Celtics Roar Back to Win Games 3 and 4 in Boston
If you were wondering what the Celtics were made of, if they possibly had enough energy left after losing a heartbreaking Game 2 to make this a series, well wonder no more. There was legitimate concern of a mental collapse after losing a game in Miami that they dominated throughout; could this veteran team (read old) could really stand up to the new big bad kid on the block, would they really have the legs to stand up and deliver ?
The question was answered in a decisive home stand in which the Celtics won both games, one decisively (Game 3), and one that they eeked out in overtime. Fueling off the potent mixture of the legacy of the franchise and a raucous crowd, Boston was able to even up the series to make this a best 2-3. More importantly, the Celtics have to feel good after basically outplaying the Heat in three straight games, and their mindset now is that it is they could be up 3-1 with a chance to close out the Series after basically outplaying the Heat in 3 straight games. Moreover, all of the pressure is on Miami, everyone’s preseason favorite to win it all. Boston, was after all, too old and too beat up to even have a chance.
Miami started aggressively, as if trying to deliver the coup de grace early. James scored a bunch of points early, raining jumper after jumper and Miami took an early 28-22 lead. But then the Celtics roared back, using a 15-0 run at the end of the first and start of the second quarter. Fueled mostly by the energy of reserves Keeyon Dooling and little used Marquis Daniels, they overtook the Heat with that run and never looked back.
“We’re a team that is very, very, very, very gritty,” said Keyon Dooling. “We just continue to hang in there. We’re confident. We came out and we treated this like it was a Game 7. We wanted to leave everything on the court.”
The Celtics established KG early and often, Rondo hitting him in the post with a number of passes that led to easy dunks and short-range shots. One play was special. After being whackede by Haslem while attacking the basket, KG landed hard his back. He lay there for a few seconds grimacing, then flipped over and then did 8 bare knuckle pushups, a moment that not only inspired his team, but may prove to be another iconic moment in the long Celtic lore if Boston is able to win the Series.
Paul Pierce was also more aggressive early on, hitting his trademark jumpers and used his array of moves. Most importantly was his ability to draw 3 fouls on Le Bron James before halftime. One in particular was vintage Pierce. He pumped fake, got LeBron into the air, then jumped into him while throwing the ball at the basket.
The glue to it all was the play of Rajon Rondo. Rondo played another impressive game by playing the role of a pure point guard than that of a pure scorer. His statistical tally of 21 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds was impressive but it was how he established overall control of the game, facilitating a scoring balance amongst both starters and reserves, that was the reason the Celtics win this game. Kevin Garnett scored 24 points, Pierce 23, Allen 10, Dooling 7, and Daniels 9.
After an impressive first quarter, Miami was outscored 55-35 in quarters 2 and 3, before mounting a roaring comeback that fell short in the fourth. Trailing by as many as 24 points, the Heat got back to within 5 before Boston made the last push.
James played brilliantly (34 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists), but Wade was held to 18 on 9-20 shooting. While Chalmers added 14, the rest of the Heat scored only 24 points. Every single Heat player except for those who played in garbage time was in the negative plus/minus column.
Game 4 was a tale of two halves. Boston raced out to a large lead (21-6), led by as many as 18 points. Boston would end up scoring 61 points in the first half en route to a 14 point lead, but then were outscored by the Heat 42-28 in the following 29 minutes including the overtime. It was barely enough to prevail 93-91. In that sense, it mirrored Game 2, with Boston racing out to a big lead, and eventually unable to hold of Miami which forced an overtime.
“We were really unorganized,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We were unorganized the whole second half. I thought it was us at the beginning of the third quarter – I thought we came out and tried to throw knockout punches with quick ‘3s,’ transition, never ran stuff. Our execution in the first half was flawless, it was as good as maybe we’ve had. And we got completely away from it, we really did. And then I thought Miami got into us, they got into our air space and took us out of everything.’’
But unlike Game 2, Miami wasn’t able to get it going int the extra period. The Heat scored only 2 points from a Haslem dunk in a period that saw both Le Bron and Pierce foul out on dubious calls. Boston’s stingy defense was the reason for the victory, forcing Miami into yet another series of mistakes on the offensive end. And in the end, with LeBron out of the game, Miami’s Wade was able to pump fake Daniels out of the way for a wide open look. The shot missed and instead of Miami having a dominant 3-1 lead going home, the series was alll knotted at 2 apiece.
Boston’s unlikely hero during the overtime was Mickael Pietrus, who got two key offensive rebounds and was able to maneuver into the lane enough ahead of LeBron James to draw the foul that disqualified James. Pietrus didn’t score a point in the entire game but the two rebounds (a category the Celtics are notoriously weak at) allowed Boston to control possession of the ball in a dismally low scoring overtime.
With James out, Miami was visibly out of their comfort zone, and even though Wade got a good look, he just missed it.
Which brings us to Game 5. It is now clear that these two teams are very evenly matched and it is the bench that is going to decide who goes to the Finals. Neither of these teams’ benches “games travel well.” Whichever bench makes the first adjustment to get that first road win should prevail in this series.