Celtics-Heat Game 5 review: Pierce, Allen come through late

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Celtics-Heat Game 5 review: Pierce, Allen come through late

MIAMI Ray Allen didn't shoot the ball particularly well. Neither did Paul Pierce.

But with the game anyone's for the taking in the fourth, both players came up with big plays in helping the Celtics escape with a 94-90 Game 5 win that moves them one victory away from a return trip to the NBA Finals.

Both players have been hobbled at times in this series with injuries.

In Allen's case, the bone spurs in his right ankle gave him some problems in the third quarter, which led to him returning to the locker room for treatments.

"It's tight; it's sore," Allen said of his ankle. "Last game, it felt worst after the game. Now, I think that helped a lot, coming back here."

Although Allen missed seven of his nine shots from the field, he did come through with a pair of clutch free throws with 13.8 seconds to play that increased the Celtics lead to 92-88.

Normally Allen making free throws isn't that big a deal, but since returning to the C's lineup a few weeks ago, the veteran sharpshooter hasn't been nearly as stellar as he's accustomed to being, from the line.

"Where I am now, is where I've always been," said Allen who made all eight of his free throw attempts.

Allen said he was watching video of his free throw shooting and noticed he wasn't giving the right amount of push and lift on his shots, something he has since corrected.

"It was just a matter of getting in a game and knocking them down," he said.

Knocking down big shots has been one of Paul Pierce's strength, and it was certainly on display Tuesday night.

Pierce was just 5-for-19 from the field, but those numbers will soon be forgotten.

The same can not be said for Pierce's 3-pointer in James' face, with less than a minute to play.

It gave the Celtics a four-point lead that seemingly put the Heat on their heels for the remaining ticks on the clock.

"That's what players like Paul do," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "It really is. He's a big shot-maker. He always has been."

Their ability to come up with clutch plays down the stretch was indeed a key in Boston's win. Let's recap a few key discussed earlier, and how they actually played out in Boston's Game 5 win that puts them just one victory away from a return trip to the NBA Finals.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will of course be on the expected return of Chris Bosh, who has missed the last nine games with an abdominal strain injury. If he looks anything like most players upon their first return after missing a few games, chances are high that he'll be a bit too hyped and too amped up initially, but will gradually calm down and play his game. The Celtics would be wise to put him in as many situations early on in which he has to move, just to find out where he's at physically.

WHAT WE SAW: As expected, Bosh returned to the lineup for the Heat and looked pretty good in limited minutes off the bench. He finished with nine points and seven rebounds while playing just over 17 minutes. It was his first game since suffering an abdominal strain injury that kept him out for nine games. "I definitely have more to give," Bosh said. "And I'll be there. When the time comes again, I'll definitely be ready to play more than I played (in Game 5)."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs LeBron James: It's rare that you'll find the leading scorers for two teams foul out in the same game, but it speaks to some degree to how tough a battle this series has been at the small forward position. The C's will probably look at ways to get Pierce off James defensively, which should result in more playing time for Mickael Pietrus and Marquis Daniels. As for James, look for his always-aggressive style of basketball to be rewarded with trips to the free throw line - a lot of them - tonight instead of fouls.
WHAT WE SAW: Pierce spent a good deal of Game 5 on James. And once again, Pierce would finish the night with significantly more fouls (five to one) than James. But the free throw discrepancy wasn't too outlandish (Pierce had five free throw attempts compared to eight for James). Although James did finish with more points (30) and shot the ball better (11-for-25), Pierce had the better night when you consider his 3-pointer with less than a minute to play, gave the C's a 92-88 lead and with it, control of the game and now, the series as a whole.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The pressure to perform will once again be on Rajon Rondo, who called out the Heat for "whining and crying" about calls at halftime of Boston's Game 4 win. Miami will look to be as aggressive as ever in their defense of him, which means we're likely to see the most physical play on Rondo in this series, tonight.

WHAT WE SAW: Rajon Rondo was another Celtic who had a less-than-impressive night shooting the ball (he was 3-for-15). But like most of his teammates, Rondo was at his best in the fourth quarter. "I made some mistakes I usually don't make," Rondo said. "I missed a lot of shots I usually make. But that's irrelevant. We stuck with it and my teammates believed in me."

STAT TO TRACK: Whether it's unfavorable calls or a lack of aggressiveness, the Celtics have to do a better job of closing the free throw gap that existed in Games 1 and 2 in Miami. In those two games, the Heat were plus-20 on free throw attempts. In the two games in Boston, the C's were plus-2 in free throw attempts.

