Celtics-Heat Game 7 review: Pierce, C's come up short

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Celtics-Heat Game 7 review: Pierce, C's come up short

MIAMI Paul Pierce was better for the Boston Celtics in Game 7 than he was in Game 6.

But Pierce's performance, much like the rest of the C's, wasn't good enough when it counted.

And the end result is a 101-88 Game 7 loss that ends the Celtics' season while the Heat move on to the NBA Finals to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pierce had 19 points in Game 7, but missed 11 of his 18 shot attempts.

His Game 7 struggles were fairly consistent with the kind of series this has been for the Captain.

Pierce connected on just 34.4 percent of his shots in this series. The only series in which Pierce was worst from the field, was during the 2004 playoffs against Indiana.

As much as Pierce's struggles were a contributing factor in the C's loss, much of the attention afterward was paid to the five-year run of the Boston Big Three - Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett - possibly coming to an end with Saturday's loss.

"It's tough," Pierce said. "Everything is going so fast rightnow. It's tough to really think about it. You're more disappointed about the loss; you feel you let your teammates down, especially when you don't accomplish your goal of winning a championship. It's a lot of emotions now."

Here are some other keys outlined prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out in the C's season-ending Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat.

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."

WHAT WE SAW: Once again, Kevin Garnett wasn't able to control the paint area well enough for the Celtics to win. He finished with 14 points, with only two coming in the fourth quarter.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: These two staged another great duel, with Rondo finishing with a triple-double of 22 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. James was just as impressive with a game-high 31 points and 12 rebounds.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Brandon Bass' play in the first half was a huge reason the Celtics were winning. He finished with 16 points. Even more impressive was the job he did defensively on LeBron James in the first half. "They asked me to guard him," Bass said. "I was just going to go out there and give it all for my team. It didn't matter who I was guarding. I just wanted to give my best."

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."

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics were better with 19 assists, but the ratio of assists to field goals made (35) was still not up to the C's lofty standards.

Raptors, in pursuit of Celtics in playoff race, lose Lowry for perhaps rest of regular season

Raptors, in pursuit of Celtics in playoff race, lose Lowry for perhaps rest of regular season

The Eastern Conference playoff race, seemingly altered by the moves -- and non-moves (hello there, Celtics) -- of some of the contenders, just took another twist.

The Raptors, bolstered by the acquisition of Serge Ibaka and appearing poised to make a run toward the top of the standings after a come-from-behind victory over the Celtics on Friday, were hit with a body blow Monday when it was announced All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry needs surgery on his right wrist and may miss the remainder of the regular season.

ESPN reports Lowry is expected to be sidelined from four to eight weeks. Toronto hopes to have him back for the playoffs.

The Raptors are currently in fourth place in the conference at 35-24, trailing Cleveland (40-17), Boston (38-21) and Washington (34-23). Without Lowry, and facing a rough, six-of-their-next-seven-games-on-the-road stretch, Toronto may stop focusing on catching the Wizards and/or Celtics and focus on holding off Atlanta (32-26) in order to hold onto home-court in the first round.

Lowry, 30, who missed the last two games because of the injury, is averaging a career-best 22.8 points per game. He also is averaging 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds.

Dennis Schroder doubles down on claims Isaiah Thomas took family trash talk too far

Dennis Schroder doubles down on claims Isaiah Thomas took family trash talk too far

Dennis Schroder isn't backing down.

The Atlanta Hawks point guard again was asked about Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, and the budding rivalry between the two players that's turned into a rivalry between the two teams. Thomas, of course, was accused by Schroder of taking his trash talking a bit too far during the teams' last meeting, a 103-101 Celtics victory last month in which Thomas hit the game-winning shot with just seconds remaining.

Thomas' comments allegedly were about Schroder's family, per Schroder himself. Thomas has since repeatedly denied the claims. So does Schroder still deny Thomas' side of the story?

“I mean, yeah. Everybody heard it, too," Schroder said. "My family sat courtside too. And (Hawks teammate) Thabo (Sefolosha) heard some things, you know, and he was involved in it. But it is what it is. Like I said, we just try to compete. And you know, it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is."

Schroder didn't dive much deeper than denying Thomas' claims of innocence. But is there something about Thomas inparticular that gets under Schroder's skin or runs him the wrong way?

Nah, I mean he’s a great player, he’s showing it this year," Schroder said. "I mean, what he did in the playoffs last year was just not, you know, professional. And I think nobody wants to see that but it’s fine. We just try to compete and try to help our team win the basketball game."

Schroder was referring to the back-and-forth physical play between himself and Thomas that resulted in flagrant fouls for both during the first-round playoff matchup betweein the clubs, a series Atlanta eventually won four games to two. Thomas' status was in doubt for Game 4 of the series after a hit to Schroder's head in Game 3, but the now two-time All-Star ultimately was allowed to play.

"Everybody’s competitive. Everybody tries to get out, get after it," Schroder explained when asked if his feud with Thomas fuels his team any extra. "I think it’s a big game tonight and the team knows it. I’m pretty sure the Celtics know it too. It’s getting close to the playoffs and every game counts."

Boston and Atlanta tip off from TD Garden at 7:30 p.m.