Post-game Reactions

Ahead of our more tactical look at the upcoming Heat-Celtics series, here’s a look at the players, coaches and other entities who should be under the most pressure over the next two weeks.

If any of the following fail to perform, they run the risk of being torn to pieces by the soon-to-be merciless 24-hour hype machine.

1. Lebron James – Has there ever been a harsher NBA spotlight than the one that will be beaming down on James? Having been ousted from the playoffs twice by the Celtics, humiliated by his curious disinterest in last year’s Eastern Conference semi-finals, carrying the weight of The Decision, the preposterous unveiling of the Miami three, the proclamations about multiple championships… short of averaging 30-20-10 for the series, is there anything he can do to meet expectations?

Nothing short of a series victory will be considered palatable, and that respite will last only as long as it takes for the Conference finals discussion to ramp up. And should the Celtics win this series, any reasonable discussions of why will surely be the signal lost in the deafening noise of anti-Lebron hate. James would need an almost superhuman ego to withstand that kind of criticism.

Which is the silver lining, I guess.

2. Chris Bosh – Pity the former CB4. If he’s not traded before his contract expires, Bosh may spend the next five years trying to prove he belongs at the big kids table with James and Dwayne Wade. Bosh has spent the season being unfairly mocked for his candor but he’s less reducible than either James or Wade to Miami’s title hopes. Imagine the Heat without Bosh. The Celtics kill that team. But a Bosh-Wade combo or a Bosh-James combo stands at least a fighting chance. Still, the story likely to play out will be, if not Bosh’s fitness to be seen in the company of his elite teammates, his relative softness compared to Kevin Garnett. Whatever that means.

3. Rajon Rondo – This won’t be a popular view around these parts, but I think this entire playoff season is a referendum on whether Rondo can be the best player on a championship team. Remember a couple of years ago, when Doc Rivers assessed Rondo by noting that he could still be left uncovered down the stretch of big games and that doesn’t happen to elite players? Has anything changed? Or do we still fear what will happen if James switches onto him and plays centerfield and Rondo proves ineffective in those situations? After a regular season that started brilliantly and then mirrored his previous up-and-down campaigns, Rondo needs to be an every game superstar this spring. He can miss shots, like Derrick Rose (check Rose’s unimpressive first round shooting percentages) but he can’t float. Rondo needs to put his imprint on this series.

4. Jeff Green – What can we possibly say about Green that hasn’t already been said? It feels like he’s at a tipping point, where he could lay down, in ink, the narrative that will be used to define him the next few years. He could be the legitimate starter who was simply miscast in Oklahoma City as a 3/4, and then performed strongly on the big stage once he’d assimilated in Boston. Or he could cost himself millions on the free agent market and brand himself an indifferent bench piece.

One thing’s for sure: there are no more excuses. He’s had two full months to get comfortable coming off the bench and to learn the playbook. As Kevin Costner noted in the underrated golf opus Tin Cup, “you define the moment or the moment defines you.” Grab your 9-iron, Jeff.

5. Erik Spoelstra – Apparently, Doc Rivers completely outcoached Mike D’Antoni in round one. We know this because he drew up a couple of plays out of timeouts, one of which was a rather obvious Garnett post-up and the other a risky alley-oop. As far as perception goes, it’s almost impossible to get the best of Doc right now. That’s problematic for Spoelstra because while the early-season calls for his head have faded, a few ugly late-game possessions and/or a couple of early-series Miami losses could get the natives restless. As though Pat Riley could make the likes of Mike Bibby more effective.

6. The Referees – I sort of hate this topic because of the incoherent conspiracies surrounding it, but this series is a license for the NBA to print money. So, we’ll just have to deal with the talk about the referees doing what they have to do to extend it. What I hope we don’t have to deal with is a lot of talk about star calls, because those are demonstrably real. CH’s own Brian Robb covered a presentation on referee bias at the 2010 Sloan conference. Excerpting from that:

The study compared how likely officials were to call loose ball fouls on stars compared to non-star NBA players they were contesting in loose ball foul situations. The results were found over a three-year study in which 1.5 million plays were examined in 3,500 plus games. “Star” criteria was based on players’ MVP votes. The results:

  • 42 percent of loose balls fouls called on stars in “regular” situation compared to 57 percent of the time on non-stars in plays.
  • The numbers show a much more dramatic shift, favoring the star players when they are in “foul” trouble with only 28 percent of foul calls being called on them, a huge drop from the earlier 42 percent.
  • When the roles are reversed however, and the non-star is in foul trouble, the numbers normalize again with 48 percent of the fouls called on the non-star compared to 51 percent for the star.

Right down the line, zebras. Don’t make yourselves the story.

