Boston Celtics: 2012Round3Game7

C's offer high praise of LeBron

June, 10, 2012
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesCeltics coach Doc Rivers and LeBron James shared a moment after Game 7 in Miami.
MIAMI -- After the Heat defeated the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday night, Boston coach Doc Rivers and Miami's LeBron James shared an embrace and a short conversation on the floor at AmericanAirlines Arena.

What was shared between coach and rival player?

"Well, I illegally recruited -- I told him we're going to have a lot of money (available for free agency this summer) and I didn't know when his optout is," joked Rivers. "No, I didn't do any of that. No, he told` me he's very proud of the team and everything. And I basically told them to go do it. I'm proud of him. I think, again, he gets too much heat... Like I said earlier, he's wonderful."

During the off day between Games 6 and 7, Rivers had gone to bat for James during a conference call amidst all the criticism for his lack of winning the big game.

"I said it last year: He's a great player. I don't know what else he can do," said Rivers. "He does the right thing. When he makes the right pass and the guy misses the shot, he's criticized. When he forces a shot in a double team, he's criticized. It's the way it is for him, for whatever reason. He's competitive as heck. He's one of the most powerful players to ever play the game. And maybe it isn't enough. I don't know."

Asked if he could think of an athlete as scrutinized as James, Rivers -- a golf junkie -- suggested only Tiger Woods would be a comparison.

"Tiger over the last two or three years," said Rivers. "Other than that, no one. No athlete that I can ever remember being under that scrutiny, definitely in basketball. I've never seen anyone under the scrutiny that LeBron James is under."

Asked after the Game 7 loss if James had shown him something, Keyon Dooling offered some hefty support for the league MVP as well.

"No, no, no, no. I've never bought into this whole persona that LeBron isn't the guy," said Dooling. "I think everybody should relax a little bit. He's great for our game, he is our game. We need to uplift him, instead of trying to tear him down. He's a guy who's the most unselfish superstar I've ever seen. He rebounds the ball, he assists the ball, he's empowered his friends from the community, he does a lot of charity work in the community, he's a model citizen. He should not have a stain on his reputation, and I hope that it stops."

Pierce: KG changed the culture

June, 10, 2012
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaCeltics captain Paul Pierce offered support to Big Three companion Kevin Garnett.
MIAMI -- Will Kevin Garnett be back in Boston next season? Celtics coach Doc Rivers has previously hinted he believes Garnett will be back in green, but Garnett didn't speak to reporters after Boston's Game 7 loss Saturday in Miami, leaving his future plans unclear as the Celtics enter the offseason.

Celtics captain Paul Pierce made a pitch for Garnett's return by emphasizing what he's meant to him and the team over the past five seasons.

"Well, he's been everything for my career," said Pierce. "Just his locker room presence, his desire, his determination, his leadership. I've said it before, when Kevin first got here, he really changed the culture of everything we did around here -- from the practice habits to on the court, just the discipline. He made everybody accountable, from the ball boys to the chefs to the guy who flew the plane. Everybody was accountable. It was tremendous to just have him around. The culture he brought -- it would be great for me to end my career with Kevin. I have a couple years left, and who knows what his future's going to bring. Hopefully management can do something to bring him back, maybe add some pieces to this team, that we need, to get over the top. If not, it's been a tremendous run."

Doc reflects on Big Three era

June, 10, 2012
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Celtics Big Three: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett
MIAMI -- Did the Big Three era end Saturday in Miami? No one seemed ready to make a call one way or the other for the Boston Celtics after Saturday's Game 7 loss to the Heat ended the 2011-12 season.


Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents. How should the Celtics proceed?


Discuss (Total votes: 37,592)

"I don't know," said coach Doc Rivers. "Obviously, we're all smart... I think we're going to wait and see what happens with free agency and all that stuff. I honest to gosh hadn't thought much about it, other than the draft... Other than that, I've given zero thought to the whole thing. (Celtics president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) has talked to me a couple of times recently. I probably didn't hear much. We'll find that out later. I just want to stick with this group, if it's a couple more days, a couple more weeks, or whatever. I just want to stick with them."

