BOSTON (CBS) – After the Miami Heat ran laps around them in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics know they have to get a lot more physical in Wednesday night’s Game 2.
“Nothing dirty, but they have to hit the deck too,” Rajon Rondo said Monday night following the Game 1 loss.
The Celtics attacked the hoop at times on Monday, but they usually ended up on their backs watching Miami run down the floor for an easy layup. Rondo simply wants to return the favor Wednesday night.
But his comments got the Heat’s attention.
“I expect to be quote, unquote ‘put on the deck’ or whatever the case may be and then you go to the free-throw line,” Lebron James said Tuesday. “I don’t need to prepare for something I already think is going to happen every game.”
“We’re men just like they’re men; we’re not going to let anyone just come and punk us,” said Dwyane Wade. “That is not our mentality, to go out there and make people hit the deck.”
So on Tuesday, Rondo also clarified his comments. Simply, the Celtics need to make it harder on the Miami stars and protect the paint.
“Nothing flagrant, nothing dirty,” Rondo said Tuesday. “When we drove, we hit the deck a lot. If we can keep them out of the paint, even better.”
“It entails not allowing them to have 19 layups,” head coach Doc Rivers echoed on Tuesday. “But that doesn’t mean physical as far as we’re going to start fouling and knocking people down. We foul on our own anyway. What we have to do is protect the paint better, play better defense.”
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“Nineteen layups is a lot of layups in a playoff game, the conference finals,” said center Kevin Garnett. “That can’t happen. You can’t win a game like that.
“I think you have to expect it to be physical,” Garnett of Game 2. “Nothing more, nothing less than that.”
The Heat scored 42 points in the paint in Game 1, and made it to the free throw line 23 times. To sum it up, it was just too easy.
“We have to show better resistance,” said captain Paul Pierce. “It was way too easy for them in Game 1, they were very comfortable. Hopefully in Game 2 we can make it more uncomfortable with them. We’re a team that really thrives on our physicality, our defense, and our half-court grind-it-out style.”
“We have to compete at a high level every possession and make them uncomfortable,” said Rondo. “They were pretty comfortable with the dribble, the pick and roll play; wherever they wanted, they got to on the floor. We have to get into the ball a little more and try to defend them better.”
With the game tied at halftime, the Celtics came out flat in the third quarter. With the game still even at 50-50 three minutes into the third, the layup line opened for Miami. They doubled the Celtics up the rest of the way, 22-11, thanks in part to four easy layups and four trips to the free throw line.
The Celtics have to do a better job closing those lanes, as most of the damage was done by Wade, who scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. Most of those points came from attacking the basket, or getting to the line as a result.
Stopping the Heat guards from attacking the rim will be key for Boston Wednesday night.
“They really don’t have a dominant big man to drop it down to in the post. They post their guards most of the time,” said Pierce. “We have to do a better job collapsing on them, taking away their layups, and getting to their shooters, which is not an easy task. We know that it’s not easy winning, either. We know those are the things we need to do.”
Pierce will have his hands full this series, with the duties of guarding James falling on him. He and Rondo will also have to help on Wade, with a hobbled Ray Allen struggling on both ends of the floor.
But excuses aside, the Celtics wilted on Monday and Miami took full advantage. They ran in transition, giving the older Boston players little chance to catch up. What Boston didn’t do on defense — basically get back and play defense — Miami players made sure they did. The Heat blocked 11 shots, leading to a new level of frustration for Boston.
“They’re athletic,” Rondo said of all the shots Miami swatted away. “They were also fouling too. But we’re on the road.”
What the Celtics have to do is put all of Game 1 behind them and come out in attack mode. Forget about how easy it was for the Heat to do whatever they wanted on Monday. Forget about the five technical fouls and anything else the referees did to piss you off. Just go out, and get physical. Push the Heat around, and get them out of their comfort zone. Bump Lebron and Wade, and then bump them again. Make them “hit the deck” or keep them out of the paint altogether and force bad shots.
The Celtics know they have to do it. The Heat know the Celtics are going to do it. Now just go do it.