Heat show tough skin in likely preview with Celts


Heat show tough skin in likely preview with Celts

By A.Sherrod Blakely

MIAMI If the playoffs go as expected, there's a very good chance the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics will see each other in the second round of the playoffs. Even though Boston won the head-to-head series, more stock will surely be put in the way Miami manhandled the Celtics, 100-77, on Sunday.

Aside from the first six or seven minutes, this game was all Miami.

Not only did the Heat emerge victorious, but they showed something that so many questioned even existed when they took the floor with the Celtics -- toughness.

You can sift through all the stats you want.

Miami won the battle on the boards (44-26). The Heat forced more turnovers (19 to 18), which led to more points (17 to 11). Miami also outscored the C's in second-chance points (18-3) and fast-break points (12-3).

But more than anything else, the Heat hit a level of toughness that no one -- especially not the Celtics -- could have saw coming.

And toughness isn't about pushing guys around or knocking them on their keister.

We're talking about mental toughness, the kind that allowed the Heat to fall behind 8-zip and not panic.

We're talking about the kind of mental toughness that allowed Miami to witness its 22-point lead early in the fourth quarter be cut to just 10 points, only to push it back to a 23-point win.

Anyone who knows Kevin Garnett is aware that he's not one to praise teams and players just for the sake of praising them.

His thoughts on the Heat after Sunday's game show a man who doesn't see this team with the same lens as he did prior to the loss.

"They showed some resilience when we took the lead," Garnett said. "They were able to take the punch. The things that they've been through throughout the year, it seems as though they have gathered some tough skin and figured out a way to show resilience and play through tough times, and it showed on Sunday. They took the first punch and never looked back."

Said Dwyane Wade: "Today we proved that we are a much better team than we showed in the previous three games against Boston."

Wade and LeBron James spent more time than usual breaking down video of the Celtics, looking for ways to reverse the Celtics' dominance over them this season.

"The Celtics do a great job of trying to keep you out of the paint, and we know when we drive they pack the paint a lot," said Wade. "We needed to get guys open looks, and we both did that."

And while the Heat certainly look to be in good shape to clinch the No. 2 seed in the East, a Miami loss in one of its last two games -- at Atlanta and at Toronto, respectively -- coupled with Boston wins over Washington and New York, will result in the Celtics being the No. 2 seed.

That's why the mood among the Heat players was tempered after what was arguably Miami's biggest win of the year.

"This game means nothing if we don't come out against Atlanta and play with the same aggression and intensity," James said. "We have to understand that we have no time to look back."

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

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Jayson Tatum vs. Markelle Fultz debate

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions on the Celtics getting their first win of the season and a comparison between Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving in the 4th quarter.

7:17 - Phil Perry joins BST to break down the tale of the tape between the Falcons and the Patriots as he breaks down the quarterbacks, offense, defense, coaching, and intangibles between the two teams.

11:57 - Our crew on BST discuss number 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz and number 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum going up against each other and debate who seems like the better pick so far. 

16:35 - In this segment of Irrelevant Questions, Tom Curran interviews Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett as he asks him a bunch of random questions. 


Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

Larkin rises to occasion, says he's ready when Celtics call his number

PHILADELPHIA – Near the end of a preseason game against Charlotte, Boston Celtics guard Shane Larkin was killin’ the Hornets with pick-and-roll action.

It was a preseason game that at the time, didn’t seem to have much value other than to get some of the end-of-the-bench guys a little run up and down the court.

But as it turned out, Larkin's play in that game was one of those things head coach Brad Stevens tucked away, knowing at some point he would count on Larkin to provide similar play in a regular season game.


Well, that game was Friday night at Philadelphia, a game in which several players for Boston stepped their games up in helping the Celtics get their first win of the season, 102-92.

But you would be hard-pressed to find a bigger game-changer for the Celtics in this game, than Larkin.

He finished with 10 points off the bench, eight of which came in the decisive fourth quarter when the Celtics rallied from five-down to get a hard-fought, much-needed victory.

“You have to always be ready for your name to be called, especially when you have injuries,” Larkin said. “You never know whose night it’s gonna be.”

Boston was playing without Marcus Smart who suffered a left ankle sprain in their 108-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smart was in the starting lineup having replaced Gordon Hayward who underwent left ankle surgery and is expected to be out for the remainder of this season.

“When coach (Stevens) called my name, I had to go out there and be aggressive, play my game,” Larkin said. “And it worked in our favor.”

And while Stevens had watched Larkin play prior to the Celtics signing him this summer, it was a preseason game against Charlotte that really convinced him that the 5-foot-11 guard could help when called upon.

“You’re always watching,” Stevens said. “And if you remember that exhibition game, he finished out that Charlotte game, just running simple spread pick-and-rolls. He’s such a handful with his speed and quickness, and he allows other guys to play off of him. He’s a small guy, but he makes up for it with his speed and skill.”

Al Horford benefited more than any other Celtic with Larkin’s pick-and-roll play which factored into Horford scoring nine of his 17 points in the fourth.

“Shane is a player who understands the game and for us, it was me trying to set a good screen for him and having him make a play,” Horford said. “He just made the right reads, when to shoot it, when to pass it. He just looked very comfortable in that position.”

And to think that Larkin’s big game came about in part because of how well he performed in a preseason matchup against the Hornets.

“I did not know it was that specific game,” Larkin said. “But whenever I step on the court I try to do my best. That’s offensively, defensively, and do what the team needs me to do.

Larkin added, “Whenever my number is called, if he (Stevens) calls it again, I hope he does. I’ll be ready to go out there and do it again.”