TrueHoop: Boston Celtics

Age nothing but a number for Brad Stevens

July, 3, 2013
7/03/13
8:31
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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AP Photo/Steve Helber
Stevens will become the NBA's youngest head coach, ahead of Jacque Vaughn.

When Brad Stevens shakes hands with opponents on the court this season, he'll be greeting players his own age.

Stevens was born in 1976. He's 36 years old now and will turn 37 on October 22, just a few days before the NBA season will start.

One could fashion an NBA starting lineup out of active players born in 1976: Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett in the frontcourt, Antawn Jamison the swingman and Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups in the backcourt.

And there are several active players born before 1976: Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Derek Fisher to name a few.

Stevens will likely have more NBA players near his age than NBA coaches. Stevens will become the NBA's youngest active head coach, ahead of Jacque Vaughn (age 38) and David Joerger (age 39). All other NBA coaches are in their 40s or above.

Pitino's pathway
It's easy to make the Stevens connection to the Boston Celtics' hiring of Rick Pitino in 1997. And there are some similarities: Pitino had a .734 winning percentage as a Division I coach with two appearances in the NCAA championship game. Stevens has a .772 winning percentage and also has a pair of title game appearances.

But Pitino had two full seasons of NBA experience under his belt, coaching the New York Knicks in 1987-88 and 1988-89. And he had 16 seasons as a Division I head coach when he was hired by the Celtics. Stevens has six.

The closer comparison might be Pitino when he was hired by the Knicks. Pitino was 35 years old and had seven years of Division I experience. Stevens is 36 with six years of Division I experience.

Celtics don't mind first-time coaches
A head coach without previous NBA head coaching experience hasn't been a barrier for the Celtics.

Of their last seven head coaching hires not counting interim coaches, five of them have been first-time head coaches.

The only exceptions were Pitino, who previously coached the Knicks, and Doc Rivers, who previously coached the Orlando Magic.

Knicks hold off Celtics, end playoff drought

May, 3, 2013
5/03/13
11:01
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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David Butler II/USA TODAY SportsCarmelo Anthony led the Knicks to their first playoff series win since 2000.
For the first time in 13 years the New York Knicks have won a playoff series, defeating the Boston Celtics 88-80 in Game 6. The last time the Knicks won a playoff series was in the 2000 Conference Semifinals against the Miami Heat, the same year that Carmelo Anthony was a sophomore in high school.

How improbable was this win for the Knicks?

Prior to Friday night’s win, the Knicks had lost their last four games they had played with a chance to clinch a playoffs series. That was the longest current streak of its kind, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Knicks had also lost nine of their last 10 road playoff games and were 0-6 all-time on the road in Game 6 when leading 3-2.

And Anthony had advanced past the first round just once in nine previous postseason appearances.

What went right for Knicks?
Carmelo became the Closer. Anthony scored seven of the Knicks last 11 points over the final 3:50 of the fourth quarter to help the Knicks hold off a comeback bid by the Celtics.

From 3:50 in the 4th quarter on, Anthony passed the ball just twice on eight touches and made two of his four shot attempts. He had 29 passes on 40 touches prior to the closing stretch, making only 5-of-19 field goals.

The Knicks were able to take away a key part of the Celtics offense in Game 6 - their jump shots. The Celtics scored just 25 points on 30 percent shooting on jumpers in Friday's loss, with Paul Pierce and Jeff Green making a combined 4-of-17 jumpers.

Boston attempted a series-low 30 jump shots on Friday night after averaging 46 jump shots and 47 points off jumpers per game in their previous two wins against New York.

What went wrong for the Celtics?
Simply, they couldn’t find the basket until the final nine minutes of the game.

The Celtics were trying to become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after trailing in the series 3-0. Instead, they become the eighth team to lose the series in six games after losing the first three games.

Boston scored 27 points in the first half, the third time this postseason they scored fewer than 30 points in a half. In fact, the three lowest-scoring halves in franchise postseason history in the shot clock era each came in this series – Game 1 (25 points) and Game 2 (23 points).

The Celtics scored 49 points in the first 38 minutes and 11 seconds of the game, and then 31 points in the final nine minutes and 49 seconds. Through three quarters they had more turnovers (16) than made field goals (15).