After five seasons together in Boston, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are both unrestricted free agents this summer. Paul Pierce is signed for two more years (the final year is only partially guaranteed), though Boston still has its amnesty clause available if it wanted to really blow things up this summer (it could also explore trading Pierce in the offseason).

Garnett left Saturday night without talking to reporters. Allen said ankle surgery is his top priority before he starts worrying about his future (though he noted he "still a lot of basketball left in my legs.") Pierce seemed open to the idea of keeping the core together, but the last thing he said before departing was, "If not, it's been a tremendous run."

Rivers was asked to reflect on the Big Three era and said he only wished he could see how it all would have played out if everyone had stayed healthy. Each of Boston's last four postseasons -- to varying degrees -- were influenced by injuries after winning a world title in their first year together in 2008.

"I wish we could have had healthy runs," said Rivers. "This team won a title; got to another one (in 2010), a Game 7 (vs. the Lakers), where they had a shot to win. We got to the Eastern Conference finals and one game away on the road (this year vs. the Heat), banged up. So I don't know -- because of really Kevin's (knee) injury (in 2009), I don't know if we could have gotten any more out of the group. I would have loved to have seen this team in this whole stretch where Kevin was injury-free.

"But you don't get do-overs. Everybody has injuries. Not just us. Chicago, (Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau) is sitting at home right now thinking, 'No Rose.' It's part of the luck of it. But great group, great team group. I know everybody will look at the Big Three individually -- Kevin, Ray and Paul. I'm never going to look at them individually, I'm going to look at them as a group collective. They all gave up seven-plus shots each. They gave up minutes. I asked them to play defense and move the ball, and they all did it, and they're willing to do it for the better of the team. So I think that's what we should focus on, how much they gave up to try to win. That's what I'll remember most about them."

Brandon Bass: I would love to be back

June, 10, 2012
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesBrandon Bass is open to the idea of returning to Boston next season.
MIAMI -- Fresh off his finest performance of the Eastern Conference finals, the sort that might raise a player's market value or at least the interest in him, Celtics forward Brandon Bass expressed a desire to return to Boston next season, going so far as to suggest he expects to be here for the 2012-13 campaign.

"I do (expect to be in Boston). I would love to be back here," Bass said after Boston's 101-88 Game 7 loss to the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena. "The fans (in Boston) are unbelievable. I think for any player, this organization is the organization that you want to play for."

The question is whether the price will be right. Bass holds a $4.25 million player option for next season, the final year of a $16 million pact he inked with Orlando in July 2009. But agreeing to that option would mean no pay raise for a player who started 39 games (moving to the first-unit power forward in the second half of the season) and averaged career highs at 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds over 31.7 minutes per game. His numbers dipped a bit in the postseason, but so did his floor time as Boston often went small throughout the playoffs.

The 27-year-old Bass, acquired in a sign-and-trade deal last summer that sent Glen Davis and Von Wafer to Orlando, raved about his first season with the Celtics and his maturation as a player, even in his seventh year in the league.

"It was big," Bass said of the 2011-12 season. "I was thinking about that in the shower. The players that I was around this year, the coaches that I was around this year, and the experience that I gained, the knowledge, the things I know about defense and offense. I mean, I'm going to consider myself a vet next year because next year will be my eighth year, and the things I learned this year were unbelievable."

Later he quipped, "If I'm here, with this group (next year), I won't be a vet."

Even still, count Bass among those that would like to keep the band together.

"Oh, that would be great," he said. "A lot of different guys are talking about retiring, different things, but it would be great to have this group back.

"This group here was like family, for the first time in a long time. It felt like family. We had fights, we had ups, we had downs, but at the end of the day we all fought for each other, and I'm just grateful to be a part of this group."

