Sights, sounds and emotions from Celtics-Heat Game Two

After watching LeBron go for 32 in Game One and seeing both he and Wade combine for 197 points in their final three games against the Pacers (that’s good!), the four hour drive from Tampa to Miami left me wondering what we were in store for Tuesday night.  A 40-point performance?  Fifty, perhaps?  Certainly Boston’s defense wouldn’t allow that to happen.  But we’re slowly learning that anything is possible when Wade and James step on the floor.

Regardless of the outcome, two things were certain.  Miami did not want to let Boston back in the series and Kid Sheraton and I would be regular customers at the arena bar.

As it turned out, someone did score forty Tuesday night, but he wasn’t wearing a Miami uniform.

The Heat came out sluggish, shooting 25% from the floor for most of the first half, simultaneously allowing Boston to score at will.  Wade was even held scoreless until the final seconds of the first half.  Were it not for Miami’s role players, Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers, Boston’s double-digit, first-half lead would have been much larger.  Still the white-clad Miami crowd remained positive.

Chalmers led Miami with 14 points at intermission.  His counterpart at point guard, Rajon Rondo, was having the game of his life, finishing the first half with 22.  Boston led by seven heading into the locker room.

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NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Heat v Celtics

Rajon RondoIt’ll be the last time I say this. I am a Celtics fan. Despite any possible biased feelings, Boston has no shot in this series. I’ll dissect the ins and outs of this matchup, but there’s only one reason I need to count the Celtics out. Avery Bradley’s out of this series and will be out for a part of next season due to his dislocated left shoulder.

(2) Miami Heat vs (4) Boston Celtics

Bradley means the world to the Celtics. He’s known for his defense, and rightfully so. He’s one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, and he’s only 21 years old. For Doc Rivers, Bradley was the one person he could count on to shut down the best player, or at least slow down a superstar on an opposing team. Bradley wasn’t the only reason Boston ranked first in many defensive categories this season, but he was a major part of it. To let Rondo not be forced to defend the best perimeter player on the opposing team, it allowed him to somewhat freelance defensively, which led to high steal and rebound totals.

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Don’t count the Boston Celtics out in the Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat

The Boston Celtics have beaten the Eastern Conference favorite Miami Heat twice in the span of 10 days and have sent a message that is loud and clear to the rest of the NBA; don’t count us out yet.

After starting the first half of the lockout shortened season with a 15-17 record, the Boston Celtics have turned things around and are now one of the hottest teams in the league.  Since the all-star weekend, Boston has posted 18 wins to only seven losses giving them the third best record in the NBA since the break behind the San Antonio Spurs and the Chicago Bulls.  As the NBA playoffs approach, Celtic fans have to be wondering if their team can return to the Finals.  The answer to that question is yes and here is why.

As mentioned previously two of Boston’s wins during the second half of the season have come against the Miami Heat.  Losers of 5 of their last 10, the Heat are slumping and steadily losing ground on the Eastern conference leading Bulls.  If the Heat can’t pull things together prior to the playoffs, an early exit may be in order for LeBron James and company.

The Bulls have problems of their own.  Despite having the best record in the NBA, defending league MVP Derrick Rose has been sidelined with nagging injuries throughout the season.  Rose has missed 23 of Chicago’s 58 games this season.  Although the Bulls have stood tall above the rest of the league in his absence, his presence will be a must in the later playoff rounds.  Chicago has been great during the regular season but don’t expect them to go deep in the playoffs without a healthy No. 1.

So with the Heat slumping and the Bulls hurting the way to the NBA Finals could be paved for the Celtics.  Doc Rivers has done an exceptional job with this team and should make some noise in the Coach of the Year balloting.  Kevin Garnett has been playing like the KJ of yesteryear while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen remain very solid.  Throw Rajon Rondo in the fold, who is capable of exploding at any time, and the Celtics still have a very formidable lineup that has gotten hot at the right time.

The key for Boston throughout the playoffs will be to keep the series’ short and avoid game seven’s.  Shorter series’ equates to more rest and a fresher Boston team will be a dangerous one; especially if the Heat and Bulls aren’t playing up to par.

If the Celtics can advance through the East and get to the Finals it will make the third appearance for their Big three.  After beating the Los Angeles Lakers and then losing to them two years later, Boston appears hungry for a return trip and the opportunity to bring home the organization’s 18th title.