Boston averaged just 82.3 points per game in this series, its fewest scoring average in a best-of-7 postseason series in franchise history.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Game
This is the fourth road win for the Knicks against the Celtics this season. New York is the fifth team in NBA history to beat the Celtics four times in Boston (regular season and playoffs included) in a single season: the Indiana Pacers did it twice (2003-04 and 2004-05), the Chicago Stags in 1947-48 and the Knicks also in 1947-48.

Do the Rockets and Celtics have a chance?

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
1:51
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Could the Houston Rockets and/or Boston Celtics pull off the impossible?

No team in NBA postseason history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win a best-of-seven series, but the Rockets and Celtics have both forced a Game 6 at home. Prior to those teams, only 10 teams in history forced a Game 6 after trailing 3-0 in a best-of-seven, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Rockets and Celtics will both be at home in Game 6. According to history, there’s a 50-50 chance each team forces a Game 7. Six of those 10 teams to force a Game 6 were at home, and three of them forced a Game 7 -– the only three teams to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0.

How did the Rockets get it done?

Kevin Durant was the primary ball handler on 14 of his 19 fourth-quarter touches in Game 5 but failed to score in the fourth quarter. Durant’s extra usage since Russell Westbrook’s injury includes 24 more touches per game, mostly in the backcourt as the team’s ball handler.

Durant was scoreless in the fourth quarter for the first time in his playoff career when playing at least 10 minutes in the fourth quarter.

The Rockets shot well from beyond the arc. They made 14 3-pointers in a playoff game for the first time since 1997 against the same franchise, when they were in Seattle as the SuperSonics.

James Harden made a playoff career-high seven 3-pointers (he made his first seven attempts).

The Thunder employed a “Hack-Asik” strategy in the fourth quarter but Omer Asik was 11-for-16 on free throws in the 4th quarter (1.38 points per possession). The Rockets scored nine points on 17 fourth-quarter possessions that didn't end in Asik free throws (0.53 points per possession).

How did the Celtics get it done?

Carmelo Anthony was in isolation on 52 percent of his offensive plays in Game 5, shooting 3-of-12 from the field on those plays. Anthony has shot 30 percent from the field in isolation for the series (46 percent on all other plays).

The Knicks used isolation on 16 percent of their offensive plays in the regular season, the highest rate in the NBA (league average: 10 percent). In the postseason, though, the Knicks have upped that rate to 27 percent.

Despite the high usage in the regular season, the Knicks were the fifth-most efficient team in isolation, averaging 0.87 points per play. In the postseason, the Knicks’ 0.71 points per play in isolation is second-worst among playoff teams.

The Celtics shot 50 percent on 3-point attempts in Game 5 after shooting 30 percent in the first four games of the series. The Knicks are shooting 23 percent on 3-pointers in their past two games after 38 percent in the first three games.

Celtics need to fix offensive woes in Game 3

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
9:44
AM ET
By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com

AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Celtics have scored a total of 48 points in the second half of Games 1 and 2.
The Boston Celtics enter Game 3 against the New York Knicks looking for answers, primarily on the offensive end. In the first two games of the series, the Celtics have scored a total of just 149 points.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the Celtics’ second-fewest points scored over a two-game span in a single postseason in franchise history. Their worst two-game stretch came against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals, when they scored just 146 points in Games 6 and 7, both losses.

Offensive Struggles
The Celtics’ offensive deficiencies this series have been due to their inability to score in the half court.

During the regular season, Boston ranked eighth in the NBA in half-court efficiency, averaging 0.91 points per play. In two games this series, the Celtics have averaged just 0.75 points per play and are shooting only 37 percent in the half court.

The Celtics offensive struggles have mostly been limited to the second half of games.

In fact, they’ve looked good in the first half, taking leads into halftime in both games. Boston has shot over 54 percent from the field and outscored the Knicks by 10 points in the first half this series.

After halftime, it’s been a different story.

The Celtics have scored a 48 combined points in the second half in the two games this series and have posted a dreadful half-court scoring rate of 0.49 points per play.

The Celtics set a franchise record low with 25 points in the second half in Game 1. That record stood for just three days, as they scored just 23 points in the second half in Game 2.

Boston is shooting 22.2 percent from the field in the second half this series, by far the lowest percentage by any team in any half this postseason. The next-lowest is by the Houston Rockets, who’ve shot 34.8 percent in the second half in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Celtics have struggled to make shots from all areas of the court, most notably around the basket. The Celtics have made just six of their 17 field goal attempts from inside the restricted area and only four of their 12 layup attempts in the second half this series.

