Heat show tough skin in likely preview with Celts

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Heat show tough skin in likely preview with Celts

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI If the playoffs go as expected, there's a very good chance the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics will see each other in the second round of the playoffs. Even though Boston won the head-to-head series, more stock will surely be put in the way Miami manhandled the Celtics, 100-77, on Sunday.

Aside from the first six or seven minutes, this game was all Miami.

Not only did the Heat emerge victorious, but they showed something that so many questioned even existed when they took the floor with the Celtics -- toughness.

You can sift through all the stats you want.

Miami won the battle on the boards (44-26). The Heat forced more turnovers (19 to 18), which led to more points (17 to 11). Miami also outscored the C's in second-chance points (18-3) and fast-break points (12-3).

But more than anything else, the Heat hit a level of toughness that no one -- especially not the Celtics -- could have saw coming.

And toughness isn't about pushing guys around or knocking them on their keister.

We're talking about mental toughness, the kind that allowed the Heat to fall behind 8-zip and not panic.

We're talking about the kind of mental toughness that allowed Miami to witness its 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter be cut to just 10 points, only to push it back to a 23-point win.

Anyone who knows Kevin Garnett is aware that he's not one to praise teams and players just for the sake of praising them.

His thoughts on the Heat after Sunday's game show a man who doesn't see this team with the same lens as he did prior to the loss.

"They showed some resilience when we took the lead," Garnett said. "They were able to take the punch. The things that they've been through throughout the year, it seems as though they have gathered some tough skin and figured out a way to show resilience and play through tough times, and it showed on Sunday. They took the first punch and never looked back."

Said Dwyane Wade: "Today we proved that we are a much better team than we showed in the previous three games against Boston."

Wade and LeBron James spent more time than usual breaking down video of the Celtics, looking for ways to reverse the Celtics' dominance over them this season.

"The Celtics do a great job of trying to keep you out of the paint, and we know when we drive they pack the paint a lot," said Wade. "We needed to get guys open looks, and we both did that."

And while the Heat certainly look to be in good shape to clinch the No. 2 seed in the East, a Miami loss in one of its last two games -- at Atlanta and at Toronto, respectively -- coupled with Boston wins over Washington and New York, will result in the Celtics being the No. 2 seed.

That's why the mood among the Heat players was tempered after what was arguably Miami's biggest win of the year.

"This game means nothing if we don't come out against Atlanta and play with the same aggression and intensity," James said. "We have to understand that we have no time to look back."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Scal: Once you get Jimmy Butler, you get... Kevin Durant

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Scal: Once you get Jimmy Butler, you get... Kevin Durant

Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely and Brian Scalabrine discuss the NBA free agency and how it may impact the Celtics.

“You have cap space, you have draft picks, so you should be excited moving forward,” said Scalabrine. “Now it all comes down to where the ping-pong balls drop. If they drop and we’re one, two, or three, that is a valuable asset.”

But who could the Celtics trade the pick for?

“Here’s the name if it’s one, two, or three: Chicago trades Jimmy Butler. They want to sell the idea that they can rebuild and they can rebuild with a top three pick. Once you get Jimmy Butler…then you get who!?”

Kevin Durant, right?

Watch the video for more.  

Celtics, Hawks admit Bradley injury had big effect on series

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Celtics, Hawks admit Bradley injury had big effect on series

BOSTON - The Celtics weren’t looking to make excuses after their elimination from the playoffs Thursday night.

That said, there had to be a pretty big “if” going around the locker room throughout the series. There certainly was among Celtics fans.

If . . . Avery Bradley was healthy, the Celtics may have won the series.

Health as a whole was a big problem for the Celtics. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Kelly Olynyk were all banged up.

But Bradley injuring his hamstring in Game 1 greatly changed the series, taking away Boston’s best on-ball defender (and one of the league’s best on-ball defenders). Bradley could also be counted on to hit the outside shot, opening up the floor for teammate Isaiah Thomas.

Without Bradley, the Celtics were forced to bring Evan Turner off the bench to start in his place. That took away the bench’s best offensive weapon.

Not having Bradley isn’t the only reason the Celtics lost the series, but it has to be considered a big factor.

“Yeah that hurt us a little bit. That’s a key part of what we’re about,” Jae Crowder said. “We tried to fight through it and the next guy tried to step up. But of course we missed him. We missed him a lot and we missed what he brings to the team. It sucks that it happens, but injuries are a part of it. He had one that he couldn’t fight through and we just tried to step up for him. But at this time of the season, a lot of guys hurt, and his was so unfortunate for us that it kept him out and it hurt us.”

The Celtics’ loss was the Hawks’ gain. Guys like Kyle Korver were able to get free easier at times. Korver  averaged 12.2 points per game and made three three-pointers a game (shooting 45-percent from the three-point line, five percentage points higher than in the regular season). Korver is well aware how important Bradley is to the Celtics.

“He’s a really good player. It’s been incredible to watch his offense catch up to his defense,” Korver said. “When he has it going I look at him as a great shooter. He’s so quick on the dribble handoffs and they run a lot of stuff for him. He’s really improved as a shooter and obviously his defense has always been great. It’s unfortunate that he got hurt, it does feel like they have a lot of guys similar to him; feels like they draft a new one every year. He’s a really good player and that definitely hurt them.”

It had to be tough for Bradley to watch from the bench as his team struggled, but that will hopefully only make him hungrier to win next season, with perhaps another former Texas Longhorn by his side in the starting lineup.