Celtics focused on the fundamentals for Game 3

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Celtics focused on the fundamentals for Game 3

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

WALTHAM When breaking down video from a loss, there's a tendency to focus on what improvements need to be made from an X's and O's standpoint.

If only it were that simple for the Boston Celtics.

Their problems thus far against the Heat are more about fundamentals. They are the kind of issues that are troubling -- but far from being uncorrectable.

"It's things that we do," said coach Doc Rivers. "I would be more concerned if I was looking at this and saying, 'There's things I don't know if we can fix.' I didn't see one of those on video."

Yes, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been the best players on the floor in the first two games, a big reason why the Heat have a comfortable 2-0 lead. But just as important as their scoring has been in this series, a series of minor gaffes by Boston has also played a role in the series being so lopsided.

James was given much love for his 35-point performance in Game 2, including how he dominated play during a critical 14-0 Miami run in the fourth quarter that broke open an 80-80 tie. But one of the keys to that Heat surge that was overlooked was Mario Chalmers, whose wide open 3-pointer gave Miami an 83-80 lead.

Confusion, as well as Celtics players being a step or two late, have been killers for the Celtics' defense throughout this series.

It's a result of the fact that the Celtics haven't played with the kind of consistent force, focus or fire needed to compete -- let alone win a game -- thus far.

When asked what it would take for the Celtics to turn this series around, Boston forward Jeff Green said, "Play harder and just have a sense of urgency. They got to a lot of loose balls last game. They executed better than we did. It's all stuff we can control. We just have to go out there and play harder than they are. That can be done."

It's distressing that the Celtics even need to discuss playing hard and having a sense of urgency at this point in the season. Playing hard and having a heightened sense of urgency should be a given this time of year.

But these Celtics have shown that they aren't like most teams, which is why even with a 2-0 series deficit, it's too soon to count the C's out entirely.

That's why while watching the video from Game 2, there was more a sense of disappointment than despair, a clear sense of frustration at the many lost opportunities they had.

"We know we're a better team, no matter what five guys are on the floor," Green said. "Collectively, we're still the best team in this league. Looking at film, we see our effort we put out and we know we can do better."

Part of that improvement starts with Green, the central figure for the Celtics in their four-player trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder in February.

Like most players in the NBA, Green has had his troubles defensively against James.

Although Green and James are both 6-9, James' significant weight advantage makes defending him an even greater challenge for Green.

Because of James' ball-handling skills, he has the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket as well as any player in the league.

And when he's knocking down jumpers, "he's tough to guard," said Green. He added, "He's a big body, and then you have to respect his shot. And if he gets past you, he can put that body on you. There's nothing you can do about it. You just have to contest every shot, make it tough on him and hope he misses."

The Celtics should also benefit from the return of Shaquille O'Neal, who is expected to play for the first time since April 3.

Looking back on the first two games, the C's squandered a number of scoring opportunities around the basket -- an area that O'Neal should help even if he's on the floor for just a few minutes.

Rivers showed his players a video clip on Thursday that included "35 in-the-paint, inside-the-charge circle misses in two games," Rivers said. "That's a lot."

The Celtics must also do a better job of freeing up their shooters.

After scoring 25 points in Game 1, Ray Allen had just eight points in Game 2 on 2-for-7 shooting from the field.

Setting screens may seem inconsequential to many, but Allen knows all too well that it's one of the intangibles that has to be done well in order to succeed this time of year.

"Just paying attention to the small things," Allen said. "You always need to be reminded, that those . . . setting screens, stutter-stepping one side to the next, those things get your teammates open, those things get screens set. You may not score, but your team scores."

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

Isaiah Thomas still unsure whether hip will require surgery

Isaiah Thomas still unsure whether hip will require surgery

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Isaiah Thomas said it will be at least another month before he and the Boston Celtics will know for sure if he’ll need surgery on his right hip or an alternative means of treatment.

“Take it day by day and whatever happens in the next four to six weeks, then go from there and attack that as is,” Thomas said on Friday.

Thomas took a hard spill on his right hip against Minnesota on March 15, and re-aggravated the injury during Boston’s second-round series against Washington. The Celtics’ medical staff treated the injury for several weeks, but the pain began to increase and the potential risk of it becoming a long-term problem only grew.

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In the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to Cleveland in the conference finals, the hip began to severely limit his play which was evident by him scoring two points in the first half of that game while missing all six of his shots from the field.

The Celtics medical team examined him at halftime and determined that in the best interest of his long-term health, he had to be shut down for the rest of the playoffs.

Needless to say, that did not go over well with Thomas.

“They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what’s more important,” Thomas recalled. “I definitely wasn’t trying to hear that at that point in time.”

Not only because of his competitive nature, but also because the Celtics were in the Conference finals for the first time since 2012.

“Conference finals, that’s the biggest stage I’ve ever been on,” Thomas said. “To not be able to go back out there in the second half … was painful; it hurt me.”

Now Thomas finds himself having to be patient and allow his body to heal up, realizing the big picture – his future – has to take precedence over what he’s accustomed to this time of year which is to take a couple weeks off and get right back in the gym to start working on his game and prepping for next season.

Not only is this a big summer in terms of him getting his body right, but he’s also eligible for a contract extension.

When asked about an extension, Thomas quipped, “That means more money? I’d love that.”

He added, “if it don’t happen, I'm the last person to be bothered by that. I know everything happens for a reason. So when my time comes, I know … God will bless me.”

The two-time all-star will earn just $6.26 million in the final year of the four-year, $27 million deal he signed in 2014 with Phoenix.

While being hurt isn’t ideal when talks center around an extension, Thomas isn’t overly concerned about his contract status and whether or not it changes this summer.

“That time will come. Whatever happens, happens,” Thomas said. “I’ve proved myself. The world knows what I bring to the table. I can’t do anything to control anything else. Whatever happens this summer with contracts, it happens. If not, we’ll wait until next summer and see where we go.”

While his contract status may be unclear, there’s no mistaking that Thomas wants to stay in Boston long-term.

“Boston has changed my career, changed my life,” said Thomas who came to Boston via trade in February of 2015. “I’d love to be here long-term and win championships here. As you guys know it’s a business; anything can happen. And I know that, I understand that. I would love to be here. This has been everything to me.”