Posts Tagged ‘Courtney Lee’

Knicks, Celtics Seeking Better Execution

.

NEW YORK – The final score of Game 1 of the first round series between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics was 85-78. So you’ll have to excuse these teams if they both feel like they can play better in Game 2 on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Thoughts of improvement start with the Celtics, and with the 21 turnovers they committed on Saturday. Smarter execution, like not trying to make post entry passes from 25 feet away, will at least get them more shots at the basket.

Of course, they still have to make those shots. And the onus is on reserve guards Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry to give the Celtics something off the bench. The trio shot 0-for-7 in Game 1 and, more important, was an incredibly awful minus-15 in the six minutes all three were on the floor together.

“They missed wide-open shots,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday, adding that he wouldn’t hesitate to go back to that three-guard unit again. “That group, when they’re on the floor, they have to produce offensively. They’re not going to ever be a great defensive group, and they didn’t do that. And it hurt us.”

Turnovers and missed shots were often a result of bad spacing. The same mismatches and double-teams that the Celtics took advantage of in the first half were there in the second, but poor spacing and execution made it more difficult to get good shots out of those situations.

The Celtics held their largest lead (seven points) late in the third quarter, but really set a bad precedent at the start of the half when Jeff Green – who was the star of the first half – took two contested mid-range shots early in the shot clock.

***

Though Game 1 was the lowest scoring game of the playoffs thus far, Carmelo Anthony‘s 36 points were the most any individual has scored this postseason. But Boston defended Anthony about as well as you can, making him take 29 shots to get those 36 points. In five games against the Celtics this season, Anthony has shot 37.1 percent and scored 137 points on 132 shots from the field.

Still, Doc Rivers believes there’s room for improvement in regard to Anthony’s scoring as well. And it’s more about his team limiting its own mistakes than defending Anthony differently.

The Celtics defended Anthony very well in the Knicks’ half-court offense, but got in trouble in transition and off loose balls…

Carmelo Anthony’s offense, Game 1

Situation FGM FGA 3PM 3PA EFG% FTM FTA AST TO PTS
Half-court 6 19 0 2 31.6% 4 4 1 3 16
Other 7 10 4 4 90.0% 2 2 0 0 20

EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

Anthony shot just 6-for-19 in half-court situations, and the Celtics even contested a few of those makes – including the 20-foot baseline dagger with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter. But Boston knows it can’t let Anthony loose when its defense isn’t set up.

Two of Anthony’s threes came when he brought the ball up on a secondary break, got an early high screen from Tyson Chandler, and walked into a open shot. A third came off a deflection that the Celtics couldn’t corral. And the fourth came as a trailer on a fast break. He had two other buckets (in the first quarter) when he brought the ball up himself and immediately looked for his shots.

The league’s leading scorer will probably shoot better in half-court situations on Tuesday, but the Celtics can prevent a major scoring barrage by just being more careful and aware.

“Every time we made a mistake, an offensive rebound, a turnover, he scored,” Rivers said. “And those were his easy baskets. We have to take those away.”

***

Like the Celtics, the Knicks know they can do better offensively. They ranked third in offensive efficiency this season and scored an incredible 115 points per 100 possessions over their final 18 games. But on Saturday, they were held to just 85 points on 88 possessions.

It’s easy to say that the ball needs to move better and that the Knicks should have more than 13 assists. Yes, there was too much iso-ball in Game 1, but most of it was a result of the Celtics’ defense taking away New York’s initial actions. And the Knicks are fortunate to have two players – Anthony and J.R. Smith – who can save a broken possession by getting a decent shot up in the final seconds of the shot clock.

Still, the Knicks can improve offensively by just getting up the floor quicker. The Celtics scored on just 35 of their 89 possessions on Saturday, but the Knicks had just seven fast break points. And as noted above, Anthony got his best looks in transition, not necessarily on fast breaks, but when he took advantage of a defense that wasn’t yet set.

