Celtics

Celtics' long road back starts with Game 5

191544.jpg

Celtics' long road back starts with Game 5

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. Winning an NBA title in 2008 was arguably the toughest challenge this core group of Boston Celtics has faced since coming together.

Coming back to win their current playoff series with the Miami would be a close No. 2.

Monday's 98-90 Game 4 loss put the C's in a 3-1 series deficit heading into Game 5 at Miami on Wednesday.

A loss ends the Celtics' season sooner than any team during the current Big Three regime.

The mood following Saturday's loss was one of disappointment, but the C's speak as though they aren't quite ready to call it a season just yet.

"It's not going to get any easier, but that's what makes it that much more special if you can pull it off," said Ray Allen. "We won't talk about it, we just go out . . . we know the effort we put out there in Game 4 has to be better."

Coach Doc Rivers is convinced it will be, which is why he's still optimistic this series will be a long one.

"In our minds there's a lot of basketball to be played," Rivers said. "It's going to be extremely hard, and if we're not up for that then we'll lose. But if we're up for that, I think we can win three games."

While the C's aren't looking to do anything that's unprecedented, the list of teams that have rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win it all is a small one.

Only eight teams in NBA history have been able to do it, a list that includes the 1968 and 1981 Celtics, who beat Philadelphia both seasons.

But of those eight teams, only two (one being the '68 Celts) did so without having Game 7 on their home court.

There's no need to remind the Celtics that the chances of winning Game 5, let alone the series, are not very good.

Whether it's pride, confidence or simply being delusional, the Celtics' outlook remains upbeat.

"We've never lacked confidence," said Kevin Garnett. "And when our backs to the wall we've shown great resilience. We'll see what we're made of."

Since the 2008 title run, the Celtics are 3-2 in games in which they faced playoff elimination, with the losses coming in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals to Orlando and the 2010 NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra is well aware of how prideful the Celtics are, and expects eliminating them to be the toughest challenge his team has faced all season.

"I anticipate well get their best game on Wednesday and we have to be better than that," Spoelstra said. "If were real about what we want to do, we have to beat the Boston Celtics at their best.

That's part of the frustration the Celtics are feeling at this point in the series. If they had played one of their best games in any of the first four, they could better come to grips with their playoff fate.

But if they are unable to rally back and win this series, there will be a sense among the players and coaches that this series wasn't necessarily lost because the Heat played great, but because the C's simply didn't make the most of the opportunities they had.

For the Celtics, now is not the time to think about what could have and should have been done better. They have one chance to extend this series, and that opportunity awaits them on Wednesday in Game 5.

I still believe. I still have all the confidence in the world in our team," said forward Jeff Green. "I know that we can take it one game at a time and come back and win this series."

Added Allen: "Weve had to win on the road in our history together. Weve had to win in some tough environments. This is no different. At the end of the day when you lace them up, its five-on-five and we have to trust in who we have out there on the floor, we have to have trust in the coaching staff, we know the stuff that we have works. We just trust in it, believe in it, and push forward, and then were going to win games, were going to win a game, were going to win the next game, and thats the most important thing: that we believe in each other and just stay with it.

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

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

160304-lebron.jpg

All signs point to LeBron James playing against Celtics Tuesday

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- A sprained left ankle injury kept LeBron James out of all but one of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason games, and has created a certain element of uncertainty as to whether he’ll play against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. 
 
While it has yet to be determined for sure if he’ll play, all indications are that the 15-year veteran will be in the starting lineup as the Cavs kick off their quest to remain the team to beat in the East.

“I never hide stuff from you guys. I really don’t know,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said when asked if James would play against the Celtics. “Depending on how he feels, but I really don’t know.”
 
However, James looked pretty comfortable shooting the ball after practice with a trio of former Celtics in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. 
 
And if you listen to the man who would likely start in James’ place -- J.R. Smith -- there’s nothing to worry about Cavs Nation. 
 
According to Smith, James will play. 
 
“We were talking about it, he’s never missed, since he was 8 years old and he started playing, he’s never missed a first game,” Smith said. “I’m preparing for him to play.”
 
Despite having played more than 41,000 minutes -- only 33 players in NBA history have done so -- James has been one of the game’s more durable players. Last season James he sat out only eight games, and that was the most he has missed in a single season.
 
 "He's gonna go [Tuesday]," Smith said. "He's gonna go, trust me [on] that. I don't care what he's gotta do, he's gonna play."
 

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

Celtics may spend a good part of the year playing 'Getting To Know You'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It’s hard to believe the Celtics are just hours away from their first regular-season game after having been together for less than a month. 
 
The quick turnaround isn't all that different than it is for the other 29 teams in the NBA.  But the Celtics, who advanced to the Eastern Conference finals last season, are returning only four players -- and just one starter -- from last year.
 
Training camp was indeed a crash course called Getting to Know My Teammates 101.
 
But listening to the players, and coach Brad Stevens, it’s clear there will be lessons learned all season long.

MORE CELTICS

 
“We have a good feel about how things can look, in the preseason,” said Al Horford. “But it is the preseason. Now it all starts. And right away we face a tough test (in the Cavaliers). But yeah, we’ll start learning even more. We’ve already learned a good amount, but even more when Tuesday rolls around.” 
 
That's when the Celtics kick off the regular season at Cleveland, which will once again be the favorite to advance to the NBA Finals.
 
Not too far behind (right behind them, by most accounts) are the Celts, whose season ended in the Conference finals a year ago in a five-game loss to the Cavs.
 
And the Boston players collectively feel that, despite the short amount of time together, they’ve developed a good sense of chemistry and understanding of how to play effectively with one another. 
 
Having said that, they also understand that there’s still plenty of room to grow. 
 
“I don’t expect it to be perfect by any means at all,” said Gordon Hayward. “We’ll definitely have some ups and downs this season. Like I said, one thing is we’ll be able to compete every night. We’ll be able to play together. Those things should stay the same.”
 
In many respects, the Cavaliers are going through a similar challenge this season.  They've added Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder -- and, when he recovers from his hip injury, Isaiah Thomas -- to a core group that’s led by LeBron James. 
 
While the increase in talent is undeniable, it’ll take some time before they too develop the kind of on-the-court cohesiveness that comes with time. 
 
“It’s gonna take time,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a process for everybody to learn their roles, learn everybody’s tendencies, and not think while they’re out there.”
 
And while there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to how things will play out with the Celtics this season, Stevens embraces the unknown. 
 
“I think we're going to be learning about ourselves through the middle of the season,” Stevens said. “I think you do that with every team, but I think that's especially the case now. But this is, I've said this before, like, the first week, the first 10 days, the first few weeks, we have such great and unique challenges that it's gonna be really good for this team regardless."
 
Stevens added: “Because, to have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc., is great. It's great to experience that in game one. A tremendous learning experience for our group. So, we're preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they're really, really good. But this is, I'm looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”

Hayward added, “It’s a fun first game to start the year. Regardless of what happens, we’ll have some improving to do and things to get better at.”
  
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE