Blakely's Celtics-Heat Game 3 preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Heat Game 3 preview

BOSTON The fact that the Miami Heat have spent a lot of time at the free throw line isn't a surprise. They have LeBron James (8.1 free throw attempts) and Dwyane Wade (6.1 attempts) who ranked No. 3 and No. 14, respectively in the regular season in free throw attempts per game. In the playoffs, James leads all players in free throw attempts per game (10.8) with Wade ranking No. 6 with 7.7 attempts per game. The Heat as a team rank second in free throw attempts (29.5) per game in the playoffs, which is up from their No. 8 ranking during the regular season.

Miami spends a lot of time at the free throw line because their core guys -- James and Wade -- play with an aggressive, steady attack-mode demeanor. It's a demeanor that Celtics coach Doc Rivers understands his team must try in tonight's Game 3 matchup.

"They are going to shoot a lot of free throws, but we need to as well," Rivers said.

It certainly hasn't been like that for the Celtics this season. They were ranked No. 27 during the regular season in free throw attempts, and they haven't been much better in the playoffs. They rank 12th (out of 16 teams) with a 21.6 free throw attempts per game average in the postseason.

The key to Boston getting to the line more often is Paul Pierce, who led the C's in free throw attempts (5.6) per game this season. In the playoffs this year, Pierce is up to 6.5 attempts per game but is averaging just three per game in the first two meetings against the Heat.

One of the more glaring statistics in the Eastern Conference finals thus far has been the discrepancy between the number of free throws taken by James (33) in comparison to Pierce (6).

"Paul is a powerful guy," Rivers said. "There's a lot of contact as well when he drives. We just want them (Pierce and his Celtic teammates) to continue to be aggressive. You know Lebron and Wade will be. There's nothing wrong with it. That's who they are. You know going into it, they're going to go to the free throw line. But we have to get there as well, and we have to do it being just as aggressive."

Finding a way to translate more aggressive play into points at the line will certainly be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are some other keys to watch heading into what a must-win game for the Boston Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Coming off the kind of performance Rajon Rondo had in Game 2, you can expect the Heat to look at ways to not allow him to be such a dominant force. Do not be surprised if Rondo sees more double-teams along with the Heat making a more concerted effort to get the ball out of Rondo's hands. "(Rondo) almost single-handedly beat us," said Heat forward Shane Battier.

MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Ronny Turiaf: The Heat fully understand and accept that they will not win this matchup. But what they have been able to do in the first two games is make Garnett work hard for all his points, limiting him primarily to scoring from the perimeter which is not what the Celtics want. One of the reasons Boston was able to move past both Atlanta and Philadelphia in the playoffs, was because of Garnett's ability to impact the game as a scorer or a passer, from the post. That has not been the case in the first two games against Miami, a trend the C's need to stop if they are to get back into this series.

PLAYER TO WATCH -- Brandon Bass has to continue to find ways to maximize his minutes on the floor, knowing his playing time will be somewhat limited because of the Celtics success with a small ball lineup that more often than not, doesn't include him. The best way for him to get more minutes, is to do what he does best and that is to knock down mid-range jumpers. During the regular season, only four players (Dirk Nowitzki, Carlos Boozer, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant) took more mid-range jumpers (15-19 feet) than Bass. It has been more of the same in the playoffs, where Bass ranks third in 15-19 foot shots taken, trailing only Westbrook and teammate Kevin Garnett. And with the Heat doing so much switching defensively, there's a very good chance that he'll at various points in the game have a matchup that's decidedly in his favor.

STAT TO TRACK -- The three-point shot was never a real weapon of choice for the Miami Heat during the regular season, which explains why they were ranked just 20th in the regular season in 3-pointers made per game (5.6). They have been better in the playoffs in that category, ranking fifth with 6.2 3s made per game. Two games into this series, and Miami's ability to connect on the long ball has played a major role in both Miami victories. Boston's ability to limit the Heat's effectiveness from 3-point range will go far in their effort to win Game Three.

Report: Paul Pierce '50-50' about retirement after Clippers' exit

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Report: Paul Pierce '50-50' about retirement after Clippers' exit

After the Clippers were elminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, a disappointed Paul Pierce told ESPN that he was "50-50" about retirement. 

In a video after Portland's Game 6 victory posted on oregonlive.com, the former Celtics captain said his "heart is broken" by another playoff elimination. 

Pierce signed a a three-year, $10 million contract to return home (he grew up in Inglewood, Calif.) and play for his old coach Doc Rivers in Los Angeles.  He'll be 39 next season and coming off the worst season of his career. Pierce averaged 6.1 points, 36 percent shooting and 18 minutes a game, all career lows.

How does Isaiah Thomas improve? Eating right is one step

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How does Isaiah Thomas improve? Eating right is one step

WALTHAM, Mass. -- This past season, Isaiah Thomas took a major step forward to becoming more than just a solid NBA player, but one of the game’s best.
 
He knows he won’t stay among the elite for long if he doesn’t make some changes with the most notable being to his diet.
 
“I do not eat good,” Thomas acknowledged following his exit interview this week. “I eat like a young guy, a young guy who got a little bit of money, fast food every day. But I’m definitely going to change.”
 
The change becomes necessary not only in light of how the season ended for him and the Celtics, but also for his long-term goals, which include playing in the NBA until he’s at least 40 years old.
 
“I’m not that old but the greatest players took care of their bodies the best,” Thomas said.
 
Among those cited by Thomas who excelled at taking care of their bodies was former Celtic Ray Allen.
 
But Thomas was quick to add that he won’t go to the lengths that Allen did in maintaining good health.
 
“Because he’s a little crazy with that,” quipped Thomas. “I just want to play at a high level for a long time, like Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant. You have to take care of your body. That’s half the battle of performing out there on the floor.
 
Thomas added, “This is a big summer for me to start doing that.”
 
Eating right is just part of the transformation process for Thomas.
 
He’ll also modify is offseason workouts to include some work in the boxing ring with long time friend Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
 
“I’m definitely work with him a few times, get my conditioning right, probably train, do some boxing stuff on the side, just to get in that type of shape,” Thomas said. “You get in that type of shape you won’t get tired on the basketball floor. This summer is big for me, transforming my body, getting into the best shape possible and coming back and having another all-star year.”
 
For the Celtics to improve upon this past season, they will need Thomas to continue elevating his play as well as the play of those around him.
 
It is that latter point that was among the many reasons Boston’s season is over. No matter what he did, those around him could not step their game up to a level needed in order to get past the Atlanta Hawks.
 
Chalk it up to another lesson learned for Thomas.
 
“You can’t do it on your own,” Thomas said. “There’s no way you can do it on your own. Nobody can do it on your own; and how hard it is to win playoff games, a playoff series. It’s not easy.”
 
And when you come up short, for Thomas is created an uneasiness that he never wants to experience again.
 
“I’m going to do whatever it takes to not have this feeling again,” he said. “It really hurt me. I’m going to use that as motivation to continue to get better and to work on my flaws and make those into my strengths. I promise you’ll I’ll be back better than ever next year.”