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Miami’s athletic defense is biggest hurdle for Boston to clear

May 29, 2012, 1:08 AM EDT

Boston Celtics' Pierce is defended by Miami Heat's Wade and James in Eastern Conference Finals NBA basketball playoff series in Miami Reuters

It wasn’t the technical fouls. It wasn’t the officiating period (Miami shot 23 free throws, Boston 21). It’s not about fatigue. It’s not something being more physical can solve. It is not something zone defense is going to solve. The core problem the Boston Celtics have to overcome against the Miami Heat is something very basic.

Miami is by far the more athletic team.

That’s a problem when Boston tries to defend LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, however Game 1 showed it is the other end of the floor that is the bigger issue — Boston scored just 33 points in the second half and that’s why Miami won handily 93-79.

Boston has to find a way to score against the Heat. Consistently. This is not Philadelphia — 79 points won’t have you in the game. But this is like playing a better version of the Sixers defense, something the Celtics couldn’t solve effectively last round.

And the Celtics need to solve it fast. They need ball movement to negate the wing shot blocking LeBron and Wade bring, they need to knock down threes. Because if Boston loses Game 2 Wednesday night and has to win four out of the following five against the Heat, they are in serious trouble.

Boston scored less than 20 points in three of the four quarters of Game 1. Boston shot 25 percent in the first quarter, 27 percent in the third quarter. The problems were inside and out — they had eight shots blocked within three feet of the rim, but they also were 4-14 from three (and you want to say that’s an off night from deep remember Boston shot just 27.8 percent from three in the playoffs coming into this game).

Boston did have the second quarter, where they put up 35 points and shot 59 percent. Boston’s offense found its groove as Rajon Rondo started to drive the lane, kicking out to open guys who knocked down the open look, including a Paul Pierce corner three, a kickout to Kevin Garnett for a 19 footer and even Rondo himself knocking down a midrange jumper. The second quarter even saw Ray Allen hitting a three.

“In the second quarter I thought (Rondo) was attacking, attacking,” Rivers said in his televised press conference. “(The rest of the game) I thought he was reading a lot instead of just playing by instinct. I think sometimes his IQ hurts him, he’s trying to read the defense. And you can’t read and play at speed.”

In the third quarter Miami ratcheted up the pressure on Rondo — who Wade called “the head of the snake” with the Celtics — going with long defenders. That included Wade and LeBron at points trying to cut him off and take away his looks. The end result was Boston scoring at a 77 points per 100 possessions performance in the second half (for some comparison, the Bobcats had the worst offense in the league and averaged

Rondo finished with 16 points but on 20 shots and seven assists. Most of his shots came in the paint (16 of the 20) but he hit just seven of those because of the athletic and aggressive defense challenging everything.

“It’s going to be tough, because he’s probably the number one unpredictable guy we have in our league, in terms of how he forces his action,” LeBron said of Rondo. “A lot of his points come in transition where you want to load him and he sprays out for threes.”

Boston did some things they wanted to do in this game — they slowed the pace way down and made the Heat grind it out for the most part. They also got to the line and certainly can pick up some easy points by shooting beter than 11-21 from the stripe.

But the bottom line is this is the Heat, not Philadelphia — 79 points is not going to have you close to winning. Boston needs Ray Allen to find his groove and knock down open looks. It’s going to be tough with LeBron James on him but Paul Pierce can’t go 5-18 shooting. As a team the Celtics can’t shoot just 39.5 percent.

Boston did establish Garnett (23 points on 16 shots) but they have to get Rondo going setting up other guys – he had 2 assists in the second half. Part of that is him, part of that is guys need to move better off the ball to create good looks, then they need to knock down the shots when they get the looks.

Boston is going to come out in Game 2 more physical. They may play some zone. But all of that will be moot if they don’t put the ball in the basket a whole lot more.

And if not, this series will be over very quickly.

  1. mungman69 - May 29, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    Miami is by far the better team. Boston has to find a way to win ONE game. The “good guys” are done.

