Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. Clank. The Boston Celtics, even after a Dwyane Wade performance that will forever stand in the annals of NBA history, had an opportunity to overcome the Heat and complete a four-game sweep of the first-round playoff series, but five straight missed free throws — three by Ray Allen, two by Kevin Garnett — ended any hopes of a comeback and sent the series back to Boston for Game Five. The Celtics would go on to lose 101-92.
A few minutes into the fourth quarter, which the Celtics began with a 77-71 lead, Dwyane Wade looked down at his smoking right hand, eyes bulging and body pulsing after singlehandedly rescuing his team from the broomstick treatment. Wade had just connected on four straight three-pointers, a 30% three-point shooter digging deep into his bag of tricks to avoid losing in what could prove to be his final home game as a member of the Miami Heat, and wasn’t done yet. By the time he drilled his fifth straight bomb, the Heat had a 93-82 lead and Wade was almost done writing a new, 46-point page in his storied career. Only an enthusiastic Boston double-team that picked up Wade at halfcourt, a tactic of desperation used a last resort to cool off the scorching superstar, kept Wade from breaking the half-century mark.
Wade’s heat stroke came as the Heat looked ready to unravel. An early 18-point Heat lead had turned into a 7-point deficit and Miami looked ready to prepare for summer vacation before Wade’s right hand started to percolate with flames. Only Wade’s epic masterpiece of near-perfection kept Miami’s season alive and kept the Celtics from the fifth sweep in franchise history.
The Celtics will return to Boston to try to finish the series, with nightmares of Wade at his finest haunting their sleep. A clean Celtics sweep was a possibility entering the day, and seemed almost an inevitability as the Celtics erased the early deficit, inched ahead of Miami and looked prepared to tear out Miami’s heart. The Heat players’s shoulders were sagging, their faces drooping, and the players seemed inclined to play out the final twelve minutes of their season without passion. All of them, that is, except for one Dwyane Wade.
And so the Heat live to play another game, and their flame-throwing superstar, for at least a few more days, will remain a member of the one team for which he’s ever played. The series is now 3-1 and, while it still seems almost impossible that Miami will advance to the second round, it is more clear than ever that Dwyane Wade will not allow himself, nor his team, to disappear quietly into the offseason.
- Ray Allen’s three straight missed free throws marked the first time all season he has missed three free throws in a single game.
- Rajon Rondo, with 23 points and 9 assists, dominated play for much of the game but didn’t play his best in the fourth quarter.
- Garnett had 18 points and 12 rebounds.
- Quentin Richardson was red-hot to begin the game, and finished with 20 points.
- Kendrick Perkins was scoreless for the second straight game, but did have 8 rebounds.