Boston Celtics: 2011Round2

With rebounding, no one-man gang

April, 30, 2011
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Sam Sharpe/US PresswireGlen Davis and the Celtics are focused on not allowing second-chance opportunities.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Dealing with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh just once on the defensive end is difficult enough. But having to combat them two or three consecutive times without a change of possession will eventually spell disaster.

Which is why defensive rebounding will be a necessity for the Celtics throughout their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Miami Heat.

The Celtics allowed too many offensive rebounds in their opening-round four-game sweep of the New York Knicks, to the point where they almost coughed up Games 1 and 2, when the Knicks scored a combined 34 second-chance points off of 33 offensive rebounds.

One of the biggest concerns with surrendering offensive rebounds is the added (and unnecessary) pressure it puts on a team's defense. In the case of the Celtics, they could very well play 23 seconds of brilliant halfcourt defense and force the likes of James or Wade into a contested jump shot, then have it all fall apart when Bosh or another Heat big man snares the miss and either goes back up for a higher percentage shot or kicks the ball back out, thus allowing Miami to reset its entire offense.

Surrendering second-chance opportunities to the likes of Jared Jeffries and Bill Walker is one thing, but giving those same opportunities to two of the NBA's elite scorers in James and Wade is a completely different animal. Not only is it physically draining for a team to have to play back-to-back defensive possessions against a very capable offensive team, but it's mentally taxing as well, when the realization settles in that the hard work that was just put in ended up being for nothing. The Heat have a number of capable rebounders, including James, Bosh, Wade, and Joel Anthony -- one of Miami's unsung heroes for his physical defense and attention on the glass.

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Shaq travels with C's

April, 30, 2011
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Not that it ever seemed in doubt, but Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal joined his teammates Saturday for a flight to Miami in advance of Sunday's Game 1 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Heat.

The Celtics were hoping to put O'Neal through some on-court activity Friday. A team official said after the practice that there was no update on O'Neal and that he remained status quo. Rivers had noted before the session that he was more confident that O'Neal would play in the series, but set no definitive timeline for his return.

Value the ball

April, 30, 2011
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Kyle Terada/US PresswireRajon Rondo and the Celtics have to take care of the basketball this round.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Despite a spotless record in their first-round sweep of the New York Knicks, the Celtics aren't turning a blind eye to the areas in which they could have performed better. The C's know they turned the ball over too many times for their own good (nearly 17 giveaways per game, which translated to an average of 18 Knicks points per contest), and those miscues, coupled with an increased effort in the rebounding column, have been highlighted as two major components of their second-round duel with the Miami Heat.

"Rebounding and no turnovers," said Glen Davis when asked what first came to mind about Boston's matchup with Miami. "If we rebound, [don't commit] turnovers, and just play simple basketball, it's going to be hard to beat us."

Added Paul Pierce: "I'm sure that's going to be a big emphasis, talking about our turnovers. They're a track team once they get out in transition, it's hard to keep up with them, so you don't want to turn the ball over. And another thing for us is going to be our rebounding, how well we're going to be able to rebound in the trenches on the defensive end. That's been something we've been inconsistent with, but I think we've been a lot better since the playoffs started and we're going to have to continue that trend."

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KG's blog: 'Practices have been intense'

April, 30, 2011
4/30/11
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ANTA/Kevin Garnett's BlogKevin Garnett included this photo in his latest post.
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett checks in with a short entry on his ANTA blog in advance of the Celtics-Heat series. Writes Garnett: "Working hard to keep everything ready to go. We know we got the Heat on Sunday, so practice and workouts. Crazy that we've had a week off before we play again. Good for the guy's bodies. Got my [gold] ANTAs on and getting my core work in."

Later he notes, "Practices have been intense and full of information. Working on team execution, Miami's offense, and what we are gonna do. Leave tomorrow and play Sunday at 3:30pm. It's important that we set the tone, so come Sunday, we'll see."

