Game 4 preview: Celtics look to exploit size advantage

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Game 4 preview: Celtics look to exploit size advantage

BOSTON Size hasn't exactly been a trait associated with the Boston Celtics this season, unless you're talking about something they've been lacking.

But in the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston has had a massive mismatch in the middle with Kevin Garnett and whoever the Miami Heat have trotted out there to guard him.

Not only has Garnett had his way around the basket, but lately he's had help -- lots of it, actually.

And it in Game 3, it resulted in 58 points in the paint -- a ridiculously high number for a team that only has one low-post scorer (Garnett), and he usually spends about as much time on the perimeter as he does in the paint.

"We have the size advantage with Kevin and Brandon Bass," said Paul Pierce. "So the emphasis is to try to get the ball in the paint as much as possible. If they collapse, find our shooters."

But in Friday's win, most of the shooters for Boston were slashing to the basket for layups.

"They were able to get probably the easiest buckets they were able to get all the playoffs," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "And particularly in the paint, at the rim, I think we had playoff highs in layup attempts allowed and points given up in the paint."

The 58 points in the paint scored were the most by the Celtics this year, regular season included.

"So we have to be much tougher in those areas, the effort areas, the big-muscle areas, which we were in the first two games," Spoelstra said.

Not surprisingly, limiting Garnett and the C's overall scoring in the paint was a topic of conversation during the Heat's preparation for Game 4.

"Their penetration, their concerted efforts to get Garnett in the paint, was very damaging to us," said Miami forward Shane Battier. "So we'll have to work, we'll talk a little harder and work easier to limit those points."

Points in the paint will once again be a factor in tonight's outcome. Here are few other keys to keep in mind as the C's try and even up the best-of-seven series:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Coming off his free-throw-less Game 3, Miami will look to establish Dwyane Wade early. That'll be a huge departure from what he's done to start the first three games. In those three games, Wade has scored a total of six points in the first quarter. "I'm a patient person," Wade said, "so eventually things will hopefully loosen up and I'll get opportunities where I can attack and get into a rhythm a little more."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Celtics bench vs. Heat bench: Each game in this series has featured the winning team getting a big game by someone off the bench. In Games 1 and 2, it was Miami's Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, respectively, stepping up with strong play. In Boston's Game 3 win, the Celtics got scoring and good defense from Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels. Tonight's game will likely be decided by which second unit makes a greater impact.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo's been putting up unprecedented numbers and Kevin Garnett's contributing with double-doubles, but Ray Allen has steadily moved closer to looking and playing like the Ray Allen of old. He had 13 points in Boston's Game 3 win, which included a one-handed, driving dunk -- the kind of play a guy with a bum right ankle probably isn't going to even try unless he's feeling better. "It was a little surprise," Allen said. "Yeah, feeling pretty good."

STAT TO TRACK: Miami has been one of the best all season at converting turnovers into points, evident by its No. 2 ranking in points off turnovers (17). But the Celtics have kept all three games relatively close because of their ability to limit mistakes and, in turn, minimize the damage they can cause. The C's are only giving up an average of 10 points per game off turnovers in the series, while averaging 11 points per game off turnovers themselves. For the playoffs, they are tied for ninth in that category with 14 points off turnovers per game.

Jae Crowder talks about constant trade rumors; love for Boston and Brad Stevens

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Jae Crowder talks about constant trade rumors; love for Boston and Brad Stevens

Celtics forward Jae Crowder talks with Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine talks about building on a breakthrough season last year, and the love for his head coach Brad Stevens, and for the city of Boston.

Also, Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely talk about what lies ahead for Crowder in 2016/17.

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Bradley knows the risks of his all-out brand of defense

Bradley knows the risks of his all-out brand of defense

WALTHAM – There are a number of NBA players we have seen through the years whose effort level has been questioned.
 
But when it comes to Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley, that has never been an issue.
 
In fact, Bradley’s all-out style of defense has been a major factor in him being sidelined for an extended period of time in each of his six NBA seasons.
 
Although he’s only 25 years old, Bradley is starting to embrace the idea of less all-out defense might not be such a bad idea.
 
“It’s hard to control my injuries because I play hard every single possession,” Bradley told CSNNE.com following the team’s first practice. “I can’t say that every NBA player doesn’t, but I know there’s not a lot. I play hard every single possession especially on the defensive end. That can take a toll on your body. I just have to make sure I’m taking care of myself and picking my spots a little better.”
 
Prior to the Celtics selecting Bradley with the 19th overall pick in the 2011, he suffered a dislocated shoulder injury. Throughout his five NBA seasons, the veteran guard has a long list of injuries which has sidelined him for at least five games every season in addition to missing some playoff games.
 
Knowing the risks involved in continuing his all-out brand of basketball, the fact that Bradley is even open to the idea of picking when to assert himself defensively and when to be more passive, is progress.
 
“I’m pretty sure someone like (ex-Celtics) Tony Allen …  he’s not going to go hard like every possession,” Bradley said. “He’s going to pick his spots, still play good defense.”
 
Which is exactly what Bradley is striving to do this season, and show that last season’s all-NBA First Team Defense nod wasn’t a fluke.

But as we have seen with Bradley throughout his career with the Celtics, he has a way of coming back every season having made a significant stride in some facet of the game to become closer to being a two-way player.
 
“That’s my goal; I want my teammates to be able to count on me playing well at both ends of the floor,” Bradley said.
 
And as I mentioned earlier, Bradley is still a relatively young guy who turns 26 years old in November.
 
‘I’m still a 90s baby’ just like everybody on this team,” quipped Bradley.
 
Being so young puts a premium of sorts on players to learn all they can as quickly as they can in relation to their respective team.
 
“I feel young; I feel young,” Bradley said. “I feel young. I still haven’t even played a full season yet. This will be my first season playing a whole season.”
 
Listening to Bradley talk about adjusting how he plays defensively, it’s pretty clear that he’s having an internal tug-of-war between continuing to play elite defense and easing up defensively.
 
“That’s just me. Some people can do it. Maybe I could take some (plays) off, play passing lanes,” Bradley said. “But I don’t think I’ll ever change into that. It could help our team out a little bit.”