Celtics come home looking to turn the series around

Time To Play Like It's 1969!
Miami Heat (10-3, 2-0) at Boston Celtics (8-7, 0-2)
Friday, June 1, 2012
8:30 PM ET
Playoff Game #16,  Home Game #8
Radio:  WEEI, ESPN Radio
TD Garden
Referees:  Scott Foster,  Mike Callahan,  Rodney Mott
As the series shifts to Boston,  the Celtics will attempt to do something they haven't done since 1969, and that is to come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a playoff series.  Only 14 teams have ever come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a best of 7 playoff series.  The team that wins the first 2 games goes on to win the series 94% of the time.  But, never underestimate the heart of a champion.

The Celtics were counted out at the beginning of the season when they got off to a slow start.  They were counted out mid season when they lost 7 of 8 going into the All Star game.   They were counted out when they lost the series opener to Atlanta.  Once again, they were counted out when they lost home court to Philly.  They are too old, too beat up, too slow, etc.    They have defied the critics so far and are hoping to defy the critics once again beginning with this game and taking it one game at a time as they try to defy statistics that say that they won't win this series.  

Don't expect Wade and James to get complacent with a 2-0 lead.  Both players have been on the other side of an 0-2 comeback to win a series. Wade led a Heat comeback from a 2-0 series deficit against Dallas in the 2006 NBA finals (with, of course, a lot of help from the refs).   James rallied his Cavs from an 0-2 deficit to win the Eastern Conference crown against Detroit in 2007.

There has been much talk about the officiating in both games so far.  While the officiating in game 1 was bad,  the Celtics lost that because they played poorly.  Game 2, was a different story in that calls (and non-calls) down the stretch had a definite influence on the outcome of the game.  We would hope, especially after the non-call on Wade's face rake of Rondo, that the refs would owe the Celtics one going into game 3.  I'm not all that confident that the Celtics will get the benefit of the calls, even in Boston.

It's time for Celtic Pride to kick in.  The Celtics played very well but they could play better as a team.  They had a lapse where they allowed the Heat to come back from a 15 point deficit.  Paul Pierce could have played better.  The bench can definitely play much better.   They have room to improve, but the question will be whether they have the legs and the energy to do so.  Rondo played the entire 53 minutes and KG, Pierce and Ray all played over 40 minutes and they play again on just one day of rest.

If heart counts for anything, I'll put my money on the Celtics to win this one and to take the series.  If their bodies can keep up with their hearts, the series will be tied going back to Miami.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Mario Chalmers

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade

Small Forward

Paul Pierce vs LeBron James

Power Forward

Brandon Bass vs Shane Battier


Kevin Garnett vs Ronny Turiaf 

Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Marquis Daniels
Sasha Pavlovic
Ray Allen
Keyon Dooling
Ryan Hollins
Mickael Pietrus

Paul Pierce (knee) probable
Mickael Pietrus (hamstring) probable
Ray Allen (ankle) probable
Greg Stiemsma (feet) probable
Avery Bradley (shoulder) out

Joel Anthony
Mike Miller
Norris Cole
James Jones
Juwan Howard
Eddy Curry
Udonis Haslem
Terrel Harris
Dexter Pittman

Chris Bosh (ab strain) out

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Mario Chalmers
As always, Rondo is the key to the Celtics offense, defense, and energy.  Rondo played a game of historic proportions in game 2.  It's hard to imagine that he could play better.  But I believe that he can have another great game in spite of playing 53 minutes 2 nights ago.  Mario Chalmers had a big game 2 also and was able to keep the Heat in the game when the Celtics were able to limit Wade and James.  The Celtics need to stay with Chalmers as he is capable of hitting big shots.  

Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
Pierce must be more aggressive in going to the basket and trying to draw fouls.  He had NO free throws in game 1 and shot just 6 in game 2.  Of course getting to the line will also depend on the refs calling fouls on the Heat, which they haven't been doing in either game so far .  The Celtics also need Pierce to be more aggressive on the boards. He also must continue to limit LeBron from getting to the hoop but do so without fouling out.     The Celtics need more from their Captain and they need him on the court at the end of the game.  

Honorable Mention

Kevin Garnett vs Ronny Turiaf/Joel Anthony
KG was once again irate after game 2.  He played 45 minutes and was the recipient of a questionable call himself when Wade was awarded a basket and free throw after kicking KG in the groin and then again in the chest MMA style as he went to the basket,   While playing big minutes may take a toll on him,  I expect KG to come out strong and have a big game in this one.   

Keys to the Game

Run the Offense - The Celtics must run their sets and move the ball.   The Celtics are at their best when they are moving the ball and making the extra pass and finding the open man.  Along with moving the ball, they have to make smart passes and not the sloppy passes that lead to turnovers since turnovers against the Heat usually lead to a LeBron or Wade dunk at the other end.  The Celtics must be aggressive in going to the basket and either score, draw a foul or kick it out to the open man.

Rebound - The Celtics got out worked on the boards 48-33 in game 1.  The rebounds in game 2 were even at 42.   Much of rebounding is desire and effort.  How else can you explain 6'1" Rondo out rebounding everyone on the court?   The Celtics have got to put out more effort in going after rebounds and crashing the boards.   The team that wins the rebounding battle more often than not wins the game.

Defense - Defense wins championships.  That's not just a cute saying, either.   The Celtics played much better defense in game 2 but slacked off in the 3rd quarter, allowing the Heat to overcome the lead that the Celtics had built.   The Celtics have got to play in your face defense from start to finish.  They proved that they can defend the Heat and take both Wade and James out of their offensive flow in game 2 and they must do that once again.  

