Tag:Paul Pierce
Posted on: February 17, 2011 6:36 pm
 

LeBron, Wade, Pierce, Melo to join CBA talks

Report: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul Pierce among players expected at CBA talks during All-Star Weekend. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Friday in L.A. is going to feature a lot of fireworks.  The opening of All-Star activities, the Rookies-Sophomores game, media availability for the All-Star and Saturday Night participants, and the D-League dunk contest. But the high explosives are saved for a boadroom.  The much discussed meeting between the owners and the players' representatives will take place that day, and if there was any doubt, it seems that the union will be well represented by those with the most power. 

Kobe Bryant won't be attending the meetings, but he has made his feeling quite clear to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com in regards to the talks, firing out explosive words in telling the owners to "look in the mirror." LeBron James had already said he planned to be at the meeting.  And as Berger noted last year, having the All-Stars present means bringing the big guns of influence. A report today from Yahoo! Sports says that is just what will be brought to Friday's meeting. 

Pessimistic NBPA expects 12 AllStars (james, wade, melo, pierce) and 20 players to attend labor meetings with owners Friday, source tells Y!


Now, what's interesting is that in these four players, we have an interesting subsect of personal agendas in play. James and Wade represent the max-max players who already have their situations sorted out. They're making near the max (minus a few million to play together) thanks to the biggest free agency period in history facilitated by lax player movement policies. They're superstars who still have several years in the league so their big objective will be to hold off on rollbacks which would influence them.  

Melo, of course, has every reason to be in attendance. A new CBA which limits player movement could severely impact his plans for relocation this summer including but not limited to the possibility of a franchise tag. he'll be strongly pulling for as little to change as possible, particularly when it comes to player movement and the cap next year. Melo has as much to lose as any player who will be present at the meetings. 

Pierce? Pierce is a statesman. He's on what is likely his last contract, he's already indicated he'd like to play in Europe when he's through. Pierce will be alongside Derek Fisher and Bryant's interests in protecting the older players, working to improve pensions and watching out for the total health of the union. Pierce doesn't have a personal agenda to pursue outside of his long-term interests as a player headed towards retirement in the next few years. 

Something notable about this? If these superstars are at the forefront, speaking at a meeting which as Bryant points out, is "for the lawyers," and they have the most influence, who exactly is going to be the one advocating for the revenue sharing the union has put as such a vital component? LeBron James, who left the Cavs in ruins for a nice climate in a bigger market? Paul Pierce, an L.A. kid who spent his entire career in Boston? Carmelo Anthony who is currently working to escape to New York? I'm sure Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter will be pursuing that inititiative as it benefits all the players as a whole. But if we're talking individual personalities involved in these meetings, I'm not finding anyone who's exactly going to be sticking up for the need for small markets to be able to compete for player salaries, even if it's only to further the ability for non-mega-market starts to get big paydays. 

And while the superstars have just as much reason to support initiatives that would protect their less-talented/less-compensated brethren, with those stars likely to be some of the loudest voices, the minimum veterans, aspiring young players, and fringe members are forced to put their trust in the All-Stars to watch out for them in the talks. 

The union has held a united front until now and seems to have its ducks in a row. But look at that list of players involved. 

That's a lot of ego in one room, and that's before we even get to the owners. 
Posted on: February 14, 2011 6:15 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 6:53 pm
 

Pretenders or Contenders? The MVP candidates

As we head into the All-Star break, who's are the pretenders and contenders for the NBA MVP award?
Posted by Matt Moore



Before we get to our list of MVP contenders and pretenders, check out Adam Aizer, Greg Urbano, and Ben Golliver as they discuss the most underrated and overrated teams in the NBA and more in our weekly CBSSports.com NBA podcast:  



This season likely features the closest MVP battle we've seen since 2006. The list of worthy candidates is phenomenally long this season, and every candidate has a strong resume and clear question marks which is why this will end up as a hotly contested race down the stretch. 

