Heat win Game 4 in o.t., take 3-1 lead over Celtics

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Heat win Game 4 in o.t., take 3-1 lead over Celtics

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Boston Celtics are a battered bunch.

The last thing they need is to play bonus basketball, and they know it. That's why it will hurt to look back at Monday's 98-90 Game 4 overtime loss -- a game they should have won in regulation.

"We had so many opportunities," said a visibly dejected Doc Rivers afterward.

The ending was disappointing on so many levels for theCeltics, who led after each of the first three quarters and had achance to win the game in regulation. However, Paul Pierce's off-balance, fadeawayjumper with the score tied was off the mark as time expired.

The Heat quickly took control in the extra session. After a Pierce basket cut Miami's lead in overtime to three points with 47.8 seconds to play, Heat forward Chris Bosh tipped in a LeBron James miss that essentially put the game away, with the Heat returning home with a commanding 3-1 series lead with a chance to eliminate the Celtics in Miami on Wednesday.

"Our goal was to come out and compete for two games and hopefully get one, and we accomplished our goal," said Bosh who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.

The final play of regulation, like so many for the C's throughout the game, didn't exactly play out the way it was supposed to.

Rivers acknowledged after the game there was an execution breakdown.

"It's a play we've run several times, and we just didn't execute it," Rivers said.

Poor execution was just one of the many problems experienced by the Celtics, who are now on the brink of playoff elimination.

In addition to their end-of-game gaffes, the Celtics committed a staggering 19 turnovers, leading to 28 Miami points, and were thoroughly out-worked on the boards, 45-28, which factored into being outscored 10-0 in second-chance points.

"Tough to win games when that happens," Rivers said.

Even with all the miscues made by the Celtics, they still spent the bulk of Monday's game with the lead.

However, those mistakes didn't allow Boston to put some distance between themselves and the Heat.

And because of that, Miami stayed within striking distance most of the game.

Once the game went into overtime, the Heat were determined to make the most of the opportunity to win in Boston for the first time in 11 trips.

In a game that featured a slew of big shots by Heat stars, few were as big as the long 2-pointer by Dwyane Wade with two minutes to play in overtime that put Miami ahead, 92-86.

Boston managed to cut into the lead, but they could never manage to get the big shot or the big defensive stop they needed in order to get the victory.

Not only did the loss put the C's in an extremely difficult hole in the series, it also wasted a gutsy effort by Rajon Rondo, who had 10 points and 5 assists despite being limited because of dislocated left elbow injury he suffered in Game 3.

It was clear the Heat was intent on finding out just how durable Rondo and that left elbow were.

Mike Bibby, who spends most games on the perimeter camping out, was running off baseline screens early the game, forcing Rondo to fight through them in order to keep up.

And when Rondo had the ball offensively, the Heat were much more aggressive in their man-to-man, doing what they could to force him to dribble with his left hand.

But at some point, you knew they were going to foul him hard enough to where he'd go down. When it happened, the foul put the Heat in the bonus, which meant free-throw attempts for Rondo.

Bum elbow and all, Rondo calmly sank both free throws as part of his six-point first quarter.

The injury certainly wouldn't allow him to do as much as he's accustomed to, but his struggles in many ways mirrored those of some of his teammates who weren't as limited health-wise.

"Anytime you have an injury like that you come out the next game, you're limited a little bit," said Celtics guard Ray Allen. "But when he's out there, I've sen him take a shot, he's feeling it as it goes up."

Right now, the only thing the Celtics can feel is the pressure to win.

It's always there.

But down 3-1 in the series heading back to Miami, the Celtics are dealing with yet another tough-to-win scenario.

"These are those moments, when you write papers, books, poems, quotes, whatever it is, these are those moments," Allen said. "I look forward to it; it's a challenge I think everyone on this team, we know what we have to do."

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

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

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But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

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Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

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

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.