Morning snapshot: Florida keys

April, 30, 2011
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And here's how it's playing this morning in Miami with our friends at the Heat Index:

Video: Ray Allen conversation

April, 29, 2011
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In advance of the Celtics-Heat series, Ray Allen sits down to chat with ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullan. The best part? Asked about LeBron James' dubbing the 76ers "breakfast," Allen notes about Boston, "You gotta have a big appetite, because we're a smorgasbord."


Heat's hired help?

April, 29, 2011
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It doesn't draw quite as much attention as how, say, baseball teams are constructed using their minor league systems, but an interesting take from ESPN's Dean Oliver on how NBA championship squads are assembled in basketball, with a focus on the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat before their Eastern Conference semifinals series opens Sunday in Miami:

MacMullan: How Rondo got his groove back

April, 29, 2011
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Practice: Focus on X-Factors

April, 29, 2011
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Three things that stood out after media availability before the Boston Celtics practiced Friday afternoon at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, where potential X-Factors were a hot topic:

BOSH IS THE KEY FOR MIAMI: Celtics coaches and players continue to stress that Chris Bosh could be the difference in this series. "LeBron and Wade are LeBron and Wade," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "They’re going to be great players before the series; they’ll be great players after it... But when Bosh plays great, then their team is great. He’s the key guy for them."

Added Kevin Garnett, who will be matched up with Bosh, "When Bosh plays really well, they blow teams out. It’s not even close."

C'S READY FOR MORE 'RONDO DEFENSE': Regardless of whether it's Mario Chalmers or Mike Bibby on the court at the start of games, Rivers expects the Heat to throw a little bit of everything at Rondo, including the typical sag-and-challenge defense. "A little bit both, Chalmers and Bibby, and we’ll see LeBron and Wade on Rondo," said Rivers. "I think they’ll go to the 'Rondo Defense' that we all labeled it, where they just help off him, slack off him. How we handle that will be key in this series."

Asked about the difference between Chalmers and Bibby, Rondo noted, "Chalmers is more of a steal guy, Bibby is more of -- not that Chalmers is not solid, just Chalmers is going to put pressure on you if you turn your back and play the passing lanes -- Bibby is more of a solid defender."

Regardless of the defense, maybe Garnett summed it up best, "We just need Shorty to be aggressive. Rondo’s a pain when he’s aggressive. When he’s stacking the stat line he’s a problem to deal with and we’re a problem to deal with."

WEST'S ANKLE STILL WEAK; NO MOTIVATION ISSUES: After being quiet for much of the first round, particularly amidst some struggles and the nagging ankle injury, Celtics guard Delonte West spoke at length with the media Friday and admitted he's still a bit hobbled. "I just realize [the ankle is] still not 100 percent. It's not hurting, but it's still weak. I still have to tape it up and my explosiveness is not there. I've been attacking the basket and the rim the way I'm accustomed to, but hopefully that's not going to be an issue this next series."

West did offer the line of the day when asked about motivation going into the next round.

"At this point, if you're not motivated you need to go home and get a Bud Light or something and let the good times roll," said West. "I think everyone's motivated. In this type of intense competition you try to find any edge you can get over your opponent, you take it. I wouldn't be surprised what type of motivation they're trying to use to get themselves ready."

The benches were a hot topic yet again with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge pointing out that, while this series likely boils down to the seven All-Stars on the court, "getting a boost from the bench could be huge."

ShaqWatch: No decision, more confidence

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
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AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaThe ShaqWatch continues, but Doc Rivers is confident Shaquille O'Neal will play vs. Miami.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he remains uncertain when ailing center Shaquille O'Neal will return to game action, but expressed heightened confidence Friday in his potential to do so in an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat.

"He just did a little bit yesterday, maybe some more today," said Rivers. "Really that’s the only update I have. No decision has been made or anything. I’m more confident now that he’ll play in this series. I don’t know when. Maybe [Game] 1, maybe [Game] 2. But I do think he’ll play.”

According to Rivers, O'Neal participated in limited portions of Thursday's walkthrough and there was hope he'd ramp up that workload a bit Friday, but Rivers wasn't sure how much live action he'd see.

