OFFSEASON

Blakely's Celtics-Heat Game 2 preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Heat Game 2 preview

MIAMI The video doesn't lie.

And just for good measure, Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce watched it twice just to make sure what he saw really did happen.

He was on the floor for 40 minutes in Boston's Game One loss to the Miami Heat, and not once did he get to the free throw line.

Not once.

That simply can not be if Boston is to have any shot at a win in Game Two of the Eastern Conference finals tonight.

"He has to be more aggressive," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "He has to be more assertive; he has to attack more. With Paul, you can look at his numbers. It's easy to read. If he has no foul shots and only two rebounds, then it wasn't a physical game for Paul.

Rivers added, "Paul is every bit as physical as LeBron James, as far as body types. He just has to do it."

And being physical for Pierce means attacking the lane more often which ideally would result in more free throw attempts.

Throughout the playoffs this season, Pierce's ability to get to the free throw line has indeed been a difference-maker for Boston.

In their six playoff losses, Pierce has averaged 3.7 free throw attempts.

In the eight victories, that number more than doubles to 7.5.

During the course of Game One, it was clear to all that watched that Pierce wasn't as effective offensively as the C's need for him to be in order to steal home court advantage away from the Heat.

In Game One, he had 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting with just two rebounds and three assists.

After the game, Pierce sensed he and the rest of the C's didn't play with the kind of force needed to win.

And after having a chance to watch the game twice afterward, his suspicions were confirmed.

"Just gotta pick my spots, try to get it in transition a little bit more, continue to drive the basketball," said Pierce when asked about his lack of free throw attempts in Game One. "I didn't finish lay-ups I usually finish. So I have to do a better job at that, and just continue to play my game. I do a good job of mixing it up, shooting my outside shot and driving the ball; stay aggressive as much as possible."

Pierce finding a way to get to the free throw line will be one of the keys to Boston's attempt at victory in Game Two. Here are some other keys to tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With Boston struggling so much from the perimeter, expect more of the offense to be run through Kevin Garnett at the elbow or on the post. With Garnett likely to be more of a hybrid facilitatorscorer offensively, the Celtics are hoping that will force the Heat defense to loosen up its coverage on him and in turn, will allow him more opportunities to score or it will set up his teammates for easier baskets.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Ray Allen vs. Dwyane Wade: It's pretty simple here. Ray Allen will get good looks, because the Heat - and everyone with a TV who has witnessed the Celtics of late - knows that Allen isn't just missing shots. He's missing wide open, lightly contested shots - something Allen has seen very little of throughout his career. He's not going to win the head-to-head battle with Wade. The C's know better. But he has to at least make it so that the Heat don't get so comfortable in giving him more space to shoot.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has to figure out how he can dominate the game, and figure it out quickly. Throughout the playoffs, Rondo has stretches in which he is the best player on the floor. Not once did he control the action in Game One with that kind of authority. Another repeat of that tonight, and the outcome for Celtics will likely be no different than it was in Game One.

STAT TO TRACK: Regardless of how you feel about the Miami Heat and whether they get preferential treatment by the officials, one thing is very clear. Their opponents have racked up an unusually high amount of technical fouls throughout the playoffs. There have been a total of 90 technical fouls called during the 2012 playoffs, 17 of them (18.9 percent) of them have been against Heat opponents. Lack of composure? Conspiracy? Regardless of which position you take, it doesn't change the fact the Celtics have to avoid getting into it with officials if they are to even this series up tonight.

OFFSEASON

Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

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Celtics take two in international players in record breaking NBA Draft

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three, first-round picks on International players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either of Boston’s international first rounder picks Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here, … is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the International top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding … now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.

OFFSEASON

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

If not this year for Durant-to-Celtics, then next?

BOSTON – The Celtics are considered long shots at landing Kevin Durant during free agency, which begins next week.

Still, if they come up short this summer, league sources tell CSNNE.com that the Celtics will be on a “watch list” of sorts by Durant’s camp when the former league MVP is expected to hit the free agent market once again in the summer of 2017.
 
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Durant will have teams meet with him in New York beginning next week. In addition to the Celtics, his current team Oklahoma City will sit down with him, as well as Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
 
Durant can re-sign with the Thunder for as many as five years with the total value of his contract worth slightly more than $150 million.
 
However, by signing a one-year deal or a two-year pact with a player option for the second season, Durant would make a projected $25.9 million for the 2016-2017 season and can then hit the free agent market again in 2017 when the salary cap is expected to cross the nine-figure threshold.
 
And at that time, if he decides to stay with the Thunder, he can ink a five-year deal that, when combined with his salary in 2016-2017, would be more than $230 million over six years – that’s about $80 million more than he would get by re-signing a long-term deal with the Thunder now, and would more than double what he would make by signing a maximum-salaried four-year deal with another team.
 
That’s why it makes a lot of sense for him to sign a short-term deal now and better position himself for a bigger payday the following summer when his starting salary will likely be on the north side of $35 million.
 
For the Celtics, Durant going through free agency back-to-back years affords coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics one more opportunity to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings while still being a team that’s clearly in need of adding at least one additional All-Star talent to play with Isaiah Thomas.

In his three seasons as the Celtics coach, Stevens has improved the team’s win total each season.
 
However, they have failed to win a playoff series after having been knocked out in the first round each of the past two seasons.
 
While Durant is the team’s No. 1 priority on the free agent market, the Celtics will quickly pivot their attentions to other highly-regarded players as well with Atlanta’s Al Horford being among their targets.

Depending on how quickly Durant’s free agency gets taken care of, the Celtics might be able to turn their attention towards potentially re-signing Evan Turner, who was sixth in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting last season.

OFFSEASON

Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

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Celtics' Isaiah Thomas continues recruitment of Durant with tweet

With the Celtics reportedly in the running in the Kevin Durant Derby, C's guard Isaiah Thomas is continuing his recruiting pitch with this playful tweet.

Thomas said in a radio interview earlier this week that the Celtics "definitely have a shot" at landing Durant and a few months ago, Thomas' essay in the Players Tribune is perhaps his best sales job of all.