Game 2: Knicks-Celtics’ Changes Afoot

a

NEW YORK – They say that every game in a playoff series has its own personality. And a couple of rotation changes should give Game 2 of the Knicks-Celtics’ series (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, TNT) a new look.

The Knicks hope to have Pablo Prigioni back from a sprained ankle for Game 2. And if they do, he will start and join Raymond Felton in the backcourt. The Knicks went 15-1 with the two point guards starting together in the final month of the regular season.

The Knicks have been incredibly efficient offensively, scoring almost 120 points per 100 possessions in 298 minutes, with Felton and Prigioni on the floor together. And after a game in which they scored 85 points on 88 possessions, they could certainly use an offensive boost. After assisting on just 13 of their 32 buckets in Game 1, the team hopes that Prigioni will bring better ball movement.

But the lineup change could have an adverse effect on the other end of the floor. Woodson said Sunday that if Prigioni is back, Felton will guard Paul Pierce to start the game (the original plan had Prigioni been healthy in Game 1), with Iman Shumpert defending Jeff Green.

Shumpert was guarding Pierce to start Game 1, and the Celtics posted Pierce on three of the first four possessions. When the Knicks doubled the post, the Celtics got a jumper for Kevin Garnett and a layup for Avery Bradley.

Mismatches on Pierce were a big part of the Celtics’ offense all day Saturday. Later in the first quarter, they ran the same play several times to get J.R. Smith switched onto Pierce at the foul line. And they had some more success with Pierce posting Jason Kidd on a few possessions midway through the second.

With their lineup change, the Knicks will be handing the Celtics a mismatch from the start. And Boston will obviously go to Pierce in the post early and often. New York will send double-teams, and it will be up to Pierce’s teammates to make them pay.

Green was a pretty good corner 3-point shooter (45.7 percent) in the regular season, but didn’t attempt any shots from the corners on Saturday. As a team, Boston was just 1-for-5 from the corners, an obvious area for improvement in Game 2.

***

Doc Rivers plans on making some rotation changes of his own. He went only eight deep in Game 1, using just three guards — Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry — off the bench. The trio combined to shoot 0-for-7.

Rivers said Sunday that we could see a big man off the bench — presumably Chris Wilcox or Shavlik Randolph — on Tuesday. If it’s Wilcox, it will be the first playoff appearance of his 11-year career.

We’ll have to see if that results in less minutes for Brandon Bass or if Rivers plans on playing with two bigs more than he did in Game 1. The Celtics were a plus-1 (and particularly strong on the defensive glass) in 21 minutes with both Bass and Garnett on the floor on Saturday, and a minus-8 in 27 minutes with one of the two on the bench.

The Celtics weren’t very good defensively, allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions, in 396 regular season minutes with Bass and Wilcox on the floor together. And the Garnett-Wilcox pair played just 73 minutes.

***

Rivers also wants to see a bigger role for Crawford. Amazingly, Crawford didn’t take a single shot in his 10:46 on Saturday. And it surely goes without saying that it was the first time in the gunner’s career that he’s played at least 10 minutes without taking a shot.

The Celtics probably don’t want to get to the point where Crawford’s shooting determines the outcome of any particular game, but he can help make the Knicks pay for double-teams on Pierce if he’s aggressive and looking to make plays for his teammates as well as himself. He can also take some of the ball-handling duties from Bradley.

NBA Players #PrayForBoston



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The shocking events of this afternoon in Boston touched off passionate reactions from folks all over the country and all around the globe, and NBA players were not immune.

With the details on exactly what happened and why at the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon still being investigated, the response of players on Twitter was swift and simple. And it echoed the sentiment of a nation.

Everyone is concerned for the citizens of Boston and beyond that have been impacted by this tragedy:

https://twitter.com/KendrickPerkins/status/323915633123270656

https://twitter.com/Avery_Bradley/status/323931131466625024

Celtics Drifting, But Who’s Going To Count Them Out?

DALLAS – The Celtics were in no mood to hear about a Heat hangover as an excuse for never leading in Friday’s 104-94 loss, their second straight road disappointment since letting Miami off the hook Monday night in Boston.

