Celtics Need Ubuntu as They Face Yet Another Game 7

Knuckle down and advance.
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Boston Celtics (11-8, 3-3) at Miami Heat (11-6, 3-3)
Saturday, June 9, 2012
8:30 PM ET
Playoff Game #20 Road Game #10
TV: ESPN, TSN
Radio: WEEI, ESPN Radio
American Airlines Arena
Referees: Joe Crawford, Mike Callahan, Scott Foster


Game Thread l
WAR ROOM


Here we are again at yet another game 7. Many have written off the Celtics and say there is no way they can win this game on the Heat's floor where they have been tough to beat all season. But then again they said that before game 5 also. If any team can beat the odds and pull out this win, it is this Celtics team. The Celtics have proven that they can survive and even do a few pushups on the journey.

If the Celtics need any motivation beyond the fact that they are in game 7, they need look no further than the final 3 minutes of their blow out loss to the Heat in game 6. Celtics fans stood for the final 3 minutes of that game sending them off to this game with a "Let's Go Celtics" chant that has to still echo in their heads. If that doesn't make them leave it all out on the court, I don't know what will.

The Celtics have been there before. The Celtics have played in (28) and won (21) more game sevens than any other team in the league. This version of the Celtics have played in 6 game sevens including one versus the Sixers in the previous round. They are 4-2 in those games. They lost the only game 7 on the road in the 2010 Finals vs the Lakers when the officials took over the game in the 4th quarter and stole the game from the Celtics.

The Heat are 2-3 all time in game sevens. This is the first game 7 for Wade, James and Bosh as a team. LeBron James has never won a Game 7 in two attempts in his career. Dwyane Wade is 1-2 in such games in his career. In NBA history, home teams win game 7 80% of the time.

The Celtics shouldn't need any extra motivation beyond the send off from their fans after game 6, but they got some from an unexpected source. Yesterday, the NBA Store posted a Heat/Thunder Finals shirt for sale and then quickly took it down, but not before many blogs picked up on it and posted it on their sites. Also, NBA.com featured an article on their main page begging for a Heat/Thunder finals and said that the Celtics were just getting in the way of this desired result. At shoot around, the players said they were well aware of this and even pointed to the 1969 Celtics and the balloons in the forum as an example of how the Celtics were disrespected previously.

They could have made it easy on themselves by showing up for game 6 but they didn't. They could have been resting and waiting for the Finals to begin, but they aren't. But, this team doesn't seem to like taking the easy route and if any team can win a game 7 on the road, I'll go with this team.

You’ve probably forgotten all about them by now.
Nothing left in the tank, nothing left to prove, too slow, too injury prone, too much mileage. Hmm…
You better hope you’re right, because here they come and what some call age.
They call experience, grit, toughness, leadership, moxie, savvy, passion, desire, heart and these guys are at their best when the stakes get BIG.

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

Center
Kevin Garnett vs Udonis Haslem

Boston's Reserves

Greg Stiemsma

JaJuan Johnson

E'Twaun Moore

Marquis Daniels

Sasha Pavlovic

Keyon Dooling

Ryan Hollins

Mickael Pietrus

Injuries

Paul Pierce (knee) will play

Mickael Pietrus (hamstring) will play

Ray Allen (ankle) will play

Greg Stiemsma (feet) will play

Rajon Rondo (back, elbow) will play

Avery Bradley (shoulder) out

Miami's Reserves

Chris Bosh

Joel Anthony

Mike Miller

Norris Cole

James Jones

Juwan Howard

Eddy Curry

Ronny Turiaf

Terrel Harris

Dexter Pittman

Injuries

Chris Bosh (ab strain) will play

Key Matchups

Rajon Rondo vs Mario Chalmers

As we have seen over and over this post season, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. The Celtics need Rondo to be aggressive and to have a huge game, not just scoring, but leading the offense and keeping the offense moving. He can't let the team lapse into hero ball. Triple Double Rondo would be great. They also have to stick with Chalmers on the perimeter because he is more aggressive on offense at home.

Paul Pierce vs LeBron James

LeBron James took over game 6 and got his team the win to keep his team alive in the series. At the same time, Paul Pierce struggled mightily, shooting just 4-18 from the floor. The Celtics need Pierce to come out of his slump and if his shot is still off, to take over other areas of the game, crashing the boards, defending against James, and finding his teammates for open shots.

Honorable Mention

Kevin Garnett vs Chris Bosh (or whoever)

Along with everyone else, KG had an off night in game 6. The Celtics need the other-worldly KG that we have seen in most of the games this post season. He needs to grab more than 5 rebounds. Part of the reason for the Celtics inability to stay with the Heat was the failure to get rebounds, giving the Heat second chance points and keeping the Celtics one shot and done. KG has to go inside more in this game on both offense and defense.

Doc Rivers vs Erik Spoelstra

Spoelstra has gotten a lot of criticism for the Heat's performance or lack there of early in the LeBron/Wade era and in their losses in these playoffs. He's in a lose lose situation because when the Heat lose he is blamed but when they win it's the players and not Spo. Doc is still the more experienced coach and should have the advantage here. The more intense the games, the more having an experienced coach is important and so the coaching advantage goes to the Celtics. Let's hope Doc is at his best in this one.

Keys to the Game

Defense - The Celtics defense was a step slow in game 6. They must play the in your face defense that got them to this point from start to finish. They must limit the Heat's shots at the basket and box out to prevent put backs on second chance shots. They also must stay with the perimeter shooters who will undoubtedly shoot better at home.