To be honest, I'm loathe to write this. Anyone whose candidate is excluded will be outraged, but not as much as those listed in the pretenders category. It seems like a direct slap in the face, as if not saying a player is among the very most elite, just the generally elite, is a huge insult. It's understandable. Everyone loves their guy. Worse will be those outraged by my inclusion of certain contenders. Just as some are passionately certain that "their guy" is the MVP, there are candidates that just rub people the wrong way. Some are Chris Paul fans who can't understand all the fuss about Derrick Rose when CP3 has been around for years. Others are livid over Amar'e Stoudemire being in the conversation when Dwight Howard is a force at both  ends of the floor.

The answer to all this? If I had my way, we'd have a ten-way split for Co-MVP. It would be like that episode of "Oprah." "You get an MVP! And you get an MVP! And you get an MVP!" only instead of screaming middle-age stay-at-home moms it would be shrugging 25-30 year old basketball players who don't understand why you're giving them a car when they make over $16 million a year in most cases. The point is that all of these players deserve tremendous respect just for being included in the conversation. And it's entirely possible that some of them really do deserve to win it, or don't deserve to be considered, were there some sort of objective measure. But there isn't. It's a purposefully vague award voted on often by people who have not seen anything close to the entire body of work of all the acceptable candidates. The following is merely meant to be a roadmap based on the likelihood of the voters, featuring the common compliments and detractions for each.

To sum up: don't shoot the messenger. We're all winners in my book.

Contenders

LeBron James: If there's a favorite, it's got to be LeBron.  The reigning two-time MVP is averaging 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. He's the best player on the second best team in the East, and has shown the abilities that still consistently cause objective observers to label him as the best overall basketball player on the planet. His candidacy continues to improve each month, as he averaged 30 points in January, and is averaging 8.6 rebounds since the start of 2011.  Furthermore, Cleveland's horrific turn lingers in many eyes, despite the injuries to Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao wreaking havoc on Byron Scott's lineups. It's hard to argue against James when his former team went from the best regular season record in the East to arguably the worst team in the league. But there are reasons why James may not get the vote. His numbers, particularly his assists, are down, despite having his superstar teammates. We expected the scoring drop when put alongside Bosh and Wade, but he's having a harder time creating for teammates despite having far superior ones. His efficiency is also down considerably, with a 26.7 PER this season down from 31.1 last year. He may also suffer from the  "Jordan effect" where writers get tired of votiing for the same guy over and over again. But the biggest reason, sigh, is of course his image. No one wants to reward James' preseason preening, and considering the enormous expectations put on the Heat, it's hard to reward James when he hasn't blown everyone away despite the All-Star teammates he shares the floor with. 

Chris Paul: Paul has been the most efficient point guard on the planet this season. While Rajon Rondo leads in Assists, Weighted Assists, and Assist percentage, Paul isn't far behind in any of those categories, and has a lower turnover ratio. He's also better offensively. His (near) return to health has taken the Hornets from a lottery team to a team looking at homecourt advantage in the first round in a tough Western Conference, and may have single-handedly pushed the attendance where it needed to be to avoid the lease agreement issue. Paul is still strongly considered by many to be the clear-cut best point guard in the league, in an era where that position is filled to the brim with outstanding talent. The knocks on Paul seem like nit-picking. He simply hasn't been dominant in closing stretches of close games. Too often he defers, and not in the "pass to the open man off the double" way. More in the "here, David West, here's the ball, I'll be in the corner, good luck" way. He seems to be struggling to regain his explosivness that he showcased in his near-MVP season in 2008, and has not trusted his floater enough. Paul has had a phenomenal season and is definitely a contender, but the voters will need more in order for him to walk away with the trophy. 