While the Heat pushed their win streak, one that the Celtics fail to view as particularly impressive, to 25 in a row on Friday, Boston took another step in the wrong direction. The Celtics lost for the third consecutive time to the Dallas Mavericks and the fifth time in seven games — a southerly drift that could ultimately lead to a first-round matchup with guess who?

“It’s a tough losing streak right now, three games, but we’re going to try to bounce back,” said Paul Pierce, who had a tough night with 16 points, but just seven through three quarters. “We’ve been through it before. This team is mentally tough and we’ll weather through the storm.”

Boston (36-32) moves on to a tough back-to-back at Memphis Saturday night with just two games separating it from the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics will hope to have available starting point guard Courtney Lee, who sprained his left ankle late in the fourth quarter. After reaching the bench he was able to apply pressure and walk to the locker room on his own. He’s hopeful any swelling will be limited and that he’ll be ready to play.

No one would be foolhardy enough to count this stubborn, old Celtics team out. But at some point the emotional and physical toll of battling shorthanded night-in and night-out has to come home to roost. In consecutive games, they’ve fallen at New Orleans (the West’s last-place team) on a last-second tip-in, and on Friday they were out-hustled to loose balls and beaten on the boards by the light-rebounding Mavs, a team that’s played better of late but still sits 10th in the West.

“I just think we gave one away the other night in New Orleans, that was self-inflicted, and tonight they took it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “They won the game. We didn’t play great. We missed a lot of open shots, we missed layups, but overall I’ll take those. I thought we played pretty hard. I wasn’t real happy with our defense and we’re going to have to clean that up.”

Dallas center Brandan Wright, in and out of the rotation all season, although playing more and quite well of late, lit up Boston’s interior defense for a season-high 23 points and a season-high-tying eight rebounds. Shawn Marion, back after missing eight games with a calf strain, had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

“I can’t wait to watch the film. I think we got crushed in the 50-50 game today,” Rivers said, referencing the loose balls that could go to either team, but mostly wind up in the hands of the players with more jump. “Some of those rebounds will count as rebounds, the long ones that were way out to the free throw line, we didn’t get any of those. They got them all. Shawn Marion, I don’t know what his numbers are, but he hurt us with his effort.”

Pierce played 40 minutes Monday against Miami, 33 at New Orleans and another 35 at Dallas. Kevin Garnett (16 points, 12 rebounds) logged 29 minutes in each of the last two games after sitting out two with a thigh injury, but Boston could have used him for 39. Off the bench, Jeff Green had 10 points, giving him 23 in the last two games after hitting Miami for 43. Jason Terry, in his return to Dallas, had little to say after scoring eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

“All I was worried about was the win,” Terry said. “We have to end this road trip on a good note. Right now we’re just not getting it done.”

Resolve can be a powerful tool to beat back adversity, but eventually the absence of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo — and even rookie Jared Sullinger to help on the boards – will wear down the older Celtics team. When Lee went down looking like he, too, could become a casualty, it had to be nothing short of disheartening.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had so many ups and downs and always were able to find a way,” said third-year guard Avery Bradley, who missed the first half of this season recovering from shoulder surgery last May. “Last year we had  a lot of issues that people didn’t know about, a lot of injuries and we still were able to find a way, and still had an opportunity. It just shows what kind of organization we have.”

Finding a way this time will be an even tougher dig than a year ago when the Celtics clawed all the way to Game 7 at Miami in the East finals.

Still, nobody’s counting out the Celtics just yet. No, not even the Heat.

Like Doc Said, ‘Don’t Bury The Celtics Yet’



.

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The next time Celtics coach Doc Rivers has something to say about his team and the resolve that championship outfits always show when things look bleak, I’ll just shut up and listen. We’d all be wise to do as much.

He warned us when Rajon Rondo went down with that torn ACL that the season would not end for the Boston Celtics just because they lost their All-Star point guard on Jan. 27.

