Celtics-Heat review: What we saw . . .


Celtics-Heat review: What we saw . . .

BOSTON The transition game has been a good friend of the Miami Heat all season, courtesy of their ability to force turnovers which trigger fast break opportunities that more often than not, lead to easy points.

For all that went right in Boston's 91-72 win over the Heat on Sunday, limiting Miami's to limit Miami's points off turnovers huge. The Heat came into Sunday's game averaging 19.6 points off of turnovers this season which trailed only Memphis (19.8) in the NBA. On Sunday, Boston turned the ball over 16 times, but it only generated 11 points for the Heat. Of those 16 turnovers, seven came in the fourth quarter when the game was essentially over.

"You're not going to beat Miami if you turn the ball over," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We talked about it this morning; I said, 'If you've got a choice between saving the ball and throwing it in the stands, throw it in the stands.'"

Limiting Miami's points off turnovers was just one of the many factors Boston benefited from in what was their signature win of the season. Here's a review of other keys identified prior to the game, and how they may or may not have played out in Boston's surprisingly decisive win over the Heat.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: This will be the second time these two have faced off, but much has changed since their matchup back on December 27. Paul Pierce (right heel) did not play in that game. Kevin Garnett, who now plays center, was playing primarily at the power forward position then. And Greg Stiemsma was just another rookie big man at the end of an NBA bench who didn't play. Today, he's the C's best shot-blocker who is now one of the first Celtics reserves to see action. "We're definitely a better team now than we were at the start of the season," Stiemsma told CSNNE.com. "Hopefully we'll just keep improving, and go into the playoffs playing our best basketball." Miami has a slightly different look as well with the recent addition of Ronny Turiaf who signed with the Heat on March 21 after being waived by the Denver Nuggets. It'll be worth monitoring how the new faces who weren't around or were in different roles the first time these two met, will fare today.

WHAT WE SAW: Paul Pierce had 23 points, a big difference compared to the five points scored by Sasha Pavlovic (he filled in for Pierce who was out with a heel injury) on Dec. 27. Greg Stiemsma fouled out again for Boston, but still managed to chip in six points, four rebounds, two steals and a block before exiting the game. Again, a significant improvement compared to not playing (coaches decision) in their first meeting in December. The only new face since then that's in the Heat rotation, is Ronny Turiaf. He played just under seven minutes, but was scoreless while picking up three personal fouls.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Dwyane Wade: Bradley's ability to cut to the basket - A LOT - for lay-ups and lately, start knocking down jumpers, will be put to the test against Wade who is one of the more under-rated perimeter defenders in the NBA. Bradley's aggressive style defensively will face the ultimate challenge in Wade, a big-time scorer who has a way of getting even the best defenders in early foul trouble. Whether Bradley starts or comes off the bench in place of Ray Allen (he's questionable to play after missing the last five games with a right ankle injury).

WHAT WE SAW: You knew Avery Bradley wouldn't shut down Wade, but he made him work a lot harder than anyone outside the Celtics locker room, expected. Wade had 15 points, but needed 17 shots (he missed 11) to get it. In addition to forcing Wade into tough shots, Bradley also managed a highlight-worthy block of one in the second quarter. When you throw in the fact that Bradley finished with 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, he clearly did his job and then some.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett's last two matchups at center pitted him against Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, easily two players Garnett had no problem getting amped up to face. Joel Anthony? Not quite the same sizzle, but potentially poses an even greater problem. Anthony is a high-energy, all-out hustle kind of player - the kind of player whose strengths work against what Garnett does best. Keeping Anthony from controlling the boards should be Garnett's primary responsibility today.

WHAT WE SAW: While the numbers don't exactly jump out at you, Garnett had another solid game for the Celtics. His job on Sunday was primarily to do a good job defensively on Chris Bosh (he had four points on 2-for-11 shooting), rebound and help protect the paint area. Garnett had 10 points and eight rebounds in the win. "We're a grit team," Garnett said. "Our positions and our personnel, it's all about our system. You do what you're told, know your role Doc's system is not real complicated, but it does call for you to give everything you have."