Dwight Howard: Oh, Dwight. If Howard were to play every game on the offensive end as he did Sunday against the Lakers, the award could be thrown at his feet during All-Star Weekend. Howard is an extremely divisive figure in the conversation, arguably even moreso than LeBron. LeBron's detractors don't like him, and have good reason not to like him, but finding fault with his game is pretty tough. With Howard, finding fault with his game isn't difficult, but neither is finding evidence that he's the single most impactful player on both ends of the floor. He's still the monstrous defensive presence he has been for the past three seasons, even if Kevin Love's astronomical rebound rate has stolen the top spot statistically. Howard is still the most dominant rebounding force in the league. He's able to influence play mechanics and shot selection, he rotates, blocks shots into the ninth row, has terrific awareness and is the biggest reason why the Magic are still hovering around homecourt advantage in the first round. Howard has also featured a more expanded offensive repertoire, showing off a mid-range jumpshot to go with his array of dunks. He leads all centers who play 30 minutes a night in FG% at the rim , at 75.5%. So what's the hold back? In short, if you absolutely need a bucket in the fourth quarter of a contested game, Howard is still not the best place to go. With all the improvements made to his offensive game, he's actually shooting his second worst free throw percentage of his career. That alone wouldn't take him out of the running, but with the Magic having made several trades to improve the squad and still struggling, Howard isn't supporting them enough on his own to make him the favorite in some eyes. His footwork remains inconsistent, his offensive repertoire still the basketball equivalent of the menu at a baked potato restaurant. You can get it loaded with whatever you want, it's still a baked potato. Howard may be the candidate who suffers most from perceptions rather than facts about his game, and that's saying something with LeBron James in the conversation. 

Derrick Rose: If Howard is most often punished based on feeling rather than fact, then Rose is his mirror image. The point guard who's not an elite passer, the scorer who's not the model of efficiency, but the player who "wows" voters night in and night out. Rose has shown a phenomenal ability to take over games, particularly in the fourth quarter, and with extended injuries to both Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls' second and third best players respectively, it's been Rose that has pushed the Bulls to be in contention not only for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference, but possibly a top-two seed. He's improved in nearly every aspect of his game, from defense, to scoring, to creating contact and getting to the line, which was a concern early this season. He's quite simply been a phenomenal basketball player, even though he's not necessarily dominant in any one area. Rose has found a way to make the necessary play more times than not when the Bulls have a chance to win the game, and his athleticism and explosiveness simply blows you away. All that said, he's a third-year player on a third-place team who's only shooting 45% from the field. Rose being considered a candidate is either a testament to the immeasurable impact his play has on the game, or a case of big-market bias combined with a sentimental affection for a outstanding highlights insteads of empirical evidence. 

Pretenders:

Kobe Bryant: Kobe Bryant doesn't care about this award. Could not give a flip. He cares about the sixth ring, catching Michael, cementing his legacy, sending Phil out on top (or perhaps more importantly, not failing him), and doing it his way. Which means lots and lots and lots of shots. Whether you agree or disagree that Kobe's the source of the occasional Lakers' stalling mid-flight offensively, to argue that Bryant doesn't like to shoot is beyond reason. He leads all players in FGA per 40 minutes . All players. Even the end-of-benchers who like to toss it up so as to say they made a few buckets in an NBA game before heading off to the D-League again take fewer shots than Bryant. And that's acceptable. He's the singular best offensive talent of his time. So he'll continue doing what he wants, and scoring, and winning more often than not, in part because he had the unimitigated gall to demand to play for the Lakers before the draft, and has been rewarded with teams of unfathomable talent and a Hall of Fame coach, and in part because he may very well be the second best ball player to ever lace up shoes on an NBA floor. So for Bryant to be considered a pretender should not be taken as some sort of grand insult the way so many consider his exclusion of the award from 2005 to 2007 to be. He's older, he doesn't shoot as well, he doesn't have to try as hard, and Pau Gasol is just as much a part of what makes the Lakers great. Bryant is a phenomenal player on the West's second best team, as well as the star of the defending NBA champions who many expect to repeat. None of this makes him worthy of the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award, just as none fo the accomplishments of the contenders listed above make their legacies in any way comparable to what Bryant has accomplished. Bryant's past a silly regular season award. He's playing for points in the game of immortality. 

Dirk Nowitzki: If physically pains me to place Nowitzki here. Did you know that Nowitzki is shooting 51% from 16-23 feet ? Think about that.  As the number one offensive threat for a Western Conference contender, in the most difficult place to shoot from (three-pointers are often set, catch and shoot opportunities with reasonable space from a closing defender), Nowitzki makes more than he misses. That's incredible. What will really shock you, however, is Dirk's defense. He's allowing just 29% FG shooting in the post. He's certainly not defending top-level post players, but that's still incredible for a guy often criticized for his defense. Same with isolation, where he's allowing just 36.4% shooting. (Numbers courtesy of Synergy Sports.) All this and he's helped lead the Mavericks to the second best record in the Western Conference. So what's the knock on Dirk? Nowitzki suffers more than any other candidate from the "What have you done for me lately?"card. Nowitzki has already won the award, his team isn't blowing everyone away in their conference, and they're still not taken seriously as a title contender. It's impossible to find an argument with Dirk's play, it's that once again, he doesn't seem to "feel" like an MVP. 

