Heat vs. Celtics: Breaking Down Boston's Blueprint to Beating Miami
If New York Yankees Hall of Famer Yogi Berra had been in the TD Garden to see the Boston Celtics' 101-91 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday, he may well have wondered aloud if what he'd seen really was déjà vu all over again.
You know. Team A (Heat and Spurs) win Games 1 and 2 at home, once decisively and once in heartbreaking fashion for Team B (Celtics and Thunder). Then, Team B, down 0-2 and with its collective back against the wall, comes out with a desperate effort and dominates at home in Game 3, with role players stepping up left and right and team defense taking precedent.
For the C's, it was Marquis Daniels playing the part of Thabo Sefolosha. The sparsely-used forward stepped in for the foul-plagued Brandon Bass and contributed nine points, five rebounds, an assist and a steal while slowing down LeBron James after a 16-point bonanza in the first quarter.
It was Keyon Dooling hitting a few big shots in the first half, pestering Dwyane Wade and (most importantly) giving Paul Pierce's aching body a much-needed reprieve.
Defensively, the C's managed to contain Miami's terrific tag team largely without fouling. Any Bostonian complaints about lopsided officiating evaporated as rapidly as did LeBron's free-throw attempts. After racking up 24 freebies in Game 2, the three-time NBA MVP came back with five, four of which he missed.
Even though he spent most of the fourth quarter playing center in Miami's small-ball lineup.
Of course, those five foul shots were five more than Wade had all night. For all of his aggressive play and signature slashes to the rim, D-Wade failed to get to the stripe for the first time since his rookie season (h/t ESPN's Tom Haberstroh):
Last time Dwyane Wade finished a playoff game with zero free throw attempts? He was a rookie, L vs. NOH Apr 24, 2004— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) June 1, 2012
Again, not at all unlike what OKC accomplished in Game 3 against San Antonio, when they held Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to nine free throws.
On the other end of the floor, Boston dominated inside, outscoring Miami in the paint, 58-46. Kevin Garnett, in particular, went to work against the Ronny Turiafs, Udonis Haslems and Joel Anthonys of the basketball world, to the tune of 24 points (on just 16 shots), 11 rebounds and a set of knuckle pushups that would've put Zach Randolph in his place.
Rajon Rondo (21 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and one ridiculously awesome steal on LBJ) and Paul Pierce (23 points, four rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks) did their respective parts to help the C's build a 24-point lead and stave off a late charge by the Heat in the fourth quarter.
Oh yeah, and Ray Allen summoned his inner Jesus Shuttlesworth riiiiiight here:
It certainly helped Boston's case that Miami spent so much time standing around on defense and getting out-rebounded, 44-32, by a Celtics squad whose roster is about as threadbare as that of the Heat. It also helped that Miami struggled so mightily to move the ball and create open shots for much of the night, most notably in the second and third quarters.
Let's not forget, either, that Miami is still without Chris Bosh, whose mere presence may well have been enough of impede The Big Ticket, if only by a smidgen.
But Boston deserves credit in both respects, for demoralizing Miami defensively and taking full advantage of the Heat's lackadaisical effort.
Which team will win Game 4?
What else would you expect, though? The C's (particularly their role players) weren't about to let the energy from a raucous home crowd go to waste, certainly not after doing just that with Rondo's historic effort in Game 2 on Wednesday.
What's more, they understand as well as any team how crucial it is to avoid digging an 0-3 hole, to put primal desperation to constructive use on the hardwood. They've fought through their fair share of battles together over the last five years, ever since Danny Ainge worked his draft-day magic to bring Ray Allen to Beantown and KG shortly thereafter.
They know far better than the West's Team B what it takes to compete for titles and stay alive when the going gets tough along the way. They've been there and done that and seen that, against LeBron and Wade, together and apart.
You know, like déjà vu or something.
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