Heat can't solve the Celtics

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Heat can't solve the Celtics

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - The Miami Heat werent trying to beat the Boston Celtics at their own game. The Cs had too many minutes under their belt together for the Heat to compete with their chemistry.

Rather, they tried to do it playing Heat basketball.

It was a gameplan that may have looked shaky and unreliable at the start of the season, but more than 50 games in, head coach Erik Spoelstra had seen it coming together.

Were not catching them in terms of games played together, Spoelstra said prior to the game. But we have other things that other teams cant catch up to us with, and thats a game that were trying to establish defensively. Offensively, in December we became an explosive transition team. The last month weve been working quite a bit on our half-court execution. And we want to develop a game that can beat you in a lot of different ways.

The Heat entered Sundays game with a half-game lead over the Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference. They were 9-1 in their previous 10 games and were in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have been hampered by injuries during that stretch. They were 5-5 in their last 10 and had lost two straight.

Even though the Celtics had a 2-0 series lead, Spoelstra argued his team was vastly different than the last time the Celtics beat them, 112-107, on November 11, 2010.

If you watch us play, were dramatically different, he said. We were so far behind offensively, not developing any level of trust. We only had a quarter of our offensive system in. guys were not comfortable offensively with their roles, and thats to be expected bringing in a lot of new components. Weve used the regular season now to develop many different aspects of our game. And so, like a lot of teams, were much different than the beginning of November. Arguably were the most improved team since the end of November.

On Sunday, however, the result wasnt any different.

After taking a 20-15 first quarter lead, the Celtics outscored the Heat, 24-23, in the second quarter. The Heat were up 43-39 at halftime, but that edge quickly depleted.

The Celtics came out swinging in the third quarter, outscoring the Heat 35-18 in spite of a scoreless 12 minutes from Paul Pierce. (He scored just one point the whole game.) The Heat shot 27.3 percent from the field while the Celtics made 10 of 12. The Cs also got to the line 17 times, the Heat only eight.

The Heat fought back in the fourth to hold the Celtics to 11 points, but a missed free throw by LeBron James and two made free throws by Glen Davis clinched the win for the Cs.

The Celtics took a 3-0 regular season series lead with an 85-82 victory.

Were disappointed. We did not play to our potential, said Spoelstra. Still had an opportunity there at the end a possession here, a possession there. Whatever happens during the course of the game, you want to simply give yourself a chance there at the end, and we had a chance. It could have swung either way, but we werent able to get over that hump, and thats a very poor first half, third quarter. And again we lost our focus, we did not play to our standards.

While neither team is putting too much stock into regular season contests, the Heat have yet to find a way to beat the Cs, whether it is playing Celtics ball or Heat ball.

They are defending Eastern Conference champions, said Spoelstra. You have to go through them and they arent going to make it easy. So we understand that this isnt going to be an easy ride for us, and thats where were at our best. Were able to be objective and figure things out and have a breakthrough. Right now were disappointed about it, but we still have an opportunity to get better and change things in the next 28 games.

The Celtics will see how much has changed when they face the Heat for their final regular season matchup on April 10 in Miami.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Hoiberg: If there’s a Game 7, Rondo highly unlikely to play

Hoiberg: If there’s a Game 7, Rondo highly unlikely to play

CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls had already ruled Rajon Rondo out for tonight’s pivotal Game 6 matchup against the Celtics.
 
If the Bulls managed to win tonight and force a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Boston, Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said Rondo’s availability would still be highly unlikely.
 
The former Celtic suffered a fractured right thumb injury in Game 2 of this best-of-seven series and has not played since.
 
At the time of the injury, the Bulls had a 2-0 series lead with Boston bouncing back to win all three games since his absence.
 
When asked about what Rondo can do with his right hand, Hoiberg replied, “not much.”
 
Hoiberg added, “it’s pretty much the same. He still has a lot of soreness in that right hand, especially with everything he’s got going on with the torn ligament and the broken thumb. He’s just not able to do enough at this point.”
 
While his absence has certainly been felt on the floor, Rondo has been a steady focus of instruction and encouragement from the sideline.
 
“He’s doing as much as he can,” said Chicago’s Dwyane Wade.
 
