Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 at 9:23 am  |  40 responses

Post Up: Miami Starts Hot

LeBron James leads a second-half surge to put away the Celtics in Game 1.

Heat 93, Celtics 79 (MIA leads 1-0)

When the final buzzer sounded in Game 7 of Celtics-76ers, the first thought that came to mind was, “This Celtics team looks exhausted.” At the time, I thought Game 1 of the ECF would look like Game 1 of OKC-Lakers: a team with very little bench contributions would play an extremely important Playoff game just two days after a Game 7 victory. The parallels were uncanny. Aging superstars on both teams (Kobe and Pau for L.A., the former “Big Three” for Boston) needed to turn right around and bring their A-game if they didn’t want to start the series in a hole. Furthermore, each team faced an offensive nightmare in Durant and LeBron. Each team also faced a secondary scoring barrage of Harden/Westbrook and Wade. The Lakers lost by about 30 in Game 1, and I expected the same result in Miami on Memorial Day.

However, after a painfully brutal first quarter of 11 points, the Celtics pulled as big of a 180-degree turn as I’ve ever witnessed to go into halftime tied with the Heat. (Before we move on, 11 points in the first quarter? Really? I guarantee you this kid and a band of 4th graders could score 11 points in 12 minutes.) The 35-point second quarter masterpiece stands as the most any team has scored against the Heat this season in one quarter. How on Earth does a team go from scoring 11 points to 35 points in back to back quarters? Did they forget the game started at 8:30?

The answer: Rajon Rondo. The Celtics move as Rondo moves. He is the engine that makes them run. If he plays poorly, the Celtics may as well step off the floor. If he gets hot, they can play with and beat any team in the league. He came alive in the second quarter after LeBron James tore apart the Boston defense for 13 first quarter points. Rondo ignited the second quarter charge with his uncanny ability to get in the lane and make the right decision with the ball, dishing the rock when his scoring options closed and taking the ball himself when he saw an opening.

The turning point of the game came when LeBron James started guarding Rondo. LeBron took Rondo’s driving ability out of the game and forced the Celtics to move without the ball more. The Celtics depended on Rondo’s penetration to create shots for the whole team, and LeBron neutralized that threat. Combine LeBron’s defense with the Celtics’ fatigue, and you have a recipe for a collapse.

The Heat received big contributions from the supporting cast in Game 1. LeBron and Wade combined for 54 of the team’s 93, but the combination of Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers poured in 27 points. Those 27 points turned out crucial in Game 1 and will need to be repeated, if not surpassed, if the Heat want to win the title.

The bottom line: I don’t care how well Rondo plays; Paul Pierce and Ray Allen need to produce more. Allen’s bum ankle became blaringly evident, as he only made one field goal all game, but 6 points from a future Hall of Famer will not get the job done. Pierce looked lost and committed way too many poor turnovers/bad shots.

When Pierce and Allen play poorly, Rondo tenses up. A tense Rondo gets technicals, pouts and neutralizes one of the League’s most exciting talents. The Heat’s “Big Two” flat-out harassed Allen and Pierce to the point of exhaustion early in the game—credit LeBron and Wade for playing like all-stars again.

I wrote during the Heat-Pacers series that the margin of error for an opposing team playing when LeBron and the Heat play well is microscopic. Major errors, such as four technical fouls (which, to put it as nicely as possible, were “questionable” calls), 10 missed free throws and three quarters of scoring under 20 points just cannot happen against the Heat. If Pierce and Allen don’t step up their play, the Celtics may see the end of the Pierce-Allen-Garnett-Rondo era end quicker than hoped. —Dave Spahn (@DaveSpahn)

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  • http://nba.com GP23

    Get ready for a sweep.

  • Heals

    Why is SA sweeping the Thunder…

  • Heals

    Wanted to get pissed about the Tech’s but RayRay’s missed FT’s would’ve made up the difference so I can’t too worked up. My only issue is if ref’s are gonna call players (The C’s) for tech’s that quickly/easily they’d better be on point with ALL their other calls that night and the crew was anything other than on point. Mia woulda still pulled away late, but we were robbed of a more competitive finish. Bos winning 4 of the next 6 is highly unlikely, since they struggle to win on the road or multiple games in a row…

  • http://WWW.SLAMONLINE.COM Benn0

    its amazing that these bandwagon fans have stuck around for 2 years despite not winning last year.

