The newest Big Three against the most recent Big Three to come before them squaring off in an NBA Playoffs series? Yes, please. In a not-so-surprising turn of events, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics each won their first-round series to earn the right to face each other in what could be an epic clash. Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge broke the series down in the following interview fairly succinctly. His Big Three, which he obviously now calls the Big Four thanks to Rajon Rondo, may not be in the primes of their careers, but have a bevy of playoff experiences. The Heat’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have some of that experience as well, but many of their teammates do not. They are, however, perhaps in their basketball primes.
Which Big Three do you have in the conference semis?
Danny Ainge joined WEEI in Boston with The Big Show to discuss Shaq’s health, the series victory over the Knicks in the first round, the differences between Miami now and at the beginning of the year, why the Heat have been so bad at closing out games, how LeBron gets to the free throw line so much against Boston in the playoffs and which team has the edge heading into the series.
What’s the deal with Shaq?:
“He looks better [Thursday]. There’s progress. We’re still hopeful that he’ll be ready to play, but it’s just taken longer to heal or it’s taking a while to heal. Shaq, like I told you last week, he was determined to play Game 1 of the first playoff series but it’s just not been that way.”
His assessment of the series against the New York Knicks:
“I thought that the first couple games New York did a good job with some defensive things that threw us a little bit out of whack. I thought we adjusted to that really well … and we were the best team all along. They outrebounded us. … That will continue to be probably the most important thing in the next series.”
What is the difference between the Heat at the beginning of the season and the Heat now?:
“I don’t know other than they’ve just sort of been playing together a little bit longer. I still think they’re just a really scary team. When we beat them early in the year, I don’t think Dwyane Wade was 100 percent healthy. … I think we’re better and I think that we’re playing at a high level in the last couple games. I think both teams have great respect for the other team. I think both teams know that they’re going to have to play their best basketball to win and there’s nothing that’s going to be given to either team.”
Why has Miami been so bad at closing out games?:
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think that maybe right now they’re just sort of feeling it a little bit but all it takes is one or two games for them to finish before that all turns around. They have great finishers … so it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
His take on why LeBron James has attempted 160 free throws in 13 playoff games against the Celtics:
“LeBron is just an amazing athlete with an amazing body. He’s going to draw fouls because of his speed and explosiveness and body. … I think that LeBron has the combination of the star factor and the great athleticism and body. You look at guys in the history that have been that explosive and that athletic, with that kind of size, which I’m not sure there ever has been, but even guys close, even Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, they get to the free throw line.”
Comparing the Celtics and Heat:
“Miami’s young and they’re athletic and Dwyane Wade is an NBA champion and an MVP of a championship series. And you also have LeBron, who has been to the NBA Finals, has played in a lot of playoff games, had great success in a lot of playoff series, including 45 points against us in a Game 7. I think that the individuals are scary, they’re athletic and they’re in the prime of their careers. … That may be our advantage, that our Big Four have been together for a while and played together and been through some things together. But their advantage would be their youth.”