Battier comes up big for Heat in Game 1


Battier comes up big for Heat in Game 1

MIAMI The Boston Celtics have seen their share of X-factors come to life in the playoffs thus far.

In their first-round series against Atlanta, it was Jeff Teague. Against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was rookie big man Lavoy Allen.

Against the Heat?

It's still early, but the X-factor on Monday night was Shane Battier who had a rare double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in helping Miami defeat Boston, 93-79, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Shane is everything, man," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "He does it all for our team."

It certainly looked that way in Game 1.

While LeBron James (32 points, 13 rebounds) and Wade (22 points, seven assists) were racking up all the stats, it was Battier doing the dirty work that in a playoff series like this, could literally mean the difference between winning and losing.

And it was Battier who in hindsight, came up with arguably the biggest play of the night.

Boston spent the entire game playing from behind, but in the third quarter they finally had a chance to take the lead.

With the score tied at 50, Ray Allen got a steal and began to dribble up-court and seemingly had a potential fast-break in the works.

Rajon Rondo was filling the middle of the lane, and was calling for the ball.

Allen didn't initially see him. By the time Allen did, Battier was on the move and was able to block Rondo's lay-up attempt from behind.

Moments later, Battier drilled a 3-pointer that put the Heat ahead for good.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding - it was his first playoff double-double ever - he also managed to keep a bigger, stronger Brandon Bass from having his way on the perimeter or around the basket.

Bass had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting.

The play of Battier certainly caught the attention of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. If only the same could be said for the Celtics defense, which seemed a bit too giving to Battier all game.

When asked how to compensate for Battier when he's having a game like he did on Monday night, Rivers responded, "We guard him. That would be nice. Take away some of the easy shots."

Battier was 4-for-11 shooting just like Bass, with most of his shots coming "too easy."

Said Rivers: "Shane had three or four easy shots that hurt us."

Despite James and Wade (22 points, seven assists) being the central figures in the Miami Heat offensive attack, Wade understands Miami will need players like Battier and Mike Miller (eight points off the bench) to continue contributing if they are to move on to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row.

"He (Battier) does all the little things," Wade said. "He's pesky. He gets under other guy's skin a little bit. He does a great job of blocking out. Like I said, we love him. And we want him to continue to be comfortable, the way he was tonight and continue to shoot. He's going to have a game where he's going to score more because he's going to be able he's going to get those shots, he's going to knock more down."

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

BOSTON – The Al Horford love fest continues with the veteran big man delivering yet another impressive performance for the Boston Celtics.

And this one?

Unlike his play in the preseason, Wednesday night's game counts.

Horford’s all-around play was pivotal to Boston holding on for a 122-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

CELTICS 122, NETS 117:

The four-time All-Star made several high-basketball IQ-type plays that in hindsight, were major key moments in Boston pushing its lead to as many as 23 points.

In the third quarter with Boston ahead 71-65, Horford took advantage of Brooklyn closing out too hard on him and drove into the lane. As the Nets defenders collapsed to take away a shot attempt in the lane, Horford swung the ball to Jae Crowder whose jumper triggered a 14-5 run.

Boston would lead by double figures until the last couple of minutes of the game.

“We have to keep playing the right way, for 48 minutes,” Horford said when asked about the team’s late-game collapse.

The late-game struggles aside, there was a lot to like about how the Celtics played throughout the first 40 minutes.

And a big part of that strong play has to be credited to Horford whose ability to help keep the ball moving allowed the Celtics to finish with 36 assists on 48 made field goals, the kind of opening night assist numbers that haven’t been seen around these parts in decades.

Horford was among those getting into the act, scoring 11 points to go with five rebounds and six assists.

To see him racking up guard-like assist numbers isn’t unusual when you consider he was third in the league last season in assists per game (3.2) for a center.

“Guys were moving the ball very well,” Horford said. “It’s kind of contagious.”

Said Crowder: “I never saw coaches clap on a three-second call. We moved the ball in the first quarter so much we got a three-second call. We passed up a lot of open shots. It just shows how unselfish we are playing as a unit.”

And while that selfless brand of basketball was on display at times last season, the addition of Horford seems to have taken it to another level.

“He opens the floor, he makes it easier for everybody; he’s always in the right spots, he’s a threat at all times,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He can hit the 3, hit the mid-range, and also post up so he has the full package; a guy that makes it easy for everybody.”