Comeback from a 2-0 Deficit?
History isn’t on the Celtics’ side after dropping the first two games. Of the ten previous times in franchise history they have trailed a best-of-seven series 2-0, the Celtics went on to lose the series nine times.

Their only best-of-seven series comeback after dropping the first two games came in the 1969 NBA Finals when they defeated the Lakers in seven games.

There is some history on the C’s side going into Game 3. The Celtics are 23-10 all-time at home against the Knicks in the postseason, winning 11 of its last 12 meetings in Boston.

However, the most important number for the Celtics is zero. No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit in the postseason.

Latest on Josh Smith talks

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
3:01
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Archive
The Atlanta Hawks inched closer to Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline more determined than ever to trade Josh Smith, according to sources with knowledge of the Hawks' thinking.

They still have to find a suitable trade partner, though.

The consistent word circulating in front-office circles late Wednesday was that Atlanta has yet to find a deal it likes for Smith in a down market despite the determined pursuit of the Brooklyn Nets and consistent (but conditional) interest from Milwaukee and Boston.

The Nets, sources say, will continue Thursday to search for a third team to help facilitate a deal for Smith, since Atlanta has made it clear that it wants no part of Kris Humphries.

Milwaukee would appear to be the most likely destination for Smith entering deadline day, but it remains to seen whether the Bucks will ultimately be willing to part with guard Monta Ellis, whom Atlanta has targeted as the primary player it wants from them.

As for Boston: Including Paul Pierce or Rajon Rondo in any deal with the Hawks is presumed to be the only way for the Celtics to land Smith, which is problematic for the Celts for a number of reasons. Focusing on just two of them: (1) Trading Pierce somewhere he doesn't want to go isn't nearly as easy as it sounds given what PP's stature is in his city and with that franchise; (2) Boston's chances of getting Atlanta's unrestricted free agent-to-be to sign for the long term there would almost certainly be damaged if Rondo, one of Smith's best friends, weren't still there to team up with him.

As of late Wednesday, sources close to the situation said Atlanta hadn't yet found a deal it particularly liked and was still holding out hope that offers would improve or that previously uninterested teams, such as Houston, would change their minds in the final hours of trade season.

Yet sources stressed that the Hawks do remain eager to part with Smith and went into Thursday expecting to move him by day's end to the team offering the best deal that won't hurt their long-term financial flexibility. Atlanta, of course, is determined not to let any trade it makes Thursday affect its planned pursuit of Dwight Howard in free agency in July.

The Hawks, as a result, figure to attract more attention than anyone else on deadline day. Especially with most rival teams increasingly expecting the Clippers and Jazz to stand pat no matter how much we've talked about Eric Bledsoe, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson possibly moving.

Similar pessimism about Phoenix -- long considered one of the teams expected to be busy leading up to the 2012 deadline -- moving center Marcin Gortat was also in abundance Wednesday.

Denver provides the ultimate home court

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
3:13
PM ET
By Sunny Saini and Doug Clawson, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Nuggets play a different brand of basketball at home
The Denver Nuggets started the season 11-12 but have run off a 22-9 record since then. What changed? 17 of Denver’s first 23 games were on the road, but since then, they’ve played 19 of 31 at home.

Since the New Year, the Nuggets have the second-best record in the NBA (16-6) by reeling off 13 wins in 15 home games, including seven straight. They are currently sitting fifth in the Western conference. Tonight they host the Boston Celtics to tip off post-All-Star break action.

MUST BE THE ALTITUDE
Since 2000-01, the Nuggets have won nearly 68 percent of their home games but only 38 percent of their road games. No team has seen a higher increase in winning percentage from road to home games than the Nuggets.

HOW ARE THEY DOING IT?
At home, the Nuggets are a dynamic team that scores 110 points per 100 possessions (4th in NBA) and allows 99.5 points per 100 possessions (9th in NBA).

The Nuggets have a better offensive efficiency at home than the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers and a better defensive efficiency than the Oklahoma City Thunder, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.

During the 16-6 stretch, they are forcing 17 turnovers a game, leading to 22 points per game on offense, both of which lead the NBA over this stretch. The Nuggets ability to create turnovers and willingness to get out on the break have led to a league-high 58.7 paint points per game since January 1st.