His exact words:  “You can write the obituary; I’m not. You can go ahead, but I’m not. We won tonight and so, the way I look at it is, we’re going to stay in there. In my opinion, we’re going nowhere.”

We jumped to foolish conclusions around here and assumed that the Big 3 + Rondo era was officially done. But the Celtics have done exactly what Rivers said they would. Seven straight wins, including triumphs over the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and most recently Sunday’s triple overtime thriller to snap the Denver Nuggets’ nine-game win streak.

The remaining members of the Big 3 — Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — have played like the wicked warriors they’ve always been, but they’ve cranked it back up to 2008 levels over the course of the past seven games.

Pierce was magnificent yesterday, slaying the Nuggets with big shots, clutch rebounds and timely assists. Pierce’s 27, 14 and 14 was a throwback to the days of Larry Legend in Boston, as hallowed a ground as there is in Celtics lore. Garnett was just as devastating, finishing with 20 points and 18 rebounds.

But how about the rest of the supporting cast? Jason Terry came to life, finishing with a season-high 26 points off the bench, reminding us all of the crucial role he played in the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run two seasons ago. And Jeff Green, doing his own Mr. Big Shot routine against the Nuggets, chipped in with 17 points and three big blocks.

Rivers, of course, refused to take any credit for what’s gone on the past seven games, including yesterday heroics from Pierce and the rest of the crew.

“I mean that’s what great players do. I would love to tell you I had something to do with it,” Rivers said. “I was sitting just like the fans saying, ‘Please, Lord, Paul make a shot.’ “

But he’s short-changing the power of his words and presence in that Celtics locker room. As great as Garnett and Pierce have been as locker room leaders since they came together, this team has always marched to the beat Rivers plays for them. He’s the one who showed  the ultimate confidence in Rondo when he was still trying to become the elite point guard he has become. He’s also the one who knew when it was time to elevate Avery Bradley to a more prominent role on a veteran-laden team. He’s the one who made clear to Courtney Lee that he had confidence in Lee assuming some facilitating responsibilities in Rondo’s absence.

Rivers is doing what only the greats have done and can do: he’s making a mockery of conventional wisdom and showing that age is truly just a number where the Celtics’ aging warriors and young upstarts are concerned. His belief in his team, in every man on his roster, has paved the way for the Celtics to not only keep their season alive in the midst of what should have been devastating injury news, but also helps them remain as one of a couple of teams (along with Indiana and perhaps Chicago, depending on what Derrick Rose looks like in his return from ACL surgery) capable of complicating the Heat’s march through the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets need to be concerned as well, what with the Celtics having all the ingredients to mount a furious post-All-Star Weekend assault on the Atlantic Division standings.

Everything is still on the table for these Celtics with the momentum they’ve built over the past seven games, and counting.

As usual, Rivers was right.

We shouldn’t have written that obit when Rondo went down.

He didn’t.

And the Celtics are thriving because of it!

Is Sullinger The Offensive Key For Rondo-less Celtics?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Will the Boston Celtics blow it up with Rajon Rondo out for the season?

That will be determined by what kind of offers Danny Ainge gets for Kevin Garnett and/or Paul Pierce between now and Feb. 21 trade deadline.

For now, the Celtics are moving on with what they’ve got. And they’ve got to figure out how to play without Rondo if they’re going to hold onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers are just three games behind the Celtics, have a soft stretch of schedule coming up, and hope to get Andrew Bynum back at some point down the line.

The Celtics without Rondo are the Celtics without a point guard. None of the other guards on the roster — Leandro Barbosa, Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry — are real floor generals. Of the group, only Barbosa has an assist percentage above that of either Garnett or Pierce.

But the Celtics have been OK without Rondo so far this season. In fact, they’ve been incrementally better, both offensively and defensively, with him off the floor than with him on the floor.

Celtics efficiency with Rondo on and off the floor

Rondo on/off MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
On floor 1,423 94.9 99.2 100.5 -1.3 -57
Off floor 744 90.6 100.4 100.0 +0.4 -2

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Defense really shouldn’t be an issue. Even though Rondo has been named to the All-Defensive first or second team each of the last four seasons, he’s not much of an impact player on that end of the floor.

