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Last Night Showed Stark Contrast Between The NHL And The NBA

Both the NHL and the NBA had high profile games played last night and it highlighted just how different the two leagues are at this point.  On one hand both games didn’t leave the result much in doubt for the better part of the night but how they got there were on total opposite sides of the spectrum.  Take the NHL’s situation – they had the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the team with the most superstars, coming off of a shut out in Game 1 and facing a crucial game in their own house.  Then there is the NBA’s situation.  They already have the boring, old San Antonio Spurs in the finals and they had a deciding game 7 between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat.

Lebron doesn't need elp getting his 275-lb. frame to the rim but he certainly gets it

Lebron doesn’t need help getting his 275-lb. frame to the rim but he certainly gets it

Now I’m not saying that the Pacers were screwed last night or that the officiating was any more egregious than it usually is but that’s the whole problem right there.  The game was a joke because the league has become a joke.  When 275 pound Lebron James drives to the hoop you have two choices – let him go so not to be fouled and allow him an easy bucket or challenge him and likely draw a foul.  Despite usually being, pound-for-pound, the biggest guy on the court Lebron goes to the free throw line more than just about anyone else.  Sure it’s better to put Lebron at the line and make him earn it but then all of your bigs are going to have 5 fouls by the end of the third and you’re going to have a crucial game 7 with some 7-foot Yugoslavian guy who is only in the league because he’s big playing key minutes.  Dwayne Wade’s athletic highlight reel dunk has been played over and over but does no one really have a problem with him taking three steps before launching into the air?  Why even have dribbling rules in the book if they are enforced so laxly?  And I haven’t even touched on the flopping which has reached epidemic levels within the whole league.

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When Will Rajon Learn: Celtics Star Continues To Be Court Jester (VIDEO)

February 22, 2012

May 1, 2012

November 29, 2012

January 7, 2013

What do all of these dates have in common? Well, all of them have taken place in the past year and all of them take place during basketball season. More importantly, all of these dates are ones where Rajon Rondo has been suspended for some type of on court issue. Lets revisit them, shall we?

The first incident took place in February last season during a game at Detroit. After not receiving a foul call following a hard drive to the basket, Rondo tossed the ball and hit the official in the chest. Rondo received a double technical, was ejected from the game and resulted in a two game suspension. The Celtics lost both games while Rondo was suspended.

The second incident also involved a referee, this time taking place during the 2012 playoffs. During a quarterfinal match up against the Atlanta Hawks, Rondo was once again arguing an official’s call and bumped a referee in the final minute of the game one loss. Rondo once again received a double technical, was ejected from the game and would later be suspended for game two of the series. The Celtics won that game behind a 36 point effort from Paul Pierce.

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NBA Playoffs Rapid Reaction: Boston Celtics Stun Miami Heat in South Beach to Take 3-2 Series Lead

KG has been dominant in the best-of-seven series vs. Miami.

It was one of those nights where everything went Miami’s way.

The Miami Heat were the recipient of every loose ball, every right bounce and every ridiculous “how-did-that-go-in” shot.

Despite 57-combined points from Miami’s LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the Boston Celtics refused to follow the script.

Behind big nights from Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics stole home court from the Heat 94-90 and head back to the TD Garden leading the best-of-seven series 3-2.

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NBA Playoffs Rapid Reaction: Miami Heat Run Through Boston Celtics, Take 1-0 Series Lead

Lebron's taunt after a KG foul

In classic Miami Heat fashion, they let their two stars, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, do the scoring while the team as a whole played solid defense for 48 minutes.

James and Wade combined to score 54 points, Miami held the Boston Celtics to 39 percent shooting and out-hustled the veteran unit en route to a 93-79 stomping in South Beach.

How it happened:

For one quarter and one quarter only, the Celtics looked like they were ready to hang around with the supremely athletic “Super Friends.” In the second quarter, Boston rode a 35-point frame to tie the game at 46-all despite three questionable technical fouls.

The controversial calls wouldn’t end there, but they would have virtually no impact on the outcome.

James led the Heat with 10 points in the third quarter as the Heat turned up their defensive intensity, forcing the Celtics to shoot 27 percent from the field. It was all over from there as Wade chipped in 10 fourth-quarter points, Boston shot 27 percent from the charity stripe and the Miami Heat left Game One with their heads held high and a 1-0 series lead.

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Celtics’ Ball Movement Keyed Game 4 Victory

The Boston Celtics' offensive efficiency starts with the play of point guard Rajon Rondo.

There was a clear difference between Games 3 and 4 of the Boston Celtics’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks. Game 4 showcased the Celtics  moving the ball with efficiency and precision to take a 3-1 cushion.

Sure, the Celtics were able to make shots from everywhere on the court, including Rajon Rondo knocking down two shots from beyond the arc. Those shots were there because of the ability to find the open man and keep the Hawks’ defense chasing the ball.

The Celtics are not a team that relies on one-on-one with a star player dribbling the ball and crossing over the opposing defenders like the Miami Heat does with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Instead, the Celtics would prefer to outwork the defense by spreading the ball around and having multiple scorers while applying pressure on the defensive end.

