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Tag:Celtics-Heat
Posted on: May 14, 2011 1:03 am
Edited on: May 14, 2011 9:55 pm
 

What's At Stake: Carlos Boozer

What's at stake for Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer in the Eastern Conference finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.



The one good thing about having your reputation ruined when the world thinks you double-crossed a blind man during public contract negotiations is that you have nowhere to go but up. Sure, everyone looks at you sideways and cracks jokes at your expense, but the pressure to be perfect and the expectation that you’ll rise to the moment in big situations is lifted. That’s not a trade-off most people would make, but once it happens things could be worse.

That’s been the situation for Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. For the past four years, Boozer put up solid playoff numbers for the Utah Jazz, teaming up with Deron Williams to advance out of the first round three times. Never really seen as the centerpiece, Boozer nevertheless averaged roughly a 20/12 over his playoff career in Utah, numbers that are mostly forgotten because they came with the help of an elite point guard and, frankly, because they took place for a small market team.    

Eastern Conference Finals: Heat vs. Bulls

After joining the Bulls this past summer, Boozer got a taste of the big-city spotlight and it hasn’t gone over perfectly. He broke his hand mysteriously before the season, forcing him to miss 20 games, and has battled turf toe during the playoffs. His playoff numbers scoring number is way down – he’s averaging just 11.8 points per game while playing roughly the same number of minutes as he did during the regular season. Despite the fact that he continues to keep his rebounding near double figures, he’s a running punch line and punching bag for Bulls fans, who obviously expected more from their $80 million man.

Whether he actually views it this way or not, Boozer should approach the Eastern Conference finals as if he has nothing to lose. If the Bulls are eliminated he will be at or near the top of the scapegoat list regardless of how he plays. That much has already been cemented. Should the Bulls win, however, he’s got a chance to soak in some of the Derrick Rose media glow sunshine and rehabilitate/recast himself as a hard-working veteran who hung around long enough and played his game long enough to get his shot at a ring. That’s not a bad trade-off.

Even better, Boozer isn’t enough the most highly-paid, disappointing and unreliable power forward in this series. That honor goes to Heat forward Chris Bosh, of course, who will be crucified and buried should Miami not advance. Boozer should have a physicality advantage and he certainly has a more physical frontline surrounding him. Bosh enters the series with a tougher personal assignment given Miami’s thin center rotation and the Chicago’s commitment to hard-nosed defense and rebounding.

So what’s at stake for Boozer here? Given that this is Chicago’s first playoff run together and doubts are already high, he just doesn’t have much to lose. If he throws together a big series, the United Center fans that were booing him earlier during the playoffs will surely rally around him. If not, he was the bad guy anyway.

Posted on: May 13, 2011 8:07 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2011 9:54 pm
 

What's At Stake: LeBron James

What's at stake for Miami Heat forward LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals? Posted by Ben Golliver.




What’s at stake for LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals? Only the world, Chico, and everything in it.

James played two of the best minutes the NBA has ever seen to eliminate the Boston Celtics, stopping only long enough to kneel on the court, to take a moment to appreciate all that he had accomplished in overcoming his bitter rivals. The only problem, of course, is that he is still just halfway to a title. Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls are capable of evaporating everything James has earned in the past 48 hours – confidence, peace of mind, a feeling of accomplishment, validation for his decision to leave Cleveland, a rush of popularity – by defeating the Heat. If James doesn’t emerge from this summer with a ring, he’ll be back at square one, hearing the same old boos and answering the same old questions he dealt with all season long.

This all-or-nothing conundrum probably isn’t fair to James but he should be used to it by now. He has demanded attention since he was in high school. He has ascended to the pinnacle of his sport, the undisputed best all-around player in the NBA. He’s even made it to the Finals before. None of that has mattered to his critics. And, we came to find out last summer, to him either.

Winning his first championship -- with others to follow -- was his stated goal. He’s reiterated multiple times over the past week that the Celtics helped inspire his decision to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He couldn’t beat Boston alone, he admitted. Securing the best shot to climb the mountain won out over hometown loyalty, the biggest paycheck and any other factors. That’s the narrative he’s crafted, that's the script he's reading from.

