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Winning Ugly: C’s 96, Heat 86

 

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Who would have believed it? After this tumultuous regular season, easily the most challenging of The Big Three era, would in turn, start their 2010 Playoff run with the easiest series victory of the last three years, dismissing the overmatched Miami Heat in five games.

While the series may have been close to a walkover, tonight’s clincher was anything but that, with the Celtics fighting a battle all night against a four headed monster consisting of Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, those guys in the stripped shirts and their biggest obstacle; themselves.

There will be plenty of time to dissect those unpleasant elements of this victory later on though. For now, let’s get to the good stuff as there are plenty of game balls to be passed around here. I’m going to start though with giving the nod to a guy who didn’t even see the floor tonight and that man is Doc Rivers.

Doc has taken his lumps this year, but I have to hand it to him. He managed this entire series brilliantly, cultimating in his 2nd half decisions tonight. You see, the C’s played a lot of this contest like a Friday night home game in January. There was a lot of sloppiness early, unforced miscues, missed defensive assignments, ultimately the kinds of plays that defined and this 09-10 Celtic squad.

Despite the lack of urgency throughout much of this one, Doc played this one smart with his guys. He had his older horses very well rested for the majority of this series, waiting for a night like this to completely take the leash off them.

With a series win and a few days of pivotal rest looming, Doc rode Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen all night long, keeping them on the floor for 46, 44, and 40 minutes respectively. Those three handled all of the offensive heavylifting, combining for 61 points and 21 assists on the evening to make sure the C’s avoided a return trip to South Beach.

Most of the credit Doc earns from tonight though originated from an extremely risky move that paid huge dividends in the final frame It was just under the 10 minute mark in the 4th, with the C’s clinging too a 4 point lead, after blowing most of their 21 point spread from the 3rd quarter. Ray Allen just picked up his 5th foul of the night, sending Dwayne Wade to the line for two more free throws. I groaned in disgust at the scenario, knowing our most reliable offensive shooter would be heading to the bench for at least the next five minutes when the C’s need him the most.

Except, Ray never came out. Instead, Doc switched Pierce onto Wade and rolled the dice with Ray being able to play smart and avoid his 6th foul for the final 10 minutes. It was a risky move….a ballsy move if you will, akin to pushing all in during hold em with just a flush draw. It could pay off big time, but it just as easily send you home broke.

Well, luckily for the Celtics, the flush hit. Ray was able to stay on the floor, and scored 11 crucial points in the 4th quarter, including a back breaking 3 with 2 minutes left to put the C’s back up 11. Meanwhile, Pierce did a phenomenal job on Wade, limiting him to just 3 points in the final eight minutes of this one, while the C’s stretched out their lead to double digits.

So while Paul and Ray deserve much of the kudos for stepping up in their respective roles in the 4th, I have to hand it to Doc for having the guts to make the move. He sensed the momentum turning in the 4th and had seen his offense look stagnant without Ray on the floor. The C’s desperately wanted to close this out tonight, and in order to guarantee that outcome, Ray had to be in the 4th. Thankfully, Doc knew it too and trusted Ray enough to let it happen.

Bullets on the way as we break down the rest of this one………

  • clasher101

    next stop cleveland, i’m really impressed on how they stepped it up the last five games. Its going to be an interesting game to say the least on saturday. Simply can’t wait.

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    Please note my 4-1 prediction. I believed!

  • Eric

    Great article.
    I was thinking exactly the same thing when Allen commited his 5th foul. I was absolutely sure that Doc would take him out and tonight we wouldn’t survive without his shooting. Thank Doc he made that switch and Ray, Paul and Rondo played pretty smart tonight. Go Celtics!!

  • carlos rizik

    Pierce played 46 minutes, Rondo 44 and Ray Allen 40. That’s too much at this stage of the season.

  • Mike

    carlos they have plenty of time to rest until the next series.. this game was a must win.

  • Jason

    You play an extra 5 minutes in this game to ensure you don’t play a Game 6 and maybe even a Game 7. You absolutely extend minutes in this situation.

  • Jrmz

    Lebron with some kinda arm injury. Time to take advantage of that. Sheed needs to earn his pay..Get him to punch that injured arm and make himself useful. The supposedly “playoff time” guy still hasn’t shown up.

  • Joel W

    I actually thought Sheed looked more active tonight, and generally had a decent game.

  • Ray Leighton

    Yeah, actually quite a few of us predicted the Celtics in five. In fact, over a month ago, some of us predicted a return to the finals….

