Celtics-Heat Game 6 review: LeBron and co. prevail

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Celtics-Heat Game 6 review: LeBron and co. prevail

BOSTON So much for Chris Bosh being an X-factor in Game 6.

Bosh, like most of the Miami Heat players, was more of a decoy as LeBron James carried the day in leading Miami to a 98-79 victory to force a winner-moves-on Game 7 matchup in Miami on Saturday.

Even with James dominating the game in every facet - he had 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists - he understood that by no means was Miami's series-tying victory solely about his off-the-charts performance.

"As an individual you can't do it by yourself," he said. "No matter what my numbers was tonight, nowhere we would have won this game if the other 14 guys weren't in tune and wasn't focused about us trying to win this game."

Among those was Bosh, who is still working his way back into shape after missing nine straight games with an abdominal strain injury.

Game 6 was his second game back.

"Everything is good," Bosh said. "To me, it's all in the mind so i just try to make sure I just keep my mind where it's supposed to be. No matter how I feel, I go out there and give my minutes, play has hard as I can and just worry about everything after the game."

Bosh didn't have as big an impact as expected, but there were a number of other factors not named LeBron Raymone James that played a role in Boston's loss. Here's how some of those keys identified earlier, actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Keeping Dwyane Wade in check in the first half has been a huge factor in Boston being in control of this series. He's averaging 22 points per game in the Conference finals, but only 5.8 of those points has come in the first half. More significant, he's connecting on just 27.5 percent of his shots in the first half, shooting 40 percent or less in every game thus far.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston continued to keep Wade bottled up in the first half of games, limiting him to just six points on 1-of-6 shooting. But Wade continued to be at his best in the second half, scoring eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Chris Bosh: For the first time in the postseason, Kevin Garnett will not have a decisive advantage at the center position. In many ways, Garnett will have to deal with a mirror-image of himself in Bosh only younger. Both will score points, but the edge will go to which player does a better rebounding the ball.
WHAT WE SAW: For whatever reason, Garnett - like the rest of the Celtics - simply didn't have it going on in Game 6. He scored just 12 points - his lowest scoring game in this series. As for Bosh, he came off the Heat bench and scored seven points to go with six rebounds in just over 28 minutes.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Three-time league MVP LeBron James is a must-see every game, but he's especially eye-grabbing in elimination games for all the wrong reasons. Between his years in Cleveland and Miami, James has been in eight elimination games and has emerged victorious just two times. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James has averaged just 24.3 points in his last three elimination games. Not only are those numbers down from what he usually does scoring-wise in the playoffs, but those last three games? They all ended with James' team losing.

WHAT WE SAW: LeBron James was on a level that reduced the Boston Celtics to nothing but witnesses to his greatness. He had a blistering 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in what will be remembered for years to come as one of the all-time great individual playoff performances. "He was absolutely fearless tonight," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "And it was contagious."

STAT TO TRACK: Bench play tends to pick up at home, which bodes well for a Celtics' second unit that is coming off its first game in this series in which they outscored their Heat backup brethren, 19-16. Between Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling, the C's defensive duo has stepped up their game offensively by averaging 13 points off the bench in the Celtics last two games.

WHAT WE SAW: It was a low-energy night for the Celtics, bench players included. While they outscored their Heat brethren 15-13, most of those points came when the game was out of reach. "They outplayed us in every category," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "Bottom line."

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."