Free throw disadvantage hurting Celtics


Free throw disadvantage hurting Celtics

By A. Sherrod Blakely

BOSTON The Boston Celtics have broken down all the different reasons that have contributed to their 2-0 series hole against the Miami Heat.

While there's no disputing the C's must step their game up in several areas, none appears more obvious than free throws.

Although Boston has committed just five more fouls (48-43) in the two games than the Heat, Miami has taken 14 more free throw attempts in each game.

A big reason for that is the Heat's 1-2 punch of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have been in attack mode both games, driving into the paint, looking to finish while drawing contact.

Limiting the Celtics' ability to get to the line has been part of the defensive game plan for the Heat.

"We're trying to be active and keep the ball in front of us," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. "It's a whole lot easier said than done against that team."

But having James and Wade certainly helps.

"Our game is we're attackers," Wade said. "Myself, LeBron, we're two of the (best) attackers, getting points in the paint, putting pressure on defense. Whatever the game calls for, we have the team that can do it."

James and Wade both rank among the top 10 players in the postseason in free throw attempts, coming in at No. 5 and No. 7, respectively.

The highest ranked Celtics player in the postseason in free throw attempts is Rajon Rondo, who is ranked 21st with a total of 36 free throws taken.

"We're not trying to be anybody different than we have been during the regular season," Spoelstra said. "We're a team that does attack. We're a team that does try to get opportunities in the paint, that does try to get to the free throw line. That's not something new we're trying to do now."

The Celtics, meanwhile, haven't attacked the paint with the same kind of force or focus.

Part of that has to do with Paul Pierce, the C's best at attacking the basket, being limited in both games.

In Game 1, he was ejected after picking up a second technical foul with seven minutes to play.

And in Game 2, Pierce spent most of the first half on the bench or in the trainer's room after suffering what he later said was a left Achilles strain.

Pierce was able to return, but missed his first five shots after stepping back on the floor.

The injury is not considered serious enough to keep the Captain out of tonight's pivotal Game 3 matchup.

"It was a minor strain," Pierce said. "But it's doing good."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

BOSTON -- No matter what Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder say, you get the feeling there’s still some bad blood between these two.
It goes back to the playoffs last season when Thomas slapped Schroder in the face and extended into their last meeting in which Schroder said Thomas spoke unkind words about his family in Atlanta (allegations that Thomas has repeatedly denied).
Following Atlanta’s shoot-around this morning, Schroder doubled down on his previous comments about Thomas having said things about his family.
“Everybody heard it, too,” Schroder said earlier today. “My family sat courtside too. Thabu (Sefolosha) heard some things; he was involved in that. It is what it is. We just try to compete and it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is.”
I asked Thomas about the Schroder allegations following Boston’s 104-98 win at Detroit on Sunday night.
“Man, I’m past that. I’m not worried about that guy,” Thomas said. “Once he did that the last game, where he tried to damage my character, (saying I was) talking about his parents … I’m past that. Hopefully we can beat the Atlanta Hawks. I’m not even worried about him.”
Schroder speaks a similar tone about his approach to tonight’s game.
Boston (38-21) is looking to build off the win at Detroit which snapped a two-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, the Hawks (32-26) have lost three straight -- each defeat by at least 15 points -- and four of their last five.
In the last two losses, Schroder was suspended for one game because he missed practice following the All-Star break (he told the Hawks there was a visa mix-up) and was late arriving to the team bus for another so he began that game on the bench.
That’s why the beef that still exist between both players isn’t likely to be a major deal tonight; at least that’s what they want us to believe.
“We gotta win,” Schroder said. “We lost two in a row after All-Star break. I think the team is more important than a player on the other team. We just focus on winning this game and try to compete for 48 minutes.”
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer will be the first to tell you that Schroder’s competitive drive is among the reasons the franchise hasn’t looked back on its decision to trade all-star Jeff Teague and give Schroder the keys to running the team.
He has certainly had his moments when that decision might be questioned, but for the most part he has shown the kind of growth individually that they were hoping for as a full-time starter.
This season he’s averaging career highs in scoring (17.4) and assists (6.3) per game.
However, Atlanta hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success this year that we’ve seen from them recently.
A fixture among the top two or three teams the past couple of years, they are currently fifth in the NBA, trailing East-leading Cleveland by 8.5 games and the No. 2 Celtics by 5.5 games.
And while Boston does have a nice cushion with 24 games left to play, they know a strong finish will position them to better control their postseason destiny -- something that hasn’t been the case the past couple of seasons in which Boston began the playoffs on the road as a lower seed.
As much as the need to win will be front and center tonight, all eyes will be on the two point guards.
But in the end, both understand that tonight’s game isn’t about which of them can out-perform the other.
“Dennis is a competitive guy, as is Isaiah,” Budenholzer said. “They both are more concerned about their teams and what’s best for their teams.”

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.