Posts tagged: Atlanta Hawks
This is something I noticed a couple days ago during the game, and Paul Pierce pointed it out after practice today: The Celtics struggled with Jameer Nelson coming off the pick-and-roll. (WEEI)
The Celtics also want to figure out their pick and roll coverage. Jameer Nelson burned them in the second half when they went under the screen. He’s too good a shooter to allow him open looks.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to stop Jameer Nelson in the pick and roll,” Pierce said. “He really got hot in the second half. We’re far from being where we want to be.”
When the Magic scored yesterday, it was Nelson doing a lot of the damage. Paul Flannery noted that Nelson did damage when the C’s went under the screen, and he did. But he also did damage when the C’s went over the screen.
He’s surprisingly quick for a guy who kinda looks like a chunker and does a good job splitting the coverage to get into the middle of the lane. When he’s aggressive coming off the screen, it’s going to be tough for Boston. Because Nelson is a good shooter, Rajon Rondo has to defend him over the top of the screen, leaving the big man alone with Nelson. Being quick, skilled and aggressive, Nelson is able to attack big men, get penetration, and make plays.
Here’s a still picture of Nelson at the point of attack coming around the screen (yes, I know it’s against the Hawks — couldn’t find one of Nelson running p/r against the C’s). Even though it isn’t the C’s, the defense was very similar to how the C’s played it — a flat hedge by the big man, a trailing defender trying to get over the screen to no avail.
Nelson continues to attack the big man, isolating against him as the defender still trails the play. Even for a big man as mobile as Al Horford (or KG/Perk), it’s tough to stay in front of an attacking Nelson. The key is to make Nelson take a step backward, to give enough time for Rondo to get into the play. Horford fails to do that here, and Nelson is in the driver’s seat.
Though the Celtics were shredded by Nelson in the pick-and-roll, not all was bad. He finished with only 2 assists, so his influence was pretty much limited to his own scoring. The pick-and-roll didn’t help to get everyone else involved. It could start to pay benefits for all the other Magicians, though, should the Celtics not tighten up the defense.
Rondo has said on more than one occasion that Nelson is the most important Magician (at least on offense), and Game One showed why. Nelson is one of two Magicians (Vince Carter being the other — with apologies to J.J. Redick, who pretended like he could for parts of Game One) who can create their own shot or opportunities for others.
Look for the C’s to make an adjustment in Game Two, if they want to continue to stop the dangerous Magic.
The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
Paul Flannery, WEEI – “It’s taken six months and maybe a little longer, but the world has finally aligned with Rasheed Wallace’s orbit. In retrospect, his 17 points in Game 2 against the Cavs was a little bit of fool’s gold. Points aren’t what are at a premium for the Celtics big free agent signing. Defense and savvy intelligence are what’s needed now. ‘Hell, yeah this is what I enjoy,’ Wallace said. ‘It’s nut-busting time.’”
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports – “The Celtics’ frontline beat on Howard, yes, but they don’t let him get angles and they don’t require the guards to come and double Howard for them. They just keep their chests into him and challenge Howard to beat them with a back-to-the-basket game he doesn’t have down nearly as well as his dance steps. This allows the Celtics to stay out on the perimeter and protect the 3-point line. Orlando missed 17 of 22 3-pointers and they’ll never beat the Celtics unless those shots start to drop for them. ‘A lot of them jump shots, the buttholes get tight,’ Wallace declared. He was talking about the playoffs, about the time of year that he lives for at his advanced age of 35. He doesn’t take particularly good care of his body, but his mind is forever sound for the playoffs. When the Celtics were constructing a 20-point lead in the third quarter, Wallace had Howard so flustered that he completely lost his composure, his mind. Within 2½ minutes left in the third quarter, Wallace inspired Howard to get a double technical foul for tangling with him. Howard got a three seconds call because he was trying so hard to get into low-post position. Howard also tried to rush an offensive move on Wallace and got called for a travel. And, for good measure, Wallace completely crushed Howard across the arms when he had to give a foul. ‘He did some old tricks that were just terrific,’ Rivers said.”
Shaun Powell, NBA.com – “This was defense, the kind Howard hadn’t felt in these playoffs, the kind the Celtics threw his way throughout Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Sure, the Bobcats and Hawks ran bodies at Howard, too, but difference is, Boston’s bigs know what they’re doing. It begins with Kendrick Perkins, who’s both clumsy and clever all at once. And Big Baby Davis, who looks (and probably feels) like a Hummer. And finally, Sheed, who bumbled through his first season in Boston, who knows he’ll be judged for what he does (or doesn’t do) right now. When it counts. Collectively, they dared to check Howard one-on-one and the Celtics lived to tell about it. Gone is Orlando’s win streak, which had reached 14, dating back to April 4. Ditto for the Magic’s clean run through the playoffs. And now, the Magic must deal with a Celtics team knowing it has the equipment to slow the game’s most lethal inside player.”
Dick Scanlon, NBA.com – “‘They came out ready to play,’ said Vince Carter, who led the Magic with 23 points. ‘They jumped on us early, offensively and defensively. We fought like heck to get back in the game. Unfortunately, when you’re down that many points with about nine minutes to go, and with them defending like they did, it’s going to be tough.’ It was the Magic’s first loss in the playoffs, their first loss at home since March 14 and their first loss of any kind of since April 2. ‘It’s been that long since they lost a game?’ asked Pierce, who needed only eight shots to score 22 points. ‘We honestly didn’t realize that.’”
Chris Sheridan, ESPN – “Those schemes limited the Magic to just 14 points in the first quarter and 18 in the second. The Magic then allowed a 20-3 run midway through the third quarter as the Celtics went up 65-45, with Howard and Wallace getting double technical fouls toward the end of the run for getting a little too personal as they untangled their locked arms. ‘That was a wake-up call we really needed, in my opinion,’ said Carter, who was Orlando’s most aggressive player, attacking the paint and trying to create offense. ‘They’re relentless, they’re aggressive, they do a great job of contesting, especially in the paint, and it took us a while to figure it out, but when we did we played a lot better.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “The Magic had taken target practice on the Celtics from 3-point range in the past, but yesterday everything beyond the arc was a wasteland. The Celtics held a team full of snipers to 5-of-22 shooting from distance. ‘They have a list of guys that can beat you,’ Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. ‘It just comes down to one-on-one defense and everybody helping each other out. You have to contest shots and run them off the three. They are going to shoot 20 to 25-plus threes.’”