WHAT WE SAW: Both teams put forth great effort, but this was a game that for the most part was one in which the officials were slow to blow their whistles. After the first four games, this was the first in which the officiating was not a major issue or talking point afterward. As far as free throw shooting goes, Boston went to the line 27 times compared to 25 for the Heat. But you have to keep in mind that Miami was fouling intentionally near the end of the game which padded the C's free throw total.

Celtics' Ceiling-to-Floor profiles: An award-winning summer for Rozier?

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Celtics' Ceiling-to-Floor profiles: An award-winning summer for Rozier?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Terry Rozier. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON -- Terry Rozier has every reason to feel good about himself after this year's Summer League, where he was clearly the Boston Celtics’ best player. 
 
But what does Summer League success really mean in the grand scheme of things?
 
This isn’t the Olympics, where a good couple of weeks in the summer can lead to sudden endorsement opportunities. And a bad summer, on or off the court, won’t necessarily result in your personal stock taking a Ryan Lochte-like dip, either.
 
For Rozier, the summer has been a continuation of his emergence during the playoffs last season against the Atlanta Hawks, when his numbers were significantly better across the board in comparison to what he did during the regular season.
 
And while his role at this point remains uncertain, there’s a growing sense that what we saw in the summer was more than just Rozier making the most of his opportunity to play. 
 
It was the 6-foot-2 guard playing with the kind of confidence and overall swagger that Boston hopes to see more of in this upcoming season.  
  
The Ceiling for Rozier: Most Improved Player, Sixth Man candidate
 
Rozier never wanted to see teammate Avery Bradley suffer a hamstring injury in Game 1 of Boston’s first-round series with Atlanta last season. But he knows if not for that injury, he wouldn't have played as much as he did, nor would he be viewed as someone who could seriously compete for minutes this season. 
 
That injury afforded Rozier playing time he had not seen in the 39 regular-season games he appeared in, when he averaged 8.0 minutes per contest.
 
In the playoffs, Rozier saw his playing time increase to 19.8 minutes per game, which naturally led to a rise in all of his statistics. 
 
It did more than help the Celtics compete with the Hawks. It provided a huge confidence boost for Rozier this past summer and will do the same going into training camp, where he believes he will be better-equipped to compete for playing time. 
 
Rozier already plays above-average defense for the Celtics. The big question mark for him has been whether he can knock down shots consistently. It certainly didn’t look that way during the regular season, when he shot 22.2 percent on 3s and just 27.4 percent from the field. 
 
Although the sample size is much smaller, he was able to shoot 39.1 percent from the field and 36.4 percent on 3s in the five playoff games he appeared in this past spring. 
 
So both Rozier and the Celtics feel good about the fact that his game in key areas such as shooting and assists are trending in the right direction. 
 
And if that continues he'll solidify a spot high atop the second unit, which could translate into him having a shot at garnering some Most Improved Player recognition.
 
The Floor for Rozier: Active roster
 
While his minutes may not improve significantly from a year ago, Rozier will likely enter training camp with a spot in Boston’s regular playing rotation.
 
On most nights the Celtics are likely to play at least four guards: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Rozier. 
 
Look for him to get most of the minutes left behind by Evan Turner, who was signed by Portland to a four-year, $70 million deal this summer. 
 
Of course, Rozier’s minutes will be impacted in some way by how those ahead of him perform. But Rozier can’t consume himself with such thoughts. 
 
He has to force the Celtics’ coaches to keep him on the floor, And the only way to do that is to play well and contribute to the team’s success in a meaningful way. 
 
While his shooting has improved, Rozier is at his best when he lets his defense dictate his play offensively. 
 
In the playoffs last season, Rozier averaged 1.2 fast-break points per game, which was fifth on the team. 
 
Just to put that in perspective, Rozier averaged 19.8 minutes in the postseason. The four players ahead of him (Bradley, Thomas, Turner and Smart) each averaged more than 32 minutes of court time per night.
 
While it’s too soon to tell where Rozier fits into the rotation this season, his play this summer and overall body of work dating back to the playoffs last season makes it difficult to envision him not being on the active roster for most, if not all, of this season.

A make-or-break season ahead for Kelly Olynyk?

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A make-or-break season ahead for Kelly Olynyk?

Every weekday until Sept. 7, we'll take a look at each player at the Celtics roster: Their strengths and their weaknesses, their ceiling and their floor. We continue today with Kelly Olynyk. For a look at the other profiles, click here.