7. The Benches – Both teams’ benches have been terrible this year, right up through the end of the first round. You thought Jeff Green (4.08 PER) and Delonte West (3.52) were bad? Check out Bibby, whose -1.29 playoff PER is the worst in the entire league.

Both bench mobs are under pressure not to sabotage their elite starter brethren. Will either come through?

All in all, it makes for a compelling case of who will suck less.

8. Danny Ainge – Fan talk of firing Ainge for the Green trade is ridiculous. You want a GM that makes bold moves and Ainge has a title under his belt and four consecutive years of contention as a result of his biggest one. Still, gunslinger Danny (he actually called himself that on WEEI a couple weeks ago) took a huge risk remaking this Boston roster. If the big four lose this series, the trade as scapegoat becomes a moot topic. But if the big four play well and the Celtics lose as a result of poor performance from the center position, or a vanishing act from Green, Ainge will be in for a wearying offseason of second guessing.

We’ll make sure of it.

9. The O’Neals – Jermaine and Shaquille both lost weight through the middle of the season to reduce stress on their balky legs. Isn’t that more maddening than encouraging? Why didn’t they lose that weight last summer? Why weren’t they ready from game one?

To be fair – Shaq was stellar while he was healthy and J.O. had a good first round series against New York. But the ghost of Kendrick Perkins will not be banished from the TD Garden unless the Celtics get three more rounds of capable play out of their centers.

10. Pat Riley – Riley’s NBA2K11 team-building methodology will be under the microscope over the next three rounds. The margin of error is thinner than it appears. Riley needs his big three to play long minutes and strong minutes. He needs Wade to get up every time he crashes to the floor. He needs the Mikes (Bibby and Miller) to hit some big shots. And he needs some semblance of competence from Joel Anthony and co. on the front line.

Honorable MentionAllen, Pierce & Garnett. One title answers major questions about your career. But one title carries with it questions about luck, and fluke. Two titles come with no such caveats.

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Ryan DeGama

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  • Batman

    Rondo has a lot of pressure on him. Let's hope he comes through

    • Mike

      I don't think he has any pressure on him. He knows he's better than the guy thats gonna be guarding him so I'm sure he's gonna be up up for it. Besides he's cocky (ahah) and he lives for this moments in the playoffs.

    • dal

      I want Rondo to be the cockiest, most arrogant, and most in-control player on the court. When he does that, he plays well. When he plays well, the Big Three play well. BRING ON THE HEAT.

  • MikeD

    What is disturbing to me about the stat that star players in foul trouble are only called 28% of the time is that a referee should not be paying attention to how many fouls a player has. That isn't part of their job and there is absolutely no reason they should be keeping track. This stat clearly shows they make themselves aware of it, which is a very sad thing.

  • Celtics Freak

    Dear Doc,
    Give Avery Bradley like a minute of playing time, maybe he will score 20 more

    • Batman

      This will not happen

  • skeeds

    On a lighter note, who's excited for a whole series of Ray Allen torturing Dwayne Wade? Allen has to be the worst defensive assignment a SG can get.
    Nothing better than watching Wade running into multiple screens play after play after play, while Ray jogs around the court getting open and hitting them threes!!!

    • talesofJP

      Wade is a very good defender though, and Ray is not an excellent ball handler. If the C's are setting good picks, that could be a problem for Wade though.

      I really think Rondo should be #2 up there, becuase no one in this series is more important. Our big 3 and theirs match up well, playing the same positions, our guys are better on defense more chemistry, theirs are better in transition and offense, but Rondo is where we have a huge advantage. Also if shaq plays we have two massive advantages.

      As much as our bench has sucked, I trust it more than Miami's bench.

  • Celtics Freak

    sounds like an easy 3

    • Batman

      Licking my chops already

    • J Raymes

      chalmers is actually really really good at fighting through screens

      • Batman

        He's a solid defender

        • skeeds

          The way Ray plays, ball handling is not an issue.
          Chalmer's pretty good, bit short though… Ray's gonna shoot over him. Too high release…

          Anyway, I never said anything about Ray having a great game or Wade not being able to handle him. I said torture. As in chasing a guy with pretty much unlimited stamina around for 35 minutes, bumping into 7 footers…

          • talesofJP

            they also play Bibby and keep chalmers on the bench a lot, so we can abuse Bibby when he's out there

          • Batman

            Nah Chalmers is going to see more against us Bibby is only good for teams like the Lakers or bad teams

          • Batman

            And when i say Lakers and Bad teams, i mean teams with old, slow PGs

  • lakershater13

    Howard bounced from playoffs. Orlando has a lot of bad contracts. Unless the Magic can pull off a trade for CP3 this summer I see Perks replacement coming to Boston. We will send Big Baby Davis, Green, 3 First round picks, and two second round picks this summer for Howard. Rondo + Howard = multiple nba titles.