John Hollinger, ESPN – “Of particular note was the first 16 minutes, when Boston frustrated Orlando at every turn by getting hands on balls, running shooters off the 3-point line and denying Dwight Howard quality looks on the block. With eight to go in the second quarter, the Magic had amassed the pathetic total of 14 points and already were down 15 points; essentially, they built themselves a hill too great to climb. ‘I don’t think we were prepared for the level they were ready to play,’ said Vince Carter, who was just about the only Magic player to show up in the first quarter and a half and finished with a team-high 23 points. ‘They were ready to go from the jump, and we weren’t on their level from the beginning.’ ‘We were anxious,’ said Howard, who struggled to a 3-for-10 night and was responsible for seven of the Magic’s 18 turnovers. ‘I don’t think we moved the ball like we needed to get them off our bodies. That’s what we have to do to beat this team.’”
Bob Ryan, Boston Globe – “‘We said it going in,’ said Van Gundy. ‘It was what they did to Cleveland in the last series against them; very physical, very tough defensively. Eighteen turnovers. We’re not giving ourselves a chance to win with 18 turnovers.’ ‘Hands were big for us,’ said Rivers. ‘Because of their pick-and-roll game, I think that is one of the underlying keys for us defensively — the deflections and active hands. I don’t know if you saw early in the game, I think it was whoever got a shot, the whole team came down with their hands up because no one had their hands up. They were trying to remind themselves.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston – “‘Rasheed was phenomenal defensively tonight,’ said Rivers. ‘He’s been good in the playoffs for us and that’s what we wanted from him when we signed him.’ It took six months to deliver upon, but maybe that’s better late than never. ‘Because of the ups and downs, you had to remind yourself of that,’ Rivers said with a smile. ‘Everyone else was reminding me of what he wasn’t doing. One thing I’ll say about Rasheed and he said it throughout, ‘It doesn’t matter what I do in the regular season, I will be judged for what I do in the playoffs.’ I didn’t want him to take that literally throughout the season, but he did. But he’s been terrific. He’s a knowledgeable big who has a lot of game.”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “Kevin Garnett was one of several teammates and coaches who have talked with Wallace recently about the need for him to be that player. Message received. ‘His perspective is a little different from how he was looking at it before,’ Garnett said. ‘Plus, ‘Sheed’s a gutty veteran. He responds to when you give two cents, and when you’re being straight and up-front with him. He’s a no bull(bleep) kind of guy. It’s up to ‘Sheed. He’s a big part of when we win. And when we win big, it’s because he’s sound and he’s influenced the game.’ And all the talk Wallace has made about his best stuff coming through in the postseason? There may be some truth to it after all. ‘That’s what he has been telling us all year,’ Rondo said. ‘He’s a man of his word.’ Added Rondo: ‘It’s proven. He’s done it in the past. I haven’t been watching Rasheed all my life, but I’ve seen him recently. He’s a proven player in the playoffs.’”
Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel – “Heading into the game, Howard said he wanted to use his quickness to force Perkins to move his feet. That rarely occurred in Game 1. Celtics players barely gave Howard any room to maneuver. ‘I think I got into a little wrestling match with all those guys,’ Howard said. ‘That’s playing to their advantage. They want me to wrestle and fight with them. That takes me off my game.’”
Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel – “This was as thorough a four-point beating as you’ll ever see. The Magic never led at any point, dug a 20-point hole and looked as if they were caught flat-footed when the Celtics charged out with a Paul Pierce haymaker of a ’3.’ Vince Carter was shaking his head in the dressing room, mentioning the “Celtics’ intensity” several times. ‘You don’t want to make excuses,’ J.J. Redick said. ‘When you don’t do it for a few days, you forget how much you have to put into it, and we didn’t put enough into this game.’”
Zach McCann, Boston Herald – “‘The game most definitely felt different,’ said Magic forward Rashard Lewis, who scored a playoffs-low six points. “Going against the Atlanta Hawks and now to the Boston Celtics, the Celtics are a good team, a veteran team, a championship team.’ Those are the same Celtics who frustrated two of the game’s premier players – Dwyane Wade and LeBron James – in the first two rounds. Now, it’s the Celtics’ chance to frustrate Orlando’s collection of stars. ‘They’re relentless,’ Magic guard Vince Carter said. ‘They’re very aggressive. They work on their strengths. They play well together. . . . They do a great job of contesting, especially when you’re in the paint. And it took us a while to figure that out.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston – “You can almost picture the scene: The Celtics bunkered down for film study at their practice facility, coming off an intense six-game series with the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, and watching tape of the Orlando Magic essentially waltz through the first two rounds of the 2010 NBA playoffs. But what stands out most is how the opposition offers little in the way of resistance against Dwight Howard, allowing Orlando’s uberathletic center to get to the rim uncontested and convert an array of dunks and layups. The Celtics are half appalled, half salivating. It won’t come that easy against them, they promise each other. And for all 39 minutes he was on the court in Sunday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, absolutely nothing came easy for Howard as the Celtics took turns hacking away at him en route to a 92-88 triumph at Amway Arena. [...] ‘You gotta be physical, he plays physical,’ said Rasheed Wallace. ‘That was the thing we looked at on film; over the last two series, guys just let him do whatever he wanted to do down there. We’re definitely going to fight him.’”
Michael Vega, Boston Globe – “‘The reason he has an offensive impact is because he draws so much help,’ Rivers said. ‘You have to double-team him. He gets offensive rebounds and he throws them back out for threes. So we did a good job as far as his scoring numbers, but I thought we could do a better job, quite honestly, in helping on Dwight in getting back. You think about the J.J. Redick drives [in the fourth quarter], those are all Dwight Howard-generated. No one wants to leave Dwight, allowing their guards to get all the way to the basket. That’s what I mean, we have to do a better job. They scored 30 points in the fourth quarter. I thought it was mostly Dwight-generated.’ But for Howard to be a more-effective scorer, the Magic know they must help him get his numbers. ‘We’re going to continue to support and stay on him to keep him — try to make sure he’s not frustrated and just play basketball and have fun,’ Carter said. ‘I think he puts pressure on himself because he wants to win. He wants to be perfect or as perfect as possible and do what he has to do to lead this team because he is one, if not the captain of this team. He’s the leader. The leader trying to lead his team. At the same time, we tell him he’s not out there by himself. We’re going to support him. I think when he realizes that he settles down, and he did that later on in the game.’”
Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel – “Now we get to see. Now we get to find out. Now we finally learn if the Orlando Magic really and truly are championship material. We know what the high-flying, free-wheeling Magic can do when opponents lay down and play the role of frustrated foot wipes in the playoffs. Now let’s see what the knocked-down, beaten-up Magic can do when they get punched in the teeth during the playoffs. [...] ‘The game plan is a little harder against Boston.’ Van Gundy admits. ‘Against Cleveland, you focus everything on LeBron. With the Celtics, you’ve got to worry about ‘em all.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “‘We were sound for 48 minutes,’ Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. ‘It was not the type of fourth quarter we would normally like to have, but we were sound, very sound.’ The Celtics improved to 7-0 in the postseason when they receive 18 or more points from Ray Allen, who had a game-high 25 yesterday. But the Celts didn’t hit another basket after Allen’s 3-pointer with 5:34 left. ‘I warned them at halftime,’ said coach Doc Rivers, who told his players to expect a much sharper Orlando team during the last 24 minutes. ‘They had two or three (missed open) 3’s in the first quarter, and they had eight in the second quarter. That’s not a good sign for us, because they didn’t make them, but they got them. Eventually they would make them. That was a concern.’”
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “Judging from the ice packs on both knees – the left one from a hyperextension suffered just before Game 1 of the second round against Cleveland – one might think Perkins would prefer the finesse player after so much pounding. But no way. ‘I’m better against the power player, absolutely that’s what I prefer,’ he said. Perkins acknowledged that the pain persists in his left knee. It was bad enough to keep him out of Saturday’s practice.”
Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel – “Barnes played 15 minutes, 30 seconds in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Sunday, and he acknowledged after the game that he wasn’t as effective as usual. ‘I didn’t really get a chance to get it loose tonight,’ Barnes said. ‘But that’s no excuse. I wasn’t getting the job done, so Coach had to go with someone who was. I’ll keep getting treatment, and I’ll be ready for Game 2.’”
Tania Ganguli, Orlando Sentinel – “‘Ray Allen can really shoot,’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ‘And he’s always on the move. He and [ Paul] Pierce both had really good nights … I didn’t think our defense was real good either, to be quite honest. I think we have to make some adjustments there.’ [...] ‘I predict [Pierce] will have a better series than he did against Cleveland,’ Boston forward Kevin Garnett said. ‘And we are going to need it.’”
Gary Dzen, Boston Globe – “The NBA’s second most prolific 3-point shooter of all time, Allen took what the defense gave him in the first quarter, pacing all scorers with 8 points without attempting a three. His two field goals and four free throws in the quarter came on a variety of drives and pull-up jumpers, and for most of Game 1 Allen torched the Magic on something other than his bread-and-butter outside shooting. ‘It was just the plays that I had,’ said Allen. ‘I knew that they were trying to force me away from my shot. Just watching the film all week, they were playing me so high over the top that when I go to the basket I have to keep my head up and look for the ball. I got my shot blocked two or three times. But for the most part, when the shot is not there I need to drive it.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “‘Coach [Doc Rivers] told me I have to take care of the point,’ Rondo said. ‘It starts with Jameer. A lot of people talk about Dwight, but Jameer, he’s the key. He makes those guys go.’ Nelson missed 10 of 18 shots, never able to leave his fingerprints on the game. ‘He’s more of a scorer,’ Rondo said. ‘He can create his own shot. You’ve got to get in his space, make him take shots over Perk.’ With Ray Allen (25 points) and Paul Pierce (22) providing the offense, it wasn’t necessary for Rondo to put up big numbers in Game 1. ‘If you game-plan for one type of guy, it seems like the other guys do a great job of [scoring],’ Rondo said.”
Kirk Minihane, WEEI – “On Feb. 27 the Celtics lost at home to the New Jersey Nets, who moved to 6-52 with the victory. This humiliating defeat came the day after a blowout loss at Cleveland, which at the time seemed little more than another failed test to see if the Celtics could sit at the NBA’s version of the adult table. They looked lost, old, and disinterested. Any Celtics fan with a even a shred of objectivity on that day would have told you that it was more likely they would get swept in the first round than be in the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference finals after getting past the Cavaliers (raise your hand if you picked the Heat in the first round — it’s OK, made plenty of sense at the time.) But here we are. I’ve never seen a season like this. The 1968-69 Celtics are the closest template, but they made their run before I was around. Older teams just aren’t supposed to get better during the season. But it’s happened. The Celtics, in less than three months, have gone from a team that surprised no one by losing at home to one of the worst teams in NBA history to being called “the favorites to win” the NBA title by Jeff Van Gundy. And that proclamation probably surprised no one. No one paying attention, anyway.”
At least one Orlando Magic writer really, really let his imagination get away from him after Orlando’s clean sweep of the first two rounds. Josh Cohen has already anointed Orlando as one of the greatest teams of all-time. (OrlandoMagic.com)
I know the Eastern Conference Finals hasn’t even started yet, and I know to be categorized as a “superior” all-time team you must win the grand prize first.
But, after two rounds of the playoffs, it may be reasonable to believe that the Magic have the opportunity to be remembered as one of the best Eastern Conference teams of the past decade and even one of the greatest in NBA history.
Let’s take a step back there, Josh Cohen. This proclamation of yours is quite a bit premature, to say the least. Kind of like that dude in American Pie with that Nadia chick.
What have the Magic done so far? Won eight straight playoff games? Sweet, Josh Cohen. That doesn’t automatically make them the greatest thing since Bagel Bites. Let’s just recap why:
- The Magic weren’t even the #1 seed – Lest you forget, Josh Cohen, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the NBA’s best record and the East’s #1 seed. Hell, Orlando didn’t even make it to 60 wins. They finished the season stuck on 59, 13 wins less than Chicago’s record. By my count, 42 teams have won at least 62 games. 20 of those teams won titles. What, exactly, makes Orlando better than those 20 teams? Even if Orlando wins a title, why should they be considered greater than those teams?
- Who have they beaten? – Not to belittle their “epic” eight-game win streak to start the postseason, but who have the Magic beaten? A mediocre-at-best Charlotte Bobcats squad and an Atlanta Hawks team that was a perfectly bad matchup for Orlando. Atlanta’s best attribute is its athletic frontcourt, but playing against Dwight Howard completely mitigated that characteristic and makes it a disadvantage. Sure, sweeping both those teams was still impressive — I’ll admit that. It just wasn’t anything to bow down and kiss Orlando’s feet about. The Magic were supposed to smoke those teams.
- Who’s their go-to guy? – Do the Magic even have a go-to guy? Does anybody trust Vince Carter when the lights are brightest? I know Dwight Howard isn’t going to get Orlando any crunch-time buckets and — if Vince’s career is anything to judge by — he’s not very reliable come crunch-time either. I know it doesn’t seem like Orlando has missed Hedo Turkoglu too much yet, but there will come a time when they will. He was their best play-maker and always seemed to make big plays in the fourth quarter. Who does that now?
