Posts tagged: Miami Heat
As I emerged from The Hangover: Ad-libs, my Twitter timeline was flying with tweets about LeBron James and his clutch performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. NBA Twiteratti were telling a story of vindication–140 characters at a time.
James’ nailed a series-clinching free throw jumper, advancing to the NBA Finals in his first season with the Miami Heat, proving James’ clutchness, greatness, and wisdom for making The Decision, all in one moment.
Engulfed by flaming James rhetoric was a tweet from Portland that whispered a truer tale:
The link brought me to OregonLive.com, where I read in disgust that the powers of the Portaland Trailblazers were considering asking Brandon Roy to retire.
The same Roy who led a beleaguered franchise away from mugshots and jailhouses, towards title shots and penthouses. The same Roy who led the team in points, assists, steals and minutes during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. The same Roy who won Rookie of the Year, made three All-star teams and two All-NBA teams in just five NBA seasons.
And, after all that, when Roy’s balky knees wore down from the pounding of so many minutes, of carrying such a heavy burden for the Blazers, Portland is asking Roy for more. It’s not enough that he sacrificed his starting spot, his playing time, now they want him to sacrifice his career so that Paul Allen can save some luxury tax.
On a rapidly-moving Twitter stream, I expect most of Canzono’s followers didn’t see how sad news about Roy could unlock a window into James’ mind, how timely the news was in light of James’ achievement. But I’m guessing James would see the connection.
LeBron was blasted my media and fans alike for deserting the Cavaliers, for leaving the hometown team for a better opportunity. James was disloyal, a traitor, the story goes.
But James knew what Roy is now learning. The NBA is about business, about serving one’s personal interest, about looking out for number one.
NBA owners, GM’s, and coaches want a player only as long as he is productive. As soon he can’t make an owner money, or win a coach basketball games, the player is forgotten, dismissed.
Now, I don’t know if the rumor is true or not, but yellow snow usually means a dog peed there. Portland may not ask Roy to retire, but they certainly have thought about it.
Paul Allen is not loyal to Brandon Roy and Dan Gilbert has shown how much he cares about James. Why should the players be held to a higher standard?
On James’ greatest night as a basketball player, it was Roy’s darkest day that showed us why James made the right decision.
- VIDEO: Luol Deng Dunks As LeBron James Goes For Block In Pursuit (sbnation.com)
- LeBron James apologizes for “The Decision” (probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- NBA Playoffs: Heat make stunning comeback, reach finals (probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Video: Watch Brandon Roy’s amazing fourth quarter (probasketballtalk.nbcsports.com)
There’s no crying in basketball, unless you’re Adam Morrison, a member of the Miami Heat, or me, on the day six years ago when my high school career ended. That day, I cried like a 14-year old girl who just got dumped by her first boyfriend.
In case you missed it, Erik Spoelstra admitted a few of his players shed tears after today’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Heat have now lost four straight times, with each defeat demoralizing in its own right. Today’s loss, I suppose, was too much to handle. While Bill Simmons ruled out Mike Bibby as the one who was crying, because Bibby’s quite clearly dead, some of Bibby’s teammates were emotional.
Dwyane Wade, though, just thinks the world’s a better place. (NBC)
“The Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games,” Wade said. “The world is better now because the Heat is losing.”
Wade’s teammate, Lebron James, has morphed into Bill Buckner this season, letting grounders dribble through his legs every time he shoots a potential game-winner.
“I told my team, I’m not going to continue to fail late in games,” James said. “I put a lot of blame on myself tonight. I told the guys that I just keep failing them late in games and I won’t continue to do that.”
Most of the basketball world will admonish the Heat for crying after their continual disappointments. Actually, most of the world will admonish the Heat for almost any reason whatsoever. But, though the tears showed how Miami’s wavering confidence is beginning (or continuing) to waver, for me to bash their tears would be hypocritical. I first fell in love with Kevin Garnett years before he became a Boston Celtic, when he cried during an interview with John Thompson.
“I’m losing,” Garnett said. “I’m losing.”