Follow Aaron on Twitter @Da_Bear_Truth

Boston Celtics streaking at the right time

Boston Celtics 3

Boston Celtics 3At the end of the first-half of the NBA season the Boston Celtics where 15-17 sitting at 8th place in the Eastern Conference. Everyone was saying the Celtics are to old, worn out from this tough season schedule, and that GM Danny Ainge should trade away part of the big three. The Celtics did not just look tired, they looked hopeless, but Boston has silenced doubters now.

Man, how things have changed in the last 21 games. Boston has gone a stunning 15-6 against a strong schedule and minimal rest. Who do we give credit for this remarkable turn around? Doc Rivers has pulled off some nice feats as a coach, but these last 21 games have been something else. Kevin Garnett is starting to look like the animal that joined the team in 2007, and also Rajon Rondo has been completely uncontrollable.

Hats off to Doc Rivers for taking this Celtics team and getting them to play playoff basketball at just the right moment. The of the Celtics getting into the playoffs was even at risk. Now Doc has them sitting at top of the Atlantic Division currently sitting on fourth overall in the East. Doc has had to go through so much this season. Injuries have hit the C’s so hard this year. With everyone in the starting lineup missing games this year. The lockout shortened season cramped 66 games in the span of 4 months, causing teams like Boston to struggle. Doc has picked up and resurrected this lifeless team to what some people think to be as a legitimate playoff contender.

The Big Ticket has been huge these last games. Since Kevin Garnett has played center the Celtics and him have been surging. Kevin Garnett is playing as the intense monster he has been for the Celtics in recent years. He will be turning 36 in just over a month and is getting sustainably better during the most physically demanding season the league has had. He is putting up stats almost as good as the year he finished third in MVP voting which was 2008. Kevin is using the media calling him old and having no gas left as motivation, as if the most intense player in the league needs more things to get motivated about. I have no clue how Garnett is pulling of these numbers, but he is doing this at just the right time and hopefully can continue this in the playoffs.

Rajon Rondo was in numerous trade talks before the trade deadline even though Danny Ainge send he was not on the table. Since then Rondo has showed why he is the best PG in the league. Rondo has been getting over 10 assists in the last 14 games and 14 assists during the Miami Heat’s worst loss of the season. Rajon has been finding open teammates constantly and driving in at will. Despite all of the rumors that Danny Ainge was going to trade him, Rondo has shown why he should never be traded under any circumstance. Rondo has been a triple double threat every single time he has walked on to a basketball court and come playoff time that should be no different.

From Doc Rivers, KG, or Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have been on a tear overall, not to mention to emergence of Avery Bradley, Boston has been looking as strong as they have the last 21 games then we have seen in awhile. Come late April though how will Boston’s undersized and small lineup far against the Eastern Conference’s elite for a 7 game series? Time will tell, but I would not be surprised if we do not see the Celtics in the Conference Finals.

Morgan Grimmett is a NBA writer for The Sports Blitz and can be contacted at MGrimmett@SportsBlitz.com or on Twitter @Morgan_Grimmett

Is Pau Gasol for Rajon Rondo possible?

Pau Gasol

Pau GasolIt is well-known that the Los Angeles Lakers are desperately searching for a point guard and the Boston Celtics seem to be stuck in rut, but is removing Pau Gasol and Rajon Rondo from the equation the right answer?

Rumor has it the Boston Celtics are on the verge of trading Rajon Rondo and if an NBA team is going to re-build they have to start with their most valuable piece, which is Rondo.

The problem is the Celtics shouldn’t be looking to re-build they should be looking to re-tool and get back on top.

For the Lakers, Rondo would be the ideal point guard and has the approval of star Kobe Bryant based on his work ethic.

The Lakers would take over his three-year contract and in return they would obtain a top five point guard, who can pass and create opportunity for Kobe and Andrew Bynum.

The Celtics would obtain Pau Gasol’s two-year contract a $19 million per season and Danny Ainge will still have the cap space created by the expiring contracts of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and others.

The immediate concern for the Lakers is the known health problems of Andrew Bynum. Let’s face it, as much as Lakers fans have turned on Gasol it was his presence along with Kobe Bryant’s that won two NBA Championships.

If the Lakers are going to trade Gasol the health of Bynum must be a thing of the past or the they are right back to where they were without Gasol.

If this trade were to go through it would mean a number of things for each team as Dwight Howard stated that if he were to be a member of the Lakers he would want to play with him, not traded for him.