- Can’t they win a title first? – I know Josh Cohen mentioned that you can’t be mentioned as a “superior all-time team” until you “win the grand prize,” but this needs reiterating. Orlando hasn’t done anything of note yet. They came in second in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. So they swept two overmatched teams in the first two rounds. Big whoop. Does anybody think last year’s Cleveland Cavaliers are a “superior all-time team?” They had more regular season wins than this year’s Orlando squad, finished the regular season in first place, and swept the first two rounds of the playoffs. Want to know why they aren’t considered one of the best teams ever? They lost in the third round. Let’s make Orlando win something first.
Cohen then continues his ridiculously absurd column, posting all the Eastern Conference champions from this past decade that this season’s Orlando team would beat.
If you look at the past decade alone, I am already close to conclude that this Magic team is one of the most complete, most dynamic Eastern Conference teams in the last 10 years. Let’s take a look at the last 10 East teams to reach the NBA Finals:
I am confident the Magic would beat the 2000 Pacers, 2001 76ers, 2002 Nets, 2003 Nets, 2004 Pistons, 2005 Pistons, 2006 Heat, 2007 Cavaliers and last year’s Magic team in a seven-game series.
First of all, let me say that — of all these teams — only the 2004 Pistons and 2006 Heat won titles. Secondly, I’m not so sure the Magic beat either of those teams. Think about the 2006 Heat: Shaq in his almost-prime cancels out Dwight Howard, and Dwyane Wade that postseason was one of the best players in history. If you don’t remember, Wade was on an absolute mission that year. Do you think he was going to let Vince Carter or Matt Barnes was going to stand in the way of his title? Yeah the Magic are a more balanced team, but Dwyane Wade was an absolute serial killer that year. Throw Miami’s regular season record out the window that year — they didn’t care during the regular season, not even a little — and all of a sudden the Heat might have been better than Orlando.
As for the 2004 Pistons, I’m not sure they lose to this Magic team either. Ben Wallace was the world’s best defender at that point, and Rasheed Wallace was no slouch at either side of the floor. He wasn’t the Sheed we know and “love” today. On top of that, that Pistons team was balanced offensively and terrific defensively. They had weapons at all five positions and played incredibly well together. Are we SURE that Pistons team doesn’t beat this year’s Orlando squad, even though they took down Kobe and Shaq when both players were in their primes? No, we aren’t. Not in the least.
If the Magic wouldn’t definitively beat two of the weaker NBA champions in history, how can we say their one of the league’s best teams ever? Especially when they haven’t even won a damn title or even a regular season conference championship? WE CAN’T!, Josh Cohen, you damn fool.
Cohen then goes on to question whether the Magic might have been able to beat the 2008 Boston Celtics.
The only big question mark I would have is the 2008 Celtics. But remember, Boston that season was tested in every round. Atlanta and Cleveland forced the Celtics to seven games in the first two rounds and then Detroit and the L.A. Lakers took them to six each before they won the title.
I’ll save Cohen the time thinking about whether this year’s Magic are better than those Celtics: No, not a chance. It took the Celtics some time to get their playoff sea legs but they still won every necessary game. When the stakes were biggest, that Celtics team was at its best. They had one of the best defenses in NBA history and three superstars on offense. No way Orlando is better than that team. The 2008 C’s won 66 games and a championship, beating Kobe Bryant in the finals. So you can shove all your “tight series” talk up your ass, Josh Cohen, because Orlando isn’t better. It’s not even close. Again, all the Magic have done is finish second in the East and sweep two perfect matchups. Nothing to rewrite history over, I assure you.
Cohen then finishes up the piece with his biggest faux pas yet.
I am someone that loves to discuss what it would be like if all-time great teams from different years or different generations competed in a series. For instance, what would happen if the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72 wins) faced off against the 2000-01 Los Angeles (15-1 in playoffs)? Who would have a better series, Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant? Would the Bulls have any answer for Shaquille O’Neal? Which Ron Harper would show up (he played for both teams)?
I hope we can ultimately have this discussion about the 2009-10 Orlando Magic. It would be pretty awesome if in two months we start projecting what would happen if the 1995-86 Boston Celtics, for example, took on our Magic. Pretty cool, right?
No, Josh Cohen, it wouldn’t be cool if you projected what would happen if the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics took on your Magic. You wanna know why? Because your troops would get waxed. Stomped. Pulverized.
Does Vince Carter guard Larry Bird? Does Rashard Lewis guard Kevin McHale? I’m literally laughing out loud as I write this, thinking about the absurdity of even wondering whether the 1985-1986 Celtics would beat the 2009-2010 Orlando Magic. Yes, they would beat them. In fact, they would pound them. They would probably beat them almost as badly as the Magic just beat the Hawks.
As well as the Magic played in the first two rounds of the playoffs, they haven’t won a single thing yet besides the right to play the Boston Celtics. If they end up winning a championship, we can start talking about their place among the NBA’s best teams. Even then, they won’t be anywhere close to where Cohen is saying they are. This Magic team is a good team, very good even. But great, historically great?
Hell no. Josh Cohen must be thinking about the wrong 2010 Orlando Magic.
The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com – “Then there was the scene that played out moments before the second half began, as Pierce and Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal positioned themselves for the initial possession. There was small talk. Smiles. Pleasantries at a thoroughly unpleasant time — Boston was down 65-43 — for the home team and its fans. That got a lot of green boxers in a bunch, too, the sight of the Celtics’ captain chit-chatting with a hated foe when the task at hand was so grim. Frankly, it’s hard to blame them. Fans want players to die a little with each loss, same as them. Fans pay big money to see their teams at their best or at least laboring hard and grimacing as they fall short. Fans might like it, knowing that their favorites are grounded and stable and centered as human beings away from the court, but that really is not a priority for them in the 2-3 hours it takes to watch a game or the two weeks that a playoff series runs. Michael Jordan’s obsession with winning, every time, every place? Kevin Garnett’s woofing and chest-thumping, even at All-Star Games? Kobe Bryant’s facial contortions and megalomania? That might make them lousy neighbors — imagine putting your fence three inches beyond your property line — but it is fire, it is fuel, it is focus. Bottom line, the Celtics and their fans want Pierce to play better. Failing that, they want to see the struggle, the sweat, the strain, the anger, the frustration that somehow they just know they would be feeling in his shoes.”
