Monday, May 9
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #8, Home Game #4
As satisfying as the Game 3 win was, it will mean nothing if the Celtics don't win game 4. The Celtics must come out with the same resolve to win game 4 as they did in game 3. KG has to come out with the same intensity, demanding the ball and beasting on the boards. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team once again in this game.
The Celtics have endured 3 games where the game was called differently for the two teams. The Heat have taken more free throws in all three games. The Heat were the more aggressive team in games 1 and 2 and so one could make the case that they should have taken more free throws. But, the Celtics were clearly the more aggressive team in game 3 but still couldn't get the calls.
Hopefully the injury to Rondo will force the referees to call the fouls on the Heat in this game.
Rondo and Delonte are both listed as game time decisions but Doc has said that he expects that both will play in this game. The big question will be how effective both players can be. The Heat are going to come back in this game with the intention of being aggressive and so the Celtics must be ready for that and match their intensity.
Rajon Rondo 15.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 11.1 APG, EFF +21.29
Mike Bibby 3.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, EFF +2.62
Ray Allen 19.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, EFF +20.57
Dwyane Wade 25.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 5.1 APG, EFF +26.25
Paul Pierce 21.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, EFF +18.71
LeBron James 24.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 5.3 APG, EFF +27.5
Kevin Garnett 16.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, EFF +22.14
Chris Bosh 16.1 PPG, 9.10 APG, 1.1 APG, EFF +18.00
Jermaine O'Neal 5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.0 BPG EFF +10.0
Zydrunas Ilgauskas 3.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.4 BPG Eff +5.12
Boston Bench Mob
Shaquille O'Neal (calf/old age) probable
Paul Pierce (Achilles) will play
Rajon Rondo (back/Elbow) probable
Ray Allen (chest bruise) will play
Jermaine O'Neal (back) will play
Delonte West (shoulder) probable
Key Off the Bench
The Celtics need more than they have gotten from Big Baby. Doc has said that he needs to step up to give the team energy, grab rebounds and take charges. He doesn't need to shoot every time he gets the ball and needs to stop trying to score over a double team taller than him. I get the feeling that Big Baby has been playing for a contract more than he has been playing for a ring. He needs to step up and play team ball.
In game 3, Green stepped up and played some good defense on LeBron. Even though he only had 6 points and 2 rebounds, he played with more energy than we have seen from him and maybe is turning the corner. The Celtics need more of the same: defense, energy, rebounds, and to score when he is open.
Delonte has been playing very well. In spite of the injured shoulder, he came in and filled in well for Rondo in his absence after his elbow injury. West shot 4-7 for 11 points and was a steadying force in setting up the offense while he was in the game.
Udonis Haslem (foot) doubtful
Key Off the Bench
Anthony has been the Heat's most effective center and best player off the bench. He tallied 12 points and 11 rebounds in game 3 and had several key putbacks. The Celtics need to keep him off the boards and limit his second chance points.
James Jones is a threat from beyond the arc and the Celtics must close out on him when he is behind the line. He was just 2-7 in game 3 but can light it up any time the Celtics leave him open.
Chalmers is the Heat's best point guard and with Rondo at less than 100%, Chalmers has a chance to come up big in this game. He was 7-9 for 17 points in game 3 and hit 2-4 from beyond the arc. He can hit big shots and the Celtics need to stay in front of him.
Kevin Garnett vs Chris Bosh
Kevin Garnett may just be the key to the Celtics winning the series, not just game 4. He finally was calling for the ball and very aggressive in going after rebounds in a 28 point, 18 rebound effort. The aggressive KG may have been too much for Bosh who looked like he was scared half to death of him most of the game, finishing with 6 points on 1-6 shooting to go with 5 rebounds. KG was furious over Wade's take down of Rondo. Hopefully that anger will fuel another dominant performance in game 4. The Celtics will need it.
Paul Pierce vs LeBron James
Pierce held James to 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists with 4 turnovers in game 3 while putting up 27 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists with just 1 turnover. The Celtics will need the Captain to again defend James well while being aggressive on the offensive end. Pierce got some good help from Jeff Green in defending James and will need that again. After having a poor game 3, LeBron is going to try to come back and be aggressive in this one. Pierce needs to be ready for that and be just as aggressive in guarding him.
Rajon Rondo vs Mike Bibby
Rondo was hampered much of game 1 with foul trouble after picking up 3 quick fouls early in the first half. In game 2, he was hampered with a sore back. Now, those seem like very minor irritations in view of the elbow dislocation that he suffered as a result of Wade's thuggery. Results of the MRI and Cat Scan were all negative and Doc was optimistic that Rondo would be playing in game 4 but he is listed as a game time decision. Hopefully he can be effective because the Celtics really need his energy and leadership if they want to even the series.
Ray Allen vs Dwyane Wade
Ray was held to just 15 points in game 3 as he struggled with foul trouble and the bruised chest as the result of LeBron's thuggery. Wade led the Heat with 23 points in game 3, but that was on 8-19 shooting. Hopefully Ray can get going in this game and hit his shots as the Celtics are going to need all their offensive weapons to play well.