The Nuggets are having a historic year, averaging 56.8 points per game in the paint. The last team to come close to that type of production was the 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers with 54.1 points in the paint per game.

LAST TIME THEY MET
The Celtics won at home 118-114 (OT) on February 10, part of an 8-1 stretch for the Celtics since Rajon Rondo’s injury.

Paul Pierce had his eighth career triple double (27-14-14)

The Celtics won despite giving up a season-high 62 points in the paint (outscored by 32 in the paint).

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Paul Pierce is averaging 7.2 assists per game since the Rondo’s injury (3.8 prior).

Since January 1st, Ty Lawson is scoring 19.2 points per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field (13.6 PPG and 40.8 FG pct prior).

Key decisions, trends to decide East's best

June, 9, 2012
6/09/12
3:59
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesLeBron James and Rajon Rondo will be locked in another tight battle in Game 7 tonight.
Yesterday we took a look at some historical notes related to tonight’s Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. Today we go inside the numbers to give you the keys for each team in this elimination game.

Celtics Keys to Victory 1. Keep game close; Thrive late
The Celtics have the clear edge if this game is close in the final minutes. Boston is shooting 50 percent from the field and have made 11-of-24 three-pointers in crunch time this postseason, which is defined as when the game is within five points in the last five minutes of regulation or overtime.

The Heat have made just 37 percent of their shots, including 4-of-19 from beyond the arc, in crunch time this postseason. Even worse, the Heat are 0-for-10 over the last two postseasons on game-tying or go-ahead shots with under 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter or OT.

2. Get Rondo's pick-and-roll going
Rajon Rondo’s ability to execute the pick-and-roll could be another deciding factor in this game.

He is shooting better than 50 percent and averaging nearly seven points per game on pick-and-roll plays in this series after a dismal performance as the pick-and-roll ball handler in the first two rounds.

3. Pierce finds shooting touch
The Celtics also need Paul Pierce to find his shooting touch outside the paint. Pierce has thrived in the interior this postseason, shooting 52 percent from inside 10 feet including 10-for-17 in the Celtics’ three wins in this series.

But he’s really struggled to hit from distance, going 2-of-12 from 10 feet and beyond in Game 6, and is shooting just 27 percent from such distances in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Heat Keys to Victory 1. LeBron aggressive with finding his own shot
LeBron James had one of the best all-time playoff performances in Game 6, using his aggressive play to carry the Heat to victory. He scored 20 points in isolation in Game 6 after combining for just 24 points when going one-on-one in the first five games combined.

James also found his post game in Game 6, making all seven of his field goals on post-up plays, after he shot just 6-for-16 on those plays in the first five games of the series.

2. Increase Bosh's minutes
Erik Spoelstra would be smart to continue to give Chris Bosh increased playing time in Game 7. Though he has yet to score in double figures, Bosh's presence down low appears to have really opened up the rest of the floor for the Heat’s shooters.

The Heat shot 24-of-45 (53 percent) and averaged 103 points per 48 minutes with Chris Bosh on the floor in Game 6; with Bosh on the bench, the Heat shot just 13-of-31 (42 percent) and averaged only 91 points per 48 minutes.

3. Get out and run
Another key for the Heat will be their ability to get out on the break. In their 11 wins this postseason, Miami is averaging 19 transition points per game and shooting 66 percent, including 13-of-28 from beyond the arc. In their six losses, they are scoring just 12 transition points per game on 46 percent shooting, including 1-for-14 on 3-pointers.

Statistical support from NBA.com

Heat look to get back to basics

June, 7, 2012
6/07/12
3:18
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
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Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesLeBron James has played 8 playoff games with his team facing elimination, and is 2-6 in those games.
The Miami Heat will try and stay alive tonight against the Boston Celtics (ESPN, 8:30 ET), and it certainly will not be an easy task. According to Elias, the Celtics are 22-5 (.815) over the last 30 seasons in games in which they had an opportunity to clinch a playoff series at home. A look at the most significant storylines for each team entering Game 6:

Heat Notes

One key for the Heat tonight will be attacking the rim. During this postseason, Miami has seen its percentage of field goal attempts inside five feet drop as the game goes on. In the first quarter, 33.1 percent of the Heat's attempts are within five feet, but that percentage dips to 25.6 in the fourth quarter.