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GameCenter: An abrupt ending

June, 10, 2012
MIAMI -- A look at ESPN Boston headlines after the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday evening at AmericanAirlines Arena, including a look at how it hurts the Celtics because of how much they cared about the 2011-12 season:

And a look at how it's playing on our national coverage:

Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesLeBron James reacts as he encounters resistance going to the hoop in Game 7.
MIAMI -- Rapid reaction after the Miami Heat defeated the Boston Celtics 101-88 on Saturday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami wins the series 4-3 and advances to the NBA Finals to meet the Oklahoma City Thunder.

LeBron James scored 31 points and Dwyane Wade added 23, the pair combining for 20 fourth-quarter points as the Heat ran away from the Celtics over the final eight minutes. James simply wouldn't be denied, taking over at a crucial stretch after the teams rode a seesaw for much of the second half. Chris Bosh added 19 points off the bench, while Shane Battier was a pest with 12 points off four 3-pointers. Rajon Rondo produced another playoff triple-double with 22 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough for Boston. Paul Pierce added 19 points (on 7-of-18 shooting) while Brandon Bass chipped in 16 points (only two after the intermission).

The Heat were down a point with a little more than eight minutes to go when James went into locomotive mode. He shook Bass with a little crossover dribble and went to the hoop with a head of steam, Ray Allen offering little resistance off help defense. Pierce couldn't step up due to foul trouble -- and it might not have mattered if he did -- as James elevated and threw down a vicious slam. At the other end of the floor, Wade produced a hustle play to steal the ball from Pierce, and Miami got a timeout as he went to the floor for the ball. Coming out of the stoppage, James dished to Bosh for a corner 3-pointer and an 86-82 lead. After another James bucket, Bass temporarily stopped the bleeding, only for James -- in full takeover mode -- to drill a ridiculous 28-foot 3-pointer off a (very) high pick-and-roll with Bosh, and the lead was 91-84 with 5:44 to play. Boston never hit back, and the lead was at double digits after a Wade jumper with less than three minutes to go.

James' game-changing drive deserves this spot, but since we covered that, we'll give it to Bass. With Kevin Garnett on the bench due to foul trouble midway through the second quarter, Bass took over the game. Not only did he score 10 of Boston's next 12 points (in little more than a three-minute span), but he capped it by stealing a pass intended for James and went the other way before posterizing Wade (video HERE) with a two-handed slam that had Boston on top 49-38 with 3:12 to play in the second quarter. For the first half, Bass chipped in 14 points (more than he had in any previous game this series) on 5-of-7 shooting with three rebounds and three steals over 19:53. Oh, and he opened the game defending James, who was just 3-of-5 shooting in the first half (but 10 free throw attempts helped him have 14 points at the break as well).

The Celtics started the game strong and owned a nine-point lead (23-14) after riding Garnett a little longer than usual in the first frame. But as soon as he went to the bench, the Heat started attacking the basket. That lead was down to 27-23 after one frame. The key stretch, however, came when Garnett went to the bench in a tied game with 6:50 to play in the half. That's when Bass went to work, fueling a 14-3 burst with 10 points. Miami got its deficit down as low as five, but a late layup by Allen put the Celtics on top 53-46 at the intermission.

Shane Battier's 3-pointers (four over the first three quarters) helped Miami bite into its deficit, and a driving layup from James tied the game at 61 with 6:22 to play in the third frame. That set the seesaw in motion in a quarter that featured six ties and six lead changes. Fittingly, the game was knotted at 73 heading to the final frame.

The Celtics deserved a better ending to an amazing season, but talent won out in the end. The Heat, with a healthy Bosh and an insatiable James, were simply the better team, winning Games 6 and 7 to prevail. Boston overcame a ton of adversity just to have a chance at getting back to the NBA Finals. It comes up one win shy, and a summer of uncertainty looms. Eventually, Boston will reflect on an amazing 2011-12 campaign.

Pregame: Doc expects C's best effort

June, 9, 2012
MIAMI -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he will dip into the coach's toolbox and deliver a heartfelt Game 7 pregame speech, but downplayed the significance, joking that his players have tuned him out by this point.

