Celtics

Celtics hang on to beat Heat, 85-82

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Celtics hang on to beat Heat, 85-82

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON There was man-to-man, zone, double-teaming, tilting . . . you name the defense, and there was a very good chance the Boston Celtics implored it at some point againt the Miami Heat.

At times, it was a masterpiece.

Other times, it looked sloppy and disjointed.

But it achieved the only thing the Celtics were looking for against the Heat - a victory.

The C's, about as short-handed as we've seen them this season, put together a strong third quarter of play that propelled them to an 85-82 win.

It got close at the end. Miami trailed 83-81 when LeBron James was fouled with 12.5 seconds to play.

James, a 76.4 percent free-throw shooter this season, missed the first one as the Garden faithful jeered him with no mercy as the shot rimmed in and out of the basket.

He made the second free throw that cut the C's lead in half.

Moments later, Glen Davis was at the free throw line with 6.3 seconds remaining.

A 75 percent free throw shooter, Davis calmly sank both free throws.

Following a Heat time-out, Miami 3-pointer specialist Mike Miller had a great look that hit the back of the rim before rolling out. Dwyane Wade's attempted tip-in was off as well as the Celtics somehow came away with the victory.

"To gut this out was great," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

As limited as the C's were, Rivers said they were close to having even fewer players available moments before tip-off.

Nate Robinson, who was questionable coming into the game with a bruised right knee, told Rivers about five minutes before tip-off that he wasn't going to play.

"And then came up later and said he wanted to give it a go," Rivers said.

Paul Pierce was another player whose status was in doubt, according to Rivers.

"Paul said before the game he felt awful," Rivers said.

It showed in his play.

Pierce scored just one point against the Heat, missing all 10 of his shots from the field. After the game, Pierce said he sprained his hand in practice on Saturday and was having foot issues as well, adding that he planned to have an MRI on his left foot Monday.

"And so, you know, we literally were thinking at one point, 'We're not going to have enough bodies to play this game,' " Rivers said.

As it turned out, the C's had more than enough bodies to get the job done against a Miami team that continues to come up short against the Celtics - even when the Celtics were about as short-handed as they have been all season.

"We're disappointed," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "We did not play to our potential. It could have swung either way, but we weren't able to get over that hump."

With the win, the Celtics (39-14) not only regained their spot atop the Eastern Conference standings, but they also locked up the season series with the Heat (39-15) by beating them for the third time in as many meetings this season.

Injuries limited Boston to suiting up just 10 players.

To a man, every one of them who saw action contributed in some fashion to the victory.

Kendrick Perkins, often the forgotten man in the Celtics starting five, had a season-high 15 points while logging 30-plus minutes for the fifth straight game.

Rajon Rondo tallied his third triple-double of the season, finishing with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Boston's bench came up with a slew of big plays, as Glen Davis (16 points) and Von Wafer (10) combined for 26 points which was more than enough to outscore Miami's second unit which totaled just eight points.

Now that the Celtics have won all three meetings, you have to wonder if the C's success is starting to get into the heads of the Heat players.

"It's a good win and if there's a mental message, I don't know what it would be," Rivers said. "They're pretty tough over there. So, I hope there is; I just don't think there is."

Miami's Dwyane Wade sees it as just another obstacle in the Heat's path toward becoming the championship-caliber team many expect them to be.

"This is classic, typical, bigger brothers, you got to get over it," Wade said. "I've been through it before; LeBron's been through it before with the Pistons. You look down the line, everyone has been through it, MJ went through it with the Pistons back in the day. You got to get over the hump, and we're getting close and close but we're not there yet, so we continue to learn from it."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

Celtics won't be broken by Hayward's injury

BOSTON -- These are tough, heart-tugging times for the Boston Celtics, who are less than 24 hours removed from the gruesome left-ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward in the first quarter of their 102-99 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
 
Hayward is scheduled to have surgery today, and potentially could be out for the entire season.
 
As much as their hearts go out to Hayward and his family, the Celtics know they can’t spend too much time sulking. The nature of this business won’t allow them, evident by the fact the C's step back on the floor tonight to host the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
“You hurt for him,” said coach Brad Stevens. “He’s put in a lot of great work. I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well. It’s a tough, tough deal but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him.”
 
But in the same breath, Stevens is a realist.
 
He's been in the league long enough to know that grieving for a lost player won’t help that player in the short-term. Or the team, for that matter.

MORE ON GORDON HAYWARD

 
The best way the Celtics can help Hayward is to continue to compete in his absence.
 
We saw that in last night’s loss to the Cavaliers.
 
When Hayward was carted off the floor, the Celtics were ahead, 12-9. The lead disappeared and was eventually replaced by an 18-point deficit, only for Boston to chip away and eventually go ahead in the fourth quarter.
 
But down the stretch, too much LeBron James and Kevin Love would prove to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.
 
While the loss was disappointing, it gave the team some insight into how to fight on now that one of its main guys will be out for a significant amount of time.
 
We saw Jaylen Brown emerge from being a second-year pro on the rise into a matchup problem who dropped a career-high 25 points on the Cavs.
 
And Jayson Tatum reminded us all that he’s a teenager in age only, finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. The last rookie to tally a double-double for the Celtics in his opening night debut was Larry Bird in 1979, who had an identical 14-point, 10-rebound line.


 
But Bird didn’t have to play most of that game with one of the then top-three Celtics out for all but the game’s first five minutes.
 
When it comes to adversity, NBA players don’t have the luxury to pick which ones to handle and which ones to pass on. They either step up to the challenge or be consumed by it.
 
Under Stevens, Door Number One is the only option under consideration.
 
And since Stevens has been in Boston, his players have risen to the challenge.
 
That doesn’t mean they'll win every game, but they've shown the ability to at least be competitive. And in defeat, they'll refuse to use injury as an excuse.
 
That means younger players like Brown and Tatum will assume a larger role at both ends of the floor if Boston is to make it through these tough times relatively unscathed.
 
Veterans like Al Horford and Marcus Smart will be leaned upon more heavily to be leaders, both on and off the floor.
 
And Stevens, considered by many to be one of the better coaches in the NBA, will once again be tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments with his lineup and rotations under less-than-ideal conditions.
 
Nobody hurts more than Stevens when it comes to Hayward’s injury. Remember, he's known him longer than anyone associated with the Celtics, having recruited Hayward to play for Butler. It was the platform that launched both of their NBA careers.
 
Which is why the way he approaches not having Hayward is the example for all his players to follow.
 
Shortly after the loss to the Cavs, Stevens was asked about moving on while handling the emotional dynamics of losing Hayward for an extended period of time.
 
“We’ll be ready to play [tonight],” Stevens said with a heightened level of seriousness in his voice that spoke to how important it was to him and his players that they came out and performed at their best on Tuesday against Cleveland.

And that's the blueprint required for them going forward if they hope to be successful in handling adversity as it comes their way.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.