Celtics and Heat ready for more rough stuff


Celtics and Heat ready for more rough stuff

By Rich Levine

MIAMI In terms of playoff basketball, the physicality of the Celtics' Game 1 loss to Miami was nothing out of the ordinary. But because of the role that physicality played in the ejection of Celtics captain Paul Pierce, it was a major topic of discussion when the two teams gathered for the respective practices on Monday.

The message from both sides?

These are the NBA playoffs. Theyre supposed to be physical. And going forward, regardless of Sundays controversy, you can expect more of the same.

"That's whats expected, said Delonte West. Tough, physical play throughout the playoffs. As much as they want to make it, it's not a gentleman's game. These guys are full-padded, underneath their jerseys. So it's not golf. They want us to play like it is golf. It's a part of the game. We have to be better in that aspect next game."

Its the playoffs, said Dwyane Wade. Both teams are supposed to be chippy. They took some hard fouls on us. We took some hard fouls on them. I havent been to the second round in a long time, but Im assuming this is how it is. Maybe Ive just been out of the loop for while . . .

Wade was obviously being a little sarcastic with that last line, but his words ring true. Ejection aside, the way the Celtics and Heat butted heads (literally, in some cases) is what weve come to expect from playoff basketball, and theres no reason to think that will stop regardless of the Pierce incident, or how much those on the outside try to stir the pot.

A lot of that is overstated, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said about the rough play. I think both teams look at it like were physical teams, were defensive-minded teams with a similar style of basketball. Its the playoffs, so thats all it is. Were not trying to be somebody were not; theyre not trying to be somebody theyre not. Were not trying to do anything different.

"I expected that, honestly, said Doc Rivers. That's fine by us. That makes the game enjoyable. We didn't handle it well. I thought overall, they hit first the entire game. I'm talking legally. Their picks, their cuts, their action. They played the game with a better force than we did. That's something that shouldn't happen."

But it will continue to happen; this time from both sides. In fact, if anything, Game 1 will just be the start. As the series goes on, and the stakes are raised, so will the intensity, which should lead incidents very similar to what we saw on Sunday.

Whenever you have emotionally charged guys on the floor, battling and competing, you always have something, said Heat forward James Jones. "No one wants to give an inch. And as the games continue to go on, guys dont give up on the aspiration or dreams lightly. We expect them to come out and player harder and I expect us to play harder as well.

Rich Levine can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

Stevens knows hanging banners is ‘what it’s all about’ in Boston

BOSTON – When Brad Stevens took the Boston Celtics job in 2013, he knew what he was getting into.
Yes, the Celtics at that time were rebuilding which usually means years and years of slow but steady progress – if you’re lucky.
And then after maybe a few years of struggling to win games, a breakout season occurs and just like that – you’re back in the playoffs.


 But here’s the thing with the Celtics.
While most rebuilding teams spend years working their way towards being competitive, Stevens hit the ground running and in just four years, he led the Celtics from being a 25-win team to one that was just three wins away from getting to the NBA Finals.
He has the kind of basketball resume that’s impressive on many levels.
But Stevens knows good isn’t good enough in this town.
“We’re here in Boston,” he said. “Winning is good, but hanging one of those (banners) up is what it’s all about. That’s what makes this such a special franchise.”
And for Stevens, a franchise where the expectations for success under his watch have never been greater than they are now.
Boston only returns one starter (Al Horford) from last year’s squad which advanced to the Eastern Conference finals after having won an East-best 53 games.
However, they added a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to join Horford. In addition, they drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
Boston also has a slimmed-down Marcus Smart (he lost 20 pounds from a year ago) as well Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who will both benefit from having another NBA season under their belts.
And while it’s a small sample size and consists of just two teams (Philadelphia and Charlotte), the Celtics breezed their way through the preseason with a flawless 4-0 record which included at least one game in which they did not play their usual starters which shows how impactful their depth may be this season.
That success can only help, especially with a challenging schedule that includes seven of their first 11 games being on the road. 
Still, the potential of this Celtics team has never been greater than it is right now since Stevens took over in 2013.
And just like the increased expectations of the team, the same can be said for Stevens who is considered one of the better coaches in the NBA.
Marcus Morris will begin his first season with the Celtics, but had a lot of respect for Stevens well before he was traded to Boston from Detroit this summer.
“You hear a lot of good things about him from other players,” Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “And once you get in here and start working with him and seeing what he does every day, you see what they’re talking about. He’s a good coach, man.”
This team’s success will hinge on how the players perform, but there’s an added element of pressure on Stevens to find the right combinations that will position the Celtics for success.
“We have a lot more guys who can do a lot more things on the court, so it will be a little more challenging for us to figure out how to best play with each other, and for Brad to figure out which combinations are the best ones,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “But we’ll figure it out. Brad’s a really good coach, a really smart coach. And on our team, we have a lot of players who are smart, high basketball I.Q. guys. We’ll be OK.”
Basketball smarts aside, the Celtics’ success will hinge heavily on how quickly they can bring a roster with 10 new players up to speed quickly.
It’s still early, but players like what they’ve seen from the collective body in terms of team chemistry.
“I think that’s the beauty of a lot of guys on the team,” said Gordon Hayward. “It’ll be different each night with some of the different roles we play.”
Which is why the Celtics, while lacking experience as a team because of so many new faces, are still seen as capable of winning because they have a number of players who can impact the game in many ways.
But as good as they are, it still comes back to Stevens doing a good job of putting them in the best positions to find success individually as well as for the Celtics team.
When you look at how time with Stevens jumpstarted Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder’s careers, or how it helped revitalize the career of Evan Turner, it’s obvious that he has the Midas touch when it comes to getting the most out of players.
For Boston to have the kind of success they believe they are due for, it’s going to take the contributions of many.
And even that might not be enough.
But having the path being bumpier than expected is something Stevens embraces.
“Here in this league,” he said, “you have to love challenges.”