    • talesofJP

      thats a god idea actually. Seems like D12 would end up in LA though, just the natural spot for him. I don't think he wants to live in Boston in Dec-Feb after living in Orlando

    • Celtics Freak

      or we could just sign him and lose no picks, but might lose the chance of signing Green

  • NeverUnderestimate

    XFD @10. Pat Riley – Riley’s NBA2K11 methodology of team-building…
    Very true, but I guess the CPU forgot to tell him he *ucked up his cap space for years and forgot to read the memo about signing an elite PG. Maybe he's hoping to sign a good Center in Dwight … but oh whoops… as if the CPU is gonna accept a Gasol to Lakers-esque trade for that crappy bench they have

    Celtics gonna win in 4 .. or maybe 5. (gotta keep them ticket sales up and prevent a lockout, ya know)

    • Renato Afonso

      Or a Garnett to Boston trade? And people forget that when KG came to Boston there were a lot of questions about who was going to play point and if Rondo would hold the pressure. HE did respond well to those initial expectations and Miami may have similar luck in free-agency with the MLE (if it still exists then) or through the draft. They don't need elite PG play, they just need someone to carry the ball and hit open shots…

      Giddy about this series unless Shaq plays (if he plays it's Boston in 5)

  • James Patrick

    I think C's either sweep or win in 6.

    Btw, screw the lakers. They better pray Dallas wins.

    • Janos

      If dallas lose tonight they at home for game 7. Game 8 back in portland or so they will tell fans at rose garden.

  • SoapyJohnson

    Game 1 of the Boston Celtics/Miami Heat series is Sunday, the day Nostradamus predicted an Angels victory as well as a Celtics win … http://placeitonluckydan.com/2011/03/wikileaks-no

  • DRJ1

    It will come down to Rondo. And so far, he's bringing it every time. Cs sweep, or very close to it.

  • Janos

    Ryan, nba2k2011 is good game. Janos play it to wait for real game. Play on xbox so no worry of id steal playstation. Play as memphis but lose to spurs worse than real life Oh well celtics is good team for round two.

  • Celticai

    Could anybody tell me why ESPN Miami's Windhorst is predicting Celtics in 6?

    • Herb

      He's really ESPN LeBron's Windhorst- he used to write almost entirely about the Cavs, then followed LBJ to Miami. I get the sense he wants the schadenfreude of LeBron failing in the playoffs.

  • jamaica

    everyone's too optimistic. dont get your expectations up. Sweep? no way, this series going at least six

  • Dan

    That is unfair. Joel Anthony has been nothing less of terrific for Miami against the 76ers. i believe he's leading the team in playoff +/- currently.

    • Mike

      Who's the center for the 76ers? Yeah that's what I thought…. And Elton Brand is great but like BBD his lack of height hurts especially in the rebounding part. Shaq and JO are more than enough to give him insomnia, and then there's KG, Krstic, too many for ''mvp'' (what a joke really, anyway…..) joel anthony to even try to handle.

      Celtics don't need to double team anybody, the other team will and that gives the Celtics something to exploit. Just pay attention to the three point line, they don't have any shooters that would keep me up at night, but if you let chalmers put 20 then you're not doing you're job.

  • One thing I gotta say about our gutzy GM Danny… if the unthinkable hypothetical comes true and we DO loose out at some point because either we end up lacking at the center position or Jeff Green does a vanishing act, then everyone will blame Danny. But remember when he traded Toine' and everyone was soooo incredibly pissed off? That trade (indirectly) lead to us getting KG and Ray, and I think we're all okay with those moves. The only way that happens is if Danny uses his big balls and does something that fans might not appreciate at the moment. So lets give the man some credit. He's brought us this far, lets trust in the same guy that was a fireball coming off the bench in the 80's.

    • Batman

      He built a pretty nice team, very good drafter.
      Got us a future superstar in Al Jefferson to pair with Pierce
      Very good role players in Allen, Delonte
      Then we tanked for Greg Oden and when we didn't get him we traded for KG and Ray and won a ring
      Very good GM

    • jeffery6803

      actually not many of us where that pissed off when he traded Walker most of us had seen enough to know Walker was a role player at best who did disappearing acts of his own i actually welcome the trade

  • Morpheus

    Oh yeah and he doesn't panic either…hellooo Cuban.

    • Morpheus

      He's also obviously an advocate of "The Bigger Picture".

      He's not thinking "Hmmm ok i'll add some role players around my franchise player/superstar, that should do it"……hello Jeff Bower and Danny Ferry(again).

      I mean, he started this whole "Super Team" thing really.

  • Word

    Nice Tin Cup reference, but it's a 7-iron, not 9.