Eastern Conference Finals: Heat vs. Bulls

The Heat envision themselves as the future of the NBA, the axis that everyone else spins around, the epicenter of both cool and success, a dynasty in the making. In James' mind, he's the protagonist always.

A loss to the Bulls, then, would amount to an identity crisis. Being beaten by a team with just one All-Star? A team that had won one playoff series in the past 12 seasons combined? It would be not only an embarrassment but also worrisome. Chicago’s core is set in place for the foreseeable future. Their coach is one of the most widely respected in the game. They’re deep, disciplined and hard-working. They’ve got big city cachet and an instant likeability among both casual fans and basketball purists. The Heat would be set back, back to being the villains, back to being the foils. 

Wade already has a ring to console himself. Bosh has admitted to being in a bit over his head already during the playoffs, so he would be able to rationalize away such a loss. Coach Erik Spoelstra has demonstrated an ability to maintain a long-term perspective through adversity, so he’d be alright in the event of a loss too. He would beat himself up but then realize that there are plenty more opportunities ahead. Pat Riley has so much hardware and such a great tan nothing really matters at this point of his career, at least not comparatively.

But James? James would be out of excuses for another year. Left to walk off the court in defeat, his team’s roster-building ability in the hands of the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, his reputation as a player that can’t get it done extended for at least another 12 months. Self-doubt would be back in a big way, the team's top-heavy approach would be questioned, he would have to hit the recruiting trail hard, hoping that the league's elder statesmen could be convinced to sign up at the minimum salary to help him win his ring. Would James have the stomach for all that? The patience? The composure?

james-dunk-celtics 

He’s been the best player in this year’s playoffs, averaging 26.1 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals while playing more than 43 minutes a night. He’s been clutch. He’s been steady. He’s even been newly flexible, allowing Wade to carry the load when he has it going. He’s shown an admirable commitment to the boards. His level of focus this year is as laser-like as we’ve ever seen, his intensity the exact opposite of what it was a year ago. 

To imagine all of those things wiped away by four losses, just as the vast majority of his previous playoff heroics have been forgotten because he hasn’t secured a title, is a difficult proposition so soon after the triumph over Boston. But that’s what happens if the Bulls win. The pendulum swings that hard. It's happened before, and it’s inevitable.

This might not be his best shot and it certainly won't be his last shot. But, given the remaining teams left in the field, this is a very, very, very good shot. Once Game 1 tips, he, more than anyone else, will be expected to deliver. 

And that’s why the Eastern Conference finals – and the NBA Finals too -- mean more to James than anyone else. His career, reputation, personality and trajectory are subject to a total redefinition and reevaluation with eight more wins. That's why James has the most at stake. Nobody else is a close second.

Posted on: May 12, 2011 1:50 am
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:42 am
 

Series Grades: Heat defeat Celtics 4-1

Grades for the Heat and Celtics after the Heat's 4-1 series win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Posted by Matt Moore




The biggest series of the playoffs is over, and the juggernaut created by "The Decision" in free agency 2010 downed the UBUNTU machine. Grades seem like they don't do this series justice, but we've got to get some perspective. 


Miami Heat:

LeBron James: If the 2007 series against the Detroit Pistons was when LeBron James truly announced to the world that he had arrived, the 2011 series against the Celtics may have been the one where he showed how much he's learned. It wasn't the mos impressive series from a statistical standpoint, but the way James closed, especially Game 5, makes it feel like it. James didn't hog the ball, didn't go ISO too much, hit big shots, worked with his teammates, and became the emotional leader the Heat needed him to be. He had a rough Game 3, but responded to close out the Celtis. And, oh, yeah, this time no one will say he quit in a Game 5. 

