Tonight was a great game and culminated in a great season for both teams. Miami came in with the expectation of championship or fail mentality, while Boston was proving they’re still capable of being elite and both teams accomplished that. Miami proved that 3 superstars can play elite basketball and be championship contenders by virtue of talent more-so than fit, while Celtics proved that the playoffs matter and they’re still capable of playing great basketball. Ultimately, the game was won by superstars and that’s why the game was so interesting and why Miami won the game. Here’s what we learned in tonight’s game though:
1) Playing under pressure and the value of experience. Both teams have been to the finals before, but this year Miami remained composed while the Celtics didn’t. The Celtics couldn’t score in the 4th quarter and their bench didn’t step up the same way Miami’s did and that was one of the keys in this match-up. Amazing role players like Battier, Haslem, Chalmers stepped up for Miami with their big 3 of Bosh, Wade, and LeBron. Only Brendan Bass showed up for Boston as no one on their bench scored besides one basket from Ryan Hollins.
2) The advantage of home court in a series. The value of home court in a series is of tremendous importance in a game 7 or eliminate game atmosphere. The crowd kept Miami motivated despite Miami’s early deficit in the 1st half. This helped keep younger players composed and not over-anxious or eager and therefore mistake prone in the match-up. The comfort level of playing in your own arena, sleeping in your own bed, cannot be measured by stats but it definitely helps relax players to remain focused on the game and perform better.
3) Having strong role players who are talented in more than one area. Battier is a great 3pt shooter and defensive specialist, Haslem is a tough grit and grind player who does dirty work but is still potent in inside scoring, and Chalmers, who’s a defensive minded quick point guard, who slashes well and shoots 3 pointers very well. This was the difference tonight as Boston’s role players, besides Bass (Pietrus, Stiemsma, Daniels) didn’t play well or have a meaningful impact in the game the same way Miami’s players did. Specialist players who are only talented in one area (3pt shooting, defense, scoring etc) don’t tend to play well in high pressure situations. The anxiety of the environment and stress of the game, affects their specialist talents. If they can’t contribute in other ways, then those players become a burden on their team because they have nothing else meaningful they can do so the value of two way players who are versatile is extremely valuable.
4) Playing as a team. The Celtics continually accomplish this task well, but tonight Miami did it. 3 Superstars playing in sync as a team is very difficult for any team to beat. Tonight the Celtics generally played in sync and as a team, but they couldn’t balance that effort with their bench and got worn out as the game wore on. Miscommunication, lack of hustle/energy, and great defense by Miami contributed to several scoring droughts by Boston despite brilliant play-making from Rondo.
5) Taking care of the ball. Turnovers hurt any game, and in this game, that proved the difference as Miami and Boston are two great teams with great open court players in Rondo, Wade, and LeBron so both teams could not afford turnovers, yet alone those resulting from sloppy passing. Miami was horrible in this aspect tonight as they gave out several bad passes from all their players, while the Celtics mostly had Garnett lose the ball on bad passes out of double teams.
In the first quarter, both teams started out fast and displayed their uptempo and transition game slashing and driving for easy dunks and open 3′s. In a span of 3 minutes, Miami and Boston scored on inside outside play, with Miami getting a 10-8 lead after 3 minutes behind two quick 3′s from Battier while Boston had a balanced team effort. After that, both teams took a timeout and increased their defensive intensity, especially Boston who clamped down and prevented Miami’s slashing game. This worked miraculously as the Celtics then went on a 15-4 run, taking a 23-14 lead behind the brilliance of Rondo’s playmaking. He got easy open shots for Ray Allen who curled off several staggered picks and then was hit by Rondo as he’d cut to the top of they key for great shots. Rondo finished the period with 5 assists and 4 points while LeBron and Wade had 8 and 6 points respectively. Miami however, did a poor job taking care of the ball, finishing with 5 turnovers and allowing the Celtics to take the lead, finishing the quarter up 27-23 after a 9-4 run by Miami.
In the second, more of the same occurred, Miami kept turning the ball over, while Boston capitalized on their mistakes. However, Bosh started by scoring 7 quick Miami points including a rare 3 pointer as well on some nice jump shots in pick and pop situations. The Celtics defense tightened up, while Miami’s loosened up, as they kept trying to recover from costly turnovers. Bosh carried Miami as they struggled to score while Wade kept forcing shots, and LeBron had difficulty getting good looks and refused to force shots. Miami also had difficulty taking care of the ball as the C’s built a quick lead behind clutch 3pointers from Pierce, easy dunks and open jump shots from Bass, and excellent playmaking from Rondo. The Celtics also took great care of the ball, managing only 4 turnovers, all by bigs (3 Garnett and 1 by Greg Stiemsma) as opposed to Miami who had 10. The Celtics built a 11 pt lead, going up, 49-38. Late in the second half, Miami tightened up, with Wade finally getting some shots to go in, and getting their transition game with an amazing fast break off a Celtics turnover which resulted in a highlight play from Wade and LeBron. The Celtics lost the ball, which lead to a two on one play, with LeBron and wade passing it to each other several times to confuse Rondo, which resulted in a great dunk by Lebron. The mini-run by Miami cut the lead down to 5 before Boston called timeout. Emotions also got high as Rondo and Wade got called for a double technical, for bumping into each other, which would be horrible for both teams if either player is ejected for not controlling their emotions. Thankfully though, that bump fueled the Celtics as Boston finished the half up 53-46, with Brandon Bass leading Boston with 14 points, 10 for Pierce, and 12 for Allen, while Rondo had 10 assists and 0 turnovers. Miami fared worse as LeBron had 14 points, Wade and Bosh each had 9 points, and Miami had 10 turnovers. The Celtics as a team only had 6 but had 8 steals to compensate. LeBron however did his best to be aggressive without forcing turnovers, as he went 8-10 at the free throw line, and the Heat only had 7 fouls, as opposed to 13 for Boston with 3 on Garnett as well.
