This one was getting ugly. Boston was dominant. Doc Rivers was pondering how to defend Lebron James. Dwyane Wade was — for him, at least — dormant. The Celtic lead became twenty.
And then it was gone. But not all of it. The Celtics would hold on to the victory, playing just well enough down the stretch to escape with a 96-86 victory and advance to the second round.
A third-quarter Celtics lapse, occurring mostly as a Heat zone disrupted the rhythm of Boston’s second unit, briefly helped Miami make this one interesting, but Boston’s lead was too much for Wade and his overachieving troop of scrubs to overcome. A barrage of jumpers from the Big Three, including an especially hot display from Ray Allen, ended Miami’s quest to extend its season one more game.
Allen finished with 24 points on 5-6 three-point shooting, Paul Pierce scored 21 points, and Kevin Garnett added 14 points and 8 rebounds, hitting two big shots midway through the fourth quarter to help drive a dagger through Miami’s heart. While the Big Three provided most of the scoring, it was Rajon Rondo who was again the best Celtic. He was dominant on both ends in the first half with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, and ended the game only two rebounds short of a triple-double (16 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds, 4 steals).
For Miami, only Mario Chalmers — who broke out in a big way with 20 points and some three-pointers that helped key Miami’s third-quarter run — joined Wade in double figures. As expected, Wade (31 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) led the way but — for the first time all series — Boston kept Wade’s field goal percentage down, making him work for his shots. Constant double-teams, good rotations, and a perennial hand in Wade’s face helped contain him. He wasn’t stopped, not by any means, but the Celtics can live with a 10-24 shooting performance from the superstar.
For two and a half quarters, the Celtics really looked like they were going to run away with this one. Only another warm batch of Celtics turnovers and questionable officiating (I really thought tonight was going to be the night Tommy finally got a mid-game heart attack) kept the game from being a blowout at halftime, and the crowd threatened to blow the roof off the Garden as the lead ballooned to 20 in the third.
But it wasn’t meant to be that easy, not that the amount of ease matters. All that matters is that the Celtics are now in the second round.
Hey Lebron, you’re next.
- If the Cavs finish off the Bulls tonight, Game One will be on Saturday. If not, it won’t be until Monday.
- Jermaine O’Neal had a couple nice dunks, and that’s about all you can say about the positives he brought to the table this series. Well, I guess you could say he blocked Glen Davis a few times, but even my dog could block Glen Davis. For O’Neal, the offseason couldn’t have come at a better time.
- Quentin Richardson played like an actress. Actually, I think even Julia Roberts could have outplayed Richardson on this night: He played 38 minutes and tallied 4 points, 3 rebounds and 0 assists. Enjoy watching the second round from home, Q.
- Michael Beasley was benched for a large portion of the second half (the whole second half?). Erik Spoelstra had clearly seen enough of his new haircut… well, that and his half-hearted play.
- Rasheed Wallace only played 9 minutes and notched 2 points and 3 rebounds, but looked more alive than he has in a long time.
- Glen Davis, and his dance. I cannot attempt to describe it. I will try to find a video of it for tomorrow.