Amar'e Stoudemire: Stoudemire energized New York in the first quarter of the season and was blasting his way through the Eastern Conference. It looked every bit like Stoudemire was going to be a legit MVP candidate this year. But the Knicks have fallen off, and as a result, Stoudemire's contributions no longer seem as sterling. Yet he's still averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, at or near career highs, and certainly is the most valuable player on a Knicks team that's a lock for the playoffs, even as homecourt slips further and further away. The biggest knock on Stoudemire? Defense. His defensive numbers are average in the post according to Synergy Sports, and there's a widely held perception that he's a terrible defender. It's probably an exaggeration, but without any signature wins over the top defensive teams outside Chicago (ironically the top defensive team), Stoudemire will be hard pressed to get the vote, even with the New York advantage. 

Kevin Garnett: Can a player average only 15 points and win MVP? Probably not, which is why Garnett will likely fail to get many, if any votes for MVP. But he deserves to at least be in the discussion. Garnett shoots 74% at the rim this season, and 46% from 16-23 feet . He's the unquestioned defensive leader of the most trusted defensive unit in the league, and his work has somehow been even better than usual this year. His explosiveness has returned after last year's recovery from a knee injury, and he has been dominant at both ends of the floor at times. If LeBron James is excused from statistical dips because of his teammates, how about Garnett who plays on the deepest team in the league? Not to mention, how many other candidates can hit someone in the testicles and not get suspended for it? Garnett means more to the best team in the East than any other player. That alone should get him in the room for this discussion. But he's still not individually brilliant enough to warrant the award. The Celtics without Garnett could conceivably still be a top three team in the East. Thats' how stacked they are. And much like Bryant, Garnett's presence isn't most felt in the regular season, but in April, when the toughest part of the season comes into play.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 2:30 pm
 

Celtics F Paul Pierce's MRI on foot was negative

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce will undergo an MRI on his left foot on Monday. Posted by Ben Golliver. paul-pierce-foot

Update (Monday, 2:28PM): The MRI on Pierce's foot came back negative and he will play against the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night, according to CSN NE.

Original Post:
Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce had a tough game on Sunday, shooting 0 for 10 and scoring one point in 40 minutes in Boston's 85-82 win over the Miami Heat. After the game, Pierce brought up two health concerns as explanations for his play.

First, Pierce told the Boston Globe that he would undergo an MRI on his left foot on Monday. WEEI reported that Pierce first injured his left foot "a few weeks ago."

WEEI.com also reported that Pierce told reporters that he "sprained his hand yesterday at practice." ESPN Boston noted that it is Pierce's right wrist, which is his shooting hand.

Sunday was a historically bad performance for Pierce. CBSSports.com's Ken Berger noted that the last time Pierce didn't make a field goal while playing more than 10 minutes was in March 1999, nearly 12 years ago. ESPN Stats also noted that it was only the fourth time in a career that has spanned 937 regular season games that Pierce didn't make a field goal.

Additional updates on Pierce as soon as they become available.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2011 4:39 pm
 

Boston Celtics beat Miami Heat ... again

The Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat, 85-82, in Boston, improving to 3-0 in the head-to-head match-up this season. Posted by Ben Golliver.lebron-james-fail

Just when the Miami Heat thought they were on to something, on an eight-game winning streak and poised to take over control of the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics emerged again on Sunday to remind them of their place in the pecking order.

Sunday's 85-82 Celtics victory wasn't an aesthetically pleasing win, but the Celtics have never cared about style points. Even with forward Paul Pierce having his worst game of the year -- shooting 0 for 10 from the field and scoring one point -- Boston rolled thanks to its depth, defensive prowess, and a third quarter surge that provided just enough offense to hold on down the stretch.