“I’m losing,” he repeated one more time, before asking for the interview to be suspended, so he could cry off-camera.
Garnett’s losing wasn’t the same as Miami’s, of course. The Heat are championship contenders, regardless of these four losses, while Garnett’s Minnesota team was, I believe, sub-.500 at the time. But the moral of the story stays the same. Anybody moved to tears after a string of regular season losses — anybody why cares THAT much about what happens on a basketball court — is okay by me. Whether that person plays for the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, or the Dakota Wizards (shout out to Chris Johnson).
The problem with the Heat isn’t that they lack passion. If they did, their defense would not be so stingy. Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade joined forces specifically so they could win, and veterans of all shapes and sizes joined them at the veteran’s minimum for the same reason. They want to win, as all teams want to win. But when the fourth quarter comes calling, this team performs at Nick Anderson-esque levels of clutchness.
Today, the Heat’s fourth-quarter execution was (again) abominable. Almost every bucket the Heat scored could be attributed solely to individual greatness, rather than precise offense. By my count, Miami swung the ball from one side of the court to the other just one time (one time!) in the fourth quarter. The result? An open Mario Chalmers three-pointer, which tied the game.
Miami spends far too much time running isolation offense, and the lack of creativity allows defenses to stockpile help. I don’t want to blame the offense entirely on Erik Spoelstra; I find it hard to believe he encourages Lebron James or Dwyane Wade to pound the air out of the ball, then release a contested shot near the shot-clock buzzer. But the Heat’s offense lacks motion, and the spacing is far from desirable. James and Wade still have not learned how to co-exist, partially because neither one has yet become adept at scoring off the ball. Often, when Lebron James drives to the hoop, Wade stands in the opposite corner motionless, and vice versa.
Common sense tells us the Heat will not always prove so worthless in crunch time. James and Wade have always been good clutch scorers, prior to this year, and the law of averages tells us the Heat will make a considerably better percentage of last-second shots. (According to ESPN’s Heat Index, the Heat are 1-for-14 in potential game-tying or game-winning situations in the final 10 seconds of games.) Lebron James won’t always miss wide open three-pointers (as he has earlier this year) or five-foot left-handed scoop shots (as he did today).
But these Heat have problems, real problems, when it comes to fourth-quarter execution. Lebron James could have made his final shot tonight or Dwyane Wade could have coaxed his desperation jumper into the hoop, and the Heat might have won. But it would not change the team’s startlingly mediocre execution in the final period of games. There’s certainly a lot to be said about having three players more than capable of creating their own offense. But there’s also a lot to be said about having a five-man team that functions as one, and uses teamwork to find good looks. The Heat have not yet evolved into that type of team, and more than 60 games into the season, are starting to worry if they ever will.
So they cry. Not just because they lost, but because they care, and because they are wondering — for the first time, I assume — if their current problems can be fixed. Like KG many years ago, the Heat are frustrated by losing at a rate they never expected. I can’t fault them for crying, as I stated before. But the fourth-quarter failures? Those are on them.
The Boston Celtics also play tonight, and it’s Shaq’s birthday. He turned 39 years old today, which, as Rich Levine pointed out, means Shaq was born the same year as Randolph Childress, Lou Roe, Shawn Respert, Ed O’Bannon and Lawrence Moten. Shaq won’t play tonight, of course, but the Milwaukee Bucks still beckon.
Whatever happens in Milwaukee, I’m fairly certain the Celtics will not cry. Not even a 40-point loss to the Bucks will cause Boston’s confidence to shake, or their tear ducts to open. These Celtics have an unshakable faith born from years of success, a sense of true confidence the Heat have not yet built.
When you watch Rajon Rondo (short, skinny and very much lacking any muscular bulk) defend Lebron James (tall, not so skinny, and very much as well-built as any human being currently living), you wonder how it works. Then you see this picture, and you look at the unnerving intensity etched on Rondo’s face, and you realize why. The Celtics make it work. Sometimes they’ll do it unconventionally, with Rondo defending Lebron. Sometimes they’ll do it more conventionally, with Perk, Garnett and Glen Davis working for easy buckets on the interior. But they assert themselves, however possible.