Could this open up a possibility of Gasol going to the Celtics and then during the summer the addition of Howard to Boston?

NBA trade rumors: Westbrook for Rondo would benefit Thunder

Russell WestbrookThe Oklahoma City Thunder (12-3) stand atop the Western Conference and should easily win four of their next five games. After having the misfortune of meeting a red-hot Dallas Mavericks team in the conference finals last year, the Thunder have come out looking like a focused veteran team hell-bent on a championship.

However, as the story of the Thunder goes, Russell Westbrook is still causing drama in the locker room that readily gets hyperbolized by the media. Westbrook seems to continually clash with head coach Scott Brooks and subsequently apologize or state that there was not a problem in the first place after the next day’s practice. If it has to be addressed at all, there is a definite problem. It may sound crazy, but there is certainly a more pass-first point guard to compliment the shoot-first Durant. Enter Mr. Rondo.

Rondo has always been the one who has to defer Pierce, Allen, and Garnett. This has been the first season where Rondo has clearly had to step it up on the offensive side of things for the Celtics. Here are the year’s stats, according to Matt Hollinger’s Hoopdata.com, so far for the two:

Player PPG APG RPG EFF A:T TS% FGA AR
Rondo 15.0 9.4 5.1 19.8 1.6 55.5 11.2 54.0
Westbrook 20.5 5.5 5.0 18.9 2.4 52.3 17.3 23.9

Clearly this numbers crystallize the theory that Westbrook shoots too much and Rondo may still shoot too little. Westbrook’s assist to turnover ratio (A:T) is in the bottom half for point guards this year and was last year as well while Rondo’s, although not the best, was much greater. In assist rate(AR),rate of assists against possessions used, Rondo is fourth while Westbrook is twenty-third. Albeit, Westbrook does score by himself frequently due to his speed and driving ability but, even Derrick Rose is in the middle of the pack and he has to carry the Bulls on his back every night. Rondo’s assist per game average trumps Westbrook’s by four good passes a game, passes which Westbrook doesn’t seem to want to make to his teammates.

The Thunder need a true point guard and Rondo passes much more often, doesn’t turn the ball over as much, and shoots better when he does decide to shoot. Rondo’s defense is also comparable to Westbrook on the defensive side of things with the same agility and quickness, if not slightly faster. Like Pau Gasol to Kobe, Rondo would be appreciated, if not celebrated, in Oklahoma City for deferring to their homegrown superstar. Rondo is also learning to be more aggressive on his currently aging team and could certainly ramp up his scoring if need be, but I don’t think he would need to. This deal would make sense for the Celtics as well. Westbrook is looking for a contract extension and the C’s have both Allen and Garnett coming off the books who, even if they resign, won’t be looking for fifteen million dollar a year deals and would sign for cheap out of loyalty. Boston General Manager Danny Ainge already tried to shop Rondo for Paul and potentially other top point guards this summer and is still probably listening to offers. Westbrook would have the opportunity to be the face of the Celtics and lead the offense and would perhaps listen to Doc Rivers, who was a better point guard than Brooks in his day. Russell is a heady young point guard who wants to be the top dog and Rondo wants to win championships and build something with an dominate established superstar.

If it works you’re not supposed to fix it, but a Westbrook contract holdout, a displeased locker room, and selfish play, could be the only thing standing in the Thunder’s championship quest because it’s certainly not experience anymore.

Eric Eulau is an NBA team writer for The Sports Blitz

NBA Bans Upside-Down Headbands?

Rajon RondoThe NBA took another step in its dress code laws and has now banned upside-down headbands effective immediately.

It’s not like Rajon Rondo just started this trend as he has been wearing his headband upside down for years.

Is it really that big of a deal to wear a headband where the NBA logo is displayed upside down? Can they now wear the headband backwards or inside out?

The NBA continues to take away from the game of basketball and the little odds and ends that make it such a fun league. While image may be everything for the NBA it is what draws kids to the league and continuing to do insane things like this make the league a bore and take away from the fun.

To see kids playing ball outside an upside-down headband is just a way to emulate their favorite player and increase the popularity.

Why does the NBA feel the need to do such absurd things? Thanks to the NBA Rajon Rondo is no longer wearing a head band and now sales will decrease, which the NBA seems to do a good job with since they are losing 400 million dollars a year.