In the Game 3 90-84 overtime victory, the Celtics were late getting into their offense and they forced themselves to take shots just before the shot clock expired. The Celtics shot 40.5% for the game. There was one point when Tracy McGrady was lying on the other end of the court after suffering a knee injury, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley were passing to each other on the perimeter and there was no off-ball movement from the other players on the court. Fortunately for the Celtics, Pierce was called for a foul while he threw up a tough outside shot.

Meanwhile in Game 4, the Celtics were spacing themselves and the ball was not stuck in one player’s hands. Rondo, who committed 5 turnovers in an erratic first half of Game 3, made just 1 turnover in Game 4. This was why Rondo was much more effective than his triple-double performance in the Game 3 win.  At about the 8:00 mark of the third quarter, the Celtics were 33-for-49 from the floor. Rondo recorded 13 assists by halftime and he finished with 16 dimes. The team had 24 helpers in this outing.

Pierce’s performances have been just as uneven as Rondo’s in this series, but he may have been even better in Game 4 than his “turn back the clock to 2002” accomplishments of last Tuesday’s 87-80 victory. He was 10-for-13 from the field in just 17 minutes despite a sprained knee he suffered in the morning shootaround, and he forced the Hawks to fold the tent with hopes of salvaging their 2011-’12 season in Game 5.

On defense, the Celtics set the tone early by getting eight turnovers in the opening frame. Overall, the Celtics’ defense forced 18 turnovers from their counterparts and scoring 18 points while they were at it.

The other encouraging sign was  Ray Allen’s return from bone spurs in his ankle. Allen played nearly 37 minutes in Game 3 and scored 13 points. Last night, Allen helped clinch the game by throwing a pass to an open Rondo for a trey to put the Celtics ahead by 25 and then on the next offensive sequence, he drilled a 3-pointer to hand the Celtics a 28-point lead. This ended any hope the Hawks had about making a comeback.  After the demolition of the Hawks, Allen said he may not need surgery in the offseason. The Celtics were able to blow out the Hawks with two of their best players, Josh Smith and Al Horford, coming back from injuries that kept them out of Game 3

This series has played out as the first team to 80 points will win. The Celtics should not expect to be as hot in Game 5  as they were in Game 4 because the Hawks are playing at home with an opportunity to play for another day. If the Celtics want to close out this series, they will move the ball and attack the Hawks on defense, especially with three key players (Pierce, Bradley, and Mickael Pietrus) battling ailments.

 

Avery Bradley is Carving a Role For Celtics

Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley caused fits for LeBron James and the Miami Heat on Sunday.

The Boston Celtics lost Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus at around the same time. Allen has missed the last six games with an ankle injury and Pietrus suffered a concussion in the 99-86 loss in Philadelphia against the 76ers.

The Celtics have won five straight games and the insertion of Avery Bradley into the starting lineup has put pressure on opposing teams on the defensive end. The Celtics have gone 10-1 without Allen on the court this season. Bradley has emerged this season after an oft-injured rookie season when he was unable to see much action on the court. The 6-2, 195-pound guard out of the University of Texas has maintained his aggressive defensive intensity while being able to score through transition and his ability to cut to the basket. He is averaging 14.6 points during this winning streak, including an impressive 15-point opening quarter in the 88-76 victory over the Washington Wizards on March 25th that helped spark the Celtics.

Bradley’s recent surge was punctuated by his block on Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 91-72 demolition of the defending Eastern Conference champions on Sunday. Even though Shane Battier was able to pick up the loose ball and knock down a three-pointer, the tone was set by Bradley that nothing would come easy for the Heat. Wade was held to 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field.

On the other end, Bradley’s quickness has frustrated opponents with his penchant for getting to the net for easy baskets. Rajon Rondo is averaging nearly 14 assists through the past five victories because the Celtics are not turning the ball over and Bradley has been converting high-percentage shots. Bradley has found a mid-range jump shot that hindered his draft stock in 2010.

Bradley is learning from veterans like Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, and Rondo, how to be a professional on and off the court.

The Celtics are reaping the rewards of selecting Bradley with the 19th pick in the 2010 Draft and being patient with his development. In the beginning stages of the 2011-’12 season, Bradley was struggling after being held scoreless for the first four games. The Celtics were trying to use him at point guard and he was having trouble handling the position. Bradley has increased his scoring output every month and there are more teams around the league who are taking notice of Bradley’s effectiveness on both ends of the court.

Bradley’s play has even raised the question among fans of what Doc Rivers will do when Allen returns to the lineup. Will Bradley remain in the starting lineup or will he come off the bench? This is a good problem for Rivers to be faced with and it speaks to the depth of the backcourt on the roster.

The Celtics’ front office has to be pleased with the improvement of Bradley considering he was unable to participate in the NBA Summer League two years in a row and his development was hindered by injuries and the lockout-shortened training camp. With just 14 games left in the regular season, will Bradley’s stellar effort continue in the Celtics quest to reach the postseason for the fifth consecutive season?

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