In turn, Miami’s win percentage drops dramatically as it attempts more 3-pointers. In the last two seasons including playoffs, the Heat have won 53 percent of their games when attempting 20+ 3-point field goals, but have won 77 percent of their games when attempting fewer than 20.

The Heat's transition game will be another point of emphasis. Miami is tied for second among playoff teams with 225 transition points, but has been outscored on the break in all six of its playoff losses including a 19-8 deficit in Game 5.

LeBron James certainly has a tough task ahead of him; in his career, James has played eight playoff games with his team facing elimination, and his team is merely 2-6 in those games. Among 3-time NBA MVP winners, that's the worst winning percentage by a large margin according to Elias.

Celtics Notes

In Celtics franchise history, Boston has won 94.7 percent of its postseason series when leading 3-2. In addition, the Celtics are 6-1 all-time at home against the Heat in the postseason. They have faltered recently, however, as the last time the Celtics lost a series after leading 3-2 was in the 2010 NBA Finals against the Lakers.

The Celtics have two chances to win the series, but they’ve often struggled in their first opportunity to close out a series since 2008. In their first chance, Boston is 3-10 over that stretch, including 0-2 this postseason. However, they’ve been better at their second attempt going 7-3. If the Celtics win, it will mark their third NBA Finals appearance in the last five seasons, which would tie the Los Angeles Lakers for the most over that span.

Boston will be relying heavily on Paul Pierce, especially in the waning minutes, as this postseason Pierce has been the most clutch player in the NBA. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or OT with the score margin within five points, Pierce is shooting an NBA-best 63.2 percent from the field (min. 10 attempts).

Celtics have trouble closing series

June, 6, 2012
6/06/12
12:58
PM ET
By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com

Steve Mitchell/US PresswireThe Celtics are just 11-13 since 2007-08 with the chance to clinch a series.
A veteran squad such as the Boston Celtics have plenty of experience in closing out series, and will have the opportunity to do so against the Miami Heat in Game 6 on Thursday (8:30 ET, ESPN). But the Celtics haven't been as successful as fans might think when it comes to eliminating opponents recently.

Since Boston's Big 3 (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen) formed entering the 2007-08 season, the Celtics have in fact struggled closing out postseason series. When having the opportunity to clinch, Boston is just 11-13 in those games over that span. This postseason, the Celtics are 2-2 in such games but just 0-2 in the first opportunity. The one silver lining, however, is that Boston is 9-2 in such chances at home.

LeBron James, however, has trailed 3-2 in a best-of-seven series four times in his postseason career. Each time, his team went on to lose the series, including suffering defeat at the hands of the Celtics twice. Only once out of those four times has a James-led team been able to force a Game 7.

What's more, James is usually at his postseason worst when trailing in a series. When his team is tied or leads the series, James is averaging 28.5 points per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor. Compare that to when his team trails the series; in those situations, James is putting up 27.4 points per game with a field goal percentage of just 42.8. His turnovers per game also increase from 3.2 to 5.3.

Miami now has Chris Bosh back in the lineup, but his addition did not help the Heat in Game 5, as they were outscored by 12 points in the 14 minutes with Bosh on the court. In addition, Miami was 20.8 percent from the floor with Bosh in the game and had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (five).

Heat return to comfort zone vs Celtics

June, 5, 2012
6/05/12
1:17
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Credit: Steve Mitchell/US PresswireThe Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 83.5 percent of the time when tied 2-2.
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat (ESPN, 8:30 ET) will square off in Game 5 tonight with the winner taking a 3-2 lead in the series. The Celtics have put themselves in a good position to take control, because in the Big 3 era (since 2007-08 season), Boston is 8-0 in Game 5s when the series is tied 2-2.

The Heat, however, have been very comfortable at home against the Celtics recently. Miami is 6-1 at home against the Celtics in the postseason all-time, and according to Elias, Miami’s current six-game home postseason win streak against Boston is its longest against a single opponent in franchise history.

The Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series 83.5 percent of the time when tied 2-2.

Miami has certainly been more comfortable at home this postseason, averaging 100.4 points compared to 91.0 on the road. That's crucial, considering the Heat are 7-0 this postseason when scoring at least 100 points, and were 25-4 in such games during the regular season.