In the games Rondo has been out, Wade said that Rondo holds his play cards in his suit jacket.
 
“So I go over to him over there, look at the play cards,” Wade said. “He’s doing everything from a standpoint as a leader, that you can do when you’re not out there with your guys. He’s in the locker room. He’s the one screaming, getting guys ready because he wants to be out there. His blood is boiling that he can’t be out there, but he’s helping guys. He’s doing his job as a leader.”
 
In the two playoff games Rondo has played, the four-time All-Star has averaged a near triple-double with 11.5 points, 10.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game.
 
Rondo isn’t the only key member of the Bulls who’s banged up.
 
Jimmy Butler, who scored a series-low 14 points in Chicago’s Game 5 loss, has been dealing with some knee soreness that doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.
 
“He’s going to battle. That’s the one thing you know about Jimmy,” said Hoiberg who added that Butler did very little during the team’s morning shoot-around. “Jimmy is as well-conditioned as anybody in this game. He’s as big a competitor as anyone in this game. He does have soreness. There’s no denying that. But he’s going to continue to go out there and give everything he has.”
 
But at this point, that may not be enough for the Bulls in tonight’s elimination game.
 
They haven’t won a game in this series without Rondo who isn’t likely to play again this season, and their best player [Butler] is dealing with knee issues that we saw had a significant impact on his ability down the stretch in Game 5 [he took two shots in the fourth quarter and missed them both].
 
Regardless of what issues the Bulls might be dealing with, the Celtics know they can’t take tonight’s elimination game for granted.
 
“We just have to prepare to play the best that we've played yet,” said Celticscoach Brad Stevens. “That's the bottom line. I don't think there's a secret formula or magic to it. The magic's going to be in how you play. So our job is to prepare to play our best game that we've played yet.”

Does Bird’s departure put Celtics in better position for Paul George?

Does Bird’s departure put Celtics in better position for Paul George?

CHICAGO –  Larry Bird’s decision to walk away from the Indiana Pacers’ front office to become a consultant certainly sent shockwaves throughout the NBA landscape quickly.

And while it’s unclear exactly what it means to the Celtics and their pursuit this summer of Indiana All-Star Paul George, it does add an element of uncertainty as to the direction of the Pacers franchise.
 
At this point, that’s a good thing for the Celtics because Bird had made it clear both to the Celtics and to league sources that he was not interested in moving George anytime soon.
 
Of course, Indiana getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs may have eventually led Bird to soften his position if he, in fact, felt the Pacers were going to need to rebuild rather than re-tool.
 
And if you look at that team, the former seems to be a more likely scenario at this point, which could bode well for Boston.
 
But looking at the team Bird was going to have to re-make this summer, this move looks reminiscent to what the Celtics went through in 2013 when Danny Ainge traded away Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and then-coach Doc Rivers made it clear that he did not want to start from scratch again.
 
Rivers had done that as the head coach of Orlando and did so with the Celtics prior to things coming together in 2008 when the franchise won its 17th NBA title.
 
Fast forward to the Pacers and Bird, who haven’t had that level of success since the Celtics legend took over the front office duties in Indiana.
 
The fact that he’s willing to remain a Pacers consultant speaks to his desire to still be in the game, which is what you would expect from one of the great competitors this league has ever seen.
 
And the naming of Kevin Pritchard to fill Bird’s role in the front office doesn’t hurt Boston, knowing Pritchard and Ainge have done deals with each other in the past when Pritchard was running the show in Portland.
 
Ultimately, it comes down to whether the Pacers have decided it’s time to move on from tweaking the roster and do what the Celtics did in 2013 and start over.
 
If they decide to go down that path, without question, the Celtics will be one of the first teams they have serious discussions with along those lines.
 
Teams that are looking to rebuild typically want draft picks and young veteran players – both of which the Celtics have more of than just about any team in the NBA.
 
And because most of the current Celtics have been involved in a winning culture, there are unspoken habits they bring to a franchise looking to re-establish its foundation.
 
For Boston, they land that much-coveted superstar that they desperately need to pair with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford.
 
It sounds like a win-win for both franchises, right?