Grade: A- 


Dwyane Wade: Wade struggled in the playoffs last year, and especially this regular season versus the Celtics. They were a plague on the game of his house. But in this series, Wade wiped it all away. Never scoring fewer than 23 points, Wade was a beast. He dominated Game 1 and Game 5. His Game 5 was particularly brilliant. For three quarters, LeBron James couldn't get his scoring on track. Wade kept the Heat in it with timely play and amazing score after amazing score. He blocked Kevin Garnett. He made a wild reverse over his head for the and-one. He did everything you need your franchise player to do and eventually contained Ray Allen. LeBron James may have won the game for the Heat, but Dwyane Wade put him in a position to do so. 

Grade: A+


Chris Bosh: Is this the series where Chris Bosh starts to make himself into a known player? Before the series, I was dangerously close to writing a post called Shark Bait: Chris Bosh and detailing all the ways Kevin Garnett would destroy him. After a surprisingly strong Game 4, Garnett came out swinging in Game 5. Bosh looked overrun, again. Bosh finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, one point less than Garnett and tied in boards. He made huge plays, kept the ball alive, and hit a few open looks. It wasn't a great series from Bosh, but he definitively wasn't the weakpoint. He was good enough to get the Heat a win.

Grade: B-


Heat supporting cast: This series proved that you really can beat the Celtics with three guys. Mario Chalmers didn't play consistently enough to get time, Mike Bibby continued his disappointing play, Mike Miller still couldn't hit a barn door with a shotgun, Joel Anthony had a few nice moments but also dropped passes and failed to capitalize on opportunities, James Jones had a hot start but then faded back into the background (though his 3-pointer in Game 5 was huge). There's a million ways we could call into question if the Heat can win with getting such little support from the rest of their players... but they just beat the Celtics.


Grade: C (passing only in that they did not prevent the Heat from winning)


Heat defeat Celtics 4-1
Erik Spoelstra: Spoelstra's insistence on giving minutes to Bibby over Chalmers, and Ilgauskas over Anthony continues to perplex. It's one thing for the starters, but post-half, the Heat kept getting out in sluggish starts and having to overcome them. Spoelstra does get credit for keeping the Heat's focus and getting them to stay together and play to the end, but with how much the Triad run things, it's hard to see him getting the majority of the credit. But beyond the offense, Spoelstra does get credit for the Heat's defense, and that's what was the backbone of the series win.

Grade: B-


Miami fans: In the name of all that chants "D-Fence," are you going to show up at any point, South Beach? You're embarrassing us as sports fans at this point. Go to the game, already!

Grade: F-


Boston Celtics


Rajon Rondo: Rondo played through the dislocated arm. Rondo wasn't playing terrific prior to that. Rondo made huge plays with that busted wing. Rondo was also such a defensive liability that he had to be benched at the end of games due to the injury. Rondo's no-show in the first two games helped put Boston in an inescapable hole. Rondo's effort in Games 3, 4, and 5 was good enough that if healthy, you could have seen the Celtics taking the series lead, let alone avoiding a gentleman's sweep. We'll never know what Rondo would have been like if he hadn't been injured. But based on what we saw, we got all sides of Rondo, the good and the bad. 

Grade: B


Kevin Garnett: Garnett was owned in three and a half games of this series. He had a brilliant Game 3, but never really established himself against Bosh as he should have. He came out gangbusters in Game 5, determined to make his mark. Then he completely vanished after the first quarter. Garnett had to take over in order to keep his legacy as an impact player alive. He didn't. And now he's headed home, with people struggling to understand how Chris Bosh outplayed the great Kevin Garnett. He probably yelled a lot, too.

Grade: D


Paul Pierce: If any player showed his age in this series, it was Pierce. Pierce continually tried to put the team on his back, and continually found himself being outdueled by James. He put the effort in, but the ability just wasn't there. Turnovers were a huge problem. He scored under 20 points three times in the series. The Celtics needed a hero. They got the Half-Truth. 

Grade: B-


Ray Allen: Allen clearly had significant problems with communicating with Rondo in the second half of this season, and the problems only increased in this series.  Allen would go long stretches getting no shots, then heat up, then disappear. Allen finally warmed up in Game 5. He was the one Celtic to really go down swinging, but Dwyane Wade's defense was just too much for him.