Jessica Camerato, WEEI – “‘I think right now, he’s the best player on our team,’ Perkins told WEEI.com following practice on Saturday. ‘Without Rondo, nothing goes. Pretty much we’ve got to play him the whole game because he just runs the whole team. Without him, we’d be dead.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPNBoston – “After Friday’s loss, Pierce suggested it doesn’t matter what he does offensively, given his defensive responsibilities with James. Rivers said he’s half right as Boston needs Pierce to be a factor at both ends of the court, just like James has been. ‘Obviously, we want him to be more efficient,’ said Rivers. ‘He’s right. We were fine in Game 2, but I think we lost Game 1. We do want to get him involved more, get his rhythm better. He has a big job; guarding LeBron is very difficult. It takes a lot out of him. LeBron gets the ball 101 times per game. He handles the ball, pushes the ball up the floor and posts. Absolutely, that’s going to take something out of [Pierce]. You still gotta do it on both ends.’ Echoed Kevin Garnett: ‘We need Paul to be aggressive at both ends.’ But Pierce’s teammates seem confident the offense will come before it’s too late. ‘I’m not worried about P’s,’ Perkins said. ‘I’ve been around with P’s a long time. I’ve seen P’s have a few bad nights and I’ve seen him come back and have a 35-point night. You just never know with P’s. I know he’s capable of having big games. He always steps up in big games. We gotta do a great job of getting Paul open and getting him good shots. And we need to help him on defense.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “After averaging nearly 20 points a night in the opening-round series against Miami, Pierce has been a ghost against the Cavs. His scoring average has dived to 12.7, he’s shooting 31 percent from the floor, and in the Game 3 loss Friday, he missed his first six shots, going 4 for 15 on the night. ‘We do want to get him involved more,’ said coach Doc Rivers yesterday. ‘He has to get his rhythm better. But he has a big job. Guarding LeBron is difficult and it takes a lot out of you. LeBron gets the ball 101 times a game. He handles the ball. He pushes the ball up the floor. He posts. So it will absolutely take something out of you. But you still have to do it on both ends.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “‘Last night you could pretty much point at anything as the problem,’ said Kevin Garnett. ‘So today was more of a fix-it day.’ But where to start. The Cavs shot nearly 60 percent, holding the Celtics to 42.7 percent. LeBron James showed off with Jay-Z and Beyonce sitting courtside. And it added up to the Celtics’ worst home loss in playoff history. The easiest way to deal with it is to completely erase it from the memory banks. ‘You kind of let that game go away,’ Kendrick Perkins said. ‘You kind of move on. You can’t live in the past. The good thing about it is we’ve got a chance to tie it up 2-2 going back to Cleveland. So I fee like it’s a must win for us tomorrow.’”
Jodie Valade, Cleveland Plain Dealer – “The Celtics have been unhappy with the amount of fouls assessed this series, as Boston has had 78 fouls, compared to 57 on the Cavaliers. ‘[Friday], I felt like we were playing on the road, to be honest,’ Kevin Garnett said. ‘And that’s a rare feeling. You tend to think that the team that’s aggressive, the team that’s at home is the team that gets calls. But that’s not always the case and it’s out of your hands. So you’ve got to continue to be aggressive and put yourself into positions and situations to get fouls called.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “Halfway into the second quarter, Rondo was the only Celtic with multiple field goals, and at that point Cleveland was up, 46-27, its lead still growing. He took nine shots in the first quarter, but Cleveland almost welcomed the idea of Rondo as a score-first player rather than pass-first point guard. For a player who holds the keys to the series, it’s a delicate tightrope walk. ‘He does it at times where he becomes a scorer instead of a playmaker,’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said yesterday. ‘You want him to be both all the time, but playmaking is key. I thought early on he really went at [Anthony] Parker and got everything he wanted, but no one else was involved. So you’ve got to be careful. That’s a fine line for a point guard.’ [...] ‘He had a matchup where he was attacking,’ said Ray Allen. ‘We’ve got to make sure that we keep moving the ball around. We can’t allow them to lull us into that idea that we have a great matchup because Kevin [Garnett] had a great matchup, I had a great matchup, Paul [Pierce] had a great matchup and we’ve got to move it around. We find the matchups that we like, get the ball moving around and become unpredictable. That’s when we get easy looks.’”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald - “‘He has a cape, there’s no doubt about that,’ Rivers said of LeBron James. ‘A lot of guys play through his cape. That’s with every great player. You can’t name a great player, especially the Kobes (Bryant) and the LeBrons of the world – when they get it going, they make you feel pretty much like Hercules as well.’ James’ supporting cast flexed its muscles Friday with five players reaching double figures, thanks largely to the MVP’s 21-point first quarter. ‘Their whole team feeds off LeBron,’ Kendrick Perkins said. ‘He came out and he had 21 in the first quarter. He was setting the tone, he was knocking his jumper down, his confidence was high, his swagger was high and all the rest of those guys feed off of him. If LeBron doesn’t do that then the game pretty much could go either way. He came in and he set the tone early.’”
Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain Dealer – “Ten months later, [Anthony] Parker is sacrificing some dignity to help the Cavs stay ahead of the Celtics. It has not and will not be obvious or beautiful, but Parker’s willingness to be a cog has been vital to the efforts so far. He’s drawn the task of defending Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and it hasn’t been fun. Rondo’s had an amazing three games, averaging 19.3 points and 13 assists. But despite being at a disadvantage, Parker’s battled Rondo to enough to help the Cavs in both their wins in the series. ‘I’d never claim to be as quick as him and I think everybody knows that,’ said the 6-7 Parker, who has six inches on Rondo but much less foot speed. ‘If I can make him work a little harder then I’ve done my job.’”
Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer – “It’s tempting to dwell on the Xs and Os, the nuances of forcing Rondo to take jump shots rather than drive to the basket — along with playing smothering chest-to-chest defense on shooters Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Or we can talk about how the Cavs have more athletes and can run Boston ragged. Or how James needs Mo Williams (yet to make a 3-pointer in the series), Delonte West and Anthony Parker to be reliable outside shooters. We can dissect the matchup of Kevin Garnett vs. Antawn Jamison. But it comes down to this comment from Jamison: ‘We can ill afford to let the things we did in the first two games happen again as far as not coming out being aggressive on both ends of the floor.’ It doesn’t have to be like that, the momentum shifting from game to game, team to team. After 82 regular-season games and eight more in the playoffs, the Cavs are the superior team. They are more talented, deeper, healthier and nearly as experienced as the Celtics. This game is opportunity to also prove they are hungrier.”
Bud Shaw, Cleveland Plain Dealer – “Rivers may think it’s a single nagging injury. But you know better. Through forces unrecognized outside of “Hot Tub Time Machine,” James’ elbow bone is somehow connected to Jim Chones’ ankle bone and every near miss since. The fact that it seemed to crop up as unexpectedly as, say, a late-game fumble or a last-gasp jumper by the other team might seem like a coincidence in Boston. But what do those people know about not winning championships? They got the gout when it comes to titles from living too well. The fuss over The Elbow speaks to the delicate balance of hope and masochism still at work in the Cleveland sports scene even in the face of the uncapped promise of the James Era. Maybe expressly because of the uncapped promise.”