Trailing 43-39 at halftime, the Celtics went on a 20-3 over the first 5:15 of the third quarter. Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo scored seven points in the stretch and set up center Kendrick Perkins on a basket as well. As Boston extended its lead to double-digits, a grinding game turned chippy when Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas leveled Rondo with a pick as he was harrassing Heat forward LeBron James in the open court.

That play was followed in short order by Celtics forward Kevin Garnett returning the favor, dropping Heat forward Mike Miller with a hard pick on the next possession. Within seconds, Heat guard Dwyane Wade body-checked Garnett in retaliation, drawing a flagrant foul in the process.

Here's a look at the exchange.



The Heat didn't allow that tiff to overwhelm them mentally, though. They battled back in the fourth quarter to cut Boston's lead to single digits and, then, to within one point, 83-82, with 12 seconds left. Miami had the chance to tie the game, but LeBron James missed the front end of a pair of free throws after drawing a late-game foul on Pierce.

Despite that miss, Miami was in position to send the game into overtime, down three with the ball and seconds to play.

Miami drew up an inbounds play which found James receive the entry pass, pass up the opportunity to shoot a contested three-pointer over Pierce, and then return the ball to the inbounder, Miller, who missed a clean look at a potentially game-tying three-pointer. The miss meant that Miller finished 1-5 on the day from behind the three-point line.

Here's a look at the final play.



Miami's Big 3 of James, Wade and Chris Bosh accounted for 62 of the Heat's 82 points, with no other Heat player managing double figures. The Heat were led by 24 points from Bosh and 22 from James.

Boston, meanwhile, had six players in double figures -- even with the no-show from Pierce -- and the Celtics bench out-scored the Heat's 26-8. The Celtics were led by 19 points from Kevin Garnett and 16 points from Glen Davis.

The scoring balance and bench scoring numbers only reinforce the sentiment that Boston is an impossible obstacle for Miami, as currently constructed, to overcome. Boston has now beaten Miami both in shoot-outs and in a grinder, able to ratchet up the defensive intensity to put things away seemingly at will. Miami's fourth-quarter resolve made it clear that they aren't intimidated by Boston and are likely capable of taking a game or two in a playoff series, but the Celtics' intensity and cohesion, led by the orchestration of Rondo, who finished with a triple-double (11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), make it very difficult to envision Miami giving Boston a true test come playoff time.

When these teams met back in October, it was clear that Boston was a notch better than the upstarts. Now it's February, and it doesn't appear that much has changed.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 1:46 am
 

10 Keys to Celtics vs. Heat III

Five keys for Boston and Miami as the Celtics and Heat meet Sunday for the third time this season. Is this a must-win for Miami, even in February?
Posted by Matt Moore




Allright, Miami. We're going to give you one last shot at this to show us you have anything interesting to bring to the matchup against the Boston Celtics before we start tracing over our penciling in of the Celtics for the Finals. In the first two meetings between the two best teams in the East, the Heat were dispatched. Both games featured moderately significant leads for the Celtics late, runs by Miami to keep the television audience slightly interested, then workman-like elimination stretches from Boston to close things out. If the Heat want to showcase anything towards the notion that they are anything more than a cupcake-devouring regular season team, this is the time to prove it. Their showcase wins over the Lakers and Magic in the past month and a half will mean very little if the Celtics were to run up a 3-0 season series advantage.

There's no such thing as a must-win game for an NBA title contender in February. But this is about as close as it gets. 
And with that, here are five keys to Boston and five keys to Miami for Sunday's afternoon delight between the Heat and the Celtics. 

Boston Celtics



1. A Pointed Exchange

Rajon Rondo isn't just the best point guard on the floor, he is arguably the third best overall player in this matchup.  He's certainly made a strong case for that element in the first two games against Miami. Rondo has 33 assists and just six turnovers against the Heat this season. I'll let you soak in that stew of incredible for a moment. 33 assists. Six turnovers. Even more incredible, though, is that his games could have been a lot stronger offensively. Rondo is just 5-17 from the field in this season series, for a grand total of 12 points. Rondo's clearly shown he doesn't have to score in order to be a huge advantage for the Celtics, but if he brings his brilliant playmaking and finds his mid-range or floater falling? This thing could get out of hand before half. Matched up against either Mario Chalmers or Carlos Arroyo, Rondo is able to out-class whatever the Heat want to throw at him, and he's even got the speed and ability to take Dwyane Wade or LeBron James to the cleaners. The big key for Rondo is to stay aggressive and focused. When he's zoned in, the Heat simply don't have the personnel to counter him. 