Grade: B+


Glen Davis: Glen Davis was a sixth man of the year candidate for much of the season. He was an outright disaster versus the Heat. He rarely drew charges, bobbled passes, too often settled for his jumper, failed to commit defensively, and didn't finish at the rim. All the Celtics lost on this series. Bug given Davis' free agency status, he may have lost more.

Grade: D-


Jeff Green: Hey, nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes! That's pretty good! ... Okay, yeah, Green had two huge turnovers at the end of the game and was a huge reason the Celtics fell apart down the stretch. Green is destined to be ruined by the scrutiny of the Kendrick Perkins trade. Which is a shame, because he shouldn't have been asked to take on the responsibility of being the next great Celtics this early, at midseason. But them's the breaks. And it broke bad for Jeff Green. 

Grade: D-


Celtics supporting cast: The Celtics' supporting cast wasn't terrible. It really wasn't. It played fine. But no one stepped up enough to make an impact except Delonte West, who inevitably tried to to do too much eventually. 

Grade: C


Doc Rivers: You can't coach your players younger. Rivers made smart adjustments, tried different players, different rotations, the works. Rivers did his job. There just wasn't any way to coach this team up to where it needed to be. 

Grade: B


Danny Ainge: Sorry, Danny. Trading Perkins may have been right for the future financials of the Celtics. Green's future may be bright. But you traded Perkins, the heart and soul of the Celtics, and though he may not have helped at all versus the Heat, we'll never know. That's how history is judged, unfortunately. 

Grade: D-
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:43 am
 

LeBron James apologizes for "The Decision"

LeBron James apologizes for the way "The Decision" went down.

Posted by Matt Moore




In his post-game comments following the Heat's 97-87 win over the Celtics to win their series 4-1, LeBron James apologized for the way "The Decision" want down.  James told reporters that he was sorry for how the one-hour special occurred, but felt that teaming up with Bosh and Wade in Miami was necessary to get past the Celtics. As CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports, James told reporters:
"I knew I had to go through Boston at some point. I went through a lot signing to be here and the way it panned out. I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew that this opportunity was once in a lifetime."
James will continue to receive condemnation over the event, for his attitude, approach, and behavior. But after the game, he spoke candidly to TNT's Craig Sager about how much of a demon the Celtics represented to him:
"First of all thanks to the Boston Celtics, coach Rivers, that coaching staff, those player, they make you fight for everything. You can never take a second off. "
James was tortured by the Celtics, who swooped in after his 2007 Finals run and took over the Eastern Conference. Their own version of the Big 3 raised the bar for rosters, leaving James frustrated with how his Cavaliers team compared. Right or wrong, James felt compelled to raise the talent around to him to a higher level. He did so, and on Tuesday night, that decision, "The Decision" proved to be the right one for his career agenda. 


How he did it was wrong. It was always wrong, and somewhere inside him, James knew that, despite refusing to apologize for it in Cleveland earlier this year. It may seem easy to apologize now that he's made the Conference Finals and gotten past the Celtics, but for someone who has made so many P.R. gaffes over the last year, it's a step in the right direction, this humilty. This is the LeBron James Reclamation Project now. It started with beating the Celitcs in Miami.  It will only truly end with a championship ring.
Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:10 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 2:40 am
 

Rivers says he's leaning heavily towards return

Coach Doc Rivers says he plans to return in 2011-2012 to coach Celtics, despite elimination by Heat and a possible end of an era. 

Posted by Matt Moore




Update 11:05 p.m.: Ken Berger spoke with Rivers before the game about his decision and talks more with the Celtics' coach and where his career his headed. 