"I just think Game 7 is a players' game," said Rivers. "You just want to get out on the floor. You could see it in shootaround, they were so sick of me. If we went through one more of Miami’s plays, I think they were going to shoot me today. I just think they want to go play."

And what can we expect from the Celtics on the court?

"I think we're ready," said Rivers. "That's all I know, that's my sense. Like I said this morning, I don't know what that will translate into -- you can be ready and not play well. But, I would be very surprised if we didn't (play well). This team, you've seen them all year, I'd be very surprised if we didn't play extremely well today."

During his turn at the podium, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra fielded a mere two questions, the latter of which asked about word that Manny Pacquiao was delaying his fight Saturday night in order to root on the Celtics. Quipped Spoelstra, a fellow Filipino-American, "You know what, you're making it very difficult on me, Manny... I might have to root for (Timothy) Bradley tonight."

A couple more notes:

* As expected, Chris Bosh will come off the bench for the Heat. Udonis Haslem starts at center for Miami.

* A look at the Game 7 T-shirts distributed to fans at AmericanAirlines Arena as part of the team's White Hto promotion.

Bosh expects to come off bench again

June, 9, 2012
Chris Bosh said at the Heat's shootaround that he'll be coming off the bench again for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. From's Brian Windhorst:
Bosh said he's expects to stay in a reserve role Saturday for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics, even though he's been back from an abdominal strain for the past two contests.

"I think we have a good thing going right now and I'll continue to come off the bench as long as it's good," Bosh said. "I'm going to have my time out there with certain lineups, and that's not going to change my approach and how I do things."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not reveal his starting lineup and likely won't make it official until about an hour before tipoff. Udonis Haslem has started at center the past two games, one of five starters Spoelstra has used at center during the postseason.

"Starting is irrelevant, totally irrelevant," Bosh said. "I think it'll be irrelevant for as long as we're playing. It really doesn't matter for me. I just want to be out there and as long as I get to play, it doesn't matter."

Bosh played 28 minutes off the bench Thursday in Game 6, twice the amount he played in Game 5 when he made his return after missing three weeks and nine playoff games.

5-on-5: Which team will advance?

June, 9, 2012

ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg joins Israel Gutierrez and three friends from the Heat Index (Tom Haberstroh, Michael Wallace and Brian Windhorst) for a game of 5-on-5 to preview Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. A sample:

What's your read on the Celtics going into Game 7?

* Forsberg: This is a confident group that's been in this position before (4-2 in Game 7s during the Big Three era). Boston knows it can win in Miami and knows it can bounce back from tough losses. The theme this season has been overcoming adversity, and the Celtics are hoping this is just another late chapter and not the one that closes the book on a gritty 2011-12 season.

* Gutierrez: That they're still perfectly capable of a vintage performance in Game 7. Nothing about the Celtics has been predictable this postseason, so to assume their only chance to close out the Heat was in Game 6 would be unfair.

* Haberstroh: They might need to find the fountain of youth along the eastern seaboard. Or they just need to hit 3-point shots. Either one, and they'll be right back in it in Game 7. They can't shoot 1-for-14 from deep again.

* Wallace: That they are at the end of their rope but still have enough pride and experience to put up one more fight. It's not like it was two years ago that they won a big playoff game in Miami. It was just a few nights ago.

* Windhorst: They won't be rattled; they've played a bunch of Game 7s together. They were disappointed that they allowed themselves to get out of rhythm in Game 6 after LeBron's hot start. So I expect them to go back to their basics. Pound the ball into Kevin Garnett, run Ray Allen around screens and get Rajon Rondo in the open court. Plus fight LeBron for position more, even if it means whistles.

Hop HERE to read the full 5-on-5.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesCan the Celtics contain LeBron James and the Heat in Game 7 Saturday in Miami?
MIAMI -- Early in Doc Rivers’ off day conference call Friday, a reporter pointed out that the odds are strongly against a road team winning Game 7.

