Celtics Fall in OT Despite Rondo’s 44

Dwyane Wade drives past Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus during overtime in Wednesday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

The Boston Celtics threw everything they had at the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night. They overcame two second-half Heat leads, played their Big 4 for 43-plus minutes each, and even got a career-best 44 points from Rajon Rondo, who played the entire game.

They did all that, and it still wasn’t enough.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 57 points, including 12 of the Heat’s 16 in overtime, powering the Heat to a 115-111 overtime victory over the Celtics. The series heads to Boston for Game 3 Friday with the Heat up 2-0.

Celtics Comeback Twice in Fourth

Miami reserve Mike Miller‘s three-pointer – one of Miami’s 10 – put his team up 84-77 with just under a minute gone in the fourth. Two Kevin Garnett (18 points, eight rebounds in 45 minutes) free throws and a three-pointer from Mickael Pietrus cut the deficit to one, then went up 86-85 when Rondo picked off a pass and sprinted for the fast-break layup.

The Celtics built that lead as high as five, going up 92-87 on one of 10 mid- to long-range jumpers by Rondo. He shot 16-for-24 and went 10-for-12 from the free throw line, fueling nearly all of his team’s offense Wednesday.

James kept the Heat from crumbling late, however, earning and scoring six free throws in the final four minutes. His last two put the Heat up 96-94, and Udonis Haslem‘s 18-footer pushed the lead to four. Haslem led all reserves with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Celtics had another comeback in them, however, with Garnett’s alley-oop from Rondo (10 assists) cutting the deficit to 98-96. Following Wade going 1-for-2 at the line, Keyon Dooling drew four Heat defenders to him under the basket before finding Ray Allen behind the arc. Allen, who rebounded nicely with 13 points after a horrific Game 1, knocked it down to tie the game 99-99.

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Book Review: “They Call Me Oil Can,” by Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd with Mike Shalin

"They Call Me Oil Can," by Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, with Mike Shalin

They Call Me Oil Can is Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd’s autobiography. Boyd played for the Boston Red Sox for eight years, but his undeniable talent was too often overshadowed by disagreements with coaches and teammates.

The fast-moving book is a sounding board for any and all opinions Boyd has built up over his lifetime. Covering everything from life in the South to race relations, baseball to business, TCMOC gives the reader an uncensored, unabashed, unapologetic look at Boyd’s inner workings And if Boyd could’ve written without any of those previously mentioned “un’s,” his book might’ve been a lot better.

Lack of Structure Handicaps the Reader

Boyd admirably doesn’t hold back any of his life’s many conflicts, but he doesn’t inform the reader enough heading into them for the reader to fairly decide who’s right and wrong. Certainly Boyd wants us to like and respect him enough to always side with him, but how Boyd writes doesn’t make him particularly likeable.

Between Boyd’s delusional self-perception when it comes to his obvious cocaine addiction (a word barely used), his paranoia, his repetitive ranting, his refusal to apology even when he’s in the wrong, and his simultaneous wishes to have everyone treated equally and for him to get special treatment because of his background, the reader isn’t always inclined to take his side. And without enough information setting up a particular moment, the reader’s gut-reaction isn’t necessarily to believe Boyd’s interpretation.

A good example concerns a run in with some police officers in the early 80s. Without much reason other than Boyd’s drug history (basically, he’s the Dr. Rockso of professional baseball), the cops pull him out of his car in his own driveway. They harass him, they bend his arm back, they threaten him, and they don’t stop until a lawyer comes out of a nearby house and threatens to sue them.

It’s a sad story, one that helps explain why Boyd considers race relations in this country as bad now as they were 60 years ago. The reader sides with Boyd.

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Boston.com: Somerville-Latin Academy Girls’ Tennis Story Live

I’ve written 24 stories for Boston.com, 22 on Somerville High School. Three stories previewed the spring season, each one focusing on one boys’ and one girls’ team. Three recapped track meets, discussing the results of both the boys and girls.

Of the remaining 16, I wrote nine on boys’ teams and seven on girls teams. Considering how much I believe in and support women’s athletics (though I still don’t watch much WNBA), I’m incredibly pleased about that.

I promised each Somerville coach before the season started that I would cover at least one game. I broke that promise for only three teams: the swimming teams, which I tried to cover but Patch nixed, and the girls’ Ultimate team, which I just couldn’t get to.

Before this past Thursdy, I also hadn’t gotten to a girls’ tennis match. For my very last Boston.com story, I covered one against Latin Academy.

Check it out!

NBA Conference Finals Preview

Expect the Miami Heat to win the East and the San Antonio Spurs to win the West. The Heat won their one match-up against each other this season, 120-98. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

A similar story runs through both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference Finals. Both series will match athletic, physically strong youngsters against experienced, cagey veterans. The brash and burly Miami Heat play the ancient and venerated Boston Celtics in the East, while the run-and-gun Oklahoma City Thunder play the super-synchronized San Antonio Spurs in the West.

Each teams stands just four wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals. A Celtics championship would write the perfect ending to the likely final year for their New Big Three, while a Heat championship would do away with all the criticisms LeBron James has endured about his lack of big-game effectiveness.

The Spurs would love to milk one more championship out of Tim Duncan, who’s already won it all four times since 1999. And a trophy by the Thunder would provide some hardware to match Kevin Durant‘s considerable skills.

Do brains conquer brawn in basketball? Do teams win in the playoffs by scoring or preventing scoring? Here’s my preview of the third round.

Celtics vs. Heat

Celtics fans desperate to believe their team can beat the Heat will no doubt look at the Celtics’ 3-1 record against them this season. You know who started all three wins? Avery Bradley. You know who won’t play basketball again this season? Avery Bradley. And without him, the Celtics don’t have enough perimeter defense to contain Dwyane Wade, especially with Ray Allen hurtin’ and the bench nonexistent.

The Celtics struggled with the 76ers’ strength and athleticism throughout their series. Doc Rivers even called them “Atlanta on steroids.” Well, the Heat are the 76ers on steroids: even stronger, even faster, even more durable. And they’ve had two extra days off.

Kevin Garnett won’t be able to dominate in the post as he did against the 76ers, and an injured Paul Pierce won’t be able to hang with James. Rajon Rondo is an infinitely better point guard than Mario Chalmers, but both perform best as facilitators, not scorers. And Chalmers just has better offensive options than Rondo.

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Is The Homophobic Tide Finally Turning?

Few industries have as storied a history of discrimination and prejudice as the world of sports. Before the late 1940s, this manifested as racial segregation, with African Americans kept from playing in the Big 4 professional sports leagues. Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington helped do away with that.

Before 1972, this was a gender problem, with schools either offering very few and/or severely underfunded athletic opportunities for girls wishing to play sports. Cue Title IX.

Of course, neither of these divisions have completely disappeared: the NFL seems curiously dominated by white quarterbacks and black running backs, while WNBA players make less than 1 percent of their NBA counterparts. But no one can argue these situations aren’t far better than they were several decades ago.

Sexual preference seems to be the latest division in sports. Among the Big 4, only nine former players have ever come out of the closet. None have come out while still playing professional sports, though Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts has. Taking the Big 4 to the college level, only two have have publicly acknowledged their homosexuality: Brian Sims, defensive tackle for Div-II Bloomsburg University, and Brendan Burke, former goalie and team manager of Miami of Ohio’s men’s hockey team.

Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, died in a car crash in February 2010, and his brother Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, started the You Can Play Project in his honor. Intended to make it easier for openly gay athletes to play, You Can Play picked up a lot of steam when many of the NHL’s best appeared in this ad:

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DigBoston: New England Revolution/Champions League Final Story Live

Striker Saër Sène kicks ass. The rest of the Revolution? Not so much. Read more at DigBoston.com!

I spent half of Saturday watching an epic Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at CBS Scene at Patriot Place. I spent the other half watching a not-as-epic MLS game between the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo at Gillete Stadium. I wrote them up together in one still-considerably epic 52 Games column.

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Boston.com: Somerville-Malden Catholic Boys’ Tennis Story Live

Before each season, I do a series of previews on the teams. When I meet a team’s coach for the first time, I always make the promise that I’ll get to at least one game. Of course, once I go full time I’ll obviously cover each team repeatedly. But when limited to a story a week, promising more than one game runs the risk of not following through and then looking unprofessional.

I tried to cover a Somerville boys’ tennis match last week, but the rain washed it out about midway through. Thankfully, the rain held off just enough Monday for Somerville and Malden Catholic to get their tennis match in. It’s now up on Boston.com.

Check it out!

Ten Moments With Stan Van Gundy

The Orlando Magic fired coach Stan Van Gundy Monday, part of a managerial shakeup that also included the exit of general manager Otis Smith. Whether Dwight Howard gets traded before or during next season or leaves after as a free agent, the friction between those two and Howard boiled over this season, with the Magic losing to the Indiana Pacers in just five games in the opening round of the playoffs.

