We had to see this one coming.
After a chippy, physical Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, tempers finally flared late in the game at American Airlines Arena.
It started with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter with Miami leading 82-70. Paul Pierce went up for a jumper and was fouled hard by James Jones. Pierce evidently felt a bit disrespected, and proceeded to share a few words with Jones while bumping heads. A double technical was assessed and the game continued amid heightened tensions.
Game play didn't last much longer, as Dwyane Wade was called for a foul as Paul Pierce set a screen with 7:00 left in the game. Pierce and D-Wade proceeded to exchange words as the officials swarmed to the scene. The skirmish ended with Paul Pierce being ejected from the game with his second technical, and the Heat going on to win 99-90 on the back of D-Wade's 38 points.
I, for one, certainly expected a physical, if not flat outright bruising, series. Both of these teams play tough defense, especially Boston, with their tough interior defense. I fully expected some clashes to occur, especially in the position matchups, like Paul Pierce vs. LeBron and KG vs. Chris Bosh.
However, the series is being taken to a whole new level. With the physicality we witnessed in Game 1, it's clear both of these teams have a lot to prove. The Celtics need to show that they are still capable of making another championship run and silence critics who voiced concerns about the Big Three's age, the loss of Kendrick Perkins, and the general lackadaisical play witnessed at the end of the regular season.
Miami desperately wants to silence critics who claim that the new Big Three can't win a championship by themselves, and the Heat are here to stay as a super-team.
LeBron in particular wants to silence those who criticized his departure from Cleveland. He wants to show that he can win a ring, and solidify his place as the best player of his era, and enter into the discussion of the greatest of all time.*
*All of this is in LeBron's own head, of course.
All of this is poised to come to a head as these two teams square off. These are two of the best teams in the NBA, but only one can advance. It's going to take more than just skill or talent; the winner of this series may very well have to play a series of attrition and use all of the power and strength they have.
I'll leave it at this: look for Paul Pierce to have a breakout Game 2, look for KG and Rondo to find their form and look for neither to team to back down in a war of words or actions.
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