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 Celtics must be aggressive in beating the Heat to rebounds on both ends of the floor. The team that wins the rebounding battle usually wins the game. Being aggressive on the boards is a huge key to winning the game.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be aggressive in getting to the basket and not settle for jumpers all game, especially if they aren't falling again. They have to focus on finishing and not just trying to draw contact because more often than not, they aren't going to get the call. They also have to be aggressive in diving for loose balls and winning the 50-50 battles. The Celtics can't afford to give up possessions by failing to hustle after loose balls and after rebounds.

Team Ball - The Celtics need to play team ball. When they move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man and play as a team, they are tough to beat. When they revert to hero ball and there is little ball movement and they settle for quick shots, they rarely win. Rondo is a big part of keeping the ball moving and setting up the offense and so hopefully he will be at his best in this series. They need team play to beat the Heat, who depend on their 2 (or 3) stars to do most of the scoring.


Bench Play
- The Celtics must get contributions from their bench. The games that the Celtics have won in this series, they have had one of the reserves come up big. The Celtics need for Pietrus, Dooling, Daniels and Stiemsma to contribute on both ends if the Celtics are to have a chance in this game.

Official Report

Joe Crawford

Playoff games as lead official - 12

Home team win % - 75%

43.9 fouls called per game

51.4% of fouls called on road team

1.3 technicals called per game

Over more than three decades in the NBA, Joe Crawford has officiated 2,402 regular season and 278 playoff games, including 46 NBA Finals games. Crawford’s 278 playoff and 46 NBA Finals games are the most among active NBA officials. Over his career, Crawford has officiated the 1986, 1992 and 2000 NBA All-Star Games, as well as the 1993 McDonald’s Championship in Munich, Germany. There is no shortage of controversy surrounding Joey Crawford, the biggest of which was a suspension for tossing Tim Duncan for laughing on the bench and then challenging him to a fight. He is known for his quickness to call technical fouls but also doesn't tend to be influenced by the home crowd as much as many younger refs seem to be. In the 2008 Playoffs, Crawford was chosen to officiate Game 4 of the Western Conference final between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. In the closing seconds of the game, there was a no-call where the Spurs' Brent Barry was unquestionably fouled by Derek Fisher. Crawford was the closest official to the call, and the NBA later apologized for the lack of a call. Crawford was also one of the refs who was involved in the income tax evasion convictions and was suspended at that time as well. This is the Celtics 8th game with Crawford this season. He officiated the Christmas day loss to the Knicks, third Wizards game, and the win over the Cavs, and the April 1 game vs the Heat, all of which were well officiated. He also called the Lakers game in LA where the Celtics shot 12 free throws to 26 for the Lakers and they let the Lakers get away with a lot of contact the entire game and the Celtics not so much. He called game 4 vs the Hawks where the Celtics shot 13 free throws to 17 for the Celtics and the refs pretty much let them play. He also called game 6 of the Philly series where the Celtics shot 23 free throws to 28 for the Sixers and the officials called it fairly. The last game he called this season is game 4 in this Miami series in which the Celtics shot 20 free throws to 24 for the Heat. Crawford also called the 6th foul on LeBron James in this game, causing his first disqualification since 2006. The Celtics are 5-3 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Crawford. The Heat are 2-4 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 with Crawford. His home W/L record this season is 33-28 and he's not easily influenced by the home crowd.

Mike Callahan

6 playoff games as crew official

Home team win % of 50%

45.8 fouls called per game

49.5 of the fouls are called on the road team

0.7 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 5-1 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. Another game he officiated was Game 7 vs Philly where the Celtics shot 22 free throws to 20 for the Sixers. His last game with the Celtics was game 3 of this series where both teams shot 24 free throws and the officiating was good. the Celtics are 7-3 over their last 10 with Callahan. The Heat are 5-2 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 with Callahan on the court. 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 31-29.

Scott Foster

12 playoff games as lead official (none as crew)

Home team win % of 58.3%

46.2 fouls called per game

52.5% of the fouls are called on the road team

2.4 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. The Celtics are 5-3 this season and 6-4 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. Foster also called game 4 of the Philly series where the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 36 for the Sixers. His last game for the Celtics was game 3 of this series where both teams shot 24 free throws and the officiating was good. The Heat are 4-2 this season and 7-3 with Foster in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 36-26.

X-Factors

Focus and Officiating

The Celtics didn't appear to be all that focused in game 6. They weren't running their sets, weren't playing Celtics defense and weren't hitting their shots, including their free throws. On the other hand, you could tell that LeBron was focused on the game and locked in to get the win. Every one of the Celtics must come into this game focused on playing team ball and on getting the win and they must keep that focus from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

There has been a focus on the officiating in this series and that will likely continue in this game. Officiating has been a factor in this series, most notably in the second game when Wade's hit to Rondo's head was ignored at the end of OT. We have seen other series affected by officiating as well. So far in the series, all three of tonight's refs have been good. Crawford and Foster aren't easily swayed by the home crowd. But, both make me nervous because they sometimes make the games about them and have been known to call games unevenly when it suits them. All 3 officials can be very good or they can be very bad. So far this season, all 3 have been fairly good in the games they have called for the Celtics. Hopefully they will call this game fairly and allow the players to decide the outcome.

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