By Rich Levine
MIAMI In terms of playoff basketball, the physicality of the Celtics' Game 1 loss to Miami was nothing out of the ordinary. But because of the role that physicality played in the ejection of Celtics captain Paul Pierce, it was a major topic of discussion when the two teams gathered for the respective practices on Monday.
The message from both sides?
These are the NBA playoffs. Theyre supposed to be physical. And going forward, regardless of Sundays controversy, you can expect more of the same.
"That's whats expected, said Delonte West. Tough, physical play throughout the playoffs. As much as they want to make it, it's not a gentleman's game. These guys are full-padded, underneath their jerseys. So it's not golf. They want us to play like it is golf. It's a part of the game. We have to be better in that aspect next game."
Its the playoffs, said Dwyane Wade. Both teams are supposed to be chippy. They took some hard fouls on us. We took some hard fouls on them. I havent been to the second round in a long time, but Im assuming this is how it is. Maybe Ive just been out of the loop for while . . .
Wade was obviously being a little sarcastic with that last line, but his words ring true. Ejection aside, the way the Celtics and Heat butted heads (literally, in some cases) is what weve come to expect from playoff basketball, and theres no reason to think that will stop regardless of the Pierce incident, or how much those on the outside try to stir the pot.
A lot of that is overstated, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said about the rough play. I think both teams look at it like were physical teams, were defensive-minded teams with a similar style of basketball. Its the playoffs, so thats all it is. Were not trying to be somebody were not; theyre not trying to be somebody theyre not. Were not trying to do anything different.
"I expected that, honestly, said Doc Rivers. That's fine by us. That makes the game enjoyable. We didn't handle it well. I thought overall, they hit first the entire game. I'm talking legally. Their picks, their cuts, their action. They played the game with a better force than we did. That's something that shouldn't happen."
But it will continue to happen; this time from both sides. In fact, if anything, Game 1 will just be the start. As the series goes on, and the stakes are raised, so will the intensity, which should lead incidents very similar to what we saw on Sunday.
Whenever you have emotionally charged guys on the floor, battling and competing, you always have something, said Heat forward James Jones. "No one wants to give an inch. And as the games continue to go on, guys dont give up on the aspiration or dreams lightly. We expect them to come out and player harder and I expect us to play harder as well.