The focus for Miami will again likely be in the closing seconds. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem each missed game-tying and go-ahead attempts with under 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and OT in Game 4, and the Heat are now 0-for-10 on such shots in the last two postseasons. Overall, Wade is now 2-8 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or OT in his postseason career, below the league average of 26.9 percent. By comparison, LeBron James is 5-14 (35.7 percent) in those situations.

What's more, Wade has been a slow starter this series. He is averaging just 5.5 points on 25.8 percent shooting in the first half of games against the Celtics, his lowest points average for a first half for any round in his postseason career.

The Heat are also hoping to activate Chris Bosh for Game 5. His status could be pivotal, as Miami is 5-1 this postseason in games Bosh has played, with a +13.2 points differential in that span.

On the other side, the Celtics have relied heavily on Rajon Rondo in this series. Boston has been much better with Rondo on the court, averaging more than 19 points per 48 minutes compared to when he’s been off the floor. According to Elias, Rondo has 13 double-digit assist games this postseason and 38 for his career, and when he takes the court tonight, he'll be looking for his 39th 10-assist game, which would break the all-time Celtics record originally held by Bob Cousy.

Rondo's postseason performance has also placed him in great company this year. He's averaging 17.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 11.9 assists in 16 games this postseason, and according to Elias only one player in NBA history has averaged at least 17 points, six rebounds and 11 assists in 10+ games played in a single postseason (Magic Johnson did it six times).

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

Game 1 crucial for both Celtics and Heat

May, 28, 2012
5/28/12
2:39
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireLeBron James averages 30.2 points in his postseason career in the Conference Finals.
The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat square off in Game 1 tonight (ESPN, 8:30 ET) in what is the third postseason meeting of all time between these two squads. Boston defeated Miami 4-1 in 2010 in the first round, while the Heat beat the Celtics 4-1 in last season's conference semifinals.

Tonight will be crucial, as the winner of Game 1 in the conference finals has gone on to win the series 80 percent (88-22) of the time in NBA history. The Celtics won the 2011-12 regular season series 3-1, but Mario Chalmers is the only one of the projected Game 1 starters to have started in all four meetings this season.

The Heat have performed well in these situations under coach Erik Spoelstra. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miami is 5-0 in playoff series opening games at home under Spoelstra, and only four other head coaches in NBA history were 5-0 or better in series-opening home games: Doug Moe (8-0), Mike Dunleavy (6-0), Fred Schaus (5-0) and Bill Russell (5-0).

More good news for Heat fans: LeBron James has averaged 30.2 points in his postseason career in the conference finals, his highest scoring output of any postseason round. James has also averaged 27.1 points per game in 18 career postseason games against the Celtics.

Teammate Dwyane Wade has been even better against Boston, however. In 10 career postseason games, Wade has averaged 31.7 points against the Celtics, his highest against any team.

One aspect to watch for will be when the duo is in transition. James (72) and Wade (57) are ranked first and second in individual transition points this postseason, and the Heat are 7-0 this postseason when they score at least 14 transition points.

Boston, meanwhile, has had to combat history to even reach this stage in the playoffs. According to Elias, the Celtics are just the fourth team since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77 to make the conference finals after entering the All-Star break under .500. The last team to accomplish the feat was the Phoenix Suns in 1983-84 (lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the conference finals).

Much of the Celtics' postseason success has been thanks to Kevin Garnett, who has increased his offensive production this postseason. He is averaging a double-double and has already recorded six games this postseason with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Teammate Rajon Rondo has also been key, having recorded at least 11 assists in nine of his 12 games this postseason. Rondo also has nine career postseason triple-doubles, second-most among active players and tied for the fourth-most all time. Rondo's nine triple-doubles have all come in the last four postseasons and are more than all other NBA players combined over that span (seven).

Rondo triples his pleasure, seals Celtics win

May, 26, 2012
5/26/12
11:56
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo recorded his ninth career triple-double as the Celtics beat the 76ers in Game 7.
The Boston Celtics showed that history and experience does matter when it comes to a winner-take-all Game 7, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 85-75 to earn their third trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in the last five seasons.

The Celtics improved 21-7 all-time in Game 7s, the most such wins in NBA history. Entering the game, the players on Boston’s roster had a combined 27 games and 925 minutes of experience in Game 7s, compared to just three games and 59 minutes for the 76ers.

