Heat 101, Celtics 88 (Miami wins series 4-3)
As the final buzzer sounded in Miami on Saturday night, Celtics fans caught what may have been their last glimpse of their version of the “Big Three” in Boston. An era that restored basketball in a sports-crazed city may very well have seen its final moments. But the “Big Three” before the Heat’s “Big Three” made one heck of a last run at the villains of the East. Kevin Garnett found the time-traveling Delorean and flew 10 years back in time with McFly this series, defending the basket like no big in recent memory and offensively dominating a front court lacking Heat team. Paul Pierce’s “All In Your Face” three in Game 5 will go down as arguably the biggest shot by any Celtics player in the 2011-12 season. Ray Allen’s ankle injury severely limited his contributions, but he gave his best effort every play on the court and hit some big shots down the stretch.
Staying with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo put on the Superman cape for much of the series and almost single-handedly won a few of the games vs. the Heat. During certain stretches of play during this series, one could make the case that Rondo was the best point guard in the world. His stat lines alone look like video game lines, and his unorthodox ways of scoring puzzled the Heat night in and night out. Is he the best point guard in the world every minute of every game? Of course not. However, he proved in the Eastern Conference Finals that although he may not be as consistently dominant, he deserves his name in the talks with Derrick Rose and Chris Paul for the best point guards in the NBA.
However, the firepower of the Big Three eventually wore out the tired Celtics. LeBron followed his jaw dropping 45-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist game with a 31-point and 12-rebound game. He scored big buckets in the fourth quarter and refused to let fatigue set in. Dwyane Wade started off the game like he wanted to get out of the arena and go party, but he stepped up his efforts in the second half and came through with a few big buckets. Chris Bosh, in arguably the best outside shooting performance of his career, added 19 huge points and made his presence felt again.
The Heat will need huge contributions from Wade and Bosh if they have any chance at beating the Thunder in the NBA Finals. Erik Spoelstra needs to find a way to get LeBron a break during the game. The fact that LeBron played every second of the game until the last 30 seconds makes me question Spoelstra even more. If LeBron doesn’t start getting breaks in the game, he will get too tired in the fourth quarter and bring the usual demons back upon himself. Spoelstra needs to make LeBron’s job easier in the fourth quarter by getting him short breaks during the first three quarters.
The Heat’s ability to run the floor and make plays in transition ranks as high as any team in the league. When LeBron plays 48 minutes, however, the Heat cannot run as much. They settle for their usual one-on-one isolation crap basketball and run a stagnant offensive in which everyone watches the guy with the ball and don’t move. The Heat flat out need to do more offensively if they want to beat the Thunder. They haven’t seen the type of athleticism and length the Thunder possess, and the Thunder will try to run them out the gym. In all honesty, the Thunder running may make the Heat run more, which will almost help the Heat as much as the Thunder. The Thunder probably won’t struggle putting the ball in the hole and will crush the Heat when LeBron and Wade aren’t converting on offense. I hope Spoelstra has a few tricks up his sleeve he’s saved for, uh, the whole season. If LeBron’s shot keeps falling, the Heat will not have many offensive worries. If him or Wade go cold for a while, the Heat may get into some serious trouble.
I could be here all night making this an “Ode to the Big Three plus Rondo”, but I’ll settle by saying how incredible it was to watch the Celtics play this post season. Seeing teams that emphasize hustle, determination, defense, and rebounding gives NBA fans a breath of fresh air. The Celtics quickly became one of the funnest teams to watch over the course of the playoffs. They had arguably the league’s most exciting point guard ripping off highlight reel plays left and right. They had Paul Pierce knocking down big shots late in games. They had the League’s best leader, best defender, and best overall teammate playing with a tenacity and controlled anger that the league hasn’t seen in ages. They played as hard, if not harder, than any team in the NBA, and they soaked in every single word their boss Doc Rivers spewed out of his mouth. They followed Doc like a new born baby follows his/her parents. They defended, shared the ball, rebounded, and out-hustled everyone they played. In the end, as Stephen A. Smith noted, “Father time finally caught up with the Celtics.” The Celtics went down, but they sure did not go down without a fight. Every Celtics fan should walk around Sunday and the rest of the year proud to cheer for such a pleasant group to watch. The modern Celtics era may be over, but the Rondo-Pierce-Garnett-Allen team will never be forgotten. —Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn)