Blakely: Celts' title enhanced by Heat's failure

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Blakely: Celts' title enhanced by Heat's failure

By A. SherrodBlakely
CSNNE.com CelticsInsider
Follow@sherrodbcsn
If you ask any coach, player or NBA executive, they'll tell you without hesitation that it's a copy-cat league.

Whatever one team does successfully, you're bound to see a knock-off version of it coming to an arena near you.

The Miami Heat went all Super friends on us when LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to take their talents to South Beach to join forces with Dwyane Wade. New York, not to be outdone, added Amar'e Stoudemire last summer and followed that up by adding Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups via trade -- a decent threesome, but definitely not apple-for-apple with the Heat's.

When you look at the struggles the Heat had in the Finals and the lack of cohesion we saw with the post-trade Knicks, it makes you appreciate what the Celtics did back in 2008 even more.

Adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a roster led by Paul Pierce immediately made the Celtics title contenders, but there were doubts -- plenty of them -- that it would work immediately.

Pierce has been at his best for years with the ball in his hands while everyone else cleared out.

He's a great scorer. Ask him, and he'll tell you as much.

Garnett and Allen had already established themselves as future Hall of Famers. And while it was clear both could still play at a high level, their best days in the NBA were behind them.

Throw in a couple of unproven youngsters (Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins), and a bench that had yet to establish an identity, and the '08 Celtics were essentially an older, more seasoned version of the Heat this past season.

It is that experience, maybe more than anything else, that helped the Celtics bring home Banner 17 while Miami will spend this summer licking its wounds from getting beat in the Finals by the Dallas Mavericks.

When you look at Boston's Big Three, all of them endured their share of bumps and bruises along the road to greatness.

Does anyone really feel that way about LeBron? or D-Wade? or Chris Bosh?

Let's be real.

All three were top-five picks in 2003, and immediately became the face of their respective franchises.

Of the trio, James has clearly lived the most charmed life of the bunch. He'll tell you as much.

Really.

When asked how he felt about so many NBA fans wanting to see him fail with the Heat, James responded, "At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point."

For James, disappointment remains a central part of his real world when it comes to basketball.

He plotted out as best he could what it would take to win an NBA title, teaming up with a pair of superstars while being surrounded by a slew of underpaid role players who were all too eager to leave a few bucks on the table for a shot at what many thought would be the first of many title runs.

But they all soon discovered: This winning a championship thing? It ain't easy.

Fortunately for Boston's Big Three, they didn't have to experience the heartbreak of coming up short in the playoffs to realize how difficult winning a title could be.

Because of the seamless nature the C's went about bringing home Banner 17, others have since tried to do the same.

Add three superstars. Surround them by solid role players. Stir. Mix.

Let it simmer for 82 regular-season games, only to start cookin' come playoff time. And just like that, you got a title. Right?

But as the Mavericks proved in dispatching the Heat in six games, it takes more than three great players to win an NBA championship.

When it comes to championships, talent helps.

Having a talented team? Even better.

But the Heat have the right idea with three superstars as its centerpiece. Surrounding them with the right kind of talent to compliment their games is just as important. But when you look at champions, the one thing that often separates them from others is experience.

And when it comes to experience, there's no knock-off equivalent.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”