  2. gmsingh - May 29, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Hm, Kurt’s take on the technical fouls or Jeff Van Gundy’s take? Every single game I watch with the Heat has the announcers questioning the officiating. At least I’ve come to appreciate DWade’s flopping ability His flop in the 1st quarter when Garnett missed hitting him in the face by six inches and he gets up blinking like he was hit in the eye was priceless! At some point you just have to say cheesy, juvenile behavior like that is disrespecting the game of basketball. Regardless, I expect the officials to decide this series so Stern can get his wish and the moneymaking Heat can get to the finals again. I won’t even bother watching.

    Seriously, Kurt, how much are you being paid by the NBA for this stuff?

    • lucky5934 - May 29, 2012 at 9:09 AM

      “At some point you just have to say cheesy, juvenile behavior like that is disrespecting the game of basketball.”
      ———————————————————————————————————————————————

      Grnsingh,

      The Miami Heat have disrespected the game for a couple seasons now. To expect any less from a team with LBJ and D-Wade would be poor judgement on our parts.

      • gmsingh - May 29, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        I don’t see LeBron doing the same stuff Wade does. LeBron is a great all around player, who is in way over is head when it comes to the competitive nature of professional sports. Wade is ultra competitive, but half of that is just to trying to weasel his way into a victory with fake fouls, and the refs being paid off to give the Heat the best chance at winning.

    • duane888 - May 29, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      Flopping??

      You mean when Rondo fell to the ground pretending he was tripped by Mike Miller, when the replay clearly showed there was no contact??

      Or maybe Rondo faking out Battier and getting stuffed from the side by Lebron, only to dive on the floor as if he’d been shot dead??

      Or the replay slow mo of Pierce getting stuffed and flailing his arms wildly as if he was fouled ??

      and the Oscar goes to….

  3. ceschatz - May 29, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Gotta love the haters. So now its all about flopping and disrespecting the game of basketball? You people are pathetic if you think the Heat are the only ones flopping. Its part of the game and every team does it. Suck it up and move on, quit being bitter just because your team is sitting home watching real basketball players continue to play now.

  4. southbeachtalent - May 29, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Wow the Waaaaambulance is out in full force!!

    Pathetic!!

  5. mungman69 - May 29, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    All the flopping and bad calls will even themselves out. So stop crying.

  6. finsfan71 - May 29, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Kurt, how dare you suggest the refs had nothing to do with the result. Don’t you know that the Heat only win with the help of the refs. I mean come on, it’s common knowledge.

    Seriously though, I’ve never heard so much loser talk in my life. The whole “refs are to blame” argument is such a simplistic and narrow view that you would think little Irish 10 year olds are embarrassed for daddy.

  7. mikejd12 - May 29, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Flopping aside the refs were bad it has nothing to do with the heat. They made bad calls on them also!!

    • gmsingh - May 29, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      Such as?

  8. phaden27 - May 29, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    Bad flopping, even worse calls, but to be fair my team got beat straight up. WTB 80’s, early 90s physicality sans the shorts.

  9. allball23 - May 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    Heat are the better team boston can’t match up. The celtics have to work so hard to score. Miami gets layups and dunks. They are too fast on D. Heat in 5.

  10. jimeejohnson - May 29, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    A number of local, Boston Celtics fans are pretty pissed off that Lebron had the nerve to smile while dominating their beloved team! No fan base in America (except the Lakers) has so many sore losers: when they win, it’s never because of the officiating, but when they lose, it always is! At least most Bruins and Red Sox fans are not wee-weepers like some Celtics fans. I love New England and the great city of Boston, but somehow, its great basketball history has turned some of their fans into cry babies without dignity. Even New England Patriots fans do not have such a huge chip on their shoulders!
    Still, never count the Celtics out, unless those old, tired legs are finally kaput. If the Celtics can even the series, it might just go the full 7 games.

    • jimmymarlinsfan - May 29, 2012 at 8:56 PM

      don’t underestimate patriot fans, I live in the heart of Massachusetts and they are quite touchy

      Talking about spy gate here is like reaching your hand into the shark’s mouth

  11. lakerluver - May 29, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    The battle for 3rd place. The NBA championship resumes tonight in Texas.

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