Date: April 10, 2012
Location: AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Final Score: 115-107
Key Players: Kevin Garnett (24 points, 11-14 shooting, 9 rebounds), Avery Bradley
Top Plays: 0:49 (Garnett converts a difficult up and under layup along the baseline), 1:11 (Pierce, after getting dunked on by Wade, sticks a three in his grill)
Rundown: Much was made of Boston’s mediocre (at best) offense last season, but in this game, the Celtics came out throwing haymakers and body blows, and Miami’s vaunted offense couldn’t weather the beating. Boston shot incredible percentages both overall (60.6%) and from three point range (64.6%). Rondo was masterful, shooting 6-11 from the field for 18 points while dishing out 15 assists to his teammates.
But the underlying story of this game was Dwyane Wade’s continued struggles against the emerging Avery Bradley. Bradley shot efficiently, scoring 11 points on 5-8 shooting, but much more importantly, he held Wade to 20 points on 21 shots. Bradley’s harassing, pressure defense bothered Wade, who looked very uncomfortable whenever he was handling the ball. Wade thrives on using his superior athleticism to dominate his opponents (which, incidentally, is why Wade’s superstardom has always seemed to have more of a shelf life than others). Bradley never allowed Wade to get comfortable, and as a result, Wade scored 20, but highly inefficiently.
As is often the case in games between Miami and Boston, the Celtics won despite LeBron’s best efforts. James dropped 36 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out seven assists, but Boston’s offensive explosion kept LeBron’s in check, and Boston pulled away in the final minute for an immensely satisfying win.
What it meant: This was still a regular season game, and regular season games don’t necessarily have lasting playing implications. But let’s be honest: this game felt different. It felt as if the Celtics, with the help of Avery Bradley, just might be able to take down the vaunted Miami Heat.
This belief is why Bradley’s season-ending injury was so difficult to stomach. Before the injury, it felt like the Celtics had a secret weapon that the Heat couldn’t quite get over. Despite their occasional on-court chemistry problems, Miami struggles whenever any member of their Big 3 isn’t operating at a high level, whether because of injuries or because a lockdown defender is preventing one of the top shooting guards in the NBA from playing to the top of his potential. We, of course, couldn’t know that Bosh would miss most of the series and that after five games, Boston would have a 3-2 lead and a home game in Game 6.
But all that comes later. For now, this game was simply a regular season win against the Heat. It’s always fun to see the Miami crowd leaving with 5:40 left in the 4th quarter to beat the traffic around their favorite club, and it’s always fun to be a fan of the team sending the Miami fans to their next night-life destination.
No matter how much this game meant to the Celtics team, it always means a lot to us as fans to see Boston beat the Heat. Intellectually, I know that the Celtics as currently constructed can’t be a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference forever, and that the Heat have become the top contender. Intellectually, I can recognize that LeBron is the best player in the NBA and that Miami plays a beautiful, unselfish brand of basketball when they are playing well. I can recognize that the way the Heat came together represented an evolution in how players operate in free agency, and that they helped take power away from the owners and give it to the players, which I totally approve of. Intellectually, I know that LeBron isn’t a choker and that Chris Bosh
doesn’t actually look like an ostrich isn’t actually soft. Intellectually, I know that while Wade definitely meant to pull Rondo down in 2011, he probably didn’t want to bend Rondo’s elbow the wrong way.
But then again, intellectually, screw those guys.
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