Celtics-Heat: Game 7 preview

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Celtics-Heat: Game 7 preview

MIAMI The disappointment of Thursday's Game 6 loss is a thing of the past now for the Boston Celtics. And while that punch-in-the-gut moment hurt the entire team, it's hard to imagine it hitting anyone harder than it did Paul Pierce.

An elimination game, at home. A chance to send the heavily-favored Miami Heat home for the summer. It was the kind of situation, the kind of moment that typically brings out the best in Pierce. Instead, Celtics Nation had to witness Pierce at his worst, scoring just nine points on 4-for-18 shooting.

If there's a player due for a breakout game in this series, it's Pierce.

The struggles in Game 6 were a reflection on how this entire series has been for the Celtics' Captain.

He is shooting just 33.6 percent in this series which is the worst shooting percentage he has had in 22 playoff series.

"He'll bounce back," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Paul is a big-game player. Game 7s are the biggest that you can possibly have. What I saw (in Game 6) was I thought he was ready for the game. He just didn't have a great game. We don't look into it much more than that; at least I don't. He was down. Kevin (Garnett) was down. But you can see their resolve in the locker room. They're not just going to pack for (Game 7). They're going to bring suits for Tuesday (Game 1 of the NBA Finals), and they're going to bring suits for Thursday (Game 2 of the NBA Finals). And that's the way we're going to plan it."

Pierce's ability to bounce back and lead the way for the Celtics will indeed be a factor in tonight's Game 7 matchup. Here are some other keys to pay attention to as the Celtics look to do what hasn't been done in the Big Three era - win a Game 7 on the road.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Kevin Garnett didn't get nearly as many touches around the basket in Game 6 that he's used to, or the Celtics need in order to be successful. Plan on a heavy diet of Garnett around the basket tonight. "He really made the first post shot, and then he didn't get one for ten touches," said C's coach Doc Rivers. I thought they (Miami Heat) threw him out of his rhythm. We threw him out of his rhythm. And all great scorers or great players are rhythmic. I didn't think we did a very good job of keeping him within the rhythm of our offense."
MATCHUP TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo vs. LeBron James: They won't face each other to start the game, but there's no question they are the two biggest stars in this series. Each has had an out-of-this-world game in this series, the kind of performances that will pale in comparison if they were to have a good game tonight and lead their respective teams to victory.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Brandon Bass is indeed a wild card in this game tonight. The Celtics need him to be a factor both on the boards and in the scorer's column. With so much attention being paid to Kevin Garnett in the post, the perimeter shooting of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen along with Rajon Rondo's dribble penetration, he'll get opportunities to make a difference in what has to be one of the biggest games of his career.

STAT TO TRACK - Of all the statistics from Boston's Game 6 loss that contributed to the C's defeat, their 14 team assists stood out. It was the fewest assists they had in the playoffs, which to some degree spoke volumes about how poorly they shot the ball and to some degree, their ball movement not being as crisp as it usually is. "You can't just look at a stat sheet and say that we only had 14 (assists) and say we didn't move the ball," said C's Rajon Rondo, who had 10 of the team's 14 assists. "Guys missed shots. When you shoot the ball well, if you make a couple of lay-ups, that's more assists. We moved the ball well. We just didn't put the ball in the hole."

Stars, studs, and duds: Bradley lone bright spot in Celtics' Game 5 loss

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Stars, studs, and duds: Bradley lone bright spot in Celtics' Game 5 loss

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics’ season is officially over following their 135-102 Game 5 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the game. 

 

STARS

LeBron James

He was indeed the ultimate closer once again, leading all players with 35 points on 13-for-18 shooting with eight rebounds and eight assists. 

Avery Bradley

Not the way he would have liked the season to end, but Bradley once again showed great leadership in the face of adversity. He led the Celtics with 23 points on 10-for-20 shooting with four rebounds and an assist. 

Kyrie Irving

Boston continued to struggle keeping him from being extremely efficient scoring the ball. He had 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting with seven assists. 

 

STUDS

Kevin Love

Most of his points came early in the game, a trend we saw most of this series with him. He finished with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds along with three assists. 

Deron Williams

His scoring in the first half was among the keys to Cleveland pulling away and never looking back. He had 14 points for the game on 5-for-6 shooting.

Jae Crowder

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (3-for-8 shooting), but you had to love his toughness and rugged play not just in Game 5 but in this entire series. He had 11 points and six rebounds to go with three assists. 

