Celtics

Heat force Game 7 in Miami, crush Celtics, 98-79

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Heat force Game 7 in Miami, crush Celtics, 98-79

BOSTON For a change, there will be no questions about LeBron James' clutch factor.

When you dominate a game the way he did in Thursday's Game 6 tilt with the Boston Celtics, late-game heroics aren't needed.

James delivered one of the most dominant performances the Garden faithful have been a witness to, culminating in a 98-79 Miami Heat victory to force a winner-moves-on matchup on Saturday in Miami.

The three-time MVP, criticized for coming up short in big games, finished with 45 points with baskets coming against any and every defender Boston threw his way.

Long range jumpers. Mid-range jumpers. Put-back dunk. Lay-ups.

If there was a way to score, James managed to do it.

And his dominant play came on a night when Paul Pierce was, well, awful.

The Captain was among those struggling defensively against James. Pierce was woeful shooting the ball, missing a slew of lay-ups and jumpers all game.

He finished with just nine points on 4-for-18 shooting.

It was in a word, as bad a game you could play in a game that had so much on the line.

Just like that, all those headlines and talking points about the Celtics cruising into the NBA Finals where Oklahoma City has already punched their ticket to gone!

They will now be replaced by James and the Heat righting the ship just in time to move past a Celtics team that for the first time in this series, looked old and feeble.

With just under seven minutes to play, Miami was up by 25 points.

Yeah.

It was that ugly.

And with that, the Celtics now must do the unlikely - beat the Heat on their floor to move on to the NBA Finals.

For a team with so many prideful veterans - many of whom may not be back next year - this may be the last game they play together in front of the TD Garden fans.

But the Celtics aren't in the reminiscing mood right now, not with another shot at going to the NBA Finals at their disposal.

This was a game in which the Heat took control from the outset and never looked back. Miami pulled ahead by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, with James leading the charge.

At one point, he had almost as many points (12) by himself as the entire Celtics team (14). But unlike the previous three games - all Boston wins - he was getting some help from his teammates with Shane Battier (five points) contributing to the strong first quarter for Miami which ended with the Heat ahead, 26-16.

Miami continued to play with a comfortable double-digit lead for most of the second quarter, with James continuing to log every single minute. He didn't leave the floor until the 3:11 mark of the fourth quarter.

The three-time league MVP delivered a near flawless first half performance, scoring 30 points in the first half on 12-for-14 shooting.

Most of James' points came on jumpers from just about every angle imaginable, as the Celtics slew of defenders were seemingly defenseless against his one-man assault on the Garden.

Making matters worst for the Celtics was that the one player that seemingly made James work the hardest defensively, Paul Pierce, was limited in the first half because of three personal fouls.

Rajon Rondo did his part to keep the C's relatively close, scoring 19 first-half points as the Heat took a 55-42 lead into the half.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics back in win column

0:41 - The Celtics returned to their winning ways with a 118-103 victory over the Orlando Magic. Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Rob “Hardy” Poole break down the win.

6:58 - Tom Giles and Hardy discuss the Bruins’ four-game winning streak and how the success of Anton Khudobin has helped keep the team afloat.

11:39 - Is the Patriots' Week 12 matchup with the Dolphins a trap game? Tom Giles, Phil Perry and Hardy discuss where Miami ranks among NFL teams and how the Patriots should approach the game.

17:07 - With Black Friday upon us, the Boston Sports Tonight crew discusses what big-ticket item they would choose to buy for any Boston sports team. 

 

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

Morris out, Brown questionable for Pacers game Saturday

BOSTON – Boston made strengthening their depth at the wing position a priority during the offseason.

Well, that depth will be put to the test with the possibility of at least one and maybe two of their top wing players being out for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Shortly after Boston’s 118-103 win over Orlando on Friday night, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens announced that Marcus Morris (left knee) would not travel with the team for Saturday’s game against the Pacers.

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Also, Jaylen Brown will be attending the funeral of his best friend (Trevin Steede) in Georgia on Saturday and isn’t sure if he’ll be back with the team in time for Saturday’s game.

“My intention is to make it back. If I can, I’ll definitely be playing,” Brown said. “But we’ll see.”

The absence of Brown would be a huge blow for the Celtics.

Boston only returned four players from last season’s team, none of whom have improved their overall game as much as Brown did during the offseason.

He came into the season focused on being a lock-down defender.

But Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury was a game-changer for all the Celtics, including Brown.

Not only would Brown be charged with being an elite defender, but Boston now needed the second-year wing player to become more of a scoring threat.

And to Brown’s credit, he has risen to the challenge.

In 20 games (all starts) this season, Brown has averaged 15.9 points per game which is second on the team to Kyrie Irving (22.9). In addition, Brown’s defense has been among the keys to Boston’s 17-3 start which is the best record in the NBA thus far this season.

His defensive rating of 95.0 is fifth among players to appear in at least 10 games this season, and tops among all second-year players. And of the four players ahead of him, two – Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart – are teammates.

But just like the Celtics gave Isaiah Thomas all the time he needed in dealing with the death of his sister right before the playoffs last season, a similar approach has been taken with Brown which he is admittedly appreciative of the organization for doing.

“Brad (Stevens) has been great in this process,” Brown said. “Just somebody to talk to, allowing me to deal with it in the best way our family and their family feels we can deal with it. He’s been great; we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully I can make it to Indiana; if not, I just have to re-group with my family and I’ll see you guys next game (against Detroit on Monday).”

While there's a chance that Brown will play against Indiana, the same can not be said for Morris who is definitely out.

Morris, who missed the first eight games of the season with left knee soreness, has been on a minutes restriction all season in addition to not being allowed to play in back-to-back games.

Following Friday’s game, Morris said the knee feels good but he understands the need to be cautious.

“It’s frustrating,” said Morris who acknowledged the decision was made by the coaching and medical staff. “I’m a competitor, so I want to be out there.”

He added, “Like I said, at this point I pretty much don’t have control over it when I’m playing. It’s a long season. I just want to be ready for June.”

With Morris out and Brown potentially out as well, the Celtics will be extremely thin and inexperienced at the wing position. Look for Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes to be in the starting lineup if Brown is out along with Morris.

Also, Stevens will likely use Terry Rozier and first-year forward Semi Ojeleye more in addition to increased spot-duty for another rookie, Abdel Nader. On Friday, Rozier had a career-high 23 points while Ojeleye and Nader had seven and three points, respectively.

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