Just minutes after what was likely the end of the Celtics' season, where they were vanquished by the younger, faster, hungrier team in just five games, head coach Doc Rivers told reporters, including CBSSports.com's Ken Berger:
"I'm leaning heavily toward coming back. I can tell you I probably will. I've kind of come to that over the last couple of weeks. You know, I'm a Celtic...I want to win here again. ... I don't think this team is done."
Rivers had to be convinced to return this season by his family and the Celtics, and his son is a freshman for Duke next year (and a strong lottery prospect). Rivers may be speaking from emotion, but given how tough this Celtics team's end was, and how close they are, it's conceivable that Rivers means it and will return. The question will be whether he should. 


Shaq won't be back, neither will Jermaine O'Neal. Those aren't huge pieces. But with the Big 3 getting another year older, and possibly losing half the season to a lockout, plus having to try and replace Delonte West and Glen Davis who will both likely depart in free agency, there's a lot of changes coming to the Celtics. Eventually the age catches up and makes it impossible for the system to hold. This wasn't just a series win, it was an emphatic one. Rondo's injury, sure, that's a huge turning point. But the overriding theme of this series was the Celtics being overrun by the Heat's talent, youth, and athleticism in the Triad. 


But even after last year's doubt, Rivers has come to the conclusion as he said, "He's a Celtic." Sometimes even if the situation isn't right, you have to stick with your guys. Rivers looks like he intends to stick with his.
Posted on: May 11, 2011 9:55 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2011 10:39 pm
 

LeBron James scores 10 straight points video

LeBron James of the Miami Heat scored 10 straight points to eliminate the Boston Celtics. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Credit where credit is due: Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James took a giant leap towards refurbishing his reputation as a crunch time scorer during Wednesday night's Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics.

With the score tied at 87 and just over two minutes to play, James scored 10 consecutive points -- the final 10 points scored by both teams -- to push the Heat to a 97-87 victory, and eliminate the Celtics from the Eastern Conference semifinals, 4-1.

Here's video of James' 10 straight points in the fourth quarter. Continue reading below for a blow-by-blow account of his dominant performance.



The streak began inconspicuously enough, with Heat guard Dwyane Wade passing to James in the left corner late in the shot clock. With Celtics forward Paul Pierce draped on him and the shot clock under five seconds, James didn't bother with a gather dribble, instead shooting a pull-up three-pointer that was nothing but net. 90-87.

The Celtics called time out and the two teams traded missed shots. On Boston's next possession, Pierce turned the ball over, giving Miami the ball with less than a minute to play and a three-point lead. After running the clock down, James used a high screen by Wade before settling into an isolation against Pierce at the left angle. With the shot clock at three seconds, James took a slight step back and launched another three-pointer, from a couple steps behind the arc, with Pierce aggressively contesting the attempt. Again, the result was nothing but net. That three put Miami up 93-87.

The shot clearly cut out Boston's heart, as they came out of the ensuing timeout tentatively. Guard Delonte West initiated Boston's next possession by lobbing a soft pass to Pierce, and James bolted in between the two players to knock the ball into Boston's backcourt. From there, he was off to the races, stopping only long enough to check behind him to see if anyone was giving chase. No one was, and James cruised in for the monster two-handed dunk that set the AmericanAirlines Arena into a tizzy with 40 seconds remaining.

After another West turnover, and the Heat now leading 95-87, James milked the clock once again, operating at the top of the key against Pierce in isolation. He dribbled into the paint to his left. Boston's help defense was nowhere to be found so he kept going, converting a running lay-up with six seconds remaining. 97-87. That would prove to be the final score.

James finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block in 46 minutes.

The Heat now await the winner of the other Eastern Conference semifinal between the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls lead that series 3-2.
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:54 am
 

Celtics face Heat, the monster they created

The Celtics thought they were creating a once-in-a-lifetime team. Instead they kickstarted a trend that lead to the team that has them on the verge of extinction: the Miami Heat