Van Gundy takes with him perhaps the most grating, annoying voice in all of professional sport. While undoubtedly a decent coach – the Magic won over 70 percent of their regular season games, claimed three division titles, made the playoffs all five seasons and went to the 2009 NBA Finals – Van Gundy at his raspiest has the power to shatter glass, eardrums, and possibly even frontal lobes.

The Celtics play the Magic only a couple of times a year. As such, one’s ears always heal just enough so that when the next Celtics-Magic game comes around, Van Gundy sets them bleeding all over again.

They say misery loves company. So that everyone can share my pain, here are five moments with Stan Van Gundy (with a few guest appearances by Doc Rivers!).

• Orlando Magic vs. Toronto Raptors post-game, 4/26/2012

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Aviles, Saltalamacchia Homer in Red Sox Rubber-Match Win

David Ortiz congratulates Jarrod Saltalamacchia following Saltalamacchia's three-run homer run against the Phillies Sunday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

In a typical start by Philadelphia ace Cliff Lee, teams that manage two runs count themselves lucky. The Boston Red Sox scored five against the dominating lefty Sunday afternoon, and they didn’t waste them.

Mike Aviles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both homered for the second straight day, and Josh Beckett held the Phillies to one run over 7.2 innings, giving the Red Sox a 5-1 rubber-match road victory over the Phillies Sunday afternoon.

Boston has now won eight of its last 10 games. They haven’t lost a series in three weeks.

Red Sox Go Score Early

Aviles led off his second game in a row with a home run, depositing a 1-1 off-speed pitch into the left field bleachers. He added an RBI single in the top of the second, driving in Marlon Byrd with a grounder between third and shortstop. Aviles finished the game 2-for-5, one of just two Red Sox to finish with two hits.

The Red Sox got to Lee again in the third, with Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-4) singling and Will Middlebrooks doubling with one out. That set the stage for Saltalamacchia, who crushed a 2-0 change-up from Lee into the standing area behind the center field seats for a 5-0 Red Sox lead. At this rate, perhaps Saltalamacchia should intentionally get stitches in his ear before every game.

Lee settled down after Saltalamacchia’s home run, retiring the next 11 Red Sox. Despite several long innings early, three 1-2-3 middle innings allowed Lee to pitch a full seven on a season-high 112 pitches. He gave up nine hits and a walk, suffered his second loss of the season and saw his ERA rise from 1.95 to 2.66.

Lee also struck out six, including the side in the first. His curveball proved especially difficult for Red Sox hitters, dropping out of the strike zone at the last possible moment.

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Celtics Implode in Second Half of Game 4; Series Tied 2-2

Andre Iguodala dunks against Kevin Garnett in Friday's Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics built a big lead Friday night in Philadelphia, then quit.

The Philadelphia 76ers, on the other hand, never quit. And once they pulled back into the game, that sustained effort translated into unstoppable momentum, a 92-83 victory over the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and a 2-2 series tie.

Game 5 takes place Monday back in Boston.

Bad Third for Celtics Keys Comeback Fourth for 76ers

The Celtics built a 17-point lead on a Paul Pierce (game-high 24 points) technical just over two minutes into the third quarter. Elton Brand picked up the technical, but his physicality ignited the previously lazy 76er defense. Over the first seven minutes of the third, the Celtics didn’t score a field goal. The 76ers, meanwhile scored 10 unanswered to cut the Celtics’ lead to 50-43.

Pierce’s three-pointer (one of four) built Boston’s lead back to 54-46 with five minutes left, but Philadelphia played the rest of the game fully confident they could win. Boston held just a 63-59 lead after three, and Philadelphia tied the game on back-to-back buckets from Thaddeus Young to start the fourth.

The two teams traded baskets throughout most the final quarter, with neither team building too big a lead. Pierce’s free throws put the Celtics up 74-72, but Young tied it again, then backup point guard Lou Williams hit a jumper for a 76-74 76er lead.

Ray Allen‘s three-pointer – his only field goal of the night – put the Celtics back up by one, and Kevin Garnett‘s free throws stretched the lead to 79-76. But the 76ers answered again, with Andre Iguodala tying the game with a three. Iguodala scored eight of his 16 total points in the closing 3:11, combining a jumper with a three-pointer to break an 83-83 tie and put the 76ers up five.

The Celtics couldn’t answer the 76ers again, and the 76ers finished the game on a 9-0 stretch. They out-rebounded the Celtics 52-38 Friday, using a 17-5 advantage on the offensive glass to extend possessions and exhaust a Celtics defense that had held them to 23 percent shooting in the first half.

Continue reading Celtics Implode in Second Half of Game 4; Series Tied 2-2