Battier comes up big for Heat in Game 1

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Battier comes up big for Heat in Game 1

MIAMI The Boston Celtics have seen their share of X-factors come to life in the playoffs thus far.

In their first-round series against Atlanta, it was Jeff Teague. Against the Philadelphia 76ers, it was rookie big man Lavoy Allen.

Against the Heat?

It's still early, but the X-factor on Monday night was Shane Battier who had a rare double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in helping Miami defeat Boston, 93-79, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

"Shane is everything, man," said Miami's Dwyane Wade. "He does it all for our team."

It certainly looked that way in Game 1.

While LeBron James (32 points, 13 rebounds) and Wade (22 points, seven assists) were racking up all the stats, it was Battier doing the dirty work that in a playoff series like this, could literally mean the difference between winning and losing.

And it was Battier who in hindsight, came up with arguably the biggest play of the night.

Boston spent the entire game playing from behind, but in the third quarter they finally had a chance to take the lead.

With the score tied at 50, Ray Allen got a steal and began to dribble up-court and seemingly had a potential fast-break in the works.

Rajon Rondo was filling the middle of the lane, and was calling for the ball.

Allen didn't initially see him. By the time Allen did, Battier was on the move and was able to block Rondo's lay-up attempt from behind.

Moments later, Battier drilled a 3-pointer that put the Heat ahead for good.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding - it was his first playoff double-double ever - he also managed to keep a bigger, stronger Brandon Bass from having his way on the perimeter or around the basket.

Bass had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting.

The play of Battier certainly caught the attention of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. If only the same could be said for the Celtics defense, which seemed a bit too giving to Battier all game.

When asked how to compensate for Battier when he's having a game like he did on Monday night, Rivers responded, "We guard him. That would be nice. Take away some of the easy shots."

Battier was 4-for-11 shooting just like Bass, with most of his shots coming "too easy."

Said Rivers: "Shane had three or four easy shots that hurt us."

Despite James and Wade (22 points, seven assists) being the central figures in the Miami Heat offensive attack, Wade understands Miami will need players like Battier and Mike Miller (eight points off the bench) to continue contributing if they are to move on to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row.

"He (Battier) does all the little things," Wade said. "He's pesky. He gets under other guy's skin a little bit. He does a great job of blocking out. Like I said, we love him. And we want him to continue to be comfortable, the way he was tonight and continue to shoot. He's going to have a game where he's going to score more because he's going to be able he's going to get those shots, he's going to knock more down."

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Chris Mannix: 'Great chance' Celtics capture No. 1 seed

Chris Mannix discusses the Boston Celtics chances of sealing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and which low-seed team will give them the most problems in the playoffs.

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

Kelly Olynyk's 3-point game is helping him produce all over floor

WALTHAM -- Kelly Olynyk is in a good place right now. 

He’s playing a key role on one of the top teams in the NBA, doing more than just stretch the floor with long-range jumpers and 3-pointers. He has been a solid positional defender most of his time in the NBA, but lately he has become one of the team’s best rebounders … really!

But more than anything, Olynyk is in the best shape of his career both mentally and physically, delivering strong play in several categories.

“When he plays aggressive and with confidence, that’s when he’s at his best,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. 

And lately, the best of Olynyk has been in steady rotation for the Celtics who will host the Phoenix Suns tonight. 

Olynyk attributes his recent strong play to seizing his opportunity to help the Celtics in what has been a season-long area of weakness. The fourth-year big man is a threat to score from 3-point range whenever he’s on the floor. Because of that, teams are overly concerned about his long-range shooting which has allowed him to be an effective driver into the paint and finisher around the rim. 

He has also benefited by being healthy, something he could not say was the case on the eve of the Celtics’ postseason run last season which ended in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks. Olynyk was hampered by a sore right shoulder injury that limited him in the playoffs against Atlanta, and later required surgery which sidelined him for the start of this season. 

But those pain-filled days where he gave more thought to his shoulder rather than shouldering a greater load for the Celtics, are behind him now. 

“It’s something that I had to deal with and I had to get surgery,” Olynyk said. “Now it feels better than it has. I feel strong, confident, ready to roll.”

Boston has won five of its last six games, and the play of Olynyk off the bench has been among the reasons for the team’s latest run of success. In those six games, Olynyk has averaged 10.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting a team-high 64.9 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range in 20.5 minutes per game – all better than his season average in those respective categories. 

And among Celtics players who have averaged double-digit minutes in that span, Olynyk has a team-best rebounding percentage of .170 in addition to an effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) of .689 which is also tops among Boston players during their last six games.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn’t surprised to see Olynyk playing as well as he has now that he’s injury-free.

“I don’t think there’s anything more important than playing with clear minds and fresh legs,” Stevens said. “I just think that, and not being injured is a big part of that.”

For Olynyk, part of the challenge he has had since coming to the NBA was finding that balance between being aggressive and assertive, while making sure he got teammates involved when the opportunity presents itself.

“There’s definitely a fine line between being aggressive, forcing things, over-aggressive and create and open things up for others,” Olynyk said. “It’s kind of a balance, kind of like a yin and yang; just go out and play basketball the way you know how to play it. That’s what’s going to make you the best version of yourself and your team the best version they can be.”

Olynyk’s teammates encourage him often (Avery Bradley and Thomas are probably the two most consistent in his ear) to be more assertive, but they recognize he tends to be hesitant far too often for a player with his skillset.

“When he’s second-guessing and … shot-faking when he should have shot, just not being the aggressive player that we need him to be … we don’t need him to be like that,” said Thomas. “We believe in him. He just has to remain confident at all times. When he’s confident and aggressive, he’s a hell of a player.”