  • http://WWW.SLAMONLINE.COM Benn0

    loyalty is beautiful

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/3183/tex-winter-compares-kobe-bryant-and-michael-jordan Allenp

    I actually thought Wade bothered Rondo as much as LeBron. Wade played the “Kobe defense” on Rondo. That basically means daring him to shoot jumpers while also taking away his most obvious passing lanes. Kobe tends to play that defense on any point guard with a suspect jumper, who also can’t post him up. He tried playing it on Westbrook last round before he realized Westbrook’s mid-range is filthy these days.
    Anyway, putting Wade on Rondo allowed Wade to rest more, and forced Rondo to guard him on the other end which prevented Rondo from resting. Van Gundy mentioned that he was surprised Doc didn’t put Rondo on James Jones, but I guess they didn’t want Ray or Paul having to chase Wade around either.
    The outside shooters were the real key for the Heat. If they hit jumpers, they force the defense to play honest. If they don’t, the defense just packs the lane and turns Bron and Wade into jump shooters which benefits everyone.

  • vtrobot

    that was sad watching those Jesus FT misses. dude is a mess right now. C’s are bannnnged up. is jeff green ready to come back yet?

  • T-Money

    Has anyone else noticed that Bron hasn’t been doing the powder toss since the end of the regular season? I’m glad he let that go. / The key is that Wade and Kobe can play Rondo that way because they’re long and athletic enough to cut off the angle when Rondo comes at them full speed. Guys like Rio and Blake are not nearly as successful playing off Rondo because it’s a guaranteed blow by if Rondo can get two hard dribbles to ramp up before meeting them at the FT line.

  • T-Money

    Also, some analysts were saying that Boston missed tons of open looks. That may be true but so did Miami. Battier went 2 for 9 from deep, Rio, 0 for 6 – it could have been much worse.

  • bike

    With Pierce and Allen hobbled Rondo had limited options. Trying to force those wild layups thru LeBron and Wade is never going to work. Celtics are screwed.

  • LA Huey

    T-Money, didn’t he give up the powder toss during the playoffs last season too? Maybe it’s just a regular season routine now.

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/3183/tex-winter-compares-kobe-bryant-and-michael-jordan Allenp

    Good observation about the issues slower guys have with giving Rondo space. He attacks certain players when he has a cushion, but other guys have the girth and quickness to make it difficult. Turn him into strictly a finisher, and you’ve changed the game.
    I thought LeBron played great defense on Pierce as well. Pierce had to work hard for most of his buckets, although Bron did lose him at times and give up open shots. But when they match up in isolation, Bron is just fine on that island.
    Also, Pietrus thinks this is the same LeBron he bothered in in that Orlando series back in the day. It’s so not. And when you don’t have Dwight Howard lurking behind you, bodying up on LeBron is asking to get toasted.

  • T-Money

    spot on re: pietrus defending bron. bron slowly backed him down and turned middle for a push shot and then baseline for a quick layup. those moves were not in his bag in 09.

  • T-Money

    doc said that he would play more zone in game 2. curious to see how miami would react. they had very good open shots for battier and chalmers in the corner when boston went zone in the 4th but they didn’t knock them down. the zone can have a psychological effect on the opposing team when they feel they have to make shots everytime down the floor to “beat” the zone and they get tight.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    those technical fouls given out last night were ridiculous.. weird how the first half was officiated so poorly, then the second half was fine, but that’s where the game got blown open…

  • T-Money

    nbk: the weird one was the one on doc. all the others were justified imo. ray allen got called fot the “kobe tech” when he jumped up and down after a foul. kg got called for a 2nd delay of game when he does that thing where he knocks off the ball off an opponent’s hand after a made basket to slow down the fast break going the other way. rondo shoved battier on the baseline. only the doc one was really weird.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Nick Tha Quick

    ^^ if the foot was on the other shoe, I’m sure you would feel differently.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    i was watching without volume during the second quarter, i didn’t know what the KG one was about. Now that you say it was a second delay of game that makes a lot more sense.
    I didn’t like the Ray Allen tech, but I understand.
    The Doc tech was definitely really weird. thanks for explaining the other ones though.

  • http://WWW.SLAMONLINE.COM Benn0

    @t-money – what ray allen did is what dwade and lebron do every single game – looks as if pat gave the refs a backhand deal.

  • T-Money

    ben – and they’ve received techs for that. it’s kinda lame to look at some conspiracy theory vs boston when the game wasn’t even close…

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    There is something about a zone that turns MIA into a JV squad. Those cats look lost out there when BOS switched into a zone and started launching 3s from outside like the Suns. It would beehove BOS to employ the zone a little bit more in GM 2.

  • Ill Smith

    I’m starting to get legit worried for Ray’s ankle at this point. When Jesus Shuttlesworth goes 3/7 from the stripe something ain’t right. But I still feel good about Boston winning 4 of the next 6. Pierce knows he’s gotta rise to the occasion; if Bron gets 30, he needs 24. KG ripped through the Heat (like he always does) & if Ray can just give us 2 good games we’ll survive. The biggest issue last night was Rondo’s decision making. At times he looked frustrated & was driving without even checking where the weakside block is coming from (which he usually looks out for). Both the LeBron & Wade blocks Rondo didn’t even attempt to throw them off. I expect a gritty game 2 win before we wrap things up in 7.

  • Heals

    @T$$$, not even close? My C’s had a couple chances to take the lead in 3rd despite a poorly played and officiated 1st half. @nbk, both Breen and JVG were adamant that the delay of game was weak at best for a regular season game let alone the playoffs. I’m not arguing the impact of T’s (as I think Mia went 3 for 5) just the legitimacy…

  • T-Money

    when i was in college, our coach believed in running our set plays vs the zone instead of the traditional (and often static) zone offense. you can still make cuts, you can still screen guys. it was suprisingly succesful.

  • http://www.slamonline.com megatron

    I think you have to call the Tech for the 2nd delay of Game. When the other teams strongest attribute is their fast break offense you can’t just let Garnett push the ball away everytime Boston scores. I will admit that the refs rarely enforce it so the inconsistency of the call makes it a tough call to take but it has to be called IMO.

  • http://slamonline.com Datkid

    I thought the heat figured the zone out…. they just weren’t knocking shots down. and that’s fine they usually make those 3′s.

  • http://slamonline.com LakeShow

    datkid, if they are shooting and missing shots over a zone, that is the definition of good zone defense. Obviously they don’t have it figured out.

  • http://Roosterteeth.com Caboose

    The zone worked wonders up until the point when Garnett got adventurous. Basically, either Ray or Pierce would get out of position, KG would go cover that zone (admirably) but would leave no shot blocking inside. If the C’s can tighten up the zone, it’ll work nicely.

  • T-Money

    lakeshow: you can’t say the zone is working if they’re getting clean looks from the short corner. unless that’s precisely what boston wants to give up (which would be suicidal)é

  • Brahsef

    Zone only works in the NBA for a little bit. Teams eventually figure out how to break it down and then its just all bad.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    a zone isn”t goin to beat the Heat. that’s all that is really relevant. Boston will play the zone to change Miami’s looks. But it won’t be what beats them. All Spoelstra will do is put Mike Miller and James Jones on the court. Zone over.

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    I never said that the zone is BOS’s answer to all their problems but if they can use it sparingly to slow down MIA, it gives them a chance. Despite being a great defensive team, they have no hope of stopping/slowing down Wade/LeBron playing man-to-man D.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    I don’t like the idea of a zone against Miami for 2 reasons.
    . 1) You are surrendering offensive rebounds to a team that is already out rebounding you
    . 2) You are letting shooters find a rhythm while you try and slow down the star players that will just start killing you as soon as you leave the zone anyway.

    And I also noticed that the zone yesterday pulled Garnett out onto the ball handler on at least 3 separate occasions. Which as ok as it sounds, is a long term disaster in the making. (court positioning, fouls, fatigue)

  • http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/3183/tex-winter-compares-kobe-bryant-and-michael-jordan Allenp

    That’s because without Bradley and another rim defender they aren’t that “great” defensively. They weren’t all year.
    Bradley made them awesome on the perimeter. Perkins used to make them awesome inside with Garnett. Right now they have neither. That’s a problem.

  • Heals

    And the problem with Perk was (as OKC is now learning) he doesn’t get any attention from the defense when his team is on offense. So for Bos they’d be situations where the D was lagging off Rajon and him while guarding the New3. It’s scary to think about how ATROCIOUS Bos’s offense would be with Perk & Rajon being guarded at least 2 ft away, a hobbled PP34, this RayRay and Ticket taking 15-20 footers. They were still top10 without AvyB so that’s nothing to dismiss when 20 teams are worse, but point taken…

  • Heals

    That stretch you mentioned also coincided Pietrus joining, then getting healthy, JO being replaced by a then healthy Steamer and Wilcox finding his role. As each got injured that “greatness” was far less evident…

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    Perkins has to be the most overrated defensive player of all-time. People talk about the guy like he was/is Hakeem’s lost stepchild. The man is a good man-to-man post defender but he is an atrocious PnR defender and a below average rim defender. In this day and age, good PnR defenders are much more valuable than good man-to-man post defenders.

  • Ronald

    ^ A similar thing can be said about Rondo.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ Teddy-the-Bear

    Perkins and Hakeem actually are related. Grantland did a cool story on it a few months back. Click my name to read it.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Perkins isn’t an atrocious pick and roll defender. Not that I’ve seen. He can hedge hard and then recover to his man. He has limitations because of his speed which weren’t helped with the knee injury, but he’s not terrible.
    He is lauded because he’s a very good help defender. His court awareness is high. But, Ibaka constantly forgets his rotations and so do the rest of the Thunder. So, Perkins is often left on an island. And he’s not that good.