Prior to the Celtics vs. Heat playoffs series, there was one undeniable difference between these two teams: Because of the Celtics multiple options in late game situations (Ray Allen, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett could all be trusted to take a game-winning shot), they had the advantage over Miami in close games.
Meanwhile, Miami, in late-game situations, trailing by two or less had attempted 19 shots and somehow missed 18 of them. With such dismal outcomes in late-game situations it appeared that the Heat faced certain defeat if they found themselves in a tied game with the Boston Celtics at any point in this series.
Nevertheless, in Game 4 the Heat seemed to make all the key plays down the stretch and out-execute the generally flawless clutch team in Boston.
Ironically, the Heat were led to victory by LeBron James, who has been blasted in the media for "not being clutch" and "lacking killer instinct." I don't think anyone could use Game 4 as evidence of either claim being true.
After Ray Allen made a tough three-point shot to give the Celtics a 84-81 lead, James responded with a three-pointer of his own to tie the score at 84 all. That was a gutsy shot for James to take on further reflection.
If he took it and missed, he would have received the bulk of the blame for the loss. "Well, LeBron took an ill-advised three which bounced off the back iron and costs the Heat the game. Yet another example of why this guy is no winner," the headlines would read the next day.
However, after that play, James became a one-man big-play machine. After a turnover with the game on the line, James got a defensive stop against Pierce and made a shot to give the Heat the lead again 86-84. The Celtics would tie the game up afterward, but then James made a critical defensive stand against Pierce at the buzzer on a game-winning attempt.
There has been a lot of talk after the game about what went wrong for the Celtics on the last play. Pierce left taking a contested shot over a bigger defender while Garnett and Allen are left stranded on the weak side and unable to catch the ball for a potential better look. It was a critical mistake that Boston has rarely made in the past, and it came at a seriously bad time.
Meanwhile, in OT, Wade hits a lone two-pointer to extend the lead, Chris Bosh gets the most important tip-in of his career and James hit a tough turnaround fadeaway to give the Heat the lead for good.
It was an amazing reversal for a team whose biggest weakness appeared to be: making the big plays with the game on the line.
Obviously, the Miami Heat will still face doubts about their clutch abilities in their subsequent games. With the prospect of facing the Chicago Bulls and/or the Dallas Mavericks in the next two rounds, both teams with reputations of making big plays with the game on the line, the Heat will have to continue to find ways to produce in the clutch.
However, with their performance in Game 4 against the Celtics, they may finally have begun to free themselves of that insistent stigma regarding their failures in the clutch.