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team if they want to win this game.  They have to be the team that wins the 50/50 balls.  They have to be the team more aggressive on the boards.  They must be the more aggressive team in going to the hoop and finishing at the hoop, not just driving toward the basket and hoping to get the foul because as we have seen in the games so far, the refs don't always call the fouls even when they are obvious.  And they have to be the more aggressive team on defense.  They can't allow the Heat to outwork them.

Bench Play - The Celtics must get more from their bench.  The Celtics got just 7 points from their bench in game 2.  The Heat, whose bench is supposed to be one of their weaknesses scored 25.  Pietrus, Dooling, and Stiemsma have got to give the Celtics more quality minutes and they have to be able to give the Celtics more points off the bench.

Official Report

Scott Foster
8 playoff games as main official
Home team win % of 75%
46.0 fouls called per game
49.5% of the fouls are called on the home team
2.6 technicals called per game
A veteran official of 17 NBA seasons, Scott Foster has worked 1,074 regular season and 80 playoff games, including seven Finals games during his career. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Europe Tour in Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain. In addition to his NBA experience, Foster has two years of CBA officiating experience, two years of collegiate officiating experience and six years of high school officiating experience in Maryland. Prior to becoming an official, Foster modeled for department store mannequin mold makers. He came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was also part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes. The Celtics are 4-3 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. In the OT win over the Knicks, NY shot 26 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. In the first loss, at New Orleans, the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 25 for the Hornets. The second loss, at Denver, was horribly officiated. At the end of 3 quarters, the Nuggets had 22 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. They ignored fouls against the Celtics all game but at the same time, called them for ticky tack and non-existent fouls. For the game, the Nuggets shot 31 free throws to 17 for the Celtics. The 4th game was against Miami and was called evenly with the Celtics shooting 25 free throws to 27 for the Heat. The next game was a win over the Bucks where they shot 23 free throws to 11 for the Celtics. Foster also called game 2 in Atlanta where the Celtics shot 31 free throws to 20 for the Hawks. Finally, Foster called game 4 of the Philly series where the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 36 for the Sixers. The Heat are 4-1 this season and 8-2 with Foster in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 35-25. Foster as a lead ref makes me nervous. He can be good but he can also be very bad.

Mike Callahan
4 playoff games as crew official
Home team win % of 50%
44.3 fouls called per game
50.8% of the fouls are called on the home team
0.3 technicals called per game
A veteran of 21 NBA seasons, Mike Callahan has officiated 1,265 regular season and 110 playoff games and 11 NBA Finals games. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, 1994 Mexico Challenge and the 1996 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, Callahan spent three years officiating in the CBA, including the 1989 and 1990 CBA Finals. A member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School basketball team for four years, Callahan also coached the freshman basketball team after graduating. Callahan has run a clinic for referees called “Hoops4Heros” that benefits local fire departments and maintains strong ties to the Philadelphia community through his volunteer work with the Don Guanella School for developmentally disabled boys. Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. Callahan was one of the referees mentioned in an incident in Tim Donaghy's book. He and other refs would regularly wager with their fellow refs over things like who would call the first foul, who could give out the first tech, etc. Makes you wonder what game they might be playing tonight. The Celtics are 9-1 over their last 10 games with Callahan officiating. They are 4-1 this season, including one preseason game against Toronto where the Raptors shot 36 free throws to 34 for the Celtics. Another win was against Detroit where the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 15 for the Pistons. The third win was Game 3 in this series vs Philly where the Celtics shot 28 free throws to 22 for the Sixers. He also called the loss in game 1 of the Hawks series where the Celtics shot 13 free throws to 21 for the Hawks and the officiating was terrible with several obvious bad calls, most of which were made by Marc Davis, who was the head ref for that game. The last game he officiated was Game 7 vs Philly where the Celtics shot 22 free throws to 20 for the Sixers. He usually lets the teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle. He isn't easily influenced by the home crowd with a home W/L record this season of 30-28.

Rodney Mott
7 playoff games as crew official
Home team win % of 71.4%
41.7 fouls called per game
47.6% of the fouls are called on the home team
0.0 technicals called per game
Rodney Mott has officiated 870 regular season games and seven playoff games during his 14-season NBA career. Prior to joining the NBA officiating staff, Mott spent four years officiating in the CBA, eight years officiating in the Los Angeles Pro Am basketball league, three years officiating at the junior college level, and four years officiating high school in San Diego. In 2007, Mott was suspended without pay for 3 games for making an obscene gesture and inappropriate comment toward a fan. Mott challenged the charges and said that they used him as a scapegoat to take attention away from other issues, but the suspension stood. One can only imagine the "other issues" that they were taking attention away from. The Celtics are 2-2 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Mott. One loss this season was at Dallas and there weren't many fouls called on either team. The Mavs shot 14 free throws to 11 for the Celtics. The second loss was to the Raptors where the Raptors shot 31 free throws to 19 for the Celtics. One win was over the Rockets who shot 29 free throws to 31 for the Celtics and the officiating was good. The final win was Game 5 of the Philly series where the Celtics shot 33 free throws to 16 for the Sixers. The Heat are 4-0 this season and 7=3 with Mott in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 39-21.

Physical Ability and Officiating
The Celtics have heart and they have pride,  but do they have enough left in the tank to play harder than the Heat.  Rondo played 53 minutes in game 2 and Pierce, KG and Ray all played over 40 minutes.  Hopefully they can recover from the disappointment and physical rigors of game 2 to take this game.

The officiating in game 1 was absolutely horrible.  The officiating in game 2 was even worse.  Will the officials call it fair or will they once again hit the Celtics with phantom fouls and allow the Heat free reign to rake players across the face without even making a play for the ball or kick players in the chest and be rewarded for it?   The Celtics already have an uphill battle overcoming age and injuries without also having to overcome one sided officiating as well.   The league and the officials definitely owe one to the Celtics but I wish I had more confidence that they will do the right thing.