In a strange way, the Celtics are providing the Miami Heat with the blueprint for how to beat them. By willing themselves to another victory, the Celtics again showed the Heat what they still lack — mostly, toughness and solidarity (and, less fixable, a point guard and a center). Do what the Celtics do, and you have a better chance of defeating them.
But the thing is, I firmly believe the Heat thought this process would be easy. They never expected Boston to provide such a challenge. They thought Boston, and the rest of the NBA, would bow down and kiss their SuperTeam shoes. Wade, Lebron and Bosh thought they’d join forces, strap on their capes, and see championships start to pile up. How many rings did Lebron predict, back at the WWF-style introduction they had? Eight? Eight titles, he predicted. By his side stood Wade and Bosh, the two sidekicks who would help Lebron get those championships. This would be easy, they thought. Alone, they were damn tough to beat. Together? They’d surely prove invincible.
Except they didn’t suspect the Celtics to stand in their way, like a road block that’s not moving anywhere. Like a basketball-playing road block that’s just as skilled, yet deeper, tougher, bigger and more versatile. The Celtics don’t cede a thing. They don’t back down an inch. Rondo may stand only 6’1″ and 170 pounds soaking wet, but there he was, with a forearm on Lebron’s back, looking up at Lebron with eyes that screamed focus and intensity. It didn’t matter that Pierce was hurt, or that Daniels, West, Shaq, Jermaine, and Semih Erden were all out injured. The Celtics, damn it all, were going to find a way to win. Either that, or they were going to exhaust every avenue while trying.
Read the rest here. I hope you like the new site.
The Morning Walkthrough is a set of links to Boston Celtics articles throughout the internet, designed to get your day started the right way.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN – “Both sides attempted to deny it. The game was played Feb. 13, not even Valentine’s Day much less the All-Star break, which triggered a stream of platitudes about how in the grand scheme it is meaningless. Frankly, though, that’s too tough a sell. Wade and James know it and so do the Celtics, their pride at the victory and their continued dominance over this potential new rivalry shining through. Boston is now 3-0 against the re-tooled Heat this season, re-tooled to beat Boston, as a matter of fact. The two wins in the season’s first month can be minimized because they occurred squarely in the Heat’s adjustment period. This one came with the Celtics using really only seven players — five potential rotation players were out with injury — and with Paul Pierce having one of the worst shooting games of his career because of injuries to his hand and foot. ‘You can tell I’m upset,’ James said in an uncharacteristic tone. ‘I just want to win. We all want to win.’”
Dan Duggan, Boston Herald – “‘I got the same feeling right now (as I had) in my third or fourth year, when we continued to play Detroit and we could just not get over the hump,’ James said after his Heat lost 85-82 to the Celtics yesterday at the Garden. ‘In the regular season, the playoffs, we couldn’t get over the hump. It took a long time for us to finally get over the hump.’”
Ben Rohrbach, WEEI – “Chris Bosh tripled his scoring output from his Heat’s 88-80 opening-night loss to the Celtics, and it still didn’t matter. The C’s held Miami to 82 points in a three-point victory on Sunday that gave the East leaders a 3-0 season advantage over the conference’s second-place team. ‘We’ll just have to wait to beat the Celtics in another month or so,’ said Bosh. ‘I really hate losing to these guys, man. We’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer. Things like this are going to make us better. Coming into an environment like this, against tough teams like this, battling for first place, it’s going to add to our experience and add to our trust. We’re just going to have to keep going and learn from it.’”
Ron Borges, Boston Herald – “‘This is classic, typical bigger brothers,’ Wade admitted. ‘You’ve got to get over it. . . . You’ve got to get over the hump. We’re getting closer and closer, but we’re not there yet. Whether or not they had all their guys, they had their guys that have carried them to get to this place. We still got to get over the hump. It can happen any time. We got plenty of time. It can happen in the playoffs. That’s when we would like it to happen anyways.’”
Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports – “The Celtics blew out the Heat in the third quarter – outscoring them by 17 – and Rondo’s teammates were mesmerized watching a 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard bodying up and disrupting James. ‘I’ve never seen anybody make LeBron turn his back to the basket,’ Perkins said. ‘He really didn’t want to put [the ball] on the ground around him. When he picked him up, the energy just picked up.’ So much so, Rivers resisted pulling Rondo away from James when it began to work against the Celtics. ‘We can’t do this!’ Lawrence Frank, the Celtics’ defensive coordinator, blurted to his boss on the bench. ‘You’re right,’ Rivers said, ‘but we’re going to keep doing it.’ As Rivers would say later, ‘The matchup made no sense, hurt us a couple of times. …[But] the thing that I saw is that it gave us life.’”
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe – “Miami’s Big Three had been creating the type of hysteria that was expected at the beginning of the season. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade seemingly had developed chemistry, learned each other’s tendencies, and mastered halfcourt ball movement. But there was James yesterday, dribbling endlessly on the perimeter, searching for a crack in the defense, just as he was last May with the Cavaliers. The Celtics turned him into a freelancer while Wade continued his shooting doldrums against Boston. Bosh turned in a good game, but has there been a quieter 24 points and 10 rebounds? The Celtics needed essentially seven players to elbow — or hard screen — the Heat back to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Nate Robinson played five first-half minutes and did not return, and Avery Bradley spent nine seconds on the court in the first quarter. The Heat, meanwhile, were fully healthy. Sharpshooter Mike Miller, who missed the first two meetings with a fractured right thumb, was first off the bench. The Heat claimed they were a dramatically different team than in November and were ready to pounce on Boston, with little regard for its injury woes. But what we witnessed yesterday is a team that doesn’t respond well to teams that don’t fear them.”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “While referees sorted things out, Rondo sneaked into the Heat huddle, attaching himself to James’ hip yet again. James twice pushed Boston’s lanky point guard out of the huddle before Ray Allen and the referees cleared him out (possibly with his safety in mind). ‘I think I was pretty poised and kept my composure,’ Rondo said with a shrug. ‘I was just trying to see the play. Nobody called a timeout. They drew the play up on the court and I wasn’t trying to start anything. I thought I could get my head in there and look at the play they were drawing up.’ Forget the huddle, Rondo was already in the Heat’s heads.”
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald – “‘They were on a winning streak,’ Kendrick Perkins said. ‘They have been playing well together. I think they started trusting in their system a little bit. I just feel like we needed this win. After coming off a few tough losses to the Lakers and Charlotte, I feel we needed this win.’ Especially as the trainer’s room door continues to swing like an ax. Pierce, for example, sprained his right (shooting) hand in practice Saturday and plans to have an MRI on his sore left foot today. ‘It was obviously a huge win with all of the stuff we have going on,” Rivers said. “Nate (Robinson, right knee bruise) had said he wasn’t going to play literally five minutes before the game and then said he wanted to give it a go. Paul said he felt awful. And so we thought we literally weren’t going to have enough bodies to play this game. We had to win this game with our energy, and I thought Rondo just willed us the game in a lot of ways. That wasn’t a set game plan for him to guard LeBron. We just wanted ball pressure, but Rondo took that upon himself that he was just going to guard and harass whoever was bringing the ball up.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “The Celtics managed to bring the Heat’s streak to an end, reclaiming a half-game lead for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and regaining their footing heading into the All-Star break. ‘We’re shorthanded but we’re not short of heart and grit,’ Kevin Garnett said. ‘We work hard, we will come out here and compete. We’re at home, we’re still a good team. We’re without some major pieces here, but that doesn’t mean we’re not a good team at the same time.’”