BOSTON – The Celtics went into the playoffs last season well short of being at full strength. No player exemplified this more than Kelly Olynyk, a non-factor in postseason due to a right shoulder injury that required surgery in May.

He comes into this season facing a much stiffer route to playing time than his previous four seasons. While Jared Sullinger (Toronto) is gone, Boston brings in four-time All-Star Al Horford, in addition to returners Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and second-year big man Jordan Mickey, who is in line for a more expanded role this season.

Throw in the fact that Olynyk and the Celtics can reach terms on an extension before the start of the season (an unlikely occurrence because frankly it’s to both Boston and Olynyk’s benefit for him to be a restricted free agent next summer), and it’s clear just how important this season is to all involved.

Here’s a look at Olynyk’s ceiling as well as the floor for his game heading into this season.

The ceiling for Olynyk: Starter, Most Improved Player candidate

Kelly Olynyk has proven himself to be a much better contributor coming off the bench as opposed to starting. But no one will be shocked if Olynyk can play his way into a spot with the first group.  A 7-footer with legit 3-point range, Olynyk has shown flashes throughout his career of being a major problem for opponents because of his stretch-big skills.

And when teams have been a bit too eager in closing out or failed to box him out on a rebound, Olynyk has shown us all that “the bounce is real.”

He already ranks among the best big-man shooters all-time and needs just one made 3-pointer to join Dirk Nowitzki (1,701) and Andrea Bargnani (627) as the only 7-footers in league history with 500 or more made 3s.

In addition to making lots of 3s, Olynyk does it at a fairly efficient rate which can be seen in him shooting 40.5 percent on 3s last season which was tops among all NBA centers and made him one of just 20 players in the NBA to shoot at least 40 percent on 3s.

Although Olynyk’s defense has been considered among his biggest weaknesses, his defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions on the floor) of 97.7 was tops among Celtics players who logged at least 20 minutes per game last season.

If he can build off that, as well as continue to make teams pay with his long-range shooting, Olynyk could be one of the breakout performers this season for the Celtics and find himself on the short list of the NBA’s most improved players.

The bigger issue with Olynyk centers around his struggles holding position in the post as a rebounder. Because he’s a stretch big, you know he’s not going to haul in a ton of boards for you.

But he has to be better than last season when he grabbed 4.1 rebounds, which continued what has been a career regression in this area.

After averaging 5.2 boards as a rookie, he slipped to 4.7 in his second season and averaged a career-low 4.1 last season.

The floor for Olynyk: Active roster

Talk to anyone within the Celtics organization and they will not hesitate to point out the skillset that Olynyk has and how important he could potentially be for this team going forward.

Still, that’s part of the problem.

Olynyk has shown promise to be more than just a player in the rotation. He has the kind of skills that if he were to deliver them with more consistency, he would immediately become one of the team’s standout performers which would make Boston a much, much tougher team to defend.

But his game has been one marred by injuries and inconsistent play which, as you might expect, go hand-in-hand.

Even with what has been an uneven career, Olynyk has still managed to be a double-digit scorer in each of the past two seasons.

And his net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) of +5.2 is tops among players logging 20 or more minutes, too.

But even if he doesn’t elevate his game defensively or become a more reliable rebounder for Boston, Olynyk won’t be suiting up in street clothes as a healthy scratch anytime soon.

Olynyk has too much talent, and when you look at this Celtics roster, he fits a clear and well-defined need.

Pace and space remain keys to what Brad Stevens is trying to do with the Celtics and Olynyk’s strengths are an ideal addition.

But as we have seen with Stevens in the past, he’s not afraid to take a player out of the starting lineup or regular rotation, and bench them from time to time.

Just as it won’t surprise anyone to see Olynyk play a more prominent role potentially as a starter, the same is true if he struggles and finds himself racking up a few DNP-CDs (did not play- coaches decision) either.

But Olynyk has too much talent to fall too far off the Celtics’ radar, especially when you look at this roster and realize there’s no other player quite like him in terms of combining size, skill and perimeter shooting.

 

 

 

 

 

     

Could the '80s Celtics have won eight championships?

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Could the '80s Celtics have won eight championships?

In this episode, we sit-down with one of the best basketball writers in the country, Jackie MacMullan. Jackie covered the Celtics for the Boston Globe for several years, and collaborated with Larry Bird on his auto-biography. 

Jim Aberdale, producer of CSN’s documentary on the ‘86 Celtics, talks with MacMullan about the bitter rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers during the 80’s, how the tragedies the Celtics faced following the ‘86 title were difficult to believe, and covering the Golden Age of the NBA.