With 10:10 remaining in the second quarter, Jermaine O’Neal dunked home a bucket to give the Miami Heat a 29-25 lead. By the time Michael Beasley ended the ensuing drought with a jumper from the baseline, the economy had rebounded, Tiger Woods was settled down with his second wife, Erik Spoelstra had grandchildren, and my unborn son had graduated college. When all was said and done, 8:04 had elapsed, the Celtics had scored 21 straight points, the four-point Celtics deficit had turned into a 46-29 lead and the Celtics’ 106-77 win was well in hand. And the Celtics did it all with Kevin Garnett watching a television set in Danny Ainge’s living room.
As Ray Allen drained three-pointer after three-pointer and the game’s margin ballooned to as many as 33 points, the regular season’s pain was entirely alleviated. Gone are the many months of shoddy effort and uninspired play. Gone are head-scratching losses and all-too-close wins. Gone are wide open layups for the opposition, and talk of the Celtics’ grave.
In one short week, the Celtics have gone from an old, washed-up team desperately in need of a life jacket to the playoffs’ most impressive squad. Perhaps there was truth to the C’s claims that the regular season was nothing but an 82-game nuisance to be survived in as healthy a manner as possible. All of a sudden, the Celtics possess the spunk and defensive tenacity that had evaded them for so long.
Ray Allen (25 points, 7-9 three-pointers) and the hot hand of Jesus put the game thoroughly out of hand, but it was the latest addition to the Celtics’ starting lineup, Glen Davis, who played a leading role. Davis got off to an inauspicious start during which he made Jermaine O’Neal look like a young Bill Russell but, after O’Neal gobbled up Davis’s first four shots, Davis’s energy and nose for the bucket were contagious. Davis finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, with his physical play and magnetic charge that constantly pulled him toward the basket leading to several layups and an 11-shot parade to the free throw line.
The Celtics played a beautiful symphony of all the right cords, but it was Rajon Rondo who led the orchestra. Even while scoring only eight points and shooting just six times, Rondo pulled all the right strings in running his offense. He finished with 12 assists compared to three turnovers, and directed the ball just where it needed to go. When Ray was open, Rondo found him. When Davis charged to an open spot in front of the basket, Rondo fed him. As he has all season, Rondo made manning the point guard position look easy. Even when almost entirely silent scoring-wise, Rondo has the ability to control an entire game.
As the Celtics clicked their heels and morphed into championship contenders in front of our very eyes, the Heat challenged to redefine offensive ineptitude. For the second straight game, the Heat couldn’t even reach 80 points. For the second straight game, the Heat had a 10-point quarter. For the second straight game, they were held to less than 40% shooting. Only a scoring explosion from Dwyane Wade (29 points), after the game was — for all intents and purposes — already over, kept Miami from a truly abysmal offensive output.
The series heads back to Miami for Game Three on Friday. Kevin Garnett will be back and so, it seems, is Celtic Pride.
- Kendrick Perkins had 13 points and 9 rebounds, and a plus/minus to almost equal his jersey number: +41.
- Paul Pierce scored only 13 points, but still easily got the best of his matchup with Quentin Richardson. Richardson had only 5 points, shot 2-7 from the floor, and had a -33 plus/minus.
- Michael Beasley, who was lauded before the game as a player who could potentially have a big game, scored only 13 points on 14 shots.
- Jermaine O’Neal shot 1-10, as he continues to challenge for the title, “World’s Greatest Bricklayer.”