Greg Payne, ESPN Boston – “His production was a result of his aggressiveness, perhaps best evidenced by his first basket of the second quarter. Just under a minute into the frame, Perkins secured a Davis miss, but had his putback attempt blocked by Heat forward Chris Bosh. Not willing to be denied, Perkins controlled the blocked shot, and this time, in a tussle with Miami center Joel Anthony, he stormed back up and put in a contested layup as Anthony fouled him. He converted the ensuing free throw, capping off a three-point play that sparked signs of life into a Celtics team that trailed by five at the end of the first quarter. Perkins played in a manner that wouldn’t suggest he was logging time in only his 10th game of the season. Perkins missed the first two and a half months of the 2010-2011 campaign while rehabbing from offseason ACL surgery, but he hasn’t altered his style of play as a brooding, physical force on both ends of the floor. He’s already slid back into the Celtics’ starting lineup and hasn’t appeared physically limited in any way. ‘Perk did a great job today. I tip my hat off to Perk,’ said Davis afterwards. ‘He’s been sitting on the sideline watching us play and he comes back and is making his presence felt. That’s what it’s all about. You can see how important he is to us. Just him being back, I’m just so happy he’s back.’”
Jessica Camerato, CSNNE – “Wafer entered the game averaging 2.8 points in 8.7 minutes. He scored 10 points in 14 minutes to give the Celtics an edge with their second unit. Despite being shorthanded by injuries, the duo of Wafer and Glen Davis (16 points) helped the C’s fight back from an early deficit. The Celtics trailed, 20-15, to start the second quarter. Within a span of 2 1/2 minutes, Wafer picked off two steals and connected on two fastbreak lay-ups. His second layup with 8:36 to go in the second gave the Celtics their first lead since 4:22 left in the first. ‘The bench won the game in the first half. They got us back into it,’ said Doc Rivers. ‘I thought in a role reversal they showed the first unit how we were going to have to win this game, and then I thought our first unit took it from there. But Von and Baby were absolutely huge for us and terrific.’”
Chris Forsberg, ESPN Boston – “As for limitations with the wrist, West noted that he doesn’t have full range of motion quite yet and that might limit some of his passing and his ability to complete right-handed layups. But he’s not concerned. ‘Actually, I didn’t shoot layups with my right hand before the injury anyway,’ West said. ‘I normally average one [right-handed layup] per year and I think I made a right-handed layup already — I remember it, the Toronto game — so I’m good for the year. I didn’t need it anyway.’ West said playing in Wednesday’s game would give him a morale boost heading into the All-Star break, especially since his return wasn’t initially projected until after the break. ‘It would help tremendously, knowing that I’m back,’ West said. ‘Maybe I’m not 100 percent, but being back part of this team, being part of the flow — maybe even Doc yelling at me a little bit. There’s nothing like being out there in a game-time situation.’”
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe – “Paul Pierce entered yesterday’s game with the Heat nursing a sprained shooting hand, and he left it needing an MRI on his left foot, which was further banged up in the Celtics’ 85-82 win. Pierce said the foot issues originally crept up a week ago. He sprained the right hand in practice, he said, and banged it again yesterday. For the first time since 13 games into his rookie season, Pierce took double-digit shots and missed all of them, going 0 for 10 from the floor, 0 for 5 from 3-point range, and 1 for 2 from the line in 40 minutes. He said the hand clearly was a factor. ‘I think that really explains my tentativeness and my off shooting,’ Pierce said. ‘I told [coach] Doc [Rivers], I really didn’t have it, but I tried to grind it out, and thank goodness we came out with a win.’”
Got a tip? An article you think should be included? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @CelticsTown.
The Boston Celtics are the class of the Eastern Conference, and if you don’t know, now you know.
The teams’ third meeting went very much according to script:
Boston builds a big lead with cohesive play and toughness Miami can’t possibly match. Miami fights its way back into the game on the heels of individual greatness (today — no joke — mostly Bosh), as Boston stops doing the things that built the lead (in this case, energy in transition and a double shot of Rajon Rondo). Boston closes the door shakily, but still, no doubt is left — Boston’s a better team and Miami, at this stage, can’t compare. And grit, man, the Celtics have it in spades.
Mentally, Boston’s in the major leagues and Miami’s still in Double A. After a first half that included a whole lot of Boston missed shots — including one miss which featured Glen Davis rising for a dunk, only to botch a layup when he realized he wasn’t going to reach the rim — the C’s turned the game on its heels in the third period. You can attribute the change to Boston’s toughness, but remember, toughness doesn’t always come in huge packages.
