Heat find out a 'Big Three' doesn't guarantee victory

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Heat find out a 'Big Three' doesn't guarantee victory

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON - Ray Allen remembers the first time the Celtics "Big Three" took the court together.

There were so many questions on that night three years ago. Who would be part of each rotation? How many minutes would they play? Who would take the last shot?

Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett didn't have the answers.

"I remember not really knowing at some points what is going to happen," Allen said. "You don't know and I think we as a group, especially between the three of us, it didn't matter. We didn't care. Doc drew up plays and based on how the flow of the game went, the ball found who was open. We learned that and we never had an ego about it. It was just like, just win the game and move forward."

Sounds simple, right? Not only did the Celtics figure it all out, they won the NBA championship in their first season together.

But on Tuesday night, it was apparent that finding the formula for winning with three superstars isn't always that easy.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh (or "Miami's Big Three," as they've been dubbed) didn't have the answers to those questions, as they lost to the Celtics, 88-80, on Opening Night at the TD Garden.

The trio shot a combined 17-for-48 from the field (35 percent) and scored 52 points altogether. James accounted for 31 of those points, with 21 coming in the second half. They weren't exactly a triple threat for 48 minutes.

"I think right now it's a feel-out process for myself, for D-Wade, for Chris, and for the rest of the guys," James said. "I talked to those guys, it almost felt like we were being too unselfish to get each other into the flow of the game. And the reason we're here and the reason we've been successful is because we've put ourselves in a position to be aggressive at all times, no matter who's out on the court . . . We have to understand that we can't be too unselfish because we have so many options. We just have to play our game and it's going to be better for the team."

A performance like this is not a reason to write off the Heat's season. Not only is there a transition period to develop chemistry on the court, they didn't have the opportunity to do so during the preseason. Wade strained his hamstring three minutes into his first exhibition game, and Tuesday night was his first extended period of time playing alongside James and Bosh.

The Heat expect to play better as the season continues. The Celtics expect them to as well.

"You could see the fact that they haven't necessarily polished or got the whole chemistry thing down, but they will," said Garnett. "I know the similarities are there as far as them and us, and obviously we got together, but scenarios are different. In order for them to get better, they're going to have to continue to go through rough days and dog days, and that's part of it. Lord knows we went through ours, and we learned from it, and I'm pretty sure they'll do the same."

The irony is that the trio from South Beach can learn from their heated opponents.

"Everybody looks at them as the blueprint for, 'We can do it fast,' " Wade said of the Celtics. "It's not many teams that have been able to do that before. That was a special ball club that came together. It was the leadership of the Kevin Garnetts, the Paul Pierces and the Ray Allens of the world, that brought those guys together to win that championship. Of course we look at that, but we have to find our own identity. We have to figure out what works for us. We know it's a long season, no matter what people say. The highs, the lows, we'll take them and we move on."

After being in the same position himself, Allen foresees the Heat will play some games where one star will have the hot hand and the other two may struggle, or vice versa. Take Tuesday's game as an example. Allen (20 points) scored twice as many points as Garnett, but when the buzzer sounded they had found a way to share the ball and win as a team.

"We were so willing to just go with it and see who had it going, and when it happens you just kind of ride that wave a little bit," Allen said of the 2007-08 championship season. "They're going to learn a lot about themselves over these next couple of weeks and months. The important thing is, definitely we learned, that you stick together, try to figure it out, and put yourself in a good position toward the end of the season."

James, who essentially took over the game over for the Heat in the second half, has taken notice of the Celtics "we-first" mentality. He said he doesn't have to be the team's leading scorer every night in order for them to win because of their depth. As the Celtics proved, it can take giving up personal accolades to help the entire team win.

"I just think how they just sacrifice everything," James said. "Their first year together, they didn't worry about points or rebounds, anything individually. They just went out and did what's best for the team. It's not like we needed it, but you could look at that as an example and we've taken it."

After struggling to find their stride together on Opening Night, it wouldn't hurt the Heat to take a second look.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.