Starting the 3rd, Miami came out more aggressive and with more hustle as well fighting harder for second chance points, and offensive rebounds. Miami played smarter and was more selective in when to push the tempo and play slow which resulted in a slower pace of game, but allowed Battier to hit two 3pointers and varying the offense with Haslem, Wade, and LeBron scoring to free up Battier as well. This let Miami tie the game up at 59 forcing Boston to call a timeout to slow down the game. It didn’t work out, as Miami shortly afterward took the lead for the first time since the 1st quarter as Wade’s shots started to fall and gave Miami a boost offensively. Wade’s scoring is of utmost importance for Miami as well, as it helps free up their slashers (LeBron, Chalmers) and forces the defense to stay closer to the paint or midrange area, giving some extra time for quick 3point shooters, like Chalmers, Battier, Miller and James Jones for easy spot up opportunities. This helped Miami get back in the game with a balanced effort Pierce got into foul trouble. Wade who was blocked on an easy layup by Ryan Hollins complained that he was fouled and jogged back on defense before LeBron swatted the shot allowing Wade to draw the foul on Pierce forcing him to the bench early. This had some consequences as it limited the Celtic’s offensive options and eliminated Garnett’s resting period which may keep him exhausted for the final quarter. Late in the quarter, Miami started to trap Boston’s bigs preventing them from scoring easy baskets. This led to Rondo shooting a 3, which he surpisingly made before Bosh tied the game at 73-73 ending the quarter.
Celtics opened the quarter with Rondo scoring on a layup, before Bosh made his second 3. Garnett, Pierce, and Allen then exchanged dunks, 3pointers, and and1′s with Wade and LeBron as the superstars tried to leave their imprint on the game and play to close out the series. A timeout then occured and after the timeout, LeBron came thundering in with a powerful dunk to rally Miami before another timeout as wellwith the heat up 83-82. After returning, Bosh scored his 3rd 3pointer and Lebron scored another basket forcing Doc to call another timeout to slow down the Heat. Bass then scored again after being quiet since his big first half. LeBron then hit a clutch 3 giving Miami a 94-81 lead. Wade and Bosh scored again afterwards giving Miami a 9pt lead, 95-86 with 3 minutes and 30 seconds left in the quarter. Boston called timeout to slow down this amazing quarter, highlighted by superstar plays. Besides Bass’ basket, only All-Stars have scored for either team thus far in the quarter with everyone playing to their utmost best in this final match-up between both teams. After the timeout, Miami continued their run as Miami finally won 101-88 behind Wade, and LeBron closing the game in the final minutes. All in all, this was a great game that was extremely close until the last few minutes when LeBron was able to get into a groove and Bass couldn’t stop LeBron when LeBron drove from the perimeter.
Stats of the night:
Rondo 22 points (10-22 shooting, 1-2 3pt, 1-2 ft) 10 rebounds, 14 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnover, 2 fouls
Bass 16 points (6-8 shooting, 4-4 ft) 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 turnover, 4 fouls
Pierce 19 points (7-18 shooting, 2-6 3pt, 3-5 ft) 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnover, 5 fouls
LeBron 31 points (9-21 shooting, 1-5 3pt, 12-17 ft) 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnover
Wade 23 points (8-17 shooting, 0-2 3pt, 7-8 ft) 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, 4 turnovers
Bosh 19 pints (8-10 shooting, 3-4 3pt) 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 1 foul
Highlight plays of the game: Several clutch 3pters from Battier and highlight reel dunks from LeBron to liven up the crowd in the 3rd and 4th quarter.
Interesting notes of the night: In the 4th quarter, Shane Battier was the only Miami player other than LeBron, Wade, and Bosh who attempted a shot. This is also the 3rd Finals appearance for Miami, for Wade, and LeBron, and 2nd for Bosh. LeBron now averaged 34.3 ppg for a Game 7 (min 3 games) This is the highest in NBA history for game 7 scoring. This was also very difficult for Boston, as they scored only 6 points in a span of 8:49. This was also Udonis Haslem’s 32nd birthday. Manny Pacquiao was in attendance for the game, and delayed his fight so he could watch the game, as he is a Celtics fan. Rondo is now the Celtic’s all time leader in triple doubles in the playoffs as well.
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.