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Game Recap: Celtics 85, Heat 82

 

LeBron James must hate this.

Like, I’m sure when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came to Boston, he figured the Celtics would be a threat for one year (maybe two) and that would be the end of it.

But the Celtics, who were still missing several key role players, moved to 3-0 against the Miami Heat this season on an afternoon when they only shot 43% from the field. There’s still an inevitable playoff series to go, but it kinda sounds like the Celtics are in LeBron’s head, right?

“We know we’re making strides but at the same, we’re competitors, we want to win. It’s going to take time. I have the same feeling right now as I had when I was in my third and four year and we played Detroit, and we just could not get over the hump. Regular season and playoffs, we couldn’t get over the hump. It took us a long time to finally get over the hump. I’ve been in this position before, where you just go against a team and you play well, you continue to play well, and a ball doesn’t go your way and you lose the game. You just got to keep pushing.”

Keep pushing LBJ. As for today’s game, the Celtics started out like a team that was physically/emotionally drained from playing 3 significant home games in the past week, plus traveling to Charlotte for a disappointing road loss. The game had a very lazy feel to it in the opening minutes. The Celtics couldn’t buy a shot in the first quarter (6-20 FG), and there was a brief stretch when I thought the C’s were in for a long afternoon. But fortunately, the Miami Heat had no interest in hanging on to the basketball, committing 12 turnovers in the first half alone and more-or-less keeping the Celtics in the game.

Then the 3rd quarter started and the Celtics finally got it going.

*The Celtics scored 35 points in the 3rd quarter, turning a 4-point halftime deficit into a double-digit lead. You had to love just about everything from this quarter. Rajon Rondo challenging LeBron defensively and sneaking into the Heat huddle. KG standing up for Rondo by setting a vicious screen on Mike Miller (yes he lowered the shoulder). Kendrick Perkins getting involved in the post. Big Baby Davis and Von Wafer coming up big off the bench. Throw in a terrible Flagrant call on Dwyane Wade, and that quarter just about had it all.

*Aside from it’s depth, Boston showed why its defense separates them from the Heat right now. Don’t get me wrong, the Heat are a very good defensive team. LeBron doesn’t get enough credit for how exceptional he is as a one-on-one defender (although he did today from Jeff Van Gundy). But watching the Celtics move collectively as a defensive unit, particularly in the last 3 minutes of the game, is truly a great sight, especially now with Perkins back in the mix. Here are Doc’s comments on his team’s late-game defense:

Defensively, you know it was a tough stretch for us because Kevin (Garnett) had five fouls that entire time and we were trying to spend our time moving him around so he can stay off of (Chris) Bosh so he wouldn’t pick up a sixth. And the whole thing was for us to stay in the paint, clog the paint, make them shoot over you. They make shots over you then you can live with it.  You know, LeBron is so powerful the one time we got to the line and missed the one free throw, that was just a grown man making a move, very tough to get out of his way.”

*As easy as it would be to say that the 3rd quarter was the sole difference in this game, I thought the real turning point occurred throughout the 2nd quarter. After that dreadful 1st quarter, it was obvious that the shots weren’t falling. Paul Pierce was missing open shots. Ray was missing open shots. Doc said he liked the looks that his team was getting, it was just a stretch of bad luck. Well considering the Celtics are the best-shooting team in the NBA, it would have been easy to go back out there and hope for better luck. But instead, the Celtics adjusted the game plan and started attacking the basket. Several consecutive possessions ended with cutters getting an attempt at the rim. We even saw a beautifully executed play where Nate Robinson fed Perkins en route to the basket and ended up getting fouled. The 2nd quarter quietly set the tone for the rest of the game, and if the Celtics didn’t make this early adjustment they potentially could have shot their way out of the game by halftime.

* Is it just me or did anyone else know for a fact that Big Baby was going to miss that dunk/layup the whole way? Just looked extremely awkward as he was approaching the basket. I honestly didn’t even react all that much after he missed it. I just shrugged my shoulders and said to myself, “Yup, that seemed about right.”

*Much love for Von Wafer, who had another solid contribution for the Celtics with 10 points in 14 minutes. And of those 10 points, he hit two big 3-pointers at a crucial point in the game that really helped keep the momentum on Boston’s side. I don’t know how much longer Wafer will have the hot hand (or how many more opportunities he’ll get with Delonte West due back Wednesday), but it’s great to see a guy from the end of the bench have an impact on games like this.

* I really like the idea of putting Rondo on LeBron for about 5-6 minutes a game, perhaps for a stretch during the 3rd quarter. I know during the sideline interview Doc seemed a little “iffy” about it, but here’s why I think it’s a good idea:

  1. Rondo seems to embrace the challenge and it actually elevated his offensive game during the time he was covering LeBron. Plus, I think Van Gundy is absolutely right about the fact that smaller players can get away with anything when they’re matched up against bigger players.
  2. It gives Pierce a rest, and as we’ve seen in recent years, covering LeBron is problematic for Pierce’s offensive game.
  3. It’s good to throw something different at LeBron every once in a while. Although Pierce generally does an adequate job against him, James clearly knows Pierce very well at this point. But with Rondo covering him, LeBron knows he’s “supposed” to try to post up in that situation, and in reality that’s the biggest weakness (or non-strength) of his game.
  • Zee

    C's up!

    • Zee

      They made me extra proud today. It's games like this that show you that there isn't anything to worry about (injuries aside).

      • kricky

        yeah, but what a worry! They may not even be able to suit up a real SF against the nyets Wednesday.