"He just did some stuff with [team trainer] Eddie [Lacerte on Thursday]," said Rivers. "Eddie's more confident that he'll play, so that makes me more confident."

Pressed on what O'Neal might need to show in order to be ready for Game 1, Rivers said that wouldn't likely come until this weekend.

"He needs to show something [Saturday], maybe," said Rivers. "Then feel better after that. Listen, I wish I could tell. I have no idea. I really don’t. My confidence comes from Eddie. Eddie walked in and said, ‘I feel a lot better about it.’ So, I feel better about it. That’s as much as I can tell you."

O'Neal has been limited to 5½ minutes of game action since Feb. 1. He traveled with the team to New York for the final two games of Boston's first-round sweep of the Knicks and there was hope the week off between series might allow them to get him in game shape.

Rivers is confident Shaq, once healthy enough for game action, can still have an impact on this series, while noting it would be in a reserve role.

"When he walks on the floor, he’s still 7 feet tall," said Rivers. "And he weighs what he weighs. Of all the players on our team, he probably has the easiest task of being who they are, because that’s all he can be. That’s pretty good."

Regular season? It doesn't matter

April, 29, 2011
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AP Photo/Elise AmendolaKevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade arguing in the regular-season? Won't matter now.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Despite winning three of the four regular-season matchups against the Heat, don't expect the Celtics to hang their hat on regular-season success. Coach Doc Rivers is quick to dismiss regular-season play because of all the variables involved and suggests the playoffs truly are a new season.

"You don’t use any of them," Rivers said of the regular-season games. "No, you use all of them, but you don’t overplay any of them. They are all single games. Again, during the regular season, you don’t know how your team is playing, you don’t know if they’re injured or tired from travel.

"I’ll say it again, the regular season is so overplayed, it really is. There’s things you can get out of it, but for the most part, what you get out of the regular season is you see a solid play. How they play you, how you play them. Then you put it on the floor."

Rivers has stressed that to his team and the fact that Boston got absolutely leveled in the final meeting of the season only reinforced that the games earlier in the season mean little at this point.

"You know, we look at [the fourth meeting] and look at how we needed to get that win, and they beat us," said Glen Davis. "But at the same time, when you look at it, we're not at a team that looks at things so easily. We really look at that win as for something to gain. To have them 4-0 would, mentally, be a different experience. But for them to get that one win, they know they can win. But at the same time, now it's a series and we've got to go play."

For those that want a refresher on the regular-season series, check out the game-by-game breakdown below. Follow the "full coverage" links for all the content in our ESPN Boston blog for that game.

Game 1: Oct. 26, 2010 -- Celtics 88, Heat 80 -- Full Coverage
Game 2: Nov. 11, 2010 -- Celtics 112, Heat 107 -- Full Coverage
Game 3: Feb. 13, 2011 -- Celtics 85, Heat 82 -- Full Coverage
Game 4: April 10, 2011 -- Heat 100, Celtics 77 -- Full Coverage

5-on-5: Celtics vs. Heat

April, 29, 2011
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Five writers tackle five questions on the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. Check out one of the questions below, where Rajon Rondo is a popular answer for key player to watch in this second-round series:

Morning snapshot: LeBron vs. Pierce

April, 29, 2011
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A look at morning headlines, including a focus on LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce, which might be the key matchup of an Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Celtics and Heat:

Meanwhile, James is the focus in Miami as well. Here's a glimpse at the coverage from our tag-team partners at the Heat Index:


Importance of starters

April, 28, 2011
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireRajon Rondo and the starters need to shoulder the load against Miami.
WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Celtics' reserves scored a total of 60 points and sacrificed what felt like just as many of the starters' leads over the course of Boston's opening round four-game sweep of the New York Knicks, leading to a wave of speculation as to how much they'll help the Celtics throughout their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with the Miami Heat.