Defense - Defense wins games and defense wins championships. The Celtics upped their defensive intensity in game 3 and were able to hold the Heat to 81 points shooting 42% from the field and 21% from beyond the arc. The Celtics must come out with that same defensive intensity in this game and they have to keep it from the opening tip to the final shot. No let up. Each Celtic must dominate their individual matchups as well as playing lock down team defense.
Be Aggressive - The Heat were the more aggressive team in games 1 and 2 and the Celtics were more aggressive in game 3. The Celtics have to continue to be aggressive in diving after loose balls, closing out the shooters, driving to the basket instead of settling for jumpers, and in rebounding the basketball. Them more aggressive team is supposed to get the calls, but even though the Celtics were the more aggressive team in game 3, the Heat still got more calls. The Celtics must keep being aggressive and not react when they don't get the calls. They have to play through it just as they did in game 3.
Bench Play - The Celtics' bench played well in game 3 but could play much better still. Big Baby must bring more energy and do the things that have made him important to the Celtics: energy, rebound, take charges. Green has to continue to play with energy and play good defense. Hopefully Delonte can go and can continue to play well in spite of the shoulder injury. If he can't go, the Celtics will need to get some important minutes from Wafer or Arroyo.
Rebound - The Celtics have to limit the Heat's second chance baskets and fast breaks by crashing the boards. The amount of effort put into winning the rebound battle often follows through to the other areas of the game. The rebounding was even at 39 each in game 1 but the Celtics were out rebounded 44-38 in game 2. The rebounds were once again even at 39 in game 3. The Celtics need to work harder on the boards and win the battle outright in this game.
Ubuntu - The Celtics must move the ball and find the open man. Hero ball seldom wins games. The Celtics have to play as a team and make the extra pass. They have to play team defense and have each others' backs. Ubuntu won this group their first title and they need to depend on it to win Banner 18.
Playoff Games Officiated 7
Home Team Win Percentage 57%
# Fouls Called per Game 38.3
Percentage of Fouls on Home Team 52%
Technical Fouls per Game 2
McCutchen has been officiating games since 1993 and wears number 13. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed their April 4 loss to the Celtics last season on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. Other than that, there's not a lot of controversy about McCutchen. The Celtics are 4-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with McCutchen on the court. The loss was at Atlanta where the Hawks took 30 free throws to 20 for the Celtics. McCutchen officiated the Nov. 11 game in Miami where the Heat took 41 free throws to 25 for the Celtics. The Heat are 2-4 this season and 3-7 in their last 10. He is not a big homer ref and doesn't appear to be influenced by the home crowd. He tends to call more fouls on the home team than he does on the road team. His home W/L record this season is 40-32.
Playoff Games Officiated 4
Home Team Win Percentage 100%
# Fouls Called per Game 39.5
Percentage of Fouls on Home Team 46.8%
Technical Fouls per Game 2.6
Tony Brothers started his NBA career 14 years ago. He has officiated 21 playoff games. Before landing in the NBA he acquired officiating experience in the CBA, college basketball and high school basketball in Virginia. There are several articles about what a terrible ref Brothers is and detailing his misdeeds. He has angered a lot of fans of just about every team because of bad calls, no calls, and one sided officiating. The Celtics are 4-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Brothers on the court. Brothers was one of the officials in Celtics lone loss to the Heat in the regular season in which the Heat took 26 free throws to 16 for the Celtics. The Heat are 5-2 this season and 6-4 with Brothers in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 47-27.
Playoff Games Officiated 7
Home Team Win Percentage 71%
# Fouls Called per Game 47.3
Percentage of Fouls on Home Team 47.1%
Technical Fouls per Game 2.1
Stafford is currently in his 20th season as an NBA referee. He has officiated 1,000+ regular season games and 60+ play-off games. He worked for the US Postal Service for 10 years, which may explain his quick trigger when it comes to technical fouls. Yet another official that is known to be quick to call technical fouls. Pat Riley and Stafford have a bit of bad blood between them. Back in 2003 when Riley was coaching, he accused Stafford of shouting "It's not about you. Go on TV crying." at Riley when Riley complained excessively about the calls. Stafford was suspended for 2 games as a result. Steve Javie was also fined $1000 due to complaints issued by Riley. Stafford was also fined as a result of a complaint that Lawrence Frank made when he was coach of the Nets. I found 4 other articles detailing complaints about Stafford for his actions or comments. It seems that Mr Stafford is a hot head who loves to give out quick technicals and lash out at players and coaches. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 7-3 over the last 10 games with Stafford on the court. The Heat are 5-1 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 with Stafford. His home W/L record this season is 41-34. Again, he isn't known as a homer ref.
Injuries and Officiating
The Celtics proved their heart and desire in the game 3 win but they also suffered a couple of injuries that could prove key in trying to win this game. A lot depends on whether Rondo and Delonte can play and if they can play, how effective can they be? The Celtics need both of these players to play well in order to win. Also, Jermaine O'Neal is dealing with a bad back and Shaq had some swelling in his leg after the game. How these injuries affect the play of the team is a big x-factor. The officials have had an effect on all 3 games so far. Even though the Celtics were the more aggressive team by far in game 3, the Heat still took more free throws than the Celtics. The officials have also allowed the Heat to get away with a lot of very physical (dirty) play, culminating in Wade's take down of Rondo. Hopefully this, along with being on their home court, will tip the scales in favor of some fair officiating in this one.