Bradley and Garnett, meanwhile, are just that. And though the Celtics’ defense had fallen off dramatically when Garnett stepped off the floor in the first two months of the season, it’s been fine (92.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Garnett off the floor and Bradley on. It’s a small sample size (83 minutes), but it’s certainly encouraging.

Offensively, though Rondo leads the league with 11.1 assists per game, the Celtics still have an above average assist rate with him off the floor.

Celtics offense with Rondo on and off the floor

Rondo on/off 2PT% 3PT% OREB% TmTOV% FTA Rate AST/FG
On floor 48.7% 34.7% 19.8% 15.0% .248 64.5%
Off floor 48.9% 30.6% 24.2% 15.8% .286 59.7%

OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TmTOV% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Celtics have shot better and turned the ball over less with Rondo on the floor. But with him on the bench, they’ve gone to the line more often and given themselves more second-chance opportunities.

The key to the rebounding is that Jared Sullinger — the Celtics’ best (and only) offensive rebounder — has played just 33 percent of Rondo’s minutes on the floor, but has played 55 percent of Rondo’s minutes on the bench.

Overall, the Celtics have been much better with Sullinger on the floor (102.1 points scored per 100 possessions) than with him on the bench (97.9). Not only is he their best offensive rebounder, but he’s the one Boston big man who actually takes most of his shots from the paint.

The Celtics’ two most-used lineups without Rondo both include Sullinger, and both have been excellent offensively.

Celtics most-used lineups without Rondo

Lineup GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Terry, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett 17 95 85.2 115.8 90.9 +24.8 +39
Barbosa, Lee, Green, Sullinger, Garnett 13 73 87.4 107.6 100.1 +7.5 +4
Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett 8 42 96.1 96.6 77.2 +19.3 +11
Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Green, Garnett 5 27 90.4 88.3 83.8 +4.5 -2
Terry, Lee, Green, Bass, Sullinger 8 25 93.0 103.1 84.1 +18.9 +8

So Sullinger’s minutes could be the key to Boston maintaining some sort of offensive success without Rondo. The problem is that he has a difficult time staying on the floor. Of 266 players around the league who have logged at least 500 minutes this season, he has committed, by far, the most fouls per minute (6.3 per 36). He has fouled out eight times already this season.

The Celtics are not going to be a very good offensive team no matter what. But they can stay competitive if they match their top-five defense with an offense that doesn’t regress without their point guard.

So Doc Rivers has got to roll with the rookie. Sullinger started his first game in 2 1/2 months against the Heat on Sunday and managed to commit just one foul in 22 minutes. That was a defensive win against the second-best offensive team in the league, but more offense will obviously be needed over the long haul.

Green Could Be A Problem This Season

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jeff Green never makes it into the frame for the photo-op with the Celtics’ revamped Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.

Spending a season in street clothes away from the court and the public consciousness has a way of forcing a player, even one as talented and accomplished as Green, into the background.

Green spent all of last season recovering from heart surgery, missing out on the Celtics’ run to the Eastern Conference finals and the Celtics’ missed out on all that the dynamic hybrid forward brings to the party.

He’s back now, in a major way. Anyone who has seen the Celtics during the preseason has seen it. He’s flying around on both ends of the floor and making plays at the rim (check out that block above) and in transition in ways that no other player on the Celtics’ current roster can.

A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward with the length and athleticism to match up against power forwards and the range and ballhandling skills to work on the perimeter as well, Green brings another dose of firepower to the Celtics’ attack (along with newcomers Courtney Lee and Jason Terry) that was lacking last season.

We’re not saying that a healthy Green pushes the Celtics past the Heat in that conference finals clash last season, but you never know …

(more…)

Rivers Plans To Mix And Match

 

BROOKLYN – In the first three seasons of the KG era, the Boston Celtics’ starting lineup was constant.

Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. That’s what you expected to see when you arrived at the arena or turned on your TV to watch the Celtics, and that’s what you got. Over those three seasons, that group started 214 of a possible 304 games and played 4,172 minutes together, which was 1,709 more than any other lineup around the league over that time. And they were very, very good.

Most used lineups, 2007-08 through 2009-10, including postseason

Team Lineup GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
BOS Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Perkins 214 4,172 109.2 95.5 +13.7 +1,063
ATL Bibby, Johnson, Williams, Smith, Horford 161 2,463 105.1 104.7 +0.4 +5
OKC Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic 99 1,674 102.5 105.8 -3.3 -86
UTA Williams, Brewer, Kirilenko, Boozer, Okur 109 1,615 109.9 106.7 +3.2 +100
NOH Paul, Peterson, Stojakovic, West, Chandler 83 1,548 112.9 102.5 +10.4 +325

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Then Perkins blew out his knee and was eventually traded. Over the last two seasons, the Celtics’ starting lineup wasn’t nearly as consistent, with Glen Davis, Nenad Krstic, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass taking turns as the other big man next to Garnett. And after Bass finally became the starting power forward in the second half of last season, Avery Bradley replaced Allen at the two.

This season, there could be even more flux in the Celtics’ lineup. First of all, Bradley is out to start the season, still recovering from shoulder surgery. But beyond that, it may just be that Doc Rivers decides to mix and match. (more…)

All Eyes On Los Angeles … The Lakers … As Training Camps Open Around The NBA

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can stop speculating about it now.

We can stop wondering what they’ll look like, together, all four of the Los Angeles Lakers’ major pieces (with apologies to Metta World Peace, whose importance we don’t want to minimize … after all, someone has to crank up the already ridiculous expectations for this team). Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol together is a fantasy basketball lover’s paradise. Four guys who all have Hall of Fame credentials wearing the same uniform, and all four playing vastly different positions, teaming up to try to unseat the Miami Heat as kings of the league.

You can’t pay enough for these sorts of storylines at the start of the NBA season, though Dr. Jerry Buss might say otherwise when that luxury tax bill arrives.

That multi-million dollar chemistry experiment we’ve all been waiting to witness gets under way today as the Lakers and the rest of the league’s teams that didn’t start last Friday open training camp. And with the official start of the 2012-13 season comes the renewed scrutiny of the one franchise that always makes a habit of creating a stir this time of year.

Lakers fans are no doubt confident that their team is poised for something seismic with the star-studded additions of both Howard (who is coming back from back surgery and not expected to go 100 percent at the start of camp) and Nash. There remains some reasonable skepticism in Los Angeles about Howard, at least from the likes of former Lakers great James Worthy. But there is no denying that the Lakers have, at least on paper, every bit of firepower needed to challenge for the throne this season.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate concerns about this team. The Heat made it to The Finals in their first year together but were ultimately overwhelmed by a Dallas Mavericks team that proved to have much better chemistry and in the end was simply a better team than the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Heat.

(more…)

Doc, Celtics Focused On Heat


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
No one can accuse Doc Rivers of being anything other than a pragmatist.

It makes no sense for the coach of the Boston Celtics to worry himself with the Los Angeles Lakers and what goes on in the Western Conference when Rivers and his crew have to contend with the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat in their own conference.

Rivers said it himself when he uttered this line: “I have my eye squarely on Miami,” to Bob Ryan during an interview at the Action For Boston Community Development’s Hoop Dreams event (check video, above):

“Honestly, I don’t care about the Lakers … I have my eye squarely on Miami. I come up to my players during the year — they’re in the facility now — I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s gotta be our focus.”

Rivers is right to keep his focus on the Heat and right to make sure his team does the same. The Celtics pushed the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, showing a bit more fight than many of us expected while sending a clear message to the crew in Miami — that they were not going to ride roughshod over Boston on their way to what could be several appearances in The Finals with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the controls.

(That has to be painful for Celtics, Bulls and Pacers fans to hear, but it’s the truth … we could be in the midst of a Heat championship era unless someone in the East rises up and stops them.)

(more…)