Seldom-used bench player could have success against James

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Seldom-used bench player could have success against James

Paul Pierce isn't the only member of the Boston Celtics who has learned LeBron James' game inside and out.

While Pierce has been battling against James on the opposing team for years, including this season in the Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics swingman Sasha Pavlovic has more firsthand experience with the Miami Heats power player.

James was the top pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Pavlovic was selected 18 picks after him. A year later, the two became teammates on the Cavaliers when Pavlovic was traded to Cleveland. They played together on the 2008 Cavaliers squad that was eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Pavlovic spent five years on the same team as James and watched him develop from a young phenom into a league MVP. Now that they are facing off in the playoffs for the second year in a row, Pavlovic knows what to expect -- and how to limit -- his former teammate.

LeBron's always going to be LeBron, Pavlovic said. He can score, he's one of the best players in the league, but we've got to make it hard for him. Contest every shot, don't let him get into the lane.

James scored 32 points in the Heats Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Monday, the most points allowed by the Cs this postseason. The 6-8, 250-pound forward got to the rim and attacked the lane, a weapon Pavlovic says the Celtics have to take away from him.

He is most effective probably driving to the middle, Pavlovic said. We can't allow him to do that. He has the size and he's more aggressive. He tries to get in, then his shots open up, and we've just got to stop him from driving.

Pavlovic emphasized the Celtics need to focus on the entire Heat team, not just James. But after netting 13 field goals in Game 1 (also the most allowed by the Cs this postseason), it was clear who they have to make defensive adjustments on moving forward.

All I know is, he's like everybody else during the playoffs, said Pavlovic. Hes more focused and playing as hard as he can.

Pavlovic played four minutes in the series opener. Whether or not he will be called upon to use his familiarity with James remains to be seen.

Al Horford recalls offseason flirtation with Rockets

Al Horford recalls offseason flirtation with Rockets

Al Horford was destined to play in tonight’s game between Boston and Houston.
 
But for which team?
 
That was the question the four-time All-Star pondered this summer when he narrowed his list of suitors outside of Atlanta to Boston, Houston and Washington, in that order.
 
“I really considered coming here,” Horford told reporters on Monday. “But them and Boston and Washington. (Houston) and Boston were probably the two teams I was really, really looking at. Just a lot to consider.”

When you look at how seamless Horford has fit in with the Celtics and how well the Rockets (13-7) have played this season, you get the feeling that Horford would have found success individually and for whichever team he chose.
 
“At the end of the day, I just felt I was better off being here in Boston,” Horford said.
 
Rockets All-Star James Harden was among the party Houston sent to try and woo Horford to the Rockets.

“I thought we had a chance,” Harden said. “I thought we had a real good chance, but obviously it didn’t work out. Which is fine.”
 
Indeed, the Rockets have been one of the surprise teams of the NBA this season in large part to Harden moving to the point guard position full-time.
 
Not only is he once again ranked among the NBA’s top scorers at 28.3 points which ranks fourth in the NBA, but he’s also dishing out a league-high 11.8 assists per game.
 
“They made it pretty clear in the offseason that he was going to be the point guard,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “He’s got the ball all the time. He had the ball a lot before, but certainly now with their spacing and his ability to make the play himself or the right read to the big rolling or to the many good shooters around, it’s a perfect setup for him and his skillset.”
 
The ability to draw defenders and create space for those around him is one of the many reasons why the Rockets felt Horford would have been an ideal fit for their system.
 
But the same argument can be made for the Celtics who unlike the Rockets, at least attempt to play defense at a high level.
 
Boston began the season ranked among the worst defenses in the NBA, but are currently up to 18th with a defensive rating of 105.0. Meanwhile, the Rockets’ defense ranks 27th in the league with a 107.2 defensive rating.