Celtics-Heat Game 7 review: Pierce, C's come up short

789060.jpg

Celtics-Heat Game 7 review: Pierce, C's come up short

MIAMI Paul Pierce was better for the Boston Celtics in Game 7 than he was in Game 6.

But Pierce's performance, much like the rest of the C's, wasn't good enough when it counted.

And the end result is a 101-88 Game 7 loss that ends the Celtics' season while the Heat move on to the NBA Finals to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pierce had 19 points in Game 7, but missed 11 of his 18 shot attempts.

His Game 7 struggles were fairly consistent with the kind of series this has been for the Captain.

Pierce connected on just 34.4 percent of his shots in this series. The only series in which Pierce was worst from the field, was during the 2004 playoffs against Indiana.

As much as Pierce's struggles were a contributing factor in the C's loss, much of the attention afterward was paid to the five-year run of the Boston Big Three - Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett - possibly coming to an end with Saturday's loss.

"It's tough," Pierce said. "Everything is going so fast rightnow. It's tough to really think about it. You're more disappointed about the loss; you feel you let your teammates down, especially when you don't accomplish your goal of winning a championship. It's a lot of emotions now."

Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out in the C's season-ending Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Kevin Garnett didn't get nearly as many touches around the basket in Game 6 that he's used to, or the Celtics need in order to be successful. Plan on a heavy diet of Garnett around the basket tonight. "He really made the first post shot, and then he didn't get one for ten touches," said C's coach Doc Rivers. I thought they (Miami Heat) threw him out of his rhythm. We threw him out of his rhythm. And all great scorers or great players are rhythmic. I didn't think we did a very good job of keeping him within the rhythm of our offense."

WHAT WE SAW: Once again, Kevin Garnett wasn't able to control the paint area well enough for the Celtics to win. He finished with 14 points, with only two coming in the fourth quarter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. LeBron James: They won't face each other to start the game, but there's no question they are the two biggest stars in this series. Each has had an out-of-this-world game in this series, the kind of performances that will pale in comparison if they were to have a good game tonight and lead their respective teams to victory.

WHAT WE SAW: These two staged another great duel, with Rondo finishing with a triple-double of 22 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. James was just as impressive with a game-high 31 points and 12 rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass is indeed a wild card in this game tonight. The Celtics need him to be a factor both on the boards and in the scorer's column. With so much attention being paid to Kevin Garnett in the post, the perimeter shooting of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen along with Rajon Rondo's dribble penetration, he'll get opportunities to make a difference in what has to be one of the biggest games of his career.

WHAT WE SAW: Brandon Bass' play in the first half was a huge reason the Celtics were winning. He finished with 16 points. Even more impressive was the job he did defensively on LeBron James in the first half. "They asked me to guard him," Bass said. "I was just going to go out there and give it all for my team. It didn't matter who I was guarding. I just wanted to give my best."

STAT TO TRACK: Of all the statistics from Boston's Game 6 loss that contributed to the C's defeat, their 14 team assists stood out. It was the fewest assists they had in the playoffs, which to some degree spoke volumes about how poorly they shot the ball and to some degree, their ball movement not being as crisp as it usually is. "You can't just look at a stat sheet and say that we only had 14 (assists) and say we didn't move the ball," said C's Rajon Rondo, who had 10 of the team's 14 assists. "Guys missed shots. When you shoot the ball well, if you make a couple of lay-ups, that's more assists. We moved the ball well. We just didn't put the ball in the hole."

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics were better with 19 assists, but the ratio of assists to field goals made (35) was still not up to the C's lofty standards.

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

Lowry, Sullinger and Blount interrupt interview with DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan didn't get a chance to answer one question in his postgame interview before being interrupted by Kyle Lowry, Jared Sullinger, and LeGarrette Blount.

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

Sullinger on Celtics: 'I watch from a distance, I support from a distance'

BOSTON – The trip to the TD Garden is one that Jared Sullinger has made many times but never like this. 

The former Celtic was back in town with his new team, the Toronto Raptors who signed him to a one-year, $5.6 million deal after the Celtics rescinded their qualifying offer to him and thus made him an unrestricted free agent. 

MORE:

“I had a feeling it was going to go that way once they signed big Al (Horford), that they were going to let me go,” Sullinger said prior to Friday’s game.  “We were prepared for it. It is what it is. I’m happy these guys are doing well.”

And he hopes to say the same for himself sometime in the future after undergoing surgery to have a screw inserted in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot – the same foot he had season-ending surgery on during the 2014-2015 season with the Celtics. 

There’s no specific timetable as to when he’ll be back on the floor, and Sullinger is cool with that plan. 

“I don’t know. They’re hiding the protocol from me so I won’t rush; we’ll see,” said Sullinger who is still in a walking boot. 

The 6-foot-9 forward played well in the preseason and solidified himself as the team’s starting power forward. 

Now that he’s out with another injury, he’ll have to once again try and prove himself either later this season when he returns, or this summer when he becomes a free agent again.

For now, Sullinger is happy to be back in town, seeing lots of familiar faces, friends and ex-teammates that he says he still keeps in close contact with. 

“Some of these guys I considered like brothers to me,” Sullinger said. “IT (Isaiah Thomas), Jae Crowder to name a few. So I watch from a distance, I support from a distance. They’re playing well.”

In addition to his former teammates, the lines of communication remained open between him and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens as well. 

Stevens said the two exchanged text messages right before he had foot surgery, and afterwards. 

“Obviously, everyone here wishes a speedy recovery and hopefully he gets back on the court soon,” Stevens said. 

Sullinger has been an effective player during his time in the NBA, with career averages of 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. 

But this will be the third time in his five NBA seasons that he will miss a significant amount of time on the court due to an injury or recovering from an injury. 

Stevens acknowledged that he feels for Sullinger who once again has to go through rehabilitation in order to get back on the floor.

“I like Jared a lot,” Stevens said. “He’s a heck of a player, he’s a really smart guy. Got a lot of respect for him and it stinks that he’s got to go through that but he’ll come back strong I’m sure.”