This was a great game for anyone who watched it. The Celtics, who have abused LeBron James when he was with the Cavs, eliminating him from the playoffs several times, finally got a taste of their own medicine. LeBron had a dominant performance, being only the 2nd player in NBA history (with Wilt Chamberlain) to score 45-15-5 in the playoffs, during a conference or division final since 1964. The game was essentially a beatdown but Rondo did his best to prevent it from being a blowout. Without further ado here’s what we learned in tonight’s game:
1) First half scoring. For anyone who watched this game, it was evident that Miami would not go down without a fight. Despite that Boston tried their best to close out the game, with Rondo scoring at will against Miami constantly driving in the paint against Miami. This was to compensate LeBron’s scoring who had 30 points on 12-14 shooting in the first half scoring 16 and 14 points in the 1st and 2nd respectively. Rondo compensated with 19 points on 7-10 shooting while setting up his teammates to get them involved. Simply put, this was LeBron Vs Rondo as all other star players (Wade, Bosh, Pierce, Allen, Garnett) were non-factors in the 1st half.
2) The value of balanced bench scoring. Without Avery Bradley it’s tougher to get balanced scoring from Boston’s scorers, despite Rodno’s best efforts. Having someone to come off the bench as a 6th man and put up points quickly is important for both teams. As proven by successful teams like the Spurs, Thunder, Lakers having someone off the bench to bring you 14-20 points and stay within the flow of the game is of utmost importance. The Celtics need to balance their bench better and consequently have been playing Rondo and Garnett more with the 2nd unit but it has not been helping their bench as they scored only 15 points off the bench today, which didn’t occur until late in the 3rd and then garbage points in the 4th.
3) Not giving up on possessions. Too many times we’ve seen both teams, Celtics and Heat miss a shot, and unexpected players come back to secure a block, or 2nd steal after turning the ball over, or an offensive rebound, only to lose it again. On those 2nd and 3rd chances, everyone has to hustle and box out or keep playing hard to win that possession because every possession counts. This is the semi finals, and the Celtics with their lack of athleticism can’t afford to be outworked by the Heat.
4) The importance of minimizing mistakes. In this game, both teams minimized their turnovers and fouls, but Boston especially needs to lower it. Turnovers, fouls, missed defensive rotations etc will cost any team a game so for Boston to win, they need to minimize their mistakes even more, avoiding foul trouble, keeping Miami off the line and no technicals or frustration fouls.
5) Defensive activity. Smart defense always wins over athleticism and the Celtics did not demonstrate that tonight. They were out rebounded by the Heat and did not close out on Miami well. They gave up too many 2nd chance points and open 3′s trying to contain LeBron. Not only did they fail to contain LeBron, but they allowed Miami to shoot nearly 44% and connect on seven 3 pointers (They had 50% until late in the game during garbage time when the game was already decided).
In the 1st, Miami started the game with two quick 3 pointers by Chalmers and Battier while Boston took their time swinging the ball and making smart plays. Boston tried to slow down the game to take Miami’s transition game away from them, working the shot clock down to get good shots. It worked for some time until 4 minutes remained in the 1st. Then LeBron had took over and capitalized on Boston’s willingness to play uptempo against Miami and a 14-12 lead for Miami quickly changed to 26-16 as Miami went on a 12-4 run with Lebron scoring 10 of those 12 points to end the 1st. Miami scored mostly on tough contested jump shots from LeBron who simply abused everyone guarding him, whether it was Pietrus, Pierce, Garnett, Allen or 2 on 1 defenses LeBron just dominated. A technical foul was also called on Chalmers in the 1st quarter. Boston had difficulty scoring the ball as only their big 4 had any points in the 1st quarter with Rondo scoring 8, Garnett, 4, and Pierce and Allen both with 2. Miami’s defense, particularly Wade LeBron and Battier’s were responsible for Boston’s poor shooting and scoring.
Heading into the 2nd, more of the same occurred. LeBron was unstoppable, cutting, penetrating, and abusing everyone who guarded him. Miami started the quarter getting Wade involved before LeBron took over. Rondo tried to keep Boston in it as well, but essentially the game turned into a back and forth of runs by both teams. Miami would go on a run, spearheaded by LeBron, then Boston would have a balanced run. Miami would call timeout, and get someone else to score to get some attention off LeBron, especially open 3′s and cuts to the rim. Boston then went on their own run by Rondo who scored 9 of 11 points and Boston finished the period down 55-42.
Just after halftime, Miami’s lead quickly grew to 17, with Wade and LeBron scoring on two mid range jump shots. During that time, one of the worst reffing calls of the playoffs (which have been plentiful occurred) Garnett got a horrible technical foul, for passing the ball to Miami’s inbound players after scoring, earning a taunting technical foul. However that seemed to energize Boston as they quickly went on a 8-0 run forcing Miami to call timeout leading 60-50, with 4 minutes left in the 4th. Boston’s run was energized by Rondo’s penetration. Unfortunately, Rondo also was caught on a horrible switch, trying to guard LeBron, who besides being a better overall player than Rondo, also has a 7 inch height advantage and 85 pound weight advantage over Rondo. This infuriated Garnett who was seen shouting that they can’t allow horrendous defensive mismatches like that if they want to close out the series. That easy basket allowed Miami to get into a groove scoring on open kick outs allowing them to maintain a comfortable 15 point lead with 6 minutes remaining. At the 3 minute mark, Boston had Pietrus score on a tip-in giving Boston their first 2 points from the bench as they went through a mini-drought unable to score for 3 minutes prior to Pierce’s tip in. However Boston then scored 7 quick points in a span of 1 minute forcing Miami to call a timeout allowing them to keep their 9 pt lead at 72-61 with 2 minutes remaining. In the last 2 minutes, both teams played uptempo and had several turnovers, with intercepted passes or steals. Miami turned the ball over while Boston turned it over twice as well. Both teams were unable to keep control of the ball as one intercepted pass lead to a steal then another intercepted pass and out of bounds plays that won’t show up in the box score or play by play. Boston missed on their last four shots, allowing Miami to finish the quarter scoring once more, and lead by 13 with a 74-61 lead. James finished with 41 points, scoring 11 in the quarter. Rondo had 5 assists in the quarter giving him 10 for the game, while Miami as a team only had 9 assists at this point. Rondo, like LeBron, also has played the entire game thus far, without taking a rest.
