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Miami 101 Boston 88: Celtics’ Big 3 falls short in what’s likely their last game together

NBA fans couldn’t have asked for much more in this game.   Until the final six minutes of the contest, when the Heat pulled away, this game was as close and exciting as any game we’ve seen during the 2012 playoffs.

This game was not decided by effort or focus, as both teams maxed out in those categories.  In the end, execution was the difference.  Both sides executed evenly until midway through the 4th quarter, when Boston started missing and Miami kept scoring.

But before we look at the end of the game, let’s look at how we got there.

Boston was clearly ready to play.  It’s not like they hadn’t been in a similar position multiple times before.  Doc Rivers and his 4-headed monster knew what they were doing.  They came out firing and didn’t look like the old, beat-up team we’ve watched all year.  Ray Allen made 2 threes to start, Paul Pierce suddenly returned to his 22 year-old self with a dunk that had lots of air time, and Rajon Rondo was well on his way to another triple-double with few turnovers.   They continued this energized success throughout the second quarter, where we saw Brandon Bass take over for a string of 6 possessions that ended with a dunk on Dwyane Wade.  Simply put, the Celtics took care of the ball, and executed by making shots.

As for Miami, it looked like they caught the turnover bug that Boston had in the first half of Game 6.  This limited the Heat’s shot attempts, which kept them behind despite their good shooting percentage.  When they weren’t losing the ball, they looked good on offense.

For both teams, transition offense thrived.  We got to see an array of cute layups from Rondo and some nice Boston dunks, as a result of Miami’s first half turnovers.  Miami created transition offense from rebounding the limited Boston misses, capitalized by a double-oop dunk by James near the end of the half.  After a very entertaining 24 minutes, the score was 53-46, Celtics with the lead.

The exciting pace and good scoring kept up in the third quarter, but things looked different defensively for Boston.  They got tired.  Chasing around Wade and James all series finally started to wear them out.  It led to defensive switches that put Paul Pierce on the perimeter and Boston’s bigs on LeBron.  Seeing Brandon Bass going to the top of the key to guard LeBron James was a nightmare for Celtics fans.  This nightmare lasted for about half the game, too.  Already much slower than LeBron, Bass made the mistake of getting too close to James when so far from the basket.  This made him easy to get around.  The results of this were usually very hard shooting fouls near the basket that made it look like Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau was coaching the Celtics defense.

The fatigue among the Celtics soon hit their offense, as they began to lose their legs and miss shots.  They still ran plays and got the shots they wanted, but didn’t have the juice to finish the game as strong as Miami’s young team did.

Chris Bosh was clearly a factor in Miami’s victory.  He played starters’ minutes (31) off the bench, hit shots from all around the court (including 3 threes), and was that big reliable rebounder the Heat have been missing.

Miami’s backcourt did exactly what they had to do.  Dwyane Wade made almost half his shots, which is much better than most of the games we’ve seen from him lately.  Chalmers made driving layups at key moments.  More importantly, the two combined for 13 assists.

Shane Battier did exactly what he needed to do.  He played good defense on Pierce and made some threes.  Udonis Haslem wasn’t statistically productive, but he helped keep Garnett in check on defense.

LeBron James had another MVP-like game.  As previously mentioned, he got to the basket at will and got to shoot a lot of free throws.  His monster dunks kept the crowd on their feet, and his 31-foot three pointer in the 4th quarter took the life out of Boston.  It’s safe to say he closed this series.  It probably won’t hush his critics, but it should temporarily give them something else to hate him for.  Regardless of anything he’s done in previous years, James should get all due credit for carrying his team through the playoffs thus far.

A story that will make people overlook the Heat victory is the Celtics’ loss being the potential end of Boston’s Big 3.  None of them played their best games, but they played hard and well enough to be proud of how they ended their playoff run.  Each of the 3 reacted differently to the loss: Garnett left the court as soon as possible, Ray Allen was holding back tears, and Paul Pierce was business-as-usual in congratulating the Heat players.  What they do have in common is an NBA title, 3 other conference finals appearances, and future spots in the Hall of Fame.

We learned a lot in this series.  We’ve seen what the Heat are capable of doing when they put things together.  We’ve seen Rajon Rondo put together games that are as good as anything we’ve seen from point guards in the playoffs.  We’ve seen the likely end of an era in Boston.  We now know there’s another chance for the league’s MVP to finally win a championship.

And I’m glad it took 7 exciting games for us to learn this.

 

Additional notes

-Ray Allen finished the 2012 playoffs with 313 career postseason three point shots made.  He’s 7 behind Reggie Miller for the most all-time.

-LeBron James scored at least 25 points in all 7 games this series.