But prior to Boston's practice Thursday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint, Celtics coach Doc Rivers halted the speeding train suggesting the bench will be the deciding factor against the Heat.

"[The bench is] important, but at the end of the day, guys, starters are the key," said Rivers. "Your starters play well -- your bench obviously has to give you help, and I think we have enough guys -- but make no mistake, [when] the starters are playing well, you have a very good chance at winning playoff games."

The Celtics experienced that firsthand in their first round victory over New York, in which each member of the quintet of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'Neal shot at least 45 percent from the field and was very productive in his respective area of expertise.

Rondo was back to pushing the pace and averaged 12 assists per game; Garnett averaged a series-high 11.3 rebounds per game and helped anchor Boston's back defensive live; Allen shot a glossy 65.4 percent from 3-point nation; Pierce averaged his expected 22 points per game and helped to limit Carmelo Anthony to 37 percent shooting for the series; and O'Neal was a defensive force, as he blocked and altered shots and drew charges on a consistent and game-changing basis.

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Practice: Hype machine gets cranking

April, 28, 2011
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WALTHAM, Mass. -- After nearly 10 months of build-up, a Celtics-Heat playoff series is finally a reality and no amount of hyperbole will be spared. Try as he might to remind everyone that it's still only the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Boston's ultimate goal remains a world title, even Celtics captain Paul Pierce couldn't resist a spin in the hype machine.

"I know there's going to be a lot of hype around it, like it's a championship series, but you've got to understand it's still just the second round," said Pierce. "But a very big second round because you've got two potential teams that can win it all. I'm excited. This is a great stage for basketball. It's going to be great for fans and the guys that we have here love these type of series.

"We knew it was going to probably eventually happen at one point or another. Before the season if we were going to where we needed to be as a championship team we knew we were going to have to play Miami. So it's finally here and I'm sure it's the much-anticipated battle everybody's been waiting on."

A day after practicing in opponent limbo, the Celtics could finally turn their full attention to the Heat Thursday at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint. This after Miami polished off the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night in Game 5 of a conference quarterfinal series. Even though it seemed inevitable paths would cross, it hasn't taken any of the buzz out of the series as Sunday's Game 1 approaches.

"We assumed when they put this team together that, if we wanted to put another banner up, we’d probably have to go through them," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "So it’s official. And that’s good."

Added Glen Davis: "I'm excited. We've always seen ourselves playing them. Everybody kind of figured that we were going to play them. Now it's time to go."

A few more notes from practice:

* ShaqWatch: Skeleton work: Rivers offered a bit of a surprise when he noted that ailing center Shaquille O'Neal would participate in skeleton (non-contact) drills during Thursday's session (this a day after saying O'Neal wouldn't engage in any activity until Friday). As Rivers has pointed out in the past, he could do skeleton work, so it's not much to get excited about. Friday remains the more important day as the Celtics hope O'Neal will engage in more basketball activities that day and offer a better indication of his status for the early portion of this series. "He's going to do a little bit today, actually," said Rivers. "Not much, he's just going to do skeleton work today and then practice tomorrow, hopefully. That's the latest."

* Celtics = motivation for LeBron?: Asked if he felt playoff matchups with the Celtics were personal now for James, given his postseason struggles against Boston, Pierce agreed with the suggestion. "Probably so at this point," said Pierce. "When you lose to a team consecutive times in the playoffs -- I mean, it would be personal for me. I'm sure he's going to take it personal and you've got to expect his best."

* Bosh = Miami X-factor?: Pierce also suggested that Chris Bosh remains the potential key player for Miami. "Well I think they've done a better job of really implementing Bosh [since the start of the season]," said Pierce. "I thought at the beginning of the year, he was sort of the odd man out. But, to me, he's sort of like the key for them, because you know LeBron and [Dwyane] Wade are going to get theirs every night. Usually when [Bosh] plays well, they're a tough team to beat."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jared Sullinger
PTS AST STL MIN
14.3 2.2 0.7 28.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.2
AssistsE. Turner 4.5
StealsM. Smart 1.1
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.7