Starting the 4th Wade hit two quick shots getting the lead back up to 17 before Pierce hit a shot for his 8th point of the game. Battier then hit a quick 3 pointer, Miami’s 7th of the game before Boston called timeout giving Miami an 18pt lead. After the timeout, Boston got an open shot for Garnett who missed but Pierce had the offensive rebound getting fouled, and finally going to the free throw line for the first time in the game, with 10 minutes remaining, and getting his 9th point at the line. Miami then switched Battier to guard Pierce, to help conserve his energy for the game, instead guarding Brandon Bass. LeBron scored again for his 43rd point before a tv highlight showed LeBron’s career playoff high was 49 points. Dooling stole the ball off a poor pass from LeBron to Chalmers. The turnover didn’t make a difference for Boston though, as Pierce lost the ball after great defense from Chalmers knocked him off balance, while Wade and Battier dived to Pierce and forced a jump ball. Miami’s lead quickly grew to 25, the largest lead of the game, going on a 15-5 run with Wade scoring 8 points, assisting 2 baskets, and LeBron making 2 baskets as well assisting on 2 baskets also. A timeout mercifully occurred as Doc Rivers took Rondo and Pierce out of the game with 7 minutes remaining. Miami however, chose to keep LeBron in the game to keep them sharp and dominant. The announcers also made an interesting comment, stating that if LeBron who has played very well, played as poorly as Pierce did tonight (4-18 shooting) the amount of criticism he would receive would be unimaginable. Analyst and former coach, Jeff Van Gundy quickly pointed out that Pierce is playing poorly in the series, because he has to score, playmake, and guard LeBron which is difficult enough on it’s own, even for defensive specialists. LeBron finally rested with 3 minutes left, and Miami with a comfortable lead before winning the game 98-79
Stats of the night:
LeBron James: 45 points (19-26 shooting, 2-4 3pt, 5-9 free throw) 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 fouls
Dwayne Wade: 17 points (6-17 shooting, 5-5 free throws) 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 fouls, 3 steals
Chris Bosh: 7 points (3-8 shooting, 1-2 free throws) 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 3 blocks
Paul Pierce: 9 points (4-18 shooting, 0-6 3pt, 1-2 free throws) 5 rebounds, 1 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls, 3 steals, 1 block
Rajon Rondo: 21 points (8-14 shooting, 5-7 free throws) 4 rebounds, 10 assists, 7 turnovers, 2 fouls, 3 steals
Brandon Bass: 12 points (5-8 shooting, 2-3 free throws) 7 rebounds, 2 fouls
Kevin Garnett: 12 points (6-14 shooting) 5 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 foul, 1 block
Play of the game: LeBron flying in for a 1handed putback dunk after a Bosh miss late in the 2nd quarter. Here’s a videorecap of it LeBron James’ highlight dunk
Moving forward: This was a horrible game for Boston in all cases. They never led in the game after the first 2 minutes and didn’t stick to their game plan or adapt to Miami. Rondo scored 19 points in the 1st half and was shooting efficiently, but only had 2 points in the 2nd half. He was turning the ball over too much in the first half (5 turnovers) but he was their consistent scorer, since everyone else on Boston had difficulty scoring, particularly Pierce. Garnett and Allen never got into a rhythm and Bass only got garbage points. Another scary thought is Bosh played off the bench and Boston didn’t capitalize on it. For Boston to have a chance, they need to use Garnett as a help defender against LeBron with Pietrus guarding him since Pierce and Bass are too slow. When LeBron is trapped on the perimeter, Rondo can help double team as well and deflect passes and finishing with smart plays and taking care of the ball better. As far as it seems though, a Miami vs OKC finals looks more and more realistic because the Celtics aren’t showing any heart or desire to win one last time.
Interesting notes of the night: LeBron’s career scoring high in the playoffs is 49 points, rebounding high is 19 (Whom he had against Boston) while he had 45 points and 14 rebounds tonight. The last game 7 for the Eastern conference finals was 7 years ago, with Detroit beating Miami 4-3 in the 2005 finals when San Antonio won their championship. LeBron’s 30 1st half points is a new career high for him as well. During an out of bounds play early in the 1st quarter Wade was hit in the head by a fan passing the basketball back to him. LeBron’s stats are multiples of 5 (45, 15, 5), last person to have a stat line like that, was 1964 by Wilt Chamberlain. After the game Doc Rivers said LeBron is a great player, especially in the clutch and his performance validated that so fans need to lay off LeBron and not motivate him further so the Celtics have a better chance to win.
About the Author
Written by Andrew Mossad
Avid basketball player/fan out of Ontario with a strong preference on matchup mismatches and good basketball over highlights.