-With Bosh playing this game, there were 7 all-stars who played in Game 7.  These guys have combined for 60 all-star appearances (34 between Garnett, Pierce, and Allen).

-ESPN mentions every three minutes, how Wade, Bosh, and James scored the Heat’s last 31 points.  No need to be surprised, they pretty much did that all season.

-Skip Bayless is going to find some reason to criticize LeBron James on Monday.  Even people who hate LeBron James will think Skip’s ridiculous.

 

The NBA Finals will be quite a treat.  Can’t wait.

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Taking My Talents….Home!

 

The Miami Heat’s failure to capitalize on its first shot at an NBA Championship, with their “Big 3,” in place, will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest disappointments in Sports History.  It’s not the fact that a team so top-heavy in talent can lose a series; it’s what happened prior to this point, that’s the problem.  This series wasn’t about what Dallas Accomplished, but more about what Miami failed to Accomplish.  The series wasn’t about the dynamic leadership displayed by Dirk Nowitzki, but the lack of leadership by LeBron James.  All of these things are magnified due to the brash and very bold statements made by James, starting with “The Decision.”

The Decision

James’ announcement of his choice of team via Television Special, followed by a proclamation of at least 7 Championships, ultimately set the Heat up for failure.  James was so confident in the team’s ability to succeed, that he hinted at victories even if Pat Riley was the team’s starting Point Guard.  With a team this talented, who’s going to argue LeBron’s statements?  I for one saw the Heat as a dead-lock for the Finals, which was correct.  I initially picked them to lose the Finals versus the Lakers, but uhh…We saw how that turned out for “Showtime!”  Once the Lakers were ousted, I didn’t see anyone standing in the way of Miami’s Destiny.  As a team, they entered the playoffs clicking on all cylinders, and even watched LeBron mature as a player through the first 3 series.  But then came the Big Stage…(Here’s where you insert for favorite sad face : ( perplexed style : / or the highly emotional crying face (,-__-,)

 

James basically disappeared in the Finals, averaging 18pts, 7ast, & 7reb!!! LeBron is a former NBA Scoring Champ, and averaged 18 ppg!  Let’s also note that James averaged 21ppg as a ROOKIE!  Now, not taking anything away from his overall playoff performance, because he is the reason Miami got to the Finals.  James was playing like a man possessed in the first 3 rounds, and hit some huge shots in both the Boston and Chicago Series’.  You can argue that it’s a team game, and all of the blame can’t be placed on James, which is correct.  However, LeBron’s actions coinciding with his talents are what create the enormous bulls-eye on his back.   He also doesn’t help the scrutiny by his comments, and almost nonchalant attitude at press conferences.  Again this is a team game, but the team itself doesn’t share in the talking aspect, which James excels in.  If you go back to the introduction of “The Heatles,” it was LeBron who did the most talking, and predicting on behalf of the Heat.  Look at it like this…Muhammad Ali was known for his trash talk before, and during, some of the biggest fights of his life.  While Ali didn’t have an unblemished record, he always came back to avenge a loss, thus backing his proclamations.  LeBron doesn’t have a history of closing games, playing to his full potential, nor being the leader that the “Face of the NBA,” should; but talks as if this isn’t the case.  If LeBron showed a little more humility, I don’t believe the backlash would be to this unbelievable level.

 

So What Exactly Happened?


Aside from LeBron’s shortcomings in the Finals, what else seemed to go wrong for Miami, that didn’t for Dallas?  Let’s start with Miami’s consistency outside of its core.  The bench play was much uninspired throughout the series, while Dallas had its role players contribute on a nightly basis.  But despite the poor role playing on behalf of the Heat, they controlled this entire series.  Splitting the first 4 games, could have easily been a 4-0 Miami Sweep.  Dallas turned the Heat into a jump shooting team, and prevented them from attacking the paint, which is their
strong suit.  Along with Dallas’ defensive adjustment, was Dirk’s relentlessness as a leader.  There wasn’t a moment in this series that Dirk wasn’t in attack mode.  This same thing can be said about Dwayne Wade, who played his heart out throughout the series, and if not for injury, wouldn’t have let up.  If you take each team at 100% attack mode, the Heat should win out every time.  My reasoning is simple; Dwayne Wade and LeBron James excel on BOTH sides of the court, which is a headache for every team in the league.  I fully believe that if LeBron guarded Nowitzki for the entire series, and Wade on either Terry or Barrea (depending on who’s in the game), I don’t see Miami losing this series at all.  This tactic then forces other players to beat you, who aren’t as offensively gifted as the aforementioned Nowitzki, Terry or Barrea.