2. Baby You Got What I Need

Glen Davis has never lost a regular season game to the Miami Heat. True story. He's 9-0 all-time agains the Heat, and while some of that is an anomaly, some of it isn't, and he's been a big factor this year against the Triad. Davis is the unofficial league-leader in charges-drawn and has made some big ones against LeBron James. The Celtics' ability to close on James not at the point of attack on the perimeter, where his size and athleticism allows him to either bust the double or pass to a cutter, but at the bucket, has frustrated James time and time again throughout the years. While Davis' blubbery reverse, tilt-a-whirl mid-range and fiercely wild, yet consistent putbacks are helpful, it's this awareness on the defensive end and his willingness to sacrifice his body to an oncoming L-Train that really makes him a difference-maker in this matchup. With a shortened bench likely for this game, expect Davis' presence to be felt early and often. 

3. In Your Head, Zombie

Kevin Garnett's cute little antics can get in the heads of some, but he hasn't really whipped out the special effects in the first two meetings. His game has raged from strong but shakey in the first meeting (10 points, 7 turnovers) to strong (16 points, 13 rebounds) in the second. But he hasn't really had any key moment of conflict, which is surprising, considering how much of a target you'd expect Chris Bosh to be for Garnett's jawing and snapping. Garnett did shut down Bosh in the season opener, but he recovered for the second. You'd think that given how emotional Garnett has played lately, this game would be ripe for a fake-fight from the former MVP. At the same time, Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen need to make sure Garnett doesn't go too far. He's been pressing his luck further and further with officials lately, and they can't afford to lose him to an ejection, not with how short the bench is. Speaking of... 

4. Protect and Serve

The biggest key for this game for Boston? Don't get injured. That's the really important message. They've already won two impressive games against Miami, they're short-handed, it's February, they're in a bit of a slump, and it's an early-start game. While a nice, comfortable victory on the back of great shooting would be rewarding, and sending an even more dominant message would do the Celtics good, the goal for the Celtics now is to get to the Finals healthy. 

5. The Kobe Treatment on LeBron

The same formula that worked in the first two games should work again. Let James score all the points he wants, but make life a living hell for Dwyane Wade and the Heat shooters. Do that, and they become as one-dimensional as the Cavs were. It's only when the cylinders get going on all three members of the Triad and then the perimeter rotations start freeing up threes for the lesser guards that the Heat become a really effective unit. As long as James is being tempted into ISO situations, the Celtics can close, harass, and limit James' domination. It's fine if he gets ridiculous numbers as long as the rest of the team struggles. Worked before, it'll work again. 

Miami Heat



1. Try, Try, Try Again

It sounds simple, but if the Heat want to walk away with their first win over the Green since forming this little group of Super-Friends, they need to give more effort. Boston's defensive unit is yet again the most feared in the league and a huge reason for why the Heat's focus seemed to go in a thresher in October and November's games.  However, there was a clear lackadasical element to the Heat's body language in those games that seemed to indicate they simply weren't dialed into these games. Against the Celtics! It should have been Boston who wasn't committed to winning a meaningless regular season game, acting as if they didn't care about such games. But instead Boston brought its A-Game and the Heat seemed content to lay down and watch them take it from them. Needless to say, the same kind of intensity from Miami on Sunday will ruin any chance they have. The Celtics are tired, worn-down, injured, and know this game means nothing for them. Yet they will still bring their focus and be ready to capitalize unless the Heat give them a reason to quit. 

