Celtics

Celtics-Heat Game 1 review: Rondo can't get it going

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Celtics-Heat Game 1 review: Rondo can't get it going

MIAMI Rajon Rondo didn't have a triple-double for the Boston Celtics.

Heck, he failed to crack double digits in assists for only the third time in the C's 14 playoff games this year.

It was that kind of game for Rondo and the Boston Celtics as they dropped a 93-79 loss to the Miami Heat in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals.

Rondo finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, but only tallied six assists.

For most players, such numbers would be construed as having a pretty good game. But then again, most players don't mean as much to their team's success as Rondo means to the Celtics.

For the C's to have any shot at winning this series, Rondo has to play better - a lot better - than he did in Game 1. As you talk to one Heat player after another, they'll all tell you that limiting Rondo's impact will be the key to them winning this series.

"We have to be in tune with Rondo," said Heat forward LeBron James, who led all players with 32 points and 13 rebounds on Monday. "He's probably the number one unpredictable guy we have in our league as far as how he forces his action."

Rondo has shown the ability at times to take over games as a passer, scorer and rebounder.

On Monday, the All-Star point guard came up short on all those fronts.

"(Rajon Rondo) is the head of their team," said Miami's Mario Chalmers, the initial defender for the Heat on Rondo. "I was trying to make it a tough night for him."

Chalmers, with the help of teammates like James, were successful as Rondo shot 8-for-20 from the field and had four turnovers - all of which came in the first quarter.

But as is the case often on nights when Rondo struggled, he too played a role in his less-than-stellar play.

"He's got to be in attack (mode)," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "The second quarter he was attacking and attacking."

Because of that, the C's were able to wipe out a double digit deficit and go into the half tied at 46.

However, soon after that he began to seemingly focus more on trying to figure out the Heat defense, than simply make the necessary play.

"I thought he was reading a lot instead of playing on his instincts," Rivers said. "Sometimes his IQ hurts him at times. He's trying to read the defense. You can't read and play at that speed at the same time."

Of course, Monday's loss serves as a reminder of how so much of Rondo's success is predicated on whether his teammates can knock down shots.

Far too often, they came up short on Monday.

"We're human," Rondo says.

He's right.

Rondo's problems on Monday certainly played a role in Boston's Game 1 loss. But there were others. Here are some of the keys outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out in Monday's Game One defeat for the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even with rosters filled with dynamic scorers, both teams will be hard-pressed to crack the 100-point barrier during this series. Both were among the top teams defensively during the regular season in terms of limiting opponents scoring. In the playoffs, it has been more of the same. Boston is giving up just 83.9 points per game, the fewest of any team in the playoffs this year. Right behind them is Miami, which is giving up just 85.5 points per game.

WHAT WE SAW: Points were indeed hard to come by for both teams, as each team went about trying to control the game's pace. For the most part, the scoring was indeed to the Heat's liking as Miami scored 10 points above the C's playoff average of points given up. "I didn't think we played great defensively, and we still held them to 93 points," Rivers said. "But at the pace the game was played, 93 felt like 110 because it was a slow-paced game."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Shane Battier: This is one of the few head-to-head battles that on paper at least, appears to be a toss-up. Bass has a definite strength advantage over Battier and if you're the Celtics, you'd love for him to take advantage of it. But because he spends so much time - and with good reason - looking for his mid-range jumper, there's a good chance that this edge won't be utilized much at all. Battier has proven himself to be a better-than-average NBA defender. But most of his best work has come at defending small forwards who for the most part, aren't as strong as Bass.

WHAT WE SAW: This was a battle that was as decisively lopsided as any of the matchups among starters. Bass had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting, with just two rebounds. In addition to corralling just about every loose ball along with making damn near every hustle play under the sun, Battier emerged with a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double that was a major factor in Miami's victory. "I take a lot of pride in it (rebounding)," Battier said. "I have not had 10 rebounds in about three years."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ray Allen didn't shoot the ball well against the Sixers, but he delivered a couple of 3-point bombs in the fourth quarter that in typical Ray Allen fashion, came right on time. Look for the Heat to play off Allen some in the game's early moments, just to see if he can pick up where he left off in Game Seven, or will he revert back to struggling to knock down open or lightly-contested shots.

WHAT WE SAW: Doc Rivers he has to do something about Ray Allen, who continues to struggle at both ends of the floor for the Celtics. The plan for now is to keep him in the starting lineup, but Rivers said he will look at ways to potentially shift around when he comes in and out of the game. "Ray is going to try and figure it out. We're going to try and figure out a way of even maybe subbing him differently to keep him strong," Rivers said. "Honestly, I don't know yet with Ray."

STAT TO TRACK: Miami is one of the highest scoring teams in the playoffs with a 95.5 points per game average which ranks fourth among postseason clubs. For Boston to keep the score more manageable, they have to limit the Heat's point production off turnovers. During the regular season, Miami averaged a league-best 19.7 points off turnovers. They're still at the top of the NBA heap in that category, averaging a league-high 18.9 points per game off turnovers. Meanwhile, the Celtics will try to keep the Heat relatively close to the C's postseason average in points allowed off turnovers, which is 13.8 points which ranks fifth among playoff teams.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics did a pretty good job of keeping turnovers low which in turn, meant fewer opportunities for the Heat to score in transition. Miami had 12 points off of Boston's turnovers, and had just 10 fast-break points for the game. Boston's poor free throw shooting (11-for-21) and inability to keep the Heat from scoring in the paint - Miami was 21 for 27 on field goal attempts in the paint - were far more critical in the game's outcome, than the C's turnovers and fast-break point totals.

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.