“Yeah, and?” barked Rivers.

The Celtics have maintained a steady aversion to probability this postseason, maybe because they have so often defied what history tells us about how their games should play out.

So, no need to remind Rivers about the odds. Like the fact that home teams are 88-22 (80 percent) all-time in NBA Game 7s. Or that, despite the fact that Boston as a franchise is 21-7 in Game 7s, the Celtics are 3-3 in road Game 7s, including having lost the only such instance of the Big Three era (falling to the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals).

You’d have to go back to the 1974 Eastern Conference finals to find Boston’s last road Game 7 triumph (over the Milwaukee Bucks). That was two years before Kevin Garnett was even born (and we all know how long ago that was).

Fortunately for the Celtics, the odds of a road Game 7 victory are somewhat in the eye of the beholder. For all the negatives, there are encouraging numbers as well. Like Boston's 4-2 record in Game 7s during the Big Three era, or how the Celtics as a franchise have won 94.7 percent of all series in which they’ve led 3-2 (36-2, only tempered by the fact that both of those losses came in recent years, including the 2010 NBA Finals and 2009 conference semifinals against the Magic).

Go ahead and throw away the statistics. As Rivers is inclined to point out, what’s happened in the past can’t aid the Celtics now. It’s what happens in the three hours after Game 7 tips tonight at 8:30 p.m. that will decide Boston’s fate.

Here are seven quick-hits on key areas of Game 7 that will likely decide whether Boston advances to the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder:

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Reserve casts could swing Game 7

June, 9, 2012
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesPaul Pierce has embraced the bench efforts of players like Mickael Pietrus and Keyon Dooling.
In a series so loaded with star power, so packed with future Hall-of-Famers, it's been those other guys -- the role players, the bench mob -- who have so far been able to step in and have a fair say as to who emerges victorious in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics can live with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's individual and collaborative greatness beating them, the same way Miami can do nothing but tip its cap when Rajon Rondo explodes for a triple-double or Kevin Garnett wreaks havoc in the paint. But when the likes of Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Keyon Dooling, and Mickael Pietrus swing the momentum of a game in their team's favor with a timely shot or a defensive spark, they become the easiest heroes to root for, and the other side's most frustrating villains.

The Celtics were left pretty frustrated as they dropped Thursday's Game 6, 98-79, as the Heat were given an early lift from their supporting staff -- even in the midst of James beginning a 45-point night -- while Boston was left waiting for its backup like a commuter having missed the last train. Help wasn't on the way.

Through three quarters on Thursday night -- the only relevant quarters -- Boston's bench contributed two points. Two. Dos. A mere pair. They came via Pietrus, but were not able to spark any greater Boston run as it chipped away at a double-digit deficit. Pietrus finished with two points, missing all three of his 3-point field goal attempts. Dooling wasn't far off, coming up with a goose egg in the scoring column in 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Battier and Chalmers combined for 17 points, including eight in the opening quarter alone -- exactly half of the Celtics' team total in the first frame.

"We contributed in a lot of different categories, just not necessarily in the scoring category today," Dooling said of the bench. "[Miami's] defense was so good tonight, I think it was hard for us to score."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has stressed that it's not necessarily scoring that's most important for Boston's bench, but it certainly wouldn't hurt the cause.

"I think the bench is what it's been all year," said Rivers. "I think for our bench, it depends on what you're looking at. If you're looking at offense, then, yes, it's sporadic. If you're looking at defensively, it's pretty consistent. Our bench is a defensive bench. When they give us points, that's great. But when they come in with great energy and change the tempo of the game, they're having an impact on our team as well. And that's what we look for in our team."

But it was hard to watch the bench not score Thursday, as memories of two clutch fourth quarter 3-pointers from Pietrus, and a late third quarter triple from Dooling in Game 5 danced in the heads of a very giving TD Garden crowd on Thursday.

"We didn't come out with the right energy," Pietrus admitted. "Our energy was low, but it's going to be like that sometimes. You have to keep your head up and stay positive. Good things happen when you stay positive."