The 76ers dropped to 6-9 all-time in Game 7s, the most such losses in NBA history. Philadelphia has now lost each of the last 14 best-of-seven series its has played in which it trailed 3-2. That is the longest such streak in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Rondo Shines Late
Rajon Rondo was a non-factor through the first three quarters, scoring just seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, as the Celtics built a slim three-point lead. But he exploded in the fourth quarter, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his ninth career triple-double.

He scored all 11 of his fourth-quarter points after Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 remaining, personally outscoring (11-7) and outrebounding (3-1) the 76ers during that stretch.

His nine career playoff triple-doubles are tied with Wilt Chamberlain for the fourth-most in NBA history, behind only Magic Johnson (30), Jason Kidd (11), and Larry Bird (10). Rondo also joined Larry Bird as the only Celtics players to record a triple-double in a Game 7.

However, on top of recording a triple-double, Rajon Rondo had seven turnovers tonight. According to Elias, this is the first time a player on the winning side of a Game 7 committed at least seven turnovers.

Celtics Keys to the Game
In the first half, the Celtics used a strong running game to take a eight-point halftime lead. The Celtics outscored the 76ers 15-4 in transition in the first half, hitting 5-of-10 shots on the break compared to just 10-of-30 attempts in their half-court offense.

The Celtics took control of the game in the fourth quarter as they finally found their shooting touch from the perimeter.

Boston missed its first 14 shots from beyond the arc before Ray Allen hit a three-pointer with 9:51 remaining in the game, and ended up making its final three three-point attempts.

The Celtics defense also proved to be a difference-maker in Game 7, as it held the 76ers to just 66 points and 35 percent shooting on 92 plays in the half-court. The Celtics' half-court defense ranks first in points per game (68.5) and points per play (0.79), and second in field goal percentage allowed this postseason.

What’s Next
The Celtics will face the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night. The Celtics won three of the four matchups in the regular season, outscoring the Heat by nearly eight points per game while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor in those contests.

However, Mario Chalmers is the only one of the projected Game 1 starters to have started in all four games. In their final regular-season meeting, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Allen each did not play.

Celtics, 76ers no strangers to Game 7

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
9:47
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images The Celtics and 76ers meet in a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston on Saturday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics continue their storied playoff rivalry as they meet Saturday night (ABC, 8 ET) in Boston for the seventh all-time Game 7 between these franchises.

The Celtics own a 4-2 advantage in the previous six matchups, but the 76ers won the most recent game three decades ago in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals.

Game 7 Stats To Know
History appears to be on the Celtics’ side as they are 17-4 all-time at home in Game 7s. They did lose their last such game in 2009 against the Orlando Magic, but they have never lost consecutive Game 7s at home. The Celtics are also 20-7 overall in Game 7s, the most such wins and second-best record in NBA history (min. five games).

The 76ers, on the other hand, are just 1-7 all-time on the road in Game 7s and haven’t played one since 1986. The franchise is 6-8 overall in Game 7s; the eight losses are tied for the most in NBA history.

Celtics Keys to the Game
The Celtics have yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason, having won all four contests following a loss. However, the Celts have not fared well trying to close out a series since the "Big 3" was formed entering the 2007-08 season. They are 10-13 in potential series clinchers (1-2 this postseason).

Kevin Garnett’s jump-shooting has kept the Celtics in this series. Garnett has made 26-of-55 (47 percent) jump shots from 15 feet and beyond. The rest of the Celtics have combined to shoot 30 percent from that distance this series.

The absence of Avery Bradley, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, is significant for the Celtics, as it takes away their best five-man lineup this postseason.

When Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Garnett have been on the court together, the Celtics have outscored opponents by 53 points. Their next-best lineup has outscored opponents by only 18 points.

76ers Keys to the Game
Philadelphia is looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and is trying to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the conference finals since the Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1999 season.

However, they will need to overcome history in order to make it to the next round.

The 76ers have lost each of the last 13 best-of-seven series in which they have trailed 3-2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the longest such streak in NBA history.

One of the deciding factors in this series has been the 76ers' ability to establish the pick and roll. In their three wins, they’re averaging 11 points running the pick and roll. In their three losses, they’re averaging eight points on 29 percent shooting.

Offense has been an issue in the playoffs for the 76ers, who are scoring 86.6 points per game, the fewest among remaining teams. The 76ers haven’t scored more than 92 points in their last 10 games, the longest single postseason streak of its kind since the Pistons in 2006 (11 games).