Ross Siler, Salt Lake Tribune – “As amazing a finish as Saturday night’s game offered, the ending couldn’t have proven more agonizing for the Jazz, now facing a historically insurmountable 3-0 deficit to the Lakers after three losses decided by all of 14 points in this Western Conference semifinal series. The Jazz’s season was left on life support after a 111-110 loss at EnergySolutions Arena, with Deron Williams missing a potential winning jumper over Ron Artest with 1.8 seconds left and Wesley Matthews’ Cinderella tip-in at the buzzer bouncing away. As much of a stand as they’ve tried to make against the defending champions — falling 104-99 in Game 1 and 111-103 in Game 2 — the Jazz are left with a 3-0 deficit from which no team in NBA history has. ‘It’s a tough loss, period,’ Williams said. ‘We again were in the game, we had a chance to win the game. Just things keep going the other way.’ ‘I thought we played well enough to win the game,’ Carlos Boozer added. ‘A couple of bounces here, a couple of bounces there and we do. We just didn’t get the bounce we needed tonight.’ The Jazz will host Game 4 on Monday night with their season in danger of coming to an end with the first four-game playoff sweep in franchise history. The Jazz were swept 3-0 by Golden State in the 1989 first round.”
Mike Bresnahan, LA Times – “The Lakers, who have won five games in a row, were stuck in a fight with a Utah team that had beaten them here in Game 3s the last two playoff seasons, and the game ended in a flurry, Deron Williams missing a long two-point attempt from the top, Wesley Matthews missing a tip-in at the buzzer. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak congratulated each Lakers player as they went to the locker room. This was a big one, in many ways, a revelation that the defending champions didn’t want to be pulled back into another tight series (think Oklahoma City, first round). The Lakers now seem to be on a collision course with the Phoenix Suns, who have a 3-0 lead in their West semifinal against San Antonio.”
Jeff Schultz, Atlanta Journal Constitution – “Let’s start with the obvious: The Orlando Magic are better. They have a center. They have a point guard. They have a roster of players with complete sets of working organs, and isn’t that a novelty? But sometimes things happen in sports that make you declare, ‘Push the button and blow the whole damn thing up.’ This was one of them. In a home playoff game, in an obvious desperation game, in a game where the Hawks had an opportunity to show us what substance they were made of, they collectively screamed, ‘Goo.’ They didn’t score. They didn’t defend. They didn’t rebound. They didn’t compete. We saw better performances when bodies were being jettisoned and the roster was all about 10-day contracts and cap space. Down 2-0 in their second-round playoff series against Orlando, the Hawks tossed on a little seasoning, propelled themselves onto a rotisserie and told the Magic, ‘Flip the switch.’ They trailed by 10 points after one quarter, 19 after two and 24 after three. A small gathering of fans at Philips Arena stuck it out until the end of Saturday’s 105-75 loss, perhaps hoping it would earn them some sort of refund. Sorry. Payback will have to come in the afterlife. If you need to know what that’s like, just ask the Hawks. They’ve flat-lined. They’re down 3-0. Their backs aren’t against the wall. They’re on the floor. Wait. It gets worse. Al Horford, the best hope this franchise has for a leader, openly questioned his teammates’ heart.”
The Celtics have gotten rid of their morning walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Here are a few Celtics links, and maybe even an NBA link or two, to help wake you up and get you focused for the day.
Chris Gasper, Boston Globe – “Essentially, what the Celtics have been presented is a do-over of the 2009 playoffs, but with Garnett a go and Cleveland standing in for Orlando. The team is virtually identical because the additions of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson have had no impact. Last year, the Celtics were ousted in the second round by Orlando in seven games. If that happens at the hands of Cleveland this year, then their run has run its course, and they’re the 1991 Detroit Pistons, who coincidentally went 50-32, to LeBron’s Michael Jordan. We were hard on the Celtics because we expected so much of them, but now they’re in a position to finally fulfill those expectations. Bring on LeBron.”
Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer – “Hopes will have to wait that the Big Shillelagh will immediately break out the whuppin’ stick on the Boston Celtics, who begin their second-round series with the Cavs Saturday night at The Q. It was Celtic reserve Glen “Big Baby” Davis whose perfectly legal play on the ball led to Shaq’s torn thumb ligament — and whose tugging on the thumb afterward was both repulsive and typical of the Celtics. After the Bulls had been sent to their rooms, O’Neal fielded questions about Davis’ play with blandness. The two do share a background of playing for LSU, but old college ties mean nothing now. ‘Nothing bothers me,’ said the Big Serenity. ‘I don’t think [that the play was dirty]. I’m just glad I got my thumbs back. You need your thumbs. Your thumbs are very, very important.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “Jamison averaged 19.3 points in Cleveland’s five-game first-round series against the Bulls, and he took nearly a third of his shots from 3-point range (7 of 23). He was spelled by Varejao, the sixth-year power forward who plays as if he’s never heard of inertia, making a living off hustle plays and feasting on the Celtics during the regular season by being quicker to get to open spots on the floor. It’s a matchup problem for the Celtics’ big men, who will have to flip the switch from guarding the post to jumping out to the perimeter, chasing Cleveland’s pseudo-bigs. Glen Davis put it this way: ‘Imagine if you had to bump Shaq [coming off a pick-and-roll] and then close out on Antawn Jamison when he just hit two in a row. Or with Rashard Lewis, you’ve got to bump Dwight [Howard] and get out to Rashard and force him left instead of right. You’re closing out to him and he can make you do anything he wants to, really. You’ve just got to have a feel for the game and just got to have a will to do a lot of things out there on guys like that.’”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “There is the Davis who made all of the hustle plays Tuesday night, from drawing two huge second-half charges on Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem to grabbing most of the big rebounds down the stretch. And then there’s the young player who is still a little too intoxicated by the memory of his game-winning 20-footer in last May’s Game 4 in Orlando. That’s the player who doesn’t always make the extra pass. But he seems to be coming around. ‘He’s just got to stay there,’ coach Doc Rivers said. ‘We tell all of our players this: ‘You don’t need a parade out there every game. You’ve just got to continue to play. And then your body will work when it’s all said and done. Then you can have the festivities.’ And that’s Baby in a nutshell. He is so talented, and his IQ is ridiculous. It really is. But he lets up at times. He starts thinking about what he’s done well, instead of just keep playing. And he’s a young kid still. That’s the maturity part that is growing. And I think it’s getting better and better. He has proven over the long haul, though, that in big games he tends to play well. He did it in college and he’s done it here.’”
