The Celtics, could’ve, should’ve but ultimately didn’t. Misfires, turnovers, bad screens, and bad bounces doomed Boston as they fell to Miami 98-90 in overtime. In a possible changing of the guard, Miami’s big three combined for 83 points, led by 35 points and 14 boards from LeBron James. Boston’s senior trio combined for 51 points but couldn’t make enough big plays down the stretch. With the victory, Miami moves one win away from the conference finals and the end of an era of Boston basketball could be 48 minutes away.
Boston had more than enough chances to win and tie the series up, none more notable than the last play of regulation. After an unforced turnover from LeBron gave Boston possession, but the Celtics couldn’t run the play and Pierce is forced into a tough jumper that misses. The poor execution highlighted a fourth quarter where Boston simply couldn’t convert on several point blank opportunities to take command of the game.
“It’s frustrating because we had so many opportunities,” Doc said afterwards. “The fast breaks, the missed layups, those things are disappointing.”
“I feel like tonight we beat ourselves,” Pierce added.
Meanwhile in another corner of the bowels of the TD Garden, LeBron and Wade sat satisfied in a corner of the visiting locker room. The two iced down various limbs with a mix of muted celebration and relief. LeBron exercised some demons in leading Miami to the victory. And while he was almost the goat with a late unforced turnover, he instead reminded everyone why he’s mentioned as one of the G.O.A.T.s. Late in the fourth, he answered a corner three by Ray Allen with one of his own to knot the game at 84 with two minutes left. He then converted the go ahead bucket the next time down. Then in the extra period, James hit a tough fade away jumper, knocking Boston on their heels and pretty much sealing their fate right there.
“We needed every bit of his talent and competitive will tonight,” Coach Spolestra said of James.
Looking ahead, Miami knows they stole one on Monday night and will likely have their work cut out for them in Game 5. “Wednesday will be our greatest challenge,” Spolestra said, “We need to beat the Boston Celtics at their best.”
“In our minds there’s a lot of basketball to be played,” Rivers said. “If we’re not up for that we’ll lose.” — Jonathan Evans / @jre18
As much as I’d like to focus on the tenacity of the Grizzlies in taking this game to triple overtime when, really, they had no business surviving regulation, it would be a disservice to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to lead with anything else.
The two performed about as well as a combo can Monday, combining for 75 points, 18 rebounds and 29 attempted free throws in a total of 108 minutes of play.
The Grizzlies were relentless, but Westbrook and Durant were even more so — a force of nature. They simply refused to give up. They were on the court longer than most feature length films.
Yes, Westbrook missed two potential game-winners. And, yes, he continued to stall the Thunder’s offense at times. But his shooting performance improved significantly (15-33 from the field), and, let’s face it, he was the catalyst for the Thunder’s win.
Without his energy in the third overtime, I don’t think Oklahoma City wins this one.
Durant was good too. He started out slow (just 10 points in the first half) but broke out of his Tony Allen-induced slump and caught on fire late in the game. His range was the perfect complement to Westbrook’s slashing cuts to the basket.
On the other side of the court, Marc Gasol was as brilliant as always. He put up a 26-21 (his third double-double of the series) and shot 11-for-20 from the field. OKC crowded him, but he was still able to get his shot off at will. He’s like Denzel. He’s unstoppable.
Meanwhile, Zach Randolph was uncharacteristically bad from the floor (9-25) but still managed to score 34 points and grab 16 boards.
The real story of the night for the Grizzlies was their clutch shooting, though.
Mike Conley, OJ Mayo and Greivis Vasquez all hit big threes en route to two epic, brink-of-death comeback bids (one at the end of regulation, the other at the end of overtime).
The heroics on display Monday at FedEx Forum will not soon be forgotten.
In my opinion, this was the best game of the Playoffs so far. -- Patrick Crawley / @BasketballFiend