Miami 101 Boston 88: Celtics’ Big 3 falls short in what’s likely their last game together

NBA fans couldn’t have asked for much more in this game.   Until the final six minutes of the contest, when the Heat pulled away, this game was as close and exciting as any game we’ve seen during the 2012 playoffs.

This game was not decided by effort or focus, as both teams maxed out in those categories.  In the end, execution was the difference.  Both sides executed evenly until midway through the 4th quarter, when Boston started missing and Miami kept scoring.

But before we look at the end of the game, let’s look at how we got there.

Boston was clearly ready to play.  It’s not like they hadn’t been in a similar position multiple times before.  Doc Rivers and his 4-headed monster knew what they were doing.  They came out firing and didn’t look like the old, beat-up team we’ve watched all year.  Ray Allen made 2 threes to start, Paul Pierce suddenly returned to his 22 year-old self with a dunk that had lots of air time, and Rajon Rondo was well on his way to another triple-double with few turnovers.   They continued this energized success throughout the second quarter, where we saw Brandon Bass take over for a string of 6 possessions that ended with a dunk on Dwyane Wade.  Simply put, the Celtics took care of the ball, and executed by making shots.

As for Miami, it looked like they caught the turnover bug that Boston had in the first half of Game 6.  This limited the Heat’s shot attempts, which kept them behind despite their good shooting percentage.  When they weren’t losing the ball, they looked good on offense.

For both teams, transition offense thrived.  We got to see an array of cute layups from Rondo and some nice Boston dunks, as a result of Miami’s first half turnovers.  Miami created transition offense from rebounding the limited Boston misses, capitalized by a double-oop dunk by James near the end of the half.  After a very entertaining 24 minutes, the score was 53-46, Celtics with the lead.

The exciting pace and good scoring kept up in the third quarter, but things looked different defensively for Boston.  They got tired.  Chasing around Wade and James all series finally started to wear them out.  It led to defensive switches that put Paul Pierce on the perimeter and Boston’s bigs on LeBron.  Seeing Brandon Bass going to the top of the key to guard LeBron James was a nightmare for Celtics fans.  This nightmare lasted for about half the game, too.  Already much slower than LeBron, Bass made the mistake of getting too close to James when so far from the basket.  This made him easy to get around.  The results of this were usually very hard shooting fouls near the basket that made it look like Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau was coaching the Celtics defense.

The fatigue among the Celtics soon hit their offense, as they began to lose their legs and miss shots.  They still ran plays and got the shots they wanted, but didn’t have the juice to finish the game as strong as Miami’s young team did.

Chris Bosh was clearly a factor in Miami’s victory.  He played starters’ minutes (31) off the bench, hit shots from all around the court (including 3 threes), and was that big reliable rebounder the Heat have been missing.

Miami’s backcourt did exactly what they had to do.  Dwyane Wade made almost half his shots, which is much better than most of the games we’ve seen from him lately.  Chalmers made driving layups at key moments.  More importantly, the two combined for 13 assists.

Shane Battier did exactly what he needed to do.  He played good defense on Pierce and made some threes.  Udonis Haslem wasn’t statistically productive, but he helped keep Garnett in check on defense.

LeBron James had another MVP-like game.  As previously mentioned, he got to the basket at will and got to shoot a lot of free throws.  His monster dunks kept the crowd on their feet, and his 31-foot three pointer in the 4th quarter took the life out of Boston.  It’s safe to say he closed this series.  It probably won’t hush his critics, but it should temporarily give them something else to hate him for.  Regardless of anything he’s done in previous years, James should get all due credit for carrying his team through the playoffs thus far.

A story that will make people overlook the Heat victory is the Celtics’ loss being the potential end of Boston’s Big 3.  None of them played their best games, but they played hard and well enough to be proud of how they ended their playoff run.  Each of the 3 reacted differently to the loss: Garnett left the court as soon as possible, Ray Allen was holding back tears, and Paul Pierce was business-as-usual in congratulating the Heat players.  What they do have in common is an NBA title, 3 other conference finals appearances, and future spots in the Hall of Fame.

We learned a lot in this series.  We’ve seen what the Heat are capable of doing when they put things together.  We’ve seen Rajon Rondo put together games that are as good as anything we’ve seen from point guards in the playoffs.  We’ve seen the likely end of an era in Boston.  We now know there’s another chance for the league’s MVP to finally win a championship.

And I’m glad it took 7 exciting games for us to learn this.

 

Additional notes

-Ray Allen finished the 2012 playoffs with 313 career postseason three point shots made.  He’s 7 behind Reggie Miller for the most all-time.

-LeBron James scored at least 25 points in all 7 games this series.

-With Bosh playing this game, there were 7 all-stars who played in Game 7.  These guys have combined for 60 all-star appearances (34 between Garnett, Pierce, and Allen).

-ESPN mentions every three minutes, how Wade, Bosh, and James scored the Heat’s last 31 points.  No need to be surprised, they pretty much did that all season.

-Skip Bayless is going to find some reason to criticize LeBron James on Monday.  Even people who hate LeBron James will think Skip’s ridiculous.

 

The NBA Finals will be quite a treat.  Can’t wait.

npdillon