Celtics and Heat ready for more rough stuff

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Celtics and Heat ready for more rough stuff

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

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.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”