    Ugly win, but we win ugly well — generally solid defense — DWade got his 30 but he had to shoot a lot of shots to get them, he had LOTS of turnovers, and Paul shut him down for a long stretch. I agree with Brian — kudos to Doc for the clever defensive move.

    And….. I don’t know if we can afford to do this against Cleveland with Shaq (maybe we especially should do it against a relatively immobile Shaq?), but our smaller units, with an extra guard (TA), or with two 4s (Glen and KG) instead of a true 5, have played really well, and tonight was no exception. Those lineups seem to be better at fighting through screens, create a lot of turnovers, give us a lot of flexibility on our offensive sets, avoid the problems of Perk (turnovers, freethrows) and Sheed (poor shot selection) on offense, and don’t hurt us at all in rebounding. The league has gotten more and more oriented towards small-ball (just aren’t a lot of legitimate centers left in the league), and the Celtics actually are a team that can and should try to take advantage of this more often during games. In any event, I’ve been very pleased that for the last month or so, Doc seems to have finally gotten away from the “rotations written in stone” and is starting to mix things up a bit as needed.

    And thanks to Milwaukee and the entire Western Conference for pushing their series to enough games that we probably won’t have to play until Saturday at the earliest. Here’s hoping…

    And just to repeat my earlier prediction: Celtics over Cavs in six. I thought that the Cleveland-Chicago series was interesting — even in the first round, the Cavs alreaded needed Lebron to take over the last two games.

  • DRJ1

    Hard to learn much from this game, since the refs were really out of their minds this time. You could never predict WHAT they were going to call… both ways.

    Note: Lebron has an elbow injury to his shooting arm. Serious enough for him to shoot his last FT lefty (@ 4-point game) and for an MRI Wednesday.

  • Jrmz

    DRJ1 says:
    April 28, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Hard to learn much from this game, since the refs were really out of their minds this time. You could never predict WHAT they were going to call… both ways.

    Note: Lebron has an elbow injury to his shooting arm. Serious enough for him to shoot his last FT lefty (@ 4-point game) and for an MRI Wednesday.

    ___________________________________

    He had a naggin injury before but MRIs and X-rays came back with nothing. Could very well just be a muscle bruise..who knows Joakim Noah could have done us a favor by throwing a few jabs in.

  • DRJ1

    @Jrmz– I see what you mean… a report says he had an MRI on Monday, which was negative.

    What’s new is that after the game, LBJ said that he was going to have another MRI Wednesday. And whatever was bothering him earlier this week, it clearly got much worse in this game… he was wincing in pain, and shot his last FT lefty. Interesting.

  • Mike

    DRJ1 – who knows maybe LeBron is trying to pull a Kobe and play up an injury so that he can try to make himself look like a hero when he “battles through his injury.” If Kobe plays with the flu/etc its all the announcers talk about all game. Rondo has been putting up huge numbers all series sick with the flu and its just business as usual. The NBA – Where Star treatment happens.

  • Dave

    I watch about an hour behind schedule on the DVR (and avoid the internet) and I usually skip free throws (and commercials, natch). I watched those foul shots to listen for the horn to see who was going to sub in for Ray. I was pretty happy when they left him in.

    Its amazing how much faster the game goes when you skip the free throws and just check the score.

  • Vadim

    Ray is such a claasic streak shooter, if he’s hot then any shot is practically a banker. the C’s must spot those streaks and feed the pig, especially against the Cavs where’s won’t be any advantage in the paint.

  • http://www.livefromapt.blogspot.com w2

    Paul Pierce is the glue! Dude played good defense tonight and minus the gaffs (four turns) looked like the Captain. I have concerns about our depth against the Cavs…but I cannot wait for Saturday.

    Anyone know when they will announce the time of the game…gotta make space in the calendar.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    indeed. i was sure doc would stick with the ‘doc-ssentials’ and pull ray after the 5th. that was the key to the game.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    and agree that lefty-bron is a drama queen. lady gaga to pierce and wince as T.A.T.U.

    it is absolutely outrageous that he took that shot with his lefthand. he thought the game was out of hand and tried to add another career highlight, and make his elbow a bigger issue than the series – the media have obliged. you just can’t do that, either you think you can make the shot, or you get an injury replacement.

    bad karma. bad, bad karma.

  • I love Green

    Celtics take game 1, lose game 2, take the next 2 games in Boston, lose game 5, and eventually close them out in Boston in game 6.

    Only one or two close games and the series will be 4-2 Celtics win!

  • massappeal

    Brian, thanks for crediting Pierce’s defense on Wade. To my mind that was the biggest unnoticed factor in the Celtics 4th quarter performance. Wade had only 3 points after the switch was made.

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    Lady Gaga can be nuts

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