2. The D-Rated Superstar

Dwyane Wade has been terrible against Boston this season. He has shot 6-28 from the field for 21 points, with 9 assists and 12 turnovers. Those are "OMG" bad numbers. Wade is an elite player and it's his ability to finish at the rim that can rack up fouls for Boston and force them to bring doubles. If they're able to simply rotate like they usually do, the Heat shooters will face contested shots, which will pile up the misses. James has brought it the first two games, it's time for Wade to step up and join him. There's no reason to think they can count on the rest of the Heat to step up against the Celtics so the two best players on the team have to set the example. Wade has had a great season, but really been shut down against Boston. That can't happen Sunday or the Heat is sunk.

3. Do-Run-Run-Run, Do-Run-Run

The Celtics don't like running teams. They still usually beat them, but they have issues with them, as we've pointed out in the past. A shortened rotation due to injury is only going to exacerbate that problem. Likewise, the Heat are at their best when they're out in transition, using the talents of James, Wade, and Bosh in space. Against the Celtics this season, the Heat actually have fewer transition plays than the Celtics, (27-25, via Synergy Sports). The Celtics do a good job of getting back immediately in transition and attacking the ball to stop it. The Heat need to be insistent in pushing, and trusting that their athletes can make things happen. If they turn the ball over, so be it. But a higher pace game favors the Heat, even as the two teams are even in pace this season at 92.8

4. Desperately Seeking X

The Heat need an X-Factor. Someone to step up and put some points on the board, make a few defensive plays, create some steals, something. Udonis Haslem was that player in the first two games, but since he's out, someone will have to step up. If either Mario Chalmers, James Jones, or Eddie House can make a significant set of plays to cap off Heat runs, they may be able to get some damage done against Boston. They'll have their opportunities. The Celtics won't over-double and will run off three-pointers, but they're also unlikely to kill themselves to contest shots they're willing to live with. The Heat have to be ready to step up in those situations. It won't take a cohesive effort from all of the role players, but someone is going to need to give them something surprising. 

5. A Step in the Right Direction

The Heat can't convert anyone about their prospects in the playoffs on Sunday. Not really. But they can make a good step in that direction. The Celtics will brush off a loss by saying they'll get it done when it counts. Miami does not have that luxury, but they still need to get some level of confidence. A loss means they were beaten in three straight by Boston, with their last matchup coming in rest-up time just days before the playoffs in April. This is their best and last shot to show they can go toe to toe with Boston, even if it's an injured Celtics team. They need to get outside the hype they brought with them this season, the injuries they've dealt with, and the newness of this team. If they want to feel confident in any way, shape, or form for a possible Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Boston Celtics, they have to start by winning in Boston Sunday.
Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:35 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 2:46 pm
 

3-point contest includes Durant, Pierce, Allen

Posted by Royce Young

The NBA announced the participants for the annual 3-point contest at All-Star weekend and there are some big names involved. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce of the Celtics, Kevin Durant of the Thunder, Daniel Gibson of the Cavaliers, Golden State's Dorell Wright and Miami's James Jones will compete.

Pierce of course is the reigning champion, but he's defending against a pretty stout field. His teammate Allen will be the all-time 3-point leader by the time of the contest and Dorell Wright leads the league in 3-point makes at 124.

Gibson is in the top 10 in percentage at 44 percent. Jones has hit 91 3s on the year, 12th in the league.

But the real wild card is Durant, who at just 34.7 percent may not seem like a great candidate to win this. Durant though is absolutely one of the finest spot up shooters in the league and he's the kind of player that can make 15 in a row. He's had multiple months in his career of hitting 50 percent from 3 and the only reason his percentage is down is because of a slow start in November. Since the first month of the season, Durant is hitting over 40 percent from 3.

Really though, this is one of the most intriguing groups in the contest in a while. To have three big stars like Allen, Pierce and Durant, with one being the all-time leader is pretty cool. Wright, Gibson and Jones are your preverbial specialists. It's a really nice mix.

Last year Pierce bested Stephen Curry in last year’s contest, scoring 20 points in the final round to capture the title. Jeff Hornacek, Jason Kapono, Mark Price and Peja Stojakovic each won two titles; Larry Bird and Craig Hodges captured three straight.

Gibson actually has the highest career pecentage of the group at 42.6. Allen has made 39.8 percent of his career 3s, Durant 35.8, Wright 38.3, Jones 40.0 and Pierce 37.0. Allen has hit 2,559 in his career and the only other player in the field with at least a thousand is Pierce, who has hit 1,297. Between Durant, Gibson, Wright and Jones, their total is 1,513.

