It took every thing the Miami Heat had to rid themselves of the never say die Boston Celtics and advance to the NBA Finals.
It even took some things the Heat didn’t know they had.
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals ended with a Heat victory 101-88 but the final score doesn’t do the tightness of the game any justice.
LeBron James answered a few critics with another masterpiece dropping 31 points and 12 rebounds but the play and sharp shooting of Chris Bosh was the difference maker for Miami.
Bosh came off the Heat bench to torch the Celtics with 19 points on 8-10 shooting, 8 rebounds and 3 very unexpected triples. It was the first time in Bosh’s career that he had hit three 3′s in a game and it could not have been more untimely for Boston.
The final Bosh three gave Miami a four point lead (86-82) when the game had been back and forth for 3 minutes in the fourth. Then with the score 88-84, James drilled a 30 foot triple that extended the lead to 7. Those two shots were the back breakers for Boston.
The Celtics were led by the triple double brilliance of Rajon Rondo’s 22 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. Kevin Garnett gave the Celtics 14 points and 7 rebounds but only got 12 shots as Boston went away from him in the post. Both guys left everything on the floor and were so distraught they retreated to the locker room before the final buzzer, neglecting to shake hands with the Heat as is the tradition after a long series.
Some will pick that apart and criticize them for bad sportsmanship but given the magnitude of the circumstances for Boston its not hard to see why they acted in that manner.
Paul Pierce struggled with foul trouble yet again but played relatively well with 19 points. Pierce struggled all series long with his shot and he was just outplayed by the younger James in every single game.
It’s easy to say that the Celtics ran out of gas in the second half and the game had a very familiar feel to the 2010 NBA Finals Game 7 when that was indeed the case. After scoring 53 points in the first half the Celtics went cold in the second managing just 35 points in the final 24 minutes.
Still Boston had its chances but the cold shooting in the 2nd half and poor defensive strategy cost the Celtics a chance for their third trip to the NBA Finals in the last 5 years.
Brandon Bass (16 points) did a nice job defensively on LeBron in the first half but he was exposed in the fourth quarter by the NBA MVP. Bass refused to give James a step on defense instead choosing to crowd him on isolations at the top of the key. James correctly blew by the slow footed Bass and either scored or assisted on Heat baskets.
Bass is not solely to blame. The Boston help could have rotated quicker, Doc Rivers should have warned Bass to take a step back, or Rivers should have put the Celtics back in zone defense. Bass guarded James to give Pierce a break, yet Pierce still ended up in foul trouble. Mickael Pietrus was an absolute liability offensively so he could not be trusted to enter the game to guard James. The gamble on LeBron defensively ended up being a failure for Boston.
The Celtics didn’t run out of gas so much as they just ran out of answers for the Heat’s version of a Big 3. James, Bosh and Dwyane Wade (22 points) scored all of the Heat’s 28 points in the final period.
Now the hard part comes. This was most likely Boston’s last shot at a title as currently constructed. KG is rumored to be mulling over retirement. Ray Allen is eying the Heat and Knicks as a free agent. While Bass, Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic, and Keyon Dooling (player option) are all free agents.
The Boston Celtics will look very different next season but hopefully younger and retooled for another remarkable run. As they proved in this series they can never be counted out.
A look back on the Big 3 era will be posted soon. Until then congratulations to the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder but let me be clear: My name is Warren Shaw and I am a Celtic.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com