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “‘I’ve maintained that I like this team,’ Rivers said. ‘You know, when we were struggling, no one wanted to hear that. I got that. I understood that, but I knew what I had, and I knew that my goal was to get them healthy. And if that meant . . . you know, I didn’t want to lose games, but you had to take that risk during the regular season. We had to choose health over anything, and I understood that. The first thing Erik (Spoelstra, the Miami coach) said was, ‘Boy, you had a hell of a fight trying to keep these guys healthy.’ And I said, ‘It was brutal.’ But it was the right move. It was. I mean, you had to. That’s our only chance. So now we’re healthy, we’re rested and we’re ready.’”
A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE – “”You definitely had your doubts at times because of the inconsistent play, injuries just seem to be mounting and mounting,” said Pierce, who was sidelined for 11 games this season. But he’s not griping. In fact, he embraces those times as moments that showcased this team’s character and resiliency. ‘The losing teams tend to point the finger, go to the media, says this guy need to do this better or do that better,’ Pierce said. ‘And we never held grudges with one another.’ Kevin Garnett also addressed some of the struggles Boston has endured this season, and it’s impact on the team moving forward. ‘If you want something to happen, you have to gather everybody and it’s a group effort,’ Garnett said. ‘But if you want something to work, you have to actually grab everybody, get everybody on the same page and work towards that goal.’”
Paul Flannery, WEEI – “The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best record in the NBA and the best player in the world on their roster. Of course this was the exact same scenario for the Cavs last season, and they ultimately lost to Orlando conference finals. General manager Danny Ferry bolstered his team with additions big (Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison) and small (Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon) and found improvement from within in young forward J.J. Hickson. Noted Celtic killer Anderson Varejao had the best season of his career, Mo Williams continued to shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range, effectively ending the necessity for Daniel Gibson to get playing time, and Delonte West re-emerged as a key third guard. Then, there is LeBron James, who has shattered the best player in the league argument and seems poised to truly rule the world if he can deliver a championship to his hometown team before engaging in the most frenzied free-agent courtship the league has ever known. Ah, but the Celtics have other ideas.”
Jessica Camerato, WEEI – “‘My role since I’ve been here really hasn’t changed. I can just be a little bit more vocal now that I’ve been here for a while,’ Finley explained. ‘I just didn’t want to come here right away and be the loud mouth of the locker room. But now the guys feel a little more comfortable with me. I’m able to pull guys to the side, tell them different situations, especially in these playoff series that are important, not only to them, but to our team. And they’re listening and they’re being receptive, and that’s been good.’ The 37-year-old is happy to share the veteran wisdom he has accumulated over the last 15 years, and the C’s are just as happy to receive it. ‘Mike is big,’ said Ray Allen. ‘Most people don’t realize the things that he’s saying, just his advice, just some of the things that he says coming out of timeouts, coming to the bench. You can always tell he wants to win. Even though he came here later on in the season, he’s invested now in what we’re doing. So he’s always making sure, ‘Look for this, this is what’s going to go down,’ or, ‘Ray, you need to do this,’ or ‘Paul you need to make sure …’ So that’s great coming from the bench and you know that he’s fielding us more information so when we go out there, we’re prepared.’”
Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – “Keep counting ‘em out, all you National Basketball Association experts. These Milwaukee Bucks will just keep fighting to the end. The Atlanta Hawks found that out the hard way on Wednesday night in Game 5 of the teams’ Eastern Conference series, as the Bucks got off the mat to grab a stunning 91-87 victory at Philips Arena. The Bucks have won three straight games against the third-seeded Hawks while taking a 3-2 lead in the first-round series, and Milwaukee can eliminate Atlanta in Game 6, scheduled for Friday night at the Bradley Center. Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova showed his trademark hustle while grabbing offensive rebounds, and Milwaukee went on a dazzling 14-0 run in the final 4 minutes to erase an 82-73 deficit and end the Hawks’ 14-game home winning streak. ‘This is by far the biggest win of the season,’ said Bucks guard John Salmons. ‘We’ve still got business to take care of, so we’ve got to stay with it.’”
Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal-Constitution – “This was the Falcons blowing the lead against Danny White and Dallas in January 1981. This was Mark Wohlers hanging the slider to Jim Leyritz in October 1996. Only it wasn’t. It was worse. Those opponents were top-class. The Hawks just blew a 13-point lead and probably a playoff series to Milwaukee, which is a No. 6 seed missing its All-Star center. They trail 3-2 in a series they led 2-0. They face elimination on the road, a place they’ve won once in 11 tries over the past three postseasons. Yeah, theoretically they could still pull this out, but how can you win in the Bradley Center when you can’t hold a nine-point lead inside the final four minutes with the series lead on the line? How can you put this colossal choke — I hate that word, but it applies here — behind you? Up nine, and here’s what happened: Josh Smith missed a dunk by hitting the ball on the underside of the backboard; Jamal Crawford short-armed a layup, the first of his five misses down the stretch; the Hawks watched as Ersan Ilyasova grabbed every loose ball and Joe Johnson fouled out on a charge. Nine points up with 3:55 left, the Hawks saw the lead disappear in 116 seconds. I say again: One hundred sixteen seconds. There are no excuses for this game, this series. The team with the better players is the one with one foot out the exit door. The Bucks have two chances to win once. The Hawks are down to their final shot.”
Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post – “Help? Melo got it. Selfish? Not the Nuggets, at least not this night. Game 6? A reality. For one night, all was right with the Nuggets, who played poised and possessed Wednesday during a 116-102 victory over Utah at the Pepsi Center. Overcoming the loss of Nene because of a knee injury, Denver forced Game 6 to be played Friday in Salt Lake City, with the Jazz leading the first-round playoff series 3-2. A source familiar with the situation said the Nuggets are fearful Nene tore the ACL in his left knee. He is scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday.”
J.A. Adande, ESPN – “Not only did Anthony receive the assistance from his teammates he all but Bat-signaled for from the dais last Sunday, he delivered 25 points and 11 rebounds. He managed to involve his teammates without too much dropoff of his own from his 39-point, 11-rebound Game 4. Sure the point total declined, but the number of turnovers also went from nine to one. A team official told Anthony he was as proud of him as he’d ever been after this game. If the Nuggets are going to exit the playoffs, apparently their disappearance won’t be traced back to Anthony. He already double his double-double total from all of last playoffs (anyone else craving In-N-Out Burger after that sentence?). And he’s put up a better resistance to elimination. In Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers last season, in what turned out to be the finale of his breakthrough playoffs, Anthony scored 25 points but shot only 35 percent and grabbed two rebounds.”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “The Celtics went back down to battle the Hawks in what they thought would be a warm-up of a first-round series. Having waxed the Hawks by a combined 42 points in the first two games of the series, they figured they’d grab two wins, head back north, and rest up for the second round. Two losses later, they were thinking otherwise. ‘That’s all I think about now,’ Ray Allen said. ‘It resonates so big with this team now, because we were flying high, up two. We blew them out both games in our building. We had all played in that building before. We didn’t expect what we saw.’ The Hawks were playing their first home playoff games since 1999, and even though there were actually fewer people in the building than there were in the late-season meeting, there was more emotion. ‘When we went and played them playoff time, it was a totally different atmosphere,’ Garnett said. ‘I can honestly say it was a shell-shock to our team.’ ‘That building carried them to two victories there,’ Allen said. ‘You think about how that building is now. In the last two years, they’ve got great fan support, and I think it started right there in the playoffs two years ago.’”