Missing out though are Matt Bonner, Shawne Williams (who leads the league in percentage) and Anthony Morrow. I also think Kevin Love deserved some pretty serious consideration too because when open, he's near automatic from 3.
Posted on: February 3, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 7:02 pm
 

NBA All-Star Reserves: West and East rosters

A constantly updated list of the 2011 NBA All-Star reserves. Posted by Matt Moore and Ben Golliver.

As the NBA All-Star reserves are inevitably leaked in advance of the 7 p.m. ET announcement, we'll have updates for you. The full rosters have now been announced.

Update 7:00 p.m. EST: Yao Ming's Replacement

Finally, Yahoo! Sports also notes that Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash is the favorite to replace Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, who is injured. 

Update 6:49 p.m. EST: Western Conference Reserves

Yahoo! Sports reports the following players have been named to the Western Conference All-Star team as reserves: 

Update 6:45 p.m. EST: Eastern Conference Reserves

Yahoo! Sports reports the following players have been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as reservers: 

Update 6:05 p.m. EST: Kevin Garnett

Like Gasol, we found that Garnett has a page built, along with previously leaked Rajon Rondo. 

Garnett will make it at least two Celtics reserves, with more on the way most likely. Garnett's been playing at a near MVP level with the impact he has on both sides of the floor. He's been his usual dominant, crazy self on defense, and his inside post moves have returned in addition to his mid-range jumper on the pick and pop. He's arguably the biggest reason the Celts have laid waste to the league this season. 

No other prospective reserves have such pages built, as of yet. These definitely don't confirm that they've been selected as All-Stars, but considering the three posted now are locks, they look pretty legit. We'll keep you posted. 

Update 6:01 p.m. EST: Pau Gasol


Someone is either running live screen tests or they jumped the gun. Hoopshype discovered that Pau Gasol has a page built for him as an All-Star. 

Gasol's a no-brainer, as he's arguably the best player on the Lakers, and that's saying something considering, you know, Kobe Bryant. Either way he's the biggest reason for the Lakers' past two championships outside Bryant, and is widely considered to be the best active big man in the game. Odds are good he might wind up replacing Yao Ming as a starter at center, despite his power forward designation.

Rajon Rondo


Yahoo! Sports reports that Rondo will be named an All-Star Reserve. The word you're looking for is ... "duh."  Rondo leads the league in assists per game and Assist Ratio (percentage of possessions ending in an assist). He's the starting point guard for the best team in the Eastern Conference and he does things like this:



Whether the Celtics send three or four , we all agreed, Rondo needs to go. He's the obvious choice. 
Posted on: February 3, 2011 9:59 am
 

Shootaround 2.3.11: Getting better all the time

Injuries improving, the Cavaliers are sad, Paul Pierce wants Ray in the 3-Point Contest so he can beat him. Shootaround. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Trevor Ariza severely sprained his ankle in last night's loss to the Timberwolves, and is out indefinitely. Ariza's had another inconsistent season, but he's still a significant part of the Hornets, who are now without two starters as Okafor continues to recover. They can't afford to lose too many guys more. 

Marcus Camby says he's close to returning. His coach says he's out a "few more weeks." Which is it? Maybe Nate's just used to saying (X player) will be out "a few more weeks" and responded by reflex. 

Scott Skiles says Brandon Jennings' minute restriction could be lifted soon.

A comprehensive review of possible trade partners for the Sacramento Kings

A celebration of Christian Eyenga getting into the top 200 in Cavalier points history. Things are sad in Cleveland. 

Kevin Love's odds at the All-Star game are not good

Paul Pierce wants to face down one guy in the 3-point contest: Ray Allen

Does the league need to do a better job of screening ownership? Maybe if they had done that in the beginning, contraction wouldn't be such a hot topic right now. 

Derrick Rose is the type to hold grudges, which is partially why he beat the Clippers, and partially why his free throw shooting has improved so much. 

In case you missed it, Rick Carlisle says Dirk Nowitzki is the MVP
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com