76ers go inside to force Game 7

May, 23, 2012
5/23/12
11:28
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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David Dow/NBAE/Getty ImagesJrue Holliday scored 20 points to lead the 76ers over the Celtics, forcing a Game 7.
The Philadelphia 76ers staved off elimination with a 82-75 win over the Boston Celtics, sending the Eastern Conference Semifinals to a decisive Game 7 in Boston on Saturday.

This will be the seventh Game 7 between the 76ers and Celtics, and the first in three decades. Boston has won four of the previous six meetings, but the 76ers won the last such game exactly 30 years ago today.

Philadelphia continued its improbable run through the playoffs as the No. 8 seed with its seventh win in 12 games this postseason.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 76ers seven wins are tied for the second-most in a single postseason by an eight-seed since 1983-84 (the 16-team playoff format began in 1983-84).

The win tonight was hardly a surprise for fans in Philadelphia or Boston. The 76ers improved to 5-0 this postseason following a loss and 5-1 in home playoff games.

With the loss, the Celtics drop to 10-13 overall and 2-11 on the road in close-out games since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo on the team in the 2007-08 season.

Keys to the Game
The 76ers dominated the Celtics around the basket, shooting 63 percent from inside five feet, their best rate so far in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They also held the Celtics to under 40 percent shooting from inside five feet for the first time since Game 2 of the 2009-2010 NBA Finals against the Lakers.

Contributing to the Celtics woes on the interior was Kevin Garnett's reluctance to go inside. All 20 of Garnett’s field goal attempts in Game 6 were from 10 feet and out, with an average distance of 17 feet.

The 20 attempts from 10-plus feet are four more than Garnett’s previous high with the Celtics. Garnett had 126 games with the Celtics prior to Wednesday with 15 or more field goal attempts. In all of those games, Garnett had at least one shot inside of 10 feet.

Looking Ahead to Game 7
Despite the 76ers win on Wednesday night, they still face long odds to win the series:

• In NBA playoff history, teams that have won Game 5 of a best-of-seven series that was tied at 2-2 (like the Celtics did) have gone on to win the series 83 percent of the time.

• The Celtics were the 47th team to win Game 5 of a best-of-seven series that was tied 2-2 by 15-or-more points. Of the previous 46 teams to do that, 44 went on to win the series, according to Elias.

• And Elias also tells us that the 76ers have lost each of the last 13 best-of-seven series they have played in which they have trailed 3-2, which is the longest such streak in NBA history.

An unprecedented boost from Bass

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
10:15
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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For a player who had never before scored 20 points in a playoff game, Brandon Bass announced his presence loudly in Game 5 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bass finished with 27 points - 18 of them in the third quarter - in a performance that few could have predicted.
Brandon Bass
Bass


In fact, if his teammates say they've seen this before, they're lying. Entering the night, Bass had not been the Celtics' outright leading scorer in any of their 76 team games this season.

The Celtics had seven different leading scorers in a game this season, including Sasha Pavlovic and Jermaine O'Neal, but Bass wasn't one of them until this game.

He hardly needed any help in the third quarter, when he outscored the 76ers by himself, 18-16. Bass went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the quarter and a near-perfect 6-for-7 from the field.

His 18 points in the quarter were the most he's ever scored in a quarter - regular season or postseason. His previous high was 16 points in the 2nd quarter against the Kings on Feb. 21, 2009.

The performance took some of the scoring load off the Celtics usual cast, and it came at a fortunate time as Ray Allen shot just 2-for-7 and Paul Pierce shot 3-for-7. The last time a Celtics player outside of their core four scored 25 points in a playoff game was when Eddie House went for 31 against the Magic in 2009.

Aside from Bass, the game shifted in the second half when the Celtics defense closed off the lane.

In the first half, the 76ers scored 24 points in the area within five feet of the hoop. It marked their most points within five feet in any half this postseason.

But in the second half the 76ers managed just 10 such points. They stopped going inside as much too - 31.4 percent of their field goal attempts came within five feet of the hoop. In the first half, it was 43 percent.

The win continued a trend of resiliency this postseason for the Boston Celtics - they're a perfect 4-0 this season in games following a loss. That trend might be a lot more comforting were it not matched by the 76ers, who are also 4-0 following a loss.

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