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Heat find their dream scenario vs. Celtics in East finals, as higher-seeded underdog

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Heat find their dream scenario vs. Celtics in East finals, as higher-seeded underdog

This is exactly what the Miami Heat wanted, the very type of thing that brought a smile to the face of forward Jimmy Butler after Monday’s practice at FTX Arena.

No, not mere homecourt advantage, which will be the case against the Boston Celtics in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals that open Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

No, not carrying the No. 1 seed into the proceedings.

But, rather, the seeds of doubt.

As in the lower seed, the road team, the Celtics being favored by almost all bookmakers.

As in various power ratings giving the Celtics the far greater chance to emerge as 2022 NBA champion.

“What I love about this team the most,” Butler said, “is ain’t nobody paying attention to what anybody else picks, because we know we can win. Those are guys that I want to go to war with.

“We’re gonna fight, and we’re gonna come out on top. I think this is going to be really fun and really interesting.”

Considering it is Celtics-Heat, it likely has little other option, be it the teams’ dramatic 2020 Eastern Conference finals the Heat won in the Disney World quarantine bubble, to LeBron James going into TD Garden and stealing the Celtics’ souls with his 45-point performance in Game 6 of the 2012 East finals, to Heat president Pat Riley telling former Celtics general manager Danny Ainge to STFU, because, well, just because he could.

“I’ve heard a few times throughout the year about the thing with Boston,” veteran Heat power forward P.J. Tucker said of his impending first taste of Heat-Celtics. “But we have that anyway, no matter who we’re going to play, that fight, that desire to win. We worked hard all year to get to his moment.”

Because of that, coach Erik Spoelstra doesn’t want these next two weeks to be about historical perspective, but rather what has already been accomplished … and what still remains.

“We have a big goal,” he said, “and along the way on those goals you’re going to be playing against really good competition and that’s what Boston is. They’ve really established a strong culture, really good habits, both ends of the court.

“They’ve earned eight wins, just like us. And if you have eight wins at this point, you’ve done some really good things.”

For the Heat, it has meant pushing past the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers. For the Celtics, it has meant eliminating the Brooklyn Nets and defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, with a Sunday Game 7 victory in that East semifinal.

For both teams, it has meant a grinding, enduring, committed defensive effort that along the way has sidelined the likes of Trae Young, Joel Embiid and James Harden by the Heat, and Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo by the Celtics.

“Pat probably is really going to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said of the defensive culture Riley established with the franchise more than a quarter century ago. “This is like a throwback series. And both teams are really on top of their games.

“This shouldn’t be a series where either team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense.”

No, Spoelstra said, nothing like Heat-Knicks, during the days when Riley still was patrolling the Heat sidelines.

“It’s different; the game is different,” Spoelstra said. “I would never compare it to the physicality of those series. That was closer to football; this will be basketball.”

But, yes, arguably a higher quality of competition than either team has experienced to this stage.

“We were the two best teams in the East most of the season,” Spoelstra said, “and it’s fitting that we’re meeting in the conference finals.”

So, yes, a higher-seeded underdog.

It’s as if Spoelstra could not have asked for a better scenario — the opposition favored, the Heat with Game 7 at home, need be.

“Our guys love competition and love being challenged,” Spoelstra understated, “love taking on big challenges. And that’s what we’re facing in Boston.”

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Sept. 1 trial status hearing scheduled for teen in killing of Chippewa Falls girl, 10

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Iliana (Lily) Peters family photo

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin teenager accused of killing a 10-year-old girl will find out in September whether he will stand trial.

Chippewa County Circuit Judge Benjamin Lane on Friday scheduled a Sept. 1 preliminary hearing for the 14-year-old boy, identified in court documents as C.T.P.-B. That’s the step in the criminal justice process where a judge determines if enough evidence exists to bind a defendant over for trial.

The body of Iliana (Lily) Peters, 10, was found in the woods near her aunt’s house in Chippewa Falls, Wis., on April 25, 2022, the day after her father reported her missing. (Courtesy of the Chippewa Falls Police Department)

The boy was charged in adult court on April 27 with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree sexual assault of a child under age 13 in connection with the killing of Iliana Peters, who was known as Lily. Anyone who is at least 10 years old and is accused of first- or second-degree homicide is considered an adult in Wisconsin’s court system.

Lily disappeared on the night of April 24 as she was riding her bike home from her aunt’s house in Chippewa Falls, according to the criminal complaint. Searchers found her body in the woods the next morning.

The boy told investigators that he was riding his hoverboard alongside Lily on a trail and he intended to sexually assault and kill her, according to the complaint.

He asked Lily to leave the trail and explore the woods with him. According to the complaint, he told investigators that once they were off the trail, he punched her, hit her with a stick and strangled her before he sexually assaulted her body.

The boy’s attorney, Michael Cohen, told Lane on Friday that he was upset that someone posted a video online that included recordings of police communications in the moments Lily’s body was found and that characterized the boy as a “little monster.” Cohen alleged that someone in law enforcement leaked confidential information to the poster and demanded the judge issue a gag order. He didn’t specify against whom, though.

Lane asked Cohen for the link to the video and stated that anyone with access to investigatory materials should keep them confidential and their release could jeopardize the boy’s right to a fair trial.

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

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Sainted & Tainted: Half of my summer is gone because you didn’t yield

Tainted & Sainted

Tainted: June 3, between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. at Johnson Parkway and Sixth Street. The male driver in a black pickup didn’t yield to me and crossed into the bike path where I fell under the bike to avoid hitting your truck. All you did was sit in the truck and say you’re sorry. You left as soon as I got off the street. Half of my summer is gone because of this.

Tainted: Whoever designed this bike path. Hardly anyone stops at the stop sign. Just stop at the corner. Many close calls to me and I’ve told all to stop. Maybe put a yield sign or stop signs on the west side of Johnson. They don’t know how to yield.

Sainted: To the one driver who asked if I was OK. Much appreciated. Felt fine at the time but did break my elbow.

Barb Anderson, St. Paul

 

Tainted

I think It would be desirable if those responsible for the St. Paul skyway system could maintain uniform hours for the operation of the system.

They have posted operating hours indicating a close of 11 p.m., but this is contradicted by one posting indicating a 12 p.m. closing. The reality is that neither apply as I discovered this past Saturday when returning to my apartment from a downtown restaurant.

The location in the general vicinity (east) of the Subway operation was closed at 10 p.m. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect uniform operating hours to be observed.

Roger A. Godin, St. Paul

 

Sainted

An incredible Sainted to Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. I had surgery this past Tuesday and had never been there before. The care I received was phenomenal. The staff was incredible and compassionate.

I was on the first floor and it was like a party when they came in for vitals, etc. Kelly always referred me to as The Boss. Thank you for such kindness and for helping me through such a painful surgery. And an even bigger shout out to my personal paramedics Shawna S. and Mary F.  Thank you both so much for everything. I’d be lost without you.

Laura McGinn, St. Paul

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

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ASK IRA: Could another Heat run at Kevin Durant be in the cards?

Q: Ira, we’ve been burned by Kevin Durant before. We can’t be fooled into fool’s gold again. – Ian.

A: Look, this whole Brooklyn Nets-will-implode storyline is so bizarre, so speculative, so seemingly preposterous that perspective needs to be toned down all around on the possibilities of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant departing. But to your question, this also is an opportunity to address the notion of the Heat being “burned” when coming up short in free agency, including when Pat Riley and Micky Arison traveled to the Hamptons in an attempt to woo Kevin Durant during 2016 free agency. It was the same narrative when the Heat “came up short” with Gordon Hayward (and even to a degree the supposed previous “failure” to nab Kyrie). Being mentioned in such speculation means your franchise has earned the respect of players and agents. That is a good thing. The Heat get into the room (unless it’s LeBron’s Las Vegas suite). And if Kevin Durant does attempt to work his way elsewhere, they likely will be back in the room.

Q: Nikola Jovic seems a bit slow footed when I watch his clips. I’d like to see him get serious playing time in Sioux Falls, so he can adjust to the NBA speed. – James.

A: But I’m not sure the G League game, which can be helter skelter at times, is the preferred tempo, either. This could be more along the lines of Omer Yurtseven’s rookie season with the Heat, where it will be mostly developmental, with some as-needed time as warranted/merited. Remember, Nikola Jovic will become the youngest Heat player ever to appear in a game in the franchise’s 35 seasons. That has to be about patience, for more than just foot speed.

Q: Ira, you listed players the Heat passed on to get Nikola Jovic. Who would you have preferred? – Anthony.

A: So basically you’re asking me to trump my preference in the moment at the 2020 draft for Desmond Bane? I’m not sure there is anyone in that category this year. But of those selected after Nikola Jovic (who I think can turn into an inspired choice), I do believe that Patrick Baldwin’s skillset could still yield something special and was curious about E.J. Liddell as a Heat fit. But I don’t believe there is a reason for second guessing when you’re talking about No. 27.

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