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In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics looked old and slow. In Game 2, they were undone by the referees. They headed home in a 2-0 hole, but they're back in the series after putting together a couple of great performances in Games 3 and 4, locking up the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2. Rajon Rondo's performance and LeBron James fouling out were the big stories of Game 4, which Ben Golliver breaks down below.
The series now shifts to Miami, where the Heat will host Game 5 at home on Tuesday. The biggest story throughout the day leading up to the game is likely to be whether or not Chris Bosh will be able to make a return to the Miami Heat lineup. The Heat should be favored to win at home without him, but based on what happened over the weekend in Boston, they might need him for Game 6.
It wouldn't be the NBA Playoffs if we weren't arguing about LeBron James in the clutch. After Sunday's loss to the Celtics in Game 4, both sides will be louder than ever.
Rajon Rondo has slowly but surely earned the respect of basketball fans since entering the league, but any praise he receives typically comes with a caveat. Whether it's wondering if he can perform on a consistent basis in the NBA Playoffs against better competition or wondering if he'll develop a consistent jumper, the Boston Celtics point guard has had his share of doubters.
That's beginning to change, with the latest example coming on Sunday night as Rondo was able to lead his Celtics to an overtime victory against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. There weren't many pundit positing caveats following the amazing performance from Rondo and, according to Jeff Clark from SB Nation's Celtics Blog, the talk of a "consistency" problem has to stop.
It is hard not to get carried away with the Rajon Rondo compliments. He's just doing amazing things on the basketball court right now. Threading the needle on insane passes, timing his leaps perfectly to snatch a rebound or steal a pass, putting up ridiculous circus shots that somehow have become routine for him... it is poetry in a headband.
But we've followed Rondo since he was a rookie and we all remember too well the magician that would produce dazzling performances would also frequently perform disappearing acts just as often. So you'll forgive us all for being once bitten twice shy with this talk of "consistency" when attached to Rajon.
Still, what else can you call it? Night in, night out, he's racking up double digit assists and carrying the team on his back for long stretches at a time. He can't be insanely incredible 100% of the time, nobody can. Superstars have off nights without having to be labelled "inconsistent," why can't Rondo? Force of habit I suppose.
Clark makes an excellent point in the preceding excerpt, but the doubts will likely continue considering it's impossible for Rondo's to be able to keep up his string of recent performances for the remainder of the postseason ... isn't it?
The Boston Celtics were able to pick up a much-needed win on Sunday night against the Miami Heat. It probably would not have been possible had LeBron James not fouled out, however -- something Paul Pierce and the Celtics were apparently keenly aware of following the game.
Pierce, who also fouled out, went on record with the Boston Herald to say it was about time that James fouled out of an important game ... and also that James rarely has to play against good players like himself, of course.
"It was very frustrating. But it's very gratifying when you see the other star player foul out also," Pierce said after last night's 93-91 overtime win over Miami at the Garden, which tied the Eastern Conference finals at 2. "It evened up the playing field.
"He never has a lot of fouls, but we were aggressive against him tonight. We stepped up twice to take charges, and drove. That's what you have to do. Not a lot of players try to attack him. It's not often that he plays against top small forwards in the league also.
"He gets a lot of nights off."
The Celtics entered the series as the underdog, but they probably aren't gaining any neutral fans with comments like this. Since the majority of the country seems to be anti-LeBron, though, these comments probably aren't going to pose any problems in that regard.
Whose fault was it that the Heat didn't pull out a win against the Celtics on Sunday? Just about everyone's. That, Spurs-Thunder, Tiger's "back" (again) and more in this week's Monday Morning Jones.
The Miami Heat had chances on Sunday night, but neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade were able to come through in the clutch, allowing the Boston Celtics to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at two games apiece. The Heat could get a boost by the time the two teams meet again, as the third member of Miami's "Big Three" seems poised for a return.
There isn't anything concrete as of yet -- and likely won't be until the Heat meet with the media on Monday afternoon -- but ESPN's Tom Haberstroh took an educated guess on Chris Bosh's status for Game 5.
I'd imagine the team will call Chris Bosh "a gametime decision" with every intention of him playing tomorrow's Game 5.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 4, 2012
It'll be interesting to see how effective Bosh actually is when he returns considering the length of time he's been in a suit on the bench ... not to mention the underrated seriousness of an abdominal strain. Either way, the team with more talent available usually ends up winning.
The Heat and Celtics played an instant classic in Game 4 on Sunday, but it's hard to avoid thinking about the refs' role. That's the eternal problem for the NBA.
The sixth foul that LeBron James picked up in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals was, if we're being generous to the officials, harsh.
Early in overtime against the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat star backed down Mickael Pietrus, who tumbled to the floor. He looked like he might have flopped, and it looked like he might have pulled James down with him. At worst, there was incidental contact, but James was whistled for an offensive foul.
James looked stunned at the whistle. Pietrus pumped his fist. With James out of the game, the Celtics went on to win, 93-91.
After the game, James did his post-game interview from his locker, and he didn't pull any punches when it came to his thoughts on the call that took him out of the game.
"I don't foul out. That sixth foul, I wish I would have earned it and it actually would have been a foul."
When pressed further on the issue, he continued.
LeBron on 6th foul: "I know how to play game of basketball, I know I don’t need the advantage of holding somebody or pushing somebody down"— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) June 4, 2012
There's a chance that the NBA might ask James to cut them a check to donate to partner charities for his criticism of officials. Even a good chunk of Celtics fans would agree that the officiating in Game 4 was poor -- after all, Paul Pierce fouled out for no good reason as well -- but players, coaches and executive rarely avoid fines for criticizing officials simply because they are correct.
Uncle Luke really wasn't happy about the Miami Heat's loss. Actually, he was pretty mad at the refs, the NBA, ESPN and pretty much everyone else. Still, the meltdown was quite spectacular.
These are unedited and chronological.
I just want to say one thing no one can say sh.. about LBJ he shows up every night you can't say that for others.— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
LET'S GO HEAT...LET'S GO HEAT...LET'S GO HEAT.. WE WILL WIN TONIGHT I KNOW MY BOYS— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
And we're off
ALL THE HEAT COACH NEED TO SAY IS ASK YOURSELF MEN IS THIS HOW YOU WANT TO GO OUT ! LIKE PU...— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
In the fourth quarter, it all went to hell
THE NBA IS FULL OF IT THEY MAKE A JOKE OF A GREAT SPORT— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
THE NBA THE ONLY PROFESSIONAL SPORTS THAT HAS THIS MUCH MISS CALL IT'S A JOKE.— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
LETTER TO THE NBA WE KNOW ONE WANTS TO SEE OKC AN SA YOUR MAKING A JOKE OF YOUR LEAGUE WITH THIS JOKE OF CALLED GAME.— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
And now we're getting desperate
THIS IS BULLSHIT CAN SOMEONE START A BASKETBALL LEAGUE. O BY THE WAY YOUR GOING TO NEED A NETWORK TO.— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
HEY NBA ESPN DO YOU THINK THE PEOPLE OF THE USA IS STUPID. NOW THERE PUTTING ON SPO— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
I'm looking at the golf channel all week— LUTHER R CAMPBELL (@unclelukereal1) June 4, 2012
Just wait until they start calling Tiger Woods a CLOWNFRAUD.
The Boston Celtics survived to win Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, 93-91 in overtime after Dwyane Wade's game-winning three-point attempt fell just short at the buzzer. With LeBron James fouled out, the Heat turned to Wade to attempt the game-winner with 14 seconds left. He pump-faked to get space and just barely missed what would have been a thrilling game-winner.
However, that's just how the play ended. If you watch the full video, you'd see that the play was actually for Mario Chalmers to pop open for a three.
If you're only watching the ball, you'd see Wade dribbling around aimlessly, but what he was really doing was waiting for Chalmers to get open on the wing for a three-pointer
Here are the screenshots. Focus on the right side of the court.
So, what's happening here?
Many people are suggesting the Heat didn't run a play, but as you can see here, that could not be further from the truth. They ran a play and it simply broke down. This is often why coaches don't like to run intricate plays in late-game situations, because everything falls apart when one thing goes wrong.
That said, with the Heat down two points with 14 seconds left, coach Erik Spoelstra should have drawn up something that didn't take so long to set up. That's his fault, and that's why the Heat ended up losing. They lost because the play drawn up was the wrong play at the wrong time, not because they didn't draw up a play.
Dwyane Wade was shooting 7-21 on the night heading into the Miami Heat's final possession. He ended the night 7-22. With the Heat down by two points and LeBron James out of the game with six fouls, Wade was always planning to have the ball in his hands. The play appeared to be set up for Mario Chalmers. Wade created a good look for himself. He did the one-legged three-pointer thing.
That's Wade's "Oh no, I did the one-legged thing again" face.
Apparently, there are repercussions, or possible repercussions, for saying taboo things during on-court halftime interviews. Following the game, Doris Burke informed Rajon Rondo -- he of the "They're complaining and crying to the referees in transition" quote -- that there could be repercussions. When asked if he's worried about this, Rondo had a pretty succinct answer.
Rajon Rondo don't care.
"What I said was true. I don't take what I said back."
Dwyane Wade missed a three-point attempt as time expired in overtime, and the Eastern Conference Finals go back to Miami with the series tied 2-2. Boston won 93-91 in a thrilling back-and-forth OT contest.
With both Paul Pierce and LeBron James fouled out on questionable offensive fouls, points were at a premium in the extra session. The team's combined for only six, which was the theme of the second half with both defenses clamping down after a sloppy first 24 minutes.
While LeBron wasn't as efficient as he has been in this series, he still had 29 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Wade recovered from a slow start in the first half to put up 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
I think it’s time we stopped with the Heat conspiracy theories. This is how LeBron James picked up his sixth foul in overtime.
That’s basically Mickael Pietrus pulling the chair on James and causing both men to fall down. That’s not a foul, as much as Celtics fans want it to be. It’s a tough call for the official because, when two players go down, you probably have to call something, but it wasn’t a foul on James.
James obviously didn't think it was a foul either.
Erik Spoelstra unfortunately doesn’t have direct control over his players making shots with the buzzer about to sound, but that won’t stop him from trying. Here he is almost trying to kick Udonis Haslem’s game-winning attempt in.
There wasn't anything especially fancy about the play design that got LeBron James wide open to hit the game-tying three-pointer with under a minute remaining in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. As we noted, Dwyane Wade and James ran a pick and roll, like they have often in this game. The difference: this time, James slipped the screen and popped open on the left wing.
Here's the video.
"Slipping" the screen is something we see guys do a lot. Basically, it just means that, instead of setting the screen, the player darts into open space before the defense reacts. It's honestly done all too often by most players, which limits the play's effectiveness. However, James hadn't slipped a screen once in this game, so when he did it in this critical moment, the defense wasn't ready to react.
The recent offensive possessions from both squads are really lacking. Too much standing around instead of cutting through on both sides. I think both teams are tired.
All this is to say: don’t be surprised if the last minute or so isn’t as pretty as you’d expect.
The Miami Heat have increasingly relied on the Dwyane Wade/LeBron James pick and roll to close out games in the playoffs. With this being their most important game by far, don’t be surprised to see it a lot.
Chris Bosh is sitting on the bench in street clothes, which gives him a unique perspective on everything that’s happening on the court. Here’s how he using that perspective.
Imagine if Chris Bosh was a celebrity judge on a horrible cooking show.
One of the effects of trapping Rajon Rondo is that the Heat are leaving Kevin Garnett open. Garnett needs to make the Heat pay for that, and after a jumper and a tip-in, he’s demonstrated he’s doing just that.
The Heat probably need to live with Garnett being active down the stretch, because it’s better for him to be a bit more open than for Rondo to go off. It’s still a bit dangerous, though, if Garnett continues to play this aggressively.
The Miami Heat have switched strategies in defending Rajon Rondo. Earlier in the series, they were content to lay seven feet off him and go under ball screens on pick and rolls. Now, they’re trapping him very aggressively, ruining the rhythm of the Celtics’ offense.
It’s a risky strategy because Rondo is such a great passer and can beat the traps if they aren’t hard enough, but it’s their best chance right now, and it’s working.
For Miami: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James didn’t come out in the third quarter. Both have played 33 minutes.
For Boston: Kevin Garnett, because of foul trouble for Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, came back in with three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter. He’ll likely have to play the final 15 and a half minutes of this game for the Celtics to hold their lead.
After a horrible first half, Dwyane Wade has re-emerged in the third quarter, scoring nine points on 4-6 shooting and providing much better defense. It’s no accident that this is now a five-point game.
One more reminder that Rajon Rondo is a unique individual.
The Celtics’ lead is evaporating, and they now have even bigger problems on the horizon. First, Rajon Rondo picked up his fourth foul jostling with Norris Cole for post position offensively. Then, Paul Pierce picked up his fourth foul knocking LeBron James on the elbow.
Those two fouls forced Doc Rivers to bring Kevin Garnett back into the game, disrupting KG's normal rest. Garnett can’t play the final 16 minutes straight, and the Celtics fall apart with him out of the game. How will Rivers manage this?
Very quietly, things have started to go south for the Celtics’ offense. Boston still holds a double-digit lead, but they have only four points through the first half of the third quarter, and almost none of those have come in their half-court offense. The Celtics aren’t getting into their sets quick enough, which is hurting them. Also, credit goes to the Heat’s defense for stepping up their off-ball rotations.
It’s so strange for the Heat. Their defense is either great or horrible. Earlier, it was horrible. For these first six minutes of the third quarter, it’s been great.
Gronk notices the camera is on him and TIME TO BRO IT UP, BRO. LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
Yo soy fiesta, my man.
Edit: Aaaaand looped.
Rajon Rondo is just toying with the Miami Heat now ... and he's also toying with his own teammates. Here he is shouting at Paul Pierce to cut through the lane on the fast break, then rewarding Pierce with a lefty pass and a layup.
Pierce wanted to spot up for a three-pointer, but Rondo saw that both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were slow to get back, so he motioned for Pierce to keep running. Pierce did and Rondo threaded yet another beautiful pass to him for the layup.
If Rondo told me to jump, I'd immediately do it for fear of how he'd react if I didn't. I wouldn't even ask him how high.
How do you know the animosity between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat runs deep? Just consider Rajon Rondo's answer to ESPN's Doris Burke on why the Celtics have a 14-point lead over the Heat at halftime.
Rondo was asked why the Celtics have put up 61 points on the Heat in the first half. "They're complaining and crying to the referees in transition," was his answer. Rondo clearly isn't a fan of being subtle.
Then again, perhaps he was still mad at Shane Battier taking a charge on him in transition earlier in the quarter. As Battier was trying to pick himself up, he moved Rondo's leg off his body. Rondo was incensed for some reason and tried to kick Battier, missing badly.
Everyone has gotten in on the fun for Boston, who have shot 49% from the field and 44% from long range. While Keyon Dooling's two three are the definition of found money, Ray Allen's 3-5 performance from deep has to be the most encouraging sign for Boston.
Rondo has been in the middle of it, handing out 10 assists to only 1 turnover in the game's first 24 minutes.
The only Miami player whose been able to get anything going offensively is LeBron James, who has scored 19 points on 9-13 shooting.
Dwyane Wade, in particular, has really struggled. In the first half, the Heat star has 8 points on 2-11 shooting.
But despite Wade's struggles, Miami has still shot 47.5% from the floor. To make it a game in the second half, they'll need to figure out how to stop the Celtics.
Dwyane Wade’s Game 4 stat line: 2-11 from the field, eight points, only three free throws. None of that includes his terrible transition defense and his lack of movement off the ball.
The last time Wade played this poorly, he exploded in a fit of rage when Erik Spoelstra confronted him. Worth nothing.
(In all seriousness, I think Wade’s knee is hurt again).
Remember when there were people that thought the Heat figured out how to slow Rajon Rondo after Game 1? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, Rondo’s controlling the game yet again, thanks to pinpoint passes like this one to Paul Pierce.
Hopefully, someone can step up and frame this GIF so it can be voted on for the Hall of Fame. Overreaction? Probably, but whatever, let me overreact, dammit.
The next time someone on the Heat stops ball before it gets to the three-point line when the Celtics are in transition will be the first.
Yeah, it’s kind of been like this.
Way to run away from the NBA’s all-time leading three-point shooter, you guys.
Prior to Game 3, Keyon Dooling had three 5-hour energy drinks, and he responded with his best game of the playoffs. He already has two three-pointers in Game 4, so you have to wonder how much he had before this game. Oh, and he did this.
I'm with Celtics Blog here. Feels like there should be some sort of investigation.
Keyon Dooling's 5 hour energy's should be considered PED's LOL— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) June 4, 2012
It’s a good question, one that requires a lot more of an examination that I can provide in the time taken to post this update.