 

DUDS

Kelly Olynyk

They needed him to have a “Game 7 versus Washington” kind of night, and that just never materialized. He had seven points while missing six of his eight shot attempts.

Marcus Smart

Aside from Game 3 when he made seven 3’s, Smart didn’t maximize his opportunity to be a suitable replacement for the injured Isaiah Thomas. Game 5 was another rough one for Smart who had six points on 2-for-7 shooting with five rebounds and two assists with five turnovers.

Celtics season comes to an end with Game 5 loss to Cavs

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Celtics season comes to an end with Game 5 loss to Cavs

BOSTON – The final horn sounded and for the second time in three years, the Celtics faithful saw their team’s season end at the TD Garden at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But this was different.

Two years ago, the Celtics were just lucky to be on the floor with the Cavaliers who had no problem sweeping them out of the postseason.

This time, things were different.

Cleveland had their way with Boston, but had to work harder – much harder – than they did a couple years ago.

And that more than anything else, is clear and undeniable evidence that the Celtics are on the come-up even after their season ended with a 135-102 Game 5 drubbing.

They lost the series four games to one, most of which were played without their most dynamic player, Isaiah Thomas (hip) who came into the postseason as the top scorer in the Eastern Conference.

Boston did lots of good things in this series, but it served as a reminder that the Celtics aren’t quite ready for the bright lights and big-game performances needed consistently this time of the year to win.

LeBron James’ reign in the NBA is far from over, but it’s clear as day that the Celtics are positioning themselves to be one of the favorites to eventually unseat the Cavs.

Boston’s regular season record (53-29) was the best in Brad Stevens’ four years on the job, good enough to go into the postseason with the top overall seed.

But as we saw time after time after time, regular season records mean little if it comes void of the superstars most of the elite teams have in waves.

The Cleveland Cavaliers did as expected in eliminating the Boston Celtics and in doing so, move on to the NBA Finals for the third straight season where they will face a well-rested Golden State Warriors club.

Celtics Nation serenaded the players as they walked off the floor who were disappointed but should have walked off with heads held high.

Why?

Because in the end, they gave the fans exactly what they wanted – everything they had to offer.

And for most of this season, it was good enough to not just compete but win a lot of games that few outside of the Celtics’ payroll anticipated would result in a victory.

In Cleveland, the Celtics ran into the ultimate buzzsaw.

Not only were the defending champions playing their best basketball in the playoffs, but they were healthy both mentally and physically – something they could not lay claim to during several stretches during the regular season.

Meanwhile, the Celtics dealt with injuries throughout the season.

There were the usual bumps and bruises.

And then there was Isaiah Thomas’ right hip injury which he played through after re-aggravating it at the end of Boston’s second-round series with Washington.

But it proved to be too much for him to deal with which led to the Celtics shutting him down for the playoffs at halftime of Game 2.

Boston managed to win Game 3 and had opportunities galore to get Game 4 only to come up short in large part because they didn’t have an offensive closer – a player who could fill the void left by Thomas’ absence.

In Game 5, the Cavaliers managed to find areas to exploit most of the first half as they pulled ahead to dominate the action.

And the Celtics, a team that without Thomas relies heavily on ball movement, timely cuts to the basket and the need to knock down open shots, simply failed to once again take advantage of the opportunities – and there weren’t many – the Cavs afforded them.

Game 5 had the look and feel of Games 1 and 2, when Cleveland came into the TD Garden and had their way with the Celtics with a pair of wins by a combined 57 points.

Cleveland began Thursday night’s game with a 28-12 run, capped off by an emphatic dunk by LeBron James who blew past Terry Rozier.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called his second time-out of the quarter, a clear sign of his concern – and justifiably so – that the game could quickly get out of hand as was the case in the first two games.

And with more than two minutes to play, the Cavaliers had a commanding 36-26 lead after a Kyrie Irving lay-up in which he was fouled by Rozier.

Cleveland continued to pull away in the second and third quarters as Boston’s defense showed little resistance.

And when they did, the Cavs just went around and over them, resulting in an overwhelming performance that Boston had no answer for, home court or not.

It was another beatdown at the hands of the Cavs, but there was a different vibe following this one.

Two years ago, there was no telling what the loss meant to a Celtics team that at the time, was lucky to be in the playoffs.

This season, there was no luck at all in Boston being one of the last four teams with games on the docket.

They deserved to have this opportunity, one that’s likely to come around a few more times in the near future as Boston continues to strengthen a young core with more talent and experiences like what they went through during this Conference Finals against Cleveland.