I also believe that the Heat lost some faith in the process at some point.  Squandering big leads in games they controlled from the beginning, is inexcusable.  The team got extremely passive during the final moments of Game 6, and the stars of the team almost seemed to defer to its role players.  A play that replay’s endlessly in my mind, is the Chalmers turnover under the basket.  With 3 players making over 100 million dollars each, and have the ball in Mario Chalmers’ hands in crucial parts of the game in ridiculous!  I just don’t see the team letting up if Pat Riley is who you have to face when you come off the floor, versus Erik Spolestra.  While Spolestra did improve as the season went on, I think his lack of big game experience is what ultimately did him in.  But again, the coaches aren’t the ones who perform on the floor…it’s the players!

 

The Fallout

While the Heat are the early favorite to win next year’s Title, something has to change.  With 7 players as unrestricted free agents, 3 will likely return with their player options (House, Jones & Illgauskas).  Mario Chalmers is the team’s lone restricted free agent, and has already been rumored to be receiving a qualifying offer from Miami.  Two things that need to change are the team’s ability to score off the bench, along with the team’s interior defense.  When your Shooting Guard is blocking as many, or more, shots than your big’s…There’s a problem!  But not only does the interior defense need to improve, but the overall toughness of the team.  As it stands, it seems as though when Wade isn’t at 100%, the team loses its heart and backbone.  If Miami is lucky enough, there are a few players that I feel could be added at a bargain price to aid in the team’s improvement.  Perimeter Players – Tracey McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Al Thornton, Michael Redd, T.J. Ford, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko, and Josh Howard.  Interior Players – Kenyon Martin, Samuel Dalembert, Chuck Hayes, Craig Smith, Chris Wilcox, Boris Diaw, Troy Murphy, and Etan Thomas.  While these are all unrestricted free agents that are all possibilities for the Heat, bigger players like Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Nene, and J.R. Smith, are all likely to command too high of a price tag on the market.  Players like Redd, Prince, Ford, Battier, Kirilenko, Martin and Dalembert, would dramatically improve the Heat’s overall roster.  Dalembert provides added shot blocking, along with Martin, who also would be an enforcer that the Heat desperately need.  Battier, Prince and Kirilenko provide length, and solid perimeter defense, as they can defend several positions on the court.  TJ Ford would be a tremendous upgrade at the Point Guard position, while Redd provides more scoring ability off the bench to go along with Mike Miller & James Jones.  Players like McGrady, Josh Howard and Michael Redd are all very injury prone players, but can be very serviceable if their health/minutes are preserved for a playoff run.

 

Along with these changes, I have a strong feeling that Pat Riley will step in as the new coach.  Riley worked too hard to put this team together, to see them fail.  Riley is often linked with the great Phil Jackson, as they not only were great coaches, but managed some of the game’s biggest personalities.  Riley has the pedigree to get the most out of this Heat team, and surely would not have allowed them to relinquish those late game leads.  Look for major changes in South Beach, which will result in Miami’s hoisting of the Championship Trophy.  The only thing that could prevent a title run from happening, are another implosion by the team itself, but if Pat is patrolling the sideline, I wouldn’t bet on it!

 

 

Follow – @TheKidSkoob

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10 Things To Watch For In The 2011 NBA Playoffs


The 2011 are right around the corner, and are sure to be the most competitive NBA Playoffs we’ve seen in years.  While the 2nd round and beyond, are the rounds everyone’s anticipating, there are a few things we need to be on the look-out for.  Here are 10 of them…

1st Round Upsets

1.  The New York Knicks vs. The Boston Celtics

How can this happen, you ask?  Simply put, Youth and Hunger.  The Knicks are considerably younger, and faster than their Boston Counterparts.  The running style that they live by, is the exact opposite type of game that the C’s want to get in to.  Yes the Knicks have had their struggles versus the Celtics this season, but have also had their moments.  When their backs were against the wall, their closer showed up. Carmelo Anthony put the team on his back on multiple occasions, and performed like the star that he is.  These are the leadership qualities that I spoke of before, that are there, just inconsistent.  If Melo can maintain that drive, and killer instinct throughout the series; The Celtics are in Trouble.  Now the likelihood of an upset isn’t in the Knicks’ favor.  However, the Celtics haven’t been the same team since the Perkins trade, and are injured across the board.  The funny thing about this series is that the Knicks lack that “Inside Toughness,” but then again, so do the Celtics.  Yes of course KG is still the backbone of the team, but then what?  You have an old and injured Shaq, who’s paired with another old and injured Jermaine O’neal.  Either way, the Knicks will make a series vs. ANYONE they play this year; you can put money on that! Continue Reading