Posted by Matt Moore





When the Boston Celtics meet the Miami Heat in Miami for a Game 5, down 3-1, it's supposed to singal some sort of changing of the guard. But in reality, it's more of a continuation, the coming full-circle of what the Celtics started four years ago when Boston swooped in and took Ray Allen off of a salary-hemmorrhaging Seattle team, then convinced former Celtic Kevin McHale to swap KG for a bucket of suds minus the suds. Boston put out the blueprint for superstar players teaming up, it was just wrapped in lopsided trades instead of free agency. The Celtics may have not celebrated prematurely like the Heat did, and may have managed to dodge the hurt for abandoning franchises through the easy "Hey, they decided to trade me" approach, but the result was the same, and it kick-started a trend in the NBA. Los Angeles responded by acquiring Pau Gasol for peanuts (which were planted and grew into Marc Gasol). The Mavericks in turn acquired Jason Kidd. Teams started clearing salary at an exponential rate trying to make room for the summer of 2012, and in the aftermath we got New York with Amar'e and Melo, Chicago with Rose joined by Boozer, and of course the Triad in Miami.


Don't think the classy Celtics could have anything to do with Miami and their brazen ways? Just ask the Heat where they got the idea.

 
"They set the blueprint for us when they decided to make the trade for [Kevin Garnett] and for Ray [Allen]," James said. "Seeing guys make sacrifices to come together and play as one. They set the blueprint and went out there and did it. They won a championship. They competed every year."

"With LeBron losing to Boston in Cleveland in the playoffs, he felt like, 'I gotta do more, I need to be around more to contend for a championship,' " Wade said. "Me feeling the same way going into the summer, saying that I needed more, it was because of Boston. They knocked us out."
via 2011 NBA playoffs: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade say Boston Celtics inspired us to join forces with Miami Heat - ESPN.


 It's always felt more like Boston sacrificed more than the Heat did. Something about Ubuntu and the defensive identity of the Celtics convinced us that they were truly selfless while Bosh, James, and Wade were merely being selfish together, however that's supposed to work.  But the reality is the Heat did sacrifice. They've become a monstrous defensive squad, reliant more on athleticism and ability rather than experience and know-how. They could have blown up on one another during the hard times this season, of which there were many, pointed fingers and come apart. But though we tried to make their words into more, even claiming an inadvertent shoulder bump going into a timeout was some sort of indicator of discord with the coach, the Heat have stuck to the plan. And now they're a home win away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals and vanquishing the team that both set the blueprint for their connection, and plauged them throughout the regular season.


The Celtics set the standard for this new era. They created this monster, despite thinking no one could duplicate their approach. Now they're on the edge and have to figure out a way to make sure the next model doesn't destroy the prototype. Perhaps even more disturbing for the Celtics is this. A loss makes the possibility that their core will only wind up with one title very strong, signifying a near, if not certain, end to their era of contention and dominance with only one title. The Heat meanwhile would advance with a chance to match the Celtics' championship chalkboard marks, in only their first year. 


The Celtics are wrapping up, the Heat are just getting started. It's like the circle of life, only this time it's the lions getting eaten. 
Posted on: May 11, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: May 11, 2011 1:40 pm
 

Shaq doubtful for Game 5, done for year?

Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal is reportedly not expected to play in Game 5 and could be done for the season. Posted by Ben Golliver. shaq-oneal

Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal made it back. After months of injuries, he played a total of 12 minutes in Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Miami Heat. In the two games combined, he made one basket, grabbed zero rebounds and committed four fouls. He also looked significantly out of shape.

Those could be the last minutes of O'Neal's, season. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Wednesday morning that "Shaq doubtful for tonight. Calf has gotten worse, not better."

CSNNE.com reported that O'Neal suffered a "relapse" of his "right Achilles/calf" injury duing Game 4. WEEI.com reported: "Shaq is not likely to play tonight. This may have been it for him." The station also reported that Rivers said: "He’s done everything you possibly can do to get healthy. It just never healed, and now every time he plays it gets worse."

The Celtics trail the Miami Heat, 3-1, in the series so Wednesday night represents an elimination game. Game 6, if necessary, would be played on Friday night.

O'Neal, 39, averaged 9.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 20.3 minutes this season.

He has a player option on his contract for next season.
For more on what this setback means for O'Neal's future, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger has you covered.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com