And when you hit timely shots. Sure, the Celtics will need Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce -- who combined to shoot 10-of-32 Thursday night -- to play far better on Saturday, but they'll also need Dooling, Pietrus, Brandon Bass, and maybe even Marquis Daniels to contribute something to the cause -- a comeback-inducing 3-pointer, a sharp cut to the basket for a layup that extends the lead, a dagger of a trifecta that halts a Miami run.

These players hold an undeniable power. They can cover up for a star's lackluster evening; they can latch onto the momentum produced by a star's stellar outing; and perhaps most importantly, they can be the dagger -- the open man in the corner who hits the shot when the double-team pins the star down. The Celtics saw what having that as part of their arsenal was like in Game 5, and then witnessed the unfortunate side effects of not having that at their disposal for Game 6.

With their season once again on the brink on Saturday, the Celtics will look to their stars to carry them. But their gaze won't be fully detracted from Pietrus, Dooling, and the rest of the role player platoon. For they also have the power to help propel the Celtics into the NBA Finals.

Same old C's dig in for Game 7

June, 9, 2012
A look at off day headlines before the Boston Celtics visit the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, including how Doc Rivers said Boston won't overreact to LeBron James' monster Game 6 outburst.

Off day: Another Game 7 for C's

June, 8, 2012
J.Meric/Getty ImagesIt's Celtics vs. Heat in Game 7 on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Boston Celtics will play the seventh Game 7 of the Big Three era when they visit the Miami Heat on Saturday night for the deciding game of the Eastern Conference finals. Boston is 4-2 in those previous games, though this core lost the only other road Game 7 its played in (Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers).

During a conference call with reporters after the team landed in Miami on Friday afternoon, Celtics coach Doc Rivers downplayed past results, noting each series is different, but admitted that Boston has experience in these type of moments and that might aid them Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Rivers, though, said he'll spend more time focusing on the six games of tape from this series than anything from past years. Even that might not be enough to make him change his plan of attack.

"Obviously, being Game 7, that means you have six games of some great film to look at," he said. "You can look at all the tweaks and changes that each team has made. But, at the end of the day, you have to go out and perform, you have to make shots, you have to rebound. You have to do all the things that you’ve probably talked about since Game 1 of the regular season, and you have to do it with an urgency."

A handful of other highlights from the call:

* LEBRON ADJUSTMENTS: Rivers wouldn't quite tip his hand of potential adjustments after LeBron James erupted for 45 points in Game 6. "Well, you'll see (those adjustments) when the game starts," said Rivers. "We're not going to do much. We do what we do. Defensively, for the most part, we have to do it better. I thought, obviously, LeBron had a great game, (but) I thought there were things we should have done better in the game, with the way we we were playing them. And we didn't do that. That's the first thing we have to correct. Then if we have to do something else, we'll do it."

* DELAY FOR PACQUIAO: Asked what he thought about boxer Manny Pacquiao delaying his fight Saturday night versus Timothy Bradley Jr. until after the end of the Celtics-Heat game, Rivers quipped: "He’s a Celtics fan, what do you expect? It's pretty cool though." The pay-per-view is slated to start at 9 p.m. and Boston players will undoubtedly be scrambling to watch Pacquiao after the game as well.

* BIG THREE REFLECTIONS DELAYED, TOO: Celtics coach Doc Rivers was offered the chance to reflect on the Big Three era and politely passed. "I'm not even going to let myself go down that road," said Rivers. "I’d like to talk about that two or three weeks from now." The insinuation, of course, wait until the season is actually over before conducting the postmortem.

Could this be the final farewell?

June, 8, 2012
ESPN Boston's Peter May wonders if a Game 7 loss on Saturday in Miami would truly spell the end of the Big Three era in Boston:



Isaiah Thomas
19.7 5.0 0.6 26.7
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 8.1
AssistsE. Turner 5.1
StealsM. Smart 1.4
BlocksT. Zeller 0.7