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has been a lot more efficient offensively around the basket lately, aided largely by their dribble penetration which has resulted in a slight spike in points in the paint. That'll be key against a Miami Heat team that has been among the NBA's best all season in limiting opponents scoring around the rim. Teams have averaged just 36.9 points in the paint against Miami this season, the third-fewest allowed in the NBA. Although Boston's 34.8 points in the paint average ranks just 29th in the league, the C's have increased their points in the paint scoring to 40 per game during their current four-game winning streak.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's scoring around the basket never really materialized into a game-changing issue. The Celtics hit their season average for points scored in the paint, with 34. Although as the Celtics began to blow out the Heat in the second half, points in the paint was among the factors contributing to them pulling away. Boston had 24 of its 34 points in the paint, in the second half. While Miami had 40 points in the paint for the game, only 10 came in the second half which was due in part because Boston didn't allow them too many scoring opportunity in transition or off turnovers.

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Curran: Do Bledsoe's recollections give insight to Brady's state of mind?

Drew Bledsoe’s being asked to reminisce a lot this fall. And not exactly about fuzzy, feel-good topics that warm the heart.

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Instead, it’s reminiscing about 2001, the year his heart got lacerated and he was replaced for good by Tom Brady, who went on to win a Super Bowl. Or about 2006 when -- as Cowboys quarterback -- he got yanked in favor or Tony Romo and never got back in.

This being the 15th anniversary of SB36 has caused Bledsoe’s phone to ring. And the Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo-Jacoby Brissett dance early this season has brought to the fore discussion of the Brady succession plan, especially now that it appears both players aren’t going to be disasters. How is this situation similar to the one in 2001? Meanwhile, the emergence of Dak Prescott in Dallas puts the oft-injured Romo in more immediate peril of losing his job.

In the past few days, Bledsoe’s opened up to both Albert Breer of MMQB and Michael Silver of NFL Media about the emotions of getting bumped and -- with Breer especially --– the depth he goes into discussing the situation and his emotions then and now are kind of moving.

If you think you’ve heard it all before -- and I believed I had -- you probably haven’t.  The seriousness of Bledsoe’s 2001 injury was not exaggerated, as he explains in an anecdote. He acknowledges feeling entitled to a degree and admits to being bitter about the way he’s recalled.

“One thing I do bristle at a little bit is, I feel like there’s too much of me and Wally Pipp (the Yankees first baseman famously replaced by Lou Gehrig who never got his job back and birthed the verb “Pipped” for anyone who missed a day and got replaced),” Bledsoe told Breer. “I was the single-season passing leader for three organizations when I left. Unfortunately, Tommy’s been so damn good that people sometimes forget I had a pretty nice career.”

Speaking with Silver regarding Romo-Prescott, Bledsoe plumbed his experience with Brady and Bill Belichick in 2001.

"When you're young in the league -- when you're young in life -- you think you're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," said Bledsoe. "You think nobody can ever replace you, and that you're gonna be the guy forever. Eventually, you learn the lesson that it's a replacement business. Sometimes that hits you right between the eyes, which is what happened to me with [Tom] Brady, and again with Tony.

"It happens to all of us. I don't know if it's the time for Tony, but it's something that every quarterback has to confront."

In less than a week, Brady -- the best quarterback in NFL history in the minds of many -- will be back from his suspension. He will have seen in a month’s time that the NFL train rolls along without him and that, while he could never be cloned, he can be capably replaced.

Brady, because of the way he ascended to the job and the friends he’s seen get taken behind the barn in New England, has always been open about understanding he could be replaced. But now he’s got concrete evidence.

Said Bledsoe: "In our heart of hearts, we all want to feel indispensible. We all want to believe, 'There's no way the team can succeed without me.' Then you see the team going on, and winning with a young guy playing the position, and playing it well, and you do some soul searching . . . and you start to think, 'Maybe the team's gonna make that decision to move on.'

"You always want the team to do well, but it's hard. It can be [awkward]. Tommy and I are still good friends, and I text with Romo once in awhile . . . but it's hard to love 'em if they've got your job and you want it back."

Please read both.

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

Marchand: 'No place I'd rather play' than Boston

The Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.

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The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.

Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.

"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."

Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.

It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.

The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.

“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”

While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.