But one fundamental reason: the Heat’s defense is so focused on what is happening with the guy who has the ball that they often forget about the guys who don’t have the ball. Against most teams, that’s OK because they don’t have a whole lot of weakside movement. Against the Celtics, though, that’s a problem. As bad as their offense has been this season and during the playoffs, the Celtics can always confuse teams with lots of complicated things off the ball. For a team that often loses concentration off the ball, it’s a tough matchup.
With all the small lineups in, LeBron James has been successful being used as the roll man on pick and rolls. Even if he’s not getting the ball initially, he’s finding his way towards the basket so that his teammates can later find him when they drive on the Celtics’ closeouts.
The Heat still aren’t playing very good defense, but they’ve found something offensively. Keep this in mind if they can keep the Celtics within arms length.
It didn’t take long for the Miami Heat to roll with their small lineup with LeBron James at center. It worked well in Game 3 as long as Kevin Garnett was off the court, and it’s given the Heat nine straight points with Garnett off the floor in Game 4.
As long as Erik Spoelstra doesn’t use this unit too much with Garnett on the court, it should help Miami get back into this game.
The Boston Celtics, spurred by hot shooting and beautiful defense, are up by 12 points on the Miami Heat in the first quarter of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was 15 until Shane Battier hit an open corner three-pointer.
In response, an angry Doc Rivers called timeout to yell at his team. Classic Gregg Popovich maneuver there.
Joel Anthony is starting at center for the Miami Heat in Game 4, and while the theory was to put a better defender on Kevin Garnett, things haven’t worked out on that front. There are a couple problems here.
For one, the Celtics aren’t posting up Garnett at all. All those lobs from the high post to Garnett around the rim? They aren’t a part of the Celtics’ early game plan. Instead, we’re seeing a lot of actions for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, with Garnett being used as a screener. Anthony traditionally shows hard on those plays, but he is over-pursuing now, and his teammates aren’t helping him by providing lazy help on the backside.
For another, Anthony’s presence frees Garnett to roam defensively. Ronny Turiaf is very limited, but he at least rolls hard and can find people with the pass. Anthony is completely limited offensively, resigned to only being a screener and offensive rebounder. That has allowed Garnett to help on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and roam to also cut off the drives of Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier after the ball is swung around.
This isn’t the only reason Miami is down 14-4 early, but it’s a big factor.
Rajon Rondo headed the ball on the opening tip in Game 3. He one-upped himself in Game 4.
LeBron James said Friday that the Heat would prepare for Game 4 like Chris Bosh wasn't playing. Good thing they did, because Bosh won't return from injury on Sunday night when the Celtics attempt to even the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2.
ESPN.com's Michael Wallace has some quotes from Heat practice:
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday that Bosh won't play Sunday and reiterated the All-Star forward has not yet advanced far enough in his recovery from an abdominal strain to gauge when he might be available for game action.
"I'm not thinking about Chris today -- I'm not," Spoelstra said before the Heat's practice at TD Garden. "He's not on my mind. And I love you, Chris, but I'm focused on Sunday. That's where all of my energies are focused right now."
The initial diagnosis on Bosh was that he could return in time for some part the Eastern Conference Finals. Right now it looks like one of the following is true:
a) Bosh is not close to a return
b) Spoelstra is not going to share much about Bosh's status with the media
c) The Heat have no idea when Bosh is coming back
d) Perhaps all of the above
Game 4 tips off on Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.
For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier.
Boston and Miami will meet in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final on Sunday.
The Miami Heat looked as bad as they have all postseason in a Game 3 loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday. In particular, Kevin Garnett was a destroyer and Miami's small lineups were ineffective. Given that Chris Bosh's initial prognosis was that he could return sometime in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Game 3 result has naturally led to questions about whether the power forward would hit the court in time to help get Miami a win in Boston and a commanding 3-1.
That remains unclear, but the Heat's other two stars aren't counting on it. Here's what LeBron James said in the post-game on Friday.
"We don't know when Chris will be back. We're not going into the next game hoping that he's going to be there or whatever the case may be. We've got to prepare like he's not playing. We'll prepare for Game 4 like he's not playing."
In three regular season games against Boston this year, Bosh averaged 11.7 points (lower than usual) and 10.3 rebounds (higher). He averaged 12.8 points and 10.2 rebounds in the Heat's series against Boston in 2011.
For more on the Heat, visit Peninsula Is Mightier.
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