shot in a quarter where the Celtics not only held onto the momentum from the first half but extended it. Celtics outscore the Heat, 30-21 in the period.
2:42 3d quarter, Celtics 76-57: Rondo intercepts a James pass like a linebacker jumping up and picking off a pass at the line of scrimmage. Drives and gets fouled by Chalmers on the other end. Both teams have taken 15 free throws.
4:11 3d quarter, Celtics 75-56: The Celtics are still shooting 55 percent from the floor. Rondo and Allen both hit little runners in the lane. This sure doesn't look like a team that so often has trouble scoring.
8:14 3d quarter, Celtics 62-44: Pierce is playing like the guy we saw take over Finals games in 2008 and out-duel LeBron in those same playoffs.
9:54 3d quarter, Celtics 59-44: Garnett's got 16 points.
Halftime, Celtics 55-42: Great half for the Celtics. They shoot 51 percent and score 55 points. Ray Allen has two 3-pointers. Kevin Garnett has 12 points and 5 rebounds. Pierce has 15 points. Rondo has 6 points, a far cry from 44, but has 7 assists. The Celtics will take that.
43.5 seconds, Celtics 50-42: James picks up his third personal foul. Quite a turn from Game 2.
5:16 2d quarter, Celtics 41-34:The bench is doing exactly what Doc Rivers wanted: stepping up the defense. They were plus-12 with Daniels on the floor.
7:44 2d quarter, Celtics 39-30: Great run here by the Celtics. Daniels finishes off an offensive rebound with a putback plus one.
8:58 2d quarter, Celtics 32-28: Daniels is giving them big minutes. He just found Garnett with a beautiful lob pass.
On the next possession, Haslem gave Garnett a hard foul. KG stayed down on the floor for a second, then rolled over and did some pushups for the crowd.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 30-28: Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling are giving the Celtics valuable minutes as Boston leads after the first quarter. The Celtics are shooting 60 percent, which would be spectacular if the Heat weren't shooting 61 percent.
2:05 1st quarter, Heat 28-25: LeBron is on fire. He's got 16 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists.
4:26 1st quarter, Celtics 20-19: The offense has been good, but Rondo just air-balled a 3-pointer. Might not see 44 points out of him tonight.
5:48 1st quarter, Celtics 17-16: Rondo looks like he got hit on one end, but no call. That leads to a fast break for Miami, and Garnett intentionally wraps up James.
8:11 1st quarter, Celtics 10-7: Brandon Bass picks up his second foul. Celtics are 4 of 7 out of the gate.
11:28 1st quarter, Celtics 2-0: Huge cheer as a foul is called on LeBron James.
Pregame: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he needs more from his bench, particularly on defense.
"I'd love our bench to give us a couple more minutes," said Rivers. "We are what we are. We're not going to change. It's not going to change. Our defense from our second unit has to be great. The offense is whatever happens ... We don't have a guy that's coming off our bench who's going to give us 30 a night. I kind of knew that going into it. What we have to do is stop the other team from doing that."
The Celtics are down 2-0, so this is essentially a must-win game. Should be a great crowd here at TD Garden. Let's get it.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is tired of questions about injured forward Chris Bosh, which are asked daily at the already too-often media sessions during the Eastern Conference Finals. Spoelstra confirmed that Bosh is out Friday night and is out indefinitely after that.
"I've given you guys too much information already," said Bosh.
Makes sense. But Spoelstra's next comment seemed to come out of left field.
"Probably the biggest confidence builder for our basketball team was the fact that the last two years, we not only couldn't win without Chris, we couldn't play effectively without Chris," said Spoelstra. "He was our most important player."
There are a couple of future Hall of Famers on Miami's roster who might argue with that.
Boston Sports Live is taking its show on the road and will present a special live pregame show before Game 3 of the Heat-Celtics series at 5 p.m. today.
Chris Gasper will host the live segment from TD Garden (instead of our usual studio at Globe HQ), and his guests will include Globe columnist Bob Ryan, ESPN analyst Doris Burke, Globe NBA reporter Gary Washburn and others.
Viewers will also be able to send the host and guests questions via Twitter using the hashtag #bostonsportslive.
After a heartbreaking loss in Game 2 in Miami, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said difficult losses stick with him for about a day before he can move on.
"You don't throw it away," Rivers said. "You hold onto it for 24 hours, and then you move on. We've been really good at that. We have no choice in the matter."
That reflection period expired around midnight, which means the Celtics got to sleep on their strategy for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals for at least a few hours. Overall, the Celtics need to do more of the same. They need the aggressive Rajon Rondo who torched the Heat for 44 points, even if he doesn't come close to that point total. The big number for Rondo was 12 free throws, which means he was being aggressive.Rivers thought the rest of his team was being aggressive, too, but Miami took 47 foul shots Wednesday compared to 29 for the Celtics.
"I think Paul Pierce attacked just as much as LeBron James attacked," Rivers said Thursday, "So I'll leave it at that. We'll get past that distraction."
They better get past it quickly. The Celtics are hoping a change of scenery does them good tonight in Game 3. The Celtics are 6-1 at home in the postseason, their sole loss at TD Garden coming in Game 2 of the Philadelphia series.
Here are the details for tonight's game:
Tip-off: 8:30 p.m.
Series: Heat lead, 2-0
Broadcast info: ESPN, WEEI/850 AM/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
PG: Mario Chalmers
SG: Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James
PF: Shane Battier
C: Ronny Turiaf
Minutes: Rajon Rondo played an incredible 53 minutes in Game 2, but Kevin Garnett played 45 minutes himself. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen both played 43 minutes. Two things need to change: Garnett needs to play fewer minutes in the first three quarters, and Pierce needs to stay in the game. He cannot foul out in Game 3. He just can't.
Consistent defense: The Celtics held Miami to just 18 points each in the first and fourth quarters, but Miami's 35-point explosion in the third quarter put the Celtics behind late. The Heat made 10 of their first 14 shots in that quarter, a streak the Celtics can't let happen again.
Bench scoring: Boston got just seven points from the bench in Game 2, a disturbing trend that doesn't seem to be going away. It's going to come down to the Big Four for the Celtics, but they need someone else to step up and score as well. Even if it's starter Brandon Bass, who had eight points Wednesday, the Celtics need someone else to contribute.