        That a side, they deserve all the credit in the world for pulling this one out. I don't think anyone wouidl have gotten on them if they lose this one. But they bite the injuries bullet and pull out a good tough win.

        Boston Motherf***ing Cs!!!!!

  • What More Can I Say?

    Perk came up huge at the FT line. Rondo is a BEAST man. This is HIS team. At this point, disputing that is laughable.

    FYI…You spelled vicious wrong Salvucci.

    • someguyinsac

      Good catch on vicious! You get the spell Czech prize! :)

  • XRIPX

    This was a great win! And I mean WIN, because Heat didn't loose the game, we won it. If you look at their role players not hitting threes as the reason they lost, well… That's not putting beasts like Wade and James (and tame creatures like Bosh) to good use, isn't it…

    Defense was great! For the stretch, when Rondo guarded James, you could see the whole team breathing as one… A thing of beauty!

  • dslack

    I don't understand why everyone is saying that Wade's shove to KG's face wasn't a flagrant. The way the whole sequence worked out was not fair to he heat, because KG fouled Miller and if that had been called Wade probably would never have shoved Garnett. But the refs are quite consistent in calling a flagrant foul when there are hands to the face.

    • Mike

      Sure but if big baldy hadn't flattened Rondo with an ilegal screen and stood on top of him , Garnett would have never done that and to be honest I'm glad Garnett did that because they can't just do that to the player thats beating them and expect no retaliation. Zaza probably still remembers KG from that game 7.

  • complexity

    When was the last time that Lebron beat the C's?

  • http://lovemyceltics.blogspot.com mycelts

    MIAMI VICE
    Lebron's talents in South Beach, he left them today,
    One of two huge free throws didn't go his way,
    Then Baby got fouled and he was able to show,
    How those important free throws ought to go.

    Things got a little chippy, that's NBA ball,
    Rondo got banged by Big Z, boy did he fall,
    So KG set a hard pick sending Miller to the floor,
    Then Wade's flagrant against KG-6 points the Cs score.

    There were whistles, then more whistles, a huddle for the Heat,
    Where Rondo hung with Miami til Ray made him retreat.
    When Lebron tried to dribble up the floor with his pace,
    There was Rondo–everywhere– right in his face.

    Pierce has a sore foot to go with a hand sprain,
    0 for 10 isn't right, that flu is a drain.
    Bosh said this game was for the East's crowned best,
    Rondo, with his triple double, head and shoulders above the rest.

    Now to end these poems it must be said,
    Of Reggie Ray is now 4

    • http://lovemyceltics.blogspot.com mycelts

      ahead!

  • dtla la

    Now you can absolutely expect some sort of roster move for a 3.

    Over the last six games, Pierce has averaged over 39 minutes/game, up from his season average of 34.8, according to Hoopdata. And he breaks right down.

    Pierce should be playing 33. Ainge and Rivers know it.

    Everything's at risk if management doesn't have the stones to make a move for a decent 3 to take minutes pressure off of Ray and Paul. Expect it.

    • NHBluesMan

      My guess is that Nate will be on the way out… with Wafer's elevated play and Delonte coming back, we have 2 good back-ups for Ray and Rondo, and while i love Nate, he's been inconsistent as of late… although that could change once Delonte comes back….

      Regardless, Danny hasn't led us astray in the past, and i trust any move he makes if one comes (which i'm guessing it will, unless Luke suddenly develops the skill-set of a 3)

  • JP-

    Rondo got into the head of the Heat today. I think he really annoyed them and made them think twice about everything they did. This win was much needed, and a testament to the potential of this team. If they can beat the top of the East with 10 bodies and an ailing Pierce, who can stop them?

  • AussieCeltic

    Daniels for Pietrus (plus others to fill in the salary requirements – plus $3mill) That's my guess…..we are watching you Danny. You are the man!!

  • urbeltic

    I want some analysis on the Rondo v 'whoever is bringing up the ball' plan. Celitcs hub is way to broad strokes rah rah these days, can someone do some anal is.

  • CG12

    That was a fun game. The difference in Rondo's play and effect on a game when he going balls to the wall like that, vs. his semi-regular middling efforts, is amazing. The cool thing is that that is what you can expect to see in the playoffs.

    The short bench provided some key energy. In the 2d, a Nate-Ray-Von-Baby-Perk lineup really got the momentum swinging back the Cs way. I love when they play fast and loose like that. When you have energetic guys like that coming in and teaming with relentless workers like Perk and Ray, that is a lot for other teams to handle. For much of this year, the second unit has been playing tight, and that isn't their personality. They aren't about out-executing people.

    The thing with PP is that you can see clear as day when he is laboring like that. His shots never looked like they were going in. But now that he is fully established in "wily veteran" mode, he can still contribute by playing tough, disciplined D on guys like LeBron. The All-Star break is perfectly timed to give him some much needed rest.

  • Tos

    ““In 2007, when I went to the Finals, we swept the Spurs [in the regular season], and they swept us in the Finals,” he said. “You can look into it, but you don’t look too far into it. You guys understand that in playoff series you have so much time to prepare for a team. It’s a totally different game. These games do count. I’m not saying the regular season is worth nothing, because it is, but you guys cover the playoffs and know that those games are 10 times different than a regular-season game.” -Lebron

    oh man I can’t wait to get these guys in the playoffs.

  • Kyle

    Mike,

    Clearly you are in denial by the fact that big baby is an overweight, gay fatty who just provided pure comical relief for basketball fans around the nation.

    • Shut_Up

      In denial of? In denial by? Are you making fun of every idiot who speaks like you? No, you're probably just another moron.

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