Blakely's Celtics-Heat Game 2 preview


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.

C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary


C's players mull how to utilize platform as athletes for social commentary

WALTHAM -- The national anthem protests by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick have had an undeniable ripple effect on professional sports teams across the country. And that includes the Boston Celtics.
“We as an organization know what’s going on,” said Marcus Smart. “We read and see and hear about it every day. It’s a sensitive subject for everybody.”
While it’s unlikely that Celtics players will do something similar to Kaepernick taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, there’s no question some are figuring out the best way to utilize their platform as athletes to express their views on current social issues.
“Us athletes have to take advantage of the stage we’re on,” said Jae Crowder. “Try to make a positive out it. You can’t fix negative problems with negative energy. I don’t want to do anything negative; I want to do something positive, shed light on the situation.”
Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and a number of professional athletes have tried to have more attention paid to recent killings of African-Americans by police officers where, based on the video footage, it appears excessive or unnecessary force was used.
It is a topic that has brought a wide range of responses from many in the sports world, including the dean of NBA coaches, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
During the Spurs’ media day this week, he was asked about the Kaepernick’s protests.
“I absolutely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and I respect their courage for what they’ve done,” Popovich told reporters. “The question is whether it will do any good or not because it seems that change really seems to happen through political pressure, no matter how you look at it.”
As examples of the political pressure he was referring to, Popovich mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to galvanize group, as well as the NBA and other organizations pulling their events out of the state of North Carolina because of its legislation as it relates to the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
“The important thing that Kaepernick and others have done is keep it in the conversation,” Popovich said.
And while there may be differing opinions as to whether Kaepernick or any other athlete should be protesting, the one common thread that seems to bind the Celtics players and the front office is them having the right to speak out not only as professional athletes, but Americans.
“The biggest thing is we all really value the freedoms that we have and that we’ve been allotted,” said coach Brad Stevens, who added that he has had individual discussions with players on this subject. “We certainly support an individual’s freedoms. It’s been great to engage in those discussions. It’s been really fun for me how excited our guys are about using their platform.”
And that more than anything else is why Crowder feels the Celtics have to have a united front as far as the message they present to the masses.
“If we want change we have to do it together,” Crowder said. “I feel like those guys (other athletes) used their platforms well. I think more athletes should do the same. You can’t do it with any hatred; you can’t do it with any negative. You have to do it with positive energy.”