Rajon Rondo is just 6’1″ tall, but that small frame comes equipped with a heart three sizes too large. Do you know how difficult it is to cover someone who’s almost as quick as you, seven inches taller, and outweighs you by 100 pounds? No, you probably don’t. Neither do I. Most human beings never get the chance to prove themselves in a similar situation, because players as genetically mutated as Lebron James don’t normally exist in real life. But the Rondo-James matchup had every reason to be a mismatch of “Shaq In His Prime vs. Shawn Bradley” proportions. Except Rondo (quite handily) got the better of the matchup, then proceeded to dominate the offensive end of the court as well.
Rondo’s “I’ll poke my head into Miami’s huddle a few times, just to piss a few people off” antics will earn a fair share of attention. But those antics were just theatrics. Rondo did his real damage while the ball was in play, annoying Miami the whole game, not just during that time out.
Even without three of their four centers, Boston’s frontcourt did work. Kendrick Perkins tossed some folks around in the paint, and even pitched in 15 points. Kevin Garnett bothered Miami’s offense all day, still finding time to roast unworthy defenders in the post. Glen Davis, despite the missed layup that brought to mind bad memories of my fourth-grade CYO teammates, shot 6-11 on his way to 16 clutch points. James Jones even tried his hand defending Davis at times, which (once I stopped laughing at the absurd mismatch) only highlighted the biggest difference between Boston and Miami. The Celtics can push Miami — and Joel Anthony, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Chris Bosh, and whoever else Miami throws onto the court — around at will. Like a big brother schooling his younger sibling in the backyard.
No recap of today’s game would be complete without mentioning Von Wafer. Is anybody else beginning to think Marquis Daniels’ injury (in a weird way, and without trying to sound an asshole) will actually help Boston down the road, so long as Daniels can return to health in time for the playoffs? Today, Wafer provided what the C’s initially hoped Nate Robinson would. He made shots. He drove to the hoop. He energetically forced turnovers. He changed the game, in a good way. He’s still going to have his moments of Wafer-ness, like the double dribble that left me dazed and confused, but Wafer continues to look comfortable. On one play, he forced Lebron James into a tough shot, and Lebron missed. Wafer then sprinted the court in transition, ultimately catching a pass for a knockdown, catch-and-shoot three. Cash.
With that one three, Wafer made more field goals than Paul Pierce enjoyed today. Dwyane Wade forgot he had a game this afternoon, but, compared to Pierce, looked like Wilt Chamberlain during his 100-point game. Lebron James made a few post moves that made me tremble in fear, but didn’t have his best outing. Help defense had a lot to do with that, as did Miami missing a lot of open jumpers (which would have resulted in Lebron assists). Boston’s close outs had something to do with Miami’s brick fest, but a few open misses (including Mike Miller’s final attempt) would normally fall.
But there’s a difference between Miami’s supporting cast and Boston’s: Boston’s can make plays, whereas Miami’s just finishes them. Eddie House needs Lebron James or Dwyane Wade to make sure he gets open. So does James Jones. So does Mike Miller. So does Zydrunas Ilgauskas. So does Mario Chalmers. Joel Anthony and Erick Dampier can’t even make a play if they do find themselves wide open. I get mad at Boston’s bench a lot, mostly because it’s been increasingly inconsistent. But some of those guys can make plays, and, on a good day like today, can really energize Boston.
Three strikes and you’re out. Or, in this case, three strikes and you get another opportunity on April 10 and, presumably, another opportunity after that in the playoffs. The Boston Celtics are the Eastern Conference favorites, and now hold the tiebreaker against Miami for homecourt advantage. No matter how many straight games Miami can win against other teams, they’re going to have to learn how to beat Boston.
It all starts with limiting Rajon Rondo, the C’s little engine that could. Easier said than done.
P.S. – In case you were looking to have your great mood officially ruined, Paul Pierce will have an MRI on his left foot tomorrow. He also sprained his wrist yesterday in practice. Fuck.