Paul Flannery, WEEI – “‘Yeah, absolutely,’ Doc Rivers said. ‘I told them that. Guys, at the end of the day all we’ve done is win two home games and Miami has yet to play a home game. That’s how they’re thinking for sure. Whether we won last by one, or whatever we won by, Game 3 is going to tough and we understand that.’ Kevin Garnett noted that when he traveled to Miami for the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 to watch Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace play with the Pistons that the crowd was a factor. ‘Just anticipating it being very hostile,’ Garnett said. ‘Watching Chauncey and Rasheed play them, how hostile and how crazy that town can get when they’re behind their team. It’s what we’re anticipating.’”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald – “The C’s are expecting the Heat’s best shot in Game 3. ‘We’re figuring their backs are against the wall and they’re thinking that, if they don’t get Game 3, then this is pretty much over,’ Garnett said. ‘I know that’s what I would be thinking so we’re going to have to be ready for that.’ The Celtics were one of the league’s best road teams in the regular season, but they don’t think that success carries much weight in the playoffs. ‘It’s great to know that you can win on the road, but Miami could care less about our regular season record on the road,’ Rivers said. ‘And we should care less about it. We have to come to play and earn it.’”
Michael Wallace, Miami Herald – “Including this series, Boston has won 13 of the past 14 against Miami. The Celtics beat the Heat by an average of nearly 20 points in Games 1 and 2, held a double-digit margin in rebounding, outscored Miami 44-20 on free throws and limited the Heat to 39 percent shooting. Meanwhile, the best — and perhaps only — thing Miami has going for it through two games is Wade. And Wade alone hasn’t been enough. Even as the Heat trailed by 30 in the fourth quarter Tuesday, Spoelstra left Wade in to send a message — not to Boston, but to his own team. DON’T QUIT. ‘I wasn’t going to throw in the towel,’ Spoelstra said, referring specifically to Game 2 and, perhaps, the series. ‘I understand what the score was. That’s not even a habit I want in our minds right now.’”
Rich Levine, CSNNE – “‘We gotta expect the worst from (in Miami),’ Allen said. ‘We can’t go into there thinking like Game 3 is Game 2.’ But as the Celtics prepare for tomorrow’s flight down to South Beach, there are a few things working in their favor. One is that they’ll be well-rested. The playoffs are void of the hectic scheduling and back-to-back games that dominate the regular season. And for a C’s squad that uses a nine-man rotation with five guys that are 32 or older, the extended time between games is an added bonus. If not a straight up advantage. ‘I love it,’ Doc Rivers said. ‘It’s great for us. Don’t forget that we’re so old. I don’t think it hurts us at all. Especially with the travel day, because this is a long (trip). This is not your typical hour and a half flight to play a game. It’s a three hour-plus flight. So this allows us to have this day of film and then a day off, kind of, and then a hard practice tomorrow and a long flight that gives you time to recover.’”
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel – “The Celtics are not having trouble holding down the rest of the Heat. Astonishingly, beyond Wade’s .611 from the floor, no Heat player is shooting better than Mario Chalmers’ 41.7 percent. By contrast, five Celtics are shooting at least 50 percent. ‘Our focus is always going to be on Wade,’ Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. ‘But, at the same time, we can’t let the other guys have big games and that has to be our focus, too.’ Spoelstra said what is most important now is that his team pulls together. ‘What we can control right now is getting our minds right, and taking care of the most important game, Friday, Friday night,” he said. “So that will be our test, in terms of being able to bounce back by keeping our mental stability. And that’s usually been strength of ours all season.’”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “Everybody shoots 3-pointers and many hit an occasional one, but that doesn’t make them a 3-point shooter. It’s when a player can drain 3-pointers in a hurry, with burly centers charging them like Michael Strahan closing on a quarterback, that strikes fear. That frightened look of an oppoenent when Allen gathered the ball and has a split-second to release. When Allen and his teammates are stretching the floor and making those open shots, the Celtics are an elite team. It is the reason Glen “Big Ticket Uno Stub’’ Davis (or whatever he is referring to himself in Kevin Garnett’s absence) had room in the paint to maneuver for layups. Allen’s presence and effectiveness changed the game and is a good sign for the Celtics in their quest to advance to the second round. ‘When Ray keeps answering with threes, that’s what he’s here for,’ center Kendrick Perkins said. ‘I know he didn’t have a big first half, but I knew he was going to have a big second half. I watched him after [Game 1]. He came in and got his shots up three times a day, so I knew he was going to have a big game in Game 2.’”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald – “Rivers again credited Perkins with finding Michael Finley for an open 3-pointer early in the second quarter. Finley’s shot began a critical 21-0 Celtics run that was highlighted by sharp ball movement. ‘Doc kept saying we just had to keep making the extra pass,’ Perkins said. ‘Baby was open a lot on the duck-ins, so I kept hitting him. If he wasn’t open, then the guards from (3-point range) were open. The thing about the Heat is they’re a great help team, but I don’t think they make the second effort to help. They’re going to help on the first pass, but it’s the next pass that the guy is going to be open.’”
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald – “Hearing Doc Rivers talk about Anderson Varejao and Joakim Noah, you’d think he has a little man crush. Then again, all coaches have great affection for large hustlers who enter a game and break some eggs without concerning themselves with points and other starry stats. It’s easy to get the impression that Rivers badly covets such a player. But does he already have one? ‘Sometimes,’ the Celtics coach said. ‘Baby when he does it can be that,’ Rivers said of Glen Davis. ‘But that’s tough. Either that’s in you or not, for the most part. When Baby does it, he has the same ability. He’s not as long as those two guys, but he’s bigger and stronger.’”
Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel – “Then there is his team being able to avail itself to three nights of South Beach, including just before Sunday’s 1 p.m. Game 4. ‘Miami always has an advantage,’ Rivers said at his team’s Waltham, Mass., practice facility. ‘New York has an advantage. L.A. has an advantage. That temptation is always there, so we’ll see.’ But, no, Rivers said there would be no curfew. ‘No, they’re grown men,’ Rivers said. ‘Hell, they have kids older than mine.’”